Village Beacon Record

The storm uprooted a tree in St. James. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The Town of Brookhaven will conduct a one-time only bulk collection of storm debris on Monday, Aug. 10. All debris must be placed at the curb by the evening of Sunday, Aug. 9.

Branches, leaves and other vegetative debris from the storm should be brought curbside for bulk collection by town crews utilizing heavy equipment.

The town asked that residents do not put any non-vegetative debris out. Storm debris mixed with household garbage or construction debris will not be picked up.

Officials also asked that people keep fire hydrants and mailboxes clear of any debris that is brought to the curb. Any storm debris brought to the curb after Sunday, Aug. 9 won’t be picked up as part of this one-time
bulk collection and will be subject to ordinary yard waste rules requiring branches to be cut in four-foot sections and bundled for collection.

Photo from Christine Pendergast

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

The name of the book is Blink Spoken Here. It is written by Dr. Christopher Pendergast and Christine Pendergast of Miller Place.

That’s really all you need to know.

That, and please buy the book.

Blink Spoke Here. Dr. Christopher Pendergast and Christine Pendergast.  Buy the book.

You don’t need to finish reading this review.

You just need to buy the book.

Blink Spoke Here. Dr. Christopher Pendergast and Christine Pendergast.  Please buy the book. Now.

For those who want to know more …

It is easy to say that this is an important book — because it is. It is about exceptional bravery in the face of unfathomable adversity.  It is about a man who has defied the odds and lived with one of the single most difficult and devastating diseases:  ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Emphasis on lived with. It is told in his words, with the assistance of his wife.

Authors Dr. Christopher Pendergast and Christine Pendergast

The title refers to how he wrote the book, with an eye-controlled device, as he does not have the use of his hands or his voice. His journey began with the diagnosis in 1993 and continues to this very day — to the very moment that you are reading this sentence. The average lifespan with ALS is two to five years; Dr. Pendergast has survived for twenty-seven. There is no medical answer as to why. But perhaps the Universe has chosen him for bigger reasons. Two of them? First: his bringing awareness to this monstrous affliction through his inspirational Ride For Life. Second: He has written this book.

In 1993, Dr. Pendergast had been a teacher for twenty-three years, married to his childhood sweetheart, Christine.  At the time of his diagnosis, he was in the Northport school district, and he continued to teach in the classroom for as long as possible. When that was no longer an option, he continued as a teacher for the world. Blink Spoken Here is a portrait of a teacher in the best sense of the word.  His passion to impart knowledge has infused his entire life.

Beginning with a description of the disease’s arc, he brings us into his world:

“It was not a dramatic event like a building collapse but a more steady deterioration similar to a bridge failure. I was imploding. In 1993, my physical presence began shrinking before my very eyes. My contact with the world was severing, one function at a time.  Angry, scared and saddened I was like a stubborn mule fighting with tenacity for each inch I surrendered. First it was dressing, followed by grooming, driving, toileting, walking, feeding, and breathing. Now I cling to my last vestiges of talking. It forced me retreat towards within. The exterior husband, father, and friend was left behind.”

Dr. Pendergast is unflinching in his brutal honesty about the pains and the challenges. He shares some of the darkest moments in his life. But, just as often, he speaks of hope and appreciation and deep faith. Many of the simplest things that we take for granted have been taken from Dr. Pendergast.  And yet, in all of this, he manages to find not just the good in life but the lessons that are offered every day. 

If these are not good enough reasons to read this book (and they should be), it is also a beautiful piece of writing. Dr. Pendergast writes with extraordinary eloquence and sincerity, with humor and insight. His prose is exquisite. He shares anecdotes and parables, free verse and personal accounts. The craft is equal to the art and both are worthy of the humanity that created it.

The memoir is split into two sections.  The first focuses on his coming to terms with the disease and its myriad challenges. (The first half even concludes with a wicked send-up of Dr. Seuss.)

The second half of the book focuses on the Ride for Life, which began in 1998 as the Ride to Congress. It follows his goals of bringing national awareness to ALS as well as an increase in services, knowledge, and fundraising. Taking his cue from the activism of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, he finds his inspiration:

“For me, the remarkable results of these movements underscored the power of choosing to make a difference. The activists of those movements did more than complain about these wrongs; rather they opted to fight for change.  This activism formed a model in my subconscious. I followed this model 40 years later.” 

The initial support of his home school in Northport proves that it takes a village — or at least a district. Over the years, the Ride has evolved and has focused its activities in New York and Long Island.

From the “weight of secrecy” to his global advocacy, this is an odyssey that is both far-reaching and personal. His love for his wife and family and for his community comes through at every turn. This is a man who does not curse the darkness but moves towards the light. 

“Life is too short to spend wishing things were not so. Things are what they are. Some occurrences are not our choice. However, we do choose how to respond. We decide how to live the life we get.”      

There are too many incredible moments to enumerate. Even the description of the challenge of opening an envelope is a revelation. There is a particularly telling incident with his son and church. It is a lesson in forgiveness and perspective, and its reverberations reflect his own continuing journey.

The final chapter, entitled “The First Amendment,” is a crushing account of his loss of the ability to speak: “To the educator, the voice is a powerful tool. It commands respect, informs and on occasion, inspires. The voice becomes our signature for the world. Losing it is catastrophic.” 

Dr. Pendergast describes the gradual decline in his vocal power and the various methods of communication. His frustration is honest and palpable just as his deep belief that his and all voices should be heard in one form or another.  He advocates for those who are desperately ill with ALS and that this basic human right should not terminate at the hospital door.

“Speech is freedom. Communication is the connection to the outside world. We all have a right to be heard … I want to be able to speak, even if it is only one blink at a time.” 

This chapter brilliantly closes the book. Because while he may have lost the physical voice, his spiritual voice continues. It is powerful. It commands respect. It informs. And, truly and always, it inspires.

Once again.

Blink Spoken Here. Dr. Christopher Pendergast and Christine Pendergast.

Don’t wait. Please buy this book. Now.

Blink Spoken Here: Tales From a Journey Within (Apprentice House Press) is available at Book Revue in Huntington, Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) addressed those gathered about his goals for the 2019 Legislative session. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said the morning of Aug. 7 that all regions in New York are given the green light to reopen in the fall.

The governor said he based the decision off of the infection rate in each region in the state. Much of New York has been hovering around a 1 percent infection rate for the past several weeks. 

Cuomo previously said if the infection rate in any region breaches 5 percent the state would immediately order schools’ closure.

“You look at the infection rate — we are probably in the best situation in the country,” Cuomo said during a media call Friday. 

Most school districts submitted reopening plans by the deadline of July 31. Some, like South Huntington and Northport-East Northport, submitted their plans after being granted an extension. Many have come forward with hybrid plans at at least some grade levels, meaning students will spend a few days in school and then the rest of the week learning from home. Some parents have criticized districts like Three Village for deciding on a full-time schedule for all grade levels. Other parents in districts like Smithtown have rallied for children to be back in school full time.

Still, Cuomo has said multiple times that each school district’s reopening plan is dependent on the district officials in communion with parents and teachers, saying “this is not a bureaucratic decision, this is a parental decision.” 

However, there were still many questions left open over what policies districts can hold, especially regarding the safety of teachers. Yesterday, Aug. 6, teachers union New York State United Teachers put out a news release calling for any school to close if any one individual in a school that tests positive should mean an immediate 14-day closure. The release also requested specific answers to how districts should conduct quarantining of potential cases and contact tracing.

The governor largely left the questions of those two elements up to individual school districts, though state Department of Health guidelines do mandate school districts conduct testing of symptomatic students. They also mandate people to wear masks when they are unable to socially distance at six feet, and if a student does not have a mask, the district is mandated to provide one.

“I can’t fashion a plan that would work in every school district because the circumstances are too different,” he said during the media call.“

Though school districts are mandated to take the temperature of every student that comes through its doors, the fear of asymptomatic spread, of the virus infecting people from carriers, is still a big concern. Cuomo called that a continuing “conversation.”

The tenor of the governor’s announcement revolved around the notion that parents, teachers and districts all had to agree to the plans. The next few weeks, Cuomo said, should be spent in even more discussion amongst the community to try and reach more common ground.

“I believe in New Yorkers, and New Yorkers will do it and they can decide how they will do it,” he said.

 

Stock photo

People are using too much hand sanitizer. That’s one of several observations from Sharon Nachman, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

Sharon Nachman of SBU’s pediatrics department. Photo from SBU

Nachman suggests that sanitizer requires only a small amount on people’s hands. If, after applying it, someone has wet and sticky hands, they have overdone it.

“When I see people using hand sanitizer, they glop it on,” Nachman said in an interview. She recommends not using more than the standard volume, even amidst a return to school during the ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a wide-ranging conversation about the health of students who are returning to campus, Nachman urged students to pay closer attention to their health, to keep themselves and their classmates safe.

Students can tell if they’re too close to each other if they both reach out and can touch each other’s fingers.

The signs of COVID-19 in older teenagers and young 20-somethings are similar to the ones that occur in adults. They include fever, fatigue, feeling ill, loss of taste, and dry coughs. College students also have a high rate of being asymptomatic, which makes it difficult to find and isolate sick students.

While multi-symptom inflammatory disease in children, or MSI-C, cropped up during the worst of the pandemic in Suffolk County, the overall numbers of cases and infection rate on Long Island have fallen enough to reduce the likelihood of this COVID-related illness among children.

“Its all about how big the hit is in the community,” she said. “If you go to Texas or Florida, they are clearly seeing it. On Long Island, we aren’t seeing it” because of the way residents have helped flatten the infection curve among the population.

Nachman urged college students to be responsible when a contact tracer reaches out to them. In college campuses throughout the country, contact tracing will help mitigate the spread of the infection by quarantining people who might have been exposed to an active form of the virus. Isolating people will keep the spread of the virus in check.

Students, faculty and university administrators are well aware of the possibility that schools will need to return to an all-remote education model if infections reach a high enough level. Indeed, Nachman urged students to develop a plan for what they would pack and take home and where they would go if campuses closed. By being prepared for change, students can react to altered circumstances. High school students also need such preparation, in case any school that open need to close to protect students, faculty and staff.

As for the potential overlap of the flu and COVID, Nachman suggested students should get the flu shot by October, before the flu season begins.

Nachman is an advocate for masks.

“The smartest thing people can do is really wearing their masks,” she said. “Come to college prepared with enough masks that you can wash and wear them.”

The ideal number of masks is nothing fewer than two per day. She likes the washable ones, which are easy to put in the laundry and wash with the rest of a student’s clothing. The two play cloth masks work well and can be “personalized to reflect someone’s mood, to match clothing or to make a statement.”

Masks are important not only to protect other members of the student body, but also to protect the wearer.

“This idea that I’m wearing it to protect you is half right,” she said. “It’s protection for both of us.”

Colby Rowe and Roseanna Ryan making a delivery of over 100 iPads for patient-family communication. Photo by Scott Lamarsh

While Stony Brook University Hospital staff were taking care of the sickest residents in the midst of the pandemic in Suffolk County, residents did what they could to return the favor.

Colby Rowe’s truck is filled with 3M N95 masks. Photo by Colby Rowe

In addition to cheering for health care workers, first responders and essential employees each night at 7 p.m., numerous residents and businesses made donations of everything from lifesaving N95 masks to food to comfort care.

After 10 weeks of accepting donations from March through early June, Stony Brook had collected nearly one million pieces of personal protective equipment, including masks, gloves and head and food coverings, 33,500 comfort care items such as snacks, hand lotion, puzzles and coloring books, 18,000 meal donations, 575 video messages of support and 435 iPads for telemedicine.

These donations bolstered the spirits of the staff and provided vital comfort during everything from the process of conducting COVID-19 tests in the South P Lot to the recharging breaks doctors, nurses and hospital staff took after caring for patients.

“The comfort piece was a bit more striking for the patients and the staff,” said Roseanna Ryan, director of Patient Advocacy & Language Assistance Services at SBU Hospital. “The need for the staff to have a respite area to recharge during this extremely challenging time was something that we might not have initially anticipated. The donations we were able to use went such a long way.”

Indeed, even some of the smaller items helped the masked men and women health care heroes throughout the hospital system.

During testing, some of the medical professionals worked 12-hour shifts, administering test after test for reeling residents. Items such as breath mints, ChapStick and even eye coverings that would help health care workers take a nap in their car before returning for the next shift proved incredibly helpful, said Colby Rowe, Trauma Center Education & Prehospital outreach coordinator. Rowe worked with the emergency management team at the university, primarily coordinating the donation center.

“I received lots of text messages from people on the receiving end saying, ‘Thank you so much.’ They felt appreciated by the community, Rowe said.

Rowe added that the hospital performed ably in ensuring that the staff had sufficient PPE equipment to help them with their dangerous but important work.

The university took a wide range of assistance. Some donations, like snack food, found a home in the break room. Others, however, wound up helping people in different locations.

Stony Brook received more than 400 Easter baskets. Rowe was on the phone with a civilian friend from the U.S. Department of Defense, who told him that Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn had to postpone an Easter event.

Rowe loaded up his truck and drove the Easter baskets to Brooklyn. That’s not where the community spirit stopped. On the way, several baskets blew out of his truck on Route 347.

Snacks from the hospital break room at SBUH. Photo from Stony Brook University.

“I had about four cars pull over to help me” retrieve the boxes, Rowe said. “That’s a sign of the times.”
None of the boxes, which were donated to the children of soldiers, sustained any damage.

Rowe also said the university worked to make sure support staff, including housekeeping and the people moving the carts to usher patients around the hospital, benefited from these gifts.

The most consistent donated items were the three-dimensional printed face shields and hand sanitizer, which faculty who stayed to help frontline workers made on campus. In total, the university received more than 14,000 face shields and 509 gallons of hand sanitizer.

Ryan and Rowe said the hospital was grateful and humbled by each donation they received.
Several groups offered consistent gifts. The Three Village Coronavirus Forum Facebook group, which Three Village resident Michael Ehrlich led, raised hundreds each week through membership donations. They shopped at Target and Walmart to buy comfort care items.

Frito-Lay donated a couple of truckloads of chips to stock the respite room, while the Three Village Dads Foundation raised money to feed frontline workers.

The donations helped fill in some gaps during the year as well. National Nurses Week and National EMS week both occurred in May. While the hospital typically honors these professionals with gifts to show their appreciation, the response to COVID-19 was the priority during those times. The donations, however, provided material for care packages.

The pandemic triggered needs the hospital never had before, Ryan said.

“We had to identify different ways to allow our patients to communicate with their loved ones, while there was no visitation or limited visitation,” Ryan said. The hospital redeployed nursing staff into family liaison roles to provide friends and family with updates.

Rowe delivers Easter baskets to the families of soldiers at Fort Hamilton. Photo by Colby Rowe.

For the patients, the hospital put together comfort bags, which included activities like word searches, crossword puzzles, stress balls, aroma therapy, eye masks, and dry erase boards to allow patients who were able to write to communicate with nurses outside a door, which helped preserve PPE.

At this point, the university has some supplies left over, which it will likely use during the current, planned reopening of the university side of Stony Brook.

In addition to receiving donations from the community, Stony Brook also benefited from donations from people in other countries, including China, Korea and Germany.

“People sent really moving and emotional notes,” Rowe said. “We saw a lot of good in people” during a difficult time.

Ryan was also grateful for all the support from the university.

“The planning and preparation from senior leadership put us in a position where we were able to be successful in getting to the other side of this,” Ryan said. “Leadership at the state level also helped tremendously with that.”

As Federal Assistance Runs Out, Pantries/Soup Kitchens Anticipate Greater Need

Vicky Rybak, front, stands behind the many volunteers at Open Cupboard in Port Jefferson. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr and Liam Cooper

In front of what was the old nuns’ quarters of the Infant Jesus R.C. Church in Port Jefferson, the volunteers of the church’s food pantry stand amongst bag after bag of food items. Inside, even more goods line the main hallway, all before they can be taken in and sorted. 

Alex Valentine and Sabrina Duan, of Mount Sinai, help with the Open Cupboard pantry’s back to school drive. Photo by Kyle Barr

In just a few hours on a Monday morning, a crowd of regular volunteers have brought in the new hoard. Even after they leave, several more local residents swing by the front door of the Open Cupboard food pantry, dropping off clothing items, food, toiletries — a machine of giving.

All of it will be needed, according to food pantry leaders and volunteers, as by the end of the month so much of that food will be gone. The pandemic has led to a massive increase in food insecurity. Open Cupboard now regularly serves 30 to 60 families that come to its doors, and now they arrive every two weeks instead of every month, compared to what it was before the pandemic. 

Though as the number of people needing assistance has increased during the pandemic, according to multiple local soup kitchens and food pantries, so has the number of volunteers hoping to make even the smallest difference.

Vicki Rybak, director of the Open Cupboard food pantry at Infant Jesus, has been on the job for the past 16 years. The pantry serves the surrounding area in Port Jeff, Port Jeff Station, Mount Sinai and parts of Coram and Setauket, and in her words, it serves “the working poor.”

“Now that the working poor aren’t working anymore, we’re servicing the people who aren’t getting anything — whether they’re undocumented and they’re not able to collect, or they’re essential like me and have been struggling,” she said.

During the worst months of the pandemic, the assembled group were Rybak’s “lifeline,” she said. People sent checks when she and others were limited on the number of certain foodstuffs and other essentials they could purchase.

People like Frank Davi, a retired NYPD officer who has been standing in front of the Miller Place Stop & Shop and Giunta’s Meat Farms in Port Jeff Station with his truck since March, asking people to donate food. He has given that food away to Open Cupboard and the pantry at St. Gerard Majella R.C. Church in Port Jefferson Station. He says he gets a truckload a week from people willing to help out.

“I was in Stony Brook [hospital] for six days, had some complications, came out of it fine and wanted to give back,” Davi said. “Everyone’s really generous in the community.”

The Open Cupboard is also in the midst of its back-to-school drive, and one of the downstairs rooms is piled with school supplies such as backpacks, pencils, erasers. It normally services around 185 children for back to school. Open Cupboard volunteer  Jennifer Valentine, of Mount Sinai, said in a few weeks time, most of it will be gone.

Father Patrick Riegger of Infant Jesus RC Church next to bag after bag of donations. Photo by Kyle Barr

But the need will likely increase even more than that, as the pantry plans to work with local shelters as well to provide school supplies. Harder this year is so few schools have been posting what kinds of schools supplies students will need cover September. 

“Even if we don’t go back to school, they will still need the supplies at home,”
Valentine said.

The pantry does much more than just food donations. It helps people apply for mortgage and rental assistance, helps people muddle through social services applications, assists people whose insurance doesn’t cover a particular procedure, all of which have seen a renewed need because of the economic impacts of the pandemic. 

The Open Cupboard director has seen people with leases on nice cars pull up to seek aid, having lost their jobs and being on unemployment, having never before stepped foot into a food pantry in need of aid, whether it’s food or help getting their budgets in line.

“They’re lost, they’ve never done this before,” Rybak said. “People don’t even have the gas to come down here anymore — we’re doing a lot of deliveries.”

Now that a federal program that gave people an extra $600 on their unemployment checks has ended, she expects even more of a need. The hard part will be deciding what the organization is capable of doing, and what it can’t with the resources at hand.

“People are just really bad off, or they’re just barely making it with unemployment,” Rybak said. 

Needy Numbers Likely on the Rise

According to Newsday’s latest nextLI survey about the impact of coronavirus, of the 1,043 respondents, close to a third said their financial situation has been negatively impacted due to the pandemic. 

Things could get worse for the thousands still on unemployment. New York State statistics show Suffolk County had a 12.9 percent unemployment rate in June. Data for July is not yet available. 

Long Island Cares delivers a shipment of food to Island Heart Food Pantry in Mount Sinai. Director of the pantry Kathy Lahey said they have received a near doubling in clients since the start of the pandemic. Photo by Lahey

Paule Pachter, CEO of nonprofit Long Island Cares, said LIC has seen about 75,000 people coming for the very first time to the its distribution centers looking for emergency food since March 13. Most came after losing their jobs.

In normal times, the food bank operates six stationary and several mobile distribution centers. During the worst of the pandemic, the nonprofit saw the closure of close to one fifth of pantries it distributed to. Things have gotten better, and now they see only 31 closed. The rate of people LIC has seen seeking help has also dropped some small degree.

Still, Pachter has a strong suspicion that with the loss of benefits such as the unemployment funding will lead to a new wave of people seeking aid. He estimates another 50,000 will come in for food in the long run.

“The fact that people are laid off, furloughed, permanently terminated from their jobs and these are people who historically are living paycheck to paycheck … the whole unemployment scenario has been driving people to the food pantries or food distribution centers,” Pachter said. “If we don’t pass another stimulus bill or another extension on unemployment, that’s going to drive even more people to seek aid.”

Though as of the start of August, the federal program that put an extra $600 on top of people’s unemployment checks ended. Congressional leaders from the Democratic-controlled House and GOP-led Senate are locked in a debate over reinstating that relief, along with billions upon billions of dollars in other potential aid to people, businesses and local governments. The Senate is scheduled to take a recess, but it is unknown whether congressional leaders will leave such aid hanging. Republicans have balked at the idea of additional money on top of unemployment checks, saying it disincentivizes people to get back to work.

In the meantime, local pantries and soup kitchens expect the loss of those extra funds on unemployment checks could mean even more people needing assistance.

Lori Presser, the director of Trinity Friends Kitchen, a soup kitchen that operates out of the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rocky Point, said she has no doubt it will get more people coming in within the coming weeks. While the kitchen before the pandemic was serving the same recognizable faces every Thursday, a host of new people showed up at its doors every week to pick up a hot meal, some hearing it from the church’s food pantry that’s now open every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Before the pandemic, the kitchen was serving 250 meals per month, but now she estimates it serves about 350 per month.

“The $600 really helped keep everybody in a good position, but without that you will see many more people looking to stretch whatever available funds they have,” Presser said. 

While the soup kitchen head said it is currently up to the task with current volunteers, she also worried about having to potentially bring more people into the kitchen should numbers pick up once again.

The Middle Island-based Island Heart Food Pantry, which hosts its food donations at the Mount Sinai Congregational Church on North Country Road, has felt the devastation of the pandemic. “It’s been the perfect storm,” director Kathy Lahey said.

The food pantry has experienced visibly longer lines since March, which is exacerbated by a decrease in volunteer staff. 

Legislator Sarah Anker joins the Island Heart Food Pantry, which operates out of the Mount Sinai Congregational Church, in a food drive. Photo from Anker’s office

“There is at least a 25 percent increase in customers,” Lahey said. “In a month we’ve fed about 500 to 600 families.” 

On an average Wednesday before the pandemic, the food pantry would feed around 35 families. Now, it feeds 62. Lahey expects these numbers to continue increasing. The pandemic has caused many more families to be in need of the pantry’s services. 

On top of its longer lines, Island Heart has also been trying to give more food to each family as well. With many kids doing online classes during this time, more families who depended on school food programs now need more food in the house during the day. 

“Because kids were home from school, we also tried to give more food,” Lahey said.

Although the lines are getting longer, the volunteer staff is decreasing. Many of Island Heart’s volunteers remain skeptical about coming in, considering that, although they wear masks, remaining socially distant at the food pantry is difficult. Numbers are down to a skeleton crew of just three a day. 

Between more patrons and less volunteers to work with, Island Heart was unsure if it was going to keep open. 

“We’re taking it day by day,” Lahey said. 

People Are Helping However They Can

What has surprised Rybak and others is just how much people have been willing to give, even while they too have been impacted by the global pandemic. While the Open Cupboard pantry normally has over 60 volunteers, even more people have put themselves out there to help since the start of the pandemic, a contrast with some of the difficulties Island Heart is dealing with.

“This is a 6,000 family parish, the volunteers really represent the heart of the parish, but we’ve noticed how more people have taken an interest since the pandemic,” said the Rev. Patrick Riegger, pastor at Infant Jesus. 

Frank Davi, second from left, has filled up his truck every week to donate to local food pantries. Photo from Davi

Brain Hoerger, a trustee on the board of Theatre Three, and Doug Quattrock, a longtime actor with the company, have helped host two huge food collection drives with the theater in June and July, filling several carloads and the theater’s van “floor to ceiling” with items which they donated to Open Cupboard, enough to completely line the pantry’s main hallway, The theatre is now working on its third such drive for August.

“Now I come home and I find bags by my door, people just dropping stuff off,”
Hoerger said. 

Quattrock said he knows many of the people donating are still unemployed, yet they are still looking for ways to give back, “doing what they can,” he said.

Port Jefferson Rotary Club has also lent a hand in a big way the past few months, having been a regular supporter of the pantry for years. In addition to their Stuff-a-Van food collection events four times a year, fall food collection and their backpack packing event for back to school, Rotarians are also expected to bring in a specific product once a month.

The Selden Hills Warriors, an online group of runners based on Facebook, have also started hosting drives for eight pantries all over Long Island. There are currently four separate teams among the several hundred members buying food with a budget of about $100 each team per week.

“We’re just trying to keep it going, especially through the summer,” group leader Lou LaFleur said. “We have a generous group, and we want to do what we can because we saw the need.”

Despite its hardships, the Island Heart director said the pantry has experienced an increase in donations, both food and monetary. Many churchgoers at Mount Sinai Congregational have even been donating fresh produce from their own gardens, just so the food pantry can remain open. 

Selden Hills Warriors group head Lou Lafleur, right, next to members Bob and Barbara Haughn. They, among many others from the online running group, have donated to several local food pantries. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We’ve seen so many donations from people even outside of our church,” Lahey said. “People just want to help.”

Food pantries and soup kitchens are relying on each other to keep open during these difficult times. Island Heart has gotten a lot of its food items from stores and food banks. 

“Trader Joe’s, Long Island Cares and Island Harvest have been extremely helpful,” Lahey said. “We keep having to order more and more food.”

And as more needy people are potentially on the way, keeping those donations coming in could be make or break for a lot of shelters.

“We’re seeing a lot of new families coming in,” Open Cupboard’s Rybak said. “We had people who used to come to us, they were documented and they’re getting $600 a week, they’re buying us food. They’re giving back, so we know we’re doing the right thing, but the people who come in to us, they’re really getting hammered.”

Brookhaven officials said bay constables have been alerted to several instances of illegal shellfishing over the past month. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Brookhaven town Bay Constables issued summonses against a group of people they said were illegally harvesting oysters from Mount Sinai Harbor. Officials suspect the group was harvesting for use in a restaurant upstate.

Brookhaven officials said bay constables have been alerted to several instances of illegal shellfishing over the past month. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

On Tuesday, July 28 Brookhaven Bay Constables were patrolling Mount Sinai Harbor by boat and observed approximately eight people harvesting oysters. They radioed a senior bay constable who was on shore patrol to respond to a road ending where these individuals were. The constables found that the group had approximately 100 oysters in their possession and issued a summons for taking shellfish from uncertified waters.  

A town spokesperson said bay constables had been alerted to several incidents of illegal shellfishing over the past several weeks in Mount Sinai Harbor, where the taking of shellfish is prohibited by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation from May 1 through October 31.

The town said the vehicle the group were travelling in was registered to Wasabi and Ginger Sushi Restaurant in Larchmont.

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said in a release that taking shellfish from uncertified waters can be a health risk, and he urged state and Westchester county officials track the oyster robbery back to the restaurant “to investigate the restaurant these individuals were associated with to ensure that the food they are serving is safe for the public.”

Brookhaven Town operates one of Long Island’s largest municipal shellfish hatcheries in Mount Sinai Harbor, growing more than 2,000,000 oysters and 1,000,000 clams at the mariculture facility. These shellfish are planted in bays and harbors throughout the town when they reach maturity to help clean local waters and revive local fisheries. 

“Our harbors, bays and waterways are tremendous assets, and part of the reason so many of us call Brookhaven our home,” Romaine added.

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The Mount Sinai School District released its preliminary reopening plans July 31, and though documents state the district would prefer to have all students in school five days a week, it has instead put forward a hybrid model for all students in grades 1 through 12.

Documents state that Mount Sinai simply does not have the building space to comply with New York State guidelines on remaining six feet apart. All students will be put into two cohorts separately in the elementary, middle and high schools. Cohorts will be alphabetically based in order to keep students in the same family going in at the same time.

Monday through Tuesday and Thursday through Friday will be taken up by one of the two cohorts, and all students will share Wednesday for remote learning.

Meanwhile, students in kindergarten will be able to attend in-person four days a week, with remote learning one day a week. In the elementary school, each room will need to be thoroughly disinfected in between cohorts usage.

Students in special education which normally learn in “self-contained classrooms” will be able to attend in-person instruction four days a week, with remote learning one day a week.

Kindergarteners will be assigned to classrooms of 18 to 20 on average, which the district said it should be able to do with current accommodations. For Grades 1 through 4, students will be placed into cohorts of 10 to 15 students depending upon the physical size of the classroom. This will be accomplished by taking a traditional classroom of 20 to 25 students and splitting into two groups alphabetically. The elementary school will prevent intermingling across cohorts by limiting movement of the cohort throughout the day. The only movement of the cohort will be to lunch and potentially physical education. Faculty may travel in and out of the classroom for art and music instruction.

During remote learning, the district said attendance will be taken through Google Classroom recording a student’s logon. Remote learning may consist of synchronous, with a teacher present live online, and asynchronous instruction dependent upon the course or teacher.

Teachers are also expected to communicate with parents weekly, for elementary students, and biweekly for parents with kids in the middle and high school.

In order to attempt to maintain social distancing, the district will put signage and markings on the floor to designate traffic in the hallways and for standing on lines in places like the cafeteria.

Cohorts in the middle and high school will be broken up into last names starting with A through Kh and Ki through Z. Music lessons will be created within each cohort group. Students will also be assigned one of several doorways in each building to both enter and exit the school, and no student is allowed to use their gym or hallway locker, and they will often rely on online textbooks.

Upon arrival, students that do not have the required proof of temperature from home will be directed to a screening area. The district will conduct temperature checks outside the building at a designated location upon arrival via touchless thermometers. If the student has a temperature above 100 degrees, the nurse will be called by radio to escort the student to isolation waiting room for pick up.

The district’s survey showed that out of 1,085 responses, 86 percent said they would send their children to school for in-person instruction in the fall. 66.5 percent said they would need to use buses for transportation.

Still, some number of respondents said they would require district help. Approximately 112 respondents said their child does not have access to a computer, tablet or laptop for use in the online component.

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Miller Place High School. File photo by Kevin Redding

The Miller Place School District is tentatively planning on a 5-day in person learning experience for elementary students come fall, while secondary school students will deal with two days of in-person instruction, one day of live online learning and two days of remote learning.

All school districts were required to release their reopening plans July 31 to New York State for review. Like all reopening plans, these are tentative based on a final decision by New York State officials. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has yet to make the final decision for districts, but has promised to do so by Aug. 7.

In a letter to parents breaking down the district’s 35-page plan, Miller Place will have classes down to an average of 17 at the elementary level. The middle and high school plan would mean the total number of students in class is reduced by 50 percent throughout the school year.

“If Governor Cuomo does not allow full on-site instruction for our K-5 students, they will be placed on a hybrid model of two-day on-site instruction, one-day live remote instruction and two-day remote learning,” the letter signed by Superintendent Marianne Cartisano stated.

According to the district’s plan, this past May Miller Place purchased Dell laptops to supplement existing devices so now each student has access to a computer at home. This fall, each student and teacher should have access to a device they can use in school and from home. For the online learning component of this fall, the district has gone with Google G-Suite, and teachers and admin are expected to take six hours of professional development prior to the start of the school year.

Students in both elementary and secondary will be expected to have physical education, music, art and other special courses, though it did not state whether this will be held in classroom or outdoors, as other districts have explicitly planned on doing.

Compared to other neighboring districts, Miller Place will not explicitly have students in special education classes in school five days a week. Instead, students’ times and coursework will be determined on an individual basis, with plans drawn up for each child in conjunction with parents and members of the school’s Committee on Special Education. Students will use their school-provided laptops from home, and on-site instruction will be provided two days per week with access to district technology within the building. Special education teachers will still be individually responsible for each special needs students both at home and in school.

As far as before and after school programs, the district said it plans to again partner with SCOPE for these plus the Pre-Kindergarten program.

Miller Place said for those vulnerable students who cannot participate in in-person learning for medical reasons a full-time online learning may be offered in a program facilitated by district personnel, by Eastern Suffolk BOCES or home tutoring instruction. These programs will offer a basic and generic schedule for students to complete their instructional program and course requirements, though it did not offer specifics of what that may entail.

The district will not provide a separate learning experience for parents who do not want their kids to attend for the part time in-person instruction. However, the district has provided resources for parents looking to homeschool their children at millerplace.k12.ny.us/Domain/75.

Miller Place’s survey sent to parents in July received 1678 responses. Of those who responded, close to 88 percent or 1,472 parents said they would have their kid attend school in person for at least some part of the school year. At the same time, most parents said they were not in favor of having children wear masks during normal instruction.

Though many students would, the majority of parents, about 60 percent, said they would not be able to have their child driven to school each day, and would need to take public transportation.

A tree falls on a mail carrier truck on Old Post Road in Setauket. Photo by Kyle Barr

Sustained winds of over 40 miles per hour, with gusts of over 65 miles per hour from Tropical Storm Isaias, knocked out power to over 440,000 customers, according to PSEG.

The storm uprooted a tree in St. James. Photo by Rita J. Egan

As of 9:45 am on Thursday, fewer than 140,000 customers were still without power, as PSEG said it had restored power to about 300,000 customers.

The utility expects to restore power to 85% of its customers by the end of the day on Friday, while the remaining percentage should have power by the end of the day on Saturday. PSEG tree crews and contracts have cleared 500 locations.

Customers of PSE&G were so frustrated with their inability to get through to the power company duringt the storm that they flooded the 911 phone lines, causing an increase of 400% in the volume of calls.

“That is related to communication issues that were experienced by PSE&G, where customers had a difficult time getting through or were unable to get through to report outages,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said during a press conference on Wednesday to provide an update after the storm.

Bellone suggested it was “too early to diagnose what the problem was” at PSE&G, but that is it “critical that we determine that for storms moving forward.”

Other New York officials, such as State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) have called for an investigation of the public utility. Just a day after the storm, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced he was directing the state Department of Public Service to launch an investigation in PSEG Long Island, along with other utility companies in New York on what went wrong with service restoration.

While Bellone stopped short of urging an investigation into the communication problems for customers, he urged an “analysis and understanding of what happened. This was a major problem. Communications in a storm is critical. We need to understand why it happened.”

PSEG insisted that the challenges with its communication systems didn’t impact the company’s efforts to restore power. Crews have been able to assess the damage and send teams to affected neighborhoods.

“We have overcome many of the issues with Verizon that affected our call center operations yesterday,” Daniel Eichhorn, president and chief operating officer of PSEG said in a statement. “We understand how critical it is to share accurate and timely information with our customers and we continue working diligently to fully resolve these issues.”

PSEG indicated it understood the importance of sharing accurate and timely information and is seeing improvements in call center operations.

The company is “working diligently to improve all of our systems to fully resolve these issues,” and urges customers to use the automated voice response system, if possible, at (800) 490-0075.

PSEG is opening four customer outreach centers, starting at 10 am on Wednesday, which is providing free water and ice in a drive-through service. The locations are at 175 East Old Country Road in Hicksville, 250 Willis Avenue in Roslyn, 288 Pulaski Road in Greenlawn and 1650 Islip Avenue in Brentwood.

A tree lies across Old Post Road East in Mount Sinai after the storm. Photo by Kyle Barr

The company has sent out 2,000 crews, including workers from New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Florida, Alabama, Kansas and Missouri. The crews will work 16-hour shifts around the clock until they have restored power. The teams will restore critical facilities first, then outages that affect the most people and then outages that affect smaller numbers or individual customers.

PSEG reminded customers that downed wires should always be considered live. A safe distance is at least 30 feet away. Customers who see downed wires should call 911. The company also reminded residents not to drive over or stand near downed power lines. Large pools of standing water could be dangerous because wires could be hidden in them. PSEG urged people to stop, back up and take another path if they see downed wires.

The county received 250 calls for downed trees and limbs on county roadways. Most of those were cleared by the early morning. As of mid-morning on Wednesday, five roads, including four in Huntington and one in Islip, remained partially closed. These are routes 17, 67, 86, 35 and 9.

Bellone said PSEG is aware of the outages and is working to restore power throughout the county.

Despite the calm after the storm, the county facilities, including golf courses, remained closed around midday Wednesday.

“We’re hoping to have those back online [Wednesday] afternoon,” Bellone said.

Smith Point County Park is also closed for swimming, as the outage has cut power to bathroom facilities.

Brookhaven Town’s Holtsville Pool is closed. Brookhaven’s town beaches are open, but Davis Park, Great Gun and Ho Hum beaches all have red flag conditions, which prevents swimming and limits water access to knee-deep wading.

Access to West Meadow Beach is also limited because of fallen trees in the area.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) urged residents to report fallen trees, damage from town roadside trees, flooding or other storm damage to call 631-451- TOWN or go to BrookhavenNy.gov/StormDamage.