Mount Sinai

Civic association swears in at the June 3 meeting. Photo by Aidan Johnson

By Aidan Johnson

Dozens of residents attended the Mount Sinai Civic Association meeting June 3 to voice their safety concerns over a potential new battery energy storage system facility locally.

The facility, proposed by New Leaf Energy, would have a 20-year lifespan, after which the site would need to be restored to its pre-project condition.

The proposed area is adjacent to Mount Sinai-Coram Road and Route 25A on property owned by real estate agent Ray Manzoni. However, because this property is zoned as transitional business, New Leaf Energy’s application proposes the zone be changed to light industrial.

Former county Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who has been a vocal critic of the proposal, and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Dan Panico (R) also attended. While speaking, Panico addressed misinformation on social media that incorrectly told Mount Sinai residents that “the people in either Holbrook or Holtsville fought the battery storage there, and what they’re not getting is coming to Mount Sinai.”

Anker voiced common worries that residents had about the storage system facility.

“We just want to understand that what is going to happen is safe,” Anker said. “I don’t have a problem with renewable energy. We need the battery storage, we’re going to need that, but it’s the location,” she added, calling the proposed site the “worst intersection probably in Suffolk County.”

“Multiple accidents have happened there, the school district is close by, the water authority has a well right there, there’s a recreational path. There’s so many reasons we don’t need to change commercial to industrial,” she said.

Civic President Brad Arrington also discussed how LIPA, which owns an empty parcel of land next to the substation, could theoretically put a battery facility there without any input from the town government due to being immune from the local zoning authority.

“They could put a battery facility there which would carry the same risk that people are concerned about today, the difference being that when LIPA puts that in, they do not have to provide any community benefit, which is what has been proposed with this property,” Arrington said.

New Leaf is proposing an initial upfront payment of $340,000 — $85,000 per battery installation — with the allocation of this money to the school district, fire department and more not yet determined. The company also originally reserved $500 per megawatt, for a total of $10,000 annually, but raised it to $12,000 with a 2% annual increase to cover the current property taxes going to the school district.

Residents expressed concerns about what would happen if there was a fire at the facility, inquiring about the chemicals that would be emitted into the air and ground and how it would affect the surrounding area, including the school district and homes.

However, Arrington said the proposed facility would have lithium iron phosphate batteries, which “have a lower energy density, but have a far reduced rate of thermal runaway,” as opposed to the lithium NMC batteries that, while much more energy dense, are more prone to spontaneously catch on fire.

He also explained that a chain reaction would not take place, meaning that if thermal runaway does happen, it would be isolated in its own compartmentalized container.

Additionally, since the battery would have to burn itself out instead of being put out with water by the fire department, Arrington said that according to New Leaf, there wouldn’t be runoff into the ground. Also contamination with the soil and the off-gassing would be extremely limited.

Panico did not answer whether or not he supported the project, instead saying that he would review the application and talk to his colleagues, including Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), who represents the area.

Arrington said the town board would not take a vote to approve the project without input from the civic, which will hold a meeting for the civic members to vote in October.

Early learning educators and faculty at the Day Without Childcare Rally in Mt Sinai. Photo by Aidan Johnson

By Aidan Johnson 

Early learning educators on Long Island took part May 13 in a rally for a Day Without Child Care, a movement centered around affordable child care and fair wages for teachers who work in child care.

The demonstration took place near the Paper Planes Early Learning Center in Mount Sinai, and was attended by staff along with teachers from other early learning facilities in Suffolk County.

“Child care is paid solely out of the pockets of the parents — there’s no funding for child care unless you’re getting a subsidy,” explained Maria Ahrens, owner of PPELC. She further described how everything, including the teachers payroll, supplies and the building itself, is paid for by the parents out of pocket.

“And so when you have ratios to follow, such as one-to-four infants [per teacher], there’s almost no profit margin,” Ahrens said.

She stressed the importance of early learning education, as 90% of a child’s brain develops during their first five years.

This lack of funding does not leave room for high wages, benefits or health care for the teachers, helping contribute to the turnover rate of teachers in private pay age 0-5 learning centers.

Some teachers in the Day Without Child Care rallies are fighting for universal child care, which would be supported by taxes in the same fashion as public K-12 education. However, Ahrens also saw a voucher program that isn’t reliant on one’s income and can help families choose a quality child care facility as a starting point.

Ahrens said that support has been received from state legislators from both sides of the aisle, including Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) and Sen. Jabari Brisport (D-Brooklyn). 

A bill was introduced by Brisport and Sen. Julia Salazar (D-Brooklyn) that would have allowed social service districts to provide child care assistance to parents during more than just the hours they spend in work or education. This was aimed to help parents and caretakers who have uncertain work hours or other big responsibilities outside of work and school. 

While Bill S5327A passed both the Assembly and Senate, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) vetoed it last December.

In a statement Brisport said, “Governor Hochul knows exactly how bad tying child care to employment is for families, for child care providers and for the economy as a whole. It’s remarkable to see how consistently this governor will publicly claim to support universal child care while quietly moving New York in the opposite direction.”

“She’s a governor who chooses her words based on the needs of voters, but her actions based almost exclusively on the interests of her ultra-rich campaign donors,” he added.

Despite Hochul’s veto of Bill S5327A, Brisport is pushing again for improved child care services by sponsoring Bill S8152A, which is currently being reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee.  

“All of us love [teaching] because it’s our passion,” Ahrens said. “We love children. We want to educate them, but the pay isn’t enough to survive on.”

File photo

By Sabrina Artusa

New Leaf Energy has proposed a new battery energy storage system facility in Mount Sinai — a proposal that necessitates a rezoning of the current property.

The increase in development of battery energy storage systems in the state is part of the effort to achieve the goal of the 2019 New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which states that by 2030, 70% of electricity should be derived from renewable energy. 

The battery energy storage system will work to offset the lack of wind and solar power during off seasons by storing excess electricity throughout the year, then release electricity when demand dictates. 

The facility will be approximately 40,000 square feet and will consist of 24 Tesla Megapack 2XL containers, and will generate around 80 megawatt-hours, which could power 16,000 homes. The proposed site is adjacent to Mount Sinai‒Coram Road and Route 25A.

The proposal was met with opposition from the community, many of whom were concerned that the facility, which consists of four battery installations, would provide a safety risk to the nearby school. 

In March, the developer approached the Mount Sinai Civic Association with their plans. At the civic’s May 6 meeting, New Leaf Energy prepared a presentation and answered questions. The meeting, according to the association’s president Brad Arrington, lasted two-and-a-half hours. 

Arrington estimated that of those who attended, 70-80% were opposed. 

“I think most people are concerned about the safety around BESS. They are worried about proximity to lithium and they are worried about fires,” Arrington said. “People are rightly concerned about that.”

A petition against the development listed safety concerns as a major reason why the facility should not be approved. While fires are a reasonable concern, New Leaf Energy’s systems have several safety measures to ensure any fires stay contained. 

However, the property is not zoned as a residential area, but as transitional business. The application from New Leaf Energy proposes a change to light industrial. 

According to their presentation, toxic gases are not a risk and precautions have been taken to limit the likelihood of fires. The units are spread out, have a thermal management system and on-site and remote monitoring systems. 

The civic expanded the conversation to include Mount Sinai School District and Mount Sinai Fire Department. Arrington said that the fire department seems “satisfied with the information they were provided” and have not “expressed significant concerns around safety.”

New Leaf Energy, in a PowerPoint presentation available on the civic website, has indicated there will be a community benefit agreement “in place of school district PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes),” which is estimated at “approx. $10,000 per year per project.”

The civic association is still gathering information and has not yet formed an opinion on the proposal. Arrington said the vote will likely take place in the fall. 

“We really try to represent the interests of our community to our elected officials and provide meaningful and balanced opinions to our officials,” he said.

Operation of the facility is estimated for summer 2027 if approved. 

Residents gather at the Heritage Center for a Mount Sinai Civic Association meeting. Photo courtesy Sarah Anker

By Sarah S. Anker

Over 100 residents gathered at the Heritage Center during a May 6 Mount Sinai Civic Association meeting to hear from New Leaf Energy, a battery storage company, about a proposed lithium-ion battery storage facility. 

According to the civic president, Brad Arrington, the plan to site the 20-megawatt battery storage system facility on a 1-acre parcel, located at the corner of Mount Sinai-Coram Road and Route 25A in Mount Sinai, has been in the works for seven years. Surprisingly, despite representing the area as a former Suffolk County legislator for the past 13 years, I only recently learned about this project.

Having facilitated the Green Homes and the Go Solar programs as the former director of Town of Brookhaven’s Office of Energy & Sustainability, I strongly support clean energy initiatives. However, I have concerns about the proposed location of this facility. Placing it on a 1-acre parcel with no buffers, near one of the county’s most accident-prone intersections, raises red flags. Additionally, the site is close to residential neighborhoods, a public walking path, an SCWA drinking water well and Mount Sinai schools.

I would have no problem if the siting were in an area that, if the units were to catch on fire, there would be less exposure to the highly toxic fumes emitted. After the East Hampton battery storage facility caught on fire, several towns — including Southampton, Southold and Huntington — moved forward with moratoriums. It is only common sense that more scrutiny be done to address the safety of these facilities and where they are placed. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has created the Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group to review the issue of battery storage systems safety. As the working group investigates the fires that have occurred at three New York locations, a moratorium is needed in Brookhaven to ensure the safety of its residents. 

Over 20 years ago, a Home Depot was proposed to be built on the site that is now Mount Sinai’s centerpiece, the North Shore Heritage Park. We fought hard to create the park by collecting petitions, writing letters to our elected officials, wrapping green ribbons around our mailboxes and rallying our community together. Can you image if no one cared back then, and a Home Depot was built? Eighteen-wheeler trucks would snarl traffic, the green rolling hills would be black pavement and the memories of community concerts, holiday events, sports games and the springtime daffodil smiling face on the hill would be lost. 

Just as location, location, location is what the realtors say when emphasizing the value of real estate, let’s also consider the location of this project and the value we place on public safety and quality of life. Do we really want an industrial parcel located in the heart of our hometown? The project cannot move forward until the Town Board votes to change the zoning to light industrial. I encourage residents to attend upcoming Town Board meetings and provide input before a decision is made. Government is here for you when they hear from you. 

Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) is a District 1 candidate for the New York State Senate and was formerly a Suffolk County legislator.  

First responders swarm the scene on Feb. 22. Photo by Lynn Hallarman

By Lynn Hallarman

Christian Neubert, third assistant chief for the Port Jefferson Village Fire Department, was first on the scene, responding to the emergency dispatch called to the Port Jefferson fire station at 5:44 AM, Thursday, Feb. 22. 

At 5:46 AM, Neubert arrived at the corner of Thompson Street and East Main Street in the Village to find flames shooting in the air from the roof of a two-car garage on the residential property at 119 East Main Street. He quickly realized the worst was possible and told the dispatcher to alert neighboring fire departments that a full-structure fire was underway. 

When a report of a structure fire is called to the Port Jefferson Fire Department, the Terryville Fire Department is simultaneously alerted, putting in motion a quick response firefighting team as an extra layer of support for dangerous fire situations, Neubert explained the emergency response process in an interview with TBR. “This system is excellent and part of our automatic mutual aid program. And we do the same for Terryville,” he said. 

Belle Terre resident Mel Kravitz, on his early morning walk with his dog, could see the flames reaching into the sky from the Gap parking lot. 

“I heard explosions, then shortly after, I saw the fire trucks shooting down East Main,” Kravitz said. 

At 5:51 AM the Terryville Fire Department arrived on the scene. 

At 6:03 AM,  neighboring fire departments began to arrive to fight the blaze: Setauket Fire DepartmentMount Sinai Fire Department, and Stony Brook Fire Department responded, according to Neubert. The Miller Place Fire Department stood by at the Port Jefferson Fire Station in case an alarm sounded for another village fire. 

After confirming residents were safely outside, the crew assessed if the fire had extended into the house. The fire jumped from the garage and was eating its way through a low roof on the side of the house. Firefighters split efforts between containing the garage fire and extinguishing the rapidly spreading fire inside the home.

Several firefighters were fighting the blaze — some were on the house’s roof and inside the house searching for hot spots, while others drenched the destroyed garage with water. Cars parked inside the garage were now heaps of melted metal. Smoke plumed from burnt remnants, and radiant heat melted the siding off the house next door on Thompson Street. Firefighters doused a charred shed on the adjacent property on East Main. 

At 6:48 AM, the Port Jefferson Fire Department declared the fire incident under control. 

“The theory is the fire originated in a car in the garage,” Neubert said. But as a firefighter, you can’t know.” The incident will now be under investigation by the village Fire Marshall and the Suffolk County police, who make these determinations, he explained. 

No residents were hurt in the fire. A second-degree hand burn sent one firefighter to the emergency room at Stony Brook University Hospital. He was treated and released, according to Neubert. 

Fire Safety Tips

“The number one fire safety tactic is to install smoke detectors,” Neubert said.  

“And don’t assume that the fire department knows because your smoke alarm is going off; call 911 immediately,” he said. 

“Sleep with the doors closed at night. A closed door is imperative to stop fire spread,” he warns.

The Port Jefferson Fire Department has a designated fire alarm hotline: 631-473-3232. 

“We’re proud of having that capability. Residents can call the firehouse directly, saving critical minutes in response time.

Neubert reminds the public that every firefighter in the Port Jefferson fire department is a volunteer.

“Volunteer firefighters responded to this fire, then left, showered, and went to work.”

By Bill Landon

Led by the sophomore Mia Betancourt, the Mount Sinai Mustangs outran visiting Bayport-Blue Point in the Jan. 19 League VI matchup Friday night. Betancourt banked 24 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds for the triple-double leading her team to the 78-64 victory. 

Freshman Alexa Cergol netted nine field goals and a 3-pointer from the line for 21 points and Kyla Orlando, a junior, banked 14.

Senior Ashley Sankey did her damage from long range, draining three triples for nine points.

The Mustangs retake the court Thursday, Jan. 25, when they host Center Moriches. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.

The win keeps the Mustangs atop the League VI leaderboard at 6-0, 9-4 overall, with six games remaining before postseason play begins.

By Gavin Scarlatos

After 12 years of service, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) is stepping down due to term limits. Anker entered office in 2012 with an objective to improve the lives of Suffolk County residents. Throughout her tenure, she tackled a wide range of issues, focusing on public safety, infrastructure, protecting the environment and community well-being. 

Suffolk County 6th District Legislator Sarah Anker with her children Josh, Erica and Rachel with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo courtesy Office of Leg. Sarah Anker

Anker represented the 6th Legislative District spanning over much of the northeast portion of the Town of Brookhaven, including the hamlets of Miller Place, Sound Beach, Shoreham, Rocky Point and parts of Mount Sinai, Ridge, Middle Island, Coram and Wading River. Her work within her district exemplifies how she prided herself on providing a voice for her constituents to be heard. 

“I hope that folks appreciate not so much what I’ve been able to accomplish, but what they have been able to accomplish working with me and working with my colleagues,” Anker said. 

Throughout her career in public service Anker has tackled issues from environmental preservation to fighting the opioid epidemic, all the while looking to decrease government spending and placing emphasis on the overall quality of life for Suffolk County residents. 

“Many of my legislative initiatives have focused on public safety, from addressing our dangerous roads to going after drug dealers who have contributed to the opioid epidemic,” Anker said. 

One of her most notable achievements in tackling public safety concerns was developing the North Shore Rail Trail, providing pedestrians and bicyclists a safer outlet where they can avoid traffic while also giving the community a place to connect to the environment. 

“I spearheaded the North Shore Rail Trail, a 10-mile recreation path from Mount Sinai to Wading River, that provides a safer alternative for walking, jogging, running and biking,” she said. “The path links the communities together and provides economic support for local businesses.” 

Much of Anker’s work centered around the quality of life for her district’s residents and throughout her career she has proved to be a proponent for improving road safety.

 “Road safety has always been one of my top priorities,” Anker said. “The number one complaint in my office throughout the years has been potholes, not surprisingly. With both NYS Route 25 and NYS Route 25A going through my district, I continued to advocate to all levels of government to fix and repair our dangerous roads.” 

In her mission to enhance local roads and address traffic incidents, Anker worked with authorities to increase the number of patrolling traffic safety officials and to implement and improve existing traffic signage.

Legislator Sarah Anker alongside Neighborhood Watch committee. Photo courtesy Office of Legislator Sarah Anker

“I’ve been successful with adding additional lights and signage including a red light at Ridge Road, increasing the number of crossing guards near schools and producing the School Traffic Zone Safety Report to identify problem traffic areas,” she added.

Before serving in the Legislature, Anker had been energy director for the Town of Brookhaven, where she developed solar programs and promoted clean energy and green homes technologies. She had also served on the Mount Sinai school board, raising three children in the district.  Anker took it upon herself to find solutions to the problems afflicting her community, utilizing the care and problem-solving skills that come with being a working mother. 

“I became involved in the political space — this is going back to the 1980s — because I noticed that there were some water quality issues,” Anker said. “I became aware of environmental issues within the area and while raising my three children, I was concerned about their exposure to environmental contaminants.” 

After Anker’s grandmother lost her battle to breast cancer, the granddaughter founded the not-for-profit Community Health and Environment Coalition and led the organization to raise awareness about how our environment directly impacts our health. 

After years of being a community leader and getting results, Anker decided to run for Suffolk County legislator in 2011 with the goal in mind to better help people and lead important initiatives. As a legislator, Anker often prioritized people over politics. 

“It’s something to be proud of — Heritage Park [in Mount Sinai], the North Shore Rail Trail, traffic improvement and public safety,” she said. “Makes me think of all the neighborhood watches that we created in Rocky Point, Miller Place and Sound Beach. And the acquisition of open space, the cleaning up of the water, the farmland preservation. We did a lot.” 

Looking ahead while out of office, Anker hopes to continue helping people and working with the community to resolve problems. She has taken a position at the Board of Elections where she will use the skills she acquired running successful campaigns to ensure a fair and just voting process. 

Anker will also be completing projects outside the realm of politics. She plans to follow up her previous award-winning publications with her third children’s book, this one, focused around overcoming adversity and appreciating the environment. 

Though Anker’s years of public service as a legislator have come to an end, she has left an indelible mark on the community and plans to continue finding solutions to the issues affecting those around her by bringing people together. 

After 12 years of serving the community as county legislator, Anker advocates for more residents to get involved in their local government. 

“When you help people, you really feel the good that you’re doing,” Anker said. “This type of feeling just passes on to the next person and hopefully it continues. If everybody could do this, the world would be a much better place.”

Photo courtesy Brian Drewes and Kristen Milligan

Prepared by Brian Drewes and Kristen Milligan

On a crisp November evening, we said a bittersweet farewell to Frederick William Drewes, our cherished father, grandfather, educator, traveler, partner and friend, who at 87 concluded a chapter of life full of warmth, laughter and profound humanity.

Born to Louise Kopp and Frederick Henry Drewes in Brooklyn, on Aug. 29, 1936, Fred was a student of life who sought to share his curiosity and creativity.

Fred’s tenure at Suffolk County Community College was marked by 32 years of dedication, where his classrooms became gardens of learning. His love for biology and environmental science was infectious, and his lessons stretched far beyond textbooks, sowing seeds of wonder and respect for the natural world.

This is not to say he was an easy professor — far from it. His expectations for his students were high, and some may say he was difficult. We can remember many occurrences through childhood where a stranger would say, “Oh, I know your father. He was my teacher in college — he was tough, but he’s a great guy.” We knew exactly what they meant.

As a father to Brian and Kristen, he was also a committed grandfather who softened in the presence of grandchildren Josephine, Lila, Andrew and Paden. His longtime companion, Patricia Curran, alongside her family and daughter-in-law Meizi and son-in-law Allen, were welcomed into the tapestry of our extended family.

Fred’s early years found challenges typical of recent immigrants, but these hardships taught him the resilience of the human spirit. These lessons became the foundation of a life dedicated to service, teaching and continued learning. Through his often jovial nature, many people around him felt the warmth of his welcome.

Fred was an avid traveler who embraced the beauty of diverse landscapes and human interactions. His journeys took him to countries across Europe, Africa and Asia, including a seven-month backpacking adventure through North Africa and the Middle and Far East. He embarked on a six-month thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 1998 and completed a yearlong bike journey to 44 countries in 2000 for the establishment of the Heritage Park in Mount Sinai. He even climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa, always seeking to explore new places and connect with people.

His commitment to education and travel was paralleled by his love for his community, where he poured his heart into civic engagement, from the Mount Sinai Advisory Committee to the Master Gardener Training program, ski clubs and more. Fred’s humor became a signature of joy, especially treasured during the holidays when he would regale children and adults alike with his spirited rendition of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

The creation and nurturing of the Heritage Park stand as a testament to Fred’s vision for communal spaces filled with beauty and laughter. Each daffodil planted, each flag raised and each smiley face that bloomed in the park spoke of his playful nature and his dedication to bringing people together.

Fred’s restoration of his historic Shore Road, Mount Sinai home was more than a project; it was a manifestation of his love for storytelling and history. Through his efforts, the legacy of naturalist Robert Cushman Murphy and the tales of Long Island’s past were lovingly preserved, as Fred believed that stories were the best way to bring history alive and keep the community connected.

On Saturday, Dec. 16, we invite friends, family and those whose lives were touched by Fred’s boundless energy and heart to join us at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai for a Celebration of Life. It will be an occasion filled with anecdotes, laughter and shared joy, much like the life Fred so beautifully led.

In lieu of flowers, to mirror Fred’s dedication to the Earth and spirit of generosity, consider extending his legacy through contributions to open space and wildlife preservation causes. Let us honor Fred not with tears, but with acts of kindness, hearty laughs and an open heart, for that is how he lived each day.

He has left us a world more connected and far richer in spirit, and for that, we are eternally grateful.

We start with an adrenaline-packed adventure at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai. Discover the excitement of a fearless group braving the frigid waters for a valuable cause.

Then, catch the heat as tensions rise between the Brookhaven Town Board and the municipality’s cable service provider. We’ve got the latest on the town’s television showdown.

Later, take a trip through history with our sportswriter, Bill Landon, as he reflects on the JFK assassination’s foggy memories, marking its 60th anniversary this week.

And as Thanksgiving approaches, join us in a call to action. We’re rallying our readers and listeners to support local mom and pops on National Small Business Saturday.

Tune in to The Pressroom Afterhour: Keeping it Local with TBR for a special Thanksgiving edition.

Visit tbrnewsmedia.com to read these stories and more. Follow us on:

Amid whipping winds and frigid waves, hundreds of Long Islanders braved the conditions this weekend for a good cause at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai.

Whether they were dressed as penguins, donned knitted turkeys on their heads or wore next to nothing at all, they all dove in the roughly 45-degree water, raising money for the Special Olympics New York during the Town of Brookhaven’s 14th annual Freezin’ for a Reason Polar Plunge.

Rebecca Hoffmann, director of development at Special Olympics New York and one of the lead organizers of this event, could not remember the conditions being so — ahem — unbearable for the plungers, and she appreciated each and every hardy soul who participated.

“The Special Olympics is super thankful to the plunging community for coming out and not letting the really cold conditions stop them,” said Hoffmann, who has run the Brookhaven plunge for two years and been with the Special Olympics for eight. “Over 600 people went in the water, and they raised over $140,000, which is good enough to sponsor 350 Special Olympic athletes for a year.”

She added, “I think it is truly amazing to see the community rally together in support of our special athletes.”

The $140,000 raised in 2023 surpassed the total from 2022 by $12,000.

But due to the harsher than expected conditions, a maximum of six people were permitted per plunge this time around. The teams took turns in two-minute intervals, running into the inhospitable waters of the Long Island Sound.

Some chose to go up to their ankles while others fully submerged themselves — a few hooligans even snapping a few selfies while doing so as if it were the middle of August.

One such group — a foursome known as Team Freezin’ Minions — treated the arctic surf like it was their own personal bathtub, dunked themselves into the drink decked out in full-length emperor penguin costumes.

Crystal Vega, captain of the Minions, has been polar plunging for eight years.

“We are so happy to support the Special Olympics today,” said Vega, whose team raised $6,636 despite her losing a water shoe in the Sound. “This is the roughest water I can ever remember, so trying to stay safe and getting the full ‘plunge’ experience was a little difficult, but we survived,” adding, “All of us, except my shoe.”

Other teams included the Arctic Zebras, the North Pole Karens, the Sassy Swimmers, groups of philanthropic students from Port Jefferson, Ward Melville, Mount Sinai and Miller Place high schools as well as Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner’s (R-Rocky Point) Frozen Eagles, who raised over $4,000 this year. Bonner has jumped in 13 out of 14 Brookhaven plunges, missing only in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Plungers started hitting the icy waters at about 11:30 a.m., but the festivities kicked off hours early with a few brave souls enjoying hot chocolate, coffee and egg sandwiches as they nervously paced around the Cedar Beach parking lot, awaiting their inevitable appointment with the water.

The Suffolk County Civil Service Employees Association — aka the CSEA Crazies — provided their famous potato soup and spicy chili. They are familiar faces at Cedar Beach in November.

“We’ve been out here at the Polar Plunge since the beginning — all 13 years,” said Bob Brandow, a member of the Crazies who is responsible for making 100 quarts of chili. “Whatever money we get for the food we sell, in addition to the funds we raise via sponsorships, all goes to the Special Olympics. It’s a great cause.”

Team Sachem raised the most money, bringing in over $19,000 with Team Extraordinary in second with $14,500 and Big Ed’s Big Hearts in third with $12,700.