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Rita J. Egan

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Members of the Three Village Schools Retiree Association work together to make calls to community members about last year’s Constitutional Convention vote. Photo from Betty Baran

For a number of Three Village Central School District retirees, serving the community didn’t stop when they left their former place of employment.

The Three Village Schools Retiree Association provides an opportunity for the district’s past employees to stay connected with former coworkers, and a way to help those in need in the community at the same time. This past holiday season the association continued its yearly tradition of donating to the school district’s adopt-a-family program, as the group raised $3,800.

Debbi Rakowsky, R.C. Murphy Junior High School social worker, said a growing number of families are in need in the Three Village district and most buildings averaged 15 families they collected for this past holiday season. All eight schools in the area coordinate collections at the end of every year and rely on staff donations. She said there was apprehension this holiday season that the gift cards donated by building staff wouldn’t cover the families needs, and the $3,800 from the retirees was distributed amongst all the school buildings and was a major help.

According to Judy McCready, president of the  retiree association and member since 2004, one of the missions of the association is to help the community. In addition to donating to the schools’ adopt-a-family program every year, it also grants scholarships to a number of Ward Melville High School seniors in the spring.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize that the need for financial assistance is as great as it is in Three Village.”

— Judy McCready

The association combines fundraising with socializing. In the fall the retirees hold a welcome breakfast, a holiday lunch at the beginning of December and a happy hour to welcome new retirees at the end of the school year. McCready said at each event the group raises money for the holiday drive and scholarships and attendees are asked to bring a food item or toiletry that is donated to St. James R.C. Church in Setauket. She said members who no longer live in the area send checks for the causes, too.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize that the need for financial assistance is as great as it is in Three Village,” McCready said.

Betty Baran, corresponding secretary of the association and member since 2004, said the first retirees group in the Three Village area was founded in 1983 and called The Retirees Association of the Three Village Central School District. In the ’90s another association for only teachers formed called the Three Village Retired Teachers Association. In 2010, the two groups merged. Baran said the current group includes 511 retirees, and while 80 percent are former teachers, the rest of the membership is made up of administrators, custodial, secretarial and clerical staff.

Baran said the members enjoy giving back to the community that was good to them while they were working. Another goal of the association is to provide moral support for current teachers by getting involved in political issues with an educational slant.

“We do try to keep our members abreast politically as it applies to education, and different changes in things that are happening with active teachers,” Baran said. “We support them. We make phone calls to legislators. So, we have a political agenda to foster education in New York state. These are issues that we feel strongly about because we were involved in education.”

In the past, members of the association have reached out to local legislators about potential tax cuts, which would have severely impacted school districts and funding for public schools. The group also reaches out to the community to show its support for candidates running for school board and actively made calls opposing the Constitutional Convention before Election Day 2017.

Rakowsky said all the social workers in the district are appreciative of the retirees’ assistance, and it has been a pleasure working with the group.

“I am so proud to be part of this district for a million reasons and this just highlights how our teachers are committed to supporting the community even after they have retired,” the school social worker said. “I plan on retiring in June of 2019 after 31 years, and I look forward to being part of such an amazing legacy.”

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Suffolk County Leg. Kara Hahn and recovering alcoholic and addict David Scofield answer questions posed by concerned parents at a past Three Village Drug & Alcohol Awareness meeting. File photo by Donna Newman

An outpatient facility slated to open on Technology Drive in Setauket is prepared to provide relief for those suffering from various types of addiction.

Lauren Grady, a private practice clinician and social work investigator for the New York State Department of Health, works at B.E.S.T. PLLC located in Deer Park, which she said will be expanding to Setauket in late February or early March. Grady will be speaking at the Jan. 25 Three Village Drug & Alcohol Awareness Program held at The Bates House and will answer questions about the services offered by B.E.S.T. and what families can do when a loved one suffers from an addiction.

Practitioners at the facility, which treats those 18 and older and provides counseling for family members who have a loved one addicted to alcohol or drugs, follow the belief that patients have an underlying mental illness.

Lauren Grady, a private practice clinician from B.E.S.T. PLLC, will be on hand for the Jan. 25 Three Village Drug & Alcohol Awareness Program to answer questions about a new facility in Setauket. Photo from Lauren Grady

“Not only do we want to free the addiction, but we believe the addiction is actually the function of an underlying mental illness that has never been treated,” Grady said, adding the facility utilizes intensive psychotherapy and psychopharmacology.

She said the facility has tailored new programs based on clients’ needs including nondenominational and scientifically oriented recovery groups for those who don’t like traditional faith-based anonymous groups.

The clinician, who has worked at B.E.S.T., which stands for Behavioral Enhancement and Substance abuse medicine Treatment, since 2016, said it has been opened in Deer Park since 2013. In the future, the hope is for the organization to open more facilities in Middle Island and outside of New York in Michigan, Tennessee and Ohio. B.E.S.T. is owned and operated by Dr. Tom Tuzel, who is on the psychiatric team at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, and the facility accepts most insurances and Medicaid.

Grady said she hopes Three Village residents will feel comfortable visiting B.E.S.T. when they need help.

“When people think of outpatient facilities, they think of methadone clinics, and we’re not,” Grady said. “We’re more medically based. So it would be more like you’re walking in to go see a primary care doctor or maybe even your therapist.”

She added staff members are approachable, and B.E.S.T. is a place where addicts can come and talk even if it’s just because they had a rough day.

For the clinician, who said she lost a friend to drug addiction, helping others with substance abuse problems is personal. She said many addicts are trying to feel normal and balance moods by self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, when medical attention should be sought to treat conditions such as depression and anxiety. Due to her friend’s death, Grady said she understands the greater consequences of drug use.

“It’s not just about the addict,” she said. “This is an epidemic that is affecting everybody. Mental illness addiction is affecting the family, the friends, the employer and the employees. It hits everybody.”

Grady said she encourages loved ones to talk honestly with addicts and not be afraid of the consequences, such as the person ceasing to talk with them, because she said there is a potential to lose the person to overdosing.

Merrit Hartblay, a substance abuse counselor who leads the series of Three Village Drug & Alcohol Awareness educational programs, said he is optimistic about the facility coming to the area. He hopes having a center such as B.E.S.T. in Setauket will begin to remove the stigma of drug addiction in the area and more residents will feel comfortable addressing the issue and attending discussions like the ones presented at The Bates House. He said he feels it’s important for residents to do everything to embrace and combat the drug problem that he feels has reached epidemic proportions in the Three Village area.

“You have to get rid of the shame and the guilt and say, ‘No, we’re here because we want people to come and move to this community because they know that we are being proactive instead of reactive,’” Hartblay said.

He hopes loved ones of addicts will take advantage of the family counseling at the facility, even if their child is too young to be treated there, feeling discussions are beneficial to everyone in the addict’s life.

“Once you can get family members engaged and explain to them about the disease of addiction, and how it affects family, that it’s not just the addict but the whole family
becomes addicted to the addict. Once the family can embrace that, my three big words are always prevention, intervention, education,” Hartblay said.

Hartblay encourages Three Village residents to attend the Jan. 25 meeting and to feel comfortable asking questions in what he describes as a safe and open forum.

“You need to come out so we can hear from you, and you can understand and hear the things that we are going to do to make this community a safer community that can deal with drug addiction, that can be more proactive instead of reactive,” Hartblay added. “Deal with the issues before they become a problem. We want this to be a safe community. We want this to be a community that other people look to and say look at what the Three Village community is doing.”

The Jan. 25 meeting will be held at The Bates House located at 1 Bates Road in Setauket at 7 p.m. Heather Reilly, Three Village Central School District certified drug and alcohol counselor, will also be in attendance to answer attendees’ questions. For more information about the meeting, call 631-689-7054. For more information about B.E.S.T. call 631-392-4357.

Old Field residents, neighbors crowd village hall to express concerns over proposed tower in park

Residents and nonresidents of Old Field are protesting the proposed plan to install a cellphone tower on the grounds of the park known as Kaltenborn Commons saying it will be unaesthetic and create possible health consequences. Photo from the Village of Old Field website

A battle might be on the horizon over a proposed cellphone tower.

Before the Jan. 9 public board meeting in the Village of Old Field, residents living slightly outside the community’s borders received a letter simply signed “Concerned Neighbors.” A number of residents were alarmed to hear the village board was proposing the construction of a cellphone tower at a public park known by many as Kaltenborn Commons located at the intersection of Old Field Road and Quaker Path.

The letter writers asked residents of Old Field and surrounding streets to attend the monthly meeting to voice their concerns about health, economic and aesthetic issues. The agenda for the meeting included a presentation by Tanya Negron, founder of Elite Towers, a Long Island-based company that develops wireless telecommunications tower sites and is working on the Old Field project, to answer any questions.

A few dozen Old Field and Setauket residents crammed into the small Keeper’s Cottage that serves as the village’s meeting hall. Negron said the proposed tower, which is similar to the one on the bluff in Belle Terre, will have a 50-by-50-foot footprint. A stealth concealment pole, the slim structure will have cellphone carrier antennae inside, and the only antennae that would be outside are for emergency agencies, such as the fire department, if requested.

Elite Towers sketch for proposed cellphone tower in Old Field. Photo from John Coughlin

Negron said the area around it will be landscaped based on the village’s recommendations and no trees will be removed. The pole will be centralized within the property and set back from the road 132 feet on the west, 130 feet on the east and 160 feet to the south.

Many in attendance raised concerns and asked questions of the board members, with Mayor Michael Levine multiple times reminding participants to speak one at a time.

Former board member John Von Lintig said when he sat on the board for six years, the suggestion of installing a cellphone tower came up frequently. The conclusion was always that there was no suitable place to put it in the village without negatively affecting those around it.

“You put it right in the gateway of the village, and it is unconfirmed but with definitely possible health effects, it has possible economic effects on the homes immediately surrounding on resale, and it has aesthetic impact on people coming into the village seeing this thing,” Von Lintig said.

While a few in the room believed there are no health consequences in association with cellphone tower poles, one Setauket couple, who live across from the park, said they worry about potential health risks.

“We have three kids that are in that park daily,” Charles Catania said. “You can’t promise me or tell me there are no health consequences in connection with this pole.”

Oleg Gang, who works at Brookhaven National Laboratory, said he lives in close proximity to the proposed location. He said the savings in property taxes due to the revenue generated by the pole was negligible, and even with WiFi and an extender, it’s possible to improve an individual’s cellphone service at home.

Gang said board members need to research studies concerning the increase of various cancers and other disorders when living a certain distance from a tower, even if the conclusions are not definitive or there are debates.

“The bottom line is it’s not clear, but because it’s not clear, and there are so many technical solutions, and there is no benefit really from the tax point of view because it’s negligible, it’s really irresponsible to put it in the backyard of the people who will be suffering potentially five or 10 years getting cancer,” Gang said.

“We have three kids that are in that park daily. You can’t promise me or tell me there are no health consequences in connection with this pole.”

— Charles Catania

According to the website of the American Cancer Society, there is currently very little evidence to support the idea of cellphone towers increasing the risk of cancers or other health problems.

Many also said the tower will be aesthetically unappealing not only to nearby residents but to those considering buying a home in Old Field.

One resident who lives across from the park and considers the land historic said she found the board a bit smug toward those who didn’t live in the village.

“You are basically desecrating historic land by erecting this horrendous looking thing,” she said. “When we are in our yards, we are going to be laying in our pools or sitting in our lounge chairs looking at this freaking pole that is 130 feet tall. So all you’re saying, first of all comes across a little demeaning to us, and it’s not right at all. Secondly, it does affect our property values.”

She added that she spoke to a real estate agent who said home values can potentially drop 20 percent when such a pole is installed.

To address concerns regarding health issues and real estate prices dropping, Levine asked anyone who knows of experts in the fields to invite them to talk at future board meetings.

One resident in favor of the pole said it will generate tax revenue for the village and make the community more attractive to younger people who don’t use landlines.

“As I look around here, the average age of the person in this room is over 50,” he said. “Let me tell you something; your kids and my kids don’t use landlines, OK? They want cell coverage, and we don’t have decent cell coverage.”

Village lawyer Anthony Guardino said installing the pole would result in $40,000 capital at the outset and another $15,000 capital contribution for each canister that goes in the tower in village revenue. The village would also receive 40 percent of the rent stream from the first carrier, 45 percent from the second and 50 percent from any others.

Levine said if the village decides not to install a pole there is still a chance that Stony Brook University will do so on its Sunwood Estate property as the university has filed a request for proposals to install a cellphone tower, and the estate is one of the suggested locations. If this occurs, the village would not generate any revenue from the SBU pole.

Options were discussed at the meeting including installing the cellphone tower near the Old Field lighthouse. Levine said the location had been considered but the U.S. Coast Guard, which supervises the lighthouse, must approve it. While the village reached out to the Coast Guard, it did not receive a definitive answer.

Another subject of contention was the lack of notification for those who live right outside of Old Field who feel they will be affected. Others said even though they are residents, they were unaware of discussions about a cellphone tower. Levine and Village Clerk Adrienne Kessel reminded residents to sign up for email notifications, and they said the village posts meeting information on its website available to both residents and nonresidents. The mayor also said the village is not legally required to notify nonresidents but they are always welcome to attend the meetings.

Levine stressed that a lease agreement has not been signed yet, and the board will schedule one or two more meetings to hear from Old Field residents and its neighbors. The next public board meeting will be held Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. For more information visit www.oldfieldny.org.

Many living around Setauket Harbor for years have complained about waterfowl hunters who they feel practice their sport too close to homes and residents enjoying the area. Photo from End Duck Hunting in Setauket Harbor

Residents in the vicinity of Setauket Harbor are crying “fowl” when it comes to the shooting of ducks and geese on the waterway and are hoping to change local hunting laws.

Early in December, a post on the Facebook page Three Village Parents generated a lot of buzz. Many residents near Setauket Harbor reported seeing hunters and hearing shotguns in the area. One resident commented that she had seen pellet holes in her window, while another said she changes her jogging route during hunting season, which runs until Jan. 28 for ducks and Feb. 26 for geese.

Waterfowl hunting is legal in the state. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the agency promotes it as both a recreational sport and wildlife management tool. Those wishing to hunt waterfowl can do so during open seasons as long as they possess a valid hunting license, migratory bird stamp and Harvest Information Program number. Despite the laws, local residents aren’t happy with the early morning noises and feel the nearby hunting is a threat to their safety.

Tami Robitsek said she was sitting in her car the morning of Nov. 15 at Shore Road beach in East Setauket when she heard a loud gunshot and noticed two men in camouflage with shotguns hiding in the reeds on the beach. Robitsek said she felt it posed a dangerous situation as she witnessed several people walking and running along the road, a school bus filled with children, a man working on his boat moored off the shore and an elderly woman crying just off the road after hearing the shots.

Hunters spotted by a resident on View Road. Photo from End Duck Hunting in Setauket Harbor

“After this jarring experience, I am committed to working to end duck hunting in Setauket Harbor,” Robitsek said.

The East Setauket resident is rallying her neighbors and recently created the Facebook group, End Duck Hunting in Setauket Harbor, which has gained 70 members. She said community people have expressed support for a no-discharge ordinance in Setauket due to safety concerns and have discovered that neighboring Village of Poquott already has a no-discharge ordinance, which prevents the discharging of firearms outside official duties.

“Given the historical significance of this waterway, the delicate ecosystem, waterfowl nesting, dense population on all sides of the harbor and so on, it is clear to me that Setauket Harbor and its area residents deserve to be protected from hunting of all kinds,” Robitsek said.

Animal rescue and activist Joanne Tamburro, who has worked with Guardians of Rescue, an organization dedicated to rescuing abused animals, has offered her support to organize residents and approach local elected officials to initiate the no-discharge order. The 20-year Setauket resident said while residents have complained in the past, their concerns have fallen on deaf ears.

“I’m against hunting, but I don’t preach,” Tamburro said. “However, if you want to hunt, not by me. I don’t want to see it, I don’t want to be a part of it and don’t try to convince me that it helps the environment.”

As an animal activist, Tamburro is concerned for the birds, too.

“What about these poor animals that are getting shot, and they’re walking around with a broken wing,” she said.

Chris Spies, a hunter from Holbrook who works in Stony Brook, said he has had negative interactions in the past with residents.

“I understand that people are upset getting woken up early, I completely understand,” he said. “However, I also get up early in the morning with an expectation to go out and enjoy myself in my pursuit of a lawful activity and not be accosted in the field with people cursing me out, taking photographs of me, videotaping me, banging pots and pans and calling the police on me multiple times.”

He said some residents don’t mind though and even come out to talk to him.

“It is clear to me that Setauket Harbor and its area residents deserve to be protected from hunting of all kinds.”

— Tami Robitsek

Spies said residents should be aware that while standard hunting laws state that shooting must be done 500 feet from an occupied residence, that rule is suspended while waterfowl hunting. According to the DEC’s website, it is lawful to discharge a shotgun over water within 500 feet of a dwelling, public structure or person as long as no buildings or people are in the line of discharge.

The hunter said residents should know that duck hunters don’t use bullets but shot shells, which shoot many BBs in a shot string for more effective hunting while not posing safety risks beyond 70 yards or so.

“Shooting a single projectile at a flying bird would be very ineffective at harvesting them, as well as dangerous further down range,” he said.

He also has a few tips for his fellow sportsmen. Spies said before hunters head out, they should visit gis3.suffolkcountyny.gov/gisviewer to view a county map that shows property lines and ownership to ensure that they are not trespassing.

While out shooting, Spies suggests that when seeing others, hunters should stop shooting, put down their guns and take off their hats. He said they should let their decoys work in their favor and wait until the ducks are in an effective range, typically under 30 yards, which would avoid unnecessary shots. He suggests one shot per bird or less as random shooting annoys nearby residents and scares the birds.

“I’m a big proponent of hunters being ethical and part of the ethics of hunting is not taking indiscriminate shots,” he said.

Robitsek and Tamburro said while they face a difficult road in fighting the state law that allows hunting, they are prepared for the battle with plans to solicit the help of local lawmakers and stage protests if necessary.

“It’s ridiculous to allow any type of hunting in and around this area, with the amount of homes we have here,” Tamburro said.

State assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick with Rev. Myrel Bailey-Walton of Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church in Smithtown. Photo from Facebook.

Pastoring a historic church with a small congregation needs confidence and faith — two qualities the reverend of Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church at 229 New York Ave. in Smithtown naturally possesses.

The Rev. Myrel Bailey-Walton has been ensuring Trinity carries on since AME Bishop Richard Franklin Norris appointed her pastor five and a half years ago. While the church currently only has a handful of active congregants, the reverend isn’t worried.

“Numbers aren’t important,” Bailey-Walton said. “We make sure doors are open for anyone that needs us.”

She said during services and events, Smithtown residents and members of other AME churches, including Bethel AME Church in Setauket, will join Trinity’s regulars.

“We always have people stop by to see what’s going on and get involved,” Bailey-Walton said. “The neighbors around us are active as far as stopping by to see what’s going on and just letting us know that they’re there for us if we need them.”

Her motto is even if it’s one [person] she has service.”

— Marlyn Leonard

Marlyn Leonard, wife of the Rev. Gregory Leonard of Bethel AME Church, said she has attended services at Trinity. Also, Bailey-Walton preaches at the Setauket church the third Sunday of every month.

“Her motto is even if it’s one [person] she has service,” Leonard said.

Leonard said the reverend’s sermons are phenomenal, and she recommends that churchgoers stop by Trinity to see Bailey-Walton in action.

“She’s happy all the time,” she said. “When you see her, she greets with a smile and a hug. That’s who she is.”

Bailey-Walton said Trinity AME celebrated its 107th anniversary in November.

“I feel that we’re significant in Smithtown,” she said. “We’re the only African-American church — even though we embrace all the community — but still it’s historical.”

The property was once the meeting spot for freed slaves in the town who would gather regularly on the property and, in 1910, their descendants built a church on the land, according to “Smithtown, New York, 1660-1929: Looking Back Through the Lens” by Noel Gish. In 1931, the AME Church of Smithtown bought the structure for a dollar from Isadora Smith.

State Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said he remembers playing basketball as a teenager in Brady Park across from the church on Sunday mornings and seeing people dressed in their finest attire. For him, recognizing the historical importance of the church is important. Fitzpatrick is reaching out to representatives of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to see if the church can receive recognition from the state’s Historic Preservation Office and possible financial assistance.

We’re the only African-American church — even though we embrace all the community — but still it’s historical.”

— Rev. Myrel Bailey-Walton

Bailey-Walton said she balances her responsibilities as pastor with working full time and spending time with her husband, Leland, and 1-year-old child. To spread the word about the church, the reverend regularly posts on social media and the internet.

The reverend and Trinity’s congregation plan a variety of events through the year, including the church’s anniversary gala in November, an open house for the community and a Women’s Day event.

Leonard said Bailey-Walton juggles her responsibilities with grace and elegance.

“She answers her calling very well,” she said. “I can’t say enough about her. Since I’ve known her, she just grasps everything in a bundle, and what needs to be done, she gets it done by the grace of God.”

Leonard said in addition to working with her congregation, Bailey-Walton is always there to help with people outside of her community, especially when it comes to children or wherever there is a need by
participating in volunteer efforts.

“She’s a role model not only for God’s house but also for the community and others,” Leonard said.

Fitzpatrick said Bailey-Walton has been working with groups such as the Boys Scouts and Royal Rangers from Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle to complete projects at the church and grounds. Work that he said is significant due to the church’s historical importance. The assemblyman believes Bailey-Walton is a perfect fit for the church and is confident in her leadership abilities.

“She is a dynamo, she really is,” he said. “She is very committed. She knows God has her back, and she’s going to do her very best to keep this church alive. Any recognition of her is well deserved.”

Margo Arceri, right, creator of Culper Spy Day, poses with Diane Schwindt, dressed as an 18th-century cook at the 2017 event. Photo from Mari Irizarry

By Rita J. Egan

With the help of those who appreciate history, events of the past have a chance to live on. Margo Arceri is one of those history lovers, and her passion has inspired others to learn more about their local landscape.

Arceri didn’t need the AMC series “TURN” to discover how instrumental the members of the Culper Spy Ring were in the Colonies winning the American Revolutionary War. While growing up in Strong’s Neck, she learned about the Setauket spies directly from Kate. W. Strong herself. The great-great-granddaughter of Anna Smith Strong would tell stories of the patriot who used her clothesline to send messages to her fellow spies, and through those tales, Arceri developed a deep curiosity for history and the local intelligence group.

Three Village Historical Society historian Beverly Tyler said Arceri’s passion is so strong her car features “Culper” license plates.

“She loves the Revolutionary War,” Tyler said. “She loves Anna Smith Strong, and the whole idea of the spy ring.”

A few years ago, Arceri, a former vice president and past secretary of the Three Village Historical Society, created Tri-Spy Tours, where participants follow the footsteps of the spies by walking, biking and/or kayaking through the area.

Steven Hintze was the president of the society when Arceri came to him with the idea of the tours. He said he liked the concept and discussed it with the board members.

Hintze said it was while conducting Tri-Spy Tours that Arceri realized there was more to share about local history, so she developed Culper Spy Day, an annual event that sponsors a self-guided tour where attendees visit various structures and museums in the area to learn how the Setauket spies assisted President George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Hintze said the day, which marked its third year in September, has greatly grown in popularity, attracting history lovers from all over the tristate area. According to historical society records, the event attracted twice as many people in 2017 than it did the year prior.

Hintze said he isn’t surprised how popular it has become through Arceri.

“She’s one of those people who has a great personality, she’s friends with everybody,” Hintze said. “She knows a lot of people, and she knows how to put them together.”

Margo Arceri, standing left, with volunteers Janet McCauley, standing right, and Barbara Lynch at the 2017 Culper Spy Day. Photo from Mari Irizarry

Tyler agrees that Arceri has done a wonderful job, especially in getting various organizations involved in Culper Spy Day. Arceri reached out to local groups such as The Long Island Museum, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and Drowned Meadow Cottage in Port Jefferson, which once was owned by the Roe family, members of the ring. The happening has also grown to include organizations outside of the Three Village area, such as Raynham Hall Museum in Oyster Bay and Ketcham Inn in Center Moriches. Tyler said Arceri is working with a historical society in Fairfield, Connecticut, to take part next year.

“I think it’s very important to the area,” the historian said. “It’s starting to bring in people.”

Steve Healy, the Three Village Historical Society’s current president, said when it comes to questions he may have about local history, in addition to Tyler and Town of Brookhaven historian Barbara Russell, he considers Arceri one of his go-to people.

“It’s difficult in today’s environment to dedicate time to history, and she seems to have found a good mix with history and with [her] work,” he said.

Arceri has a knack for getting people to think about history, Healy added, saying it’s apparent during both the Tri-Spy Tours and Culper Spy Day. He said the history buff connects with people by allowing them to ask questions and have a dialogue. She’s known for asking participants: “What do you think happened? What do you think are the elements that drove this situation?” because she doesn’t see historical events in black and white.

“Margo likes to engage people, and that’s one of her strong points, too,” Healy said. “She has many, but one of them is to engage people in a situation where they can have an honest, educated discussion.”

Healy believes the future looks bright for Arceri and her Culper spy ventures.

“I think she’s found a great niche where she can introduce local history to people and grow that further, because she’s always looking to grow,” Healy said. “That’s one of the things that I really like about her. She’ll have a conversation with me and say: ‘Steve, I want to expand. I want to get more people involved in this. I want to teach more people to let them know what happened here.’”

Stony Brook University professor Patrice Nganang was released Dec. 27 after being detained in Cameroon for three weeks. Photo from the Free Patrice Nganang Facebook page

A writer, poet and professor is enjoying freedom once again.

Cameroon police detained Patrice Nganang, professor of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at Stony Brook University, as he was leaving the country for Zimbabwe at Douala International Airport early in December. The detainment came after the Cameroonian-native and United States citizen published an article on the website Jeune Afrique. In the piece in question, the professor was critical of Cameroon President Paul Biya’s administration’s approach to the ongoing instability in Anglophone regions of Cameroon. Many have criticized the government’s response to citizen’s protests regarding marginalization in the regions

Robert Harvey, a distinguished professor at SBU, said Nganang’s wife Nyasha notified him Dec. 27 of her husband’s hearing suddenly being changed from Jan. 19 to the morning of the 27th and that he was released and all charges dropped.

“No doubt all the pressure mobilized from various sectors helped,” Harvey said.

Dibussi Tande, a friend of Nganang’s for 10 years and one of the administrators of the Facebook page, Free Patrice Nganang, which has gained more than 2,200 followers, echoed Harvey’s sentiments.

“It is a feeling of relief and pride in the amazing work done by a global team of human rights activists, journalists, civil society organizations, friends, family, etc., to bring pressure to bear on the government of Cameroon to set him free,” Tande said.

In a phone interview after his release, Nganang agreed that the pressure from outside of Cameroon, especially from the United States, played a part in his being set free earlier and being treated well while in prison. He even was given meals from outside of the jail and didn’t have to eat prison food.

“The pressure not only led to my early release, it was also such that it gave me a better condition in jail so it made it possible for me to have a more humane condition,” Nganang said.

Among the charges Nganang faced were making a death threat against the president; forgery and use of forgery, due to the professor having a Cameroonian passport despite being a U.S. citizen, as the country does not recognize dual citizenship; and illegal immigration due to not having the proper papers as a U.S. citizen.

Dedicated to writing about the conditions in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon, Nganang said he was in the country for two weeks interviewing people. He said those in the western and English-speaking region of Cameroon must adhere to a 6 p.m. curfew, and the border to Nigeria is locked. He feels as a writer it’s his job to travel to the country and let people know what is going on there.

He said he always understood he might be arrested one day, “because of the kind of work I do. I’m very critical, I’m outspoken, I write editorials, etc. I’ve expressed my opinions freely for 20, 30 years. So I have always been prepared to face justice at a certain point because Cameroon is obviously a tyranny.”

According to a statement from a spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), the congressman’s office had been in contact with the U.S. Department of State, Nganang’s family and Stony Brook University administrators during the professor’s detainment.

“In the face of an increasingly oppressive government, Professor Nganang has worked tirelessly for a better future for his country and family,” Zeldin said. “As Professor Nganang fights for the freedom of all Cameroonians, we fought for his. I look forward to his safe return home to his loved ones and the Stony Brook University community.”

Nganang is on leave from the university this academic year to attend to family business in Zimbabwe and to pursue a fellowship at Princeton University in the spring. During Nganang’s detainment, through a U.S. embassy representative, he sent a message to Harvey asking him to let his former students know that he hadn’t forgotten about their letters of recommendation.

Nganang said when he arrived at the airport in Washington D.C., he was greeted by a crowd of people, and he was given a ride home to Hopewell, New Jersey. The professor said he was grateful for the help he received from elected officials and representatives of the U. S. Embassy, and the support of his family, friends and neighbors. When he arrived home, he found friends at his house shoveling the driveway and filling his refrigerator.

“Coming out of jail after four weeks of a harsh ordeal and facing such an outpouring of love — my phone hasn’t stopped ringing since then because all my neighbors are concerned — guess what, it made a difference,” Nganang said.

Updated to include quotes from Patrice Nganang Jan. 4. 

Maddie and Joseph Mastriano and friends present a check for $20,000 to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital after their 2017 Three Village Kids Lemonade Stand event. Photo from Laura Mastriano

Two Stony Brook teens have perfected how to turn lemons into lemonade for a worthy cause.

Maddie Mastriano, 17, and her younger brother Joseph Mastriano, 14, started off just wanting to sell lemonade outside their home one hot August day in 2013. At the time, the pair never imagined their venture would grow, or how it would grow.

The first year they thought of splitting the few dollars raised between friends, but their mother suggested donating it to charity. Since then the Mastrianos and their friends have raised $36,000 for Stony Brook Children’s Hospital with their Three Village Kids Lemonade Stand — $20,000 of that amount from this past summer alone.

Laura Mastriano said her children caught the fundraising bug after the first time they handed over the money to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, so they decided to make it a yearly tradition.

Siblings Joseph and Maddie Mastriano are the founders of the Three Village Kids Lemonade Stand. Photo from Laura Mastriano

Formerly known as the S-Section Kids Lemonade Stand, the booth attracted hundreds of residents from all over the school district and even local celebrities to their home in 2016, according to Mastriano. The event was moved to the grounds of R. C. Murphy Junior High School, where Joseph is a student, in 2017, and 500 people attended over the course of another hot August day. Besides lemonade, the kids have expanded to offer food, activities and live music. Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) presented them with a proclamation, and celebrity chef Barrett Beyer of “Hell’s Kitchen” made an appearance and even some gourmet lemonade for attendees.

Mastriano said it was necessary to move the lemonade stand to the school grounds due to its growing popularity, and it made sense because of the number of student volunteers from the Three Village Central School District. Maddie and Joseph approached school board trustee Inger Germano about the idea, who said she thought it was a good plan, and the district agreed to host it.

“We thought this would be a great opportunity to get more children involved, not just from the S-Section [neighborhood] but from the Three Village community and the school,” Germano said. “I think it was the right move.”

Courtney DeVerna, 7 years old, has been volunteering at the stand for the last three years, having visited the stand with her mother Lisa since she was 2. As soon as Courtney understood it was a fundraiser, she wanted to help and even practices her lemonade pouring before the event.

“It’s really fun and exciting because you’re waiting to do it for a while, and it’s for a good cause,” said Courtney, adding she looks up to Joseph and Maddie. “We’re giving the money to the children’s hospital, which makes me more excited.”

The siblings are always coming up with new ideas, according to their mother, so to help reach the pair’s 2017 fundraising goal of $20,000, the brother and sister solicited the help of sponsors, including fast-food chain Chick-fil-A. The idea came to them after noticing that many fundraisers partnered with local companies.

Recently, Maddie, Joseph and friends participated in the Three Village Holiday Electric Light Parade to promote their fundraising venture. Joseph said during the school year they work on their website, research ideas on how to make the next event better, ensure everyone who helped is thanked and sign community service letters for the 150 student volunteers.

“We know how busy everyone is, and we are so thankful and glad they helped,” he said.

Maddie and Joseph pose with Mr. Met at this year’s lemonade stand. Photo from Laura Mastiano

Maddie, who is a senior at Ward Melville High School, said she plans on continuing the tradition even though she will be away at college next year. The siblings have already set a new goal, hoping  to eventually raise $100,000 in total for the Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

“Next year Joseph will take on a bigger role in the planning while I am away, but I know he has things under control and actually has really great ideas already,” Maddie said. “We will do whatever we have to do to make sure this community tradition is an annual tradition. We are thankful for the community, for the support and for the opportunity to come together to turn lemons into lemonade together for the Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.”

Their mother said they each bring different talents to the table. Maddie hopes to major in communications when she attends college, and Joseph is good with numbers.

“That’s where they complement each other,” their mother said. “He’s business, and she’s the communications part of it. It’s pretty fun to see that.”

Joan Alpers, director of Child Life Services at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, said Joseph and Maddie are creating a legacy in their district.

“Both of them are outstanding, mature, bright and polite kids, and very humble for everything that they do,” Alpers said. “They’re so professional to groups and the community. They’re able to pull off putting together something that is much larger than most people their age could pull off.”

Their mother said she and her husband Joseph still can’t believe how popular the Three Village Kids Lemonade Stand has become.

“I have to say that I am beyond proud and blown away by all their efforts,” the mother said. “It really was a small lemonade stand that has grown into a beautiful community tradition, and it’s something that I am not only proud of, seeing what they’ve accomplished, but proud of what all of these kids in Three Village have been able to do. It’s contagious wanting to do good for others, and I think that starting so young really has infected others to want to do good for the kids in the hospital. It’s a pretty incredible thing.”

For more information, visit the website, www.threevillagekidslemonadestand.com. The next Three Village Kids Lemonade Stand is scheduled for Aug. 8, 2018.

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Holden Cone from Setauket sits with the bags filled with 179 coats that he collected for Long Island Cares. Photo from Christina Cone

For a 7-year-old Setauket resident, it wasn’t enough that Minnesauke Elementary School was collecting coats just for children. He felt a drive should be organized to collect outer garments for all ages and sizes, so he started one of his own.

“I thought if we do a drive for any type of coat it would help more people,” Holden Cone said.

Helping more people is exactly what the second-grader did. When his month-long coat drive ended Dec. 17, he had bags filled with 179 coats.

It all started when Holden told his parents Chauncy and Christina his idea. He said they began researching online how to organize a gently worn coat drive and found the website for the nonprofit One Warm Coat that connects those interested in conducting drives with reputable organizations. They discovered they could donate coats to the Hauppauge-based organization Long Island Cares Inc.

“We were very proud of the fact that he wanted to start something on his own and make it more inclusive, not just a kids’ drive,” his father said. “He wanted to help as many people as he could.”

Holden Cone holds the flier he and his father posted in the area and placed in neighbors’ mailboxes. Photo from Christina Cone

Holden said he and his dad hung up fliers and put 101 more in mailboxes. He also put a sign on the family’s front lawn directing contributors to place coats in a bin on the porch.

In addition, his mother said Holden spoke to her and her husband’s students at Smithtown West High School, where they are both teachers, about the drive. She said she was proud of how he presented the project and many of their students contributed to the cause.

While he hasn’t been able to meet the majority of those who donated because many just left coats on the family’s porch, Holden said one person wrote a thank you on one of his fliers. His mother said Holden was thrilled when he came home from school every day and saw more coats on the porch.

“I feel happy, because the more coats we get the more people we help in the world,” Holden said.

His mother said the family wishes they could thank everyone in person who helped with the drive.

“It’s just a testament to our community,” she said. “I was just commenting to someone the other day how I love our neighborhood. I love our neighbors. They picked up on this and then jumped right in.”

William Gonyou, community events and food drive manager for Long Island Cares, said the number of children organizing projects like Holden’s is slowly growing, and he hopes the 7-year-old’s coat drive will inspire other youngsters to do the same.

“It’s always so wonderful and humbling to hear when young children stand up for other people,” Gonyou said. “There is so much need on Long Island, and to learn of somebody so young realizing that, and choosing to do something about it is very inspiring. Students like Holden will be the future social advocates of the world, and seeing them start so early in life is a great sign of much needed changes on Long Island.”

At press time, the Cone family’s van was loaded with bags of coats, and they said they were planning to bring them to the Long Island Cares office before Christmas. When it comes to the visit, Holden said he isn’t looking for praise.

“I don’t care what they say, because I’m just happy I’m helping people,” he said.

A steam shovel fills a waiting dump truck to distribute sand along West Meadow Beach. By Donna Newman

Winter strolls along West Meadow Beach have been put on hold to avoid future environmental and boating problems.

Since Dec. 4, the Town of Brookhaven beach and Trustees Road in Stony Brook have been closed to the public. The town’s parks  department made the decision to accommodate an ongoing Suffolk County dredging project.

“It was the determination of the law and parks departments to close the beach due to safety and liability issues,” town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said. “Resident safety is paramount to the town.”

While the dredging project is in effect, multiple trucks and dredging equipment will be accessing the beach, which could potentially cause dangerous situations for visitors if the beach remained open.

Dredging is nothing new for Long Island waterways, according to Larry Swanson, interim dean and associate dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and director of the Waste Reduction and Management Institute at Stony Brook University. The sediment dredged from the depths of waterways is added to beaches to nourish the shorelines, which in turn helps to slow down erosion and protects structures from rising sea levels and storm surges. He said dredging projects are ideally done in the winter to protect marine organisms, which aren’t as active during the season as they are in warmer months. He said the currents are typically strong where the county is dredging, which most likely will produce clean sand and gravel.

Swanson said Long Beach in Smithtown, which is located slightly west of the Stony Brook beach and regularly needs dredging material, is progressing to the east/northeast about 1 yard per year.

“What that does as it progresses, it tends to cause the currents to eat into West Meadow Beach,” he said. “So when that happens, sometimes there’s a cut that forms in West Meadow Beach.”

The dean said it is ideal to fill up the cut so it doesn’t keep eroding, as there’s a possibility in 20 years that it could break into West Meadow creek.

“The preservation of beaches as we know them is somewhat depending upon this source of dredge material,” Swanson said.

The dean said dredging is done for other reasons, too.

“The channel coming into Stony Brook Harbor fills up to the point where the low water depth is no more than 1 or 2 feet, and most boats that enter Stony Brook Harbor have a draft in excess of 1 or 2 feet and so they hit bottom,” Swanson said. “People don’t want to damage their boats.”

West Meadow Beach is expected to reopen on or about Jan. 1, according to a statement from Brookhaven Town.

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