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Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce

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This past weekend, Rocky Point erupted in a celebration of fall. 

On Saturday, Oct. 19, the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce hosted its first Blues and Brews event, featuring multiple local bands, while on Sunday, Oct. 20, the fall festival in Rocky Point attracted both young and old in what was basically an early Halloween preview.  

Starting with a costume parade, throughout the day there were games for kids, a big display of fire apparatus from the Rocky Point Fire Department, a variety of delicious foods, a bounce house for the kids, face paintings, arts and crafts and lots of fantastic costumes on display. Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce presided over the first year of the event, with last year’s being canceled due to weather.

Gary Pollakusky, the chamber president, spoke about the chamber’s plans to greatly improve the downtown Rocky Point area in the next year. 

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Gabriela Schwender and Deborah Scalione have created a mobile craft workshop, like a foot truck for hand made items. Photos from Schwender

“Why not bring the arts and crafts to customers?” thought Gabriela Schwender and Deborah Scalcione, who together run Long Island Crafty Ones, a mobile and traveling workshop based in Rocky Point. 

Now such an idea is a reality.

Children attempt crafts in LI Crafty One’s mobile workshop. Photo from Schwender

The duo, who both describe themselves as passionate about creativity and craftwork said the idea to create the mobile workshop came to fruition a year ago. They decided to join forces after Schwender posted a message on Facebook looking for someone to collaborate with on crafts. 

Initially the pair looked at retail frontage in the Rocky Point area but realized it wasn’t a good fit. 

“We looked at a number of storefronts, but the rent was too expensive, we just couldn’t afford it,” Scalcione said. “After that we were, like, ‘Why don’t we go to the people and travel around?’”

From there, the duo purchased an RV and decided to convert the inside into their workplace area. 

Schwender said they work closely with their clients to see what they are looking for. 

“We bring everything to them, and they are surprised when we tell them we can come to them,” she said. 

Scalcione said that they really try to customize customers experiences. She mentioned a recent birthday party they had worked at. 

“It was an older girl’s birthday, and before we asked what she likes, her mother said she really likes to drink coffee and we thought why not marble some coffee mugs,” Scalcione said. “It turned out to be great — they had a lot of fun.” 

Schwender said they started out slow due to people not necessarily knowing what they offered, but the feedback they have gotten from customers has been positive. 

Gabriela Schwender and Deborah Scalione have created a mobile craft workshop, like a foot truck for hand made items. Photos from Schwender

“They are amazed with what we bring and what we offer,” she said. “They can’t believe we have an RV and think it’s a great idea.” 

Scalcione mentioned their services cater to children and adults. 

Recently, the partners joined the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce and said the connections with other businesses have very been helpful. 

For the fall season, the pair will have a table every weekend at the Bakewicz Farms Fall Festival in Wading River, doing face paintings and customizing “Toy Story” figurines that fit in with the local festival’s theme. 

In addition, the duo said they offer workshops aimed at a multitude of skill sets and they plan on offering seasonal craft sessions for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

“We really want [everybody] to be excited about crafting and get them to make something on their own,” Schwender said. “We want to help build up your skills.”

Scalcione said she is glad they are getting more exposure and more people are finding what they do. The duo hopes to continue expanding and possibly buy a second RV or a bigger vehicle.

“I think it is a lost art — we really want people to work with their hands and seeing what they can create,” she said.

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Thousands gathered for the last summer concert Aug. 27., but the chamber was denied entry to promote Photo by Greg Catalano

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and legislative challenger Gary Pollakusky have crossed swords over the final summer concert in Rocky Point Aug. 27.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker is running against Republican Gary Pollakusky to represent the 6th District. Photos by Alex Petroski

Members of the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce said they were restricted from entering the concert venue, featuring Mike DelGuidice and Big Shot, to promote the chamber and their own businesses. Pollakusky is the executive director of the chamber, which was established last year.

Chamber members took to local Facebook groups to decry how they were allegedly treated, saying they were turned away by aides from Anker’s office. In a video posted to the chamber Facebook page, Pollakusky talked to Anker through an aide holding a phone, which had Anker saying she had already told the chamber president no, and said, “Police would be there if you are not off the premises in the next hour.”

Both legislative candidates have put the onus on the other for why the chamber was denied access.

Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 is the main sponsors and promoter for the summer concert series alongside the Suffolk County Legislature. Post Commander Joe Cognitore said he had told the chamber members they were invited and had written a letter to that effect. 

The letter, dated July 22, invites the chamber to manage and invite business in the community to the summer concert series, reading, “In keeping with our commitment to our downtown revitalization grant we look forward to supporting our business community.”

In the past, local businesses have been allowed at the annual summer concerts.

“The only permission required was that of the event organizer.”

— Gary Pollakusky

He added the VFW post does not get involved in politics and runs the concert for the benefit of the veterans and community.

“We’re apolitical,” Cognitore said. “The chamber, civic, they meet at the post. I’m part of all of them because we’re involved in all parts of the community.”

Charles Todaro, the treasurer of the chamber, confirmed the letter dated July 22, which said it gave permission to the chamber to come set up tables at the event. When they arrived, he said, they were denied entry by Anker’s staff, along with the threat of calling the police.

Todaro said the grants that supplies funds for the concert series are meant to help promote shopping in local businesses. He called the reason they were denied access “political,” but said it wasn’t because Pollakusky is running against Anker.

“We are shocked and appalled by Sarah Anker’s political actions because the chamber had written permission from the concert holder to take part in the event,” Todaro said. “We had all the wheels in motion, and we got this very last minute threat not to come.”

While Cognitore confirmed he had given the letter to the chamber, Anker said she had not learned of such a letter until after the concert. She said her challenger had called last minute Monday, Aug. 26, the day before the concert, to say he and chamber members would be attending. She said she told Pollakusky no over the phone, it being too last minute and with thousands of attendants there would be no room for tables. She added she told him he and his chamber members could come as attendants rather than as vendors.

“We have the concerts to bring people to downtown Rocky Point, not so much to bring the vendors into the concert,” she said. “That’s following the grant requirements for the cultural omnibus funding that funds these concerts.”

Pollakusky said they received contact from the VFW the day before the event asking them to place a courtesy call to the legislator’s office. They received a call the next day at 12 p.m. saying they were not allowed inside.

“There’s been a precedent set for years for the North Brookhaven Chamber to attend, there’s also been a precedent set for businesses to attend,” the chamber president said. “The only permission required was that of the event organizer … I’m very disappointed that Sarah would use her office to prevent the chamber and other local businesses from taking part in a community event funded from taxpayer’s money.”

“We have the concerts to bring people to downtown Rocky Point, not so much to bring the vendors into the concert.”

— Sarah Anker

Anker said Pollakusky came to the concert grounds at St. Anthony of Padua R.C. Church in the early afternoon and that he “harassed my staff in a confrontational manner that I had to call police and church security.”

Pollakusky referred to the video posted to the chamber page regarding the chamber’s interactions with Anker’s staff. 

“Our community and our businesses were harmed,” he said.

Both political candidates accused the other of politicizing the situation.

Jennifer Dzvonar, who had been president of the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce before it disassembled in 2017, wrote on Facebook that her chamber had a table at each concert where then members were invited to attend. Dzvonar is now president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce. 

Anker said that while the North Brookhaven chamber had attended previous concerts, they were allowed a single table to advertise members and chamber events. The RPSB chamber was looking to set up multiple tables. She added that previously with the old chamber, details of how and where they would set their tables was established months in advance.

If anything, it’s a rocky start to the upcoming election season.

Rocky Point's chamber and civic associations partnered to protect a local park. Photo by Kyle Barr

A small park behind Tilda’s Bake Shop in Rocky Point has had a rocky history.

For years, the park was managed and maintained by the local businesses. Ed Maher, the owner of Tilda’s Bake Shop, had seen both the worst and best years of the pocket park, taking care of it with little thanks. He has seen the park flourish to seeing it being used by homeless people and vandals. The playset had to be replaced when the first was “destroyed.” There was lighting underneath the large open structure to the rear of the park, but that was vandalized, along with tables, benches and water fountains. Though for the past few years the only issue has been keeping up maintenance, cleaning and taking care of overgrown shrubbery, he finds there isn’t enough help to get the park to where it could be.

Ed Maher, the owner of Tilda’s Bake Shop, speaks of the history of the pocket park behind his store. Photo by Kyle Barr

“This park has seen a lot of good days, and a number of times where it wasn’t so good here,” Maher said. “There aren’t a lot of people watching all the time, and we’re dropping the dime.” 

Now hopes are high for a new era for the small park through a combined effort with the Rocky Point Civic Association and the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce, announced at a special July 2 meeting between both groups.

“With the chamber supporting the economic engine,” said Gary Pollakusky, the chamber president, “the civic can engineer the volunteer and community participation.”

With this new agreement, the chamber promises to handle the financial end of the park, including paying for the park’s insurance, maintenance, operations and inspiring events while the civic would engineer and support the community aspect, whether it’s getting people organized for park cleanups or for various events.

Wayne Farley, civic president, said the civic was approached by the business leaders who were tired of taking care of park maintenance all by themselves.

“What that entails is for us to maintain the park in a clean and appropriate manner for the community to use,” Farley said. “It would be a shame to lose this park. It’s not a very big part of the community right now but it very well could be.”

For years the park has been supported by multiple community groups and members. The land is owned by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that is leased to the community, according to Brookhaven town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point). She added the park is “a diamond in the rough,” that very few communities have access to such a park “that their use is their vision, rather than a cookie cutter government vision.”

Pollakusky said Rocky Point-based landscaping company Bakewicz Enterprises Inc. is donating its time for cleanup of the grassy areas of the park. The chamber is handling the costs of insurance and maintenance. Total cost for the first insurance check was $802, while bi-weekly maintenance is approximately $50 to $80.

“There aren’t a lot of people watching all the time, and we’re dropping the dime.”

— Ed Maher

Police who attended the July 2 meeting said that while there wasn’t any active routine patrol checks at the park, with a formal request, it could become active again. 

Civic leaders added the park could be of interest, especially with the anticipated Rails to Trails project, which would create a hiking and biking trail from Wading River to Mount Sinai. While the trail would cut along north of the park, parents could have the opportunity to travel south along Broadway to make use of the playground.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) who has been at the head of the Rails to Trails project, said construction is expected to begin sometime in the fall, though they do not yet know at which end of the trail construction might start.

Pollakusky and Farley said they expect to continue this kind of partnership into
the future.

“When you see all the families out there, playing on the equipment, it makes it all worth it,” Maher said. “If we maintain this, it can be a beautiful park.”

Republican Gary Pollakusky is running again to represent Suffolk County's 6th legislative district. File photo by Alex Petroski

By Leah Chiappino

A Republican challenger for Suffolk County legislator for the 6th District is a face that should be familiar to local residents, having run for the same office two years ago.

“I’ve always appreciated where I was from and what this area could become,“ said Gary Pollakusky, a Rocky Point resident who is running for legislator as a Republican challenger. “Giving back has always been the cornerstone to why I wanted to go into public service.”

Gary Pollakusky, the president of the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce, helps put up a new tent May 4. Photo by Kyle Barr

As a Rotary member, Freemason, North Shore Community Association founding member, once a Goodwill Ambassador to Russia and the president and executive director of the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce Pollakusky has been involved in public service since childhood. A graduate of Cornell, he has a degree in industrial labor relations. He is also the owner of multiple small businesses including Media Barrel LLC, a media advertising agency; Travel Barrel LLC, a company that holds microbrands, which conduct travel tours; and a nationally syndicated sports talk entertainment network called Sports Garten. His latest endeavor is the race for Suffolk County legislator for the 6th District, against incumbent Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), after an unsuccessful bid for the same seat in 2016.

His biggest policy platforms are supporting small businesses as well as fiscal responsibility for the county. 

“To be able to expand the tax base and reduce the residential tax burden we need to support business,” he said. “We’re seeing seniors and college graduates, and businesses leave Long Island. Long Island is an incredible place to live but it’s very difficult to afford.” 

Pollakusky said he believes he has put this notion into practice as a board member of the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency, which he says brought in three-quarters of a billion dollars in new investment, as well as over 5,500 jobs. 

“We are cognizant of the fact that we are giving public benefits to private entities, but in turn we expect workforce projection,” he said, adding that the “county is hemorrhaging in debt. Our residents are being taxed out of house and home. I want to reduce taxes and spend responsibly.”

He also calls for the termination of “illegal fees to our residents,” such as the red light camera fees, park fees and mortgage recording fees, the latter of which has increased from $65 to over $600. 

“If we don’t stop the bleeding, people are going to want to leave,” he said. 

In terms of the opioid crisis, he supports holding “big pharma” accountable for its role in the crisis, but he said he feels a combination of solutions needs to occur in order to solve the problem. For one, he called for an increase in preventative education about the dangers of substance abuse in schools. He said the county has been moving backward on addressing it, calling for additional policing.

“We do not have enough officers on the streets,” he said. “We need to support law enforcement to address all of the drug-dealing homes in our community. In terms of treatment, we closed down a perfectly good treatment facility in the Foley Center. It’s disheartening to see how we could be addressing the opioid epidemic, but the county is not.”   

He also called for preventive education in schools for vaping and drunk driving. 

“Vaping has been shown to cause popcorn lung and terrible health ailments,” he said. “Kids doing that clearly don’t understand the repercussions, so constant reminders through education is very helpful to continue exposing the issue,” he said. Pollakusky added that he thinks it’s “unconscionable” to address marijuana legalization in the middle of an opioid epidemic, but sees its benefits when used medicinally. 

As far as the rise of MS-13, which Pollakusky says is tied to the opioid epidemic, he has met with the consulate general of El Salvador in Brentwood through the North Shore Community Association, with whom he worked to attempt to expand prevention education in 2017. 

“We have many law abiding, good citizens in our community that are here legally,” he said. “We don’t want to cast the light that MS-13 represents them in any way, but through the unaccompanied minor program MS-13 was recruiting.”  

Despite most MS-13 activity occurring in the towns of Brentwood and Central Islip, he cited Gordon Heights MS-13 activity as a main reason for the drug flow into the North Shore. 

When it comes to immigration policy, he said “those that break those laws should be sent home,” though dealing with children who were brought to the U.S. by their parents is “a very difficult problem.” The Republican challenger added that those children who have already lived here, such as the Dreamers, immigrants who came to the country before the age of 16 and have lived here since 2007, is a different circumstance. 

He acknowledged Suffolk’s poor water quality, including high nitrogen content in coastal waters and the presence of other chemicals like 1,4-dioxane in drinking water in high degrees across the Island. As a solution, he believes sewer districts should be funded through grants and business investments, which he feels can create revenue for the county. He supports introducing legislation that would prohibit certain kinds of pesticides and fertilizers, such as Roundup. 

“We have a duty to protect people from contaminants and certain types of cancer,” he said. 

The Republican challenger promises that he can work in a bipartisan matter if elected. 

“To be in politics you can’t have an ego,” he said. “We’ve elected the same people over and over again, and we still have the same problems.”

Pollakusky recognizes the challenges to winning his seat, noting Anker’s years in the Legislature and support from existing political action committees, but said he supports both labor and law enforcement. 

“I don’t need this job, I want it because I know I can lead well,” he said. “I am passionate about supporting our residents in an impactful way, so we can all stay here and enjoy Long Island.”

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There was few downcast faces even when the weather was overcast May 4 as the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce hosted their first annual Sound Beach Spring Festival and Street Fair.

Parents could walk around and visit the many vendors and stalls while kids could get their faces painted, jump around in bouncy castles or pet the calves, Woody and Buzz, provided by Wading River-based Bakewicz Farms. The Sound Beach Civic Association hosted its own scavenger hunt for stuffed animals to win prizes like a four pack to a Theatre Three kids show and tickets to Movieland Cinemas in Coram. Meanwhile the chamber of commerce hosted a “cake walk,” raffle, sponsored by Rocky Point’s Tilda’s Bakery, where people had the chance to snack on a decadent treat from the renowned local bakery.

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Kids celebrate the first annual Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce Easter egg hunt April 6. Photo by Kevin Redding

The Rocky Point-Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce broke the cold day doldrums of early spring, with the new chamber’s Easter Egg Hunt April 6.

Hundreds of kids came out with baskets in hand to hunt for the brightly colored eggs, and a few lucky children who found the silver and golden eggs won special prizes in the form of gift baskets.

All photos by Kevin Redding.

Logo from Facebook

The Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce only established its current form less than a month ago, but in that short time it’s already full steam ahead on a number of ambitious projects.

“It’s gangbusters, and it’s a challenge, but we wanted to get something on the map right away,” said John Tochterman, chamber treasurer and the branch and financial services manager for the Teachers Federal Credit Union in Rocky Point.

The chamber hosted its first meeting in August, but already it is planning several events including multiple festivals, expos and golf tournaments. Gary Pollakusky, the president of the new chamber and managing partner of Media Barrel LLC in Rocky Point, said the hamlets of Rocky Point and Sound Beach need a group to champion not only those on the highly trafficked Route 25A, but the businesses on the roads leading to the North Shore.

“The first piece of what we do is bring business into the area and inspire our merchants to do things that are a bit out of the box,” Pollakusky said. “We have to get customers to our different business districts — to our Sound Beach business district and our Route 25A business district.”

The chamber started to come together in January, when Marie Stewart, the owner of Brooklyn Bagels & Café in Rocky Point began gathering local business owners, slowly building the chamber until it formed a new board in March. In June, the chamber incorporated and attained 501(c)(6) chamber status.

In October 2017, the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce, which covered businesses from Port Jefferson Station to Wading River, dissolved because the time commitment proved too much for volunteers in such a large coverage area. It was then decided the chamber would split up to take on original shapes, which focused on businesses in just a handful of hamlets.

Pollakusky said the North Brookhaven chamber collapsed because it simply couldn’t reach every nook and cranny of businesses in its coverage area. Now more people are stepping up in local communities to fill the void left behind.

Members of the Port Jefferson area created the Port Jefferson/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, people in the Mount Sinai area established the Mount Sinai-Miller Place Chamber Alliance, and the community in the Shoreham area created Wading River Shoreham Chamber of Commerce.

Jeff Davis, owner of the Rocky Point Funeral Home was part of the North Brookhaven Chamber before it dissolved, and he said the new chamber focusing on the local businesses is heading in the right direction.

“They have all the right ideas — I’m hoping they can pull it off,” Davis said. “We’ve talked about [the fall festival] for years. It takes people who want to get involved to do it.”

Already boasting approximately 40 members, according to Pollakusky, chamber leaders are still looking for new people to fill positions on the board. They are asking local business people to fill positions to help welcome owners to the neighborhood, hold ribbon cuttings, drive membership, find sponsorships and plan events, among others.

“The more the merrier,” said Stewart, who now serves as chamber vice president.

Plans are set for the Fall Festival in the Rocky Point business district Oct. 27. The event will include a children’s costume parade, hayrides, local vendors and demonstrations from the Rocky Point Fire District. After hours, the event will also include a late-night adult-only session including live music, a beer garden and costume contest.

Events are being planned into next year. The chamber hopes to establish a spring festival to be set in Sound Beach next year, along with a senior expo and golf tournament fundraiser. Pollakusky said they were still ironing out the full details for those events.

“There’s all kinds of businesses that need our support, it could be our lawyers, our doctors, our nonprofits, it could be our home-based businesses, our brick and mortar craft merchants, our restaurants, there are many categories of business that need our help,” Pollakusky said. “To look at every category and see how we can support them that is the difference maker in this chamber.”

The chamber is looking for more volunteers and vendors for its upcoming Fall Festival. Contact the chamber through its website, www.rpsbchamber.org.