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Rocky Point

Plans for the new Rocky Point firehouse on King Road. Ground is scheduled to be broken in June. Rendering from Michael Russo/Hawkins Webb Jaeger

With an extra push from the town, Rocky Point Fire District is setting its sights on early June to begin construction of a more durable and up-to-date firehouse in the footprint of its existing one at 90 King Road. The $8.5 million project, approved by the public in a vote in August 2017, also includes the acquisition of a new aerial ladder truck.

During the Jan. 25 Town of Brookhaven board meeting, council members voted to waive the project’s site plan requirements and building fees, turning an administrative review over to its Department of Planning, Environment and Land Management instead of outside engineers. This reduces the overall cost to taxpayers and speeds up the “shovel in the ground” process, according to fire district officials.

“Every little bit helps,” said Rocky Point Fire District Vice Chairman Kirk Johnson, who was unable to provide the exact costs the fire district would be saving at this time. “It’s not astronomical, but there are significant costs, and those things add up.”

“The fire district is very fiscally conservative, but the first responders don’t have room, they respond to an enormous amount of calls and the building isn’t very energy-efficient. This needs to be done.”

— Jane Bonner

Fire district officials have been working alongside architect group Hawkins Webb Jaeger since last year to fine-tune the design of the new firehouse — which the project’s architect said will be made of natural stone as opposed to brick; consist of pitched roofs and a hidden flat roof for storage of mechanical equipment; and include a spacious meeting room as well as a “ready room” for responders, who currently have to put on their gear in the way of incoming and outgoing fire trucks.

The building will also be up to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, the most widely used green building rating system in the world; include energy-efficient LED lights; and be equipped with better, more cost-efficient heating and cooling systems.

It was designed to have a “more residential feel” than the existing, decades-old building, according to Michael Russo, an associate architect at Hawkins Webb Jaeger.

“We felt this would be the bookend to the north end of the Rocky Point business district and something that works well for the edge of a residential community and the end of a North Shore downtown center,” Russo said.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) spoke of the benefits of the new design.

“It’s a very modest firehouse, very traditional looking, and it will blend in nicely in the community and downtown,” she said. “The fire district is very fiscally conservative, but the first responders don’t have room, they respond to an enormous amount of calls and the building isn’t very energy-efficient. This needs to be done.”

Russo and Johnson said upon breaking ground in June, they hope to complete construction of the new building’s apparatus bay by winter, so the fire vehicles can be stored and protected against freezing temperatures. During construction, fire district personnel will work out of portable trailers and possibly garages being offered up by community members.

Johnson said he estimates the project will take up to a year to complete. The fire district will be going out to bid for contractors in the coming months.

Humbled, dedicated leader immediately credits students and staff

Mount Sinai's 18-year athletic director Scott Reh hugs former girls lacrosse star Sydney Pirreca following a championship win. Photo from Scott Reh

Don’t ask Scott Reh to talk about it, but he’s been named athletic director of the year by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.

As the news spread throughout Mount Sinai school district, and when boys track and field coach Bill Dwyer and his team stopped in the middle of the hallway to clap for Reh, he simply turned around and said, “Thanks to you and your team — you helped me earn this honor.”

“Here we are recognizing him, and right away he turns it around on us,” Dwyer said, laughing. “It made him feel good, and the kids recognize he earned the distinction, but that’s just the kind of guy he is.”

Mount Sinai athletic director Scott Reh with girls lacrosse head coach Al Bertolone. Photo from Scott Reh

Reh, a natural deflector when it comes to taking any credit for the continued strength of the Mount Sinai program since he was named athletic director in 2000, added another notch to his belt, having previously been inducted into the Rocky Point, Adelphi University and Suffolk County sports halls of fame.

“It was very humbling,” said Reh, who graduated from Rocky Point in 1985 and Adelphi in 1989, and was an All-American lacrosse player at both schools. “I’m very appreciative that my peers voted for me for this award. It’s a great honor.”

Reh is the first full-time athletic director in Mount Sinai’s history, also overseeing health, nursing, security and grounds.

On his first day at school, Reh held a meeting with instructors, including head football coach Vinnie Ammirato, who has been with the program since 1996. Ammirato said Reh’s words and actions immediately struck him.

“That first day I knew we had someone in place who understood the value of athletics, and would be willing to help us however he could,” Ammirato said. “His passion for athletics and his desire to see us succeed is what impressed me the most.”

To get the Mount Sinai facilities up to snuff, Reh advocated for the gyms and weight rooms to get a face-lift and also worked to add several sports teams, like lacrosse.

“We’ve been very, very successful over the years — we’ve had national, state and county championships,” Reh said. “All of our teams are very competitive because of the time they and the coaches put in.”

The athletic director is known for putting in his own time. He’s the vice president of the Rocky Point board of education for starters, and even when visiting his twin sons to watch their lacrosse games at University at Albany, he’ll book a hotel just to crash for a few hours before hitting the road to make it back to school in time.

“Sports have always been in my life, but my goal isn’t about winning or losing, it’s about giving kids the best opportunity to succeed.”

— Scott Reh

“We tell him to take a few hours, come late, but he never listens,” said board of education member Peter Van Middelem. “He’s a professional. He cares about every student, athlete or not, and we’re fortunate to have him. He’s on top of everything.”

Van Middelem, who first met Reh in 2008 and joined the board in 2014, has seen the Rocky Point resident’s care and concern firsthand, saying it even goes beyond athletics. When he traveled with the girls lacrosse team up to the state championship game, to see his daughters Meaghan and Emma play, the athletic director ensured the hotel was booked and there were restaurant options from which to choose. After the girls won, Reh was making phone calls to the fire department and had signs made on the fly to give the Mustangs a proper welcome home. His efforts even extend past his own teams. When there was a case of bedbugs at a hotel his and other students were staying at during a state tournament, he called to get new arrangements made, also aiding West Islip in the switchover, whose athletic director wasn’t present.

Mount Sinai Booster Club president Diane Tabile has also seen the athletic director go above and beyond in generosity with his time. She said she has seen him popping in and out of games, whether late after school or on weekends. This past Saturday, he was upstate watching the wrestling squad take home the first
Division II state title.

High school principal Rob Grable, who was a varsity football assistant and middle school baseball coach when Reh was first hired, said the athletic director has been in everyone’s shoes along the way. Reh was an All-County player who was named MVP during a state championship soccer game his senior season. That year he was presented with the Ray Enners Award, given to the best lacrosse player in Suffolk County, and he finished that year with the most points in state history. He went on to become a lacrosse and soccer coach at New Hyde Park and was an assistant for Stony Brook University’s men’s lacrosse team.

Scott Reh, a longtime Rocky Point resident, is all vice president of the Rocky Point school board. Photo from Scott Reh

“He knows what programs need, he knows how to take programs to the next level and he’s always got the kids in the back of his mind when making his decisions, so you can’t go wrong with that,” Grable said. “But the biggest thing about Scott is he’s all about the kids, and everyone knows that. I don’t think anyone is omnipresent but if there is anyone that’s close to that it’s him.”

Reh’s office is known for always being open, and students and staff are frequently seen cycling through. His coaches not only consider him a mentor but also a close friend.

“I’ve taught and coached at multiple schools and Scott raises the bar high, he’s the best of the best,” said head girls lacrosse coach Al Bertolone, who has been teaching lacrosse at Mount Sinai since 2008. “When you work for somebody like that you will always go above and beyond for him, because that’s what he does for you. He’s a great, great leader, a community guy, he’s selfless and he keeps everyone in constant communication. He’s really created a tradition of excellence.”

The reason Reh doesn’t take the credit is because for him, it’s about recognition for the programs and kids, not his own. His father, George Reh, was a 30-year physical education teacher and head track and field coach at Newfield. The Mount Sinai athletic director said he learned from his dad’s example.

“Sports have always been in my life, but my goal isn’t about winning or losing, it’s about giving kids the best opportunity to succeed,” Scott Reh said. “I love seeing them grow into young men and women who are mature, responsible and dedicated. You learn a lot about a student through athletics, and I think life’s lessons are taught through athletics, so I love being a part of that.”

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Rocky Point easily landed at the top spot in Division II Medium at West Babylon Jan. 27. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

The Eagles are soaring all the way to nationals.

Rocky Point’s cheerleading squad once again came out on top, with a 92.5 Division II Medium first-place finish at West Babylon Jan. 27. The Eagles were ahead of No. 2 Northport (77) and No. 3 Newfield (66.5). Head coach Anna Spallina said that competition is practice for nationals, where Rocky Point will be seeking its fourth national title.

Samantha Ferrara. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“When we won nationals in the past, we were beating teams by 20 plus points,” Spallina said. “We’re in a good place.”

Rocky Point keeps its standards high. Spallina, in her 14th year at the helm, has taken her team to the top of the Orlando scoresheet in 2011, 2012 and 2014. In the last two years, the Eagles finished second and third, respectively.

“It’s so much pressure,” Spallina said of maintaining the team’s ranking. “To climb to the top, I can tell you, is not as hard as staying at the top. Staying on top, no one wants you to take first place anymore. I don’t blame them.”

Before awards were announced, senior Julieanna Joy said she was confident her team would take first.

“I think we were pretty confident,” she said. “We knew that if we just hit our routine, we would end up on top.”

Junior Samantha Ferrara, who has been on the cheer team since seventh grade, is the only cheerleader on the current roster who has won a national title.

Mount Sinai placed first in Division I Large at the West Babylon competition Jan. 27. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“I want to give a boost to my team,” she said, “so they can feel what I felt a few years ago.”

Joy pointed to the coaching staff as a reason why the team’s been so successful.

“They push us to do our best and keep us relaxed,” she said. “They are always pushing us.”

Scanlon said that she is tough on the girls, knowing the standard having won five national championships with Hofstra University. To help the team perform to its level of difficult with percision, the Eagles practiced their routine over 100 times a year.

“This program is at the same level as a college program,” Scanlon said. “Spallina runs this program just as hard Hofstra cheerleading runs their program. We’re tough, and the kids know that.”

Mount Sinai continues to rock the top spot in Division I Large after requesting to compete outside of Division II, with no other challengers in that section. The Mustangs finished with a 91.05 ahead of No. 2 West Babylon (84.9) and No. 3 Sachem North (83.8).

Rocky Point’s cheerleading team sees each competition as practice for nationals. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Mount Sinai head coach Kara Bochicchio said it took a lot of preparation for the Mustangs to get where they’re at.

“We started open gyms back in April — we’ve been preparing for a while,” she said. “We’ve been working around the clock since. It’s been a long time coming.”

Mount Sinai senior captain Charlotte Fiordalisi competed in her first competition in over a month after she had surgery on her broken nose.

“I just want to thank all my coaches, my teammates and my doctors for being so understanding,” Fiordalisi said. “It’s unexplainable the joy I feel to be back out there with my team. I don’t really know what to say. I’m just so happy. It’s a fun day for me.”

Mount Sinai has one competition left on Long Island at Smithtown West  Feb. 3.

The teams will compete at nationals Feb. 10 and 11 before returning home to take part in the Suffolk County championship at West Islip Feb. 24.

“The big goal is nationals,” Spallina said. “These girls want to claim the national title, and we’re excited about that.”

This version correctly identifies what years Rocky Point won national titles.

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By Jim Ferchland

After Corey Connolly’s match-clinching win, he jumped in the arms of assistant coach Anthony Volpe. In that moment, the entire Rocky Point team surrounded them knowing what they just achieved.

“It was amazing,” Connolly said of helping the Eagles to their third consecutive Suffolk County dual meet title Jan. 20 He pinned Brentwood’s Hugo Vasquez in 1 minute, 35 seconds to give his team a commanding 37-3 advantage. “I’m so happy. I’ve waited my whole life to be county champ, and now it’s here. Training with these guys all season — hard work, it actually pays off.”

Rocky Point’s wrestling team beat Brentwood at Bay Shore High School, 37-33 even after chosing to forfeit the final five matches.

“I’m going to wrestle until we clinch,” Rocky Point head coach Darren Goldstein said was his mentality, chosing to protect his final grapplers by not competing if they didn’t need to. “Then when we clinch, we are going to walk off the mat. We are going healthy upstate.”

Senior Jake Pohl (27-10 record) got Rocky Point heading in the right direction when he earned a 5-0 decision over Jean Jasmine at 285 pounds. The Eagles cruised from there.

“It felt really good just knowing I went out there and got the job done,” Pohl said. “Once one person gets going on our team, everyone else gets going. It’s a train you can’t stop.”

Nick LaMorte, a seventh-grader and youngest on Rocky Point’s roster, won in a dazzling 12-9 decision over Fernando Romero in the 99-pound weight class to keep the train rolling.He scored a reversal and two back points in the final 13 seconds for the comeback win.

“It gave us momentum,” Goldstein said. “That can help you build.”

Rocky Point fought in 10 matches and won nine of them, dropping the 106-pound weight class.

After the loss, sophomore Logan Sciotto answered right back for Rocky Point earning a 5-2 decision over Brentwood’s Wenchard Pierre-Louis at 113 pounds. Sophomore Evan Mathias squeezed by Richard Diaz with a 5-3 decision at 120. Senior captain Ryan Callahan won his 138-pound match and classmate Donald Hammarth took his at 145.

Goldstein said he’s excited to be one of the first to represent Suffolk County in the state dual meet championship. Rocky Point will wrestle Jan. 27 at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse. Section XI wrestling chairman Matt DeVincenzo, athletic director at Comsewogue, said 12 teams will be competing in four pools of three teams each, with the winner of each pool heading to the semifinals. The winners of those matchups will face off in the final. The Eagles, in the Division I pool, are grouped with Spencerport (No. 3 seed) and Jamesville-DeWitt, competing on mat three.

“We are going to try our best,” Goldstein said. “We know that we can compete with the best kids in the state — that’s really what we’ve been doing all year long. We got these kids focused, in the right mindset.”

Robert Van Helden. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police arrested a Rocky Point man who allegedly robbed a bank in Port Jefferson Station.

A man entered TD Bank, located at 86 Nesconset Highway, on Jan, 19 at 6:30 p.m. and presented a note demanding cash. The teller complied with the robber’s demands and the suspect fled on foot. Numerous officers and detectives from the 6th Precinct responded and located the suspect, Robert Van Helden, a short time later at the Home Depot in Selden.

Major Case detectives charged Van Helden, 32, with third-degree robbery. He is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip Jan. 20.

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Landslide victories help Eagles to seventh straight league crown

Rocky Point's Corey Connolly takes down his Amityville opponent. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

These Eagles are flying high.

Like the opportunistic foragers they represent, Rocky Point’s wrestlers saw how close they were to another undefeated league season, and grabbed it by easily outscoring Amityville and Westhampton Beach to finish the season 6-0.

Rocky Point’s Ryan Callahan claims a victory. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“Our team has been grinding throughout the year,” senior captain Ryan Callahan said. “We’ve had a lot of tough matches; we’ve had some tough teams we’ve battled, but every team will get their bumps and bruises.”

Amityville had to bow out of six matches — weight classes 99 to 132 — giving Rocky Point a 36-point lead right out of the gate on the way to a 74-9 victory Jan. 10. Sal Aprile pinned Amityville’s Nestor Rivera in the 182-pound weight class to give Rocky Point 67 consecutive points.

“It’s a rarity, but not so much with Amityville,” Rocky Point head coach Darren Goldstein said of the multiple forfeits.

Callahan (22-4 at 138 pounds) and Don Hammarth (16-1 at 145 pounds) won by technical falls, outscoring their opponents by 15 points for automatic wins.

Callahan said Goldstein has taught him everything he knows about wrestling.

“I’ve been around him since I was 5 years old,” Callahan said. “He taught me everything about the sport; everything about competing. He taught me great sportsmanship and to enjoy sports.”

Rob Pliska gave the Eagles four points with a major decision over Amityville’s Angel Zavala, 8-0, at 152 pounds, and Corey Connolly won 5-0 at 160 pounds.

Rocky Point’s Don Hammarth controls his Amityville challenger. Photo by Jim Ferchland

The Eagles only continued their winning ways at Westhampton Jan. 11 with another dominant win.

Mickey Gold, Justin Amendola, Anthony Sciotto and Darren Ketcham each pinned their challengers, which alone would have handed Rocky Point sole possession of the League VI title. Rocky Point won the dual meet 67-12.

Callahan and Connolly teched their opponents, and Hammarth pulled out an 11-3 major decision.

“We’ve had a share of the league title for the last seven years straight,” Goldstein said. “We are proud, but we set big goals in the beginning. We work year round.”

Rocky Point finishes the regular season 11-1 overall, with the sole loss being to League V’s Eastport-South Manor the first meet of the season. Goldstein is proud to see how his grapplers bounced back, giving it their all at each meet after. He’s looking forward to seeing what his Eagles can do in the Suffolk County brackets.

“We didn’t wrestle our best to Eastport-South Manor, but we’ve been rolling ever since,” Goldstein said. “When the county dual comes, you can’t run away.”

Superintendent states minimal changes will be made

Rocky Point High School. File photo by Desirée Keegan

The Rocky Point school district isn’t wasting any time getting its future finances in order, kicking off the new year with a workshop meeting on the proposed budget for the 2018-19 school year.

District Superintendent Michael Ring and board of education members met prior to their regular BOE meeting Jan. 8 to evaluate priorities, expectations and projected figures within the budget, which Ring anticipates will be “a very positive one” for the school and community. Although he said it’s too early in the process to present a total budget — a specific total will be presented in March — Ring stated that the 2018-19 budget will be tax cap compliant, as the 2017-18 budget was, and will maintain the growth in tax levy within the cap. The district also plans on keeping existing instructional and cocurricular programs, as well as performing arts and athletic programs, at all levels.   

Rocky Point Superintendent Michael Ring. File photo by Erika Karp

“Nothing’s being lost,” Ring said. “That’s always a concern, particularly among members of the community who have children in the schools. That and sticking within the tax cap are things we strive for. I think those are things people in the community want from us, so hopefully that will result in general positive acceptance of this budget.”

In the 2018-19 school year, the second half of bonding for capital projects totaling $16 million, approved by voters in 2016, will take place. The first half of the bond — roughly $7 million — funded projects completed this past summer, including, but not limited to, districtwide asbestos removal, the installation of air conditioning in the high school auditorium and multiple renovations within the Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School, from making its bathrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act to replacing boiler, burners and old piping.

The second half of the capital projects list — costing $9 million —  will fund the installation of energy-efficient ceilings and light-emitting diode lights throughout the district’s schools, bathroom renovations in the high school and Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School, modifications to the heating and ventilation systems and replacement of the public address and clock systems districtwide, among other things. The board plans to begin the improvements after school lets out this June, working throughout the summer for a before-fall completion date.

“It’s a lot of little things that need to be done,” Ring said. “[It happens] when facilities reach 30 to 40 years old.”

Greg Hilton, school business official, explained that, because of the bond, total debt service within the preliminary 2018-19 budget is at a peak $4.28 million, compared to $3 million in 2016-17. It won’t stay that way though, he said.

“This is the top,” he said. “And we’re expiring smaller debt in its place.”

“Nothing’s being lost. That’s always a concern, particularly among members of the community who have children in the schools.”

— Michael Ring

A “special recurring item” in the budget is a proposal to hire a full-time equivalent additional teaching assistant at the middle and high school level to support the classrooms that have a high population of students with disabilities, including first-level foreign language classes in the high school.

Ring said due to scheduling, coursework and graduation requirements, certain noncore courses end up having 50 percent or more of its students needing special education. When the ratio of students with disabilities in a classroom reaches 50 percent, the new hire would be utilized to assist the general teacher, modifying instruction and helping those students.

One-time proposals may include a $34,000 purchase of a van to help the district’s maintenance mechanic transport tools and parts efficiently, rather than forcing him to carry items to a job; an $80,000 renovation of the high school’s weight room; $20,000 for a small turf groomer for interim maintenance on the district’s athletic field while utilizing The LandTek Group for the bigger jobs; and $50,000 for upgrades to the high school auditorium speakers and wiring, prompted by resident complaints over the sound quality in that room.

The next budget workshop will be held Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. at Rocky Point High School.

Rocky Point Fire Department has added a new member to its commissioner board. File photo by Kevin Redding

Ray Strong has helped put out more fires across Rocky Point and Shoreham than he can remember. He has saved countless residents from burning buildings. He stood at Ground Zero to aid in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But entering his 40th year in fire and rescue service, Strong, 59, is stepping into uncharted territory within his field as he begins a five-year term on the Rocky Point Fire District’s five-member board of commissioners.

Strong, who joined the Rocky Point Fire Department in 1978 and later served as chief, was elected commissioner Dec. 12 after running unopposed to fill a vacant seat left by former commissioner Gene Buchner, who opted not to run again after his own five-year term ended. A total of 159 votes were cast, and Strong received 153 votes.

Fireman Ray Strong, on the scene, has been elected the newest Rocky Point fire commission board member Dec. 12. Photo by Dennis Whittam

He will be officially sworn in Jan. 9 and said he hopes to apply his  four decades of hands-on experience and knowledge as both a volunteer and career fireman to the job and better protect the community in which he grew up and lives.

“I want to continue to be an asset to the department,” Strong said. “After 40 years of fighting fires, I think I have enough experience to help me make the difficult decisions that have to be made in regard to protecting our communities and making sure our first responders are getting the best education, training and care. This is going to be a learning experience for me, but I’m looking forward to helping keep the ball rolling.”

Commissioner duties are generally divided among the board members and  include overseeing budgets and insurance policies within the district, maintaining the custody and control of all village property of the fire department, and purchasing necessary equipment to prevent and extinguish fires or administer first aid within the area.

“I’m going to do the best I can in whatever job I’m given,” said Strong, who will still serve as a firefighter while in his new position. “My mission in life has always been to be a firefighter and now hopefully a good commissioner. I get a thrill and satisfaction from it. It’s my gift back to my community, and I plan to do that as long as I’m standing on my own two feet.”

He had his first brush with the department as a member of its drum and bugle corps when he was a student at Rocky Point High School, marching in parades and routinely interacting with its members at the firehouse. He became a volunteer at 19 in March 1978 and was trained in first aid and firefighting tactics before taking advanced classes in both. Just two months in, Strong responded to a call to extinguish a major 24-hour fire at a squab farm on Randall Road in Shoreham — still the biggest one he’s ever faced.

“I get a thrill and satisfaction from it. It’s my gift back to my community, and I plan to do that as long as I’m standing on my own two feet.”

— Ray Strong

“I’ll never forget that,” he said, claiming that fire better prepared him for the job more than any training course could have.

Within Rocky Point, he has primarily served in the district’s North Shore Beach Company 2 firehouse, on King Road, while also volunteering for a few years at Mastic Beach Fire District. In 1985 Strong was hired as a career fireman within the New York City Fire Department, where he ultimately climbed the ladder to lieutenant of Rescue Company 4 in Woodside, Queens, and served there until he retired in 2016.

“Ray’s going to bring a lot of firsthand experience to the position, which really helps,” said district vice chairman, Kirk Johnson. “He has a ton of knowledge, too, as far as what equipment is needed for firefighters to do their jobs properly and to keep them safe.”

Johnson added that Strong will be particularly helpful when it comes to monitoring the district’s newly passed capital projects to replace the North Shore Beach Company 2 firehouse with a safer, more updated one, and acquire a new fire truck.

“He knows every nook and cranny of that building,” Johnson said.

Bill Lattman, an ex-chief at Rocky Point, has been working alongside Strong since 1982 and said there’s nobody better for the job.

Ray Strong, with wife Iris, is a longtime Rocky Point resident. Photo from Ray Strong

“He’s a great guy and an extremely loyal friend to everyone,” Lattman said. “He’s always been a very hands-on person within the fire district and has been involved in everything in our department. He’s definitely going to bring a lot to the table. He’s going to be a very good asset to the district and the community.”

As an FDNY member, Strong not only saved lives, but bettered them. In 2013 he started a nonprofit motorcycle club called Axemen M/C NY-3, geared toward raising money for special needs children of FDNY firefighters through annual fundraisers and charity events. The organization, which has raised more than $25,000 since 2015, came out of Strong’s own experience with two daughters born with cerebral palsy, both of whom passed away in recent years due to complications with the illness.

“He’s the most kindhearted and giving man that I know,” said his wife Iris Strong. “Anything he puts his mind to, he gives 100 percent. He’s always looking out for everybody else and if anybody ever needs help with anything, he’s right there and he’ll never ask for any help back. That’s just his nature.”

As commissioner, Strong said he hopes to  strengthen the department’s community relations and keep residents more aware of what goes on within the district. He encourages young people to give volunteering a shot.

“Everybody in fire service started out as a person who just wanted to help their community,” Strong said. “This is what has driven me for decades. People’s lives are being saved daily by your local volunteers, and it’s nothing but a great feeling.”

Personal Fitness in Rocky Point. Photo from Facebook

By Kevin Redding

A Rocky Point fitness club owner is determined to get people in shape — inside the gym and beyond it.

Since 1989, North Shore residents have been going to Personal Fitness on Route 25A not just to run on the treadmill and get fit for beach season. They go to have their lives transformed by Ed Darcey, the gym’s owner, trainer and “overall cheerleader and therapist,” according to gym members, who are made up of athletes, parents, children, developmentally disabled residents, people in wheelchairs and those struggling with drugs, alcohol or abuse.

Ed Darcey, owner of Personal Fitness in Rocky Point, training a client. Photo from Facebook

“Ed is an inspirational, motivational, kind, empowering and passionate trainer,” said Faith Powers-Raynis, who joined the gym after suffering a spinal cord disease that paralyzed her from the waist down. “Ed is helping me to rebuild the muscles that I lost … I know with Ed’s help, I just might get back on my feet.”

“He’s a wonderful soul,” Lisa Monaco said. “He makes you feel comfortable and pushes you as far as you can go.”

Rob Geneva, a longtime customer turned staff member, said Darcey makes the atmosphere feel less like you’re in a gym and more like the bar from “Cheers.”

“Anybody is welcome and you just get that feeling right when you come in,” he said. “You’re not intimidated.”

Darcey, 54, a Shoreham native and Riverhead High School graduate, said he has always felt a need to help and protect those around him, whether it was a kid at school being bullied or a homeless person on the street asking for money. It’s a feeling that remains.

“If someone needs a hand, I’m going to try and reach out and do my best to help, especially those whose lives maybe aren’t what they should be,” Darcey said. “A lot of our members here see the gym as an outlet, like a second home. Sometimes they’re more comfortable here than they are at their actual home. They come here, get in shape and we all root each other on. I’m trying to help give them a better life if I can.”

A football player throughout high school, Darcey pursued a degree in physical education and health at C.W. Post, where he received his gym certification after three years. In his late 20s, he decided to take advantage of some empty space next door to his parent’s long-running carpet business on Route 25A, and he’s been there ever since.

“From the beginning, I tried to make it very personal and hands-on,” he said. “Lots of other gyms are these big franchises. This is a family-type atmosphere. We have members that have wheelchairs and walkers, and kids with cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. But in my gym, everybody’s the same. Some may have different limitations and abilities, but they’re all the same to me.”

The first time Rocky Point resident Rich Grundmann went to the gym, he saw a young woman with Down syndrome running on a treadmill and mentioned to a nearby trainer that his 12-year-old son Alex had cerebral palsy, wondering if he’d be able to get involved with the gym. The trainer encouraged the father to bring him by.

“After just one session there, my son just lit up,” Grundmann said. “And the personal attention they gave him was incredible. He’s been through all sorts of therapy, personal and occupational, but the trainers here really pushed him and he loves it. It’s amazing the amount of strength he’s built up since going there.”

Alex, he said, moves around in a walker and sometimes a wheelchair, and has a lot of spasticity. The trainers work on stretching his legs and arms to gain more mobility.

Ed Darcey, owner of Personal Fitness in Rocky Point. Photo from Facebook

“It gets frustrating for him at school because he looks around and he wants to do all the sports the other kids do and wants to feel like a regular teenager,” his father said. “But whenever he leaves the gym, he’s on cloud nine. There’s something about that place and Ed where everyone fits in. It’s like a big family.”

Amy Dias of Middle Island, who sustained a traumatic brain injury after a car accident on Middle Country Road in 2003, said Personal Fitness helped her feel confident again. Following the accident, which left her in a coma for nine months, doctors told Dias she would never speak or move again. A year after she joined the gym, she was walking with a cane and talking. She even lives on her own now.

“I’m not afraid to talk to people now and they definitely strengthened my right side, which got affected most,” Dias said. “I love everyone at the gym. Ed is wonderful and really helped me.”

And how did he do the impossible?

“He cares,” she said. “He honestly cares about every individual person.”

The gym owner also helps out in the local community, frequently lending a charitable hand to Ridge Full Gospel Christian Church, where he recently helped to feed and clothe the homeless on Thanksgiving. He raises funds and promotes any and all shelters and charity drives in the area, and is a regular contributor to Betty’s Closet, a store inside the Rocky Point Middle School cafeteria that helps raise money and collect toys and food for families in need.

“Whenever I post something about an upcoming event on my page, he’s always ready to help,” said Betty Loughran, the Rocky Point PTA member who created Betty’s Closet. “He gets all the gym members involved, donates gift cards and goods and whatever the community needs. He’s just a really good person. The gym is always open and if kids in the community are ever in trouble and need a place to go, he’s there for them.”

Mike Voigt joins Brookhaven’s Brew to Moo program to continue recyclying brewing waste for good causes

Rocky Point Artisan Brewers owners Mike Voigt and Donavan Hall partnered with Town of Brookhaven to send spent grains to be recycled at local farms. Photo from Mike Voigt

Rescue animals at Double D Bar Ranch can thank Rocky Point Artisan Brewers for their full bellies.

The brewery has entered into a partnership with Town of Brookhaven, called Brew to Moo, in which spent grains are sent to feed abused or unwanted farm animals at the Manorville ranch.

“I think the program is wonderful,” said 51-year-old Mike Voigt, the owner of Rocky Point Artisan Brewers, which he founded in 2008 with Donavan Hall. “I’d like to get involved and actually go see the animals. It’s terrible to throw out the grains, so to see it get put to good use is fulfilling.”

Spent grains from Rocky Point Artisan Brewers waiting for a Town of Brookhaven pickup. Photo by Mike Voigt

A byproduct of brewing is literally tons of spent grains left behind from hops, barley, oats or whatever is used to make the beer, which in many cases gets tossed in the trash. While the grains have reduced caloric content, they can provide protein and fiber that can supplement corn for livestock feed.

Voigt, who said he’s typically handed over his grains to friends whenever needed, heard about the program through Port Jeff Brewing Company, and reached out to the town to get involved. Rocky Point Artisan Brewers is now the third local brewery or distillery to link with the town in its efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle, along with the Port Jeff brewery and BrickHouse Brewery in Patchogue, which was the first to get involved. Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said he expects Patchogue’s Blue Point Brewing Company to get involved as the fourth partner once the organization has moved into its new
headquarters on Main Street at what was formerly Briarcliffe College.

“Breweries spend a lot of money getting rid of the leftover grains, because it is now garbage, but we’re in the interest of looking for ways that we can reduce our waste, recycle it, and reuse that which we recycle,” Romaine said. “We’re picking up the spent grains that breweries would typically have to pay a carter to take away, and then we’re taking that spent grain to farms to feed the animals. It’s a way to continue to promote reusing and recycling. We shouldn’t be a throw away society.”

Since the program launched in August 2017, approximately 50 tons of spent grains have been fed to the rescue animals at Double D Bar Ranch on Wading River Road.

“Breweries spend a lot of money getting rid of the leftover grains, because it is now garbage, but we’re in the interest of looking for ways that we can reduce our waste, recycle it, and reuse that which we recycle.”

— Ed Romaine

Rich Devoe, the operator of the ranch, which is a nonprofit organization, said the roughly 400 animals living at the ranch never go hungry, but having a steady source of food from the two breweries will allow him to substantially shrink the food bill. Typically, he spends $175,000 a year on feed. Now, Devoe will be able to save $100,000 of that, and spend its donations and money from his own pocket elsewhere, like on barn repairs and fencing. He called the arrangement “great” and “very important.”

“We’ve even had breweries from outside of the town calling us asking to get involved that we’ve had to turn away,” Romaine said. “Seeing what owners like Mike Voigt are doing is tremendous. This is a model that responsible business will want to enter into with the town.”

Voigt has made good use of the brewery’s spent grains since before Brew to Moo came about. The owner provided more than 1.8 tons to Hamlet Organic Garden in Brookhaven to be composted.

The 21-year Rocky Point resident has been a seller at the Rocky Point Farmer’s Market since its inception in 2012, which is where he met Sean Pilger, a manager at the garden since 2006. Voigt sells most of his beer at the farmer’s market because he said he wants to maintain a local feel.

“The beer doesn’t leave Long Island,” he said. “I like to sell it locally.”

Romaine said he sees the new partnership as enhancing nature rather than disrupting it. Voigt said he is hoping other businesses can continue to get behind that mantra.

“Who wants to throw it out?” he said of the spent grains. “I’m rather small, but seeing this go anywhere instead of in the garbage is a good thing. It takes no more effort to put it in a can and have the town pick it up than it takes to throw it out. I wish the program was larger — it would make sense — and I hope more breweries on the Island get involved.”

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