Times of Middle Country

Newfield High School senior Raiyah Reid with her teammates. Photo courtesy MCCSD

On Friday, Jan. 27th, Newfield High School student Raiyah Reid became only the third female in Newfield High School varsity basketball history to reach the 1,000-point milestone. Raiyah is currently a junior at Newfield High School and has been a part of the Newfield High School varsity girls’ basketball program since the eighth grade.

“To score 1,000 points in your varsity basketball career is truly unique. You simply don’t see many players – female or male – achieving this laudatory milestone on varsity public school basketball teams,”  said Joseph Mercado, director of physical education, health, and athletics. “We are incredibly proud of Raiyah.  The fact that she is the third female to achieve this momentous accomplishment speaks volumes about the Newfield High School basketball program and our coaches. Congratulations to Raiyah Reid.”

For more information regarding the Middle Country Central School District and its students’ many achievements, please visit the District’s website: www.mccsd.net.

In honor of Dr. Martin King, Jr. Day and to kick off Black History Month, Eugene Auer Elementary School hosted an assembly organized by fourth-grade teacher Jeanine Buttino, with the help of principal Kenneth Gutmann.

“Educating our students about Dr. King’s leadership and legacy is a great way to teach our learners about equality and the civil rights movement,” said Gutmann. “We are also looking forward to honoring Black History Month with the many classroom activities and lessons planned for the month of February that will be highlighting the countless African Americans who have contributed so richly and heroically to our country’s history and culture.”

During the assembly, selected students from each grade level shared with their fellow classmates what dreams they had envisioned for the future. After, students listened to Dr. King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech as well as listened to teachers read various books in honor of Dr. King and Black History Month.

 For more information regarding the Middle Country Central School District and its students’ many achievements, please visit the district’s website: www.mccsd.net.

It was the battle between the cross-town rivals on Saturday, Feb. 4, when the Newfield Wolverines hosted the Cougars of Centereach. With playoff implications, both teams entered the Div. II contest with 6-7 records.

Newfield broke out to a seven-point lead after eight minutes and took a 10- point lead going into the locker room at half. 

The Cougars exploded in the third quarter, scoring 14 while holding Newfield to just six points to begin the final eight minutes of play. Newfield battled back, swapping a one-point lead in the closing minutes, but Centereach staved off the late game surge to win the game, 54-49.

Raiyah Reid did what she’s done all season, leading the Wolverines in scoring with 17 points despite not playing most of the fourth quarter. Senior Madison Brooks banked 12 points and Payton Martin netted eight.

Freshman Hayley Torres topped the scoring chart for the Cougars with 21, and teammates Meaghan Grieco and Mia Juvelier banked 12 and 11 points, respectively.

The win lifts Centereach to 7-7 with two games remaining before postseason play begins.

— Photo by Bill Landon

Police car. Stock photo

Suffolk County Police Sixth Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a
pedestrian in Farmingville on Feb. 5.

Steven Godden was driving a 2022 Mercedes-Benz northbound on North Ocean Avenue at Granny Road
when he swerved in an attempt to avoid hitting Roland Degroff, who was running east across the
roadway at the intersection against the direction of traffic control devices at 7:40 p.m. The Mercedes
struck Degroff, who was then struck by a 2021 Hyundai Sonata being operated by Yair Pacheco.

Degroff, 58, of Port Jefferson Station, was transported to Long Island Community Hospital in Patchogue
where he was pronounced dead. Neither Godden, 41, of Mount Sinai, or Pacheco, 44, of Coram, or two
passengers in the Mercedes-Benz, were injured.

The vehicles were both impounded for safety checks. Detectives are asking anyone with information on
the crash to contact the Sixth Squad at 631-854-8652.

Graphic from MCPL

Do you have a legal question? The Community Legal Help Project is at the Middle Country Public library in Centereach on the first, second and third Thursday of each month from 3-6 p.m. 

Volunteer attorneys provide free legal advice to Suffolk County residents on legal matters related to a variety of topics, including bankruptcy, criminal, divorce, family (child support, custody, orders of protection, visitation), landlord/tenant, and mortgage/foreclosure. 

They will meet with senior citizens (over 60 years old) to discuss issues related to housing and utilities, income nutrition/benefits, health/long term care, advanced care directives, and consumer related issues. 

Walk-ins are welcome but appointments are preferred. Please call 631-322-8272 to reserve your spot.

Pixabay photo

The Suffolk County Police Department has observed a recent uptick in stolen vehicles and now urges residents to take precautions.

Detective Richard Marra of SCPD offered a brief history of the crime phenomenon in a phone interview. While vehicle theft cases have been recurrent, the detective noted that the crime is relatively preventable. 

“Ninety percent of the cars that are stolen are probably stolen because [drivers] leave the key fobs in the car,” he said.

Marra said the police department first noticed the trend about three years ago when an organized out-of-state group started targeting luxury models.

“We had a group of guys coming out of New Jersey, mostly from Newark, and they would go to the more affluent neighborhoods,” he said. “They’d come in a van, walk down the street and look for any kind of foreign car.”

Thieves often sought out vehicles with the mirrors folded open. This, Marra said, was an indicator that the vehicle was unlocked. 

If the key fob was left inside, they would easily steal the vehicle. If not, they may rummage through it for hidden valuables.

“Three years ago, it was crazy,” Marra said. “It slowed down a little bit in the last eight months, but we still have a lot of thefts of cars because the key fobs are left in the car.”

The SCPD detective said that the New Jersey bunch often resold their stolen cars on the secondary market. In a highly coordinated manner, they would steal the cars, drive to New Jersey, remove any GPS trackers and then prepare them for international shipment.

“When they had a container ready, they put them on the container, and it was usually going to South Africa,” Marra said.

While the group from New Jersey had targeted luxury models, some vehicle thieves are less interested in the car’s resale value than its utility. 

Marra said some would use the vehicle to temporarily transport drugs or steal catalytic converters, then discard it. While victims of this variety of theft often retrieved their stolen cars, its condition could be irreversibly impaired.

“The ones that are taking just any car — anything that happens to be left with the fob in it — may drive it around for a day or two and then leave it somewhere,” he said. “Sometimes it’s destroyed, sometimes it’s not, but most of the time it’s not in the shape you left it in.”

The spike in vehicle theft follows another auto theft crime that has hit the county, the theft of catalytic converters. [See story, “Catalytic converter theft on the rise in Suffolk County,” TBR News Media website, Feb. 26, 2022.]

Marra indicated that catalytic converter theft has fallen off substantially in recent months due primarily to coordinated arrests conducted with the federal government.

For residents to protect themselves from vehicle theft, he said there is a simple solution — taking their fobs with them as they exit their cars. 

“If people would take their key fobs with them and never leave them in the car, I’d say 90 to 95% of the car thefts would go down,” the detective said. “You just have to keep your keys in your pocket instead of leaving them in the console or the glove compartment.”

He added, “I know it’s nice to just jump in and drive away — but then everybody could jump in and drive away.”

The Middle Country Public Library recently held a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating the grand opening of the Centereach Reading Room. 

The newly renovated 7,500 square foot area includes an innovation maker space and podcast recording studio that will allow the community to explore new technologies. 

Patrons will have the opportunity to participate in the creative process and collaborate with one another in a quiet study room and two small group study rooms along with a redesigned public computer area. 

The functional and transformational design was created in collaboration with architectural firm Bermello Ajamil and Partners and includes the information desk and a glass curtain wall leading to the Reading Garden, and a café that is scheduled to open in the early part of 2023. 

The library thanks the community for their support throughout this project and the many distinguished guests who attended the ceremony, including Suffolk County Legislator Nick Caracappa (C-Selden) and Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden).

The Selden campus of Suffolk County Community College. File photo
Amazon’s Career Choice program provides pre-paid tuition to learn new skills for career success at Amazon or elsewhere

Suffolk County Community College has been selected as Long Island’s first education partner for Amazon’s Career Choice program to provide Amazon’s hourly employees access to Suffolk County Community College, the college and company announced.

“We are delighted to be the first on Long Island to partner with Amazon to offer this important opportunity. Amazon’s Career Choice program is in keeping with Suffolk’s core mission to provide outstanding and affordable educational opportunities for all county residents. Partnering with Amazon will allow us to connect a new audience of working students with either traditional college courses or career-oriented training for in-demand jobs, that will positively impact their lives and our communities,” said Suffolk County Community College President Dr. Edward Bonahue.

“It is important that everyone, regardless of their financial situation is given the opportunity to earn a college degree,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “That is why I am so proud that Suffolk County Community College was selected as Long Island’s first education partner for Amazon’s Career Choice Program. This partnership showcases both the college and Amazon’s commitment to providing students with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the 21st century workforce.”

Bonahue said that although the new program has not yet been widely publicized, outreach from College representatives already brought new students from Amazon to the college for the spring 2023 semester.

Amazon’s Career Choice program is an education benefit that empowers employees to learn new skills for career success at Amazon or elsewhere. The program meets individual learners where they are on their education journey through a variety of education and upskilling opportunities including full college tuition, industry certifications designed to lead to in-demand jobs, and foundational skills such as English language proficiency, high school diplomas, and GEDs. In the U.S., the company is investing $1.2 billion to upskill more than 300,000 employees by 2025 to help move them into higher-paying, in-demand jobs.

Amazon’s Career Choice program has a rigorous selection process for third-party partner educators, choosing partners that are focused on helping employees through their education programs, assisting them with job placements, and overall offering education that leads to career success.

“We’re proud of our growing footprint on Long Island and we’re even prouder to offer this program through our partnership with Suffolk County Community College,” said Carley Graham Garcia, Amazon’s Head of Community Affairs in New York. “This adds to the many benefits available to our employees on Long Island and participants will join 110,000 Amazon employees around the world who have already participated in Career Choice.”

Suffolk County Community College is the State University of New York (SUNY) system’s largest community college, enrolling more than 20,000 for-credit students and over 7,500 non-credit students. The College offers more than 100 degree and certificate program options.

The College is comprised of three campuses and two downtown centers: The Ammerman Campus in Selden, ; Michael J. Grant Campus in Brentwood; Eastern Campus in Riverhead, and downtown centers in Riverhead and Sayville.

For more information on Amazon’s Career Choice, visit: https://www.aboutamazon.com/news/workplace/career-choice

By Heidi Sutton

The Town of Brookhaven held its annual Groundhog Day celebration at the Holtsville Ecology Site and Animal Preserve on Thursday, Feb. 2. Many families with young children braved the frigid weather to hear a very important prediction from Suffolk County’s most famous weatherman, Holtsville Hal.

Before he read this year’s prognostication, Town of Brookhaven Superintendent Dan Losquadro gave a bit of history of Groundhog Day and how it began in Pennsylvania in 1886 but joked, “We like to say we have the most accurate weatherman. I know they’ve been doing it for longer there in Pennsylvania but Holtsville Hal is the real deal here. Punxsutawney Phil, he had his time; it’s time for Holtsville Hal now.”

At 7:25 a.m. sharp, before a crowd of several hundred spectators, the groundhog awoke from his slumber and saw his shadow,  which, according to folklore, means six more weeks of winter.

Superintendent Losquadro read Hal’s official 2023 prediction with help from the town’s newly appointed clerk, Kevin LaValle.

“As I stepped out of my burrow on this early winter morn’, I rubbed at my eyes and let out a great yawn. It soon became clear the crowd was not here for Honey Bear,  my prognostication was what everyone was waiting to hear.  Six more weeks of winter or an early spring? I know you can’t wait what my prediction will bring.  And so, at 7:25 a.m. on this brisk winter day, I have recorded my prediction and am sorry to say, at sunrise this morning I was startled to see, a shadow in the shape of … none other than me. I scurried back inside to return to my nap, not before reminding you to hold onto your mittens and cap. Spring will have to wait, Mother Nature is not through; six more weeks of winter you can look forward to!”

“I’m always hopeful Hal will predict an early spring and assist with my snow removal budget, but if his prediction proves to be correct, the Brookhaven Highway Department remains ready to handle whatever Mother Nature sends our way,” said Superintendent Losquadro. “I want to thank everyone who took the time to come out and take part in this fun, annual tradition.”

After the event, festivalgoers were treated to bagels courtesy of Bagel Lovers and hot chocolate from 7-Eleven and were able to visit the 100 animals that call the Ecology Site home including deer, horses, goats, llamas, hawks and its newest addition, Leo the Lynx. The center, which is open all year-round, also includes greenhouses, gardens, and jogging and exercise trails. For more information, visit www.brookhavenny.gov or call 631-451-5330.

METRO photo

To our readers: We appreciate your weekly letters to the editor. Writing a letter enables vital communication and contributes to a meaningful community dialogue. It is also a safety valve for expressing different, equally passionately held opinions in a civil fashion.

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Our editors aim to choose letters that represent a mix of local, county, state and national topics. We also look for a mix of opinions from conservative, liberal and moderate points of view. Letters serve as a form of public debate, and people from various sides of the political spectrum should be heard.

Moderating our letters page, we view ourselves as mediators for the various interests and opinions of the community. By sharing diverse perspectives on a range of topics, we arm our readers with the information and give them the freedom to make up their own minds.

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