Features

By Melissa Arnold

It’s been a long year of Netflix binges and Zoom meetings for all of us, and these days, nothing feels better than getting out a little. You don’t have to go far to find interesting places to explore, either.

Most Long Island locals are probably familiar with the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium in Centerport, with its sprawling grounds, elaborate mansion and impressive collection of marine life. But be honest: When was your last visit? If it’s been a while — or even if it hasn’t — their 70th anniversary year is the perfect time to stop by.

“The Vanderbilt is unique, a don’t-miss slice of American history. When you take a guided tour of the mansion and its galleries, it’s a time machine trip to a remarkable era of privilege,” said Elizabeth Wayland-Morgan, executive director of the museum. “At one point in the past, there were more than 1,200 mansions on Long Island’s Gold Coast. This is one of the few that remains.”

The Vanderbilt Mansion as we know it today had relatively modest beginnings. William K. Vanderbilt II, a son of the famed Vanderbilt family, had just separated from his first wife in the early 1900s. “Willie K.,” as he’s affectionately known, was looking for a place to get a fresh start, away from the public eye. So he came to Centerport and purchased land, where he built a 7-room, English-style cottage along with some outbuildings.

The cottage, called Eagle’s Nest, was eventually expanded into a sprawling 24-room mansion in the Spanish Revival style. From 1910 to 1944, Eagle’s Nest was Vanderbilt’s summer hideaway. He and his second wife Rosamond hosted intimate gatherings of Vanderbilt family members and close friends, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, legendary golfer Sam Snead, and the Tiffanys.

Of course, that was just the beginning. According to Killian Taylor, the museum’s curatorial associate, Vanderbilt developed a fascination with all kinds of animals, the sea and the natural world from a young age. He had the opportunity to travel the world on his father’s yachts as a child, and longed to see more as he reached adulthood.

“Later, Willie K. inherited $20 million from his late father. One of the first things he did was purchase a very large yacht and hire a team of scientists and a crew,” Taylor explained. “With them, he began to travel and collect marine life, and by 1930, he had amassed one of the world’s largest private marine collections.”

With the help of scientists and experts from the American Museum of Natural History, Vanderbilt created galleries at the Estate to showcase his collections which contains more than 13,000 different marine specimens of all kinds and sizes, from the tiniest fish to a 32-foot whale shark, the world’s largest taxidermied fish, caught off Fire Island in 1935.

After Vanderbilt died in 1944, Rosamond continued to live in their Centerport mansion until her death in 1947. The 43-acre estate and museum – which remain frozen in time, exactly as they were in the late 1940s – opened to the public on July 6, 1950, following instructions left in Vanderbilt’s will. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

The museum also features a 3,000-year-old mummy, which Vanderbilt purchased from an antique shop in Cairo, Egypt, Taylor said. The mummy even had an X-ray taken at nearby Stony Brook University Hospital, where they determined the remains are of a female around 25 years old.

“She doesn’t have a name out of respect for the fact that she was once a living woman with her own identity,” Taylor added.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought its share of difficulties to every business, and while the museum has had to temporarily close some of its facilities, including the mansion’s living quarters and planetarium, they’ve also added new opportunities for visitors.

“Like many other museums, we had to get creative virtually very quickly,” said Wayland-Morgan. “Our Education Department created the ‘Explore’ series for children — fascinating facts about the lives of birds, butterflies, reptiles, and fish, with pictures to download and color. The Planetarium astronomy educators produced 11 videos on topics including How to Use a Telescope, Imagining Alien Life, Mars, Black Holes, and Fitness in Space. We’ve received very positive responses.” The planetarium also offers online astronomy classes.

The museum is also offering new outdoor programs on the grounds, including walking tours, sunset yoga, a popular series of bird talks by an ornithologist James MacDougall and are currently hosting the third annual Gardeners Showcase through September. On Fridays and Saturdays, movie-and-picnic nights are a popular draw at the outdoor, drive-in theater.

Even without a specific event to attend, the grounds are a perfect place to wander when cabin fever strikes.

“The best reason to visit right now is to stroll the grounds and gardens and visit the open galleries. We’ve also become a very popular picnic destination with a great view of Northport Bay,” Wayland-Morgan said. “We plan to reopen the mansion living quarters and planetarium later in the fall.”

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport. As of Sept. 17, hours of operation are from noon to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The mansion’s living quarters and the planetarium are currently closed. Please wear a mask and practice social distancing. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children under 12, and $7 for students and seniors. Children under 2 are admitted free. For questions and information, including movie night passes, visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org or call 631-854-5579.

The film festival kicks off tonight with a screening of 'Dreamfactory.'

If the pandemic of 2020 has done anything, it has made us realize how small the world truly is – and how alike we all are in our hopes, dreams, fears and failings. This year, more than ever, thought-provoking and innovative films introduce us to inspiring characters and transport us to new worlds, all from the comfort and safety of our homes.

For the first time in its 25-year history, the Stony Brook Film Festival, presented by Island Federal, moves from a 10-day live event to a 12-week virtual festival starting tonight, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. and closing with a live Awards Ceremony on Dec. 15.

The films, which can be watched on all platforms and devices in your home including FireTV, AndroidTV, AppleTV, Roku, Chromecast and GooglePlay, feature 24 new and independent premieres from a dozen countries including the United States, Israel, Germany, Hungary, Poland, France, Switzerland, New Zealand, Canada and Portugal. Each feature is preceded by a short film.

The exciting lineup offers stories of every genre: comedy, coming of age, romance, drama and documentaries with many of the films sharing a theme of life interrupted, a universal topic many can relate to as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In these very uncertain and precarious times we find ourselves in we hope the mix of these socially conscience films balanced with uplifting, often fun and joyous stories, with spectacular performances, will provide the stimulation and entertainment we are all so desperately craving,” said festival director Alan Inkles.

The Festival kicks off tonight with the American premiere of Dreamfactory, the romantic story between two movie extras who are torn apart when East Germany closes its border and erects the Berlin Wall. An epic tale told against the backdrop of history, this film is part comedy, part musical, part romance, and a pure joy from beginning to end.

Tickets are available as an all-access, 12-week pass for $60 or may be purchased as a single ticket for each film for $6. The pass for 24 films allows 72 hours each week for viewers to watch and re-watch the weekly line-up. It also includes exclusive filmmaker interviews and Q&As with directors, cast and crew, as well as behind-the-scenes footage and back stories. For more information, visit stonybrookfilmfestival.com or call 631-632-ARTS [2787].

Film schedule:

September 10

FEATURE: Dreamfactory (Germany)

SHORT: Extra Innings (United States)

September 17

FEATURE: The Subject (United States)

SHORT: Corners (United States)

September 24

FEATURE: Those Who Remained (Hungary)

SHORT: Sticker (Macedonia)

October 1

FEATURE: Of Love and Lies (France/Belgium)

SHORT: Generation Lockdown (United States)

October 8

FEATURE: When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit

(Germany/Switzerland)

SHORT: Walk a Mile (New Zealand)

October 15

FEATURE: The Art of Waiting (Israel)

SHORT: Waterproof (United States)

October 22

FEATURE: Higher Love (United States)

SHORT: A Simple F*cking Gesture (Canada)

November 5

FEATURE: Long Time No See (France)

SHORT: Touch (Israel)

November 12

FEATURE: Submission (Portugal)

SHORT: They Won’t Last (United States)

November 19

FEATURE: Relativity (Germany)

SHORT: Forêt Noire (France/Canada)

December 3

FEATURE: On the Quiet (Hungary)

SHORT: Jane (United States)

December 10

FEATURE: My Name is Sara (United States)

SHORT: Maradona’s Legs (Germany/Palestine)

December 15

CLOSING NIGHT AWARDS CEREMONY LIVE 7 p.m.

* Please note: All films in the Stony Brook Film Festival are premiere screenings and have not been rated. Viewer discretion is advised. Films are available to begin streaming at 7 p.m. on Thursdays.

By Melissa Arnold

After a long, eerily quiet spring that forced the majority of public places to close, life is getting back to normal on Long Island. Slowly but surely, area libraries are opening their doors to patrons eager to browse and borrow.

“At 10 a.m. on July 6 when the first person walked through our doors and said, ‘It’s good to be back,’ I felt wonderful,” said Carol Albano, director of the Harborfields Library in Greenlawn. “One of our regular patrons walked over to our new book area and put her arms out and said, ‘I just want to hug all the books.’”

It’s a sigh of relief shared by librarians around the Island, especially given that when they closed their doors in March, there was no telling how or when they’d be able to open them again.

“Closing the building during the New York State shutdown felt surreal; it was new territory for everyone involved,” recalled Debbie Engelhardt, director of the Comsewogue Public Library in Port Jefferson Station. “The staff and I immediately set about establishing work-from-home stations so we could maintain strong services, programs, and communication with the public and with each other in our day-to-day operations.”

Throughout history, libraries have continually needed to broaden the scope of their services to keep up with the community’s habits and interests. For example, in addition to books and periodicals, libraries offer community programs, tutoring, music, movies, video games, museum passes, audiovisual equipment and much more.

During quarantine, many libraries made their first foray into the world of livestreaming and video conferencing. From read-alongs and book discussions to cooking demos, yoga hours and gardening lessons, library staff continued to bring people together in socially distant ways.

And while this technology will remain a part of the new normal — e-book borrowing numbers are higher than they’ve ever been in Suffolk County, and many events remain virtual for now — the libraries are thrilled to welcome patrons back to their brick-and-mortar homes.

Of course, things are going to look a little different, and local libraries have new rules and policies in place to keep everyone safe. Here’s a breakdown:

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket is the oldest library in Suffolk County to provide service from its original location. Managing a collection of more than 200,000 items isn’t easy, and director Ted Gutmann said they started planning for reopening almost immediately after the shutdown.

“It was quite an interesting time,” Gutmann said. “It was all I thought about for weeks — how we were going to reopen safely and what it might look like. The state had certain parameters that all public places had to follow, so we used that as a guide as we planned.”

So far, they’ve opted for a conservative approach, allowing patrons to browse and check out materials, but limit activities that promote lingering. Patrons are asked to limit their visit to under 30 minutes. Public seating, some of the computers and all toys in the children’s library have been temporarily removed. Visitors can move throughout the aisles between the book shelves, but should follow directional arrows on the floor similar to those in use at grocery stores. Staff will offer assistance from behind plastic shields.

“Right now, we don’t want to encourage people to spend an extended time here for their own safety,” Gutmann explained. “They are welcome to browse and borrow, then bring their things home to enjoy.”

At the Comsewogue Public Library, reopening has occurred in phases with extensive planning throughout. It’s all been worth it, Engelhardt said,

“Opening the doors again felt like great progress. It was exciting, a big step toward more normalcy,” she said. “Our experience in reopening the building was overwhelmingly positive. We worked hard on our reopening plan, which met all state safety requirements and was approved by the county.”

Curbside pickup of borrowed materials will continue, as it’s a convenient, preferred option for some, but Engelhardt noted the number of in-person visitors has grown in recent weeks.

“Most come in to pick up items they’ve requested, and many are excited to once again enjoy browsing the shelves. Other popular draws are our computers, copiers, and fax services,” she explained.

Some changes: The lounge and study area furniture isn’t available right now, and clear plastic dividers are in place at service desks.

“Other than that, we have the same great circulating collections in print and online, from the traditional (think hot summer bestsellers and movies) to the more innovative (hotspots, Take and Make crafts, Borrow and Bake cake pans),” Engelhardt added.

At Harborfields Public Library, reopening plans began back in April as the staff met for regular Zoom meetings with other area libraries. “Step one was to develop a building safety plan — we met with our head of maintenance and went over each aspect of the building, from the mechanical systems to the physical layout of the furniture and library materials, to ordering personal protective equipment for the staff,” Albano said.

At this time, there is only one chair at each table, every other computer has been removed, and toys and games were temporarily taken out of the children’s area. 

You’ll also find plastic shields at the service desks, and that public restrooms have been installed with automatic faucets and automatic flushing toilets, Albano said.

“All areas of the library are open to the public, including all library materials. The only exception is the public meeting rooms are closed, because at this time we are not holding any in-house programming or meetings,” she added. “Computers are still available in the adult, teen and children’s departments, and soft seating and tables are in each department as well.”

As for borrowed materials, there’s no need to worry about catching COVID-19 from a library book, DVD or CD. Once materials are returned, they are kept quarantined for 72 hours.  Research from the global scientific organization Battelle has shown the virus is undetectable on books and similar items after just one day.

So rejoice, bookworms, and browse to your heart’s content. Your local librarians are ready to welcome you back — masked up, of course.

Individual library policies, event schedules and hours of operation vary and are subject to change — contact your local branch for the most current information. For contact information, database access, and to borrow electronic media including ebooks and audiobooks, visit www.livebrary.com. Please remember to wear a mask and practice social distancing while visiting any library.

All photos by Heidi Sutton

By Melissa Arnold

In 1867, August Heckscher left his native Germany and, like so many others of that time, embarked on a journey to start a new life of prosperity in the United States. He immediately set to work mining coal for his cousin’s business, all the while studying English. Heckscher’s efforts led him to a lucrative career in iron and zinc mining, and he ultimately became a multimillionaire.

Heckscher was well-known for his philanthropy, and in 1920, he gave back to the town of Huntington with the establishment of Heckscher Park. The beautiful setting of the park became home to the Heckscher Museum of Art, which was founded with a gift of 185 works from Heckscher’s personal collection including art from the Renaissance, the Hudson River School and early modernist American art.

The museum has since weathered the Great Depression, eras of war and peace and changing artistic tastes in the community. That early collection has blossomed to include more than 2,000 pieces that include many styles, media and historical time periods from artists all over the world.

Today, the Heckscher Museum of Art is looking ahead to 2020 and honoring its home with a museum-wide exhibit entitled Locally Sourced: Celebrating Long Island Artists.

At the helm for this exhibit is the Heckscher Museum’s new curator, Karli Wurzelbacher, who joined the staff in August. Wurzelbacher studied art history in college and spent the better part of a decade in and around Manhattan before coming out to Long Island.

“We wanted to take a broad view of all the artists who have visited and worked on Long Island at some point in their lifetime,” she said. “In this exhibit, we’ve represented more than 130 years of art in all styles, from very abstract to very representational. It’s about all the different perspectives that Long Island has inspired. I think everyone here has been looking forward to our 100th anniversary and wanting to commemorate it in a special way. The museum has always been so supportive of artists who have lived and worked here, and it’s part of our mission to preserve and share the history of Long Island through art.”

The process of planning Locally Sourced was already underway when Wurzelbacher arrived on Long Island. She acknowledged that an exhibit that encompasses the whole museum was quite the undertaking, but it allowed her to dive deep into the Heckscher’s permanent collection.

“Curating gives the opportunity to tell stories and create narratives visually using objects, and to help people make connections between artists,” said Wurzelbacher. “Some of the artists in this exhibit were teachers or students to other [artists], and you can see that in their work.”

The exhibit is divided into four sections, each offering a unique view of Long Island. They include Huntington’s Own featuring the works of renowned painters George Grosz, Arthur Dove, Stan Brodsky, Mary Callery and many more who live or lived and worked around Huntington; East End Exchanges which explores the connections and influences of artists of the East End, including Fairfield Porter and Jane Wilson; Women Artists which features the work of female artists who have made a profound impact on their field, such as Miriam Schapiro, Betty Parsons and Esphyr Slobodkina with a nod to the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, allowing women the right to vote; and Landscapes that trace the changes in environment and in art throughout the Island’s history. This gallery includes 19th-century images from Thomas Moran, to modern works by Ty Stroudsburg who interpret Long Island’s land, sea and air.

The exhibit includes work in a variety of media, including painting, photography, sculpture and mixed projects. In all, more than 100 pieces represent the work of 89 artists — just a fraction of the museum’s permanent collection, Wurzelbacher said.

Visitors to the museum will have a chance to weigh in on the places and things that they believe make Long Island special. Stop by and leave a pin on the 15-foot graphic of Long Island in the Huntington exhibit. The graphic will also show where the exhibit’s artists lived.

“Artists have been escaping the city to come out to the country and take part in the natural life here from very early on. To see the rugged terrain and vegetation of the North Shore, it’s easy to understand why artists would be drawn here,” said Michael Schantz, the museum’s president and CEO. “Ultimately this collection belongs to the community, and everyone should be proud that there are so many artists that have called Long Island home. We want to celebrate that.”

The Heckscher Museum, 2 Prime Ave., Huntington will present Locally Sourced: Celebrating Long Island Artists from Nov. 23 through March 15, 2020. The museum is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission discounts are available for children, students, members of the military, first responders and residents of the Town of Huntington. For more information, call 631-351-3250 or visit www.heckscher.org.

By Melissa Arnold

Brittany Schiavone has a long list of things she loves to do, including acting, singing, dancing and riding horses. But these days, her biggest passion is giving back to others.

Schiavone, 30, is among more than 400,000 people in the United States living with Down syndrome. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21. Down syndrome can lead to learning, muscular, cardiac and digestive problems, to name a few.

Today, one in every 600 babies in America is born with Down syndrome. Since 2016, Brittany has sent care packages to families around the country that welcome babies with Down syndrome to let them know they’re not alone. Her organization, Brittany’s Baskets of Hope (BBOH), has delivered more than 800 baskets to families in 49 states and Puerto Rico.

Brittany’s mother, Sue Schiavone, remembers struggling firsthand with the reality of Brittany’s diagnosis and uncertain future.

“Everything about my pregnancy and delivery with Brittany was typical,” said Sue, who lives in Huntington and also has an older son. “At the time, screening for Down’s wasn’t as advanced as it is today, so I didn’t have a diagnosis for Brittany prior to her birth. I knew something was wrong right away — she was adorable, but very floppy.”

Sue added that while she worked as a special education teacher, she had limited experience with Down syndrome at the time. “We learned pretty quickly that Brittany had Down’s, and it put us on a totally different road. I want to say we weren’t devastated, but we were. We took some time to come to terms with it, but ultimately we rallied and worked to help Brittany be the best person she could be.”

The Schiavone family became a part of the broad-reaching but tight-knit Down syndrome community, where Brittany was connected to early intervention therapies and other resources. As time went on, she blossomed into an outgoing, bright and happy girl who loved performing. Later on, as part of her own self-directed care program, Brittany went to work part-time at a clothing boutique. She liked the job, she said, but would soon be inspired to try something new.

“I was on a break at my job and I watched a video about people helping babies with Down’s. I wanted to do that,” Brittany said.

At home, Sue said Brittany became insistent about doing something to help families like theirs. “She just wouldn’t let the idea go.”

In 2014, Brittany founded BBOH as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. With help from talented family and friends, legal paperwork was filed and social media websites took shape — all with Brittany calling the shots.

Each care package is either personally delivered or mailed by Brittany and contains a hand-crocheted baby blanket, a Down Right Perfect onesie, some pampering products for new parents, Brittany’s story in her own words and educational material about Down syndrome.

 BBOH has exploded in popularity recently, primarily through word of mouth. Thanks to a nomination from family friend and BBOH team member Ashley Asti, Brittany was selected as one of 10 finalists in the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth national competition. The internationally known makeup company, L’Oreal Paris, began the Women of Worth event to honor those who go above and beyond, selflessly volunteering their time to empower others. 

Asti got to know the Schiavone family when Brittany hired her to work on healthy eating and good nutrition. “Brittany was 25 at the time, and I really admired how driven she was,” Asti said. “How many people at 25 know their purpose and have the courage to live it so fully?” 

She eventually stopped working for Brittany, but the two remained close friends. Earlier this year, Asti saw an ad for Women of Worth while scrolling through her Facebook news feed. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is a big deal,’ and I really felt called to nominate Brittany. When I stopped to consider what a Woman of Worth should be, she immediately came to mind,” she said.

Brittany received a $10,000 prize for being chosen as a finalist and is now enjoying some time in the spotlight.

“I was so excited when I found out,” she said. “There were lots of interviews, and L’Oreal sent a camera crew. I wasn’t nervous about it; I just said, ‘Let’s do it!’ We got our makeup done, it was a lot of fun.”

Now, Brittany is looking for the community’s support to help her win the grand prize of $25,000 by voting for BBOH online now through Nov. 14. The winner will be announced on Dec. 4 at a star-studded gala in New York City.

All of the prize money will be used to benefit BBOH by covering the cost of care package materials and shipping, as well as the creation of a dedicated office space for BBOH in the Schiavone’s home. They are also working toward helping families outside of the U.S. receive baskets, which is in great demand but still too costly for the organization, Sue said.

“Brittany’s Baskets of Hope gives people that have babies with Down syndrome hope and joy, and it makes me really happy to help them,” Brittany said. “I want everyone to know that people with Down syndrome can do anything — really, really anything.”

To vote for Brittany, visit www.lorealparisusa.com/women-of-worth. To learn more about Brittany’s Baskets of Hope, donate to the cause or to request a care package, visit www.brittanysbasketsofhope.org.

Photos by Nilaya Sabnis

 

Paule Pachter stands on the roof of the Harry Chapin Food Bank in front of a community solar array that will energize households facing hardships.

Long Island Cares — one of Long Island’s well-known charitable institutions — is completing the installation of solar panels on the 35,000 square-foot roof of its headquarters at Long Island Innovation Park at Hauppauge.

The $414,000 project is expected to generate 350,000 kilowatt hours of renewable energy annually and 100 percent of it will be directed off-site to serve the electrical needs of households experiencing hardship and food insecurity. Long Island Cares is paying for system out of its reserves and available funds in its budget. 

“This solar project represents a direct extension of the humanitarian work of Long Island Cares,” said Paule Pachter, the organization’s CEO. “Part of Long Island Cares’ energy focuses on providing emergency food relief to hungry and food insecure Long Islanders through the Harry Chapin Regional Food Bank. But we also engage in direct service programs that address the humanitarian human needs of veterans, seniors, immigrants and others struggling with economic and social challenges.” 

The project is one of the first initiatives that are expected to help the industrial park meet by 2040 New York State’s ambitious goal of converting to 100 percent renewable energy. 

The power pass along is facilitated through an energy management practice called “community solar,” whereby electricity generated by a solar power installation is shared by multiple households, companies or institutions. It’s an initiative of the Hauppauge Industrial Association, a prominent Long Island business group, and its solar task force, which was launched last year.

Co-chairs Scott Maskin, CEO of SUNation Solar Systems, one of Long Island’s largest installers of solar panels and equipment, and Jack Kulka, president and founder of Kulka LLC, a major development and construction firm, are behind the initiative. 

“By taking the entire energy output of our solar installation and sending it off-site to provide discounted power to homes occupied by our lower-income neighbors, these households will have new found income to address some of their immediate needs,” Maskin said. “As such, it has a unique opportunity to bring forward both technology and value in a substantial way. From an energy perspective, the park can act as a responsible, shining example for all of Long Island.” 

Long Island Innovation Park, formerly known as the Hauppauge Industrial Park, is the second largest industrial center in the United States after California’s Silicon Valley, and the largest in the Northeast corridor. The park is recognized as a major driver of the region’s economy and is a focus of the regional development plan of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). 

“Through the successful embrace of this program,” Maskin added, “our park can distinguish itself as Long Island’s single largest energy producer, delivering revenue to its building owners while helping achieve New York State’s renewable energy goals. It’s a win-win all around.” 

The Long Island Cares project is expecting to be up and running in October, but Pachter said that the project has recently encountered several obstacles.

“When PSEG inspected our site, they said that the transformer needs to be changed and wiring upgraded to handle the energy,” he said. 

Maskin said in a telephone interview that the issues are relatively common and protection equipment upgrades are something that will need be addressed as the industrial park  expands its renewable projects. The transformer, he noted, will be covered by a maintenance agreement it has for this specific project.  The additional $11,000 wiring cost, Pachter said, will be the responsibility of L.I. Cares.

“We are building a power plant on the rooftop,” Maskin said. “If you think of the complexity of it all, delays are to be expected. We’re still pushing to have the system up and running in October.”

Pachter said that the construction phase has been underway for the last few months. 

PSEGLI representative Elizabeth Flagler said that Community Distributed Generation makes renewable energy, particularly solar, more accessible to renters and apartment dwellers. The array, she said, is connected to the grid and managed by a host who serves as a liaison with PSEGLI. The pass through is accomplished through accounting, rather than through wiring a system to beneficiaries. 

The project is the first community solar project in the industrial complex.

A vintage watercolor poster by Jean de Paleologue

William K. Vanderbilt II (1878-1944), heir to a railroad fortune, was a pioneer American auto-racing champion. On Oct. 8, 1904, after competing for years in Europe, he inaugurated the first international road race in the United States – the Vanderbilt Cup.

This year, the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, located on the Vanderbilt summer estate, Eagle’s Nest, notes the 115th anniversary of those famous races and of Vanderbilt’s world speed record.

On Jan. 27, 1904, he drove his Mercedes race car on a course in Daytona-Ormond Beach, Florida, and achieved a top speed of 92.3 miles per hour.

William K. Vanderbilt II, left, set a world land-speed record in 1904 in this 90-horsepower Mercedes race car.

American History magazine reported in 2013: “Flush from his triumph, the 26-year-old Vanderbilt returned to New York and announced his intention to organize a major race on Long Island, where he owned an estate. It would be the first true international automobile road race in the United States. Vanderbilt had raced extensively in Europe, in French and German cars, but now he became focused on promoting the U.S. car industry.

“His motivation, he later explained, was that ‘foreign cars seemed to be always five years ahead of the American cars. If something could be done to induce foreign manufacturers to race in this country, our manufacturers would benefit.’

“Vanderbilt provided the inducement. His plan was for a grueling 300-mile race, and he commissioned Tiffany & Co. to make a 30-pound sterling-silver trophy adorned with a frieze of himself driving the Ormond Flier to a world’s record. The race, like the trophy, was called the Vanderbilt Cup.”

Vanderbilt donated the cup to the Smithsonian Institution in 1934.

The inaugural Vanderbilt Cup Race on Oct. 8, 1904, drew more than 25,000 spectators to watch 18 drivers from the U.S., France, Germany and Italy. The racecourse comprised 30 miles of public roads in central Long Island. The six Vanderbilt Cup races held on Long Island from 1904 to 1910 were some of the largest sporting events of the early 20th century. Some races drew crowds of more than 250,000.

The Vanderbilt Cup races prompted American carmakers to improve their technology, generated the idea of using race victories to market cars and pioneered road building. In 1908, Vanderbilt built the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway for his races. The parkway was the first road constructed specifically for automobiles – and a prototype for future highways.

The roadway still exists in Suffolk County as County Road 67.

To learn more about the Vanderbilt Cup, visit the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s Turntable Gallery in the mansion’s Memorial Wing, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. through Sept. 2. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

Mark Freeley with Storm
Facebook video reaches over 20 million worldwide

By Melissa Arnold

Two years ago, a peaceful walk down by the water in Port Jefferson brought 15 seconds of fame to injury attorney Mark Freeley and his English golden retriever, Storm.

You might have read an article about Freeley and Storm in the New York Times or People magazine, or maybe you’re one of more than 20 million people who saw the pair’s dramatic viral video online.

Storm made a splash in 2017 when he spotted a fawn struggling to stay afloat in the waters of Port Jefferson Harbor. 

Freeley, who lives in Stony Brook, walks at least five miles each day with the retriever and his younger adopted “sister,” Sarah, a mixed breed. On a steamy July morning, they headed to Harborfront Park and Centennial Park in Port Jefferson where they spent time walking along the shore and then started heading to Pirate’s Cove. Suddenly, Storm, who was off-leash, made a beeline into the water. 

Storm is well-disciplined and rarely takes off so suddenly, said Freeley, 55. He recalled being puzzled by his dog’s behavior at the time. 

“Storm never brings anything back to me, not even a tennis ball. So it was weird to see him run off into the water,” he joked. “I grabbed my camera and wanted to see what he was doing, and then I noticed an animal’s head bobbing in and out of the water. Storm hesitated for a minute and looked back at me like, ‘What do I do now, Dad?’ I tried to encourage him and keep him calm.”

Storm swam roughly 100 feet from shore and tenderly grabbed the fawn by the scruff of its neck before bringing it back to dry land. Freeley’s video captures the stunning rescue as he continually cheers, “Good boy, Storm! Bring it in!”

Frank Floridia carries the deer out of the water on July 16

When he reached the shore, Storm nervously let go of the fawn, which ran only a few paces before collapsing with apparent exhaustion. The video ends as Storm gently paws and nudges the animal with his nose in an attempt to revive it.

Many people are unaware of what happened next: Freeley took a close-up video of the male deer and attempted to send it to Frank Floridia at Strong Island Animal Rescue League in Port Jefferson Station, but spotty cell service hindered the call for help. Freeley had no choice but to leave the exhausted animal behind and head back toward the village.

Once Freeley picked up a cell signal, he was able to send the video to Floridia. Together with co-owner Erica Kutzing, Strong Island responds to calls involving injured and abused animals in emergency situations. They’ve rescued dogs, cats, possums, deer and a variety of other animals, sometimes performing several rescues in a day.

Floridia met Freeley in the village, and the pair headed back toward the cove. The trip takes around 20 minutes on foot and is full of slippery, rocky terrain. Kutzing drove to nearby Belle Terre, which provides faster access to the cove.

It wouldn’t be an easy task.

“We went back to the spot where the deer was left, but he got spooked when he heard us coming and actually ran back into the water again,” Floridia said. “We tried to get Storm to retrieve him a second time, but he wouldn’t go, and the deer became distressed — he was probably 100 feet out at least. I knew we either had to go get him or he was going to die.”

Floridia and Freeley waded out into the water, flanking the deer on each side. They attempted to reach for him, but he continued to avoid them. Finally, he grew tired and Floridia was able to secure the fawn with a rope, bringing it to shore. 

Their initial assessment found that the fawn had cuts and scrapes, was infested with ticks and severely dehydrated. Kutzing took the animal to STAR Foundation in Middle Island, where he was promptly named Water and underwent rehabilitation for several months. He was ultimately released back into the wild with a clean bill of health.

Erica Kutzing prepares to transport the deer to the STAR Foundation in Middle Island

“We think he must have come down the cliff in that area, and there was really nowhere else for him to go. He had no choice but to swim,” Floridia explained. “Deer are good swimmers, but this fawn was only a few weeks old. He was so exhausted that he didn’t even put up a fight.”

Storm’s brave rescue graced local and national headlines for several weeks. But Freeley wasn’t ready for their story to end.

In his spare time, Freeley and his family volunteer with Last Chance Animal Rescue based in Southampton. The 501(c)3 charitable organization rescues animals from high-kill shelters in the Carolinas and Georgia on a weekly basis. Upon arrival on Long Island, the animals spend a week with volunteer foster families before being adopted by their new owners. 

“Mark came to us as a volunteer leading adoption events and also offering us pro bono legal support. Once Storm had a following, people would come out to events just to see him and take pictures with him,” said Judith Langmaid, director of adoption for Last Chance Animal Rescue. 

“We couldn’t believe it when the video blew up. We thought it was crazy, but it was so exciting. As it got traction, Mark wanted to do anything he could to promote Last Chance and animal rescue in general. He said, ‘If I can use this for good, I want to do it.’ He’s genuine and dependable. We’re so grateful to have him,” she added.

Freeley began to use Storm’s Facebook page, called Good Boy Storm, to promote Last Chance events and animals in need of adoption. “I saw this as an opportunity to raise awareness for other animals fighting for their lives in kill shelters,” he said. The page has helped connect many animals with forever homes.

“There are very few things in life that you can watch make an immediate difference like this. To see a family come in and adopt an animal that would have been euthanized is a great feeling,” Freeley said.

To learn more about Mark Freeley and Storm, search for Good Boy Storm on Facebook. To learn more about animal rescue efforts in our area or to adopt, visit www.lcarescue.org or call 631-478-6844. Strong Island Animal Rescue League can be reached at 631-403-0598.

Photos from Mark Freeley and Frank Floridia

Carl Buttacavoli, Centereach

On July 20, 1969, an estimated 650 million people around the world were glued to their television sets as commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on the moon. Where were you during that celebrated event? We sent our star reporter David Luces out on the streets of Port Jefferson, East Setauket and Stony Brook to find out.

Abby Buller, Port Jefferson and  Katie Harrison, Mount Sinai

Abby Buller, Port Jefferson and Katie Harrison, Mount Sinai

“I remember getting up at 1 in the morning. Everyone in the U.S. was up for it. If you were sleeping you were either dead or under the age of two. When Neil Armstrong said his famous line, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” everyone started to clap and cry. Even Walter Cronkite was crying on the news. My grandmother was at the house watching with my parents and she said, ‘It is a lie, they landed some place on Earth.’ A man landed on the moon, Woodstock and the Mets win the World Series — nothing can beat 1969.” — Abby

“I was eight years old at the time, it was amazing. If it happened today everyone would be watching on their phones. All we had back then was a black and white television.”  — Katie

Steve C., Rocky Point

Steve C., Rocky Point

“I was working three jobs at the time and worked until midnight. Who didn’t watch it? Everyone was glued to the television.”

 

 

 

 

Peter Young, Port Jefferson

Peter Young, Port Jefferson

“It was a pivotal moment in our history. I remembered watching it on television with my family like everybody else.”

 

 

 

 

Frances Langella, Holbrook

Frances Langella, Holbrook

“I was young then, I’m 89 years old now. I was watching it with my family in Dix Hills — it was very exciting. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. You always wondered who or what was out there. I don’t think any other future space mission could top the magnitude of the first moon landing. It may be different, but I don’t think it’ll have the impact of the first [moon] mission.”

 

Thomas Toye, Stony Brook

Thomas Toye, Stony Brook

“It was a great year. I remember my father had a party for the astronauts who landed on the moon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rich P., Miller Place

Rich P., Miller Place

“I was 18 years old at the time. It was the most amazing thing that I have seen. The whole country was excited. There was a man on the moon! I was at my grandfather’s house a week later; he was born in 1892. He’s watching the news on landing on the moon — and I said ‘Pop, what do you think about landing on the moon?’ He said when he was a kid they had all these stories about flying to the moon. They thought it wasn’t possible — that it was just science fiction.”

 

 

 

Carl Buttacavoli, Centereach 

Carl Buttacavoli, Centereach

“It was amazing. I was on the aircraft carrier that picked the astronauts up. It was 1,189 feet long, and we scooped them out of the water when they landed back on Earth. What amazed me is that they were up in space on the moon and then they landed right by our ship. It was amazing how they could coordinate everything and land so close to us.

 

 

 

 

 

Sandra Perkins, England and Carolyn Tobia, Commack

Sandra Perkins, England and Carolyn Tobia,
Commack

“It was unbelievable, I’m surprised we haven’t done something similar again. The whole space race seemed to close down for awhile,” she said. “But now, countries that we seem to be at odds with are working together with us. We are still going to the space station.” – Sandra

“We were in London at the time, it was very exciting. Everybody started clapping [when they saw it on television]. My husband used to watch these movies and they would be in these crazy looking suits and spaceships. Then all of a sudden we were looking at the real thing.” – Carolyn

All photos by David Luces

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Leah Chiappino

Carly Tamer and Deniz Sinar have earned the title of Academic Leaders at Commack High School, which is given to the two students with the highest weighted GPA upon the completion of high school.

Tamer finished with a 105.04 GPA, earning her a spot at Northeastern University

as a Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry major. She has aspirations to work in research “with a focus on antibiotic resistance.”  This stems from  her experience working as a research assistant with Dr. Nathan Rigel at Hofstra University, where she studied protein tracking in gram negative bacteria.

She was involved in the National, Science, and Spanish honor societies, and was the Vice President of the Math Honor Society at Commack. She was also a leader for  CTeen, an international Jewish youth organization, where she took part in volunteer work, and represented the organization at conventions. She also made time for her passion of the arts, as she danced all throughout high school and even worked a professional acting job when she earned the lead role in the First Daughter Suite at the Public Theatre in Manhattan in 2015. She plans to continue performing and acting in college.

Tamer thanked her family and teachers for getting her to where she is, “I attribute much of my success to my incredibly supportive family who was there for me through both the rough times and the exciting times during my educational career,” she said. “Without their love and encouragement, I would not have achieved this amazing honor. Teachers, such as Mr. Pope, who taught IB HL Math and Dr. O’Brien, who taught IB Chemistry, inspired my thirst for knowledge and desire to aim high.”

She cited her favorite Commack memory as “the day before winter break, where my math class and I went around the school to different classrooms singing “Calculus Carols.

“We changed the lyrics of classic holiday songs to fit our calculus theme and everyone around the school looked forward to hearing us sing,” she said. “It was the perfect blend of both of my passions, and I will never forget how fun it was.”

Sinar graduated with a104.57 weighted GPA, and will attend Cornell in the fall  as a biological engineering major, with hopes of eventually earning a doctorate degree and being the

principal investigator of her own research lab.

At Commack, she was involved in the National, Italian, Tri-M Music, and Science Honor Societies, and was the secretary of the Math Honor Society and Varsity Math Team. Sinar raised money for Long Island Against Domestic Violence and volunteered to visit nursing home residents through Commack’s Glamour Gals Club. She was also a member of the Chamber Orchestra for three years and took part in Future American String Teachers Association Club, Pathways Freshman Art and Literary Magazine.

She is the winner of several awards including a National Merit Scholarship, the President’s Award for Educational Excellence, New York American Chemical Society High School Award, Excellence in Italian Award, Science Department Senior Award, Suffolk County Math Teachers’ Association Course Contest third place school-wide, American Association of Teacher of Italian National Exam Gold Medal Level 5, American Association of Teacher of Italian Poetry Contest Silver Medal Level 4, New York Seal of Biliteracy, and the WAC Lighting Foundation Invitational Science Fair third place in General Biology.

She cites her participation in the American Association of Teacher of Italian Poetry Contest as her favorite high school memory, because it was so unlike anything she had ever done before, and it required “a lot of determination,” as she had to memorize the poem in Italian and “dramatize” it in front of judges. “When I received the second-place award, I had a moment when I truly felt like I was almost fluent in the Italian language since I actually recited a renowned poem, understood every single word, and crafted an emotional performance that impressed the judges,” she stated.

Sinar developed a love of science through her participation in the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Partners for the Future Program, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory DNA Science camp, Science Olympiad, the Hofstra University Summer Science Research Program, and the Columbia University Science Honors Program. “These activities have allowed me to navigate many different science topics, which led me to realize the ones that I am most passionate about,” she stated.

Sinar commended her parents for her success and thanked them for “being so supportive no matter what I did and always pushing me to do my best.”

As far as advice for next year’s seniors, Sinar advises them to “stay focused throughout the year but be aware of when you need to relax and set your work aside. You will be dealing with a lot of work at once, so managing responsibilities and allotting time to de-stress is as important as actually working.”