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Voting booths at Rocky Point High School. File photo by Kyle Barr

All school districts passed their budgets this year, though all are anticipating potential changes in state aid later in the year. In addition, all district voters decided to reelect incumbents in contested races.

Shoreham-Wading River Central School District 

SWR passed its 2020-21 budget, 2,146 to 801. Its budget is set at $77,164,774, a 1.6 percent increase from last year’s $75,952,416. The year’s tax levy is $55,391,167, a $1,013,510 increase from 2019-20.

The district will maintain all current programming despite potential state aid cuts. Its state aid package would be $12,789,308, a $112,843 increase from last year. In the event of potential state aid cuts midyear, the district has placed certain items in the budget that would not be purchased before Dec. 31, including multiple infrastructure projects at Miller Avenue elementary and the middle school, as well as work on the districtwide grounds and asphalt repairs.  

In the board of education elections all three candidates were incumbents and ran unopposed. Board president Michael Lewis secured another term on the board with 2,292 votes, Katie Anderson, who finished her first term this year, was reelected with 2,324 votes. Henry Perez was reelected to another term as well and garnered 2,300 votes. 

Rocky Point Union Free School District

The 2020-21 budget passed 1,961 to 952. Its budget is set at $84,586,600, with state aid reduction resulting in a $2.1 million decrease in the overall figure. Expenditure decreases are across the board to reach the reduced budget. The budget sets the tax levy at $52,483,059,

setting itself directly at the tax cap, a very slight increase from last year’s figure.

A capital reserve proposition was approved 1,998 to 893. The district is planning to use the capital reserves to repave the front driveway area in front of the high school with a cost not to exceed $350,000. Rocky Point’s current reserve balance is set at $1,590,368. Due to the result of the vote, the district will gain access to the funds. The capital reserve does not increase the tax levy.

Incumbents Sean Callahan and Jessica Ward secured reelection to a three-year term. They garnered 1,955 and 2,094 votes, respectively. Challenger Kellyann Imeidopf fell short with 960 votes.

Miller Place School District 

The Miller Place School District passed its 2020-21 budget convincingly with a vote of 2,156 to 860. The budget is set at $75,713,895, a 2.37 percent increase from last year. The district’s 2020-21 tax levy is set at $47,616,059 and an increase of $687,471 from last year’s amount. 

Miller Place’s state aid was set at $23,144,911, but the district also has leftover building aid of $792,666 and will be receiving an additional $208,010 for 2020-21. Officials said they plan on using leftover aid and funds from repairing the high school gym floor to help offset any further reductions in state aid. 

Proposition 2, which comprised the library budget, passed overwhelming as well:  2,464 to 548. 

Board Vice President Richard Panico was reelected to the board with 2,407 votes. Trustee member Lisa Reitan was also reelected to another term with 2,420 votes. 

Mount Sinai School District

Voters passed the 2020-21 budget, 2,108 to 857. Its budget is set at $61,769,870, a $760,100 and 1.25 percent increase from last year. The tax levy is set at $41,396,602, an increase of 1 percent and well below the 2.43 percent cap set by New York State.

A second proposition asked voters to approve $1.2 million for capital projects from the reserves. It passed 2,365 to 595. Projects will include continuing the high school roof replacement for $865,000, replacing the middle school water heater for $100,000, among others for a total of $1,200,000.

Three board seats were up for grabs this year. Incumbents Edward Law, Robert Sweeney and Peter Van Middelem all secured reelection with 1,635, 1,915 and 1,675 votes, respectively. Newcomer Karen Pitka came up shy in her bid to get on the board securing 1,597 votes.

Comsewogue and Port Jefferson high schools. File photos

All school districts passed their budgets this year, though all are anticipating potential changes in state aid later in the year.

Comsewogue School District:

Residents passed the 2020-21 budget, 2,486 to 863. This year’s budget is set at $96,635,581, an increase of 2.8 percent or $2,660,826. 

District officials are allocating an additional fund balance from operational savings from the closure of the buildings to this year’s budget, resulting in the no tax increase. Last year’s $57,279,755 tax levy, will be this year’s amount as well.

Proposition 2, which passed 2,673 to 680, will call for the district to take $1,500,000 from the capital fund. It will be used for high school improvements including two synthetic turf fields for baseball and softball, high school boiler room HVAC repairs and other classroom renovations. 

Trustees Alexandra Gordon and James Sanchez have been reelected to the board of education each for three-year terms, beginning July 1.

Port Jefferson School District: 

Residents passed the 2020-21 budget, 1003 to 384. This year’s budget is set at $44,739,855, a 1.83 percent increase from last year. This year’s tax levy is $37,356,454, a $457,630 or 1.24 percent increase from the 2019-20 figure. 

The district is expecting to receive $3,863,212 in state aid, an increase of 2.54 percent from last year, but the final amount is still unknown. 

Proposition 2, which passed 1,170 to 210, called for utilizing part of the district’s capital reserve account. The funds will be used to continue replacement of district roofs at approximately $2 million and partially fund replacement of the heating system at the middle school, at approximately $1 million. General fund appropriations are earmarked for the second phase of the security vestibule project at $186,000, replacement of the retaining wall at the Tech Ed building at $300,000 and completing the funding of the replacement of the heating system at the middle school at $500,000.

In the board of education election, trustee David Keegan was reelected with 1,132 votes. Newcomer Ravi Singh was elected to the board with 1,123 votes. Trustee Ryan Biedenkapp decided not to run this year to retain his seat.

Many Illnesses Carried by Ticks Share Symptoms with COVID-19

A deer tick is a common type of tick on Long Island. Stock photo

With summer close by and as New York State continues to relax shutdown restrictions, residents will naturally want to get some fresh air. But while open spaces like parks and nature preserves provide a temporary reprieve from the COVID-19 pandemic, they are also home to ticks. These arachnids can carry Lyme disease and other serious tick-borne illnesses. Experts say this is the time when ticks are most active and when their numbers increase. 

“We have already passed a month of tick activity here on Long Island,” said Jorge Benach, distinguished Toll professor of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology and Pathology at the Renaissance School of Medicine, Stony Brook University. “With minimal contact because people were staying indoors due to the pandemic, we have seen less cases.” 

Benach said that could change in the coming summer months, especially with an already large tick count this year. Currently, we are entering the second phase of tick season, which is when the arachnids are in the nymph stage and are harder to spot.

“For some reason Long Island has a heavy population of ticks,” Benach said. “It has the perfect environment for them and they really thrive.”

Three species of ticks call Long Island home. The deer tick can carry Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and other illnesses, while American dog tick can carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever. The lone star tick can transmit tularemia and ehrlichiosis. 

“The lone star tick, we believe, is the most aggressive of the three species, and we didn’t know it existed until 1980,” the distinguished professor said. “And then it somehow found its way to Long Island.”

A 2019 study, headed by Benach and Rafal Tokarz, assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, with co-authors from SBU and Columbia, found prevalence of multiple agents capable of causing human disease that are present in three species of ticks in Long Island.

Another concern this season is that tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease and anaplasmosis have symptoms that overlap with those of COVID-19, including fever, muscle aches and respiratory failure, but without persistent coughing. 

“It is true that they have overlap in the initial symptoms, but once you get past that first stage it should be easier to diagnose if that person has a tick-borne illness,” Benach said. 

Tick-borne diseases are usually treated with antibiotics. The effects range from mild symptoms that can be treated at home to severe infections that if left untreated can lead to death in rare cases. 

The distinguished professor stressed the need for people to be aware of ticks when they are in certain areas outdoors. 

Repellents and wearing long-sleeve pants and shirts can be good deterrents for ticks. Other tips include walking along the center of trails, washing and drying clothing when you come home and keeping pets from areas that could be tick infested. 

Benach said there is a misconception that humans get ticks from dogs. Instead, it is more likely one gets a tick from being in the same space as your dog.

“You should be checking yourself, and if you spot a tick get it off as soon as possible,” he said. “If you develop any symptoms or illness contact your doctor.”

Stock photo

On June 1, the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons and North Fork held a debate between the four candidates vying for the Democratic nomination and who will then face off against incumbent Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) for the New York’s 1st Congressional District seat. The nominees in the upcoming primary election June 23 are Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Sag Harbor), last year’s front-runner Perry Gershon, former educator Nancy Goroff and Gregory Fisher, who has run for multiple local offices over the years.

Though the debate went on for more than an hour and a half, it did not touch on points such as the current protests against racism and police violence currently rocking the nation.

Here’s what they had to say on a number of key issues and challenges facing the district.

1.On what issues do you think there is a reasonable possibility of enacting legislation to benefit the country?

Bridget Fleming

Fleming: I’m known as someone who has reached across the aisle and looks at problems and challenges with an eye toward hearing from all stakeholders. Then taking on the tough decisions to move forward. I have a proven record on that.

There are a number of issues that face our congressional district. One, for instance, is immigration. Many people feel that the current immigration system needs comprehensive reform. Individuals are so enamored with special interests.

Another issue is the epidemic of gun violence. There is a consensus in the country on commonsense background checks, on a ban on assault weapons, and a ban on high-capacity magazines. There are many issues upon which the country agrees but because of the influence of special interests and someone like Lee Zeldin, who has a perfect record from the NRA, caters to those special interests. We can get beyond that.

Gershon: The goal when I’m your congressman is to enact policy that we can do on a bipartisan basis whenever possible. There is a crying need for certain policies as we go forward and try to climb out of the coronavirus-based recession. That’s building jobs. How do you do that? With infrastructure and investing in our economy. There was a glaring need for infrastructure even before coronavirus, and it’s doubled or tripled now.

We have the opportunity for green jobs, green energy in a new economy. We need Democrats and Republicans cooperating with each other. That obviously starts with getting [President] Donald Trump (R) out of the White House. With a uniter in the White House we can pass policies and take it beyond infrastructure, we can go to health care, the other real priority for America. We can build on the Affordable Care Act. We can make sure Americans understand that health care is a right not a privilege.

Goroff: If I’m elected my top priority is to make sure we are taking meaningful action on climate change, which is the largest threat we face to our way of life, even today. I can do that by acting as a resource for members of Congress from both sides of the aisle — making sure they have access to the best information available, making sure all their questions are answered and holding their feet to the fire to ensure we are taking action. We will make sure we are setting ambitious targets as we strive for a carbon zero economy.

We invest in deploying existing technologies, in reusable energy, in clean vehicles, and in clean buildings.

Fisher: One of the important issues is that voters don’t feel like they are being listened to. They are looking at a lack of access to their representatives. We are crippled economically, people are out of a job and can’t pay their bills. They want to know how you are going to get things done and get us out of trouble.

I subscribed to a philosophy called a decentralized autonomous organization, where citizens can input every detail, on what they want to influence. I have an economic plan that will eliminate the scarcity caused by this long-term economic shutdown.

2. As a congressperson what specific proposals would you support to improve our immigration system?

Nancy Goroff

Goroff: We need to take action toward making comprehensive immigration reform. We must prepare a pathway to citizenship for our Dreamers and we must make sure we are allowing families to be reunited. We can’t be separating children from their families at the border and we should be considering more effective/humane ways to help people coming in who want to claim asylum.

The fact that people have to wait for months or years, and now we are imprisoning them — is unnecessary and unconscionable. We should be looking at why we have such a stream of refugees coming to our border. There are programs that were started in Central America by the Obama administration to help refugees on the ground, so they don’t have to leave. We need to make sure we are reinstating these programs that can keep refugees from thinking the only opportunity is to walk 1,000 miles across Mexico. Our policy must be humane and must live up to our American values.

Fisher: Most citizens want several points addressed. They want registration, they don’t want a secret population, they want taxation, they want to make sure they are paying their share. The other one is assimilation and education so that those people are ready for our society.

There are people out there that are starving for the opportunity to be a part of this American dream.

Fleming: The immigration system in the United States is deeply broken and needs comprehensive immigration reform. It needs to be the top priority of anyone’s agenda who is looking to take a job on Capitol Hill.

We need to fix our broken visa system. Luckily in Suffolk County, we have allies in the farm community who have been deeply hurt by the system and can’t find enough workers to harvest their crops. That is an alliance we can lean on in Suffolk County to move that process forward and make reforms.

We need to end separations of families at the border. It is inhumane and unacceptable. We need a clean DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] bill, we need to restore TPS [Temporary Protected Status]. We need to ensure that the border is secure, but secure because we have undertaken a system of immigration that is fair and humane.

Perry Gershon

Gershon: It’s no secret that immigration was a challenge in this country even before the election of Donald Trump. We have been trying to solve our immigration issue for many years and under many different presidents.

Trump has made a bad situation and made it worse. We’ve got to take care of the Dreamers, people who are in this country through no fault of their own, who did not commit a crime, and have no nation they call home except America. We need to give them a path to citizenship, we need to take care of TPS recipients. We need to have defensible borders, we need to have a system where people do not just flock into America. We need to be able to secure our borders and be able to maintain them while we take care of the people here.

3.How can we bring affordable housing, job creation to LI, especially for millennials?:

Goroff: Now with COVID-19, millennials are facing another challenge in getting their careers started. As a lifelong educator, I believe in making education available to people and to make it affordable. That means making sure we have sufficient Pell grants for our students. So people and families can afford excellent degrees and they can get good jobs.

We also need to make sure all jobs are paying a true livable wage and that means investing in new jobs here, like clean energy and increasing the minimum wage. We also need to address the health care issue because it is a burden on businesses.

Fisher:We have created a generation of homeless millennials. Why? Because they can’t leave their parents’ homes, they can’t afford to buy a house or pay the rent for an apartment. They are living late in life at their parent’s houses. My plan would include a revamp of the tax system, so we have money to invest [in the economy]. Education should be a right, we need to build America.  We need to fundamentally make a new commitment to young people and realize that we have betrayed them.

Gregory Fischer

Fleming: This is one of the critical challenges here in Suffolk County and in NY1. It is something at the county legislature we have attacked with real intention and real success. For instance, look at the Village of Patchogue and the surrounding areas.

The developments of these vibrant downtowns are encouraging young people to stay on Long Island and make a life here.

I’ve been fighting for affordable housing since my time on the [Southampton] town board.

Gershon: People want to stay here and not to be forced to move away because of better jobs. The way we fix that is get better paying jobs here on Long Island so that young people can move here. Also, we need to improve their educational prospects by not having them come out of school massively burdened by student debt. We need to do things like reducing the cost of student debt. The federal government should not be making a profit off it by lending to our students so they can afford to go to college. The government should be facilitating college education.

We can give people the opportunity to pay off some of their student debt in exchange for national service. Let them be teachers, let them do things that will improve our own society.

On affordable housing, we need to bring money into Long Island. We need to fund housing for the middle class, we need to find a way that doesn’t force people away. The government can do that, it can be a federal policy. We need fair development as well.

Several hundred protesters stood along Nesconset Highway in Stony Brook June 7 to protest police violence and racism after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Sunday marks nearly a week of constant protests all across Long Island. Photo by Mike Reilly

George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis two weeks ago spurred nationwide protests and renewed conversations on police brutality and systemic racism in this country. TBR News Media reached out to prominent leaders in the black community to get their perspective on what needs to change and what immediate actions can be taken as we move forward. Here’s what they had to say.

Al Jordan. Photo from Stony Brook University

Al Jordan, clinical associate professor at Stony Brook Medicine and former dean for Student and Minority Affairs: 

We will need to work on life after the protests end, that’s when the hard work really starts. We will really need to see change in policy and in laws, not just on the national level but the local level as well. 

Voter registration — getting more people to vote — is the most immediate change we can work on right now. It will take educating people, including family, friends and community members. It means engaging with people, it’s tough work but people can listen and be persuaded. Some may not, but it is another effective way of change. 

You look at the segregation on Long Island, whether it’s in housing or in school districts, the racial, social and economic disparities — it feeds into the larger issue. 

When it comes to training police officers, it has to begin with the individual person. What’s on their mind, how do they feel? Act on that framework. You also have to change the people who run things and who are at the top. 

I’m optimistic, I believe in people. I see it in the young people, something that’s different from what I and others were doing in the 1960s. They have been able to bridge the gap, that cultural divide, and been able to find that common ground. 

It has given me a lot of hope, seeing these young people like my own grandchildren engaging in these positive activities and important discussions. 

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon. Photo by Kevin Redding

Errol Toulon Jr. (D), Suffolk County sheriff: 

All law enforcement need to reevaluate how they train their officers and how they operate. I don’t know how an officer with 18 prior complaints was allowed to continue to interact with the public. 

Unfortunately, due to this recent incident and others like it, mistrust toward law enforcement is at an all-time high. We need to work together to regain that trust. 

It’s having a conversation with them. It starts by talking to them and hearing their concerns, answering their questions and hopefully giving them a good understanding of what we do. 

99 percent of police officers who come to work to serve and protect are good men and women. But those who do wrong need to be held accountable. Supervisors need to be held accountable as well. 

Whether it is additional training or suspension it needs to be addressed immediately. 

One thing departments and agencies can do is increase cultural awareness and diversity training. A lot of times these teachings end once they leave the door of the academy. We have to make sure that officers remain engaged with the black and minority communities. We must have respect for each other. 

Another thing is making sure we are talking to our staff — monitoring their emotional and mental well being. 

[On Monday, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office announced the creation of a community advisory board to give residents an opportunity to meet regularly with the sheriff and staff and discuss concerns. The board will consist of five people from East End townships and five from the western towns in Suffolk. Members will serve for a one-year term.

“Current events have demonstrated that people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds are frustrated with law enforcement, and they have some legitimate reasons to feel this way,” Toulon said in a release.]

Elaine Gross speaks about race at ERASE Racism forum. Photo by Kyle Barr

Elaine Gross, president of Syosset-based nonprofit ERASE Racism: 

There’s currently conversation changing police policy, there’s a legislative package up in Albany that will be voted on soon. I’m pleased to hear that. 

But we also need to have a conversation on how we got to where we are. There is structural racism. 

On Long Island, due to segregation in school districts,, we know public school education looks very different in terms of the resources for black and minority students compared to white students. 

This is a disparity that gets lost — people are not aware of it or just don’t want to talk about it. An education policy needs to be made a priority, and that means increasing the percentage of educators of color in the classroom — that includes Black, Latinx and Asian teachers. We have seen the benefits of students in a diverse learning environment.  

In addition to the package up in Albany, we need an independent prosecutor, not someone who works closely with the police department. We have seen so many cases where so little happens and no charges brought down [on officers accused of misconduct]. It sort of goes away. We need to continue to strengthen race crime measures and increase body cams in law enforcement. 

I’ve had forums with high school students in the past on structural racism, and I believe students are beginning to have a better understanding of what’s happening in the world and are more open to it than adults. I look to the students and young people to carry the movement forward. 

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright. Photo by Phil Corso

Valerie Cartright, Brookhaven Town councilwoman (D-Port Jefferson Station): 

It is clear that there is a movement happening, people are stepping up and saying, “Enough is enough.” 

For 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the George Floyd incident showed white people in this country what it is like to be black in America. Now our voices are being heard. 

There is legislation being passed in New York State that I support that is moving us in the right direction, but it is only scratching the surface. It is a good first step. We need to acknowledge these injustices and take immediate action. 

We should have already had access to disciplinary records of officers — this information should have been made public. Also, we need to change the police culture. We need to make sure police officers feel comfortable in speaking out against bad officers. We have to have strong whistleblower protection. 

I have represented [as an attorney] police officers who have spoken up about their comrades and they often face retaliation for violating or going against the brotherhood. 

The majority of police officers are good people but if we don’t get rid of hate, racism and discrimination in these departments then we are never going to change the system. 

I’m asking everybody to join in this movement, so we can be heard as one voice.

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Protesters returned to Smithtown June 9 to call for an end to racial injustice and police brutality on the day George Floyd was being laid to rest in Houston. The latest demonstration drew a large crowd — at its peak there were more than 1,000 individuals.

The June 9 gathering was the second one to take place in the town in one week.

The protest began at the Smithtown train station on Redwood Lane at 6 p.m., then made its way down Main Street. Groups convened at the intersection of Route 25A and 111 near the Millennium Diner, where everyone began the over 4-mile trek toward Route 347 as they walked down Hauppauge Road.

Additional protesters continued to join the walk as the crowd passed residential areas and neighborhoods. Some residents stood out in front of their homes to cheer on the protesters as they passed.

When protesters made it to the intersection of Route 347 and 111, traffic was shut down in both directions. It was there protesters participated in an 8-minute, 46-second moment of silence, the length of time George Floyd was pinned to the ground under a police officer’s knee. Speeches were given, encouraging people present to continue to be a part of the ongoing movement and to call out injustices.

From there, protesters splintered off into separate groups, some headed toward the 4th Precinct on Veterans Highway, while others walked north on Brooksite Drive from Route 347 and some reconvened back at Main Street.

At 9:30 p.m., Smithtown Public Safety reported that hundreds were on Veterans Highway heading east and several hundred were all still on Main Street.

People in Port Jefferson line up to eat at Prohibition Kitchen, doing their best to stay six feet apart. Photo by Kyle Barr

After two months of shutdown, area businesses were given the go-ahead to restart operations when Suffolk County reached Phase One of the state’s reopening process. It is the first of four phases as state officials slowly lift restrictions meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

For many storefronts, it is the first step on the path to recovery. Here’s how things are going for a few retailers in Port Jefferson. 

Renee Goldfarb, owner of Origin of Era boutique in Port Jefferson, said it’s been a delicate balance of making sure they are operating safely and trying to make some revenue again. For select retailers like hers, they are limited as of now to only curbside pickup. 

“We’ve encouraged our customers to check out our online store and if they like a certain item they can email, and we’ll have it ready for them at the door,” she said. “It’s been difficult because we are very hands on, we want the customer to be able to try on a piece but we’re limited on what we can do.”

Goldfarb hopes owners can eventually make up for some of their losses. But she also took issue with how the state handled big retailers remaining open.  

“Do I think it was implemented the right way? I don’t think so,” she said. “I understand Walmart and Target sell essential products, but people were also able to buy nonessential items. That completely puts mom-and-pop shops at a disadvantage. They should have closed that area off [to customers during the shutdown].”

Abby Buller, who runs the Village Boutique in Port Jefferson, said sales have been slow the first few days open. On Memorial Day weekend, a time when the businesses thrive with the influx of people, Buller said she only saw about six people walking the streets. 

“There was no one on the streets, why should they come to a town where they can’t go shopping. This is a shopping and eating town,” she said. “The bars are closed; the restaurants are only allowing pickup. Right now, there is no reason for the Connecticut people to come and take the ferry — there’s nothing to do once you get here.”

With eight weeks of no income coming in, the boutique owner is glad she can start bringing in some sales. She was also frustrated with how the state handled the initial shutdown restrictions and agreed with Goldfarb.. 

“What they’ve done to small businesses is ridiculous,” she said. “From the beginning they allowed Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s to sell nonessential products,” Buller said. “The fact that they were allowed to stay open during this time and make more money is disgusting, small businesses have been suffering.” 

Brookhaven officials have spoken out on the issue. 

“I am very concerned about the prospects for the future of our small businesses,” said Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), at a recent press conference. “We need to be safe and we need to be smart, but we don’t need rules that work against mom-and-pop businesses when there’s no reason to do that. I ask the governor and county executive to take action now and help our small businesses and downtowns fully reopen again.”

The comments came after recommendations from the town’s post-COVID-19 task force looking at economic recovery. Members of the committee said the state’s plan has favored big box stores.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) had similar sentiments. 

“We are asking the state to take a different approach when reopening businesses and use a more objective standard, such as the square footage recommendation made by the town a few weeks ago,” she said. “This will place our small businesses on more equal footing with the other larger and big box businesses.”

With Phase Two close by, owners will have to continue to obey social distancing guidelines. Retailers will be required to limit capacity. Patrons and workers are also required to wear masks.

Mary Joy Pipe, the president of the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and owner of East End Shirt Company is trying to make the best of their current situation as they look towards phase two. 

“Sales have been near zero, though we’ve had some customers,” she said. “But it’s important right now to be open, present and let people know we’re here.”

Going into phase two, Pipe will be changing the interior of the store to meet social distancing guidelines. Masks and the use of hand sanitizers will be required. 

“I think many of us look forward to starting a on a new page, looking back is painful,” she said. “We’re grateful to the community, they’ve had us in their minds and we feel that.”

In addition, once Phase Two begins, Goldfarb may implement an appointment-only model where up to six people can be in the store at a given time. She is also considering private shopping experiences. 

“My store is 700 square feet, we’re in a confined space. I’ll be requiring customers to wear masks until I feel it is comfortable to stop,” Goldfarb said. “I may lose customers but it’s our responsibility to be safe.”

For the third time this week, close to a hundred protesters marched into downtown Huntington to protest the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, racism and police brutality June 4. The group convened at the Big H parking lot at Home Depot and then its way into the village and down New York Avenue.

More peaceful protests have been held in other parts of Huntington.

Another march is scheduled for later today.

Right, Laura Burns of Nesconset just recently graduated from St. Joseph’s College, though she finds her job prospects diminished due to the pandemic; left, Matthew Hoth of Miller Place said he was unable to do his internship at a mental health care facility due to COVID-19. right photo by Claudia Reed; left photo from Hoth

Recent college graduates on Long Island are faced with uncertainty as they begin to pursue their respective careers. Their 2020 graduating class will encounter a number of challenges as they enter one of the most daunting job markets, not seen since the Great Recession of 2008. 

Not only did the COVID-19 crisis truncate their last semesters of college, it stripped them of graduation ceremonies. It put jobs, internships and other opportunities on standby. Some local graduates are being forced to adapt and stay sharp while they wait for the job market to rebound. 

Nesconset resident Laura Burns, who recently graduated from St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue with a political science degree, said when the pandemic hit it felt like “everything was spiraling out of control.” 

“A lot of my classmates, myself included, lost a lot of local opportunities because of COVID-19.”

— Matthew Hoth

“I remember taking my last midterm and then they canceled all classes before spring break. We didn’t even get a last goodbye,” she said. “It felt like we were forgotten.”

Burns was disappointed that she could have a proper graduation ceremony, saying it would have been a special moment for her and her family, as her mother also graduated from the college.  

The St. Joseph’s grad had to rethink her initial future plans. 

“Before COVID hit I was thinking about maybe pursuing a graduate school or law school — that’s what I felt was the practical thing to do,” she said. “Even if I wanted to try to get a job in political science it would be pretty difficult right now.”

Burns said some of her friends have gotten part-time jobs working at grocery stores for the time being. 

Potential short-term options such as working at a restaurant or other retailers are unavailable, as Suffolk County is only in Phase One of the reopening process. Most retailers will be able to reopen more during Phase Two. Restaurants will have to wait even longer. 

Burns said she will most likely plan on taking classes at Suffolk Community College and could continue to pursue acting, something she has done since she was younger. 

This past February, the job market looked promising with employers adding 273,000 new positions, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor. 

Just last week, more than 2 million U.S. workers filed for unemployment benefits, according to a U.S. Department of Labor weekly report. It brought the total number of jobs lost to over 40 million. 

Matthew Hoth of Miller Place, who graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh with a master’s degree in data analytics, is trying to stay optimistic and positive about his future job prospects. 

“A lot of my classmates, myself included, lost a lot of local opportunities because of COVID-19,” he said. 

Hoth had an internship lined up with a local health and mental health care facility, but that all changed when the coronavirus hit.  

“I had talks with them for a while, I was really looking forward to interning there,” the recent graduate said. 

In addition, his last semester was going to be used to network and make connections in his field. He and his peers missed out on attending workshops that could have brought him face to face with potential employers. 

“I had some leads on some jobs locally, but then everything kind of stopped dead in its tracks,” Hoth said. “Right now, I’m trying to get more program certifications to add to my resume and updating my LinkedIn [account].”

To fill the void of the internship and in an effort to add some work experience to his resume, Hoth is considering freelancing, special projects and working remotely.  

“With companies cutting and laying off people it is discouraging to see,” he said. “But I’m optimistic that the economy and job market will eventually bounce back,” he said. 

Victoria Arcuri

Victoria Arcuri of Holbrook, a recent graduate of Fashion Institute of Technology, was looking forward to starting a full-time position at a creative agency in New York City she had interned at during her last semester of school. Due to the effects of the pandemic, the agency had to put her postgraduation hiring on hold but extended her internship. 

“My boss was like, ‘right now we are not in the position to hire you, but there is still a possibility for a full-time position,’” she said. “Without COVID, I’d have a full-time job right now.”

“I remember taking my last midterm and then they canceled all classes before spring break. We didn’t even get a last goodbye.”

— Laura Burns

Due to social distancing restrictions, Arcuri, who studied graphic design, and her fellow classmates also missed out on other potential professional opportunities. Their senior exhibition, an event where students get the chance to present their portfolio in front of professors and professionals in the industry, was instead held online this year. 

“At first I was disappointed, but I realized there were worse things going on than not having the show,” Arcuri said. 

After commuting to school for the majority of her college career, the FIT grad had hopes of moving to Brooklyn once she started her full-time job. Those plans have now been stalled as well. 

The Holbrook resident said if she can’t secure a full-time position with the agency, she’ll look for other options in the short term.  Freelancing and contract work could be a possibility, given a potential business climate where there is more work done remotely. 

At her internship, presentations and meetings with clients are done through Zoom and they can send most of the things they’re working on via email. 

“In graphic design we do most of our work on a computer or on our laptops, so it wouldn’t be too bad if I worked from home,” Arcuri said. “Though if I had a choice I’d prefer to be in a studio.”

She reiterated that many college grads are a bit scared about their own futures.  

“Some companies and businesses might not come back the same, a lot of them have taken a big hit and that will affect us,” Arcuri said.

“No justice, no peace” and “I can’t breathe” chanted hundreds of protesters gathered near the intersection of routes 347 and 112 in Port Jefferson Station. Wielding signs condemning police brutality and racism, scores of passing cars near the intersection honked their horns in a show of support. The June 1 rally was one of many peaceful demonstrations occurring around the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a now-fired and arrested police officer.

“We have seen the murders of black men, women and children, this wasn’t an isolated incident,” said Skyler Johnson, a Mount Sinai resident and Suffolk County Community College graduate who organized the rally. Johnson is set to primary several other Democrats in the race for state Senate 1st District seat. “We are here to show that we won’t stand for this anymore.”

Anthwan Newell of Uniondale said he was glad to see an ethnically diverse group of protesters.

“I’m happy to see so many people stepping out of their comfort zones and really letting their voices be heard,” he said

Newell, who made the trip to Port Jefferson Station with a group of friends, reiterated the need for immediate change.

“As black people, we sadly have gotten numb to seeing someone killed by police brutality,” he said. “We’re all out here for the same reasons, we’re fighting for change. It has to happen, and it has to happen fast.”

Josh Parish and Ashley Barry of Centereach said white people can’t ignore this issue anymore, especially on Long Island.

“It is important to not let people forget what is going on,” Barry said. “People can’t drive past us today without seeing and reading the signs and hearing the chants.”

He stressed the need for institutional reform in law enforcement and to demilitarize police departments.

“It is not just one cop, it is a systemic issue — it starts from the top,” Barry said.

Denzel Johnson of Coram said conversations on racism need to continue after these protests.

“It is still here, and it won’t go away until we make a change,” the Coram resident said. “The only way to make that change is by taking that first step and that’s what we’re doing today. This is a great demonstration, it is good to see people of all colors standing together against racism.”

Suffolk County Police Department’s 6th Precinct was on hand and reached out to organizers beforehand to ask if they could stand with the protesters. More than a dozen police officers monitored the rally.

The nationwide protests were sparked by a video that was shown on TV and circulated on social media showing Floyd on the ground as a white officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Chauvin, who was fired from the Minneapolis Police Department, has been charged with third-degree murder. Three other officers who were at the scene were also fired but have not been charged with a crime.

Protests have rocked the country, with some of them turning violent in several major metropolitan areas, including New York City. Long Island has already seen several such protests in places like Brentwood, but most have remained peaceful. Late on Monday, June 1, police said a group of approximately 100 protesters marched toward the 7th Precinct building in Shirley, but police set up a skirmish line along William Floyd Parkway, and after two hours the crowd disbursed.

Throughout the week, local officials have weighed in on the issue.

“In my 30 years of service, I have never witnessed such a cruel and heinous act of violence by anyone wearing the uniform as we saw in Minnesota last week,” said Errol Toulon Jr. (D), the Suffolk County sheriff. “The killing of George Floyd is so contrary to the mission of law enforcement, and to the oath that officials take to uphold the Constitution. We must never forget that we are here to protect the rights of the people.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) called Chauvin’s actions a type of racism.

“Perhaps the most disturbing thing is the lack of concern that this officer showed in knowing that he was being videotaped,” Bellone said. “That suggests this officer felt that there was no accountability.”