Village Times Herald

A caravan of cars rolled through Port Jefferson Oct. 17 in support of President Donald Trump. Photo by Kyle Barr

Beyond the interruption to Saturday business for stores, some of whom are hanging on for dear life by their pinkie, beyond the traffic and the noise, where is this going?

Because we are two weeks before an election, likely one of the most consequential elections of our lifetime, and the Trump caravans taking over roads not just on the North Shore as they did last weekend, but from both east and west, have told us one thing: There are real efforts to take the general antipathy seen on the national stage and transport it to here at home.

Seemingly in response to a single Black Lives Matter march in Port Jefferson back in June, local right-wing group Setauket Patriots has hosted three events since July. One was a sanctioned car parade for Fourth of July. Another was an unsanctioned parade for 9/11. Now we have the most recent caravan supporting the reelection of President Donald Trump (R) last Saturday. All these events have contained many examples of people waving flags supporting Trump, but this latest parade finally dropped any pretense.

In videos shared online, some patriots members have displayed animosity to local officials, to neighbors or effectively anyone who doesn’t agree with them. One video highlighted an actor portraying Trump calling Port Jeff Mayor Margot Garant “evil” for issuing the group a summons for marching without a permit. In another, a member of the caravan jokes about shooting counterprotesters.

Grown men and young children got into public shouting matches on the side of the street. There were reported examples of people in the caravan using gay slurs at any who showed disagreement. And, of course, not every example of bad behavior was carried out by Trump supporters. One counterprotester flipped the bird at all those gathered at the street corner, drawing jeers from the crowd.

Are these examples just small bites of a larger, more intricate context? We hope so, but there’s a real danger to thoughts like these. Yes, you can and should disagree with the decisions of public officials like the mayor of a small incorporated village, but what is the point of pejoratives? Where is this going? Is there going to be something like the planned armed coup by residents against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D)? Not likely but, then again, officials like U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) have joined in on attacks against the mayor seemingly on political grounds. These attempts at further dividing a local community are not welcome.

And beyond that, if you joke about shooting your political opponents, no matter if they are protesters, officials or police, you no longer deserve the kind of public platform you currently enjoy.

Divided. That’s what we call ourselves now. We say we are polarized and distinct, with one red America and one blue America. Why? Why do we push this polarization as if it’s inevitable?

This month, TBR News Media has been hosting debates with candidates running for local elections. Would you be offended or glad to know just how often these people from two separate parties actually agree on local issues? Both Republicans and Democrats agree with how important it is to maintain our North Shore bays and the Long Island Sound in general. Both parties understand the issue of Long Island’s brain drain and the need to keep both old and young here. They might disagree on the particulars, but that is why we have the debates in the first place, isn’t it?

Even on the so-called hot-button issues like police reform, there is real nuance and ideas from candidates you likely won’t see on any nationally televised debate stage.

There are people, even in our local community, who are trying to twist us and divide us. We ask that we all look past that and attend to the facts to guide our political decision-making. Check back with TBR News Media Oct. 29 for our upcoming preelection issue.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Jill has been cutting hair for 38 years. She has owned a few salons, but these days she has been scheduling hair cutting appointments at people’s homes.

She wears a mask, asks her customers to do the same and does her work outside or in the shelter of a garage, where the wind isn’t as strong.

An immigrant from Lebanon, Jill is completely professional, asking for extension cords through the garage, setting up a chair for her customers, and carrying her sterilized scissors, electronic clippers and comb.

Reflecting on the decades she’s spent chatting with customers while she works, she has an easy, purposeful manner about her efforts, while she rolls her “r’s,” sharing linguistic hints on her life.

These days, she lives with her daughter, son-in-law and her three grandchildren. She has her own space in the house, but is hoping, before too long, to rent or buy a small place where she can call the shots.

She shared a story with me that offers some perspective about life and our reactions in the moment to our wins and losses.

Back in February, Jill had decided it was time to own a salon again. She pooled all her savings and placed a bid on a property. She was excited about the prospect of serving more customers, hiring staff and growing a business that would help her make money and increase her savings towards retirement.

She knew she was close to winning the bidding and had started imagining how she’d reinvent the space and the people she’d hire. But, then, the people selling the property informed her that they had chosen another bidder, who had deeper pockets and was a part of a larger chain. She was incredibly disappointed and felt as if she’d lost out on a business she knew she could run. She spent several weeks irritated by the situation.

A month after she lost the property, she joined the rest of the world in the pandemic-triggered lockdown. Initially, she couldn’t get out much.

As the days stretched into weeks and the weeks into months, she realized how lucky her loss on that property had been. She would have had to carry a $4,000 monthly mortgage for a location that was producing no revenue for months.

She considers herself an incredibly lucky loser. Back in February, of course, a mere month before the virus changed the United States, she had no way of knowing that her loss would save her from a mountain of unmanageable debt.

She feels as if a force from up high was looking out for her, protecting her from a financial burden and responsibility that would have been hard to manage, even with whatever government program she might have turned to for help.

Down the road, when the world returns to something resembling the experiences of 2019, she may, once again, consider buying a salon. Until then, however, she’s perfectly happy without the debt and the uncertainty of managing through a difficult small business and economic environment.

In the meantime, she will continue to show up at people’s homes, brushes, clippers and scissors in hand, ready to provide on-site haircuts to people who prefer, or can’t, leave their properties.

The challenges and obstacles that disappoint also sometimes protect us, even if we can’t see that in the moment, particularly when we know how much we want something.

Many of us will confront those frustrations in the future over which we have no control. Sometimes, we may gain perspective on what, at first, appears to be an unfortunate outcome.

METRO photo

By Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

A friend is planning to retire at the end of the year. His wife is already retired, and we three talked about the future. Since none of us has jobs with pensions, they are understandably trying hard to discern economic trends for the investments they hope will carry them through their golden years. Currently their money is mainly in stocks, which are doing well enough, but they, and the rest of us, have duly noted the disconnect between the stock market and the economy.

The stock market, of course, is not the economy but rather is thought to be one predictor of future economic trends at least six months ahead. There are others as well, and one place to get some insight is the PBS program, “Consuelo Mack WealthTrack.” Mack is the host of this weekly financial program, and in the tradition of “Wall Street with Louis Rukeyser,” which ran on the same channel (13) and in the same time slot (Friday, 7:30 p.m.) from 1970 to 2002, a guest each time discusses with her their area of expertise.

Originally broadcast on Oct. 9, a recent guest was economic guru Nancy Lazar, who spoke of four forces she sees as driving the economy to a powerful comeback. The first is, as you may have guessed, technology, which helps make companies more profitable. Lazar emphasized the importance of reinvestment in their companies by executives in order to stay up to date and to increase productivity.

As an example, she offers the sad story of Sears vs. the strong growth of Amazon. Businesses must keep up or be left behind. Technology, especially software, is a critical driver in a strong recovery. Banks are another example. Their movement to online services has been enabled by software developments and now COVID considerations using that software. And as she points out, the United States is the technology leader.

A second driver is housing, which brings with it so many related businesses and jobs: carpenters, painters, spacklers, roofers, plumbers, electricians, cesspool servicers, landscapers, driveway pavers, furniture and carpeting salesmen, and on and on. Housing is doing well, driven by exceptionally low mortgage interest rates, demand from millennials and now single family homes for COVID refugees from the cities.

A third driver for Lazar is manufacturing. She refers to the Rust Belt as her “favorite emerging market.” Disruption in the supply chains due to the pandemic have made companies aware of how much safer it is to make it here if they are going to sell it here. This has even become something of a national security issue. She counts 176 companies that have moved back to or started up in the United States since the beginning of 2020. States like South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama have benefited.

And the fourth is capital spending. Lazar believes that the reinvestment that companies have made in their businesses as a result of the huge tax cuts has been underreported and underappreciated. While many companies have indeed increased their dividends and bought back shares, she has tracked reinvestment from some of that windfall and feels that will result in higher productivity, higher profits and more jobs. In order to grow, companies must reinvest, and when they do, the economy grows. A business cycle spurred by reinvestment — building new plants, hiring and training new workers -— lasts 30 years.

Meanwhile, many are out of work and there is a lot of pain. Lazar also recognizes that in every recovery, not all sectors improve. But she advocates for more business reinvestment to produce more jobs and believes that will lower unemployment to half by next year. Without a further stimulus package, she envisions a handoff from government to the private sector as a driver for healing unemployment. Consumers, meanwhile, are turning more conservative, having been hit by two shocks in the last decade: recession in 2008 and COVID now.

While Nancy Lazar is not an investment advisor, but rather an economist, she has pointed out areas that might be ripe for investment. Good luck to us all!

Young Rocky Point resident Geoffrey Psillos said he is brining mobile fitness to the local area in a new way to exercise post-pandemic. Photo by Julianne Mosher

It’s time to lose the “quarantine 15” — and it can be done outside. 

Geoffrey Psillos, a 22-year-old Rocky Point resident, recently became the first AWATfit (All Weather All Terrain Fitness) franchisee. The Hamptons-based mobile fitness concept uses equipment entirely out of a 20-foot truck, and allows people to exercise in a park, parking lot or outside their home in the driveway. 

“Working out outdoors is a natural mood booster,” Psillos said. “And to have the means to open this franchise is a really big goal I never knew I had.”

The AWATfit vehicle can help people with more than 800 different exercises. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Back in September, he met with the founder of AWATfit, Rich Decker, who encouraged him to become part of the new concept. On the truck itself are 25 pieces of exercise equipment and, by using them, a person can do between 800 and 900 different workouts, according to the new francisee. 

“At the end of the day you are the machine,” Psillos said. “As soon as someone tries it once, they love it. I’m a bodybuilder and I get a better workout on the vehicle than I do at the gym.”

Before getting involved with AWATfit, Psillos was a project engineer but lost his job during the height of COVID-19. Fitness has always been important to him, especially as a former competing bodybuilder. By bringing this franchise to the North Shore, he said he wanted other people to experience its benefits — especially during a time when people might not be entirely comfortable working out in an indoor gym. 

“I think it’s going to change the persona of fitness,” he said. “You don’t get the results you want from a cycle class or a Pilates class. This is different.”

Right now, for a few days during the week, he partnered with Miller Place’s Body Source store on Route 25A where he parks the truck in the parking lot, so clients can work out. 

Elizabeth Sagarin, co-owner of the vitamin supplement store, said that because of the COVID-19 crisis, her shop has seen a decline in customers, but by collaborating with Psillos, she hopes to bring more people in and help everyone get healthy.

“We paired with these guys in the hopes of just giving people a space to work out, feel good, get healthy and just build community,” Sagarin said. “He approached us, and it is a great fit.”

Sagarin, who often participates in the class, said she appreciates the facility. 

“It’s a great workout,” she said. “And it’s all ages, you don’t have to be at any level. It’s fun, you’re outside and he’s a great trainer.”

AWATfit’s workout stations attached to the truck address strength, flexibility, core, agility and cardiovascular matters, as well as the mind-body-spirit connection. 

Now that Psillos has been in business for about a month, he said his clientele is beginning to grow mostly by word of mouth. 

“It’s hard to get people since it’s a new concept,” he said. “But once anyone tries it, they’re hooked.”

He’s planning on bringing a workout truck to communities from Smithtown to Shoreham-Wading River. He’s also looking to bring the truck to retirement homes and senior centers so people can get fit safely.

“Gym facilities in senior citizen community centers are fully closed right now,” Psillos said. “We would love for us to come and provide them with an outdoor answer to meet their needs and by engaging them to be healthy.”

The Greenway Trail runs between Port Jefferson Station and East Setauket. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Suffolk County Police detectives are investigating an incident during which a woman was attacked by a man while walking on the Port Jefferson Station to Setauket Greenway Trail Tuesday.

Police said a 54-year-old woman was walking on Greenway Trail around a quarter mile from the eastern entrance in Port Jefferson Station, at around 11:30 a.m. Oct. 21 when a man tackled her from behind. The woman was knocked to the ground and the man put his hand over her mouth and made comments that were sexual in nature. The man fled toward the trail entrance when the woman screamed as they were approached by another walker.

The man was described as Black, in his 30s, approximately 5 feet 10 inches tall and heavyset. He was wearing a black sweatshirt with green sweatpants with a black stripe down the side. The woman was not injured.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on this incident to call the 6th precinct at 631-854-8652 or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS (8477). All calls will be kept confidential.

Photo from TVHS

It’s a sign of the times. The Three Village Historical Society’s 26th annual Spirits Cemetery Tour has gone virtual with a spooky stroll through yesteryear.

From Oct. 23 to Nov. 1, visitors to the Society’s website (www.tvhs.org) will be able to “Meander Through Memories” and enjoy a past Spirits Tour from 2008. Carolyn Hendrickson Strong (actor Holly Brainard), local resident and member of the first graduating class of female Army nurses, who valiantly served during both World War I and the flu pandemic of 1918-1920, has graciously agreed to guide viewers into the past. 

The Spirits Cemetery Tour is an annual event that functions as the introduction to the Society’s traditional fundraising season. Guides take groups of visitors through the Setauket Presbyterian and Caroline church cemeteries, where they interact with “spirits” who lived and died in the Three Village area. Dressed in a manner befitting the time and place from which they hail, these travelers regale audiences with tales of what their lives were like decades, even centuries, ago.

Due to COVID-19, the tour cannot proceed as it has in previous years. So, the virtual tour is a way for individuals to enjoy a remote walk through history and support the Society. Strong will introduce viewers to  citizens of the past — John Willse (John Broven); Celia Swezey Hawkins (Elizabeth Kahn Kaplan); Rachel Tobias Holland Hart (Nellie Edwards); Maria Smith Williamson (Stephanie Carsten); Reverend Zachariah Greene (Eric Waxman); and Captain Eleazer Hawkins (Chuck Glaser). Filmed on location in the cemeteries, these costumed interpreters of history reminisce about stories of triumph and tragedy, wonder and woe.

During the pandemic, the Society has moved its activities online, providing digital educational content, including interactive videos and a blog covering a variety of topics pertaining to the history of Long Island and New Yorkers of note. The Society has had to reimagine its fundraising efforts while striving to continue its mission for the public.

As a 501c3 nonprofit, the Society exists to educate people about this area’s rich cultural heritage as well as foster and preserve local history. It relies on donations and money raised through events and programs to support its educational initiatives throughout the year. Upon its launch on Oct. 23, the tour video will be available to the general public.

Although digital, the experience will still be immersive, as the audience gets to witness and listen to dearly departed residents speak through the actors portraying them. So, come meander through memories. Donations are suggested and appreciated. For more information about the upcoming Spirits Cemetery Tour and other outreach endeavors, please visit www. tvhs.org.

Caravan goers and Counterprotesters Butt Heads in Setauket

For close to an hour, hundreds of President Donald Trump’s (R) supporters rolled through the North Shore and parts of the Middle Country area during a huge caravan Saturday, Oct. 17.

Members of the Trumpalozza event, organized by right-wing online group Setauket Patriots, leaned on their horns and shouted “four more years” and “Trump” while people lined up at the corner of East Broadway and Main Street in Port Jefferson shouted their support as well. Some cars sported bull horns that blasted their support into the cool fall air. Many cars and pickup trucks were hung with flags supporting Trump’s reelection campaign, as well as many pictures and even some blow up representations of the president.

Some cars also used tape to cover up their license plates, which is a violation of New York State law. Many of those gathered to cheer on the caravan were not wearing masks.

In a previous article, James Robitsek, the event organizer for the Setauket Patriots, said they did not ask participants to block their license plate numbers but added people had been doing it to avoid being outed online.

The Setauket Patriots also brought an impersonator  of the president to lead the caravan. The actor’s name was Thomas Mundy, aka TOMMY Trump45, who is listed as a comedian on his Facebook page.

The caravan originally organized at the LIRR parking lot in Port Jeff Station a little before noon, where the actor portraying the president, speaking in Trump’s voice, called Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant “evil.” The Patriots were issued a summons earlier this month for hosting a parade on 9/11 without a permit. The village put a moratorium on any new parade or march permits in June, citing fear of spreading COVID-19. A Black Lives Matter march was held in June, followed by a Setauket Patriots-held car parade for Fourth of July. Village officials have said they are the only group to have attempted a parade since the moratorium was put in place.

Robitsek has previously told TBR News Media he feels he and his group are being targeted by local Democrats in the area. The original date for the summons was moved to November, but Setauket Patriots had planned to protest in front of Village Hall.

While many supporters saw the event as a success in getting the word out about their support, some felt they were harassed by participants if they shared any dissent.

Andrew Rimby, a doctorate student at Stony Brook University and Port Jeff resident, said he was called a gay slur by a member of the caravan as he walked in the village.

“There were those of us who expressed our dissent, who said we don’t agree,” he said. “A woman started to call me a gay slur, and I had a lot of time to talk to her. I was, like, ‘Why are you insulting me like this?’ And she said, ‘You don’t support our president.’”

Rimby sent a letter to Garant voicing his and 14 other local residents’ concerns about the caravan that went through the village. The letter complained about the caravan violating noise codes as well as how people harassed him and anybody else who showed dissent.

During the village board meeting Oct. 19, Garant made a statement about the weekend’s events, saying they have received multiple complaints from residents though none of those issues were addressed specifically. Police were on-site as they could issue citations for traffic or moving violations, though she commended both them and code enforcement for keeping things organized in a tense situation.

“I want to reemphasize the Village of Port Jefferson does not condone lawless or disrespectful behavior regardless of any messaging a person or group is attempting to convey,” Garant said. “We’re hoping that with each day that ticks off the calendar that we may return to somewhat of an existence of peaceful and quiet enjoyment in our community. … I just wanted to let everybody know it was a tough day for everyone here in the village.”

Once in St. James, the caravan stopped at Patio Pizza, which had come under several bouts of controversy after people threatened to boycott the establishment after it was shown with a Trump flag. Trump’s Twitter account has previously tweeted about the St. James pizza parlor.

The parade traveled a circuit first through Port Jefferson up into Setauket, down through St James and going through Centereach and Selden before eventually coming up Route 112. In Setauket, members of the North Country Peace Group stood in front of the caravan, blocking its path. Some caravan goers got out of their cars to confront the people blocking their path. One woman yelled into a megaphone, “Liberals go home.”

Police said three people were arrested for disorderly conduct, namely Deborah Kosyla of Setauket, Anne Chimelis of Setauket, and Myrna Gordon, a Port Jefferson resident and leader of the peace group. A video from the Setauket Patriots Facebook page shows peace group members standing in front of vehicles clenching fists in the air and holding signs. In that same video, the Trump look-alike also called the people assembled in front of them “evil people.” A man in the car with Mundy apparently makes a crack about how the “Secret Service is going to take out the machine guns.”

Gordon, speaking on behalf of the peace group, said they were unable to release a comment at this time, citing it being an ongoing police issue.

Separately, Suffolk County police are investigating a hit-and-run crash that occurred at the corner of Route 25A and Bennetts Road in Setauket that same day. Police said the call came in at around 1 p.m. for the crash, which they said occurred some time around 12:45 p.m. They did not release details on whether the crash involved a member of the caravan or a protester.

The Setauket Fire Department confirmed they did take one person to a hospital for minor injuries around that time, but department officials declined to offer further comment.

There was not much in the way of counterprotesters, though at one point during the parade a driver threw up the middle finger to supporters assembled on the sidewalk. One counterprotester stood at the turn into the Port Jeff train station parking lot holding a sign that read Black Lives Matter. He was later seen down at the corner of East Broadway and Main after the caravan had already gone ahead. There was also a separate protest held by progressives next to the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber train car about the ongoing controversy over Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court replacement.

The Trumpalozza event ended with many caravan goers returning to Port Jeff to participate in a rally across from Port Jefferson Village Hall, in the Town of Brookhaven-owned park for locals who died on 9/11.

Stock photo

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, raised a red flag about the safety of annual family gatherings during Thanksgiving last week on an interview on CBS.

People may have to “bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering unless you’re pretty certain that the people that you’re dealing with are not infected,” Fauci told CBS.

Richard Gatteau, SBU Dean of Students. Photo from SBU Website

Doctors at area hospitals and officials at Stony Brook University are offering guidance to residents and students over a month before an annual holiday that often brings people from several generations, cities and states together.

Before they send some of the 4,200 on campus students at SBU home, the university plans to test them for the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The week of Nov. 16, “every resident will be tested,” said Dean of Students Richard Gatteau. “Any positive cases would remain on campus” until the university knew they were negative.

Students remaining on campus would receive meals and would get the same level of care through the holidays that students would normally get if they tested positive during the semester.

Stony Brook expects the student population to decline after Thanksgiving, when all classes and final exams will be remote through the end of the semester.

For the students who plan to return to campus, Stony Brook realizes the logistical challenges of requiring viral tests during the short holiday and will provide tests in the first two days after these students return to their dormitories.

Even before the holiday, Stony Brook expects to increase the frequency of viral testing from bi-weekly to weekly.

Gatteau said the student government plans to educate students who plan to join family during the holiday about procedures to keep everyone safe. This guidance mirrors school policies, such as wearing masks inside when near other family members, keeping a distance of six feet inside and washing hands regularly.

The dean of students recently spoke with Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House’s coronavirus task force who visited Stony Brook to speak with officials about the school’s COVID response. Though Birx was pleased with the measures the university took, she was reportedly more worried about the behavior of extended family than with students during Thanksgiving.

“Her concern is with the older generation not following the rules,” Gatteau said. She wanted students to encourage their grandparents to follow the same procedures because “grandparents will listen to their grandkids.”

Types of Tests

Dr. Michael Grosso, Chief Medical Officer at Huntington Hospital, urged everyone to plan to get tested before coming together for Thanksgiving.

Dr. Grosso said two types of tests are available for students and parents. The first is an antigen test and the second is a PCR, for polymerase chain reaction, test. Grosso suggests that the PCR test is more reliable as the antigen test “misses more cases.”

The test technique is critical to its success. Some false negatives may result from inadequate specimen collection, Grosso said. The deep nasopharyngeal specimen “requires a little skill on the part of the person doing the test.”

Additionally, people getting tested before a family gathering need to consider the timing of the test. They may receive a negative test during a period of time in which the virus is developing in their bodies.

Active testing may have helped reduce the severity of the disease for people who contract it. People are coming to the hospital in some cases before the disease causes as much damage.

In addition to getting tested and monitoring possible symptoms, Grosso urged residents to continue to practice the new, healthier etiquette, even when they are with relatives during the holidays.

“Families need to have conversations” about how close they are prepared to get before they see each other, Grosso said. People need to “decide together what rules [they] are going to follow, and make sure everybody is comfortable with those.”

As for Thanksgiving in the Grosso home, the Chief Medical Officer said he and his wife have five children between them, two of whom will be coming for the annual November holiday. The others will participate, as has become the modern reality, at the other end of a zoom call. Typically, the entire family would come together.

Stony Brook’s Gatteau said he and his partner typically have 20 to 25 people over for Thanksgiving. This year, they are limited the guests to seven people. They plan to keep masks on in their house and will crack a window open so there is air flow.

Stony Brook University baseball player Nick Grande slides into third. Photo from SBU Athletics

Stony Brook Athletics launched its latest fundraising campaign asking people to “Believe in the Seawolves” as the university sports program faces an uncertain future.

SBU Athletic Director Shawn Heilbron accepts the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup from America East Commisioner Amy Huchthausen. Photo from SBU

On Thursday, Oct. 8, the university’s Giving Day, Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron held a virtual town hall through Facebook Live to answer questions surrounding the status of Stony Brook Athletics for this school year and for the future. 

“Let’s have the Stony Brook Athletics story of 2020-2021 be the greatest story in our history,” Heilbron said during the town hall. “I think we’re going to do that.”

One of the major concerns, he said, was the financial standing of the university since revenue dropped throughout the COVID-19 crisis, calling it a “dramatic financial impact.”

He mentioned that the program lost nearly $700,000 from basketball, alone, and when the school closed in March, students were reimbursed their student fees which neared a $2 million loss. 

“Ticket sales, donations, corporate partnerships … you could imagine the impact there,” he said. “The trickle down comes from the state to the school to us, and many universities across the country are dealing with it.”

He said it was close to $5 million in revenues lost. 

“We’ve made some tough decisions, many staff positions are being left unfilled,” he said. “We’re very concerned about our future … schools across the country are cutting sports, these are difficult decisions that are hard to come back.”

The new fundraising campaign coined “Believe In the Seawolves” comes from asking people to do just that. “Believe in our value and commitment to this university,” Heilbron said. “If we can get people to get behind that we can come out of this stronger … It’s more than a campaign, I want it to be a movement.”

But just because COVID-19 guidelines aren’t allowing sports to be played as of right now, Heilbron they are not cancelled, just postponed. He added that fall sports were moved to the spring, which will make for a very active season. 

“It’s going to be quite an active period for us,” he said. “We’re just starting to look at what those schedules will look like and will be announced very soon.”

He said that utilizing this time now will be a springboard for next fall, and are keeping safe in doing so.

The athletes who are participating in practices now, like basketball, have a regimented screening process before hitting the court. 

“Student athletes come through one entrance, have their temperature checked and then they get a wrist band,” Heilbron said. “They can’t come in if they don’t have the wristband.”

Although it is an uncertain time for the student athletes who worked to play at Stony Brook University, Heilbron said the first day of fall semester was a good one. 

“It literally was an energetic lift in our department that they needed,” he said. “It was good to have the family back together.”

The university announced after Thursday’s Giving Day campaign, more than 240 donors combined to contribute gifts exceeding $200,000 to go towards athletics. The campaign will continue to fundraise throughout the remainder of the year. 

Drivers need to proceed with caution when they spot deer on the side of roadway. File photo by Phil Schiavone

Deer grazing near roadways may look innocent but they can pose a possible hazard — even a deadly one — for drivers.

As fall arrives, the animals’ presence becomes an even greater danger. A higher percentage of deer are now more likely to dart out into the road as they are in the midst of their rutting season, which runs from October through December. Driving during dusk and dawn exacerbates the problem with reduced visibility.

According to a press release from AAA Northeast, there were 36,445 animal crashes in New York State in 2019, and the number of crashes has increased over the past five years. Suffolk County was found to have the third highest amount of animal crashes with 1,415. In 2019, Brookhaven had 423 animal crashes while Smithtown had 120.

The data was taken from the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research, an affiliate with the University at Albany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs, which does not cite which animals were involved in the crash. However AAA Northeast said in its press release that “data from New York and other states previous years found deer were involved in 88 to 98 percent of crashes.”

“Striking a deer can be extremely dangerous, with the animal possibly going through the windshield, seriously injuring or killing the driver and passengers,” said Robert Sinclair Jr., spokesman for AAA Northeast.

AAA Northeast recommends drivers brake gently and avoid swerving when encountering any animals.

“Going to the right could send the vehicle into a ditch, tree or light pole,” the AAA Northeast press release said. “Swerving to the left could result in a lethal head-on crash. Even hitting the brakes hard could send the front end of the vehicle into a nosedive, promoting the animal rolling up the hood and through the windshield.”

Other tips from AAA and insurance companies include:

● Be extra cautious when you see a deer-crossing sign along a roadway. The sign means that there have been deer-vehicle collisions near the sign location.

● Decrease speed when you approach deer near roadsides as they can bolt out or change direction quickly. If you see a deer, look for others as they are herd animals and usually travel in groups. Especially during rutting season when a buck may be chasing a doe.

● Move your vehicle to a safe place if you hit an animal. If possible, pull over to the side of the road and turn on your hazard lights. If you must leave your vehicle, stay off the road and out of the way of any oncoming vehicles.

● Call the police. Alert authorities if the animal is blocking traffic and creating a threat for other drivers. If the collision results in injury, death or more than $1,000 in property damage, you must fill out an official crash report and send it to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.

● Look for leaking fluid, loose parts, tire damage, broken lights, a hood that won’t latch and other safety hazards. If your vehicle seems unsafe in any way, call for a tow truck.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recommends not getting out of your car and approaching an injured animal as they can strike out with their legs or hooves. In Brookhaven, residents can call the Animal Shelter at 631-451-6950 to report deceased deer on the road or curbside. Town employees cannot remove animals found on front lawns, backyards or on driveways.