Authors Posts by Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr
1016 POSTS 0 COMMENTS
Kyle Barr has been reporting on Long Island for the last several years, and has won awards from the New York Press Association for photography in 2019 and 2020. He is currently the editor of the Village Beacon Record, Port Times Record and Times of Middle Country, as well as Managing Editor.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker speaks during a press conference in 2017 about the creation of a permanent panel to address the ever-growing opioid crisis. File photo by Kyle Barr

Suffolk County’s 2020 annual report on the lingering opioid crisis showed an increase in the number of overdoses from the previous year, with experts expressing concern for the impact the pandemic has had on addiction rates.

The Suffolk County Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel released its findings Dec. 29 showing there were 345 fatal overdoses in 2020, which includes pending analysis of some drug overdose cases, according to the county medical examiner’s office. While, on its face, that number did not increase over the past year, nonfatal overdoses climbed by 90 to 1,208, com-pared to 2019, according to Suffolk County police. This increase defies a general trending de-crease in nonfatal overdoses since 2017. Police also reported 910 opioid overdose-antidote na-loxone saves for individuals compared to 863 in 2019.

In some ways more worrying than overall overdose numbers has been the treatment situation on the ground, with professionals in the field reporting an increase in relapses during the pan-demic, according to the report.

Numbers released by police after a May inquiry from TBR News Media showed overdoses were up dramatically when comparing months before the start of the shutdown orders in March to the weeks directly afterward. Medical experts and elected officials all agreed that pandemic-related anxiety, plus the economic downturn and mandated isolation led to increased drug use overall. People in the treatment industry have also said the pandemic has pushed them toward utilizing telehealth.

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), the panel chair, said COVID-19 has led to challenges among all county governmental and community agencies, with “overwhelmed hospitals fighting on the frontline, addiction rates skyrocketing with limited resources and economic un-certainty due to business disruption.”

There have been 184 deaths related to opioids in 2020, according to the report, with 161 poten-tial drug overdoses still pending review. Among the North Shore towns, not accounting for those still in review, there were 18 deaths reported in Huntington, 13 in Smithtown and 69 in Brookhaven, the latter of which had the most opioid-related deaths of any Suffolk township. Police data also shows the 6th Precinct bore the brunt of the most overdoses and the most Narcan saves.

National data also bears a grim toll. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Pre-vention’s National Center for Health Statistics there has been a 10% increase in drug overdose deaths from March 2019 to March 2020. Approximately 19,416 died from overdoses in the U.S. in the first three months of 2020, compared to 16,682 in 2019. 

In addition to Suffolk’s report, the advisory panel has sent letters to state and federal reps ask-ing them not to cut any state funding for treatment and prevention and for the state to  sup-port provider reimbursement rates for telehealth and virtual care that are on par with face-to-face rates. They also requested that New York State waives the in-person meeting requirement for people to receive buprenorphine treatment, which can help aid in addiction to painkillers.

County legislators are also touting a new youth addiction panel, which is set to begin meeting in the new year. The county is also continuing its lawsuits against several pharmaceutical com-panies for their hand in starting the opioid epidemic. 

That’s not to say there haven’t been other setbacks in Suffolk’s efforts against opioids. Last Oc-tober, county Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) was arrested for an alleged at-tempt to trade oxycodone for sex. Spencer was the one to initiate the creation of the youth panel. He has pleaded not guilty, though he has stepped down from his position on the panel, among other responsibilities.

There are currently 29 members on the opioid advisory panel, including representatives from the county Legislature, law enforcement, first responders, treatment centers and shelters.

While Anker thanked current members of the panel for their continued efforts, she said more work is needed.

“The opioid epidemic is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed continuously from all fronts,” she said.

The Town of Brookhaven and Suffolk County Sheriff Department honored frontline workers, including the town’s Health and Human Services Department and its contracted food workers from Florian Foods. Photo from TOB

It would be impossible to commemorate every government worker in a single article, but the massive number of people busting their back in the midst of the pandemic helped an immeasurable number of residents when the worst was underway, whether they were custodial staff cleaning buildings for people to work in, or post office workers delivering mail, there are innumerable people the community owes their thanks to. 

In this case, it was a collective of government workers from the federal government on down whose job it was to keep those of us in pandemic hot zones up to date. For that, local municipalities depended on small communication offices to relay the most up-to-date and accurate information to both government and citizens, while residents were aided by public safety and food programs for homebound seniors. 

Communications

In any battle or crisis, those on the ground will tell you what helps most is having the latest information possible.

Lisa Santeramo, assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs under Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), was at the lead in getting the information from New York State on down to the local governments on Long Island. Her office included Theresa Santoro, a Miller Place native who was in charge of reaching out to Suffolk, and Andrew Mulvey, who was in charge of Nassau.

Lisa Santeramo, assistant secretary for the state intergovernmental affairs office, worked alongside Theresa Santoro and Andrew Mulvey to get up-to-date info about the pandemic out to local municipalities. Photo from Santeramo

Santeramo was just coming back from maternity leave at the end of March but suddenly, as infections grew and places started to shut down, the small intergovernmental office was a focal point for every county, town, village, as well as the dozens of civic and chamber of commerce organizations for learning about new regulations, protocols, closings and reopenings. For months, Santeramo said her office was performing multiple daily calls with different groups from town supervisors to village leadership. They were also sending out constant email updates to inform what changes were happening, even during the middle of the day.

“On Long Island, we have these nuances we have to work through, such as all the different layers of government,” she said. “I joked with electeds that we were spamming their inboxes, but more information is better.”

It was a constant rush of sending information up and down the chain of government. Down the line was Nicole Amendola, the director of intergovernmental affairs for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). Amendola rose through the ranks to become director in April, and where she and others in the executive’s office worked long hours to supply local government with the latest information.

Amendola, who reiterated it was a team effort, said that along with her communication work, she was also on the side of making sure different bodies such as fire departments or hospitals were getting the PPE or resources they needed.

“Things were changing so rapidly, not even from the state but even from the federal level, so we had to make sure that we were able to communicate properly and efficiently to all levels of government,” she said. “The work, definitely, was very, very top heavy in terms of hours in the beginning of everything because there was just so much we didn’t know and understand, and things were literally constantly changing.”

Once new regulations and lockdowns were underway, any new information coming in from the governor’s office was immediately poured through. Both state and county offices watched every one of the governor’s daily press conferences to make sure they could get that info to local government. 

Even with such things as trick-or-treating for Halloween, Amendola said they made it their jobs to let people know what was permitted and what was not. When people complained about what was or wasn’t allowed to open and which businesses were included in which reopening phases, their office also sent those complaints back up the chain as well.

Others in local governing offices made consistent remarks to TBR News Media on the good job both Santeramo and Amendola’s offices did during this hectic time. Their near-daily updates on COVID-19, what regulations and what restrictions may have changed, was a huge boon for people struggling to make heads or tails of what they needed to do. 

Now that numbers are spiking, both offices are on constant calls about what may or may not be coming down the pike. And with vaccines also in play, a new kind of communications blitz is incoming.

“I never thought I’d have to deal with people’s safety,” Santeramo said. “But this year and the work we did, it will be the most important work I think I’ll ever do in my life.” 

Public Safety

The year 2020 is going to go down in the record books locally not just because of the pandemic but because of other major events throughout the year. The May killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd sparked waves of protests throughout the country, including several largely peaceful demonstrations on Long Island. Interactions between law enforcement and protesters in Suffolk were mostly harmonious, but in a few places the reaction to those protests grew into a hotbed of misinformation and rumor, especially in the Town of Smithtown. While officials tried to quash those rumors, it was the Smithtown Department of Public Safety that was in the middle of the storm, both figuratively — and it turned out later in 2020 — quite literally.

The Town of Smithtown Public Safety Department made several water rescues during the summer 2020; just one of a few complications to a complicated year. Photo from Thomas Lohmann Jr.

Thomas Lohmann Jr., director of the town public safety office, said when the pandemic first hit, their office was in charge of restricting who could and could not enter town buildings, as well as handling the distribution of PPE throughout Smithtown. While other offices were being cut or shut down, Lohmann’s, with his 55 or so sworn officers and 50 additional civilian staff, was seeing a rapid need for more assistance.

“Everybody here really had to step up and work,” he said. “The communications section, which not only do they dispatch — we also serve three fire departments in the township — and they were extremely busy handling alarms for COVID-19 calls.”

Once things started to reopen, they were there in the local community enforcing restrictions on beaches and in parks. This year, with more boaters out on the water, they completed several water rescues. In enforcing compliance, Lohmann said it was not so much about shutting down businesses as much as talking with owners face-to-face to get them to meet restrictions.

“We recognize the businesses were faced with challenges, and from early onset what we focused on was voluntary compliance,” he said.

During Tropical Storm Isaias in August, the town safety office also became engaged in the work of checking up on people who lacked power. The year 2020 has been fraught with challenges, but for many law enforcement out there, as COVID numbers have risen dramatically in the past two months, the work does not stop.

“We can’t hang a shingle and say we’re shutting down,” Lohmann said, “We’re doing everything we can.”

Government Meal Programs

When the pandemic was at its zenith in late March and early April, the thousands of people who relied on government meal programs found themselves at an even greater loss, unable to get out of the house to even go to the local deli. As senior centers and government offices closed, the many people responsible for getting people food did not back down.

The Suffolk County Office for the Aging works with towns throughout Suffolk in their weekly meal programs. Holly Rhodes-Teague, who heads up the office, is not only in charge of a network of meal programs throughout the 10 towns, she had to keep up with case management, home care, transportation and home repair to allow older adults to remain at home while the pandemic raged outside.

The Town of Brookhaven and Suffolk County Sheriff Department honored frontline workers, including the town’s Health and Human Services Department and its contracted food workers from Florian Foods. Photo from TOB

Before COVID hit, the office was helping to arrange meals for around 2,700 seniors in congregate programs and home deliveries. Once the shutdowns occurred, that jumped to 4,200 people. To this day, those numbers have only slightly dropped to a little over 4,000 folks who depend on these daily meals.

“We were able to transition overnight to adding onto home delivery — we took the current program and made it into a grab-and-go type program for meals,” Rhodes-Teague said. “It was amazing how fast they did that. They didn’t skip more than a day.”

And it wasn’t just food. Through the towns, Holly-Teague said they managed to give out items like hand sanitizer and toilet paper, especially when such items were vacant on store shelves. In between everything, her office was calling elders, some of whom are over 100 years old, to just check up and see how they were doing. In one instance, a caseworker could not get a hold of one of their clients after August’s tropical storm. After visiting the elder at home, the caseworker found the electricity was gone, and the person’s life support had gone out.

“All our people stepped up to the plate,” she said.

In the individual towns, the separate Meals on Wheels programs were suddenly inundated. Laura Greif, Smithtown’s senior citizens program director, said the number of seniors they service doubled during the beginning stages of the pandemic, to over 320 meals a day. What made the situation harder was they had half the staff on, and half off. Other staff within the town came through to help instead. With the Smithtown Senior Center closed to visitors, she said they were making over 2,000 calls to elder folk within the town to check up on them regularly.

Once things calmed down, she said her crew even started taking some seniors food shopping. She thanked everyone who worked with her.

“In the beginning it was difficult as we were half-staffed,” Greif said. “Without such an amazing staff and town, it would have been difficult to get it all done. We’re very happy to do this much-needed service.”

Alison Karppi, commissioner of Housing & Human Services at the Town of Brookhaven, said before the pandemic they were supplying meals to 130 homebound seniors, plus those in their congregate program. Once the senior centers closed, that number jumped to over 500 seniors a day. Additionally, the town’s senior citizen division delivered 208 boxes of food to residents in need through Suffolk County’s food insecurity program.

It would take a whole host of Brookhaven employees to reach every single one of those who needed food every day, and not just those from HHS. Workers from other town offices such as the parks department would become drivers to get meals out to seniors spread throughout over 500 square miles. Karppi said unlike other municipalities that were forced to make meals cold, thanks to the town’s cafeteria in Town Hall and its food contractor, Florian Food Service, Brookhaven was regularly sending out warm meals to its seniors. 

Making sure the food stayed warm took a whole lot of effort on the part of multiple employees, and Karppi wanted to thank all those drivers whose constant work provided such a necessary service, as well as Dawn Marcasia, who created the route list for drivers every day of the week. Delivering meals also served as a way to check up on seniors, and when there was no response at the door, that information was passed onto the senior citizen division.

Through all of that, the town workers helped deliver over 75,000 meals to seniors at their homes from March through December. 

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) expressed how this service has been critical, even as we’re still not out of the woods yet.

“This pandemic is far from over, we’re at least another year anywhere back to where we were before,” he said. “This has been a lifeline to so many of these people.”

by -
0 894
File photo

A Suffolk County Police officer was treated for smoke inhalation after he entered a burning home to evacuate a man and woman in Selden Saturday evening.

Police said 6th Precinct officers responded to a 911 call reporting a fire at a home located at 57 Abinet Court at around 4:55 p.m.

Officer Sean Kalletta entered the burning home and found two residents attempting to rescue their two dogs. Officer Kalletta escorted Robert Baker, 55, and his wife Debra Baker, 51, out of their home and attempted to rescue the dogs. One of the dogs bit the officer. Officer Kalletta was later transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation and a dog bite.

The Selden Fire Department responded to the scene to extinguish the fire. First Assistant Chief Keith Kostrna and Farmingville Fire Department Firefighter Richard Piccirello rescued a dog from the residence. Units from the Centereach, Coram, Setauket, Terryville and Medford fire departments also assisted. Police officers transported the dog to Animal Emergency Service in Selden for treatment. The dog is expected to recover. A second dog exited the home on its own and was uninjured.

Suffolk County Arson Section detectives are investigating the cause of the fire.

The Sunshine Prevention Center in Port Jefferson Station has worked to make sure its students had coursework during the pandemic, even driving materials home to students. Photo by Kyle Barr

When the first weeks of the pandemic hit, when everything from restaurants to gyms to playgrounds were being shut down, schools were forced closed as well.

As the many different districts across Long Island scrambled to implement distance learning, a new crisis loomed. For the many men and women who still worked, especially those on the frontlines in hospitals or elder care facilities, they could no longer depend on school districts to take care of their children for most of the day. 

George Duffy, the CEO of SCOPE Education Services, was instrumental in providing child care during the pandemic’s early months. Photo from SCOPE

And as parents scrambled to find ways to take care of their children, a few groups stepped up to the plate. Many parents owe a great deal to those organizations that took care of their children during the pandemic’s worst months, many of whom were trailblazers for what kids would come to expect when schools finally reopened in later months.

Organizations from all over kept their child care services going when they were needed most. The Huntington YMCA, while suspending many of its other youth and adult programs, kept running its child care services and food pickups for families. This was even amongst huge economic hardship caused by the loss of membership dues. 

Eileen Knauer, senior vice president of operations for YMCA of Long Island, said their child care programs ran for four months out of their Huntington facility as well as a school in the South Huntington school district, up until their summer camp programs started again. While it initially ran free of charge for parents, having been supported by stipends from the school district and Northwell Health, they did end up having to charge parents some cost for the program. For those parents who did not have enough to pay, they fundraised to help support their children.

“The ‘Y’ is here for our community — we respond to what the community tells us we need,” Knauer said. 

SCOPE Education Services, a Smithtown-based nonprofit chartered by the New York State Board of Regents, operates child care programs all over Long Island. Though SCOPE normally works with school districts from all over, in March, when districts were mandated to provide child care even while their buildings were closed to normal activity, they turned to SCOPE, according to George Duffy, executive director. 

The nonprofit operated 25 locations throughout Long Island to provide that child care, with more than 800 children in total enrolled. From March through August, SCOPE workers kept children in safe spaces, allowing them an opportunity to socialize when many were feeling the emotional constraints of isolation.

Though districts pay a weekly stipend to help run the program, for parents who desperately needed people to take care of their children while working, it was effectively free.

Lori Innella-Venne, a district manager for SCOPE operating in the Huntington area, said it was soon after the closures were coming into effect that she and her workers sat together to come up with a plan, creating something entirely new on the fly, even when restrictions and medical advice seemed to be changing on a daily basis. Despite all that, the program never saw a positive COVID-19 case amongst its children, she said.

“We took one breath when schools closed and we immediately got to work, reimagining how we did everything,” Innella-Venne said.

Over in Rocky Point, the North Shore Youth Council, a nonprofit that services districts from Mount Sinai to Shoreham-Wading River, was also caught up in that first COVID wave that crashed upon Suffolk County. Their summer camp, which featured 100 kids, was so effective in its procedures that it did not see a positive case in the several months the program ran.

NSYC Executive Director Robert Woods said they also had the benefit of good relationships with the Rocky Point school district, and that it was the district’s custodial staff who were “rock stars” in helping to prepare children for these activities. 

It was difficult, of course. Children could not even play board games together. Innella-Venne said they had to draw up an entirely new curriculum. Activities had to focus on being spaced apart. Equipment that was once shared now had to be restricted to individuals, and then sanitized after use.

“When we were still waiting for guidelines to come out, we already had a fully realized program, one that we found well within the guidelines and in some cases exceeded them,” she said. “There was fear in the beginning, but also incredible pride for what we were able to accomplish.”

The Huntington YMCA struggled during the pandemic but still offered childcare during the peak months. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Once school started again, the demand for child care did not relax. The youth council’s afterschool program now follows in the footsteps of the local school districts’ cohort system, following those so that they don’t mix students who may have been kept separate for a significant time. They also developed a kind of study hall for those students in the hybrid model who are studying electronically, allowing parents to work even when their children are not allowed inside schools, according to Cyndi Donaldson, the youth council’s school-age child care program director.

Knauer said the YMCA has also started a program to allow children a place to do their remote work while their parents are at their jobs. Though that program had stalled once students were allowed back in school full time, it will likely start up again after December as the number of COVID cases climb and local districts expect to take a longer-than-normal Christmas break.

“If you’re a working parent, you don’t have the luxury of taking time off,” she said.

There are so many stressors with young people having to deal with so much, whether it was hearing the news and the number of people dying, or it was seeing the anxieties of their parents. It was especially hard on more at-risk kids, the kind of population serviced by The Sunshine Center in Port Jefferson Station. Carol Carter, CEO/co-founder of the organization, said they had to transfer much of their child care services online once the pandemic struck, whether it was live on Facebook or YouTube, or constant calls to catch up with parents and their children on what was happening. They took to driving out to children’s households with homework and activities or even food, trying to keep those participants engaged. The center created a blessing box where needy parents could pick up supplies and food that were donated by the wider community.

“We knew immediately how important support was through this time,” she said. “Our main focus was on positive social skills. People were feeling anxiety and other tough feelings, so developing coping skills, problem-solving skills and communication skills that kids could use during this time was important.”

All program directors agreed that their services provided a kind of stability for children during a tumultuous year.

“A parent said to me the other day that our programs are the only constant in their childs’ lives,” Woods said. “Their children look forward to coming to our programs, they are able to socialize in a different way. They are a thriving testament to what [our organization] does.”

Just like many businesses and other organizations during the pandemic, COVID has hurt their bottom line. Knauer said the YMCA is currently running at 50% below their normal revenue, as membership dues have dropped off significantly. She said anybody looking to start memberships or to donate can contact her through the YMCA at 631-421-4242.

Other programs also operated at a loss.

“SCOPE ended up losing money,” Duffy said. “We thought they were going to be running this for four-to-six weeks. We ended up running it for six months.”

But for the nonprofit service, the point was to provide that niche when it was needed.

NSYC camp councilors stood with 100 young people who participated in this year’s Summer Buddies camp, where there were no reported infections. Photo from NSYC

“We felt it was a valuable service that benefited families and the community,” Duffy said. “We were happy to do it — it kept people employed who would have been forced to do something drastic, like leave their job.”

The child care services were truly the first bulwark of dealing with children and students in a pandemic. Both SCOPE and NSYC officials said school districts reached out to them when coming up with their own procedures when reopening in September.

“A lot of school districts looked at what we did over the summer, asked for our input, and a lot of what they’re doing now is what we did in March,” Duffy said. 

The work of these and other groups has been recognized by both school districts and parents. SCOPE has received numerous positive comments from superintendents from Brentwood to Middle Country to Comsewogue. One of the districts SCOPE operated in was Miller Place, where Marianne Cartisano, the MP superintendent, said her district would not have been able to come out of the first-wave months still with their feet under them if it weren’t for Duffy and his program.

“Parents would come back and say, ‘I didn’t worry about my child today,’” Cartisano said.

File photo

A man was arrested the early morning of New Year’s Day for allegedly driving while intoxicated after he crashed his car into the rear of a marked police car in Huntington.

Suffolk County Police said a 2nd Precinct officer initiated a traffic stop of a 2005 Chrysler Pacifica on eastbound Pulaski Road, near Frazer Drive, at around 12:20 a.m. Jan. 1. The officer was inside the police car, which was stopped off the roadway with its lights and flashers activated, when an eastbound 2019 Honda Accord allegedly driven by William Macari crashed into it from behind. The impact of the crash caused the police car to strike the rear of the Pacifca.

Police said the officer was airlifted via Suffolk County Police helicopter to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. Macari and the driver of the Pacifica were not injured.

Macari, 54, of 73 Derby Ave., Greenlawn, was arrested and charged with DWI. He was held overnight at the Second Precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip on Jan. 1.

by -
0 1346
File photo

Suffolk County Police arrested a man Tuesday night after he allegedly shot a housemate with a crossbow in Stony Brook.

Police said James Nicosia was involved in a discussion with his landlord at his residence, located at 269 Hallock Road, when Xiaonan Sun, who is the landlord’s son and one of Nicosia’s housemates, allegedly shot him with a crossbow at around 6:55 p.m. Police did not give motive for the shooting.

Nicosia, 41, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital in serious, but stable condition.

Police charged Sun, 36, with assault in the 2nd degree. He was held overnight at the 6th Precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip Dec. 30.

File photo

Suffolk County Police detectives are continuing to investigate a car crash that killed a pedestrian in Stony Brook Tuesday night.

Police said Kimani R. Porter was driving a 2017 Dodge truck southbound on Nicolls Road, at the intersection of Shirley Kenny Drive, when the vehicle struck Kenneth Rott who was crossing the street at approximately 6:45 p.m Dec. 29. Rott, 60, of Kings Park was pronounced dead at the scene. Porter, 31, of Brooklyn was not injured.

The Dodge was impounded for a safety check. Detectives are asking anyone with information on the crash to contact the 6th Squad at 631-856-8652.

Jefferson’s Ferry CEO Bob Caulfield and Jefferson’s Ferry board member and Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright at the Dec. 10 groundbreaking. Photo from Jefferson's Ferry

South Setauket retirement community Jefferson’s Ferry broke ground Dec. 10 on a $89 million expansion and renovation project creating 60 new apartment-style homes and more amenities to its One Jefferson Ferry Drive facility.

Once completed, the 165,000 square foot project will add 60 new independent living one- and two-bedroom, plus den apartment homes with open floor plans to Jefferson’s Ferry’s existing 220 apartments and 28 cottages. Plans also call for a new marketplace café, bistro-bar, destination dining room with alternating types of cuisines. Part of the project includes renovations, additions and the construction of a new 28,520 square foot building.

In a release, Jefferson’s Ferry CEO Bob Caulfield said the new facility will “enhance the lifestyle and experience for current residents and appeal to the desires and needs of a whole new generation of Long Islanders planning for retirement.”

The new project is partially due to tax-exempt bonds secured from the Town of Brookhaven Local Development Corporation. At its Oct. 20 public hearing for the proposed bonds, the LDC said the bonds were expected to be $100,000,000 and up to and not to exceed $125,000,000. The bond issuer is also expected to provide additional financial assistance with mortgage recording taxes exemptions for financing or refinancing of the project, according to the hearing minutes.

“The Brookhaven Local Development Corporation is pleased to play a small part in the expansion of this outstanding residence and health care facility,” Frederick C. Braun III, chairman of the Brookhaven LDC, said in a release. 

Last August, the retirement community was awarded low-cost energy by the ReCharge NY energy program to support the multi-million dollar expansion and renovation project. 

Jefferson’s Ferry currently employs 350 people and is expected to add 41 jobs in exchange for 435 kilowatts of power for a 7-year period. 

“The cost savings are significant to Jefferson’s Ferry, and, in turn, to residents living on fixed incomes,” Caulfield said. “Reducing our energy costs through this program goes a long way in helping us control the amount of fees we charge our members, giving them peace of mind about their future.” 

The new Healthy Living Center will incorporate a modern and fully equipped gym and fitness room with access to professional trainers, plus a state of the art wellness and rehabilitation center. Residents can continue to access preventive care from a team of wellness experts in audiology, internal medicine, cardiology, dentistry, podiatry, psychiatry and ear, nose and throat specialists. Lab services and assistance with making medical appointments and filling prescriptions are also available.

“Our community is designed for aging better for longer, whether you live in independent living, assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing,” Caulfield said.

The construction project includes an addition to the existing Vincent Bove Health Center, including a new assisted living building designed for residents living with Alzheimer’s dementia and other memory impairing diseases. Existing dining, activities and community spaces in the assisted living and the skilled nursing center will be renovated to allow more space in a kind of open air environment, according to Jefferson’s Ferry.

Long Island Coastal Steward President Denis Mellett shows growing shellfish at Brookhaven’s mariculture facility. File photo by Kyle Barr

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) announced Dec. 21 that the town was awarded a 2020 Long Island Sound Futures Fund matching grant to fund the town’s Coastal Environment and Community Resilience Education Program. The Town will match the $8,799 grant with $4,450, making the total conservation impact $13,249. The grant combines funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

“The Long Island Sound is vital to the ecology and economy of Brookhaven town and it is our goal to preserve it for future generations,” Romaine said in a release. “Thanks to the Long Island Sound Futures Fund grant, we will continue to increase public awareness and encourage participation in our environmental protection efforts in the town.”    

Brookhaven’s year-long Coastal Environment and Community Resilience Education Program will run from Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 31, 2021. The goal is to foster conservation by bringing people to the Long Island Sound or by bringing the Long Island Sound to the people. The town’s environmental educator will conduct presentations paired with hands-on activities tailored for each audience at public libraries throughout the Town of Brookhaven. Presentations and tours will include detailed descriptions of the intricate balance of the coastal ecosystems, the wonderful flora and fauna on the shore, dunes and salt marsh, and the positive and negative impacts of human activity in these places. 

The program will also include informative, guided tours of Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai, including the town’s Marine Environmental Stewardship Center and shellfish and eel grass restoration projects. There will also be nature tours for people of all ages and hands-on conservation programs with the Junior Environmental Stewards at Mount Sinai Harbor and West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook. The series will create more sustainable and resilient communities by increasing knowledge and engagement of the public in the protection and restoration of the coastal environments of Long Island Sound. 

Town of Brookhaven's Youth Bureau head Josephine Lunde, along with Centereach resident and matriarch of the donation drive EJ's PJs Patricia Poggi stand among the hundreds of pajamas donated for children who need them. Photo from Poggi

Ten years on, and a Centereach family and friends are still donating pajamas for kids to warm themselves during the holiday months. This year, despite the pandemic, has been their biggest drive yet.

Hundreds of pajamas were donated to the Town of Brookhaven’s INTERFACE program to help give kids that warm holiday feeling on these cold nights. Photo from Patricia Poggi

The Centereach Poggi family, which includes mom Patricia and her three sons, started EJ’s PJs in 2011 when the mother’s brother asked her two older sons, Edward and Jeremy, to find a charity to donate to instead of giving them gifts. 

“Because we always wore ‘Poggi plaid’ pajamas on Christmas morning, we came up with the concept to start our own pajama drive so that clouds would be able to feel warm, comfy and cozy and have a fresh pair or brand new pajamas feeling,” Patricia Poggi said.

Her youngest son, Patrick, was 1-years-old when it got started, and now he is 11, having grown up participating in the drive.

At first, their drive included just a single bin on the front porch of the Poggi residence, but now with the support of many local shops throughout Brookhaven, EJ’s PJs has ramped up to include 22 drop off boxes all throughout the town. 

Last year, I started getting into a few businesses to help us in hopes that our 10th year would get us to our highest and it did,” Patricia Poggi said.

Jeremy Poggi, a student at Centereach High School, helped facilitate work with one of the school clubs to generate extra donations. 

“This year was easily our biggest year,” he said. 

And in a year of COVID, when more and more people are struggling financially, such generosity is felt even moreso.

“We are thankful for the support of our new and existing partners who are committed to make this 10th year our biggest pajama drive yet,” Messina wrote in an email. “In a year where the world has been turned upside down, we are grateful to be able to do our small part with the community’s assistance to provide a warm and cozy pair of pajamas to children and teens in need.”