Northville Industries posters offered two visions for development of their South Setauket property. Photo by Mallie Jane Kim
Elected officials stayed to discuss concerns after residents meeting canceled due to overcapacity

By Mallie Jane Kim

Setauket residents showed up in force to a March 25 meeting about the proposed development of a Northville Industries property bordered by Belle Mead and Upper Sheep Pasture roads in East Setauket. In fact, so many showed up to the Holiday Inn Express in Centereach that the meeting had to be canceled and rescheduled due to fire hazard.

But that didn’t stop meaningful discussion about the issue, as Northville representatives and local elected officials stayed behind to dig into concerns and contentions.

At issue is a site plan Northville sent to neighbors proposing the addition of three giant warehouses to its property, which also houses a collection of gas storage tanks. The idea has already proved unpopular with residents, and though Northville has submitted the plan to the Town of Brookhaven, it has not been reviewed or approved. The Monday meeting was arranged by Northville, without town involvement. 

Also on the table was a secondary plan Northville representatives touted: multifamily rental homes. Posters displayed in the meeting room depicted the two options, namely one concept-design poster of grey monolithic warehouses next to another filled with bright, landscaped townhome photos from Westfield Green in Selden. There were also two site plan maps indicating where the proposed warehouses would go, and where a potential 140 rental units could sit. 

“No new multifamily residential units have been built in this particular zip code in 25 years,” said Northville CEO Steve Ripp after residents had left the hotel. “I think there is a benefit for folks who would like to remain within the community but no longer want to have their single family home for whatever reason.”

Northville representatives suggested such rentals could serve older residents who want more flexibility than maintaining a freestanding house allows, as well as university students or young adults who want to stay in the area but can’t afford a single family home.

Suffolk County Legislator Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) pushed back against the idea that the housing plan was a better option.

“If they have an as of right [to build within their industrial zoning], they should do it and do it right,” he said. “But to do a swap for high-density residential, such as you would find in central Queens or Brooklyn, is unacceptable.”

Englebright added that neither Northville proposal was “ready for prime time,” as the town has not come back with suggestions, and there hasn’t been an environmental review.

Allowing Northville to change zones to add multifamily homes, according to Englebright, could open the floodgates for other light industrial property owners around Brookhaven to do the same, leading to overdevelopment. 

Englebright emphasized that Northville is important to the area’s infrastructure as a provider of fuel for automobiles and homes, though he said the number of people who showed up to the meeting reflects how controversial any development will be.

“The community is a suburban community,” Englebright said. “Proposing urban density here is the beginning of the end of our way of life. And that’s unacceptable.”

Ripp pushed back against the suggestion that multifamily rentals would change the character of the community, and said concerns over traffic were “alarmist” since warehouse trucks would travel at off-peak hours. 

“We’re building something,” said Ripp, adding that the company hasn’t developed its property in over 25 years. He said the meeting presentation was intended to see what the community preferred.

Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook), who also stayed after the meeting, said Long Island infrastructure is already at carrying capacity, and the company was not presenting a real choice. 

“Not that I would equate this in a moral sense,” he said, “but if someone comes up to you on the street with a gun and says, ‘Your money or your life,’ you are being offered a choice, right?”

But Ripp said it was unreasonable to expect Northville to stick with the status quo.

“If [people] don’t want it developed, they should talk to the Town of Brookhaven to say, ‘Buy the land from Northville,’” Ripp said. “You can do what you’re permitted to do with your land.”

Meeting rescheduled, community reacts

Earlier in the evening, the meeting room, which hotel staff said had a capacity of 100 people, quickly filled beyond capacity, with residents crowding into standing room. More were waiting to ride up the elevators to the sixth floor, and more still were unsuccessfully circling the parking lot to find spots, with some reportedly attempting to park along Route 347.

“We got a great community turnout, more than we possibly could have anticipated,” said Northville lawyer Timothy Shea, who indicated they would find a larger place to host the meeting next time. “We want to hear what everybody has to say.”

Residents filing out of the room when the meeting was canceled primarily expressed frustration and suspicion.

“It’s a disaster,” said Kerry Menendez, who lives on Storyland Lane, close to the Northville site. Menendez suggested the company’s lack of preparation for a big turnout was indicative of how she thought they’d handle any development in the future. “And with their track record — how they’re showing their face in this community right now, I don’t even know.”

That track record includes a 1.2 million gallon gas leak, revealed in 1988, which some meeting attendees remembered first hand. Like Corinne Keane, who grew up on Robin Hood Lane and lives in the same neighborhood now. Her home was in the area affected by the spill, and she said she remembers a testing well dug at her family’s front curb, and men in gear frequently testing the level of contamination there. Her family was part of the settlement Northville paid out to homeowners. 

“They paid our families, which didn’t change anything because the home values were significantly affected by it,” she said.

Keane is not a fan of any development on the Northville site, and not only because of the history. “It’s going to bring traffic,” she said, especially if the company is successful at getting a driveway put in on Upper Sheep Pasture Road, something the town has said is not allowed. “It’s a blind curve. It’s going to create a lot of accidents, and the traffic is going to be backed up,” Keane said.

According to Ripp, the plans are still in the early stages, and he said Northville didn’t rule out structural improvements like widening Belle Mead Road, for example. 

He also addressed the company’s environmental background. “People are traumatized by what happened to them, and for good reason,” he said, pointing out how terrible it was that a plume penetrated the ground under homes — but also that it was an accident that happened due to a tiny hole in a pipe, and despite Northville following industry regulations. 

“It was a terrible thing for Northville also,” he said, indicating loss of inventory as well as the money paid out in cleanup efforts, damages and settlements. In all of it, Ripp said, Northville stuck it out and didn’t declare bankruptcy to absolve themselves of making things right — and that the environmental fines went on to provide the seed money to preserve the Pine Barrens area of Brookhaven. “That turned a really horrible situation into something with long-lasting benefits,” he said.

Ripp also pointed out that cleanup was completed 20 years ago, and the company has faithfully provided fuel for the community in all that time. “I think we have been a good neighbor. We have supplied [gas] safely and consistently. Through all weather events and what have you, Northville has always been there,” he said. “It’s disappointing that we never get absolved of that [spill].”

Kornreich asked if Northville would apply that idea of being a good neighbor if the town continued to reject rezoning for multifamily residences and the community protested the idea of a major industrial build. 

“Would you listen to the community and say, ‘OK, we’ll look for something that’s a little bit lower intensity?’” he asked.

Ripp said no. “That simply doesn’t have anything to do with integrity — we have land rights, we have property rights,” he said. “We are a business, you know, we’re trying to make money from this. We have rights, too.”

First responders swarm the scene on Feb. 22. Photo by Lynn Hallarman

By Lynn Hallarman

Christian Neubert, third assistant chief for the Port Jefferson Village Fire Department, was first on the scene, responding to the emergency dispatch called to the Port Jefferson fire station at 5:44 AM, Thursday, Feb. 22. 

At 5:46 AM, Neubert arrived at the corner of Thompson Street and East Main Street in the Village to find flames shooting in the air from the roof of a two-car garage on the residential property at 119 East Main Street. He quickly realized the worst was possible and told the dispatcher to alert neighboring fire departments that a full-structure fire was underway. 

When a report of a structure fire is called to the Port Jefferson Fire Department, the Terryville Fire Department is simultaneously alerted, putting in motion a quick response firefighting team as an extra layer of support for dangerous fire situations, Neubert explained the emergency response process in an interview with TBR. “This system is excellent and part of our automatic mutual aid program. And we do the same for Terryville,” he said. 

Belle Terre resident Mel Kravitz, on his early morning walk with his dog, could see the flames reaching into the sky from the Gap parking lot. 

“I heard explosions, then shortly after, I saw the fire trucks shooting down East Main,” Kravitz said. 

At 5:51 AM the Terryville Fire Department arrived on the scene. 

At 6:03 AM,  neighboring fire departments began to arrive to fight the blaze: Setauket Fire DepartmentMount Sinai Fire Department, and Stony Brook Fire Department responded, according to Neubert. The Miller Place Fire Department stood by at the Port Jefferson Fire Station in case an alarm sounded for another village fire. 

After confirming residents were safely outside, the crew assessed if the fire had extended into the house. The fire jumped from the garage and was eating its way through a low roof on the side of the house. Firefighters split efforts between containing the garage fire and extinguishing the rapidly spreading fire inside the home.

Several firefighters were fighting the blaze — some were on the house’s roof and inside the house searching for hot spots, while others drenched the destroyed garage with water. Cars parked inside the garage were now heaps of melted metal. Smoke plumed from burnt remnants, and radiant heat melted the siding off the house next door on Thompson Street. Firefighters doused a charred shed on the adjacent property on East Main. 

At 6:48 AM, the Port Jefferson Fire Department declared the fire incident under control. 

“The theory is the fire originated in a car in the garage,” Neubert said. But as a firefighter, you can’t know.” The incident will now be under investigation by the village Fire Marshall and the Suffolk County police, who make these determinations, he explained. 

No residents were hurt in the fire. A second-degree hand burn sent one firefighter to the emergency room at Stony Brook University Hospital. He was treated and released, according to Neubert. 

Fire Safety Tips

“The number one fire safety tactic is to install smoke detectors,” Neubert said.  

“And don’t assume that the fire department knows because your smoke alarm is going off; call 911 immediately,” he said. 

“Sleep with the doors closed at night. A closed door is imperative to stop fire spread,” he warns.

The Port Jefferson Fire Department has a designated fire alarm hotline: 631-473-3232. 

“We’re proud of having that capability. Residents can call the firehouse directly, saving critical minutes in response time.

Neubert reminds the public that every firefighter in the Port Jefferson fire department is a volunteer.

“Volunteer firefighters responded to this fire, then left, showered, and went to work.”

Volunteers help break ground for the project made possible by $10K PSEGLI grant

The Living Lands design team at Three Village Historical Society. From left, Mike Dondero, Alex Getches and Logan Kjep. Photo by Kimberly Phyfe/TVHS

Three Village Historical Society broke ground last week on a project to install a series of gardens surrounding its main building on North Country Road, courtesy of a $10,000 outdoor commerce and beautification grant from PSEG Long Island.

The gardens will include a pollinator pathway, colonial kitchen garden, indigenous medical garden and sensory garden, all with native plants, according to Kimberly Phyfe, development coordinator for TVHS. She added that the plan also includes garden paths, educational signage and some additional trees.

“This is going to be a teachable educational space,” she said. “You’re going to be able to walk through a timeline of history.”

A series of gardens will surround Three Village Historical Society’s main building after the society received a $10,000 grant from PSEG Long Island. Photo by Mallie Jane Kim

At a Friday, Nov. 10, “garden party,” an estimated 20 community volunteers, including some members of the Three Village Garden Club and the historical society’s grounds committee, participated in clearing most of the ground cover, invasive species and weeds to prepare for the project, which is headed up by Living Lands, a North-Shore based garden design and installation company that specializes in native habitats and ecological restoration, primarily on a residential level.

Living Lands co-owners Logan Kjep and Alexandra Getches said they feel honored to be part of such a community-facing project to highlight the beauty and usefulness of native plants.

“Getting to find out the history of the plants and the way they were used in the past has been really interesting because we focus more on their role in ecology,” Getches said. “Investigating how the indigenous people used them, how the colonists used them was really fascinating.”

The PSEGLI grant is typically for downtowns or business districts. Phyfe said when the representative originally stopped by last spring on a Monday at 10 a.m., all was quiet on the stretch of North Country Road where the society sits.

She said she urged him to return on a Friday afternoon during the farmers market so he could “see this town taken over by small businesses, locally owned; food trucks, music, education, entertainment — everybody is here on a Friday night. I think that’s what really did it.”

Phyfe added that the market brings business to neighboring establishments and acts as the start of historic Setauket. “Welcome to Culper country — this is the home of historic American Revolution stories right here in Three Village,” she said.

Phyfe called the gardens an “outdoor classroom and teaching garden space” that will be available even when the museum and visitor center is closed, and will expand on the education provided by the Culper Spy and Chicken Hill exhibits, which can host only small groups at a time during student or Scout visits.

She said the sensory garden will be particularly friendly to students with sensory processing disorder. “I want to make learning and field trips accessible to learners of all ages, and particularly learners with disabilities and special needs,” she said.

Phyfe indicated the garden project should be completed by Thanksgiving.

Caretaker informed minutes before animals due to be taken away

Locals confront Preservation Long Island on Wednesday, Nov. 8, during the nonprofit’s attempted removal of the animals at Sherwood-Jayne Farm in East Setauket. Photo by Mallie Jane Kim

Local residents rallied outside Sherwood-Jayne Farm in East Setauket Wednesday, Nov. 8, when representatives from Preservation Long Island — the nonprofit that owns the farm and its animals — made an unexpected attempt to remove the elderly pony and four sheep that live there.

The impromptu protest was confrontational and tense, with caretaker Susanna Gatz visibly distressed, and PLI executive director Alexandra Wolfe expressing frustration. Suffolk County police officers who cleared the 20 or so people out of the pasture area as requested by Wolfe also worked to maintain a calm atmosphere where possible.

In the end, the sheep and pony were spooked amid the tension, so the Save-A-Pet representative engaged to move the animals wouldn’t do so while they were agitated, and left the scene.

PLI has long planned to rehome its animals, but paused for review in August after significant community outcry. Gatz has lived on the property and cared for the sheep and pony for more than eight years. She and other local residents have been hoping the sheep and pony could live out the rest of their lives there.

On Nov. 8, Wolfe told Gatz the animals would leave just minutes before a Save-A-Pet van arrived to transport them.

Gatz said she felt blindsided. “To show up here today with a 15-minute notice to start moving the animals is not fair.”

Suffolk County Legislator-elect Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) attempted to help mediate and said he had a productive start to a conversation with Wolfe. He explained that the animals are an important educational and cultural resource for the community, but that he also understands PLI is essentially a collection of small museums and not in the business of caring for live creatures.

“She’s unhappy because the ownership that they have of these animals is not part of their mission,” he said, but added, “There has to be a solution other than removing the animals.”

Englebright said Wolfe expressed willingness for the idea of a separate organization owning and taking charge of animals on the property — though as police cleared people out of the pasture area and the protest grew heated with sobs, yelling and even a bit of shoving, Wolfe told the crowd she did not want the current animals to be part of any discussion.

Gatz’s sister, Sharon Philbrick, pulled three of her children out of school so they could come say goodbye to the animals, but police were no longer allowing people to go near the barn by the time they arrived. The kids were crying, and one ran past police officers to get close. “They’ve been around these animals their whole lives.” Philbrick said, adding that they’d held the sheep when they were little lambs. “The animals know them.”

PLI explained in a fact sheet provided to TBR News Media that the sheep are slated to get a private enclosure at Berkshire Farm Sanctuary, a nonprofit farm in Massachusetts that rescues and rehabilitates “abused and neglected companion and farm animals,” according to its website.

Snowball, the old white pony, PLI’s fact sheet indicated, would move to a private farm “a short distance away from the Sherwood-Jayne Farm,” and would have access to another elderly pony and 24-hour veterinary care. 

PLI provided a statement Thursday suggesting it still planned to move the animals, without indicating when.

“Regrettably, the emotions of our property custodian and some protesters disrupted the attempt to gently move the animals yesterday, and that effort had to be paused. We continue to believe that Berkshire Farm Sanctuary will provide the humane and caring environment we seek for the grazing animals,” the statement read.

Compliance issues for Sherwood-Jayne

In an additional layer of complication for PLI, a Sept. 8 letter from the county procured by TBR News Media informed them the property is out of compliance with the Farmland Preservation Development Rights Program. Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven purchased development rights to the 10.6-acre farm parcel in 2003, requiring Sherwood-Jayne to maintain a working commercial farm. The county also owns the 36 acres directly north of the property.

A county statute about the program stipulates “no owner shall leave agricultural land uncultivated and not engage in agricultural production … for more than two consecutive years.”

The letter also informed PLI it needs to apply for special-use permits to host events like the recent Baseball on the Farm, and the nonprofit also needs to discontinue the practice of allowing nearby schools and camps to use the field for overflow parking.

According to PLI’s fact sheet, the organization met with Mikael Kerr, the county’s farmland and open space supervisor, Sept. 30 to talk through options of bringing the property into compliance with the program.

PLI has not provided details about those options, but it will need to create a plan to put forward for approval by the county’s farmland committee.

Though there was no indication the current animals staying at the farm would hinder that process, the effort to move the animals last Wednesday made clear the organization is so far not interested in rethinking the decision.

“We have made arrangements to rehome our animals to a private sanctuary, where they will peacefully live out the rest of their days in a beautiful, park-like environment,” PLI said in a statement.

But some area residents think the animals should stay. One protester, Judy Wilson, who has helped feed the animals during times Gatz needed coverage, twisted a lock of the pony’s coarse white tail she found in the grass as she watched the situation unfold.

“What has happened today is atrocious,” she said. “The animals don’t need rescuing.”

Herb Mones, land use chair of the Three Village Civic Association, also came to the farm to show support. He took issue with the way the nonprofit handled a delicate situation, because the last the community heard, the plan to move the animals was on pause.

“We are quite shocked that something like this would happen by any organization that depends upon Long Island communities’ support,” said Mones, who is also president of the Three Village Community Trust, another organization that acquires and preserves local properties of historical importance. “These are really actions that go beyond anything that’s reasonable. It just amazes me.”

Gatz said she was touched that so many neighbors and friends stopped by — some who noticed the commotion while driving by and others who got calls to support the effort to keep the animals at the farm.

“People love this place, and they care about these animals,” she said. “I want them to stay here. This is their home, and I don’t know why [PLI] doesn’t understand that.”

The animals will stay at the farm – for now

File photo by Nancy Trump

Grazing animals on the Sherwood-Jayne historic farm in East Setauket will keep their home — for now.

After area residents protested plans to rehome the elderly pony and four sheep, mourning the slated loss of the bucolic, historical scene on Old Post Road, Preservation Long Island is pausing the process pending consultation with local stakeholders. 

PLI, a nonprofit that preserves historic buildings and uses them to inform and engage the public, owns the Sherwood-Jayne property and had decided the animals were not central to their mission, especially since they also brought possible increased liability. The society’s executive director, Alexandra Wolfe, was hoping to find appropriate new homes for the animals this summer. 

After news of the plans spread, frequent farm visitor Kaleigh Wilson of Rocky Point started an online petition. Wilson, who used to work at neighboring Benner’s Farm, has been visiting Sherwood-Jayne Farm as long as she can remember and knows the property’s caretaker Susanna Gatz well. 

“We didn’t really know what to do about it or how to push back,” Wilson said. So she tried the petition. “I was hoping to create the space for community members to speak up.”

She created the petition on a Friday night and sent it out by text to people she knew cared about the farm, she said, and by Saturday morning there were already 500 signatures. By press time, the petition had nearly 2,400 supporters.

Wilson said she hopes PLI will ultimately decide to change course, as she doesn’t understand how removing the animals and Gatz could enhance the preservation of the space. “Susanna’s living this legacy in this space that it was meant to be lived,” the petitioner said, pointing out that Gatz, who cares for the animals and the property, processes raw wool from the sheep into fabric — according to the virtual tour of Sherwood-Jayne available on PLI’s website, Howard Sherwood also used wool from the property’s sheep to have blankets made. “It’s not just the animals — it’s her practicing a slower way of life that’s so important that we keep alive.”

Gatz had previously been asked to move by early fall, but Wolfe at PLI said they haven’t made any decisions regarding the property’s custodian just yet.

Brookhaven Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) also stepped in, speaking directly with Wolfe to encourage PLI to seek out a local advisory board. [See op-ed.]

Kornreich is grateful PLI has decided to hit pause. “I think it shows responsive stewardship that they are listening and responding to community concern,” he said.

The intensity of response surprised PLI, which is involved in some local history-related events, like Culper Spy Day with the Three Village Historical Society, and which has had partnerships with The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook and Gallery North in East Setauket. Wolfe at PLI said the organization hopes to consult its local partners before deciding how to move forward.

File photo from the Town of Brookhaven website
By Jonathan Kornreich 

Over the years, residents of Long Island have unfortunately become accustomed to the sight of our farms, meadows and forests being paved over and replaced by housing developments with ironic names that refer back to what was lost.

On the other hand, we are fortunate to have numerous historical societies, land trusts and other civic organizations, as well as public ownership of historically and environmentally significant parcels, serving as a counterbalance in the struggle to protect our way of life and to preserve the special places that make our community such a desirable place to live. These local organizations are part of the fabric of our community. Their board members, directors, staff and volunteers are our friends and neighbors — local residents who understand our past and are invested in our future.

The Sherwood-Jayne Farm on Old Post Road in East Setauket is a jewel of the community. Built around 1730, the site was an operational farm for more than 150 years. For many residents, a drive down Old Post Road meant a view of the bucolic farm setting which includes historic structures, fields, meadows, pasture and of course, a peaceful flock of sheep and an old pony named Snowball. Even if it was only a momentary glimpse of the animals in passing, generations of residents have been reminded that elements of our agrarian past still survive, and not just in names like Sheep Pasture Road or Sherwood-Jayne Farm.

Sherwood-Jayne is owned by an organization called Preservation Long Island. It owns four historic properties: two in Huntington, one in Sag Harbor and the one in East Setauket. According to their website, their mission is to “celebrate and preserve Long Island’s diverse cultural and architectural heritage through advocacy, education and stewardship of historic sites and collections.” This is a vital function, and one which is best done in partnership and consultation with the local community.

Recently, the community became aware of a proposal by PLI to discontinue the residency of the animals at Sherwood-Jayne. Coming from an organization dedicated to the preservation of our cultural heritage, this proposal was difficult for many people to accept, and the negative public reaction has been understandable.

After consulting with a number of highly involved residents about the matter, we agreed that PLI should consider recruiting an advisory board of local residents to help explore ways to build bridges between their organization and our community. This would go a long way to addressing the perception that PLI is not really a local organization, and dispel some of the mystery about their intentions, which I believe are good and worth supporting. 

In a frank conversation with PLI’s executive director, Alexandra Wolfe, I communicated these concerns and feedback on behalf of the community. She indicated that PLI would put a pause on any action related to the animals while they reevaluate their plans and work on developing a sustainable course of action that prioritizes the well-being of the animals while being sensitive to the cultural context of the property.

I am grateful to Preservation Long Island for their responsiveness to the concerns of our residents. More than that, I am thankful to them for their excellent stewardship of our cultural heritage. I look forward to seeing them expand their presence in our community and continue building strong working relationships with our existing organizations.


Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) is Town of Brookhaven councilmember for District 1.  

Scott Montefusco, a retired U.S. Marine captain, celebrates atop his 1952 Jeep after completing a cross-country trip from San Francisco to Setauket. Photo by Aidan Johnson
By Aidan Johnson

Scott Montefusco, a retired U.S. Marine captain, concluded his more than two-month cross-country trip last Saturday, July 29, at the Setauket Fire Department on Nicolls Road.

The trip, which began in San Francisco, was completed to raise money for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, an organization created in tribute to New York City firefighter Stephen Siller, who died during the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. 

Siller had raced from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers with 60 pounds of gear on his back to help save lives before sacrificing his own.

Montefusco drove his 1952 Korean War Jeep for the entirety of the trip, which he auctioned off at the fire department. He also had a 1973 Winnebago RV follow him from San Francisco, driven by different first responders, veterans and volunteers.

From left, Suffolk County Legislator Nick Caracappa, Scott Montefusco and New York State Assemblyman Ed Flood. Photo by Aidan Johnson

Steven Rizzo, a long-time friend of Montefusco, organized the ceremony at the fire department. During his speech, Rizzo explained what it was like driving the Winnebago behind him while upstate.

“I told him I’ll go up to Albany and give him a hand and drive the RV down to Hudson, and then the next day we drove down to Poughkeepsie. While we were there, we really got to see him in action,” Rizzo said.

“It’s just fantastic. He’s driving it around and in the town with his Jeep, people stop and stare, [and] veterans were saluting,” he added.

Rizzo described how when Montefusco parked his Jeep, a crowd would form around him and would gladly give donations after hearing the reasons behind his trip. The trip raised at least $40,000, according to Rizzo.

Multiple local officials attended the ceremony, with Suffolk County Legislator Nick Caracappa (C-Selden) presenting Montefusco with a certificate of appreciation, and New York State Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) presenting him with a citation for his “great work to the state and the country.”

Montefusco also presented a plaque to the Setauket Fire Department in memory of firefighter Frank Bonomo, from Port Jefferson, who died saving lives on 9/11.

During an interview, Montefusco said that he hoped to inspire young people to take more of an interest in their country.

“After 36 years of service, in retirement I’m not going to stop serving,” he said. “I try to inspire young people to maybe step up and serve as a first responder or as a military member.”

He also hoped to inspire others to take greater interest in American history.

Montefusco’s road trip followed the route of later World War I veteran Maj. Horatio Nelson Jackson, who, along with Sewall K. Crocker, were the first people to drive an automobile across the United States in 1903.

On a picture-perfect evening, the Sound Symphony Orchestra took to the Village Green of the Caroline Episcopal Church in historic Setauket and filled the Three Village air with music from its diverse songbook.

The 300 Lights Pops concert was free and part of the church’s 300-year anniversary celebration, which coincided with the arrival of a welcomed autumnal chill that replaced a sticky heat wave that had been in place on Long Island for more than a week. 

Under the direction of maestro Dorothy Savitch, the 60-piece orchestra, many of whom are former Comsewogue High School musicians, delighted the crowd with tunes from the likes of Mozart, Cyndi Lauper, Puccini and George Gershwin – just to name a few.

One of the highlights of the evening was the appearance of world-renown soprano Stefanie Izzo, who belted out arias from “Così fan tutte” and “La bohème” that drew warm and sustained applause from the crowd of about 300 that filled the great lawn. 

Overlooking the Setauket Village Green, the Caroline Episcopal Church of Setauket’s congregation started in 1723 and the church building was erected in 1729. It is listed on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places, and in addition to this free concert, it has marked its tricentennial with plaque unveilings, historical lectures and special sermons and services.

On Sunday, hundreds of white lanterns lit the perimeter of the grounds and as the late summer afternoon turned to dusk, they shone more conspicuously around the venue. The music started with a medley of hits from the musical “Grease,” which of course included the smash hit “Summer Lovin’”. Soon after, Izzo took to the stage.

In addition to her singing, Izzo cheerfully explained the settings, characters and context of the arias for the benefit of the opera-uninitiated. 

The soprano has studied languages and performed recitals in Italy, Germany and Austria, and was chosen as the first-ever recipient of the National Italian American Foundation’s Andrea Bocelli Music Scholarship. Along with her solo work, Izzo is a co-founder of the Queens-based chamber group The Astoria Music Project, which has been hailed by critics as possessing a “flawless soprano” and a “gorgeously rich and full sound” for her work in opera and musical theatre. She was nothing short of that on this Sunday in Setauket, with her rendering of the works of Verdi, Puccini, Mozart and Gershwin.

The orchestra was also pitch-perfect, led by Savitch, who also serves as the director of the Brooklyn Conservatory’s Music Partner’s Program, which provides hands-on musical training to nearly 5,000 New York City schoolchildren. She has been the musical director of SSO since 1997, and during that 26-year period, the orchestra has grown into one the finest community ensembles in the New York metropolitan area, receiving high praise for their vibrant performances and expansive repertoire.

This night certainly could be counted on that list. Another major highlight was the “Armed Forces Salute Medley.” Savitch encouraged the military veterans to stand up when they heard the song of their branch of service. She led the band in “Anchors Aweigh,” “The U.S. Air Force,” “The Marines’ Hymn” and “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”

The crowd gave each person who stood up during the 7-minute medley a round of applause in gratitude for their service to the nation.