Your Turn

Rabbi Chaim Grossbaum sounds the Shofar, a hollowed-out ram's horn used to usher in Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Photo from Village Chabad

By Rabbi Chaim Grossbaum

Can we cancel 2020? Like simply skipping directly to 2021? Will anyone be upset about it?

I have seen many funny memes about 2020. But one particular meme got me to laugh pretty hard. It’s actually not about 2020 but about the current Jewish calendar year we are about to close, 5780.

“They say our actions on the High Holidays determine what will be decreed for the upcoming year. So whatever the heck you guys did last year, please don’t do it again!”

LOL.

After LOL’ing, it got me thinking about “cancelling 2020” and “cancelling 5780.” And then, a quote came to mind. A quote that is simply so perfect for our situation.

The quote is from Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe. He was imprisoned and tortured in Soviet Russia because of his work to spread Judaism behind the Iron Curtain.

After he was released from prison, his disciples asked him how he felt about it. He replied, “If I would be offered millions to experience one more moment of suffering – I wouldn’t buy. And if anyone would want to pay me millions to take away one moment of my suffering – I wouldn’t sell!”

The Rebbe didn’t elaborate further, but I think that the message is simple. Challenges are difficult, but they can also uplift you. One should never choose to experience challenges, but in hindsight we can appreciate how it made us better.

So I don’t want to cancel 5780.

Not the moments that forced me to take a step back from the hustle of life.

Not the moments that reminded me what’s important and what’s less important.

Not the new appreciation of what is essential, and what is not truly essential.

Not the beauty I saw all around me, when the entire country simply rallied to help one another.

Not the feeling of closeness to G-d when I prayed from the bottom of my heart that things should get better already.

Not the time spent with my family with very little distraction.

Do I want more of it? Not even if you pay me millions. But I do know that 5780 had many gifts. Hidden, but gifts nonetheless.

Onward and upward!

May we all be blessed with a Shana Tova U’metuka. A happy, healthy and sweet new year up ahead for ourselves and our loved ones.

Rabbi Chaim Grossbaum is the senior rabbi and spiritual leader at the Village Chabad Center for Jewish life & Learning in East Setauket. Visit EnjoyHighHolidays.com for a schedule of COVID-safe outdoor holidays at Village Chabad. Masks, social distancing, and preregistration is required. To RSVP for a “60 Minute Power Hour” Rosh Hashanah service and Shofar blowing on Sept. 20, visit MyVillageChabad.com/HHPowerHour.

Many seniors are embracing digital technology in this new world of social distancing.

By Linda Kolakowski

Linda Kolakowski

In the wake of the pandemic, many people who had formerly expected to move to a life plan retirement community, assisted living or other type of senior residence now have questions about whether a senior living community is still the right choice for them.

While it’s natural to have a level of uncertainty, even in the best of times, getting educated about the various living options available, what precautions are permanently in place, and what it was like to live in these communities during shelter in place times will help in the decision making process.

People are aging for a much longer period than years ago. In 2030, the expectation is that there will be twice as many 85-year-olds and three times as many people over 100 years of age than there are today, and they’re more active than previous generations. Trends indicate that more people want to be in communities with their friends, who become more like family members, as relatives may live far away. Retirement communities help people hold on to the community relationships we need in order to thrive at every age. Will these trends continue as we cope with the likes of COVID-19?

The Need for Community

One common experience across generations during COVID has been the need to have a community of sorts. Whether they found it through regular Zoom or Facetime calls with family, friends or work colleagues, the majority moved quickly to fill the void from social distancing measures and embraced digital technology. As the weather warmed, outdoor socially distant gatherings — fitness and other classes, bring your own sandwich picnics and other no touch activities became the norm in senior living communities.

While this certainly happened at all manners of senior living communities, it was not necessarily the case for seniors living on their own. Some seniors were able to enjoy the company and comforts of living with family members or had more mobile neighbors and friends to shop for them and otherwise help out. Others who were already isolated had neither the equipment nor technical know-how to connect with family and friends digitally.

Fear of infection closed down many senior centers, limited ride services and at home visits, and made trips to the supermarket and drug store overwhelming, if not impossible. Home maintenance also became a significant issue.

Residents of senior living communities like Jefferson’s Ferry had to curtail their activities, just like the rest of the population, but because of the array of services that come with living in a retirement community, they were able to get takeout meals, groceries, household items, laundry service, and even cocktails to go on the premises. 

Staying Healthy

While there were health concerns, residents of many senior living communities also had ready access to the most up to date health information, as well as greater access to health care. Healthy residents overall remained healthy, thanks to senior living communities’ strict adherence to protocols and directives from local, state, and federal agencies that promote resident and employee safety and reduce the chance of exposure or transmission. 

Feeling Good by Giving Back

Senior community residents across Long Island also came together in the spirit of giving back to make the best of a difficult situation.  At Jefferson’s Ferry, the residents spearheaded fundraisers and made donations to provide free meals to the hardworking staff and otherwise demonstrated their gratitude with thank you notes and small gifts. Some residents made masks for their neighbors; others reached out to fellow residents with phone calls, or left treats and notes outside the doors of their neighbors to lift their spirits.

One Jefferson’s Ferry resident related her experience. “I can’t imagine having lived anywhere else during the ‘life during social distancing’ period. While most of my day is spent in my apartment, I converse regularly with friends by phone. I can have meals delivered, but often take the outdoor route to the Community Center. I’ll meet some masked neighbors along the way, pick up my mail and my takeout dinner in the café. If there is any kind of emergency or special need, I can just ‘push the button’ and a staff member will help me out.”

Another said, “It’s interesting and inspiring how Jefferson’s Ferry has continued to be a caring community, even in the midst of social distancing. We can still laugh at each other’s masks and hairdos, encourage one another when we get down, and remind each other that all the fun things we do together will resume someday.”

It’s Your Choice

At every stage of life, we all want to be able to exercise control and make choices.  Equally important is making sure that access to services and health care remains viable and affordable as needs change over time. Talk to your friends, visit the senior communities in your area and ask a lot of questions. There are many terrific options out there. You will find the one that’s right for you.  

Author Linda Kolakowski is the Vice President of Resident Life at Jefferson’s Ferry Life Plan Community in South Setauket.

by -
0 721
Writer Stefanie Werner, right, and her mother, Diane. Photo from Stefanie Werner

By Stefanie Werner

My mother, Diane Werner, was by far the most influential person in my life. She was a teacher for more than 30 years, most of which was spent in the social studies wing of Ward Melville High School and was the inspiration behind my career choices. During her tenure in Three Village she was a highly respected educator and mentor with a passionate nature that empowered even the most resistant student to not only show up for class, but more importantly, achieve to the best of his or her abilities. Her sudden death only five years into her retirement produced an immense outpouring of love and compassion that exemplified how much she meant to her students and the community at large.

Fast forward 14 years and we find ourselves at a crossroads in the Three Village community. In these unprecedented times, my mother’s voice echoes in my head a trillion times a day. I hear her telling me to fight for what I believe in, to advocate for my child and to use my voice to defend that which I believe to be just. As we debate the guidelines for our return to school in September, I wish that my mother was here to add her two cents —more like twenty — to the on-going deliberations. She would be confounded by the dissension that has arisen in the community regarding the safety protocols required for our school reopening plan. Her mind would be awhirl with thoughts of how parents, teachers and community members should be united in this cause, creating a universal practice, not drowning in a “you do you, I’ll do me” mindset. Mrs. Werner would be feverishly scribbling lesson plans in her college-ruled spiral notebook, all the while remaining vigilant in her pursuit to educate her students despite the nonsensical squabbling of parents over mask mandates and plastic shields. Social distancing and face shields would be no match for the force that was Diane Werner at the head of a classroom, and no one would be more determined to keep kids safe and learning.

Although most of the old guard is gone from the halls of Ward Melville High School, many of my mom’s former students are now parents in this district. A handful of her former colleagues are now administrators making the most important decisions that have ever confronted Three Village Central School District. Nineteen years may have passed since Diane Werner blissfully strolled into the sweet land of retirement, but she left behind a legacy of strength and determination the likes of which this district needs to channel right now. The students of this community, including the grandchild my mother never met, deserve a comprehensive, rock-solid plan that exemplifies the need for a safe and secure learning environment during this global pandemic. In her day there would have been no flip-flopping on mask enforcement, and no questions left dangling at board of education or district meetings. Of course, she would have appreciated the debate, she did teach You and the Law and Mock Trials after all, but in the end, the result would be the same. Mrs. Werner would pull on her orange mask (her favorite color), walk into room 239 (her footsteps were distinct), make sure that every desk was 6 feet apart and students were masked, sign-in to Google Classroom (although she preferred chalk) and rock this place like nobody’s business. I am my mother’s daughter, and I will accept nothing less than 100% for mine. And mom would have given nothing less for yours. Miss you mommy!

Stefanie Werner is a mother, teacher and social worker. She is a lifelong resident of the Three Village community and a graduate of SUNY Oneonta, Long Island University and Stony Brook University.

Stock photo

By Sapphire Perera

People of low-income, and especially minorities, constantly struggle with the financial and social hardships that arise from racism. While the financial disparities and social injustices are well known, many are still unaware of the environmental racism that many people and communities endure, and how deadly it actually is. Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic is making this issue more apparent and is increasing the need for awareness about environmental justice. 

Sapphire Perera

Environmental racism is a form of systemic racism where people of color are disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards through policies and practices. It has existed in America ever since the Europeans made contact with the Native Americans, and it has progressively worsened with the Industrial Revolution and the increasing amount of toxic waste and new technology that is being created.

The working populations that lives in low-income communities aren’t given the power to have their voices heard regarding environmental laws. Moreover, the land in these areas is cheaper for industrial actors to acquire. This is why about 70% of contaminated waste sites are located in low income communities. With such a great imbalance of political power between the upper class, less diverse neighborhoods and the low-income African American neighborhoods, the latter’s communities are being subjected to the greater amounts of air pollution, toxic waste sites, landfills, lead poisoning and flooding. 

The health effects from environmental racism are extremely harmful and lethal. Most often, people of low income communities who are subjected to environmental racism will see increases in obesity, asthma, diabetes and many different cancers because they are living amongst industrial toxic chemicals and toxic waste. 

One example that demonstrates the harmful effects of environmental racism is the so-called Cancer Alley in Louisiana along the Mississippi River. In 1987, African Americans of low-income neighborhoods started noticing an abundance of cancer cases within their community. People began making the connection between cancer cases and the 85-mile-long stretch of oil refineries and petrochemical plants. The petrochemical plants are extremely harmful to human health because petrochemicals can be absorbed through the skin or ingested and will accumulate in tissues and organs. They can then cause brain, nerve and liver damage, birth defects, cancer and asthma. This is why living in Cancer Alley increases one’s chance of getting cancer by 50%. Currently, Cancer Alley is also experiencing a highest rate of coronavirus deaths. 

Another community that is a target of environmental racism is the African American community of Uniontown, Alabama. On Dec. 22, 2008, an impoundment burst and spilled more than a billion gallons of highly toxic coal ash into the Emory River. The coal ash contained various pollutants such as arsenic, mercury, and lead, which can penetrate deeply into the lungs. Two years after the spill, the Tennessee Valley Authority moved four million cubic yards of coal ash from the Kingston spill to Arrowhead Landfill in Uniontown Alabama. The workers who were sent to clean up the coal ash suffered from brain cancer, lung cancer and leukemia due to exposure. The people of Uniontown Alabama, a low-income African American community, saw similar health effects to that of the workers. Unfortunately, the people of Uniontown did not have any recourse because the Resource Conservation Recovery Act classified the ash as non-hazardous in Uniontown. 

‘Environmental racism is a form of systemic racism where people of color are disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards through policies and practices.’

There are hundreds of examples of environmental racism, but we are currently witnessing one of the largest impacts of environmental racism. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing that African American and other minority communities are being hit hardest by the pandemic all across the country. With a lack of available resources and preexisting conditions that already arise from environmental racism, people of these communities are more susceptible to catching COVID-19. African Americans not only have environmental racism to worry about during this pandemic, but also mass incarcerations for minor misdemeanors, overcrowded housing, and under-funded public transport, which all have been increasing the COVID-19 infection rates. Unfortunately, this connection between pandemics and low-income neighborhoods isn’t new because in the 1990s there were higher mortality rates among communities of color for the HIV pandemic as well. 

Different policies and laws set forth by our government have placed African Americans and minorities in these neighborhoods which are subjected to environmental racism. We need to stop hearing news stories of the unbreathable South Bronx air, the North Carolina hog farm raw sewage lakes enveloping African American farmland and lead in the Flint river in Michigan. The environmental justice movement is one way to achieve equity for the African American and disadvantaged neighborhoods because it focuses on fair distribution of environmental benefits and burdens.  

Sapphire Perera is a rising senior at Port Jefferson high school. The “Turtle Island,” as the name for this ongoing column refers to the Native American mythology about North America existing on the back of a great turtle that bears every living being on its spine.

by -
0 930
Buttercup’s Dairy has been an area staple for close to a century. Photo by Joan Nickeson

Buttercup’s Dairy, owned by Rich Smith and family, is located at 285 Boyle Road at the corner of Old Town Road. They are a long time loyal member of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce. The bonny red building is the stalwart edifice of the Terryville community. The original 1935 dairy farm established by Smith’s grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Kroll, extended more than 50 acres. It was engaged in a vigorous regional dairy trade. Local needs led the family to start selling food staples.

Joan Nickeson. File photo

Sitting on several serene acres today, and free of the cattle it was once known for, the interior of Buttercup’s is refurbished. We find a variety of organic eggs, chicken, beef, dairy, nut and soy milks, grocery and health food items, ice, cold cuts, cakes, seasonal chocolate candy specialties, sundries, plus outside we enjoy the benches for eating lunch and the Little Free Library kiosk. It is also adorned with poster sized photographs of what the farm and grounds looked like years ago. Shopping there is a treat. Perhaps you’ve seen their mascot, Speedy Cow, at local chamber of commerce events and fundraisers. 

So what happens to business at Buttercup’s, amid a global pandemic? This community known historically as “the land of steady habits” and “the place where many paths meet” could only be thus: “This community has been great,“ Rich Smith said.

Physical adjustments made inside protect everyone, meet U.S. Centers for Disease Control and New York State guidelines, and are met with appreciation by customers. The call-in order system for cold cuts is working well; no congregating on either side of the deli case, which keeps staff and patrons safe. It is easy to stop in for fast service. Swing by to pick up dinner with local zucchini and tomatoes and a whole fresh watermelon or a pie for dessert 631-928-4607

Joan Nickeson is an active member of the PJS/Terryville community and community liaison to the PJS/T Chamber of Commerce.

Max Jamdar

By Reyva Jamdar

Next to me on the couch, my dog lies. His foot twitches and whiskers tremble as he silently sleeps. A small “humph” escapes his mouth and he wakes up, suspiciously glancing around for the source of the noise. “You woke yourself up, dummy,” I mutter. I spend most of my days observing my dog. His fur, his small tongue, and of course, his previously mentioned puppy noises.

During this time, this is all I’ve been able to accomplish. Observing each and every toe and paw have helped me get through such a transition. As I sit here, writing this piece, I chuckle at the thought of how I even got this dog. I think I owe it all to my sister.

My dear sister of eighteen years, a proud member of the graduating class of 2020, is now heading off to college. Soon she’ll become a unique member of society, writing her own story filled with her own journeys. But before she even decided to spread her wings, she wanted a dog. A dog to play with, to cry with, and most importantly, to love.

Even as a toddler, I understood the importance of such a relationship. I grew up thinking that having a dog was a given, so it was a stab in the gut when I realized that this wasn’t true … at all. My mother. My mother was the face of this terrible feeling. She was, in her own words, “brutally attacked by a large dog” at the age of 12. This untimely event affected my family for years. This alone caused many “doggy disputes” in our household. It got to the point where my sister and I lost hope. It was already 2020. It was already the start of a fresh, lucky year, right? Or so we thought.

The coronavirus slowly took over New York. And my life. Getting a dog wasn’t even up for discussion once school closed. Days turned into months. Months felt like years. Endless, pointless days were all I could recall as I finally considered myself a sophomore. It was a sticky June day when I was startled by a shriek and a faint thump. My sister’s familiar clunks down the stairs halted as she approached me. It was an immediate surprise when she revealed that we were, in fact, getting a puppy during a global pandemic.

There was absolutely no way that my mother would accept yet another baby into her house during such a time. But I was wrong. She actually agreed. Maybe it was the fact that my sister was leaving for college (the new dog was an even better replacement) or because of how unexpectedly horrible 2020 was. To be quite honest, I still don’t know why she suddenly changed her mind. But I’m glad she did.

The first night with my mini golden-doodle puppy, Max, was dream-like. If a fluffy ball of fur was cuddled up next to you, wouldn’t you be ecstatic too? But the next morning was anything but this. Pee was everywhere. Chewed up pieces of furniture (and the couch) were destroyed. Our sleep schedules were completely skewed.

But it was worth it.

All those nights spent worrying about what other curveball 2020 would throw at us next wasn’t a problem anymore. All those nights spent worrying about what tomorrow would bring wasn’t a problem anymore. All those long, suspenseful nights spent worrying about something that I couldn’t control wasn’t a problem anymore. Having a dog, whether he peed on the couch or not, was completely worth it. Getting a dog in my house was always frowned upon, so that really just proves that everything and anything is possible even during a global pandemic.

Remember, when life gives you lemons, always make lemonade. 2020 was horrible. But we decided to make something out of it and as a result received puppy love!

A resident of E. Setauket, author Reyva Jamdar recently graduated from P.J. Gelinas Middle School and will be attending Ward Melville High School as a sophomore in the fall.

Stock photo

Your vote is the most valuable treasure you own. Take good care of it, use it wisely, never sell it and demand a great return on your investment. I have spent years encouraging people to vote.  This year is quickly becoming a time when we must protect and defend our right to vote! Below are a few suggestions some should be done now so you will be prepared:

1. Items 1a, 1b,and 1c require the assistance of the Suffolk County Board of Elections. It is suggested that you contact them by email so you spend time on a long phone hold:  suffolkcountyny.gov/departments/BOE

1a. If you have moved in the past year, make sure you are registered. Contact the board of elections. Check online for their contact information.

1b. If someone in your family has or will turn 18 before Nov. 3, ask how they register and what documents must be provided.

1c. Request an Absentee Ballot. You can get the request form online, print it out, fill it out and mail it to the board of elections. Do this as soon as possible.

2. Your Ballot will be mailed to you, ask the BOE when they mail the ballots so you can watch for it. When it arrives, Vote and mail back right away. Do not wait until the middle of October as the mail might be delayed then.

3. If you plan to vote in person, make sure your polling place has not been moved. Wear a mask, gloves and carry hand sanitizer and most importantly, practice social distancing.

4. Try to avoid taking children to the polls. If you must, make sure they have well-fitting masks, keep them close, no wandering. Before getting back in the car everyone should sanitize their hands.

5. If you decide to vote in person bring proper identification: driver’s license, passport. There can always be a first time when you will have to show ID.

Live at polling places vs. total mail in ballots for Mount Sinai School District

In Mount Sinai, the voting data of this past year’s school budget vote showed a huge increase.   

Vote Counts  2014 – 2019  based upon in person voting:

Lowest count was 962 while the highest was 1557. The average for those five years was 1352.8. 

In 2020 ballots were mailed to all registered voters in the school district and could be mailed back or put in a drop box in the district office lobby.

The total number of votes cast was 2993. This number is 1641 more votes than the average of the past five years.

There is a fantastic website which is designed to answer voter questions and provide information, state specific, for voters. The site is presented by the National Association of Secretaries of State and it can be reached at canivote.org.

Vote as if your life depends upon it, because the American way of life does. 

Lynn Jordan is a lifelong Long Island-based community advocate, stemming from her time as a volunteer district lobbyist to PTA Council President at the Comsewogue School District, which preceded her 19-year tenure as a nurse at Mount Sinai Middle School, following which she served 12 years on the Mount Sinai board of education.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, right. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By George Hoffman

George Hoffman

With the likely election of Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) to the New York State Supreme Court as a justice in the 10th District this November, it will mean that residents of Council District 1 will be choosing a new town councilperson at the beginning of next year.

Before prospective candidates come forward, I thought it might be worthwhile to suggest a list of attributes that our next councilperson should possess.

1. Be active in community affairs.

Our new councilperson should be someone who is involved in the local community. Council District 1 has numerous and active community organizations from civic groups, historical societies, chambers of commerce, volunteer fire and rescue companies, youth athletic leagues and school and library boards.

Having a background in local civic affairs means that our new councilperson knows who the community leaders are and what’s important to the community.

2. Have a nonpartisan attitude.                                                                                                                                      

Our new councilperson should be someone who builds relationships with the others rather than stirs up partisan conflict. Town government deals mostly with the delivery of services like garbage pickup, road repair, snow removal, maintaining the parks and town facilities. Most issues of the Town Board are nonpolitical and should not be used for scoring partisan points. New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia famously said, “There is no Democratic or Republican way to pick up garbage.”

3. Makes friends not waves.

Though we are currently living in very partisan times, Americans continually tell pollsters that they want their elected officials to work together rather than fight amongst themselves and get nothing done. Our next councilperson should leave their party registration at the door of town hall and build relationships with their colleagues on the board and in town government to make our town a better place.

4. Understand the importance of our history, harbors and open spaces.

The Town of Brookhaven was first established on the shores of Setauket Harbor, 365 years ago. The people who live here are coastal people and want their leaders to protect this legacy. They also are proud of the role our ancestors played in early American history, helping Gen. George Washington and his armies overcome the British forces. Protecting the historic Washington Spy Trail, what we now call NYS Route 25A, is central to that history.

5. Be fiscally prudent.

Though some in our area are very well off financially, most of us are holding our own in an area that has a very high cost of living. Our next councilperson needs a sense of prudence when deciding how much town government can spend in providing necessary services to its residents. Now with the challenge of dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, town government will have to restructure itself and learn to do more with less. Something much easier said than done. Our next councilperson will need a sense of balance in making tough fiscal choices in the next budget process.

But more importantly, our next councilperson needs to care about our town and community, and always put their interests ahead of party and self.

George Hoffman is active in civic affairs and currently serves as vice president of the Three Village Civic Association and is one of the founders of Setauket Harbor Task Force. He recently was co-chair of the Town of Brookhaven Citizens Advisory Committee for the Route 25A corridor. Hoffman has worked as a chief of staff in three of Suffolk’s biggest towns and served as a district director for a local congressman.

TBR News Media invites community members to submit their thoughts on what qualities they believe the next councilperson should possess. Submissions can be emailed to [email protected]

'Low Tide' (Stony Brook Harbor) by Gerard Romano

It is most unfortunate that state Assemblyman Steve Englebright [D-Setauket] has elected to mischaracterize and misrepresent the environmental facts in his effort to stop the proposed development on the Gyrodyne property (Aug. 6, 2020 op-ed, “The Gyrodyne Project Threatens Stony Brook Harbor”).

John D. Cameron

What Englebright has failed to recognize is the significant reduction in nitrogen loadings to Stony Brook Harbor that will be accomplished by not only hooking up all the existing as well as new buildings on the Gyrodyne property but also the construction of a new state-of-the-art advanced wastewater treatment plant that will reduce the nitrogen concentration of incoming wastewater by over 85 percent. The proposed plant is actually less than 5 percent of the capacity of the Stony Brook University plant which processes, in addition to the university wastewater, hundreds of thousands of gallons of wastewater daily from the Stony Brook Medical Center and discharges into Port Jefferson Harbor.

Additionally, typical nitrogen concentrations from the septic systems of homes and businesses surrounding Stony Brook Harbor are seven times greater than what this advanced treatment plant will discharge. This area includes the unsewered Stony Brook University Research and Development Park operating on onsite septic systems, located on the 245 acre parcel seized by the university from Gyrodyne through an “eminent domain” action back in 2005 when Gyrodyne was attempting to build a residential golf course community. It also includes the business corridor of St. James which the Town of Smithtown has asked Gyrodyne to consider connecting into its treatment plant when it gets built. The Lake Avenue business area presently discharges high nitrogen loadings that flow into Stony Brook Harbor. The Gyrodyne board has consented to consider such request.

This is a subject area of which I have considerable knowledge and experience.  I possess undergraduate and graduate degrees in marine engineering and marine and environmental science respectively. As a licensed professional engineer, I have decades of experience in wastewater treatment and environmental protection projects. I have served in pro bono executive board capacities of environmental and planning organizations and am presently serving in a management role on the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan, a program that is specifically addressing nitrogen pollution of Long Island’s surface waters which is responsible for harmful algal blooms, eutrophication [overly enriched with nutrients] and fish kills.

As greater than 70 percent of Suffolk County is presently unsewered, onsite sewage disposal systems have been identified as the primary cause of nitrogen pollution of the county’s surface waters. Increased sewering and installation of innovative and alternative on-site septic systems is rigorously being pursued by the county with the support of the state.

Gyrodyne’s proposed mixed use development project is anticipated to include assisted living, commercial office and a hotel. Of the 75 acre site, only 26 undeveloped acres are planned for new development. A significant portion of the site will be dedicated to natural and managed landscape with a substantial buffer along Route 25A. The mix of development uses was selected to not only satisfy market demand but also to minimize external environmental impacts from a traffic as well as wastewater perspective. Traffic mitigation at the intersections of Route 25A at Mills Pond Road and Route 25A at Stony Brook Road are planned as part of the project’s traffic mitigation plan, as well as other improvements. w

Another point raised in Englebright’s letter stated concern from Professor Larry Swanson of Stony Brook University regarding potential medical office use on the site. Medical office use was studied as part of the comprehensive environmental impact analysis performed, including projected sanitary flows and traffic generation analysis, though there is no definitive plan that medical use will occupy any of the commercial office space if developed as part of the Flowerfield subdivision. If included, it would be a low wastewater generator as opposed to a hospital or other use. That use determination will depend upon the office market at the time of development.

Swanson also cited concern over the soils at the Gyrodyne site. A detailed investigation of the soils was conducted by another environmental engineering firm which specializes in environmental testing and remediation. Their report states that although sampled soils at the site meet restricted residential standards, which are applicable to the planned future use of the property, construction generated soils at the site will be managed in accordance with applicable regulations.

What both Englebright and Swanson have failed to acknowledge is the fact that the significant amount of nitrogen and other pollutants that are discharged into the ground from onsite systems ultimately reach the harbor thereby adding loadings far in excess of what would be present if the wastewater were treated in an advanced wastewater treatment plant.

In closing, I would like to state that the proposed development of the Gyrodyne property has been designed to provide a smart, balanced and environmentally responsive development plan. As Gyrodyne’s consulting engineer for over 20 years, I can attest that the company’s board of directors, represented by a number of local community members, has always prided itself as being a good neighbor to the greater St. James and Stony Brook communities. This plan is reflective of that continuing commitment.

John D. Cameron Jr., P.E. is a managing partner with Cameron Engineering & Associates, LLP.

Richard Anderson, a retired art teacher who now enjoys a second career as a wood sculptor, created “The Sages” from a tree stump on Old Town Road. Photo by Christine Petrone

By Kara Hahn

Kara Hahn

I was delightfully surprised as I drove along Old Town Road in Setauket last week to discover the tree sages that later graced this paper’s July 30th cover. The intricate carvings left me in awe of the artist’s talent and skill. It left me wondering who had the vision for this wooden sculpture. What were his motives? It left me wondering why anyone would ever want to grind a tree stump again? Public displays of art — whether officially sponsored or created by private citizens — enhance and refine a community’s culture, character and charm.

We are a community defined by our history, renowned for our cultural arts institutions and beloved for our strong sense of place. Creativity is central to how we identify ourselves.  Our landscape is full of beauty, both natural and purposefully fashioned; from stunning waterfront vistas to architectural masterpieces reflecting colonial heritage. Living up to our cultural legacy can be more than relying solely on what has already been made. We can continue to find new ways to augment that legacy, one creative project at a time adding to what amounts to our shared collection. We gain value through public art, not only by improving our aesthetics but by inspiring our imaginations. Public art invigorates and humanizes, it shapes a unique identity that acts as a beacon, attracting new visitors and potential new neighbors.

With growing fascination over “The Sages” could interest in public art installations continue to spread?  Will spaces we pass every day without a second glance now been seen in a new light? Can we continue to break up the bland and transform the same into the memorable? Art that reflects and reveals our collective heart?

For the past several years, community leaders have discussed potential new locations for place-making, transformational works of art. Let’s come together to find ways to enhance our existing beauty, inject our unique identity and add meaning where aging infrastructure is an eyesore. Adding to our public collection will undoubtedly have a tangible impact on how we define ourselves. Let’s revisit conversations about the train trestle over Nicolls Road, the medians along Stony Brook Road and other spaces of possibility. We are blessed with an abundance of art expertise in institutions like Gallery North, the Long Island Museum, Reboli Center and others. Let’s have an open dialogue with residents and experts on increasing the presence of public art and bolstering our local artists and the art community.    

The artistic and cultural influences present throughout our region have been central in defining who we are. On the eve of Gallery North’s annual Wet Paint Festival, we can all witness art as it is created, learn of its inspiration and marvel at the beauty left behind. Not only can we all celebrate unique installations like the “The Sages,” but we can make a conscious commitment to expand the visual intrigue of our community through public art. We will all be wealthier for it.

Kara Hahn is Suffolk County Legislator in the 5th District. She is also the deputy presiding officer of the legislature.