Biologist and outdoorsman Eric Powers will conduct a birding walk at Caleb Smith State Park Preserve on Jericho Turnpike in Smithtown on Saturday, May 14, from 9 to 10:30 a.m.
Preregistration is required as space is limited. Call 631-265-1054.
The free event is part of the 2016 Lecture Series sponsored by the Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve, and will involve walking about two miles. Walkers are urged to wear sensible footwear and bring binoculars and a camera with a telephoto lens, if they are able.
Having extensively explored the historic Caleb Smith park, “Ranger Eric” — as students know him — will lead attendees to some of his favorite locations to see birds and other wildlife, as well as highlighting plants and freshwater springs, the lifeblood of the park. Ranger Eric suggests bringing any bird feather you would like to share with the group.
See more of Ranger Eric on his new television show “Off the Trail” at www.myNHTV.com. For more information, visit his website at www.YC2N.com.
For more information about Friends activities and events, visit www.friendsofcalebsmith.org.
Two eyes and an iPad is all Vietnam veteran John Cincar needs to completely transform his day-to-day life.
Cincar, a resident at Stony Brook’s Long Island State Veterans Home, lost his ability to move his arms and hands, but only needs his eyes to operate a $12,000 iPad the home helped him secure this week as part of its mission to enhance residents’ independence. With help from the device and the home, Cincar said he could open the door to a world he had not been able to access on his own for years. By looking at control keys or cells displayed on the iPad screen, Cincar said he can generate speech, activate functions such as turning on a light or television, and even surf the internet.
“It’s very easy for me to use,” he said. “It does everything. I can get in touch with the world again.”
The eye-tracking device, which the veterans home referred to as an “eye gazer,” was a by-product of a donation from Bowlers to Veterans Link Chairman John LaSpina, a Long Island native and owner of various bowling alleys across the Island. The BVL is a not-for-profit organization that works to support American veterans, raises about $1 million per year through bowlers and bowling centers nationwide, and has a working relationship with the Long Island State Veterans Home, LaSpina said.
“An opportunity like this just seemed so incredibly great that we couldn’t say no to it,” he said. “We’re talking about a facility totally dedicated to veterans. The place is immaculately clean. They do wonderful things.”
The BVL donation to the Long Island State Veterans Home was made possible from the proceeds of the “PBA50 Johnny Petraglia BVL Open,” which was held at the Farmingdale Lanes from Saturday, May 7 through Tuesday, May 10.
With the Vietnam era now more than four decades old, the Long Island State Veterans Home has been seeing more veterans who served in that war coming through its doors. And with each war comes a different kind of ailment that staff must combat.
“Many of these guys, their brains are fully intact, but their bodies are shot. They’re trapped,” said Jonathan Spier, deputy executive director for the Long Island State Veterans Home.
Just five years ago, Spier said, the home had only two Vietnam veterans living there. That number skyrocketed to more than 50 by 2016, he said, with former combat men suffering from specific injuries like exposure to Agent Orange and other muscle-related difficulties.
Fred Sganga, executive director of the veterans home, said the addition of the eye-tracking device only furthered his group’s mission to enhance the quality of life of more than 6,000 Long Island veterans.
“The goal is to maximize every veteran’s independence,” he said. “We want to be strategically ready for the next generation of veterans coming here, and this technology is transformational for someone who is a paraplegic.”
When asked how he planned on harnessing the power of the iPad to his benefit, Cincar said he hopes to study new languages, like Romanian — the language of the land he was born in.
Congress is taking unprecedented steps to fight heroin and opioid abuse, and U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) brought the battle to Kings Park to spread the word.
In the company of other lawmakers and activists, Zeldin spoke at VFW Post 5796 last Thursday to discuss a package of bipartisan legislation the congressman has been pushing that addresses different angles of the disturbing upward trend in heroin and prescription opioid abuse on Long Island and across the country. The momentum from his stumping also helped propel several pieces of such legislation to a vote on the House floor by the following week.
The proposed legislation would review and update guidelines for prescribing opioids and pain medication, and require a report to Congress on the availability of substance abuse treatment in the country, among other provisions.
In his remarks last week, the congressman cited an alarming statistic from the Centers for Disease Control: more than 28,000 overdose deaths were recorded in 2014 as a result of heroin or opioid abuse — the highest number on record. Zeldin, who joined the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic in November, said Suffolk County recorded one of the highest rates of overdose deaths across the state, and needed a multi-pronged approach to address it.
“Next week, the House of Representatives is dedicating a full week to passing legislation aimed at addressing this epidemic, with a package of several bills to combat the growing heroin and opioid crisis,” Zeldin said. “Addiction and overdose deaths on Long Island and across our country are skyrocketing as a direct result of the increase in heroin and opioid abuse.”
In a phone interview, Zeldin said this was the first time the House had taken such unified measures to combat the problem, as its consequences were becoming impossible to ignore. The congressman used strong language when outlining the heroin addiction problem to drive it home.
“The rates that overdoses are increasing, and the fact that it’s not isolated to any one kind of community, has led many to describe this as an epidemic,” he said.
Joining Zeldin was Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini, who has been working on the front lines of the addiction problem, as Suffolk County suffered 103 fatal heroin overdoses in 2015 alone — more than double its neighboring Nassau County, which recorded 50. Sini also used the term “epidemic” to describe the fight he and his fellow officers have been facing.
“The heroin epidemic that our nation is facing is the number one public health and public safety issue here in Suffolk County,” Sini said. “Partnerships between local law enforcement and our federal representatives is a crucial tool in the battle against this scourge.”
And North Shore natives who felt the hurt of that “epidemic” stood beside Zeldin and Sini to throw their support behind legislative resolutions. Kim Revere, president of the Kings Park in the kNOw Community Coalition, and Linda Ventura, founder of the Thomas’ Hope Foundation, both said there were several different approaches lawmakers must take to address addiction, from prevention to rehabilitation.
“I believe wholeheartedly that prevention should begin at home,” said Revere, referring to the legislation as a wakeup call. “I am seeing many adults abusing alcohol and [prescription] drugs and that does not bode well for our children. I would like to see permanent evidence-based prevention programs implemented in school grades kindergarten through 12.”
Ventura, whose son Thomas died at age 21 from a drug overdose four years ago, said measures like Narcan, a medication which is administered to help reverse the effects of a heroin overdose, were important but not the only tool emergency responders should lean on.
“The United States needs to commit every resource imaginable to fight this insidious disease. The lifesaving tool Narcan needs to be accessible to all concerned to help save a life in the interim of an overdose to find treatment,” she said. “Treatment needs to be the appropriate level of care at the earliest intervention possible. Prevention — we must start educating and empowering our youngest of children with coping skills, relaxation techniques and communication skills.”
Two all stars from New York will receive honorary degrees this month at Stony Brook University’s 56th annual commencement ceremony.
Eric H. Holder Jr. and Soledad O’Brien were named this year’s honorary recipients for their contributions in their respective fields, the university said in a statement. Holder, the 82nd attorney general of the United States, will receive a doctor of law degree, while O’Brien, a Long Island native and award-winning journalist, will receive a doctor of letters.
Both recipients will address the Seawolves class of 2016 and sport academic regalia right alongside the nearly 6,000 other graduates at LaValle Stadium on May 20.
“This is a remarkable distinction for the class of 2016, to be joined by individuals who personify what Stony Brook embraces — the relentless pursuit of excellence and commitment to make a real difference,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. “Eric Holder embodies the progress and values of our country through his strong leadership and legacy of justice and fortitude. Soledad O’Brien exemplifies the vision of our University as she is actively engaged in the critical issues of our time — initiating and exploring important national conversations. I am looking forward to officially welcoming Eric Holder and Soledad O’Brien as fellow Seawolves.”
Holder served as the attorney general of the United States under the leadership of U.S. President Barack Obama between 2009 and 2015. During his tenure, the president praised him for his “toughness and independence,” the university said in a statement.
Originally from the Bronx, Holder is the first African American to be the attorney general. While serving in that role, Holder announced and oversaw $1 billion in federal grants to law enforcement agencies in every state to support the hiring of police officers.
He also actively aided the war against terrorism, providing the names of the conspirators for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Holder previously served as a United States attorney for the District of Columbia for U.S. President Bill Clinton, a judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia appointed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and the deputy attorney general under Janet Reno. Holder earned a Bachelor of Arts in American history from Columbia University and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.
O’Brien is an American broadcast journalist, executive producer and philanthropist who has become a fixture in global news on major platforms, the university said. A former co-anchor of CNN’s “American Morning,” O’Brien is now chairman of the Starfish Media Group, reporting and producing stories that have appeared on CNN, HBO and Al Jazeera America. Before joining CNN, O’Brien anchored NBC’s “Weekend Today” and contributed reports for weekend editions of the “NBC Nightly News.”
O’Brien’s recent noteworthy documentaries include “Black in America: The New Promised Land-Silicon Valley.”
O’Brien has been recognized for numerous awards and honors, including two Emmy Awards, George Foster Peabody awards, an Alfred I. DuPont Award, an NAACP President’s Award, the CINE Golden Eagle Award and “Journalist of the Year” from the National Association of Black Journalists. She is a Harvard University graduate and the daughter of Edward O’Brien, a founding professor at Stony Brook.
Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said he was most appreciative of the support he received from the residents who donated to his pet food drive to benefit Baxter’s Pet Pantry at Long Island Cares Inc.
In addition, many customers at the IGA Markets in Fort Salonga and East Northport contributed items to the bins stationed at the stores, as well as from Splash and Dash Pet Groomerie in St. James.
“Everyone was incredibly generous in donating cat and dog food/treats and bird seed, as well as other items for the pet pantry at LI Cares. I am thrilled that we collected 435 pounds as well as a donation of $100 from a local resident,” Trotta said.
Founded by the late Harry Chapin, Long Island Cares is based out of Hauppauge and works to bring together all available resources for the benefit of the hungry on Long Island, the organization said. Long Island Cares also works to provide various humanitarian needs for the greater Long Island community, providing food when and where it’s needed while promoting self-sufficiency and public education.
Suffolk Republicans said the county executive’s water quality plan stinks.
County Executive Steve Bellone (D) unrolled a proposal last week that would allow voters to decide whether or not they would pay an extra $1 per 1,000 gallons of water to address nitrogen pollution in drinking and surface water across the region. And while some environmentalists heralded the plan, Suffolk Republicans said it would be unfair to the taxpayer and cost more than what Bellone might lead residents to believe.
Suffolk County Legislator Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) joined with other members of the Republican Caucus last Wednesday at the county headquarters in Hauppauge to speak against Bellone’s proposal. Standing with him was Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), who accused Bellone of using the water rate increase as a source of revenue to help balance the county’s $1.2 billion debt.
“This is yet another attempt by Steve Bellone to get into the pockets of taxpayers,” Trotta said. “It is a ploy to use water protection as a means of covering for his mismanagement of county finances.”
His proposal would establish a water quality protection fee that would fund the conversion of homes from outdated septic systems to active treatment systems, the county executive said. He estimated the $1 surcharge would generate roughly $75 million in revenue each year to be solely dedicated to reducing nitrogen pollution — and still keep Suffolk County’s water rates nearly 40 percent lower than the national average.
The funds collected would be used in conjunction with other funding, such as from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) $383 million initiative to support clean water infrastructure.
Residents living in countless communities like Kings Park, which Trotta represents, have been on the county’s radar as locations in desperate need of a septic makeover. And while the county Republicans said they agreed that clean water must remain an important talking point in Suffolk, they argued that charging more for water might burden those residents already paying more for sewer upgrades.
“Residents in my district and districts around Suffolk County have been paying for a sewer district for over 30 years,” McCaffrey said. “The ‘Bellone Water Tax’ would make these residents pay for the same thing twice.”
Suffolk Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) said residents would not enjoy equal benefits from the proposal and, therefore, she was against it outright.
“At this point I see this as nothing more than a tax increase on water usage for all,” Kennedy said. “Some may never see the benefit of sewers or nitrogen reduction cesspools in their lifetime.”
The Republican Caucus is committed to fighting what they said was an unfair and unjust tax on Suffolk County residents and called on community leaders, elected officials and taxpayers to stand up for residents in Suffolk County and put an end to the Bellone Water Tax proposal.
But not everyone stood opposed to the water quality initiative. In an interview, George Hoffman of the Setauket Harbor Task Force said Bellone’s plan would benefit Suffolk County for decades to come. Working so closely with some of the county’s most coveted bodies of water, Hoffman said the county needed to act, and fast.
“It’s pretty clear that our harbors and bays are struggling. Until that’s addressed, there’s going to be nothing we can do as a harbor group to be better,” he said. “We can prevent runoffs, but we can’t prevent the seepage from the homes along the shore. What we like about the initiative is it puts water quality at the top of the agenda.”
Stony Brook University Police are deploying additional officers around campus this week after a graduate student was forcibly touched over the weekend, authorities said Monday.
The suspect, who police identified as 33-year-old Miguel Angel Condori, was accused of groping a graduate student on Saturday inside the third-floor bathroom of the social and behavioral sciences building on campus, university police said. Officers have been searching campus buildings for the suspect and continue to do so while increasing police presence at strategic locations.
A surveillance image and mugshot of the suspect was posted to the Stony Brook University emergency alerts website, showing the location where the incident allegedly occurred around 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. The image described the suspect as a light-skinned Hipsanic male standing at about 5 feet, 5 inches with black hair pulled back into a bun, university police said.
Any information on the suspect was to be directed to university police at 631-632-3333.
Stony Brook University students took a break from drowning in their studies to continue a storied tradition by dumping makeshift vessels made out of cardboard into a campus pond, hoping they could stay afloat.
The Roth Pond Regatta shipped off its 27th consecutive year at the university on Friday as a way for students to blow off steam before finals start next week. Each year, students cram into their homemade boats made of cardboard, duct tape and paint and race across the 200-yard body of water at the center of campus.
More than 3,000 people make their way through the regatta each year, a university spokeswoman said. This year’s special theme for the race was “under the sea and far beyond,” with some of the nearly 40 boats including the S.S. Leaky Leakey, the S.S. Free Willy, and the Titanic itself.
The Democrats’ race to regain the 1st Congressional District is on, as a former Southampton Town supervisor has stepped up to challenge for the red seat.
Anna Throne-Holst had a potential final term at the head of Southampton’s town board, but declined to run so she could free herself up for a congressional campaign. She, along with Setauket native Dave Calone, will face off in a federal primary on June 28 to determine who will run against freshman U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in November.
Zeldin unseated six-term Democrat Tim Bishop by a wide margin — 54 percent of the vote to 45 percent — in a contentious election back in 2014, and saw Democratic challengers stepping up to reclaim the spot within a matter of months. Throne-Holst entered the race in the latter half of 2015 and has been aggressive in her attacks against the Republican lawmaker ever since.
In a sit-down with TBR News Media, Throne-Holst described Zeldin as a conservative, climate change-denier who votes largely along party lines.
“When we have legislators who are focusing on being destructive rather than constructive, I think it’s time to make a positive change,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of buyer’s remorse with Lee Zeldin. He has just voted straight down the line.”
Government tracking website GovTrack reported 45 percent of Zeldin’s 11 bills and resolutions had both Democratic and Republican cosponsors in 2015. The site also showed Zeldin cosponsored 116 bills and resolutions introduced by other members of Congress, rating his willingness to work with others to advance policy goals as second lowest among the New York delegation.
Jennifer DiSiena, a spokeswoman for Zeldin, said Zeldin has pursued an aggressive agenda on behalf of his constituents on Long Island, working to protect America’s security at home and abroad, help grow the economy, support veterans and first responders, improve the quality of education, repair the nation’s infrastructure and safeguard the environment.
“Congressman Zeldin has been working all day, every day across party lines, delivering results on important issues facing his constituents,” DiSiena said in a statement. “He has been recognized as the top freshman Republican likely to co-sponsor legislation with members of the opposite party.
“Congressman Zeldin believes the climate has always been changing. Instead of taking a position on so many issues that matter most to NY-1 voters, these two Democratic candidates are desperately trying to distract and deflect, to throw up anything at all against the wall to see what politically charged attack can stick.”
Throne-Holst said she had a proven track record while serving in elected office that could translate to the national level.
Before entering public office, Throne-Holst co-founded the Hayground School — an elementary school dedicated to supporting children with different learning needs. After serving as a councilwoman, she was the first Democrat to be elected supervisor in Southampton since 1993, overcoming a heavy red-leaning electorate on the East End. She touted her experience as supervisor working to reduce spending and help the town achieve a AAA bond rating. She worked closely with Stony Brook University, helping to secure funding for a clean water research center and seeking ways to improve Long Island’s septic system technologies. She also said she supported bipartisan efforts to preserve Southampton’s shorelines, resulting in the saving of 1,200 acres of open space.
She has garnered support from some of the Democratic Party’s biggest players, including Bishop, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), who Throne-Holst said was pivotal in convincing her to run.
“Anna is exactly what we need in Congress,” Israel said in an email. “She has strengthened the community with job creation and launched economic growth with downtown revitalization.”
If elected, Throne-Holst would be the first woman to represent the 1st District, which covers virtually the entirety of eastern Long Island from Smithtown outward.
Her campaign has raised close to $1.1 million, compared to Calone’s $907,000.
Her Democratic opponent has collected key endorsements too — from State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Sag Harbor) and East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell (D). In a previous interview, Calone, who has never held elected office, said his hands-on experience helping Long Island businesses thrive was a driving force behind his decision to run. He works as CEO of Jove Equity Partners LLC, a venture capital firm that helps start and build technology companies.
“This area was a great place to grow up and a lot of my classmates have already left and don’t come back,” he said in June 2015. “We need to be a leader in the economy of New York and worldwide.”
The waste is hazardous, but the accomplishment is healthy.
The Town of Smithtown marked a major milestone this week as it wrapped up its regular household hazardous waste collection event on April 23, clocking in a new record of more than 76 tons of hazardous materials being sent to safe disposal sites.
The event was held with help from Radiac Research Corporation in Brooklyn, which won the contract for the specialized and regulated event through a competitive bidding process, town officials said. Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) said the town paid $15,694 to run the event, but will be reimbursed one-half the cost by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
“The success of our household hazardous waste collection program continues to grow,” Vecchio said. “Participating in a household hazardous waste collection event allows people to clean out their garages and basements, and safely dispose of old chemicals. It also heightens awareness that not everything offered for sale is a good thing to buy and use around our homes and families.”
By the end of the April 23 event, Smithtown tallied 716 families participating, resulting in 152,905 pounds of household hazardous material being collected. The most notable items, the town said, included decades-old bottles of long banned pesticides. Additional materials included oil-based paints, gasoline, paint thinners, waste gases, degreaser, solvents, flammable solids, liquid and solid oxiders, acids, corrosives, miscellaneous toxic liquids and solids, lacquers and various toxic compounds.
The town holds events like this annually to help ensure safe and proper disposal of such hazardous materials. If disposed of improperly, they can be damaging to the environment or to human health.
Smithtown has been regularly hosting such events to residents since 2009. Over time, the town said, the amount of material collected has increased more than tenfold.
“We should all try to minimize or avoid buying toxic products in the first place,” Vecchio said.
The next Smithtown hazardous waste collection event will be held on Saturday, Oct. 1 at the Municipal Services Facility located at 85 Old Northport Road in Kings Park.