Times of Smithtown

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In this year’s Village of Head of the Harbor March 21 election, trustees Jeffrey Fischer and Daniel White were challenged by Lisa Davidson.

Davidson decided to run after joining with fellow residents to oppose a proposed dock that would have been constructed by Cordwood Park. 

Fischer and White retained their seats with 186 and 164 votes, respectively. Davidson garnered 141 votes.

In her concession statement, Davidson said she will continue to be involved in the village.

“I will remain a vigilant observer and citizen doing everything I can to protect Head of the Harbor from the looming onslaught of development and a board of trustees and mayor who too often misconstrue the easy way out with the right way forward.”

METRO photo

For more than 35 years, March has been set aside to honor American women who have made their mark on history.

Over this time, Women’s History Month has evolved into a period to reflect on women’s roles in the country and the steps made to further equality, an effort that is still unfinished. While there’s no denying that women have come a long way over the decades, more work must be done.

Unfortunately, in this 21st century, countless women don’t earn the same as their male counterparts, who do the same exact job as they do. Sometimes, women even find themselves in work situations where they make less than men who don’t have as much experience or education as they do.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 1979 women who were full-time, salary workers had earnings that were 62% of men. In 2020, the gap closed somewhat but not completely, with women on average making 82% of what men make in similar jobs. Females of color make even less.

Women are underpaid in many fields, including the media. A 2021 study researching the newsrooms of 14 Gannett-owned newspapers found women earned up to $27,000 less annually than men, according to the labor union NewsGuild. That equates to 63% of the median salary of males in the same roles.

The days of women working only to earn some spending money are long gone. Today, society doesn’t limit women to feeling as if they can only choose to be a secretary, teacher or nurse. Girls can grow up to be whatever they aim to be and, just like men, females have college loans that must be paid for and carry the burden of household expenses. In an era where two incomes are often needed to own a home, and there are single mothers and women looking to build a future of their own, paying women only 82% of what men make is inexcusable.

Females deserve the same respect as males in every aspect, yet they are still fighting on every level. Another distressing example of what females experience comes from a survey conducted by the Seattle University Department of Communication and Media which reported 79% of 115 women journalists surveyed feared online abuse. Such harassment could put a female reporter in a position where she may fear covering certain kinds of stories. Preying on women journalists to prevent them from properly doing their job is unconscionable.

Women have the right to choose whatever career path they desire. When they land their dream job, they deserve to be paid the same as their male counterparts and to be treated with respect.

Women’s History Month reminds us that the fight for equality is universal. Men require strong women, and vice versa. Today’s females stand on the shoulders of the women and men who have fought for their equality. 

Let us continue their work. Let us envision a world that will be better for the girls who follow in our footsteps.

Do you recognize this woman? Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County Police Fourth Precinct Crime Section officers are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate the woman who allegedly stole from an Islandia store in March.

A woman allegedly stole a pair of shoes from Famous Footwear, located at 1770 Veterans Memorial Highway, on March 2 at approximately 2:45 p.m.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS, utilizing a mobile app which can be downloaded through the App Store or Google Play by searching P3 Tips, or online at www.P3Tips.com. All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.

By Carolyn Sackstein

Tipping for home delivery of food has been debated in the media lately, with a viral video of a delivery driver taking an order back because she felt an $8 tip was inadequate for transporting the food from Commack to Smithtown. 

The internet is full of videos instructing drivers on techniques for working with DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub apps to maximize pay and improve service. It is also filled with complaints of drivers being stiffed by non-tipping customers and undertipping. Drivers also decry the practice of “tip-baiting,” in which a good tip is promised with pre-tipping and then is adjusted down after delivery.

On Friday, March 10, TBR News Media asked people on the street in downtown Port Jefferson to discuss their tipping practices. The following are their responses.



Elizabeth Garland, Port Jefferson

Garland rarely gets food delivery, but said she tips “20% like I would in a restaurant, maybe a little more. If it was a bad weather day, maybe a bit more.”






Gloria Neumair, Patchogue

“For food delivery, I don’t tip as much as I would in a restaurant, but I still tip.” When asked what she bases her tips on, she responded, “I guess the distance they had to come, the total of the order, but I don’t generally do a percent.”






Alexa Noriega, Patchogue

“I think the amount should be based on factors like the weather, how much they are getting for you and whether they provided any extra customer service during the shopping process. I do think they should be tipped on top of their pay.”






Jesse Guerra, St. James

“I usually do 20%. I consider it a generous tip, depending on where I go.” When asked if a fee should be built into a person’s salary, he responded, “I don’t think it should be built into a person’s salary. There are better workers than others. I don’t like when they put [the tips] into one big bucket and spread it out because the less good workers are getting a share of the better workers.”





Nick Lemza, Smithtown

“I actually work for DoorDash and Uber Eats. I always tip 20-to-25%.” He went on to discuss the criteria on which he bases his tipping. These factors include “how quickly the food gets to you, if the food is in proper care, what the ratings are on each profile and just if the food is good. I tip even if the food is bad — 18-to-20% because this is someone’s living.”

An assortment of cannabis products resembling household children's foods and snacks. Photo courtesy the Town of Brookhaven Drug Prevention Coalition

Public officials and drug prevention advocates are sounding the alarm over cannabis products packaged for children.

During a recent Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association meeting, civic vice president Sal Pitti circulated a flier revealing various cannabis products resembling commonplace children’s foods and household snacks. 

Pitti, who is also active with the Town of Brookhaven’s Drug Prevention Coalition, suggested these products are branded for children and attributes the problem to false advertising.

“We all grew up with Trix and Cocoa Pebbles when we were kids,” he said. “It’s a branding that people know, they recognize and might more easily purchase.”

‘This is going to open up a door to our youth that’s going to hurt them. This is just a bomb that’s waiting to go off.’

—Sal Pitti

Pitti detailed several potential dangers associated with tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana commonly known as THC, getting into the hands of young people. He said processed edible cannabis often has exponentially higher THC concentrations, which can get kids hooked on the substance more efficiently and create a gateway to harder drugs.

Recent statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse substantiate this claim. Samples analyzed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency since 1995 indicate that today’s cannabis products are nearly four times as potent as those collected in that year.

“They’ve sophisticated this technique to great extents,” Pitti said. “Now they’re making gummies, candies, granola bars, honeys and spreads out of this stuff. But the problem is, in processing all of this, that THC level has gone up dramatically.”

Pitti said packaging highly potent THC products to children signals potentially severe societal harm. “This is going to open up a door to our youth that’s going to hurt them,” he said. “This is just a bomb that’s waiting to go off.”

A crisis for children

Pitti is not alone in these concerns. Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) has introduced legislation targeting the practice. 

Her bill cites the risks associated with underage THC consumption, such as impaired memory and coordination, and the potential for hallucinations and paranoia among minors. 

In an interview, Hahn suggested marketing cannabis in a manner that makes it desirable to children represents a public safety hazard.

“If it’s intentionally designed to look like candy, the purpose is to confuse the consumer,” she said, adding, “If an adult purchases marijuana gummies that are packaged similarly to candy-type gummies and a young child gets their hands on it and eats it unknowingly, that’s a very dangerous situation for the child.”

Hahn’s bill would require packaging of THC products to be plain, containing clear warning labels and prohibiting the words “candy” or “candies.” She noted that the measure’s goal is to make THC products less enticing to kids.

“The packaging of the products is incredibly important,” the county legislator said, stating the bill would prevent merchants from “mimicking candy wrappers, having logos that are like cartoons or characters or having flavors that are attractive to children.”

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), chair of the county’s Addiction Prevention and Support Advisory Panel, has signed on as a co-sponsor to Hahn’s bill. She referred to child-friendly THC packaging as a harmful way for cannabis sellers to market their products.

“These cannabis folks see this as a marketing strategy,” she said. “It’s creating a problem, we know for a fact, and we’re trying to address that.”

State oversight

Marijuana was legalized in New York state in 2021 under the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act. The New York State Office of Cannabis Management is the regulatory arm overseeing the licensure, production, sale and taxation of cannabis throughout the state. In an email statement, the office confirmed the uptick in packaging branded for children.

“We have seen illicit sellers marketing products clearly imitating candies and snacks that target children,” said Lyla Hunt, OCM’s deputy director of public health and campaigns. “New York State would never allow those products to be sold in licensed cannabis dispensaries. Our enforcement teams are working every day to shut those sellers down.”

Further compounding the issue, Hunt added that illicit dealers often do not follow the same protocols as their licensed counterparts. “We also have heard reports unlicensed storefronts are not checking ID when selling illicit cannabis products, heightening the importance of shuttering these operators before they can do more harm,” she said.

According to her, OCM has worked to curtail the issue through stringent guidelines, putting forth regulations regarding packaging, labeling and marketing to mitigate this technique. 

“We at New York State’s Office of Cannabis Management are committed to building a safe, regulated cannabis industry for consumers ages 21 and over that also protects those under 21,” the deputy director said.

OCM’s regulations concerning packaging echo several of the items raised in Hahn’s bill, restricting words such as “candy” and “candies” while mandating that packages be resealable, child-resistant and tamper evident. The guidelines also limit the use of cartoons, bubble-type fonts and bright colors on the packaging.

Despite OCM’s approach, Anker said the work of local and state government remains unfinished. “More must be done,” the county legislator said. She added, “This product is legally new to the market, and you need to be aware and do your part as a parent and as a teacher … to protect the kids.”

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Current Head of the Harbor trustees Jeffrey Fischer and Daniel White are running for reelection March 21, and newcomer Lisa Davidson is challenging them for one of the seats.

Lisa Davidson

A village resident for more than two years, Davidson has been a representative on the village’s Joint Village Coastal Management Commission, a Suffolk County polling inspector and a volunteer with Island Harvest food bank.

An alum of UCLA, her professional career includes working as a business reporter with the Los Angeles Times and a field producer with Fox News. She has also worked for the National Geographic Society. Currently she is a consultant for those looking to produce their own television projects.

Last year, Davidson and her neighbors fought the proposed construction of a 186-foot private dock on Swan Place in Nissequogue, which, if approved, would have been right next to Cordwood Park and Head of the Harbor.

In a January 2023 The Times of Smithtown Article, “Head of the Harbor resident’s love for village inspires trustee run,” the trustee-hopeful explained her run all comes down to preserving the rustic charm of Head of the Harbor.

“It’s human nature when you’re exposed to something of beauty, you take it for granted instead of realizing, ‘Wow, this is so special,’” she said.

In the article, Davidson said she would work on better budgeting and transparency in the village.

In a recent email, she said while canvassing the village, residents told her they are concerned about possible developments on the Gyrodyne property located on Route 25A, the former Bull Run Farm on Moriches Road and proposed construction on the Timothy House property on Route 25A. She has found that constituents are “united in their opposition.”

“Residents want Head of the Harbor to remain rural,” she said. “Pushing back against all the special exemptions and variances — needed for proposed developments — will be my top priority when I’m elected.”

She added, “We have codes in place now to block all of these threats,” she said. “What we need is the spine to enforce them. Doing the right thing is not necessarily the easy thing. In fact, it is usually the hard thing. Always taking the easy way out is not governing at all. The path of least resistance is not something that interests me.”

Jeffrey Fischer

Fischer has lived in St. James for nearly 30 years. He is the president and CEO of Atlantic Business Systems, an IT company in Hauppauge that he started 35 years ago. During the past six terms as trustee, he served on the finance board and is responsible for maintaining and balancing the budget.

He has also served on the zoning board of appeals, and for 10 of those 17 years he was chairman of the board.

Fischer was not available to answer questions about this year’s run before press time for this article.

Daniel White

For more than 37 years, White has been a licensed attorney, and he currently has been working as an adjuster on crime claims with a Melville-based insurance company. He said while school and work at times have taken him away from the village, he has considered Head of the Harbor his home since 1964 when his family moved from Smithtown proper.

His past law experience includes serving as assistant district attorney in Kings County. He is also on the executive committee of Preservation Long Island, where he has been involved with the nonprofit dedicated to preserving Long Island’s diverse cultural and architectural heritage for more than 15 years.

White said since he was first elected 10 years ago, the trustees and mayor have worked well together and have accomplished a good deal. Among their accomplishments, he listed sound village finances, minimal tax increases, a good relationship with the St. James Fire District and exemplary service from the police department.

“It’s not an echo chamber,” he said. “It’s not a place where people sit in a room and agree with each other. We figure it out — of the different ways to solve the problem, how do you solve the problem?”

He said everyone’s experience has helped the trustees take on various challenges. White gave the example of Fischer’s financial background helping to keep a balanced budget and keeping taxes under the cap.

As for White, even though he doesn’t practice law for the village, he feels his legal experience has been an asset during his tenure as trustee and current deputy mayor.

“I used what I have learned in 37 years of practicing law to look at problems dispassionately, try to find a solution, try to find the best or least-worst solution.”

Two environmental-related projects concerning Stony Brook Harbor are on the forefront of his mind. He said both projects involve multiple agencies and levels of government.

One is to replace the culvert near the intersection of Harbor Road and Harbor Hill Road. He said the replacement will help to promote the flow of freshwater and to prevent phragmite buildup.

“It would be an important part of restoring the ecological balance to that part of the harbor,” he said.

Another initiative underway is the Cordwood Beach runoff project. He said there are a couple of proposals and the project is at a point where public hearings need to be held, and stakeholders given the opportunity to provide their input.

White compared the village to a salad bowl regarding water runoff, and he said the hope is to keep water from running down the roads out into the harbor.

“Cordwood Path is a pretty classic example because the drop is pretty significant in a very short distance,” he said, adding finding a solution will require innovative thinking.

Election Day

Residents of the Village of Head of the Harbor can vote Tuesday, March 21, between noon and 9 p.m. at Village Hall located at 500 North Country Road.

From left, Dr. Eric Cioe Peña, Dr. Anas Sawas, Abit Soylu, Amen Alhadi, Dr. Onat Akin, the Consul General of the Republic of Turkey Reyhan Ozgur, Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling, and Dr. Banu Aygun stand next to medical supplies earmarked for Turkey and Syria. Photo courtesy of Northwell Health

Standing with medical providers of Turkish and Syrian descent, Michael J. Dowling, Northwell Health’s president and CEO, announced on March 3 that the health system is sending 22 pallets of needed medical and disaster relief supplies to the devastated regions after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on February 6 that claimed more than 48,000 lives and left millions displaced.

With Reyhan Ozgur, Consul General of the Republic of Turkey, on hand at Northwell’s Integrated Distribution Center in Bethpage, this announcement comes a day shy of the one-year anniversary of Northwell sending humanitarian relief supplies in support of health providers in Ukraine at the start of a war waged by Russian forces. 

“We’re all part of one global family,” said Dowling. “And when there’s one part of the family in severe distress, we as a health care organization have to be concerned about people in other parts of the world.”

As with Ukraine relief, Northwell is working with longstanding partner Medshare to transport supplies from New York into the affected regions. In addition, Northwell’s Center for Global Health (CGH) is networking with local leaders on the ground to fund relief efforts where they’ll make the greatest impact.

“We are gathering specialized supplies that are difficult to procure locally, things like dialysis kits, trauma supplies that are now already strained in Europe because of the war in Ukraine,” said Eric Cioe Peña, MD, director of the CGH, who’s helping spearhead these efforts.

After the shock

Disaster relief efforts in Turkey and Syria have been continually plagued by high-magnitude aftershocks in already devastated areas, with the most recent 5.6 magnitude on Feb. 27, compounding the crisis.

Northwell has once again aligned with international relief partners, such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) — more commonly known in the U.S. as Doctors Without Borders — to provide direct medical care to survivors and people in need of basic care. The Northwell Health Turkey-Syria relief fund was also created to bring direct equitable financial support to the disaster areas.

This was welcomed news to Abit Soylu, a paramedic with Northwell’s Center for Emergency Medical Services, whose family lives in Turkey. Soylu lost his cousin and her son when their home collapsed in the initial quake.

“It’s hard for me because I’m not there and I’m heartbroken here not being able to help them,” he said. “It took five days for them to find them in the rubble.”

Mr. Soylu was joined by Amen Alhadi, a flight paramedic with Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) who has family in Syria and Anas Sawas, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson, who spoke about the limited humanitarian access into Syria from the civil war, now strained by the earthquake.

Also at the event were Onat Akin, MD, a Northwell pathologist with family in Turkey, and Banu Aygun MD, a pediatric oncologist at Cohen Children’s Medical Center. The two discussed the medical risks children face in that region due to the lack of access to care and clean water. Scabies and cholera can spread quickly and other illness from lack of vaccinations.

“Aside from losing their homes, their schools, their friends, some of them are unfortunately orphans,” Dr. Aygun said. “The physical scars are very big, but the psychological scars are much deeper.”

“We’re a culturally dynamic health system,” Dr. Cioe Peña said. “Like in Ukraine, working with MSF and our teammates that hail from these regions will help us build sustainable relationships to get materials and funds to the right place and care for more people.” 

Disaster 24/7 on-call: 

In the weeks that followed the invasion of Ukraine, Northwell Health deployed its integrated telehealth service to provide 24/7 assistance to health care providers to consult and offer guidance on civilian and military patient care. The program has provided more than 350 consults to clinicians caring for patients of blast injury and gunfire, to women with perinatal care needs and patients awaiting organ transplant.

Northwell looks to deploy this same strategy in Turkey and Syria and offer 24/7 access to complement medical care there. “When we launched this program, we quickly realized that using this as a peer-to-peer platform offered the most benefit and impact to the medical community in Ukraine,” said Dr. Cioe Peña.

“We have an obligation and responsibility. It’s part of the culture of Northwell: Any time anyone is in trouble — whether it’s domestic or overseas — we do our best to help,” added Dowling. “If we have the ability and the resources to help — and we obviously have the will — then we should help. That’s why we’re in the health care business. … It’s something we’ve always done, it’s something we always do.”

To donate and support the Northwell Health CGH Turkey/Relief fund visit: https://support.northwell.edu/center-for-global-health

Temperatures were low but spirits were high at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in St. James on Saturday, March 11.

Residents from across both shores headed to Lake Avenue this weekend to eat, drink and be merry. The hamlet’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade featured floats, the local Irish step dance team, kids from the Smithtown Bulldogs youth football league and leprechauns galore.

Kicking off the parade was Grand Marshal Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R), as he sported a bright green hat leading other elected officials, including Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), right center, and State Sen. Mario Mattera (R-Saint James), below right.

While many parade participants were Smithtown-based, the event also welcomed fire departments from Northport, Stony Brook and Babylon.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Generally, we don’t need distractions. We’re distracted enough, what with our electronic devices allowing us to check the weather in Albany during a storm, the latest trends on social media, the minute-to-minute value of our investments, and the world of sports news and scores.

And yet, there are those times when we desperately need a distraction. Our boss, for example, might ask about a project for which we’ve done almost no work and that we promised to work on last week, but that we didn’t get to because we were, well, distracted by other things.

Everyone likely has their own bag of go-to distractions that they turn to in moments when they need to deflect or distract someone just long enough for a meeting to end, a temper tantrum to subside, or an anxiety to abate.

I often start with almost factual information. By getting a sensational and exciting story almost correct, I trigger people to check their own phones to see if they can prove me wrong about some detail that isn’t as important as recognizing some bigger problem, like not getting an assignment done.

This phone check also tends to pull people’s minds into their electronic devices, where they might see text messages that need attention, a picture of their dog that reminds them of an upcoming trip to the vet, or some other big news that will divert their attention away from my almost factual statement and whatever other subject I’m trying to avoid.

Then, there’s always passion. I’m a generally level-headed person who stays calm, even when discussing subjects that are near and dear to me. Dialing up the passion, like changing the decibel level in a soft song with a message, can be distracting and effective. “I can’t believe the spectacular sportsmanship that women’s softball team displayed when they carried the player from the other team around the infield so she could touch all the bases after she fell. I’m so inspired.”

That, of course, also encourages people to dive back into their phones. Most of the time, that is effective unless the phone reminds them of whatever I’m trying to avoid, in which case, I turn to other methods.

Reverently appreciating silence is also an effective method. It’s the slow-down-so-we-can-think moment. Staring off into the distance, putting up a finger as if I’m coming up with some great idea, and then thanking that person for giving me that time can often alter the trajectory of a meeting.

Once the silence ends, I slowly offer an awed appreciation for the value of time and space, an admiration for nature, or anything else that suggests a depth that counterbalances my ineffective presentation.

Poignant anecdotes or even effective and dramatic metaphors, if given the opportunity to share them, can also suggest that I’m capable of deep thoughts, even if I haven’t had any related to the incomplete assignment.

Then, of course, there’s the Socratic method. Someone asks me something about an assignment, and I lean into it, asking a wide range of questions about the assignment, its direction, our target audience, and opportunities to build on it.

The answers to those questions sometimes reveal more about the expectations.

I never pretend to have a stomachache. I know people do that, but I get stomachaches often enough that I wouldn’t even pretend to have one, lest my system decided to oblige me and turn my charade into an afternoon of discomfort.

In a pinch, I metaphorically beat up on myself, suggesting how I could have done better on this and that I am disappointed in the pace at which I’m completing this project. It’s hard to beat up on someone who has already accepted responsibility and is eager to make amends.

Daylight Saving Time. METRO photo

Get ready to lose an hour of sleep, but gain an extra hour of daylight! Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 12. That’s when you’ll move your clocks forward by one hour and “spring forward.” The event is also a good time to change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Daylight Saving Time ends on Nov. 5 this year.