Your Turn

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

In this strange new world of plexiglass partitions, floor stamps marking 6 foot separations and arrows directing us down aisles, it is comforting to climb those creaky wooden steps, open that squeaky green door, enter the circa 1857 house that is the St James General Store and travel back to colonial times.

I was first introduced to this singular establishment as a little girl by my Aunt Nancy who lived in Smithtown. Upon entering the store, I was met with a delectable, sweet scent that wafted through the air. Rows of glass canisters housing assorted old-fashioned candies from licorice to malted milk balls to nonpareils to ribbon candy to fudge was enough to make any child’s eyes sparkle, especially a child with a sweet tooth as big as mine. 

We walked down the long aisle opposite the candy counter where bric-a-brac reminiscent of the Victorian era was displayed. Toward the back of that counter was a glass case containing one of a kind pieces of jewelry.

The back room of the store was a treat for any child and child at heart with displays of old fashioned toys including Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, wooden yoyos, assorted crafts and stuffed animals. 

Opposite the toy counter was a rack of beautiful hats hinting of Victorian charm in an array of colors and decorated with ribbons, flowers or feathers. Shelves of unique scarves and gloves were arranged next to the hat rack.

We rounded the corner and headed up the rickety wooden staircase to a large room that contained a library divided into sections with books related to Long Island, children’s literature, travel and Victorian genre.

Beyond the book section, we stepped into the Christmas room where we were met with an enchanting kingdom of Christmas trees decorated with unique ornaments, stars and angels.

After my Aunt Nancy and I completed our tour, we returned to the candy counter where she invited me to choose some confection as a souvenir of our visit. I went for my favorites, the malted milk balls. As she drove us back to her house, I popped one of these delectable treats in my mouth letting it luxuriously melt away. To my delight, this tasty morsel seemed triple wrapped in rich milk chocolate; easily the best version of itself I have ever tasted and I pride myself on being a malted milk ball connoisseur.

I have returned to the St. James General Store at different stages in my life and to my delight everything has always remained the same. I have brought friends and family there, eager to see their eyes light up at every twist and turn.

I recently returned to the store for the first time since this COVID pandemic assaulted all our lives. Though the woman behind the candy counter is now separated from the public by plexiglass, I emitted a great big sigh of relief taking comfort in the familiarity from within. Everything is the same as I remember dating back to my first visit with my beloved Aunt Nancy.

If you would like a trip back to a happier, simpler time, stop into the St. James General Store where a sense of comfort will swaddle you the moment you step beyond that green door.

Miller Place resident Barbara Anne Kirshner is a freelance journalist, playwright and author of “Madison Weatherbee —The Different Dachshund.”

All photos by Barbara Anne Kirshner

By John L. Turner

Situated a mile east of Orient Point, the eastern tip of the North Fork and separated from it by Plum Gut, lies Plum Island, an 822-acre pork-chop shaped island that is owned by you and me (being the federal taxpayers that we are). 

The island’s most well-known feature is the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC), situated in the northwestern corner of the property, but Plum Island is so much more. On the western edge lays the Plum Island lighthouse which was built in 1869 to warn mariners of the treacherous currents of Plum Gut. On the east there’s the brooding presence of Fort Terry, a relict of the Spanish-American War, with scattered evidence in the form of barracks, gun batteries, and the tiny tracks of a toy gauge railroad once used to move cannon shells from storage to those concrete batteries. (The cannons never fired except during drills).

And there’s the stuff that excites naturalists:

■ The largest seal haul-out site in southern New England located at the eastern tip of the island where throngs of harbor and grey seals swim along the rocky coastline or bask, like fat sausages, on the off-shore rocks that punctuate the surface of the water.

■ The more than 225 different bird species, one-quarter of all the species found in North America, that breed here (like the bank swallows that excavate burrows in the bluff face on the south side of the island), or pass through on their seasonal migratory journeys, or overwinter.

■ Dozens of rare plants, like ladies’-tresses orchids, blackjack oak, and scotch lovage that flourish in the forests, thickets, meadows, and shorelines of Plum Island.

■ A large freshwater pond in the southwestern section of the island that adds visual delight and biological diversity to the island. 

■ And, of course, the ubiquitous beach plums that gave the island its name!

For the past decade a struggle has ensued to make right what many individuals, organizations of all sorts (including the more than 120-member Preserve Plum Island Coalition), and many public officials consider a significant wrong — Congress’s order to sell Plum Island to the highest bidder, forever losing it as a public space. 

This ill-conceived path of auctioning the island was set in motion by a half-page paragraph buried in a several thousand- page bill to fund government agencies in 2009. Fortunately, this struggle has been won — the wrong has been righted — as language included in the recently adopted 2021 budget bill for the federal government, repeals the requirement that the General Services Administration sell the island. 

Thank you to Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Senators Christopher Murphy and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and members of Congress Lee Zeldin,Tom Suozzi, Rosa DeLauro and Joe Courtney!

Thanks is also due to New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright who sponsored legislation that was signed into law creating a Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle area in the waters surrounding Plum Island.

While this victory is a vital and necessary step to ultimately protect Plum Island, it is a temporary and incomplete one since the island can still be sold to a private party through the normal federal land disposition process if no government agency at the federal, state, or local level steps up to take title to the island. 

The Coalition’s next task, then, is to ensure that a federal agency such as the National Park Service (National Monument?), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (National Wildlife Refuge?) or the state of New York (New York State Park Preserve?) expresses a willingness to accept stewardship of this magnificent island, since they get first dibs to the island if they want it. A key enticement toward this end is the $18.9 million commitment in the budget to clean up the few contaminated spots on the island.

Why the sale in the first place? Since 1956 PIADC has been conducting top level research on highly communicable animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease. To this end, several years ago staff developed a vaccine for this highly contagious disease that holds great promise in controlling the disease globally.

Despite this successful research, Congress determined the facility was obsolete and should be replaced, approving the construction of a new state-of-the-art facility, known as the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), to be located on the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. NBAF is complete and will soon be fully operational so as a result PIADC is no longer needed; PIADC is expected to transfer all operations to Kansas and close for good in 2023.

Plum Island is a rare place — a remarkable asset that holds the promise of enriching Long Islanders’ lives —your family’s lives, if we can keep it in public ownership. The Preserve Plum Island Coalition, with the input from hundreds of Long Islanders, has painted a vision for the island … so, imagine throwing binoculars, a camera, and a packed lunch enough for you and your family into your backpack and participating in this realized vision by:

— Taking a ferry across to the island, debarking to orient your island adventure by visiting a museum interpreting the cultural and natural riches and fascinating history of the island before you wander, for countless hours, to experience the wild wonders of the island. A most worthwhile stop is the island’s eastern tip where, through a wildlife blind, you enjoy watching dozens of bobbing grey and harbor seals dotting the water amidst the many partially submerged boulders.

— Standing on the edge of the large, tree-edged pond, watching basking turtles and birds and dragonflies flitting over the surface.

-Birdwatching on the wooded trails and bluff tops to view songbirds, shorebirds, ospreys and other birds-of-prey, swallows, sea ducks and so many other species. Perhaps you’ll see a peregrine falcon zipping by during fall migration, sending flocks of shorebirds scurrying away as fast as their streamlined wings can take them.

— Strolling along the island’s eight miles of undisturbed coastline, with the beauty of eastern Long Island before you, offering distant views of Great Gull, Little Gull and Gardiner’s Islands, Montauk Point, and the Connecticut and Rhode Island coastlines.

— Lodging at the Plum Island lighthouse, converted into a Bed & Breakfast and enjoying a glass of wine as the sun sets over Plum Gut and Orient Point.

— Learning about the role Fort Terry played in protecting the United States and the port of New York as your explore the many parts of the fort — the barracks where soldiers stayed, the gun batteries that once housed the cannons angled skyward to repel a foreign attack.

— At the end of day, if you don’t stay over, taking the ferry back to the mainland of the North Fork, tired after many miles of hiking in the salt air of the East End stopping at a North Fork restaurant to share a chat among friends and family about what you’ve learned relating to this fascinating place.

This legislation has given Plum Island (based on the above perhaps we should call it Treasure Island!) a second chance and an opportunity for us to achieve this vision. But this law is only the first step. We need to take the vital second step of new ownership and management in the public interest if all of the above adventures are to become realities. We collectively need to tell those elected officials who represent us, and who can make a difference in determining the island’s fate, that we want Plum Island protected in perpetuity and the opportunity for its many wonders to become interwoven into the fabric of life on Long Island. 

Go to www.preserveplumisland.org to learn more about the Coalition, receive updates, and what you can do to help.

John Turner is the spokesperson for the Preserve Plum Island Coalition.

For the first time, people could choose to complete the U.S. Census online, by phone, or by mail. Stock photo

By Iryna Shkurhan

The 2020 Census couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time. 

I was one of the half million people employed by the U.S. Census Bureau this year enlisted in the follow-up operation for non-respondents. When I applied to be an enumerator in Suffolk county in January, I couldn’t imagine that I would be going door to door in the midst of a pandemic. 

Iryna Shkurhan

When Census Day came April 1, enumerators were set to start visiting the homes of millions of non-respondents, but in person operations were postponed indefinitely as many states entered lockdowns. Around the same, the bureau formed an outreach and ad campaign to encourage Americans to respond online for the first time, or by phone or mail.

When drafting the Constitution, the nation’s founders mandated a count of the populace to be held every decade, starting in the 1790s, with the main goal of getting a count of every single person living in the United States. Included was questions on age, sex, race, relationship in the household and home ownership form data that paints a picture of who makes up the country. 

This information is crucial to determine congressional representation and allocating hundreds of billions in federal funding, for education, hospitals, roads and healthcare. The data that will directly affect the resources that communities across the country will receive for the next decade. For a government to represent people and fairly fund its programs, it has to know how many people there are and where they live, making the census initiative crucial for democracy. 

Enumerators typically work in their communities because their familiarity with the area helps in locating homes and also establishes trust and mutual understanding with respondents. Still, the questions are personal, and not everyone wants to share that information with a stranger. 

I always let people know that they had the option to refuse a question, if they were not comfortable answering. The question that mattered most was how many people lived in a household, which was used for the population count. The other questions had their own importance, but less so. 

I was issued a badge, a preprogrammed iPhone 8 and a messenger bag filled with various information sheets and a clipboard. In past decades the clipboard would’ve gotten more use. 

But this is the first year that the Census Bureau was collecting data digitally, allowing people to respond online, and enumerators to use mobile apps to record data. Enumerators no longer had to just record information with a pen and paper on their clipboards.

With the unpredictability of the pandemic, no one knew when and if in-person operations would continue, but in August I received a phone call asking if I would be willing to work for 4-8 weeks depending on when the count would be completed. I began working in the Stony Brook area less than ten minutes from my home. The number of cases I was assigned ranged from 20 to 70, depending on how many hours of availability I entered. Some days when I would work eight hours, I was assigned up to 80 nonresponse follow up cases. 

While on duty I imagined how different it must have been to be an enumerator ten years ago, before technology made the role much simpler. Now all I had to do was click on an assigned case and the GPS would direct me there. If a resident was home and willing to respond, the questions and answer options would pop up in the correct order on my screen. I never had to write anything more than a case number on paper. The apps on the issued iPhone were used to report for work, view assignments, track hours and mileage, and navigate to households.

The biggest challenge I ran into was a reluctance to answer. In the 20 hours of virtual training, I was taught the appropriate response for almost every type of reason a person is hesitant to share information, whether it’s privacy concerns, or distrust of the government. But many people were set in their decision and refused to cooperate, with many disputing my attempts at easing their fears and persuading them to cooperate. 

Enumerators also had a list of addresses to stay away from, which were marked as dangerous. These cases were marked with a caution sign on the map and signified that the resident was hostile, or violent in some way to an enumerator. In some cases, people were physically threatened and yelled at, and we were discouraged from attempting these homes alone. 

I witnessed a polar difference between the people who were happy to answer any questions and viewed it as a civic duty and those who avoided us at all costs and slammed the door in my face. I understood that people’s attitudes to their personal data was shifting, but living in a polarized county where the census became politicized didn’t help. With disinformation about the census floating around, explaining the purpose of the census, and the importance of each question, became a main part of my job. 

Another challenge was the technical difficulties that came with digital collection being implemented for the first time. Issues were bound to come up during the transition, but there were times where mid interview, the phone would crash, and I would have to restart all over. Other times my cases wouldn’t load, or I was sent to homes that were already visited by a dozen enumerators, with residents not hiding their annoyance. 

The sense of urgency was made apparent by higher ups as they offered incentives to work overtime and on weekends, when people were more likely to be home. Several bonuses were offered for working more than forty hours a week, and working Sundays and nights came with a higher pay rate. Initially, we had to request permission for overtime, but within a week that was scrapped. We were encouraged to work as much as possible to ensure everyone was counted. 

Once Setauket and neighboring regions were fully completed, I was sent out farther east to Riverhead, then farther to Orient and Mattituck. After the entirety of Suffolk County was counted, enumerators were offered to drive to other states, as far as Alabama to help complete the counting efforts there. 

One overnight shift was set aside to count the homeless population, which the pandemic made harder to account for. The Census was also forced to come up with new ways to count college students, who many towns depend on to get the adequate funding. 

In the few weeks I worked as an enumerator, there were difficult days but also rewarding ones. A certain satisfaction came with finally getting to interview a household that kept reappearing on my case list. With each case I closed, we came closer to reaching the goal. Little acts of kindness like some people offering to put their masks on, or a chair to sit on and a drink on a hot day, went a long way. 

Iryna Shkurhan is a junior at Stony Brook University majoring in political science, with a minor in journalism. She is an incoming editorial intern for TBR News Media.

Park the Christmas Puppy

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Author Barbara Anne Kirshner with her dog Park

Every December 21st, I pause in the midst of all the hectic Christmas preparations to hold my dachshund, Park, just a little closer and give thanks for the treasures he has brought since he joined our family on that fateful day 14 years ago.

How could I have known when we met, he would bring such companionship, love and countless gifts into my life?

Maybe if I had known, I would have scooped him up the minute I laid eyes on him instead of being so hesitant to add him to our little family.

It was September 2006 when my husband, Gregg, and our two dachshunds, Madison and Lexington, went for a walk in Port Jefferson and wound up in the local pet store. 

The girl behind the counter looked at our brood and said, “You’re dachshund people. There’s a little boy here who needs some attention.” And with that she reached into one of the cages behind the sales counter and brought out a little long-hair black and tan dachshund. As she rested him on the counter, he became the clown that this breed is known for and stood way up on hind legs. He kept that pose amidst oooohs and aaaahs from passersby. He certainly left a big impression, but having three dogs was something I never imagined. 

Once his little act ended, he was sent back to the cage behind the counter and we went home. 

That was but our first encounter with the boy.

Every time Gregg and I went into Port Jefferson, we’d stop at the pet store sure that the pup would be gone, but he remained in that cage — waiting.

As time went on, he was moved from the preferred placement at the front of the store to be that puppy in the window with a pal, a long hair red dachshund.

The next time I visited, the red doxie was gone, but the black and tan boy was now in a cage at the front of a long line of cages. That’s when things started to get pathetic for him.

A few weeks later, he had been moved to one of the middle cages in the long line. Finally, he was relegated to the very last cage at the back of the store.

Park the Christmas Puppy

On December 20, 2006, Gregg and I went to Port Jefferson curious to see if the boy was still there. We fantasized that a loving young couple came to the store, saw this was indeed a very special pup and he was gone.

When we got to the pet store, I couldn’t go inside. I told Gregg to go and come back with happy news that the pup had found his forever home.

I went into a nearby boutique trying to busy myself half looking at items, anxious for the update. 

Gregg rushed to me; alarm etched on his face. “Not only is he still there, but he looks despondent!” That was the word Gregg used:  “despondent.”

I rushed out of that boutique and into the pet store. I ran to the back of the store and sure enough, there he was with his face turned toward the wall.

I called, “Park! Park!” I had the name, an unusual name but perfect if he were to join the doxie pack of Madison and Lexington.

Upon hearing my voice, he looked over his shoulder and stared me down. His unspoken words screamed at me. “If you don’t get me out of this hell hole, don’t bother to come back!”

Gregg leaned over my shoulder and asked, “What should we do?”

I looked from Gregg back to that sad little pup who had been stuck behind those bars for the past four months and then I fled from that pet store.

Conflicting thoughts flooded in. It was December 20th, four days before Christmas Eve when we would host the family dinner followed by Christmas Day when we would be at my sister’s house. On top of the hectic Christmas schedule, I was opening in the New Year’s show at Arena Repertory. I still had to memorize the last remaining scenes.

And on top of that was the gnawing hesitation that I never had a male dog, only female dogs. This was a completely different world I knew nothing about. I was overwhelmed with worry thoughts.

We left Port Jefferson and the sad little pup behind. 

The next day was Monday, December 21st. I had to teach, but Gregg started his Christmas break. When I got home, I headed for my study complaining that I had to get those lines memorized.

But Gregg said, “You can’t do that right now.” I halted and looked at him.

He went on, “Well, I went back to Port Jefferson to the pet store and he was still there and well, now he’s ours. Merry Christmas — he’s your Christmas present!”

I looked around expecting the pup to come bounding out from another room. 

“He’s at the pet store being groomed right now. I wanted us to pick him up together like we did with Madison and Lexington. So, come on, let’s get your Christmas present. When we get home, you can go into your study to work and I’ll take care of the little guy,” Gregg reassured me. 

Conflicting feelings rushed in — excitement, anticipation, hesitation, worry and concern. How could I get everything done with a new pup under foot?

From left, Lexington, Melissa Tulip and Park Kirshner

We went to pick up the little man. He was ushered out from the grooming room, long black fur gleaming and a big, red Christmas bow bobbing around his neck.

Park was placed in my arms and from that day to this, he has never been far from my hugs and kisses. He is my Velcro boy, always there for me. When I’m sad, he licks my tears away. When I’m up in the middle of the night, I hear those now familiar footsteps approach from down the hall. He stays by my side watching over me until sleep returns. 

He is my travel companion. Wherever we go, people flock to him. Cars stop short to admire the precious boy. People have even called out, “That’s the most beautiful dog I’ve ever seen!”

I thank them, then shake my head and wonder how such a magnetic little man spent his early life behind bars, completely passed over by all who came in and out of that well-trafficked store.

When Christmas rolls around each year, I thank Gregg for the best Christmas present I ever got. His response is always the same, “I’ll never be able to top that gift, right?” 

Right!

Oh, and that Christmas Eve dinner 2006, it went smoothly with Park the hit of the party. AND I didn’t miss one line opening night of that New Year’s show.

Miller Place resident Barbara Anne Kirshner is a freelance journalist, playwright and author of “Madison Weatherbee —The Different Dachshund.”

 

All photos courtesy of Barbara Anne Kirshner

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Chamber President Jennifer Dzvonar, left, and Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, right, stand alongside Suffolk Legislator Kara Hahn and family. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Joan Nickeson

I am shining the local spotlight on Bass Electric and more importantly, its President and CEO, Jennifer Dzvonar. The hardest working community activist in Port Jefferson Station is the person we know as the can-do president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce. Under Jennifer’s guidance the PJS/T Chamber represents the businesses in our community. Bass Electric puts in an inordinate amount of time and treasure maintaining the antique train car at the Train Car Park. Last year the plumbing pipes froze and Jennifer’s crew was there on the double. Additionally, the door locks, the electric needs, the critter removal and ongoing incidentals are all reviewed, repaired or replaced by Bass Electric. The Train Car would not be in as good condition as it is, were it not for Jennifer.

She is a dynamo. We chatted over a hard cider recently at Po Boy Brewery in Port Jefferson Station. Jennifer does so much but she is humble. She is an activist of sorts, constantly advocating on behalf of not only the chamber members, but for families, students and job seekers in our district. She devises virtual and social gatherings connecting folks to business, and putting people in touch with each other. From Family Fun Days, to Summer Concerts, BMX demonstrations, school aged dance troops, musicians, and singers, to menorah and tree lighting gatherings at the Train Car Park, to outreach through her work on the Town Quality of Life Task force, trying to get help for the homeless, Jen doesn’t quit.

Sincerity, a strong work ethic and patience. These tools enable her to motivate all strata of our social and political networks to successfully promote main street, side street, and home-based businesses. This extends to chamber of commerce support of Port Jefferson Station’s exceptional nonprofits like Sensory Solutions and The Social Brain and scouts. She is eloquent, she is woke and works day in and day out to benefit others.

Who is the leader of Suffolk County Girl Scout Troop #3067. That’s Jennifer. She is also a member of our school district PTA; she served as secretary and often chaired the committee for Mother’s Day Plant Sales and Family Fun Nights. If you’ve ever “chaired” a PTA committee, suffice to say is usually a committee of one.

Have you heard of ‘LeTip’ business network support organization? Jennifer serves as president of the LeTip Suffolk North Shore chapter. She is a member of Decision Women and the Rotary. These are business and philanthropic organizations where she has served on various fundraising, food collection and holiday gift programs.

In her capacity on board of the Brookhaven Town Business Recovery Task Force, she advocated for restaurant COVID relief, encouraging the use of square footage to allow for increased customer capacity. She also supported extending outdoor dining permits. And she is quick to give thanks and show her appreciation.

The Train Car would not be in as good condition as it is, were it not for Jennifer. Contact for Bass Electric is 631-807-4438. 

“It is important to have an independent perspective and do everything you can to remain fair,” Jen said while we were discussing the December Drive Through Letter to Santa event, and the Harvest Basket fundraiser, which will allow the chamber to add dozens of daffodil bulbs to the Train Car Park. I could easily go on about Jennifer Dzvonar, but I’ll leave it here with a heartfelt, Thank You.

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

Rabbi Motti Grossbaum. Photo courtesy of The Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn

By Rabbi Motti Grossbaum

As we kindle the Menorah’s lights, we pay tribute to the heroes of long ago. The courage of the Maccabees (the small band of Jewish fighters who led the revolt against the Syrian Greek religious oppressors) and their refusal to surrender in the face of terrible and overwhelming odds blazed a trail for the survival of the Jewish people and the freedom to practice our faith.

As the Chanukah story goes, the Maccabees came into the desecrated Holy Temple but they could not find any pure oil with which to light the menorah. All the oil had been defiled by the Greeks. Miraculously, they found one small jug of pure, holy, undefiled oil, enough to illuminate the temple for one night. But as we all know; a miracle took place. The tiny jug of oil lasted for 8 nights.

Friends — every single one of us is a candle. We all have a jug of oil deep inside, which is our divine soul — a spark of G-d. We may at times feel that our oil is defiled — we are uninspired. But deep down, every one of us has a small jug of untouched pure oil that, when lit, can outshine any darkness inside and out.

So the question is asked, why is it that lighting candles is such a big part of Judaism?

Candles are lit by Jewish women every Friday at sunset for Shabbat, we light candles on every festival, and Chanukah is all about candles. What is the connection between candles and spirituality?

Jewish tradition teaches that there is something about a flame that makes it more spiritual than physical. A physical substance, when spread, becomes thin. Spirituality, when spread, expands and grows. When you use something physical, it is diminished. The more money you spend, the less you have; the more gasoline you use, the emptier your tank becomes; the more food you eat, the more you need to restock your pantry (and unfortunately, the heavier you become).

But spiritual things increase with use. If I use my wisdom to teach, the student learns, and I come out wiser for it; if I share my love with another, I become more loving, not less. When you give a spiritual gift, the recipient gains, and you lose nothing. This is the spiritual property that candles share. When you use one candle to light another, the original candle remains bright. Its light is not diminished by being shared; on the contrary, the two candles together enhance each other’s brightness and increase light.

We sometimes worry that we may stretch ourselves too thin. In matters of spirit, this is never the case. The more goodness we spread,  the more goodness we have. By making a new friend you become a better friend to your old friends. By having another child you open a new corridor of love in your heart that your other children benefit from too. By teaching more students, you become wiser.

My spiritual mentor and teacher, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, taught us that when we kindle the Chanukah flames, we should “listen closely and carefully” to what the candles are telling us. And this is what they are saying: Keep lighting your candles. There is an endless supply of light in your soul. You will never run out of goodness.

The Chanukah story happened so long ago – yet carries a timely message for us, even today.

Science has given us the greatest technologies and conveniences, yet it alone cannot free us from the moral and social challenges of our day. From gun violence and simmering racial tension, to corruption in politics, material pursuits alone do not lead to a happy and meaningful life.

Our children need a better diet than the value-system fed to them by Hollywood, the internet and mass media. They need, no, they want, inspiration, a noble cause to live for, a moral purpose that frames their pursuits and interests with meaning and direction.

Like the flames of the menorah, with a desire to make an impact and illuminate, and an ever-persistent desire to reach higher, we too can do the same, and be a beacon of light to all.

Rabbi Motti Grossbaum is director of programming and development at Village Chabad Center for Jewish Life & Learning in East Setauket.

Photo from Library of Congress

By Rich Acritelli

The United States is still feeling the friction of the recent presidential election between President Donald J. Trump and President Elect Joseph R. Biden.  Since the founding of this republic, our major presidential leaders and their followers fiercely fought to attain the presidency.  As this is a period of division, unfortunately there have been many examples of resentment that has been seen by our leaders.

Eisenhower and Truman ride together on inauguration day 1953. Photo from Library of Congress

Years ago, the same tactics were used with the Election of 1800 between President John Adams, Vice President Thomas Jefferson, and Aaron Burr.  While Adams and Jefferson were two key Founding Fathers that liked each other personally, they shared different views over the direction of the government.  Although they worked together in the first administration of President George Washington and when Adams became President in 1797 and Jefferson the Vice President, these leaders marked the earliest establishment of the political parties, especially during the election process.

During his presidency, Adams had a difficult time governing this young nation.  Always a respected figure, Adams was not an overly warm leader that was situated between the icons of the Father of the Nation in Washington and the writer of the Declaration of Independence in Jefferson.  He desperately held onto the policy of neutrality and enforce the controversial laws of the Alien and Sedition Acts.  His Vice President Jefferson was completely opposed to any actions that limited the civil liberties of Americans.  Allied with James Madison, Jefferson sought the nullification of Adam’s legislation through the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions.   Adams was a one term President that left the officer after Jefferson and Burr received more votes in this election.  At this point there were no running mates and Adams was forced out of the White House.  It did not help Adams that powerful members like that of Alexander Hamilton criticized his presidential actions and openly wondered about his mental stability.  Although Hamilton and Jefferson were competitive political opponents, Hamilton believed that Burr was unable to be trusted, and he pushed the election towards his rival in Jefferson.  On the day of the inauguration, Adams refused to attend this transfer of power, and instead, he went home in disgust.

By the early part of the 1820’s, there was a different sense of leadership that was taking root in America after the last of the Revolutionary Era Presidents in James Monroe left office.  By 1824, there was a major political battle that lasted more than four years between the ferocity of Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams to complete for the presidency.  These men could not have been any different with Adams being the son of a former President that was very well educated, worldly, and astute within politics and foreign affairs.  He opposed the iron will of Jackson who would be the first President that was born West of the Appalachian Mountains, served as a kid during the Revolutionary War, was a noted Indian fighter, plantation owner, self-educated lawyer, and a major general that secured the historic victory against the British at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812.  For most of his life Jackson demonstrated little restraint within his resentment towards the Native-Americans, British, and the aristocratic power of the Northeast and leaders like that of Adams whom he believed were the privileged class of Americans that ruled this nation.

For many people, Adams was a known political figure, and many older leaders, including Jefferson, were worried that Jackson was a threat to the democratic practices of this nation.  They saw him as an erratic leader that partook in pistol duels and a man that was more than willing to carry out his physical threats. The Election of 1824 was led by Jackson, but he did not hold the majority of the popular vote, and this contest was pushed back to Congress to decide who be the next President.  While Jackson expected to gain an imminent victory, Speaker of the House Henry Clay sought to use his influence to make a political bargain with maneuvering the gain a secretary of state position within the next administration.

Clay told Jackson who was ahead in the polls that if he was given this powerful post, he held enough clout to ensure his victory in congress.  Jackson immediately refused this scheme, Clay offered the same deal to Adams who had far fewer votes.  Adams accepted Clay’s proposal, and this propelled him to take over the presidency from James Monroe.  For two elections in 1824 and again in 1828, both Adams and Jackson openly battled each other during this decade.  Like that of Trump and Biden, they were both from opposite backgrounds, and they publicly criticized each other.  As we most recently observed Trump calling Biden “Sleepy Joe” and Biden claiming that Trump was a “Clown,” this personal mudslinging has always been a negative tool for candidates to utilize.  Adams claimed that Jackson’s mother was a prostitute and Jackson stated as a foreign minister that Adams procured young girls to partake in sexual favors for Russian leaders.

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was a promising local political figure from the state of Illinois.  He only served one term during the height of the US-Mexico War, where he opposed President James K. Polk’s rationale to go to war. Lincoln demanded proof that “American blood was shed on American soil” at the start of this war between America and Mexico.   After his brief stint as a representative, Lincoln was a savvy lawyer that served several terms in the Illinois Senate.  He gained national prominence in 1858 during his senate campaign against Stephen Douglas, where he became the face of the Republican Party, and a known threat against the institution of slavery in the South.

Lincoln openly suggested that there were far too many compromises over slavery and that it should not expand into the new western territories and states.   In a series of debates within Illinois, Lincoln showcased himself as a Republican leader that clearly expressed his will to oppose this southern form of labor.  Even as Lincoln lost this election, he rose to national prominence and was a dominant Republican to replace President Buchanan who refused to run for a second term in 1860.  There were written stories in the papers that Lincoln was motivated to intermingle the races and that he lacked intelligence through his country folk manner to lead this country.

By gaining a sectional victory that saw him win most of the populated states in the Northeast and Midwest, Lincoln won the presidency, and the South began to secede.  But President Elect Lincoln had no constitutional authority to oppose the divisive actions of the South and this crisis for more than five months were still left within the inept hands of Buchanan.  Always the lawyer, Lincoln must have surely bit his own tongue during his first meeting with Buchanan who did nothing to halt the Confederacy from being created by Jefferson Davis.  Like that of Franklin D. Roosevelt who had to wait to take over the presidency in 1933 during the height of the Great Depression, Lincoln watched southern states leave the country during an extremely perilous time.

When Lincoln finally left Springfield, Illinois in March of 1861, there were already death threats that were made against him, and Pinkerton detectives quickly moved him out of Baltimore under a disguise and into the capital.  During his first term, he had to endure the military failures of generals like that of George B. McClellan that was prodded to fight the Confederates.  He agonized over the severe casualties of Americans that were killed at Shiloh, Antietam, and Gettysburg.  And personally, his own family’s death of his second son Willie from typhoid fever in 1862.

The North grew tired from the massive casualties of the fighting, the financial costs, and the unwillingness of the outnumbered and outgunned southerners to surrender.  Once Lincoln understood that General Ulysses S. Grant would not oppose him as President in 1864, he promoted this combat figure to command the northern armies.  It was a pivotal time for Lincoln who needed to gain major battlefield successes to prove to the northern public that his leadership would eventually defeat the South.  As Confederate General Jubal Early operated outside of Washington D.C., close enough to see the capital dome, and McClellan being nominated to lead the Democratic Party, the months leading to this election were bleak.  Even the South politically and financially opposed the re-election of Lincoln, by secretly sending money to northern Democrats in Congress that maneuvered to defeat the President.  Many of politicians that served in Lincoln’s cabinet were convinced that he was an outgoing figure.  But coupled with the tenacity of Grant, General William T. Sherman, and Philip Sheridan, Lincoln held on in 1864, to regain a second term, and persistently gain the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse some six months later.

And in 1953, as former Supreme Commander of Allied Expeditionary Forces General Dwight D. Eisenhower and outgoing President Harry S. Truman both drove together to the inauguration, these men had little fondness towards each other.  As they were both Mid-western men that came from poor families, these were the only two similarities between these powerful leaders.  While Eisenhower was the leader of the massive military forces against Hitler during World War II, Truman was a captain in the field artillery during World War I.  Eisenhower was educated at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, Truman never graduated from high school.  Whereas Eisenhower was an outstanding athlete that was well liked, Truman never shied away from expressing controversial views.  Truman ordered the dropping of two atomic bombs to end the war in the Pacific and Eisenhower was opposed to use of this weapon against a beaten enemy.  While it seemed that Eisenhower’s popularity had endless bounds, it was believed that Truman would lose his re-election to Thomas Dewey in 1948.  As Truman won this election, the newspapers did not bother to wait until all of votes for this contest was counted, as they incorrectly printed main titles “Dewey Defeat’s Truman.”

After many years of downplaying any suggestions that he would run for presidency, Eisenhower finally accepted the Republican nomination to oppose Democratic challenger Adlai Stevenson.  Always armed with his trademark grin “Ike” quickly realized that running for office was no easy task.  He openly opposed the last several years of Truman’s leadership that he deemed corrupt and weak against the communists.  But he had to answer questions about his running mate Richard M. Nixon’s own illegitimate use of campaign funds and his lack of support for General George C. Marshall who was vehemently attacked as being weak against communism by Senator Joseph McCarthy.  And while Truman was leaving the office, he refused to be quiet against the presence of Eisenhower.  Truman openly called Eisenhower a Republican “Stooge” who had no original views of his own and was a “Puppet” of this party’s political and business leaders.

Ike still had to deny the rumors that he was unfaithful towards his wife Mamie during World War II with his beautiful Irish driver Kay Summersby.  For a moment, it was believed that Eisenhower was going to bring this military member of his family back to the states after the war and divorce his wife over the extreme objections of Marshall.  When he finally won the presidency and he met with Truman during the transitional period, Eisenhower stated to the President that he could not believe that the media continued to write about his relationship with Summersby. Truman responded that he would be lucky if that was all the media covered about him as a leader of this nation. While Eisenhower led the greatest invasion that the world had ever known at Normandy in 1944, Truman told him that the presidency was not the army, and he wished him good luck in trying to get members of Congress and politicians to support his directives.  It did not take long for Eisenhower to understand the true magnitude of the presidency with dealing with the escalation of the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the fears of Americans over the communist strength of launching Sputnik.  And there were the complexities of integration through the Brown vs. Board of Education Ruling in 1954 and the massive use of civil disobedience that was widely promoted by Martin Luther King during Eisenhower’s two terms.

President John F. Kennedy meets with outgoing president Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In 1960, there was a noticeable division in the air through the rise of an extremely younger John F. Kennedy towards the presidency and the stepping down of Eisenhoer.  There was also the presence of Nixon, who was the Republican hope of defeating Kennedy.  While he was a two term Vice President, it took some time for Eisenhower to finally endorse his former running mate.  Eisenhower was always seen as a likeable figure that was able to communicate with others through politics, the military, and athletics. He openly wondered how Nixon was able to go through life without having one single friend.

This was an interesting time, as Eisenhower did not believe that Kennedy was prepared for the White House, whom he still considered a “boy” to replace him in office.   But he was not pleased in supporting Nixon to be his Republican replacement.  Eisenhower resented the claims by Kennedy that our country grew weaker against the Soviet Union during the Cold War under his tenure.  He believed that Kennedy presented inaccurate estimates that the communists had an increasing “missile gap” against the United States.  This senior President also stated that Kennedy had virtually no experience and that he was politically being protected to enhance an untruthful image.  JFK openly battled against the questions of being too young at forty-three years old, his lack of time in Congress, and the hatred that he faced for being a Catholic.

Like that of Lincoln, Kennedy was able to utilize his considerable speaking talents within the 1960 presidential debates.  Television was a new way of personifying these two key leaders.  Nixon suffered from the flu, refused wear make-up, and the close-ups did not make him look appealing to Americans, as he did not shave and was openly sweating.  JFK was a capable speaker, showed charisma, and masterfully answered the questions that was presented to him.  Although Nixon did not look healthy compared to the tan of Kennedy, many people do not realize that JFK suffered from the severity of Addison’s Disease.   And he also had poor bone structure and the re-occurring back injuries that he sustained from PT-109 during World War II in the Pacific.   It was estimated that 90% of Americans owned televisions in the nation and that seventy million citizens sat down in their homes to watch these candidates verbally spar against each other.

There was an interesting dynamic that is noticed between the personalities of Kennedy, Nixon, and the outgoing Eisenhower.  Both Eisenhower and Nixon came from poor backgrounds, but they had no similarities within their personalities, and in eight years as President and Vice President they were never close.  Kennedy spoke of a newer generation taking the helm from older leaders like that of Eisenhower, but people were drawn to the attributes of both men.  Eisenhower was a trusted figure that led this nation during times of war and peace and while Kennedy was extremely wealthy, both him and his older brother Joseph served with distinction during World War II.  And JFK was envied by both men and women.  Male voters saw a presidential candidate that had a beautiful wife, a young family, and descended from immense wealth.  Female voters ascertained that JFK was one of the most handsome leaders to ever run for the presidency.  And there was Nixon with his minimal personality and outwardly cold demeanor that did not endear him to many Americans.

The victory of Kennedy over Nixon was the passing of a new torch from the trustfulness of Eisenhower to the different ideas of JFK.  On that cold January day in 1961, Kennedy addressed the abilities of the nation, the emergence of a new generation of leaders, and the vision of rapid economic, racial, political, and military changes that were in store for this nation and world during this decade.  But the concerns that Eisenhower presented over the judgment of Kennedy were apparent during the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in April of 1961.  After this debacle that embarrassed the leadership of Kennedy to both the American public and to the Soviet Union, Eisenhower met with him.  The pictures of these two leaders at Camp David presented the teacher in Eisenhower speaking with the younger pupil in Kennedy.  And while both men spoke out against each other during the Election of 1960, they cared deeply about this nation during times of crisis.

With Biden creating his cabinet, gaining the approval to see national security reports, and preparing to be the President of the United States, his poor relationship with Trump, is not unusual.  Hopefully, there will be some common ground between these two opposite leaders for the good of America.   And while this upcoming inauguration will surely be different due to the restraints of Covid-19, may this transition of power go smoothly, to ensure the vital national tradition of leadership changes that has been consistent since the days of President George Washington.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

'Fair Exchange, No Robbery', 1865, by William Sidney Mount

By Tara Ebrahimian

William Sidney Mount was an artist whose Long Island heritage was integral to his identity and his art. Most famous for his portrayals of local and natural life, Mount’s initial interest in historical paintings and his commissions for death portraiture led him to create the work that would become his legacy. What Mount witnessed and experienced determined how he rendered the realm he could control: his art.

He was born in Setauket on November 26, 1807. His parents, Julia Ann Hawkins and Thomas Shephard Mount, had a farm and also ran a store and tavern on the edge of the village green. Interested in artistic endeavors from a young age, with his family’s support, he set out to pursue that goal.

Following his father’s death in 1814, his mother returned to his grandfather’s farm in Stony Brook and Mount lived for a time with his maternal aunt and uncle, Letty and Micah Hawkins, in New York City. Micah was a playwright, composer, and musician, who encouraged Mount’s interest in music. In 1815, Mount returned to Long Island, living in his grandfather’s home until returning to Manhattan where he apprenticed to his brother Henry as a sign maker. It was during this period that Mount really began to develop his interest in painting.

‘Returning from the Orchard’, 1862, by William Sidney Mount

With Henry’s encouragement, Mount attended the American Academy of the Fine Arts exhibition at City Hall Park in 1825. This event introduced Mount to a genre of art he had not yet enjoyed: history painting. Rather than pursue a formal art education or seek tutelage from a master, Mount continued to work for his brother while teaching himself. Henry was now business partners with a painter named William Inslee, who owned a collection of prints by British artist William Hogarth, who specialized in history painting. Moved by his art as well as that of another British artist, Benjamin West, Mount copied Hogarth’s prints in order to practice his craft.

History painting is characterized by its content instead of its artistic method. This form generally depicts an instance in a narrative story rather than a specific, fixed subject such as a portrait. Until the 19th century, history painting was considered the most prestigious type of Western painting. Then, as artists pushed back against the rigid parameters of academic art standards, it became a medium mainly regarded in that milieu. This genre encompassed works that portrayed religious scenes, and Mount’s most popular history painting is of this nature.

Upon the recommendation of family friend Martin E. Thompson, Mount enrolled in the National Academy of Design, which Thompson had cofounded. At the institution Mount was able to explore his appreciation for the Grand Manner, an idealized aestheticism that drew from classicism and the art of the high Renaissance. Initially it specifically referred to history painting, but came to include portraiture. The term Grand Manner was also used by British artists and critics to describe art that incorporated visual metaphors to represent noble characteristics.

In this manner, Mount created historical paintings that were very well received. He selected scenes from classical texts that focused on topics like near-death experiences, death, and resurrection. Mount’s first notable oil painting, Christ Raising the Daughter of Jairus (1828) caused a stir when it was exhibited at the National Academy of Design; the council was stunned that a young artist with little formal instruction could produce such a work. Mount, who was one of the school’s first students, was elected an associate member in 1831.

‘Bargaining for a Horse’, 1835 by William Sidney Mount

He returned to Setauket the next year, but continued to send work to be exhibited in New York City. Mount’s history paintings were admired and respected, but they were not, apparently, particularly profitable. Perhaps impacted by the shifting opinions about historical paintings, Mount suffered a setback all too familiar to artists: his work did not sell well enough for him to make a living. So, he shifted his focus to portraiture. His first portrait subjects were easily persuaded: he painted himself and close relatives.

Portraits provided a somewhat steadier income. Among his early patrons were the Weeks, Mils, Wells, and Strong families. Mount continued to improve his technique and was happy to be back on Long Island. “I found that portraits improved my colouring, and for pleasurable practice in that department I retired into the country to paint the mugs of Long Island Yeomanry.” Mount was less enamored with the other aspect of his business: death portraiture.

Mourning portraits were paintings of the recently deceased. Frequently the subjects were shown as though they were alive, and symbolic details, like bodies of water and flowers, were used to indicate that they were not. Arguably a bit morbid, their existence was emotional: they were usually commissioned by the departed’s loved ones. It could be among the only renderings/images that existed of the recently dead.

Mount worked on commission and he did not enjoy the work, which was fraught and could be gruesome. He could be summoned to someone’s wake or deathbed to make sketches or take notes for the upcoming portrait. Once he was called to the scene of an accident to paint the likeness of a man who had been run over by a wagon. The final product did not reflect the cause and nature of the subject’s death.

The art Mount created enveloped aspects of genres he had explored earlier in his career. These experiences helped him establish the style for which he would become best known. He combined the narrative elements of the history paintings with the human interest element of the death portraiture. Without this background, he may not have been inspired to create the art that became his job and his joy.

Genre paintings, art that illustrates scenes of everyday life, became the most renowned selections of his oeuvre. Unlike his previous work, this type of art is distinguished from history paintings and portraits in that the subjects have no distinctive identities. His first foray into this type of painting, The Rustic Dance, was immediately successful and encouraged him to further explore the medium. As Mount noted in his journal, “Ideas can be found in everything if the poet, sculptor and painter can pick them out.” He captured snippets of everyday life and frequently imbued them with subtle or more overt themes of social commentary.

‘Bar-Room Scene’, 1835, by William Sidney Mount

Motivated by the natural environment and his neighbors, Mount addressed moral issues, including economic standing and disparities as well as the implied status of Black people in the area. For example, in Bar-Room Scene (1835), Mount portrays patrons in a tavern. In the foreground a presumably inebriated man in tattered clothing is encouraged to dance by three  seated men who are clearly of a higher economic class. A boy, who is standing, gazes upon him in apparent wonderment.

In the back corner, there is a young Black man standing. He is also entertained by the dancer’s antics, but he is alone, separate from the group of other men. As a free Black man, he is allowed to visit the tavern, but he remains apart from the other visitors. Through this isolation, Mount indicates that the man is not fully able to participate in the community. The topics represented in this painting were recurring in his art.

Mount’s return to the Three Villages marked a shift in the nature of his work. His exploration of slavery, racial dynamics, and rustic vignettes offer indelible insight into 19th century life on Long Island. His creative expression was a culmination of previous artistic enterprises, driven by both his own passion and financial necessity. Mount continued to paint, integrating other interests, such as music, into his art. He never married or had children and died of pneumonia on November 18,1868, at his brother Robert’s house in Setauket.

Author Tara Ebrahimian is the Education Coordinator at the Three Village Historical Society in Setauket. This article originally appeared on the historical society’s website and is reprinted with permission.

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Dear Friends and Supporters,

Rick Giovan

I am proud to contribute my time and energy as a Lion in support of many local charities. As a member I am able to help sponsor a guide dog, aid local veterans, support charities like Lions Eye Bank, Meals on Wheels, and Angela’s House. Most rewarding has been our food basket drive where we deliver groceries to families in need during the winter holidays. A typical delivery is to a single mom with several children living in a small apartment nearby. These families are so thankful to get this food.

We will be going out this year on Saturday, Dec. 12 and we need your financial support. Last year our food bill was nearly $10,000 and we helped about 100 families and a local shelter.

I’m asking members of our local community, both businesses and individuals, to support our worthwhile project by sending a check to the Port Jefferson Lions Club, PO Box 202, Port Jefferson, NY 11777, Attn. food baskets. Suggested sponsorship is $50. Any amount will be much appreciated.

Thanks for your support.

Local and state officials have long talked about electrification of the Port Jefferson rail line, but missed deadlines and other issues may push any real project back decades. File photo

By Larry Penner

If the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, on behalf of the Long Island Rail Road, will not progress a planning study to look into the feasibility of extending electrification from Huntington to Port Jefferson, this project may never be completed in our lifetime.  

Larry Penner

There is $4 million in real funding from the MTA $32 billion 2015 -2019 Five Year Capital Plan to pay for this study. The MTA previously promised that a contract would be awarded in the summer of 2019. They are now 15 months late in awarding a contract. There is no new recovery schedule for the contract award. If the MTA is unable to initiate a planning study, it may be an indication that this project will never go forward.  

Estimated costs for electrification are $18 million per mile. The $260 million funding provided for electrification of the 7-mile Central Branch, running east of Hicksville on the Ronkonkoma line to Babylon is also on hold. This is due to the ongoing MTA financial crisis. This capital improvement would provide additional options for thousands of Babylon riders. They could travel from the Central Branch to Jamaica via the $2.6 billion Main Line Third Track and on to either Penn Station or future Grand Central Terminal by December 2022. Electrification of the Central Branch could also afford creation of a new north/south scoot service, running from Huntington via Hicksville and to Babylon. If results from any planning studies are positive, the next step would be the environmental review process, which would cost millions more. Funding would have to be included under the next MTA 2025 to 2029 Five Year Capital Plan.

The MTA  2020 – 2040 Twenty Year Long Range Capital Needs Plan documents how much money, years or decades will be required before each MTA operating agency, including New York City Transit subway and bus, Staten Island Railway, Manhattan Bronx Surface Operating bus, MTA bus, Long Island and Metro North Rail Roads have reached a state of good repair.  Categories for each agency include such assets as existing bus, subway and commuter rail fleet, stations and elevators to meet Americans with Disabilities Act and escalators, track including switches, signals and interlockings, communications, line structures, and painting, protective netting on elevated structures and bridges, line equipment including tunnel lighting and pump rooms, traction power, power substations, yards and shops and supervisory vehicles. It would be revealing if the MTA and LIRR is serious about extending electrification to Port Jefferson over this time period, it would be included within this report. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and the MTA promised that this document would be made public by December 2019. It is now eleven months late.

Extending electrification of the Port Jefferson branch east of Huntington has been talked about for decades. In the 1980’s, discussions took place between the MTA, LIRR, Suffolk County and various elected officials over which branch should be electrified first. The Ronkonkoma branch was selected over the Port Jefferson branch. 

Without electrification east of Huntington, Port Jefferson branch riders may not have a one seat ride to the future LIRR Grand Central Terminal. Service is promised to begin by the end of December 2022. Thousands of daily LIRR riders from diesel territory branches, including those commuting from stations east of Huntington to Port Jefferson, east of East Williston to Oyster Bay, east of Babylon to Speonk and east of Ronkonkoma, will still have to change at Jamaica for travel to the future Grand Central Terminal or Atlantic Avenue to Brooklyn.    

Future opportunities for funding to progress this project beyond a planning study will be under upcoming MTA 2025 – 2029, 2030 – 2034 and 2035 -2039 Five Year Capital Plans. The estimated cost will grow over time to $1 billion or more. This is necessary to pay for planning, design and engineering, environmental review, land acquisition for construction of power substations, expansion of commuter parking, potential relocation and/or consolidation of existing stations, new stations and platforms, new electric Multiple Unit car storage yard, new track, third rail and signals. From start to finish, the project could require 15 to 20 years. Based upon my past experiences on other FTA, MTA and LIRR projects, I would not be surprised if electrification of the Port Jefferson branch is not completed until 2040. 

Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, NYC Transit, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Rail Road, MTA Bus, Suffolk County Transit, Town of Huntington HART Bus, New Jersey Transit along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ.