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Stony Brook

Artistic computer rendering of the proposed walkway and viewing area for Avalon Park & Preserve Shore Farm. Photo from Town of Smithtown Planning Board

By Donna Deedy

Avalon Park & Preserve is expanding its recreational trails to extend from its existing location on Harbor Road over to a 28-acre farm along Stony Brook Harbor. When completed, the public will have access to a boardwalk that overlooks a marine sanctuary on the Long Island Sound.

The new site, which is currently private and not yet open to the public, is located directly east of Harmony Vineyards in Head of the Harbor.

The Smithtown Town Board voted March 5 to approve the project, known as Shore Farm. Additional state and town approvals are needed before Head of the Harbor can issue its permit. No time frame has been reported for the project’s completion.

The park currently encompasses 76-acres and is comprised of five distinct natural habitats populated entirely with native fauna. People are excited about the expansion.

“Avalon is an excellent steward of their lands,” said Joyann Cirigliano, president of the Four Harbors Audubon Society. The area, she said, is officially designated Important Bird Area for migratory birds. “The park provides a full range of bird habitats: field, forest, edge, shore and fresh ponds.”

Cirigliano said that the park is particularly good at keeping out invasive species, which allows scrub brush to thrive. The scrub, she said, is an important habitat for the warbler and other edge birds, a population in decline.

Avalon Park & Preserve was created in 1997 by the Paul Simons Foundation to celebrate the life of Paul Simons. Paul is the son of Renaissance Technology founder James Simons. He and his wife Marilyn and family planned the park to honor Paul’s love of nature after his life was prematurely interrupted at age 34, when he was killed by a car in a biking accident near his home in the Three Village area. When complete Avalon Park & Preserve will encompass roughly 104 acres.

The park, though it is privately owned, is open to the public from dawn to dusk 365 days a year. In addition to its trails, the park offers yoga classes and stargazing programs at an on-site observatory, when conditions permit. The Audubon society hosts bird walks in the park. Information can be found on Avalon’s website.

“We have been involved with Avalon Park from the beginning and are most excited about the expansion and the joy and happiness it brings to so many people,” said Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization in nearby Stony Brook.

From left: ERASE Racism President Elaine Gross, Duke University professor Kim Manturuk, John Hopkins University professor Nathan Connolly, SBU professor Christopher Sellers. Photo by David Luces

By David Luces

While de facto segregation among Long Island’s school districts and housing has been entrenched for decades, there is a growing academic movement to bring people closer together.

As part of the forum, “Housing and Racio-economic Equality” Elaine Gross, president of the Syosset-based advocacy group ERASE Racism, which co-sponsored the event, along with professors from Duke and Johns Hopkins Universitys discussed the history of racism and segregation in the U.S. and how it has affected public housing and education. Gross argued that there is racial segregation and inequality crisis in housing and public education on Long Island. 

“There are folks that think that things are fine how they are,” she said. 

At the forum hosted at the Hilton Garden Inn at Stony Brook Univesrity, Gross argued that there is severe government fragmentation on Long Island, which in turn makes it easier for racial discrimination in housing and public education. 

“Segregation is profitable, and it didn’t end — it is still ongoing.”

— Nathan Connolly

Nathan Connolly, a history professor at Johns Hopkins University, said we have to rethink what we know about segregation. 

“We are under the impression that segregation ended due to a combination of moral arguments, like [Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s] I Have a Dream Speech, and that segregation was too expensive to maintain,” he said. “Segregation is profitable, and it didn’t end — it is still ongoing.”

Connolly added due to many Jim Crow era policies, white supremacy has been baked into our political and governing structure.  

“In the 1920s people began to institutionalize groups like the Ku Klux Klan,” Connolly said. “They had chapters in cities like Detroit, Chicago and Washington, D.C.— it was a dominant force of political organization.” 

In many ways, the experts argued Long Island, in terms of its development of housing, is the perfect picture of what structural racism looks like. 

Gross stated some towns and school districts on Long Island are more segregated than others, showing areas like Levittown, whose black population has only risen 1.2 percent since 1947. At an ERASE Racism forum in December, Gross provided data from New York State Department of Education that shows a school district like Port Jefferson is made up of 80 percent white students, while in a district like Brentwood close to 80 percent of students are Latino while 12 percent are black. 

The panelists argued this racial steering of populations dates back to the time of the Great Depression.

“[There was] a notion that anything that allowed unregulated movement of people would lead to economic instability,” Connolly said. “You had to generate a way to keep everyone in place, while at the same time ensuring broad economic growth.” 

One way this was done was through redlining, or the denial of services to different races through raising the prices on services, or in this case, homes.

Connolly said by removing these people’s options in moving around or getting a loan with a low interest rate it meant they couldn’t own homes and couldn’t accumulate equity, which in turn generated a racial wealth gap.  

Gross mentioned examples of this racial steering on Long Island. Three years ago in Commack, African American renters asked about vacancies at an apartment complex. They were told there were none. When white individuals asked, they were shown the vacancy, given applications and were encouraged to apply.  

ERASE Racism, along with the nonprofit Fair Housing Justice Center, took property owners Empire Management America Corp. to court, arguing it had violated the Federal Fair Housing Act and the Suffolk County Human Rights Law. The duo reached a successful settlement of $230,000 and required changes to the rental operations at the apartment complex. 

Kim Manturuk, associate director of research, evaluation, and development at Duke University provided possible solutions to segregation on Long Island. 

“Adapt a metropolitan approach, that has these cross district governing bodies that try to simplify, organize together things like education, infrastructure development among other things,” she said. 

Though she cautioned that even when you have these procedures in place, it’s no guarantee that you get the desired results, and they need to find ways to make desegregation profitable. 

“We need educators that buy into this change.”

— Elaine Gross

She mentioned in her own community of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, they have something called the Penny for Housing Fund. 

“One penny of every property tax dollar collected in the entire county goes into a housing fund. We use that money to incentivize developers to build housing that has an affordable housing component that cuts races and ethnic lines,” she said. 

If developers want to build a housing complex in the North Carolina county, they would have to set aside 10 percent of the apartment to families that are making 80 percent below the median income in the area. 

Gross said the change needs to begin on the local level. She stressed the importance of building diverse communities. 

“We need educators that buy into this change,” she said. “Also students — educating them about our history, one that is not heard about in schools.”

Gross said it will take a collaborative effort to show that something like this can work.  

“People don’t believe — it is hard to dispel myths to them in the face of facts,” she said. “Unless they can see it and see the students and the community thriving, they won’t buy into it.”

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Teresa Orlik, right, with her husband and her son Frank at a recent family event. Photo from Frank Orlik

A Stony Brook man is hoping for a holiday miracle.

Frank Orlik has taken to social media to share his mother’s medical journey. Orlik said he’s been posting about his mother’s search for a kidney donor on Facebook and has been making the posts public with the hope that his connections will share them, and someone will be moved to donate one of their organs.

Teresa Orlik and her son Frank are hoping for a holiday miracle as she waits for a live kidney donor. Photo from Frank Orlik

“This year has been one of so much heartache for me and her,” he said.

His mother, Teresa Orlik, was diagnosed with kidney disease two years ago and recently had to start dialysis. She said the condition runs in her family and was most likely brought on by type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Her three sons are unable to donate a kidney since they all have the potential to come down with the disease.

Recently Orlik and her husband sold their house of 46 years in Stony Brook, and they have been living in Palm Coast, Florida, a short distance from the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville where she is receiving medical treatment.

Dr. Hani Wadei of the Mayo Clinic said when a patient’s kidney function is at or below 20 milliliters per minute, or he or she is on dialysis, a patient can be considered eligible for a transplant.

“We do not have to wait for the kidney function to deteriorate to the point of needing dialysis to get on the transplant waiting list,” Wadei said. “In fact, studies have shown that getting a transplant before starting dialysis is actually better as it improves post-transplant outcomes.”

The doctor said living kidney donors undergo an extensive evaluation which “ensures that a potential donor has a minimal risk of kidney disease after kidney donation.”

The evaluation analyzes potential medical, surgical and psychological complications, and anyone with risks is eliminated, according to Wadei. While a donor may still be at risk for end-stage renal disease, he said recent studies have shown that the possibility after donation is less than 1 percent. The lifetime risk in the healthy population is less than 0.2 percent.

The doctor said he explains to potential donors they can live with one kidney, and they must follow a healthy lifestyle after donation that includes avoiding certain medications, monitoring their health closely and following up with their primary physician. He said after donation the remaining kidney compensates for some of the organ’s function lost from donating the other one.

A donor can live anywhere and have initial blood work and urine testing done by their own doctors and lab services, according to the doctor. However, if they pass initial tests, in the case of Orlik, they must travel to Florida to meet her doctors. A patient’s insurance will usually take care of the donor’s medical expenses for anything involved with the donation, including up to three years of follow-ups.

Frank Orlik said during his mother’s medical crisis he has learned so much about organ donations. For example, he found out about kidney swaps where a living donor is incompatible with the intended recipient, but exchanges kidneys with another donor-recipient pair. Discovering this aspect has made him even more hopeful that his mother will get a kidney.

“I’m praying for a miracle that someone will be able to be a living donor for her,” he said.

Teresa Orlik said her son using social media to spread the word about her search has made her optimistic.

“It gives me tremendous hope that we’ll be successful,” she said.

Anyone interested in helping Teresa Orlik can contact her case coordinator, Tita Bordinger-Herron,  at 904-956-3259.

North Shore Jewish Center. File photo

Congregants from North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jefferson Station and Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook punctuated a difficult week with a Nov. 4 event meant to inspire and unite the community.

The state of Israel declared its independence in May 1948, and to commemorate the 70th anniversary this year, North Shore Jewish Center and Temple Isaiah came together for a long-planned celebration called Celebrate Israel @ 70 which took on an additional purpose following the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

On Oct. 27, while many of the congregation at Tree of Life, and Jewish people at similar houses of worship across the country prayed, a gunman murdered 11 people and wounded seven others. It is believed to be the deadliest attack on Jews in the United States in American history, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The Nov. 4 celebration was aptly timed for some.

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky of Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook speaks during an event at North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jeff Station celebrating the 70th anniversary of Israel’s Independence. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It really has been a balm, a healing experience as well as a happy experience,” said Rabbi Aaron Benson of NSJC of the event. “Given the historic events of the past week, that the event would happen this Sunday of all times has had an extra value and meaning as a moment of healing and community togetherness, in this case surrounding something hopeful and joyous.”

Committees from both synagogues had been planning the celebration for about eight months, according to Eric Steinberg, NSJC’s chairman of the Israeli Committee. The free event featured speakers discussing technology in Israel, flight attendants from El Al Israel Airlines, water desalination and its impact helping the country grow crops in the desert, lunch, events for the congregants’ children and more.

“If you notice we’re not talking politics, we’re not talking anything about that,” Steinberg said. “This was a determined thought by the committee just to do something positive … I wanted to bring the focus of Israel to the community.”

North Shore Jewish Center also hosted events in the wake of the shooting meant as a remembrance for the victims and to provide a sense of community togetherness, according to Benson. As a precaution, the rabbi said the synagogue bolstered security ahead of the event, including a Suffolk County Police Department presence.

“In many ways, the country as a whole has been in mourning and Jewish communities have responded in much the same way as when a friend might suffer a loss,” he said. “It has never happened in quite this way to the Jewish community in America before … And while one shouldn’t go through life fearful or paranoid that people are out to hurt you, the idea that in all the ways a person is Jewish, one aspect of that is that there are people who may simply not like you because of your religious background. That is a feature of Jewish life, and it does mean that terrible things can happen because of one’s religious identity.”

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky of Temple Isaiah echoed much of his colleague’s sentiments in speaking to those in attendance.

“Even as we remember, even as we continue to mourn, we celebrate together, we gain inspiration from each other,” he said.

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Louise Wasilevitch turns 107 Oct.29. Photo from Alice Anderson

One Stony Brook resident has more than a century to celebrate at the end of the month.

Louise Wasilevitch in a photo taken circa 1914. Photo from Alice Anderson

While she may not be the oldest resident in the Three Village area, Louise Wasilevitch has more life experience than most. On Oct. 29, she will celebrate her 107th birthday.

Wasilevitch said to enjoy a long life one should have a lot of interests — advice she has followed. In her lifetime, she has belonged to many clubs, made textiles with a floor loom, golfed, sang with a church choir, played the violin, led a Girl Scout troop, painted and enjoyed handcrafts.

Before her husband Julius passed in 1995, the couple traveled around the world to places like Japan, England and Scotland. Now, she enjoys visiting family and friends, watching golf, listening to classical music, rooting for the New York Yankees and traveling to New Hampshire on vacation with her daughter and son-in-law — Alice and Chuck Anderson.

She moved to Stony Brook in 2009 to live with her daughter and son-in-law, after living for nine years in East Northport and decades in Greenlawn, according to her daughter. Born in New Jersey in 1911, Alice Anderson said her mother, who grew up in Brooklyn, spent three years in Russia as a young girl when her father traveled back to the country to live with family due to health concerns and financial difficulties. Anderson said it’s interesting to hear the stories of living on a farm in Russia in the early 1920s when her mother would sleep in an alcove dug out of a chimney over the fireplace to stay warm.

She also worked during a time when many companies didn’t accept married women working. Wasilevitch was employed with an insurance firm called London & Lancashire on Wall Street, but when it was discovered she was married, she was asked to leave, according to her daughter.

With all the interesting things she has experienced in life, Wasilevitch said she finds the internet the most impressive thing she has seen. Her daughter said she loves that they can look up information whenever they have a question and write to relatives in Czechoslovakia.

Anderson, who is 78, said she always admired her mother’s knack with people.

“She just inspires me — I’ve always told her that — by just the kind of person she is,” Anderson said. “She likes everybody. She looks for the best in everybody and is always ready to help, whether it’s advice or money. She just loves everyone in the family, and I can’t think of anybody that she ever met that she hates.”

Anderson said when it comes to her mother’s upcoming birthday get-together, even her own friends want to be part of it, and Wasilevitch said it’s nice to feel wanted.

“I just like people,” Wasilevitch said. “I never met anybody I didn’t like. I really haven’t.”

Wasilevitch will have two big celebrations before the end of the year. In addition to her upcoming birthday party, her grandchildren, Heather, Jennifer and Emily will be home to spend Christmas with her along with their grandmother’s eight great-grandchildren.

Setauket Elementary School students were ready for the first day of classes, Sept. 5. 2017. File photo by Rita J. Egan

It’s back to school time, and we want to help you commemorate the occasion. If your child attends one of the following school districts and you’d like to submit a photo of their first day of school attire, them boarding or arriving home on the school bus, or waiting at the bus stop, we may publish it in the Sept. 6 issues of Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Just include their name, district and a photo credit, and send them by 12 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5 with the subject line “Back to school,” and then be sure to check Thursday’s paper.

Email The Village Times Herald and The Times of Middle Country editor Rita J. Egan at rita@tbrnewsmedia.com if your child attends:

  • Three Village School District
  • Middle Country School District

Email The Times of Huntington & Northports and The Times of Smithtown editor Sara-Megan Walsh at sara@tbrnewsmedia.com if your child attends:

  • Huntington School District
  • Northport-East Northport School District
  • Harborfields School District
  • Elwood School District
  • Smithtown School District
  • Commack School District
  • Kings Park School District

Email The Port Times Record and The Village Beacon Record editor Alex Petroski at alex@tbrnewsmedia.com if your child attends:

  • Port Jefferson School District
  • Comsewogue School District
  • Miller Place School District
  • Mount Sinai School District
  • Shoreham-Wading River School District
  • Rocky Point School District

Happy back to school!

Stony Brook ophthalmologist and Port Jeff resident Aaron Wigdor. Photo from the Wigdor family

“The eye is like a camera,” was the ophthalmologist’s favorite expression.

Aaron Wigdor, an eye doctor with a practice in Stony Brook who lived in Port Jefferson since the 1960s, died in April at 82. He was among those who led the charge for Port Jefferson Village to purchase Harbor Hills Country Club from the late 1960s through the ’70s, an asset the municipality still owns today, and was the first men’s tennis singles champion at the club. He is survived by his son Douglas; daughter Caren Skutch; daughter-in-law Catherine; son-in-law, William; and four grandchildren, Jacob, Simon, Julia and Carly.

Wigdor was born and raised in Bayonne, New Jersey. He attended Princeton University as an undergraduate and went on to medical school at New York University. He served in the United States Army Medical Corps in Texas at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. He was also President Lyndon Johnson’s on-call ophthalmologist for a time.

“The eye is like a camera.”

— Aaron Wigdor

In 1968, he and his late wife Ellen moved from Texas to Port Jefferson, where the couple remained until relocating to Florida in 2016, reluctantly, according to his son.

“He really did love Port Jefferson,” his son said.

Both of his parents played a part in organizing the senior prom at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, which was a long-standing tradition in Port Jeff, for parents of the senior class to help pick a secret theme unveiled only on prom night and organize the over-the-top event.

Wigdor had many close friends in Port Jefferson, and as a young man enjoyed spending time out from of Darling’s Stationery, where many from the community would gather in what probably would resemble a social media chat group today.

“You would never know he was a gossip,” his daughter said. “After my mother passed away, he got very sad. As a couple, they had a lot of friends in Port Jefferson. They were always going out. They were really pillars in the community.”

Skutch described her father’s sense of humor and intellect as “acerbic,” a trait she said she loved. She said he enjoyed reading the dictionary as a hobby, and it was a favorite response of his to instruct his kids to “go read the dictionary” when they complained of being bored.

They were always going out. They were really pillars in the community.”

— Caren Skutch

“He was just an all-around good dad,” she said, adding that as a grandfather Wigdor taught her kids how to swim and play ball.

Wigdor’s son said he hoped people who knew him would remember how caring and dedicated he was as a doctor at his practice on Nesconset Highway, which he established in 1969.

“In this day and age when people go to see their doctor and are rushed in and out, I know that my father and his practice spent time with patients in caring for them and I believe his patients really respected that,” he said.

Longtime Port Jeff residents Anita and Arthur Spencer, who knew the Wigdors, traveled to Puerto Rico and Atlantic City among other destinations regularly together.

Anita Spencer called Wigdor a very sociable guy who had many friends and talked to many people during his days in Port Jeff.

“He was very friendly,” she said. Anita Spencer said the two couples avidly followed the Kentucky Derby and the other triple-crown horse races, though Wigdor was also a huge fan of the New York Knicks. “He had loads of friends. He was very concerned about what was going on in the village, being part of the village.”

File photo

Two Suffolk County police canine section officers rescued a man who attempted to commit suicide in Stony Brook April 30.

Sixth Precinct officers responded to a call April 30 at approximately 10:15 p.m. from a man who was concerned that his friend intended to commit suicide in a wooded area near Seabrook Court.

Officers were unable to immediately locate the subject and requested assistance from canine section officers Christopher Fezza and Michael Cassidy. Cassidy and his canine partner Thor located the man in a tree with a noose around his neck. Fezza climbed the victim’s ladder, which was next to the tree, and when the man started to hang himself, the officer pressed him against the ladder. Cassidy gave a knife to Fezza who cut the rope and lowered the man to the ground as 6th Precinct officers assisted.

The victim was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for evaluation.

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File photo

Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad detectives are investigating a murder-suicide that occurred at a Stony Brook home.

Sixth Precinct officers were called to Pembrook Drive after a family member of the residents called 911 to report the discovery of two deceased adults at the location.

Following an investigation, it was determined Raymond Foster, 79, shot his wife, Sandra, 78, and then shot himself, according to Suffolk County police. The two were pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner.

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