Three Village

Scenes from the Three Village Rotary Club findraiser on April 10. Photo by Katherine Kelton

By Katherine Kelton

Three Village Rotary Club held a fundraiser at the Reboli Center for Art & History Wednesday, April 10, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. All proceeds went directly to the Reboli Center to fund maintenance on the building. 

The fundraiser was the first event the club held since its name change from Stony Brook Rotary Club. A name update was important to President Marios Patatinis, as “there’s not just one little ZIP code — everyone works together in the community,” he said.

Rotarian Chris Sokol spearheaded the event with local businesses catering the event: Elaine’s Restaurant and Bar provided refreshments; The Bench provided a plentiful food spread; The Jazz Loft provided music; Chocology provided chocolates and several other businesses also contributed. 

“It’s just a nice opportunity to get everyone in the Three Village community together to support this gem in a time of need,” Sokol said of the event’s importance. 

People entered through the gallery doors of the Reboli Center and walked through the building to the outdoors. The spring weather aided in creating an atmospheric space, with music in the background. 

In addition to the many people flooding the space as the night went on, Suffolk County Legislator Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) was also there. He has a long history with both the Rotary Club and the Reboli Center. Accounting professor Daniel Kerr and Brookhaven Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) shared remarks regarding the legislator’s support for the center. 

Many of the people in attendance consisted of current and aspiring Rotary Club members. Rotary Clubs, which have long screening processes before admittance, attract people with different careers. 

Patatinis charmingly referred to Three Village as “our backyard” and said, “People care about Three Village, they want to come back to our backyard.”

Some goals of the Rotary Club include creating an “ecosystem” between local businesses and residents, as Sokol described it. The Rotary also wants to just bring more members of the community together at events. 

Kornreich admitted he is not one to sugarcoat things as he shared the importance of the Reboli Center as a “pillar of our community,” which made it the perfect place to host this Three Village Rotary event.

President of the Reboli Center, Lois Reboli, was also in attendance. With the proceeds she hopes to supervise much needed updates on the building, including the awning, parking lot and beautifying the space. 

She is the widow of Joseph Reboli, to whom the gallery is dedicated and that houses his work. The president shared her husband’s community involvement: “He was on the board of Gallery North and he was also on the board of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization. He was always giving back and he was always going to meetings. And I would say, ‘Why would you want to go to all these meetings?’ to which he said, ‘I love the community and I want to give back.’” 

With excited members and a rebrand, the Three Village Rotary Club is hoping to expand its influence on the community and bring people together with more events. 

From left, Rebecca Kassay, Sen. Anthony Palumbo, Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio, Sen. Mario Mattera, Assemblyman Ed Flood and high school students rally against proposed education cuts. Photo by Samantha Rutt

Elected officials from across Long Island joined forces in a rally Feb. 1 held on the front lawn of Ward Melville High School. A diverse crowd of educators, students, parents, concerned citizens and community figures gathered for the event, lining Old Town Road with signage reading “$ave Our School$,” as officials vehemently spoke in opposition to the proposed cuts to education funding outlined in the latest state budget proposal. 

The proposed cuts, part of a broader state budget plan aiming to address fiscal challenges, have sparked widespread concern among education advocates and community members. Long Island officials, representing various districts and political affiliations, united in their stance against these reductions, emphasizing the detrimental impact they would have on the region’s schools and students.

New York State Sens. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) and Mario Mattera (R-St. James), along with state Assemblymembers Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson), Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) and Port Jefferson Deputy Mayor Rebecca Kassay (D) all stood before the podium expressing their respective concerns.

“Governor Hochul’s proposed budget is a choice to underfund our schools, and it’s shameful,” Palumbo said. “We’re here to bring attention to that. This is critical. This is absolutely important.”

Palumbo, who represents New York Senate District 1, spanning from Stony Brook to Montauk, opened the rally addressing the financial consequences of the proposal on his district. 

“The governor’s proposed budget cuts state aid by $168 million, affecting 337 school districts statewide,” Palumbo said. “My district, Senate District 1, around 330,000 people, stands to lose $20,025,000 if the governor’s budget is adopted. And where we’re standing here in Three Village, they stand to lose $8.9 million in funding.” 

Three Village Central School District is among the many school districts to be affected by the budget proposal, experiencing the highest values lost in aid. Among the other districts to be affected are Port Jefferson School District standing the potential to be hit by the largest percentage of funding loss on Long Island at over 28%. Mount Sinai, Cold Spring Harbor, Smithtown and Kings Park school districts also stand to be negatively affected by the proposal.

Concerns for education quality and job loss

The rally highlighted the importance of adequate funding for schools in ensuring the quality of education and opportunities for all students. Flood spoke to his concerns for the quality of education students would receive suggesting programs, extracurricular activities and staff would have to be cut as a consequence of the proposed cuts to education funding.

“It’s disgraceful that we’re talking about having to cut budgets, in terms of cutting buildings, cutting programs, cutting staff and faculty,” Flood said. “We as people, teachers and school employees have our own families and right now to play politics with the lives of our students and our workforce is just shameful.” 

Cuts to education funding can have a multifaceted impact that can undermine the quality of education by diminishing resources, increasing class sizes, reducing extracurricular opportunities and straining the workforce, ultimately impeding students’ academic success and holistic development.

Echoing Flood’s sentiments, Mattera highlighted the direct consequences of reduced funding on classroom resources and student support services. “All the workers that are inside, our custodians, everybody, our security officers have a chance of losing their jobs. Does anybody want to lose their jobs? No,” Mattera emphasized. “You know what, our governor is making sure that this is going to happen.”

The rally also featured testimonials from parents who shared personal stories illustrating the impact of education funding on their lives. Kristen Gironda, a member of the Three Village PTA Council board, spoke about the challenges students may face and the critical role of adequate funding in addressing those obstacles. “We rely heavily on Foundation Aid for the success of our current and future students,” Gironda said. “Cutting this money from the current budget would be detrimental to the future of our students, their education and the opportunity that we can continue to provide them with.”

Students were also present at the rally, donning signs and standing alongside the officials as cars driving past honked their horns in reaction to the public event.

After all other officials spoke, Kassay concluded, “We must work together as a full district to make sure that as changes need to be made and that they’re made with the voices of the people standing here, the voices of the school behind us, and all the schools in the area to make sure that the changes are incremental, not straining taxpayers and not sacrificing jobs.” 

As the rally came to a close, elected officials pledged to continue advocating for increased education funding and urged community members to join them in their efforts urging everyone to “Get vocal with Governor Hochul!”

Ward Melville senior Grace Balocca banks two for the Patriots. Photo by Bill Landon

Ward Melville rattled off six wins in a row to open their ’23-’24 season but were tripped up in a nonleague road game against Shoreham-Wading River, falling to the League VI Wildcats, 39-35, Dec. 29. 

The Patriots, reeling from that loss, pummeled Central Islip on the road in a league matchup defeating the Musketeers, 58-28, in the Jan. 4 contest. 

Ward Melville senior Emma Silverman led the offensive attack with a 3-pointer and four from the floor for 11 points. Senior Grace Balocca netted eight points as did Addison Dellaporta, and teammates Julia Dank, Jaclyn Engel and Kaitlyn McNeil each scored seven points apiece.

The win kept the Patriots atop the League I leaderboard, consolidated by a 43-34 victory against Longwood Jan. 6. 

Open space across the LIRR railroad tracks in Port Jeff Station for proposed 48-unit housing development. Photo by Lynn Hallarman

By Lynn Hallarman

Monday night, Jan. 8, members of three civic associations — Port Jefferson, Port Jefferson Station/Terryville and Three Village — gathered to hear the case for a proposed residential housing complex adjacent to the Long Island Rail Road tracks in Port Jefferson Station. 

Hauppauge developer Jim Tsunis, managing member of Northwind Group, in front of a crowded room at the Port Jefferson Free Library, reviewed the architectural plans and concept renderings for a 48-unit multifamily development to be located on 5.6 acres of fallow farmland at 16 Baylis Ave. known as Brook Meadows. The site plan includes a clubhouse, outdoor recreational areas, a playground, barbecue pits and parking. All the units are to be two-bedroom rental apartments with eight units set aside for affordable housing. 

Ana Hozyainova, president of the Port Jefferson Civic Association, moderated the discussion. Approximately 20 audience members spoke for and against the proposed development. Present at the meeting as observers were Brookhaven Town District 1 Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook), Suffolk County Legislator Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and the recently appointed chairman of the Village of Port Jefferson Planning Board, Ray DiBiase. 

Tsunis’ site application, reviewed by the Suffolk County Planning Commission, requesting a zoning change from light industrial to residential was disapproved in October. The Brookhaven Town Planning Board will then consider the commission’s recommendation in their deliberation about the zoning change. No final decision has been made to this point in time. 

The overarching concern noted by the commission in their report was the placement of a dense residential community among several industrial properties, including proximity to the former Lawrence Aviation Industries site. The Monday night civic meeting focused on allowing community members to voice their concerns and review those cited by the commission directly with Tsunis. 

Lively discussion

Comments from the audience were predominantly about the big-picture impacts of the project on the surrounding communities, with traffic issues as the number one concern. Several residents pointed to already glutted roadways around the proposed development and intolerable spillage into neighboring residential streets of commuters, trying to find a way around a backup.

“In the last five years, you can wait through three lights if you were on Sheep Pasture Road before you get through,” Port Jeff village resident Suzette Smookler said. 

Another longtime Port Jeff resident, Mary Negra, received loud applause for her statement about the cumulative impacts of multiple housing projects over the past few years on the overall quality of life in the village. 

“Every development adds another burden, and the layer of burdening has become untenable,” she said.

A flash point for Port Jeff civic members has been the exit and entry route to the proposed development. The access, which crosses the railroad tracks, is the only way out — this single access worries civic members about how residents would escape under emergency conditions. Tsunis responded to this concern by informing the group that he is revising the plan to include a “gated emergency route” for fire trucks and ambulances. 

According to the Suffolk County Planning Commission report, this one access point flows into a residential area in Port Jefferson village, adding more stress to the intersection of Sheep Pasture Road and Route 112. The report predicts several hundred more vehicle trips per day would pose “added public inconvenience to existing and new residents.” 

Several residents voiced opinions in favor of the development. Some people viewed residential housing as a better option than using the land for light industry. Other residents expressed their desire to see the Upper Port shopping district revitalized and perceived more residential development supporting that goal. Others wanted more affordable local housing so their children can live in the area. 

Still, several residents pushed back on the notion that more housing leads to community revitalization, pointing out the incremental loss of supermarkets, hardware stores, post offices and other services as commercial areas are turned into housing. 

“Port Jefferson has lost most of its shopping. All this traffic on 112 is being pushed through to Route 347 for people [to find what they need],” another resident said. 

Kornreich told TBR News Media that the vast majority of the calls that come into his office are opposed to the addition of any new residential properties.

“Residents feel it’s hard to justify using residential units as a tool to revitalize an area which is going to just add more population and more stress to our infrastructure,” he said.

The meeting closed with a vote limited to Port Jefferson civic members to express the association’s agreement or not with the recommendation of the Suffolk County Planning Commission report  to disapprove of the zoning change. The vote came in at 14 in agreement with the disapproval of the zoning change from light industry to residential. Five votes disagreed with the decision to deny the zoning change application. One person was undecided. 

Superintendent also addresses Regents score worries with end of Do No Harm

Public domain photo

Reconfiguring Three Village Central School District and changing start times could cost nearly $3 million, according to Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon, who urged the Board of Education to decide by January whether to adopt the plan.

The superintendent advised that decisions are necessary soon to provide the district time to enact all the proposed changes by the target 2025-26 school year.

“We should try to do it all at once, as opposed to doing one piece here and then having another transition for families in another piece,” Scanlon said during a Dec. 13 presentation to the BOE.

The proposal entails moving sixth grade up to the junior high schools, bumping ninth grade up to the high school and making secondary school start times later. The plan aims to improve financial stability, realign the district in light of declining enrollment, bring the district into line with state norms and address health concerns surrounding early start times for adolescents.

Scanlon estimated costs to reconfigure buildings to accommodate the grade changes could be about $2 million for projects like converting faculty rooms back into classrooms and configuring spaces for science labs, art and music.

According to Scanlon, the start time change would require adding buses to the district’s rotation at a cost of $963,000 if implemented at the same time as the grade changes, and more if implemented in 2024-2025, before sixth and ninth move up.

Scanlon left on the table the possibility of repurposing an elementary school or the North Country administration building, though he warned the funds from such moves would not “solve all the world’s problems in this regard,” and any such discussions would need to wait for recommendations from this year’s recently convened Budget Advisory Committee.

A couple of the trustees, including Karen Roughley, wondered if it was possible to do more to improve district finances, especially since BACs in former years have already suggested the board consider repurposing a school.

“I’m not sure why we are pushing it off again when we’ve been talking about it for two years now,” she said, adding that the board could also discuss the possibility of repurposing both an elementary school and the North Country building, rather than either/or. “We need to look at this district’s financial stability going forward.”

During the public comment section, Gelinas Junior High School guidance counselor and district resident Anthony Dattero gave a grave warning against moving too fast on reconfiguration. “There’s something in the chemistry of the district that is unique and different,” he said, pointing to the many accomplishments for athletics and scholarship frequently honored at board meetings. “The benefits [of reconfiguring] have to be also looked at with what we’re trading off.”

He said he believes keeping sixth and ninth graders in the younger schools gives them a chance to mature and therefore be better prepared for their next stage of education.

Board president Susan Rosenzweig indicated the board will consider allowing public comment at the start of their Jan. 10 meeting to allow residents to express concerns before the board’s vote, rather than after the fact.

Residents can watch Scanlon’s presentation and the resulting discussion in its entirety on the district’s YouTube page under the “Live” tab, starting at 1:37:00.

Regents scores

Scanlon also sought to ease parental concerns over the board’s Nov. 29 vote to end the so-called Do No Harm policy, under which Regents scores were only factored into a course grade if they helped the grade [See story, “Split 4-2 vote keeps Regents scores in final grades for Three Village students,” Dec. 1, TBR News Media].

According to Scanlon, teachers can adjust grades up to 5 points on their own, or up to 10 points with administration approval. under a policy enacted in 2016.

“Before there was a Do No Harm policy, we had something in place,” he said, adding that Three Village teachers want to see students succeed. “One test shouldn’t define a child.”

Board member Vincent Vizzo chimed in to say he saw this policy in action when he was principal of Murphy Junior High School. “Plenty of teachers have come forward to ask me, ‘Vin, I really want to adjust a grade for a student,’” he said. “The teachers are aware.”

Chelsea Gomez, a Three Village native and chef, is ready to serve patrons at the newly unveiled Level Up Kitchen Library Café at Emma S. Clark Memorial Library. Photo courtesy Emma S. Clark Memorial Library

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library has unveiled its new café, the much-anticipated final phase in a construction project announced in 2021. It includes the café, a new outdoor terrace and better flow for the library’s main reading room.

This two-year undertaking is helping to make the library even more of a community center than before, inviting those to come and stay while meeting the various needs of the library’s constituents.

The café, now open to the public, is run by Level Up Kitchen, a local business selected from a pool of candidates to be the food and beverage vendor, as was publicized by the library in May.

Owned and operated by Three Village native and chef Chelsea Gomez, Level Up Kitchen Library Café promises fresh coffee and healthy, handcrafted fare that meets various dietary needs. The menu includes nut-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan items, avoiding cross-contamination with allergens. 

Gomez places importance on sustainability, working with local farms and purveyors where possible to stimulate the local economy and provide the freshest, highest-quality ingredients. Gomez possesses extensive food safety knowledge, and all her employees are Suffolk County Department of Health-certified food managers.

In addition to the outdoor terrace, which opened last summer, a new indoor seating area was added adjacent to the café. Architect John Cunniffe, a Stony Brook resident with experience in preserving historical accuracy, ensured that the café and seating area showed architectural sensitivity to the historic section with the same refined feel.

Urban Village Contracting, a local company, executed the construction. The library completed the entire construction project without closing for its patrons.

A café is a very popular addition among today’s libraries. It allows for more flexibility and options for the public to visit the library more often and extend their stay.

The library is not solely a building full of books but a place where individuals or groups may leisurely enjoy the beautiful space. Those studying or working may now take a break for a quick snack or meal without having to leave the library.

Before or after a library program, attendees may have something to eat or drink. Those who live or work in the neighborhood may stop in to grab a coffee or a bite to eat. Friends may meet at the library for coffee or a meal and browse books together. The café enhances that welcoming feel and accommodates those who want to stay longer.

This “new” Emma Clark Library is not so much a transformation as a rejuvenation of the library, staying true to its historic roots while accommodating its 21st-century constituency. The library’s Board of Trustees and staff are thrilled to offer these improvements to the community here in Three Village.