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Rocky Point

The site of McCarrick's Dairy in Rocky Point, which closed its doors in 2017, will become a 7-Eleven. Photo by Kyle Barr

The shuttered McCarrick’s Dairy, a fixture in Rocky Point for 71 years, might soon be bearing the green, white and orange colors of the ubiquitous 7-Eleven logo.

The Brookhaven Town planning board approved the plans for the new 7-Eleven at its July 30 meeting. The half-acre property, owned by Rocky Point based Dairy Farm LLC, at the northwest corner of North Country Road and Harding Street will be renovated to have 43 parking spots in front and behind the main building. Plans for the 3,800 square foot renovated structure are prohibited from including neon signage, and outdoor sales and storage in an effort to stay true to the residential nature of the area, according to recommendations by the planning board.

A number of residents view the new 7-Eleven as a major change from the old McCarrick’s Dairy, which they considered a small grocery store more so than a typical convenience store.

“A convenience store is something that is a grab-and-go,” Rocky Point resident Anita LoPiccolo said at the July 9 planning board meeting. “McCarrick’s was a family run, community supported business that encouraged community closeness.”

Charles Bevington, the president of the Rocky Point Civic Association, said he is concerned with how many convenience stores already existing in downtown Rocky Point. There are already two other 7-Elevens in the hamlet; one on the corner of Route 25A and Rocky Point Yaphank Road and another next to Westchester Drive.

“Rocky point is apparently drinking a lot of coffee,” Bevington said. “We will soon have 10 to 12 convenience stores in a matter of two miles.”

Kevin McCarrick, co-owner of McCarrick’s Dairy before it closed in 2017, said before they received an offer from 7-Eleven, they had been searching for another local business to take their place, but they could not find any potential buyers.

“We started out seeking those operators who had shops like ours, but unfortunately they are a dying off breed.”

— Kevin McCarrick

“We started out seeking those operators who had shops like ours, but unfortunately they are a dying off breed,” McCarrick said. “All kinds of stores sell all kinds of products now and it’s really diluting the product mix. It becomes very difficult to maintain margins.”

He said by not opening another shop similar to the old McCarrick’s, ultimately he was protecting the business of shops like Shop With Us in Shoreham and the Handy Pantry further down from McCarrick’s in Rocky Point.

“There is a difference between a 7-Eleven customer and a customer of those types of shops, and both those stores are doing better and will continue to do better with a 7-Eleven than even if we remained there,” McCarrick said. “It will probably do more business than our store used to do.”

Some residents were concerned about the safety and lighting at the location, citing the potential for crime and litter. McCarrick said the location already has two spotlights that light up the property as well as the adjoining residential park. The 7-Eleven will also have a 10- by 20-foot garbage enclosure and surrounding bushes and fences to prevent trash from blowing onto neighboring yards.

Some in the community are excited for the new 7-Eleven. Nancy Hoffman, a direct support professional at the Association for Habilitation and Residential Care Rocky Point residential group home facility located off Harding Street, said she and other workers at the home were looking forward to the opening of the new convenience store.

“We will be take some of the residents there, and it will just be more convenient,” Hoffman said.

McCarrick said they plan to start renovations on the store in about a month. Representatives from 7-Eleven said the location would be operated by corporate for an unspecified amount of time until they could find a person who would wish to franchise the store.

The Rocky Point site slated for a residential community for seniors. Photo by Kyle Barr

As drivers hurtle down Route 25A from either direction into the hamlet of Rocky Point they are met by a crossroads. If they keep straight, they will link up with North Country Road and head into the Rocky Point business district lined with shops, restaurants and services. If drivers take a right and continue along Route 25A, they circle around North Country Road, bypassing all those businesses.

It’s been the story since the bypass was constructed in the late 1990s, but it’s just one of the challenges facing business owners in Rocky Point’s commercial district as they wait to see much discussed revitalization.

“The bypass really put downtown on life support,” Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said. “You can’t just put a bubble around Rocky Point — you can’t just freeze it in time — but I say you have to have a healthy respect for the history of it and plan your development sensitively.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner and developer Mark Baisch stand near a Rocky Point site slated for a residential community for seniors. Photo by Kyle Barr

Revitalization has been planned for years and small steps taken, but much is left to be desired by those yearning for a vibrant downtown along North Country Road and Broadway, hoping to return back to the prosperity of the mid-20th century, when Rocky Point’s population experienced a boom and new businesses flourished. While new restaurants like the Broadway Market have created a sensation, the memory of stores that have closed down also looms, such as when in April 2017 McCarrick’s Dairy, an utter staple in the community that had been open for 71 years, closed its doors.

While Rocky Point is the only hamlet between Riverhead and Port Jefferson that has a semblance of a real downtown, its small size and limited space have led to unique revitalization issues. As also arises whenever the term revitalization gets thrown around, retaining the historical aspect of the downtown while growing it with a mind toward the future is a delicate balance.

In 2007 the Town of Brookhaven paid Vision Long Island, a nonprofit that advocates for transportation-oriented development, for a charrette about Rocky Point revitalization that was released in 2008. The plan called for a combination of retail, business and residential all in one place, much like what has been attempted in Patchogue, Farmingdale and dozens of other pockets of Long Island. That plan was rejected by the community, which felt it would destroy the small town feel of the area.

“[The Vision plan] was much too aggressive in pro-business and development,” president of the Rocky Point Civic Association Charles Bevington said. “I’m in favor of slow-growth opportunities for small businesses and restaurants. You know you can’t come in and dictate development. We have too many problems with water. We have too many problems with nitrogen in our systems.”

Eric Alexander, the director of Vision Long Island, said his organization’s plans hinged upon sewers, which the community rejected.

“They wanted goods, services and restaurants, something walkable and quaint but that was as far as they wanted it,” Alexander said. “That’s fine, but the numbers didn’t work without the sewers. Revitalization has gone in a few different directions since we left them.”

Some residents said sewers would only be a hindrance to the community’s growth.

“You can’t get the density on Broadway to support the cost of sewers,” said Linda Albo, the owner of Albo Real Estate on North Country Road. “Downtown is just not the right place for sewers.”

In 2012 and 2013 Bonner and Brookhaven secured a $1.2 million grant for road and traffic light improvements along North Country Road. It included setting up new light fixtures and fixing the curb cut along the main road’s intersection with Broadway. Yet real revitalization that would bring business flooding downtown is still a dream, even as some think its advent is just on the horizon.

Mark Baisch, the owner of development company Landmark Properties Ltd., is the latest to attempt to reinvigorate downtown Rocky Point. Its On the Common project promises 40 one-bedroom apartments for seniors inside 10 buildings located along Prince Road and King Road, just north of North Country Road. Also included are plans for a large green space along Prince Road set up for community activities such as the Sunday Rocky Point Farmers Market and a new VFW Memorial Museum right in front of the Brookhaven municipal parking lot. A quarter of the apartments will be reserved for veterans, Baisch said.

The apartments hold a distinction from other residential projects meant to stimulate downtowns. While projects in Patchogue and Ronkonkoma have tried to get young people living in space that is part residential and retail, Baisch said he hopes to do the same with the 55-and-older community.

“There is a huge need for it,” Baisch said. “There’s so many 90- to 100-year-old people living up in the hills of Rocky Point, and nobody even knows they exist. They sit in their house with the rooms closed up not knowing if they’re going to have a way to get out of the next snowstorm. It’s not a great way to live out your twilight years.”

Businesses on North Country Road have pointed to the construction of the Route 25A bypass as a detriment to growth. Image from Google Maps

Some residents are looking forward to the On the Common project with the possibility of leaving home ownership behind.

“I think it is a great idea,” Rocky Point resident Claire Manno said. “I am a senior citizen and have lived in Rocky Point for 20 years. I will have to sell my house eventually because we can’t afford it for much longer. I’d like to stay in the area if possible.”

Other community members questioned why there will only be one-bedroom apartments available.

“I became disabled two years ago,” Rocky Point resident Christine Cohn Balint said. “I have a three-story home and I cannot manage stairs. So we will be selling. But this ‘community’ will not be built for me — they won’t be ready. One bedroom only? They should offer two bedrooms also, if so I’d consider it.”

Baisch said he hopes to start construction around October.

There is hope in the community that good things are coming. The Broadway Market, which opened in March, has made a big splash. Some also looking point to plans in 2019 to start construction on the Rails to Trails project, which will create a biking and hiking path along the old rights-of-way and train rails that run parallel to the North Shore. That path will run north of North Country Road and give people walking and bike access directly into the heart of the commercial district.

“The Rails to Trails is going to have the biggest positive impact,” Bevington said. “It’s going to be along the line of walking and bicycling, and we have two bicycle shops in town that can be aided by the project. That’s really something.”

Alexander said he believes while there wasn’t community support for his organization’s plans, these upcoming projects could result in something good for the area.

“The community has to trust the change, any change that occurs,” Alexander said. “There are a lot of good people over there working in good faith — people who care deeply about the community — that’s what’s most important.”

Broadway Market in Rocky Point, owned by Ann Olenick and Shasho Pole, is conjuring images of a revitalized, walkable downtown community hub for some locals. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Broadway Market, a Rocky Point restaurant that opened in March, has quite a lot on its plate.

It’s not just the food — even though the restaurant has offerings not only for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but all the way through coffee, desserts and alcohol — it’s that owners Ann Olenick and Shasho Pole both respect what a place like the Broadway Market means to the community.

“I think it’s an anchor business, and I think it gives people another reason to try to come here – bringing Rocky Point back to a walking town,” Olenick said.

Olenick and Pole are both area natives, having first met at the Rocky Point Farmers & Artisan Market nearly five years ago. After learning about each other’s expertise, with Pole in the organic meats market and Olenick in baked goods and desserts, the two decided to partner up and take their show on the road. They travelled to multiple farmers markets across Long Island, and by the third year of working together the duo was going regularly to seven local markets every season.

Broadway Market in Rocky Point, owned by Ann Olenick and Shasho Pole, is conjuring images of a revitalized, walkable downtown community hub for some locals. Photo by Kyle Barr

Despite their success on the local market scene, the idea for a brick-and-mortar restaurant didn’t cross their minds until they tried to meet a demand for chicken cutlets. Because of state regulations, they could only sell chickens whole without an inspected, clean location to butcher them. Though the two looked all over Long Island for a proper space, their eyes settled on a location in Rocky Point right near the farmers market where they first met. They settled on a location that was once home to a bar, first named Harry’s Beer Garden and then Gracie’s Hearty Foods.

“It already had all the wastewater approvals, the sanitary requirements we needed and an inspected kitchen,” Pole said. “It’s funny, we went on a quest for a spot, you know a wet space, in a walking town and circuitously we wound up back here.”

The idea grew exponentially past a simple place to sell their meats and sweets. At the start of their building project they thought they could get away with a Keurig coffeemaker, but that transformed into days of barista classes in New York City. They originally didn’t think that the restaurant would have a bar, but since the location already had a liquor license they decided to go through another round of classes, this time in bartending.

“We thought we would have a little closet — a little boutique — and we wound up with all this,” Pole said.

The building sticks out not just for its looks, with modern rustic-gray stonework and barn-wood interior, but for its freshness. Local community leaders have recognized just how much of a turning point the Broadway Market is for downtown Rocky Point.

“The Broadway Market is great — it’s bringing more attention to the community,” said Charles Bevington, the president of the Rocky Point Civic Association. “Rocky Point is still a place where people can invest.”

While the old Gracie’s stood in the same spot as the market, the only things left of the building are the western wall, a chair and the beer tower, now refurbished, that used to belong to both Harry’s and Gracie’s.

Pole said that all the food at Broadway Market is as regionally sourced as possible, including fish and vegetables as long as they are in season. Some 10 percent of the meats are grass fed, particularly the beef used for burgers, and they do their best to get their chickens from free-range sources.

On the bakery side of things, Olenick, who is a college-trained pastry chef, said she offers some of her own designs along with the designs offered by their trained in-house chef Elizabeth Moore.

Though the two owners know their food, it took a bit of time for the pair to figure the ins and outs of operating a restaurant. Over the past several months they have slowly increased the number of days and hours they are open. Now as the sun rises on the restaurant, the building strikes such a distinct poise compared to the other smaller, brown and white paneled buildings it neighbors. Some locals have described it as something one would only see in more affluent areas like in the Hamptons.

Broadway Market in Rocky Point, owned by Ann Olenick and Shasho Pole, is conjuring images of a revitalized, walkable downtown community hub for some locals. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We’ve had people say when are you opening in East Hampton, when are you opening in Huntington? Can you come to Soho?” Olenick said laughing.

“Stop, stop, stop — please, we need to get our traction here first,” Pole said, continuing from where Olenick left off. “There are naysayers, but the feedback that I get here is a resounding ‘we need this, we need something like this.’”

Either way, the community is responding to the new restaurant in a big way. Some see it as a dream of what might be the future of Rocky Point’s downtown.

“It’s good to have a nice restaurant in the area,” said Kenny Kowalchuk, a Rocky Point local who had just finished his meal at the restaurant. “This is really turning the community around.”

Broadway Market is located at 643, Broadway in Rocky Point. The location is open seven days a week, Sunday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday 2 to 10 p.m. and Tuesday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Bryan Steuer. Photo from the Steuer family

Bryan Steuer will be remembered by his friends and family as someone who could hold the world together and yet be exceedingly humble. The Rocky Point native passed away on May 18 at the age of 34.

“Bryan lived by two simple things: Do the right thing and be there for people,” said Bryan’s sister Lisa Steuer, a former employee in TBR News Media’s editorial department. “When someone passes away you’re inclined to talk good about them, but when you’re talking about Bryan it’s really true.”

Bryan Steuer, standing, with siblings Joe and Lisa Steuer. Photo from the Steuer family

Her brother was laid to rest at the end of May, and in August family and friends of Bryan are planning to host a fundraiser to establish a college fund for his 4-month-old daughter. “We just want to make sure she is taken care of, because that is what Bryan would have done,” said Kevin Cain, a family friend and co-owner of Lithology Brewing Co. in Farmingdale. “If Bryan was here and things were opposite he would have done the same thing for my family.”

Bryan’s passing came as a shock to the very core of the family, according to his sister. Her brother’s death came only a month after he attended her wedding in the role of man of honor along with their brother, Joe.

Joe Steuer, the youngest of the Steuer siblings, said his older brother was the guy who walked him through everything, from getting married to buying a house. “Bryan was basically our leader,” Joe said. “He was everything I looked up to be.”

As a kid Bryan was both intelligent and athletic, his family said. He played basketball, soccer and baseball at Rocky Point High School before graduating fourth in his class in 2002. Steuer graduated from the University of Delaware and went to work as a chemical engineer for ExxonMobil. He worked hard and was promoted section head of numerous departments while at the same time helping to create two patents with the company. ExxonMobil eventually transferred him to Texas where he lived with his daughter and his wife until he died suddenly from an unknown ailment.

“He had a really big heart, and for a guy as smart as he was, he was a really caring person — he always checked in on you and made sure you were okay,” Bryan’s uncle and Rocky Point resident Dave Steuer said. “My family, we’re just shattered now. He was really kind of the glue that held us all together.”

Lisa remembered her brother in terms most brothers likely hope their sister would — as her protector. He helped her find her classroom as she walked off the bus at Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School. Years later, in college, she would text him using American Online Messenger and talk with him nearly every night as he helped her learn how to make new friends and get over the stress of school.

“Bryan was somebody unique in this world, and he didn’t have to tell people the good he was doing — he just did the right thing.”

— Lisa Steuer

“In this sort of age, we’re living in a time where you go on the internet, and it asks you ‘what’s on your mind,’ we’re so inclined to tout ourselves,” Lisa said. “Bryan was somebody unique in this world, and he didn’t have to tell people the good he was doing — he just did the right thing.”

Bryan Steuer is survived by his wife Maritza, daughter Alejandra, brother Joe, sister Lisa, and his parents, John and Kathy.

The Bryan Steuer Memorial Fundraiser will take place at Lithology Brewing Co., 211-A Main Street, Farmingdale on Aug. 18 from 5 to 8 p.m. There is a $25 suggested donation at the door, and the event will feature happy hour specials at the bar and free food. The Steuer siblings, Joe and Lisa, will be guest bartending, and any tips they earn will go toward the fund as well.

For more information or if you wish to donate, email bryansteuermemorial@gmail.com or search Bryan Steuer Memorial Fundraiser on Facebook.

By Kyle Barr

There are 1.3 million active military personnel stationed all around the world according to the U.S. Department of Defense, and while Janet Godfrey and her nonprofit Operation Veronica know they can’t reach all of them, they’ve sure tried to.

The Rocky Point-based organization has worked to ship thousands of boxes filled with food, toiletries, utensils and more to thousands of U.S. servicemen and servicewomen stationed overseas since 2005. Even after all this time Godfrey said she is still amazed just how appreciative the men and women in uniform are after receiving their packages.

“More important than the contents of the box is that the soldiers know people they never met got together and intentionally spent their time, money and effort to send this package to them.”

— Janet Godfrey

“More important than the contents of the box is that the soldiers know people they never met got together and intentionally spent their time, money and effort to send this package to them,” Godfrey said.
“We’re told by the people who receive it that it’s like getting a message from the American people.”

Close to 20 women volunteers have met nearly every Friday at St. Anthony’s Church in Rocky Point since the group’s inception, and over its 13-year lifespan, have helped ship over 70,000 items. The boxes have been sent to soldiers in nine different countries as well as several naval ships stationed all over the world.

If volunteers are not busy packing boxes, they are working a sewing machine making neck coolers for the spring months and polar fleece sweaters for winter. Other women are hunkered down creating survival bracelets made from 550 paracord, the same cordage that airborne infantry used making World War II parachutes. Soldiers can find the bracelets useful in the field for making tourniquets or restraints, for storing equipment or to do something as simple as lacing their shoes.

“This kind of thing is very spiritually rewarding,” Rocky Point volunteer Judi Miranda said. “I’ve always done volunteer work, but there is something very special about what we’re doing.”

The boxes the group ships are filled with essentials, but the volunteers often add other items at soldiers’ requests. This could be anything from glue traps to deal with vermin problems to flip-flops to aid in walking around without fear of getting dust in their boots.

“I’ve always done volunteer work, but there is something very special about what we’re doing.”

— Judi Miranda

“Everybody wants to do something to support our troops, but they just don’t know what to do,” Godfrey said. “We’re an outlet in that regard.”

It’s not cheap to send so many boxes overseas. Using a medium-sized flat-rate United States Postal Service box costs $18 to ship. If the group wishes to send a more irregular-sized box it may cost closer to $30 or $40. The volunteers rely on donations from the local community as well as the support from the American Legion Post 1880, the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary at the Leisure Glen Homeowners Association in Ridge, Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 and the Richard and Mary Morrison Foundation based in Port Jefferson.

“We’re relying on every little penny,” said Irene Stellato, a volunteer from Rocky Point.

Even with the amount of time and money that goes into the work, Godfrey said she sees what Operation Veronica is able to do as a good that goes beyond politics. The name for the group comes from the story of
St. Veronica, who in the Bible is said to have used her veil to wipe the face of Jesus as he carried his cross to the mound. 

“She couldn’t take him off the walk, she couldn’t change his fate, but she gave him a momentary relief from physical discomfort, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Godfrey said. “We can’t change their fates, we can’t change their lives, we can’t bring them home as much as we want to, but we can cool them off when they’re hot, we can warm them up when they’re cold, we can give them something to eat when they’re hungry, so we do what we can.”

To learn more about Operation Veronica visit www.operationveronica.org.

This post was updated July 6 to correct the amount of total items Operation Veronica has shipped to service members.

This year’s top two Rocky Point seniors had very close GPAs, but very different interests. 

Valedictorian Connor Middleton, who focused on government and politics, graduated with a 106.71 GPA. He received a perfect score of 800 on his SAT II U.S. History test; was a member of the varsity lacrosse team; a Human Rights Institute for High School Leaders presenter and facilitator; a Students Building Bridges Award recipient; garnered state, senate and assembly citations for community service; is a kempo jiujitsu black belt; and a Peer Networking facilitator with socially challenged students.

Rocky Point valedictorian Connor Middleton. Photo from Rocky Point school district

Beyond all that, he said his best experience was as the vice president of the school’s Human Rights Club, which has worked to spread knowledge on the subject and its abuse taking place all over the world.

“It’s something that we’ve built up over the years and it’s something I’m really passionate about,” Middleton said. “I’ve been fortunate to have good teachers in [history,] and they’ve just helped me gather interest in it. They made history come alive.”

Middleton will be attending Williams College in Massachusetts where he will be double majoring in political philosophy and economy with a concentration in global studies. He said he hopes to take that knowledge to the state department or the United Nations as a diplomat, an ambassador or an economic advisor. He said he’d like to travel to developing countries to work with nations on human trafficking, human rights abuses and natural disaster relief.

 “I think spending your first year or two getting involved and immersing yourself in activities both inside and outside of school, and sticking with it, is important,” Middleton said. “It was helpful for me.”

Salutatorian Kyle Markland was just edged out by Middleton, graduating with a 106.69 GPA, but heavily involved in robotics and engineering.

Rocky Point salutatorian Kyle Markland. Photo from Rocky Point school district

Markland was a member of the cross-country and field and track teams, played double bass in the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of New York at Carnegie Hall and helped found Rocky Point’s robotics teams, all while running a YouTube channel that focuses on LEGO Mindstorms robot building. This year he published a book detailing how to build several quirky and complicated LEGO robots.

In May, Markland attended the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which was attended by students from over 75 countries.

“I had what was probably the best week of my life,” Markland said of his experience in Pennsylvania. “I didn’t end up placing, but it was such an awesome experience because we had 1,800 kids about my age who were just as interested in research and technology as I was.”

Markland will attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he plans to study engineering on a robotics track. He said he hopes to open his own technology or robotics company, or would like to work with major car manufacturing companies on self-driving car technology.

Markland said those kids going into their first year of high school this September should make the most out of the next four years.

“Work hard now, because these four years are possibly the most pivotal four years of your life,” Markland said. “There’s nothing more powerful than somebody who plans their work and works their plan.”

Rocky Point High School seniors tossed their caps off in celebration of achieving an education milestone during their graduation ceremony June 22.

The Eagles are officially soaring over the district, displaying decorated caps, some of which showed off where they will be taking their next educational steps and others that displayed words of encouragement like “Let’s fly with your beautiful wings” and “Don’t dream it, be it.”

Rocky Point class of 2018 valedictorian Connor Middleton and salutatorian Kyle Markland addressed the crowd, as did Superintendent Michael Ring and high school Principal Susann Crossan.

 

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County police last night arrested four people after conducting State Liquor Authority inspections on June 20 in the Town of Brookhaven.

Seventh Precinct Crime Section officers conducted SLA inspections utilizing an underage police agent.

The police agent attempted to purchase alcoholic beverages from targeted businesses within the Town of Brookhaven.

The following businesses did not comply with the New York State Liquor Authority and sold an alcoholic beverage to an underage police agent:

  • 25A Gas Plus located at 613 Route 25A in Rocky Point
  • BP Gas Station located at 367 Route 25A in Rocky Pont
  • Handy Pantry located at 280 Echo Ave. in Sound Beach
  • BP Gas Station located at 1470 Middle County Road in Ridge

The following people were charged with NYS penal law 260.20 — first-degree unlawfully dealing with a child. They were issued field appearance tickets and will be arraigned at a later date.

  • Natwarbhai Patel, 55 of Rocky Point
  • Alican Mavruk, 54, of Port Jefferson
  • Amir Riaz, 55, of Riverhead
  • Nicholas Derosa, 16, of Miller Place

The following businesses complied with the New York State Liquor Authority and refused to sell an alcoholic beverage to an underage police agent:

  • USA Petroleum located at 681 Route 25A in Rocky Point
  • BP Gas Station located at 779 Route 25A in Rocky Point
  • USA Gas Selda Corporation located at 1146 Middle Country Road in Middle Island

Harborfields' Gavin Buda only athlete to be chosen to play in both Blue Chip prospects baseball (pitcher) and football (wide receiver) games

By Bill Landon

A two-run eighth inning helped Nassau County tie the game and earn the would-be go-ahead run over Suffolk in a 5-4 Blue Chip Prospect Grand Slam Challenge win June 8 at St. Joseph’s College.

With the game tied 3-3, Garden City’s Mike Handal’s RBI gave Nassau the lead, and a Suffolk error brought in the eventual game-winning run in the 14th annual game sponsored by Rawlings, proceeds from which benefit Cohen Children’s Northwell Health Physician Partners Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics center in New Hyde Park.

St. John the Baptist catcher Logan O’Hoppe hit the ball deep to right, which scored Rocky Point pitcher and outfielder Joe Grillo from second, but Locust Valley’s Thomas Eletto forced a groundout with two runners on  to earn the save.

“It was a lot of fun playing tonight with all these kids,” said Ward Melville second baseman Logan Doran, who committed to Division I George Washington University. “I’m excited about competitive baseball. I’m ready to go.”

Doran proved that when he cleanly fielded a ball rocketed in the dirt, and passed it to short stop Kyle Johnson who turned a double play with bases loaded to retire the side and keep Suffolk up 1-0 in the second.

Johnson, who will continue his baseball career with Stony Brook University, said he’s been in awe of all the effort and commitment that goes into putting together the event for senior elites.

“This game’s awesome — Blue Chip; Jim Clark, who put this together years ago — it shows how [talented] Long Island is,” the soon-to-be Newfield grad said. “You’ve seen the guys this year that got drafted and a lot of those guys played in this game, so it’s an honor to be out here.”

Suffolk made it a two-run lead in the top of the third when West Islip outfielder Jake Guercio crossed home plate for the second time. And Suffolk’s hitting didn’t stop there.

Johnson stole second just ahead of a tag with Brentwood’s Justin Aviles in the batter’s box, but Aviles’ grounder toward third was thrown home in time to get Doran for the second out. Grillo smacked the ball deep to right next to load the bases, but Suffolk couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity.

Plainview JFK’s Ryan Saltzman hit a sacrifice fly to put Nassau on the board in the bottom of the inning, and Plainedge’s Jason Bottari did the same to make it a new game.

With no outs in the fourth, Newfield pitcher Bobby Vath hit into a double play, but Sayville’s Jake Russo raced home from third in time to help Suffolk retake the lead. The team looked to build on its lead in the top of the fifth when Mount Sinai third baseman George Rainer took four consecutive pitches at the plate to draw a walk, but two straight strikeouts ended the inning.

“It’s a great feeling to be playing with the best players on Long Island — I really enjoyed it,” said Rainer, who signed a letter of intent to play at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “It was a great day to end my varsity baseball career. I had a lot of fun and I can’t wait to see what college has in store.”

Harborfields pitcher Gavin Buda, the only athlete chosen to play in both Blue Chip Prospects games — the Grand Slam Challenge and Empire Challenge football game — took over on the mound in the bottom of the fifth and retired the side in order.

“It’s a huge honor to be chosen [for both],” said the Hobart and William Smith Colleges-bound wide receiver. “When you look at a school like Harborfields we’re always underrated and under-the-radar, so to be nominated to play in these games and represent this school is amazing.”

Annual enrollment numbers of 2012-13 school year compared to 2016-17. Graphic by TBR News Media

By Kyle Barr

A shadow hangs above the heads of Long Island’s school districts: The specter of declining enrollment.

“From last year, not a whole lot has changed, enrollment is still declining,” Barbara Graziano, the manager of the Office of School Planning and Research for Western Suffolk BOCES said. “What a lot of districts are seeing is there is a significant displacement between their graduating classes being larger than the following year’s kindergarten classes.”

School enrollment across Suffolk County has been in decline for nearly a decade. In last year’s annual report on enrollment, Western Suffolk BOCES, a regional educational service agency, said there was a 9.1 percent overall decline in enrollment in townships from Huntington to Smithtown from 2010 to 2016.

Students at Bicycle Path Pre-K/Kindergarten Center hop off the school bus. Photo from Middle Country school district

Between the 2006-07 and 2016-17 school years, Long Island saw a 6.2 percent decline in enrollment, according to Robert Lowry, the deputy director for advocacy, research and communications at the New York State Council of School Superintendents.

Statewide enrollment declined 4.2 percent in the same period. Nearly every school district on Suffolk County’s North Shore has seen at least some decline, and the trend can have tangible effects on a district’s long- and short-term planning.

“Declining enrollment may push a district toward reconsidering staffing and whether it’s necessary to close a school,” Lowry said.

Smithtown Central School District in the 2012-13 school year had 10,317 students enrolled in the district, and four years later the number dropped more than a thousand to 9,241 in 2016-17. The declining enrollment was cited in 2012, with guidance from the district’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Instruction and Housing, as the rationale behind the closing of Nesconset Elementary School, and again in 2017 when the district closed Brook Branch Elementary School.

“Over the last few years, the board of education and administration have been proactive regarding the district’s declining enrollment,” Smithtown Superintendent James Grossane said in an email. “The district
will continue to monitor its enrollment trends to plan for the future.”

“Over the last few years, the board of education and administration have been proactive regarding the district’s declining enrollment.”

— James Grossane

Experts cite factors like declining birthrate, aging population and changes in local immigration patterns as potentially having an impact on local enrollment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report in May indicating the national birthrate in 2017 hit a 30-year low with 60.2 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44. The national birthrate has been in general decline since the 1960s, but this most recent report is low even compared to 10 years ago when the birthrate was closer to 70 births per 1,000 women. Suffolk County’s population is also skewing older. Census data from the American Community Survey showed from 2010 to 2016 there was an estimated 28,288 less school-aged children between the ages of 5 and 19 living in the county. School closings are probably the most severe action districts tend to take to mitigate the effect of declining enrollment, but it is not the only option.

The Three Village Central School District has seen enrollment drop by about 900 students during the last decade. In its recently passed budget the district said it was making several staffing changes, including consolidating the roles of certain staff members. The district cited declining enrollment along with staff retirements and attrition for the changes, but also promised to add a new high school guidance counselor and an additional district psychologist to give attention to individual student’s mental health.

“While our district, like so many others in our area, have recently been experiencing a decline in enrollment, particularly at the elementary level, we have taken this opportunity to create efficiencies using current staff in order to lower class size and support a number of new initiatives, programmatic enhancements and student support services,” Cheryl Pedisich, the superintendent for Three Village schools said in an email.

“Declining enrollment affects school districts in several ways — perhaps most importantly through the impact on state aid.”

— Al Marlin

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen said lower enrollment allows for smaller class sizes and for more attention to the mental health of individual students.

“Our students today need a little bit more mental health support than students yesterday,” Eagen said. “Obviously we don’t need as many elementary sections, but we haven’t necessarily decreased our total staffing amount because we’ve been increasing our mental health supports.”

Even with those potential benefits, many districts are still trying to work out the long-term implications of lower enrollment. Al Marlin, a spokesperson for the New York State School Boards Association said enrollment has a large effect on how much state aid a school can procure.

“Declining enrollment affects school districts in several ways — perhaps most importantly through the impact on state aid because New York’s school-aid distribution formula is based, in part, on enrollment numbers,” Marlin said in an email. “Declining enrollment also can make it more difficult for districts to sustain academic courses, including Advanced Placement courses and programs such as sports teams.”

Shoreham-Wading River school district conducted an enrollment study in 2015 that was updated for the 2017-18 school year. The study predicted the district will recede to 1,650 enrolled students by 2025, compared to 2,170 as of May. Along with a declining birthrate and an aging population, the district pointed to low housing turnover from 2008 to 2016 for part of the declining enrollment.

As part of an ongoing Shoreham-Wading River bond referendum voted on in 2015, school classrooms, like those at Principal Christine Carlson’s Miller Avenue School, were expanded to include bathrooms. File photo by Kyle Barr

“It is difficult to predict the exact number, but it is fair to say that the enrollment decline in the district will be continuing in the near future,” SWR superintendent Gerard Poole said in an email.

Superintendents from SWR and Rocky Point school district both said they do not have any plans to close schools, but there is a possibility lower enrollment could affect the districts’ ability to apply for grants.

A few districts are breaking the trend. Huntington Union Free School District has actually seen an increase in school enrollment from 2012 to 2017, but Superintendent James Polansky said in the most recent years that increase has started to level off. Polansky did not want to speculate as to why enrollment in Huntington was not decreasing like other districts, but Graziano said it might be because the district is more diverse and attracts more immigration than nearby districts.

“Every district is different, they have to look at their own schools and communities to see how they deal with enrollment,” Polansky said.

Every year Western Suffolk BOCES releases a report that looks at schools’ current enrollment and compares it to previous years. Graziano, who is working on this year’s report, most likely to be released sometime this month, said the agency expects a continuing decline in school enrollment at least for the next several years. Though eventually, she said, the declining enrollment should level off as entering kindergarten class sizes stabilize. However, there is no telling when that might be. 

“Birthrates do not seem to be increasing, it doesn’t look like, as of right now, that’s going to turn around any time soon,” Graziano said. “But of course, we don’t have a crystal ball.”

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