Sound Beach

Councilwoman Jane Bonner, Supervisor Dan Panico, co-owner Eddie Spagnola and co-owner Carolyn DiBernardo Ingoglia celebrate the grand opening of the new Firehouse Restaurant and Bar. Photo courtesy Town of Brookhaven

By Sofia Febles

New York City firehouse. The space resembles the home of a firefighter — from the hook door handle when you first walk in, to the model fire trucks and family photos from first-time restaurant owner Joseph DiBernardo’s personal memorabilia. 

The building now occupied by the Firehouse has been home to a restaurant for many years. It was first called Boyle’s, then Shorty’s and for years it’s been known as the Hartlin Inn. For nearly three years, the local community has been left wondering what will take Hartlin Inn’s place. Now the DiBernardos have brought it back to life, in their late son FDNY Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo’s honor. 

The owners of the restaurant, Joe and Barbara DiBernardo opened this restaurant in memory of their son, Joey, who came from a long line of firefighters, including his dad. 

When Joey was young, he would create and play with firefighter sets. Joey would help his dad in a Brooklyn firehouse, being part of his first real fire at the age of 10. When Joey turned 18 he became a fire alarm dispatcher on Long Island. 

Joey went on to work at the World Trade Center for nearly six months in the rescue and recovery operation. He was one of the people who founded the Town of Brookhaven Technical Rescue Task Force and was one of the first team leaders. 

In 2005, he was called to an apartment fire in the Bronx — a day known as Black Sunday, when three firefighters died including Joey. 

Trapped on the top floor in a backdraft, he was forced to jump out of the window five stories above the ground. From his plunge, Joey landed in a courtyard, breaking many of his bones from the waist down, and would eventually experience respiratory arrest and then a coma. 

On Nov. 22, 2011, Joey passed away as a result of injuries sustained from his heroic efforts on Black Sunday. He was awarded the IAFF Medal of Honor, the New York City Medal of Supreme Sacrifice and the FDNY Medal of Valor. 

In 2013 the “Joey D” foundation was created by the father and Joey’s friends in honor of the fallen firefighter. The foundation provides personal safety ropes to fire departments throughout the United States. It is run strictly by volunteers, mostly Joey’s friends. The foundation’s goal is that no firefighter dies because of lack of safety ropes. Joey’s father hopes that the foundation will continue even when he is gone.

The opening of the Firehouse Restaurant & Bar for the DiBernardos was an important event in celebration of their son. “I want my customers to know and understand Joey’s story, and I want Joey to live on in perpetuity through this restaurant,” Joe said. “This restaurant is like a family, surrounded with the best people.”

On the menu is a variety of sandwiches, wraps, flatbreads, burgers and “firehouse favorites.” “The ‘big pretzel’ and meatball appetizers are guest favorites,” Joe said.

“I went for lunch with my husband two weeks ago, we found everything great,” said Ruth McDowell of Port Jefferson Station. “He had the fish and chips, I had French onion soup and a BLT. Perfect balance of everything. Even the coffee was delicious. We will be back.” 

The bar section has been refurbished beautifully and is often filled with locals who enjoy happy hour and beyond.

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner presents civic president Bea Ruberto with the Sound Beach Day proclamation. Photo by Samantha Rutt

By Samantha Rutt

The past was alive as the Sound Beach Civic Association gathered with members, friends, family and neighbors at the Heritage Center in Mount Sinai Sunday, May 5, to celebrate 50 years of serving the community. Students from the Rocky Point High School band played as eventgoers gathered.

 Bea Ruberto, the civic’s current president, organized the event, which included a silent auction of almost 50 baskets and a 50/50 raffle. After taking the audience on a tour along New York Avenue of the projects that have made Sound Beach what it is today, she announced that the civic is launching a new revitalization initiative. Under this initiative, the proceeds from the auction — almost $1,000 was raised — are earmarked for the children’s park on New York Avenue.

The Sound Beach civic filed a certificate of incorporation in 1974 with the purposes of promoting the civic and general welfare of Sound Beach, disseminating information on ordinances affecting the area and promoting a more friendly relationship among the hamlet’s residents. Ruberto said, “It didn’t take long for the association to start making waves on several fronts.”

Vilma Rodriguez, who was an officer of the association in its early days, shared what life was like back then in giving an account of the many improvements identified and advocated by the association. Ruberto, who wrote a book on the history of Sound Beach — “Sound Beach: Our Town, Our Story” — said that over the years she learned a lot from Rodriguez. 

Several local elected officials presented the civic with proclamations acknowledging the service it has provided Sound Beach: Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine (R), U.S. Rep. Nick LaLota (R-NY1) through Peter Ganley, his director of operations, and New York State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk). Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) presented a proclamation deeming May 5 Sound Beach Civic Association Day in the Town of Brookhaven. District 1 congressional candidate, Nancy Goroff (D-Stony Brook), and District 1 state Senate candidate, Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), were also in attendance. 

Ruberto ended the program with the message, “not with the past but with the future.” She said the civic has been committed to engaging young people in public service as it helps grow the next generation of the civically-minded local population. So, the present will become the future for all in Sound Beach. 

Ernestine Franco contributed to this story.

Kevin Mann, president of the Rocky Point Rotary Club, announced that the local area has become the 402nd International City of Peace at this week’s Sound Beach Civic Assocation meeting. Photo by Inge Goldstein

By Ernestine Franco

The meeting started with a short history by Bea Ruberto, president of the civic, who stated that on Aug. 16, 1974, the Sound Beach Civic Association filed a certificate of incorporation with the purposes of promoting the civic and general welfare of Sound Beach, disseminating information on ordinances and laws affecting the area and promoting a more engaged and friendly relationship among the residents of Sound Beach.

On May 5, from 2 to 5 p.m., the civic will hold a celebration commemorating 50 years of serving the Sound Beach community at the Heritage Center in Mount Sinai. Students from the Rocky Point High School Music Department will provide music from about 2 to 3 p.m. 

Ruberto explained that admission is free but because of limited seating, reservations are required. To reserve a seat, email the civic at [email protected]. 

A raffle auction at the event will launch a new civic revitalization initiative, Ruberto said, adding, “We continue to being committed to doing whatever we can for the economic improvement, beautification and overall quality of life issues in the hamlet of Sound Beach.” Proceeds from the raffle auction are earmarked for the children’s park on New York Avenue.

International City of Peace

Kevin Mann, president of Rocky Point Rotary Club, and Patrice Perreca, civic membership chair, made an important announcement: The area encompassing Rocky Point, Miller Place, Shoreham-Wading River and Middle Island school districts has become the 402nd International City of Peace in the global network of 75 countries on six continents.

First and foremost in this global adventure is to reject violence and become people of peace. International Cities of Peace is an association of communities that, by history or proclamation or concerted community peace building, are doing just that by self-defining their cities or neighborhoods as official Cities of Peace. This redefinition requires building a consensus network of business, government and community leaders who value safety, prosperity and quality of life. Then the work begins with a vision that delivers on the promise of a deep and empowering culture of peace. 

As part of the local Corridor of Peace, Mann explained that residents need to “come up with three things that will increase peace” in their hamlets. Perreca will head this program in Sound Beach.

Brookhaven National Lab presentation

Rounding out the evening was Amy Engel, manager of environmental and community engagement at Brookhaven National Laboratory, who initially gave a short history of BNL, its science and the impact it has on the local economy. She discussed some of the programs offered at the lab: Educational programs for K-12, undergraduate and graduate students; fire management and prescribed burns; upcoming plans for the electron ion collider; and exciting developments in its medical isotope program, which helps cure cancer.

She encouraged anyone who may be looking for employment to attend a career day this Saturday, March 16, at the lab. At last year’s event some were offered employment that day.

At the end of her presentation, Engel said, “I love working at the lab, I love doing these presentations.” She added that she enjoys sharing with different communities all that the lab has to offer.

The next civic meeting is on April 8 at 7:30 p.m. The guest speaker will be Suzanne Johnson, president of Rocky Point Historical Society.

Photo courtesy Ellen Brett

Ginny Svoboda, 84, of Homosassa, Florida, passed away Oct. 7. 

She was born Feb. 12, 1939, in Mineola and moved to Florida 31 years ago from Sound Beach. Ginny was an active volunteer member of the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. She was a homemaker and a talented artist.

Ginny is survived by her husband Bob; her children, Debbie (Louis), Dawn (Gary), Robert Jr., Mark (Tina), James (Julie), John (Karen) and Ellen (Danny); 15 grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren and 10 nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her sister Carol Paige and brothers Bruce and Louis.

The funeral Mass was celebrated on Thursday, Oct. 12, at St. Benedict R.C. in Crystal River, Florida. Interment followed at Fero Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Beverly Hills, Florida. In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests donations to The Friends of Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park, 4150 S. Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa, FL 34446 and/or St. Benedict R.C. Church at 455 S. Suncoast Blvd., Crystal River, FL 34429.

The recently planted peace pole on Shore Drive in Sound Beach. Photo by Ernestine Franco
By Ernestine Franco

“May Peace Prevail on Earth.”

This sentiment appears on a peace pole recently installed by the Sound Beach Property Owners Association at the East Beach entrance on Shore Drive, between Amagansett and Brookhaven drives, overlooking the Long Island Sound.

In addition to English, seven other languages — two on each side of the pole — proclaim the plan to promote peace.

The Rocky Point Rotary Club is sponsoring a plan to link 10 communities along the corridor of routes 25 and 25A to promote peace.

Starting in May, Patrice Perreca, the Sound Beach Civic Association membership chair and a board member of the SBPOA, became interested in the International Cities of Peace movement, the goal of which is to encourage the establishment of cities of peace around the world.

The mission is to promote, document and provide resources and information for organizations working to establish peace throughout communities.

The peace pole embodies the motto, “’Let there be peace on Earth,’ one of my favorite hymns,” Perreca said. “And the best line is, ‘Let it begin with me.’”

Peace poles are symbols of May Peace Prevail on Earth International, founded in Japan in 1955. An estimated 250,000 peace poles throughout over 190 countries have been “planted” over many decades.

On Sunday, Oct. 8, at 3 p.m., Kevin Mann, president of Rocky Point Rotary, will perform the dedication. All are invited to partake in the culture of peace.

Sound Beach residents and public officials rally outside the hamlet’s post office on New York Avenue Wednesday, Sept. 6. Photo by Sabrina Artusa
By Sabrina Artusa

Sound Beach’s residents and political representatives are fed up over the prolonged closure of the hamlet’s post office on New York Avenue, which has been closed for repairs since May.

New York State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), among others, rallied outside the post office Wednesday, Sept. 6, putting pressure on the U.S. Postal Service and the property owner to expedite reopening of the complex.

Some 15 weeks ago, the Brooklyn-based property owner of the building posted a sign on the door informing of its immediate but temporary closure. Sound Beach residents, blindsided by the abruptness, were forced to wait over a week to receive mail from nearby offices.

The private property owner has largely been unreceptive to attempts to reach out, according to Chad Lennon, a representative of U.S. Congressman Nick LaLota (R-NY1).

“We’ve been communicating,” Lennon said. “We haven’t seen reciprocation.”

USPS replied once, informing LaLota that they expected the landowner to make repairs and reopen the post office by Sept. 8. Despite this, the property owner hasn’t filed any permits for work on the building to date. Needless to say the office was not opened on Sept. 8.

The town is prepared to conduct an analysis of the building, along with repairs, when permitted. There are “building engineers on staff to come in this building and know right away what it needs to be up to code,” Palumbo said. “This is absolutely unacceptable.”

Palumbo suggested the landowner is “slow walking” the process while continuing to get rent from the federal government.

“You should not have to pay for services you don’t get,” Romaine said. “Just as the federal government shouldn’t pay taxes for a building that’s closed.”

Palumbo, meanwhile, considered the town “the most important entity” in prompting action and incurring change.

“The owners of this property need to be held accountable and held responsible to do the right thing,” Bonner said. “Bring this post office back to the residents and the community of Sound Beach.”

Some residents had time-sensitive packages, such as medication, that they were not receiving. One woman said that the contents had melted by the time she did received her package.

“We walked by one day, and it was closed,” said Patty Blasberg, who has lived in Sound Beach for 33 years. “That should be public knowledge,” adding that the post office closure “is detrimental to our community.”

Many in attendance, including Bonner, said that in a small hamlet like Sound Beach, the post office is vital to the “community’s identity.”

Blasberg said she always enjoyed the social aspect of going to the post office, where she could see her neighbors. “We want the community to thrive,” she said. “You can’t do that without a post office.”

According to Shirley Smith, another Sound Beach resident, the post office has needed repairs for a while and mentioned a leaking ceiling.

U.S. Congressman Nick LaLota. Photo from LaLota’s website

Sound Beach residents are searching for answers regarding the closure of their post office, located at 25 New York Ave., but are receiving the support of U.S. Congressman Nick LaLota (R-NY1). A spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service confirmed the location has been closed since May 26.

“Sound Beach Post Office remains closed awaiting necessary repairs,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We continue to work with the building’s owner to complete the work and do not have a time frame to reopen.”

When asked to provide further detail on the repairs that are needed, the spokesperson referred TBR News Media to the building’s owner, who rents the facility to USPS.

An agent for the corporation which owns the facility, according to the Town of Brookhaven’s property records, did not respond to an email request for comment.

The spokesperson for USPS directed residents in need of “retail services” to Rocky Point Post Office located at 346 Route 25A Ste. 84, and confirmed P.O. Boxes have been relocated to Miller Place. 

A spokesperson for LaLota sent TBR News Media a copy of a letter the congressman wrote to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, Aug. 8, demanding answers and a resolution to the closure. 

LaLota noted in the letter that his constituents have been severely inconvenienced and urged DeJoy to “strongly reconsider the current mail forwarding plan in place,” in reference to the relocation of retail services and P.O. Boxes. The letter further stated that USPS has asked LaLota’s office to “check back in September for more details” on a time frame to reopen.

“I urge the USPS to find an immediate solution that provides relief to my constituents and consumers of the Sound Beach Post Office,” the letter read. “My office and I stand ready to assist the USPS resume retail and P.O. Box operations in Sound Beach and help facilitate a work around that will best serve constituents.”

LaLota said in a separate email through his spokesperson that he sent the letter after “initial staff-level dialogue proved unfruitful.” 

“The Postal Service’s lack of urgency and poor communication falls short of my constituents’ reasonable expectations,” LaLota said in the email. “Specifically, the Postal Service telling thousands of customers and my office they won’t have any more information on this issue until after September 1 demonstrates a lack of leadership and accountability at the Postal Service’s management level. I encourage my constituents to focus their frustrations on management, not the hardworking letter carriers, retail clerks and warehouse workers. I will continue a dialogue with management until this issue is resolved to my constituents’ satisfaction.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), who represents Sound Beach, said she has spoken to LaLota’s office, and while he is trying to seek answers for residents, she confirms the federal USPS has been difficult to deal with.

“The post office is not being terribly forthcoming with information, and the congressman is not happy about that at all,” Bonner said. “He knows that it’s terribly inconvenient, especially for our senior citizens, to have to drive to Miller Place to get their mail. There doesn’t seem to be any sense of urgency from the postmaster general to resolve this.”

Bea Ruberto, president of the Sound Beach Civic Association, confirmed residents have been left in the dark about a reopening date, and a timeline for the repairs.

“We have not been able to get much of an answer to what’s happening,” she said. “The concern is given the fact that the work has to be done, they use this as an excuse to shut down our post office.”

Ruberto said she heard there was an initial problem with the ceiling, which then turned into a larger repair. One day, there was a notice on the front door of the post office directing residents to go elsewhere. 

The post office is central to the business district in Sound Beach, Ruberto said, which already struggles due to not having a downtown.

“The only thing that Sound Beach has is the post office,” she said. “That’s almost like the center of our town. We lose that and we lose part of where our business district is.”

Miller Place Post Office, which is where Ruberto said people are being sent for their P.O. Boxes, and Rocky Point Post Office are 1.9 miles, and 2.1 miles away, respectively, from the Sound Beach Post Office. Ruberto said these reassignments are “not a minor inconvenience.”

In one instance, according to LaLota’s letter, a “permanently disabled combat veteran did not receive a temperature-controlled medication from the VA, which must remain refrigerated, due to mail forwarding. The VA advised this constituent the medication was being returned as undeliverable. This is a completely unacceptable failure.”

Ultimately, the post office closure, Ruberto said, is yet another example of Sound Beach being forgotten and left behind. 

“We’re off the beaten track,” she said. “So our businesses already lose customers because people have to go out of their way to get to us. The post office is really an important part of how all of this works.”

Rocky Point School District administrators and Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner, third from left, and Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker, third from right, flank filmmaker Leon Adler, fourth from right, and author Bea Ruberto, fourth from left. Photo courtesy RPSD

Joseph A. Edgar Elementary School students recently learned about Sound Beach when they participated in an assembly program featuring local filmmaker Leon Adler and author and Sound Beach Civic Association President Bea Ruberto on June 7. 

Adler directed the film, “The History Upon Our Shores: Sound Beach, NY,” based on the book, “Sound Beach: Our Town, Our Story,” by Ruberto.

The event for third and fourth graders, coordinated by Rocky Point’s director of humanities, Melinda Brooks, gave students a glimpse into the process of storytelling, research and the value of preserving local history. 

Students welcomed the creative duo, presenting artistic gifts of thanks for their visit. The school also welcomed Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) and Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who shared their experiences representing the local community.

Above, Sound Beach Fire Department Chief William Rosasco, left, and 2nd Assistant Chief James McLoughlin Jr. present a memorial wreath. Photo by Raymond Janis

Community members, first responders and veterans groups gathered on Memorial Day, May 29, with services paying tribute to the fallen.

The Sound Beach Fire Department hosted its annual memorial service, recognizing the departed members. James McLoughlin Jr., 2nd assistant chief of the department, shared the meaning of the service and the importance of recognizing first responders who have laid down their lives in the line of duty.

“The death of these fine men and women merits recognition and honor by our department,” he said. “While we are saddened by their deaths, we also testify to their many contributions in making their communities a better place to live, and we pay tribute to their memory.”

In Rocky Point, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6249 held a service honoring the departed members of the post and recognizing the sacrifices of American service members.

Members of Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 with Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner and New York State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio, above. Photo by Raymond Janis

Joe Cognitore, commander of Post 6249, delivered an address to the many in attendance. He expressed his gratitude for those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice, risking their own lives to protect the freedoms of others.

“As we stand together today, we are reminded of the true cost of freedom,” Cognitore said. “While we as a nation mourn the lives lost, we celebrate the lives and are forever grateful.”

He added, “In an attempt to pay back our debt as American citizens, we also must not only remember the fallen, but it is our responsibility to teach our youth that nothing comes without a cost and that sacrifices are meaningless without remembrance.”

Bea Ruberto, president of the Sound Beach Civic Association, during a Memorial Day service on Monday, May 29. Photo by Raymond Janis

Rounding off the ceremonies for the day, the Sound Beach Civic Association hosted a service at the Veterans Memorial Park, recognizing the hamlet’s fallen service members. Musical renditions were performed by members of the Rocky Point High School Music Department, with veterans of the U.S. armed services raising the flags of their chosen branches of service.

SBCA president Bea Ruberto reflected upon the motivations behind the annual service, calling the event a means to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. 

“Each year, we come together on this day and in this place to reflect upon their sacrifice and honor their memory,” she said.

At each of these events, memorial wreaths were placed as a symbolic tribute of thanks to the fallen.

Pixabay photo

Residents of the Miller Place, Mount Sinai, Rocky Point and Shoreham-Wading River school districts are gearing up for this year’s school elections on Tuesday, May 16.

Miller Place Union Free School District

Voters in Miller Place will consider the district’s proposed 2023‒24 annual budget. With total expenditures at approximately $80.4 million, the budget increased by 3.47%, with a 2.34% tax levy increase and staying under the tax cap.

According to school officials, the increases will enable the district to accommodate new elective course offerings; continued funding for co-curricular activities, clubs and athletics; and universal prekindergarten. 

Residents will also pick two of the three candidates running for the district’s Board of Education. Three-term incumbent trustee and BOE president Lisa Reitan will defend her seat against challengers John Galligan and Jenna Stingo, both of whom ran for the school board in 2022.

The three candidates squared off during a Meeting the Candidates forum on Tuesday, May 2. The full video from this meeting can be accessed from the district website’s homepage.

Voting will occur from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at North Country Road Middle School.

Mount Sinai Union Free School District

Mount Sinai residents will consider a proposed 2023‒24 annual budget totaling $66.8 million, which stays under the tax cap with a tax levy increase of 4.65%. 

Three additional propositions are on the Mount Sinai ballot, including Proposition II, the district’s $1.8 million library budget. 

Proposition III would authorize the district to use $1.5 million from its capital reserves to renovate and/or replace science classrooms with proposed renovations of library, technology and guidance facilities at Mount Sinai High School. Proposition IV calls to amend the district’s capital reserve, increasing its ceiling to $20 million. District officials maintain these capital improvements will not affect the tax levy.

For this year’s Board of Education election, voters will select three candidates to serve three-year terms. In a crowded field, incumbent BOE president Peter Van Middelem and trustee Edward Law will defend their seats against Nicholas DeVito, Christy Barbera and Charles Carron. Incumbent trustee Robert Sweeney is not seeking reelection.

The budget and BOE votes at MSSD will take place from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Mount Sinai Elementary School.

Rocky Point Union Free School District

The proposed 2023‒24 annual budget for the Rocky Point Union Free School District increased to $93.9 million, up from $88 million last year. The proposed budget carries a tax levy increase of 3.23% that stays under the tax cap.

According to the district newsletter, the budget increases would enable Rocky Point schools to maintain existing programs and services; implement a nine-period program at the middle and high schools; expand elective opportunities; and build upon safety and security efforts.

This district’s current capital reserve fund expires this month. Consequently, voters will also weigh in on a ballot measure, Proposition II, creating a new 10-year capital reserve fund, with no funds allocated to this reserve in this year’s budget. This reserve would enable the district “to set aside funds for future capital building maintenance and improvement projects,” according to the newsletter.

Rocky Point residents will also select two candidates to serve three-year terms on the district Board of Education. Incumbent BOE president Jessica Ward and trustee Erin Walsh will defend their seats against challenger Nicole Kelly, who ran for the school board in 2022.

Voting will be held in the gymnasium at Rocky Point High School from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Shoreham-Wading River Central School District

Shoreham-Wading River Central School District proposes an $84.8 million annual budget for the 2023‒24 school year, up 2.2% from the previous year and carrying a 1.61% tax levy increase that stays under the tax cap.

According to the district newsletter, the proposed budget would maintain existing programs and class sizes, support facilities maintenance, enhance safety and security standards and lower the use of reserves.

Three incumbents are up for reelection in this year’s Board of Education contest, all of whom are running unopposed. BOE president Katie Andersen, vice president Henry Perez and trustee Michael Lewis have each declared bids for reelection.

To read their candidate profiles, visit the district website, selecting the “Meet the BOE Candidates 2023” tab on the homepage.

Voting at SWRCSD will take place from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the main gym at Shoreham-Wading River High School.