Authors Posts by Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr
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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.

An image of the proposed treatment system. Image from SCWA

With a little under 600 wells in its system, the Suffolk County Water Authority has a big task ahead as it tries to comply with state mandates to remove the likely carcinogenic 1,4 dioxane from Long Island’s drinking water.

On a Zoom call with TBR News Media, water authority officials talked about the current progress on remodeling the county’s water infrastructure, including 76 wells. It’s a difficult task, and there are many years and millions of dollars more needed before many of the county’s wells are remediated. The authority has estimated 45% of its wells were detected with 1,4 dioxane, which Jeffrey Szabo, the CEO of the SCWA, called “frightening.”

A map showing where the SCWA expects to put the treatment systems, should they be approved. Images from SCWA

For over a year, 1,4 dioxane has appeared in the news frequently . Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed legislation at the end of last year banning 1,4 dioxane, which is normally found in some household cleaning products. At the tail end of July this year, New York adopted regulations for the chemical, setting the maximum contaminant levels, or MCL, of 1 part per billion. 1,4 dioxane has been found in 70% of Long Island wells found during a federal testing initiative back in 2013 through 2015. 

The state has also set the MCL for PFOA and PFOS, both of which have been found to cause health issues in humans and animals, at a maximum of 10 parts per trillion. Perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, is a chemical often found in firefighting foams, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, is used in nonstick and stain-resistant products.

Szabo said they are on their way to establishing treatment for the PFOA and PFOS in all wells that need it. The water authority’s October report states that all wells with those chemicals above the MCL limit are either being treated to remove the contaminants or are being blended to below the MCL or have been removed from service. Szabo said the water authority has granular activated carbon, or GAC filters that help remove the PFAS chemicals, but such carbon-based filters have little to no effect on 1,4 dioxane. Instead, the SCWA started almost a decade ago developing technology to remove another similar chemical, 1,3 dioxane from drinking water. In 2017, SCWA engineers designed and piloted the first full-scale pilot 1,4-dioxane treatment system in state history. The authority’s Advanced Oxidation Process, or AOP treatment system is currently operational in only one location, Central Islip. That design process “took a long time and a lot of money,” Szabo said.

The water authority CEO said they now have 56 AOP treatment systems in construction in Suffolk, including in Farmingdale and Huntington. There are AOP treatment systems being designed for places on the North Shore such as Sunken Meadow Park, but in many cases it’s not as simple as installing a new filter, as it often takes reconfiguring and additional electrical work. Clearing and site work continues for future AOP sites and electrical upgrade work is beginning at sites such as Flower Hill Road in Huntington. In some cases it’s simply easier and cheaper to replace old wells, such as on Old Dock Road in Kings Park, which is replacing two wells on Carlson Avenue both of which need AOP systems.

Not only that, but there is an apparent year-long lead time from when the authority orders a new system to when it can be installed.

Despite recent efforts, funding continues to be the biggest issue. Each GAC system costs around $1 million to manufacture. An AOP system is closer to $2.5 million. At the end of last year, the SCWA estimated efforts to remediate such wells would cost $177 million over the next five years. The October report states the authority has spent close to $12 million to date for PFAS related work and $23,136,397 for emerging contaminant work.

The water authority passed a $20 fee added to residents’ quarterly water bills starting this year to help pay for this new water treatment. 

Though even with that fee, it’s not likely enough to cover the full cost. The water authority has also filed lawsuits against several companies whose products contain PFOA, PFOS or 1,4 dioxane. Those suits are still ongoing. The SCWA has received $13.3 million in grants from New York State and has submitted additional applications for state grant funding for 14 of its wells.  

The water authority is also waiting on a bill in the state legislature which could provide some extra financial assistance. A bill supported by state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) and Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) that would provide reimbursement for emerging contaminant grants by responsible parties has passed the state senate but currently remains in committee in the assembly.

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William Sussman attends pre-election training at the Suffolk County Board of Elections. Photo by Sussman

When one conjures the image of the average poll worker, it’s probably not the picture of Will Sussman.

Sussman, 21, an electrical engineering and computer science student at Yale University, stood shoulder to shoulder (so to speak, considering the pandemic) with people twice or three times his age at the Miller Place High School Nov. 3. Being at the forefront of the democratic process is a unique first-time experience for any young person, but in the age of COVID-19, it was also a way of protecting many of the usual workers who are particularly susceptible to the virus.

Will Sussman takes a selfie as he helps work the polls at the Miller Place High School Nov. 3. Photo by Sussman

On average, poll workers are more likely to be older and retired, according to an April report from the Pew Research Center. According to a study of the 2018 midterms, most poll workers were aged 61 to 70. Just 4% of that study were people aged 18 to 25. Data is the same for presidential election years as well as midterms. According to an Election Administration and Voting Survey from 2016, 24% of poll workers are aged 71 and older, while another 32% are 61 to 70. EAVS surveys also show a majority of board of elections have a difficult time finding volunteers to man polling locations. 

Sussman was one of a handful of young people who decided to volunteer at a Suffolk polling place this election. Knowing just how dangerous the virus was to older people, and being home from college earlier this year because of the pandemic, he said it became apparent there was need for volunteers, especially considering he and his immediate family had tested positive for the virus earlier this year, and after he and his folks recovered, he tested positive for COVID antibodies.

His decision was an important one considering issues election officials faced earlier this year in the primaries. Officials from the Suffolk County Board of Elections told the county Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting in September that 25% of poll workers did not show up for the June primary. When college started up again in the fall, and as Yale was inviting students back, Sussman had to get special permission from his college to return for the day specifically to work the polls.

“I was in the best position to relieve people who are at greater risk for COVID,” Sussman said. “I read a lot about national and international affairs, and I was sort of more aware than the average person that poll workers would be needed.”

Sussman took mandatory poll worker training during the summer, and though he said where he would end up wasn’t determined by where one lives, he still ended up working at the same place he had graduated from only three years earlier.

“It was sort of poetic in a sense,” he said. “The last time I was in that room, the last time I was there I told my graduating class to exercise the right to vote.”

The polling place was busy most of the entire day, having received around 3,500 people coming to vote. There were quieter moments, but the young man said he had a little bit of an easier time handling the new tablets that workers were using to check in voters.

Two other young Miller Place High School students also became involved in helping the public vote. This is despite both being too young to cast ballots themselves.

Miller Place seniors Zoe Bussewitz and Meghan Luby also worked the polls Nov. 3. Bussewitz said they had been participating in a charity run by college students when she learned about students in another state being allowed to volunteer despite not being old enough to vote. Contacting the Suffolk BOE, the pair learned they could do the same.

What followed was a lot of “on the job” training, working 17 hours total, a blur of excitement of explaining how to fill out ballots, collecting signatures and sanitizing polling booths.

“It was really good to get involved,” Bussewitz said. “It was like I was doing my part.”

Though the Miller Place senior doesn’t know if she will have time to volunteer again in two years time, as she’ll likely be in college, she said it will inform her about voting in the many elections still to come. 

With the sense of unease nationally surrounding the election, being with so many volunteers, many of whom with different political backgrounds, Bussewitz said it was something that showed how people can come together for the sake of democracy.

“Right now there’s a lot of division, but everybody there were very kind and open minded,” she said. “It was great to see that break from division and really have just a day to do your civic duty.”

Though even with the number of people they had there, Sussman said the place still felt slightly understaffed. Though while they didn’t have any real problems with most voters, there was one instance of a voter who refused to wear a mask inside the polling place. The policy was there could be no restrictions on anybody who was legally allowed to cast a ballot, but in order to protect people’s health, they had to wait for all current voters to leave the polling place, then after the person cast their vote everything needed to be sanitized.

With all the national attention being paid to the legitimacy of this year’s election, the young man said seeing the process firsthand just exemplified how wrong all the claims of voter fraud were. 

“Everything is packed and labeled, and it would take a lot of effort to mess with these ballots,” he said.

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Legislator Sarah Anker and Tesla Science Center Executive Director Marc Alessi. Photo from Anker’s office

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) recently presented the Tesla Science Center with a $6,000 grant, which is awarded to organizations that benefit tourism and/or cultural programming in Suffolk County. The grant was utilized to pay for operational costs related to the restoration of Nikola Tesla’s laboratory and the construction of a new visitor’s center. The Tesla Science Center plans to turn Nikola Tesla’s last remaining laboratory in Shoreham into a science museum celebrating science and the history and contributions of the famed scientist and inventor.

“Thank you to the Tesla Science Center for their devotion to the accessibility and advancement of technology, and to the preservation and restoration of the historic Nikola Tesla’s laboratory,” Anker said. “Our community has benefited from the presence of the center and the wide range of virtual resources available through their Virtual Science Center.”

The Tesla Science Center recently completed renovations on the chimney and cupola of Tesla’s laboratory. The center is moving forward in the next phase of renovations and is on track to complete the construction of the visitor’s center by next year. 

“The need for virtual education increased dramatically due to COVID-19, as educators, parents, and students looked for safe, connective e-learning options,” said Science Center Executive Director Marc Alessi. “In response, Tesla Science Center aggressively expanded its virtual education programming. Thousands of people are benefitting, but we needed support to continue. Thanks to the Suffolk County Omnibus Grant facilitated by Legislator Anker, critically needed virtual education will be available to many more people in our community.”

While the museum and visitor center remain under construction, the center has created a Virtual Science Center that is available on their website. The Virtual Science Center features podcasts, informational videos, and virtual STEM camp programs and activities for all ages. For more information, please visit https://teslasciencecenter.org/

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From left, Kathy Lahey from Island Heart Food Pantry, Michael Eamotte from the Port Jefferson ferry company, MPMSHS volunteers Ann Donato, Katie Streitweiser, Penny Roca, Margaret Cibulka, Eric Grotz, Councilwoman Jane Bonner, MPMSHS volunteers Debby Michienzi, Sally Ditewig and Liz Fiordalisi. Photo from Bonner’s office

On Nov. 15, Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) visited the historic Daniel Hawkins House in Miller Place to support a food drive held by the Miller Place Mount Sinai Historical Society and The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company. The drive will benefit the Mt. Sinai Congregational Church Island Heart Food Pantry, located at 643 Middle Country Road in Middle Island which operates out of the Mount Sinai Church. 

“The pandemic is having a severe impact on so many people who are struggling every day to feed themselves and their families,” Bonner said. “Island Heart Food Pantry is a lifeline in the community, and I thank Miller Place Mount Sinai Historical Society and Port Jefferson ferry for joining this effort. I urge everyone to donate whatever they can to help make the holidays a happier time for our neighbors in need.”

To learn how you can donate food or if you need food, please call 631-473-1582 or visit www.mpmshistoricalsociety.org.

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Suffolk County police car. File photo

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Riverhead Town Police Department detectives are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate the person people who caused a fire at a home in Wading River Monday.

An unknown person allegedly threw an incendiary device was thrown at a residence on Sound Road in Wading River Nov. 16 at around 8 p.m. A resident immediately extinguished the fire and no one was injured. Detectives from the Suffolk County Police Department Arson Section responded to assist in the investigation.

The Riverhead News Review reported owners said it may have involved the resident’s lawn signs, which preached inclusivity and fair treatment of women and minorities.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS (8477), utilizing a mobile app which can be downloaded through the App Store or Google Play by searching P3 Tips, or online at www.P3Tips.com. All calls, text messages and emails are kept confidential.

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Conifer’s revised design plans for the Port Jefferson Crossing apartment complex were approved Sept. 17 after multiple design changes over the past several months. Photo from planning board meeting

The Village of Port Jefferson has set a number to what an upcoming apartment complex project is worth for recreational land.

Officials voted to set the recreational parkland fee for Port Jefferson Crossing at $1,500 per unit at 45 units for a total of $67,500. Village officials said they are setting aside the funds specifically for developing Upper Port even further.

Mayor Margot Garant said they would be putting those funds in a special account to be used for revitalizing the up-the-hill portions of the village, which has been a largely blighted area for several years. All trustees agreed those funds should be used to develop uptown. Vice Mayor Stan Loucks suggested it could be for new recreational space in the Highland area of the village.

The project currently has plans for three floors, with the first floor being 3,200 square feet of retail and the next two containing 37 one-bedroom apartments and eight two-bedroom apartments. The front part of the project will take up 112 lineal feet of frontage on Main Street.

Village Attorney Brian Egan said Conifer, the company behind Port Jefferson Crossing, has sent a letter to the effect of making some kind of donation to the village equivalent to the fee, but as of right now, the money is already in the village’s hands.

Alison LaPointe, special village attorney to the Building and Planning Department, previously told TBR News Media the payment in lieu of parking fee for the C-2 district, where Crossing resides, has been set at $4,000 per space via a 2018 resolution.

Parkland fees are set by the board of trustees on a case-by-case basis. The planning board has to approve the fee.

Conifer representatives have previously told the village planning board they were requesting officials consider renovated sidewalks and other amenities in place of the parkland fee. Officials have previously granted another The Shipyard, an apartment complex in downtown Port Jeff, a reduced parkland fee because of patio space and other open amenities included in the complex, though it was later confirmed the space was inaccessible to the public. The village changed its code in September of last year to excise rooftop decks, patios and other common areas not accessible to the general public from being considered for reduced or eliminated parkland fee.

Village Trustee Bruce Miller, who opposed The Shipyard’s reduced fee in 2018, said he hoped the village wasn’t going down the same road again. Garant agreed, saying “that’s why we’re here.”

Port Jefferson Crossing has already received an agreement with the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency for an estimated $5.2 million mortgage tax exemption for help in demolishing the current building and a $66,236 Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement starting in 2023-24. They join many of the other new apartment developments that have received PILOT agreements, including The Brookport and the Overbay Apartments developments. 

IDA documents also show they anticipate 1.5 employees will be needed at the new site, though that doesn’t include what businesses may take up space on the first floor facing the street.

Garant also said at the Nov. 16 meeting she was meeting with representatives of the Long Island Rail Road about, among other things, potentially making the parking lot metered. This would allow a revitalized upper port to be used during times in the evening much less trafficked by commuters for people to visit any businesses.

In addition, the village has to work with the LIRR on designing Station Street, which will be located just south of Conifer’s project. 

Another apartment development by the Gitto Group is looking to start up at the corner of Main Street and North Country Road, where the PJ Lobster House currently stands.

Back to Basics in Rocky Point has been around for over four decades before its owner, Drew Henry Tyler, died earlier this year. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though he may have passed on, a local shop owner, one who helped pioneer the health foods market on Long Island, is still appearing to thank people passing by his small corner store.

Drew Henry Tyler, a resident of Shoreham Village and owner of Back to Basics in Rocky Point, passed away in June. Photo by Robert Gutowski

Back to Basics, a natural food store in Rocky Point, has been vacant for months. In its window a sign is posted: “Thanks for 43 Years.” The longtime owner of the shop, Drew Henry Tyler, 67, passed away June 8 after a battle with adrenal cancer. 

His wife of little under 28 years, Lee Frei, is a longtime resident of Shoreham village. She and her future husband originally met at the store. 

She got to know him as an honest and quiet man, but the kind of quiet that hides a unique intelligence. She said if he hadn’t passed, he would have likely still been there, manning the counter and talking to customers about anything from politics to music to yoga.

“There was so much to Drew,” she said. “He was calm and wise. I often thanked him for that.” 

Tyler grew up with his brother Rick on a chicken farm in Lake Ronkonkoma, back when the area was still mostly rural, and some of the main roads still remained dirt paths. Rick Tyler called that just your average life of “barefoot boys growing up in the woods.” 

The two were introduced to Provisions, a health food shop in Port Jefferson back in the  1970s, the brother said. Working there, the two formed a side business called Journey Foods, where the two would go into New York City, bringing back “tubs” of tofu, sprouts and other such items to sell to the still-small market of health food stores on the eastern side of Long Island, back when many wholesale distributors didn’t come out past Route 110. The brothers even got into the business of growing sprouts, which Rick said were “temperamental.” 

The two made connections with many of the health food retailers on the Island, but the brothers had a unique opportunity when the original owners of Back to Basics in Rocky Point were looking to sell.

Jane Alcorn, who now helps lead the effort to transform the Shoreham Tesla property into a museum and science incubator, started the store in 1976 with her husband and two friends. When a few years after opening, her business partners moved away, she and her husband decided to sell to the Tyler brothers, who had expressed interest in the place for a while. She thought of Drew as a “kind man — he was quiet and hardworking.”

“It was always a pleasure to go there and see how they had made some changes, but still kept the essence of the store — natural foods, and healthy and specialty products for the people of the surrounding area,” Alcorn said. “He obviously did a good job to have been in business so long. Back to Basics was one of the oldest stores in Rocky Point and, even now, I’m sure many people, like me, miss running in to pick up some special items that aren’t available anywhere nearby.”

The store was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Frei said and, after Drew passed, family came to help sell the remaining merchandise at cost.

Rick Tyler, who now lives in Pennsylvania, worked at the store for a little over a decade before moving on. As the health food market boomed, he said it got harder to compete, and they were “always fighting against the mass market and Trader Joe’s.” 

Still, despite any difficulty. Rick said his brother was the kind of man who would leave the counter to help a woman bring her purchases to the car. He was the kind of man who engendered trust, and when Rick came back to Long Island to help with closing down the shop, he and those manning the shop were greeted with a bevy of longtime customers who fondly remembered the store owner, some young enough to say they had been coming there for practically their entire lives.

“He was a very gentle, kind, smart, funny guy — he was very well liked,” Rick Tyler said of his brother.

Jan Tyler, the brothers’ mother, said the people who came to the store in those final days were coming in with both sympathy and expressions of sorrow.

“I think you couldn’t help but love Drew,” the mother said. “He tried to help everybody he could, he would drop everything and help a woman with bundles in the rain. On the whole everybody cared a great deal for him.”

Linda Stever, who worked for Drew at Back to Basics for several years, said the owner was inherently trusting of his customers and community. She wrote in a post to Tyler’s obituary that from the first day she worked for him, the man simply trusted people.

“I lived in Rocky Point for years, but I never felt such a sense of community until I worked with Drew at Back to Basics,” Stever wrote. “He was my boss, but I considered him and his wife Lee to be my friends as well. I’m thankful for knowing him.”

Tyler was well known in Shoreham village, especially as a man who was competitive on the tennis courts. Frei said he loved the “mechanics of moving,” of having motions done with expert grace. Family friend Laura Baisch wrote in a tribute to Drew that he was known for his “quiet laugh and look of complete satisfaction when he hit the perfect shot.”

Frei said he was in the village doubles finals one year, and residents would come to watch because he was so much fun on the courts. 

“His perspiration would make a heart-like mark on his shirt, and the crowd would chant, ‘I heart Drew,’” she said.

Stock photo

Despite Election Day being Nov. 3, local races have a week or more to settle on the final count.

Suffolk County Republican Board of Elections commissioner, Nick LaLota, said via email they hope counting will be finished before Thanksgiving, Nov. 26, though there is no way to know when everything will be finalized.

Republican candidates took leads in every local state and congressional race based on in-person ballots as the BOE started its absentee ballot count Nov. 16. Election experts have repeatedly said on average more Democrats used absentee ballots than Republicans did, though races will largely depend on unaffiliated voters. 

With that said, it will still be hard going for many Democrats in a few of the most hotly contested races. The U.S. Congressional District 1 race between U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) and his Democratic opponent Nancy Goroff still remains out, though Zeldin currently holds a 65,120-vote lead. There are still over 89,000 absentee ballots left in that race, but Goroff would need to reportedly take all non-GOP registered votes in order to gain the upper hand.

A similar challenge is there in the New York State Senate District 1 race for Democrat Laura Ahearn, who has a steep uphill climb against her challenger, current Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk). Ahearn is down by 18,736 from in-person polling, and there are over 42,000 absentee ballots left to count, and she will need many votes outside the two main parties to gain the seat.

The race for State Senate District 2 between Republican Mario Mattera and Democrat Mike Siderakis is heavily favoring red, as there is a 35,109 difference in votes favoring Mattera with less than 43,000 votes to count. 

The State Assembly District 2 race between Democrat Laura Jens-Smith and Republican Jodi Giglio is likely to go in favor of the GOP. With a 14,355 difference and just under 17,000 absentee ballots to count, Giglio has all but cinched her new position. Jens-Smith has previously told TBR News Media she knows she has very little chance of victory.

Some elections are closer than others, such as State Assembly District 4. Many residents reported surprise in messages to TBR News Media at longtime Assemblyman Steve Englebright’s (D-Setauket) deficit of votes compared to his Republican opponent Michael Ross of 1,966. That race currently has 17,909 absentee ballots left to count.

However, there are a few confirmed elections. State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James), with his lead of 23,419 with in-person ballots, is so far ahead of his young Democratic opponent Dylan Rice even the over-17,000 absentee ballots could not make a dent in the District 8 race.

On Nov, 17, U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) said his opponent George Santos called him to concede. In a statement, Santos credited grassroots supporters and donors for the close race.

“I am proud that we gained the support of every PBA and first responder organization that endorsed this cycle,” Santos said.

Santos said there may be more announcements in the near future regarding his next steps.

“I would like to congratulate Congressman Tom Suozzi,” Santos said. “We wish him well going forward for the benefit of our district and constituents.”

State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) declared victory Nov. 18 against his Republican opponent Ed Smyth. This came after votes absentee votes already counted in both Nassau and Suffolk put him over the edge.

“I am humbled to be reelected by the residents of the 5th Senate District and I thank them for their support,” Gaughran said in a statement. “During my first term in office, I worked tirelessly on behalf of Long Islanders and I am proud to have delivered real results — from a permanent property tax cap to support for small businesses navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. I will keep fighting for my constituents, for Long Island, and for all of New York State and I thank the voters for giving me the opportunity to continue to serve them.”

Above, is a breakdown of where each race stands with in-person votes as at Nov. 18 plus the number of absentee ballots left as last reported on Nov. 16 (from the Suffolk County Board of Elections).

Current vote totals are as of the morning of Nov. 18

Congress

NY1

Lee Zeldin (R): 176,323 Votes – 61.31%

Nancy Goroff (D): 111,203 Votes – 38.67%

Absentee Ballots: 89,401

NY3

Tom Suozzi (D): 46,112 Votes – 46.65%

George Santos (R): 52,117 Votes – 52.72%

Absentee Ballots: 34,902

New York State Senate

SD1

Laura Ahearn (D): 55,557 Votes – 42.78%

Anthony Palumbo (R): 74,293 Votes – 57.20%

Absentee Ballots: 42,550

SD2

Mario Mattera (R): 79,762 Votes – 64.10%

Mike Siderakis (D): 44,653 Votes – 35.88%

Absentee Ballots: 42,781

SD5

Jim Gaughran (D): 27,132 Votes – 43.51%

Ed Smyth (R): 34,575 Votes – 55.44%

Absentee Ballots: 21,276

New York State Assembly

AD2

Jodi Giglio (R): 34,290 Votes – 62.39%

Laura Jens-Smith (D): 19,935 Votes – 36.27%

Absentee Ballots: 16,979

AD4

Michael Ross (R): 22,966 Votes – 51.88%

Steve Englebright (D): 21,000 Votes – 47.44%

Absentee Ballots: 17,909

AD8

Mike Fitzpatrick (R): 39,937 Votes – 70.73%

Dylan Rice (D): 16,518 Votes – 29.26%

Absentee Ballots: 17,227

AD10

Steve Stern (D): 24,141 Votes – 49.93%

Jamie Silvestri (R): 24,197 Votes – 50.05%

Absentee Ballots: 18,529

AD12

Keith Brown (R): 30,638 Votes – 57.20%

Michael Marcantonio (D): 22,908 Votes – 42.77%

Absentee Ballots: 15,906

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File Photo

A video of two Shoreham-Wading River students using racial slurs and making racially derogatory comments on social media has led to significant backlash online and from district leaders.

A post Jovan Bradley put on Twitter about his interaction with two SWR students. Both student’s faces were intentionally blurred. Image taken from Twitter post

The video in question was on a platform called Omegle, which pairs random people for video chat. That interaction was then published to other social media apps TikTok and Twitter Nov. 10.

The video shows two unidentified young men, who have been named students in the Shoreham-Wading River school district, paired on the social media platform with a man named Jovan Bradley, who according to his Twitter profile lives in Poughkeepsie. Bradley started off the conversation with a greeting, then the young men started with “My N*****” and “What’s up, N****.” The video continues with one of the two young men calling Bradley “slave” and saying, “I’m going to whip you” and mimicking cracking a whip.

Bradley, who is mixed race, later posted a video of the interaction to Twitter and TikTok. In it, he repeatedly asked the young men, “Why?” The Twitter video has been viewed over 38,000 times. The TikTok video has been seen over 417,000 times as of Nov.16.

The names of the two young men have not been released or could not be independently confirmed by press time. People on social media went on trying to find the names of the two students, but some supposed names of the two young men involved have been mistaken for other social media profiles.

Superintendent of Schools Gerard Poole released a statement Nov. 12 saying the video was “reprehensible” and that it was “in clear violation of the core values of our school district.” Poole said the matter will be addressed with both students for further disciplinary action.

The superintendent added that the district is rooted in teachings of “tolerance, acceptance and the importance of embracing diversity,” and they have tried to “cultivate a sense of unity and inclusion in our school community.”

Like many North Shore school districts, Shoreham-Wading River is predominantly white. The district is 87% white, 1% Black, 8% Hispanic or Latino and 2% Asian, according to New York State Education Department data. Long Island has a long history of de facto segregation, and advocates most commonly express this discrepancy by comparing districts like those on the North Shore with places like Brentwood, which is predominately Black and Latino.

Bradley posted to Twitter that at least one parent had contacted him with an apology by one of the students. The other student has yet to send an apology, according to the Poughkeepsie man’s latest TikTok post. Bradley has posted that he has gone on Omegle to debate people and also publicly shared his response to the apology Nov. 13, saying he hopes the young man takes “positive things from this experience” and that he hopes the young man sees fault with his actions “at a human level.”

“Take this experience to continue to educate yourself on what has and is happening in our country,” Bradley said in his post. “I do wish you a bright future if you can make those changes. Everyone deserves a second chance.”

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Dear Friends and Supporters,

Rick Giovan

I am proud to contribute my time and energy as a Lion in support of many local charities. As a member I am able to help sponsor a guide dog, aid local veterans, support charities like Lions Eye Bank, Meals on Wheels, and Angela’s House. Most rewarding has been our food basket drive where we deliver groceries to families in need during the winter holidays. A typical delivery is to a single mom with several children living in a small apartment nearby. These families are so thankful to get this food.

We will be going out this year on Saturday, Dec. 12 and we need your financial support. Last year our food bill was nearly $10,000 and we helped about 100 families and a local shelter.

I’m asking members of our local community, both businesses and individuals, to support our worthwhile project by sending a check to the Port Jefferson Lions Club, PO Box 202, Port Jefferson, NY 11777, Attn. food baskets. Suggested sponsorship is $50. Any amount will be much appreciated.

Thanks for your support.