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Selden

Selden residents lay out candles to spell Jenna’s name on the Newfield High School football field. Photo by Kyle Barr

On the green turf football field at Newfield High School, the Selden community, also swaddled in different shades of green, laid out candles in the grass. The crowd came together like a tide. As they stepped back, the candles spelled out the name “Jenna.” Underneath her name, the flickering yellow and green electric candles and tealights also framed a heart.

Community members hold candles at the Aug. 31 vigil. Photo by Kyle Barr

Jenna Perez, 17, a Selden resident who worked at the Five Guys in Port Jefferson Station was killed Aug. 24 while crossing Route 347 southbound at around 9:25 p.m. She crossed around 300 feet west of Terryville Road, police said. The driver who hit her sped off, and police said they are still searching for that person.

“She was one incredible kid from the day I met her,” said Scott Graviano, the Newfield High School principal. “A very quiet spirit, but always with a smile on her face, always saying hello. And with that sweet, soft quiet personality, she gained the love of support and respect of this entire community.”

For the hundreds of community members looking for ways to heal, remembering Perez as the loving and outgoing high schooler was the best way to deal with their pain. Wearing green, Perez’s favorite color, friends, family, faculty and more from the community held glowing electric candles while the sky slowly darkened Aug. 31. Several friends spoke for her, talking and remembering her fun-loving personality.

“She lived a short life but clearly left a significant imprint,” said Asia Austin to the crowd gathered at the vigil. “As someone who has been grieving recently, I want those to understand that we should not follow down that road in thinking we have no purpose … with support from family and friends, you will find yourself and you will be OK.”

Community members hold candles at the Aug. 31 vigil. Photo by Kyle Barr

Donna Austin was her guardian for the past three years, taking care of Perez and her twin sister Janell in Selden. She had met the twins in 2008 when they were 8 years old living in the Bronx as she went there to take care of one of their relatives. Austin would eventually run a community center out of the building where the Perez family lived, and the twins would always be there to decorate her offices for whatever holiday came up. When their grandmother died, she took both sisters in to live with her back in her hometown of Selden.

“Jenna’s face would have lit up, and she would have been smiling, looking at all of her friends who had come to her like this,” Austin said.

Their caretaker said Jenna thrived in Selden, making innumerable friends and rising higher at Five Guys. She was set to take up her first supervisor training sessions at Five Guys on her birthday Sept. 6. Austin said she had been extremely excited and proud. 

Naziyah Dash, one of Perez’s high school friends, said she has been heartbroken since she learned of her friends death.

“Your story will always be cherished,” she said. “I will keep you alive in my heart.” 

The community is helping monetarily with three separate GoFundMe pages that have been set up in  Perez’s name. The first, which is donating funds to twin sister Janell, has reached close to $9,500. The other two GoFundMe pages are for funeral expenses.

Newfield High School Principal Scott Graviano speaks at the Aug. 31 vigil. Photo by Kyle Barr

“The Newfield community is an amazing place — deep rooted, full of love and support, and that’s evident here tonight,” said the principal. “Janell, we love you very much as a community, I hope you know that. We will continue to love and support you.”

An additional memorial service will be held Sept. 14 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Church on the Sound, 335 Oxhead Road in Stony Brook.

A funeral for Perez will be held at Ortiz Funeral Home, 524 Southern Blvd. in the Bronx Sept. 11 from 4 to 9 p.m. Burial will be at St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx Sept. 12 with a time still to be determined.

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Police said they arrested a man after he allegedly broke into the home of an off-duty Nassau County Police Department officer in Selden Monday, Aug. 30.

Suffolk County Police said Franklin Almonte, 25 of Selden, entered the Catherine Drive home of off-duty Nassau County Police Officer Mark Kellerman through a kitchen window at around 1:20 p.m. Almonte fled when Kellerman identified himself as a police officer, but he was quickly stopped and restrained by the officer, who called 911. 6th Precinct Patrol officers responded and arrested Almonte.

Officer Kellerman, 45, has been with the NCPD for more than 15 years.

Almonte was charged with criminal trespass 2nd degree and criminal mischief 4th degree. Almonte was held overnight at the 6th Precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip on September 3.

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Newfield High School students are mourning the loss of a classmate.

On its website, Middle Country school district shared the news of the death of senior Jenna Perez, 17, who was the victim of a hit-and-run accident that occurred Aug. 24 along Route 347 in Port Jefferson Station.

“It is with a heavy heart that I inform you of the tragic loss of one of our own,” Principal Scott Graviano said in the statement. “Jenna Perez, scheduled to start her senior year at Newfield, was killed in a hit-and-run accident last night in Port Jefferson Station.”

The high school started providing grief counselors Aug. 26, according to the statement.

“Please keep Jenna, her twin sister Janell, her family and friends in your thoughts and prayers,” Graviano added.

Perez, of Selden, was crossing Nesconset Highway southbound, approximately 300 feet west of Terryville Road in Port Jefferson Station, when she was struck by a vehicle believed to be traveling westbound on the roadway at around 9:25 p.m. Aug. 24, according to Suffolk County Police Department. The driver fled the scene in the vehicle.

Perez left work at Five Guys and was walking to Taco Bell when she was hit, according to SCPD officials. Where she was crossing there is no light or crosswalk, and it’s possible she was hit by more than one vehicle.

The high school senior was pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner.

A GoFundMe page In Memory of Jenna Perez has been set up to help her family with burial costs. On that page organizer Emily Keuler describes the Newfield student as “a beautiful, hardworking, intelligent teenager who strived to create a good life for herself, despite obstacles that may have come her way.” As of Aug. 28, nearly $7,500 had already been raised, surpassing the $5,000 goal.

“She did not deserve the fate she suffered at the hands of someone so careless and negligent in their actions,” Keuler wrote in the post.

Another GoFundMe page Justice for Jenna Perez was set up by Jose Ortiz on Aug. 27. According to information posted on the page, the funeral will be held at Ortiz Funeral Home in the Bronx and information would be posted once dates are confirmed.

According to a post by Ortiz on the page, Perez was an employee for more than two years with the Five Guys franchise and training for a management position.

“She enjoyed photography, taking pictures of her dog, her favorite pastime, and did volunteer work for peers with special needs,” Ortiz posted. “Her perspective was a glass half full mindset and she was loved by many.”

Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the Major Case Unit at 631-852-6555.

Will Ferraro, a Selden resident, is running against Ed Romaine for town supervisor. Photo from Ferraro’s campaign

For Will Ferraro, a Selden resident running for Town of Brookhaven supervisor in elections this fall, his campaign is about making solutions. 

“I’m running for working class and working poor people who feel like this current administration isn’t listening to them,” he said.    

Ferraro said he is campaigning on a platform of fixing and repairing town roads as well as addressing issues with the town’s recycling system and the Brookhaven landfill. 

“There have been roads that haven’t been paved in years. People are sick of a supervisor who just points the finger to the highway superintendent,” he said. “On the recycling issue, he points to China and says there is nothing wrong with the landfill. My campaign is about solutions.”

“People are sick of a supervisor who just points the finger to the highway superintendent.”

— Will Ferraro

Ferraro and Ed Romaine (R), who is finishing his third term as supervisor, will look to secure a four-year term in the upcoming elections, a result of Brookhaven residents voting last year to add term limits to three per seat, but also double the term length for the town supervisor and other positions like the highway superintendent. 

The challenger was against the increase in term length and co-funded Brookhaven Action Network, which helped organize and lead the “Vote No on Prop 1” campaign against the terms extensions. Despite being ultimately unsuccessful, it proved to be a motivating factor for Ferraro’s decision to run. 

This will be Ferraro’s first time running for elected office, though he says his experience working in Albany as a legislative analyst for the New York State Assembly has helped in the transition.  

“You don’t really know what to expect until you’ve actually done it,” he said. “You’re out there on your own.”

If elected, Ferraro said he would restore curbside pickup of recyclable glass on a monthly basis, make road infrastructure the top budget priority and create a task force that would expand air quality and toxicology tests in areas surrounding the landfill. 

“People feel like their concerns are not being heard,” he said. “This town and administration is run by one party.”

Ferraro, who grew up in Port Jefferson Station, works for the New York City administration for children’s services, has a bachelor’s degree in government and politics from St. John’s University and a master’s degree in public policy from Stony Brook University.   

So far, the Selden resident acknowledged he has raised far less than Romaine in political donations, but said he hopes to raise more than  $100,000 for his campaign. Ferraro acknowledges that Romaine has more campaign contributions but hopes that residents will take to his message. 

“You have to go out there and connect with them. I want to show them how passionate I am about this community,” the Selden resident said. “This administration has not been challenged — I’m not afraid to go after his [Romaine’s] record.”  

Ferraro said the feedback and responses he and staffers have gotten from residents have been positive. 

“Knocking on doors in neighborhoods you see the level of frustration residents have toward the current administration,” he said. “We have people that really believe in our message and want to see change and believe that time is now.”

Ferraro believes Romaine can be beaten. 

“I will provide leadership and a new beginning for the town — I want people to understand that I will be a candidate that answers to residents,” he said. “And I will call out what needs to be called out.”

Above, Cayla Rosenhagen, Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) and Iris Rosenhagen pose for a selfie. Photo by Kyle Barr

Walking along Cedar Beach Aug. 2, one child’s foot scuffed along something that wasn’t rock or sand. Lifting it out, Sean Hoag and his father Benjamin looked down and saw a small straw. Sean sticks it in his bucket. After walking around for 10 minutes, his small bucket is nearly full to the brim with everything from pieces of plastic to cigarettes to bottle caps.

Mermaid Mist thanks Sean Hoag for cleaning up the beach. Photo by Kyle Barr

Over two days, young people like Sean helped dig out just under 8,000 pieces of litter from Cedar Beach, according to Cayla and Iris Rosenhagen, two 14-year-old twins from Selden who helped start the beach cleanup they dubbed Beach Bucket Brigade.

From when they were around 10 years old, the girls would strike out on their own to do cleanups at their local parks and beaches, but on Aug. 2 and 3, the environmentally-minded sisters took it to the next level, hosting their own Beach Bucket Brigade to help clear Mount Sinai’s premier town beach of garbage and debris. They had planned the event for little more than two months ago.

“We really love wildlife. We’ve always been interested in conservation,” said Cayla. “We’ve been interested in beach cleanups in the past, and we’ve done some ourselves, so we wanted to find a way to reach other community members.”

Both Rosenhagen sisters were involved in all parts of the project, from collecting garbage to showing a breakdown of all the trash they collected after the fact.

“Wherever we go here, there’s litter everywhere,” Iris said. “So, it’s really a beautification project, to help the environment and help the animals.” 

The 14-year-old pointed out that just in the first few minutes of holding their event, they already had many families walking around doing their part, adding, “So it’s not just us.”

The girls reached out to Town of Brookhaven town officials to help get everything set, including Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), who said she was more than happy to oblige.

Participants walk along Cedar Beach picking up debris. Photo by Kyle Barr

“This was all on their own, and they met with Councilman [Kevin LaValle (R-Selden)] with their own agenda, their own meeting,” Bonner said. “They designed everything, all on their own.”

From a young age, the Rosenhagen twins have been infatuated with nature, especially animals, and among those, especially birds. Their mother, Raina, said before the girls could talk, they would make animal noises instead.

“They had the idea, and I just said run with it,” she said. “They took a chance on it, and we’re very pleasantly surprised it’s been well received.” 

Within a few minutes of searching, participants were already back to the main tent, handing over buckets full of debris and trash. For each bucket of trash they returned, they were given a raffle ticket in which they could win any number of ecologically-sourced and recycled toys and products. In addition to the buckets, each bucketeer was given a bingo card, where they could strike out a patch for each different type of material they found on the beach.

The day was meant to incentivize and make enjoyable the act of taking care of one’s surroundings. Local mermaid actors, Mist and Marina, came to Cedar Beach to wish the cleanup well and give “mermaid kisses and starfish wishes” to the young people who helped clean the beach.

Making taking care of the beach fun is especially important, Iris said, as she pointed out approximately 8 million tons of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans each year, while items like plastic straws and other plastic items are either ingested by marine life or otherwise harm them by being caught in gills or other parts of sea creatures.

Participants walk along Cedar Beach picking up debris. Photo by Kyle Barr

On Friday, Aug. 2, around 60 volunteers collected 3,827 pieces of litter, a majority of which was plastic, glass and cigarette butts. The following day, volunteers collected 3,885 pieces of litter, even more of which was plastic but also a heavier amount of paper products.

The sisters’ dad, Craig, said his daughters have managed to make him even more environmentally-minded than he already was, and have even volunteered to help set up another beach cleanup at Sunken Meadow State Park for him and his company.

“Most of this is just homegrown,” the father said. “They just care so much about the animals and, obviously, the planet.”

This is only the beginning for the Beach Bucket Brigade, with them already advertising additional cleanups at the beach Aug. 29 with what’s called the Beach Bucket Brigade’s Books at the Beach that involves a story time for young kids under the age of 10 then heading out to again clean the beach of litter.

“In your head, you know there’s something you can do,” Iris said.

Anthony Portesy is running again for highway superintendent. Photo from Portesy’s campaign

By Leah Chiappino

At his kickoff fundraiser, Anthony Portesy, the Democrat who is challenging incumbent Dan Losquadro (R) for Town of Brookhaven highway superintendent, held up a piece of asphalt he found while campaigning on Holbrook Road, he said, to symbolize the condition of Brookhaven’s streets. Having run in 2017 for the same position, Portesy said he looks to bring changes to what he calls “an infrastructure crisis” in Brookhaven.

Anthony Portesy is running again for highway superintendent. Photo from Portesy’s campaign website

“Since 2017, I’ve knocked on between 15,000 and 20,000 doors and I hear the same thing from people,” he said. “They want more information and to know when the plow and paving trucks are coming. They call seven times to get a street light fixed, and it still hasn’t gotten fixed.”

A native of Selden, later living in Centereach and now living in Port Jefferson Station, Portesy said he’s running because when he was growing up the roads were “atrocious,” and not much has changed. 

“The same potholes I went over as a kid, I go over now,” he said in his acceptance speech for the nomination.

 “I’ve seen my friends leave,” he said. “No one is going to want to buy a house if the streets are prone to flooding, and are pothole ridden. Brookhaven is looking more like Detroit, and less and less like a middle-class Long Island hamlet.”

Portesy, who is running on the Democratic, Working Families and Libertarian tickets, currently practices employment and commercial litigation for small-to-midsize businesses, largely in federal court. He feels this prepares him well for the position. Specifically, while studying at the New York Law School in Manhattan, he interned for city Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services.

He claims that after reviewing the contracts for projects the Losquadro has executed since he began his tenure as highway superintendent in 2013, residents deserve better.

“We can do things like potentially lowering the bonding requirements so small businesses can bid on projects and save the taxpayer money,” he said.

Portesy claims Losquadro has wasted $18 million doing “surface level mill-and-fill road resurfacing projects,” which the challenger said only work for about 30 percent of the roads that are “crumbling less than a year after the paving projects are completed.”

“I could very easily spend my free time going to Greece or Italy, but I chose to be involved because I care.”

— Anthony Portesy

“Doing 2 1/2 inches of topcoat as opposed to 1 1/2 inches may be more expensive, but it can give us 25 to 30 years, as opposed to two or three,” Portesy said. 

According to the highway superintendent’s office, the current backlog for town projects sits at around $80 million, compared to a $120 million backlog when Losquadro took office. The highway budget is expected to increase to$150 million over the next 10 years.

The challenger acknowledged there are issues with funding to pave properly. His solution is to work to increase funding through the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program, a state program known as CHIPS that provides reimbursement to municipalities for highway-related capital projects, which he said will “take pressure off the local taxpayer.”

His main policy platform is his Brookhaven 2030 initiative, a series of changes he feels the township should complete within 10 years, much of which focuses on expanding information technology.

The first includes his “worst to first initiative,” a program he said would bring structural engineers in to evaluate the quality of every road, and rate them from the worst to the best. The town would then resurface them based on funding, and in order of highest priority, with rapid response to potholes near schools and main roads. 

He also admitted that while day paving may be inconvenient, it is more expensive to do at night, and is not financially feasible to do neighborhood roads after dark. He added there will be a public list available online so people know exactly when their roads are being paved.

In addition, the Democratic challenger said he would post the contracts and bids publicly on an online database, so “the public can be informed of who is getting the contracts and why,” as opposed to “hiding behind a cloud of secrecy that the Highway Department has done for decades.”

In response to Losquadro’s claims that posting the contracts is illegal, Portesy said that they are unfounded.

“I am a lawyer who has done my research, and if Mr. Losquadro can point out to me a statute that says it is illegal, I would love to see it,” he said. “I haven’t found one state or town ordinance that says so.”

Another initiative, Portesy said, is known as STAR, or snow tracking and removal, includes installing GPS in snowplows that cannot be unplugged, so constituents can track the plows online, and gain an estimate of when the plows will arrive. He said he will ensure that all plows have a rubber bumper to ensure the roads are not torn up. 

He pledges to do quality control inspections as well as bringing much of a work back to town employees, including hiring more workers and bringing back the “black top crews” — town workers who used to handle smaller projects. 

Portesy said he was a longtime member of the UFCW Local 1500 supermarket union, and supports union labor. He called the highways workers “some of the hardest working guys in the business. They are out at 4 in the morning plowing the roads for ‘48 hours’ at a time, and don’t see their families. They earn every dime and deserve an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.”

The final initiative is the tree removal interactive management, or TRIM initiative, which would create an interactive map of all drainage and recharge basins that have overgrown shrubbery. 

“The same potholes I went over as a kid, I go over now.”

— Anthony Portesy

“No one does this if they don’t care about the community. This has affected my personal relationship, and my personal life. I could very easily spend my free time going to Greece or Italy, but I chose to be involved because I care,” Portesy said. 

So far, he has a war chest in excess of $16,300. Losquadro has raised almost $400,000, according to the New York State Board of Elections. Portesy acknowledges Losquadro has more campaign contributions and name recognition, but also points out that increased political involvement regarding everything that is going on nationally could work in his favor.

“Regardless of how you feel about the president, which I take no qualms about and express no opinion on, local elections that people did not pay attention to before are now on the minds of the average Joe who did not pay attention before,” Portesy said. “It’s tough to beat an incumbent, but we can’t wait for an open seat.”

The article originally printed in TBR News Media papers said Portesy had worked in the highways department as a laborer. This has been corrected online to say he was a longtime member of a union.

Crime Stoppers now offering $5,000 reward for info that leads to arrest

Suffolk police continue to search for the man who killed Albert Luis Lopez Rodriguez in 2018. Luz Lopez, Rodriguez’ mother and Jason Rodriguez speak at a press conference July 22. Photo by Kyle Barr

The family of Albert Luis Lopez Rodriguez, a Selden man who was shot and killed last year in a Port Jefferson billiards hall, wailed and sobbed on the anniversary of his death, knowing that his killer was still out there.

“It does hurt a lot, he was my oldest brother,” Jason Rodriguez said at a conference held at Suffolk County Police headquarters in Yaphank July 22. “He never looked for any trouble … everything he did was for his family.”

Rodriguez, 27, was killed, according to police, after an argument and altercation at Billiards DBM in Upper Port July 22, 2018. Alejandro Vargas-Diaz, 36, who also goes by Papujo, Alejandro deVargas-Diaz and Robin Vargas allegedly had an argument with Rodriguez which ended in Vargas-Diaz shooting Rodriguez three times before escaping out the front door of the billiards hall. The victim allegedly was aquinted with the suspect, and was a father of three children, now aged two, seven and nine.

Police-obtained video of the billiards hall shows the place was lightly populated the night of the murder. Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said Rodriguez was at the billiards hall with one of his brothers, his cousin and girlfriend. They would not specify on the precise nature of the argument between the two men. Both men hail from Sabana Iglesia in the Dominican Republic.

Family members at the press conference held signs reading “No Peace,” shouting there would be no peace until their family member’s murderer was found. Luz Lopez, Rodriguez’ mother, could hardly hold back tears as she spoke.

“My heart is broken,” she said. “I will only have peace knowing the guy is in jail.”

Police have had little luck in finding Vargas-Diaz. Directly after the murder, the suspect fled the building, and was next spotted two hours later in Jamaica, Queens, near the train station. The murder weapon, a pistol, was found in the woods nearby in Port Jefferson.

Police sent a detective to the Dominican Republic to work with local police officials in that country, though police said they did not currently know where precisely Vargas-Diaz could be, adding he has family in Brooklyn, Queens, Paramus and Patterson, New Jersey and Hartford, Connecticut. Police said the suspect did not have an arrest record, and that he has had residency status in the U.S., but that has since expired. He was also known to frequent barbershops and pool halls in the area.

“There is a feeling by some in the community this was an accident,” Hart said. “It was no accident. It was an intentional murder.”

The family spent the anniversary of Rodriguez’s murder at his gravesite in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Center Moriches. With emotions mixing between stern and devastating sadness, the family said they will not be content until their family member’s killer is found.

“There’s no way he can hide from this,” Jason Rodriguez said.

 

Cris Bottari a resident of The Bristal Assisted Living at Lake Grove celebrates his 100th birthday July 3. Photo from Rubenstein Strategic Communications

On the afternoon of July 3, a few employees of The Bristal Assisted Living facility in Lake Grove were spotted wearing New York Mets shirts. They had a particular reason — they were preparing to celebrate the 100th birthday of one of their residents, who happens to be a big New York Mets fan.

Chris Bottari met retired Mets player Frank Catalanotto at his 100th birthday party. Photo from Rubenstein Strategic Communications

As they prepared, Crispin Bottari, the guest of honor, sat in the game room wearing a Mets T-shirt and a decades-old hat that featured the team’s logo and the Mr. Met mascot. The room is where he and his wife regularly work on puzzles that they later laminate for keepsakes.

The party that night wasn’t the first one for the centenarian. Bottari said a few days earlier his family threw one for him at the Blueblinds Mansion in Smithtown, where nearly 150 guests were in attendance.

“It felt like my heart was bursting when I saw all those people,” he said. “I had tears.”

Born July 3, 1919, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, he grew up a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers until they moved to Los Angeles in 1957. He said when he first met his wife, they would go to Ebbets Field in Brooklyn every Sunday and watch the team play.

A few years after the Dodgers departure, he discovered the Mets, initially watching them play at the Polo Grounds in Upper Manhattan before Shea Stadium was built in Queens. He remembers taking his daughter to a 1969 World Series game, the year the Mets won.

“They were misfits at the time, but they played, and they won a pennant, and in ’69 they won the World Series,” Bottari said.

A year ago, he had the chance to watch the team play at Citi Field, where he attended a ceremony honoring World War II veterans. Out of a few people that were invited, he said he was the only one able to attend, and the ballplayers presented him with a flag and a baseball.

Bottari said he doesn’t have a favorite player now, but he lists Tom Seaver among his favorites from the 1969 Miracle Mets.

Bottari meeting Frank Sinatra while serving in Greenland during World War II. Photo from the Bottari family

“Talk about gung-ho,” he said. “They did it the way it should be done.”

While Bottari and his family love baseball, there is another love in their lives — music.

“Music in my family precedes everything, because everyone in my family somehow, someway is musically inclined,” he said, adding he owns a 70-year-old guitar that was given to him by his father that he is unable to play nowadays due to arthritis.

He remembered playing that guitar when he first met his wife, Anne. She was in a group called the Mayfair Trio with her sister and friend, and he would accompany them on guitar. The group would entertain injured soldiers in hospitals along the East Coast.

Bottari said he enjoyed seeing the big bands play in the city when he was a young man. One day he went to the Paramount Theatre in New York City to see Benny Goodman and his band, and he noticed that Frank Sinatra was also billed as playing. He said at the time he hadn’t heard of Sinatra and was surprised to see hundreds of teenage girls screaming and yelling.

During World War II, while serving in the Army with the 417th Engineer Company building airstrips in Greenland, Bottari met Sinatra, who he said would have breakfast with the soldiers every morning for the week he was in Greenland. While Bottari enjoyed having the singer around and took a picture with him, his fellow soldiers, who hadn’t heard about the entertainer, didn’t know what the big deal was and asked what his name was.

“Frank Sinatra,” he told them. “When the war is over, you’re going to hear about him,” he said.

While baseball and music have played a big part in Bottari’s life, family is the most important to him. His father, who was a tailor, immigrated to the U.S. from Italy when he was a teenager. He said his parents met through a matchmaker. At first, his mother felt hesitant about her future husband, because he didn’t speak English, but her mother encouraged her to teach him. The two would sit in the parlor and practice the language. Bottari is one of four sons born to the couple.

The centenarian said he never would have imagined celebrating his 100th birthday. While his mother lived to be 97, his father died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 50, while coming out of a subway station.

Crispin Bottari spending time at his daughter’s home. Photo from the Bottari family

“Fifty years old,” he said. “What is wrong with this picture.”

Bottari said another sorrow in his life was the death of his three younger brothers.

Despite the sorrow of losing his brothers, his own family has brought him immense joy. Sixty-nine years ago, he married his wife, Anne, who is now 94 years old.

He said he was at a dance and when the young woman he was dancing with excused herself to talk to someone else, he started talking to Anne. He asked his future wife for her phone number, and when she said she didn’t have a pen, he said, “I can solve that situation,” and lit a match and used the charcoal to write her number on the matchbook.

As for the secret to a long marriage, Bottari said it’s important to talk to each other.

“If you have a problem, resolve it,” he said.

Anne Bottari agreed and described her husband as an easygoing man. Both also said it helped that they had children who always got along and visit them often, because it keeps them going.

The Bottaris raised their five daughters in Jamaica, Queens.

“One smarter than the other,” he said. “They’re smarter than their father.”

With six females in the house, to get a chance to get into the bathroom before going to work as an accumulator of salaries for the Social Security Administration in the city, Bottari said he would wake up an hour earlier than needed.

Nearly 40 years ago, when their daughters began moving out of the house, the Bottaris relocated to Selden to be near their children, who were starting to have children of their own. The couple now has 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Through the years in Selden, the biggest change Bottari said he has seen is the increase of the numbers of condos and stores in the area.

The couple moved into The Bristal in 2015, but Bottari said they get out often to attend family functions. He loves visiting his daughter and son-in-law, Donna and Matty Kaspak, in St. James and seeing their dog, Cooper. His son-in-law said that Bottari is always there when the family needs them, whether it’s to see his nephew playing with a band or his grandson wrestling.

“The TV goes off, and he’s in the car,” Kaspak said.

When it comes to tips for living a long life, Bottari said he’s not sure he can speak about what to eat or not eat, admitting he loves a hot dog and a beer at a baseball game.

“Each individual person has his own genes that he’s acquired from someone else in his family,” Bottari said.

On the night of his 100th birthday, in addition to family and friends, retired Mets player Frank Catalanotto was on hand at The Bristal, and Bottari received a custom-made Mets hat with his name and number 100 on it and a plate signed by Catalanotto from the facility’s employees.

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Addison Azmoun leaps a fence. Photo by David Luces

Horseback riding is a sport that requires full commitment, courage and a particular skill set, one based on mental fortitude and bravery to even get up on the horse. 

For members of the Old Towne Equestrian’s middle school team, they can’t picture their lives without their horses. Now their collective passion, as well as their recent successes in tournaments throughout the season, has propelled them to the Interscholastic Equestrian Association National Finals taking place April 26-28 in Pennsylvania.   

From left, Addison Azmoun, coach Lauren Sobel, Graney, Ali Treuting and Hairston show off the awards they’ve received this season. Photo by David Luces

Myrna Treuting, head coach of the team, couldn’t be prouder of the girls. 

“We’ve had a pretty strong team this year,” she said. 

To get to nationals, individual and team performances throughout the season are crucial in getting the points necessary to qualify. First, if the team has enough points, it qualifies for regionals, and the top two teams then go to zone finals. The Old Towne team won the IEA Zone 2 Final March 16, securing a spot in nationals and bringing home a trophy back to the Old Towne Equestrian Center barn. Two members of the team: seventh-grader Maggie Graney of Garden City and eighth-grader Ali Treuting, Myrna’s daughter, also qualified individually to compete at nationals.   

“This is the first time that the middle school team has [collectively] qualified for nationals,” the head coach said. 

According to Treuting, the team is the top ranked middle school team in all of New York State. 

Fellow coach Lauren Sobel said the journey has not been easy. 

“They are very dedicated, hardworking and they show great sportsmanship,” she said. “Going to nationals is very exciting for us.”

Sobel said most of the girls have been riding at the barn their whole careers, and started at a very young age, some before they could
even walk. 

In preparation for nationals, the coaches have made sure the riders are securing extra practice and are getting used to riding without stirrups. 

In many of the competitions, riders draw the name of the horse they will ride out of a hat the morning of the event. It is a way of evening the playing field as many riders become comfortable riding with their own horses. 

Treuting said it’s the luck of the draw sometimes, and it doesn’t come down to the horse but to the skill of the rider. She mentioned her team has experience riding many different horses and can easily adapt to a new steed. 

“I think going to nationals is a great opportunity to advance and learn to ride different horses  outside of your comfort zone,” seventh-grader Tess Hairston of Selden said. 

Graney added the season has been pretty good, and it’s really cool to go back to nationals this year. The young girl had qualified individually for nationals last year as well. 

The members of the team are close with one another, and though they don’t go to school together, they relish the time they spend with each other at the barn. 

“It is exciting, you get to learn together and get to grow as friends,” Hairston said.  It’s nice because we get to see each other more often and do things that we love.”

Tess Hairston practices drills. Photo by David Luces

Treuting has owned the Old Towne Equestrian Center for close to 30 years and started a horseback riding team about 15 years ago, just around the time IEA was created. The organization’s mission is to introduce equestrian sports to students grades four through 12. 

In addition to the middle school team, Treuting coaches a high school team and the Stony Brook University Equestrian Team as well.   

“I think we can do quite well at nationals, we have a very good team,” she said. “We are so proud of them, they work hard and they deserve it.”

The Old Towne Equestrian Center is located at 471 Boyle Road in Selden.

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Police allege Nicholas Marino robbed a Capital One in Bohemia in January of 2019. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

Suffolk County police arrested a Selden man Feb. 18 for allegedly robbing a Bohemia bank last month.

The arrest of Nicholas Marino, 28, followed an investigation by Major Case Unit detectives. He was charged with third degree robbery, criminal possession of a controlled substance and false personation. He was arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip Feb. 19.

Police allege Marino entered a Capital One, located at 4110 Veterans Memorial Highway, approached a teller and presented a note demanding cash. The teller complied with his demands and gave him cash from the drawer. Marino fled on foot eastbound on Veterans Memorial Highway and then southbound on Corporate Drive.