Times of Huntington-Northport

Centereach’s girls fencing team opened their season on the right foot with a 16-11 victory over the Huntington Blue Devils at home Jan. 23.

Huntington head coach Michelle O’Brien said her team was still shy two of her fencers lacking the mandatory six practices but hopes to be at full strength soon.

“These young women have done their best at their meets so far, and although they fell short today, their spirits are high, and I am impressed with their competitiveness,” O’Brien said, adding that junior Abby Simpson notched her first win of the season.

Huntington is back out on the strip Jan. 26 where they travel to Commack for a 4:30 p.m. start. Centereach is back in action at home Jan. 27 where they host Walt Whitman at 6:30 p.m.

Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis. Photo from Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University has been at the center of the COVID-19 pandemic, as hospital staff has treated and comforted residents stricken with the virus, and researchers have worked tirelessly on a range of projects — including manufacturing personal protective equipment. Amid a host of challenges, administrators at Stony Brook have had to do more with less under budgetary pressure. In this second part of a two-part seriesPresident Maurie McInnis offers her responses in an email exchange to several questions. The Q and A is edited for length. See last week’s paper for an interview with Interim Provost Fotis Sotiropoulos.

TBR News: What are the top three things that keep you up at night?

President Maurie McInnis: My first and foremost priority is to make sure we never compromise or become complacent when it comes to the health and safety of our campus community. Another priority is to develop strategies for best working through our budget challenges, which were exacerbated by COVID-19. And the third thing that keeps me up at night — and fills my waking hours — is making sure I am doing all I can to bring our vast resources together so we can continue to uphold the mission and values of Stony Brook University.

TBR: How do you feel the University has managed through the pandemic and what are some of the strategies you found particularly effective?

McInnis: Stony Brook’s successes in keeping our doors open for in-person learning during the fall semester are well-documented. And I continue to be impressed by, and grateful for, what our entire campus community did to make that happen… From testing students before they came back to campus, to everyone joining together as a community to follow our safety protocols. COVID-19 has revealed our unique strengths — our community engagement, seriousness about academics, personal sense of accountability and collective responsibility for one another.

TBR: How do you feel the University has managed through the economic crisis?

McInnis: Even as the COVID crisis highlighted our strengths, it’s also shone a light on some problematic patterns — particularly in the area of budgets — that in previous years were able to slip by, for Stony Brook and other universities. Our priorities right now are to learn from this moment and build for a more sustainable future.

TBR: Even in the midst of historic challenges, what things still excite and inspire you about Stony Brook University?

McInnis: The short answer is that the things that drew me to Stony Brook initially are the same characteristics that excite and inspire me today. I’m talking about its commitment to a diverse and talented student body; faculty’s dedication to delivering world-class research, scholarship and patient care; its impressive record of high-powered research and student success; its role as a major economic engine in the region; and, its emphasis on community, civility and cross-cultural exchange. Our unique dual role as a top-rated, research-oriented university and hospital stood up to the test of the historically challenging year we’ve had.

TBR: How has Stony Brook’s hybrid learning platform differentiated it from other university online platforms?

McInnis: What made Stony Brook’s learning model so successful is the fact that we worked with areas across campus, intensely and continuously, to make sure we had the right fit for our school, students, faculty members, staff, community, everyone. A hybrid model made the most sense, safety-wise and to ensure the best academic experience.

TBR: If you weren’t in triage mode, what would you be doing?

McInnis: When I came to Stony Brook, I identified three areas that we will continue to focus on during, and post-pandemic, and as we tackle ongoing budget challenges. First, we will continue to support our world-class faculty. We’ll do that by creating an environment in which students succeed, and by continuing to enable cutting-edge breakthroughs in research and medicine. Second, we will embrace our own diversity to strengthen the intellectual and social environment at Stony Brook by creating a ‘one campus’ culture through increased multidisciplinary efforts. And third, we will continue to drive social and economic change on Long Island, in New York State and across the country by staying community-focused and engaging in partnerships that benefit the region.

TBR: What do you plan and hope for a year from now? What’s the best and worst case scenarios?

McInnis: I hope that we can use our experience during this pandemic to spark positive change for future generations of Stony Brook students, faculty and community members, and build on our strengths. We are the number one institution in reducing social inequality. And we need to continue to embrace our incredible impact in driving intergenerational socioeconomic growth and social mobility. Connecting students with opportunities after they graduate — from research positions to internships to career advising — will be important in expanding that impact.

I also want to build on our strengths as both a state-of-the-art healthcare facility and cutting-edge research institution. I want to bring these two areas closer together, blending our expertise across disciplines, as we’re already starting to do. We also plan to apply lessons learned from our shift to remote and hybrid learning.

TBR: Are there COVID research initiatives that Stony Brook is involved with that you hope to continue?

McInnis: Fighting the COVID-19 pandemic has required researchers from many disciplines to come together, demonstrating the depth and breadth of our capabilities. Stony Brook is involved in more than 200 dedicated research projects across all disciplines. These projects span 45 academic departments and eight different colleges and schools within the University, and I’m impressed with the caliber and sense of urgency with which this work is being done.

TBR: If you were offered the opportunity to take the vaccine today, would you?

McInnis: Yes, I would take it in a heartbeat, right now.

Photo by Kyle Barr

By Rich Acritelli

The Joseph P. Dwyer Memorial Statue was installed this month by Fricke Memorials at the Rocky Point Veterans Memorial Square, standing at the crossroads of Broadway and Route 25A.

This bronze statue identifies the psychological and physical reminders that many armed forces members must endure long after they return home from the fighting. 

At one point this town park was an eyesore to the community. For many years, there was trouble at this location, and in 2011 the Town of Brookhaven permanently closed the Oxygen Bar on the property.  Led by Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), the town purchased the land for $525,000 in 2015.  

On Oct. 17, 2016, the town installed large poles that flew the American and military branch flags. 

As a longtime resident of the area, Bonner said, “It was an absolute pleasure to be a part of this worthy endeavor to honor the military efforts of Dwyer and to understand the true significance of the struggles of PTSD. This is an extremely special location to also thank our armed forces members.”  

While Bonner has been involved with many key projects, she was also instrumental in helping create the Diamond in the Pines 9/11 Memorial that was built in 2011 by VFW Post 6249 Rocky Point.

Joseph Dwyer in uniform. Photo from Dwyer family

Former state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) also played a big role in securing the necessary funds for the Dwyer statue. VFW Post 6249 Comdr. Joe Cognitore said LaValle “always positively worked with veterans groups and to help our diverse needs. This statue signifies the amazing drive of LaValle to always be a true champion of support towards the past, present and future members of the military.”  

The structure that remembers Dwyer, who was a graduate of Mount Sinai High School, illustrates the vital need to help those service members who are suffering from PTSD. 

Positive sentiments were expressed by members of the Rocky Point High School History Honor Society.  Senior Tristan Duenas said, “The town did a wonderful job in replacing a poor piece of land and making it into a vital memorial to pay tribute to our veterans, especially those that have been inflicted by PTSD.”  

Junior Caroline Settepani added, “This statue demonstrates the major achievements of veterans like Dwyer that risked their lives to help people from different parts of the world.”  

Following her research, junior Madelynn Zarzycki believed “the project is also connected to the past negative treatment of the Vietnam veterans who received little support when they came home.”  

According to Zarzycki, “These veterans who fought in Southeast Asia faced a severe amount of PTSD challenges that impacted the rest of their lives. It does not matter when a soldier served in battle, these harsh experiences do not discriminate from one generation to the next.”  

Senior Chloe Fish recalled the former Oxygen Bar as a “detriment toward the beauty of this community. Now the Dwyer statue adds a new prospective of service to the downtown area of Rocky Point.”

Stay indoors during a winter storm warning. METRO photo
Leg. Nick Caracappa

The winter season is upon us, and with a 70 percent chance of 1 to 3 inches of snow on Monday night, Jan. 25 into Tuesday, Suffolk County Legislator Nick Caracappa would like to offer residents helpful tips and websites in preparation for extreme cold weather and winter storms.

“It is important to take simple precautionary measures to keep your family safe and protect your home, pets and personal property during the brutal winter months,” said Legislator Caracappa.

The following information is provided courtesy of https://www.ready.gov/

Winter storms create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion. Winter storms including blizzards can bring extreme cold, freezing rain, snow, ice and high winds.

A winter storm can:

  • Last a few hours or several days.
  • Cut off heat, power and communication services.
  • Put older adults, children and sick individuals at greater risk.

IF YOU ARE UNDER A WINTER STORM WARNING, FIND SHELTER RIGHT AWAY

  • Stay off roads.
  • Stay indoors and dress warmly.
    • If you need to spend time in a public indoor space in order to stay safe from the cold, follow CDC precautions to protect yourself and others from COVID-19: wear a mask and maintain a distance of at least six feet between yourself and those who are not a part of your household. Masks should not be worn by children under two years of age, those who have trouble breathing, and those who are unable to remove them on their own.
  • Prepare for power outages.
  • Use generators outside only and away from windows.
  • Listen for emergency information and alerts.
  • Look for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
  • Check on neighbors while following the latest guidelinesfrom the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on maintaining social and physical distancing. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html. Consider connecting with family and friends by telephone, e-mail, text messages, video chat, and social media. If you must visit in person, wear a mask and maintain a distance of at least six feet from them.

 

HOW TO STAY SAFE WHEN A WINTER STORM THREATENS:

Prepare NOW

  • Know your area’s risk for winter storms. Extreme winter weather can leave communities without utilities or other services for long periods of time.
  • Prepare your home to keep out the cold with insulation, caulking and weather stripping. Learn how to keep pipes from freezing. Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups.
  • Know your winter weather terms. https://www.weather.gov/bgm/WinterTerms
  • Pay attention to weather reports and warnings of freezing weather and winter storms.
  • Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radioalso provide emergency alerts. Sign up for email updates about coronavirus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) here: https://www.cdc.gov/Other/emailupdates/.
  • Gather supplies in case you need to stay home for several days without power. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication. Remember the needs of your pets. Have extra batteries for radios and flashlights.  If you are able to, set aside items like soap, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol, disinfecting wipes, and general household cleaning supplies that you can use to disinfect surfaces you touch regularly.
  • Create an emergency supply kit for your car. Include jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water and non-perishable snacks. Keep a full tank of gas.
    • Remember that not everyone can afford to respond by stocking up on necessities. For those who can afford it, making essential purchases and slowly building up supplies in advance will allow for longer time periods between shopping trips. This helps to protect those who are unable to procure essentials in advance of the pandemic and must shop more frequently. Being prepared allows you to avoid unnecessary excursions and to address minor medical issues at home, alleviating the burden on urgent care centers and hospitals.

 

  • Learn the signs of, and basic treatments for, frostbite and hypothermia.
    • If you are sick and need medical attention, contact your healthcare provider for further care instructions and shelter in place, if possible. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 and let the operator know if you have, or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a mask before help arrives.

Learn the symptoms of COVID-19 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html

Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers and toes.

    • Signs: Numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin, firm or waxy skin.
    • Actions: Go to a warm room. Soak in warm water. Use body heat to warm. Do not massage or use a heating pad.
  • Hypothermia is an unusually low body temperature. A temperature below 95 degrees is an emergency.
    • Signs: Shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech or drowsiness.
    • Actions: Go to a warm room. Warm the center of the body first—chest, neck, head and groin. Keep dry and wrapped up in warm blankets, including the head and neck.

 

Survive DURING

  • Stay off roads if at all possible. If trapped in your car, then stay inside.
  • Limit your time outside. If you need to go outside, then wear layers of warm clothing. Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
    • Be sure to have several clean masks to use in case your mask becomes wet or damp from snow. Cloth masks should not be worn when they become damp or wet. Be sure to wash your mask regularly.
  • Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Never heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven.
  • Reduce the risk of a heart attack by avoiding overexertion when shoveling snow and walking in the snow.
    • Masks may make it difficult to breathe, especially for those who engage in high intensity activities, like shoveling. If you are unable to wear a mask, maintain a distance of at least six feet between yourself and those who are not part of your household.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia and begin treatment right away.
  • If it is safe to do so, check on neighbors while following the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on maintaining social and physical distancing. Consider connecting with family and friends by telephone, e-mail, text messages, video chat, and social media. If you must visit in person, wear a mask and maintain a distance of at least six feet from them. Masks should not be worn by children under two years of age, those who have trouble breathing, and those who are unable to remove them on their own.

Be Safe AFTER

  • Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers, and toes.
    • Signs: Numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin, and firm or waxy skin.
    • Actions: Go to a warm room. Soak in warm water. Use body heat to warm. Do not massage or use a heating pad.
  • Hypothermia is an unusually low body temperature. A temperature below 95 degrees is an emergency.
    • Signs: Shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness.
    • Actions: Go to a warm room. Warm the center of the body first—chest, neck, head, and groin. Keep dry and wrapped up in warm blankets, including the head and neck.
  • If you are sick and need medical attention, contact your healthcare provider for further care instructions and shelter in place, if possible. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 and let the operator know if you have, or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a mask before help arrives.
  • Engage virtually with your community through video and phone calls. Know that it’s normal to feel anxious or stressed. Take care of your body and talk to someone if you are feeling upset. Many people may already feel fear and anxiety about the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). The threat of a winter storm can add additional stress. Follow CDC guidance for managing stress during a traumatic event and managing stress during COVID-19.
  • It is important to help our first responders by removing snow around fire hydrants.

For more safety and health-related guidelines, visit https://www.cdc.gov/.

A sharing table at Heritage Park. Photo by Julianne Mosher

By Julianne Mosher and Rita J. Egan

Give a little, take a little — sharing is caring. 

A new phenomenon that has made its way across Long Island — and now the country — is a discreet way to help those in need. 

The Sharing Tables concept, of New York and California, was started up in November by a Seaford mom and her young daughter. 

“I woke up on Sunday, Nov. 22, and me and my 6-year-old daughter didn’t have anything to do that day,” Mary Kate Tischler, founder of the group, said. “We went through our cabinets, got some stuff from the grocery store and started publicizing the table on Facebook.”

The Sharing Table is a simple concept, according to her: “Take what you need and leave what you can, if you can.”

Tischler, who grew up in Stony Brook, said the idea is that whoever sets up a table in front of their home or business will put items out that people might need, with the community coming together to replenish it.

“The very first day people were taking things and dropping things off,” she said. “It was working just as it was supposed to.”

When the table is set up, organizers put out anything and everything a person might need. Some put out nonperishable foods, some put toiletries. Others put toys and books, with some tables having unworn clothing and shoes. No one mans the table. It’s just out front, where someone can discreetly visit and grab what they need.

“Since there’s no one that stands behind the table, people can come up anonymously and take the item without identifying themselves or asking any questions,” Tischler said. ”Some of our neighbors are in a tough time where they can’t pay their bills. I think the Sharing Tables are really helping fill those needs.”

And they’re popping up everywhere. In just three months, the group has nearly 30 Sharing Tables in New York, with one just launched in Santa Monica, California.

Mount Sinai

From clothing to toys, to food and books, Sharing Tables, like the one pictured here in Mount Sinai, are a way to help in a discreet and anonymous way. Photo by Julianne Mosher

On Sunday, Jan. 18, a Sharing Table was put outside the Heritage Trust building at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai.

Victoria Hazan, president of the trust, said she saw the Sharing Tables on social media and knew that the local community needed one, too.

“It was nothing but good, positive vibes,” she said.

When she set up the table with dozens of different items that were donated, people already started pulling up to either grab something they needed or donate to the cause.

“Some people are shy,” Hazan said. “What’s great is that you set up the table and walk away. There’s no judgement and no questions asked.”

What’s available at the tables will vary by community and what donations come in.

“The response from the community blew my mind totally,” Hazan said. “This was the right time to do this.”

St. James

Joanne Evangelist, of St. James, was the first person in Suffolk County to set up a Sharing Table, and soon after, other residents in the county followed.

The wife and mother of two said it was the end of the Christmas season when she was cleaning out drawers and her pantry. On the Facebook page Smithtown Freecycle, she posted that she had stuff to give away if anyone wanted it, but she would find sometimes people wouldn’t show up after she put something aside for them.

“So, I put it on a table outside — not even knowing about the group or thinking anything of it,” she said, adding she would post what was outside on the freecycle page.

Joanne Evangelist stands by her table in St. James filled with food, cleaning supplies and more. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Tischler saw the Smithtown Freecycle post and reached out to Evangelist to see if she would be interested in setting up a Sharing Table. The St. James woman thought it was a good idea when she heard it. While Evangelist regularly has food, toiletries, cleaning products and baby products on the table, from time to time there will be clothing, toys and other random items. Recently, she held a coat drive and the outwear was donated to Lighthouse Mission in Bellport, which helps those with food insecurities and the homeless.

She said she keeps the table outside on her front lawn all day long, even at night, unless it’s going to rain, or the temperatures dip too low. People can pick up items at any time, and she said no one is questioned.

Evangelist said she also keeps a box out for donations so she can organize them on the table later on in the day, and the response from local residents wanting to drop off items has been touching.

She said helping out others is something she always liked to do. 

“I was a candy striper in the hospital when I was younger,” she said. “I just always loved volunteering, and I’m a stay-at-home mom, so, honestly anything I could do … especially with the pandemic.”

Evangelist said she understands what people go through during tough financial times.

“I’ve used a pantry before, so I know the feeling,” she said. “I know the embarrassment of it.”

Northport

Lisa Conway, of Northport, and two of her five children, Aidan, 16, and Kate, 14, set up a Sharing Table after their garage was burglarized on New Year’s Eve.

Conway said her children, who attend St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, were looking for a community outreach project. She had seen a post about the Sharing Tables on Facebook and was considering starting one, but she was debating how involved it would be.

Then the Conway’s garage was burglarized where thousands of dollars of tools were stolen, an electric skateboard, dirt bike and more including a generator that was taken from the basement. The wife and mother said the family felt fortunate that the robbers didn’t enter the main part of the house.

Conway said after the experience she realized that some people need to steal to get what they need and decided the Sharing Table would be a good idea.

“They can come take what they need without having to steal from anyone,” she said.

Her children have been helping to organize the items they receive, and every day Aidan will set everything up before school and clean up at night. He said it’s no big deal as it takes just a few minutes each day.

Aidan said there have been more givers than takers.

“People are a lot more generous than what I expected them to be,” he said.

The mother and son said they have been touched by the generosity of their fellow residents. Conway said she’s been using the Nextdoor app mostly to generate contributions. She said she started posting on the app to let people know what they needed for the table. One day after a posting indicating they needed cleaning supplies for the table, they woke up to find the items outside.

The family has also received a $200 Amazon gift card to buy items, and another person bought them a canopy to protect the table. 

Conway said every once in a while, she will be outside when people are picking up items. One woman told her how she drove from Nassau County. Her husband was suffering from three different types of cancer, and he couldn’t work due to his compromised immune system. She told her how they had to pay the bills first, and then if there was money left over they could buy food.

Another day Conway went outside to see that someone had left gum and mints on the table.

“I just was so touched by that,” the mother said. “They wanted to leave something they didn’t just want to take, and that’s all they had.”

Conway said it’s a learning experience for her children to know that there are people on public assistance who can’t use the funds for items such as paper goods or cleaning items, and there are others who are struggling but not eligible for any kind of assistance.

“My youngest one is 9, and even he can’t believe when he sees people pulling up,” she said. “He’s not really in the helping phase but I love that he’s seeing what we’re doing.”

Aidan agreed that it is an important learning experience. He said before he wasn’t familiar with those who had financial issues.

“It’s not good to know that there are people out there with financial issues, but it’s good to know that you can help them,” he said.

Conway said the Sharing Tables came around at the right time as she was suffering from “COVID fatigue,” and it changed her outlook on life.

“I feel like my faith in humanity has been restored,” she said.

How you can help

Tischler said that if people would like to donate but cannot get to a Sharing Table, there is an Amazon wish list on the group’s Facebook page. Items ordered through the site will be delivered to Tischler’s home, where she will personally deliver to the Sharing Tables across Long Island. Addresses for locations are listed on the Facebook page.

“It’s been such a whirlwind,” she added. “I have to stop and pinch myself and take stock of what’s happening.”

Stock photo

PSEG Long Island is alerting customers about scams from people impersonating employees and demanding immediate payment.

The utility said scammers contacted more than 500 customers between Dec. 20 and Jan. 2, alleging overdue balanced and threatening to cut off power.

PSEG said some scammers have used a standard tactic of asking customers to buy a prepaid debit card, such as Green Dot, to pay for their alleged overdue bill, while others demanded payment through Zelle, an online fund transfer platform.

PSEG LI, however, offers numerous payment options and does not accept prepaid debit cards or Zelle.

“Somebody represents themselves as one of our employees, states that the customer is in arrears [and] gives them a couple of hours to get some pressure going,” said Robert Vessichelli, senior security investigator for PSEG Long Island. “They say they are going to cut power in a matter of two hours.”

Phone scammers, who have typically come from out of the country in places like India and the Dominican Republic, had started off by targeting mostly commercial accounts, Vessichelli said. Usually, people running a business may have an administrator paying their bills and they may not be sure if their advisor or accountant made payment.

“They are more vulnerable, especially people who deal with perishable goods” because losing power could have dramatic consequences on their business, Vessichelli said.

More recently, scammers have targeted a geographic area, as PSEG has collected numerous calls from the same neighborhoods.

The money scammers request is usually an odd number, such as $498.95. Some of the people scammed have paid as much as over $5,000. The average scam payment is closer to $500.

Some of these scams encourage people to send money several times, claiming that the funds never transferred. In one case, Vessichelli said the scammers received money three times, each time making a phony promise that they would return overpaid funds.

Vessichelli warned customers not to rely on caller ID because some of these scammers spoof the number and identification to make it look like PSEG is calling.

Since August of 2013, the number of people who have reported scam calls or visits is 23,326, with about 1,194 people, or 5.1%, falling victim to these efforts.

In 2013, the percentage of people who paid these fraudulent claims was over 10 percent, but that number has fallen as the company has made a concerted effort to educate consumers.

“We would never make a phone call and say, ‘We’re going to cut your service off in two hours,’” Vessichelli said. “That’s not the procedure we use. We would contact people numerous times and try to give them a payment agreement. “

The company also said it had suspended electrical cut off for non-payment during the pandemic.

In addition to the calls, some scammers show up at people’s doors and even wear clothing with the PSEG emblem and have the company name on their cars.

The people who come to the door sometimes work with a partner who searches the house for jewelry, cash or other valuables, while someone allegedly checks electrical equipment or the meter.

Vessichelli urged customers concerned about an unannounced visit from someone claiming to be from PSEG to call the company to confirm that the person is a legitimate employee. The number to call is (800) 490-0025. Customers can also call that number to check on the validity of a call they suspect may be a scam.

Vessichelli said PSEG has had occasion to knock on customers’ doors in case of a temporary outage or other problem. If customers prefer to call the company before allowing anyone entry in their houses, the technician can wait.

Customers have received calls from people claiming that they owe money for a deposit for priority meter installation. PSEG said customers are not required to pay a deposit for such installations.

PSEG said customers can recognize a scammer because he or she may ask for email for payment in prepaid debit cards or a MoneyGram transfer, or to send money to an out-of-state address.

PSEG urged customers not to arrange payment or reveal account information or personal information, such as social security numbers or credit or debit card numbers, over the phone.

Genuine PSEG representatives will explain why they are calling and provide the account name, address and current balance. If the information is incorrect, the customer is likely speaking with a scammer.

SBU Journalism Newsroom

Stony Brook University recently announced that the School of Journalism will be renamed to the School of Communication and Journalism. The School is the first, and only, in the 64-campus SUNY system that is accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC).

The new name aligns more closely with the School’s expanding undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and with the increased demand for professionals with backgrounds and experience in different communication-related disciplines.

“Communication goes beyond journalism, and Stony Brook’s School of Communication and Journalism will offer new opportunities for our students to explore important fields in science communication, health communication and mass communication, in addition to journalism,” Fotis Sotiropoulos, interim university provost and dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences said.

In the past year, the School has begun to offer graduate programs in science communication, in collaboration with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, and in public health, in collaboration with the Stony Brook Program in Public Health. Additional programs are in development.

“Faculty at the School and the Alda Center work closely on communication research, particularly in the field of science communication, and by renaming the School, we will be able to foster additional communication research,” said Laura Lindenfeld, dean of the School, executive director of the Alda Center, and vice provost for academic strategy and planning at Stony Brook. “Effective communication builds trust among people, enhances mutual understanding, and creates opportunities for collaboration. Now more than ever, we need effective communicators, and Stony Brook is eager to help fill that need.”

The School of Journalism was founded in 2006 and enrolls approximately 250 students. Its faculty include Pulitzer Prize winners, award-winning international and foreign correspondents, and experts in digital innovation. Graduates have gone on to work as reporters and media professionals at organizations around the country, including the New York Times, Buzzfeed, Moth Radio Hour, Council of Foreign Relations, Major League Baseball, and Nieman Lab.

The School is home to the Alda Center, the Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting and the Center for News Literacy. It also offers the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists, a one-week intensive program designed to introduce students from across Long Island and New York City to the possibilities of journalism as a career.

Learn more about the School of Communication and Journalism at www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/journalism/

Sen. Jim Gaughran was sworn into his second term by his friend, state Supreme Court Justice David Gugerty, outside of his old high school, Half Hollow Hills. Photo from Gaughran’s office

State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) sees 2021 playing out in two parts.

With the carryover from all the public health and economic difficulties of 2021, the first few months will require continued crisis management.

The state will work to “figure out how to get vaccines [for COVID-19] to everybody, how to get schools fully open with kids going … and get businesses back open,” Gaughran said in a wide-ranging interview.

The pace at which the Empire State moves past the crisis depends in large part on the vaccine, which Gaughran described as “key.” He predicted that could occur sometime between February and April.

Up to now, the state senator said the process of getting the vaccine has been frustrating, with the website crashing. Gaughran’s office has fielded numerous calls from constituents. Some people in their 90s have called for help navigating the website, while grandchildren have also reached out on behalf of their older relatives, hoping to get an appointment for those who are among the most vulnerable to the virus.

Gaughran hopes that the vaccine supply chain will improve in the next few weeks.

The state senator believes that President Joe Biden (D) will “open up the floodgates” for the state to receive more vaccinations.

Gaughran anticipates that the process of receiving vaccinations will likely track the same course as viral testing. Initially, people struggled to get tested, often waiting for a test and then days or even a week for a result.

The state and the country have figured out how to improve testing, allowing “anybody to get a test,” he said. “I am hoping the same thing happens with the vaccine.”

The second phase of the year, which could occur around April, will involve the rebuilding of the economy, with opportunities for Long Island and New York to benefit from new directives out of the federal government including for green, alternative energy.

“We’re going to have major money for green energy jobs,” Gaughran said, with infrastructure upgrades, sewage treatment and other projects starting or expanding in 2021. “There’ll be a much stronger will coming out of Washington. We have to pump up the economy.”

New York is well positioned to capitalize on some of these economic and job opportunities, Gaughran said. That could be especially important as the government looks to support projects with considerable advanced planning.

“Whenever these grant programs are available, the states that are most prepared with shovel-ready projects and concrete plans to move forward will get the most money,” Gaughran said.

Gaughran said Long Island can build a green-energy workforce that is educated and supported by area institutions including his alma mater Stony Brook University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Committee opportunities

Gaughran is pleased to serve on several State Senate committees, including the Committee on Higher Education; the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions; the Committee on Investigations and Government Operations; and the Committee on Energy and Telecommunications.

Gaughran sees opportunities to advance his goals, as “being on a committee gives you an edge in pushing your legislative priorities.”

The investigations committee, which has subpoena power, can study problems in the state. Last year, that included housing discrimination.

This year, Gaughran would like to see that committee examine waste in government spending.

“We need to look at two investigations: One dealing with state budgets and state costs, [and the other] looking at local governments, where there may be waste, fraud and abuse,” he said.

As a member of the Higher Education Committee, Gaughran also hopes the committee can offer some help to Stony Brook University and Suffolk County Community College by “being a little bit flexible.”

Gaughran hopes these educational institutions can raise in-state tuition for those families that can afford to pay, while developing a scale that allows those who can’t afford higher costs to continue to pay their current rates.

The state senator also hopes to reignite back-burner projects.

“Let’s see how much we can front-load the timetable on fully electrifying the Long Island Rail Road to Port Jefferson,” Gaughran said. “Let’s hope there’ll be major funding for that type of a project. Instead of waiting years to do it, let’s start.”

Robert Van Zeyl. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

UPDATE: The funeral service for Suffolk County Police Lieutenant Robert Van Zeyl, who died Jan. 20 due to COVID-19, will be held  Jan. 26 at 11:30 a.m. at St. Gerard Majella R.C. Church, located at 300 Terryville Road in Port Jefferson Station. Terryville Road will be closed between University Drive and Whitman Avenue from 11:15 a.m. to approximately 12:45 p.m. Motorists are encouraged to avoid the area due to increased traffic. Attendees are asked to park at the church.

A Suffolk County Police Department lieutenant is the first department member to lose the fight against the coronavirus.

According to a Jan. 20 press release from the SCPD, the department is mourning the loss of active duty member Robert Van Zeyl who died from COVID-19  Jan. 20.

The death is the first of an active duty sworn member of the SCPD due to the COVID-19 virus, and Van Zeyl will be honored with a line of duty funeral, arrangements of which are pending.

“It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of an exceptional member of our law enforcement family, Lieutenant Robert Van Zeyl,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “Lt. Van Zeyl’s more than three decades of exemplary service are a testament to his commitment to public service, and even in the midst of a global pandemic, he was on the frontlines every day helping residents in need. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Van Zeyl family during this difficult time.”

Van Zeyl, who was 60, tested positive for COVID-19 Jan. 3 and was hospitalized a week later.

“COVID-19 has impacted law enforcement agencies throughout the country and it is with deep sadness that the Suffolk County Police Department has lost its first member of service who contracted coronavirus earlier this month,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart. “Lt. Van Zeyl served Suffolk County residents with distinction for nearly 36 years and his legacy will continue with the members of this department. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family.”

According to the press release, Van Zeyl joined the SCPD in February 1985 and served in the 5th Precinct upon graduation from the academy. Van Zeyl was promoted to Sergeant in 1994 and then Lieutenant in 2003. He served as the Commanding Officer of the Applicant Investigation Section and the Administrative Services Bureau before transferring to the 2nd Precinct in 2015 where he worked until his death.

“It is truly heartbreaking to lose a member of our department, doubly so personally given the fact that I have known Bob for my entire career,” said Suffolk County Police Chief of Department Stuart Cameron. “Thirty-six years ago, we were sworn in together and became Suffolk County Police officers; his entire adult life was dedicated to public safety. Bob’s passing exemplifies the multifaceted dangers that members of our department face every day to keep the residents of our county safe. Our department grieves his loss along with his family.”

During his more than three-decade career, Van Zeyl received more than a dozen recognitions for his contributions to the police department including two Cop of the Month honors and the Excellent Police Duty Award for amassing 12 or more self-initiated DWI arrests in a single year.

“Bob was a wonderful person, a dedicated member of our department, and a pleasure to know both personally and professionally,” said 2nd Precinct Commanding Officer Inspector William Scrima. “He was a person who genuinely enjoyed his work and was liked by people of all ranks who knew him and worked with him. He will be truly missed by this department and by the Second Precinct in particular.”

Van Zeyl is survived by his ex-wife Christine Zubrinic, his daughter Hailey and son Tyler, both 14.

“The Suffolk County Police Department has not only lost a great police officer, but we’ve lost a great boss, and more importantly, a great friend,” said Sergeant Jack Smithers, who worked with Van Zeyl in the 2nd Precinct. “He will be sorely missed by all.”

Dr. Christopher Vakoc. Photo from CSHL

On January 23, the Christina Renna Foundation (CRF), together with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, will host a free virtual celebration and sarcoma update to mark their 14th Annual Angel’s Wish Gala. Join us in celebrating 14 years of funding cutting edge research into rare pediatric cancer.

The gala will honor Christopher Vakoc, MD., Ph.D., Professor, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 2020 CRF Research Award recipient for the Sarcoma Research Project

The Christina Renna Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity supporting children’s cancer research and furthering awareness and education through the support of cancer groups and outreach programs for the direct support of those in need. Funds raised through this event will go to continued research into rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), a rare and often fatal form of pediatric cancer. In total, CRF has donated over $350,000 to research at CSHL. For more information, please visit: www.crf4acure.org

What: CRF Angel’s Wish Virtual Gala and Sarcoma Research Update

When: January 23, 2021 – 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

RSVP: https://www.cshl.edu/mc-events/crf-angels-wish-virtual-gala-and-sarcoma-research-update/