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Village of Shoreham

The landmass of the Village of Shoreham is only .5 square miles made up of just over 530 residents, barely a dot on the map. Yet despite its small size the history of its past and current residents’ service and sacrifice were on full display Nov. 10. The day before Veterans Day, members of the Shoreham Village Association presented a new plaque representing 177 veterans who lived in or were involved with the small village on the shore.

In 2013, village residents joined together in a committee to do something to remember the names of these vets. During the village’s centennial celebration in 2013, Mimi Oberdorf, village historian, uncovered an older plaque naming World War II veterans. She approached Tom Spier, a local attorney and supporter of veterans, about getting the plaque restored, but that project quickly morphed into an attempt to include veterans of all wars since the nation’s founding. 

“For a project like this you have to be very determined, and Tom is very determined,” she said. 

“For a project like this you have to be very determined, and Tom is very determined.”

– Mimi Oberdorf

The committee included village residents Spier, Oberdorf, Lee Frei and Joe Falco. In truth, the project had also been attempted in 1995 by decorated World War II veteran and village resident Jerry Rich, though unfortunately the veteran became ill and the project had been put on hiatus.

From 2013 until now, Spier sent out letters to village residents asking them to name family and friends from any U.S. war that could go on the plaque. By 2019, the group finally settled on presenting the names on Veterans Day. 

“It’s been well appreciated by veterans and their families,” Spier said. “I learned a lot about guys whose names I heard of, but I knew nothing about.”

Spier had made the project a particular passion of his. Sitting down to look at the list of names, he had a story for what seemed like every other name. 

Ernest “Bud” Siegel, a Suffolk County police inspector and village resident, Spier said, was the lead man out of the aircraft as he led the airborne invasion into southern France with the 509th PIG. He was a recipient of three Purple Hearts who had gone Missing in Action twice during his stint. Hubert “Bill” Davis, a P51 pilot, shot down one of the first German fighter jets in World War II. 

“The list goes on,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of history, you just need to know where to look.  

The names go back to the Civil War, through World War II, where over 90 men connected to or living in Shoreham village served, up through Vietnam and including the Global War on Terror.

Veterans and community members packed the village hall the night before Veterans Day. Men of different eras and different wars mingled during the unveiling. Victor Tastrom Jr., a Vietnam War Marine veteran, swapped stories with Ryan Long, another Marine vet who served in Iraq from 2004 to 2008. It was the first time they had met, and now both their names are on the plaque in Village Hall. 

During the presentation, several women came to the podium to read letters village residents sent to their friends and family members overseas during World War II. The unveiling included small bits of history such as the small local newspaper called the Shoreham Item, which was run by two young men, Ed Barnhart and Wesley Sherman Jr., who later went off to fight in World War II. The paper was continued by the boys’ fathers, Al Barnhart and Wesley Sr., and the paper was sent to Shoreham boys as they were fighting overseas.

The plaque has empty pieces, and committee members said they will continue to accept names into the future. To contact the village association, go to www.shorehamtsva.org

 

District Attorney delivers a special presentation on opioid-related crimes to mayors and other officials from Suffolk County's villages at Lake Grove Village Hall.

Suffolk County Village Officials Association, which represents 32 villages, hosted a special presentation on the opioid crisis Sept. 26 at the Lake Grove Village Hall.

District Attorney Tim Sini (D), Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart and Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D) all spoke to the group about how the crisis has fueled a regional surge in illegal firearms seizures and sex trafficking crimes.

Most criminal cases in the county, the officials said, relate to opioid epidemic.

People initially became addicted to prescription painkillers and over time, as demand increased, supply went down, and prices went up. So, people gravitated toward heroin, the DA said, which is more potent and more dangerous. Drug dealers, who realized that money can be made, began cutting their product with the synthetic opioid fentanyl, and more recently with fentanyl variations known as analogs. Fentanyl, Sini said, originates in China and is coming into the United States through the Mexican border. The drug is also being sent into the U.S. over the Canadian border and from China through the U.S. mail.

County officials said they are drilling down as hard as possible. 

Since 2016, the federal government assigned an analyst exclusively to Suffolk County Police Department to examine overdose information with maps and weekly and monthly overdose reports. The mapping system, known as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, or HIDTA, provides a real-time picture of overdoses. It also helps identify and coordinate candidates for the county’s preventing incarceration via opportunities for treatment program known as PIVOT for short. 

“Everything we do is driven by analytics,” Hart said.

The county has also been using court-sanctioned surveillance methods such as phone tapping and search warrants to crack down on drug crimes. It issued more than 350 narcotics search warrants in 2018 and has eavesdropped on more than 150 phone lines. Consequently, the county has seized greater amounts of certain drugs and illegal firearms. 

The officials said during their presentation that it’s targeting dealers who cause overdoses and charging them with manslaughter. Sini said that through surveillance, he’s learning that tougher manslaughter statutes result in dealers turning away from deadly drugs to instead
peddle nonlethal drugs. 

In 2018, the county also launched a sex trafficking unit that has identified and interviewed more than 200 sex trafficking victims. It has arrested 34 people for 235 counts of sex-trafficking related charges and learned during the interviews how drug traffickers use opioids to addict young women to keep them dependent.

Toulon said that they’re gathering information while the women are in the sheriff’s facility, which is providing other useful information on drug and sex traffickers. 

Victims, while in the sheriff’s facility, are involved in vocational and educational programs and put in touch with nongovernmental organizations that assist with counseling, drug treatment and job training.  A big problem, though, Toulon said, is housing.  

County officials emphasized that human trafficking is happening right here, right now in our communities. It can affect anyone from your neighbor to your niece and nephew. 

Officials are also calling for the use of different terminology for prostitution.  

“It’s a modern-day form of slavery and needs to be called what it is: sex trafficking,” Hart said. The force has historically arrested the women and that was the case, Hart said, but the county’s approach is shifting and officials are now looking at the women as victims.  

Officials are asking people to trust their own  instincts. 

“If you’re at a 7-Eleven and you see an older man in a car with a young woman who looks distressed, call or text us,” the officials said.

The county initiated a Text-a-Tip program. To reach officials, text TIP SUFFOLK to the number 888-777. Residents can confidentially share any information related to illicit or suspicious activity, including drug use or trafficking, Toulon said. 

Paul Tonna, who serves as executive director of the village organization, said in a telephone interview after the event that a group of mayors were previously given a private presentation on the topic in graphic detail. The situation, he said, is horrible. The women are being forced to perform six or seven sex acts a day. He is calling for people such as PTAs and religious groups to sponsor awareness campaigns with officials.

Local villages have resources, Tonna said, such as constabulary that can also become the eyes and ears of county officials. 

“We’re not here to say you need to do more,” Sini said. ”We need to think outside of the box. Because of collective efforts, we can make greater strides.”

Ann Marie Csorny is director of Suffolk County Department of Health Services’ Community Mental Hygiene Services.  The Prevention Resource Center, run by the Family Service League, she said, offers effective tools for those working to prevent drug and alcohol abuse.  Villages and towns, she said, should tap into coalitions that exist or start to build their own coalitions.

“Communities can have a great impact in terms of preventing or reducing drug use, alcohol abuse and related problems when they understand and promote coalition building,” she said. “This can be very exciting in that involved communities promote civic engagement and the building of shared understanding, shared norms, shared values, trust, and cooperation.”

 

Village of Shoreham Town Hall is located at 80 Woodville Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Village of Shoreham is looking to put themselves under the protective umbrella of the nearby fire department. 

While the village currently contracts with the Rocky Point Fire District, village officials have requested home rule applications to extend the fire district boundaries to encompass the tiny North Shore municipality. It might seem like a minor change but expanding the district boundaries to include the .5-square-mile village could take months of work getting the state to agree to the extension.

Rocky Point Fire District boundaries currently do not include the Village of Shoreham. Image from from Long Island Index Maps

For more than a decade, Shoreham village has contracted out to the Rocky Point Fire District for their fire and emergency service needs, according to Rocky Point Fire District manager Ed Brooks. 

Neither a representative of Shoreham village nor the village attorney, the Riverhead-based Anthony Tohill, responded to multiple requests for comment.

If the district boundaries are expanded, the cost will instead come out of village residents’ taxes paid to the district. Brooks said the cost shouldn’t be much different for village residents either monetarily or in the coverage by the district.

“We met with them, they sent us some literature and letters, we had a meeting, we advised our attorney, we have given our consent to make the application,” Brooks said.

Village officials requested that the Town of Brookhaven send a home rule request to the New York State legislature to extend the fire district’s boundaries, which was approved unanimously at Brookhaven’s May 23 meeting. A copy of the letter for the request was forwarded to State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk).

The expansion of the district boundaries requires home rule requests by both Shoreham village and the Town of Brookhaven to New York State, requesting special legislation to expand. The process could take months.

“By extending the boundaries, the state gets involved, there’s legislation — it’s a long process,” said town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point). 

The Village of Old Field started the same process at the tail end of 2016 to bring in the Setauket Fire District. By July of 2017 the town hosted a public hearing and approved the extension. The fire district taxes were on residents’ bills by December of that year.

Rocky Point Fire District attorney, the Port Jefferson-based Bill Glass, who represents the fire district, said this change would have virtually no difference to the district, adding it would also have little to no difference in the amount the village pays for emergency services.

“When these contracts were designed, they were designed that [village residents] would pay as much as if they were paying for it through their taxes,” Glass said.

Village of Shoreham Town Hall is located at 80 Woodville Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

The votes are in, and in a landslide election June 19 former deputy mayor Brian Vail has become the new mayor of the Village of Shoreham, garnering 109 of 112 votes cast. The other three were for write-in candidates Len Emma (2) and Brian Mahoney (1). Vail will serve a two-year term as mayor.

Mayor Ed Weiss did not run for re-election. 

Gathering a similar number of votes were newcomer Marianne Cogan (106) and trustee Sherry Neff (105), the two running for two, two-year terms as trustee. One write-in ballot was cast for John Bates.

One four-year term for village justice was also up for grabs, and with another lopsided result, David Desmond scooped up 82 of 90 total votes.

Kaileigh Blessing and some friends construct the frames for the bat houses. Photo from Kaileigh Blessing

She may not wear a cape or cowl, but 17-year-old Kaileigh Blessing is serving as a hero to the Village of Shoreham by bringing more environment-boosting bats to the area.

Blessing, a senior at Rocky Point High School and member of Venturing Crew 777, a co-ed youth development program of the Boy Scouts of America, has spent the last year designing, funding, building and installing seven bat houses throughout Shoreham.

Kaileigh Blessing presents her original idea for how to build the bat houses to The Shoreham Village Association as part of her Summit Award. Photo from Kaileigh Blessing

The houses are to be installed in parklands along Woodville Road and private properties. It is a project constructed in Blessing’s pursuit of her Summit Award — the Venturing Crew’s highest program-level award. She became involved in the project in October 2016 when members of The Shoreham Village Association launched a subcommittee to expand the number of bat houses hanging in public as a way to coax more of the nocturnal animals into the area.

While they once carried a reputation as fearsome creatures, the public perception of bats has changed drastically in recent years as they have been proven to greatly benefit the ecosystem of their surroundings by eating thousands of small insects per hour — including the ever-increasing population of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Shoreham, like the rest of Long Island, has lost a majority of these more environmentally friendly bug eliminators due to an increased use of dangerous pesticides and the spread of white nose syndrome, a fungus that grows on and kills hibernating bats along the East Coast.

“Bat houses are needed everywhere,” said Laura Miller, a member of the association’s subcommittee and one of the recipients of Blessing’s bat houses. “The bat population in general has decreased drastically and it’s a real concern, agriculturally, especially for farmers. Bats are generally very beneficial and people don’t realize it because of the whole nature of what they think a bat is.”

Kaileigh Blessing and a few of her friends piece together the bat houses. Photo from Kaileigh Blessing

During last year’s October meeting, members of the subcommittee held a raffle drawing for the houses to be built and installed for two village residents and, in figuring out who should be the one to take on the project, the idea to involve a local Boy Scout troop and expand the number of houses came up. Through Venturing Advisor Tom Seda, Blessing was proposed as a fitting candidate as she wasn’t too interested in the more traditional routes of building a park bench or installing a garden for her final project.

“I wanted to build something that was a bit more impactful environmentally, so I gratefully took up that
offer,” Blessing said. “I’m so glad I went with this and I’m looking forward to coming back and hopefully hear from the women of the association that the bats have returned.”

The Venturer, who first joined the youth-powered organization when she was 14, dove into the project with “gusto,” according to subcommittee members. She raised funds for construction materials by recycling scrap metal and bottles and pledging for donations at various businesses like Home Depot and Benjamin Moore, where she received paint, stains, lumber, drills and screws. With the help of her dad and a group of friends, Blessing spent hours on weekends building the large, single-chamber habitats — each one large enough to house 20 to 50 brown bats — which contains a ventilation area for warm air to filter out and grooves in its back panels to act as grips when the bats fly and grab onto the house.

Kaileigh Blessing and a few of her friends help glue together the bat houses for her Summit Award project. Photo from Kaileigh Blessing

She also scouted locations for the houses in the village and sought out PMM Landscaping, a Middle Island-based group, to mount them on trees. She is currently designing a bat house information kiosk that she hopes will be installed at Major Hopkins Park in Shoreham.

“I really didn’t know anything about bats when I started this, but through research and everything, I just find it all really intriguing and interesting now,” she said.

Jean Jordan Sweet, chair of the subcommittee, commended Blessing for her tenacity throughout the strenuous project. Sweet said she met with the subcommittee several times throughout the year, made presentations, and had to wait on approvals from the village board of trustees and the Suffolk County Council of Boy Scouts every step of the way.

“She’s very impressive,” Sweet said. “She had to go through so much authorization and processes for this project, but she’s a real self-starter and took this very seriously.”

While her project, and Summit Award, still needs to be fully approved by the Scouts, which might take several months, the association will present a summary report and recognize Blessing’s efforts during an event Nov. 11.