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Stony Brook

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Route 25A in Setauket looking east from Woods Corner Road. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Following public forums, the future of the Route 25A corridor in the Three Village area is coming into focus.

More than a year ago, the Brookhaven Town Department of Planning, Environment and Land Management was authorized to create a land use study and plan regarding the state highway from the Smithtown town line heading east to the Poquott Village line. This was after town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D–Port Jefferson Station) co-sponsored land use resolutions at the Jan. 14 and Feb. 4, 2016, town board meetings.

the inconsistent architecture of buildings located at Woods Corner. Photo by Rita J. Egan

After the go-ahead from the town, the Citizens Advisory Committee was formed with co-chairs George Hoffman, vice president of the Three Village Civic Association, and Jane Taylor, assistant head of The Stony Brook School. The committee organized a number of community meetings to give business owners, store tenants and residents in Stony Brook, Setauket and East Setauket the opportunity to discuss their concerns and hopes for land use along the state road.

The meetings, led by consulting firm BFJ Planning, culminated with a wrap-up session at The Stony Brook School earlier this month, and the result will be a document that will guide business and landowners when it comes to building and renovating in the future.

Hoffman said he found the process over the past year rewarding.

“We really made a lot of progress pulling together all the groups that make up our community, and I think we have a clearer vision of what we like about it, and what we’d like to enhance as we go forward,” Hoffman said.

At the March 4 meeting, residents were given a summary of the community’s visions for the hamlets based on previous visioning meetings. Frank Fish, Noah Levine and Graham Cavanagh of BFJ Planning informed those in attendance both unique and shared elements along the Route 25A corridor as well as recommended goals and objectives for the future.

Romaine, Cartright and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) were among elected officials who attended the visioning meetings. Englebright said he was impressed at how constructive the meetings were, and how Cartright and Romaine made themselves accessible during the process.

The assemblyman said he wasn’t surprised by the concerns and desires raised. Many residents said they did not want to see the road widened, but instead would like it to include more green space. Another hope of many residents is to make the road safer by adding a continuous sidewalk and creating lanes for bicyclists.

“The historic architectural style and character of the Three Village area is something that is a constant reminder of why a lot of us live here.”

— Steve Englebright

“I look forward to doing everything possible to add a sidewalk — the walkability aspect of this and [a lane] for bicycles,” Englebright said.

Both Hoffman and Englebright said Woods Corner at the southeast corner of Route 25A and Nicolls Road was another concern brought up by many at the meetings. Hoffman said people would like to see the buildings located on the corner updated with some sort of consistent architecture “because it’s the gateway to the Setaukets.”

The architectural consistency in all the hamlets was an additional topic raised at the meetings.

“The historic architectural style and character of the Three Village area is something that is a constant reminder of why a lot of us live here,” Englebright said. “We love the architecture. … People indicated how much they value it, and that for any reconstruction or new construction, that should be a benchmark of expectation to be compatible with who we are architecturally.”

According to BFJ Planning’s March 4 visioning report, the flow of traffic where 25A variously intersects Stony Brook Road, Nicolls Road and Main Street were also discussed at hamlet meetings. Roundabouts were suggested for both Stony Brook Road and Main Street, and the New York State Department of Transportation is considering a traffic light at the soft right turn onto Nicolls or removal of the soft right altogether. 

While other transportation issues and wants were discussed, including creating pullover areas for buses and supporting a trolley bus service for Stony Brook students and residents, recreation areas were another concern. The talks included improved civic space for gatherings, picnics and similar recreational activities as well as maintenance of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation-administered Patriots Hollow State Forest.

Hoffman said some of the proposed guidelines have already been a help to Parviz Farahzad, who is constructing Stony Brook Square located across from Stony Brook train station. Development of the shopping center was approved at the March 6 town planning board meeting. Farahzad has agreed to add more trees to the final site plan, will require tenants use signage that consists of wood-base signs with gooseneck lighting among other concessions.  The developer also hopes to install a low nitrogen septic system if he receives a waiver from the county for the new system. According to Hoffman, such systems help to protect the water in local harbors.

Hoffman said BFJ Planning is compiling a final document and, in a few weeks, the CAC will present a report to the town board. The ultimate goal is for the town to take into consideration the suggestions and incorporate them into future land use changes in the area through zoning changes.

A free prekindergarten class will replace SCOPE preschool at Nassakeag Elementary School. File photo

By Andrea Paldy

In the not-so-distant past, budget season meant looking for places to trim. Now, as the Three Village school district looks ahead to the 2017-18 school year, it actually is making plans to add new programs.

Though the current projected increase in state aid, according to the governor’s proposal, is very small — $247,000 — Three Village will not need to cut programs to stay within the 3.40 percent cap on the tax levy increase, Jeffrey Carlson, the assistant superintendent of business services, said.

2017-18 Budget Facts

  • 3.40 percent tax levy increase cap
  • $247,000 in additional state aid
  • Additions include junior high math centers, drug alcohol counselor, free pre-k
  • 7th through 9th graders will receive notebook computers to use at home and at school

Junior high math centers and a certified drug and alcohol counselor are among the additions for the new school year, along with a free district-run prekindergarten that will replace the current SCOPE preschool at Nassakeag Elementary School.

However, not everyone is on board with the preschool. Three Village resident and parent Christine Segnini said during last week’s school board meeting that she was perplexed by the district’s decision to use “taxpayer money to support a non-mandated grade like pre-K.”

“We are not a district of low socio-economic status,” Segnini said. “We are not a district having our incoming kindergarteners ill-prepared and lacking in preschool experience. I fear that this high-ticket, non-state mandated item will indeed sink your budget.”

Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said that though preschool is not currently mandated, she could see both kindergarten and prekindergarten being mandated in the future. She also added that there are students in the district who enter kindergarten without preschool.

“We are hopeful that we will be able to catch those children and bring them in so that they will have a level playing field and opportunity to get the early intervention that is critical for them to be successful,” Pedisich said.

While the administration has budgeted for five preschool teachers — three would be reassigned from the elementary level due to declining enrollment and two would be hired — the district would only need all five teachers if the program hits capacity at 200 students. With only 53 students signed up so far, Pedisich does not anticipate the need for a lottery. Each teacher will instruct a morning session and an afternoon session with 20 students per class.

The decision to hire a certified drug and alcohol counselor was made to address an “issue of highest importance,” the superintendent said.

“We are not a district having our incoming kindergarteners ill-prepared and lacking in preschool experience. I fear that this high-ticket, non-state mandated item will indeed sink your budget.”

—Christine Segnini

“I’m not going to be one of the superintendents that says we don’t have a drug problem in Three Village,” she said, noting that drugs are a problem across the country.

The district will be prepared to offer help to students and their families, even providing services in the home, if necessary, Pedisich said.

The only addition to the administrative staff will be a supervisor of technology and information systems, Pedisich said. With the $3.4 million in Smart Schools Bond Act money that has been awarded to Three Village, the district will introduce one-to-one devices in the junior highs. It means that students in grades 7 through 9 will receive their own notebook computers to use at home and at school. The new technology supervisor will oversee the pilot program, which would eventually expand to the high school, Pedisich said.

Including the possible two new preschool teachers, the district could add a total of 3.05 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions at the elementary level for the coming year. Art would decrease by .15 because of declining enrollment, but .1 FTE would be added to both physical education and health. One FTE will be added for special education, based on individualized education program (IEP) enrollment. Fourth grade chorus will be added, but without an increase of staff,  Pedisich said.

The secondary schools will see a net increase of 1.15 full-time equivalent positions to cover a new math center during lunch, daily band and orchestra at the junior highs. New electives such as public speaking and local history will be introduced at the junior highs. The high school math department will introduce differential equations to follow multivariable calculus, which students take after completing AP calculus.

The budget vote will be on May 16, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. For security reasons, all voting will take place at the secondary schools, Carlson said. Since state election law prohibits screening, it is easier to keep voters contained to polling areas at the secondary schools, he said.

Residents who usually vote at W.S. Mount Elementary School will vote at R.C. Murphy Junior High. Those zoned for Arrowhead, Minnesauke and Nassakeag elementary schools will vote at Ward Melville High School. Setauket Elementary School voters will vote at P.J. Gelinas Junior High.

Stony Brook softball player Danni Kemp died after a battle with cancer. Photo from SBU

The Stony Brook family is mourning the loss of student-athlete Danni Kemp, who passed away on the morning of March 10 surrounded by family following her battle with cancer.

The Seawolves, who had dedicated their softball season to the sophomore, 19, postponed March 10 games against Santa Clara and New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Danni Kemp up to bat for the Seawolves. Photo from SBU

“Our hearts are heavy today and our love goes out to Danni and her family,” Stony Brook softball coach Megan Bryant said. “In all too short of a young life, Danni touched so many in a beautiful way. She fought so hard against this terrible disease, and showed us what true courage is. May Danni only know peace now.”

In July, Kemp was hit in the head by a pitch while playing in a summer league game. When she began feeling dizzy, had trouble focusing and couldn’t keep her balance, doctors tested her for a concussion. An MRI revealed a cancerous brain tumor.

Due to the location, surgery was not an option, and Kemp began radiation therapy Aug. 29, receiving treatment Monday through Friday for a total of six weeks.

A GoFundMe page was created on behalf of the family Aug. 22, and in six months had raised nearly $130,000 of the $150,000 goal, with donations from 1,575 people.

“Danni is the toughest young woman we have all ever met,” wrote Bradley Taylor, who created the GoFundMe page. “Her strong and indomitable will has already proven to be more than enough to battle and beat a rare kidney disease while she was in high school. This will be a battle, but with so many people who know and love Danni and her family, they’ve got an army behind them.”

Since her death, hundreds more dollars have poured in from those touched by the loss of Kemp, even those who didn’t know her.

“I felt very sad when I read the story,” wrote John Colombo.

Janis Matton was also saddened upon hearing the news.

“I am so very sorry for your loss,” she wrote. “Danni was truly an inspiration to all. Prayers for your family.”

“We got an angel in the outfield behind us. Heavy hearts with a little something more to play for this season.”

—Kevin Kernan

Kemp hit .446 as a junior for J.A. Foran High School in Connecticut en route to All-Conference and first team All-State honors. In her first three seasons at Foran, she collected more than 100 hits and 40 stolen bases. She was also a member of the Connecticut Charmers, an Under-18 fast pitch showcase team coached by Neil Swanchak.

As a Seawolf, she scored her first career hit against Charlotte University Feb. 20 of last year; had a double and scored a run at Florida Atlantic University Feb. 26; had two hits, including a bases-clearing double in a win over Columbia University Feb. 27; walked twice and drove in a run at Manhattan College March 30; drew three walks in another contest; and walked and scored a run at the University of Massachusetts Lowell April 16.

Kemp’s death had an impact that reverberated beyond just her softball family. After news of her death spread around campus, many student-athletes took to social media.

Tiffany Zullo, a midfielder on the women’s lacrosse team from Connetquot High School, tweeted: “We all play for Danni and will forever be Danni Strong. Rest in peace to a beautiful soul.”

Kevin Kernan, a baseball pitcher, posted, “We got an angel in the outfield behind us. Heavy hearts with a little something more to play for this season.”

Details for services will be forthcoming once the Kemp family makes arrangements.

“Danni had her entire life in front of her,” Stony Brook athletic director Shawn Heilbron said. “I am devastated beyond words and heartbroken for her family and everyone who loved her. Her valiant fight over the past several months was an inspiration to all of us, and her impact on the Stony Brook Athletics family will be felt for many years to come.”

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police arrested one person during multiple New York State Liquor Authority inspections at various Town of Brookhaven businesses.

Officers from the 6th Precinct Crime Section and 6th Precinct Community Support Unit conducted underage alcohol checks March 9 at 24 businesses throughout the precinct.

Buenaventura Benitez, 43, of Smithtown, employed by NY Food & Drink Inc., located at 2505 Middle Country Road in Centereach, was arrested for unlawfully dealing with a child in the 1st degree under the state penal law, and prohibited sale to a person under 21, which falls under the NYS ABC law.

Benitez was issued a field appearance ticket and a summons and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District court in Central Islip at a later date.

Twenty-three additional businesses in Centereach, Coram, East Setauket, Port Jefferson Station, Stony Brook, Miller Place, and Mount Sinai were inspected and refused to sell alcohol to a minor.

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John Corpac. File photo by Bill Landon

In 21 years, not one Ward Melville football player has been invited to compete in the Empire Challenge. This year three Patriots will get the chance to put on the pads one more time.

John Corpac, Eddie Munoz and Dominic Pryor were chosen by the coaches of the Long Island team, all of which led their squads to county titles this year, to play in the game that pits Long Island all-stars against the best of New York City.

“It feels amazing knowing I’ll be able to suit up once more in a sport that I’ve loved since I was young,” Pryor said. “I couldn’t be more proud to represent Ward Melville, especially after what we accomplished this season.”

Dominic Pryor. File photo by Bill Landon

The three standouts were part of a Patriots team that upset No. 1 Lindenhurst in the Division I semifinals to make it to the county championship for the first time in 30 years.

“After losing in counties,” Corpac said, “this game is a redemption game for me and my teammates that made it, to show that we belonged where we were.”

Ward Melville head coach Chris Boltrek said his three athletes, who were named All-State by the New York State Sportswriters Association, don’t need redemption, because they’ve shown they belong among the best of the best.

“They are just excellent athletes who love football, and combined those attributes with a willingness to go the extra mile — whether it was sacrificing their bodies and taking a big hit, or tackling a larger athlete, it didn’t matter — they laid it all on the line to help our team be successful,” he said. “And they’re a huge part of why we made it to the county championship this season.”

Corpac, a wide receiver and free safety who signed to play for Stony Brook University this fall, finished last season with a team-high 13 touchdowns through 11 games, four of which were on kickoff returns. The All-County and All-State honoree racked up 378 yards on 27 receptions, and rushed for 131 more and one touchdown. In total, he had 1,110 yards thanks to 532 added kickoff return yards. On the defensive side of the ball, Corpac had 58 tackles, 38 solo, and two interceptions.

While Munoz and Pryor will be playing lacrosse next year, at Stony Brook and Hofstra University, respectively, the two have also battled for big numbers at Ward Melville.

Munoz gained 454 yards on 37 receptions as a wide receiver, and rushed for 90, ending the year with eight touchdowns. He intercepted the ball twice as a strong safety, and made 57 total tackles, 37 solo.

“We put in a lot of hard work, but our teammates also helped us stand out, because without a good team we wouldn’t have been selected,” Munoz said. “Football to me is all about being tough and giving it your all on every play.”

Eddie Munoz. File photo by Bill Landon

Pryor ended his senior season with a team-high 604 receiving yards, averaging a team-high 16.3 yards per catch on his 37 receptions, rushed for 88 yards, returned kickoffs for 111 and even passed for 167. The wide receiver and defensive back also had two interceptions and made 28 tackles.

“Dom and Eddie are great examples of multi-sport athletes, and demonstrate how competing in multiple sports is a benefit,” Boltrek said. “Both of those guys have played on big stages before in lacrosse, and it was evident that those experiences paid dividends for us throughout the playoffs. I know them playing football has made them better lacrosse players. The toughness and grit that it takes to be successful in football is visible every time they step on the lacrosse field.”

Pryor credits his coaches and teammates, and playing in one of the toughest leagues on Long Island, for making him a better athlete day in and day out, but his head coach said it’s all about what the boys do.

“It’s great for the program to get this sort of recognition, but of course, the program doesn’t receive these honors without the individual efforts of these three players,” he said. “It’s no coincidence that all three of them started in all three facets of the game — offense, defense and special teams — and no matter who the opponent was, they had to game plan for these three.”

New York City opponents will have to make big plans to take down the trio, who said they have been best friends since
elementary school. They’ll battle on the gridiron at Hofstra University June 21 at 7 p.m.

“I was hearing rumors that I might get selected, but once I actually got the news, I couldn’t be happier — it’s a dream to be able to play in this game,” Corpac said. “This sport is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I’d do anything to play the season all over again. I cannot wait to put on the pads and play high school football one last time.”

Astrid Sprigman slides down the mountain during the Butternut race in Massachusetts. Photo from Jason Sprigman

Two young Stony Brook skiers are making names for themselves in the competitive skiing world, but competition is only part of the draw.

Sam and Astrid Sprigman have been sliding down the slopes for four years now, and although for the pair it’s mainly for fun, their competitive races have been paying dividends. Most recently, at the Otis Slalom Interclub race in Massachusetts, 13-year-old Sam placed third, while 8-year-old Astrid finished atop the podium.

“It feels good,” Astrid said of claiming the top spot. “Half the time I don’t even notice what happened or what my time is until my mom or dad come up to me and shout, ‘You’re in first.’”

Sam Sprigman bends his way down a hill. Photo from Jason Sprigman

Their father Jason Sprigman said those families who take part in the Tri-State Interclub ski season are part of a tight-knit community that is very supportive of one another.

“They’re screaming and yelling, banging drums and shaking cowbells and it’s incredible — she doesn’t even hear it,” he said of his daughter. “She comes down and starts critiquing her own performance, saying, ‘I don’t know, that didn’t feel that good. I think my turn on the fourth gate wasn’t that tight.’ And then I tell her, ‘you’re in first place Astrid, really?’ She’s so in her own world.”

The smooth skier said she’s always working on improving her technique, In fact, that’s all she focuses on while competing.

“I think about when I have to turn and thinking about my body position, making sure my head’s up instead of down and I’m always looking ahead,” she said.

That’s what she’s done since she first traveled around a mountain. Astrid said she recalls pulling on her father’s jacket asking to go on different trails during a family trip.

“When I see them doing what they’re doing and working so incredibly hard at an individual sport like this … it’s amazing to see them apply themselves in such a focused manner.”

— Jason Sprigman

“We went on the bunny slope and we were at the top of the hill and I said, ‘This is boring. I want to go on something more exciting,’” Astrid said.

Her father laughed remembering the moment.

“No patience this one,” he said.

Her brother was also hooked at a young age. Sam’s earliest ski trip was at 18 months old, when his family was in California.

“My dad and I were getting ready to go down the hill and he put me between his legs so he could guide me down the hill,” Sam said. “I looked up at him and said, ‘Dad, can you let go? I got this.’”

He said he didn’t ski for some time after that. His father was in the Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before Sam finally hit the slopes again.

“I remembered having a really good time skiing and it stuck with me all those years,” Sam said.

He too echoed his sister’s sentiment about being focused on improving. He said in reality, with all of the support, they’re their own harshest critics.

“When I’m in a race — when I’m at the top of the course — my instructor is there and I ask her what we talked about and what I need to work on, and I think about that my whole way through,” he said. “If I have a bad run, or Astrid had a bad run, the hardest person on us is ourselves. Everyone there is so supportive.”

The thing is, Astrid actually hasn’t had a bad run. The Under-12 competitor has placed first in every race she’s competed in this season — though she had to miss one because she was sick.

Astrid and Sam Sprigman display their trophies. Photo from Jason Sprigman

“You can’t ski race if you’re not 100 percent,” Sprigman said. “If you come around a turn doing 50 to 55 MPH, if you suddenly get a little bit nauseous that could be dangerous. She wanted to compete, but I just couldn’t let her. Besides the illness though, she’s taken first by a wide margin in every single race.”

Sam, a 5-foot, 10-inch, muscular skier placed third in the first competition of the season, at Butternut, came in seventh in Catamount and fifth at Otis Slalom. Last season, he qualified to be a part of the Piche Invitational, a Massachusetts state team, but the team didn’t have a slot this season. Astrid qualified to compete this year.

“There’s a wide number of kids that are moving on to higher levels of skiing from his year.” Sprigman said of his son’s Under-14 age bracket. “It’s one of the most competitive age groups in the Northeast. It’s an accomplishment the placements he’s been able to get. I’m very proud of him.”

The pair have one race left, at Bosque Mountain in Massachusetts March 5.

Sprigman said he enjoys the family aspect of the sport, being able to ski alongside his children, as compared to watching them on the sidelines during a football or soccer game. He said his main goal is to give them an ability they can carry with them for the rest of their lives, and now they’ll just continue to ski as long as they’re having fun.

“A lot of people might not let their kids participate in a sport like this because it’s fairly high risk, but they have a high degree of confidence and they understand the risk involved, and do a really good job of weighing them out and skiing appropriately,” he said. “When I see them doing what they’re doing and working so incredibly hard at an individual sport like this and I see my son really aggressively attacking a hill and putting it all out there and my daughter bending herself over backward to take an extra half a second off her time, it’s amazing to see them apply themselves in such a focused manner … It feels really good to see them not only becoming great skiers, but making amazing friendships while engaging in a fairly high level of competition.”

7-year-old uses Disney award, projects to continue to brighten lives of pediatric patients

Kayla Harte poses by character Band-Aid boxes she collected from students at W.S. Mount Elementary School for pediatric patients at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Photo from Three Village school district

She may only be a 7-year-old, but Kayla Harte already has a huge heart. For the last two years, with the hopes of cheering up young patients, the second-grader has been a frequent visitor to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital’s pediatric oncology department.

Kayla’s mother, Robyn Harte, said when the W.S. Mount Elementary School student started visiting the patients, she would bring homemade get well cards and care packages. She began drawing cards with Minion characters from the film “Despicable Me” on them after she heard they were some of the children’s favorite characters, and she would always be looking for new things to bring them.

Kayla Harte with other donations she received as part of her Band-Aid and toy drives. Photo from Robyn Harte

“Every time we would go and deliver the items she would see that they would be so well received,” her mother said. “The coordinators would tell her how much the children would appreciate it and enjoy it, and it really motivated her to do more.”

During the summer while watching television, Kayla saw a commercial for the Disney Summer of Service grant through Youth Service America and asked her mother if she could apply for it. In November Kayla was one of 340 young leaders in the country awarded a $500 grant.

The money was given to Stony Brook Children’s Child Life Services Department, and Kayla and Director Joan Alpers decided it would be used to buy character bandages and musical toys for the patients. The young volunteer planned to match the grant by starting a project called Friends for Child Life, and she felt that boxes of Band-Aids as well as toys would be easy for people to bring to her, especially her fellow students.

“It makes me feel like she has this gift that she wants to give to other children, and she’s so genuine about it,” her mother said. “She really wants to help other children. She wants to make them feel better. It’s just such a lovely thing for me. It makes me feel really proud and very inspired.”

To kick off her character Band-Aid and musical toy drives, Kayla first asked friends and family members by emailing or texting them a video she and her mother created. Before she knew it, she received approximately 70 boxes of bandages and six musical toys. Her Girl Scout Troop 337 also donated items, and during Random Acts of Kindness Week at her school, fellow students joined the cause and she received close to 100 Band-Aid boxes that week, according to her mother.

“It makes me feel like she has this gift that she wants to give to other children, and she’s so genuine about it.”

— Robyn Harte

Kayla said she was excited when she heard she received the grant, and she’s happy with the amount of donations she has been receiving, especially since she is three-quarters of the way to her goal of 200 character Band-Aid boxes and 40 musical toys.

“I can’t wait to see the happy people at the hospital,” she said.

Even though her project for the Disney grant ends March 31, she plans to continue the drives on a smaller scale. The second-grader, who wants to play for the Mets one day, said once you start volunteering your time it feels so good that, “you can’t even stop doing it.”

Her mother said she and Kayla’s father, Dennis, are proud of how she ran with the project.

“I’m really proud of her,” she said. “I think she’s setting a really good example for other children her age to let them know that you don’t have to be a teenager or a grown-up to make a difference.”

Barbara and Herman Lee with Barbara’s mother Ethel Lewis. Photos from Geral Lee.

By Geral Lee

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is unquestionably synonymous with Black History Month. He courageously confronted social inequities and racism in the midst of an adverse anti-black administration largely due to J. Edgar Hoover who had been appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation, renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935. Few could compete with Hoover’s power and he went virtually unchallenged for half a century.

Hoover opposed making Dr. King’s birthday a national holiday. His smear campaign attempted to label Dr. King as a communist and a homosexual. He ordered illegal wire taps of Dr. King’s hotel room to try to justify his stance and used the power of government to satisfy his own bigotry toward blacks. Dr. King persevered.

Herman Lee in his Navy days (circa 1941). Photo from Geral Lee

There were many other individuals way before Dr. King who challenged the system in the name of justice. I am certain their actions helped define his political strategies. These people — and God bless them — were not just slaves, demonstrators or rioters.    

I must include Glenn Beck in this article. I am not suggesting he is an authority on black history. As the colorful conservative that he is, his question as to why the many contributions of black people continue to remain hidden from the mainstream is a legitimate one — and yet another reason to celebrate Black History Month.

In one of his tapings, “Glenn Beck Founders’ Fridays Black American Founders” (Fox News), that I listened to on YouTube, he mentioned Peter Salem, a hero in the Battle of Bunker Hill who saved scores of American lives. During the Battle of Lexington, white and black parishioners who worshiped together were commanded to fight. James Armistead served as a double spy. And is that Prince Whipple, the black crewman, in the painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware? I am not so sure because many blacks fought in the American Revolution. Freedom was not an automatic option.       

There have been unsung black heroes making all kinds of contributions throughout American history. The members of the 333rd Battalion, for example. The Chesapeake Marine Railway and Dry Dock Company of Baltimore, Maryland, which was one of the largest and most successful black businesses in America in the 1870s.   

“Dirty Little Secrets About Black History: Its Heroes & Other Troublemakers” by Claud Anderson reveals that in the late 1800s, blacks invented and filed for patents on a number of transportation-related devices. Andrew J. Beared invented an automatic train car coupler. Albert B. Blackburn invented a railway signal. R.A. Butler invented a train alarm. Although many inventors were fresh out of slavery and the literacy rate among slaves was 50 percent, black inventors filed hundreds of patents for transportation devices. The Safe Bus Company was a black-owned city-chartered bus line in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, from 1930 to the 1960s.   

Black history celebrates regular people engaged in positive activities. Here are some examples:

My father Herman Lee resided at 34 Christian Ave., Setauket, between 1956 and 2011. He was employed at the Setauket yard of the Brookhaven Highway Department in the 1960s and promoted to foreman in the 1970s. He did carpentry/home improvement projects for Three Village homeowners; among his regular clients, the Windrows and the Strongs. In World War II he served on the USS Hornet CV-12. After he became a chaplain for the VFW along with his wife Barbara Lewis Lee who was a practical nurse and historian in her own right. They sent all of their four children to college: Barbara, Herman, Geral and Peter.

Barbara, Herman, Geral and Peter Lee. Photo from Geral Lee

Uncle Sherwood Lewis was an employee of Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO). He came up with an idea that saved the company more than $100,000 a year according to a Newsday article dated April 23, 1977. He, too, was raised on Christian Avenue and now resides in Massachusetts.

Grandmother Ethel Lewis, valedictorian of her high school graduating class, resided at 32 Christian Ave. with her husband Howard Lewis. They subdivided their property so my parents could build their house on Christian Avenue.

Aunt Hazel Lewis, salutatorian of her graduating class, was employed at Peck & Peck in New York City back in the day — a high-end boutique clothing store for women.   

Aunt Pearl Lewis Hart received an associates degree in accounting in her 40s, was promoted to supervisor of the payroll department at SUNY Stony Brook and, until her death last month at age 92, was living in her own home on Christian Avenue.

Uncle Harry Hart, Pearl’s husband, owned his own excavation and contracting business from the 1940s to the 1980s. He acquired land on Christian Avenue and rented to many local folks.   

Remembering a few of Dr. King’s principles of nonviolence can help provide the foundation for a healthy society: “Nonviolence is a way of life for brave people; attack problems, not people; know and do what is right even when it is difficult.”     

I know there are many individuals who believe in these principles.

Black History Month means different things to different people, but if it can fill in the gaps, identify injustice, encourage positive dialogue and provide a platform for people to work toward understanding one another, it is a valuable ongoing process.

Geral Lee returned to her Setauket home in 2013 to be with her father after living in Rhode Island for 12 years. She taught physical education and health in Hempstead early in her career and received a personal invitation from her primary school coach Jack Foley, who later became athletic director for Three Village schools, to teach at Ward Melville. She served in the Peace Corps in Senegal, loves dogs and cats and currently relieves stress as a reflexologist.

Javon Harrington. Photo from PIO

Suffolk County Police arrested a man in Selden Feb. 11 for driving under the influence of drugs after a two-vehicle crash.

Javon Harrington was operating a 2003 Infiniti on North Evergreen Drive at a high speed when he went through a stop sign at Pine Street and struck a 2009 Dodge, and then a tree. Harrington, 20, of Coram, and his passengers Elijah Quinitchette, 24, of Coram and Eddie Bray, 20, of Coram were transported to Stony Brook University Hospital via Selden Fire Department Ambulance. Bray suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries. Harrington and Quinitchette suffered minor injuries.

The 19-year-old man driving the Dodge, and his two passengers, were also transported to Stony Brook University Hospital via Selden Fire Department Ambulance for observation.

Sixth Squad detectives arrested Harrington and charged him with driving while ability impaired by drugs. He was scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip Feb. 12.

Both vehicles were impounded for safety checks and the investigation is ongiong.

February Food Drive

To help give back to the community, Coach Realtors of Stony Brook and Port Jefferson will hold its 4th annual food drive during the month of February for the benefit of the Infant Jesus Food Pantry, Open Cupboard, in Port Jefferson. “Unfortunately during the winter months, the local food pantries are in desperate need of supplies,” said food drive organizer and realtor Debbie Battaglia.

Nonperishable items, including canned foods such as soups and vegetables, diapers and dry or canned pet food, can be dropped off at the Stony Brook office, which is located at 1099 North Country Road, Stony Brook. For a full list of needed items or to arrange a pick-up, email Debbie at dbattaglia@coachrealtors.com or call 516-297-6127.

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