Authors Posts by Samantha Rutt

Samantha Rutt

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The Port Jefferson Civic Association meets inside the Port Jefferson Free Library on April 8. Photo by Samantha Rutt

By Samantha Rutt

At the Monday, April 8, Port Jefferson civic meeting, residents congregated to tackle one of the community’s most pressing issues: the fate of the Port Jefferson power plant. As the world pivots toward renewable energy and sustainable practices, the discussion revolved around embracing new energy sources while addressing the environmental and financial concerns associated with the current plant.

Xena Ugrinsky, a member of the Village of Port Jefferson Budget and Finance Committee, urged the need for a collective community conversation stating, “Everything is in motion. All we can do is ensure that we’re a part of the conversation and do our best to guide them to the right decisions.”

The conversation highlighted two essential work streams: Exploring new energy possibilities and navigating the political landscape in order to best incorporate the voice of the civic and community more broadly. Residents recognized the political sensitivity surrounding the issue and emphasized the importance of engaging local leaders to facilitate meaningful dialogue and action.

Ugrinsky and other affiliates have organized a committee to gather thoughts, concerns and invite further conversation on this issue.

“This is kind of a second run at this problem,” Ugrinsky remarked about the formation of the committee. “We’re going to do a bunch of research and we’re going to engage all the stakeholders. We’re not solutioning — we’re trying to gather the data, create a common conversation about what’s going to happen to the power plant and ensure that Port Jeff village has a voice in that conversation.”

“We’ve got the right people on board and we’re gathering more people. If you know of anybody who has either the background or the willingness to roll up their sleeves and participate let me know and we’ll get them engaged,” Ugrinsky said of the committee. “Our charter is to explore forward-looking and innovative possibilities for the future of the power plant, be a catalyst for positive change, while fostering a transparent and inclusive decision-making process.”

During the previous civic meeting, on March 11, Bob Nicols, a resident, shed light on the financial implications, emphasizing the need for strategic decision-making. With potential tax increases looming, residents expressed concerns about the economic impact on the community and the desirability of living in Port Jefferson.

As discussions delved deeper, the focus shifted toward finding productive solutions that align with the community’s values. In conversation, residents explored the possibility of repurposing the existing infrastructure to support new energy endeavors, such as hydrogen or battery storage, thereby maintaining the plant’s value to the community.

The urgency of the matter was brought to light by the recognition that delaying action could lead to missed opportunities and increased financial burdens. As Ugrinsky remarked, “If we don’t do this now, 20 years from now, tons of places will have done it, and we’ll think, ‘You should have done something about that when you had the opportunity.’”

The meeting also served as a platform to address broader community concerns, such as waste collection costs and upcoming events like the village’s first Arbor Day celebration. 

The Arbor Day event will take place on Wednesday, April 24, at 5 p.m. in the parking lot behind Old Fields, Billie’s and The Pie where county Legislator Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine (R) will hold ceremonial plantings of two trees.

Looking ahead, the path forward for Port Jefferson’s power plant remains uncertain, but the commitment to engagement and collaboration remains. At the next meeting, the civic plans to invite candidates for the Port Jefferson school board. 

“The next meeting will be May 13 and we hope that we will be able to invite the school board candidates to come and present their platforms, and have a discussion about their vision for their role,” said civic President Ana Hozyainova.

Views from the April 8 solar eclipse. Photo courtesy Andrew Young

By Samantha Rutt

The skies above treated Long Island residents to a mesmerizing display as a partial solar eclipse captivated onlookers on Monday, April 8. With eager eyes turned skyward at its peak around 3:30 p.m., many marveled at the four-minute celestial phenomenon, a sight last seen in 2017.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, casting its shadow on our planet. On April 8, North Americans from Texas to Maine had the opportunity to witness the infrequent event, as the moon partially obscured the face of the sun, creating a spectacle for those lucky enough to catch a glimpse.

For many, witnessing a solar eclipse serves as a reminder of the wonders of the universe and our place within it. 

Where were you during the eclipse? 

At TBR News Media’s East Setauket offices, staff gathered together in the parking lot to catch a glimpse of the moon in front of the sun. Some wore specialized solar viewing glasses — that met the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard — while others relied on alternative methods like pinhole projectors or indirect viewing methods used to observe the eclipse safely.

At Stony Brook University, students gathered in masses on the Staller steps and across campus equipped with eclipse glasses to view the event.

In Port Jefferson village, locals were seen having set picnic arrangements in Harborfront Park. In Three Village, people flocked to the shoreline, completely crowding West Meadow and Stony Brook beaches. 

While some gathered in droves outdoors, others keyed into the television streams as CBS News and NASA, among other platforms, live streamed the event. 

The last solar eclipse visible from Long Island occurred on Aug. 21, 2017, when a total solar eclipse swept across the United States.

While Monday’s eclipse was a partial one in our area and a total eclipse in other parts of the United States, it still captured the imagination of many and provided a unique opportunity for residents. Communities came together to share in the wonder of the celestial show — from backyard gatherings to organized viewing events like those offered at various Suffolk County parks — as residents of all ages savored the experience.

Looking ahead, Long Islanders can mark their calendars for the next solar eclipse visible from our region as New York is not expected to be in another path of totality until 2079. 

As this year’s eclipse drew to a close, the memories of the solar event will linger in the minds of our communities. Later, I wondered how the Native Americans who lived on Long Island centuries ago experienced a total eclipse.

Port Jefferson Station/Terryville civic association with Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich and Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Dan Panico. Photo by Samantha Rutt

By Samantha Rutt

At the March 26 Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association meeting, civic members elected a new civic board and engaged directly with elected officials from the Town of Brookhaven, namely Supervisor Dan Panico (R) and Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook). 

As a result of the election, Ira Costell and Carolyn Sagliocca will remain in their roles as president and vice president, respectively. Sheila Granito will serve as the temporary recording secretary, Lou Antoniello as treasurer and Jerry Maxim as corresponding secretary.

Following the election, the floor was opened up between the civic association and elected officials. Costell led the discussion dealing with issues the civic has addressed in recent meetings.

Community beautification projects and Sheep Pasture Road bridge

One of the key topics discussed was community beautification projects, with residents expressing interest in initiatives aimed at enhancing the aesthetic appeal of Port Jefferson Station and Terryville. From antique lighting additions to increased landscaping efforts and an addition of a community park, there was a seemingly shared enthusiasm for projects that would foster a sense of pride and belonging within the community.

Another key mention was that of the dilapidated Sheep Pasture Road bridge. Panico assured the civic that the highway superintendent would be tasked with the bridge construction. 

“The highway superintendent is going to be working on that project almost exclusively in the design, and is supposed to be moving forward in design to take away some of the angles and make it easier for vehicles like buses and oil trucks to traverse the bridge in a manner without starting at the nearly 90 degree angles,” he said.

“That’s the information we have on that bridge … it is over 100 years old. Everyone knows it needs to be replaced, the weight limit was taken down from 5 tons to 3 tons. Hopefully soon you’ll invite the highway superintendent to come here so he can show you the design,” Panico assured.

Following mention of the decaying bridge, Costell brought up the proposed train car park as well as the Kunz property — two locations of community interest. About the Kunz property, formerly a greenhouse business, the supervisor assured the community that the town has an appraisal out for the property.

“Our town attorney has that property out for appraisal. We hope to get back an appraisal that is fair and we hope to acquire that property for the community,” Panico said.

In addition, to efforts to beautify the community, Sagliocca has contacted the town Highway Department regarding the posting of illegal signage and banners along the roadways with a goal to eliminate some of the roadside distraction the signs create.

“We’ve made a priority of getting out there because we’ve been aggressively cracking down on illegal housing and things of that nature to have those same individuals out serving tickets, and serving summonses,” Panico said on the issue.

“We just hired another individual who’s going to be helping along the same lines to clean up the signs along the roadway. All those signs of litter, whether they be feathered flags or Coroplast signs, we just unilaterally, we sweep them up, we take them and the ones that can be recycled, get recycled, the other ones just go in the trash,” Panico added. 

Zoning and development

Proposed developments were also a focal point of discussion, with residents eager to learn more about upcoming projects and their potential impact on the local landscape. 

Concerns were raised regarding issues such as traffic congestion, environmental sustainability and preserving the character of the neighborhood. Kornreich offered insights into the development process and assured residents that their input would be taken into consideration during decision-making.

“Nothing formal has happened yet. There was a public hearing that I and most of you were at, and I think that I’m representing the community correctly by saying we’re not opposed to the project, we think that the area is in need of some redevelopment, but the scale of it is more than what we want,” Kornreich said about the proposed Staller development.

Ultimately, those in attendance were looking for open communication between the developers and the community to best incorporate an accepted plan for the space going forward.

“I think one of the concerns we had in the public hearing was that a decision not be made before some site plan — that might be acceptable to the community — was an issue that we could talk about,” Costell said.

Panico explained further that the site plan still needs to be approved by the Planning Board, now the regular Town Board, which will allow for more direct representation from elected representatives and will create a space for the community to meet before the Town Board as well. 

“This entire community will be back, either here or before the Town Board for ultimately the site plan. They [the developers] still have to go through the entire site buying process before the Town Board, which is different than an appointed Planning Board. So you have more direct representation from your elected representatives,” Panico explained. 

The next civic meeting will be held on April 16.

Prepared by Samantha Rutt

Miracles happen. 

These words were often repeated during Brooke Ellison’s Celebration of Life on March 24.

Friends, family and loved ones came together to celebrate the remarkable life of Brooke Ellison, a woman whose resilience and determination inspired countless others. The room was filled with laughter, tears and fond memories during the three-hour celebration. 

Brooke’s journey, from a devastating childhood accident to becoming a beacon of hope and achievement, was the epitome of courage and determination. Despite being paralyzed from the neck down at the tender age of 11, Brooke refused to let her circumstances define her. Instead, she embarked on a journey that would see her break barriers and defy expectations at every turn.

The celebration, held at Stony Brook University’s student center, was a testament to the profound impact Brooke had on the lives of those around her. As attendees shared stories and memories, it became evident that Brooke’s spirit shone bright in every corner of the room.

“I personally do not have any memories of my life without my sister. She was born when I was 2 1/2 years old and she was the greatest gift that had been given to me by my parents,” Brooke’s sister, Kysten Ellison, said.

She exchanged fond memories of her sister growing up, sharing young Brooke’s aspirations to be a dancer and her love of dancing.

“Every single night, my dad would routinely sit between both of our beds and read us our favorite bedtime stories. After my dad finished his nightly reading and went to bed, Brooke and I would continue to chat,” she added. “We would talk about our future hopes and dreams and what we wanted to be when we grew up. And, ironically, my sister always wanted to be a dancer. She wanted to share her love of dancing with the entire world.”

Brooke’s brother, Reed Ellison, echoed this sentiment, recalling their deep bond and shared love for games and intellectual pursuits.

“Brooke was my best friend,” he said. “When other kids were out partying or at friends’ houses, Brooke and I stayed home and challenged each other to games of Scrabble or worked on logic problems, or crossword puzzles together. These are some of the best memories I have and I will cherish them forever.” 

Friends and family reminisced about Brooke’s vibrant personality, her love for themed parties and her infectious yet nearly silent laughter that could brighten even the darkest of days. Photos of Brooke, flashing her trademark smile, adorned the venue, serving as a poignant reminder of her enduring spirit.

Brooke’s legacy extended far beyond her personal achievements. As an advocate for stem cell research and disability rights, she paved the way for others to follow in her footsteps. Throughout her life Brooke pursued many things: She was a Harvard graduate twice over, an associate professor at Stony Brook, a researcher, a leader of various groups like the Inclusion in Innovation team in the Vertically Integrated Projects Program, a founder of SBU’s VENTure Think Tank, a selection for the World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, once a state Senate candidate and so much more. 

Her friendship with actor Christopher Reeve, himself a quadriplegic, underscored her impact on a global scale. Her sister shared her experience, watching her son, Carter, grow close to Brooke through their common love for comics and superheroes, especially Superman.

“My sister meant the world to a special little boy. This sweet little boy idolized my sister like nobody else on this planet. He liked everything that Brooke liked,” Kysten expressed about her son’s relationship with “Aunt Brookie” who was “hands down and always will be Carter’s favorite person, and we will continue to brag about her as time goes by.”

“After learning that Brooke was friends with Christopher Reeve, Carter became obsessed with watching clips from the Superman movies. As a matter of fact, Reed had recently purchased Carter a Superman costume that he put on every day when he got home from school and pretend to fly around the house,” she said.

The celebration also featured Brooke’s father, Ed Ellison, nicknamed “Steady Eddy” for his unwavering support of the relationship of Brooke and his wife, Jean.

Behind each speaker a photo stood as a backdrop. As Brooke’s father spoke, a photo of him smiling wide was projected with him playing with his daughter’s braided hair as she laughed with vigor. 

“People often use the phrase 24/7 to describe efforts being made on something or time spent with someone. In most cases, it’s really hyperbole — but with Brooke, Jean and her relationship and dedication to Brooke — 24/7 was not an exaggeration,” he said. “They were inseparable. Almost one person. Jean would describe it as ‘Brooke is the brains, I’m the brawn.’”

The proud father described what dedication looked like for the Ellison family, more specifically, for his wife.

“Jean would get up at 3:45 every morning and go to work getting Brooke ready for the day. And when I tell you, she never complained, you need to know that to be the truth. I know, I was there,” he said.

“In 33 1/2 years [since the accident], Jean never took a sick day, never went on vacation, never put herself before Brooke. A dedication and love that was so beautiful to be a part of. And Brooke’s admiration and gratitude to her mother was palpable,” her father added.

Among all the heartfelt tributes, a short film made by a friend of Brooke’s father, Todd Leatherman, showcased Brooke’s remarkable journey. The film shared testimonials from Brooke herself, clips from her experiences speaking at various events and coveted moments from her life.

As the celebration drew to a close, there was a sense of both loss and gratitude in the air. In true Brooke fashion, the guests were asked to sing themselves out to “That’s What Friends Are For,” as a tribute to her love of sharing life with others. 

Event emcee and longtime friend, Justin Krebs, shared an excerpt from Brooke’s autobiography, “Look Both Ways.” “My life story is a love story. My life is a life of love and it is this love that makes me who I am,” Krebs read. As Brooke goes on to write, she describes her loves, “her love of laughter, her love of learning, her love of being an inspiration to others for loving her friends, and her love of family.” She also writes that “one of the biggest gifts I have been given is my ability to share my life with people.” 

Brooke Ellison passed away on Feb. 4, in the care of Stony Brook University Hospital. While Brooke may no longer be with us in body, her legacy of courage, determination and boundless optimism will forever remain etched in the hearts of all who had the privilege of knowing her.

In honor of Brooke’s impact and legacy, Stony Brook University has created a scholarship, the Brooke Ellison Legacy Scholarship. To contribute, send a gift to the Stony Brook Foundation at www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/foundation/types.

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Dan Panico announces the Great Brookhaven Cleanup event. Screenshot from the Town’s website.

By Samantha Rutt

On March 14, the Town of Brookhaven board met for its monthly meeting. Proceedings began at 3 p.m. as opposed to the usual later start time, as the board has now taken the role of the planning committee [See “Town of Brookhaven board amends town code and serves as the planning board,” March 7]. 

Supervisor Dan Panico (R) noted, “Welcome to Brookhaven Town Hall for our Town Board meeting, we start earlier now as we have taken on the planning board matters. We are now embarking on the first meeting of the joint town board, planning board series — the new process in the Town of Brookhaven.” 

Following Panico’s brief statement, the meeting kicked off with a presentation by Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), recognizing the Rocky Point Cheerleading team for their National Championship title back in February.

Also at the meeting, the Town Board voted to approve several motions including:

  • United States Fish and Wildlife Services designated piping plovers as a threatened species on the Atlantic Coast, including the Fire Island National Seashore. From this designation, the Town Board approved a motion to employ a monitor to inspect town beaches during the piping plover breeding season, between May and September, to aid in the preservation of the threatened species.
  • Town of Brookhaven designated the month of April as Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Awareness Month throughout the Town of Brookhaven. CDH is a rare muscle condition that occurs during prenatal development, prohibiting the child from properly developing the diaphragm. 
  • Bonds totaling $2,289,000 were approved to authorize funding for the cost of the replacement of Sheep Pasture Road Bridge in Port Jefferson. The authorization will include design and construction of a steel and concrete bridge, acquisition of right-of-way and any associated incidental expenses. 
  • Designated the month of April to be National Donate Life Month throughout the Town of Brookhaven. This establishment aims to encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and to celebrate those who have saved lives though the gift of donation.

During the meeting, the board voted to move several motions, all information can be found at the Town of Brookhaven’s website, brookhavenny.portal.civicclerk.com.

In other news, on March 15, Panico announced the 2024 Great Brookhaven Cleanup, a program the town has hosted for nearly 15 years. The cleanup will take place on Saturday, May 18. Residents, community organizations and local businesses are among those who have participated in the past and look to contribute in this year’s event. 

 Panico explained that the town spent more than $162,000 last year on roadside litter cleanup. Those who elect to participate in this year’s program will gather with their respective groups in their areas and clean the roadside.

“Keeping our neighborhoods clean is very important to us. It gives us all a sense of pride to look out and appreciate the beauty of where we live,” Panico said.

To register, visit www.brookhavenny.gov or call 631-451-TOWN (8696).

SCWA staff explains the water distribution cycle as the display illustrates. Photo by Samantha Rutt

By Samantha Rutt

The Suffolk County Water Authority Education Center & Laboratory, located in Hauppauge, offers an immersive experience that invites visitors to explore the world of water management, conservation and purification.

Opened to the public every second Thursday of each month, the Education Center & Laboratory serves as a hub for educational outreach and research initiatives aimed at promoting water awareness and sustainability practices within the community. Its state-of-the-art facilities showcase the intricate processes involved in delivering safe and clean drinking water to homes and businesses across Suffolk County.

One of the highlights of the Education Center is its interactive exhibits, which provide visitors with hands-on learning opportunities. From water cycle and watershed protection to understanding the importance of water quality testing, visitors of all ages can engage with informative displays that make learning about water conservation both educational and enjoyable.

Exhibits include the evolution of water main, water quality/quantity monitoring technology, advanced oxidation process display, water testing and lab technology, as well as advancements in meter reading. 

Also at the center is an interactive water testing display allowing visitors to learn about Long Island’s aquifer and its role in the water cycle, while also examining real aquifer sediments extracted from the various geologic layers of the aquifer system. 

Guided tours of the laboratory are also available, allowing for a behind-the-scenes look at the rigorous testing protocols employed to ensure the safety and purity of the county’s water supply. Led by knowledgeable staff members, these tours provide valuable insights into the science of water treatment and the vital role that water quality plays in public health.

In addition to its educational offerings, the SCWA Education Center & Laboratory also hosts various community events and workshops throughout the year. These events cover a range of topics, including water conservation strategies, environmental stewardship and the latest advancements in water technology.

For schools and educational groups, the Education Center offers tailored programs designed to complement classroom curricula and provide students with real-world examples of environmental science in action. Through engaging activities and demonstrations, students are encouraged to think critically about water-related issues and explore potential solutions to environmental challenges.

To learn more about the Suffolk County Water Authority or to sign up for a tour, visit the website at www.scwa.com/educationcenter.

Photo courtesy Ana Hozyainova

By Samantha Rutt

A recent Port Jefferson Civic Association meeting held at the Port Jefferson Library saw a significant turnout of residents, both familiar faces and newcomers, gathering to discuss the future of the Port Jefferson School District. The March 11 meeting, which drew a diverse crowd, sparked a heated debate regarding the declining enrollment within the district and how best to address this pressing issue.

On one side of the debate were residents, led by a presentation from Gail Sternberg, advocating for measures such as closing the school district altogether or offering tuition options for students to attend neighboring districts. During her presentation, Sternberg cited documents she allegedly received from a Freedom of Information Act application from the school district regarding its projected enrollment numbers. 

Conversely, another group of residents passionately argued for investing in the school district in hopes of revitalizing it and attracting more families to the area. They proposed initiatives aimed at enhancing the district’s offerings, improving facilities and implementing strategies to promote the district to potential residents.

“By not investing money in the schools, we are making a self-fulfilling prophecy for people not to want to come here,” a concerned Port Jefferson parent of two said. “My son has three new students in his grade in the past two or three weeks. My daughter who is in kindergarten, also has had new students in the classroom. So, if we do not invest in the school, people are not going to want to come here.”

In addition to raising questions about dwindling enrollment, questions were asked throughout the meeting regarding other budgetary concerns. Residents argued that cutting losses and consolidating resources would be the most financially responsible course of action, whereas others advocated for investing in the enhancements for the struggling district.

Sternberg urged for a public forum to address the financial expenditures from the district, making note of the areas unaffordability and conversations that have allegedly begun to address a consolidation plan. 

“If our school taxes are so high that young families can’t afford to live in Port Jefferson, we’ll just be shooting ourselves in the foot,” Sternberg said. “The declining enrollment situation has already created public discussions with the Three Village and Mount Sinai school districts and their respective constituents. We need to have the same public forum to openly discuss our challenges and options. And we must be proactive.”

The civic association’s high school liaison, Drew Sora, suggested investment is the key to a more prosperous future.

“Improving our schools is the key to drawing new students,” Sora said. “You can read the comments on Facebook, or listen at the school board meetings to hear not just those in opposition of some of the things coming from the school, but from the parents of young children who are afraid and tired of this new kind of fear, which is the fear that their young children or their children’s younger siblings will not get to grow up in the same school that they do, and that they’ll have to cart them off to Comsewogue or Three Village or Mount Sinai, which will inevitably raise our taxes because of our extremely low tax rate in our district.”

Sora continued explaining to the association how he has seen finances be directly allocated to programs within the high school.

“The expenditures that some call questionable would have prevented my chorus class from having to rehearse in the back of an auditorium instead of a classroom, from having one of our band teachers lose his classroom to a different section of the auditorium,” Sora shared. “And you might have guessed it, but it’s hard to practice singing when the only thing separating the singing and the trumpets are a few curtains.”

As the conversation unfolded, tensions ran high, and accusations flew back and forth between opposing viewpoints. Some residents expressed frustration at the lack of civility, urging for a more productive and respectful dialogue.

“In the email that went out yesterday, it says, ‘Some of our fellow residents will be sharing their concerns regarding the school and its future’ — I feel given the weight of what we’re discussing, more information would have been helpful to help prepare for this discussion,” resident and former Democratic congressional candidate Kyle Hill said. “Even so we complained about all the FOIA issues. It would be nice if we just included those documents as attachments that go out so we can have a better-informed discussion going forward.”

Despite the heated exchanges, many residents voiced their commitment to finding common ground and working together to address the challenges facing the school district. Several attendees suggested forming a task force or committee to explore potential solutions and gather input from various stakeholders.

“I just have to say that I think it’s great that this whole room full of folks took the time to come out tonight and express these different opinions. This is obviously something that’s been bubbling up in our community about what we need to do about this and the facts that we need to know about it,” Deputy Mayor Rebecca Kassay said.

“As someone who was inspired to run for local office, I wanted to share that the petition filing case for running for the school board here is on April 22 — that election will be May 21,” Kassay explained. “So, if there’s anyone who’s motivated, and I know that we all have different jobs, different life responsibilities, so this is not for everyone, should anyone feel that they are so compelled to run for the school board, that option is there too.”

As the meeting concluded, residents left with a sense of urgency and determination to continue the conversation and explore viable options for the school district’s future.

The debate surrounding the fate of the district remains ongoing, highlighting the complexities and passionate viewpoints within the community regarding education and community development.

The next Port Jefferson Civic Association meeting will be held April 8.

Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine speaks at a press conference to call on bail reform. Photo courtesy Ed Romaine flickr page

By Samantha Rutt

A chilling crime has shaken communities across Suffolk County as police discovered scattered human remains in Babylon and Bethpage, leaving residents horrified and demanding justice. 

The shock has escalated into outrage as local officials and law enforcement point fingers at Albany’s bail laws, which they claim have allowed suspects to walk free without posting bail.

County Executive Ed Romaine (R) minced no words in expressing his frustration, stating, “The failure of Albany’s bail laws has resulted in those charged with dismembering and placing body parts in our communities to walk free without posting any bail.” Romaine’s sentiments echoed the feelings of many Suffolk County residents who consider the current bail system is failing to protect the community.

In response to the recent crime, New York State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) and Assemblyman Michael Durso (R-Massapequa Park) swiftly introduced new legislation (S.8751) to address the shortcomings of the bail system. The proposed bill aims to make body dismemberment and concealment of a human corpse a bail-eligible offense, highlighting the urgency of the situation.

Palumbo condemned the current bail laws, stating, “Nobody with an ounce of sensibility would say it’s a good idea to let someone charged with the sickening act of human dismemberment leave jail and roam the streets.” Durso agreed, vowing to fight for change to ensure the safety of Suffolk County residents.

Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney (R) also weighed in on the issue, responding to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) statements on bail reform in relation to the recent tragic discoveries. Tierney accused the governor of being “completely clueless or deceitful” about the criminal justice system and defended the efforts of law enforcement in the face of what he called “a broken bail system.”

Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) added his voice to the chorus of criticism, expressing dismay over the release of suspects involved in the recent case where human remains were found. Flood denounced the lack of “humanity and morals” in the criminal justice system, attributing the problems to the flaws in bail reform laws.

The collective outcry from local officials emphasizes the need for action to address the failures of New York State’s bail laws. As communities continue to grapple with the consequences of these shortcomings, residents are looking to Albany for solutions that prioritize public safety and accountability in the criminal justice system.

Gov. Hochul responds

In a recent interview with PIX11, Hochul addressed concerns about bail reform, acknowledging the frustrations of law enforcement. She emphasized the importance of allowing judges to consider the whole body of evidence when making bail decisions and expressed her commitment to keeping people safe.

Hochul responded to additional comments made by Tierney, who suggested the need to reinstate the dangerousness clause and emphasized the law needs to be looked over. 

“The standard changed just a few months ago — less than a year ago — and instead of the standard of dangerousness, we ask the judges now to look at a whole body of evidence,” she stressed.

Meanwhile, the community remains on edge as law enforcement continues to investigate the disturbing crime that has left a deep impact on the residents of the respective areas. As the investigation unfolds, residents are hopeful that meaningful change will come.

“Now, this is a very unique circumstance in Suffolk County,” Hochul said. “I know the Suffolk County Police Department is working hard to get to the bottom of this as is the DA. … They’re doing their job and I respect that. But the bail laws I thought went too far in the wrong direction. I’m bringing them back, and we’re going to continue to make sure that we keep people safe.”

By Samantha Rutt

The Town of Brookhaven board met on Thursday evening, Feb. 22. The meeting, held at Town Hall, in Farmingville, addressed matters ranging from proposed budget adjustments to zoning regulation changes and environmental concerns.

At each meeting, the board allows a section for public comments. Thursday evening saw many concerned residents speak before the board.

Up first, Lou Antonio, a Port Jefferson Station resident, addressed his concerns with a proposed development known locally as the Staller Project — a plan to build on the 49,400 square feet of commercial space located on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station which includes restaurants, a proposed food hall and an estimated 280 apartments with a heavy skew toward one bedrooms. 

Antonio expressed concerns with the developers saying, “We have not heard from the Staller’s since the first time they came to our civic [Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association]. They have addressed this board stating they have made many concessions. They may have — we haven’t seen them. As far as we are concerned, it is the same exact architectural design that came in the first time, which is unacceptable for our community.” 

Antonio urged for open communication between developers and the community.

Following Antonio, another Port Jefferson Station resident, Paul Sagliocca, spoke before the board. Sagliocca noted his membership in the People of Port Jefferson Station Alliance, mentioning the organization’s receipt of 380 signatures supporting stronger traffic regulations to address communitywide concerns. He also mentioned the Friends of Lincoln Avenue committee and their continued concerns for traffic congestion. 

Sagliocca referred to the increased development in Port Jefferson Station, stating that he welcomes development if it is done right. “We’re basically here looking for a cohesive vision for Port Jefferson Station,” he said. “The community, the supervisor and our councilmember have all thought that the project is just bigger than what’s currently going on at the Port Jeff Station shopping center. We want this all-in-one cohesive unit. We welcome the redevelopment of this if it’s done right.”

In previous Port Jefferson Station civic meetings, Sagliocca had been an advocate for regulating traffic patterns as it concerns the potential developments. He continued advocating for traffic concerns and safety before the town board stating, “The Friends of Lincoln Avenue want to have traffic calming measures put in place so we can move on to projects that showcase what Port Jefferson Station truly is.” 

Gale Lynch-Bailey, an advocate for the Take Back 25 initiative and Middle Island Civic Association also spoke before the board. Bailey took the time to advocate for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) Grant Program — a program that provides funds for regional, local and tribal initiatives through grants to prevent roadway deaths and serious injuries. Currently, over $3 billion is still available for future funding rounds. 

Bailey called for the addition of sidewalks to several roads near her residential area in Coram, Middle Island and Gordon Heights. 

“It’s the perfect time for Brookhaven to apply for implementation grants for sidewalks along the parcels it owns on Middle Country Road,” Bailey said. “We have a broken patchwork of pedestrian safety along our Main Street, we rely on private developers to add sidewalks when they want to build a business there on the property that they own. We need to do the same with municipally owned parcels along our main business corridor. Open space is wonderful, but pedestrians still deserve the ability to walk safely along Middle Country Road.” 

Also speaking before the board was John McNamara, an environmentalist and Brookhaven resident. McNamara spoke about recycle and save programs with special regard to low-income people. McNamara presented research he has personally conducted providing ways to reduce waste as well as to be more cost effective in doing so. 

“Various municipalities have come up with solutions like, number one, they can reduce the poor household waste collection charges for eligible residents by a set amount. Secondly, they can offer a percentage discount. Thirdly, they can provide a credit on the overall bill.” McNamara continued listing several other ways to best reduce the burden on low-income residents. 

Following the public comment segment, Supervisor Dan Panico (R) addressed some of the issues discussed during this section. 

“We hear you. We understand the issues associated with Lincoln Avenue and the problems coming off of New York State DOT, ” Panico said. “I have been in conversation with [county Legislator] Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) trying to get the DOT to make that switch on Terryville Road, which will hopefully alleviate a lot of the issues.” 

To see more from this meeting please visit the town’s website, brookhavenny.portal.civicclerk.com. 

The boarded-up house on Sheep Pasture Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Samantha Rutt

In a triumph for local preservationists and historians, the William Tooker House on Sheep Pasture Road, Port Jefferson Station, has been safeguarded from neglect and demolition. The oldest known structure in the village faced threats of urban renewal before being included in Preservation Long Island’s Endangered Historic Places List in 2021.

Constructed before 1750, the William Tooker House holds immense historical significance. It was once the residence of William Tooker, a descendant of early Long Island colonists, whose family played a pivotal role in the region’s colonial history. The house itself is a testament to the area’s heritage, retaining a colonial Cape Cod-style timber frame on intact fieldstone foundations.

A significant milestone was reached on Oct. 3, 2022, when the Village of Port Jefferson agreed to purchase the property from its current owners using a grant applied for by Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) during his time in the state Assembly. Through the State and Municipal Facilities Program, the Village of Port Jefferson was granted $500,000 to be associated with purchase and restoration of the property.

Since 2022, local officials have worked to decide the future of the property, mentioning using the house as a central museum to pay tribute to the village’s history.

“The mayor seems very focused on the significance of the site, wanting to operate within the parameters of the grant,” now-county Legislator Englebright said of Port Jefferson Mayor Lauren Sheprow’s plan for the property. “The grant will more or less include the acquisition cost as well as a phase one restoration.”

Englebright described a phase one restoration project as stabilizing the existing structure, returning it to as much of the original structure as possible and using whatever may be left over from the grant to refurbish the interior and possibly add or update the existing heating and cooling units.

The village has not yet finalized the acquisition but is actively in contract to do so, Englebright explained. Despite its historical importance, the William Tooker House has been endangered by neglect, demolition threats and insensitive alterations over the years. However, with the village’s eventual acquisition of the property, a new chapter in its preservation is soon to begin.

Preservation Long Island, along with local community members and organizations such as the Greater Port Jefferson Historical Society and Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, have advocated for the preservation of this piece of Port Jefferson’s history. Their efforts have culminated in the village’s commitment to acquire and preserve the property in collaboration with community stakeholders and nonprofit stewardship partners.

To further ensure the preservation of Port Jefferson’s historic resources, including the William Tooker House, Preservation Long Island and local advocates have outlined a series of actions for village officials to undertake. These include conducting a survey to identify and designate all historic resources and districts, leveraging public funding with private donations for rehabilitation work and incorporating historic preservation into downtown revitalization plans.

In addition, the New York State Historic Preservation Office recognized the property’s importance by determining its eligibility for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2020. With the village assuming ownership, it can proceed with the application for this designation. If successful, the designation will not only honor the house’s historical significance but also make the village eligible for tax credits, financial incentives and technical assistance for rehabilitation work.

With the William Tooker House now under the village’s stewardship, there is renewed optimism for its preservation and future as a cherished landmark in Port Jefferson. As efforts continue to unfold, residents and historians alike look forward to seeing this iconic structure restored to its former glory.

“Restoring the property will help to develop a sense of place,” Englebright said. “Place is hard to measure but important in developing community identity and pride. The restoration will help to carry and pass on a baton of knowledge for generations to come.”