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Talia Amorosano

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Footprints mark a sandy trail at Cupsogue Beach in Southampton. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

Finding an enjoyable vacation doesn’t have to involve booking a cruise to the Bahamas, a plane ticket to California or even a train ride to New York City. With Long Island’s more than 100 museums, 20 state parks and 30 wineries/vineyards, going somewhere great is as easy as stepping outside of your own backyard (and contains less risk of trampling your neighbor’s freshly planted rhododendrons).

A kayaker enjoys a tranquil evening on the Nissequogue River in Smithtown.Photo by Talia Amorosano
A kayaker enjoys a tranquil evening on the Nissequogue River in Smithtown.Photo by Talia Amorosano

So hop in your car — or better yet, save gas money by hopping in a friend’s car — and explore an unfamiliar township. Because whether you’re looking for fun for the whole family, an escape from reality or a romantic getaway, you’ll find that the list of things to do here stretches as long as the Island itself, and well beyond the length of this list.

Oyster Bay
Spend a day in Oyster Bay if you love history. Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park encompasses hundreds of acres of gardens, trails and woodlands, not to mention a 1920s Tudor mansion. There’s also Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, home of Theodore Roosevelt from 1885 through 1919, and Raynham Hall Museum, former residence of Robert Townsend, George Washington’s intelligence operative.  Who knows, maybe history will repeat itself and you’ll visit again.

Huntington
There are a ton of things to do here. Purchase tickets to an unforgettable show or concert at The Paramount Theater, tour the Heckscher Museum of Art and historic Oheka Castle or explore the outdoors at Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery and Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve.

Smithtown
Tap Nissequogue River Canoe and Kayak Rentals Inc. to rent (or bring) a canoe or kayak, and paddle along 5.5 miles of tranquil river. If you still can’t get enough nature, take a stroll at scenic Caleb Smith State Park Preserve or visit the rehabilitating animals at Sweetbriar Nature Center.  If you still can’t get enough nature, build a tree house in your backyard when you get home or something. But before you go, be sure to stop at Whisper or Harmony Vineyards in St. James, listen to live music and buy a bottle of wine.

An injured red-tailed hawk gets another chance at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown. Photo by Talia Amorosano
An injured red-tailed hawk gets another chance at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown. Photo by Talia Amorosano

Brookhaven
This town offers some wonderful watery swimming, boating and fishing destinations: West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook, Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai, Corey Beach in Blue Point, Davis Park and Great Gun Beach, both on Fire Island, are just some of the important names to remember when planning your next beach daycation in Brookhaven.

Riverhead
Head to the river for a family fun day. The Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center, located along the Peconic River, is home to birds, butterflies and bats, along with great numbers of ocean and river dwelling animals. Also fun for kids and adults alike are the Riverhead Raceway and Long Island Science Center.

Southold
Don’t hold out on visiting this beautiful Long Island location. Book a cab ride through gorgeous rural Southold and visit one or more of its many wineries and vineyards: Sparkling Pointe, One Woman Wines and Vineyards, The Old Field Vineyards, Croteaux Vineyards, Mattebella Vineyards, Corey Creek Vineyards and Duckwalk Vineyards are just the cork of the wine bottle. Later, dine at one of more than 40 eateries in the maritime Village of Greenport, considered one of the prettiest towns in the United States.

Southampton
See the seashore like never before at sandy, clean Cupsogue Beach County Park in Westhampton, or lay back in luxury on a True East Charters boat tour of the Hamptons.  If staying grounded is more your style, spend a day playing minigolf with the family at the Southampton Golf Range, which also features a driving range, batting cages and an ice rink.

East Hampton
If you’re up for an art-filled adventure, spend an hour at the Pollock-Krasner House and view the paint-splattered space where abstract impressionist Jackson Pollock and fellow artist Lee Krasner created some of their most provocative works.  End the day in another world: LongHouse Reserve, where modern sculptures and furniture (created by a seasonal group of artists) fuse seamlessly with the interestingly landscaped grounds.

Annual Asharoken swim to benefit Alzheimer's disease research raises more than $6,000

By Talia Amorosano

On Tuesday morning, more than 20 kayakers and swimmers gathered for the 12th Annual Distant Memories Swim, an event created and organized by Bryan Proctor, a Harborfields physical education teacher, to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. Participants traveled two nautical miles from Asharoken Beach in Northport to Knollwood Beach in Huntington and were cheered on by family members and supporters who waited and watched the event from shore. This year’s event has raised more than $6,000 for the Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center so far, and over the course of its existence, has raised over $100,000. Organizers hope that the money will eventually help researchers find a cure for this increasingly prevalent disease.

Man on village bench has worn many hats over the years

Justice Peter Graham has served Port Jefferson for more than 30 years. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

When he entered a seminary at age 14, Port Jefferson Village Justice Peter Graham had no idea he would eventually study law, let alone hold a gavel or ever be referred to as “your honor.”

But after four years of training to become a priest, instead of the voice of God it was the voice of singer Hoagy Carmichael through his bedroom window, delivering a message about “a gal who’s mighty sweet, with big blue eyes and tiny feet,” that resonated with him. It was then that Graham decided to abandon this path in favor of one that did not necessarily encompass what he referred to as “the two Cs”: chastity and celibacy.
He traded in his cassock for textbooks, studying biology and chemistry in college and completing law school.

But instead of heading straight for the courtroom, Graham enlisted in the U.S. Army.

“When I finished law school, I felt that I owed my country two years of my life,” Graham said.

He enlisted as a private and refused to receive a commission.

“For 16 weeks they gave me infantry basic training,” he said. “I ran all day. … On the last day [of basic training], I walked 26 miles alone. I was frustrated.”

Just when things seemed low, an unexpected opportunity arrived in the form of a long plane ride to Germany and a short conversation.

“You went to law school, right?” asked a colonel, according to Graham. Before he knew it, he was declared the district attorney of his battalion. Riding on the reassuring words of the colonel — “Don’t make a mistake” — Graham worked on murder, assault and rape cases and gained real experience in the field he had previously only studied.

A particularly interesting case, the justice said, involved a woman who Graham believes murdered her husband, an Army major. Graham had jurisdiction over the case and tried to get her convicted. However, the Supreme Court eventually ruled it could not convict because the defendant was not enlisted. To this day, Graham does not know what became of her.

Despite that situation, “I learned so much [about law] from being in the Army.”

All these years later, and after spending more than 25 years on Port Jefferson Village’s bench, Graham still practices law and specializes in criminal and civil law. As a village justice, a role to which he was recently re-elected for another term of service, he remains diligent about informing himself of the latest policies and practices.

He also keeps an eye on changes in his community — he emphasized the importance of maintaining an awareness of what’s going on in the area and said doing his job helps to keep him alert to the needs of the people. But he stayed away from patting himself on the back.

“All I do is try to be fair to the people,” he said. “I want to make sure they understand what the charge is and what their alternative is.”

Graham’s ability to make people feel comfortable in the courtroom may have something to do with the friendly treatment he gets in out-of-work environments. He said what is most rewarding about being a village justice is “the respect you see on the street. … I’ve been around so long that people are saying hello to me and I don’t even know who they are.”

In addition to praising his community, Graham spoke highly of his colleagues.

About fellow Justice Jack Riley, Graham said he is on the same page about how to handle people in the courtroom. Of Village Court Clerk Christine Wood, with whom he has worked for almost 11 years, he said,

“She does phenomenal work. … I don’t think she’s ever made a mistake.”

Wood was just as complimentary in return.

“He’s awesome. I’ve actually worked for eight judges and he is one of my top,” she said. “He’s the most caring gentleman, and I don’t say that about many people. He’s got a heart of gold.”

Wood said Graham “goes above and beyond” for his village justice role.

When Graham isn’t working, he enjoys being active around Port Jefferson. Although he won’t play golf “because golf is for old men,” he defined himself as a once-avid tennis player.

“They used to call me the deli man because my shots were always slices.”

He plans to start playing more again in the future, when his elbow feels better.

In addition to the “beautiful tennis courts,” Graham appreciates Port Jefferson’s proximity to the water and its abundance of outdoor activities.

He described his experience living in Port Jefferson and serving as a village justice as “a pleasure.”

“I never ask for an increase [in pay]. Whatever it is, it is, and it’s great.”

A recently released quail sits on a log at Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in Smithtown. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

A record number of bobwhite quails were released this year, and many of the students, teachers and parents who raised the birds helped welcome them to Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in Smithtown on Saturday.

For 12 years, Eric Powers, a biologist and wildlife educator, has been at the forefront of organizing the annual quail release at Caleb Smith and other parks in the area. He described this year’s event as the largest one yet, as a record number of schools raised the quail chicks and 1,400 quails were released.

“The idea of bringing back the quail is to bring balance back to our ecosystem,” Powers said at the rainy morning release.

Unlike nonnative guinea fowl, which “eat good wildlife” like salamanders and dragonflies, northern bobwhite quail are native to Long Island and play a vital role in controlling tick populations without harming other native species, according to Powers.

Children and parents watch quail being released. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Children and parents watch quail being released. Photo by Talia Amorosano

Those in attendance included volunteers, students, teachers and Long Island comedian Joey Kola, who said that he “saw this program and jumped on right away” after personally experiencing Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a tick-borne illness transmitted to humans through a tick bite.

Attendees initially gathered inside the park’s nature museum, where they learned about the quail, viewed preserved eggs and touched feather samples before listening to Powers’ talk.

“What we see is we get this immediate clearing of ticks [after the quail are released],” Powers said, but “cats are outright hammering these birds.”

Powers described indoor-outdoor cats as the biggest threat to quail upon their release, and suggested people make use of what he referred to as “catios” — enclosed patios where cats can get outside without hunting native animals.

However, because this is the first year the Caleb Smith quail cage has reached overcapacity — forcing a few hundred quail to be released earlier — Powers is optimistic the quail population may begin to take hold on its own if school and community participation continues to increase.

Kids and adults alike were certainly enthusiastic about the release, as they gathered in the pouring rain to watch 500 birds abandon their cage and taste freedom for the first time. The quail were tentative at first, but as soon as one group took flight others ran through the crowd and into the woods. The remaining quail were released later on in the day.

A few observers got a truly interactive experience when frantic quail landed on their umbrellas and even perched on their arms. And after the initial release, teachers and students took boxes of quail to various locations around the park and carried out their own private releases.

Only time will tell how many of the birds will survive in the wild, but with increased community awareness that quail have the potential to lower the population of disease-ridden ticks, and a better understanding of the dangers posed to quail by cats, it seems likely that the birds most recently released will have a better chance of survival than those released in the past.

By Talia Amorosano

Despite 95-degree weather, car enthusiasts young and old gathered at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai on Saturday to get up close and personal with old and new local cars.

Cars displayed were in pristine condition and many had been refurbished or restored. Attendees were able to view parts of the cars that they wouldn’t normally see, as many owners propped the trunks and hoods open to enable full viewing. Because some cars were accompanied by informative signs with origin stories, or were staged with time-period-appropriate memorabilia, the car show was surely a learning experience even for already knowledgeable viewers.

The Wardenclyffe site in Shoreham. File photo by Erika Karp

“A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart,” reads one of many quotes from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s “Faust” contained in “Tower to the People.” If this is so, Tesla’s heart must have been ablaze with electrical impulses and potential for change.

By Talia Amorosano

On Friday, people of all ages congregated at Shoreham-Wading River High School to celebrate a very special occasion: Nikola Tesla’s 159th birthday.

They came bearing monetary gifts in the form of ticket purchases to see filmmaker Joseph Sikorski’s “Tower to the People” Long Island premiere at the school, which is located a little more than a mile and a half away from Tesla’s Wardenclyffe laboratory. The proceeds from the event will be used to fund the continued restoration of the site — Tesla’s last.

Using bold, mixed media visuals, color saturated re-enactments and original photographs from the early 1900s, the film documents the history of Tesla’s work at Wardenclyffe, a former potato farm, where the inventor planned to complete what he anticipated would be his greatest invention and contribution to mankind — a 187-foot-tall tower capable of transmitting free wireless energy to the entire world.

“A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart,” reads one of many quotes from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s “Faust” contained in “Tower to the People.” If this is so, Tesla’s heart must have been ablaze with electrical impulses and potential for change. Among the literal highlights of Tesla’s career documented in the film are his successful attempt to wirelessly illuminate incandescent light bulbs from three miles away, creation of the Tesla coil and introduction of alternate current electricity, reception of transmissions from stars and ability to produce artificial lightning that author and Tesla scholar Jack Hitt described as being “so powerful that the thunder of it was heard miles away.”

"Tower to the People" filmmaker Joseph Sikorski speaks at Shoreham-Wading River High School on Friday, July 9. Photo by Talia Amorosano
“Tower to the People” filmmaker Joseph Sikorski speaks at Shoreham-Wading River High School on Friday, July 9. Photo by Talia Amorosano

Unfortunately for Tesla, his brilliant moments are dimmed by disappointment during his later life. The film portrayed Tesla’s persistence when, among other negative events, former funder J.P. Morgan, refused to pay for the completion of the tower and even dissuaded other potential investors from financing him. After writing pleading letters and attempting to come up with the money himself, in an emotion-wrought scene, Tesla’s Wardenclyffe tower is destroyed by dynamite explosion, as ordered by the U.S. government.

However, “Tower to the People” does end on an uplifting note with the story of Wardenclyffe’s salvation through Internet crowd-funding; explorations of the modern-day property that is now owned by the nonprofit group, Tesla Science Center; and volunteer efforts to clean up Tesla’s run-down laboratory and turn it into a science center.

“As a kid, my parents could never get me to do yard work, but if you ask me to mow Tesla’s lawn, how awesome is that?” said a volunteer on the cleanup crew in the film.

Throughout the event, the crowd was clearly electrified, erupting into applause several times during key moments of the film, and afterwards honoring Sikorski’s homage to Tesla and Wardenclyffe with a standing ovation.

Most of the audience also stayed for a question and answer session with Sikorski and Jane Alcorn, president of the Tesla Science Center, during which Sikorski expressed his belief that there are tunnels under Wardenclyffe and Alcorn revealed hopes to potentially excavate these tunnels after the primary grounds-cleaning goals are achieved, “as time and money permits.”

Finally, a special guest and distant relative of Tesla, Dusan Stojanovic, of True Global Ventures, took the podium to donate $33,000 to the Wardenclyffe project effort. He also gave money to three young inventors whose innovations were inspired by Tesla; most notably, giving $15,000 to a young man involved with creating clothing with his invention, the Electroloom, a 3-D fabric printer.

Alcorn hopes the completed science center will be open to the public in a few years, and in the meantime, plans to continue fundraising efforts until the property is fully restored.

If you are interested in donating to the science center, getting involved with grounds cleanup, or learning more about the Wardenclyffe property, check out www.teslasciencecenter.org.

An expert panel at Stony Brook University discusses environmental issues facing Long Island. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

After a month of increased algal blooms, reduced water quality and two of the most severe fish kills the county has ever experienced, Long Island scientists and officials have decided it is past time — yet about time — to address the issue of harmful nitrogen pollution in our waterways.

Hosted by the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, a forum on water pollution in Suffolk County was held at Stony Brook University’s Charles B. Wang Center on June 23 to identify the core causes of nitrogen pollution and brainstorm functional, cost-effective technological solutions.

In his welcome address, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) emphasized the gravity of the problem.

“This problem wasn’t created overnight, and it won’t be solved overnight,” he said. “Big challenges like this won’t be solved in election cycles.”

But he has noticed signs of progress.

“To see this group all coming together, saying we’re going to work to solve this problem, gives me great hope and optimism that we have actually turned the corner and we are now on the road to addressing our water quality issues in a real way.”

At the forefront of the technical and technological sides of this progress are panelists Walter Dawydiak, director of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services; Amanda Ludlow, a scientist at Roux Associates Inc.; Theresa McGovern, a water resources engineer at VHB; and Harold Walker, a professor of Mechanical and Civil Engineering at Stony Brook University.

Dawydiak identified unsewered septic flow as the main source of the nitrogen problem.

“Nitrogen, which we expected to level off, is not leveling off,” he said.

He noted that 85 percent of unsewered septic flow originates in residential areas.

“The elephant in the room is us.”

He said a change in health department standards for residential wastewater treatment — for the first time in 40 years — could mitigate the problem by regulating the installation, operation, and maintenance of septic systems. He referred to this proposed set of regulations as an example of policy driving the technology to where it needs to be.

“We need better technology in this area,” Walker said. “If we’re going to solve this problem, we need to expand the tool box that we have available. … We need to think about systems operating effectively for as long as possible, with little or no maintenance. That’s the challenge.”

Ludlow agreed, and emphasized the importance of implementing systems that treat nitrogen and other pollutants, like pharmaceuticals and hormones, on the 360,000 homes running on old systems: “Focus on technologies that affect all the constituents in our wastewater.”

McGovern said that a holistic yet specific approach to wastewater management would make improvements possible.

“We need to be consistent and science-based with the targets, yet still allow some flexibility,” she said. She suggested setting a universal — instead of concentration-based — limit on the amount of nitrogen allowed to remain in wastewater, while allowing households that consistently perform under that limit increased wastewater flow.

Of course, new technologies and oversight costs money. During the second panel discussion on funding proposals, Suffolk County Planning Commission co-chair David Calone suggested using Hurricane Sandy recovery funds to improve storm-water drainage and prevent sewage from entering waterways.

Dorian Dale, director of sustainability and chief recovery officer for Suffolk County, noted that, though the $16 million of Sandy relief money would cover some of the cost for improvements, it could not provide the minimum $8 billion necessary to replace 360,000 septic systems.

He said changing the tax on drinking water from a base price to one that reflects household usage could help close the gap.

Calone brought up the possibility of reaching out for federal funding and increasing the cap on private activity bonds to spur work on water quality issues.

“Involving the private sector is where we’ve shown a lot of leadership on Long Island,” said Anna Throne-Holst, Southampton Town supervisor. “It has to be a public/private partnership.”

The panelists were optimistic about the county’s ability to undertake the project.

“The last sewer project, 40 years ago, was rife with cesspool corruption,” Dale said. “I don’t think anybody’s going to have time for the shenanigans of the past.”

Throne-Holst expressed her faith that the public will remain informed and engaged on this issue.

“The public education process is well underway,” she said. “People are well aware of what a crisis this is.”

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Comsewogue High School’s week was jam-packed, with the senior prom on Wednesday and the Class of 2015 graduation ceremony on Thursday.

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By Talia Amorosano

Devon Patel is this year’s valedictorian at Centereach High School. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Devon Patel is this year’s valedictorian at Centereach High School. Photo by Talia Amorosano

Centereach High School student, Devon Patel, is no stranger to working hard and balancing a busy schedule.

During his senior year, the co-captain of the math team successfully juggled commitments to his school’s National and Spanish Honor Societies with his fourth year on the Varsity Tennis team, and still managed to achieve a cumulative GPA of 97.4. As if this were not enough, he also took on the leadership role of layout editor for his school newspaper and headed an effort to create a website to serve as an online option for reading and viewing articles.

Based on Patel’s commitment to his personal education and his high school as a whole, it is no surprise that he has been named Centereach High School’s class of 2015 valedictorian, a title that signifies academic excellence and — in his case — outstanding leadership skills and conscientiousness within his school community.

Patel plans to attend Binghamton University this fall and looks forward to majoring in biochemistry, a field that promises to fuse and further knowledge he gained from his two favorite high-school classes: biology and chemistry. Currently, he hopes to complete Binghamton’s premed program, go on to become a doctor, and possibly specialize in orthopedic surgery.

When asked what the biggest factor that contributed to his academic success in high school was, Patel noted that his parents influenced him to stay motivated and that his teachers often carried similar encouragement into the classroom. He stressed the importance of hard work and said that his experience at Centereach High School has taught him that, “you can’t get anything without working.”

‘The Missing Piece’ by Alisa Shea

By Talia Amorosano

“Strength is what appeals mostly to me in art. The work can be any medium, style, subject or size; however, in the end, the work must have power.” These words were spoken by David H. Reuss, an experienced illustrator, fine artist, comic artist, and writer — all occupations which have made him more than qualified to serve as juror for the Smithtown Township Arts Council’s upcoming 37th Annual Juried Fine Art Exhibition at the Mills Pond House in St. James, appropriately entitled “Power and Strength in Art.”

Reuss’s emphasis on powerful art may be connected to his admiration for the late comic book artist, John Buscema, well known not only for depicting physically strong Marvel comic book characters like Thor and Conan the Barbarian, but for his punchy, bold, and romanticized visual style. Regarding what he learned from taking art classes taught by Buscema at the Mills Pond House, Reuss said, “the infusion of power and strength in my work is the most consistent lesson I was taught by [Buscema] and it was what I was seeking in the works that I juried for this show.”

‘Lovers in 5th Avenue’ by Cesar Delos Santos
‘Lovers in 5th Avenue’ by Cesar Delos Santos

Reuss did not have to look far to find powerful artwork, as among the 40 artists whose work will be featured in the show, 28 are from Long Island and 5 are from New York City. However, this particular show does shine a wider light on American art, as six of the featured artists hail from places throughout the country as wide-ranging as Florida (Linda Trope) and California (Tonya Amyrin Rice). According to Executive Director of STAC, Allison Cruz, this national sphere allows local artists to “get their work under different eyes” and gives national artists the opportunity to exhibit in a desirable place. “The epitome of being in the contemporary art world is to exhibit in New York,” Cruz said.

As variable as the homes of the artists are the mediums which they use — acrylic, watercolor, oil, pencil, pastel, and ink are just some of the mediums highlighted in this show. Cruz said, “[Reuss] has selected a very wide variety of art. There’s no central theme except for strength of the piece, that it could just draw the viewer in. Whether you loved it or you hated it, you looked at it.” Though different mediums and styles make each artist’s work unique, each piece exhibited does have an essence of strength. How this strength is achieved and depicted, however, varies.

Some artwork, like David Herman’s acrylic painting, “Revolt, Seyithemba” and Eleanor Himel’s oil painting, “Morning Walk,” showcase vibrant contrasting colors contained by bold, solid shapes, while other pieces, like Cesar Delos Santos’ oil painting, “Lovers in 5th Avenue,” and Emilie Lee’s oil painting, “Fortitude,” dramatically display subjects with emotion-wrought facial expressions. Still other pieces carry a subtler power. Eric Chimon’s watercolor landscape, “Chesapeake Bay Boat,” uses a color scheme of muted blues and grays and elicits a quiet sense of dread, evocative of the calm before a storm.

Regarding the artists, Cruz said, “We have a lot of new artists in this show who I’m not familiar with, and to me, that’s the best thing. It’s always nice for local artists to be able to associate with artists who have never been here before. I think it’s good for Suffolk County, good for Long Island, and good for the artists. It’s a win-win-win.”

“Power and Strength in Art” will be on view at the Mills Pond House Gallery, 660 Route 25A, St. James, from June 27 to July 22. The gallery is open Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. (closed on July 4 and 5). The public is invited to an opening reception on Saturday, June 27, from 2 to 4 p.m. to meet the artists. For more information, call 631-862-6575 or visit www.stacarts.org.

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