Port Times Record

Comsewogue’s Carson McCaffrey delivers in a home game against West Babylon. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

With the baseball season playoffs just around the corner, Comsewogue (9-6) hosted West Babylon (11-4) in the first game of a three-game series Tuesday, May 7. West Babylon struck first in the top of the fourth inning to take a one run lead, but the Warriors answered back in the bottom of the inning when Anthony Manetta drilled the ball straight away, plating Kevin Schnupp to make it a new game at 1-1.

Breaking the stalemate, West Babylon crossed the plate in the top of the fifth on a sacrifice fly to retake the lead, 2-1, but the Warriors were unable to answer for a final score. In a pitchers duel, Brandon Hancock just outpointed Comsewogue’s Carson McCaffrey.  

With two games remaining in their regular season, Comsewogue will look to improve their playoff ranking before postseason play begins May 14.

File photo by Samantha Rutt

By Samantha Rutt

As Mother’s Day rolls around, TBR News Media took to the streets throughout our coverage area, asking locals what this special day means to them.

It’s a day which makes people remember the importance and significance of mothers in their life, and to express love, appreciation and gratitude toward mother figures for their unconditional love, support and sacrifices. TBR wants to know, “What does Mother’s Day mean to you?”

Seema Pandya, Smithtown

Seema Pandya, Smithtown

I think it means the honoring and passing of traditions and wisdoms of mothers to mothers to mothers. Usually, I spend time with my kids, calling my parents and wishing them well.

I used to work at a restaurant in Colorado and for Mother’s Day they would make chocolate-filled buns with raspberries and they looked like breasts! They were so clever. It was a bun with a chocolate areola and a raspberry for the nipple — they were so good!

Jordan Mahmood, Stony Brook

Jordan Mahmood, Stony Brook

Mother’s Day is a day to appreciate my mom for what she does. She is a single mom and she literally means the world to me and my family. Each year we celebrate by spending time together and doing whatever it is she wants to do — it’s really nice spending time with my mom.

Tyler Stephenson-Moore, Queens

Tyler Stephenson-Moore, Queens

I love my mom a lot. Mother’s Day to me is just like the day-to-day stuff, acknowledging all the sacrifices she’s made, honoring her for everything she has done for me. 

Usually, I’ll go to Queens to see her with cards and flowers.

Rubens Meza-Henderson, Centereach

Rubens Meza-Henderson, Centereach

The United States was the country that enacted this holiday. I can say that because before the enactment, nobody cared about that — but now many countries in the world follow the U.S. example. 

Typically, because I am in the restaurant business, every Mother’s Day I work. This year is going to be an exception. Mother’s Day is a very special holiday because we honor the person who has the privilege to carry life in their womb, we were born through that person, honoring that act is very important.

I do believe in the Bible and one of the commandments says that you have to honor your parents. The Bible encourages you to honor your father and mother and there are many ways to honor them. One way is behaving well and another is through words — you have to express your gratitude. I was with my mother a couple of weeks ago in South America. She was a little sick, but she’s well now. I took time off to go see her, to honor and love my mother.

Jen and Jillian Dunn, Setauket

Jen and Jillian Dunn, Setauket

On Mother’s Day, Jillian values time well spent with mom Jen: “I really don’t get to spend too much time with her, so just being able to see her is a gift — that is what is most important to me.” Jillian usually takes her mom out to lunch and goes for a nice walk through one of their favorite spots, Avalon Nature Preserve.

 Jen loves to spend time with her family on Mother’s Day: “This year my son is graduating that weekend, so we will take a trip down to see him.” On a typical year, Jen and her family like to celebrate with a daytime activity like a drive out east or a day exploring local farm stands. “One of my favorite things is picking out flower flats and the kids will help me plant them.” 

Steve Frederico, Stony Brook

Steve Frederico, Stony Brook

My mother has passed and there isn’t a day that I don’t think about her. But on Mother’s Day we always commemorate her. 

I seem to quote her unconsciously — she had these infamous sayings, like, “It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.” 

Stephanie Moncavage, Coram

Stephanie Moncavage, Coram

I love my mom. We spend the day golfing and then my sister and I will make her a nice dinner — of mom’s choice of course.

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I took my first trip to London with my wife and I never felt like we were far from home or from living history.

In Uber rides, the music of Justin Timberlake, the Pointer Sisters and numerous other American artists provided the soundtrack for our visit.

Walking around the city and descending into the tube, advertisements for American products such as Pepsi and movies such as “The Fall Guy” and “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” adorned the sides of hackney cars, the iconic red double-decker buses and the walls of the tube.

The cars on the tube were much narrower than I expected, as people sitting across from me tapped my feet without standing or stretching. 

For a country that drives on the left, I was mystified by the “keep right” signs. If they drive on the left, why do they walk on the right?

London has its fair share of “must visits,” such as the Tower of London, Big Ben and Parliament and the Churchill War Rooms. An imposing and impressive testament to the history of the city and the country, the Tower of London forms a small metropolis with its enormous towers and stories of prisoners. Graffiti on the walls bears the name and religious convictions of those confined to the tower and in some cases tortured or killed.

Big Ben was larger and more elaborate than I imagined. It reminded me of an earlier visit to Mount Rushmore, where I found the size and pageantry of the four former presidents magnificent and moving.

The Churchill War Rooms provided a close up view of the remarkable fortitude and foresight of the celebrated prime minister. At the age of 65, Churchill spent considerable time underground.

When he learned that the facility was vulnerable to a direct hit from a German bomb, he complained in a letter displayed on the wall of the memorial that Patrick Duff, who was permanent secretary of the Office of Works, had “sold him a pup.”

The government added concrete and, after a nearby bomb shook the bunker, Churchill lamented that the bomb didn’t strike close enough to test the reinforcements.

Veterans of the shelter, many of whom rarely saw sunlight underground, shared stories about going under sunlamps to increase their vitamin D, about Churchill’s need for quiet, and about their secret life.

The arms of one of Churchill’s chairs in the cabinet room bears the marks of his fingers digging into the wood, as he listened to testimony, prepared action plans and reacted to news.

Throughout his tenure during the war, Churchill traveled extensively, visiting everywhere from the United States, to Cairo to Moscow, rallying support for the war and visiting foreign leaders and dignitaries, sometimes for more than a month. The Prime Minister, who was almost 71 when the war ended, traveled over 100,000 miles during those tumultuous years. Observers shared parts of his routine, which included two baths a day and three meals per day.

Churchill, who was involved in everything from planning the war effort to offering advice about military technology, pointed out that the government named a tank after him “when they found out it was no damn good!”

Aside from our historical visits, we enjoyed listening to, and watching, people. Like so many other big cities, London attracts guests from around the world, as French, Spanish and German blended with Japanese, Chinese and Arabic languages.

We enjoyed the hospitality of numerous Brits. A beefeater at the Tower of London, which was hit by a few stray bombs, suggested the site wasn’t a target during World War II because it had no strategic value.

Or, perhaps, the Germans and their killer leader “liked the Tower” and didn’t want it or the crown jewels, destroyed.

On the lighter side, we experienced a range of London weather while on a short boat trip on the Thames, as sunlight gave way to dark clouds and wind turned some umbrellas inside out.

The tour guide on the boat offered one of the more unexpected linguistic differences. He described how certain buildings were converted from commercial properties into apartments.

“Wait, what did he just say?” I asked my wife, chuckling.

“What do you mean?”

“I think he’s talking about warehouses and he said, ‘Where asses.’”

Later, when he described a queen’s residence, he also suggested this was one of the queen’s favorite ‘asses.’

Yes, we had a “eck” of a time in London and would be more than “appy” to visit again.

Pixabay photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief,
Publisher

When lilacs bloom, I think of my mother. That’s not only because they bloom around Mother’s Day, although that is part of the story. My mother loved lilacs, their color, their remarkable shape of many tiny flowers making one larger blossom, their incomparable smell.

My mother was born in Russia, came to New York with her family when she was four and lived in the house with her father, step-mother, two brothers, three sisters and one unmarried aunt in Corona, Queens until she married. And as she told me countless times, always smiling at the memory, the backyard was filled with lilacs.

After I moved away, I sent her armloads of lilacs on Mother’s Day. Each year, she would tell me I shouldn’t have, taking deep breaths to let me know how she loved their perfume.

Forty-one years ago, she died two days before Mother’s Day, surrounded in the hospital room by lilacs.

I wish you had known my mother. She was, to borrow from The Reader’s Digest, the most unforgettable character I have ever met. My father, who was no slouch himself, said she had enormous courage. She would go to court, representing whichever member of the family might have legal woes in connection with their businesses, and patiently explain to the judge what the problem was. She always won. 

She would have been a successful lawyer, had she been allowed to finish her studies. But when her father had a stroke in his 40s, she and her older brother were removed from school and sent out to work to support the family. She seemed not to know that she was not a lawyer as she argued her case.

Without a doubt, she was the matriarch and head of the extended family. Did I mention, she was incredibly bright…about most things? Not necessarily about me, however, As you might imagine, she had a strong personality and was accustomed to being in charge. I, on the other hand, disliked always being directed. My poor dad was habitually caught in the middle.

My father would remind me how much my mother loved me and that she was looking for what was best for me. I don’t believe that line of reasoning ever won me over, but I will say that I learned to love, and love deeply, from my mother and my father. 

Is love learned? If so, I felt how much my brother, my sister and I were loved and how my parents, if called upon, would sacrifice their welfare for us in an instant. I have tried to pass along that depth of feeling to my children.

My parents did modify their lives after my sister was born. Two years younger than I, she was  diagnosed with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that is caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21. Mothers 35 and older are more prone to giving birth to children with Down’s, and my mother was 36 when my sister, Maxine, arrived.

It was my parents’ goal to help Maxine live as normal and complete a life as they were able to provide for my older brother and me. Some relatives urged them to put my sister “away” in a home for children with disabilities. My parents never considered that, instead protecting her with abiding love and care.

Both my parents accepted the challenge of raising my sister, but the larger share of that care inevitably fell to my mother. It was not common to see a child on the street with a disability of any sort in the 1940s, when my sister was born. Some people feared differences, others just stared. 

There was a social price to be paid. My parents willingly paid the social price, devoting their free time and resources to her care, happiness and well-being, making sure that my sister was properly looked after. She played the piano, loved watching baseball games in Central Park with my dad and me, and returned our love in equal measure. With infinite patience, my mother taught Maxine eventually to read and do arithmetic on a second-grade level.

My mother was a star.

Do you recognize this woman? Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County Police Sixth Precinct Crime Section officers are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate the woman who allegedly stole from a Port Jefferson Station store in April.

A woman allegedly stole merchandise valued at $350 from HomeGoods, located at 4810 Nesconset Highway, on April 26 at approximately 11 a.m.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS, utilizing a mobile app which can be downloaded through the App Store or Google Play by searching P3 Tips, or online at www.P3Tips.com. All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.

TBR News Media attended the annual New York Press Association Spring Conference held at Saratoga Springs April 26 and 27. We were privileged to receive many awards and would not have done so without our readers — so, a sincere thank you.

This yearly conference traditionally serves as a platform for press organizations to meet with and learn from seasoned speakers and professionals within the industry, though this year emphasized a specific focus on a newcomer in the industry — artificial intelligence.

The printing press, invented around 1440, revolutionized how we shared information. Now, AI is poised to do the same for local journalism. While some may fear robots taking over the newsroom, AI offers exciting possibilities for strengthening our community’s connection to local stories.

Imagine a future where AI combs through public records, uncovering hidden trends in traffic data or school board meetings. Journalists, freed from such tedious tasks, can delve deeper into these trends, crafting investigative pieces that hold power to real change. AI can also translate interviews, allowing us to share the stories of a more diverse community.

Local news thrives on hyper-personalization. AI can analyze reader preferences, tailoring news feeds to your interests. This ensures you see not just the headlines, but the stories that truly matter to you. Imagine getting in-depth reporting on the school board race or up-to-the-minute updates on road closures that may affect your usual commute.

Of course, AI isn’t a magic bullet. Ethical considerations abound. We need to ensure AI doesn’t become an echo chamber, reinforcing existing biases. Journalists will remain the cornerstone, using AI as a tool to amplify their human touch — the ability to ask tough questions, identify nuance and connect with the community on a deeper level.

The future of local news isn’t about robots replacing reporters. It’s about AI empowering journalists to tell richer, more relevant stories that connect with you. It’s about ensuring a future where local news remains a vibrant part of the community, informing, engaging and holding power to account. This is an exciting transformation, and together we can ensure AI strengthens, not diminishes, the essential role local journalism plays in our lives.

And we’ll continue to strive for more NYPA awards next year.

Hope House Ministries celebration on April 22. Photos courtesy Carol Acker

By Samantha Rutt

For 44 years, Hope House Ministries has been a place for the broken and lost. 

Founded in the spirit of St. Louis de Montfort, what started as a neighborhood response to a neighborhood issue, has expanded its service area to include all of Long Island, New England and beyond. 

Hope House Ministries began in 1980 as a 10-bed facility providing crisis intervention for young men aged 16 to 21, and has since expanded to a multifaceted human service agency with housing, counseling and educational assistance for individuals and families in crisis.

On April 22, the ministry hosted a celebration at the Hope Academy at Little Portion Friary in Mount Sinai, featuring a service presided over by founder and executive director Father Frank Pizzarelli. Alumni, volunteers and several members of the community were in attendance. 

Hope House Ministries is located at 1 High St., Port Jefferson (www.hhm.org).

Pixabay photo

By Brian Monahan

National Grid’s pending joint proposal before the state’s Public Service Commission could see monthly rates paid by the average residential customer increased by $28.52 for Long Island and $30.95 for New York City starting June 1 if approved. 

The lengthy process of proposing a rate increase, called a “rate case,” is organized akin to a court case, with administrative judges assigned to rule over the proceedings. The entire process, as well as the subsequent public feedback and negotiations with the state, can take over a year. The most recent joint proposal came after public comment on two separate proposals was heard for the New York City and Long Island region last year.

“National Grid is proud to play a vital role in achieving New York’s energy goals. The joint proposal submitted today includes critical improvements in infrastructure maintenance and upgrades that will enable us to continue providing reliable, affordable service while advancing the state’s energy priorities,” said Phil DeCicco, New York general counsel for National Grid April 9. “We are proud of the agreement we have reached with the Department of Public Service staff and other parties and look forward to receiving additional feedback from our stakeholders in the downstate region during the upcoming public review process.”

The current proposal has elicited varying reactions across the region, especially based on National Grid’s commitment to “transition to cleaner energy sources,” and investing in its existing gas mains to reduce emissions.

“It is always troubling to see rate increases but especially at a time when our families are having an issue putting food on their tables due to the faltering economy,” said state Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James), a member of the Energy and Telecommunications Committee. “The fact that these increases are being pushed in an effort to comply with the rushed elimination of fuel choice in New York State is disturbing to me.”

He added, “I have repeatedly stated that these haphazard and ill-conceived efforts will cost New Yorkers trillions, and we are already seeing the impact of putting the cart before the horse.”

Rate hikes are typically approved, albeit with some modifications. 

Photo courtesy Office of Ed Romaine

By Ed Romaine

Suffolk County has 109 volunteer fire departments and 28 EMS agencies with more than 13,000 active men and women firefighters and EMS personnel. Each year they respond to thousands of calls, never knowing what they will face as they leave their homes — saving countless lives and protecting homes and businesses in our communities.

But these departments need help. Suffolk County is currently part of an aggressive recruitment and retention drive for new volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel. It is easy to take for granted that someone will swiftly come when you dial 911. Over the past two decades, our region’s recruitment has fallen behind, leaving those that remain burdened with extra responsibilities to shoulder.

The government has been working to provide more incentives to those who are interested in becoming a part of their local fire or ambulance department. 

Despite what may appear as a difficult endeavor, it has never been a better time to be a volunteer firefighter or EMS personnel. Through a combination of local, state and county programs, volunteers receive property tax reduction, New York State income tax benefits, free health care checkups, free insurance, college tuition reimbursement and service pensions as well as free equipment and training. 

Recently, the state income tax benefit was expanded, and the service pension was enhanced for EMTs. With rising medical costs, the value of health care and routine checkups has only increased. We will continue to work with state and local governments to expand these benefits wherever possible. 

Firefighters are the heart of our communities. Whether it is in the scope of their official duties or through the many ways they charitably enhance our communities, the fire department is never out of the beat with the community.

Volunteers point to the camaraderie, lifelong friendships and professional development as reasons for joining and staying.

It has never been easier to join your local fire department. A visit to the website suffolksbravest.com will provide all the information you need to start your journey. If you have a passion for serving your community and are willing and able, now is the time to heed the call.

Ed Romaine (R) is the Suffolk County executive.

Photo by Lynn Hallarman

By Lynn Hallarman

During the April 24 Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees meeting, discussions surrounding the Port Jefferson school district budget for the year 2024-25 and the new village parking initiative took center stage. 

School budget 

Deputy Superintendent Sean Leister provided a detailed overview of the school district’s financial landscape, emphasizing ongoing challenges. These challenges include an uncertain timeline for resolving the Child Victims Act litigation and decreases in revenue due to the LIPA glide path agreement. 

Leister reported that the Board of Education deliberated extensively on budget allocations for the upcoming year, focusing on necessary construction projects. Due to budget constraints, the school board approved four projects totaling $1 million. These projects relate to demolishing a no-longer-habitable high school portable classroom, renovating the high school orchestra room, renovating the elementary school pool and continuing a roofing project. 

Reduced enrollment prompted reductions in staff positions, amounting to 3.6 full-time equivalent positions. 

“I don’t say this lightheartedly for any reduction for a staff member is tough, but someone may be reduced from 100% to 80% meaning going from five classes to four,” Leister said. 

The budget breakdown highlighted that 77% of the district’s funding goes to salaries and benefits. 

“Once you take into account collective bargaining agreements, state regulations and state mandates, of this whole budget probably only about 4% is controllable,” he said. 

Leister noted increases for the coming year in medical insurance (10%), liability insurance (4%), teacher retirement insurance (9.76%-10.25%) and utilities (4%). 

Mayor Lauren Sheprow sought clarity on the reserve funds in the budget presentation. Leister indicated that the presentation did not explicitly state the details of the reserve funds. However, residents can find information about the funds on the district’s website. Leister summarized for the mayor a general breakdown of the reserve into six parts that comprise a fund for workers compensation, unemployment insurance, spikes in the retirement system, the teachers and civil service unions, and capital projects. 

“Right now, our capital reserve fund is $3.1 million. We use that to do different capital projects. The way we fund it is when we have a surplus at the end of a given year — the board will pass a motion to fund that reserve up to no more than $1.5 million each year,” Leister said.

Trustee Drew Biondo asked, “Is there any working group going on to bring the community in and talk about what we are doing as a district as our enrollment drops and how we maintain our services?” 

Sheprow responded, “In fact, the village created a school district interactive working group in response to taxpayer feedback about this issue. My perspective is that it is about building trust with community members to show that you are listening to them and being fiscally responsible.”

The 2024-25 second draft budget is projected at $48,018,335 ($47,066,099 in 2023-24), an increase of 2.02%.

The total amount of taxes levied by the school district for the 2024-25 academic year is estimated at $39.8 million ($39.3 million), a 1.24% increase. 

The vote for or against the 2024-25 budget will be held at the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School cafeteria on Tuesday, May 21. 

Managed parking

Andrew Freleng, director of the Building & Planning Department, reported on the progress of the newly-implemented parking management system. His presentation reviewed the village’s recent effort to streamline its parking infrastructure and improve user experience. The new system departs from previous practices, informed by operational recommendations from the parking committee. 

The initiative kicked off with the removal of redundant signage and simplified messaging. The new system also retooled pay stations to emphasize functionality and user experience.

Freleng emphasized the use of empirical data to inform operational decision-making. The overall approach is to refine the parking management strategy over time in response to data-driven outcomes such as revenue generated and community feedback. 

Managed parking in the village began April 15. Homeowners must each renew their virtual permit to park for free in village lots every two years. Renters renew every year.