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Susan Risoli

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Frank Turano leads an interactive discussion delving into the history of Three Village. Photo from Beverly Tyler

By Susan Risoli

Setauket resident Frank Turano delves deeply into local history. He uncovers compelling stories of everyday people and brings those tales to life for the rest of us to share.

For that reason, and for his ongoing service to the Three Village Historical Society as board member and past president, Turano is one of Times Beacon Record Newspapers’ People of the Year.

Beverly Tyler, the society’s historian, has known Turano since the early 1970s and described Turano’s leadership in unearthing details about Chicken Hill, the area of Route 25A around the current-day Setauket Methodist Church. It was once a thriving community of immigrants who helped each other make a new life in America. An exhibit about Chicken Hill is on display at the society’s headquarters in Setauket. Tyler said Turano, who is manager of the Chicken Hill project and curator of the exhibit, led the search for the community’s almost-forgotten past and wrote a successful funding proposal to create the exhibit.

“He’s there almost every single weekend, to give tours of the exhibit,” Tyler said.

He and Turano traveled in September to the annual meeting of the American Association for State and Local History, where the Chicken Hill exhibit received the association’s highest distinction, the Award of Merit.

Karen Martin, archivist for the Historical Society, said Turano leads the organization’s Rhodes Committee. At the group’s weekly meetings in the Emma Clark Public Library, Martin said, Turano facilitates the group’s far-ranging and free-wheeling conversations about the history of our area, and then mines the discussions for ideas to dig into.

“The big names, like the Ward Melvilles, make the headlines,” Martin said. “But Frank also wants to know about everyone who lived in a community, the everyday person, the guy who owned the general store.” If a historical topic comes up in a Rhodes committee meeting, Turano “wants to know all the details. He’ll say, ‘Who’s going to know about this? Let’s give them a call.’”

Turano also volunteers for the Society’s annual Candlelight House Tour every December, Martin said. He explains the history of houses on the tour, and in general “he loves to give presentations.”

Local resident Hub Edwards, who has worked with Turano on many history projects, said, “If people want to know history, they should listen to him. He goes to great lengths to get the true story of a project, with no shortcuts.”

Edwards said Turano is always featured in the Historical Society’s annual “Spirits” tour of local graveyards, dressed as one of the historical figures highlighted by the tour. Turano also frequently writes scripts for the tour’s performances.

Turano’s daughter Alyssa said her father is now combing through the archives of the Long Island Museum. He’s working on an exploration of the Long Island whaleship-building industry, she said, “focusing on Mr. Cooper, one specific whaleship builder who lived in the 1800s.” Turano is finding out about Cooper’s life by reading his diaries and looking over ship construction work logs. Alyssa said her father has been excitedly sharing stories with her and his friends, about the buried gems of history he is finding.

“Not everyone appreciates history in the way that he does,” she said. “It’s very inspiring. When you are so passionate about history, you can make it come alive again.”

Her father is committed to finding out as much as he can about local history, she said, because he believes strongly that “not all of these people have had their stories told.” And he has told her that “it’s better to know the back story, so you can know how your community has changed throughout time.”

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State’s ‘longest-serving’ supervisor sees namesake forever ingrained into the facade of town building

Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio presented the town's 2018 tentative operating budget this week. File photo by Susan Risoli

By Susan Risoli

With laughter, a few tears, memories of the past and a nod to the future, Smithtown Town Hall was dedicated Sunday in honor of Patrick Vecchio (R) and his nearly 38 years as Smithtown supervisor.

The event fulfilled a resolution, passed by town council members in March, that the building at 99 W. Main St. be dedicated in recognition of Vecchio’s lifelong record of public service.

In an interview after the ceremony, Vecchio said he felt “overwhelmed and humbled” by the praise.

When asked if his job was still fun after almost four decades, the supervisor said, “Yes, it is. At the end of the day, I’ve done something for people. And that’s the guiding principle of my life.”

Vecchio shook hands and hugged those in attendance, urging them to get something to eat from the Italian buffet of mozzarella sandwiches and almond cookies set up after the formal dedication.

The official town resolution is put on display. Photo by Susan Risoli
The official town resolution is put on display. Photo by Susan Risoli

As passing motorists tooted their horns and a crowd lined the sidewalk, legislators spoke warmly about Vecchio, peppering their remarks with wisecracks. Drawing laughs and applause from the audience, state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) feigned surprise that Vecchio arranged for a reception after the ceremony, because “he’s cheap, he wears it like a badge of honor.”

But the supervisor’s thriftiness is a good thing, Flanagan pointed out, because it means he’s mindful of Smithtown taxpayers.

“He never forgot, never forgets, never will forget where the money is coming from,” Flanagan said.

On a more serious note, Flanagan said Vecchio has been an effective supervisor because “we need leaders, we need people who are not afraid to mix it up.”

State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said Vecchio should be acknowledged for the advances Smithtown has made in protecting the environment.

“You have earned this honor. You have earned it,” he said, addressing Vecchio directly.

Smithtown historian, Brad Harris, called Vecchio “a feisty guy … ready to take on an issue or political opponent. He does battle for the people of Smithtown.”

He noted that Vecchio is the longest-serving town supervisor in the region, “and for all we know, the longest-serving supervisor in the state of New York and probably the nation.”

However, Harris said to laughter from the crowd, “It’s just not true that he was here when town hall was constructed in 1912.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) quoted legendary film siren Mae West, who said, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

Vecchio, Bellone said, has served Smithtown the right way.

The town is “an amazing place — a place filled with incredible beauty, natural resources, wonderful people … the history of Smithtown is the stuff of legends,” Bellone said.

Looking over at Vecchio seated in the audience, Bellone said, “I’m excited to see the continuing story of this legend.”

Noting that Vecchio is a former boxer who stood up to opponents in the ring before he entered the political arena, Bellone said people have been trying to “knock the supervisor out ever since, but he’s still standing.”

Smithtown Deputy Supervisor and Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) and Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) read the council’s resolution to dedicate the building in Vecchio’s honor.

Vecchio’s first word after hearing the tributes was “Wow.”

“My heart is overwhelmed with all of you folks,” Vecchio said, taking his turn at the microphone. “I’m going to cry.”

Vecchio praised the “unsung” heads of departments in town governments.

“You might not know who they are,” he said. “But they are the glue that holds this town together and makes it the best town in New York state.”

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Dentists drill down on trick-or-treating

By Susan Risoli

Everyone knows that Halloween treats are bad for children’s teeth. Or is that just a myth, perpetrated by parents who want to pilfer their kids’ candy stash?

With their mouths full of restorations, adults are the ones more likely than kids to experience post-Halloween dental problems, said Dr. Robert Branca D.D.S. It’s not unusual for adults to make an appointment at Sweetwater Dental Care in Hauppauge, where Branca practices, to take care of a cracked tooth, a lost crown or a missing filling caused by biting into hard or sticky candy. As far as kids go, Branca said, Halloween doesn’t so much affect the ongoing issue of tooth decay as much as the child’s genetic makeup and the texture of their teeth — smooth or pitted. To prevent cavities, he recommends that children get fluoride treatments and have their teeth sealed.

Energy drinks and soda are way worse for a young person’s teeth than once-a-year consumption of Halloween candy, Branca said.

“We see a big difference in tooth decay of young adults in their 20s,” since energy drinks became popular, he said, because the drinks are “very high in sugar, very high in acid. Those things are really bad for your teeth.”

If the child has braces, their parents can remind them to choose and eat their Halloween candy carefully. “Sticky things could be a problem,” he said.

When it came to raising his own kids, Dr. Branca said he practiced the “all things in moderation” approach. “I wasn’t going to take Halloween away from them. Let them have their fun,” he said. “But I wasn’t going to let them have candy every day, either.”

Young trick-or-treaters have healthier teeth than adults, said Dr. Roger Kleinman, D.D.S., so a little Halloween indulgence shouldn’t be bad for their dental health.

“Up until age 14 or 15, children tend to still have strong teeth,” he said. “Some of their adult teeth didn’t come in until they were 12. There hasn’t been a chance yet for adult decay to set in.” At the Gentle Dental office in Port Jefferson, he has treated his share of dental trauma caused by adults biting into candy — “broken teeth from a frozen caramel cluster, for example.” Dr. Kleinman recommends parents follow the usual advice about letting their kids eat only wrapped candies.

“And after they eat the candy they’re allowed to have, I would recommend that they go brush their teeth,” he advised.

Dr. Aimee Zopf, D.M.D., also a practitioner at Gentle Dental, isn’t likely to condemn Halloween. “That’s my birthday,” she said.

For the rest of us trick-or-treaters, as long as proper dental hygiene is practiced on a consistent, daily basis, Halloween shouldn’t pose a problem, she said. Eating candy won’t necessarily cause tooth decay “as long as you’re brushing and flossing and seeing your dentist every six months, or more frequently if needed,” Dr. Zopf said. She also reminded parents to check their kids’ Halloween candy not only to make sure it’s safely wrapped, but also to check that it doesn’t trigger any allergies the child might have.

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A more recent photo of the footbridge at Sunken Meadow State Park shows the love locks have been stripped. Photo by Susan Risoli

By Susan Risoli

To all the couples who attached padlocks to a footbridge in Sunken Meadow State Park: sorry, sweethearts. Your public declarations of love were removed recently by the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Views of the footbridge at Sunken Meadow State Park, where lovebirds once saw locks representing their permanent affection. Photo by Susan Risoli
Views of the footbridge at Sunken Meadow State Park, where lovebirds once saw locks representing their permanent affection. Photo by Susan Risoli

Lovers worldwide have embraced the tradition of decorating locks with initials and other symbols of partnership, and ceremoniously attaching them to bridges. Fearing that locks would weaken structures and make them unsafe, municipalities have been removing the tokens of love. Twenty-two love locks were recently taken off the footbridge at the end of Sunken Meadow’s parking field 3. The New York City Department of Transportation removed 450 locks from the Brooklyn Bridge in April. And officials in Paris have been prying locks off bridges that span the River Seine.

A recent visit to Sunken Meadow revealed a barren bridge stripped of the locks that adorned it earlier this year. Only one lonely testament to love remained – a heart scratched into the metal railing, bearing the message “LW + GE.”

State Parks spokesman Randy Simons said in an email Tuesday that the Parks Department was concerned that, over time, an increasing number of locks could add unsafe weight to the bridge. Locks can get rusted, and that could also affect the bridge, Simons said.

Those who put a love lock on the bridge and want their memento back, he said, can pick it up at the Sunken Meadow park office.

“We encourage our visitors to express their friendship and love in other ways that do not interfere with others’ enjoyment of the natural setting and park property,” Simons said. Going forward, if park officials see anyone attaching a lock to the bridge, “We would explain to the individual or individuals that this is not permitted and have them remove the locks,” he said. “We do not see locks being placed on any of our bridges in the future.”

Views of the footbridge at Sunken Meadow State Park, where lovebirds once saw locks representing their permanent affection. Photo by Susan Risoli
Views of the footbridge at Sunken Meadow State Park, where lovebirds once saw locks representing their permanent affection. Photo by Susan Risoli

The Parks Department hasn’t seen love locks at any other state parks, Simons said.

The New York City Department of Transportation has been taking love locks off the city’s bridges since 2013, said a DOT spokesperson in an email Tuesday. She said the department removed 9,363 locks this year, from January through the end of September.

“Locks pose a safety risk for those using the Brooklyn Bridge and are not allowed,” she said. “We strongly discourage visitors from leaving locks on our bridges as it poses a danger to the infrastructure and the cars traveling below.”

“We ask that all visitors to the Brooklyn Bridge and other bridges across the city help keep our landmarks clean and in a state of good repair.”

Camp counselors and young campers yank on a rope in a tug-of-war exhibition at Benner’s Farm. Photo by Michaela Pawluk

By Susan Risoli

Benner’s Farm doesn’t slow down for the summer.

Dave Benner gives some of the farm guests a ride across the property. Photo by Susan Risoli
Dave Benner gives some of the farm guests a ride across the property. Photo by Susan Risoli

Since 1751, this working farm in Setauket has been an oasis for anyone who cares about a way of life that surprises as much as it teaches. Bob and Jean Benner bought the 15-acre property in 1977. They still run the place, but now their sons Dave, Sam and Ben handle much of the outdoor work, while daughter Kirsten, who used to teach in the farm’s community education program, now lives in New England.

The Benners host a summer camp for children, toddlers to teens, including a full-day showing of how to care for the animals and the gardens. Times Beacon Record Newspapers spent a day at the farm for a firsthand look at life as a Benner.

7:50 a.m. The Benners and their staff of counselors are getting ready for the campers. Some of the children have seen farm animals up close.

“They have backyard chickens and such,” Bob Benner says.

Most, however, have never been at a place like this, and Benner calls it “amazing, to see how quickly they warm up to it.” Today, the children will do farm chores and help feed the animals.

Pancake the chicken and her baby, Waffle, go by. This chicken has flown the coop, preferring to hang out with the cow. She’s actively raising her chick.

This is unusual behavior, Benner says, as modern chickens have been bred to spend more time laying eggs for profit and less time nurturing babies.

Pancake walks briskly, clucking constantly to Waffle, who runs on teeny legs to keep up.

“She’s showing the chick how to eat and how to be,” Benner says.

There are always some chickens that forsake the safety of the coop for an independent life in the open, says Benner. And when they do, “they have to live by their wits.”

8:30 a.m. The lambs are getting antsy.

“Their stomachs are talkin’,” says Sam Benner.

Camp counselors and young campers yank on a rope in a tug-of-war exhibition at Benner’s Farm. Photo by Michaela Pawluk
Camp counselors and young campers yank on a rope in a tug-of-war exhibition at Benner’s Farm. Photo by Michaela Pawluk

One runs to the fence and makes a tentative baa. Soon, three others follow. Now the group is singing a loud, indignant chorus of appeal for their breakfast. Benner tells them they have to wait until the campers get there.

Farm life is satisfying, says Dave Benner, but the hours are long. When it’s time for “spring baby-watch,” he says, “any time the animals go into labor, we have to be there to help ‘em, for as long as it takes.”

Each animal has a distinct personality. Take Shrek, the little pig born in April. “Shrek is a handful,” Benner says, looking over at the piglet that, in the span of about a minute, has pushed his nose through the fence, run around his pen, rooted in the dirt and enthusiastically munched a snack.

10 a.m. The campers are here. Some are gathering hay from the barn. The littlest ones sit on counselor Michaela Pawluk’s lap, as she teaches them how to milk Zoe the goat. The milk is used to feed baby animals, Pawluk says, or is made into cheese.

Other kids wield rakes and shovels. Counselor Nick Mancuso is helping them make a feng shui-themed rock garden.

All the children have a multitude of questions. Nine-year-old Teppei says the animals “are funny sometimes. The chickens look like they’re playing running bases, because they’re running back and forth.” Teppei says he was surprised “at how big cows can get, at a really small human age.” He drew that conclusion after meeting Minnie, the Benners’ massive two-year-old cow.

2:30 p.m. Afternoon on the farm is a time for noticing — the feel of the strong sun, the sound of water rushing out of a garden hose into the goats’ drinking basin, the fragrance of oregano as a breeze blows across the herb garden.

Grown goats and sheep are out of the barn, grazing on the grass. Their babies rest in the shade, leaning on each other with their eyes closed. Minnie the cow is like a big puppy, licking the arms of any human she can reach, her soulful brown eyes trusting and calm.

7 p.m. Campers are long gone, and grown-ups are gathering on the farm for an outdoor bluegrass concert in the pasture. The sheep are starting to hunker down in groups.

Minnie and Shrek are beside themselves with joy as people gather to admire them. But soon, even they will settle down for the night. Tomorrow will be another busy day.

Mute swans peruse the Setauket Harbor waters. Photo by Maria Hoffman

By Susan Risoli

Mute swans might soon have an easier relationship with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, if a bill recently passed through the York State Legislature is signed into law.

The legislation was written to require DEC to provide scientific documentation that mute swans are a threat to the environment. Also, before taking any action to control the state’s mute swan population, the DEC would have to hold at least two public hearings and give the public at least 45 days to comment on its plans for dealing with the birds.

The legislation package passed the state Assembly June 9 and had passed the state Senate on April 22.

Mute swans, a non-native species from Europe, are considered an invasive species, according to the state DEC. Trumpeter swans, also found in New York, are native to the region and are not included in the DEC’s management plan.

The agency’s proposed mute swan management plan, released in March, called for limiting the statewide population to 800 birds. By 2002, there were more than 2,000 mute swans downstate and 200 upstate, the report said.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Environmental Conservation, said in a phone interview Tuesday that the mute swan legislation was a response to public concern “that had been raised, particularly about the lack of appropriate science to justify this eradication of a very beautiful animal” that inspires “a sense of curiosity about the environment,” particularly among children.

In April, Englebright and Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), also a member of the Committee on Environmental Conservation, sent DEC’s Bureau of Wildlife a letter saying the agency disregarded the state Legislature’s requests for “full documentation of the scientific basis for management decisions” and requests for “less reliance on lethal management measures. The DEC has failed to provide compelling scientific information as to why such an aggressive management strategy is being pursued.”

DEC spokesman Jomo Miller said in an emailed statement Tuesday that the agency is reviewing the letter from Englebright and Cymbrowitz “as part of its review of the comments received” on the draft management plan. The DEC hopes to adopt a final plan later this summer, Miller said.

“At that time, we will provide a response to the principal comments received, as we did for comments on the first draft of the plan,” he said.

In an interview, Englebright said the legislation is “not just an exercise in willfulness on our part but an exercise in democracy,” and it reflects “a very high interest” from the public about the fate of the swans.

The legislation would require DEC to “give priority to nonlethal management techniques” for controlling the mute swan population. The proposed plan said it does not advocate any specific method of controlling the population, and because many people object to the use of lethal control methods, especially killing adult birds, the DEC will use “nonlethal” methods where practical and timely to achieve the management objectives, the report said.

Research shows that mute swans “can significantly reduce the availability of submerged aquatic vegetation in wetland ecosystems” depending on the number of swans relative to the size of the area being considered, the spokesperson said.

The DEC said in the draft management plan that mute swans hurt the environment by eating and uprooting large quantities of plants that are food for fish and other wildlife. Swan feces have high levels of coliform bacteria, which can make waters unsafe for drinking, swimming and shell fishing, the document said. Their presence near airports poses “a serious threat to aviation,” the plan said. It also said that territorial swans have been known to attack people and other birds.

Fresh produce will make its way to the streets of Kings Park once again as the annual farmers market takes shape with an opening date set for Sunday. Photo from Alyson Elish-Swartz

The market is fresh.

Kings Park’s coveted Farmers Market will start a brand new season on Sunday, June 7, with all of last year’s farmers returning plus some new additions. Founded in 2010, the market boasts everything from locally grown produce, baked goods, fresh fish, goat cheese, olive oil, pickles and more.

One addition includes the St. James-based Saint James Brewery, a craft brewery which specializes in Belgian beer.

Returning farmers market participants also include Thera Farms, from Ronkonkoma, Fink’s Country Farm from Manorville and Monty Breads from Islip Terrace.

There will be multiple festivals held at the market throughout the summer, including a strawberry festival, a corn festival, Oktoberfest, a baking contest and a chili cookout, according to members of the Kings Park civic group helping to organize events.

“This market has brought the town together, while also supporting local agriculture,” said Alyson Elish-Swartz, a member of the Kings Park Civic Association and a chairperson of the farmers market committee said.

The King’s Park Civic Association sponsors this event in partnership with ligreenmarket. Kings Park’s Farmers Market will also spotlight local musicians, as they have done before, with new acts coming this summer. But new this year will be a spotlight on local photographers, with booths featuring photographs from some of Kings Park’s most talented photographers.

Kings Park restaurants will also be hosting cooking demos, where they buy the ingredients from the farmers market and then show fun and fresh dishes residents can make with them. Restaurants like Café Red and Relish have participated in the past, making dishes like fresh watermelon soup.

The Kings Park Farmers Market is open Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., now through November 22, at the municipal lot on Route 25A and Main Street.

The whole idea of the farmers market started when two local residents who didn’t know each other, Ann Marie Nedell and Elish-Swartz, had the same the idea. Sean Lehmann, president of the Kings Park Civic Association, gave Nedell and Elish-Swartz each other’s phone numbers and told them to link up. He asked them to find out more and report back to the civic association.

Elish-Swartz and Nedell pounded the pavement, talking up the idea to community groups and handing out surveys to find out what Kings Park wanted in a farmers market, with free parking high on the list.

The plan took a leap forward when Nedell and Elish-Swartz met Bernadette Martin. Martin is director of Friends and Farmers Inc., a company she started to advocate for small family farms and to bring fresh, local food to Long Islanders. The market first opened in the summer of 2010 and Martin manages it, every Sunday, from June through November.

Susan Risoli contributed reporting.

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By Susan Risoli

Acupuncture might be a health care system that works for you. It’s relaxing. It can give you more energy. Acupuncture treatments promote wellness and healing.

The World Health Organization has published a long list of conditions that acupuncture treats effectively. (“Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials.”) The list includes various types of pain, including headache and back pain,  depression, stress and side effects of chemotherapy.

Because Chinese medicine embraces several components, your acupuncturist will offer more than just acupuncture. He or she may be a practitioner of herbal medicine. It’s likely that they will talk to you about healthy exercise, such as tai chi or qigong — and these are activities they probably have done themselves. He or she might give you nutritional guidance. He or she may also be trained in massage or Asian bodywork — Tui na and Amma are examples. For thousands of years, these ways of healing have helped people, so you may want to ask your acupuncturist how you can learn more about these modalities.

How do you find a licensed acupuncturist? Like you would any other professional: ask around among your friends. Chances are you already know someone who’s been treated with Chinese medicine. Your medical doctor, chiropractor or massage therapist also may know a good acupuncturist. Or you can check the practitioner listings on the websites of the Acupuncture Society of New York, www.asny.org), or the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, www.NCCAOM.org. Be aware that in New York state, licensed acupuncturists are independent practitioners, and you will not need a doctor’s referral to start acupuncture treatment. The websites mentioned give information about the training and credentials necessary to practice acupuncture. Your health insurance might or might not cover acupuncture treatments; you’ll need to discuss it with your practitioner.

Acupuncture itself involves insertion of very thin, flexible needles, at specific places on the body. The guiding principle of acupuncture is that the places where the needles are inserted — acupuncture points — help the body direct and adjust the energy that is flowing through your organ systems. This energy is called qi (pronounced “chee.”) Acupuncture supports your body and helps it work better so that underlying diseases and their symptoms can be treated effectively.

So what is a typical acupuncture treatment like? During the first appointment, you’ll fill out some paperwork, as you would at any medical visit. Your practitioner will perform a thorough intake and health history. He or she may ask questions you’ve never been asked, or even thought about before. That’s because, in Chinese medicine, many aspects of the body and its functions give clues about the patient’s overall health. The acupuncturist will look closely at your tongue, and feel your pulse at several places on each wrist. The appearance of your tongue, the quality and speed of your pulses, and the questions you answer all give clinical information that will help the acupuncturist plan your course of treatment. If you have questions about Chinese medicine, or your specific treatment, your acupuncturist is there to listen. He or she will be happy to discuss it with you.

Susan Risoli is an acupuncturist, a practitioner of herbal medicine and has been trained in Amma, a type of Asian bodywork.

George Hoffman and Laurie Vetere overlook Setauket Harbor, which their new task force hopes to protect. Photo by Susan Risoli

By Susan Risoli

Setauket Harbor has a new best friend.

To speak up for this system of bays and ponds, residents have created the Setauket Harbor Task Force. Before the group met at the Neighborhood House Tuesday night, cofounders Laurie Vetere and George Hoffman said the task force can improve water quality and increase accessibility for all who love Setauket’s wetlands.

Stuck between Stony Brook Harbor and Port Jefferson Harbor, Setauket Harbor is an “orphan” that could use some of the attention given to its neighbors, Hoffman said. Stony Brook’s strong harbor advisory committee and vocal boating community, and Port Jeff’s commerce and ferry navigation, ensure that those harbors stay in good shape, Hoffman said.

“And in Connecticut, every harbor has an advisory group,” he said. “We want to be out there to help our harbor.”

Setauket Pond is the first order of business, said Vetere, chairwoman of the task force, and Hoffman, a trustee on its board. This area next to the Se-Port Deli on Route 25A has seen better days.

A walk across the footbridge spanning the pond revealed a silt-choked catch basin below.

The basin is supposed to protect the harbor by filtering oil and trash from storm water road runoff, they said, but it’s no longer doing its job.

Vetere gestured to debris and fallen trees littering the water. If the task force can clean up the pond, Vetere said, “I want to see increased boating, kayaking, paddle boarding. Maybe creating a blueway trail that could be historic,” in recognition of George Washington’s colonial spies, who snuck in and out of the harbor with secrets.The task force has formed a not-for-profit corporation so it can apply for federal and state grants, Vetere and Hoffman said.

The group also wants to train volunteers to become “water guardians,” monitors who would test Setauket waters regularly for bacteria and nitrogen levels. They said they want volunteers for a “visioning committee” on the harbor’s future.

Hoffman and Vetere said the task force could use volunteers to help with a planned “Setauket Harbor Day.” Getting a state-issued permit to cut back the phragmites — a non-native species of tall reeds that has all but taken over the shoreline — is another priority, Hoffman said.

About 45 people gathered Tuesday night at the Setauket Neighborhood House to learn about the task force’s plans and to hear what speaker Eric Swenson, executive director of the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee, shared about successful efforts to restore water quality and shellfish harvesting there.

Hempstead Harbor is a success story, Swenson said, because its protection committee is a collaborative effort between citizens, villages, towns, county government, and scientists.

Advising Three Villagers to network in similar fashion, Swenson said, “You’re not a harbor unto yourself.”
Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) were at the meeting.

“Know that I am an ally and I will continue to work towards us improving the harbor,” Cartright said.
Hoffman said the Setauket Harbor group hopes to meet several times a year. Their harbor has its challenges, he said, but “it’s not too late to fix this.”

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