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The Ward Melville Heritage Organization

The community came out in droves for the 5th annual Culper Spy Day on Sept. 14. The interactive self-guided tour of the Three Villages and Port Jefferson celebrated the members of Long Island’s courageous Culper Spy Ring who helped change the course of the American Revolutionary War. The event featured tours of historic homes and churches, Colonial cooking demonstrations, military drills, children’s activities, blacksmith demonstrations, book signings and more.

More than 40 organizations took part in the historical event which was hosted by Tri-Spy Tours, the Three Village Historical Society, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and The Long Island Museum.

Photos by Anthony White

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Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, third from right; alongside Richard Rugen, WMHO chairman; second from right; and, far right, Gloria Rocchio, WMHO president, check out conditions at Stony Brook Creek this summer. Photo from The Ward Melville Heritage Organization

Stony Brook Creek will receive much needed help in mitigating pollution from stormwater runoff after Suffolk lawmakers voted Sept. 4 to contribute $251,526 in funding toward installing new drainage systems, while the Town of Brookhaven will match an additional $251,526, totaling over $500,000 in funds.

The project would disconnect four discharge pipes that had carried stormwater from the Stony Brook community directly to the creek. A new drainage system will be installed where pipes will lead to bioretention and water quality units in an effort to divert runoff water away from the creek.

Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who sponsored the bill in the county legislature, said the plan will improve water quality in the creek that had been polluted for decades from stormwater runoff.

“I’m really glad about this partnership with the town to help invest in Stony Brook Creek and improve its water quality,” she said. “We should be doing all we can to protect our intricate water bodies.”

Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, said the plan is a positive step forward in cleaning the creek.

“We are very pleased that these funds were approved, and we are looking forward to working with the county and town [on this project].”

Rocchio also mentioned the creek’s importance in Stony Brook’s history, saying the original logo of Stony Brook University was based on the water body.

Due to decades of stormwater runoff and silt being deposited into the creek, it has led to overgrown vegetation like phragmites. The invasive species plant has been known to choke many waterways on Long Island. In Stony Brook Creek, the debris caused by the phragmites has created silt buildup, which in turn has caused flooding along the waterway.

Another issue is when the creek overflows, water has been found to go into the Stony Grist Mill, which was built in 1751 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The continual water flow has caused damage to the lower parts of the structure.

In August Suffolk County awarded the organization a $10,750 grant that will be used for a program to remove 12,000 square feet of phragmites from the shoreline of the creek. WMHO and Avalon Park & Preserve decided to match the grant total. The total cost of the project is $21,500.

The new drainage system will be built through the Town of Brookhaven Highway Department and construction on the project is expected to begin this winter and is scheduled to be completed by summer 2021.

Photo from WMHO

By Leah Chiappino

From now through Sept. 29, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization is turning back the clock with Journey Through Time, a summer exhibit at the WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center that highlights the national, regional and local events and inventions of each decade, from the 1940s to the 2000s, that have had impacts on our lives.

The exhibition, which took several months of research, was culled from the collections of 16 contributors including Avalon Park and Preserve in Stony Brook, the Leo P. Ostebo Kings Park Heritage Museum, Long Island state parks and the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, as well as WMHO’s extensive archives and seven private collectors. Newsday also provided notable news covers from each time period.  

Visitors to the exhibit can enjoy a game of hopscotch.

“It was a collaboration of nine staff people, and trying to secure these items from all over Long Island,” said Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, during a recent tour. Kristin Ryan-Shea, director of the Educational & Cultural Center, came up with the idea for the exhibit to have national, regional and local events highlighted. “That crystallized what we should do,” said Rocchio.

 Though major national somber events such as 9/11 and World War II are highlighted in their respective decades, most of the exhibit is bright and fun-loving, giving it a feel of nostalgia, with a focus on early technology and entertainment. Visitors can even partake in an I Spy worksheet and be entered to win a $50 gift certificate to use at the many shops, restaurants and services offered at the Stony Brook Village Center. “It makes them look a little closer and remember a little more,” said Ryan-Shea.

Items on view include a wooden score chart from the bowling alley that used to be in the basement of what is now Sweet Mama’s in the 1940s, fashionable outfits from the 1950s, a 1977 Mercedes Convertible, a newspaper announcement of the World Wide Web in 1990 and a 1997 Moto-Guzzi motorcycle. Visitors can also experience a blast from the past with vintage telephones and radios, dolls including Barbies and Betsy Wetsy and the spring toy Slinky. 

Play a game of Minecraft

Children can particularly enjoy an interactive Nintendo game along with Minecraft, and the pool full of sand collected from Jones Beach, a symbol for which showcases the Melville family’s closeness with Robert Moses. “It is educational without being boring,” Rocchio explained. 

 Much of the exhibit focuses on the history of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and its reach, from which the original idea for the exhibit came from. “It’s our 80th anniversary and we wanted to show what we do and what has been done over the years” Rocchio said, adding that she wanted to highlight how far the organization and the world has come. 

For instance, the 1940s panel includes plans that Ward Melville had to transform Stony Brook Village, followed by the 1950s panel that includes photos of the old Dogwood Hollow Amphitheatre, an auditorium that was located where the cultural center stands today that showcased concerts with the likes of Tony Bennett and Louis Armstrong. The display also features a map of plots of land Ward Melville presented to New York State in order to build Stony Brook University in the late 1950s which Rocchio said wound up being 600 acres. 

Check out a 1977 Mercedes Convertible

The exhibit also showcases information on the Erwin J. Ernst Marine Conservation Center at West Meadow Beach, where they conduct educational programs, and own the wetland side of the beach. Additional renovations and improvements to the village throughout the decades are also on view.

Ryan-Shea said the exhibit, which opened in mid-July, is creating multigenerational enjoyment. “Recently there was a family here that spanned four generations. The great-grandfather was born in 1940, so the great-grandchildren were teaching him how Minecraft works and the father was teaching his children how a record player works; the family was criss-crossing the room teaching each other things,” she laughed. 

The director also recounted how she witnessed a 77-year-old man playing hopscotch, a game from his childhood; a grandmother was telling her grandson stories about World War  II; and a little boy walked out begging his father for Battleship, a game he had not seen before. “I feel like kids nowadays don’t even think about history, and this makes it real and a conversation. The exhibit is connecting all the generations together,” she said.

WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., Stony Brook will present Journey Through Time through Sept. 29. Viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Tickets are $5 general admission, $3 for seniors and children under 12. Call 631-689-5888 for further details. 

The WMHO is also conducting Walking Through Time walking tours on Aug. 10, 21, Sept. 14 and 15 for $15 per person, children under 5 free. There is the option to purchase a premiere ticket, for $20, which includes admission to both the exhibit and a walking tour. For more information, call 631-751-2244 or visit www.wmho.org.

All photos courtesy of The WMHO

Ward Melville at the Stony Brook Village Center in the 1970s Photo from WMHO

By Heidi Sutton

I’m sitting on a bench on the Village Green at the Stony Brook Village Center. I’ve come to see the sun set over the harbor. It’s mid-June and there’s still a slight chill in the air. Behind me are the quaint New England style shops and restaurants; across the street Hercules sits in his Pavilion, tall and regal with a lion’s pelt wrapped around his shoulders while kayakers and paddle boarders row silently behind him.

Down to my right I spy the little stream that I used to play in as a child and beyond that the Three Village Inn, the spot for so many family gatherings. I hear a familiar sound and turn to catch the mechanical eagle on the post office flap its wings. It’s 8 p.m. and the chimney swifts above me make their last rounds in search of insects as the sky turns orange and purple and pink. The scene is peaceful and beautiful; a community treasure.

One man’s vision

According to Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, this exact spot was the focal point for Ward Melville’s vision to build the nation’s first planned business community. Originally Melville’s mother, Jennie, came up with the idea of rebuilding the village after the Great Depression and started purchasing properties in the area. When she died in the summer of 1939, “Mr. Melville took up the gauntlet” and envisioned opening the whole village to the harbor. 

After establishing The Ward Melville Organization (then known as the Stony Brook Community Fund) on Dec. 31, 1939 the philanthropist presented his grand plan, a crescent-shaped Village Center with connected shops grouped around a Federalist-style post office, to the community in January of 1940 at a special dinner at the Three Village Inn. The project was well received.

“He officially opened [the Stony Brook Village Center] on July 5, 1941 but the last tenant, the hardware store, opened on Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day,” said Rocchio during a recent interview, adding that the mechanical eagle was there from the first day. “The idea of attaching buildings together and having the road network where the deliveries went in the back – all of it was very unusual and unique,” she said.

Now known as the Harbor Crescent section, the shops featured big show windows with identical signage. Full-size trees were planted in the grassy area in front of them (probably to keep them from blocking the storefronts as they grew, theorizes Rocchio), with green metal garbage cans inscribed with a quote from Abraham Lincoln, “I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives,” placed next to them.

Melville then turned his attention to restoring historic properties in the area dating back to the Revolutionary War, including the Stony Brook Grist Mill and the Thompson House and Brewster House in Setauket. “Each time he did that he deeded it over to the Stony Brook Community Fund, now the WMHO, and here we are,” Rocchio explained.

In the 1960s, Melville saw that the community was changing, and to go along with the times, he built the second section of the Stony Brook Village Center, Market Square, which featured a Bohacks.

When he passed in 1977, his wife Dorothy became president of the board and headed up the third phase of the Village Center with the addition of the Inner Court. Rocchio worked for Dorothy Melville from 1979 until she died in 1989. “I worked very closely with her and she taught me a lot; I learned how [the Melvilles] thought and that was very important.” The final phase, the Educational & Cultural Center, located behind the Inner Court, was completed in 2002.

According to Rocchio, the Stony Brook Village Center was part of a larger vision. “[Ward Melville] loved history – American history. He bought all these properties as it relates to the history of this area,” she explained, adding that Melville’s goal was to have Stony Brook look similar to Colonial Williamsburg.

“[Melville] saw it as a master plan, the Williamsburg concept,” which included donating 400 acres of land for the development of Stony Brook University. “This [shopping area] was supposed to be the road that leads to [The College of] William and Mary,” Rocchio explained, and a lot of the homes on Main Street were purchased by Melville who removed all the Victorian architecture and brought them back to the Colonial style. Slate sidewalks were installed to complete the look.

“This was a place that you lived with history … So you just lived with the Grist Mill where it always was, you lived with the Thompson House where it always was – and to think that this one man had the vision to save all of this and to create this for the residents is such a treasure,” said Rocchio. “The legacy and the foresight that he had is just amazing to me, amazing.”

Continuing the legacy

Today, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization continues its mission to protect and preserve historic and environmentally sensitive properties deeded to it by Ward Melville including the Stony Brook Grist Mill, Thompson House, Brewster House, the 11-acre T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond Park and two-acre Upper Pond, the Hercules Pavilion, and the Ernst Marine Conservation Center and 88-Acre Wetlands Preserve.

The organization also leases WMHO land and buildings to the Long Island Museum, The Jazz Loft and the Three Village Society Lending Aids for the Sick for $1 per year with the stipulation that they are responsible for maintenance and operations. This was Ward and Dorothy’s vision of creating a community where art, music and history are an integral part of daily life.

Every year the organization offers free summer concerts in front of the post office, a scarecrow contest in October, a holiday festival and Promenade of Trees in December, educational programs for children, Master Classes for adults, cultural exhibits, musical theater luncheon and Wetlands Discovery Cruises. In addition, the WMHO hosts the Long Island’s Got Talent competition and Walk for Beauty.

The Stony Brook Village Center, 111 Main St., Stony Brook is a  lifestyle shopping center with specialty shops and services, restaurants and year-round events including its annual outdoor summer concerts, Halloween Festival and holiday tree lighting.

 

 

The Brewster House, 18 Runs Road, East Setauket was built in 1665 and is considered the oldest house in the Town of Brookhaven. Home to six generations of Brewsters, it was operated as a tavern and general store during the American Revolution by Joseph Brewster. Open on Culper Spy Day every year and by appointment.

 

 

The Stony Brook Grist Mill, 100 Harbor Road, Stony Brook is Long Island’s most completely equipped working mill. Listed on the National and New York State Register of Historic Places, it is open to the public for guided tours with a miller on weekends April through mid-October from noon to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for children.

 

Hercules Pavilion on Main Street, Stony Brook, houses the figurehead and anchor from the U.S.S. Ohio, the first ship launched from the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1820.  Sharing the Hercules Pavilion with the historic figurehead is the Polaris whaleboat, thought to be the only surviving artifact from the Charles Hall expedition to the Arctic in 1870.  

 

 

 

Discovery Wetlands Cruises depart from Stony Brook Marine Services across from the Three Village Inn through Oct. 20. The 27-passenger vessel cruises through the organization’s 88-acre wetlands preserve for a 1½-hour tour. A naturalist on board will highlight and describe the wildlife and flora that the passengers will see. Visit www.wmho.org for full schedule.

 

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., Stony Brook is a state-of-the-art venue that offers a wide variety of events throughout the year including cultural exhibits, musical theater performances and children and adult programs. Home of the Heritage Gift Shop.

 

 

The Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Ave., Stony Brook offers a treasure trove of memorabilia from some of the greatest jazz musicians of their day and even an orchestra stage that was constructed from the original Roseland Ballroom dance floor. The venue includes a full calendar of musical performances, as well as sensory-friendly programs. 631-751-1895, www.thejazzloft.org.

 

The Mechanical Eagle at the Stony Brook Post Office, 129 Main St., Stony Brook, was hand carved and has a wing span of 20 feet. It flaps its wings every hour on the hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. as it has done since 1941, welcoming visitors to the Stony Brook Village Center.

 

 

The Thompson House, 91 North Country Road, Setauket is one of the largest houses in the Town of Brookhaven. Built in 1709, this five-room saltbox farmhouse was home to five generations of Thompsons, including patriot, farmer and physician, Dr. Samuel Thompson.  WMHO education programs are held here by appointment and the house is open for tours on Culper Spy Day

 

Time to celebrate

In honor of its 80th anniversary, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization plans to celebrate with a series of exciting family events kicking off with its Summer Concerts on the Green from July 7 to Aug. 18. Titled Music Through Time, every concert will represent a different decade. “We’re going to be counting down backwards so we’re going to start off with today’s music and work our way right down to the 1940s,” said WMHO Director of Development Gabrielle Lindau.

From July 14 to Sept. 29 the WMHO will present an exhibit at the Educational & Cultural Center titled Journey Through Time. Working in collaboration with Newsday and the Kings Park Heritage Museum, the exhibit will show how society has changed since 1939 because of national, regional and local events and the advancements in technology. “Each panel will represent a different decade,” explained Rocchio. “Newsday is giving us national news, then we have Long Island news and then we have what’s happening here. It’s been a big project.”

The celebration continues from July 20 to Sept. 14 with Walking Through Time, one and a half hour walking tours that will feature costumed actors from St. George Productions portraying historic figures performing in the first person. 

“For this tour we are specifically featuring local women … and you’re going to get to meet people who really lived here and owned some of the properties,“ said Lindau, explaining that participants will meet “Mrs. Devereux Emmet” who owned the Stony Brook Grist Mill and built All Soul’s Church and then head over to the Hercules Pavilion with “Mrs. Jonas Smith” who will speak about the U.S.S. Ohio as well as the legend behind Hercules. The group will then walk over to the Three Village Inn to learn about Captain Jonas Smith, Long Island’s first millionaire. Next the group will meet “Miss Louise,” Dorothy Melville’s longtime driver who will move the group to The Jazz Loft to discuss the history of the building. The tour will conclude in front of the Stony Brook post office just in time to see the eagle flap its wings.

See below for additional details on these special anniversary events.

On Sept. 28 the organization will present The Courageous Women of the Revolutionary War. “[Participants] will have the opportunity to visit the Educational & Cultural Center, the Brewster House, the Thompson House, the Hawkins-Mount House and the Stony Brook Grist Mill,” explained Lindau. “In each of the houses there is going to be a living history performance and you’ll meet ‘residents’ who actually lived in those houses during the Revolutionary War,” she said. “There will be things revealed during this tour that most people have never heard before.” Transportation provided by WMHO to all sites. 

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization will also team up with The Jazz Loft to present the John Monteleone Art of the Guitar Festival from Sept. 11 to 14 and the Harbor Jazz Festival from Sept. 25 to 29 and collaborate with the Long Island Museum to present a program titled William Sidney Mount & the Sounds of the 19th Century on July 20 from 2 to 5 p.m.; Hawkins-Mount House tours on Sept. 15 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and a Carriage Show and Ride Demonstration on Oct. 27 from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-751-2244 or visit www.wmho.org.

The community gathers for free outdoor concerts at the Stony Brook Village Center every summer.

MUSIC … ART … HISTORY, 1939–2019

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization is celebrating a milestone in its history with a variety of events for the entire family.  Mark your calendars for these not-to-be-missed happenings throughout the summer and fall that will literally take you on a historical and musical journey.

MUSIC THROUGH TIME

Music Through Time free summer concerts will take place each Sunday evening 7 to 9 p.m. in front of the Stony Brook Village Post Office from July 7 through Aug. 18. 

Take a musical journey through the decades:

July 7: Sound Chaser Band (2000s-today)

July 14:Tom Manuel & Guests (’90s/Motown)

July 21: Six Gun (’80s/’70s country rock)

July 28: Left Jab Band (’70s/’80s)

Aug. 4: Just Sixties (’60s)

Aug. 11: NY Exceptions (’50s)

Aug. 18: The Jazz Loft (’40s)

JOURNEY THROUGH TIME

Journey Through Time summer exhibit will open July 14 and run through Sept. 29 at WMHO’s state of the art Educational & Cultural Center daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. See how our lives have changed since 1939! Enjoy vintage items such as a WWII Army helmet; a fire engine red T-Bird; Marilyn Monroe, Popeye and Wizard of Oz dolls; a rotary phone as it compares to an iPhone; and so much more! General admission is $8 per person; seniors and children under 12 are $5 per person. Call 631-689-5888 for more info.

WALKING THROUGH TIME

Walking Through Time historic walking tours will begin at the Stony Brook Grist Mill at 1 and 3 p.m. and introduce visitors to a variety of historic figures performing in the first person. Enjoy fun facts and historical happenings from the 18th to the 21st centuries! “Mrs. Devereux Emmet,” c. 1940s, an Astor orphan, who was from Stony Brook, will tell you about why All Souls Church stands here in Stony Brook Village.  “Mrs. Jonas Smith,” c. 1850s, will tell you about how her husband became Long Island’s first millionaire through shipbuilding; and “Miss Louise,” c. 1980s, will talk about Dorothy Melville and her interests and activities during this period.

Tour dates are: 

July 20 (rain date July 21)

July 31 (rain date Aug. 1)

Aug. 10 (rain date Aug. 11)

Aug. 21 (rain date Aug. 22) 

Sept. 14 (rain date Sept. 15)  

Regular admission is $15 per person; a Premium Ticket is available for $20 per person, which includes the Journey Through Time exhibit and refreshments; children ages 5 and under are free. Reservations are required by calling 631-689-5888 or 631-751-2244. For more information, visit www.wmho.org.

Marshall Irving poses with a clock that belonged to his grandfather. Photo by Susan Risoli

By Susan Risoli

You don’t reach the age of 90 without learning a thing or two about living. For Setauket resident Marshall Irving, life is a bit like his favorite pastime of fixing antique clocks: value teamwork, be willing to listen and don’t forget to apply critical thinking when difficulties arise.

“Figure out what is going on and what you can do about it to make it better,” Irving said recently in an interview at his home. “And whether it’s a mechanical issue or something to do with people, bring an open mind about the problem you’re working on.”

Marshall Irving with his wife, Arline, recently celebrated his 90th birthday. Photo by Susan Risoli

Irving is an antiquarian horologist — someone who restores and maintains antique timekeeping devices. The Ward Melville Heritage Organization relies on his skills to keep its tower clock and landmark eagle in good running order. WMHO president, Gloria Rocchio, called Irving “one of the Three Village area treasures, just like the eagle.”

Irving has always been fascinated by the carved wooden eagle, which since 1941 has flapped its 10-foot wingspan from a vantage point atop the Stony Brook post office.

“The Stony Brook eagle is the only one we know of in the world,” Irving said.

He started working on the clock and the eagle 20 years ago.

“When I first got involved, the eagle was in such bad shape, it was shaking the building,” he recalled. “I put in a chain drive and a new gearbox to drive its wings.”

Back then he would climb up four flights of stairs to get to the big bird. “Then I made it, so we could work it out of a closet in the office by pushing buttons, rather than physically going up there,” he said.

“When I first got involved, the eagle was in such bad shape, it was shaking the building.”

— Marshall Irving

Irving was trained as a steamboat engineer at the Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy. He and his wife, Arline, moved to the Three Villages when he went to work at the Dayton T. Brown company. He also served as a naval intelligence officer, which he said “was kind of fun.” The Irvings have four children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren with a third great-grandchild on the way.

The Irvings’ home is filled with clocks, each playing a soft chorus of chimes that sound at different times with different notes. Hanging on the wall is “the first clock I got serious about fixing,” an 1860s Seth Thomas clock that was in Irving’s grandfather’s office at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

The Mather House Museum in Port Jefferson has an antique clock collection that Irving restores and maintains. He runs a “clock school” there, where he teaches people how to restore antique clock mechanisms and finishes, and how to make the clocks look their best for public display. Irving said he teaches his students that patience and teamwork are essential to diagnosing and treating the problems of these delicate clocks.

“We have people come into our clock school and run out screaming because it doesn’t fit their mindset,” he said. “They don’t realize it takes years to learn these things.”

He added, “I’ve been doing this for 50 years, and there are still things I’m learning, every day.”

Irving said he will continue being an antiquarian horologist for his own pleasure and to spread the word about the beauty of aging clocks.

“I enjoy talking to people about it, because the ability to do this is starting to die out,” he said. “A sad thing for me is that we don’t teach children how to tell time anymore from an analog dial on a clock.”

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The Ward Melville Heritage Organization hosted A “Taste” of Stony Brook Village … Ladies Night In! Feb. 26 at WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center. Gloria Rocchio, president of WMHO, said the organization reached the event fundraising goal of $5,000 for breast cancer research at Stony Brook Medicine.

The night featured a fashion show celebrating clothing store Chico’s 25th anniversary in Stony Brook Village Center, which was the chain’s first one in New York.

The night also included music by Roberta Fabiano, food sampling, hair and virtual reality demonstrations, raffles, giveaways and raffle baskets. Members of Roseland School of Dance were on hand to teach attendees how to dance the Macarena and the cha-cha slide, too.

Rocchio said WMHO raised $45,000 during its Walk for Beauty at the Stony Brook Village Center Oct. 21. She said the organization plans to present a check for $50,000 to Stony Brook Medicine in the near future.

On Feb. 2, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization kicked off its 80th anniversary year with a Chinese New Year Celebration. The event was just the start of the many culturally-diverse activities the organization has planned for its milestone year, including a St. Patrick’s Day Celebration scheduled for March 3.

The day included Authentic Shaolin Kung Fu school performing a lion dance in traditional costumes, and after, demonstrating martial arts moves. The Long Island Chinese Dance Group performed dances symbolizing different regions of China, and Vivian Ye from Seiskaya Ballet Academy presented a solo dance called “Flying Apsaras.”

Singers JoJo Feng and Alice Huang were also on hand, and Manhattan Taiko shared the tradition of Taiko drumming, which includes the beats of drums ranging in size from 1 foot to 6 feet in diameter.

Video by David Ackerman

 

 

Delegation members, above, with The Ward Melville Heritage Organization President Gloria Rocchio, front center, in front of the historic Stony Brook Post Office. Photo from WMHO

Mobile payment platforms have connected the Stony Brook Village Center to China.

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, which operates the shopping center, recently hosted a government delegation from Anhui Province, China. The group consisted of government officials and higher education professionals who were in the United States to visit New York and Michigan State University. Their mission was to learn best practices in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Delegation leader Guang Hu, left, completing an Alipay transaction with Jeff Norwood, owner of Camera Concepts & Telescope Solutions

Last year, the Stony Brook Village Center became the first community on Long Island to adopt Alipay and WeChat Pay, which is estimated to have one billion users worldwide. The QR code point of sale terminal systems account for 90 percent of the Chinese mobile payment market, according to the WMHO. The platforms enable Stony Brook village merchants to serve travelers from China better by allowing consumers to purchase goods and services in yuan before then being settled in U.S. currency for merchants.

Gloria Rocchio, president of the WMHO, met with the delegates in her office and then took them on a tour of the village where they were able to shop and experience the mobile payment platforms firsthand. She said it was a whirlwind trip, but the visitors had the chance to shop in many stores including Chocolate Works, Madison’s Niche and Camera Concepts & Telescope Solutions.

“We were happy to host this delegation because they were sincerely impressed with our concern for Chinese customers who are accustomed to using Alipay and WeChat Pay,” Rocchio said.

Jeff Norwood, owner of Camera Concepts & Telescope Solutions, said when the delegates came to his store, one of them wanted to buy a pair of binoculars, but he decided to pay cash instead of Alipay. When he approached the store’s register, Norwood said he realized his point of sales system was offline, and he couldn’t open the register drawer to give the customer change. Another person came over and paid using Alipay, and Norwood said it took two seconds to complete the transaction. It was then that the delegate decided to use Alipay, too.

“I gave him back the fifty, and I said, ‘Look at that, you see, Alipay is easier than cash,’” Norwood said. “It was like the perfect commercial for it.”

The business owner said he’s only had the opportunity to use Alipay once before and said it’s easier to use than the store’s credit card machine. All he has to do is put in the amount, and then the customer has an app on the phone that comes up with a bar code. The sales associate scans the bar code and the store’s machine prints out a receipt.

Twelve government agencies, including the School of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, along with the Science, Technology and Intellectual Property Bureau, were represented.

Guang Hu, delegation leader and director of the Division of International Exchange and Cooperation, Anhui Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, thanked the WMHO for hosting the visit in a statement.

“It is very impressive to know that Alipay and WeChat Pay has been implemented by the shops of the village,” Hu said. “Those two are widely used in China, and it shows the technology and innovation offered here. I believe there is great potential to work with [the] Ward Melville Heritage Organization on all levels of collaboration between Anhui and Stony Brook.”

The rain stopped long enough Dec. 2 to allow visitors to Stony Brook Village Center to enjoy The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s 39th Holiday Festival.

The festival marked the second year of the Legends and Spies Puppets Procession led by Tom Manuel, president and founder of The Jazz Loft, and a New Orleans-style brass band. The procession puppets pay homage to former notable Three Village residents. This year, two new puppets featuring the likeness of Anna Smith Strong, a member of the Culper Spy Ring, and William Sidney Mount, a famed American genre painter, were added to the parade.

Santa arrived at 2 p.m. to greet visitors and holiday train displays could be viewed at Wiggs Opticians holiday windows and at the WHMHO Educational & Cultural Center.

The event also included the annual tree lighting and the Promenade of Trees competition, where families and community members decorated some 60 holiday trees, which will stay on display through Jan. 2. The public can vote on the winner, who will receive a $150 Stony Brook Village Center gift certificate, usable in all shops and restaurants.

 

 

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Bernadette Castro

As part of their 55+ Club series, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) and Burner Law Group will welcome Bernadette Castro to speak on her illustrious and diverse career at a Master Class on Wednesday, Nov. 28.

Among her countless achievements, Castro was named commissioner of the New York Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation in 1995 by Gov. George Pataki (R) and her 12-year term included assisting in the protection of one million acres of parkland across the state.

Castro ran for the New York State Senate in 1994 winning 42 percent of the vote, and in 2002 Castro helped to bring the first U.S. Open Golf Championship ever played on a public golf course to Bethpage Black at Bethpage State Park. Currently, she serves on the 2019 PGA Championship Executive Committee, which will also be played at Bethpage Black. Castro was even a recording artist in the 1960s, appearing on the “Clay Cole Rock & Roll Show” singing one of her hits, “His Lips Get in the Way.”

Today she is the chairperson of Castro Properties, the commercial real estate company owned by her family. She is also still the spokesperson for Castro Convertibles, the very company she was the face of as a 4-year-old starring in the brand’s legendary television commercials from 1948 and beyond. Those appearances earned her the distinction of being the “most televised child in America.”

With seemingly limitless drive and energy, Castro, a Suffolk County resident, has won a multitude of awards and supports a number of organizations and charitable causes. She is on the Advisory Board of Volunteers for Wildlife, hosts “Tomorrow’s Hope,” for the Catholic Faith Network (formerly Telecare) and is very involved in raising funds for the INN (Interfaith Nutrition Network), the largest private social service agency of its kind on Long Island helping those challenged by hunger, homelessness and poverty.   

Castro is also an advisory board member of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. She graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s in broadcast journalism and a master’s in educational administration. She became the first woman to receive the university’s School of Journalism Distinguished Alumnus and last month was inducted into the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communication Hall of Fame. Castro also holds an honorary doctor of law degree from St. Joseph’s College, an honorary doctor of law from Dowling College and an honorary doctor of humane letters from Daemon College.

Castro will offer a Basket of Life raffle at this event, which will include items such as her senate race bumper sticker, her 45 rpm record, Norman Vincent Peale’s book, “The Power of the Plus Factor,” which mentions her father, Bernard Castro, an Italian immigrant who never finished high school but went on to become very successful with the creation of Castro Convertibles. She is the proud mother of four children and eight grandchildren and says, “What really matters is what my children and grandchildren will remember about me. Hopefully, that I was kind and generous and helped not only people that I knew, but also those I would never meet.”

The program is free and will take place at WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., Stony Brook on Nov. 28 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served. To reserve your seat, call 631-689-5888.