Times of Middle Country

Palmer Vineyards is located on scenic Sound Avenue in Riverhead. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Palmer Vineyards is rebranding.

Fans of the vineyard, which opened its doors in 1983, should expect the same approachable feel to both the wines and the atmosphere at Palmer. The vineyard is maintaining many of the features that make it one of the best on Long Island, like being certified sustainable, but some upgrades and new features are on the way and should be completed in time for Memorial Day weekend, according to Director of Operations Ken Cereola.

Palmer Vineyards
5120 Sound Ave.,
Riverhead
631-722-9463
Open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.,
Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“People feel really, really welcome when they come here,” Cereola said in an interview on Palmer’s grounds last week, stressing their rebranding plan won’t compromise their comfortable feel. “We’re not standoffish, we’re not too pretentious.”

Palmer’s rebranding efforts include new labels on the bottles, some expanded outdoor seating areas outside of the tasting room, a brick oven on site for fresh made pizzas, a food truck and events geared toward education for inquiring wine minds. Chef Anna Aracri from Oceans 5 Seafood Market and Eatery in Shoreham handles food at the winery.

One such event, called the Plant. Pick. Pour. Wine Series 2016 is a three-part series in an intimate, interactive setting where participants can learn about the entire wine-making process over the course of three landmark dates that a vineyard incurs in a given year.

Palmer wines are aged in oak barrels in their barrel rooms for months at a time before they are ready to be bottled. Photo by Alex Petroski
Palmer wines are aged in oak barrels in their barrel rooms for months at a time before they are ready to be bottled. Photo by Alex Petroski

On June 11 the focus will be on Palmer’s unique grape varietals, why they work so well in Long Island’s climate and what makes its vineyard so versatile. On Sept. 10, it will be time to start preparing for the 2017 vintage’s harvest. Finally, on Dec. 3 guests will have the opportunity to taste the unreleased 2017 wines before they go on sale. All three events will feature wine tasting, food pairing and information from Palmer’s knowledgeable and well-traveled winemaker Miguel Martin.

Tasting room manager Evan Ducz is particularly excited for the series and said the response has been great in anticipation of the first event on June 11. Despite the educational feel, he reiterated Cereola’s assessment that the goal is to be informative without intimidating wine enthusiasts of varying experience.

“From the staff to the management, I think we make people feel really comfortable,” he said. “Comfortable about wine, which can be intimidating at times, and I think we also give off a really relaxed vibe, a very inviting atmosphere.”

Palmer Vineyards is undergoing a rebranding effort that includes changes to their labels. Photo by Alex Petroski
Palmer Vineyards is undergoing a rebranding effort that includes changes to their labels. Photo by Alex Petroski

Some other events at Palmer include Yoga in the Vines every Sunday, which is followed by brunch featuring breakfast pizza from their brick oven; a yearly kick-off to a fall harvest festival featuring live music, food and of course—wine; extended hours to 9 p.m. on Friday nights to start the weekend; and by-appointment winemaker tours.

Martin will have been at Palmer as its winemaker for a decade in the fall. Martin is from Spain and as Cereola puts it, has made wines all over the world. His diverse and substantial experience and knowledge gives Palmer a unique element not widely found on Long Island. He blends with grapes more commonly associated with other regions and also bottles an Albariño, a dry yet fruity white that usually comes from Spain.

“He’s a hell of a winemaker, but he’s an even better person,” Cereola said of Martin. “He’s a great guy to be around. He definitely doesn’t just make his wine and then go home. He’s a part of every aspect here.”

Ducz echoed Cereola’s comments about Martin. “As far as just being a tasting room manager the thing that I most appreciate about him is that you can go to him with any question,” Ducz said.

Palmer Vineyards now features an on-site brick oven for fresh pizzas made by Chef Anna Aracri. Photo by Alex Petroski
Palmer Vineyards now features an on-site brick oven for fresh pizzas made by Chef Anna Aracri. Photo by Alex Petroski

For those who can’t make it out to Riverhead to visit Palmer, some of the wines worth trying from a local wine store include its Rosé of Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Old Roots Merlot, according to Cereola and Ducz. I also recommend the Chardonnay.

The combination of Palmer’s team, products, atmosphere and events should place the vineyard toward the top of any list of must-visit North Shore destinations for Long Island residents.

Palmer Vineyards’ tasting room has a comfortable, approachable feel which makes wine-tasters of all experience levels feel welcome. Photo by Alex Petroski
Palmer Vineyards’ tasting room has a comfortable, approachable feel which makes wine-tasters of all experience levels feel welcome. Photo by Alex Petroski

Girls' lacrosse team's Jamie Ortega scores six in quarterfinal win, Mad Dogs will host rival West Islip in semis

Jamie Ortega, who scored six goals in the win, makes her way down the field. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Junior midfielder Jamie Ortega started and capped off a 7-0 run that helped Middle Country mow down Sachem North, 14-9, in the Division I Class A quarterfinals Friday — and running is the name of the Mad Dogs’ game.

“This is our run to the counties,” junior midfielder and attack Ava Barry said of her 16-1 team that is now on an 11-game win streak. “We did really well moving the ball down the field and really using our speed.”

Sophie Alois races across the field as she carries the ball into Sachem North's zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Sophie Alois races across the field as she carries the ball into Sachem North’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Middle Country raced up and down the field, and despite being double-teamed the entire way, Ortega muscled her way past defenders, firing shot after shot.

“Finding Jamie, even though she was faceguarded, that was definitely helpful,” senior defender Jordynn Aiello said. “Everyone was used today.”

Ortrega scored twice more during the seven-run spurt, freshman attack Sophie Alois tacked on two goals and Barry netted one.

“I think we shot well and we transitioned the ball,” Middle Country head coach Lindsay Dolson said. “I think we rode really well in their transition.”

Ahead 11-3 to open the second half, Barry scored less than a minute in, Oretga added another and, after a Sachem North score, Barry tallied her hat trick goal after swiveling around defenders and dumping the ball in up high, off a feed in front of the cage.

“We knew coming in here that we had to play our game,” Aiello said. “It wasn’t our best game, but we pulled it out and played together, and that’s what counts.”

No. 2 Middle Country will face No. 3 West Islip in the semifinals on Wednesday at Newfield High School at 4 p.m.

West Islip has proven to be the Mad Dogs’ Achilles’ heel the last two seasons, knocking out Middle Country in the semifinals in 2014, 12-11, with one second left in regulation, and edging out the team in the finals in double overtime last year, 11-10.

Emily Diaz reaches for possession off the draw. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Emily Diaz reaches for possession off the draw. Photo by Desirée Keegan

But the team topped West Islip this season, 9-3, on April 29. Dolson said she thinks that the past years’ experience will help the team heading into the final rounds.

“We’re on to the next one,” she said. “We’ve been there before, so I think the experience will definitely help us hopefully get to the finals after West Islip.”

For players like Aiello, she wants to make sure her Mad Dogs stays focused on the next task at hand, to not get ahead of themselves.

“We need to make sure we keep our minds set on our goal and take it one game at a time,” she said. “Right now we’re looking forward to Wednesday versus West Islip and we have to come in and know that our goal is to beat them. We have to make sure we come out hard, stay strong on defense, cut off their big scorers and make sure we put the ball in the back of the net.”

If Middle Country wins on Wednesday, the team will face the winner of the Smithtown West/Northport matchup. Regardless of who the opponent may be if Middle Country makes it, Aiello said she has enjoyed the ride.

“We’ve been strong from the beginning,” Aiello said. “Coming into this season I had a good, strong feeling about these girls. A majority of us have been playing together since fourth grade. I’m very sad it’s my last season playing with them since I grew up with them, but I know we have something special on this field and I don’t want it to go to waste.”

Rachel Masullo reaches for the loose ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Rachel Masullo reaches for the loose ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Crash
A 26-year-old man from Smithtown was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated on May 14 after police said he crashed into a vehicle while driving a 2003 Ford on Route 25 in Commack at 12:30 a.m.

Shove it off
On May 13, a 29-year-old man from Central Islip was arrested after police said he shoved an officer and then attempted to flee from police while on Oak Forest Drive and Johnson Avenue in Islandia at 11 p.m.  He was charged with second-degree harassment with physical contact and attempting to leave the scene of a crime.

Pill out
Police said a 29-year-old woman from Ronkonkoma had prescription pills in her possession without a prescription on May 13 while on Jericho Turnpike in Commack. She was arrested and charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Coke sans a license
A 53-year-old man from Smithtown was arrested on May 13 after police said he had cocaine in his possession while driving a 2015 Nissan on Motor Parkway in Brentwood with a suspended license. He was charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle.

Stuck in the weeds
A 20-year-old man from Islandia was arrested after police said he had marijuana in a plastic bag while on Oak Forest Drive and Johnson Road in Islandia just after 11 p.m. on May 13. He was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana.

Quit the Macy’s life
On May 12 a 42-year-old woman from Islip was arrested at Macy’s inside Smithhaven Mall in Lake Grove after police said she stole two bathing suits. Police also said she was banned from all Macy’s. She was charged with third-degree burglary with intent for illegal entry.

24-7 at 7-Eleven
Police said a 25-year-old man from Commack refused to leave a 7-Eleven on Motor Parkway in Brentwood at 9 p.m. on May 12. He was arrested and charged with third-degree criminal trespassing on an enclosed property.

Marijuana and pills and needles
A 29-year-old woman from Ronkonkoma was arrested on May 11 after police said she had marijuana, prescription pills and a hypodermic needle in her possession while on Lakeview Road in Ronkonkoma inside a 2000 Mercury Grand Marquis. She was charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, unlawful possession of marijuana and possession of a hypodermic instrument.

Jeep-ers
On May 11 a 51-year-old man from Lake Ronkonkoma was arrested on Central Islip Boulevard after police said he had crack cocaine in his possession while inside a 1998 Jeep, with a suspended license. He was charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Marijuana in Mini Cooper
Police said a 19-year-old man from Smithtown had marijuana on him while inside a 2007 Mini Copper on Mt. Pleasant Road in Smithtown on May 11. He was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana.

Lock your car
An unknown person stole medication from inside an unlocked 2014 Toyota parked on Walter Court in Commack on May 14.

Woes in Walmart
Police said an unknown person stole assorted men’s clothing from Walmart on Crooked Hill Road in Commack on May 14.

Shoe steal
An unknown woman stole 20 pairs of shoes and purses from Designer Shoe Warehouse on Middle County Road in Lake Grove on May 14, police said.

Pipe down
A 32-year-old man from Port Jefferson Station stole money from Eager Beaver Carwash on Nesconset Highway on April 6, according to police. He was arrested on May 12 on Halsey Street in Port Jefferson Station, where police said they discovered he had heroin and a glass crack pipe with residue. He was charged with petit larceny and two counts of seventh-degree possession of a controlled substance.

Police chase
On May 11 at about 12:30 a.m., a 52-year-old woman from Bayport driving a 2007 Mitsubishi was speeding on Route 25A near the intersection of Mount Sinai Avenue in Mount Sinai when a police officer turned on his lights, signaling for the driver to pull over, police said. The driver accelerated and swerved in a dangerous manner. She eventually pulled over in Port Jefferson Station. She was arrested and charged with third-degree fleeing an officer in a motor vehicle.

Would you like fries with that?
At McDonald’s on Route 25A in Miller Place on May 14, a 17-year-old man was seated in the driver’s seat of a 2007 Hyundai with marijuana in his possession, police said. He was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of the drug.

Police needle suspect
A 30-year-old woman from Farmingville was driving a 1999 Lexus on Teepee Road in Rocky Point near the intersection of King Road at about 2 p.m. on May 11, according to police. She was pulled over and police said they discovered she was driving without a license and had a hypodermic needle. She was arrested and charged with second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and possession of a hypodermic instrument.

I’m going to need your Christmas present back …
On Dec. 13, 2015, a 26-year-old man from Centereach and a 23-year-old woman from Bayport stole assorted jewelry from Kohl’s on Nesconset Highway in Shirley, police said. The man was arrested in Centereach and the woman was arrested in Selden, both on May 15. They were each charged with petit larceny.

Drugs on Joan
At about 7:30 p.m. on May 12, a 27-year-old man from Farmingville was seated in the driver’s seat of a 2008 Subaru on Joan Avenue in Centereach with heroin in his possession, according to police. He was arrested and charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Picked a fight with police
An 18-year-old woman from Farmingville punched and kicked a police officer near a home on Wood Road in Centereach at about 10 a.m. on May 11, police said. She was arrested and charged with second-degree assault and resisting arrest. The officer was treated for injuries at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Teen tattooing
At a home on Granny Road in Farmingville on March 20, a 34-year-old woman from Farmingville gave a 14-year-old girl a heart tattoo on the front of her neck, according to police. She was arrested on May 13 in Selden and charged with tattooing a minor.

Arsonist arrested
On May 12 at about 3:45 p.m., a 27-year-old man from Central Islip intentionally lit a house on fire on Nicoll Avenue in Central Islip, police said. He was arrested in Stony Brook and charged with second-degree arson.

Subaru ransacked
An unknown person entered a Subaru parked in the driveway of a residence on Harrison Avenue in Miller Place at about 10 p.m. on May 14, according to police. The suspect stole an FDNY shield, a Magellan GPS and a dashboard camera, police said.

Clean getaway
A vacuum was stolen from Walmart on Nesconset Highway in East Setauket at about 3:30 p.m. on May 15, according to police.

Come sail away
The glass door to a boat at The Boat Place in Port Jefferson was damaged at about 3:30 p.m. on May 14, police said.

Breakfast on car
At about 12:45 a.m. on May 13, a 2008 Mitsubishi parked outside of a home on Broadway Avenue in Port Jefferson Station was scratched and egged, according to police.

Shove it off, shove it off
A 50-year-old man from Huntington Station was arrested on May 15 after police said he shoved an officer and pushed him to the ground while at his residence on Darnley Place at 8:15 a.m. He was charged with resisting arrest and second-degree harassment.

You’re screwed
On May 15 a 34-year-old man from Brentwood was arrested after police said he stole batteries and wrenches from Home Depot on New York Avenue in Huntington. He was charged with two counts of petit larceny.

Oh no at Oakwood
Police said a 25-year-old from Huntington had prescription pills in his possession without a prescription while on Oakwood Road in Huntington at 3:30 p.m. He was charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Trouble in a Toyota
An 18-year-old man from Dix Hills was arrested on May 14 after police said he had marijuana in his possession while in a 2009 Toyota sedan parked in Dix Hills Park at 9:30 p.m. He was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana.

Not on the straight path
On May 13 a 27-year-old man from Copiague was arrested after police said he was in possession of prescription pills while on Straight Path and Sagamore Hill in Dix Hills. He was charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Pick pocketing a pickup truck
Police said a 20-year-old man from Commack stole a wallet containing credit cards from a pickup truck parked on Hauppauge Road in Commack on May 13. He was arrested and charged with fourth-degree grand larceny.

Life’s a beach
A 19-year-old man from Huntington was arrested on May 13 after police said he was in possession of marijuana while inside a 2008 Honda sedan at Centerport Beach at 6:30 p.m. He was charged with fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana.

Not quite an elite thief
On May 13 a 28-year-old man from Dix Hills was arrested after police said he pried open the front door of Elite Fabrication on New York Avenue in Huntington and proceeded to steal two desktop computers. When he was arrested on Candlewood Path in Dix Hills later that day, he was also found to be in possession of a hypodermic needle. He was charged with third-degree burglary and possession of a hypodermic instrument.

He’s stunned
Police said a 22-year-old man from Huntington Station was in possession of a Viperteck electronic stun gun while at Family Dollar in Huntington Station on May 12. He was charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of weapon.

You audi listen to the rules
On May 12, a 33-year-old from Huntington Station was driving a 2009 Audi on Nash Place in Huntington with a suspended license, police said. He was arrested and charged with second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of motor vehicle.

Car troubles
An unknown person damaged a 1998 Camry and a 2003 Isuzu parked in a residential driveway on Woods End Road in Dix Hills on May 15. Police said they slashed six tires and damaged car doors.

Right on target
Police said an unknown person stole clothing, footwear and household items from Target on West Jericho Turnpike in Commack on May 14.

Dude where’s my plates?
On May 12 an unknown person took the license plates off of a 2012 Hyundai Sonata parked in the Home Depot parking lot on New York Avenue in Huntington Station.

A man was found dead after an explosion and flames at a Long Island home on Wednesday afternoon.

Neighbors of the Minerva Lane house in Centereach called 911 after hearing that explosion and seeing the flames at the residence around 2:40 p.m., according to the Suffolk County Police Department. The Centereach Fire Department later pulled 50-year-old Timothy Oskey from the house after finding him unresponsive, lying on the floor in the basement.

Police said Oskey was pronounced dead at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Firefighters put out the blaze with help from the Ronkonkoma, Farmingville and Selden departments, police said, and detectives from the SCPD’s homicide and arson squads are investigating the incident, but do not believe Oskey’s death was criminal in nature.

Tuesday night was a good one for school boards across New York State, as residents cast their ballots overwhelmingly in favor of district budgets.

According to the New York State School Boards Association, almost all of the school districts that had adopted budgets within their state-mandated caps on how much they could increase their tax levy had their voters stand behind those budgets. For those who pierced the cap, almost 78 percent of those budgets were approved — still a much larger approval rate than in previous years for such budgets. The approval rate for cap-busting budgets last year was about 61 percent.

“School districts managed to put together spending plans that in some cases restored educational programs and services, thanks to a large infusion of state aid,” NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer said in a statement, referring to an increase in aid included in the state’s own budget that legislators recently approved. “The question is, will the state be able to sustain that commitment going forward?”

Here’s how school districts on the North Shore of Suffolk County fared:

Cold Spring Harbor
Residents approved the budget, 527 to 132, and a Proposition 2 regarding a capital reserve fund, 520 to 132. Vice President Amelia Walsh Brogan and Lizabeth Squicciarni, a member of the Citizen Faculty Association, a parent-teacher association at the CSH Junior/Senior High School, were elected to the school board with 469 and 455 votes, respectively. Lloyd Harbor resident George Schwertl fell short with 313 votes.

Commack
Commack voters approved the budget, with 1,837 to 536 votes. Hartman won with 1,703 votes while Verity received 1,167 votes to beat out challenger Hermer, who had 916.

Comsewogue
The Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association reports that the two incumbents who were running unopposed for re-election, Rob DeStefano and Francisca Alabau-Blatter, were returned to the school board with 895 and 785 votes, respectively. The district’s cap-compliant $87.2 million budget passed with more than 80 percent voter approval, with 828 votes in favor to 194 against.

Harborfields
Harborfields voters approved a cap-piercing $82.8 million budget at the polls tonight, the only one on the North Shore, 2,099 to 1,017. Incumbent Hansen Lee and Colleen Wolcott were elected to the board of education with 1,569 and 1,301 votes, respectively. Challengers Chris Kelly (1,001 votes), Marge Acosta (992 votes) and Joseph Savaglio (571 votes) fell short in their own bids.

Hauppauge
The $108 million budget passed, 1,066 to 363. A Proposition 2 regarding a capital reserve fund passed as well, 1,050 to 361. Rob Scarito, Gary Fortmeyer and David Barshay were all elected to the school board with 1,053 votes, 1,050 votes and 1,006 votes, respectively.

Huntington
According to results posted on the school district’s website, the community approved both a $123.1 million budget and a proposition to use almost $2.5 million of the district’s building improvement fund, or capital reserve, to update eight Huntington schools and make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Incumbents Bari Fehrs and Bill Dwyer were re-elected to the school board, while challenger Carmen Kasper fell short in her bid for one of the two seats.
Kasper said, “I am sorry to say I lost, but my desire to be involved with the schools and students has not been lost. There is always next time. I congratulate the two incumbents; I wish them the best.  We all work for the same cause: to improve education for our students.”
Dwyer said he looked forward to “continuing to work with the board and administration to expand our educational programs in a fiscally responsible manner.”
For her part, Fehrs noted the margin of approval: “I believe it shows a trust from the community that they are very supportive of our district and are confident in the way administration and the board of education are managing the education for the students in the district.”

Kings Park
Voters passed the budget, 1,544 to 615, and Prop 2, regarding vehicles, 1,603 to 544. Pam DeFord was re-elected with 1,629 votes, Dan Tew elected with 1,522 votes. Francis Braun and Juan Pablo Andrade fell short of their bids, with 554 and 293 votes, respectively.

Middle Country
Voters approved the budget with 1,924 votes in favor and 337 against. The elected school board trustees were Robert Feeney, Dawn Sharrock and Kristopher Oliva.

Miller Place
The community passed the budget, 1,064 to 236, and a Proposition 2 regarding the library, 1,153 to 141. Two school board trustees were elected, Johanna Testa (876 votes) and Noelle Dunlop (737 votes). Candidates Michael Unger and Michael Manspeizer fell short of board seats with 533 and 198 votes, respectively.

Mount Sinai
Residents approved the budget, 1,150 to 275.  On proposition 2, it passed with 1,266 votes in favor and 159 against. Lynn Jordan was re-elected to the school board with 726 votes, while Kerri Anderson won a seat with 733 votes.
“It shows that people have been satisfied with what I’ve been doing,” Jordan said. “It’s a true honor to serve and I love the work.”
Anderson said: “With my personal background in education and as a teacher, I’m hoping to bring some of my experience to help with Mount Sinai schools and things that we can maybe do differently to make it better.”
But Superintendent Gordon Brosdal was not as enthused: “I’m not so pleased with the turnout since we have 9,500 registered voters and annually we bring around 1,500 and we’re even a little below that. That’s a little disappointing when you have five good people running for the board.”

Northport-East Northport
Voters approved a $161 million budget (2,568 to 687 votes), a proposition on $2 million in capital improvements (2,848 to 390 votes), and a proposition reducing the amount of board members from nine to seven (1,881 to 1,294 votes). Allison Noonan (2,039 votes), Andrew Rapiejko (1,984 votes) and Lori McCue (1,560 votes) were elected to the school board while Julia Binger and Shawne Albero fell short of seats with 1,543 and 1,410 votes, respectively.

Port Jefferson
Incumbents Kathleen Brennan and Ellen Boehm ran unopposed for their third terms and were re-elected with 348 and 347 votes, respectively. Residents also approved a cap-compliant $41.4 million budget with 353 votes in favor and just 55 vote against.

Rocky Point
The school district proposed a $80.6 million budget that residents approved, 720-322, and a proposition on capital projects that was approved, 654-387. Susan Y. Sullivan was elected to the board of education with 823 votes.

Shoreham-Wading River
The school budget passed 855-545, according to results posted on the district website. Kimberly Roff and Michael Lewis were elected to the board of education with 957 and 792 votes, respectively. Richard Pluschau fell short, with 621 votes.

Smithtown
The $236 million budget passed 2,665 to 921.
Challenger Daniel Lynch defeated incumbent Theresa Knox with 2,171 votes to her 1,197, while Michael Saidens won the second available seat with 1,870 votes, compared to challengers Robert Foster (734 votes) and Robert Montana (657 votes).

Three Village
Voters approved a $198.8 million budget (2,603 to 997) and a Proposition 2 on transportation (2,154 to 1,404). Incumbent Jonathan Kornreich and Angelique Ragolia were elected with 2,401 votes and 2,379 votes, respectively. Andrea Fusco-Winslow missed her target, with just 1,314 votes.

Stony Brook University has been awarded more than $2 million in grants. TBR News Media file photo

Stony Brook University is steps ahead of the nation on its public restroom policies.

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama required all public schools to provide restroom facilities for all students, including those who identify as transgender. But at Stony Brook, plans are already in place to accommodate students of any identification, making it the first school in the SUNY system to offer up all-gender restrooms and changing rooms.

Timothy Ecklund, dean of students at SBU, said the university introduced a draft diversity plan in December in an attempt to attack persistent issues of inequality affecting society as a whole. In an interview, he said the university’s plan to address gender and inequality, specifically pertaining to the transgender community, included requiring all new and renovated buildings on campus to have all-gender restrooms included in construction plans and installing at least one all-gender restroom in each existing campus building.

“As long as we have transgender people at our university, our perspective is they’re a member of our community and we need to support them,” he said.

Ecklund said Stony Brook University has a total of 24 all-gender restrooms, including three recently reassigned restrooms in its Student Activities Center building, which have multi-stall facilities.

“When we changed our restrooms to all-gender in the Student Activities Center, the feedback from our students was overwhelmingly supportive and positive,” he said. “I spend a lot of time on campus and I see students in and out of the restrooms there without any hesitation. It’s not an issue, for our students, at least.”

As for the students’ perspective, sophomore Sydney Gaglio, president of the campus’ Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Alliance, said the all-gender restroom discussion was long overdue, as it has always been a primary concern of her group.

“We are of course super excited about the all-gender restrooms on campus and it is definitely a point of pride on our campus,” she said in an interview. “As students, there has been some concern mentioned in that when it comes to social media sites like Yik Yak, where things are anonymous, commentary on the all-gender restroom policy on campus can get extremely transphobic, hurtful and invalidating. So there is concern for student health because of social stigma but, all in all, the conversation from members of LGBTA centers on excitement and validation.”

The issue has become a hot topic across the North Shore and greater United States. Last month, Port Jefferson school board members approved a policy for how district officials should interact with and accommodate transgender students, including on the way those students are referenced in school records and what bathroom and locker room facilities they can use. Other school districts on the North Shore have also tried to make rules for transgender students in recent years, but faced backlash from the community.

“Gender-specific restrooms still exist and if you feel more comfortable in those spaces, then that is okay,” Gaglio said. “But things like going to the restroom are personal things; let people do their business in peace and you do yours in peace and everyone will be happy. Allow people to occupy the space in which they feel comfortable in.”

But the university’s support for all of its students does not stop at the label on a bathroom door, the dean said.

Ecklund said the university is home to a number of transgender students, and the school is taking strides to accommodate them and be sensitive to their preferences.

“We are working now as a university at providing the opportunity for our transgender students to change their names,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure the places at which their names are present — especially on a daily basis — they’re able to use the name they prefer or the name that they have taken.”

Legislators not letting Bellone off hook

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is searching for ways to improve the county's financial outlook. File photo by Alex Petroski

A high stakes political finger pointing battle is ramping up in Suffolk County.

Top Suffolk County officials have been left to answer for the promotion of former Chief of Police James Burke, who in February pleaded guilty to charges of a civil rights violation and conspiracy to obstruct justice, which occurred following the arrest of Smithtown man Christopher Loeb in 2012.

On Tuesday Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) held a press conference at the Suffolk County Legislature in Riverhead where he and fellow legislators, including Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) and Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), called for both County Executive Steve Bellone and District Attorney Tom Spota to resign from their positions.

On Thursday, Bellone joined the list of people including the legislators and Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco calling for Spota to resign.

“For refusing to cooperate and work with federal law enforcement to prosecute crime in this county, for refusing and blocking federal law enforcement who were working on the Gilgo Beach serial murder case, for allowing violent criminals to go free to protect political friends, for lying about Jim Burke and conspiring to conceal his past…” Bellone said Thursday afternoon on the steps of Spota’s Hauppauge office. “Tom Spota, you must resign from this office so that we can begin the process of reforming this place governmentally and politically in a way that we can ensure this doesn’t happen again. If you fail to do so, I will call on the governor to exercise his authority under the constitution to remove you from this office.”

Trotta arrived while Bellone addressed the media, and interjected that reporters were speaking with a “co-conspirator.” Trotta reiterated his stance on Thursday that Bellone is as much a part of the political corruption problem in the county as Spota for his role in promoting Burke, and standing by him despite evidence of Burke’s troubled past.

“I have never said that I have never made mistakes in my public career,” Bellone said. “I’ve made many mistakes. But they have never, ever been with ill intent and I’ve learned from my mistakes and I don’t repeat them. When I promoted Jim Burke I consulted District Attorney Tom Spota. When I fired Jim Burke I did not consult Tom Spota.”

Bellone said he promoted Burke not because of recommendations from Spota or others, but because he was a “charismatic” and “impressive” person who made a memorable presentation.

Bellone handed a letter calling for Spota’s resignation to one of his employees inside the office, and Spota later met the media to respond Thursday.

“It’s a very, very difficult day for me,” Spota said in a video of that press conference. “He has delivered to me a letter asking for my resignation. I have absolutely no reason why I should resign, or should I be removed from office.”

Spota fired back at Bellone, suggesting his motivation was a “personal vendetta” against Spota for investigating and prosecuting people Bellone was close to.

On Tuesday, Bellone responded to Trotta, Cilmi and McCaffrey’s calls for his resignation through an email from a spokeswoman.

“Rob Trotta and Tom Cilmi are partisan politicians who just don’t get it,” the statement said. “This is not a partisan issue, this is about sweeping out a culture of abuse and corruption in the district attorney’s office.  I regret that I trusted the word of the district attorney regarding Jim Burke, and I have learned from that error in judgment.”

Trotta made it clear following Bellone’s comments that the county executive should not be let off the hook.

“It was an Academy Award winning performance,” Trotta said of Bellone’s press conference. “Forty-eight hours ago we were partisan, and we were political hacks. Now all of the sudden he responds to a Newsday article, he sees what’s going on and he tries to jump in front of it. It’s ridiculously absurd…He’s a total, unadulterated liar.”

The Career Couture Boutique carries shoes, handbags, accessories and clothing for men and women embarking on job interviews. Photo from June Kirby

By Alex Petroski

They say you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. For those who are unemployed, that can be a difficult proposition. Like anything else, business wear is not getting any less expensive. In Suffolk County, residents have a valuable resource at their disposal if they’re seeking a job but don’t have the means to buy a suit, dress or other professional attire.

Two years ago, led by County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and the Department of Labor, the Career Couture Boutique was born. Located in the One-Stop Employment Center at the William J. Lindsay County Complex in Hauppauge, the boutique is full of donated, lightly worn business attire for both men and women.

A fairy godmother at the helm
June Kirby, a 20-year county employee, was hand picked to run the boutique two years ago. She said it was just an empty room back then, but after building shelves and stocking the donated items, the boutique now resembles an upscale shopping experience.

Clients re-entering the workforce are given a complete makeover at the Career Couture Boutique. Photo from June Kirby
Clients re-entering the workforce are given a complete makeover at the Career Couture Boutique. Photo from June Kirby

Kirby estimated she has fitted somewhere in the neighborhood of 900 people in the boutique’s two-year existence, and though there isn’t an official notification process when customers of the boutique find jobs, she said about 50 percent have gotten back to her with news they’ve been hired.

“It’s very rewarding,” Kirby said in a phone interview last Tuesday. “You see the difference of a person’s self-esteem. They finally are getting the interviews. This is basically the last step before they go on to the interviews.”

From the kindness of others
The boutique gets customers based on referrals from veterans shelters, family service organizations, other nonprofits and walk-ins. Everything is donated to the boutique, and, when job-seekers are fitted, they are given the clothing, free of charge and without the need to return it.

Clients re-entering the workforce are given a complete makeover at the Career Couture Boutique. Photo from June Kirby
Clients re-entering the workforce are given a complete makeover at the Career Couture Boutique. Photo from June Kirby

Sport Clips, Long Island Beauty School and other local salons donate coupons for haircuts and manicures to complete the job interview preparation process. Most of the items come from dry cleaners and private donors.

“I receive a lot of donations,” Kirby said. “It’s in the thousands. Whatever I do not utilize, I donate.”

Nonprofit organization EAC Network, whose mission is to empower, assist and care for people in need, partnered with the boutique to assist in donation collections. Kirby said the organization has been a valuable resource to keep the boutique running smoothly.

The One-Stop Employment Center also offers residents assistance with resumes, job searches, practice questions with mock interviews and more.

“We are proud to be able to add this service to what we offer those residents looking for work or new careers,” Bellone said in a press release when the boutique opened in 2014.

Noted Kirby, “To me it’s very important that people look their best because when they look their best, they feel their best.”

The Career Couture Boutique, located in the One-Stop Employment Center at 725 Veterans Memorial Highway, Hauppauge, is open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information or to make a donation, call 631-853-6769.

 

Library Job Fair
Port Jefferson Free Library, 100 Thompson St., Port Jefferson, will host a Job Fair on Tuesday, May 17, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Meet representatives from over 35 companies including Comfort Keepers, East West Industries, Express Employment Pros, Home Depot, Little Flower, Pier One Imports, Sears, U.S. Postal Service, Verizon Wireless, Bob’s Discount Furniture and Coldwell Banker. Bring copies of your resume and dress to impress! Free and open to all. Call 631-473-0022 for more information.

Healthcare Job Fair
On Thursday, May 19, the One-Stop Employment Center, 725 Veterans Memorial Highway, Hauppauge, will host its fourth annual Healthcare Job Fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Recruiters from health care companies will be in attendance including The Arbors Assisted Living, Gurwin Homecare, Access Healthcare Staffing, Blessed Healthcare Staffing Agency, Sunrise Laboratories, The Bristal Assisted Living, CVS and US Medical Staffing. No registration required. Questions? Call 631-853-6600.

Policeman punched
At a home on Cedarhurst Avenue in Selden at about 5:30 p.m. on May 6, a 35-year-old man jumped on top of a police officer and punched him repeatedly in the head, according to police. He was arrested and charged with second-degree harassment. The officer did not require medical attention.

The sock drawer is not a bank
Money was taken from the bedroom of a home on Remington Avenue in Selden at about 1 p.m. on May 7, police said.

Screwed
A 28-year-old man from Port Jefferson Station struck another man in the head with a screw gun at about 3 p.m. on May 7 on Mark Street in Port Jefferson Station, according to police. He was arrested and charged with assault with intent to cause physical injury with a weapon. The victim was treated for minor injuries at a local hospital.

Heroin bust
At about 8 p.m. on May 6, at the corner of Rosemary Lane and Powers Avenue in Centereach, a 38-year-old man from Coram in the passenger seat of a 2003 Hyundai was found to have heroin on him, according to police. He was arrested and charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Gas fraud
A 36-year-old man from Holtsville driving a 2006 Chevrolet stopped at a Gulf gas station on the South Service Road of the Long Island Expressway in Holbrook at about 5:30 p.m. on May 8, police said. He pumped gas into the car, and then charged the amount to someone else’s account. He was arrested in Selden and charged with petit larceny.

Unlicensed hit-and-run
On May 6, a 35-year-old man from East Northport was driving a 2005 Saturn on Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station when he collided with a 2010 Nissan, police said. The man fled the scene without exchanging information with the driver of the Nissan. He was arrested in Selden, where police also found he was driving with a suspended license. He was charged with leaving the scene of an incident with property damage and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

… and again
A 53-year-old man from Coram driving a 2008 Dodge on Mount Sinai-Coram Road in Coram on April 9 collided with a 1995 Honda and left the scene without exchanging information, police said. He was arrested on May 5 in Selden and charged with leaving the scene of an accident with property damage and third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle for driving with a suspended license.

Jewel thief thwarted
At a home on Locust Avenue in Coram on April 26, a 28-year-old man entered through a basement window and stole jewelry, police said. He was arrested on May 4 in Selden and charged with second-degree burglary.

Do-it-yourselfer unsuccessful
At about 2:30 p.m. on May 8, a woman attempted to steal a faucet from The Home Depot on Independence Place in Selden, according to police.

Purse pinched
A pocketbook was stolen from the concession stand at North Country Road Middle School in Miller Place at about 2 p.m. on May 7, according to police.

Stay home and watch Netflix
A 2008 Toyota in the parking lot of AMC Loews Stony Brook 17 movie theater had the driver’s side window broken at about 7 p.m. on May 7, police said. A purse containing cash and a backpack were stolen from the car.

Pool equipment missing
On Aug. 30, 2015, an unknown person stole pool equipment, including hoses, a pump and a filter, from a shed at a home on Chereb Court in East Setauket, according to police. The report was filed on May 6.

Cookout
Two men entered Lowe’s Home Improvement in Stony Brook at about 3 p.m. on May 4, placed a barbecue on a cart and exited without paying, police said.

No pain (pill prescription), no gain
On the corner of Huron Street and Roe Avenue in Port Jefferson Station at about 2:30 p.m. on May 4, a 24-year-old man from Port Jefferson driving a 1995 Toyota was found to have Suboxone pain medication without a prescription, police said. He was arrested and charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Vehicle ransacked
An unknown person entered a 2014 Ford parked at a home on Shelbourne Lane in Stony Brook on May 4 and stole a GPS, binoculars, a camera and change, according to police.

Someone’s being a pill
A 24-year-old woman from Ronkonkoma was arrested on May 8 just before midnight after police said she was in possession of prescription pills without a prescription while on Autumn Drive in Smithtown. She was charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Receipt deception
A 22-year-old man from Kings Park was arrested on May 7 after police said he took cash in exchange for receipts that were not his from a Rite Aid Pharmacy on Indian Head Road in Kings Park, between April 17 and May 7. He was charged with petit larceny.

Razor sharp
Police said a 38-year-old man from Holtsville stole razor cartridges, a black T-shirt and Neutrogena gel from Walmart in Islandia on May 7. He was arrested and charged with petit larceny.

Morning cup
A 49-year-old man from West Sayville was arrested on May 6 on Route 25 after police said he was in possession of marijuana at 9:15 a.m. He was charged with fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana.

Expensive taste
A 59-year-old man from Coram was arrested on May 6 after police said he stole more than $1,000 worth of merchandise from T.J.Maxx on Veterans Memorial Highway in Islandia and more than $300 worth of items from Macy’s in Smithaven Mall in Lake Grove. He was charged with fourth-degree grand larceny.

Can’t pretend it didn’t happen
On May 6 a 16-year-old from Smithtown was arrested for crashing a 2011 Dodge Avenger into a 2001 Lexus parked on East Main Street in Smithtown on April 30. He was charged with leaving the scene with property damage.

No script for that
Police said a 44-year-old man from Mastic Beach was in possession of prescription pills without a prescription on May 5 at a residence on Johnson Avenue in Bohemia. He was arrested and charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Our house
A 23-year-old woman from Brentwood was arrested on May 5 at the 4th Precinct after police said she entered a residence on Wysocki Court in Nesconset without permission on April 11 just after noon. She was charged with second-degree criminal trespassing.

Phone home
On May 4 a 60-year-old man from Lake Ronkonkoma was arrested after police said he stole a black iPhone 6 Plus from inside a Rite Aid in Lake Ronkonkoma. He was charged with petit larceny.

Case of missing identity
A 38-year-old female from Brentwood was arrested on May 4 after police said she stole clothing from Kohl’s on Crooked Hill Road in Commack and then gave someone else’s identification while being processed at the 4th Precinct. She was charged with petit larceny and false impersonation.

Snowberry fields forever
On May 6 a 33-year-old woman from Islandia was arrested after police said she had cocaine in her possession while on Snowberry Lane in Islandia. She was charged with third-degree intent to sell narcotics or drugs.
Police said a 34-year-old man from Islandia was driving a 2012 Infiniti on Old Nichols Road in Islandia on May 6 when he hit a parked 2008 Chevy and then left the scene. He was later arrested on Snowberry Lane and charged with third-degree intent to sell narcotics or drugs and first-degree leaving an accident involving injury.

Despite the threat of rain, the Farmingville Historical Society hosted a Civil War Encampment at the site of the 1823 Terry House and 1850 Bald Hill School House on Horseblock Road in Farmingville on Saturday.

The community was able to travel back in time to the 1860s to experience the daily lives of Civil War soldiers with members of the 88th New York State Volunteers and The 9th Virginia Infantry Company C. The Union and Confederate soldiers conducted military drills, fired muskets, demonstrated how soldier’s meals were prepared on an open fire and conducted a mock battle at Farmingville Hills County Park.

In addition, the one-room school house was in session, led by schoolmarm Susan Gill, who regaled the children with stories from the days of Laura Ingalls and life in the 1800s and answered questions.

If you would like more information on the Farmingville Historical Society and its programs, visit www.farmingvillehistoricalsociety.org.