Smithtown

By Steven Zaitz

The middle of January assuredly brings two things to Suffolk County – unbearably cold temperatures and the Section XI Winter Track League Championships on the Brentwood campus of Suffolk Community College.

From Friday night to Sunday evening, Suffolk Federal Credit Union Arena was packed to the rafters with athletes from over 50 high schools across the county on both the boys and girls sides.

In League II, Commack and Smithtown East both had standout performances in the arts and sciences of running, jumping, and throwing. They competed against the likes of the mighty Connetquot, who finished in the top spot for the boys and second for the girls, Bay Shore, who were among the top five overall for both boys and girls, North Babylon, whose girls team took first place in the league, and of course archenemy to both, the always-dangerous Northport.

The Commack girls finished in fourth place overall with many noteworthy performances. The 4×400 relay was the team’s crowning achievement by winning the event by more than five seconds. With a time of 4:20.75, the Lady Cougar foursome Alexandra Pulcini, Hailey Torres, Nicole Bransfield, and Kate Hearns bested second-place Connetquot, whose quartet ran a 4:25.82.

Junior Kathryn Vidulich was best in the triple jump, reaching 35 feet. Senior Sophia Toepfer was second in the long jump with a leap of 16”10’, besting her teammate Vidulich, who came in third, by only a quarter of an inch. Toepfer was third in the 300-meter dash and senior Nicole Bransfield was third in the 55-meter hurdles.

The Bulls of Smithtown East were led by freshmen Rayshelle Brown, who was second, ahead of Bransfield, in the 55-meter hurdles at 8.84 seconds and senior Sarah Wisnieski, who was second in the 1000-meters and fifth in the 1500. Brown broke the school record by .003, a record that stood for six years. Brooke Rosenberg and Annabelle Willie crossed the finish line almost simultaneously in the 600-meter run. Rosenberg’s time was 1:48.78 and Willie’s was 1:48.90, good for third and fourth respectively.

Competing on Sunday, the Commack Boys achieved second place overall, behind Connetquot. The Cougars saw a well-diversified showing from runners, jumpers, and throwers. 

Nicholas Vought, a senior, won the 300-meter dash with a blazing time of 36.51. Vought finished second to Northport star sprinter Vito LaRosa in the 55-meter dash with a 6.62. LaRosa clocked in at 6.50. Commack’s 4×800 relay team bested Northport with a time of 8:30.24, capturing first place. The quartet was made up of Alex Walsh, Dylan Manning, Aidan Piracci, and Sam Byrd. The anchorman Byrd, a senior, had a very busy day as he also placed second in the 3200 and fourth in the 1600. 

I have to give credit to my grandmother because she is an amazing cook, and she made a great dinner of pot roast and biscuits last night,” Byrd said. “Also, I took it pretty easy this week knowing that a lot of us were going to be doubling and tripling up, so I was ready to run. I was happy to win the [4×800] but I wish it was enough to catch Connetquot for the league title.”

Andrew Riggs finished in second place in the 55-meter hurdles for Commack, with a time of 8.12.

Kaden Jacques and Daniel Pagan both jumped to a height of 5’8” and were awarded third and fourth respectively, as Pagan snagged second in the long jump with a flight of 20-8. Anthony Pisciotta was fourth in shot put with a throw of 42-4.75.

The Smithtown East Bulls Braden McCormick jumped to glory, capturing first place in the high jump at 6’5”. It was the highest jump of the day by a full five inches and after clearing the bar, McCormick, joined by his teammates, set off a wild, fist-pumping celebration that rocked the arena. With this giant leap, McCormick qualifies for the New Balance Indoor Nationals in Boston later this year. 

“It felt great clearing six foot five,” said McCormick. “I never thought I’d be jumping this high since only last spring I was having trouble clearing five feet ten. I’ve been lifting a lot more this season and the coaches on this team have really helped me get to the next level.”

Elsewhere for the Bulls, Kaelen Sue-Kam-Ling was third in the long jump competition with a leap of 20-2.5. Sue-Kam-Ling and his three teammates Josh Bobadilla, Jason Triolo, and Nicholas Piccoli finished fourth in the 4×200-meter relay to round out the activities for the weekend in League II.

The Suffolk County championships are up next for these track stars, and those meets will be held over the first weekend in February at the same venue.

By Steven Zaitz

The silver Honda Accord of personal trainer Stephan Reyes can be seen in the same spot each and every weekday.

No, there isn’t a fancy “Reserved for Mr. Stephan Reyes” sign in the parking lot of the Transfitnation Training Studio in Smithtown. The 24-year-old Westchester native is at work before most of us are even out of bed every morning and is fully prepared to improve the mind, body and soul of everyone on his client list for the day. His first appointment is usually at 5:00 a.m.

Reyes, along with his fitness-conscious colleagues at the boutique gym off of Terry Road, emphasizes a holistic approach to personal betterment that includes guidance on not just strength and weightlifting, but lifestyle factors such as nutrition, sleep, science-based stretching and balance improvement.

The team, led by founder Steve Dell’Amore, evaluates each client and formulates a custom program based on his or her age, goals, body type and health history. They like to think of themselves as a one-stop wellness shop.

“I came into this field to give people the tools that they need to change their lives for the better,” said Reyes. “I love the challenge of working with such a wide-ranging group of people who have different challenges, goals and backstories, and helping them to improve their lives.”

Reyes, who was a superstar basketball and baseball player at Walter Panas High School in Cortlandt Manor, later studied Sports Management at SUNY Oneonta, also completing a sports medicine internship while there.

Upon graduation, he became a Certified Personal Trainer, a Certified Human Movement Specialist and will complete a course in January, 2024 to become a Certified Nutrition Coach.

Essentially, he is an ever-evolving wellness scientist with the certificates to prove it..

“There are so many aspects of this job that I love, and I’m always trying to learn so I can serve my clients the best way possible,” said Reyes, who has relocated to Port Jefferson Station from his beloved Westchester. “In building individual plans for people, we need to do a lot of analysis before and after, but when I’m one-on-one with my clients, I try to get to know them, so I’m part trainer, part life coach, part motivational speaker, part teacher and part friend.”

Among his clientele, Reyes is legendary for his positive energy and fun-loving approach to the job. He can often be heard shouting his favorite catch phrases like “great work”, “finish strong”, and “excellent adjustment” as he pushes  his trainees to their limits.

“When I first met Stephan, I knew right away that he was a ‘people-person,’” said Dell’Amore, who opened the business in October of 2018. “He has grown his client base from the ground up, and he brings a lot of energy to every single session. People love to train with him, and he’ll take on any challenge that is thrown his way.”

Having worked at Transfitnation for a little over two years, Reyes has accrued a plethora of success stories. Too modest to boast about them himself, many of the people he trains were eager to share their fitness journey.

Jerry Varrichio, 22, works at Home Depot in South Setauket and lives in Stony Brook. He is also one of several of Reyes’ clients who are on the autism spectrum.

“I always feel better coming in to train with Stephan, and I’ve lost a lot of weight,” said Varrichio who enjoys taekwondo and has recently taken up golf. “The moment I come in here and start my stretching before the workout, I feel better about myself.”

Jerry has lost over 10% of his body fat in 18 months since becoming a member of Transfitnation.

Tatianna Morisseau is a 32-year-old nurse from Brentwood who has been training with Reyes for six months. She suffers from lipedema, which is a long-term condition of fat and connective tissue building up in various parts of the body. It is a stubborn impediment to weight loss and fitness.

“Lipedema really messed with me because before I knew that I had it, I would try to lead a healthy lifestyle but would never see the results,” she said. “But working with Stephan, I’ve made so much progress in my body composition, and I’m very happy about that. Coming here was the best decision I’ve ever made.”

A fellow Terry Road business owner is also a “Transfit Transformer.”

“No two workouts are ever the same, and I always feel like I accomplish something when I’m done,” said Tom Bernard, 60, of Smithtown, who is the proprietor of Rockwell’s Bar and Grill. “I was 225 pounds when I started, and now I’m 190 and my body is totally transformed.”

He added, “Not only does Stephan train me when I’m there, but he’s taught me how to do it on my own with the correct form, and it’s great because my metabolism is like a jet engine now. I can go to my restaurant and eat almost anything I want.”

Jean Francois, who is a native of Haiti and was clinically obese when he showed up at Transfitnation, has been under Reyes’ watchful eye for about a year.

“People tell me now how good I look, and I feel great,” said Francois, who works as a counselor for seniors and the disabled. “When I first came to the country, I went to the doctor, and he told me I had to make some serious changes. A year later, I went back to that doctor, and he told me I was no longer obese. I was crying with tears of joy because that was one of the happiest moments of my life.”

Francois was close to 300 pounds at his heaviest. He lost 60 pounds and 20% of his body fat over the course of 12 months. Reyes shares in the joy in Francois’ achievements.

“Jean is a great story and a good example of someone who worked really hard to get results,” Reyes said. “He had some personal issues to deal with and was not in a good mental space when he came to us, but he really bought into not only the exercises but the diet and sleep programs that we set up. We’re all very proud of what he has achieved.”

Reyes is eager to create more stories like these.

“I’m definitely happy that I chose a career where I’m helping people,” he said. “Impacting people in a positive way and leading them down a path to success by helping to change habits and lifestyles is what I’m all about. Whether it be to help with an eating disorder, fight obesity or just help someone fit into a wedding dress or tuxedo, I’m happy to do it.”

His clients seem to be happy, too, knowing that they have made a most “excellent adjustment” to their lives. 

For helping community members become the best versions of themselves, TBR News Media names Stephan Reyes as a 2023 Person of the Year.

File photo by Rachel Shapiro

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan group, will host a Meet the Candidates forum on Tuesday, Oct. 3, at 6:30 p.m. for four seats for Smithtown Public Library trustee.

The community will be able to watch via a link on the Smithtown Library website: www.smithlib.org. It will continue to be available for viewing until Oct. 10, the date of the Library Trustee and Budget Vote elections from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m.

For details on the budget and candidates, as well as how to vote via absentee ballot or where to vote on Election Day, please visit www.smithlib.org/about/budget-vote.

Forum questions to be considered may be submitted online via a secure form — the link will be on the www.smithlib.org website — no later than Saturday, Sept. 30, at 5 p.m.

Suffolk County Police Department 4th Precinct Inspector David Regina updates the Smithtown Town Board on local crime trends during a public meeting Thursday, Sept. 21, at Town Hall. Photo by Raymond Janis

By Raymond Janis

The Smithtown Town Board convened Thursday afternoon, Sept. 21, for a public meeting covering public safety, walkability and downtown revitalization.

Public safety

Suffolk County Police Department 4th Precinct Inspector David Regina delivered the department’s public safety report, alerting the community to ongoing crime trends.

Following a stabbing at Millers Pond in Smithtown [see story, “Man stabbed at Millers Pond in Smithtown,” Aug. 26, TBR News Media], Regina said the victim was transported to a local hospital and has survived his injuries.

“This is an assault that is out of the ordinary for that area,” he said. “I do feel confident in saying that I don’t feel that this is a threat to the area of that community.”

Regina referred to 2023 as “a rough year in the 4th Precinct for fatal motor vehicle crashes,” which he said have “run the gamut between pedestrian, standard motor vehicle crashes, motorcycle crashes, bicycle crashes” and accidents involving scooters.

Reporting on a recent fatal accident on Harned Road in Commack involving the death of Ilona Kaydanov, a 22-year-old pedestrian [see story, “Jogger killed in Commack crash, two others injured,” Aug. 31, TBR News Media], Regina said the 4th Squad had investigated the accident, noting, “There does not appear to be any criminality involved.”

The inspector stressed the need for pedestrians to cross roadways at crosswalks, adding that “pedestrians under New York State law are required to walk or jog against the flow of traffic.”

Purse theft — a local crime phenomenon often involving the theft of one’s credit cards at retail spaces — remains pervasive within the 4th Precinct, Regina said. [See story, “Shopping spree: Thieves targeting handbags, wallets at Suffolk County retail stores,” Aug. 24, TBR News Media.]

He reported that this theft crime variety has occurred primarily around the Smith Haven Mall, advising shoppers to “secure your things securely.”

He noted that multiple incidents have included a co-conspirator, with one criminal creating a diversion while another robs an unsuspecting victim’s shopping cart.

SCPD “were able to identify one suspect, and I’m happy to say we cleared three of those cases last week, and we were able to charge that gentleman with several counts of criminal possession of stolen property,” Regina reported.

Sideshows and street races remain an ongoing crime phenomenon countywide. Regina reported a recent sideshow gathering of 250 cars at the Walmart parking lot on Garet Place in Commack.

“These get very raucous,” he said. “They were throwing fireworks in the direction of the police officers who were responding. These are officer safety concerns for us.”

While the department has moderately succeeded in dispersing some of these sideshow events, the inspector suggested the matter is unresolved.

The Hauppauge Fire Department will host a community gathering on Thursday, Sept. 28, at 6:30 p.m. at 855 Wheeler Road to discuss the sideshow issue and its community impacts.

Downtown revitalization

Allyson Murray, principal planner in the Smithtown Planning & Community Department, delivered a presentation on a grant application for New York State downtown revitalization funds through the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative and the NY Forward grant programs.

Murray considered Kings Park an ideal candidate for these funds due to its substantial retail and civic spaces, compact size, centrally located Long Island Rail Road station and recent public and private investment.

“The vision is to attract public and private investment to enhance the character of downtown Kings Park,” Murray said, hoping to create “a vibrant and walkable Main Street business district with diverse mixed-use development.”

The proposal seeks to leverage existing community assets, such as the LIRR station, new sewer infrastructure and proximity to major employment centers, such as the Hauppauge Industrial Park and Stony Brook University.

Murray shared a draft list of projects to be included in the application. She encouraged community members to send ideas for other proposals by email to [email protected].

Harned Road proposal

In the wake of the recent roadway fatality, Commack resident Kevin Feit asked the board to consider several pedestrian safety enhancements on Harned Road between Vanderbilt Motor Parkway and Veterans Memorial Highway.

“Currently, there are sidewalks in some sections of Harned Road, but they abruptly end,” Feit indicated. “Where there is no sidewalk, the shoulder is extremely narrow in some places and can be completely taken up by a sewer grate.”

Given these existing conditions, Feit suggested the current roadway to be “impassable for a wheelchair or stroller.” He added that while the speed limit on Harned is 30 mph, vehicles regularly exceed 40 mph due to long stretches between traffic signals.

“Sidewalks would provide several benefits to the community,” he said, among these being public safety, environmental friendliness and walkability to nearby shopping centers and parks.

The Town Board will reconvene Tuesday, Oct. 3, at 2 p.m.

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Photo by DanTD from Wikimedia Commons

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced Friday, Sept. 15, $1 million in federal funding for Smithtown through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry grants program.

This project will implement tree inventory assessments focused on public outreach and education while protecting and improving the existing tree canopy through tree maintenance activities throughout the town.

Tree planting will take place after a public outreach and education campaign. The campaign aims to increase local awareness of the positive impacts of maintaining an urban tree canopy for quality of life, the natural ecosystem and the environment.

“I am proud to announce Long Island communities are among the first in the nation to tap the historic funding I secured in the Inflation Reduction Act to conserve and increase tree canopy, educate residents and improve storm and flood resilience with new tree plantings,” Schumer said. “I fought hard to plant this funding in the Inflation Reduction Act so that Long Island could have access to the funding needed to breathe new life into its communities.”

Gillibrand added to this sentiment, noting the environmental trends that have made this funding necessary for communities such as Smithtown.

“Expanding access to trees and green spaces on Long Island will give our communities a higher quality of life,” the U.S. senator said. “This money will help bring new life to the Island, where families can enjoy a greener, healthier environment.”

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) weighed in on this injection of federal stimulus. He tied the money to ongoing townwide efforts to improve the existing canopy.

“We are incredibly grateful to Senator Schumer for his advocacy in securing this funding, which is a gamechanger to advance our urban forestry agenda, the result of which will allow us to improve the community’s quality of life, wildlife and ecological habitat,” he said. “This grant will undoubtedly serve as the catalyst to expanding cutting-edge initiatives like our tree inventory, STEM and community outreach programs and our street tree canopy, which Smithtown’s urban foresters and the Department of Environment and Waterways have worked tirelessly to broaden over the years.”

He added, “We look forward to expanding our local green space, which will deliver ecological benefits for generations to come.”

The senators noted that a neighborhood lacking trees can lead to various problems, from increased air pollution, urban heat islands and poor health outcomes, all on top of negative economic impacts like decreased property values.

Schumer and Gillibrand said the Inflation Reduction Act has finally created the robust funding needed to maximize access to urban forests in cities and towns across New York.

The Inflation Reduction Act included $1.5 billion over the next 10 years for the U.S. Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry program, more than five times the current level of funding.

Schumer and Gillibrand explained that Urban and community forests cool neighborhoods, improve psychological well-being, keep electricity costs down, positively impact property values and help residents avoid the severe health impacts associated with heat waves.