Your Turn

Setauket Harbor: In the last decade, Shore Road along Setauket Harbor has flooded approximately a half a dozen times a year, which is more than in the past due to astronomical tides. “All coastal communities will be increasingly impacted by rising sea level, and sea level rise goes hand in hand with climate change,” George Hoffman of the Setauket Harbor Task Force said. “One way to identify the areas that will be impacted is to look at the areas that are now impacted by storms and astronomical tides. All the low-level shore areas in the Three Village community are the most vulnerable. And, they tend to be the areas that we like to go down to, along the shore, such as beaches and docks and harbor areas. It is projected that in the next hundred years as sea level continues to rise that we will see portions of Route 25A flooding during storm events that we haven’t seen before.” Photo by Maria Hoffman

By Sapphire Perera

I haven’t been to school in 13 days and I don’t know when I’m going back. Many of the shelves in the grocery stores are empty, toilet paper is sold out and everyone is self-quarantining. This panic and fear are due to the outbreak of the most current pandemic — the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. This new strain of coronavirus originated in China and has spread globally. While it seems improbable that there’s a connection between pandemics and climate change, past pandemics prove otherwise. This connection shows us that for every action, there is a reaction.

Interview with Dr. Lisa M. Chirch

Dr. Lisa M. Chirch is a associate professor of medecine at the University of Connecticut who specializes in infectionous diseases.

SP: Sapphire Perera; LC: Lisa Chirch

SP: Due to habitat loss, there is evidence of vector transference between wild animals and livestock. Do you think this will eventually involve household pets, which may be more susceptible to loss of native immunity? 

LC: Good question, and very important to those of us with household pets we adore as part of the family. To date, it is unclear whether viral infections such as COVID-19 can infect dogs and cats, or whether they would become ill if infected. It really depends on the specific organism and how they infect, which tissues are targets, which receptors are used for cell entry, etc. Certainly, the potential for domestic animals to be affected is present, and we should probably be taking similar precautions with our beloved pets as with our family members whom we want to protect.

SP: Extreme changes in global weather patterns are one factor of climate change. With increases in climate change and warmer weather, do you feel that future pandemics will originate in places such as North America and Western Europe instead of Asia and Africa, as they did with the 1918 Spanish flu?

LC: Throughout history, pandemics have originated from sites all over the world. Pandemics originate when humans are exposed to “novel” organisms we have never seen before, exposing populations without immunity. Over time these have frequently been related to the animal/human interface in some way, with organisms “jumping” from one species to another, and in the worst-case scenario, becoming efficient at human-to-human transmission. So, to the extent that climate change drives animals and humans further together, it drives the possibility of further epidemics. Importantly, climate change has more immediate and tangible effects on infectious diseases in humans that have been recently notable, such as the appearance of certain mosquito-borne arboviruses in the southern U.S. (dengue, chikungunya, Zika), and tick-borne illnesses migrating northward as well, with the associated northward movement of the tick species that carry them.

Sapphire Perera

Climate change has made our winters shorter and the weather unseasonably warm. This global increase in temperature is just one of the causes of climate change, and directly affects vectors i.e., disease-carrying organisms such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and flies. These vectors spread diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, West Nile virus, and yellow fever which are some of the worst pandemics. The global increase in temperature is driving these vectors further from the equator and into the northern hemisphere. For instance, the United States has seen increased cases of dengue and malaria in Florida, California and Texas. Europe and the U.S. may soon be subjected to the same epidemics that plague people in equatorial climates. In contrast, other regions that usually struggle through the worst of the pandemics and epidemics will see a decrease in the number of outbreaks.

The increase in temperature, rainfall and humidity also creates more breeding grounds for vectors, leading to the easier spread of diseases. This was exemplified by India’s monsoon season from 1994 to 1996. The excessive monsoon rainfall and high humidity in the Punjab region of India led to an increase in malaria epidemics in places such as Rajasthan, Manipur, Nagaland and Haryana. Recent studies have shown that El Niño has actually increased the malaria epidemic risk in India by about fivefold. El Niño scientists have discovered increases in incidences of cholera, Zika, chikungunya, and hantavirus with El Niño occurrences. 

Deforestation is another cause of climate change that brings vectors closer to urban communities.  Sonia Shah, the author of the book “Pandemic,” says in her article in The Nation, “When deforestation threatens the survival of wild species, there are more opportunities for animal microbes to adapt to human bodies.” One example from the many pandemics that we’ve had in the past is the Ebola outbreak. In places such as Central and West Africa, there have been serious deforestation and habitat losses for bats, which are vectors for Ebola. These bats started inhabiting places closer to urban populations which, in turn, increased the likelihood of Ebola outbreaks. Studies in 12 countries have actually shown that it is twice as common to have vector mosquitoes in deforested areas than in intact forests. 

Apart from bringing vectors close to human communities, climate change is introducing prehistoric diseases to mankind. In 2016, the Russian city of Yakutsk saw the outbreak of anthrax during a heat wave in Siberia. The thawing permafrost soil there released long-dormant bacteria and viruses that had been trapped in the ice for centuries. One 12-year-old boy died and at least 20 people were hospitalized from infection. Scientists speculate that more diseases lie beneath the ice and with the rising global temperature, we may see the reemergence of diseases such as smallpox, the bubonic plague and the 1918 Spanish flu.

Since January, there has been a significant universal decrease in social and economic activity. The results from this are astounding. First of all, since there has been slower economic activity, there has been a drop in carbon dioxide emissions. In Hubei province in Central China, there has been a drop in air pollution as the cloud of nitrogen dioxide evaporated in February. Italy saw similar results in its environment pertaining to nitrogen dioxide levels. Additionally, the once-murky canal water in Venice is now so clear that you can see the fish below. In countries all over the world, we are seeing changes like this. Unfortunately, it’s taking a pandemic brought about by climate change to reduce climate change.

Sapphire Perera is a junior 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.

Photo by John Turner

By John L. Turner

This is the first of a two-part series.

Like most people I’ve always liked to collect things. Some objects were mainstream — baseball cards and comic books as a kid, for example, but some were decidedly not. As an adult I’ve had a prolonged passion for old bird books dating from the end of the nineteenth century through the beginning of the twentieth.

Looking around my study from where I write this, I realize I have a lot of objects that fit the latter “non-mainstream” category — deer antlers, assorted shells and other marine objects, mammal skulls, numerous pine cones, and a bird nest or two lying scattered along the leading edge of the shelves that hold the beloved bird books.

I also realize these objects, collected from countless outdoor explorations, represent a window to the world of nature that lays accessible on the other side of each of our front doors.

I’ve especially liked to collect items found along the shore, of which we have a lot. I have a favorite piece of driftwood, its edges rounded and softened from years in the elements. In it sits two species of whelk shells — Knobbed and Channeled Whelk, both species of sea snails native to Long Island’s marine waters.

Knobbed Whelk gets its name from knobs or projections that lay along the coil situated on the top of the shell; the Channeled Whelk’s name comes from a coiled channel or suture that runs along the inside edge of the spiral. These two species are closely related, belonging to the same genus; sometimes referred to as conch, they are the source of scungilli, the Italian dish especially popular around the holidays.

If you spend anytime strolling along the shoreline of Long Island Sound you’ve probably seen further evidence of whelk — their tan-colored egg cases washed up in the wrack line. Complex objects they are, consisting of upwards of a dozen or more quarter-sized compartments, connected by a thread, reminiscent of a broken Hawaiian lei.

If you find an egg case shake it vigorously; if it sounds like a baby’s rattle you’ll be rewarded by opening up one of the leathery compartments, because the objects causing the sound are many perfectly formed, tiny whelks. 

As I recently found out, you can identify the whelk species by the shape of the egg case compartments — Channeled have a pinched margin like what a chef does to a dumpling while the margins of Knobbed have an edge like a coin. How an adult whelk makes this highly complex structure with several dozen baby whelks in each unit is a complete mystery to me.

On the shelf next to the driftwood is another egg case ­— this one from a skate and, as with whelk egg cases, it’s often found as an item deposited in the beach’s wrack line. Black, with a shine on its surface, it is rectangular with four parentheses-like projections sticking out from the four corners. Skates, related to sharks, are distinctive shaped fish with “wings” and several species are found in the marine waters around Long Island including Winter, Barndoor, and Little Skates. 

The cases are sometimes called “mermaids purses,” a wonderfully colorful name, although I’ve never seen any items a mermaid would carry inside one. If you look closely you can see the broken seam, along one of the shorter edges, where the baby skate emerged.

The distinctive shell of Northern Moon Snails are another common item found by beachcombers and a common item on my shelf — with four prized specimens, including the largest I’ve ever seen, they are the second-most common item I have. (Various pinecones are the most common but that’s for a future column).

Moon snails are shellfish predators, possessing a massive foot that’s 3x to 4x the size of the shell when it spreads out that it uses to push through sand. If you’ve ever picked up a clam or mussel shell with a round little hole through it you’ve just picked up a Moon Snail victim. They use a specialized “tongue” called a radula to rasp their way into the shell of a bivalve. Once through the shell, the snail secretes a weak acid that helps dissolve the tissue of the clam or mussel which the snail slurps up.

Twice while beach combing I’ve found other evidence of a Moon Snail — a sandy, semi-circular collar made of sand grains held together by gluelike mucus the snail secretes. These are egg masses, an intact one shaped like a nearly closed letter “C” (the two I found were half of that as they are fragile and easily broken). Each collar contains scores of snail eggs which develop and hatch if not predated by smaller snails like oyster drills and periwinkles.

Rounding out the discussion of my study’s marine objects are two other shells: Jingle Shells and Slipper Shells — the first a bivalve, the second a species of snail. Jingle shells, get their name from the jingling sound they make if you shake a few together in your hand and are used to make wind chimes you’ll sometimes see hanging from beach houses. They are beautiful and iridescent, coming in several different colors — orange, yellow, white, and grey. Jingle shells are also known as “mermaid’s toenails.”

Slipper shells are also fascinating animals. All slipper shells start off as male but as they mature they become female. They often stack with the larger females on bottom and the smaller males on top, making the species a “sequential hermaphrodite.” Occasionally you’ll see a slipper shell attached to a horseshoe crab. These gifts and others await you on a stroll along Long Island’s hundreds of miles of shoreline.

A resident of Setauket, John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

Metro photo

By Linda Kolakowski

Linda Kolakowski

While the concept of social capital is not new, more recently it’s become a buzz phrase of sorts. Social capital is defined as the personal links, shared values and understandings in a community that enable individuals and groups to trust each other and therefore, help each other. 

People require a sense of belonging to thrive. Whether the community we belong to is our family, our work, our place of worship, where we live, or all of these places, community is where we find comfort in difficult times. In addition to providing companionship, the social capital we earn through our relationships often replaces money which people would use to buy the same help. 

We use social capital throughout our lives, from our schoolyard days to assistance with raising our children, or seeking the help from someone physically stronger.  For older adults, the value of social capital increases as there are things that we can’t or don’t wish to do for ourselves.  For this reason, it’s important to keep community ties robust. 

There’s no question that the digital age has changed the way we relate to one another and satisfy our need for connection.  Many of us have strong communities of Facebook friends and stay connected through emails, texts and other social media platforms.  Though these friends can be great when it comes to sharing everyday joys and challenges, at times there is no substitute for being in the same room with a trusted friend or group of friends. 

Significant others are the first people we turn to when we’re having a hard time. Support from a loved one helps us to cope better, reducing stress and benefitting our mental and physical health.  Depending too much upon a significant other, however, carries the risk of creating disconnection from other parts of our social life. No matter how much we love our significant others, it’s unlikely that they alone can meet all of our social needs.

Expanding our friend group by just one person has the power to introduce us to a whole new social network.  When we develop a new friendship or romantic partnership, our networks double through these new connections.  At Jefferson’s Ferry, we get to observe the benefits of new friendships on a regular basis as new residents form bonds within the community and try new activities.  New friends are energizing!

Metro photo

Jefferson’s Ferry residents have been participating in a five- year Age Well Study conducted by the Mather Institute and Northwestern University that analyzes the impact of living in a Life Plan Community.  Now in its second year, the study has focused on investigating factors that may be associated with healthy behaviors and health outcomes among residents. Researchers found that:

• Residents with higher scores of the personality trait of openness to experience and extroversion reported the highest levels of healthy behaviors and more positive health outcomes.

• Residents who form strong bonds within their community tend to engage in more healthy behaviors and have better overall health.

Those living in areas with greater social capital, such as a community setting like Jefferson’s Ferry, demonstrate significantly higher physical mobility scores than those living a more isolated existence.

The results support what we do here. Living in a place where there is a built in community, where there  is trust and like-minded neighbors encourages our residents to get up, get out and socialize.  The activities that we offer through our Health and Wellness Program provide a variety of opportunities that may appeal to residents with different personalities and interests which lead to better life balance and health overall for everyone.

Another study looked at older adults without dementia at the onset of a 12-year period. Over the course of the study, the participants were measured on their social activity levels and then tested periodically on their cognitive functioning. The rate of cognitive decline was 70 percent less in people with frequent social contact than those with low social activity.

In another study, the social activity level of older people free of dementia was measured and looked at in terms of their ability to care for themselves. Findings showed that those with more frequent social activity maintained lower levels of disability in several areas, suggesting that they would be able to live independently longer than their less social counterparts.

Whatever our age or living situation, the message is clear.  We are at heart social beings who are at our very best when we make community a priority in our lives.  We’ve heard it in song, in advertising, in memes.  Reach out and touch someone today!

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

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Steve Bellone discusses ideas about promoting the arts in St. James with the civic group Celebrate St. James during a recent visit to the Calderone Theater. Photo by David Luces

By Natalie Weinstein

So much discussion has been prompted by the proposed Gyrodyne project, both in the Town of Brookhaven and in St. James, the two areas closest to its proposed development plan. Sadly, some have come forward with opinions that are against the project, which would be of infinite benefit to St. James and Smithtown at large. Their comments may sound reasonable, but common sense tells us that the facts speak for themselves.

Natalie Weinstein

1. Be careful what you wish for: It’s important to point out that Gyrodyne as of right can legally build a five-lot subdivision consisting of manufacturing, warehouses, textile plants, etc., with existing outdated septic systems, without having to go through further public scrutiny. Instead, they have presented a subdivision that is the least invasive to our way of life. They came to this decision by speaking with the St. James community over many years. They asked us. They listened.  

2. The Gyrodyne subdivision will generate more than 2,500 jobs for locals and our young professionals. Think of all those employed in the building and finishing trades that could work locally, as well as hotel management, physicians, nurses and support staff. We should be able to offer jobs to our young people to encourage them to remain in the place they have always called home.

3. The Gyrodyne subdivision, upon completion, would generate approximately $4 million in annual tax revenues for the Town of Smithtown, $2.9 million of which would go to the school district annually. That is real relief for the everyday resident who pays 70 percent of their tax bill to the school.

4. Blessed with The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, Stony Brook enjoys a village square with lovely shops and restaurants, as well as a cultural arts center, which attracts many visitors as well as local residents. The Gyrodyne Corporation, while not the Ward Melville Trust, has prepared additional environmental analysis to show the prospective benefit of hooking up the newly named Lake Avenue Cultural Arts District into its wastewater treatment plant. Ask yourselves what you want as a taxpayer. Do you want to pay for a new government-built sewer district, which costs upward of $150 million dollars? Or would you prefer a privately funded sewer connection that would be done in a fraction of the time?

5. The Gyrodyne Corporation has many local residents on its board. They care about our community as much as we do. Their due diligence is in the hundreds of pages of research by qualified, prestigious professionals is a testament to that. Beyond this, however, Gyrodyne has exhibited true interest and concern for the community of St. James. They sit on our committees, attend functions and support our endeavors. They are good neighbors and want to be a part of the St. James community for the long haul.

Why all the fear tactics? Why take a good thing — a really good thing — and turn it into something bad? We stood by while a “city,” (Stony Brook University), was erected inside a village next door to us. Why are the same people not opposing a possible over-55 community called Stony Brook Meadows going up in Brookhaven, just next door to Gyrodyne, where an old church stands? Or opposing the three other major development projects currently underway in Brookhaven, a 30-acre lot off Route 25A called Mount Sinai Meadows, the Tritec Shipyard in Port Jefferson and the Ronkonkoma Hub, all of which are much larger in scale than the Gyrodyne subdivision. 

Additionally, the new Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Lab is going to be a massive driver of pass-through traffic. We tolerate the traffic which passes through St. James every day. We do so, knowing it is about the bigger picture, educating future generations, producing jobs and economic development for Long Island and the businesses in Stony Brook. St. James is awakening to the dawn of our revival. We are equally entitled to provide a better future for our beloved town – our residents, our businesses and the generations to come.

Long-tailed duck. Photo by Luke Ormand

By John L. Turner

In the early afternoon of Super Bowl Sunday I decided to explore McAllister County Park in the northwestern corner of the Village of Belle Terre with the goal of enjoying the stark winter landscape and seeing some winter birds, and secretly hoping to spy a Snowy Owl or Northern Shrike, winter visitors occasionally seen here, although none had been recently reported. 

This not-well-known county park is on the east side of Port Jefferson Harbor and consists of a mined out section of the Harbor Hill Terminal Moraine and a sand spit that extends west to the jetty connecting the harbor with Long Island Sound. This spit and the western one connected to Old Field embrace and enclose the Harbor, containing low-lying coastal dunes which are smaller versions typical of the south shore barrier islands, and are clad in characteristic dune vegetation carpeted in beach grass. But this article isn’t about plants and vegetation; rather it’s about ducks and one species in particular that I enjoyed watching that day — the Long-tailed Duck.

Long-tailed Ducks, so named because of their distinctive and elongated central tail streamers, are a winter visitor from Arctic breeding grounds to Long Island’s coastal waters, frequenting sheltered bays and harbors and near shore areas of the open ocean. They are one of nearly three dozen species of waterfowl (duck, swans, and geese) you can see on Long Island during the winter inhabiting the Island’s freshwater ponds, lakes and streams and the salty water bodies surrounding the Island.

As I walked along the jetty a skein of eight fast but low-flying ducks, which I immediately realized were Long-tailed Ducks, shot past and landed in the Harbor about 200 yards away. I was delighted to realize my walk along the coastline would take me past them and pass them I did. And it was serendipity that as I neared the small flock the ducks began to actively feed by diving, disappearing, and reappearing in a rather rhythmic pattern — feathered apparitions on wavelet waters.

In our waters Long-tailed ducks feed on clams, mussels, and crabs located on the harbor bottom; in general, they are well-known for their diving exploits and, in fact, this species is thought to be the deepest diving duck in the world. Being adept at diving so deeply has its risks, though, as Long-tails have been found drowned in fishing nets resting at a water depth of 180 feet.  

While it’s no longer a major ongoing source of mortality for the species, thousands of Long-tail ducks, overwintering in the Great Lakes, once routinely drowned in gill nets, according to reports published half a century ago.  Staggeringly, there are reports of hundreds of ducks drowning in a single gill net designed to catch whitefish, which on purpose remain suspended in the water column for several days.  In fact, in the winter of 1952-1953 19,562 ducks died from drowning in Lake Michigan alone!!! The same number had perished the year before.  

Long-tailed ducks breed throughout the Arctic region including North America and the broad swath of Siberia. The ducks take advantage of the tremendous hatch of insects and growth of freshwater plants during the short breeding season the Arctic provides. 

As summer melds into fall individual ducks head to open water with many coming south to Long Island and beyond. The birds here probably come from northern Quebec which may be fitting because the very vocal male ducks repeatedly make a call that sounds to me like the French phrase “ah alhoutte,” “ah alhoutte,” “ah alhoutte.” 

Indeed, Long-tailed ducks are among the most vocal of all ducks and is the reason the species was once called Old Squaw, a derogatory reference to talkative native American women. Even their Latin or scientific name references this garrulous nature as their generic name Clangula means “sound” or “noise.” I was not to be disappointed as the birds repeatedly called this “ah alhoutte” phrase after bobbing to the surface following their many-second submergent searches for sustenance.

Long-tailed ducks are both graceful and beautiful and if any duck can qualify as elegant it’s this species. Their winter plumage, which in an unusual occurrence is actually their breeding plumage, is like a photograph negative, being composed of varying shades of black, gray, and white: black back with graceful white scapular plumes arching over their shoulder, white sides, white top of the head, black side of the neck, black breast, white on the base and back of the neck and grey face with white eye arcs. Their pink bubble gum-colored bill, bracketed by black at the base and tip, provides the only bright color.

Like all birds, Long-tailed ducks molt their feathers, replacing worn out feathers with new, fresh ones. Unlike most waterfowl though, which molt twice yearly, Long-tails undergo a highly complicated molt and plumage sequence three times in a year involving a basic, alternate, and supplemental plumage; why this duck is unique among its waterfowl brethren in evolving this intricate feather replacement strategy- among the most complicated of the world’s many thousands of bird species — is not clear.

The experience with these lovely Longtails came to an end as they burst from the water, although I don’t know why they flushed, and took off together, rushing west toward the setting sun, with one bird “ah alhouetting” as it went. I’ll long remember this scene of the late afternoon sky and winter sun, reflecting off a wonderful slice of briny water, with trees lining the west edge of the harbor framing the scene, as these noisy Arctic visitors, gracing the harbor and my day,headed out into the open waters of Long Island Sound.

A resident of Setauket, John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

File Photo by Alex Petroski

By Perry Gershon

Representative Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) is a master at telling half-truths. He goes to great lengths to tell his constituents that he supports health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and lowering prescription drug prices, but his voting record says differently. Zeldin voted against coverage for pre-existing conditions, and just recently, shot down a bill for prescription drug coverage reform and prescription drug coverage reform. He even has the audacity to take credit for programs he voted against. A quick look at his record, however, is quite revealing.

Zeldin voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He has cast several such votes in his three terms in office, most recently May 2017 (and he openly urges the courts to overturn the ACA now). The federal requirement to provide coverage for people with pre-existing conditions comes directly from the ACA, so Zeldin’s opposition to coverage for pre-existing conditions is right there in his votes. Zeldin and President Donald Trump (R) claim to offer ACA replacement legislation that provides for pre-existing condition coverage, but these bills do not protect consumers, especially those with pre-existing conditions. They provide no requirement that these individuals will not be penalized in pricing and availability of coverage.

When Congress, in Dec. 2019, passed its bill to make prescription drugs more affordable, Zeldin voted against the bill (HR-3). His position on this critical issue is again demonstrated by his vote. The only effective way to control the cost of prescription drugs is to let Medicare, the largest consumer, negotiate drug prices directly with the manufacturers. It’s no surprise that Zeldin continues to prohibit Medicare from negotiating because much of his campaign contributions comes from drug makers and their affiliates. This isn’t me saying this, it’s right there in his campaign finance reports that he is legally obligated to file with the Federal Election Commission. Given Zeldin’s benefactors, it’s no wonder he opposes true prescription price reforms.

Zeldin takes credit for funding medical research at Stony Brook. His most recent February “newsletter” stated that he secured $3 million of new National Institutes of Health grants to Stony Brook for medical research, and he cites a bipartisan letter he signed requesting a budget increase specifically for NIH research. What Zeldin does not tell you is that when the actual budget came to a vote on July 25, 2019, he voted against it. His own voting record proves that Zeldin did not vote to increase NIH appropriations, or increased funding for Stony Brook.

But Zeldin’s biggest deception of all is that he is has listened and knows what his constituents need for their health care. Again, the facts belie that. Zeldin’s last public town hall was in April 2017, before his vote to repeal the ACA. He has not held one since then. He has no idea what his constituents want or need!

Town halls are meant to be open to all constituents who want to attend. There should be no prescreening of questions or questioners (to exclude critics) or else it is not really a true town hall. I know this from first-hand experience.

I have held five open town halls since last September, and I will hold five more before the end of June. I take questions from Democrats, Republicans — whoever attends and wants to ask a question. As a matter of fact, I take each and every question asked of me and I give truthful, fact-based answers. There is no prescreening and no spin at my town halls.

People on Long Island deserve a representative who will listen to them when they speak out about health care. I want to see universal health care for everyone — and I believe we can do it with the ACA supercharged with a public option. We need to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices to achieve true pricing reforms. This November, we have a chance to give NY-1 a representative who will fight for us in Washington and tell us the truth here at home.

Perry Gershon is a national commentator on business, trade, policy and politics. A congressional candidate for New York’s 1st District, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale and a master’s in business administration from the University of California, Berkeley.

By 2020, the courts at the Port Jefferson Country Club are nearly at the edge of the bluff. Photo by Royce Perera

I have spent my lifetime fighting to protect our land, water and the air we breathe in every few seconds of our lives. So, it was especially meaningful to meet Sapphire Perera, a young person in our community whose deep caring for and connection with our environment has propelled her to play a role in its protection.  

One of Sapphire’s talents is writing, and she uses this skill to spread awareness and inspire others to action. Our local newspaper, TBR News Media, has given Sapphire Perera an opportunity to use the platform of a column in the paper to inform us about environmental issues. This is a good thing because young people can introduce fresh ideas and outlook to environment-related issues and breathe new life into our motivation to protect and improve the environment that sustains us.

— State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket)

By Sapphire Perera

The beauty of the Port Jeff shoreline should not blind us to the growing problem of land erosion. Similar to the fact that the majestic stone figures of Easter Island should not hide the ecological disaster that overcame their island. All over the shores of Port Jeff and Long Island, there are eroding bluffs. While people just see these eroding bluffs as being steep cliffs of sand that can be climbed on, they pose a much greater threat to our environment and to the buildings that line the top of the land. 

In 2012, satellite images show much more room left between the Port Jefferson Country Club’s tennis courts and the bluff.

Ever since 2012, the residents of Port Jeff have been trying to solve the issue of the eroding bluffs. The lack of vegetation and increasing deforestation have only made the erosion worse. To combat this problem, the village has planned on constructing seawalls and barriers and are still waiting for permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. They also hope for Suffolk County to dredge the area surrounding Mount Sinai harbor and return sand to the beaches. Currently, the Town of Brookhaven is in the midst of reconstruction of the jetties at the mouth of Mount Sinai Harbor. The jetties had been worn down over time, leaving them not as effective as they used to be, with holes and submerged rocks allowing sand to run over and through. Previous Port Times Record editor Alex Petroski wrote about the eroding bluffs in Port Jeff [“Eroding Port Jeff beach causing concern for village,” June 1, 2017], and his article included pictures of the bluffs of Port Jeff and Belle Terre. In February, my brother Royce Perera captured the image of these bluffs from a similar angle with his drone. If you compare the two pictures and examine the bluffs near the country club, the worsening erosion of the bluffs is clear. Bluff erosion has only gotten worse and without any deterrents or solutions, more land continues to end up on our sandy beaches.

Most recognize the problem but are ignorant of how the erosion of these bluffs has continually gotten worse and how human interaction can increase the rate at which erosion occurs. Many factors contribute to erosion but in recent years, there have been intense storms, strong winds and frequent human interference. While erosion is a natural process, coastal erosion on Long Island’s North Shore has been designated “critical” by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As sand is continually sliding down the bluff to the beach, it is taking away land from the Island. Currently, the Port Jefferson Country Club tennis court is facing this problem because erosion of the bluff has come dangerously close to it. As more and more land disappears from the bluff, there is more of a chance for erosion to occur less stability. 

Sapphire Perera

Personally, when I have visited the beach, I have witnessed young kids and young adults walking up and down the bluffs. While this is perceived as a harmless act, these people are actually acting as catalysts to the process of erosion. The weight of that person pushes down more sand and destroys plants that hold the sand together. Sometimes there is garbage thrown down onto these bluffs which ends up destroying vegetation. Vegetation is one thing that helps maintain the structure of the bluff since it is holding particles together through the roots.

In order to protect the land and preserve the tennis courts at the country club, the Town is inching closer to finalizing reconstructing the jetties with hopes that it will be a barrier against erosion from tides, currents and waves. Other ways that would prevent erosion include the diversion of surface runoff away from the bluff, minimized paved areas that increase runoff and a decrease in additional weight on the bluff edge, such as pools, buildings or storage sheds.

Anthropologists now say that the grandeur of the Easter Island statues exists at a huge cost, namely the permanent destruction of the Island. We in Port Jefferson must learn from others’ mistakes and curb human activity in order to conserve Port Jeff’s beaches, water and land. 

Sapphire Perera is a junior at Port Jefferson high school. This is the first of a planned column series by her called “Turtle Island,” which 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.

A scene from Theatre Three's 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat'

By D. Bruce Lockerbie

D. Bruce Lockerbie

I see that Theatre Three is staging a production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” highly praised by this newspaper’s critic. It’s one of our favorite musicals for both entertainment and personal reasons. We’ve seen several versions of the musical, including the 1982 Broadway production along with several school shows, and we look forward to seeing it again. Here’s why.

In 1974, our family was finishing a sabbatical year in Cambridge, England. The leave granted me by The Stony Brook School had given Lory and me an opportunity to take our three teenagers around the world — Asia, the Indian sub-continent, Africa, Israel, Europe, then Great Britain, where we settled for the final five months. 

The British academic calendar extends into early summer, and so we attended several of Cambridge University’s college plays —Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Charley’s Aunt, and other standard student productions. 

But the most memorable was a show we’d never heard of, staged in a small theatre in Market Square. According to its publicity, this was an ever-expanding trial run of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat from its origins as a cantata being prepared for entry as a musical in the forthcoming Edinburgh Festival later that summer. 

It was a modest production: No orchestra, just two pianos, on one of which the 26-year old composer Andrew Lloyd Webber pounded out his catchy tunes. We loved the show and bought the newly released LP recording, which we played until its grooves wore thin. “Hey, hey, hey, Joseph, you know what they say?” and “Any dream will do” remain in memory. 

Three decades later, our older son Don — one of those teenagers — had grown into an international sports event producer, involved in staging FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games and the Super Bowl, among other events. In 2007, he was in charge of Cricket World Cup, hosted by nine nations in the West Indies. Lory and I went to see the matches being played in Saint Kitts, pitting Australia, Holland, Scotland, and South Africa against each other. Fans from around the world joined us to support the game the British Empire made popular.

A scene from Theatre Three’s ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’

As parents of the man most responsible for the tournament, we were seated with various dignitaries in the St. Kitt’s President’s box.  

One afternoon, as lunchtime arrived and the match was solemnly suspended, we made our way to the dining area adjacent to the cricket grounds. Don whispered to me, “Do you know who’s just ahead of you? Sir Tim Rice.” 

The food line was moving slowly, so I took the opportunity to introduce my wife and me to the knighted lyricist and collaborator with Lloyd Webber. He was gracious, asking what a pair of Americans was doing at a World Cup cricket match. I explained why, then went on to say, “We saw one of your early productions of Joseph in a Cambridge theatre in 1974.”

“Did you recognize me in the cast?” he asked.

“No, not that I recall . . .,” I admitted.

“I was Pharaoh,” he replied with great laughter.

“Oh, I get it! The King!” I said, and we went on to enjoy lunch together. ‘

Those of you who have already seen the local or any other production of Joseph will understand the double joke that opens Act II of the show. I won’t spoil it for the rest of you.

During our meal, Sir Tim talked about how gifted his composer-collaborator is and told this story: One day, Andrew sat at a piano and played a few measures of a new song for his father, the organist-composer William Lloyd Webber. “What does that sound like?” the son asked his father, who replied, “It sounds like five billion pounds (money) to me!” The tune became “Memory” in the show Cats. “Andrew’s father was prophetic,” said Tim Rice.

We have our Theatre Three tickets for later this month. See you there.

D. Bruce Lockerbie, a longtime resident of the Three Villages, is the author/editor of 40 books and heads an international educational consulting agency called PAIDEIA, Inc.

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Bethel AME Church and Higher Ground prepare to restore historic house

The Rev. David and Mary Baker-Eato House, circa 1984. File photo from Preservation Long Island

During the past 15 years, initiatives by Higher Ground Intercultural and Heritage Association  to increase protection of the district include: obtaining a Town of Brookhaven Landmark citation for Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Setauket; obtaining a districtwide Endangered Site nomination by Preservation League of New York; hosting A Long Time Coming Archaeological Project; starting a benchmark Cultural Resource Survey; and registering the district on state and national registers of historic sites in November 2017. In the same year, the Old Bethel Cemetery, which belongs to Bethel AME Church, was nominated to state and national registers of historic places through the remarkable efforts of Vivian Nicholson Mueller and Simira Tobias.

The home of one of Bethel AME Church’s first pastors Photo from Preservation Long Island

In a joint collaboration to preserve historic inventory, and to expand the historical significance of the district, Bethel AME and Higher Ground are working together to restore the historic Rev. David and Mary Baker-Eato House, which is located within the historic district.

Research has indicated the house was probably built between 1900 and 1917. Recently, several grants opened a new window of opportunity to Higher Ground that boosted the restoration project. The organization recently received a $1,220 grant award from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook; a $3,000 award from New York Landmarks Conservancy which was directed to Bethel AME Church; and a $25,000 grant award from the Gerry Charitable Trust in October 2019.

With this fresh infusion of funds, the joint Eato House restoration project plans to start preliminary activities to build organizational capacity in the spring of this year, followed by planning the first stages of restoration at a later date. With sincere appreciation, Higher Ground acknowledges that the first funding to create and protect the BCALH District, between 2009 to 2015, was made possible by grants awards from The National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University and The Preservation League of New York State.

While there is only little information about the origin and date the Eato House structure was built, the historically significant occupants, the Rev. David Eato and his wife Mary L. Baker-Eato, offer us an alternate view of a portion of American history. Eato was born in August 1854 in Roslyn, where many members of the Eato family remained. He was the fourth of nine children of Peter Eato and Charlotte Corse.

In the early 1840s, before Eato’s birth, his father worked as a sailor on the sloop Andrew Jackson, a merchant vessel that served shore communities in New York and New Jersey. On March 12, 1840, Capt. Jacob M. Kirby listed 21 employees, including “Peter Eato or Etoo.” Captain Kirby paid his employees with some cash but also by bartering such items as watch repair, powder and shot, watermelons, boots and trousers. In later census records, Peter Eato was listed as a laborer or farm laborer. He died of cancer Nov. 19, 1899, age 87.

David Eato was heavily handicapped during his ministry with dropsy (vascular edema). In spite of his disability, he spent his life as pastor of several small AME congregations on Long Island. Beginning in Roslyn, he spent much of his service at Mt. Olive AME Church in Elmhurst, where he dedicated a new church worth $9,000 Thanksgiving Day, 1907. In 1906, he also served the Union AME Church (later St. Mark) in Jackson Heights. In 1908, he moved to the Mount Olive AME Church in Mount (Port) Washington. He may have served both the Port Washington Church and the Setauket Church simultaneously, since there is a note about his work in Setauket in 1911 and another reference to his work as a pastor at Port Washington in 1913.

Around 1915-16, he moved to Setauket with his second wife Mary Lucinda Baker-Eato. In Port Washington June 29, 1913, Eato married Mary, who played piano and organ at the Mount Olive AME Church.

Baker-Eato was born in 1868 in South Carolina, the daughter of Oliver Baker and Catharine Buite-Baker. Catharine Baker (called Grandma Kitty by her family) was born on the Baker plantation in Troy, South Carolina. It is presumed Mary Lucinda Baker, Catherine’s only known child, was born on the Baker plantation.

Baker-Eato graduated from Allen University in Colombia, South Carolina. Allen University was established by the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Cokesbury, South Carolina, in 1870, and later moved to Columbia. She may have majored in music, since she later taught piano and organ. While she was still living in Troy, she married Robert Wydeman. Together, they had five daughters, Jessie, Katie, Josephine, Mary Louise and Frances. In 1901, Baker-Eato, her five daughters and Grandma Kitty all moved north to Port Washington. Eato-Baker worked as a cook (perhaps in a restaurant), gave music lessons, and played piano and organ in the Port Washington AME Church.

After the Eatos married in 1913, they were still living in Elmhurst in 1915 (according to the New York State census), taking care of one of her daughters from her first marriage, Katie Weidman, and granddaughter Helen Coleman. By 1917, they were living in Setauket, where the Hyde map listed David Eato’s name beside the Eato house. In 1920, the census noted that the Eato family rented a house on Locust Avenue, where they lived with Baker-Eato’s grandchildren Helen Coleman, 11, and Adolph Blake, 3.

In 1925, the census recorded David Eato, age 70, living with his wife Mary Eato, age 57; Arthur T. Blake, age 15; and Adolph J. Blake, age 8. Mary Eato bought the Eato house from R.W. Hawkins and Carrie Hawkins in 1928 and became one of several African American women who owned homes in this area.

In 1930, David Eato was not listed in the census. Mostly likely he died between 1925 and 1928, when Mary Eato purchased this house. Although sources of information about the reverend and his wife reveal the life of two individuals who left a vision and hope for their descendants, their lives are representative of the many thousands of African Americans who survived slavery in America and made their way to Long Island.

Those other lives, not recorded, represent stories lost and gone forever because of the erection and maintenance of an ages old framework of historical narrative largely unchanged in America, since the end of the 19th century. It is as though revelations of Native American and Afro-American history, their history in the Americas and throughout the world, have been intentionally buried.

Today, we are learning that a significant portion of the history of Afro-Americans in America is being revealed through scientific research and recent archaeological and anthropological discoveries. In recent years public activism, local and national preservation organizations and state and federal legislation have acted to conduct new research; to render a revised and more complete history of Afro-Americans, and fully integrate it into a more inclusive history of America. At the present time, a new coalition of 21st-century researchers have been on the forefront to revise this forgotten history, as opposed to educators and scientists that pandered to biased academia from the 17th century, lasting through most of the 20th century.

There is ample evidence that there are hundreds of Afro-American cultural sites with similar stories, such as the Eatos and their home on Christian Avenue, that give the viewer an opportunity to see history differently. When descriptions of the structure, site and occupants of historic cultural origin are joined together, they become a comprehensive story in stark revelation. They become a doorway — an entryway to the truth of a cultural legacy connected to an ancient time, 3,000 years ago. However, the complex paradigm of intractable narratives of American history that remain as a pedagogy, since post-Civil War Reconstruction is a gate still standing; gradually being broken down by people who want to know the truth.

We can begin at the gate by saying: “Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo) did not discover the Americas.” From that observation, we are thus able to see misconceptions in the cultural and racial dynamics of history; to posit arguments against the old theories; engage in conversations that realize there is an imperative to rewrite a significant portion of American history. The huge number of obscured Afro-American communities, such as the Bethel Christian Avenue, Laurel Hill Historic District, their historic inventory and structures such as the Eato House have enormous importance, not only to America’s history, but that they are integral toward a revision that transmits truth into our education systems.

Robert Lewis is the president of Higher Ground Intercultural and Heritage Association.

A Brit Reviews the UK’s Eventual Withdrawal from Europe

Stock photo

Part 3 of 3

By John Broven

When I started this series in March 2019, I wanted to give U.S. readers a Brit’s inside view on Brexit. The term has now become such common currency over here, rather like the Latin phrase “quid pro quo,” that all I need explain is that Brexit refers to Britain exiting the European Union, which it duly did Jan. 31 of this year. On the same date the U.S. Senate rejected further witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump (R). It was hardly a red-letter day for western politics.

John Broven Photo by Diane Wattecamps

After publication of the first two articles, I was approached by residents of all age groups at the Stony Brook railroad station, in a deli, at a mall, in a coffee shop, at a party, even at an outdoor art show. Everyone expressed an intrigued interest in Brexit and, it’s fair to say, concern for my English home country. What on earth was going on? Why indulge in such potential self-harm?

When I left you with my June article, the United Kingdom and EU had agreed on another revised exit date, Oct. 31, but with no parliamentary majority the way forward was still far from clear. “Will there be a general election, second referendum, another EU extension or a hard no deal?” I asked.

It came to pass there was a general election Dec. 12 and a further EU extension to Jan. 31, with no second referendum or precipitous hard deal (to date). With the U.K.’s withdrawal from the EU, what happened in the interim?

A third prime minister in three years

For a start, on July 24, Boris Johnson achieved the prize he had wanted from his days as a privileged aristocratic youth at Eton College and Oxford University: the prime ministership of the U.K. After being elected as leader of the Conservative Party (also known as the Tories), he took over from the hapless Theresa May (C) who was unable to deliver on her promise to leave the EU after three years in the hot seat.

Brexit had thus claimed another victim, making Johnson the third prime minster since David Cameron (C) fell on his sword after a dismal and inept Vote Remain campaign during the June 2016 referendum.

Without a working majority, Johnson was confronted by a parliament determined to ensure that if Brexit happened there would be no hard deal. The new prime minister even tried, unsuccessfully, to suspend parliament for five weeks in an effort to stifle debate and ram through the withdrawal agreement by Oct. 31. Queen Elizabeth II was inadvertently embroiled when she dutifully signed the prorogation request of Johnson, who made the flimsy pretense of needing time to prepare for the Queen’s Speech, but the U.K. Supreme Court ruled otherwise. I suspect Her Majesty was not amused. 

There was clearly a power battle being fought between parliament and the prime minister, reminiscent of the current war of attrition between Congress and Trump. 

The generally pro-Brexit Tory Party, with its band of rabid hardliners, was armed with the 52-48 percent Voter Leave victory of the 2016 referendum. Amid calls from the Brexiters for “democracy” to be respected and with a definite all-round war weariness in the nation, it was clearly going to be difficult for the main opposition parties — Labour, Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party and the Greens — to overturn “the will of the people.” 

At one time, the charismatic speaker of the House of Commons, John Burcow, even invoked an arcane 1604 parliamentary principle to stifle a government motion. (Think about it, that’s 16 years before the Mayflower landed on our shores.) However, the opposition could not find agreement among themselves for a unified approach, even with voting support from 21 Tory rebels. This rump included former Chancellor of Exchequer Philip Hammond, Father of the House Ken Clarke and Sir Winston Churchill’s grandson, Nicholas Soames. Incredibly these respected establishment figures were thrown out of the Tory Party in petulant retribution. You see what I mean about parliamentary drama.  

With time running out, the EU begrudgingly extended the Oct. 31 deadline to Jan. 31 after a last-minute fudged agreement with Johnson over the vexatious Irish border backstop question.

December general election

Parliament was still in deadlock, but eventually a general election was called for Dec. 12. Campaigning on a resonating “Get Brexit done” ticket, Johnson won a huge working majority of 80 seats to break the parliamentary impasse. His Conservative Party brushed aside the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats, also Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. Labour, in its worst general election result since 1935, ignominiously saw the demolition of its “red wall” in the industrial north of England, the traditional home of socialism. The Lib-Dems, under Jo Swinson, went all out with a remain message. Yet this bright young leader couldn’t articulate on the stump the benefits of staying in Europe and she even lost her own parliamentary seat. 

The main opposition winners were the Scottish Nationalist Party, under Nicola Sturgeon, which swept Scotland. Watch out for a possible future referendum for Scotland to leave the U.K. and become a member of the EU. 

Richard Tapp, of Burgess Hill, West Sussex, added in an email, “Besides the Scottish Nationalists, the pro-EU parties in Northern Ireland also did well, at the expense of the pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party whose leader in Westminster lost his seat to the nationalists of Sinn Fein who campaign for a united Ireland — and so remain in the EU.” 

Johnson had targeted the disaffected, forgotten part of the nation — the provincial middle class as well as the working class — with a Trump-like populist message, just as the new prime minister had done beforehand with the referendum. The general election was a damning indictment of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, both for his far-left policies and his “sit on the fence” approach to Brexit. 

Interestingly, there are concerns in the U.S. about the Democratic Party following the Labour/Corbyn route to self-destruction in the next election with a progressive socialist agenda. James Carville, President Bill Clinton’s (D) 1992 election-winning strategist, was particularly animated on the subject in the Financial Times and on “Morning Joe,” referring to the unelectable Corbyn by name.

Brexit is done

And so, with no obstacles in his way, Johnson “got it done” by signing a withdrawal agreement with the EU, meaning Britain officially left the union at the end of January after almost a half-century of membership. Brexit is now fully owned and controlled by the prime minister and his Conservative Party, with the background help of Dominic Cummings, the architect of the Vote Leave campaign’s victory in 2016. 

The coverage on BBC World News in Brussels revealed genuine European regret at the loss of Britain as a vital contributing member to the EU, including politicians from Poland and Sweden. Yet the expected party atmosphere in the U.K. didn’t materialize because the country was still split right down the middle — and it was raining on Farage’s celebration parade outside the Houses of Parliament. Financial Times columnist Simon Kuper had a perverse explanation for the low-keyed reaction: “On Jan. 31, many Brexiters spent their ultimate moment of triumph attacking elitist traitors instead of celebrating.” This revenge, he said, “is so much of the point of populism.” 

Those Brexit voters expecting a brand-new dawn, with a return to the glory days of the British Empire free of the EU yoke, will have to wait until at least Dec. 31 this year for all kinds of trade, security and legal negotiations to be agreed before the cord is cut. 

During this transition period the U.K. will continue in the EU’s custom union and single market, while still complying with EU rules (but without any more say in the lawmaking process in the European Parliament). Johnson has indicated there will be no extension, leading to the nightmare scenario of a possible no deal commencing Jan. 1, 2021. It will not be an easy negotiating ride.

I’m still of the view that a people’s referendum should never have been considered by Cameron on such a critical and complex matter, which will affect generations to come. His irresponsible bet was compounded by the Brexiters never explaining the downsides — and dangers — of leaving Europe, including diminished influence on the world stage. Already China is waiting in the wings.

Michael Hanna, of Hassocks, West Sussex, echoed my thoughts in an email on the night of Jan. 31: “In about two hours time Boris and his Gang will tear us out of the European Union on the say so of just 17.4 million, a mere 37 percent of the electorate. This is politically the saddest day of my life. For the last 47 years we have been members of the great European family of nations to which we should naturally belong. This has given us huge benefits which the Tory government is knowingly throwing away.”

With thanks for their on-the-spot observations to my British friends Roger Armstrong, Chris Bentley, Mike Hanna, Martin Hawkins, John Ridley and Richard Tapp. 

John Broven, a member of the TBR News Media editorial team, is an English-born resident of East Setauket, who immigrated to the United States in 1995. He has written three award-winning (American) music history books and is currently editing the first book on New York blues.