Smithtown residents voted for three library board trustees and the 2023 library budget on Oct. 11.
Voters chose from 15 candidates which was the most since Smithtown residents voted for an independent library district more than 20 years ago, according to library director Robert Lusak. In 2001, 20 candidates were running for seven seats.
This year, incumbents Joseph Gregurich and Anita Dowd-Neufeld were among the candidates. Current trustee Marie Gergenti, whose term expires at the end of the year, decided not to run again.
Both Gregurich and Dowd-Neufeld lost their seats as residents voted Annette Galarza (1,819), Mildred Bernstein (1,746) and Howard Knispel (1,719) to the library board.
Smithtown residents will find 15 candidates vying for three seats when they vote for Smithtown Library trustees on Oct. 11. The election will also include a vote on the 2023 budget.
The number of candidates is the most since Smithtown residents voted for an independent library district more than 20 years ago, according to library director Robert Lusak. In 2001, 20 candidates were running for seven seats.
This year, incumbents Joseph Gregurich and Anita Dowd-Neufeld are among the candidates. Current trustee Marie Gergenti, whose term expires at the end of the year, decided not to run again.
Brief biographies and mission statements from each candidate are listed on the Smithtown Library website, smithlib.org/library-board-candidates-2022.html.
On Monday, Oct. 3, the League of Women Voters held a Meet the Candidates Night via Zoom, which can be viewed on the library’s YouTube page through smithlib.org/library-vote-and-trustee.html.
Regarding the trustee elections, Lusak said the desire is to have candidates with “a passion for libraries.”
“I would hope that anybody who runs for the library board cares about their library and wants to make sure that it’s the pillar of the community,” he said.
He added the library’s goal is to ensure “we provide high-quality customer service.”
The library director said previously passed budgets have allowed new services such as a notary public, a patent and trademark research library, a passport facility in the Smithtown building, and Library of Things where cardholders can take out items not expected at a library such as telescopes.
“When our budgets in all the previous years were successfully passed, it allowed us to introduce new technologies and new services that might not exist,” he said.
Recently, Marilyn LoPresti decided to resign from her board position. Due to the timing of the resignation, which would not allow certain deadlines to be met, her seat is not among those up for vote. The board will appoint a person to take over her position. The appointee will run in 2023 and, if successful, will finish out LoPresti’s term, which was scheduled for Dec. 31, 2024.
Residents who are registered voters will have the opportunity to say “yes” or “no” to the Smithtown Special Library District’s $17,434,000 proposed budget for 2023. Voting takes place at all library locations from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11.
The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association held its Meet the Candidates forum at Comsewogue Public Library on Tuesday, Sept. 20.
The Democratic and Republican nominees for New York State’s 1st Senate District and 4th Assembly District attended this civic meeting. The candidates received time to deliver opening statements, then answered questions covering a range of local subjects, followed by closing remarks.
Before entering elective office, incumbent state Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) worked as an attorney in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. He was in private practice for roughly 10 years before running for the state Assembly in 2013. He served the 2nd Assembly District until 2020, after which he assumed his current position.
Challenging Palumbo is Democrat Skyler Johnson, a 22-year-old Mount Sinai native and former political aide to Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren. If Johnson were to win this November, he would become the youngest person to serve in the state Legislature since Theodore Roosevelt.
In the Assembly race, incumbent state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) is also up for reelection. Englebright, a geologist by training, joined the state Assembly in 1992. Before that, he served as a Suffolk County legislator for nearly a decade.
Edward Flood is Englebright’s Republican challenger in this race. Flood serves as an assistant attorney for the Town of Brookhaven and is the town’s lead prosecutor for town code violations.
Each candidate supported electrifying the Port Jefferson Branch line of the Long Island Rail Road, with some variations in approach.
Englebright advocates moving the existing Port Jefferson train station onto the county-owned Lawrence Aviation property. This plan, the assemblyman believes, would bring value to the community in the form of cleaner air and higher property values.
“I am working to try to get the Long Island Rail Road to come into the modern age,” he said. “We will prevail. The first thing to do is to have a community that’s united. … If this community is supportive of that, that will be a big boost.”
Flood condemned the MTA for its historical neglect of Long Island communities. He seeks to pressure the MTA’s governing board and add a local representative to that body. “I don’t believe we have a local representative, and I don’t think anyone on that board cares much about us,” he said. “That needs to change.”
Johnson criticized the needless delays for residents traveling to New York City by rail. He favored allocating more state resources to address these concerns.
“It’s not the most fun trip getting onto the Long Island Rail Road,” he said. “We need to continually invest in the Long Island Rail Road because that will properly benefit our communities, it will help people commute, help people live better lives, and it will make our communities cleaner and safer.”
Palumbo underscored several of these points, backing his support behind moving the Port Jeff train station to the Lawrence Aviation property. “All of those issues are extremely important to this community,” he said. “I think we all agree that this is something that needs to be done.”
Another central topic for Port Jefferson Station/Terryville residents is homelessness.
Flood proposed that many of the problems associated with homelessness stem from alcohol and substance abuse. He proposed strengthening addiction treatment programs and mental health services.
“Unfortunately, addiction is rampant throughout the homeless community and possibly the reason why they are homeless,” the Assembly candidate said. “We need to do a better job finding resources to adequately treat people.”
Englebright approached the subject of homelessness through the lens of planning. According to him, this requires offering a coherent vision for the Port Jefferson Station area, much of that concentrated around managing the Lawrence Aviation property, followed by investment.
“That would make it possible for us to accelerate the investment into Port Jefferson Station itself,” he said. “We hear a lot of talk about transit-oriented development, and this is the appropriate place for that policy to be fully fleshed out.”
Johnson supported a “great investment into mental health” to ensure people experiencing homelessness receive the necessary tools to get off the streets. He also said the issue is tied to the affordability and housing crises on Long Island.
“We do not have proper affordable housing, and we do not have proper workforce housing on Long Island,” the state Senate candidate said. “I’m going to make sure that we do everything that we can to bring home the funds so that we are investing in housing projects, while investing in our critical infrastructure, our public transportation, our roads to make sure that we are keeping up with the flux of people coming into our community.”
Palumbo discussed homelessness as a multifaceted issue, requiring changes in affordable housing, enforcement practices and mental health services.
“I think, generally, Long Island is unaffordable,” he said. “We need to lower the cost of living on Long Island, make it all more affordable, and most importantly do what we can to deal with an affordable housing crisis.”
During their closing statements, the candidates were asked to provide their two highest legislative priorities that would also affect Port Jefferson Station/Terryville residents.
Johnson stated his two highest priorities would be affordability and infrastructure improvements. “We need to make sure that we are putting money back in the pockets of everyday people,” he said. “And I’m going to make sure that we do that, and we’re going to make sure that we are investing in our roads and infrastructure.”
Palumbo said his two highest priorities are closely linked to one another. He first hopes to alleviate the burden of high taxes and the unaffordable cost of living on Long Island, then tackle rising crime rates.
“I think other things will fall in place if we get control of the crime issue,” the state senator said. “Coupling that with affordability … we’re losing people for a number of reasons in New York, and we shouldn’t be losing anyone.” He added, “We’re an amazing state, and we need to do what we can to save it.”
Though he did not identify the two highest priority issues, Flood highlighted several matters he would like to remediate if elected. Among these are rising crime, bail reform and better state budgeting.
“I see firsthand some of the effects the state has put into place in terms of bail reform,” Flood said. “They’ve added extra hardships to prosecutors and those in criminal justice, and you see it in an increase of crime, in the inability of a district attorney to bring cases forward, and in that, you have local governments who are handcuffed in trying to comply with a lot of these laws.”
For Englebright, his two highest priorities are the electrification of the Port Jefferson line and better community planning. The assemblyman foresees many positive effects if the existing railyard relocates to the Lawrence Aviation property.
“This is, after all, Port Jefferson Station,” he said. “Our station area should be enhanced, and the plan that we put forward for that should not just be something that looks like South Brooklyn. It should look like a vision of what this community should look like when it looks itself in the mirror.” He concluded, “It should be a place of pride. I believe it should be a public park.”
During a public meeting of the Rocky Point school district board of education on Monday, Aug. 29, Sound Beach resident Bea Ruberto confronted the board over its decision to reverse a longstanding practice regarding book donations.
In June, district parent Allison Villafane donated several books related to Pride Month. In mid-July, the board sparked controversy from the public for its decision to no longer accept book donations from parents.
During a special meeting on July 28, members of the board justified their decision on the grounds that they lack expertise in children’s literature. For more on this story, “Rocky Point BOE reverses practice on book donations, causes controversy,” see TBR News Media Aug. 11 print and online editions.
During her remarks, Ruberto contended that the board used shoddy reasoning to arrive at its decision. By reversing its book donation practice, Ruberto suggested that the BOE inadvertently took decision-making authority out of the hands of librarians.
“I remain disappointed with your decision to no longer accept book donations,” Ruberto said. “None of you are experts in deciding which book donations to accept, you said, but there are experts who can do this — the librarians.”
Another point of contention for Ruberto was an argument made on July 28 during the public comments that there are more pressing matters for the board to consider than book donations.
Pushing back against these charges, Ruberto suggested that access to reading materials lies at the core of any institution of learning.
“Yes, there are many important issues related to our children’s education, but the idea that the books made available to them isn’t one of them is ludicrous,” she said, adding, “As long as a book is age appropriate, I can’t imagine any book that young people should not have access to it.”
While Ruberto acknowledged that parents remain the ultimate arbiters for their children’s reading materials, she added that librarians also perform a vital function. According to her, school libraries are ideally inclusive spaces that should reflect the entire community’s values.
“Some parents may be troubled by what they see in the library, and then they may — and certainly should — monitor what their children are reading,” she said. “But school libraries aren’t just for them. They’re for everyone in the community.”
Jessica Ward, president of the board of education, responded to Ruberto’s public comments. The BOE president argued that the decision empowers the district’s librarians, offering these experts the freedom to stock the libraries with books of their choosing and without sway from the board.
“Our decision, as we explained last time, was made in consensus,” Ward said. “As you said, we’re not the experts on books. We want our librarians to pick the books in their libraries.”
Before the meeting adjourned, Ward and Ruberto debated whether the change of practice on book donations constituted a policy change. In attempting to settle this matter, Ward advised that she and the board would consult with their attorney and get back to Ruberto with a more detailed explanation.
The next meeting of the Rocky Point board of education is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 19.
Tensions swelled inside the Rocky Point High School auditorium during a special meeting of the Rocky Point school district board of education on Thursday, July 28.
In early July, the board reversed its longstanding practice regarding book donations, deciding to no longer accept books from the public. The controversy centers around a June donation made by district parent Allison Villafane, who donated several books exploring themes dealing with sexuality, gender identity and race during Pride Month.
“This past June, in keeping with my past practice, I have donated books to promote diversity, equity and inclusion,” she told the board. “These books were best sellers, approved by the library here.”
In an interview, Villafane shared the list of the seven titles that were included in the donation, saying these books were intended to be spread out across different schools throughout the district depending upon age appropriateness. The titles are:
“Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race” by Margot Lee Shetterly
“All Different and Beautiful: A Children’s Book about Diversity, Kindness, and Friendships” by Belle Belrose
“Our Diversity Makes Us Stronger: Social Emotional Book for Kids about Diversity and Kindness” by Elizabeth Cole
“Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
“The 1619 Project: Born on the Water” by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson
“Pink Is for Boys” by Robb Pearlman
“The List of Things That Will Not Change” by Rebecca Stead
Jessica Ward, president of the board of education, defended the decision. She said the board did not take its decision lightly and that all five members of the board had arrived at its determination together.
Ward told the public that the decision was motivated by a basic lack of expertise on how to evaluate children’s literature.
“None of us — the five of us on the board — are experts in children’s literature,” Ward said. “None of us has a master’s degree in library science … so we thought it would be best for all of our schools to allow our librarians, who are the experts in children’s literature, to populate their libraries and their catalogs with books of their choosing.”
Villafane detailed her past practice of donating materials, saying she has made several rounds of donations over the years as each of her four children has moved through the school district. In the past, Villafane has donated materials regarding food allergies. In other years, they would focus on promoting diversity or compassion.
She said this most recent donation is not a significant departure from her past practice. Because the books were already in circulation in various school libraries throughout the district, Villafane believed she was performing a service to the school by making the approved books more accessible.
Villafane suggested the board was applying an arbitrary standard to her donation, asking if the board would apply this same standard to the donations of gifts such as piano keyboards and trumpets.
Responding to these charges, Ward said that the board’s decision “wasn’t necessarily in response to the books that you donated. It was in response to all books.”
She added, “Our current policy says … that we may accept gifts, grants … as well as other merchandise. If there was something else [such as] a musical instrument or some other educational or instructional item that you or someone wanted to donate, then we would take that on a case-by-case basis, but we are not taking any donations of books.”
Along with Villafane, other members of the public joined in their criticism of the board’s decision. Ernestine Franco, a resident of Sound Beach, said the board did not apply reason to its decision and that it failed to properly consider the consequences.
“If it was just a change of practice, then they did it very badly,” she said in an interview. “That’s what makes me think it was a political move.” She added, “Even if they wanted to do what they did, there had to be some logic to it and there wasn’t.”
Bea Ruberto, also a Sound Beach resident, concurred with this assessment, arguing the decision was a product of hasty decision-making and primarily motivated by the board members’ political preferences.
“I am convinced that it is political,” Ruberto said in an interview. “I am also convinced that for them to do that, they didn’t look at the practice they had in the past on how to deal with and accept book donations.”
Despite criticism from the public, there were others who responded favorably. One such individual, identified as “Ms. Sarlo” in the meeting’s minutes, defended the decision. According to her, it is best for the board not to consider these materials as there is no universal agreement on their content.
“I think that the decision was the correct one because … not everybody agrees with all of the books,” she said. “There are so many more important things that we need to be talking about that the board could be spending time on instead of book donations.”
Franco disagreed with this assessment, suggesting that it minimizes the issues at stake and offers a convenient excuse for the board to rid itself of accountability.
“I think [Sarlo] was trying to validate what happened by saying it wasn’t important,” Franco said, adding, “But what’s important, at least to me, is not the book but what the book stands for, which is education. … Instead of opening up to a very diverse atmosphere, they’re trying to close up the atmosphere to what kids are going to be exposed to.”
Villafane suggested that the board’s new practice on book donations violates common sense. She believes the board can correct course by adopting a new policy allowing the acceptance of books for titles that are already in circulation.
“It’s not rocket science,” she said. “There is a database of books that have been approved for distribution at various grade levels, so as long as the book you want to donate is within that system, you should feel free to donate it.”
The Rocky Point board of education will reconvene on Monday, Aug. 29, at 7 p.m., where deliberations on book donations are likely to continue.
Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker has self-published a children’s picture book on ocean pollution titled Below the Ocean: Keeping Our Sea Friends Safe. The book targets young children ages 2-10 years and provides an engaging story about a young seal and her encounters with ocean pollution.
“Having raised 3 children and knowing how important it is to teach our kids about respecting and maintaining our environment, I decided to take the plunge into writing this book, as well as additional children’s environmental books. Long before I ran for public office, I was involved in beach cleanups, advocating for clean water and air, recycling our garbage and preserving open space. We all need to do more, and I hope this book will inspire children and their parents to be environmental superheroes,” said Anker.
The illustrator, Lily Liu, is an award-winning artist who has provided illustrations for several top-selling children’s books. The vibrant colors and adorable characters capture your attention as the main character, Sophia the Seal, encounters ocean garbage and learns how it is affecting sea life and our ocean.
Plastics have been on Earth for close to 70 years and in that time, we have created over 9 billion tons of plastic waste. Most plastics are not recycled and end up as garbage in landfills and in our ocean. Below the Ocean not only informs young readers about ocean pollution, but it also provides insight on what they can do to keep our ocean clean and safe and encourages them to be a Sea Hero. The book is available online at www.amazon.com. For more information go to www.Ankerbooks.com.
Families with young children are invited to join Leg. Anker for a book launch at Comsewogue Public Library, 170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station on Thursday, July 28 at 2:30 p.m. The educational presentation will feature a reading of the book, a Q&A, book signing and crafts. The first 25 books will be given out for free. To register for this event, call the library at 631-928-1212 or email [email protected].
Northport Public Library, 151 Laurel Ave., Northport will host a Job Fair on Wednesday, July 27 from 10 a.m. to noon.Meet representatives from Elara Caring, SCOPE, Forest Hills Financial Group, NYS Dept of Corrections, NY Life, Citation Healthcare Labels, Developmental Disabilities Institute, Retail Management Inc, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Circor, Suffolk County Police Dept, Suffolk Transportation and more! Bring your resume and dress to impress. To register, visit bit.ly/NorthportDOL. For more information, call 631-261-6930.
Harborfields Public Library, 31 Broadway, Greenlawn hosts an outdoor concert by Beatles tribute band The Liverpool Shuffle on Wednesday, July 27 at 7 p.m.
Originally formed in 2003 by Joe Refano, (formerly of Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone and Micky Dolenz’ Monkees Band), The Liverpool Shuffle brings together veterans of the New York Music Scene with a combined 200 years of musical experience between them. They are all avowed BEATLEMANIACS and it shows! The Liverpool Shuffle provides a fun, entertaining LIVE BEATLE SHOW with a real emphasis on the music. They play it the way The Beatles did!
Join the Liverpool Shuffle on the front lawn of the Library for an exciting outdoor concert. Tickets are not required, the concert is open to all. This event is sponsored by the Friends of the Library. In the event of rain, the performance will be postponed. A rain date will be announced if needed.
Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Blvd., Centereach will present the following free outdoor events for the community this summer:
Music Under the Stars: Petty Rumours
Thursday, July 12 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Join Petty Rumours for an unforgettable evening of music. This show will bring together over four decades of hits from Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac and the Traveling Wilburys. As this concert will be held outside, patrons should bring their own chairs and/or blankets. Food trucks will be on hand beginning at 6pm and performance begins at 7 p.m.
Music Under the Stars: 20 Highview
Tuesday, August 9 from 7 to 9 p.m.
Get down with 20 Highview, a nine-piece powerhouse band specializing in dance classics with funk grooves. They will cover classics from the 60’s up to the present day. As this concert will be held outside, patrons should bring their own chairs and blankets. Food trucks will be on hand beginning at 6pm and performance begins at 7 p.m.
MCPL Under the Stars Movie Night: ‘The Goonies’
Wednesday, August 17 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Join us for an outdoor viewing of the movie, The Goonies! As this movie will be held outside, patrons should bring their own chairs and blankets. In the event of rain, the program will be rescheduled for August 25. Food truck will be on hand beginning at 7 p.m. and movie begins at 8 p.m.
Comsewouge Public Library, 170 Terryvile Road, Port Jefferson Stationwill host a Job Fair on Tuesday, July 12 from 10 a.m. to noon.
Presented by the Suffolk CountyDepartment of Labor’s One-Stop Employment Center, the fair will feature representatives from Suffolk Transportation, Amazon, Doyle Security Services, Stony Brook University, Gardaworld, Express Employment Professionals, First Student, Ideal Homecare Services, Trinity Solar, Sun River Health, Services for the Underserved, Center for Discovery, Citation Healthcare Labels, Developmental Disabilities Institute, Options for Community Living and more!
No registration required. Bring your resume and dress for success. For more information, call 631-928-1212.