Recreation

Town of Brookhaven's Cedar Beach. Photo by Kyle Barr

In response to the expected high temperatures Monday,  July 27,  and Tuesday, July 28, the Town of Brookhaven has extended the hours at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai, West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook
and Corey Beach in Blue Point.  Lifeguards will be on duty and restrooms will be open until 7 p.m. on both days, instead of the normal 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

Davis Park and Great Gun Beaches will be open as normal from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The town’s Holtsville Pool will remain open as normal with two sessions daily from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and
2:30 pm to 6:30 pm. The pool is open for residents only. Online pre-registration and payment is required. Go to www.BrookhavenNY.gov/HoltsvillePool for more details. Social distancing is required and strictly enforced at the Holtsville Pool, town beaches and all town parks and recreation facilities.

A Brookhaven Town resident parking sticker is required for beach and pool parking. The sticker can only be
purchased online at www.BrookhavenNY.gov/Stickers. For more information, call 631-451-TOWN (8696) or visit www.BrookhavenNY.gov. Beaches are open to Brookhaven town residents only.

Anthony Amen, back middle, with his emplyees at Redefine Fitness in Mount Sinai. Photo from Anthony Amen

As a result of gyms and other fitness centers being taken off Phase 4 of New York State’s  coronavirus reopening plan, owners across the state, including some in Suffolk County, are suing Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), the state attorney general and the State of New York in a class action suit. 

The suit, which was filed earlier this month in state Supreme Court by Syosset-based Mermigis Law Group, alleges that the governor’s shutdown orders violated the plaintiff’s due process. 

“The unequal, random, arbitrary and unfair treatment has continued in the reopening guidance,” the document states. “Tattoo parlors, tanning salons, health spas and dentists are allowed to open their doors, but gyms remain locked down.”

The group of businesses is suing the state for $500 million, for what plaintiffs claim is hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue. As a result the businesses have had to lay off at least 70,000 employees statewide. In addition, they are seeking an injunction of the executive order, so they can reopen their gyms. 

A representative from Gov. Cuomo’s office did not respond for comment in time for press time. 

According to court documents, “several hundred members” are a part of the lawsuit, though that number is expected to increase. The primary plaintiff in the case is Thousand Island Fitness Center, based in Jefferson County on the state’s northern border. The suit originated on Long Island with Charles Cassara, owner of SC Fitness, with locations in Hicksville and Farmingdale. Almost 5,000 individuals have joined Cassara’s private Facebook group Fitness Industry Vs. NY Class action lawsuit.

Anthony Amen, owner of Redefine Fitness in Mount Sinai, is one of the many gym owners represented in the suit. 

“All we’re asking for is a shot, we need to get open, let us follow all the [Centers for Disease Control] guidelines — we are not going to make it [if gyms remain closed],” he said. “You can get a massage, you can get acupuncture, you get a tattoo, you can go to a mall that is all indoors, but you can’t come to do one-on-one training.”

Amen’s gym lost about 80 percent of its clients due to the shutdown. The Mount Sinai gym owner said the last few weeks have been a whirlwind, and at one point he thought he would be able to reopen as he provides a “personal service.” 

“We reopened June 10, because I called the county and I asked them, ‘Hey, we do personal training, can I open as a personal service, do one-on-one training only, we follow all CDC guidelines.’ They told me OK,” Amen said. “Fast forward five days, I get a call from the governor’s office, threatening me with a $10,000 fine and ordering me to close down immediately and saying that I wasn’t allowed to be open. I told them that I spoke to the county, and they said the county lied to you.”

Currently gyms are only allowed to do outside training, though Amen says that for him and other gyms it is just not feasible to do that long term, especially during the summer months. Gyms were expected to reopen July 8 under Phase 4. 

“It was 90 degrees almost every day last week, totally humid,” he said. “I started training people at 9 o’clock in the morning, and even at that time it is a lot to ask of people. They are going to pass out or have a heat stroke.”

Studies on whether gyms are safe are divided. A Norwegian study, cited in the lawsuit, found that individuals who decided to work out at gyms were not at a greater risk of contracting coronavirus. On the flip side, in a paper published by the CDC, researchers in South Korea discovered 112 COVID-19 cases linked to fitness classes in 12 locations. 

Ed Darcey, owner of Personal Fitness in Rocky Point. Photo from Facebook

Ed Darcey, owner of Personal Fitness Club in Rocky Point, had similar sentiments. He too has signed onto the class action suit.

“These past 18 weeks have been really frustrating — all we want is the ability to reopen again,” he said.

Darcey, who has run his gym for the past 31 years, initially thought that his business would only be closed for a short time. That thought quickly faded as the severity of the pandemic became evident. He said believes he can run his businesses safely.

“Let us open our doors again, so we can get our business flowing,” Darcey said. “Fitness people want to help each other.” 

The Miller Place resident referred to the gyms as a “second family” to people, adding that he misses being around his clients and helping them with their goals.

“A lot of our clients here see the gym as a mental and physical outlet,” he said. “That’s been taken away from them.” 

Darcey said because of the governor’s decision, they weren’t given the opportunity to bounce back like other industries that have been given the green light to reopen, adding that ‘it doesn’t make sense that gyms are left out.

“I might be able to make it through, but some of my peers aren’t [going to],” the gym owner said. “They’ve put their heart and souls into this industry, it’s heartbreaking.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Darcey’s gym. At press time, $6,365 has been raised since July 1.

“Ed Darcey has supported every single person that has walked in and out of the door of that gym,” the fundraiser states.

Amen said the situation is bleak for gym owners, saying they are struggling to pay bills with no revenue coming on. 

“Gyms are rent heavy, and payroll light — we are still getting billed,” he said. “We are trying to get the landowners involved in the lawsuit because rent payments are the biggest expense and it is unfair for them too.”

The gym owner feels frustrated being left out in the dark. 

“We don’t get into this business to make money, we do it to help people,” Amen said. “How are we not relevant — it’s unfair, we need to be heard.”

by -
0 420
Tesla Science Center Executive Director Marc Alessi at the current Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham. Photo by Kevin Redding

When the pandemic swept through Long Island in the past few months, when businesses closed and schools went online, the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham has had to reimagine its efforts while hoping to still have in-person events at newly renovated buildings next year.

Last October, the nonprofit submitted its site plans to the Town of Brookhaven, with designs including first renovating the small, two-story house at the front of the property before starting renovations on the lab itself. Marc Alessi, the executive director of the science center, said construction had to halt due to the pandemic, but now the project has resumed after Phase 1 of reopening.

But in that time, the center has laterally moved its focus, according to the nonprofits’ executive director. Moving on to the virtual medium has allowed the center to refocus its education efforts, he said, while compelling them to come up with new fundraising opportunities. 

“It’s gratifying that even before we open our doors we’re starting to provide that content and this programming,” Alessi said.

From June into this month, the center has promoted multiple online activities. This includes a Sprint for STEAM: 5k Virtual Run/Walk/Roll for Virtual Education, where the center is hoping to raise $125,000 for virtual education programs through support or donations. The center has also started a Virtual Summer STEAM Camp for kids, led by the center’s new education director Hannah Weiss. Later this month, the center is also starting a Virtual Education Certificate Program with the New York Institute of Technology, which will specifically help teachers learn about different technologies used in distance learning. Alessi said several school districts nationally, plus a few on Long Island, will be participating, and kids from other states and even other countries are looking to participate in the virtual summer camp. This is in addition to the center’s Tesla Unwired video podcasts with scientists and other people in the tech world, which started back in April.

Alessi said this move to digital education meant they had a better foothold in a lagging economy being slammed by the pandemic.

“With everything that’s happening, we’re going all in on providing this virtual content,” he said. “We hired an education coordinator. We didn’t lay off staff, we hired staff during this crisis.”

The center is also hosting its annual Tesla Birthday Bash on July 11 differently this year, with demonstrations of a 17-foot Tesla Coil being hosted online, and the center will be showing an online and drive-in version of the movie “Tesla” several weeks before it comes out. Tickets for the drive-in screening are $150 per car, with the money going to support the center’s online education initiatives.

The science center came to be in 2012, when along with the website The Oatmeal, a small North Shore nonprofit, purchased the land with $1.4 million raised to help purchase the land. Alessi, who was brought on as executive director in 2016, said restoring the site and creating a museum is a $20 million project, of which they have raised $10 million in the past few years.

“We always felt this was a world historic site, and the fact that the world saved it really multiplies that feeling,” Alessi said.

As reconstruction continues on the laboratory building, famous for its historical nature also having been designed by renowned early 20th-century architect Stanford White, it unveils new mysteries. Workers rebuilding the chimney on the lab itself uncovered an arched brick opening in the base of the eastern chimney wall June 5, and the science center is still trying to understand why that was built into the original structure. 

Otherwise, the site plans for the larger context of the Tesla Center are still under review with the Town of Brookhaven.

But the future of the site still depends largely on what happens in the next year or so. Just like many places billing themselves as galleries or museums, many who want crowds to be able to come through and visit are depending on a vaccine for COVID-19 to more effectively ensure visitors’ safety.

“We’re lucky we’ve always stayed very lean as far as operations, and we’ve been able to create these air-tight budgets for this year,” Alessi said. “If this crisis lasts another year into next year, it could impact our programming.”

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.

 

by -
0 1122

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.