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With the solar eclipse happening today, we must emphasize the critical importance of viewing it safely.

Do NOT look directly at the sun for any length of time. Staring directly at the sun, even during an eclipse, can cause irreparable damage or blindness. Please protect yourselves, your children and your pets. Don’t turn this remarkable celestial day into a moment that will threaten the future vision of anyone in your household.

Use approved solar viewing glasses. Only use specialized solar viewing glasses that meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard. Regular sunglasses do not offer adequate protection and can make it easier to look into the sun, although not any safer.

Consider using pinhole projectors or other indirect viewing methods to observe the eclipse safely without staring directly up at the harmful rays that can cause solar retinopathy. These methods project an image of the sun onto a surface below you and not in the sky, allowing you to view the passing of the moon in front of the sun without risking eye damage.

Supervise pets during the eclipse to ensure they do not look directly at the sun. Keeping pets indoors helps prevent them from looking up to see what’s happening.

Be cautious of counterfeit solar viewing glasses. Purchase them from reputable sources only to ensure they meet safety standards.

The eclipse will have varying durations depending on your location. Refer to reliable sources for the precise timing in your area.

Your safety is of utmost importance. Let’s make this celestial event a memorable and safe experience for all!

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Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad Detectives are investigating an incident during which a man was
found dead inside his vehicle after it was located in the water in Stony Brook on Sept. 1.

Sixth Precinct police officers responded to a 911 call of a vehicle in the water off Stony Brook Fishing Dock, located on Shore Road, at approximately 10:15 p.m. The vehicle, a 2005 Lexus, was pulled from the water, and the body of a 30-year-old Setauket man was found inside. The man was pronounced dead at the scene.

Detectives are asking anyone with information to call the Homicide Squad at 631-852-6392.

Stony Brook Medicine’s new facility at Smith Haven Mall. Photo by Aidan Johnson
By Aidan Johnson

When a person plans a trip to the mall, they may imagine buying new clothes, browsing storefronts and eating at the food court. Now they can add a trip to the doctor’s office to their list.

Stony Brook Medicine has opened a new advanced specialty care facility at the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove. The approximately 170,000-square-foot space, previously occupied by Sears, is now host to a plethora of specialties, offering a “one-stop shop” to patients.

Sharon Meinster, the assistant vice president of facilities planning and design, and Dr. Todd Griffin, vice president for clinical services and vice dean for clinical affairs at Stony Brook Medicine, explained how the new facility would be more accessible for patients than the offices at Technology Drive in Setauket.

The facility will open in multiple phases, likely to be completed by 2027. As their leases end at Technology Drive, the other practices will gradually make their way to Lake Grove. 

“What’s great here is that there’s much better public transportation to the mall,” Griffin said. “That was one of the things that we used to hate about tech parks because many of our patients were taking two or three buses to get there.”

The closest bus stop to Technology Drive is at Belle Meade Road, and if the practice was located farther down the park, it could be difficult for a patient to get there, especially in inclement weather such as heat waves or snowstorms.

There will also be an urgent care complex built in the automotive center at the Smith Haven Mall, which will have direct ambulance support to Stony Brook University Hospital.

Since the new location connects to the rest of the mall, the idea of a buzzer system, similar to those found in restaurants, was considered, allowing patients to walk around the mall while they wait, though Griffin does hope to cut down the wait times.

The phase one services, which are currently open and occupy 60,000 out of the 170,000 square feet, include family and preventive medicine, primary and specialty care, pediatrics, diabetes education, genetic counseling, neurology, neuropsychology and pain management.

The facility will help to foster collaboration between the different doctors since they will all be under one roof.

“It’s nice to have sort of the neuro institute people together,” Griffin said, adding, “You have the surgeons and the docs all in the same space, which helps with collaboration.”

“Right now, they’re in two different locations. So when they move here, they’ll be all together,” he added, “and it’s the same thing with our comprehensive pain center.”

Stony Brook Medicine will also continue to build its Commack location, which has been open since 2017. That building sits at around 350,000 square feet and houses around 38 specialties. They aim to open a surgical center as well as an advanced urgent care center by early 2025.

Despite not having many windows, the Lake Grove facility’s lighting and paint job help to create a more welcoming atmosphere. With much more to come from the Stony Brook care facility, it is already offering a fast and easy way for locals to see their doctor and then grab a pretzel on the way out.

Trustee Lauren Sheprow, left, and Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden. Photo by Raymond Janis

The Village of Port Jefferson is nearing a crossroads.

Residents will enter the polls this Tuesday, June 20, to decide on a successor to Mayor Margot Garant. After 14 years leading the administration, the incumbent is stepping down to head the Democratic ticket for Town of Brookhaven supervisor against Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville).

Garant’s seat is being contested by Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden and trustee Lauren Sheprow. In an exclusive office debate spanning nearly two and a half hours, the mayoral candidates pitched their respective visions to the voters.

Introductions

Defeated by just four votes in her first bid for trustee in 2018, Snaden won election to the board the following year and has since secured several liaison posts before taking over as deputy mayor in 2021.

She said she first ran for office “to be the voice” of the people, bringing their wishes to Village Hall and putting their priorities into action. 

“I am ready to run for mayor because I want to use all of that institutional knowledge, all of my experience, to do even more for the community,” she said.

Sheprow entered the board 10 months ago, unseating former trustee Bruce Miller during last year’s village election. She has since helped establish multiple advisory committees while serving as commissioner of communications, among other liaison positions.

She said she is running to take the village government in a new direction.

“I have been hearing a lot from residents and how they would like to see a fresh start for Port Jeff,” she said. “That’s what I was responding to when I decided to run.”

Petitions

This year’s mayoral contest took an unusual plot twist very recently, on May 30, when the Suffolk County Board of Elections opted to remove Sheprow’s name from the June 20 ballot over faults in her petitions.

“I take full responsibility for not putting my cover sheet on the petition submission,” Sheprow said. “But you know what? I don’t care. I’m running a write-in campaign. I would never stop fighting for the people of Port Jefferson.”

Snaden, whose campaign brought about the charges, said using the Freedom of Information Law to assess the opposition’s petitions is standard practice.

“We all have to follow the same rules,” she said. “It’s our job as candidates to know the laws and follow the laws.”

Budget

The candidates offered competing perspectives on the village’s present finances.

Snaden regarded the current fiscal health as “excellent,” noting the relatively low-interest rates the village pays when borrowing money.

She acknowledged “the budget can always use some tweaking,” adding, “there are some needs that I believe need an increase in budget.” 

Chief among them are salaries, Snaden said: “Bringing those numbers up would be imperative for getting the highest quality employees we can.”

Sheprow suggested the village’s Moody’s rating, a measure that calculates an organization’s relative credit risk, “can be improved,” saying her administration would strive for a AAA bond rating [compared to the current Aa3].

The trustee proposed instituting an advisory committee of certified public accountants and other financial professionals to assist the village board in preparing its budget.

“A zero-based budget is so important,” Sheprow said. “Also, having that budget committee [will help] create a budget that is responsible to the taxpayers.”

Revenue

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced new regulations targeting existing power plants, placing a cloud of uncertainty over the Port Jefferson Power Station.

With questions surfacing about the possible decommissioning of the plant, the candidates were asked whether the village should begin preparing for further losses of public revenue.

Sheprow again advocated for expert consultation.

“I think we need to include the Advanced Energy Center at Stony Brook University,” she said. “Maybe we can come up with ideas about how to bring advanced energy initiatives into that location.”

Snaden said continued collaboration with wind power companies, such as Ørsted and Eversource, would remain pivotal in “bringing green energy to Long Island through the Village of Port Jefferson.”

To account for potential losses in public revenue, she also proposed “increasing our tax base through responsible development.”

Staffing

Both candidates agreed the administration is understaffed but departed on possible solutions.

Snaden emphasized hiring a planner for the building and planning department and additional personnel for the code enforcement department.

She indicated the practice of assigning multiple administrative titles to a single staff member is “absolutely not” sustainable.

“I think that’s where the budget needs to be enhanced — to hire the right people to head up these departments and divide up more of the tasks,” she said.

Sheprow maintained the hiring process should follow “a [human resources] system and policy.”

“The idea that I have, should I become mayor, is to bring in someone to take a deep dive into the organizational chart of the village,” she said. “I find there are some conflicts of interest for these positions and roles for people who wear multiple hats.”

Public meetings

To boost attendance at public meetings, Sheprow supported overhauling the village’s municipal website.

“It is not responsive,” she said. “If there’s a village board meeting coming up, it should be on the front page on the carousel of the website.”

She also favored a more dynamic social media presence on behalf of the village, with suggestion boxes and other modes of “active responsiveness” between board members and residents.

“I think we need to set up — here we go again — another committee to hear and review complaints and take [them] forward to the Board of Trustees.”

Snaden discussed the value of live streaming public meetings.

“Bringing the meetings to [residents] in their living rooms, recorded so they could watch at a later date, was key” during the COVID-19 public health emergency, Snaden said, proposing to expand and enhance these methods post pandemic.

She also touched upon the role of the Port eReport in dispersing information to the public.

In welcoming more citizens into the local decision-making process, Sheprow expressed pleasure at the reformation of the Port Jefferson Civic Association, saying, “That means the people care, that the people in the community want to get involved.”

She said the chance for more frequent communications between residents and trustees during board meetings is “a huge opportunity for us.”

Snaden said, “Regular meetings with whoever wants to have a voice,” combined with an active social media presence, would be crucial for welcoming more residents into the process.

“I also believe there’s an aspect of people going to meetings when there’s a negative issue or problem,” she added. “As a person who always looks for the positive in things, I like to believe that a portion of the people not coming to meetings are very happy with what’s going on.”

Open government

Another central administrative function is the swift distribution of time-sensitive documents, such as public minutes and agendas.

Snaden returned to hiring when asked about expediting the release of these materials.

“That rests now on the clerk’s [Barbara Sakovich] responsibility list,” she said. “She’s just overwhelmed with the amount of work,” adding, “I believe we could help by bringing in more people to divide up those duties to get [those documents] out there.”

Sheprow favored implementing a “proactive communications system,” including an internal newsletter, to bring the information to staff and the public more expeditiously.

“We need somebody who’s creating content,” she said. “The content would include a press release after every meeting [saying] here’s what happened.”

Building density

During the May 1 public hearing on possible zoning code changes for the Maryhaven Center of Hope property, several community members voiced concerns about increased villagewide building density.

Sheprow raised objections of her own.

“The proposals and the sketches that have been drawn for this space are looking like we’re bringing city life into a transitional [not entirely commercial nor residential] area of Port Jefferson,” she said. “The surrounding communities are horrified by the prospect of seeing four stories from their backyards.”

Snaden noted, “Density is already here,” referring to some existing apartment and condominium developments neighboring Maryhaven.

In moving through the building and planning stages, she said, it will be necessary to continue consulting traffic and environmental studies, which she indicated are “always done as a matter of course.”

“Residential use has been proven to be the softest use, environmentally speaking,” the deputy mayor added. “My concern is that if we don’t move ahead with … some type of a code change, then as of right, an office park could move in, causing more issues for the neighboring community.”

Parking garage

The village is also working to mediate longstanding parking issues, with both candidates detailing how a proposed parking garage could offset shortages.

“There has to be a careful balance with that — without overbuilding but creating the parking spaces that are needed,” Snaden said of the parking structure.

She also supported continued public-private partnerships for shared parking agreements.

Sheprow called for establishing a parking committee, composed primarily of business owners, to help manage the village’s municipal parking apparatus.

She referred to the proposed garage as “an idea I think residents need to hear and weigh in on.”

Flooding

During a recent climate resilience forum at Village Hall, local architect Michael Schwarting shared alarming projections of more frequent and intense flood events in Lower Port. Each candidate was asked how the village could mitigate these concerns.

“Utilizing an engineer or planner to lead that process,” coupled with a new grant writer to help underwrite new projects, could “move the village forward conceptually,” Sheprow suggested.

Snaden proposed daylighting hidden underground water bodies to offset increases in flood load. “I would like to continue building bioswales,” she added, “making gardens in conjunction with these bioswales.”

Concluding remarks

Sheprow expressed appreciation for the residents throughout the campaign process.

“I’m having a lot of fun talking to people and learning more about everyone in our community,” she said. “There’s a lot of love for this community, and I would just be grateful to represent them and have their trust put in me.”

Snaden reiterated her past experiences in positioning her for the responsibilities of mayor.

By “voting my opponent in as mayor, you lose me entirely — you lose my experience, knowledge and love for this community,” Snaden said. “However, if you vote for me, Lauren stays on as a trustee, and you have us both.”

Voting information

The public will be the ultimate arbiter of these two mayoral candidates on Tuesday, June 20. Voting will take place at Port Jefferson Village Center, where polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The Suffolk County Board of Elections ruled on May 30 that Village of Port Jefferson trustee and mayoral candidate Lauren Sheprow's petitions were invalid, removing her from the June 20 ballot. Above, Sheprow during a May 10 Meet the Candidates forum hosted by the Port Jefferson Civic Association. File photo by Raymond Janis

The mayoral race in the Village of Port Jefferson just took a shocking twist. 

In the upcoming village election on June 20, trustee Lauren Sheprow and Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden are vying to succeed incumbent Mayor Margot Garant, who is running for Town of Brookhaven supervisor. Following a meeting of the Suffolk County Board of Elections on Tuesday, May 30, Sheprow’s petitions were ruled invalid. This ruling removes Sheprow’s name from the ballot. 

In a statement, Sheprow said her opponent challenged her petitions due to an error on her cover sheet. In the face of the decision, she pledged to continue her mayoral campaign, now running as a write-in candidate.

“My opponent’s campaign and its lawyers challenged my petitions, and due to an issue with the cover sheet, the Suffolk County Board of Elections on May 30 determined that my name cannot be placed on the ballot,” Sheprow said in a statement.

She added, “I am committed to continuing my campaign for mayor even if it means I’ll be a ‘write-in’ candidate. It may be an uphill battle, but I will not quit the people of Port Jefferson.”

A statement issued by The Unity Party, the ticket under which Snaden is running alongside trustee Stan Loucks, clarifies how the challenges to Sheprow’s petitions first came about.

“The Unity Party requested, through the Freedom of Information Act, all documents related to Ms. Sheprow’s petition filing,” the statement said. “Upon discovering several defects, including the lack of a cover page, resident signatures on blank petition forms and other inconsistencies, a challenge to Ms. Sheprow’s election documents was filed. The SCBOE reviewed the challenge and found the deficiencies identified to not only be fatal, but also incurable.”

In the same statement, Snaden commented on the outcome: “While this decision will be disappointing to some, we should take pride that the law and process were followed. I have the utmost respect for the integrity of the bipartisan SCBOE and the decisions they make. Following the rules with transparency and integrity are the hallmarks of good government.”

The Suffolk County Board of Elections declined to comment for this story, referring inquiries to the Village of Port Jefferson clerk’s office. 

In a phone interview, Village clerk Barbara Sakovich said she was not involved in the decisions leading up to the ruling, maintaining that her position is strictly administrative.

“A mayoral challenge was submitted, and it then was brought to the Board of Elections,” she said. “The commissioners met, and the determination was made by them, not at the village level.”

Sakovich said the appeals process will be open until the end of business on Friday, saying, “I’m assuming if there is any change, the Board of Elections will notify me.”

Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis, left, shakes hands with New York City Mayor Eric Adams. Photo by John Griffin/Stony Brook University

With a vision to turn parts of Governors Island into a world-class center that blends into the surrounding greenery, Stony Brook University won the highly competitive process to create a climate solutions center.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) and the Trust for Governors Island earlier this week named Stony Brook the lead in teaming up with other universities, nonprofits and businesses to create a $700 million facility that will start construction in 2025 and open in 2028.

Backed by a $100 million donation from the Simons Foundation, a $50 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies and $150 million from the City of New York, Stony Brook will create a unique 400,000 square-foot facility.

The center will house research laboratories and host community discussions, train 6,000 people to work in green energy jobs per year, provide educational opportunities and search for climate solutions, including those that affect low-income communities of color.

“Climate change is here and the danger is real,” Adams said at a press conference on Governors Island unveiling the winner of the competition. “I am proud to announce that we have selected a team led by Stony Brook University to deliver the New York Climate Exchange.”

Adams suggested the Stony Brook team, which includes local partners like Pace University, New York University and the City University of New York, will protect the city’s air and water.

The Trust for Governors Island also anticipates the site, which will include a “semester abroad” on-site, fellowships and internship programs, will host scientific symposiums that can bring together leaders in a range of fields.

In an email, Simons Foundation President David Spergel hopes the center will “nucleate new business that generates jobs in the region, invest in new technologies and advance solutions.”

The foundation is helping to recruit other benefactors to meet the financial needs for the site both by the example of its commitment and through personal interactions, Spergel said.

Stony Brook, meanwhile, which has a deep pool of researchers at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences investigating climate-related issues, doesn’t plan to wait until the buildings are refurbished and constructed to start the conceptual and educational work.

During phase zero, the university will “work with our partners immediately” on developing programs for kindergarten through grade 12 outreach, on scaling up green workforce development and on developing collaborative research projects across institutions, SBU President Maurie McInnis said in a town hall discussion with the campus community.

Left to right: Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer, Simons Foundation president David Spergel, SBU President Maurie McInnis, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Harbor School student Leanna Martin Peterson and Trust for Governors Island President Clare Newman. Photo by John Griffin/Stony Brook University

Practice what it preaches

In addition to providing space that will generate and test out ideas for solutions to climate change, the New York Climate Exchange buildings will minimize the carbon footprint.

There will be 230,000 square feet of new space and 170,000 square feet of refurbished existing structures. The plans, which were created by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, involve creating the biggest mass-timber building in New York City. As an alternative to concrete and steel, mass timber has a lower carbon footprint and is lighter.

Mass timber uses “less material and in a more efficient way,” said Keith O’Connor, principal at SOM, who runs the city design practice in New York and Washington, D.C., in an interview.

SOM designed the tops of the buildings with 142,000 square feet of solar cells, which will generate more than enough power for the site, enabling the center to provide all of its electricity needs and to send some energy to the city.

“We wanted to work really hard to avoid having a field of solar panels sitting off to the side” or sticking solar panels on each roof, O’Connor said. Instead, the solar panels, which will be at slightly different angles from each other, track the topography of the structures without creating a glaring field of reflected light.

Guests who arrive at Governors Island will notice a solar canopy that is “front and center,” O’Connor said. “It’s about a message for everyone who is visiting — it says that energy generation is critical.”

SOM wanted to find a way to create a warm and welcoming aesthetic that provides energy, O’Connor added.

All of the nondrinking water will come from rainwater and treated wastewater.

The site anticipates diverting 95% of waste from landfills, making it one of the first in the country to achieve true zero-waste certification.

“The concept of the physical structure is astonishing,” David Manning, director of Stakeholder Relations at Brookhaven National Laboratory, which will serve as an adviser on the center, said in an interview. “You want to attract the best and the brightest. You do that with programming. It doesn’t hurt that [the design and the facilities] are also cool.”

An aerial rendering of the island after construction, which will also include 4.5 acres of new open space, looks more like a park than a typical research station.

Governors Island, which hosts about a million visitors each year who arrive on ferries that run every half hour, plans to double the ferry service, with trips traveling every 15 minutes during the day starting next year. Also in 2024, the city will start using a hybrid electric ferry to reduce emissions.

Considerable collaborative support

McInnis expressed her gratitude to the team at Stony Brook and to her partners for putting together the winning proposal.

McInnis suggested that the university’s commitment to studying, understanding and mitigating climate change, coupled with national and international collaborations, would unite numerous strengths in one place.

“We knew we had the right team to lead this effort,” said McInnis at the announcement on Governors Island. “We also knew we needed a diverse set of partners” in areas including environmental justice, in the business sector and in philanthropic communities.

Other partners include Georgia Tech, University of Washington, Duke University, Rochester Institute of Technology and University of Oxford, England.

BNL’s Manning appreciated the opportunity to attend the kickoff of the project on Governors Island. 

Near the tip of Manhattan amid a “stunning blue sky,” the gathering was the “perfect setting” to announce and create solutions that were “this future focused,” Manning said.

Graphic courtesy Valentin Staller

During a meeting of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce on Monday, June 20, the developer of the Jefferson Plaza project presented his vision for its future.

Valentin Staller, vice president of the Hauppauge-based real estate firm Staller Associates, delivered a presentation on the proposed redevelopment of Jefferson Plaza, a property that has been in the family for over half a century.

The history of Jefferson Plaza

Jefferson Plaza shopping center is located on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station. The property was first developed in the late 1950s by Erwin and Max Staller, Valentin’s grandfather and great-grandfather, respectively. For a period, the shopping center was a popular and prosperous commercial hub serving the Port Jeff Station and Terryville communities. However, the plaza experienced its share of setbacks as the area underwent a steep decline.

“The whole commercial corridor began to suffer its challenges,” Staller said. “Certain negative elements within the commercial corridor made it really hard to do business.” He added, “Unfortunately, the pandemic only exacerbated things.”

In 2014, the Town of Brookhaven released the Port Jefferson Station Commercial Hub Study, a 135-page document outlining a comprehensive plan to revitalize the area, emphasizing mixed-use commercial and residential zoning with pedestrian walkability. After being approached by, and entering into negotiations with, the Town of Brookhaven, Staller Associates began to seriously consider redeveloping the property. 

Under the current plan, the site would include a main street, food hall, fitness center, apartments and more. Graphics courtesy Valentin Staller

A redevelopment plan

Staller’s plan includes 49,400 square feet of commercial space, including restaurants and a proposed food hall. The plan accommodates 280 apartments “with a heavy skew toward one-bedrooms.” Staller also said 80% of the apartments will be offered at market rate while the remaining 20% will be designated for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, “a tremendously underserved community as it relates to housing on Long Island,” he added.

When the developers began planning for the redevelopment of the property, they quickly entered into conversations with Suffolk County about extending sewers into downtown Port Jeff Station.

“We recognized immediately that for any redevelopment to occur, whether it’s this property or any other property in the corridor, a connection to sewers is vital,” Staller said.

The goal of the project, according to Staller, is “to create a dynamic, mixed-use suburban environment.” The developers have already undergone several iterations of their site plan with the Brookhaven Planning Department. 

Under the current site plan, the development “is designed to create a much more neighborhood business feel than what exists today and create a more walkable downtown type of environment,” he said. There are also plans to accommodate a fitness and retail center in the plaza. 

At the core of the project is a proposed main street that would include retail stores, restaurants and a food hall. The main street would be distinguished by its “exceptional landscaping and distinct pavers” that are both pedestrian-friendly and promote outdoor dining. 

“We want to be able to close it off for events,” Staller said. “We want to work with the Terryville Fire Department so that we can have things like farmers markets, Oktoberfest, winter holiday markets and St. Patrick’s Day right on our main street.”

Opposite the main street, there are plans to have what Staller calls “the innovation center.” This venue would serve as a gathering space for engineers, entrepreneurs and programmers.

“We want this to be sort of a mini economic development hub right here in this community,” he said. “We want to bring in Stony Brook [University]’s growing engineering department.”

At the south end of the site, Staller proposes to build apartment complexes that are “designed to be tucked away into the site” to avoid pushing up against and obstructing existing neighborhoods in the area. 

Three-dimensional rendering of the proposed redevelopment project at Jefferson Plaza. Graphic courtesy Valentin Staller

Impact on the community

Staller believes the development will stimulate economic activity in the Port Jefferson Station-Terryville community. In order to qualify for a market-rate apartment, Staller said, a prospective tenant must first demonstrate that he or she makes three times the rent before income taxes. 

“If you add all of that together, with 80% [of the apartments] at market rate, there’s a lot of disposable income that is concentrated in this community,” he said. This disposable income, he suggests, will inject $7 million per year into the local economy. 

Jefferson Plaza is uniquely situated near several major employment hubs on Long Island. Among these are Mather and St. Charles hospitals and Stony Brook University. Staller believes that this redevelopment plan will work due to the demand for housing that these centers generate.

Staller summarized his vision as follows: “We’re talking about a major investment in the built environment with purpose-built outdoor dining, great building materials, high quality architecture and landscaping.”

The developers are still at least two years away before they can begin building. In the meantime, there remains much to be worked out with Brookhaven and Suffolk County.

To read about how the local civic association has embraced the redevelopment project, see the TBR News Media March 31 story, “Reimagining Jefferson Plaza.”

Pixabay photo

With the cost of food spiraling out of control, public officials are scrambling for answers. 

A May report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates food prices have climbed 10.8% since April 2021, the highest 12-month increase in over four decades. The surge in food prices nationwide is being driven by a number of factors occurring both domestically and abroad.

Both Ukraine and Russia are major international exporters of grain, including corn, wheat and soy, among other staples. The price of these products has surged exponentially due to the war, affecting markets globally. 

“Food prices in the United States are going up because the oil to deliver the food, the cost of fertilizer, and the cost of planting and harvesting are all going up,” Martin Cantor, director of the Long Island Center for Socio-Economic Policy, said in a phone interview. “All of that has to do with inflation, it has to do with oil and gas, and it has to do with the war in Ukraine.”

New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) addressed growing concerns over food prices. He said that the state Legislature has recently passed legislation that eliminates the fuel tax. This, coupled with actions at the county level, may help offset increases in food prices. 

“The main thing that we’ve been able to do in this recently passed state budget is to remove — at least temporarily for the rest of this year — the 16-cent state tax on fuel,” he said. “When you live around here, for most people, you need a car to get your food, so these escalating costs are related.” He added, “We’ve also authorized in the state budget the commissioner of agriculture to sharpen his pencils to see what he can do to bring more food to market.”

The Suffolk County Legislature has also suspended its tax on fuel, effective June 1. State and county measures combined, Englebright said residents are now seeing a 26-cent reduction per gallon of gasoline. 

‘It’s very important that we focus now on funneling the money that we have in the state budget into these communities, not only to help the business owners, but to help the residents survive through this process and through this inflation.’ — Jodi Giglio

Despite the elimination of these fuel taxes, prices nationwide continue to swell. State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) said local residents are being hit particularly hard due to the already high cost of living on Long Island. 

“We pay the highest taxes and the highest utility rates here on Long Island,” she said. “It’s very important that we focus now on funneling the money that we have in the state budget into these communities, not only to help the business owners, but to help the residents survive through this process and through this inflation.”

The recently enacted state budget will offer residents some relief in the form of direct cash payments through the New York School Tax Relief Program (STAR). Giglio said she and her colleagues in Albany appropriated an additional $2.2 billion in the state budget and expedited the delivery of these checks to help residents deal with inflation and rising costs. 

“The $2.2 billion is for homeowner tax rebate checks,” she said, adding. “It’s a one-time check for STAR-eligible homeowners, and it’s for individuals and for families. New Yorkers are going to start getting these checks right away and they should be hitting within the next couple of weeks.”

This is tough. We’re in a really tough place with food prices, and families at the poverty level are suffering the most. — Kara Hahn

Elevated food costs will detrimentally impact food pantries as well. Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) expressed concerns that rising food costs will only compound the existing problem of food insecurity, making it even harder to feed those in need.

“Food insecurity has been a growing problem on Long Island,” she said. “We support a number of food pantries across Suffolk County. I’ve been part of supporting Long Island Cares and Island Harvest, trying to make sure that there is not food waste.” She added, “This is tough. We’re in a really tough place with food prices, and families at the poverty level are suffering the most.”

‘People will inevitably try to make their anguish heard and understood, and one way to do that is at the ballot box.’ — Steve Englebright

Midterm elections loom large as Long Islanders consider ways to get food on the table. At the current rate, food expenses will be at the top of the priority list for a sizable voting bloc. Englebright acknowledges that if food prices are not alleviated soon, there may be significant electoral consequences at all levels of government this November. 

“People will inevitably try to make their anguish heard and understood, and one way to do that is at the ballot box,” he said. “That is a possibility but I hope that the sense of urgency does not require that people use that as the only way to have a sense of empowerment, and optimism in the hope that we’re able to use the instruments of government, limited as they may be, to help offset some of these costs and give people a chance to put food on the table.”

Cantor reiterated these sentiments. He suggests voters are much more likely to vote for the opposition during times of great tribulation. “The reality is that when people are angry, hungry and can’t work, they usually vote the incumbents out,” he said. “When everything you touch costs more than you make, that gets you very angry and very upset. The poor and the middle class are going to get hurt the most.”

Developing Story:

TBR News Media has learned of a remarkable rescue mission of four Mount Sinai-based sailors earlier this month.

Reports indicate that on Sunday, May 8, the sailors aboard the 40-foot C&C  sailboat “Calypso,” owned by local resident and member of the Mount Sinai Sailing Association Bob Ellinger, were approximately 80 miles offshore battling against 16-17 foot waves when the boat was hit by a rogue wave estimated at 30 feet in height.

This blow had destroyed the mast, rendering the ship inoperable. While much of the equipment onboard was beyond disrepair, the crew managed to send out an emergency distress signal.

The U.S. Coast Guard responded to the mayday and members of the Air Station Cape Cod MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew located the shipwreck. In a daring effort, battling high seas and strong winds, the helicopter crew successfully rescued all four sailors.

The sailors were later hospitalized and treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

If you have any information regarding this rescue mission, please email [email protected]. Tune into tbrnewsmedia.com for more updates to this developing story.

Photo by Raymond Janis

On Saturday, April 23, public officials gathered to formally rename the 107-acre Farmingville Hills County Park after the late Suffolk Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma); it will be known as Thomas Muratore County Park.

The ceremony was hosted by county Legislator Nick Caracappa (C-Selden), majority leader of the Legislature. Caracappa succeeded the late legislator by special election less than two months after Muratore’s untimely death on Sept. 8, 2020. Caracappa also sponsored legislation to rename the park in Muratore’s honor. 

“Tom Muratore had a special way about him,” Caracappa said. “He knew how to touch us and mentor us and just be a good friend to us. Anyone who knew Tom knew of his passion for serving his community, his constituents and the residents of Suffolk County. Whether it was talking about politics, talking about his family or talking about the way the Yankees either won or lost, he had a passion that was unmistakable.”

The event included elected leaders from the town, county and state governments. First among these speakers was County Executive Steve Bellone (D), who emphasized Muratore’s unique ability to bring competing parties and interests together. 

“You have people from all walks of life here, people from all across the political spectrum, and I think that speaks volumes about who Tom Muratore was,” Bellone said. “He was always the utmost gentleman and would work with you. There was a way about him that I think was an example and a model for all of us to look at about how we should govern.” The county executive added, “This man was a true public servant his entire life and we need to honor public servants like that. We need more of the way that he conducted himself in public life.”

Elected officials gather at the newly named Thomas Muratore Park at Farmingville Hills on April 23. Photo by Raymond Janis

Discussing what it means to rename the county park after Muratore, Bellone said, “It’s an honor to be here today to be able to help name this park in his name so that forevermore, as we move from here, this will be a place where a man of great honor and a great public servant is remembered always in this county.”

County Legislature presiding officer, Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), acknowledged Muratore’s record of public service and his example of quality leadership throughout the county. 

“I got to know Tom when I joined the Legislature in 2014,” he said. “He was truly a mentor to me. He always had my back, never afraid to tell me when I was doing something right or wrong. No matter what role he took, whether it be in government, as a police officer or serving our county … he continued to serve.” McCaffrey added, “He didn’t just serve, he served well.”

Jason Richberg (D-West Babylon), minority leader of the county Legislature, commended Muratore for the human touch that he put on his work in county government. “Tom was always invested in you,” Richberg said. “It didn’t matter when it was, he was always walking around, talking to everyone, finding out how their family was doing, what was going on in their personal lives.” The minority leader added, “He really wanted to know how you were doing. Beyond the politics, it was always about you.”

Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) spoke of his experience serving for three years as Muratore’s chief of staff. LaValle said Muratore made little distinction between his public and private responsibilities, treating his staff as though they were family.

“You weren’t employed by Tom Muratore,” LaValle said. “You may have worked for Tom, but when you worked for Tom, you were part of his family and that’s how he always treated us.” Reflecting upon Muratore’s passing, the councilman added, “It hit us all hard because it was like losing your uncle or your dad. He always was around for us no matter what it was. It wasn’t just about government for Tom. It was about you as a person and about your family and how you were doing. It was never about Tom.”

County Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) complimented Muratore’s legislative philosophy. According to her, his leadership was defined by his love of his community.

“Tom operated and governed from a base of love,” Kennedy said. “He loved the organizations, he loved the people that he was with. He was a good human being and I know right now that he is sitting in the palms of God’s hands.”

County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) spoke of Muratore’s effectiveness as a labor leader. Kennedy believed that Muratore’s style of representation included both a sense of urgency as well as a sincere conviction and passion for the work he performed.

“Always, always he was about our workforce and about the integrity of our county. He truly embraced that concept of service,” the comptroller said. 

County Clerk Judy Pascale (R) used her memorial address to recite a quote from the late American poet, Maya Angelou. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” Pascale said, adding, “Tommy, you always made us feel very special. Rest in peace, brother.”

State Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James) suggested Muratore brought to county government a commonsense outlook and an approach guided by practical wisdom. 

“It was commonsense government, that’s what it was when you were with Tom Muratore,” Mattera said. “He cared about a decent wage, a decent health care [plan], a decent pension for all, so that we can live here on the Island.” Sharing his expectations for the park, the state senator added, “We have 107 acres here and when anybody walks these 107 acres at Tom Muratore Park, you’re always going to remember this name. This is an absolutely beautiful park and to have a name like Tom Muratore, I am just blessed to say I knew him.”

State Assemblyman Doug Smith (R-Holbrook) emphasized Muratore’s authenticity. “Every time he would talk to you, he was never texting or doing anything like that,” Smith said. “He would be in the moment. I think more of us should live in the moment and genuinely care about each other.” The assemblyman also highlighted Muratore’s creative strategies to solve problems and get work done. “And I really appreciate that kind of relentless attitude. I just loved that about Tom and about how he always wanted to go to bat for people.”

Michael Wentz, president of the Farmingville Hills Chamber of Commerce, presents a proclamation to Linda Muratore. Photo by Raymond Janis

Michael Wentz, founder and president of the Farmingville Hills Chamber of Commerce, presented Muratore’s wife Linda with a proclamation that the chamber had prepared with Sachem Public Library of Holbrook. It reads: “On behalf of the Farmingville Hills Chamber of Commerce, we present this proclamation in recognition of Thomas Muratore, whose never-ending support of his community and local businesses will forever live on, and be remembered for generations to come.”

The presentations were concluded with a short speech prepared by Linda Muratore, who used her time to honor Caracappa’s mother, the late county Legislator Rose Caracappa: “I don’t know if Legislator Caracappa knows, but Tom was very fond of his mom, Legislator Rose Caracappa. Every time he saw her name on a building, he said, ‘That must be the greatest honor.’” Linda Muratore added, “Today his dream has come true because of all of you. Thank you again for honoring my husband. I truly know that it was his honor to serve all of you.”