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Rocky Point

By Bill Landon

Harborfields settled the score Saturday as the Tornadoes invaded Rocky Point and avenged last year’s homecoming loss by outscoring the Eagles 20-13 during a homecoming celebration of their own. Rocky Point senior Petey LaSalla bulled his way up the field for two touchdowns to help tie Harborfields with eight minutes left in the game, but a Tornadoes touchdown and stop sealed the Eagles’ fate Sept. 16.

“The juniors on last year’s team remember that loss,” Harborfields head coach Rocco Colucci said. “I mean, hats off to Rocky Point, they’re a great football team and with good teams it usually does go down to the last minute, but what better way than to [come here] and return the favor at their homecoming game.”

Harborfields dominated the time of possession in the opening half, but the Eagles’ defense held the team to just one touchdown after senior quarterback P.J. Clementi found a hole into the end zone at the 10:58 mark of the second quarter. With a failed point-after attempt, the team took a 6-0 lead into the break.

“Our defense [played well] in the first half to hold them to just six points when they had possession like 90 percent of the time,” LaSalla said. “We lost a close one last week and this obviously sucks going 0-2, but we have power points [given to teams that face top-ranked opponents] and we have a big game next week at Comsewogue, which is their homecoming, and hopefully we can do to them what Harborfields did to us.”

The Eagles opened the second half by marching the ball down to a fourth-and-one, but Harborfields’ defense plugged the hole and took over on downs. The Tornadoes used the possession to strike with just two minutes left in the quarter. Clementi took another keeper across the goal line, and Harborfields senior Ethan Krauss split the uprights this time to put his team ahead 13-0.

“Our offensive and defensive lines were unreal today — they were making holes, they were clogging holes,” Clementi said. “To have those big guys up front, it’s a blessing, but I knew [Rocky Point was] going to try to get [Petey LaSalla] the ball. because he’s their playmaker.”

The Eagles’ offense opened the final quarter with a new look, putting LaSalla in shotgun formation. The running back plowed up the field until he crossed into the end zone for Rocky Point’s first touchdown of the day. Senior Jack Costa nailed the extra-point kick attempt to pull within six, 13-7. LaSalla scored again, but a missed kick blew Rocky Point’s chance at taking its first lead of the game.

With the score tied 13-13, Clementi hit senior wide receiver Chris Dluginsky bolting down the left sideline 56 yards to Rocky Point’s 22-yard line. Senior running back Jimmy Bifulco finished the job with the final touchdown of the game for the 20-13 win.

“I know they’re a great team, well-coached, but we came out here and we played our best,” Bifulco said. “We’re a family, we stick together the entire way and when it comes down to the last minute, we’ll finish it.”

Harborfields did just that, holding off Rocky Point on its final attempt deep in Harbrofields’ territory with 14 seconds left until the time expired.

“I was sitting on the sideline and and I couldn’t watch,” Clementi said. “I walked back to the track and turned around. I was just waiting for that [last] play to be over.”

Rocky Point head coach Anthony DiLorenzo said he wishes he’d have taken a timeout when a first down was signaled following Rocky Point’s first possession of the second half.

“Unfortunately, at the end of the game, that came back to bite us,” he said. “We came up short on the two-yard line.”

Colucci said he couldn’t be more proud of his players, especially despite not being at full strength.

“This was the ultimate team win,” he said. “Even at halftime people were looking at each other and saying ‘we still got this.’ I have a couple of guys who weren’t feeling well and I told them ‘don’t play for yourself, play for the guy next to you because next time they’re going to do it for you,’ and that’s going to win us some close games.”

By Bill Landon

Shenendehowa has given the Ward Melville field hockey team a run for its money the last two seasons — outscoring the Patriots by one goal in the state semifinals last season and in double overtime in the state finals the year before. But this season, the Rocky Point field hockey team was first to press its luck with Ward Melville, forcing a shootout that the Patriots pulled away perfect from, 3-0, for the first win of the season.

“Respect to Rocky Point — they are a very aggressive and talented team, so I knew this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park,” Ward Melville head coach Shannon Sioss said of its nonleague opponent. “In fact, we like to schedule our nonleagues to be competitive games — it helps us see where our weaknesses are and what we need to work on.”

“We have a really experienced senior class and they’ve been down this road the last couple of years, so they’re on a mission right now.”

—Shannon Sioss

Rocky Point was first to find the back of the cage when senior midfielder Madison Sanchez dished the ball to senior forward Emily Molinaro.

The Patriots had to shake off the cobwebs when they found themselves battling a scrappy, in-your-face Eagles squad that caused several turnovers, and Ward Melville senior forward Kerri Thornton was first to break the ice. She evened the score for the Patriots with four minutes left until the halftime break, and rocked the back of the box on another solo with nine minutes left in the game for Ward Melville’s first lead.

“We have a really experienced senior class and they’ve been down this road the last couple of years, so they’re on a mission right now,” Sioss said. “I thought that Shannon Coughlan held the middle of our field today and Kerri Thornton is always up for a good challenge, so it’s fun to watch her play.”

Thornton said her team took the game very serious, knowing Rocky Point’s pedigree.

“I knew that Rocky Point was going to be good because they always battle with Miller Place in the county final,” the senior said. “So I wasn’t coming into this game thinking ‘oh, we’re going to win [this game easily, and as it turned out we had our hands full].”

Ward Melville drew a costly yellow card that led to Rocky Point defender Elizabeth Weiner scoring on a penalty shot to tie the game with four minutes remaining.

“We were right in this game and we deserved to be in this game,” said Rocky Point head coach Katie Bittner. “In the beginning we dominated, we scored first, and I think Ward Melville woke up a little bit, but we also got a little tired.”

“We were right in this game and we deserved to be in this game. “In the beginning we dominated…”

—Katie Bittner

Despite being a player down in the final minute of regulation, the Eagles held their own until the clock expired. Ward Melville, still a man up, tried to take home the win in sudden death overtime, but the Eagles returned to full strength two minutes in without Ward Melville getting a shot off. Rocky Point went down a player yet again in the final four minutes, but neither team could score.

“I don’t think that they played bad or that we got lucky — I honestly think that we were the better team,” Bittner said. “We made some mental mistakes that put us a man down, but when the field is this big, it’s huge that we held our own with our five field players to their six.”

Then came the best-of-five shootout, where Thornton and seniors Lexi Reinhardt and Kate Mulham helped Ward Melville to the 3-0 win, while goalkeeper Meghan Lorenzen guarded the Patriots’ cage to keep Rocky Point off the board.

Ward Melville will host Riverhead Sept. 6 at 4:15 p.m. Rocky Point opens its league season at home Sept. 7, hosting Sayville at 4 p.m.

Despite the loss, Bittner has realistic goals for her team this year.

“I’m not looking for an undefeated season by any means, I’m looking to get us to where [Ward Melville] got last year, which is a state championship,” she said. “And with this group, I know they can do it. This was truly a learning experience.”

The corner of King and Oxalis road flooded as garbage cans floated to the center of the dip at the intersection following severe rainfall Aug. 18. Photo from Sara Wainwright

By Desirée Keegan

Rocky Point residents are flooded with emotion over the rise in water level during recent storms.

As rain fell on King and Oxalis roads during the heavy rainfall Aug. 18, residents reached out to Brookhaven Town’s highway department in search of answers as to why their questions of concern have not been answered.

“I know we sound like a broken record regarding the flooding conditions at King and Oxalis, but I am writing to continue to follow up on this situation,” Rocky Point resident Sara Wainwright wrote in a letter to the highway department. “We’ve been complaining for years about the flooding, which used to be occasional, and now occurs nearly every time it rains.”

Flooding runs down an almost mile-length on King Road in Rocky Point. Photo from Sara Wainwright

She said, and the highway department confirmed, that additional drains were added, but Wainwright claims they’re in places where they do not help to relieve the flooding, and said the town has to send out manpower and equipment to pump the drains almost every big storm.

“My husband, Frank, had a lengthy conversation with Kevin from the highway department, and members walked the property,” said Wainwright, who lives on King Road right across from the Oxalis intersection. “We suggested and Kevin agreed to look into installing additional drains on our property in front of our trees. We have heard nothing else on this since, and the conditions have continued to deteriorate with every storm.”

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) said that 12 drainage structures have been installed in the specific area of Rocky Point over the last year to alleviate flooding conditions. He said the cost of the systems was more than $70,000.

But Wainwright and her neighbors say the streets are still dangerous during heavy rain.

“This is the worst we have seen from rain alone — the water is nearly up to my neighbor’s front walkway,” she said Aug. 18. “Highway department workers did drive by and they did mention there are other flooding conditions today, however this is an ongoing issue that I have been requesting help with for several years. Please do not try to pacify me with ‘we had lots of flooding everywhere today.’ Even the fire department sent out warnings to responders that the road is closed due to flooding here.”

Losquadro responded that “flooding everywhere” is part of the problem, but said recent studies have shown that there is still a drainage issue in the vicinity.

“When we have significant rain events like this morning — when nearly four inches of rain fell within a few hours — most drainage structures will struggle to dissipate the runoff quickly enough to maintain a water-free surface,” he said. “I am well aware of the conditions experienced this morning both in Rocky Point and across central and northern Brookhaven Town and immediately dispatched crews to these areas to pump out existing drainage structures to alleviate flooded road conditions.”

Wainwright said that cars still speed down the road as flooding persists, and said this summer a man was trapped in his car when it died as he passed through.

Flooding on King and Oxalis roads. Photo from Sara Wainwright

“Please let me know how the town plans to proceed to resolve this issue as opposed to using our tax dollars to send out, and put at risk, employees and equipment,” Wainwright wrote in the letter. “Cars travel very fast down this road and have no regard for your workers, unfortunately. Another time, a police car became stuck, and multiple others of cars travel so fast they send a wake over my treetops. I think you get my point.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), who has lived in Rocky Point for the last 30 years, has witnessed the issue firsthand, and receives concerned calls and emails regarding the matter.

“Residents send me photos and ask for my help,” she said. “The highway department and Dan Losquadro have been doing a great job paving roads, repairing drains and putting out massive storm water infrastructure. As a resident of Rocky Point I know some flood spots are better than others, and I’m thankful I live at the top of a hill, but I have seen when the rain stops, it does drain pretty quickly. It’s a matter of massive pileup over a short period of time.”

Wainwright said at the very least, she feels there should be street signs indicating the risk of flood conditions, and a warning to signal drivers to slow down as they move through the at-risk streets.

“I’m concerned as the season progresses that we will see more rain and possibly tropical storm and hurricane conditions,” Wainwright said in her letter. “My neighbors and I should not need to worry about flooding at elevation — you must understand that is ridiculous. We are all taxpayers. Please communicate to us as to how you plan to use the money that we have all been paying to remedy this safety issue.”

Losquadro said his engineering division recently completed a drainage study in and around the area of King and Oxalis roads, and came to the conclusion that there is still some concern.

“I will be moving forward with additional drainage infrastructure to handle more volume than what had been designed for in the past,” he said, “thereby preventing this condition from happening again.”

Christopher O’Shea races to the finish line in the U.S. Open. Photo from Kelley O’Shea

By Kevin Redding

When he was 9 years old, recent Rocky Point High School graduate Christopher O’Shea was encouraged by a friend to try out for the Three Village Swim Club team in East Setauket.

His mom was surprised at his newfound interest in swimming, because, as she recalled, he was deathly afraid of the water not too long before.

“We could never figure out why he hated the water so much, he just always cried,” Kelley O’Shea said.

Whatever it was disappeared quickly.

Jason Louser swims the breaststroke. Photo from Jason Louser

“He tried out for the team and made it,” she said. “He really loved it. And the rest, as they say, is history. Now it’s his life.”

O’Shea, 18, a two-time All-America swimmer who graduated in the spring, was one of just two Suffolk County high school competitors in the 2017 U.S. Open Swimming Championships at the Nassau County Aquatic Center in Eisenhower Park, East Meadow, held Aug. 2-6.

He and Shoreham-Wading River junior Jason Louser joined the best swimmers in the country, including 12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte, in the largest single-tank pool in the country for the biggest event of their athletic careers.

O’Shea, who swam the 100-meter long course butterfly Friday and 100 long course backstroke Saturday, placed 68th with a time of 57.38 seconds and 58th in 58.71, respectively. Lochte placed fifth in the same backstroke event.

The Rocky Point grad, who considered this event “the baby steps” toward the Olympic trials, said he couldn’t believe his luck upon entering the massive Nassau facility.

“Oh, I was completely ecstatic,” O’Shea said of the experience. “Typically when you go to a swim meet you’re with people on your level, but when you’re going to this worldwide meet and there’s not only the French national team and a bunch of guys from Australia, but then Ryan Lochte and other Olympians, it was surreal. I didn’t believe I would ever be able to see these people in person let alone swim in the same pool as them.”

He had previously qualified to compete, based on his time, in the Senior Metropolitan Long Course Summer Championships July 22.

Christopher O’Shea swims the backstroke in the U.S. Open. Photo from Kelley O’Shea

Louser, 16, who represented his Long Island Aquatic Club in Garden City, competed in the 200 long course breaststroke, 100 long course breaststroke, 400 long course individual medley and 200 long course individual medley during the meet. He echoed O’Shea’s awe, especially when it came to seeing Lochte.

“The first time I saw him was astonishing,” Louser said. “I was just thinking, ‘I’m swimming in the same meet as him and this is kind of crazy.’ Everyone’s crazy good at the U.S. Open and it’s also very intimidating because there are college coaches around.”

O’Shea was also nervous as he warmed up for his first race, competing alongside top swimmers from around the country.

“Being such a small fish in a giant pond, it was a lot to take in,” he said. “The aquatic center was covered with posters and flags and signs, so it made it all the more better. It made it seem all the more official that we were actually there. It was intense and I had to get into a mental focus.”

But O’Shea has gone above and beyond to earn his spot among the best.

He won the 100 butterfly at the state championship and placed second in the 100 backstroke in March, and won the county championship in the backstroke and 200 freestyle last winter.

Rounding out his ninth and final year on the Three Village Swim Club team, as he’ll be attending Eastern Michigan University on a swimming scholarship this fall, O’Shea has maintained a rigorous schedule to prepare for the U.S. Open.

Christopher O’Shea smiles in his Three Village Swim Club team uniform. Photo from Kelley O’Shea

This summer, the daily process has been waking up at 5 a.m., eating breakfast and driving 25 minutes to train at the Aquatic Center for two hours from 6 to 8 a.m. After practice, he’d go to work at the summer buddies program at the North Shore Youth Council and give private half-hour swimming lessons to kids between the ages 4 and 12 at home. Then, he heads to the gym, go back home, and repeat.

“This is a sport you can’t give up on because once you do, it’s over,” he said. “A lot of people do give up and I don’t want to be one of those people. That keeps pushing me along.”

Both O’Shea and Louser beat the odds in becoming successful. Neither Rocky Point nor Shoreham school districts have a pool or official swim team, so the two had to work extra hard and go the distance to practice.

Despite an apparent lack of interest, O’Shea said the tide is starting to turn. Some of his friends came out to watch him compete over the weekend, which was a big deal to him as they’d never come to a meet before. Even younger members of the Three Village Swim Club arrived with signs and cheers.

“Now that they’ve heard that Chris is swimming with Ryan Lochte, they’re thinking, ‘Wow, he must be really good,’” his mom said, laughing. “It’s pretty cool to see how everyone’s changing their attitude, and I couldn’t ask for anything better in a son. We are continually surprised and thrilled with his achievements.”

Reflecting on how far he’s come, O’Shea said, “When I started swimming it was just a ‘Let’s see how it goes’ kind of thing, and now a few years down the line, I find myself competing against the world’s best … it’s really something else.”

Rocky Point residents took to the polls Aug. 8 to vote on propositions to demo the old and rebuild a new North Beach Company 2 firehouse, and purchase a new fire truck. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Following a tight vote Tuesday, a decades-old firehouse in Rocky Point will officially be replaced with a more modern one, and a brand new fire truck will inhabit it.

Rocky Point Fire District residents took to voting booths at the North Beach Company 2 firehouse on 90 King Road Aug. 8 to weigh in on two propositions, one, to knock down the existing station for a safer, updated structure and the other, to acquire a new aerial apparatus.

Among a total 401 votes, 204 residents voted “yes” and 197 voted “no” to demolition, costing $7,250,000 to do so. Taxes will increase, but the maximum maturity of the bonds will not go beyond 30 years.

Rocky Point residents took to the polls Aug. 8 to vote on propositions to demo the old and rebuild a new North Beach Company 2 firehouse, and purchase a new fire truck. Photo by Kevin Redding

To purchase the new ladder truck, with a total cost of $1,250,000, members of the district voted 214 to 187 in favor. The maximum maturity of the bonds is said to not exceed 20 years.

“I’m very relieved,” Rocky Point Fire District Secretary Edwin Brooks said upon announcing the tallied votes to a crowd of cheering volunteer firefighters. “I didn’t think it would be as close as it was, but I’m relieved it passed. The majority of the community thought it was the right thing.”

Tim Draskin, a volunteer firefighter within the district for two years now, said it was an absolute necessity to refurbish the firehouse.

“The whole community will realize once it’s done just how much it’s going to impact everything,” Draskin said. “The building’s old and definitely needs it.”

Built in the early 1950s with very few upgrades since then, the current structure has been in need of repair and renovations for decades to accommodate for more modern requirements of firefighters, from new safety regulations to equipment and apparatuses, as well as mandatory handicap-accessibility.

Also, major out-of-date infrastructure, like heating systems, will be replaced.

Before votes were tallied, residents explained where they stood on the propositions.

“I’m not ashamed to say I voted ‘yes’ on both,” Pam Fregeau said, adding she knows the equipment needs to be updated. “I just want the firemen to be safe, because them being safe means my family is safe, means my grandchildren here are safe. I want us all to be safe. These firefighters put their lives on the line and they’re not even paid for it. For the amount it’s going to cost me a year, I think I can handle that.”

Mary Volz shared the same sentiment.

“I just want the firemen to be safe, because them being safe means my family is safe, means my grandchildren here are safe.”

— Pam Fregeau

“For the firefighters to do their job properly, they need a well-working building,” Volz said. “It should definitely be refurbished and if the taxes are going up either way, they should really do this work.”

One man, however, who asked to remain anonymous, did not agree.

“I think they’re excessive,” he said of the costs. “I’ve been in contact with numerous fire departments for many years and I’ve seen excessive spending of taxpayers’ money, so that’s why I did double ‘no.’”

District Commissioner David Brewer, who was among the board of commissioners that set the project in motion in June, said he was extremely grateful for the community’s support.

“The Board of Fire Commissioners is always trying to balance the needs of the fire department with the tax burden of the residents,” Brewer said over the phone. “We think these two bonds do just that.”

According to district officials, final design of the project will go forward, as well as the bidding processes for contractors.

They hope to break ground next spring.

Resident trying to repair cracked bulkhead calls fee "highway robbery"

Rocky Point resident Susan McCormick lives along Culross Drive beach. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Things are rocky between the North Shore Beach Property Owners Association and surrounding residents.

Locals from the close-knit beach community of Culross Drive in Rocky Point are voicing their frustrations over what they call an egregious hike in fees and membership requirements put in place by board members of the private beach association in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

According to residents, the association has been charging homeowners who live on the bluff up to $3,800, and now possibly more, just to gain access to their beach. If a Culross Drive resident has a bulkhead in need of repair, the fee is for vehicles to drive a few hundred feet over the association’s private beach in order to reach Culross Beach homes.

Rocky Point resident Susan McCormick, who lives on Culross Drive beach, is having issues with a fee from the North Shore Beach Property Owners Association to access a cracked bulkhead for repair. Photo by Kevin Redding

There is no other way for the machinery to enter Culross Beach, residents said, and in the past all who needed access through the association’s property were charged with a performance bond of about $250 and asked that the contractor include the association on their construction insurance policy in case any damage to their beach occurred.

The North Shore Beach Property Owners Association so far has not provided an explanation to residents as to why the fee was raised so high, despite numerous attempts to get answers by email and phone.

The group did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Only members can log onto the website in order to read the constitution and by-laws.

While repairs to bulkheads are usually few and far between — as most are projected to last several decades — bulkhead maintenance is crucial for those who live in the beach side community, according to Susan McCormick, a Culross Drive resident since 1981.

“We are religious about it here,” McCormick said. “Every single one of us, at some point in time, have needed bulkhead repairs. If you don’t maintain it, all of the sand slides down, the bulkhead could disappear and then the sand would  just creep onto the next property. Once all that slides down, the top of your property is going to go. It’s cost me a fortune over the last few years — after the two hurricanes — to repair.”

McCormick, 66, the co-owner of School of Fish Swim and Scuba in Rocky Point, said she first heard of the hiked-up fee about a month ago when she pursued the replacement of a cracked piling on her bulkhead.

“It’s cruel and they don’t need this money. I can’t imagine what they’re even using it for or what their excuse is for doing it.”

— Susan McCormick

After a neighbor informed her of the $3,800 charge just to get the repair equipment over to her property, she called the association. She didn’t receive a response, and proceeded to contact members of local government, including Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R), and a representative from the Environmental Conservation Office in Stony Brook.

While she said those in Brookhaven have been sympathetic and supportive of her concerns, McCormick was told there was nothing the town could do about it because the beach belonging to the association is private property.

She said the association did not waive the fee, even for a neighbor whose house was and still is in danger of sliding down the bluff due to severe damage from Hurricane Sandy.

“It’s wrong what the North Shore Beach Association is doing and I’m not giving up,” McCormick said of her determination to speak with someone on the association’s board. “I would never do to another person what they’re doing. It’s cruel and they don’t need this money. I can’t imagine what they’re even using it for or what their excuse is for doing it. We’re not doing any damage to their little section of beach. This is what I call highway robbery — they’re making money from people’s misfortunes.”

Pete Falcetta, president of the private Culross Corporation said McCormick is doing the right thing.

“[She’s] trying to make an emergency repair the proper way by stopping the bleeding, and yet she’s being forced to pay this exorbitant fee that’s more than the original repair,” he said.

Mickey Wolcson, one of McCormick’s neighbors who has lived on Culross Drive for 11 years, said he’s long thought about filing a lawsuit against the association ever since he became the first and last person to pay the $3,800 charge two years ago. His house and bluff plantings were in danger of sliding down, so he needed to make the urgent repair. He said he was flabbergasted when he discovered how much it would cost.

Rocky Point resident Susan McCormick’s cracked bulkhead. Photo by Kevin Redding

According to Wolcson, the association also pushed a 10-year membership on him in order to maintain his bulkhead. When he called and finally reached someone on the board at the time, he said he received no sympathy.

Recalling the conversation, Wolcson said when he informed the board member he didn’t want the 10-year membership, explaining that he had his own beach, he was told, “that’s the only way that this can happen.”

“They’re forcing you to become a member even when you don’t want to be one,” Wolcson said. “There’s no justification in this. I think it’s just pure greed. I don’t think they want more members, they want more money. Are they running on a deficit? Why are they stealing money from their neighbors?”

Losquadro called the access charge “excessive and unwarranted” in an email.

“I have been contacted many times about this issue and the sentiment is always the same; the association is just punishing the very neighbors they are purportedly protecting,” Losquadro stated.

Bonner said she is also continually contacted by people losing bulkheads and running the risk of losing their homes because of the charge.

“One of the nice things about Rocky Point is that it’s a very cohesive community and everyone works very well together, except in this instance, and it’s very disappointing,” the councilwoman said. “It’s just not neighborly and is an instance where some compassion and kindness would go a very long way, especially when you’re talking about people that run the very real risk of losing their house.”

When Charles Murphy returned home to Northport in 1971 after serving 14 months in the Vietnam War, he wasn’t greeted with open arms or hand shakes. In fact, it was just the opposite.

“There was no band, no rallies, no thank you’s,” said Murphy, 68, an Army veteran. “You went back into the population and tried to cope with who you were. And you were a different person then. As a group, we Vietnam vets got the short end of the stick.”

Thomas Semkow, 71, who was in Vietnam between 1968 and 1969, said he remembers being looked down on when he came home.

“People weren’t very nice to us,” the Wading River resident said. “We were the outcasts of society.”

But Aug. 1 — more than 50 years since members of the U.S. Armed Forces first set foot on the battlegrounds in Vietnam — Murphy, Semkow and dozens of other Vietnam veterans within Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 and beyond finally got the recognition they’ve always deserved.

“People weren’t very nice to us. We were the outcasts of society.”

—Thomas Semkow

It happened during the intermission of  Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and the VFW’s annual Rocky Point free concert series.

Each of them stood together in front of a grand stage outside St. Anthony of Padua R.C. Church as Anker and Military Liaison Steven Castleton presented Vietnam veteran lapel pins on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense and a special proclamation signed by President Barack Obama in 2012. Family members of veterans were also honored.

The veterans smiled with gratitude and hundreds of residents applauded as they received the accolades. Part of the proclamation read, “Let us strive to live up to their example by showing our Vietnam veterans, their families, and all who have served the fullest respect and support of a grateful nation.”

“I salute you all, thank you for your service … and welcome home,” said Joe Cognitore, the VFW post commander.

Cognitore, who served in an Army reconnaissance unit in Vietnam between 1969 and 1971, said the VFW has been putting on summer concerts for the community for more than 10 years and was excited at the prospect of giving back to those who warrant the attention.

“They were never welcomed home, and so I’m anxious to see them all come up tonight,” Cognitore said earlier in the evening. “Us Vietnam veterans look out for the guys and girls that are out serving now — we’re dedicating our lives to help them. Men and women who serve today are just unbelievable and we don’t want anything to happen to them like it happened to us.”

“Us Vietnam veterans look out for the guys and girls that are out serving now — we’re dedicating our lives to help them.”

—Joe Cognitore

Daniel Guida, of Shoreham, was an Army lieutenant in 1967 and 1968. He said it felt really good to be recognized not just with medals, but love and support from the community.

“Recently, when I had my Vietnam veteran hat on walking into K-Mart, six or seven people thanked me and wanted to shake my hand before I even got in the store,” Guida said. “That’s a foreign concept to me and it really brings a certain reality to what you did and shows that people do appreciate it.”

Members from the Long Island Young Marines stood holding flags during the concert’s opening pledge of allegiance and “God Bless America” performance before Cognitore addressed all the veterans in the crowd, from those who served in World War II to those currently enlisted.

The pin and proclamation ceremony ended with residents and veterans holding hands in a large group circle, swaying and raising them in the air to the chorus of the Southbound band’s cover of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”

“We’re all forever brothers,” Murphy said of his fellow Vietnam veterans. “No matter where we go. Forever brothers. We’re the only ones who know what we dealt with.”

The Rocky Point Fire District’s North Beach Company 2 station is located at 90 Kings Road. File photo by Kevin Redding

Sounding all alarms. Big changes within the Rocky Point Fire District will be left up to voters next month.

On Aug. 8, between 3 and 9 p.m., qualified residents in the district are encouraged to take to the North Beach Company 2 firehouse on 90 King Road to decide the fate of the decades-old building.

Following a resolution adopted by the Board of Fire Commissioners in June, voters will decide on two propositions: an authorization to completely demolish the existing firehouse and construct a new one on its footprint with updated infrastructure with a maximum, an estimated cost of $7,250,000; and the purchasing of a new aerial ladder truck with a maximum estimated cost of $1,250,000.

“It needs a lot of renovations and it’s not cost-effective to renovate. It’s cost-effective to look to the future to make it better.”

— Edwin Brooks

According to the fire district, if the propositions are approved, residents will see an increase in taxes, but will gather interest on each proposition in no more than 30 years and 20 years, respectively.

Built in the early 1950s, the current building has been in need of repair and renovation for decades, to accommodate for more modern requirements of firefighters — from new safety regulations to larger updates to equipment and apparatuses as well as mandatory handicap-accessibility.

A new firehouse will make for better safety to the community as well, according to fire district commissioners.

“This enables us to continue the service we’re already providing well into the future,” District Vice Chairman Kirk Johnson said at last month’s commissioner meeting. “It’s just a modern, environmentally-conscious building that will be able to run over the next 20, 30 years — one of our main focuses with the new building.”

Rocky Point Fire District Secretary Edwin Brooks echoed Johnson’s words.

“The old one has reached the end of its useful life,” he said. “It needs a lot of renovations and it’s not cost-effective to renovate. It’s cost-effective to look to the future to make it better. It’s good for everybody — good for the fire department, good for the public. It’s a win-win situation.”

Brooks said there are no projected tax figures or construction timelines as of yet in the event that the propositions are approved.

Receives innaugural USA Fencing National High School Coach of the Year honor

Fencing coach Jeff Salmon receives the first USA Fencing High School Coach of the Year award from former Penn State University head coach Emmanuil Kaidanov. Photo from Jennie Salmon

Jeff Salmon is an accomplished fencer in his own right, but he now he has proof that his prodigies are receiving coaching that is second to none in the United States.

The acclaimed fencer and head coach of the boys team at Ward Melville High School was named the inaugural winner of the USA Fencing High School Coach of the Year award.

“The word honor doesn’t even come close,” said Salmon, a Mount Sinai resident and owner of Mission Fencing Center in Rocky Point. “It’s a cool award, it’s an amazing honor and it makes you reflect on a lifetime of work.”

Jeff Salmon teaches his daughter Olivia out on the strip. Photo from Jennie Salmon

Eighteen individuals from high schools in six different states were nominated for the prestigious award.

Under Salmon’s leadership, Ward Melville’s teams have continued a winning tradition, including capturing the 2016-17 Long Island championship. The program has maintained a 158-match winning streak that ranks among the most impressive in interscholastic athletics nationwide.

“Jeff’s done so much for the kids here, but promoted the sport throughout Suffolk County, the state and the nation,” Ward Melville athletic director Peter Melore said. “Jeff’s a fantastic coach and he’s been honored in so many ways on local levels, it was time for him to be recognized at the national level.”

The Comsewogue High School graduate who originally competed in foil made the switch to sabre at Penn State University. Although he was a Suffolk County champion and Empire State Games gold medalist while he was a Warrior, the switch proved to work in Salmon’s favor.

“The Penn State team had strong foilers and could use a sabre fencer,” he said. “I was a little disappointed with my achievements in foil, so I was willing to accept the new challenge. It benefited me to switch and I adapted quite well.”

During his years as a Nittany Lion, he trained under Emmanuil Kaidanov, a five-time U.S. national team coach and Wes Glon, an Olympic and World Championship coach. Salmon placed in the top 12 as an individual in the NCAA championships and was one of two sabre fencers chosen for NCAA training at the German Olympic Center in 1987. He was an assistant coach for the Penn State fencing team during two national championship seasons before he brought his expertise to Ward Melville by starting a fencing club in 1995. In 1999, by popular demand, the club became a varsity team.

His athletes are consistently among the top on Long Island, and his team has won 13 league, county and Long Island titles. Salmon has won Suffolk County Coach of the Year honors seven times and USA Fencing Long Island High School Coach of the Year three times, but this is his first national achievement, one that many said they thought was long overdue.

“I wasn’t surprised because I know never to be surprised by what he does. His vast pool of knowledge and understanding of the sport and his nature of innovation is everything you need in a coach.”

— Danny Solomon

“I know he is one of the best coaches in the country, so it is a no-brainer to choose him,” rising Ward Melville senior Danny Solomon said. “I wasn’t surprised because I know never to be surprised by what he does. His vast pool of knowledge and understanding of the sport and his nature of innovation is everything you need in a coach.”

Solomon, who is a county champion, has also won four national championships, including at this year’s Junior Olympics, one international competition and many national and international medals. He is a two-time USA Fencing cadet team member and has gone to the cadet world championships twice.

He credits all of his success to his, at times, intimidating coach.

“I was terrified of him,” he joked. “Imagine being a seventh-grader seeing this huge, scary, bald guy flailing swords around. It would scare anyone.”

But the sabre competitor said things drastically changed over time.

“He is the reason I am the fencer I am today,” Solomon said. “He has definitely pushed me everyday. He can be both serious and friendly, but is always trying to get the best out of you.”

Soon-to-be University of Notre Dame freshman Jack Rohan agreed.

“He always tries his best to relate to his fencers to the point where he is not a coach but a friend,” he said. “He has been a huge contributor to my improvement in fencing and definitely deserves such an award.”

The sabre fencer, who joined the Patriots in eighth grade, was named All-Long Island last year after finishing with the best record in the county (35-3). He also won gold in sabre at the Jeff Wolfe Holiday Tournament.

His older sister Alexa played for Salmon, so Rohan was familiar with his longtime coach, and said he decided to give up focusing on his primary sport, lacrosse, to fence.

“On the Ward Melville team we commonly refer to him as ‘the magic’ since talented fencers may graduate, but he is always able to put together a championship-caliber team,” Jack Rohan said of the decorated coach.

Jeff Salmon with acclaimed protégé Danny Solomon after he won the Konin Cadet World Cup in Poland last year. File photo from Ward Melville school district

Melore, who stepped in as athletic director a couple of years ago, is proud to have Salmon as part of the program.

“He’s poised, professional, smart, passionate about the sport and really good with the kids,” he said. “He’s a great teacher of the sport. A lot is done in preparation, before and during matches, and he knows just when to give support and strategy to our athletes. It’s reassuring to have a veteran, and rapport is everything. We’re very proud he have this great program and tradition that Jeff built and I feel confident that our kids are getting taught the right way.”

Salmon said the joy he gets in seeing his students achieve their goals means more to him than any award or achievement.

“As the years went on, I found that I had a lot more satisfaction just changing the kids lives and building the confidence in them and having them grow as human beings,” he said. “Certainly the tool is fencing, but I find that that’s been the real joy in the journey.”

He reflected on similar ideas when he gave his acceptance speech, after receiving the award from his former coach Kaidanov.

“Not everyone is going to be an All-American, not everyone is going to be an Olympian, but what we do as high school coaches is take kids that have their hat over their head, their hands in their pockets, and we have them stand up straight and be confident in themselves,” he said. “This sport is hard — really, really hard. Parents really need to understand how hard this is mentally, physically. And that little success that they had makes them the men and women that they become. It gives them the confidence to go on in life — whether they achieve great things in fencing or just get that ‘E’ [lowest fencer rating] that they’ve been wanting so badly. It’s so important.”

Blueprints would mirror design for similar housing in Rocky Point

Mark Baisch discusses his proposal for senior homes in Miller Place at the July 10 Sound Beach Civic Association meeting. Photo by Ginny Drews

Low-cost, community-based apartments for seniors may be heading to Miller Place.

During a July 10 Sound Beach Civic Association meeting, Mark Baisch, owner of the Rocky Point-based development company Landmark Properties Ltd., proposed 44 600-square-feet, one bedroom apartment units be built as a cul-de-sac on the northwest corner of Sylvan Avenue and Echo Avenue.

The plan is for the senior-exclusive apartment complex, temporarily named Echo Run, to be developed on half of the heavily wooded 3.7-acre site, while the other half would remain in its natural state.

According to Baisch’s proposal, all four units in each of the 11 buildings would have a high Energy Star rating with geothermal heating and cooling systems. Rent is expected to be between $1,000 and $1,400 per month.

It’s kind of lifting a weight off their shoulders because now, this whole homeownership responsibility at 75 years old goes away.”

— Mark Baisch

He said the project aims to provide older residents a new, much-needed living option.

“There’s a huge demand for reasonably priced apartments for seniors who have lived here for a significant portion of their life because for them, there is no place to go,” Baisch said of his plan, which targets senior citizens burdened with paying high taxes to live in homes or basement apartments they might not need anymore. “It’s kind of lifting a weight off their shoulders because now, this whole homeownership responsibility at 75 years old goes away and you end up living the rest of your life without that worry.”

He said senior citizens would not have to worry about upkeep and maintenance around their yard and home while in the complex.

“Here’s what would be a bunch of accessory apartments all in an area where everybody’s in the same boat — they can all support one another and that’s the way it really should be,” Baisch said. “The psychological benefit alone probably exceeds the housing benefit.”

Sound Beach Civic Association President Bea Ruberto, 70, said she’s ready to sign up.

“I can envision myself living there,” Ruberto said. “As baby boomers, we’re getting to the age where we want to live somewhere like that and we have very few rental apartments in the area. More senior rental is definitely needed.”

Ruberto said the proposal was well-received by other civic board members, especially Baisch’s idea to give each building in the complex a different color and design so it better fits the look of the community.

“I can envision myself living there. … More senior rental is definitely needed.”

— Bea Ruberto

The Miller Place proposal mirrors Baisch’s On the Commons apartment complex in development in Rocky Point on the site of the old Thurber Lumber Co. Inc. He said Miller Place and Sound Beach residents requested to be placed on the Rocky Point housing list, prompting him to add a second location.

Like On the Commons, Echo Run plans to reserve a significant percentage of its homes for United States military veterans. The minimum percentage for veterans in Miller Place would be 10 percent, Baisch said, but that number may be adjusted pending an upcoming meeting with Joe Cognitore, commander of Rocky Point Veteran of Foreign Wars Post 6249.

Mary McDonald, 66, who has lived in Miller Place for 32 years, is pleased the proposal is pushing for residential development as opposed to commercial.

“Affordable housing for seniors is something that’s going to be needed all through Suffolk County, because taxes are so high seniors have to leave,” she said. “I’m getting to that point myself.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said she has already received positive feedback from seniors.

“Several residents have reached out to me and are very excited for it,” Bonner said.

Baisch has discussed the estimated two-year plan with the president of the Miller Place Civic Association and members of Brookhaven Town, and will be meeting with the Mount Sinai Civic Association in the near future.

“I know this will be a homerun in Miller Place,” he said, “just like it’s a homerun in Rocky Point.”

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