History

Above, Kerriann Flanagan Brosky kicked off her Fall book tour at the Country House Restaurant in Stony Brook hosted by owner Bob Willemstyn on September 30.

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

The versatile Kerriann Flanagan Brosky’s works include Historic Crimes of Long Island (reviewed in this paper October 2017), Ghosts of Long Island, The Medal, and Delectable Italian Dishes for Family and Friends, among others. Haunted America (a division of The History Press) presents her latest work, Haunted Long Island Mysteries, a well-crafted overview of various sites of supernatural activity from Sag Harbor to Port Washington. Brosky has once again teamed up with medium and paranormal investigator Joe Giaquinto to explore a range of “spirited” hauntings. 

Author Kerriann Flanagan Brosky

This is Brosky’s fourth ghost book: “The journey of investigating over one hundred presumably haunted locales on Long Island has led me to understand many things, including the importance of these spiritual beings and how they relate to our past and history, to the continuity of life after death and to the ability to communicate with our loved ones after they have passed.” Brosky finds the place where history and the spirit world eloquently intersect with the paranormal.

Both Brosky and Giaquinto come from a grounded and focused point of view. They are not looking for converts. Instead, they ask the reader to keep an open mind. “We are simply putting our research and investigations out there for one to ponder while at the same time teaching you about local history and the importance of preserving it.”

Each chapter focuses on a specific location: a house, an inn, a cemetery, a restaurant, etc. From Setauket to Patchogue, Babylon to Stony Brook — many of these places (18 in all) will be familiar to the readers from reading about or even visiting them. 

First, Brosky provides a meticulously researched background, with detailed notes on the construction and physical elements. Next, she succinctly proceeds to accounts of the occupants’ lives throughout the years—the families, the marriages, the breaks, the affairs. Finally, having established context, she arrives at the present, interviewing caretakers, directors, docents, and board members. She then connects past to present, highlighting any of the unusual occurrences. 

The final section of most chapters is composed of Brosky and Giaquinto’s actual work in the location, including photography, video, and, most interesting, the use of a ghost box. A ghost box (also known as a spirit box) contacts spirits using radio frequency. The result is EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena): human-sounding voices from an unknown source heard on recorded data from an audiotape, radio station noise, or other electronic media. The book contains portions of transcriptions, but readers may listen to the actual recordings by visiting www.ghostsoflongisland.com, then clicking on Haunted Long Island Mysteries.

The book contains accounts of orbs of light, dark silhouettes, footsteps in the middle of the night, and slamming doors. There are rooms where the temperature is exceptionally and inexplicably cold. There are scents with no source. But it is not about things that go bump in the night (though many do, including the voice of a screaming woman). Instead, it is about the energy and the presence (perhaps more blessed than haunted). Most of the encounters are with benign and even welcoming entities. Whether focusing on a member of the Culper Spy Ring, a library custodian, a mother guilty of filicide, or victims of a shipwreck, Brosky shows respect for her mission. 

For believers, the book presents an ideal blend of history and mystery. For others, the exceptional scholarship provides an undeniably detailed examination of a range of Long Island settings. The work celebrates the scientific, not the sensational. This world is not populated by fanatics or conspiracy theories but people who have experienced events and connections for which they cannot find an explanation. 

Brosky offers many perspectives in the dozens of interviews. “People always ask us if we have ghosts,” states Frank Giebfried, a docent and board member at Meadow Croft in Sayville. “I have not really experienced anything, just a little voice here or there, but nothing that I would attribute to anything supernatural. I’m a skeptic, but I’m not going to not believe the things people tell me they experience.”

Brosky honors groups like the Bayport-Bluepoint Heritage Association, the Ward Melville Heritage Organization and the Oyster Bay Historical Society for their work in preserving these historical sites and making them available to the public.

The last two chapters are devoted to the Sundance Stables in Manorville, with the final chapter focusing on Rebecca Weissbard, who died in 2016 at age twenty-two. A gifted equestrian, “Becca” died in a horseback riding incident. Her detailed story is the ideal coda because of the resonance of its deeply personal nature.

Giaquinto best sums up Haunted Long Island Mysteries: “There is something for everyone in this book. If you love history, it’s in the book. If you like to read ghost stories and urban legends, there are many to peruse here. And if you’ve ever been curious how a paranormal researcher does their work, you’ll find it here as well.”

Haunted Long Island Mysteries is available online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Learn more about the author at www.kerriannflanaganbrosky.com.

Heritage Park

Once a month at Heritage Park, you will find smiling faces, bodies in motion, and even a doctor or two walking the paths of this Mt. Sinai park, as part of Walk With a Doc, a free walking program run by local physicians to promote healthy living and wellness.

Walking was recognized by the United States Surgeon General as one of the single most important things we can do for our health. With over 500 chapters worldwide, Walk With a Doc provides communities with a space to get in some steps, learn about health, and meet new friends. There are four Walk With a Doc chapters on Long Island, including the Stony Brook University (SBU) chapter lead by Stony Brook physicians and medical students.

“Our walks are a wonderful way to get together with the community, speak one on one with physicians, and get some exercise,” says Dr. Ursula Landman, clinical associate professor of anesthesiology at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, and physician walk leader for SBU’s Walk With a Doc Chapter. “I am always looking forward to our walks and encourage everyone to join us on this lifelong journey of learning and health.”

The Stony Brook University Cancer Center joined Dr. Landman at Heritage Trust Park in October to educate walkers about skin cancer risks and prevention. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the Unites States with one in five Americans being diagnosed in their lifetime. Rates of new melanoma cases, the deadliest form of skin cancer, are on the rise.

The best way to reduce your risk of skin cancer is to avoid ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and indoor tanning devices. Stony Brook University Cancer Center’s Cancer Prevention in Action (CPiA) team provided skin cancer prevention resources to walkers, including how to reduce their exposure to UV radiation, sun safety tip sheets, and sunscreen to apply during their walk.

CPiA is a New York State Department of Health grant supporting cancer prevention in local communities. Stony Brook’s CPiA team is bringing sun safety education and policy to Suffolk and Nassau counties, with the goal of reducing skin cancer on Long Island.

“Cancer prevention is a vital step to building a healthier Long Island,” says Annalea Trask, CPiA Program Coordinator at Stony Brook University Cancer Center. “We are proud to support Stony Brook University’s Walk With a Doc chapter to promote healthy living in our community.”

The SBU chapter of Walk With a Doc meets at Heritage Park, 633 Mount Sinai-Coram Road, Mt. Sinai every third Sunday at 11 a.m. Walkers may join in person or virtually, walking around their own neighborhood or on a treadmill. You can Walk With a Doc at their next walk on November 21, 2021.

CPiA is supported with funds from Health Research, Inc. and New York State.

About Walk With a Doc:

Walk With a Doc is a national organization hosting doctor-led walking groups in communities around the world. With over 500 chapters, Walk With a Doc provides communities with a space to get in some steps, learn about health, and meet new friends. There are four Walk With a Doc chapters on Long Island, including the Stony Brook University chapter lead by Stony Brook physicians and medical students. Walks are free of charge and open to the public. To learn more, visit walkwithadoc.org or contact Dr. Ursula Landman at [email protected]stonybrookmedicine.edu.

About Stony Brook University Cancer Center:

Stony Brook University Cancer Center is Suffolk County’s cancer care leader and a leader in education and research. With more than 20,000 inpatient and 70,000 outpatient visits annually, the Cancer Center includes 12 multidisciplinary teams: Breast Cancer; Colorectal Cancer; Gastrointestinal Cancer; Genitourinary Cancer; Gynecologic Cancer; Head and Neck Cancer, and Thyroid Cancer; Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplant; Lung Cancer; Melanoma and Soft Tissue Sarcomas; Neurologic Oncology; Orthopedic Oncology; and Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. The cancer program is accredited by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer. To learn more, visit cancer.stonybrookmedicine.edu.

Maria Hoffman will be the honoree at this year's gala. Photo from TVCT

The Three Village Community Trust will hold its annual Fall Fundraising Gala on Wednesday, Nov. 17 at the Old Field Club. This event supports the Trust’s year-round programs and projects. 

Currently, the Trust is conducting major restoration work at the Hawkins Homestead, the Smith/deZafra House, and the three Factory Worker Houses. The Trust is also working to enhance both Patriots Rock Park and the Greenway Trail. With so many undertakings, this year’s Gala will be more an important than ever to keep the Trust moving forward to “Protect the Places We Love.”

The special guest and honoree at this year’s gathering is Maria Hoffman.  An artist, photographer and naturalist, Maria is one of the most beloved and respected figures in our community and is widely known as “Everybody’s Best Friend.”  Now, after three decades of community service as Chief of Staff to New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Hoffman has retired and, at the Gala, will reflect on her life and career in the Three Villages. 

Live music by the renowned Carl Safina and the Natural Causes will fill the party air with magical jazz, and there will be chances to win some fun-filled raffle baskets. The big art raffle prize this year is an oil painting by the well-known artist Nancy Bueti-Randall, titled “Late Day at the Beach.”  

Tickets to the event can be purchased on the Trust’s website, www.threevillagecommunitytrust.org. For more information, call 631-689-0225 or visit [email protected]

Brewster House

Experience the transformation history of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO)’s Brewster House (c. 1665) and Long Island on Saturday, Oct. 23 at 10 a.m. in their new program, “A Taste of the Tavern.” 

Photo from WMHO

Taking place at the authentic Brewster House and Tavern in Setauket, “A Taste of the Tavern” is designed to bring participants on a journey through three centuries of life in Setauket and on Long Island. 

Interactive stories include the origins of the Brewster House, the role of Nathaniel Brewster in local and international history, the occupation of the British during the American Revolution, the Culper Spy Ring, 17th century witch trials, African slavery, indigenous indentured labor, and the history of Colonial women. 

Guests will also enjoy an authentic bohea tea, the notorious tea that culminated the Boston Tea Party.

Admission is $12 per person and reservations are required. In-person, masks required regardless of vaccination status.

For more information on “A Taste of the Tavern” and to reserve your spot, call 631-751-2244.

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The second Bayles Chandlery, left, was destroyed in an 1897 waterfront fire and the Willse-Bayles Homestead, right, was leveled in 1917. Photo by George B. Brainerd; Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Professional photographer Arthur S. Greene and amateur photographer John M. Brown are well known for their images of early Port Jefferson, but another talented photographer who also recorded life in Port Jefferson is hardly a household name. 

Unlike Greene who had a studio in Port Jefferson or Brown who besides being a shutterbug was Port Jefferson’s postmaster, photographer George B. Brainerd primarily documented urban Brooklyn.

Razed in June 1965, the Petty Building stood on Port Jefferson’s Main Street and housed the Port Jefferson Times weekly newspaper. Photo by George B. Brainerd; Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Renowned for his city scenes, it is often forgotten that Brainerd also photographed the rural landscape on his jaunts throughout Suffolk County including then sleepy Port Jefferson.

Born in 1845, Brainerd attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, worked as a civil engineer, was Brooklyn’s deputy water purveyor from 1869 to 1886, and is considered a pioneer of amateur photography.

Over the course of his trips to Port Jefferson in 1878 and 1879, Brainerd photographed a variety of the village’s buildings — many of which are no longer standing. 

One image shows the Methodist Church, which was later sold at auction, moved from Port Jefferson’s Spring Street to Main Street, converted into a storehouse, and destroyed in a September 1904 blaze.

Another view depicts the office of the Port Jefferson Times. The weekly newspaper was housed on the west side of Port Jefferson’s Main Street in the Petty Building which was razed in June 1965. 

Brainerd’s photo of the north side of Port Jefferson’s East Broadway pictures the second Bayles Chandlery which was destroyed in a July 22, 1897 waterfront fire and the iconic Willse-Bayles Homestead which was leveled in December 1917 to make way for what is now the Port Jefferson Village Center.

Additional images show the Port Jefferson Flour Mill on West Broadway, sold in 1918 and later dismantled; Smith’s Hotel on Main Street, renamed the Ardencraig Inn and lost in a 1920 blaze; and Raynor’s Hotel on East Main Street, commonly known as the Port Jefferson Hotel, demolished in 1949. 

Raynor’s Hotel on Port Jefferson’s East Main Street was demolished in 1949. Photo by George B. Brainerd; Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Besides these shots, Brainerd’s panoramic views of Port Jefferson capture the village’s Cedar Hill Cemetery, original railroad station, Emmett B. Darling Shipyard, John R. Mather Lumber Shed, tranquil harbor, inviting streets, and gracious homes. 

Gifted in freezing the Port Jefferson scene for posterity, Brainerd has left us with a treasure, providing an invaluable record of what it was like to live in the village before its suburban development.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.

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Pictured in 1911 during Old Home Week, Griswold’s Garage was built of Unit Brick and located on the west side of Port Jefferson’s Main Street. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Incorporated in 1910, the Unit Brick and Tile Company was located on Hallock Avenue, just south of the LIRR tracks, in today’s Port Jefferson Station.

Employing 20 workers on an 11-acre site, the plant manufactured standard brick, roofing and flooring tile, and hollow block, but was best known for producing Unit brick.

Made from sand, gravel and cement, Unit brick had a distinctive U-shape and could be finished in a variety of shades thus eliminating the need for interior painting.

According to its boosters, Unit brick was 33-66% cheaper than common brick, impervious to dampness and as strong as conventional building materials. 

Fanning’s Garage, West Broadway, Port Jefferson, and Chris Henningsen’s residence, Hallock Avenue, Port Jefferson Station, were among the first buildings in the area to be constructed of Unit brick. It was later used in building projects in Belle Terre, St. James, Patchogue, Old Field, Smithtown and Wading River.

Unit brick was also shipped by schooner, such as the Emma Southard, to destinations in New York as varied as Hastings-on-Hudson, Staten Island and Lloyd Neck.

To popularize Unit brick, the company exhibited its signature product in a store on Port Jefferson’s East Main Street. The showroom opened in August 1911 during Old Home Week, an event that brought thousands of visitors to the village.

The Unit Brick and Tile Company was situated on Hallock Avenue, just south of the LIRR tracks, in today’s Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Arthur S. Greene; Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

In addition, the corporation was promoted by members of the Port Jefferson Business Men’s Association, especially Jacob S. Dreyer, publisher of the Port Jefferson Times, and advertised in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and Port Jefferson Echo. In August 1912, newspapermen from the Long Island Press Association toured Unit Brick’s factory.

The company received glowing testimonials from customers such as Belle Terre’s William Wadsworth who wrote in 1913 that Unit brick was “the best all-around building material on the market.”

Prominent Port Jefferson lawyer Thomas J. Ritch, Jr. and physician Luther H. Chambers, both of whom served on Unit Brick’s Board of Directors, lent their respected names to the venture.

Unit Brick enjoyed a meteoric rise marked by encouraging sales and good publicity, but much like a shooting star soon burned out, several factors contributing to the corporation’s early demise.

Unit Brick faced competition from another local startup, the Dyett Sand-Lime Brick Company on the west side of Port Jefferson Harbor, as well as from the established Port Jefferson Cement Block Company on High Street. 

Court proceedings followed allegations that Unit brick was an inferior product and being delivered “damp.” 

The company expanded too rapidly, opening subsidiaries in Connecticut and Rhode Island, where demand for its goods was not as strong as anticipated. 

Perhaps most important, the building trades had a long tradition of using red clay brick and simply balked at trying a new product.

After Unit Brick dissolved in 1917, a receiver was appointed. The corporation’s machinery and equipment were sold at public auction in 1918 and bought by the Port Jefferson Junk Company for $2,150. In 1920, Unit Brick’s former property in Port Jefferson Station was purchased by the LIRR which built a yard for its locomotives and cars on the acreage.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.

The Three Village Historical Society had a wonderful turnout on Oct. 1 for their retired flag box unveiling, flag code demonstration and flag raising event. 

Nearly 50 people came by while Holly Brainard, former Regent of the Anna Smith Strong DAR and current TVHS trustee, led an interactive US Flag Code demonstration with members from BSA Troops 355, 70 and 2019, BSA Pack 333 and the Ward Melville Student Government, along with members of the community. 

The event included an unveiling of a new retired flag box donated by BSA troop 2019, that will be maintained by BSA troop 355, and an American Flag Kit raffle. The crowd then moved to the 30-foot flag pole, outfitted with a brand new solar light in front of TVHS, to recite the Pledge of Allegiance while scouts raised the flag. 

The US Flag retired flag drop box can be found outside of the Three Village Historical Society at 93 N. Country Rd. in Setauket and is officially open to the public to leave their worn or tattered flags. BSA troop 355 will schedule a flag decommissioning ceremony once the box is full. For more information, visit www.tvhs.org.

Photo from Ray Welch

Amongst the Middle Country Public Library’s many historical artifacts are a few that explain just how far the area has come from its pastoral roots. The picture and story below comes courtesy of a collaborative effort among the librarian staff.

On Dec. 18, 1959, the Suffolk County Board of Supervisors approved the establishment of the county’s first community college on the former Suffolk Sanatorium site in Selden. The 1918 building above, which originally served as the Sanatorium’s infirmary, housed faculty office space when the 130-acre site on which it stood was designated as the future home of Suffolk County Community College. 

Although SCCC held its initial year of classes in October of 1960 at Sachem Junior-Senior High School in Ronkonkoma and Riverhead High School, the college took permanent residence of the old Sanatorium site beginning in September of 1961. Initial enrollment included 171 full-time and 355 part-time students. 

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Prohibition agents examine barrels of booze found on a rumrunner seized by a Coast Guard cutter. Photo from the Library of Congress

On Saturday afternoon, Aug. 22, 1931, William Fillbach was sitting in his car, which was parked on the ferry dock at Port Jefferson, waiting to serve a warrant on a man due there at 5:30 p.m.

An investigator for the Suffolk County District Attorney, Fillbach was turning the pages of a newspaper when he caught a glimpse of a boat being hauled out of the water and on to the ways of the Port Jefferson (aka Long Island) Shipyard at the foot of Main Street.

The rumrunner Artemis was hauled out of the water and on to the ways of the Port Jefferson Shipyard shown at the foot of the village’s Main Street. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

All Fillbach could read on the vessel were the letters “Art,” but they were enough for him to identify the boat as the notorious Artemis, a rumrunner that had disappeared following her heated battle with a Coast Guard cutter.

Fillbach climbed aboard the now high and dry craft, which had been moved into a shed, and carefully observed the scene. There was no contraband on the battered booze boat, but the bullet-riddled vessel was strewn with broken glass and three planks on her port side were smashed inward.

Fillbach learned that the crippled Artemis had been towed to Port Jefferson by the swordfisher Evangeline, but workers at the Port Jefferson Shipyard claimed not to know who owned the disabled craft, which bore no registration numbers, or who gave the orders to make her seaworthy.

Fearing that the mysterious smugglers might attempt to spirit the stranded Artemis out of Port Jefferson, Fillbach and five deputy sheriffs guarded the fugitive vessel until Sunday, Aug. 23, when a Coast Guard cutter took over the watch.

Just days before, on Thursday evening, Aug. 20, CG-808 was patrolling Long Island Sound, searching for suspected rumrunners. The cutter had sighted the 53-foot Artemis about two miles east of the Cornfield Point Lightship and commanded her to stop.

Although loaded down with illicit liquor, the speedy rumrunner answered by racing off into the darkness, propelled by her powerful Liberty aircraft engines that had been converted for marine use.

The Coasties gave chase and fired hundreds of shots at the fleeing craft, many hitting the mark. During the thick of the running battle, the agile Artemis suddenly turned about and rammed the 45-foot CG-808, forcing the severely damaged cutter to stop the pursuit and limp back to the Operating Base in New London, Connecticut.

Known as a ‘Six Bitter,’ a 75-foot Coast Guard patrol boat is docked at Port Jefferson’s Bayles Landing. During Prohibition, the government’s patrol boats waged a relentless war against rumrunners operating in local waters. Photo from the Michael F. Lee Collection

The rumrunners then landed on the beach three miles west of Orient Point, where two badly wounded men were taken off the speedboat and driven to Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport while the vessel’s prized cargo was quickly unloaded by swarms of willing local residents. 

Angered by the attack on CG-808, and miffed by the escape of the Artemis, Coast Guard officials brought in a private airplane and dispatched two patrol boats to locate the infamous rumrunner. Despite their best efforts, the Artemis was secreted away, stopping briefly in Mattituck Harbor for some patchwork before moving on to Port Jefferson for major repairs.

In the aftermath of the incident, the two crewmen who were aboard the Artemis and severely injured by gunfire from CG-808 were discharged from the hospital, both refusing to talk with the authorities.

The Artemis was seized by the United States Marshal, who claimed that her owners had an outstanding debt at the Gaffga Engine Works in Greenport. After the dispute was settled, the Artemis posted bond and quietly left Port Jefferson, much to the dismay of the Coast Guard.

Over the ensuing years, the Artemis changed hands and home ports several times, but never lost her reputation as a lawbreaker. In May 1935, the Coast Guard captured the Artemis off Chesapeake Bay and brought her to New York Harbor on suspicion of rumrunning, but without any evidence of illegality, the speedboat and her crew were released by the government.

Cases of Scotch Whisky fill the hold of a rumrunner captured by the Coast Guard. Photo from the Library of Congress

With the end of prohibition, the Artemis began a new, but less exciting career, running as a ferry between Bay Shore and Fire Island.

In Port Jefferson, however, the Artemis will always be remembered for bringing the rum war directly to the village.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.     

The Frank Brush Barn

The Smithtown Historical Society presents its annual Fall Lecture Series at the Frank Brush Barn, 211 E. Main St., Smithtown on Oct. 5, 12 and 19 at 7 p.m.  All events are free but registration is required by visiting www.smithtownhistorical.org.

October 5th—Smithtown During World War II with SHS Vice-President Maureen Smilow

Join the Smithtown Historical Society’s Vice President and former Smithtown Social Studies teacher Maureen Smilow as she takes us back in time to World War II era Smithtown.  Learn how the citizens  of our town responded as they were inescapably drawn into the horrific events of the day.  Blackened headlights, Victory Gardens and hometown heroes: Smithtowners did their part to make the world safe for democracy.

October 12th—George Washington’s Long Island Spy Ring, with Historian Bill Bleyer

Bill Bleyer, former prize-winning staff writer for Newsday, has written extensively about Long Island history for newspapers, magazines, and numerous books. His latest book focuses on the impact of George Washington’s Long Island-based “Culper Spy Ring,” and identifies Revolutionary War sites that remain today.

October 19th—The Lost Boys of Montauk with Journalist Amanda M. Fairbanks

Amanda M. Fairbanks is a journalist who has worked with The New York Times, HuffPost, and at The East Hampton Star, where she wrote investigative stories, features and profiles. Her debut novel is an account of a March 1984 tragedy at sea, when the commercial fishing boat Wind Blown left Montauk Harbor on a routine offshore voyage. The fate of the Wind Blown—the second-worst nautical disaster suffered by a Montauk fishing vessel in over a hundred years—has become interwoven with the local folklore of the East End. The story is a universal tale of family and brotherhood; when the dreams and ambitions of social classes collide.

For further information, please call 631-265-6768.