Recreation

National Night Out attendees in Brookhaven enjoy the Centreach Pool Complex. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) recent announcement that the state would allow public pools to reopen at the discretion of local municipalities was received as good news for residents in Suffolk County who rely on such facilities for recreational use and to cool off the summer heat. For local town governments, they will have to consider not only the safety of patrons but also whether they still have the resources in place to operate their pools. 

The Dix Hill pool could potentially reopen depending on a debate within the Town of Huntington. Photo from TOH

Two weeks ago, in a joint press release, town supervisors from Babylon, Brookhaven, Islip, Smithtown and Huntington said they would close their pools to avoid further potential coronavirus spread. 

Since then, at least two municipalities on the North Shore may be reconsidering their initial decision. 

Huntington spokesperson Lauren Lembo said in a statement that it is something the town “has been discussing after the successful reopening of the beaches.” At this time, the town hasn’t officially announced anything on pools reopening yet, but Lembo added that a safety plan and staffing resources are currently being assessed.

Huntington town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) also weighed in. 

“Based on the successful phased reopening of our beaches with new safety measures in place, we are more confident now that we can provide an equally safe and fun experience at the Dix Hills Pool this summer, which will be open for our summer camps,” he said in a statement. “We are considering plans to open the pool to residents only in the coming weeks.”

Brookhaven’s public pools will remain closed, according to town spokesperson Kevin Molloy. Though the town’s spray parks will reopen later this month. 

In Smithtown, spokesperson Nicole Garguilo said officials want to see the number of COVID-19 cases in the town continue to decrease before they make any potential decisions. 

“We want that metric to continue to go down —there is a lot involved in reopening our pools,” she said. “If it is safe enough, we would consider it.”

There are a number of issues they would have to address. Smithtown’s three public pools are all located at Smithtown Landing Country Club. 

Garguilo said in addition to implementing the proper safety precautions they would need to assess if they still have the available resources to operate all three pools. 

“For us, it’s making sure the recreation director has those resources, he has to go out and get 

lifeguards and pool operators to staff these pools,” she said. “We might have enough staff for only two pools.”

Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, said municipalities will have to go about their reopenings differently. 

“Not all pools have the same footprint, some have more space than others,” she said. “To keep people safe, towns might go to reduced occupancy.”

Nachman said there is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to people through the water used in pools. Proper operation and disinfection should kill the virus that causes COVID-19. 

Despite that, the infectious disease expert reiterated that patrons still need to proceed with caution. 

“If you’re with your family, stay together, spread yourself out from others and stay six feet apart. Do not crowd around the pool,” she said. “If you’re sick or feel sick do not come to a public pool.”

Nachman also mentioned that if you plan on bringing food to be careful, as it is another source of infection. 

“Everyone has to do their part, we are all part of community protection,” she said. 

Cole Swensen, a Boy Scout in Miller Place Troop 204. created a bench and concrete pads along the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail. Photo by Kyle Barr

With the weather warming, and with more people available to take walks while home from work and school (maintaining social distancing, of course), one local Boy Scout’s Eagle Scout Service Project has made a lasting impact.

Port Jefferson resident Cole Swensen, a member of Miller Place Boy Scout Troop 204, installed a bench, along with concrete pads on the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail earlier this month. 

“I’m happy with the finished product,” Swensen said.

Swensen, a senior at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School in Port Jefferson, said he and his dad use the trail often for running and biking and saw there was a need for a new bench, made from wood composite, at the top of the hill just after the westernmost trail entrance in Setauket. The young man also installed three concrete pads on the trail, one at his new bench and two more at existing benches.

“These pads not only clean up the look of the benches and trail, but they also prevent the area in front of the benches from getting muddy,” Swensen said. “It also is a place for strollers to easily get off the main trail.”

Charlie McAteer, the chair of the Friends of the Greenway, said Troop 204 has been a huge boon to the trail, having done five projects with the Greenway, with one more still in the planning phase. This new project comes just as the Greenway is getting increased usage thanks to more people looking to spend time outdoors while maintaining a distance from others.

“This is a remarkable commitment to the Setauket to Port Jeff Station Greenway Trail,” McAteer said. “The community will be enjoying these for decades.”

The high school senior said he had been working on the project since before last summer but had to put it on pause after a severe bike accident led to a concussion. He conducted his fundraising last month, just as things with the coronavirus crisis were starting to close in. Still, he managed to raise about $1,000 toward the project. The build was over a three-day period with the bulk of the work centered on installing the new bench and making sure the concrete pads were leveled against the slope of the hill.

Swensen said he is still waiting on the finalized paperwork for his Eagle Scout application, since all offices are closed everything now has to be mailed.

After graduating high school, Swensen expects to attend SUNY Maritime to study naval architecture, involved in designing the hulls of boats and ships. 

Swensen’s father, Eric, said his son has been interested in boats and sailing since he was young.

Dogs will be permitted into Huntington’s Heckscher Park begining Jan. 1. Photo by Media Origins

On Jan. 1, the Town of Huntington will begin a three-month pilot program to allow leashed dogs in Heckscher Park, subject to certain limitations. If the trial period is successful, the pilot will extend in three-month increments to gather data from use of the park in different seasons.

The program is the result of a town board resolution, sponsored by Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D), developed in response to a petition that circulated this past summer calling for better access to the park for dogs and their owners.

Greenlawn resident Karen Thomas helped draft and circulate the successful petition campaign this past summer.

“Over 2,500 dog owners have spoken and the Huntington board listened,” said Thomas.

Cergol announced her position on opening up the park to dogs on a trial basis in a Sept. 5 Times of Huntington news article. The resolution she drafted was unanimously approved at the town’s Oct. 16 board meeting.

“The relationship between dogs and humans continues to evolve, and it is becoming increasingly common to see dog owners and their canine family members together in public places,” Cergol said. “I am excited that we are about to extend this option at Huntington’s downtown signature park and look forward to our partnership with [the nonprofit Long Island Dog Owners Group] in ensuring the pilot program’s success.”

LI-DOG is a nonprofit advocacy group looking to increase access for dog owners to public spaces. It’s president, Ginny Munger Kahn, was designated as the lead public education campaign coordinator.

“Our job is to make sure all the dog owners know that it’s in their best interest to follow the basic guidelines,” she said. “Overall, respect other park users. That’s the key.”

Specifically, this means keeping dogs on a leash less than 6-feet long and under control. No retractable leashes are allowed, and people are limited to no more than two dogs per individual. People are also expected to clean up after their dogs once they do their business. People, Kahn said, are good with this part.

“People have precedence over dogs on the path,” Kahn said. “Step off the path onto the grass as people pass by unimpeded.”

Heckscher Park’s trails, which are more narrow than other town pathways, suggest that this is an important part of the guidelines to remember.

Cergol formed an advisory committee that includes representatives of her staff, various town departments, LI-DOG and the town’s Citizens Advisory Committee on Persons with Disabilities to create the educational program. The group has met twice and has developed program guidelines from those gatherings and individual conversations.

The committee has so far planned to post signage at various spots in the park, including all the major entrances. A video to be aired on the town’s government access television channel and on its social media pages and LI-DOG’s pages will demonstrate what is allowed and what is not. They’ve also developed informational cards to hand out to dog owners in the park.

“We believe ultimately having leashed dogs in the park is a really good thing,” Kahn said. “For one thing, dogs influence socializing among people who don’t know each other.”

They also deter geese, which are fouling the parks pathways.

 

The Wading River Shoreham Chamber of Commerce wasted no time after Halloween, hosting its 2nd annual Fall Festival Nov. 2. 

Though last year saw rain blight most of the morning’s activities, this year sunlight glinted off the famous Duck Pond and while vendors and patron basked in the light while huddling under scarves to keep out the chill wind. 

Instead of a zombie walk, this year the event celebrated the season with a pumpkin decorating contest. 

 

County Executive Steve Bellone, Legis. Sarah Anker and Assemblyman Steve Englebright were on hand for the ground-breaking ceremony of the North Shore Rail Trail project Oct. 25. Photos by Kyle Barr

On the freshly mowed grass of a right of way in Miller Place, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) held up a yellowing booklet and from it unfurled a map of Long Island. The booklet was from 1972, and the map showed plans for a trail along the North Shore from Wading River to Mount Sinai.

On Oct. 25, little less than 50 years since the first county planner, Lee Koppelman, drew up those plans, officials finally put the first ceremonial shovel in the ground for the 10-mile rails-to-trails project, now dubbed North Shore Rail Trail.

Construction is set to begin in early November.

“This site will become a premier destination for hiking and biking,” the county exec said.

County officials were joined by town, state and town representatives, various civic leaders, along with hiking and biking enthusiasts to dig the first ceremonial dirt piles and pop the cork on a bottle of champagne. 

Officials said construction will start in Mount Sinai and continue through to Wading River. County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said building it could take close to two years to complete. Officials had an expected finish date for fall 2021. The trail will not officially open until the entire project is completed, Anker said.

Local and state officials break ground on the North Shore Rail Trail project Oct.25. Photos by Kyle Barr

Some area residents are unhappy with the new trail, including several whose homes abut the right of way where the trail will extend through. Rocky Point resident Gary Savickas, who has long been a vocal opponent of the new trail, said his property currently overlooks the fence in his backyard which borders the right of way, and walkers will be able to look directly into his yard.

Anker said the county is planning to work with Rocky Point Civic Association in gathering together funds to address barriers and other measures to help with privacy concerns, but there is no word of when that funding will come. 

The current 3-mile Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail has entered its 10th year, and Herb Mones, Three Village Civic Association trustee and active member of the Friends of the Greenway, said many of the complaints he has heard with the new trail are ones he heard during the Setauket trail’s development.

“Now when I walk on the greenway, those very same people will walk up to me and shake my hand,” he said. “The attitude changes, but the attitudes are a result of not having enough of these recreation corridors for people to appreciate.”

For those who enjoy hiking and biking, the tune is much different. Elyse Buchman, who owns Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn in Stony Brook along with husband Marty, said she knows many who will use the trail. On Oct. 13, she and several hundred people from all over the Northeast raised money for the New York Bicycling Coalition, but some who wanted to come to that event didn’t, with many bikers having qualms about riding on roads as congested as some on the North Shore.

“This is a destination, this is for our long-distance riders who want to get to the North Fork, and get there safely,” Elyse Buchman added.

The $8.82 million trail is being funded through federal and state grants, along with Suffolk County funds. The trail was finally confirmed with Bellone signing legislation last year.

Though there are likely people who will want to use both the North Shore Rail Trail and Greenway Trail, they will have a 1-mile stretch between their two end points with several roads in between. The county exec said they are currently creating an interconnected hiking and biking plan, with a general idea to make Suffolk a regional destination for hiking and biking. Included in that plan is a scheme to connect the two ends of the separate trails, though he added there is no definite plan to do so. 

“The connection is a priority,” Bellone said.

 

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For Keith Buehler, guidance counselor at Port Jefferson Middle School, fishing and being out on the water was second nature to him growing up on Long Island. So when students came to him saying they wanted to start a fishing club at the school, he thought it would be a good opportunity to share his passion with others. 

“I loved the idea,” Buehler said. “I told them to get names and start a petition to start a new club.”

The middle school guidance counselor said the school principal, Robert Neidig, was very supportive of their efforts and helped in the process of getting the necessary paperwork to the district office. 

“You want to be a good role model for the kids, just getting out there and sharing one of your passions with them is fun.”

— Keith Buehler

The club has close to 70 students currently enlisted with both middle and high schoolers encouraged to join. 

Buehler said they had already started to have meetings and have begun to teach students the basics of fishing. 

“We were practicing casting and how to properly hold a pole,” he said. “Everyone has different levels of experience so right now it’s just about getting the equipment they need.”

Buehler, who fishes on his kayak at Smith Point Marina, as well as Rocky Point and Port Jeff, said through his connections from the local fishing community the club has received equipment and other items to get them started on future fishing trips. 

The Long Island Salt Savages, a Facebook group with over 3,500 members dedicated to fishing, donated poles, bait and other equipment to the club. 

“We’ve been very grateful for the support, they are a bunch of great guys,” Buehler said. “It really has given us a good foundation to start from.”

In addition, Buehler has gotten Soundview Heating & Air Conditioning, a business in Middle Island, to sponsor the club and will get T-shirts made for the students.  

Buehler said the reaction from students has been great and are excited to get out on the water. 

“I’m a morning fisherman, so I go out before school sometimes — some of the kids will see me with my fishing gear when I come in and they’ll ask me questions,” he said. 

Greg Gorniok, science teacher at Port Jeff High School and co-advisor for the club, said he believes the club is a great opportunity for students to get on the water. 

“It was a no-brainer,” he said. “Keith and I fish all the time; a lot of students have the same experiences [as us]…It’s nice to share that passion with them.”

Gorniok said another positive is that they are exposing students to the waters of Long Island. 

“It will be fun, the kids get to see you in a different light and you better connect with them,” he said. 

While the club will be predominately about fishing, Buehler said they also want to plan beach trips, local boat excursions, beach cleanups, focus on environmental and conservation activism, as well as bringing in speakers to talk to students. 

The adviser hopes to continue to expand the club in the future. They have begun to raffle off equipment to members who attend club meetings as well.  

The club plans to do its first beach/fishing trip of the fall on Oct. 24 at East Beach in Port Jefferson. Buehler said in the spring he wants to plan out more fishing trips and educate students on local and state fishing laws. 

“The students have been a big part of this,” Buehler said. “You want to be a good role model for the kids, just getting out there and sharing one of your passions with them is fun.” 

The vessels’ pennants and flags quivered in the mid-morning wind. Those who knew their way around a boat could tell Sept. 7 was going to be complicated day for sailing, as a storm that blew over the day previous left lingering swathes of somewhat choppy seas and miniature gales. The 10th annual Village Cup Regatta was going to be interesting one way or the other.

And it was, even before the race started, with the annual regatta raising $91,000 for cancer research, the most it has ever raised since the event started with help from the Port Jefferson Yacht Club 10 years ago. The amount is being split evenly by the national nonprofit Lustgarten Foundation’s pancreatic cancer research program and John T. Mather Memorial Hospital’s Palliative Medicine Program. The event has raised well over $600,000 in the 10 years since it was created.

After hours of tense racing through Port Jefferson Harbor, Port Jeff village regained the cup from Mather, who held it after winning it in 2017. The 2018 event was canceled due to weather, and the winner of the cup went to Mother Nature instead.

At a party after the race at the Port Jefferson Village Center, Mather Hospital gifted the yacht club a plaque commemorating its efforts to help put on the event. 

Joan Fortgang, a Port Jeff resident who has raced for the village the past nine years along with her husband Mort, said she has loved the event since the beginning. As part of the yacht club since 1973, she said their group has lost several good people to cancer, which originally helped prompt the idea for the event.

“This is great fun,” she said.

 

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Bob Rodriguez and his wife Wesam Hassanin. Photo by David Luces

For Bob Rodriquez, owner and brewmaster of Po’Boy Brewery, located at 200 Wilson St., Building E, in Port Jefferson Station, it’s all about making his customers feel like family and keeping them on their toes with the constant variety of beer and cider options. 

Rodriguez shows how brewing is done. Photo by David Luces

Rodriquez said he had a dream to open up a brewery of his own for quite some time, first beginning home brewing as a hobby in his garage. As he got better at the craft, he began entering his own creations into competitions and racked up a number of awards along the way. 

For the past two years, Rodriquez has amassed a dedicated group of customers.

“It is a life changer, it definitely took over our lives,” he said. 

What makes Po’Boy stand out from other breweries is that it releases a new cider weekly and a new beer every two weeks. 

“It’s fun for me, I get to create new recipes and people come back to see what’s new,” Rodriquez said. 

The owner said everyone, for the most part, finds out about new releases the day of. They send the new menu to a customer email list and share it through social media. Even the bartenders find out the same time the customers do. 

Rodriquez enjoys making new creations. 

“I wake up — OK, I want to make this,” he said. “Let me see if I have the ingredients, if not I’ll get it and then in the next couple of days I make it. I like to keep it a surprise for everyone.” 

Behind the tasting room are three tanks that Rodriquez uses to make his new creations. From there, it goes to the breweries cold room which is the final step before it gets put on tap for customers to enjoy. 

“Not to mention the ‘sick’ beers and ciders — you can’t go wrong with that.”

— Bob Rodriguez

While big companies may use a full automated system and more man power, Rodriquez does it all by himself. 

“It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of physical labor — you sweat,” he said. 

Wesam Hassanin, Rodriquez’s wife and bar manager at the brewery, said most places you go to they’ll have their mainstays, and only once in a while they will add another option. 

“We have a lot of regulars, they come in often, so we want to keep it fun for them,” she said. “It’s all [Rodriguez’s] ideas, he’s like a mad scientist,” she said. 

While the business has taken off for the couple, as of now they only operate the brewery from Wednesday through Sunday. Both of them have jobs working at Stony Brook Hospital. Rodriguez has been a nurse practitioner for the past 25 years while his wife works as a senior administrator in the surgery department. 

“I said I’d go part-time when I hit 25 years and that has made it a little easier — opening up this place was much more difficult to do than getting my doctorate in nursing,” Rodriquez said jokingly.

Since Po’Boy opened in January 2017, the menu has grown from eight to 16 beers and ciders on tap. Last December, they began distributing to local businesses including Prohibition Kitchen among others. 

“What I really love about it is the people that come here, the atmosphere and the comradery is really awesome,” Keegan Johnson, a bar regular from Setauket said. “Not to mention the ‘sick’ beers and ciders — you can’t go wrong with that.”

Johnson praised Rodriguez’s craftsmanship. 

“I appreciate the craft — you see someone that really enjoys what they are doing,” he said. “You can tell he loves what he does, he loves making people happy.”

Po’Boy Brewery has created a large following in a short amount of time. Photo by David Luces

Po’Boy has been recognized islandwide as it was one of News 12’s fan-picked winners in its Brewery Battle poll. Regulars come from all over Long Island, and even beyond.

Yolanda Ramos, of Brooklyn, said she and friends make the drive down to Port Jeff just to come to Po’Boy. 

“We all walk in strangers and we walk out making so many new friends,” she said.  “It’s just a beautiful place.”

Ramos said she started enjoying ciders because of Rodriguez. 

“I was never a cider person until I came here,” she said. 

Johnson said Rodriquez takes it to another level and dubs him “the chemist.” 

“He understands what people like,” he said. 

Rodriquez is proud of what he able to cultivate over the past two years. 

“This is something they can identify with: This is Port Jeff Station, this is Po’Boy,” he said. “They feel like they are a part of this.”

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The VFW, county government and the Mike DelGuidice-led Big Shot put on a massive concert for thousands Aug. 27. Photos by Greg Catalano

By Rich Acritelli

It was during this past week that classic rock could widely be heard throughout the North Shore. 

The Billy Joel “Big Shot” band that is led by local native Mike DelGuidice sang to a packed audience at Saint Anthony of Padua R.C. Church in Rocky Point Aug. 27. With almost 8,000 people on hand to watch the musical event, it was a great night enjoyed by all. For the last several years, Big Shot has been the main attraction of the summer concert series and a driving force of Post 6249 Rocky Point Veterans of Foreign Wars’ local efforts.

VFW Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore speaks at the Aug. 27 concert.
Photos by Greg Catalano

For the entire day, veterans of this military post diligently worked to ensure that this production was enjoyed by the many residents of this community. This operation was organized by Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore with eighteen members of the veterans organization that helped set up tents, directed where chairs could be placed, the positioning of garbage cans and worked with the church to ensure the success of this night. Cognitore was pleased to be working with Reverend K.J. Augustine, a new addition to the parish of Saint Anthony’s. It was a united effort by members of the church, VFW, county officials and local leaders that all participated in making this night come alive. Cognitore was thankful for the guidance that Augustine demonstrated to bring various organizations together through a musical tradition that has flourished at Saint Anthony’s during the summer months.

Cognitore said he was delighted that everything came together for all of the people on the beautiful evening to hear the DelGuidice sing the hits of Billy Joel, Elton John and Aerosmith.  For well over twelve hours, members of Post 6249 were seen in their blue shirts selling raffle tickets, pointing people to their seats, dancing, all with big smiles on their face, excited to watch this event unfold in front of a packed house. Even as DelGuidice now calls Florida his home, this local kid recalled his roots with good-hearted banter with the crowd. 

Since this series was created under then county legislator Dan Losquadro and continued with the aid of his successor Sarah Anker (D-Mount Siani), DelGuidice has been the key event to end these shows on a high note. While the musician performs next to Joel through the longstanding franchise at Madison Square Garden, DelGuidice is a proud figure from Miller Place. The former resident has mastered the songs of Joel and has members of his band playing with Big Shot to round out this talented group. With cheers that could be heard up and down Route 25A and Main Street in Rocky Point, DelGuidice played for almost three hours. 

It is this music that resonates well with many people that can identify with the local lyrics and spirit of Joel mastered by DelGuidice.  Like that of Bruce Springsteen, John Cougar Mellancamp, and Zac Brown, the combination of Joel and DelGuidice music will continue to stand the test of time and local residents will surely enjoy these shows for many years to come.

The VFW, county government and the Mike DelGuidice-led Big Shot put on a massive concert for thousands Aug. 27.
Photos by Greg Catalano

The importance of this concert series is that the local government and Cognitore are able to bring solid musicians to this area to present their multitude of talents. Instead of worrying about paying an expensive ticket price and traveling into the city, many people are able to come home from work and within minutes hear the unique voice of DelGuidice play some of the most memorable rock hits. This leisurely event allows people the opportunity to see an outstanding show that is free, close to home and they also observe the likes of Post 6249 work for the betterment of the North Shore.

One of the finest songs that DelGuidice sang on this night was “Good Night Saigon.”  Immediately, DelGuidice invited all of the veterans to be present on the stage and be next to him and his band. Much of this tribute was presented to the Vietnam Veterans that were led by Cognitore. He had tears in his eyes by the overwhelming applause from the crowd. Standing next to the post commander, they looked out to the crowd as they raised phones over their heads.nThey turned on their flashlights and cameras creating a clear path of light across the fields of Saint Anthony’s.  

Veterans, young and old were continually thanked by DelGuidice and his band for sacrificing for this nation. In an evening with many highlights, this one surely hit home for the members of Post 6249 and for those with history of defending this nation at home and abroad.

Already, Cognitore is looking forward to next year. He wanted to thank all of the political leaders, the church, officers of the Suffolk County Police Department of the 7th Precinct for their role in handling crowd control, parking, the traffic, and being a presence to ensure the safety of an audience of thousands.  

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Vilage officials have been paying attention to the Port Jefferson Country Club lower parking lot. Photo by Kyle Barr

Port Jefferson village officials hope $12,000 is enough to cover the Port Jefferson Country Club parking lot and area around the golf pro shop with camera surveillance.

At its Aug. 19 meeting, village officials agreed to put together $12,000 from various budgets to replace seven cameras around the country club parking lot. These cameras will be at 4K resolution to better enable reading license plates in case that data needs to be forwarded to village constables or Suffolk County Police. The money will also go toward adding a new system to use the upgraded cameras at the country club.

“The system we got there is five years old — the cameras have always been cloudy there,” said Kevin Wood, the Port Jefferson parking and mobility administrator. 

At the meeting, the village officials went back and forth on the cameras’ price tag, but Wood argued 4K is the way of the future.

“The 4K costs have gone down tremendously, even since we did Texaco a year ago,” he said. “We’re at the point where we don’t consider anything but 4K, it’s that close to the cost.”

The board unanimously voted to install the new cameras, and Mayor Margot Garant said she is looking to take some money out of the country club, the parking and main budgets.

In previous meetings, trustee Stan Loucks made a point of trying to stop people from parking in the country club’s lower parking lot and walking down to the beach to fish.

“We believe that a lack of cameras at the lower lot creates additional problems down at the east beach,” he said at the Aug. 19 meeting.

In May, the village announced it had hooked up its camera system to Suffolk County Police Department’s real-time crime center. The system is used by police to tap into local cameras and use that data in conjunction with databases to catch criminal activity.

Wood said they expect the cameras to be installed by mid-September.