Rocky Point

Graphic from NYSPHSAA website

Rocky Point High School sophomore Ava Capogna and junior Alexandra Viera made history during the inaugural NYSPHSAA Girls Invitational Wrestling Tournament in Syracuse Jan. 27. 

In the first-ever New York State championship featuring over 200 female wrestlers, Capogna achieved a fourth-place finish at 120 pounds and Viera won first place at 126 pounds.

Longtime varsity wrestling coach Darren Goldstein has coached some of the finest athletes on Long Island. Over the last several years, he has coached many female wrestlers. 

Goldstein recalled recent developments within Rocky Point’s female wrestling program. “Gianna Amendola, a 2022 graduate of Rocky Point and a current wrestler at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, was a pioneer as a woman in this sport,” he said. “She had a decorated career on the mats and set the stage for Capogna and Viera to excel within the difficulties of wrestling.”

Ava Capogna

‘This is an incredible achievement for these two amazing people and teammates.’

— Aidan Donohue

Since she was 7 years old, Capogna has enjoyed wrestling. Her father had experience in wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and he wanted his daughter to be involved in Rocky Point’s wrestling program. 

Beginning in third grade, Capogna began wrestling in tournaments in Long Island, New Jersey and upstate New York.

She was the first female on Long Island to be classified for the varsity team. As a seasoned veteran, her most effective moves are the double-leg takedown, headlocks, throws and drags.

This Rocky Point Eagle has already earned 40 wins against boys and is one of the captains of her wrestling squad. Capogna’s future is bright and she has already competed in the nation’s largest female tournament at Fargo, North Dakota.

Next year, Capogna is motivated to return to Syracuse again to gain a higher placement in the state competition. 

Alexandra Viera

Viera always wears a big smile with a can-do attitude. Her path to excellence began several years ago as a young girl wrestling in a Brentwood youth club. The only girl in this organization, Viera recalled her earliest moments in this sport with delight. 

Consistently a top-rated wrestler, she has perfected her single- and double-leg takedowns and throws against opponents. After wrestling for Connetquot, Viera quickly emerged as a notable competitor for Rocky Point.

She appreciates her teammates for helping her transition into a new school. She credits her mom and stepfather, who were instrumental in mentally and physically preparing her for the rigors of the sport. She would also like to thank wrestling classmates Nick LaMorte, Jeron’Taye Coffey and Kyle Moore for their continual support.

As a rising senior, she hopes to continue wrestling at the collegiate level.

Trailblazers

Coaches and teammates alike are in awe of these two trendsetters who have opened up doors and broken barriers for female athletes locally. Athletic director Jonathon Rufa summarized their achievements. 

Capogna and Viera are “blazing a trail for girls along the North Shore of Long Island to participate in wrestling,” he said. “We look forward to their continued achievements and honor their recent accomplishments.”

Junior Aidan Donohue remarked on the important contributions of his two classmates. “This is an incredible achievement for these two amazing people and teammates,” he said.

Trevor Green, dual-sport student-athlete at Rocky Point High School. Photo courtesy Rich Acritelli

Rocky Point ninth grader Trevor Green is a dual-threat swimmer and cross-country runner, and is among the promising athletes on the North Shore. On Saturday, Feb. 11, Green competed at Stony Brook University for the Suffolk County swimming championships.

His swim training regimen is a daunting, year-long commitment. He spends many hours daily in the pool.  

The disciplined Green understands that achievement is earned through the accumulation of consistent effort. Always armed with a can-do attitude, he placed among the elite swimmers in Saturday’s county competition.

This season, Green has attained state qualifying times for the 500-meter freestyle, 200 individual medley, 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke. The counties would be no different, with Green placing near the top in the butterfly and backstroke events. During his races, the athlete had a strong show of support from his parents, grandparents, sister and friends.

As Green prepares for the state swimming championships in Utica, he treads upon familiar ground. 

In November, Green qualified as an individual for Rocky Point’s cross country team. At Sunken Meadow during the Section XI state qualifier, Green placed seventh overall and ran a 5K of 17 minutes, 41 seconds. A week later, he ran just outside Utica at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Senior High School for the state championships. One of the youngest runners in that meet, Green ran in borrowed spikes on a saturated course but placed a creditable 17th. 

Competing against the very best runners and swimmers of New York state, Green has proven himself a force. He looks optimistically toward the future, continually seeking ways to improve his times.

Green continues his pursuit of perfection in two of the most strenuous and physically taxing sports in athletics, representing his school and community well.

Photo by Raymond Janis

Hundreds of community members gathered on Saturday, Dec. 3, at the intersection of Broadway and Prince Road in Rocky Point for the hamlet’s 38th annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony.

The Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce held the event in honor of the late Linda Albo, the originator of this local annual tradition who passed away in the spring. Gary Pollakusky, president and executive director of RPSBCC, summarized Albo’s example of community advancement.

“She was an avid community advocate and cared deeply about the community in a way that made a difference,” he said. Albo’s impact would be felt once again through the success of this year’s tree lighting.

The program commenced with a presentation of the colors by Boy Scout Troop 244. Girl Scout Troop 604 then led a singalong, performing “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” 

After a 10-second countdown, the Christmas tree was lit as attendees rejoiced in a collective cheer.

Musicians from Rocky Point High School’s brass choir and jazz band delivered wind performances. Soloist Katie Romano, also from RPHS, sang a moving rendition of “Silent Night.”

At the commencement of these performances, the audience was greeted with one final surprise. 

Excited children lined sidewalks and parking lot entrances in feverish anticipation of their hero, Santa Claus. 

Like a shining knight upon horseback, Saint Nick entered atop a fire rescue vehicle from the Rocky Point Fire Department, the sirens blaring and lights flashing. On the main stage, he greeted the many children in attendance, asking them what they would like for Christmas. Their smiling faces and innocent laughter would fill the evening air with joy and cheer.

Public officials also joined the festivities. New York State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) expressed her gratitude for those involved in coordinating the event and for the gradual return to normal after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Kids are seeing Santa for the first time in their lives because of COVID when Santa wasn’t really around,” she said. “It’s so nice to see all of the smiles on their faces and families coming together.”

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) called it an honor to be part of such an event and witness the community coming together again.

“You see people from every age, every religion, every walk of life come here and celebrate,” she said. “Rocky Point is one of the most involved communities in my district and the most populated, so when you have so many great community events, it’s wonderful.”

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) also took part in the fun. She said events like this remind her of what a joy it is to live in this proud hamlet.

“I have been involved in this tree lighting for as long as I’ve lived in Rocky Point,” she said. “Now 38 years later, it’s just great to do it in memory and honor of Linda Albo. We do it every single year, and we hope that she’s proud of the work we all did.”

— Photos by Raymond Janis

This week marks the 81st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, one of the darkest episodes in American history. Pixabay photo

“No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.” 

— President Franklin D. Roosevelt (D), Dec. 7, 1941

This week, 81 years ago, the United States was thrust into the global conflict of World War II.  

Isolationist tendencies had kept the country out of the war during its earliest years. Prominent Americans such as Charles Lindbergh and Joseph Kennedy Sr. widely considered the fight outside the United States’ strategic interests. 

It was an unsettling moment for the nation as Americans watched Britain and the Soviet Union on the brink of defeat from invading Nazi forces. Meanwhile, the Japanese moved against its neighbors from China to Indonesia, controlling significant parts of the Pacific and Asia. 

‘A date which will live in infamy’

Within the early morning of Dec. 7, 1941, American ships on patrol outside Hawaii discovered the periscopes of Japanese submarines. Five of these underwater vessels were stationed near Pearl Harbor, ready to pounce upon American ships attempting to flee the assault. At the same time, Japanese planes departed from aircraft carriers that were 275 miles north of Hawaii. 

The government and military never feared an attack by the Japanese against its army and naval bases in Hawaii. They feared a possible assault against the Philippines but never believed Pearl Harbor was a target.

Across this country, from the North Shore of Long Island to Hawaii, American citizens were awakened by the horrifying sounds of news reports of the assault. The Japanese rising sun logo was seen on high-level bombers and torpedo planes that swarmed over the morning skies of this island paradise.  

Within moments, a wave of 360 enemy fighter planes produced staggering losses on the American side: Five sunken battleships, three destroyers and almost 200 planes were hit from the air. As the Japanese pulled back after this assault, they understood their plans were not fully achieved. Three American aircraft carriers, untouched by the Japanese, would hold down the fort as America rebuilt its Pacific fleet.

Awakening a sleeping giant

American service members scrambled to survive the aerial onslaught. The attack killed 2,403 U.S. personnel, including 68 civilians. The government later discovered that 40 of these deaths were residents of New York. All of this was overwhelming for the stunned American people, stung by this attack and unprepared for this global war effort. 

A relieved British prime minister, Winston Churchill, stated that the American partnership in World War II was the ultimate factor in achieving a two-front victory. The Japanese surprise attack at Pearl Harbor would push 16 million Americans to enlist in the armed forces over the following four years, putting the world back on a path to peace.

In the months after the Pearl Harbor attack, Japan gained one of the largest territorial empires in world history. The island nation’s conquests stretched from the Alaskan Aleutian Islands, toward Australia, into China, through several Pacific island nations and to the doorstep of India. 

This empire would quickly unravel, thanks to American efforts in the ensuing years. A three-year “island hopping” campaign would eventually bring massive American military power onto Japan’s home islands.

From 1943-45, Japan absorbed constant blows from air, sea and land, pushing this military regime back into its own territory. The war ended after President Harry S. Truman (D) authorized the use of the atomic bomb, obliterating the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Connecting past to present

For decades after Pearl Harbor, there were groups of veteran survivors of this surprise attack that once numbered 18,000 nationally and 70,000 around the world who could recall this tragic date. Today, fewer than 1,500 Pearl Harbor survivors remain.  

Moreover, less than 240,000 World War II veterans are still living. The “greatest generation” passes away at a rate of 234 people daily, according to the VA.

The United States has been pivotal in thwarting Russia’s attempts to overrun Ukraine. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, had comprehensive plans to conquer Ukraine and then move against his neighbors. 

While the Ukrainians deserve credit for carrying out a reversal of fortune against Russian aggression, they have gained tremendous military, economic and political aid from the United States.  

As we reflect upon the moments after the attack on Pearl Harbor, we must remember that America has adversaries around the globe. The American response following Pearl Harbor should remind Putin never to underestimate the resolve of the American people, its leadership or its mission to combat tyranny around the globe.  

Friends and foes should always understand the historical examples of strength the United States illustrated during that dire moment in our national history. 

Remember to thank veterans for their services. Their contributions before and after Pearl Harbor have continually promoted the cause of freedom and security throughout the world.

Rich Acritelli is a history teacher at Rocky Point High School and adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College. Written in conjunction with Manny Watkins, Matt Liselli, Jake Donovan, Evan Donovan, Colin Singh, Simone Carmody and members of the high school’s History Honor Society.

Rocky Point High School principal Jonathan Hart, senior Vivian Dorr and music teacher Amy Schecher. Photo courtesy RPSD

Rocky Point High School senior Vivian Dorr was selected for the 2023 National Association for Music Education All-Eastern Honor Band. 

In April, Vivian will have the opportunity to rehearse and perform with students from NAfME’s Eastern Division, including New England and Northeastern states, Washington, D.C., and Europe. The All-Eastern rehearsals and performances will take place from Apr. 13-16, 2023. 

“This is an incredible accomplishment,” music teacher Amy Schecher said. “Vivian is a very talented young trombonist and an excellent student. She continues to impress me with her dedication to her academics, music and athletics.”

Graphic from the school district website

The Rocky Point Union Free School District Board of Education convened Monday, Oct. 17, for a public meeting.

Proceedings commenced with a brief presentation by the district superintendent, Scott O’Brien, recognizing school board appreciation month in the district. In his presentation, O’Brien discussed the vital work performed by school board members in educating students and advancing the community’s educational aims.

“School board members give Rocky Point citizens a voice in education decision-making,” he said. “Even though we make a special effort to show our appreciation this month, their contribution is certainly a year-round commitment.”

During the meeting, the board unanimously approved a resolution to accept the donation of posters by Sound Beach resident Ernestine Franco. These posters, valued at approximately $130, are related to diversity, equity and inclusion, colloquially known as DEI. 

“I am happy that the posters were accepted,” she said. “I hope that this means that the board supports inclusiveness.”

This poster donation comes on the heels of months of tension between the school board and some in the public after the board reversed its long-standing practice of accepting book donations. [See story, “Rocky Point BOE reverses practice on book donations, causes controversy,” The Village Beacon Record, Aug. 11, also TBR News Media website.]

Despite this recent history, Franco viewed the outcome of Monday’s decision as a positive step, signaling a possible cooling of tensions.

“We were also happy that they accepted the donation as a way for the community to participate in school activities,” she said, adding, “For us, this was a way for them to say, ‘Yes, you can be a part of this.’”

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Bea Ruberto, president of the Sound Beach Civic Association, shared news of an upcoming memorial event to be held at the hamlet’s Veterans Memorial Park. Scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 22, at 1 p.m., community members will celebrate the life of Ann Moran, a former teacher in the district and treasurer of the civic.

“This Saturday, we are holding a celebration of her life,” Ruberto said. “She was a force to be reckoned with, and she will be missed very much.” Ruberto invited those in attendance to join for Saturday’s service.

The BOE will reconvene on Monday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

It was all Rocky Point in the team’s homecoming football game on Saturday, Oct. 1. The Eagles dominated the line of scrimmage with a 42-0 win over Eastport South Manor.
Quarterback Jeremy Graham punched in from short yardage for the opening score, then split the uprights for the point after kick to put the Eagles out to an early lead.
Later, Graham threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Viggiano four minutes into the second half and kicked the point after, giving Rocky Point a two-touchdown cushion.
Outside linebacker Dominic Viggiano, Anthony’s twin brother, blocked an ESM punt, recovered the ball, and jetted 29 yards for the score. Graham’s foot made it 21-0.
Eagles defensive back Liam Resinger scored on a punt return, covering 42 yards. The extra point gave the Eagles a four-score lead.
Rocky Point running back Joe Cecere ripped a 38-yard run for the score to end the third quarter to make it 35-0.
Cecere struck again midway through the fourth quarter with a 21-yard run. Graham, who didn’t miss the point after attempt all day, put the game away 42-0.
The win lifts Rocky Point to 3-1 at the midway point of their season. The Eagles will retake the field on Saturday, Oct. 8, when they travel to Half Hollow Hills West (4-0). Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.

By Daniel Palumbo

To mark the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Rocky Point Fire Department held a commemorative ceremony at its dedicated 9/11 Memorial Garden on the evening of Sept. 11. 

The fire department invited community members, firefighters from neighboring towns and Rocky Point High School student-musicians for an evening of solemn remembrance of the lives lost 21 years ago. 

Throughout the evening RPFD firefighters, including Chief of Department Fred Hess, took to the podium to thank the attendees for their support. In their speeches, they expressed gratitude and admiration for the many servicemen, servicewomen and civilians who made the ultimate sacrifice on that tragic day in history.

File photo by Giselle Barkley

During a public meeting of the Rocky Point school district board of education on Monday, Aug. 29, Sound Beach resident Bea Ruberto confronted the board over its decision to reverse a longstanding practice regarding book donations.

In June, district parent Allison Villafane donated several books related to Pride Month. In mid-July, the board sparked controversy from the public for its decision to no longer accept book donations from parents. 

During a special meeting on July 28, members of the board justified their decision on the grounds that they lack expertise in children’s literature. For more on this story, “Rocky Point BOE reverses practice on book donations, causes controversy,” see TBR News Media Aug. 11 print and online editions. 

During her remarks, Ruberto contended that the board used shoddy reasoning to arrive at its decision. By reversing its book donation practice, Ruberto suggested that the BOE inadvertently took decision-making authority out of the hands of librarians.

“I remain disappointed with your decision to no longer accept book donations,” Ruberto said. “None of you are experts in deciding which book donations to accept, you said, but there are experts who can do this — the librarians.”

Another point of contention for Ruberto was an argument made on July 28 during the public comments that there are more pressing matters for the board to consider than book donations. 

Pushing back against these charges, Ruberto suggested that access to reading materials lies at the core of any institution of learning.

“Yes, there are many important issues related to our children’s education, but the idea that the books made available to them isn’t one of them is ludicrous,” she said, adding, “As long as a book is age appropriate, I can’t imagine any book that young people should not have access to it.”

While Ruberto acknowledged that parents remain the ultimate arbiters for their children’s reading materials, she added that librarians also perform a vital function. According to her, school libraries are ideally inclusive spaces that should reflect the entire community’s values.

“Some parents may be troubled by what they see in the library, and then they may — and certainly should — monitor what their children are reading,” she said. “But school libraries aren’t just for them. They’re for everyone in the community.”

Jessica Ward, president of the board of education, responded to Ruberto’s public comments. The BOE president argued that the decision empowers the district’s librarians, offering these experts the freedom to stock the libraries with books of their choosing and without sway from the board.

“Our decision, as we explained last time, was made in consensus,” Ward said. “As you said, we’re not the experts on books. We want our librarians to pick the books in their libraries.”

Before the meeting adjourned, Ward and Ruberto debated whether the change of practice on book donations constituted a policy change. In attempting to settle this matter, Ward advised that she and the board would consult with their attorney and get back to Ruberto with a more detailed explanation.

The next meeting of the Rocky Point board of education is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 19.

At the site of the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Memorial in Rocky Point Aug. 5, veterans, public officials and community members joined U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), the Republican nominee in this year’s New York gubernatorial contest, to champion legislation that would expand peer-to-peer veteran support services nationwide.

The PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Memorial in Rocky Point, the site of this press event.

The Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Project, initiated in 2012 by Zeldin when he was a state senator, is a peer-to-peer program that assists veterans through support groups and other resources. The program is designed to promote mental health and alleviate the challenges of those affected by post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

“As I travel around Suffolk County for years, I have had countless veterans tell me that because of the Dwyer program, they are alive, they have a job and they have a family,” Zeldin said. “They credit the support that they have gotten from the Dwyer program for their ability to be able to cope with the mental wounds of war.”

Zeldin credited the success of the Dwyer project to its design, which was tailored to meet the needs of veterans. The peer-to-peer setting, moderated by veterans trained to lead discussions around personal and highly sensitive matters, offers a unique venue for vets to open up to those who are best equipped to understand them.

Zeldin is sponsoring legislation — H.R.1476 PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Program Act — that would make these services accessible for veterans nationwide.

“The Dwyer program needs to be expanded nationally,” the congressman said. “To the [other 534] members of Congress … please do everything you can to co-sponsor this bill.” He added, “Get educated on what peer support should be all about and let’s get this over the finish line and passed into law.”

Zeldin was joined by a host of veterans leaders and public officials representing various levels of government. His efforts to expand the Dwyer program were backed by Joe Cognitore, commander of the VFW Post 6249, based in Rocky Point. Cognitore discussed the lasting effects of combat and the difficulties that veterans encounter when they return from active duty.

Joe Cognitore, commander of VFW Post 6249, discusses the challenges of post-traumatic stress disorder

“Post-traumatic stress affects all of us,” the post commander said. “The statue you see behind us was put up this past year and it represents the post-traumatic stress that we all go through — not just veterans but all walks of life.”

State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) expressed support for the bill as well. She emphasized the uniqueness of the peer support offerings through the Dwyer program.

“Nobody knows the devil and the demons more than veterans,” she said. “Today, New York State has $7.7 million in its budget this year for this program, but it’s not enough,” adding, “I am here at Congressman Zeldin’s plea … to acknowledge our veterans and realize what they need in order to be successful and reintegrate into life after coming home.”

State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead), at podium, on why the Dwyer program should be expanded nationally

State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) spoke of the success of the Dwyer program locally and the need to bring the program onto the national stage.

“It makes so much sense now to see the success of the program,” he said. “It’s something that should have existed for many, many years, but this is the sort of effort that you need to get those ideas … to ultimately come to fruition and then to show the success that we have seen.”

Suffolk County Legislator Nick Caracappa (C-Selden), the majority leader in the Legislature, shared how the Dwyer program supports those in the community. Caracappa, who also chairs the county veterans committee, stressed that veterans issues are human issues that need to be met with human solutions.

“These are our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters … these are our family members,” Caracappa said. “I’m proud to say that this project is a product of Suffolk County.” Due to its success locally, Caracappa advocated “bringing this forward on a national level.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) offered her support for the proposed legislation 

Also on hand was Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), who was instrumental in helping the town secure the land where the Dwyer memorial now resides. [See TBR News Media story, “Students, elected officials reflect on new Dwyer statue” (Jan. 21, 2021)].

Bonner spoke of the hidden wounds of war. “Not all war injuries are visible,” she said. “So it’s incumbent upon us to do everything that we can do as citizens and residents to make sure that this legislation is passed federally.”

Following the press conference, Zeldin was asked what he would do to relieve the plight of veteran homelessness if elected as governor. He highlighted the need to improve outreach initiatives and bring down any barriers that may impede those efforts.

“Outreach to the homeless, outreach to people who are struggling with mental health issues, is not just about what you say to them, but also about being able to listen to people in need and hear those stories,” the Republican gubernatorial nominee said. “If there’s any type of red tape that’s preventing those conversations, then that red tape needs to get torn down.”