Village Beacon Record

Shoreham-Wading River school board member Michael Fucito, at center with a commemorative dedication statue, was congratulated by the board on his retirement. Photo by Kevin Redding

At the end of last week’s Shoreham-Wading River school board meeting, it bid farewell to its “rock of reason” — a member who’s devoted 27 years to bettering the district and the lives of its students.

In announcing the retirement and resignation of Michael Fucito, 79, who first joined the school board in 1977, board president John Zukowski said Fucito had an incredible commitment to the community and had always been prepared for every meeting, leaving the job with the same dedication he started with.

Michael Fucito, on right, who was a member of the Shoreham-Wading River Board of Education for 27 years, is congratulated on his retirement by his peers. Photo by Kevin Redding

“When we get this job, we’re all sent out for this training [in Albany] and they tell you how to be a board member,” Zukowski said. “What they ought to do [instead] is say, ‘go follow Mike Fucito around for a couple days’ … he’s always applied his common sense and his logic and he kept everybody on track.”

Fucito, who was born in Brooklyn and raised in Wading River, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1955 until 1959 working on radio systems and learning about electronics before becoming an electrical engineer at Northrup Grumman Corporation in Calverton, where he worked for 34 years. He married his wife Joan in 1960 and together they had three daughters, all of whom went through the school district.

Fucito decided to join the board, and served for two terms from 1977 until 1993 and then from 2006 until last week, because he felt it was his responsibility to give back to the community and improve the district as best he could.

During his tenure, he was a mover and shaker when it came to building maintenance, budget and overall safety for the students, serving on the main board of liaisons on the safety committee formed in the late 70s and 80s, when the much-opposed Shoreham nuclear power plant stood in East Shoreham.

The safety committee, consisting of concerned residents, board members and teachers, was formed to discuss the district’s evacuation plans in the event of a serious nuclear accident at the plant, in the wake of the Three Mile Island accident.

“Mike is the epitome of what a trustee should strive to be. He’s always prepared … he’s always willing to serve, go the extra mile, sit through the ardor of every different committee and always comes out with his same smile.”

—William McGrath

“He was always an incredibly conscientious, hardworking, reflective guy and that’s what you want in a board member,” said Ed Weiss, a former board member and Fucito’s longtime friend. “You’re there to help kids and that’s the way he worked.”

He didn’t anticipate his early March resignation. He planned on finishing out the school year before retiring, moving from Wading River to his summer home in Wells, Vermont, but his house ended up selling in just three days.

Board trustee William McGrath, who’s worked alongside Fucito on the board for nine years, said his friend’s early resignation is New York’s loss and Vermont’s gain.

“Mike is the epitome of what a trustee should strive to be,” McGrath said. “He’s always prepared … he’s always willing to serve, go the extra mile, sit through the ardor of every different committee and always comes out with his same smile … He has been the glue that has held this district together for an awful long time.”

Upon receiving a plaque presented by the board, Fucito humbly stated his accomplishments weren’t a one-person effort, and said it takes a whole board to work to get something done.

“It has been my pleasure to serve the community all these years and I also have a great deal of respect for each of the members I’ve served with,” he said. “I wasn’t on the board to try to be a superhero or anything, I just tried to work with the staff and see how we could improve the situation for the students.”

As music blasted and hair clippers buzzed in the packed  Rocky Point Middle School gymnasium March 16, teachers, students and community members lined up to get their heads shaved in the name of childhood cancer research.

Upwards of 25 people, a majority of them students, registered to shed their locks and raise money for the school’s second annual St. Baldrick’s event. Organized by 8th grade social studies teacher Erica Alemaghides, the event encourages students to “stand in solidarity” with those struggling with childhood cancer, one of the most underfunded cancers in the world, and be involved in community fundraising.

“Everybody has someone in their family or community that has been touched personally by cancer, so this really is an event that hits home for so many people.”

—Scott O’Brien

This year, Alemaghides said, the middle school began raising money in February through online crowdfunding accounts, and raised more than $13,000 for the non-profit St. Baldrick’s Foundation, surpassing its set goal of $10,000.

After last year’s success, raising $8,000 with an originally-set goal of $5,000, Rocky Point Middle School Principal Scott O’Brien didn’t hesitate to give Alemaghides the go ahead to double the amount.

“Everybody has someone in their family or community that has been touched personally by cancer, so this really is an event that hits home for so many people,” O’Brien said. “I’m just so proud of what our school and community continues to do … The money will help give kids a second chance at life and the students, teachers and community members are making a difference.”

Each student who got their heads shaved received a certificate, T-shirt and a bracelet. Student step dancers and Selden’s Siol Na h’Eireann bagpipe band performed Irish dances and songs for those in attendance.

Feeling more like a rock concert than a school assembly, students from all grades filled the gym’s bleachers, cheering and stomping their feet for those who sat down centerstage and got their heads shaved by members of the high school’s cosmetology program.

Seventh-grader Quentin Palifka received a special medal after he and his family donated the most money — $4,120. He said he was eager to get involved.

“Middle school can be rough for some people, but when we all focus on a single cause for at least one day, it pulls us together.”

—Liam Abernethy

“I really liked the cause — it’s a great cause, and one of my family’s friends we’ve known for so long died of cancer and I just wanted to help out,” Palifka said. “I wanted to do it last year but didn’t, and then this year, I was like, ‘I have to do it.’”

Eighth-grader Liam Abernethy and his father, a teacher in the Sachem school district, decided to get bald together.

“I have a lot of family members that died from cancer — my grandfather, my uncle, even some aunts — and I think suffering through it at such a young age would be absolutely devastating,” Abernethy said about his drive to donate. “Middle school can be rough for some people, but when we all focus on a single cause for at least one day, it pulls us together.”

When asked how it felt to be hairless, he said, “I feel lighter, a few pounds lighter.”

It was seventh-grader Kathryn Bush, however, who got everyone’s attention for being the first girl in the event’s two-year history to shave her head.

“I felt like it was something good to do and I also wanted to start over again with my hair,” she said. “I was nervous at first because I have a couple beauty marks on my head and people would maybe see things that I don’t want them to see, but now I’m fine with it and it’s not really that big a deal.”

Bush, who raised more than $1,000, said she hopes more girls will volunteer in the future.

Diedre Johnson, the high school cosmetology student who shaved Bush’s head, said she was impressed by her courage.

“Can you imagine shaving their head at their age? It takes a lot of courage. As adults, it’s easy to see that it’s just hair and will grow back in a few months, but to kids, it seems like forever.”

—Bruce Wolper

“That was so sweet; I always say I want to shave my head [for charity] but she actually did it, that was so nice,” she said, adding that the process of shaving heads was at first nerve-wracking, but became easier and more fun as the event went along. “It’s all one size and pretty easy to do … it was really eye-opening that so many people wanted to volunteer.”

Silvina Vega, a Wading River resident, heard about the St. Baldrick’s event on Facebook and decided to stop by and participate. She plans on donating her hair to Locks of Love, a not-for-profit that provides hairpieces for kids struggling with cancer.

Many teachers at the school look forward to the event and seeing their students excited about doing something good.

“It’s electric and very heartwarming,” said 7th grade Spanish teacher Bruce Wolper. “They’re taking a risk at this age, can you imagine shaving their head at their age? It takes a lot of courage. As adults, it’s easy to see that it’s just hair and will grow back in a few months, but to kids, it seems like forever.”

John Mauceri, a 7th grade special education social studies teacher, echoed Wolper’s sentiment.

“Having the kids realize how important it is to give back,” Mauceri said, “especially in this world we live in, and feel good about positive things, is amazing.”

A solar farm is still being proposed near the Shoreham nuclear power plant. Currently, there are plans near the Pine Barrens in Mastic for a solar installation. Photo by Kevin Redding

In response to a proposed solar farm in Shoreham, members of the Brookhaven Town Board urge state legislators to not only stand with them in opposition, but grant them “a seat at the table” to have their voices heard and taken seriously.

Since it was first submitted last June, National Grid and NextEra Energy Resources’ proposal to build a large-scale solar energy facility on the wooded property that surrounds the abandoned Shoreham nuclear power plant, and clear 350 acres of the 800-acre land made up of cliffs, rolling hills and a variety of wildlife species, has sparked an outpouring of local opposition, from elected officials to environmentalists, civic associations, teachers and parents in the community.

The proposed solar farm in Shoreham could look like the one seen here at Brookhaven National Lab. File photo

Those against it share the belief that “renewable energy is important but not at the expense of another section of the environment.” As recently as Feb. 27, the Shoreham-Wading River school board voted unanimously against endorsing the project, despite a considerable financial offer from National Grid, which owns the Shoreham site, and NextEra.

According to the companies, the proposal, developed in response to a PSEG Long Island request to help New York meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) renewable energy goals, would generate upwards of 72 megawatts of solar energy, provide power for more than 13,000 homes, and create between 125 and 175 construction jobs and millions of dollars in tax benefits.

It’s currently being considered by LIPA, which would purchase the electricity generated by the joint companies for a period of 20 years under the contract, and New York State.

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), a leader in the charge against the solar farm, said he thinks the companies involved are making a mistake, and wants it to be known that Brookhaven is going to do everything it can to prevent it from happening and protect the environment.

In addition to the proposed site falling within Shoreham’s A-10 residential zoning code — the most restrictive in Brookhaven — which was put in place more than 25 years ago to specifically protect the “coastal forest preserve,” he said, the proposal directly violates Brookhaven’s solar code adopted last year that opposes cutting down trees or removing native forests to build solar farms or facilities.

“You can build [solar arrays] on clear land, on rooftops, and in parking lots, but you’re not cutting down trees,” Romaine said. “Brookhaven needs to stay green and we do not need to deforest the few uncut forests we have in this town.”

The proposal by National Grid could clear 350 acres along the Long Island Sound. Photo by Kevin Redding

When Romaine and the rest of the town board first heard rumors of the solar farm plan more than a year ago, they dismissed it, confident local opposition and town zoning would be enough to prevent it from going anywhere.

However, the supervisor got word that National Grid and NextEra could get around the zoning restrictions and potentially strip away any of Brookhaven’s say in the matter under Article X of the Public Service Law — a provision allowing “an applicant seeking approval to site a major electric generating facility to obtain a final decision from the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment, waiving all local zoning requirements, if the Siting Board finds them to be burdensome in terms of technology and costs.”

The Siting Board is composed of five members appointed by the governor.

The town board sprang into action, writing and submitting a letter to nine state senators and assemblymen requesting that the law be amended to allow local municipalities to serve as mandatory parties to the proposed facility “application proceeding.”

“To allow the overriding of local zoning without allowing the local community a significant voice in these proceedings is wrong,” reads the end of the letter, which was signed by Romaine, Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), Councilman Michael Loguercio (R-Ridge), Councilman Neil Foley (R-Blue Point) and Councilman Daniel Panico (R-Center Moriches).

“We understand there’s a need for Article X and we’re not saying you can’t decide against us, but we just feel the locality should have a seat at the table, which would give us a voice,” Romaine said, admitting he decided to write to the legislature to be on the safe side, not knowing if the proposal will get that far. “Right now, we have no voice.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, has previously spoken out against a solar farm in Shoreham. File photo

According to a fact sheet provided by National Grid and NextEra, a poll to determine the attitudes of the residents of the Town of Brookhaven was commissioned, asking what they would like to see developed on the Shoreham property — “they chose ‘solar energy project’ above any other use,” it said. When residents were given information about the solar farm project, the sheet stated “level of support grew to 75 percent.”

Conversely, the proposal is an environmental nightmare as far as Sid Bail, president of the Wading River Civic Association, is concerned.

“This is just a horrible use of the land,” he said. “It’s not just cutting the trees with the thought that ‘They’ll grow back in 50 years,’ it’s the hills, the gullies, the wildlife, the plants and the fauna that would have to be destroyed. I can see why the owners of the property, National Grid, would like to do this, they can make a bundle of money from it … however the idea of deforesting several hundred acres of very special forest land in order to achieve a worthwhile goal isn’t a good trade-off.”

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), chairman of the Committee on Environmental Conservation, deemed the proposal a bad idea, stating the Shoreham site is worthy of being preserved as part of our natural history.

“This is a native forest in essentially pristine condition … it’s a museum piece of natural land,” Englebright said. “I am the original New York State legislator who sponsored what are now the laws that enabled solar energy to begin to take off. I’m a pro-solar, pro-renewable energy person … [but] it was never my intent to see environmental atrocities committed in the name of renewable energy. I’m offended, as the father of solar energy in this state, that they are attempting to so thoroughly abuse the premise of what solar is meant to be.”

Line Pouchard at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2013. Photo by Allan Miller

By Daniel Dunaief

They produce so much information that they can’t keep up with it. They use the latest technology to gather data. Somewhere, hidden inside the numbers, might be the answer to current questions as well as the clues that lead to future questions researchers don’t know how to ask yet.

Scientists in almost every facility, including at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Stony Brook University, are producing information at an unprecedented rate. The Center for Data-Driven Discovery at Brookhaven National Laboratory can help interpret and make sense of all that information.

Senior researcher Line Pouchard joined BNL’s data team early this year, after a career that included 15 years at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (another Department of Energy facility) and more than two-and-a-half years at Purdue University. “The collaborations at the [DOE] lab are highly effective,” she said. “They have a common purpose and a common structure for the scientist.” Pouchard’s efforts will involve working with metadata, which adds annotations to provide context and a history of a file, and machine learning, which explores large blocks of information for patterns. “As science grows and the facility grows, we are creating more data,” she said.

Scientists can share large quantities of information, passing files through various computer systems. “You may want to know how this data has been created, what the computer applications or codes are that have been used, who developed it and who the authors are,” she said.

Knowing where the information originated can help the researchers determine whether to trust the content and the way it came together, although there are other requirements to ensure that scientists can trust the data. If the metadata and documentation are done properly “this can tell you how you can use it and what kind of applications and programs you can use to continue working with it,” Pouchard said. Working in the Computational Science Initiative, Pouchard will divide her time between responding to requests for assistance and conducting her own research.

“At Purdue, [Pouchard] was quite adept at educating others in understanding metadata, and the growing interest and emphasis on big data in particular,” explained Jean-Pierre Herubel, a professor of library science at Purdue, in an email. Herubel and Pouchard were on the research council committee, and worked together with other members to shepherd their research agendas for the Purdue University library faculty.

Pouchard “has a capacity to participate well with colleagues; regarding national and international venues, she will be a strong participating member,” Herubel continued. “She does well working and integrating with others.”

Pouchard recently joined a team that submitted a proposal in the area of earth science and data preservation. She has also worked on something called the Semantic Web. The idea, which was proposed by Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, is to allow the use of data items and natural language concepts in machine readable and machine actionable forms. As an example, this could include generating rules for computers that direct the machines to handle the multiple meanings of a word.

One use of the Semantic Web is through searches, which allows people to look for information and data and, once they’re collected, gives them a chance to sort through them. Combined with other technologies, the Semantic Web can allow machines to do the equivalent of searching through enormous troves of haystacks.

“When I first started talking about the Semantic Web, I was at Oak Ridge in the early days,” Pouchard said. Since then, there has been considerable progress, and the work and effort have received more support from scientists.

Pouchard was recently asked to “work with ontologies [a Semantic Web technology] in a proposal,” she said, which suggests they are getting more traction. She is looking forward to collaborating with several scientists at BNL, including Kerstin Kleese van Dam, the director of the Computational Sciences Initiative and the interim director of the Center for Data-Driven Discovery.

Kleese van Dam has “an incredible vision of what is needed in science in order to improve computational science,” said Pouchard, who met the director about a decade ago when van Dam was working in England. Pouchard has an interest in data repositories, which she explored when she worked at Purdue University.

Living temporarily in Wading River, Pouchard bought a home in Rocky Point and hopes to move in soon. Her partner Allan Miller, from Knoxville, Tennessee, owned and managed the Disc Exchange in Knoxville for 26 years. He is starting to help small business owners and non-profit organizations with advertising needs. Pouchard experienced Long Island when she was conducting her Ph.D. research at the City University of New York and took time out to visit a friend who lived in Port Jefferson.

When she’s not working on the computer, Pouchard, who is originally from Normandy, France, enjoys scuba diving, which she has done in the Caribbean, in Hawaii, in Mexico and a host of other places.

When Pouchard was young, she visited with her grandparents during the summer at the beach in Normandy, in the town of Barneville-Carteret. Her parents, and others in the area, lectured their children never to go near or touch metal objects they found in the dunes because unexploded World War II devices were still occasionally found in remote areas. The environment on Long Island, with the marshes, reminds her of her visits years ago.

Pouchard has an M.S. in information science from the University of Tennessee and a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the City University of New York.

As for her work, Pouchard said she is “really interested in the Computational Science Initiative at BNL, which enables researchers to collaborate. Computational science is an integral part of the facilities,” at her new research home.

Ron Widelec, a member of Long Island Activists speaks during the event Saturday. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Victoria Espinoza

Activism is on the rise in the aftermath of the 2016 election on the North Shore and beyond, though at an event in Huntington concerned citizens signed up to do more than carry signs and initiate chants.

On Saturday, March 11, more than 100 people gathered at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington to participate in a training program to run for office hosted by the Working Families Party, along with Long Island Activists, the New York State United Teachers and the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

Ron Widelec, a member of the Long Island Activists, said he believes activism and running for office should go hand in hand.

“These are not separate things, they actually have to work together,” he said. Recently the groups have banded together to support issues like a new health care law for New York, and Widelec said that’s an issue in particular dependent on having the ear of politicians. For a health care rally he played a part in organizing this month, he said he invited his local state Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) to the event, but Marcellino instead sent an aide in his place.

“As I was speaking, I looked [the aide] dead in the eye and said, ‘Our state senators need to know that they’re going to vote for this bill, or they’re not going to be our state senators very much longer,’” he said. “That threat only works if when in 2018 he’s up for re-election we can actually run a candidate, mount a campaign and flip that seat. So these things have to work together.”

Long Islanders ask questions and work in groups as they learn about running for office. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

At the event residents learned how to run a successful campaign including conducting fundraisers, getting out the vote and more.

“The concept behind trainings like this is to start running an army of activists citizens who are running for office, not because they’ve been waiting in line for 20 years and finally the local party meets in their little smoke-filled rooms and decides so and so is going to be the candidate,” Widelec said. “The idea is that we get regular people who identify with the struggles of ordinary people and working families … nurses, teachers, small business owners.”

Town officials also came to encourage a new generation of politicians.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said she came up through the same channels as attendees of the training program.

“I am excited to be here today and even more excited to look around this room at the people who are here to get more information and be more engaged,” she said at the event.

Cartright said she was asked to run for office in 2013 and said “no” twice before reconsidering.

“I never thought of running for office because all I knew of politics was what I saw on television which was negative and corrupt,” she said. However she realized she could help more people while holding public office and is happy she ultimately said “yes,” adding, “People in this room, you’re already starting to say ‘yes’ by being here — and that’s important.”

Cartright said she understands some people may be sharing the same hesitation she once had, but she encouraged them to push through.

“I understand for many of you the reason for being here is what’s going on the national level,” she said. “But let’s not forget that all politics are local. If you don’t want to be political or never thought of yourself as a political person, like I used to think, put that to the back burner … because as much as you might not think so everything is political. Even when you decide which family members to invite to Thanksgiving — that’s political.”

Jeff Friedman, Long Island political organizer for the NYSUT, voiced concerns for the nation’s state of education under the administration of President Donald Trump (R).

Long Islanders ask questions and work in groups as they learn about running for office. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

“In recent months and with political characters like Betsy DeVos … they really threaten to undermine public education as we know it,” he said.

He said every issue can be traced back to the need for effective elected officials.

Centerport resident Marge Acosta ran for a seat on the Harborfields school board in 2016, but was defeated. She said she attended the event because important issues are being debated on multiple levels of government right now.

“It was very motivating,” Acosta said of the event. ‘They gave a lot of really good advice. Everyone learned a lot about getting involved early enough, spreading the word and raising money.”

She said she was disheartened to realize how large of a role money plays in running a successful campaign.

“It’s a shame how much time people have to spend in fundraising,” she said. “One woman there said it was a big part of why she lost her campaign and it shouldn’t be that way. There are loads of highly qualified people who shouldn’t have to worry about raising huge sums of money.”

While Acosta said she’s not sure if she’s interested in running for office again, the event was still invaluable to her.

“Never say never,” she said. “But I think I could help bring this information to a lot of people who are ready to run for public office.”

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin. File photo by Kevin Redding

The quality of Long Island waters has been on the mind of elected officials from all levels of government recently, and a representative from the federal government has joined the fray, calling for more funding for two Environmental Protection Agency programs.

“There’s much we can do to improve water quality in the Long Island Sound and National Estuary and I’ll continue working in congress to ensure our waterways are preserved for generations to come,” U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirely) said during a press conference March 13.

Southold Town Council members and residents from the 1st Congressional District gathered at Veterans Memorial Park in Mattituck as Zeldin called on the federal government to fully fund at least $10 million to the Long Island Sound Study and $26.5 million to the National Estuary Program in its upcoming appropriations process at the end of April, and also to support the passage of the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act. He said funding for the two EPA programs is essential to address urgent and challenging issues that threaten the ecological and economic well-being of Long Island’s coastal areas, such as nitrogen, harmful algae blooms and flooding or wetland loss.

East Beach in Port Jefferson is on the Long Island Sound. File photo by Elana Glowatz

“Over the years, water quality around Long Island has suffered from pollution, overdevelopment and other negative impacts…and I’m calling on my colleagues to make sure these programs are fully supported and funded, and certainly not eliminated,” Zeldin said, highlighting the significant impacts each of the programs have had on the region.

The Long Island Sound is one of our natural treasures, the congressman said, and is a precious feature of the life, culture and economy of more than 9 million people living in the coastal communities around it. He voiced his admiration of the Long Island Sound Study for its dedication to water quality and wetlands restoration in addition to local conservation projects to restore beaches and protect wildlife.

He called the National Estuary Program “an important EPA wetlands protection program for 28 estuaries in the U.S.,” two of which being Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay. The program was established by the Clean Water Act in 1987 to provide grants to states where nationally significant estuaries are threatened.

Zeldin said he will continue to work alongside Democrats and Republicans in the region to secure the funding as he did to stop President Barack Obama’s (D) proposed 22 percent cut to the Long Island Sound Study in 20

The Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act, he said, was introduced at the last congress by himself and former 3rd District U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) and will propose tens-of-millions of dollars in funding per year through 2020 for a water quality and shore restoration program. Zeldin plans to reintroduce the bill during this congressional session.

Setauket Harbor Task Force Trustee George Hoffman voiced support for Zeldin and his call for funding to protect local waters.

“With Congressman Zeldin’s strong advocacy and leadership, the Long Island Sound Study, a consortium of federal, state and environmental organizations has turned the corner on cleaning up the water in LI Sound and its harbors and bays.”

—George Hoffman

“With Congressman Zeldin’s strong advocacy and leadership, the Long Island Sound Study, a consortium of federal, state and environmental organizations has turned the corner on cleaning up the water in LI Sound and its harbors and bays,” he said. “Federal funding is critical to survival of this important and productive estuary.”

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell spoke briefly in response to Zeldin’s longtime presence in the area.

“The people of the East End and people of the first congress have made it clear time and time again that the environment is a top priority and the congressman has been a zealous advocate on behalf of us, on behalf of the environment, and on behalf of our natural resources,” Russell said. “Time and time again, he’s disproved the myth that Republicans aren’t friends of the environment…Republicans are and he is.”

Councilman Bob Ghosio took to the podium to speak about the importance of the proposed funding.

“Talking about nitrogen in the bays and creeks and knowing the Long Island Sound and estuaries [here], particularly in Southold are what drives our economy, our tourism, our jobs and our recreation, just tells me how important this is,” Ghosio said. “Getting the funds to keep this area healthy for the future for my kids, my grandkids and generations thereafter is very important to us.”

When asked by a resident what he thinks of some of his Republican colleagues advancing toward eliminating EPA entirely, Zeldin reminded those in attendance he voted against a 17 percent cut to the EPA last year.

“There are 535 members of congress, all with very different ideologies and backgrounds and you get a whole lot of diversity on these issues and so I have a lot of colleagues who would support completely eliminating the EPA altogether,” Zeldin said. “But again, I voted against the 17 percent cut so to ask me how I feel about a 100 percent cut, there’s some precedent in it.”

On March 12, the Friends of St. Patrick held Rocky Point and Miller Place’s 67th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. Green and gold were seen down Route 25A to Broadway, as residents from all over the North Shore braved the cold to take part in this year’s festivities.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police arrested one person during multiple New York State Liquor Authority inspections at various Town of Brookhaven businesses.

Officers from the 6th Precinct Crime Section and 6th Precinct Community Support Unit conducted underage alcohol checks March 9 at 24 businesses throughout the precinct.

Buenaventura Benitez, 43, of Smithtown, employed by NY Food & Drink Inc., located at 2505 Middle Country Road in Centereach, was arrested for unlawfully dealing with a child in the 1st degree under the state penal law, and prohibited sale to a person under 21, which falls under the NYS ABC law.

Benitez was issued a field appearance ticket and a summons and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District court in Central Islip at a later date.

Twenty-three additional businesses in Centereach, Coram, East Setauket, Port Jefferson Station, Stony Brook, Miller Place, and Mount Sinai were inspected and refused to sell alcohol to a minor.

Miller Place art teacher Julia Vogelle helped form The Brick Studio and Gallery nonprofit. Photo from Julia Vogelle

Who better to bring vibrancy and revitalization to downtown Rocky Point than a group of local artists? With the support of elected officials, a new nonprofit organization is leading the charge to help enrich, educate and electrify the Rocky Point community and surrounding areas.

The Brick Studio and Gallery is an art collective of more than 20 local artists and instructors with aspirations to grow and develop into a full-fledged community studio and hub.

Spearheaded by Miller Place High School art teacher Julia Vogelle and professional ceramicist Justine Moody, the group blossomed around the time Stony Brook University’s Craft Center and ceramics studio closed for renovations in January 2016, leaving potters and artists without a space to do what they love.

Pottery making will be offered at The Brick Studio and Gallery. Photo from Julia Vogelle

Vogelle and Moody, who shared dreams of opening up a cooperative to bring art back into the community, met in the wake of the Craft Center shutdown and enlisted the help of the “homeless” artists to form the organization.

Since then, the project has grown, culminating in a Kickstarter campaign with an ambitious goal of $18,000 to turn a dream into a reality. With 120 backers, their goal has already been exceeded, raising a total of $18,150.

The money will cover the start-up costs to find a location and equip and supply the studio with 14 pottery wheels, two electric kilns, kiln shelves, clay, glazes and ceramic tools. According to the fundraiser page, the studio “has the potential to begin a renaissance in historic Rocky Point, with other artists and artisans joining in bringing life to other empty buildings” and plans to open in early spring.

“My vision is to have this cultural center energize and bring all the money back into the hamlet,” Vogelle said. “Rocky Point has a lot to offer. People 16 and up can come; we’d have services for students, seniors, veterans and anyone who would like to work. I want to look at Broadway in Rocky Point as ‘artist’s row.’”

In addition to pottery, glass and jewelry making, the studio will be a venue for documentary showings, live poetry, trivia nights and  live music.

Moody expanded on the grand vision.

“I think it’s going to become a destination place … I don’t know that Rocky Point has one, and there are a lot of towns here with a tremendous group of creatives who don’t really have a place to call their own,” Moody said.

She’s hoping it could be a place to attract locals during the summer to take lessons, and others from outside the community on Friday nights, saying she envisions big events on weekends and other pop-up events throughout the year.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) believes The Brick has the potential to be a tourist attraction that could boost Rocky Point’s foot traffic and revenue — much-needed since the state built the bypass, which encourages traffic to go around the area, hitting downtown businesses especially hard.

“There are a lot of towns here with a tremendous group of creatives who don’t really have a place to call their own.”

— Justine Moody

“So many of our residents come in from the Long Island Expressway, from Sunrise Highway, and they look to go east from the North Fork, and my hope is that maybe they’ll turn left and go west to experience what Rocky Point and Shoreham have to offer,” Anker said. “There are so many high-level artists that live in the area and this will hopefully give them a way to stay local and promote their craft to the public.”

Anker has been involved in North Shore revitalization plans since 2011, participating with the Rails to Trails project and the clean-up of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, and said that art is not just trendy.

“We underestimate how important art is, it needs to be cultivated,” she said. “It’s part of our culture and it has an educational component. It will definitely benefit downtown Rocky Point.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), who contributed $100 to the art collective’s Kickstarter campaign, said she’s so excited about the studio and points to Vogelle and Moody’s hard work and dedication.

“They’re very dedicated and committed and they’re not looking for somebody else to solve their problem … grass isn’t growing under feet at all and it’s hard not to pay attention to that,” Bonner said.

As a 30-year Rocky Point resident, the councilwoman is hopeful that the artists can bring people back to downtown Rocky Point and trigger change.

Vogelle feels the same, stating that she believed that the art can bring value to homes and surrounding businesses.

“If you put art into a community, people want to move in,” she said. “If you put music in town, people want to gather around and enjoy it. A cultural center like this always connects with schools in the district and it will also help people realize there’s so much culture that’s hidden. And anyone can get hooked on ceramics — the elderly, veterans, teens. Once you touch mud, you never go back.”

Present the above “coupon” to Buffalo Wild Wings in Miller Place March 10 to donate 10 percent of your total bill to On Kevin’s Wings. Image from Tracey Farell

On March 10, beginning at 11 a.m., Buffalo Wild Wings in Miller Place will be donating 10 percent of each patron’s bill to On Kevin’s Wings, a nonprofit organization that funds airfare or transportation for those seeking drug or alcohol rehabilitation away from home.

After losing her son Kevin to an accidental overdose in 2012, Tracey Farrell began North Shore Drug Awareness, a Facebook page that provides information and assistance to those asking questions wanting to learn more about how to help a loved one battling addiction or looking for rehabilitation centers.

Farrell began to try to help other families who were also dealing with addicted children, while still dealing with one of her own: her daughter. She sent Brianna out of state and claimed it saved her life.

This prompted her to begin her new venture.

In addition to the funds raised March 10, the location is then, for the following 30 days, donating the same 10 percent of each customer’s bill who presents the Home Team Advantage Teammate Card. It’s good for dining in and take out and  can be presented straight from a cellphone.

On March 10, On Kevin’s Wings will also be doing raffles and 50/50 from 6 to 9 p.m.

Buffalo Wild Wings in Miller Place is located at 385 Route 25A.