Port Times Record

From FBI.gov

By Chris Cumella

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has released a statement that it is seeking assistance in locating individuals who had participated in the riots, which took place at the United States Capitol building Wednesday, Jan. 6. 

In addition to citizens, the FBI is also looking for off-duty police officers and firefighters who may have been involved.

A brief memo on the FBI official website at www.fbi.gov noted that an investigation has been launched to track down and arrest those individuals.

“We have deployed our full investigative resources and are working closely with our federal, state and local partners to aggressively pursue those involved in criminal activity during the events of January 6,” the memo said.

Next to the bureau’s statement can be seen a list of news events about the Capitol riots, with arrests and charges. 

The bureau’s call to action was for citizens to utilize its online forum, specifically if they had documents, photos or video to attach. 

There is also an option enabling participants to utilize the FBI’s phone number at 800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324) to report any relevant tips.

FBI Director Christopher Wray made a statement detailing that the violence and destruction of property at the U.S. Capitol building was appalling and disrespectful to the democratic process. 

“As we have said consistently, we do not tolerate violent agitators and extremists who use the guise of First Amendment-protected activity to incite violence and wreak havoc,” he said.

“Our agents and analysts have been hard at work … gathering evidence, sharing intelligence, and working with federal prosecutors to bring charges,”  Wray added. “We are determined to find those responsible and ensure justice is served.”

These investigations follow directly after the attacks on the Capitol building, which many outlets and organizations have blamed on President Trump’s (R) morning rally as a direct cause of the violence. 

During his speech, the president urged his supporters to “fight much harder” against “bad people” and “show strength” at the Capitol, where lawmakers were about to certify the Electoral College votes giving victory to President-elect Joe Biden (D), who is to be inaugurated on Jan. 20.

Regarding off-duty police officers, a media liaison for the Suffolk police department stated in an email that they currently have no specific knowledge that any of its off-duty members attended the event, and will comply with any investigations necessary moving forward. 

“The Suffolk County Police Department will cooperate, if requested, with the federal investigation into the events at the U.S. Capitol, including any alleged involvement of our members,” the statement said.

Groups gathered outside local congressional offices demanding that President Donald Trump (R) be impeached and convicted, and for Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) to be expelled from Congress following his vote against the certification of Electoral College ballots. 

On Monday, Jan. 11, the group Suffolk Progressives organized the protest and created a petition, demanding Zeldin leave his position. 

Shoshana Hershkowitz, from South Setauket, who founded the group, said they are against the congressman’s vote challenging the results of the 2020 presidential election — even after the deadly riots at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6. 

“He continued to talk about his feelings despite the evidence from the country,” Hershkowitz said. “On Jan. 2, he put a tweet out saying this is a lie. … Those words unfortunately they came to fruition on Jan. 6.”

After the mass attack on the Capitol by pro-Trump extremists, Zeldin still voted to object the election of President-elect Joe Biden (D), and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (D). 

“The combination of all of it, and then going back into the chamber after all of this violence and death, refusing to accept those results, trying to overturn the people … it was mind-blowing,” she said.

Upon Zeldin’s vote, Hershkowitz and her group penned a petition that is now up to nearly 2,000 signatures, calling for his expulsion.  

“I was hoping that after all this he would change his tune,” she said.

On Monday, Jan. 11, a group of more than 100 people gathered outside of Zeldin’s Patchogue office. A smaller group of counter-protesters stood across the street. 

Members further west rallied outside Rep. Tom Suozzi’s (D-NY3) Huntington office, asking him to demand that Zeldin be accountable. Suozzi supports the removal of Trump through the 25th Amendment or impeachment. 

The day of the insurrection, Zeldin released a statement.

“This should never be the scene at the U.S. Capitol,” he said. “This is not the America we all love. We can debate, and we can disagree, even on a January 6th following a presidential election. We can all passionately love our country, but in our republic, we elect people to represent us to voice our objections in the House and Senate on this day.”

He added that there must be “zero tolerance for violence in any form.”

Hershkowitz said she will be sending the petition to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). 

“I believe that these people shouldn’t be sitting in Congress,” the group organizer said.

A protester holds up an "Impeach Trump" sign. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Protesters rallied in two North Shore locations this past weekend, to demonstrate their First Amendment right to protest. 

Nearly 100 people stood on the corner of Route 25A and Bennetts Road in Setauket on Saturday holding signs urging that President Donald Trump (R) be impeached. For the last 18 years, the North Country Peace Group has stood on the bend, every weekend, to protest.

This year was different.

“I’m going on 79 years, and I’ve seen a good chunk of American history,” said protester Jerry Shor. “I’m really sad this happened to our government, which I owe a lot to … We have tremendous respect for our government.”

And although Shor said he doesn’t always agree with what the government does, he knew he had to exercise his right to demonstrate, protest and make his feelings known. 

In response to the storming of the United States Capitol Wednesday, Jan. 6, members of the group wanted to make their voices heard — their anger at the president for inciting violence, and their urge to remove Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) from Congress. 

“I usually don’t come out, but today seemed like a day we had to because of what happened in Washington on Wednesday,” said protester Bob Keeler. “And Lee Zeldin, who supposedly represents us in the Congress, is not representing me very well. It’s time for him to be a former congressman.”

Several protesters stand on the corner of Routes 347 and 112 in Port Jefferson Station, responding to events taken place at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Normally the corner has a large group of counter-protesters — known as the North Country Patriots — across the way. This weekend there was only a small group of five. 

“The real patriots are the ones who are voicing their opinions the way our forefathers really meant to be voiced,” Shor said. 

Protester Paige Pearson said she had a bad feeling that something was going to happen Jan. 6. 

“My immediate thought was I wasn’t surprised,” she said. “But I’m extremely disappointed.”

Pearson said she was disheartened to see what was happening in Washington D.C., especially when she previously participated in other protests that were peaceful and civil. 

“We’ve been fighting for months and months, trying to stay as peaceful as possible,” she said. “And then all of these people can just storm into the Capitol, and cause all of this violence and destruction, and get out clean and unharmed.”

At the same time, at Resistance Corner on Routes 347 and 112 in Port Jefferson Station, a smaller, but just as loud group rallied against the president. 

A protester at a rally on Routes 347 and 112. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Organizers of the Friends for Justice group Holly Fils-Aime said the protesters chose to stand at the corner of Nesconset Highway because nearly 3,000 cars pass every hour.

“Obviously we were very upset when Trump claimed election fraud,” she said. 

With the riots down south, Fils-Aime said she and her group are calling for the president to be impeached. 

Holding signs of Trump’s face on a peach, the group voiced their hopes that Congress will vote to remove the president from power. 

“I can’t believe this is happening to our country,” Fils-Aime said. “He’s been talking about this for months. … We need to get him out of office, so he can’t do this again.”

Protesters at the North Country Peace Group rally. Photo by Julianne Mosher

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Port Jeff Village is asking residents to use the online parking sticker portal. File photo by Elana Glowatz

In an effort to eliminate lines and gatherings at Village Hall, the Village of Port Jefferson has created an easy-to-use portal online for residents to acquire their parking permits. 

Resident parking permits for homeowners and tenants must obtain a new 2021 parking sticker to be able to park in all municipal lots. 

In pre-COVID times, residents would fill out their forms at the clerk’s office, but instead the village is asking residents to apply online. 

Available on the village’s homepage (portjeff.com), a portal to apply for a new parking sticker asks applicants to provide a driver’s license, list their physical Port Jefferson address, and their vehicle registration.

Should the applicant’s license be listed to an address other than the physical Port Jefferson location, two documents — including a utility bill, automobile insurance, bank statement, notarized letter from their landlord, or voter registration card — are required as proof.  

Residents who would prefer to fill out the application on paper can download the form online, fill it out, attach copies of the required documents and mail it to the village’s clerk’s office. 

Photo from Pixabay

Not every publication out there is “Fake News.”

During last week’s insurgence at the U.S. Capitol, a photo — taken by a journalist — has made its way around social media, memorializing the words “Murder the Media” written on a wall inside The People’s House.

That’s disheartening to say the least.

Now more than ever, facts are important — whether you like us or not. 

The fact that journalists, reporters and photographers down in D.C. are now sharing their stories about that Wednesday’s events — how they were attacked, name called, hurt and threatened — is a terrifying thought.

The media has always had a rocky relationship with readers. A lot of the time, many people don’t like what is being reported on or how it’s being said. That is something this field has dealt with since the first newsletter came out centuries ago.

But the last four years are on a different level. It’s a whole new battle.

There have been many times that reporters at TBR News Media were harassed on assignment, also being called “fake.” 

We are your local paper. We are the ones who cover the issues in your backyard, who tell the stories of your neighbors that you live beside, and we showcase your children, whom you love, playing their favorite sports. 

We aren’t commentators or analyzers, except on our opinions pages that are clearly labeled.

We are the eyes and ears of our community, and we do the heavy lifting when you have questions. We interview your elected officials and bring awareness to issues other larger papers or TV stations forget to research or mention.

How is that fake? 

Now more than ever, we ask you to support what we have put our hearts and our livelihoods into. 

Next time you might think that the media had it coming to them, just remember that those reporters who have been hurt and humiliated don’t come into your workplaces, breaking your equipment and ridiculing you for what you do.  

We serve all the public and are proud to do so.

Photo from Pixabay

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

For my family and me, the pandemic-triggered life change started almost exactly 10 months ago, on March 13. How different is the life we lead now from the one we led way back in March? Comparing answers to the same questions then and now can offer a perspective on the time that’s passed and our current position.

Question: What do we do?

March 2020: Shut businesses down, encourage people to stay home and track everything. Talk about where we are “on the curve” and hope that we can “flatten the curve” and reach the other side, allowing us to return to the lives and habits we used to know.

January 2021: Try to keep infection rates down and take measured chances in public places, while hoping officials allow schools, restaurants and other businesses to remain open.

Question: What do we eat?

March 2020: Pick up take out food whenever we can. Go to the grocery store and cook. Baking rapidly became a release and relief for parents and children, who enjoyed the sweet smell of the house and the familiar, reassuring and restorative taste of cookies and cakes.

January 2021: In some places, we can eat indoors. Many people still order take out or cook their own food.

Question: What do we do with our children?

March 2020: Overburdened parents, who are conducting zoom calls, conference calls and staring for hours at computer screens, face the reality of needing to educate their children in subjects they either forgot or never learned.

January 2021: Many students continue to go to school, even as the threat of closing, particularly in hot spots, continues.

Question: What do we do for exercise?

March 2020: People take to the streets, order exercise equipment or circle the inside or outside of their house countless times, hoping to break free from their blinking, beeping and demanding electronic devices.

January 2021: Gyms have reopened, with some people heading to fitness centers and others continuing their own version of counting the number of times they’ve circled the neighborhood, with and without their dogs.

Question: What can we do about work?

March 2020: Many businesses close, asking employees to work from home.

January 2021: Many businesses are trying to stay open, even as others have continued to ask their employees to work from home, where they can talk on computer screens in mismatched outfits, with nice blouses and shirts on top and gym shorts or pajamas.

Question: What can we plan for?

March 2020: We cancel weddings, parties, family gatherings and all manner of events that involve crowds.

January 2021: We have learned not to make plans that are set in stone, because the calendar has become stone intolerant. We make plans and contingency plans.

Question: What do we do for entertainment?

March 2020: We secretly binge watch TV shows, although we don’t share our indulgences.

January 2021: After we ask how everyone is doing, we regularly interject questions about the latest TV shows or movies.

Question: What do we notice in the supermarkets?

March 2020: Toilet paper and paper towels are hard to find.

January 2021: Toilet paper and paper towels are generally available, but we may only be allowed to buy two packages. The cost of paper goods and other items seems to have risen.

Question: Do we let our children play sports?

March 2020: Almost every league in every sport shut down, following the lead of professional teams.

January 2021: Youth leagues have restarted.

Question: What’s a cause for optimism?

March 2020: We believe in flattening the curve.

January 2021: The vaccine offers hope for a return to a life we used to know.

Stock photo
Leah Dunaief

By Leah S. Dunaief

It may have been the start of a new year last week, but life certainly hasn’t calmed down much. We are witnessing history in the making. Demonstrators who had traveled from all over the United States to Washington, D.C. last Wednesday turned from listening to President Trump rage to marching on the Capitol. Once there, many broke into the building and caused vandalism, chaos and death. Thanks to instantaneous news flashes, we heard it and saw it happen, and now we are living through the consequences.

One of the consequences is bans of certain accounts by social media, led by Twitter and Facebook. Is that censorship? Is that an assault on our Freedom of Speech enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution?

A simple way to offer an answer is to take you into the world in which community newspapers and media operate. As you know, we are the ones who report on the news closest to our daily lives, the events and issues that concern us here in the villages and towns where we live, send our children to school and most of us work. We report comprehensively on local people, local politicians and local businesses that would otherwise be overlooked by the bigger dailies and networks. We are the watchdogs on behalf of the local citizenry.

Here are the rules by which we must publish:

While we print opinions as well as facts, opinions must be clearly labelled as such and are usually confined to two or three pages specifically designated for Letters to the Editor and Editorials. We also publish pieces called “Your Turn,” or “Our Turn,” again as opinion or analysis. Everyone has a right to their opinion, and the publisher has a right to its policies about those articles and letters. Our policy is to publish opinions in as balanced a way as we are sent submissions, subject to libel and good taste.

Libel rules are more straightforward than good taste, which is, of course, subjective. But here is the bottom line: publishers have the final say in what they publish because they are private, not governmental enterprises. Freedom of Speech, which specifically prohibits censorship by the government, does not apply to us. Decisions made by private businesses on what to publish are not First Amendment issues. And those decisions may reflect any number of concerns that may affect the company: financial considerations, the environment in which the publisher operates and whether the publication is an avowed partisan or an independent one.

We, for example, are an independent news media company, supporting neither major party unilaterally but rather our own sense of merit.

We are responsible for the accuracy of the facts in our stories. Do we sometimes err? Of course. When we make a mistake, our policy is to print a correction in the same place that we ran the error, even if that’s on the front page. When we run ads, by the way, we are also responsible for the facts in them — although not the advertiser’s opinions, which still are subject to considerations of libel and good taste. And when we run political ads, we must print who paid for the ad in the ad itself. When it is a group under a generic name rather than an individual, we must have on file the names of the executive officers of that group and those must be subject to review by any member of the public.

Do we have the legal right to refuse an ad or an opinion or a misstatement of facts? As a private company, we do. Further, just as it is against the law to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there is none because that is not protected free speech, we have the civic responsibility to vet misstatements and untruths. And while we consider our papers safety valves for community members to let off steam with their strongly held opinions, we do not publish just to add fuel to a fire.

Twitter and Facebook and the rest who consider themselves publishers of news and not just telephone companies also have a responsibility to the public.

That, of course, raises another issue. Do we want so much power in the hands of a few high tech moguls, whose messages instantly circle the world? Or should they, like us, be subject to regulatory control?

Applebees

Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar on Jan. 4 announced the official launch of its 5th annual Above and “BEE”yond Teacher Essay Contest, which recognizes top teachers – as nominated by their students – by rewarding them with a sponsorship check and end-of-year class party. The contest is being offered at Applebee’s restaurants in Long Island owned and operated by local franchisee Doherty Enterprises.

Applebee’s will award two deserving teachers, one in Nassau County and one in Suffolk County, with a $500 sponsorship check to use toward their classroom for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year, along with an end-of-year party for their current class*! To nominate a teacher and enter the contest, students must submit an essay in-person at their local Applebee’s explaining why their teacher deserves to be Applebee’s “Teacher of the Year.” As an additional incentive, students who enter an essay will also receive a free ice cream certificate** for later use. Essay submissions are limited to one per student and will be accepted at participating Applebee’s restaurants from Monday, January 4 through Sunday March 7, no later than 10pm. Winners will be announced on Monday, April 12 and end-of-year parties will be thrown before Sunday, June 27. If end-of-year parties are not viable, class parties will be replaced with two Dinner for Four certificates.

“We’re excited to announce the launch of our fifth annual Above and BEEyond Teacher Essay Contest at our Long Island restaurants,” said Kurt Pahlitzsch, director of operations, Applebee’s Long Island. “Our restaurants are committed to giving back to the local community now more than ever. We’re honored to support local schoolteachers who have transitioned from in-classroom teaching to online teaching, as Applebee’s wants to recognize their dedication and hard work amidst the pandemic.”

Applebee’s Above and “BEE”yond Teacher Essay Contest entries will be accepted at the following Applebee’s locations owned and operated by Doherty Enterprises on Long Island in: Nassau County: Baldwin, Bellmore, Bethpage, Elmont, New Hyde Park, Rosedale, Valley Stream and Westbury and in Suffolk County:  Bohemia, Brentwood, Commack, East Farmingdale, East Islip, Farmingville, Huntington, Lake Grove, Lindenhurst, Miller Place, Patchogue, Riverhead and Shirley.

*One winner will be selected from both Nassau and Suffolk counties. Please note, essay submissions from the 2020-2021 school year will also be included in this year’s voting. Prizes are subject to change based on COVID-19 restrictions. If end-of-year parties are not viable, class parties will be replaced with two Dinner for Four certificates.

**Offer valid only at Doherty Enterprises owned and operated Applebee’s® locations in LI. Limit one per person. May not be redeemed on day of purchase. Cannot be combined with any other offers.

K9 Agar

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office recently welcomed two new canines to its Deputy Sheriff K9 Unit. K9 Agar and K9 Reis began their service with the Sheriff’s Office in the fall of 2020.

The Sheriff’s Office has a total of six canine teams; three for the police division and three for the correction division. The mission of these New York State certified canine teams is to support the daily operations of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office as well as other law enforcement agencies upon request.

The Sheriff’s Office Police Division canines are bred in Europe before being purchased by a third-party vendor and flown to the United States. The police dogs may receive some preliminary protection dog training in Europe but receive their police-specific training in the United States with our trainers.

K9 Reis

Both the dogs and their handlers spend 6 to 10 weeks in Columbus, Ohio for their basic certifications. K9 Agar and K9 Reis are certified in scent detection, narcotics detection, criminal apprehension, and handler protection. The canine teams are ready to serve the people of Suffolk County upon their return from Ohio and will conduct weekly in-service training for the length of their service to maintain New York State standards.

Sheriff’s Office canines have an average service length of about eight years. Considering that they are usually 1 to 2 years of age when entering service, they retire around the age of 9 or 10. Once canines are retired, they live out the remainder of their lives at home with their handlers and family.

K9 Agar is a 22-month-old sable colored German Shepherd from the Netherlands. K9 Agar is handled by Deputy Sheriff Kevin Tracy, a four-time experienced canine handler. Agar is a high drive, soft tempered dog with a sharp focus for his work.

K9 Reis is a 19-month-old dark brindle colored Dutch Shepherd also from the Netherlands. K9 Reis is handled by Deputy Sheriff Jason Korte, a second-time canine handler. Reis is named for Fallen Correction Officer Andrew P. Reister. Reis is a high drive, strong willed dog that exhibits a uniquely high level of courage.

Sheriff Errol Toulon was pleased to welcome these new canines. “The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office is proud to have these highly trained K9 Teams join our ranks. These dogs will work tirelessly to help fight crime, detect drugs, and keep Suffolk County safe,” he said in a statement.

For more information on Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, visit www.SuffolkSheriff.com.

Superintendent Jessica Schmettan. File photo by Kyle Barr

Port Jefferson Middle School and Earl L. Vandermeulen High School had to go fully remote this week, after parents begged the district to allow their children back in four days a week. 

Up until recently, the district had students come to the high school and middle school twice a week. Parents, concerned about how the lack of in-person learning would have on their children, began asking why the district would not add more days. 

Jae Hartzell, a parent in the district, said she was one of a dozen who voiced their concerns. 

“We really worked, and fought, and emailed, and studied, and provided stats, and really researched to make sure we were fighting for the right and safe thing to do,” she said. 

And their wishes were granted at the latest board of education meeting on Jan. 8, when the board agreed on a vote to let middle and high schoolers back in four days a week. 

But just two days later, on Sunday, Jan. 10, the district sent out a notification that the four days will not happen, and instead, those two groups would have to go remote. 

The notice said that as of that day, there were 26 staff members, including teachers and teaching assistants, who are subject to quarantine due to COVID-19, for a variety of reasons related to their own health, in-school and out of school exposures, and positive family members. 

It continued that after careful examination of the school’s schedules and their available substitute coverage, they determined they do not have the staff to cover the middle and high schools this week. That being said, grades 6-12 will go remote Jan. 12 through Jan. 15, with no change to the Monday, Jan. 11 schedule as this is an asynchronous remote day in the district’s hybrid schedule.

The notice did not affect the elementary school, which will still be open for in-person learning, and staff coverage for the district’s 8:1:1 special education students have not been affected, as the in-person class schedules for these students remains the same.

“As a parent, you see your child go from super happy and over the moon to be able to go back to school, and then flattened a bit with that disappointment,” Hartzell said. “We all have to understand this is very complex and complicated and we don’t have the information, but it’s disheartening.”

Port Jefferson School District Superintendent Jessica Schmettan said the district understands this is difficult news to hear after the highly anticipated return to four days per week of in-person instruction.

“This determination is only for the remainder of this week and we expect to begin this next phase of our reopening plan on Tuesday, Jan. 19 – as long as circumstances permit – when we look forward to having all of our students back in our classrooms,” she said.