Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai senior attack Taylor Cline broke the ice for the Mustangs when her shot on goal split the pipes two minutes in, followed up with a goal from teammate Alexa Spallina at the 16-minute mark. Then Cline stretched the net again, putting the Mustangs out front 3-0.

Comsewogue answered back, however, as senior midfielder Gabby Constant scored twice in three minutes, followed by freshman attack Gianna McNulty’s shot on goal assisted by Jackie Riviezzo, tying the game at 3-3 with just under eight minutes left in the half. 

Spallina scored again, capped with a pair of goals by senior Lea Flobeck to lead it 6-3. The Warriors fought their way back to make it a one-score game when McNulty’s shot once again found its mark with just under seven minutes left in this Div. II matchup on Monday, March 27.

Spallina would score the insurance goal, firing at the cage while falling to seal the deal for the Mustangs, who won 8-6. Mount Sinai goalie Sara Flobeck had six saves in net.

Both teams are back in action this Friday, March 31, when the Mustangs host Bayport-Blue Point at 4:30 p.m. and the Warriors host Shoreham-Wading River at 5 p.m.

— Photos by Bill Landon

It was the 21st edition of the coveted “Battle of the Educators,” where the Mount Sinai School District faculty squared off in an annual basketball game pitting the high school teachers against their middle and elementary school colleagues on Friday, March 3, at the Mount Sinai High School. 

Funds raised from gate admission, food and snacks and apparel sales supported the Mount Sinai Booster Club, with the proceeds going towards athletic scholarships awarded in June. 

The game took place in front of a near-capacity crowd, with attendance approaching pre-pandemic levels.

— Photos by Bill Landon

The Mustangs of Mount Sinai broke out to an early lead, protecting a seven-point advantage to open the second half and managing to keep the Amityville Warriors at bay the rest of the way in the Suffolk Class A semifinal at Longwood High School.

Mount Sinai senior Derrek Shechter led the way in scoring for the Warriors with three triples, four field goals and three from the line for 20 points in the 58-50 victory Feb. 21.

Teammates Dominic Pennzello followed with 13 points, Drew Feinstein netted 12, and Chris Paz banked 10 to punch their ticket to the championship final round on Saturday, Feb. 25, at Stony Brook University when they will face Kings Park. Gametime is at 5 p.m.

— Photos by Bill Landon

The grapplers of Port Jefferson narrowly missed top honors in the Robert Fallot Memorial Suffolk County Div. II wrestling championships at Mattituck High School on Saturday, Feb. 11.

With an overall team score of 220.5 points, the Royals were just 10 points shy of top-placed finisher John Glenn. Shoreham-Wading River placed third, with 192 points, and Mount Sinai followed with 159.5. 

Port Jefferson’s Liam Rogers and SWR’s Thomas Palumbo made it to the final round. Mount Sinai’s Derek Menechino reached the final round at 126 pounds. Shoreham’s Gavin Mangano took top honors at 110 pounds, along with Brayden Fahrbach of Mount Sinai at 132 pounds.

— Photos by Bill Landon

Photo by Raymond Janis

Congregants, community members and peace advocates gathered Sunday, Jan. 15, outside the Mount Sinai Congregational Church to erect a Peace Pole.

The ceremony was part of the international Peace Pole Project, a program that has spread to every country with the universal message of global peace. 

Kevin Mann, president of the Rocky Point Rotary Club, attended the service. Though not a member of the Congregational Church, he traced the church’s long history championing various social causes throughout American history.

“Before the term ‘social activism’ was invented, this congregation was doing it,” he said. “This congregation’s history goes all the way back to being a part of the Underground Railroad. They also had the first free men of color as members,” adding, “They were always ahead of the curve and involved in every single social activism movement.”

Sunday’s peace ceremony carried symbolic significance as well, marking the 94th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Tom Lyon is a congregation member and co-founder of Building Bridges in Brookhaven. “Martin Luther King did get the Nobel Prize for Peace,” Lyon said. “That wasn’t just about the United States. That wasn’t just about segregation. He talked about universal love, unrequited love. … That’s kind of the concept: the universality of peace.”

He added that King “spoke out against the Vietnam War, which became very controversial. That was in 1967, exactly a year before he was killed.”

To Lyon, peace is often caricatured in popular culture as passive, even pacifistic. The example of MLK, he said, awakens one to the possibilities of peace, something he viewed as highly active and courageous. 

“Martin Luther King was always talking about how being a person of peace takes much more courage, much more strength, than a person who just gives into their anger or acts out violently,” Lyon said. “To seek peaceful solutions often is more difficult, more challenging, but in the long run, that’s what we feel we’re called to do.”

Corridor of Peace

Above, Tom Lyon (left) and Kevin Mann pose with the newly planted Peace Pole outside Mount Sinai Congregational Church. Photo by Raymond Janis

The Peace Pole planted at the congregation is part of a major local effort tied to the Peace Pole Project, the proposed Corridor of Peace, coordinated by the Rotary. 

“We are attempting to declare a Corridor of Peace, which is [routes] 25 and 25A and four school districts at the moment — Rocky Point, Miller Place, Shoreham-Wading River and Longwood — that will designate how they want to make their communities a more peaceful environment,” Mann said.

Through this initiative, Mann hopes community members can better understand the problems unique to their area and work toward positive change. “You have very common themes and issues — food insecurity, inequality, housing, opioid addiction — many things,” Mann said.

Through the project, he sees an opportunity “to continue to increase the quality of life for people in the corridor.”

Lyon added to this sentiment and vision. He said members of the corridor could find unity through shared values and a mutual desire for peace. “Hopefully, people in the communities of peace will be reminded that’s the connection with the Peace Pole Project,” he said. “You see one in front of a couple of stores or another in the neighborhood where you are walking. It’s just a reminder.”

Conflict abroad

Mann and Lyon defined the Peace Pole Project as apolitical, a program committed to the mantra, “May peace prevail on Earth.” However, both acknowledged the ongoing human conflicts around the globe, namely the Russo-Ukrainian War.

Lyon said the Peace Pole Project reminds Americans of the need to promote peace, especially when the United States is not at war. “It’s sometimes easy to be a little complacent when things are going good for us as Americans,” he said. However, the project is “a universal thing,” and the cause for universal peace applies equally to Americans as it does to Ukrainians and Russians.

Outlining the Rotary’s response to Russian belligerence, Mann said the club has sponsored training for trauma nurses and has even brought a 9-year-old Ukrainian girl to Long Island for heart surgery. 

“There’s no political stand involved, but there are people in need,” he said. “We’ve been very, very active in the Ukrainian concept … and bringing focus to the Ukraine issue.”

‘The military is a business that drives economies, unfortunately.’ — Kevin Mann

Finding peace

Despite the war and violence dominating the headlines and news cycles, Mann maintains that humans are naturally peaceful. Drawing from the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, he said peace usually endures for long periods of human history, with brief interruptions of war.

“For long periods of history, peace has prevailed,” Mann said. “For short periods of history, war has broken out.” 

Finding a silver lining in those interruptions of war, Mann added that technological advancements had accelerated during wartime. “One of the byproducts of war breaking out, as bad as it has been, is that it has led to technological and medical advancements that have helped humanity.”

Defining some of the problems inherent to these times, Mann said high-speed communication and mass media culture now spread news and images of war quickly and widely. At the same time, war remains a lucrative international business.

“The military is a business that drives economies, unfortunately,” he said. “Peace hasn’t gotten that kind of focus internationally.”

As warmongers in the press continue to drive nations into battle, and as arms dealers continue to profit from the blood spilled on the fields of human strife, Mann maintains that there is still room for hope.

“Polio is almost being totally eliminated, and malaria is well on its way to being controlled,” he said. “Over the last hundred years, people have worked to make those things happen,” adding, “They’ve happened despite diverting resources to other causes, so I think there’s great room for optimism.”

METRO photo

Are you apprehensive about the upcoming holidays? Feeling alone and missing the presence of a loved one? A workshop entitled “Grief and the Holidays” will be offered at Mt. Sinai Congregational Church, 233 North County Road, Mount Sinai on Saturday, Dec. 17 from 10 a.m. to noon by the Caring Ministry of MSUCC. All are welcome! Please call the church office at 631-473-1582, or email [email protected] to register.

Hundreds of courageous community members plunged into the icy waters of Cedar Beach on Saturday, Nov. 19, during this year’s rendition of the Freezin’ for a Reason Polar Plunge.

The Town of Brookhaven puts this annual event together to raise money for the Special Olympics New York organization. Proceeds from the event support training for athletes, equipment, health supplies and attire. 

Saturday’s event has raised over $128,000, according to the nonprofit’s website which proclaims that it “provides inclusive opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to discover and unleash the champion within.” 

Hundreds of plungers from across the region participated in the plunge, with many more spectating warmly from afar. Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), a perennial “plunger,” made the daring plunge again.

In an interview with Bonner, she was asked what motivates her to take the cold water dip year after year. Her response, jokingly: “We ask ourselves that every year,” she said.

Bonner, who took the plunge this year with Special Olympians Daniel and Joey, said she finds renewed joy and optimism through her involvement in the activities. 

“When you meet all those Special Olympians and interview them … it’s impossible not to get caught up in the adrenaline and momentum of supporting them and other athletes,” she said. “It’s about $400 to $500 per athlete per sport, and no family is ever charged,” adding, “These plunges … help out so many athletes and families.”

Plunging with Bonner was Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney (R). Before making his plunge, the district attorney expressed some apprehensions, joking, “Unlike Jane and the rest, I am a coward so I’m trying to figure out what brought me to this stage.”

Despite his self-professed reluctance, Tierney did take the plunge. Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), on the other hand, also made an appearance though avoiding the frigid waters. 

During a speech, the town supervisor described the plunge as a meaningful sacrifice in serving the greater good. “At the end of the day, you may be a little cold, but this world is going to be a lot happier for what the people are going to do plunging today,” he said.

This year’s polar plunge brought together hundreds of athletes, students and community members who suffered in unity. Bonner said an event such as this makes the community a better place.

“Regardless of political affiliation, color, economic status — there’s no barrier,” the town councilwoman said. “We’re all doing this same thing for the same cause, and it’s hard not to feel good about it at the end of the day.”

— Photos by Raymond Janis 

Over 100 community members raced through the paths of Heritage Park on Saturday, Nov. 19, for the inaugural Mount Sinai 5K Turkey Trot Walk/Run.

North Shore Youth Council hosted the event, with proceeds supporting local families on Thanksgiving. Bobby Woods, executive director of NSYC, detailed the motivations for putting the event together.

“I also own a few gyms, so a lot of my members wanted to do something to raise funds for local families,” he said. “The proceeds of this event are going to be used, in partnership with Crossover Christian Church [in Mount Sinai], to feed 100 families next Thursday on Thanksgiving.”

Partnerships such as these are carried out fairly often by NSYC, a 42-year-old nonprofit charity dedicated to assisting youth and families throughout the area. The council offers after-school programs, affordable child care, mental health services and community-building events, among other initiatives.

“Today, we have a little over 100 participants,” Woods said. “They’re going to try to get in a little over 3 miles, and it’s just for fun, too.”

The executive director said his two passions in life are fitness and community-building. For him, the Turkey Trot event is a way to integrate these passions and “leverage both of these platforms.” However, the event is not only a way to get fit but to support community members in need.

“The families that we’re feeding, to put yourself in their shoes, there are going to be people that wake up that are unable to feed their kids, and there’s a lot of gravity to that,” Woods said. “There are going to be 100 families that can wake up now and have a great day with their kids, and I think that’s the youth council’s mission statement — and it has always been my statement at the gym.”

Another of NSYC’s central goals is to inspire community youth to be active, motivated and stewards for positive change. Lawrence Kogel, NSYC president, offered how the 5K event plays into that broader theme.

“The other focus of the youth council is to have a vehicle to allow youth to have something to do other than playing video games and getting in trouble,” he said. “All these activities — which are spread from Shoreham, Wading River, through Rocky Point and Miller Place, to Mount Sinai and Sound Beach — are to help the youth in the community. That’s really what our organization is all about.”

Runners, joggers and walkers of all ages completed 3 1/2 circumnavigations of Heritage Park for a total of 5 kilometers. The location of the Turkey Trot carried symbolic meaning, according to Kogel, fulfilling the original intent for creating this central community hub.

“It’s a partnership between the county, the Town of Brookhaven, our organization and the civic associations and other community groups that participate in the use of the building, which was the original vision of the Heritage Park,” he said.

To follow other upcoming community events coordinated by the youth council, visit the website

Mount Sinai’s student government members featured the 12th edition of their “Safe Trick or Treat” celebration on Saturday, Oct. 29, drawing over 1,100 trick-or-treaters, according to student government faculty advisor Roger Cardo. 

Admission was free, although donations were welcomed to cover the cost of all the candy and refreshments. 

Non-perishable food items were collected to benefit local food kitchens. The students set up the night before and were in at 7 a.m. to finish setting up more than a dozen rooms, which included the Haunted Hallway, Best Buddies, the Ocean Bowl and the Balloon Room, to name a few. 

Mr. Cardo credited the large turnout to word of mouth, the fliers that were circulated at the middle school, along with the efforts of more than 30 student government members, and seniors Destina Erden, Amanda Audia, Kate Rubino and Amr Ali. Fun was had by all. 

— Photos by Bill Landon

Al Kopcienski, right, with his great-grandson in a Miller Place Fire Department Ambulance. Photo courtesy Elizabeth Schwartz

Born 90 years ago this past Sunday, Al Kopcienski of Miller Place has led a life of uninterrupted service to his community.

Kopcienski’s sizable extended family flew in from around the country Oct. 22 to honor his life. On this joyous occasion, his daughter Elizabeth Schwartz thought it necessary to look back on her father’s life and reflect upon his achievements.

In an interview, Schwartz shared her father’s long commitment to the area. “My dad has been so invested in this community in a very quiet way,” she said. “The community needs to know. We need to remember people who are our unsung heroes.”

Kopcienski’s legacy of community service spans nearly a century. Among his many posts, he served as president of the Mount Sinai School District Board of Education, more than 60 years with the Port Jefferson Rotary Club, and the Miller Place Fire Department where he served as chief from 1967-68.

He lives by the Rotarian motto, “Service above self.” Schwartz said she and her siblings were also raised to follow this ethos.

“We were all raised — all eight of us — were raised with this mantra, ‘Service above self,’ that hard work is good work, that our job is to give to the community,” she said. “It is about community and not always about one person or self.”

Over the past nine decades, Kopcienski has witnessed firsthand the gradual transformation of the area. He said the little farming economy he once knew has gradually become a bustling environment.

“This area was a big farming area, and through the transition of years the farmers have disappeared,” he said. “The farming industry disappeared, and then the developers came in and started building houses.”

Despite the differences today from the undisturbed landscape Kopcienski knew growing up, he said young people can still derive vital lessons from his generation.

“One of my favorite sayings is ‘rest means rust,’” he said, emphasizing the value of physical movement and manual labor. “The service industry is well organized and has well-paying positions.”

While on the Mount Sinai school board, Kopcienski pushed for expanding opportunities for students pursuing professional trades. While today, many may place higher education at a premium, he still sees the value of these alternative career paths.

“There was a local superintendent of schools that would say, ‘All my kids graduate and go on to college,’” Kopcienski said. “I said to him, ‘What about the poor kid that can’t go on to college? What about the kid who went to BOCES, a trade school, where he spent half the day at school and then learned a trade?’” He added, “One of the problems we have is that people don’t want to get their hands dirty.”

Even at 90 years old, Kopcienski is still getting his hands dirty today, driving the ambulance for the fire department. He said he receives his fair share of raised eyebrows when arriving on the scene of an emergency.

“They say, ‘That old man’s driving the ambulance?’” he joked. Schwartz interjected, adding, “He comes home and tells us about all of the old people he drives to the hospital. And I said, ‘The old people, like 20 years younger than you, Pop?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’”

Despite the many changes he has observed over time, Kopcienski sees reason for hope. With 24 grandchildren, he now gets his chance to sit back, watch and follow the rising generation as it embarks on its path. 

Still, at 90, there appear to be no signs of rust or rest on this lifelong community servant.