Village Times Herald

John Cunniffe in his Stony Brook Avenue office. Photo by Donna Newman

To John Cunniffe, a person who lacks a knowledge of history is like a tree without roots.

So to make sure the history of the Three Village community is alive and vibrant, he’s spent the last decade offering his considerable architectural acuity to various organizations dedicated to doing just that.

Cunniffe sees the value in preserving heritage. He pays attention to the smallest of details, striving for historical accuracy while providing renovations that work in today’s world.

“There are many professionals in our community who give generously of their services to our local nonprofit organizations, often pro bono or for reduced fees, but none quite like John Cunniffe,” said Robert Reuter, president of the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation. “He has helped jump-start and advance more important historic building projects throughout the Three Villages than I can count.”   

For his considerable contributions to the work being done by courageous nonprofits in preserving local historical edifices, for his unflagging willingness to lend his expertise to important local architecture projects and for his extreme generosity of time and spirit, John Cunniffe is one of Times Beacon Record News Media’s People of the Year for 2016.

“When someone essentially does ‘pro-bono’ work in their area of expertise — that made John’s involvement just that much more selfless.”

— David Sterne

Raised on Long Island, the 45-year-old Stony Brook resident received his architectural degree from the New York Institute of Technology. He has worked for the Weiss/Manfredi firm where he honed his design pedigree.

The Cunniffes decided to return to Long Island from Virginia 10 years ago and settled not far from the Soundview area of East Setauket, from which his wife Colleen Cunniffe hails. There they are raising their two daughters.

Now known for prestigious residential projects that value historic preservation, while creating contemporary architecture for his clients, he has also become the go-to architect for important restoration and preservation projects throughout the Three Village area, Reuter said.

Cunniffe donated his services to create the documents and secure the permits necessary to relocate and restore the historic Rubber Factory Worker Houses for the Three Village Community Trust. Soon he was handling work for the Setauket Neighborhood House, the Three Village Historical Society, the Frank Melville Memorial Park, The Long Island Museum, projects in the Bethel–Christian Avenue–Laurel Hill Historic District as well as the Caroline Church, Reuter added.

“They all needed an architect,” Reuter said. “They got more than they asked for — they got thorough project planning and exceptionally good design, as well as the necessary documents and permits.”

Along the way, Cunniffe represented the Stony Brook Historic District as a volunteer on the Town of Brookhaven’s Historic District Advisory Committee and advised the Setauket Fire Department on planning and design for the new headquarters building on Route 25A in Setauket.

Setauket Fire District Manager David Sterne said he feels grateful to have had Cunniffe’s participation in the planning for the new fire department structure.

“John was an integral part of the community committee for the planning and design of the new firehouse,” he said. “He attended most meetings and his insights, especially from his architect’s point of view, were invaluable. It’s one thing for a person to take part as a volunteer, but when someone essentially does ‘pro-bono’ work in their area of expertise — that made John’s involvement just that much more selfless.”

Brookhaven Town Historian Barbara Russell remembers where and when she first encountered Cunniffe. 

John Cunniffe constructed plans for the new Setauket Fire Department Headquarters on Route 25A in Setauket. Phto by Desirée Keegan

“I first met John when he was the representative from the Stony Brook Historic District to the Town’s Historic District Advisory Committee,” she said. “He always brought sound knowledge of architecture, a willingness to hear out the applicants and helpful suggestions to the meetings. Beyond his education in architecture, he has a sense of the importance of historical structures and how they fit into our community today.”

Russell said it is unique how Cunnife considers style, materials, location and history of a structure as well as how it has to conform to fit in today’s world.

“Whether it be its location in the community or the owner’s lifestyle, balancing all those variables takes a keen eye, and a heart for the type of work he does,” she said.

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said the Three Village area is a special place because of people like Cunniffe.

“Our extraordinary community is defined by caring people like John Cunniffe, whose professional architectural vision and personal commitment to volunteerism is a gift that enhances our sense of place,” he said. “We are indeed fortunate that John has chosen to invest his considerable talent and energies here.”

Reuter compared the architect’s work to another famous designer who worked in the area: Ward Melville’s architect.

“Richard Haviland Smythe did these sorts of community projects for his patron who generously funded them,” he said. “John Cunniffe is our modern day Smythe — if only we had modern day major patrons to move these many projects forward. John has been a wise, good-humored and essential partner.”

SCPD branch involves the community to help with tips for investigations and arrests

Drugs recovered thanks to tips from Crime Stoppers. File photo from SCPD

By Rebecca Anzel

During its 22-year partnership with the Suffolk County Police Department, Crime Stoppers has served as a way for residents to share tips about crime anonymously in their neighborhoods without fear of punishment, and has helped cut crime and aid myriad criminal investigations

The not-for-profit organization expanded its repertoire of resources to include a general tip line, 800-220-TIPS (8477); another tip hotline for information about drugs, 631-852-NARC (6272); a website and a number for text messaging. Since 1994, its 22,287 tips generated by community members helped solve 42 homicides, closed 1,688 active warrants and led to 2,154 arrests, as at October.

Crime Stoppers president Nick Amarr. Photo from Nick Amarr

For the organization’s work fighting crime and the heroin epidemic in Suffolk County, Crime Stoppers is one of Times Beacon Record News Media’s People of the Year for 2016.

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said the organization is indispensable to the community.

“Crime Stoppers is a valuable asset and has created a great partnership with our police department to reduce crime in Suffolk County,” she said in an email. “They work diligently to coordinate information from the public and the media to solve crime and make arrests. I am proud to support Crime Stoppers and appreciate the dedication of the police officers and volunteers who keep our communities safe.”

The organization is staffed by unpaid volunteers, most of whom are former law enforcement or veterans. President Nick Amarr, a Marine and Crime Stoppers volunteer for 14 years, said the organization’s real value is in providing residents with a safe way to help law enforcement protect their communities.

“It gives the public a voice and an understanding of how important law enforcement is in keeping our freedom and protecting our children,” Amarr said. “That’s very important to me and everyone on our board.”

Amarr also said Crime Stoppers’ employees would not be able to continue the work they have been doing without the support of Police Commissioner Tim Sini, First Deputy Commissioner John Barry and Police Chief Stuart Cameron. Amarr has worked with four administrations and said this one strategically embraces Crime Stoppers as a partner and has done more in less than 12 months than he has seen accomplished in the past 10 years.

Members at a Patchogue benefit concert present Crime Stoppers with a large check representing donations received. File photo from SCPD

“We have reinvested in our partnership with Suffolk Crime Stoppers,” Sini said. “It’s a great, great, great way we’re able to engage with the public and we’ve done a lot of good for the communities.”

The 8-month-old narcotics tip line alone had led to a 140 percent increase in the amount of search warrants issued by August; hundreds of drug dealers have been arrested; the police department has seized a substantial amount of money; and is on pace to confiscate more illegal firearms than ever before, according to Sini.

For Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue founder and president, Dori Scofield, whose son Daniel died in 2011 from a heroin overdose, the work Crime Stoppers is doing to combat the county’s heroin epidemic is invaluable.

“The only way we’re going to combat this epidemic is by working together in different forces and stopping the drugs in Suffolk County and helping our youth that are already addicted and educating children and parents,” Scofield said. “This epidemic takes a village to combat and our police and the Crime Stoppers are an important part of that village.”

Crime Stoppers is funded completely by donations, which it uses exclusively for rewards for tips leading to an arrest. In July, the organization hosted a benefit concert at The Emporium in Patchogue, raising $58,000 in one night. Amarr said it will host another fundraiser at the same venue next year.

Mike DelGuidice at a concert fundraiser. File photo from Rebecca Anzel

Teri Kroll, chairperson of People United to Stop Heroin, part of Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, spoke at the event in support of Crime Stoppers five months ago. Since then, she said she has heard that parents across Suffolk County call in information they hear from their children about drug dealers and unsavory activities in their communities.

“They’ve made a huge difference,” Kroll said. “The police department can’t fight all crime without any help and the Crime Stoppers being a liaison between the public and them is only a plus.”

Tracey Farrell, formerly Budd, a Rocky Point mother who lost her son Kevin to a heroin overdose in 2012, agrees the service Crime Stoppers provides is life saving to many kids.

“In the few months that it [NARC line] has been out, it has made a huge difference,” she said. “It’s nice that people see when they make a phone call, something is happening. I can’t say enough about how great this is.”

Farrell also said she thinks residents are less interested in the cash reward that comes after a reporting.

“I think they’re happy they have some place to report things going on in their own neighborhood,” she said. “[And Crime Stoppers] needs to keep getting information out there wherever they can.”

Jack Smith at his home in Terryville. Photo by Kevin Redding

When it comes to preserving local history, Jack Smith has paved the way — literally.

After he retired from his teaching job of more than 30 years, Smith was free to do whatever he wanted.

But rather than just relax at home and take up a hobby, the passionate 66-year-old founded the Cumsewogue Historical Society instead, which has been integral in keeping the vast history of its surrounding communities in the forefront.

“I started to research the history of the area and realized there was quite a bit here,” Smith said in an interview. “So why not start a historical society? There’s a lot here and I thought it would be a fun thing to do.”

Smith even maintained the original Algonquin spelling of Comsewogue for the society; Cumsewogue loosely translates to “the place where many paths meet.”

For all his work in bridging the gap between the past and present for the Port Jefferson area and beyond, Smith is a 2016 Times Beacon Record News Media Person of the Year.

Mike Eiermann, the Cumsewogue Historical Society treasurer, called Smith a true “mover and shaker” in the community during an interview.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, Jack Smith, Ed Garboski of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine examine the Gentleman’s Driving Park. File photo by Elana Glowatz

“We have to try to keep up with him,” Eiermann said. “He’s very dedicated, very knowledgeable and is fully invested in what he does.”

As president and founder of the historical society, which was formed in 2008 and has about 30 members, Smith has accomplished a lot.

He and the group went to great lengths to preserve the old Terryville Union Hall as their main headquarters in the time following the society’s inception. Built in 1887, the union hall stands as the last historical building in Terryville, and Smith convinced local legislators to buy it and obtain funding for interior restoration. Now several showcases dedicated to local historical industries are inside the building, for example, the Porter automobile factory.

There are also roughly 120 vintage photographs of the community on display.

Smith established Heritage Day, a beloved event that exposes students from Comsewogue elementary schools to historical artifacts from the late 19th and early 20th centuries and demonstrates what life was like in the community then.

Smith said the program helps give students the unique opportunity to not only learn about the community’s history but also to see, touch and experience what life was like “before all the housing developments and shopping malls.”

But perhaps Smith and the historical society’s greatest achievement so far came in October when the Gentlemen’s Driving Park — the last Victorian-era harness racing track on Long Island where Terryville bettors once gathered to watch horses “race in heats” — officially opened to the public after several years of work to resurrect the nearly forgotten historical site.

The opening was attended by more than 100 people and served as a testament to Smith’s dedication to his cause. He discovered a faint outline of the horse track from a satellite image on Google Earth after hearing about its existence off Canal Road, visited the leaf-covered path in the woods with his wife Pam, and ultimately reached out to then Brookhaven Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld and other council members about acquiring the entire 11-acre plot, clearing the overgrown path, and actively working to restore the track as close to the original 1880s footprint as possible.

“I am proud that our society has been able to preserve so much of our history that came perilously close to being lost,” Smith said.

He also uncovered various artifacts surrounding the track, including a pair of field glasses where the finish line was on the track, as well as a ticket to a race at the Gentlemen’s Driving Park on July 4, 1892, which is now on display at the historical society’s headquarters.

A ticket from a race day in 1892 was among Smith’s discoveries; and Smith at his home in Terryville. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Without Smith, the horse track and its history would certainly have been erased, according to Brookhaven Town Historian Barbara Russell.

“He was very diligent in doing the research and finding all the information he could on the track and he’s been that way with all of his endeavors,” she said.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), who worked alongside Smith to restore the track, said in an email statement Smith’s work in the community makes him more than deserving of the Person of the Year honor.

“His passion, meticulous care and diplomacy are appreciated by all who know him,” Cartright said. “His efforts to create and implement the annual Heritage Day, his comprehensive background and the lectures he gives at the library and his work and research to preserve the track are all done to celebrate the history of our community. I’ve had the privilege of knowing [him] both personally and professionally for many years.”

Smith said his love of history can be traced back to when he was in fifth grade, where his younger self first took an interest in consuming maps and all things geography related. He went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in history and master’s in special education, which would be utilized at Eastern Suffolk BOCES, where he taught high school students from 1974 until 2005.

It was there he met his wife Pamela, a secretary at the school. She said they didn’t realize it at first but the two actually grew up around the block from one another in Centereach and even went to the same high school.

She said her husband is “very caring and extremely interested in helping the community.” History, including his own personal history, is a part of his daily life.

Alan Alda received the Double Helix Award from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory this month. Photo by Constance Brukin, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

By Daniel Dunaief

In a world of tirades and terrifying tweets, the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University is encouraging its professors and students to do something the center’s namesake urges: Listen.

Tough as it is to hear what people mean behind an explosive expression that fuses reason and emotion, the scientists in training, established researchers and others who attend some of the lectures or workshops at the center go through an exercise called “rant” in which each person listens for two minutes to something that drives their partner crazy. Afterward, the scientist has to introduce their partner to the group in a positive way.

Alan Alda. Photo by Constance Brukin, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

The staff at the Alan Alda Center finds inspiration, a role model and a humble but willing listener in Alda, the highly decorated actor of “MASH” who has spent the last several decades drawing scientists out of dense shells constructed of impenetrable jargon and technical phrases.

For his dedication to forging connections for scientists, Times Beacon Record News Media is pleased to name Alan Alda a 2016 Person of the Year.

“He’s doing a wonderful job,” said Jim Simons, the former chairman of the Stony Brook Mathematics Department and hedge fund founder who shared the stage with Alda this summer as a part of a Mind Brain Lecture at Stony Brook. “I can’t think of anyone better to be an honoree.”

Simons described a moment with Alda, who is not a scientist nor does he play one on TV, when he was sharing some abstruse mathematics. Alda’s eyes “glazed over when I was first talking to him. He’s teaching scientists not to get a glaze over their audience’s eyes.”

Alda works tirelessly to share a method that blends scientific communication with the kind of improvisational acting he studied early in his career.

“Improv is not about being funny,” said Laura Lindenfeld, the director at the center. “It’s about being connected.”

Last June, Alda was a part of a team that traveled to California to share an approach that is in demand at universities and research institutions around the world. The day of the workshop, three people who were supposed to help lead the session were delayed.

Alda suggested that he run the event, which would normally involve several instructors and break-out groups. Learning about the art of connecting with an audience from someone who reached people over decades through TV, movies and Broadway performances, the attendees were enchanted by their discussion.

“He’s the master,” said Lindenfeld, who was at the campus when the team received news about the delay for the other instructors.

As soon as the session ended, Alda headed for Los Angeles to conduct a radio interview.

“I handed him a granola bar,” recalled Lindenfeld, who joined the center last year. “I was afraid he hadn’t eaten.”

Alda celebrated his 80th birthday earlier this year and shows no signs of slowing down, encouraging the spread of training techniques that will help scientists share their information and discoveries.

“He’s teaching scientists not to get a glaze over their audience’s eyes.”

— Jim Simons

The Alda Center is planning a trip to Scotland next year and has been invited to go to Norway, Germany and countries in South America, Lindenfeld said.

When the University of Dundee received a grant from the Leverhulme Trust to create the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science, officials in Scotland, one of whom knew Lindenfeld personally, researched the Alan Alda Center’s mission and decided to forge a connection. Lindenfeld helped coordinate a congratulatory video Alda sent that the Scottish centre played at its opening ceremony.

“Everyone present from the highest Law Lord in Scotland, through to the principal of the university and the Leverhulme trustees did not know it was going to happen, and so it was a huge surprise that stunned the room into complete silence,” recalled Sue Black, the director of the centre in an email. “Brilliant theatre of which Mr. Alda would have been proud.”

Established and internationally known scientists have expressed their appreciation and admiration for Alda’s dedication to their field.

The training sessions “drag out of people their inhibitions and get them to think about interacting with the public in ways that they might not have felt comfortable doing before,” said Bruce Stillman, the president and CEO of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. This month, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory gave Alda the Double Helix Medal at a ceremony at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Stillman described the public understanding and perception of science as “poor.” To bridge that gap, Alda’s programs “induce scientists to feel comfortable about talking to the public about their ideas and progress.”

Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel suggested that Alda’s accomplishments exceed his own.

“There ain’t many Alan Aldas, but there are a lot of Nobel Prizes out there,” Kandel said. While Kandel is “extremely indebted to having won the Nobel Prize,” he said the totality of Alda’s accomplishments are “enormous.”

The Alda Center is working with Columbia University, where Kandel is the director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Science and a professor, to develop an ongoing program to foster scientific communication.

Alan Alda, left, at a ceremony at the American Museum of Natural History. Photo by Constance Brukin, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Kandel, who considers Alda a friend, appreciates his support. Kandel said Jeff Lieberman, the chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia, asked Alda and Kandel to give a talk on issues related to neuroscience. Lieberman “was my boss,” Kandel said, “I had to be there, but [Alda] didn’t have to be there. He goes out of his way for people.”

In 2017, the center will not only share its communication techniques around the world, but it will also create conferences for timely scientific topics, including climate change and women in science.

The glass ceiling is a “real issue for women in science,” said Valerie Lantz Gefroh, the improvisation program leader at the center. “We’re hoping to give [women] better communication tools so they can move forward in their careers.”

The center is also adding new courses. Next fall, Christine O’Connell, who is a part of a new effort at Stony Brook called the Science Training & Research to Inform Decision and is the associate director at the center, will teach a course on communicating with policy and decision makers.

That will include encouraging scientists to invite state senators to see their field work, going to Congress, meeting with a senator or writing position papers. In political discussions, scientists often feel like “fish out of water,” O’Connell said. The course will give scientists the “tools to effectively engage” in political discussions.

Scientists don’t have to be “advocates for or against an issue,” O’Connell said, but they do have to “be advocates for science and what the science is telling us.”

Given an opportunity to express her appreciation directly to Alda, Black at the University of Dundee wrote, “Thanks for having the faith to collaborate with our centre so far away in Scotland, where we are trying to influence the global understanding of forensic science in our courtrooms — where science communication can make the difference between a guilty or an innocent verdict and in some places, the difference between life and a death sentence.”

To borrow from words Alda has shared, and that the staff at the center believe, “Real listening is a willingness to let the other person change you.” Even if, as those who have gone through some of the sessions, the speaker is ranting.

Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning representative Kevin Luzong mans his station at the BRT first public information meeting. Photo by Donna Newman

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is hoping to modernize the way Long Islanders get around.

A proposal from the county executive to create Suffolk’s first north-south multimodal transportation corridor to feature dedicated lanes for rapid transit buses running along Nicolls Road between Stony Brook and Patchogue, was presented for public information and comment Dec. 13 at Suffolk County Community College in Selden. Interested residents attended to gain an understanding of the concept of a Bus Rapid Transit service, which unlike traditional buses are not constrained by traffic, and the possible ways the roadway might be configured.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) attended the event and said she supports upgrading public transportation on Long Island.

“Suffolk County is working to create a 21st century economy,” she said. “This requires a modern transit system that alleviates the burden of traffic and provides more transit options for a less car-dependent workforce. This is a first look at a proposal for a plan. We need community input to flesh it out more and see where the ‘buy-in’ could be.”

Hahn said she believes the idea would have multiple positive economic and environmental outcomes.

“Bus Rapid Transit offers many of the advantages of a light rail system, but at a fraction of the cost — both for the passenger and to the municipality,” a statement from Hahn announcing the county’s first BRT public information meeting said.

The BRT system would feature state-of-the-art Wi-Fi equipped buses; use dedicated “bus only” lanes, with priority traffic signaling; provide boarding at modern, comfortable, secure stations; accept fares with prepaid fare cards or electronic passes; and connect the commuter or traveler to transit hubs, such as other bus systems, railways and airports.

The purpose of the meeting was to provide information about the proposed road conversion in order to interact with three Long Island Rail Road branches, Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma and Babylon, and facilitate public transportation access to Long Island MacArthur Airport. Visitors to the exhibit were encouraged to submit feedback in the form of comments and questions via mail-in comment cards or by email to [email protected]

Representatives were on hand from both the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning and engineering firms that have worked on the planning stage to further explain the project and answer questions.

Debbie Brown and Stephanie Larkin, self-described PTA moms from Selden, had several concerns.

“Are they adding a lane or dedicating one of the existing lanes,” Larkin asked, adding the road is crowded enough without losing one of its lanes.

“Who, exactly, is going to use these buses?” Brown asked.

Kevin Luzong, a spokesperson for the project, addressed the residents’ concerns.

“The bus lane will be created within the existing roadway in the median or through a repurposing of the shoulder,” he said. As for people who might be interested in using public transportation, he mentioned millennials, like himself, who utilize services across Long Island, including colleges, research facilities, and new housing options, like the Ronkonkoma Hub being developed near that railroad station.

Brown was skeptical that Long Island could be converted from a “car culture.”

“We, as parents, would have to get our kids used to buses at an early age,” she said, adding that parents might be hesitant to do so in today’s world.

BRT systems exist in more than 190 cities around the globe, allowing passengers to arrive at their destinations faster, while reducing road congestion.

The proposal did not include a potential cost for the project, though the county is examining grant-funding possibilities to help taxpayers cover the bill if the project comes to fruition.

Sycamore trees are a staple of Stony Brook's M-Section neighborhood. Photo by Donna Newman

Four months after Save the Stony Brook Street Trees was established to oppose a Town of Brookhaven Highway Department decision to eliminate nearly all the sycamore trees on roads slated for repaving in the M-section of Strathmore, a second victory has been won.

At its final meeting of the year, the town board unanimously passed a resolution moved by Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and co-sponsored by Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), establishing a tree advisory committee.

In announcing the resolution, Romaine indicated his satisfaction with this move to establish guidelines in Brookhaven.

“I would say it’s long overdue,” he said. “Obviously, we have some great trees in the town. We want to make sure that they are maintained and stay that way. We want to have a policy regarding the removal of any of these trees. I want to thank the councilwoman for sponsoring it and I thank my colleagues for supporting it.”

Cartright said she worked on behalf of her constituents — and all Brookhaven residents — to keep healthy trees that are so beneficial to the environment.

“I was happy to join Supervisor Romaine to put forth this resolution … to advocate for responsible townwide solutions. … I am very pleased with the resolution of this particular community concern and that we now have a comprehensive process for reviewing tree-related issues.”

In mid-August, homeowners on Mosshill Place in the Strathmore M-section were alarmed to find all the street trees marked with pink dots indicating they were to be removed. Following public outcry from fellow residents, who said they preferred to deal with bumpy roads rather than lose their tree canopy, Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) sent residents a letter in September postponing the paving so the department could reevaluate its plan.

By October an alternate solution to the tree removal had been found, but the paving season was ending, and the job rescheduled for 2017.

Save the Stony Brook Street Trees continued its lobbying of the town board to prevent other neighborhoods from finding themselves in a similar predicament in the future. The group, led by Susan Ackerman, continued to press for a town policy to prevent the removal of healthy street trees anywhere in Brookhaven Town in the future.

Ackerman said she was pleased that a resolution was on the agenda Thursday night and felt cautiously optimistic.

“My feeling is that resolution 2016-0959 is an encouraging step in the right direction for the Town of Brookhaven,” she wrote in an email. “And I appreciate all the time and effort that town officials and their staffs have devoted to this issue. I hope to see the town use this resolution as a valuable tool to move toward a consistent townwide tree preservation policy.”

In fact, the resolution created two advisory committees; one to deal with a project within the town rights-of-way and a second to evaluate a project on town parklands or other town-owned parcels. Each four-person panel will be tasked with inspecting the property and making a recommendation regarding the removal or conservation of trees.

Each committee will have a representative of the town’s division of land management, appointed by the town attorney.

The rights-of-way group will also have a representative of the highway department, appointed by the superintendent of highways; a licensed professional engineer from the highway engineering division; and a Suffolk County Civil Service titled horticultural worker from the Brookhaven Ecology Center.

The town lands group will include a representative from the supervisor’s office; a representative of the parks department; and a representative from the planning and environment department, all appointed by the respective department heads.

Exceptions to tree advisory include trees that are damaged, diseased or in any way a threat to property and/or lives, or need to be removed on an emergency basis.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and other county officials warn residents of winter weather dangers for people, homes and pets. Photo from Bellone’s office

It’s often called the most wonderful time of the year, but whoever coined that phrase must have been a fan of freezing temperatures. With a mild fall finally giving way to traditional winter weather over the past week, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) wants residents to make sure they protect themselves, their homes, their loved ones and their pets from the dangers presented by the harsh conditions.

“Although no amount of preparations can prepare us for a natural disaster, we have taken the necessary steps to ensure that Suffolk County is prepared to handle routine inclement weather conditions,” Bellone said at a press conference Dec. 15, where he was joined by Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini and other county officials. “We have been extremely fortunate this winter, but looking at forecasts, it appears our luck is running out. Now is the time for our residents to make sure they take the necessary precautions to protect themselves.”

County service centers

• Riverhead Center

893 E. Main Street

Riverhead, New York 11901-2542

Telephone: 631-852-3500

• Coram Center

80 Middle Country Road

Coram, New York 11727

Telephone: 631-854-2300

• Smithtown Center

200 Wireless Boulevard

Hauppauge, New York 11788

Telephone: 631-853-8714

• South West Center

2 South 2nd Street

Deer Park, New York 11729

Telephone: 631-854-6600

Bellone suggested several precautions Suffolk County residents should take to ensure safety and avoid inconveniences during the winter months, including running water to prevent pipes from freezing; keeping portable heaters on flat surfaces and away from flammable objects; driving with caution even without the presence of precipitation; checking on loved ones, especially the elderly; watching for some of the signs of hypothermia, like confusion, memory loss, drowsiness, exhaustion and slurred speech; keeping pets indoors; and disconnecting hoses from exterior lines.

Bellone has partnered with the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless to collect new or gently used winter jackets for those in need. Coats can be donated at county facilities across Suffolk.

Residents can contact the county’s Temporary Housing Assistance Unit at 631-854-9547 or the Department of Social Services Home Energy Assistance Program at 631-854-9100 in the event they run out of fuel to heat their home or require emergency burner repair.

The county executive also detailed options for the homeless during times when temperatures can plummet to the point of presenting deadly consequences. Sheltering assistance is available at Suffolk County service centers located in Deer Park, Coram, Hauppauge and Riverhead, and the county also implemented a Safe Beds Program to provide residents in need with warm shelter during the winter. More information about these programs can be found on the county’s website at www.suffolkcountyny.gov.

“Nobody should be left out in this dangerously cold spell,” Bellone said.

Photo from WMHO

Last summer, the late Erik Halvorsen, owner of Norse Tree Service in Setauket, worked on a project with Michael J. Opisso Designs beautifying the Village Green in Stony Brook Village. When that project was finished, Erik mentioned that he had always wanted to donate a Dogwood tree to the Ward Melville Heritage Organization and it was determined that a location would be finalized at a later date. Unfortunately in light of his recent tragic passing, that will not happen.

In his honor, WMHO has now planted that tree for him. A 14-foot Kousa Dogwood was recently donated and installed by Jeff Owen of Owen Brothers Landscaping. The white flowering tree will bloom from May to July. A bronze plaque honoring Erik’s memory will be placed on a boulder on the Village Green at a special dedication ceremony this spring.

If you would like to make a contribution, please send your tax deductible donation to WMHO (P. O. Box 572, Stony Brook, NY 11790) and note Erik’s name. Any proceeds over and above the cost of the plaque and boulder will be given to the Halvorsen family. For more information please call 631-751-2244.

SBU program for retirees is unique on Long Island

File Photo

A substantial gift from the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute will extend Stony Brook University’s ability to offer opportunities to individuals who are semi-retired or retired.

Originally founded at the university as The Round Table, the program was renamed after receiving an initial grant from the Osher Foundation in June 2007.

A program within the School of Professional Development, directed by Wayne Holo, OLLI is open to mature adults interested in expanding their intellectual horizons in a university setting. Volunteers — very often experts in the subjects they teach — teach peer-taught sessions, which carry no credits or prerequisites. Workshops are structured to offer an informal exchange of ideas among participants.

Osher Foundation President Mary Bitterman found the Stony Brook OLLI’s progress to be inspiring.

“Since making [the] initial grant, we have been impressed by [the program’s] exceptional progress,” she said. “We applaud the collective effort and achievement of its excellent staff and its dynamic community of intellectually vigorous members. We also salute the university’s leadership for its steadfast support of the Osher Institute and for embracing the concept that education is a lifelong pursuit that has the power to forge and enhance our connection to one another and to a larger world.”

Retired schoolteacher Bruce Stasiuk, of Setauket, is one of the more popular workshop leaders in the program and his philosophy may indicate why.

“The ingenious OLLI program is like going back to school without the pressures, or papers,” he said. “Here, required courses and tests went the way of Clearasil. OLLI is all about pursuing interests, keeping active, and continuing personal growth. It’s the purest form of education — it’s fun.”

Martin and Joyce Rubenstein of Port Jefferson Station would agree. Marty Rubenstein has been a participant for nearly two decades; Joyce Rubenstein almost as long. Both have taken classes, and Marty Rubenstein has taught quite a few, ranging from physics for poets to classes in his special passion, music appreciation, including history of the big band era and history of rock and roll.

“I started soon after retirement, about 1998,” Marty Rubenstein said. “It’s a well-run program and a good vehicle for people who are retired.” He added that one’s social network disappears when you no longer see the colleagues and friends you worked with daily.

It was still The Round Table, comprised of 300 members when Rubenstein joined, and he has watched the organization grow. He said he is hoping that the new funding will make it possible to improve the model, now that there are more than 1,000 members.

Joyce Rubenstein, a participant since 2000, says she likes the variety of classes offered.

“It’s nice because I don’t have to take academic courses unless I want to. You go in and you laugh. I enjoy it. I’ve made a lot of new friends,” she said, adding, “There are some extremely smart people there. You learn a lot just by listening.”

The Rubensteins shared their OLLI experiences with Bonnie and Norm Samuels of Setauket, who take classes, too.

“It’s great OLLI has received this endowment because the program has grown so much and so many people are now involved,” Bonnie Samuels said.

Norm Samuels is a newbie, taking classes for the first time this fall. He sad he is finding his DNA class stimulating.

“It opens your mind up to more in-depth examination of ideas,“ he said. “What I’ve learned about future uses of DNA — I think it’s going to shake us to our foundations! Being on campus, seeing the young people gives me vicarious pleasure. What I’d like to see is more integration between the young ones and us elders.”

Bonnie Samuels said opportunities of that sort do come up. OLLI members were recruited this semester to be audience members for a Talking Science class for undergraduate students. The goal was to listen and give feedback to young scientists to help them become clearer communicators when addressing nonscientists.

OLLI membership is open for an annual fee to all retired and semiretired individuals. The program currently offers more than 100 workshops per semester, and a variety of day trips. Avenues for participation include workshops, lectures, special events, committees and social activities. OLLI classes include topics in history, creative arts, science, literature and computer skills; fall classes included intermediate Latin, history of England, quantum weirdness, poetry out loud, senior legal matters and a virtual investing club.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes operate on the campuses of 119 institutions of higher education throughout the nation. Stony Brook’s OLLI program is the only such program on Long Island.

For more information, go to the Stony Brook University Osher Lifelong Learning Institute website or call 631-632-7063.

Join Tom Manuel and the Syncopated Seven as they ring in the New Year at the Jazz Loft

By Erika Riley

New Year’s Eve is the holiday to close out the season, and there is no better way to celebrate Dec. 31 than to do something fun for the night. Whether you’re in the mood for music, comedy or to simply see a movie before you head out for the night, the North Shore offers several great ways to spend the evening.

Huntington

Huntington’s Cinema Arts Centre will screen ‘Lion’ starring Dev Patel on New Year’s Eve

The Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington will be hosting a celebration of film on New Year’s Eve. There will be food, drinks, films and friends! First, attendees will have their pick of three films to view before the ball drops including “Jackie” starring Natalie Portman (8:15 p.m.), “Lion” starring Dev Patel (8:30 p.m.) and a third movie that is yet to be announced. After the movie screenings, guests can join the party in the Sky Room Cafe for some delicious food, cake and champagne toasts while viewing the ball dropping in Times Square on a television in the Cafe. Tickets are $40 per person, $35 members, and may be purchased online at www.cinemaartscentre.org or via phone at 631-423-FILM.

Port Jefferson

Paul Anthony will bring his comedy act to Theatre Three on New Year’s Eve

This year, Theatre Three, located at 412 Main Street in Port Jefferson will be offering a comedy show titled “New Year’s Laughin’ Eve” at two different times, featuring some of the biggest names in comedy. The “early bird” show will begin at 6 p.m. and run until 7:30 p.m., and the later show will start at 8 p.m. and end by 9:30 p.m., giving attendees plenty of time to take in a New Year’s party and watch the ball drop after the show. Douglas Quattrock, director of development and group sales and special events coordinator, says that the event is a great alternative for those who don’t want to go out to a bar but still want to go do something. “It’s a great way to kick off the new year and end the holiday season,” Quattrock said. “There’s no better medicine than laughter.”

There will be three comedians at the show, the first being Paul Anthony from Massapequa. Anthony is the host of the Long Island Comedy Festival and the host of the new 50+ Comedy Tour, a group of comedians who are targeting their comedy to a slightly older generation. The second guest is Rich Walker, who has been named the Best Comedian on Long Island two years in a row, has headlined in Las Vegas, and has been featured by the New York Times and the third comedian is Keith Anthony, who has been featured on Showtime, A&E and Comedy Central, and has also headlined his own shows. Quattrock said that while the comedy isn’t for kids, it’s also not brute or offensive. Tickets for the shows are $49 per person at the door, $45 in advance at www.theatrethree.com or by calling 631-928-9100.

Smithtown

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown will present a New Year’s Eve comedy show titled “Loads of Laughs,” featuring six headlining comics. Of the six comics, Ken Washington of the center said, “The comedians are always top of the line ‘headlining’ comics who have been seen on a variety of different media outlets as well as comedy clubs throughout the area.” Eddie Clark, former cop and current full-time comic, will be in attendance, as well as seasoned comedians Marvin Bell and Matt Burke. Guests can also expect to see Peyton Clarkson, winner of the New York City Laugh-Off, Joe Currie, a member of several bands as well as a comic, and Warren Holstein, club headliner and occasional contributor to SNL’s “Weekend Update.” Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and the show starts at 10 p.m. Tickets are $180 per couple or $90 per person (there is a $10 discount for members) and include a buffet of Italian hors d’oeuvres and light fare as well as an open bar of wine and beer. Dessert will be served during intermission and a champagne toast will be made to ring in the New Year. To order, call 631-724-3700. Note: Show contains adult language.

Stony Brook

The Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Avenue in Stony Brook, will be hosting a New Year’s Eve Celebration featuring jazz musician Tom Manuel and the Syncopated Seven from 7:30 to 12:30 p.m. The performance will also showcase guest artist Melanie Marod, who is a modern jazz vocalist who performs regularly around popular clubs in New York City. “What I’m most excited about is just having a wonderful group of people together in such a classy exciting place with such great music, I feel like when you put together great food and great people and great music it’s a guaranteed home-run evening,” said Manuel , who is also the curator and director of the Jazz Loft. Tickets are $150 per person, which includes a buffet dinner catered by the Three Village Inn, cocktail hour and a champagne toast at midnight. To order, call 631-751-1895 or visit www.thejazzloft.org.