Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine recently stopped by the Town’s Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai — the site of a two-day COVID-19 vaccination “pop-up POD” for Brookhaven residents over the age of 50.
During his visit, there was a continuous flow of residents into the center who were scheduled to receive their vaccine. The senior center has been closed in response to the COVID-19 health crisis.
“The Rose Caracappa Senior Center has been closed for over a year and this was an appropriate reason to open the doors again,” Romaine said. “I am greatly encouraged by the number of people who registered for the vaccine and I thank New York State for working with us to make them more convenient for residents. We hope to assist New York State with distributing more of vaccinations soon.”
For more information, eligibility, COVID-19 vaccine registration and more, call 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4827) or go to covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov. There is no charge for the vaccine.
Recently I was in New Jersey with my former college roommates.
We had been Zooming and planning to get together for months. The yearbook came out and we laughed over it. We tried a yoga pose to alleviate back pain, discussed the kids and uses of turmeric.
We moved to the subject of CBD oil, and dispensaries, when “Sheila” handed us each a small, light weight, paper package.
The next day, retelling this to my 22-year-old, she surmised that, as early 80s college grads, the package likely contained something illicit.
The envelope, however, contained compressed laundry detergent sheets.
I was cautiously impressed. My roomie-tribe had vowed decades prior to reject plastic packing when possible.
The envelope label read in part, “eco-friendly, cruelty-free” and “biodegradable anionic and non-anionic surfactants.”
To this point I had used powder detergent. I buy the cardboard boxes locally and they do nicely in the outdoor fire pit when empty.
Once home, I gave my 20-year-old Kenmore a whirl. The sheets worked well in both cold and hot washes.
My kid said they are easy to use. The thin 6 by 10-inch, lightweight envelope takes up minuscule space in the cabinet and the perforated sheets will do 60 loads.
I foresee fewer shopping trips for me, fewer transport ships and trucks and a reduction in carbon emissions.
The efficiency in cold water is especially important, I think. Globally, cold water is what humans have greatest access to.
E.B. White once wrote, “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
I suffer the same affliction. When shopping, my first thought, after “How many carbs?” is, “How big a carbon footprint?” Thus, I began deeper research. I was curious about the manufacturing process of the emerging hydrate-at-home cleaners if I am to use them.
As a Long Islander I am not always convinced that dirt is worse than harsh chemicals. Dirt and I are not so different.
Nutrients for humans come from food directly or indirectly through plants grown in soil. If a cleaner breaks down dirt, it breaks me down on some level as well, no?
What I found is, although all forms of laundry detergent manufacturers have, in response to consumers, removed most phosphates, other substances known to pollute the environment remain.
With regard to packaging, most people I know are putting plastic into the recycle bin.
A quick survey of friends in Brookhaven who use liquid detergent, revealed that half had purchased plastic laundry jugs stamped with an HDPE ‘2’ symbol.
The other half either found no recycle number stamped on the plastic at all, which I found alarming, or, the symbol was high. Not in a good way.
In either case, these cannot be recycled in Brookhaven. I found one of my own shampoo bottles cannot be recycled.
Although I have found vegan laundry sheets, cleaning action and chemical ingredients seem equal.
The choice then for me, is either heavy thermal energy use at the front-end drying process for sheets or on the back end with disposal and transport of plastic jugs.
After discussion with the family, we are abandoning boxes of powder for laundry sheets. I will throw the envelope in the chiminea when it is empty.
On a personal level, my goal will be to do fewer loads of laundry and wash my hair less often. You’ll likely find me in dirty jeans and a bandanna covering my hair — flashback to senior year.
Joan Nickeson is an active member of the PJS/Terryville community and community liaison to the PJS/T Chamber of Commerce.
In January 2020, former President Donald Trump (R) signed an executive order that replaced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers definition of what is considered a federal body of water under the Waters of the United States rule, known as WOTUS.
In his election campaign, President Joe Biden (D) promised to undo these changes, which are currently under review.
But what does all of this mean for Long Island?
Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil, or is present near the surface of the soil all year for varying periods of time. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report, as at 2004 6% of Long Island was made up of wetlands — that’s about 51,000 acres.
Wetlands, due to their beneficial services to people and wildlife — including providing habitats to multiple species, improving water quality and assisting with flood protections —are among some of the most productive ecosystems in the world.
Wetland protections can also create problems for business developers and farmers. One of Trump’s main reasons for passing his executive order in 2020 was to redefine the definitions of which bodies of water could be protected under WOTUS in order to remove legal roadblocks to farmers caused by the need to determine whether water on their land fell under control of the federal government.
“After decades of landowners relying on expensive attorneys to determine what water on their land may or may not fall under federal regulations, our new Navigable Waters Protection Rule strikes the proper balance between Washington and the states in managing land and water resources while protecting our nation’s navigable waters, and it does so within the authority Congress provided,” said EPA administrator, Andrew Wheeler, in a January 2020 news release.
Now, due to the undoing of restrictions by Trump’s administration, local conservationists are worried about the long-term effects on Long Island’s wetlands.
Coby Klein, a conservationist at the Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society and adjunct professor of Natural Sciences at Baruch College, said that Long Island’s wetlands are beneficial to both the community and the organisms that dwell in them, and they need to be preserved.
“Wetlands provide protection from flooding, especially the coastal wetlands, the salt marshes and things like that,” he said. “They also help work to mitigate climate change. When plants die in these wetland areas, they don’t decompose very quickly. They serve as what’s called a carbon sink. Instead of carbon being put back into the atmosphere when a plant dies, it gets stored in the soil and in the muck in the water.”
Victoria O’Neill, Long Island Sound Study habitat restoration coordinator at the state Department of Environmental Conservation, is another local conservationist who confirms that healthy wetlands are important to Long Island.
“Tidal wetlands provide many different ecosystem services to Long Island communities,” she said. “They help provide protection from coastal storm surge, improve water quality, provide recreational enjoyment and serve as nesting, breeding and resting grounds for commercial and recreationally important fish and shellfish.”
With all of the benefits wetlands provide to Long Island communities and ecosystems, why did the federal government want to push back on protecting them? Klein said it is because, “they get in the way.”
“When there’s any type of pollution that gets into a body of water, it ends up in a wetland,” Klein said.“That’s bad news for the things that grow there and live there. Salt marshes are very susceptible to nitrogen pollution, and that’s a big problem on Long Island because almost everybody around here fertilizes their lawns, and they tend to overfertilize.”
He added that because of the high volume of sewage systems on Long Island, the excess fertilizer from people’s lawns and farmers’ fields tends to go from the sewage systems to large bodies of water and then eventually into rivers and wetlands. This causes excess nitrogen that is detrimental to those ecosystems.
Under Trump’s redefinition of protected waters under WOTUS, it has become easier for developers and farmers to make those kinds of damages to wetlands but, according to the DEC, New York is taking great steps forward as a leader in the efforts to protect state wetlands and their invaluable natural habitat.
“It is estimated that the Navigable Waters Protection Rule will remove federal protections for about half the nation’s wetlands,” the state DEC said in a 2020 statement. “Thankfully, existing strong protections of waters in New York state will reduce the impact of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule compared to many other states. However, not all wetlands are protected under New York law and we rely on federal protection and our water quality certification review to protect smaller wetlands. Recent changes in the definition of Waters of the United States have resulted in fewer of these smaller wetlands receiving any regulatory protection.”
According to O’Neill, active steps are being taken to restore wetland habitats that have been lost.
“The tidal wetland ecosystem target in the LISS’s 2015 Comprehensive Conservation & Management Plan set a goal to restore 515 additional acres of tidal wetlands by 2035 from a 2014 baseline,” she said. “As of 2020, we are 15.5% toward our goal.”
Klein said that restoration projects are time sensitive and need to happen as soon as possible.
“Wetlands provide us with all kinds of important ecosystem services and even more important than that, they’re just pleasant places,” he said. “We should try to preserve them simply because there are so many creatures besides us that depend on them. So even if they didn’t do all this important stuff for us, we should still try to conserve them because they do important things for other species.”
Amongst the Middle Country Public Library’s many historical artifacts are a few that explain just how far the area has come from its pastoral routes.
The pictures and story below comes courtesy of a collaborative effort among the librarian staff.
Maybelle Still (Walcott) sits at the wheel of this automobile along with three of her colleagues who are out promoting the Work Projects Administration in Selden.
The WPA was an ambitious employment and infrastructure program created by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935 during the Great Depression with the goal to put Americans back to work.
In Brookhaven Town, sidewalk projects were approved at the cost of $63,531 for Lake Ronkonkoma, Mastic Beach and Selden.
The Federal government contributed $38,512 to those projects.
The Selden project plans were drafted by Norton Brothers of Patchogue and called for the construction of sidewalks along a strip of land on the south side of Middle Country Road from Evergreen Avenue to Dare Road.
The materials for these projects were purchased through the Brookhaven Town projects office by purchasing agent and Centereach resident, Arthur W. Murray.
Local school districts are still maintaining low COVID-19 numbers, while the rest of Suffolk County is nearing 6% in some areas. According to district leadership, that’s because schools have been constantly evolving their plans to keep students, staff and the community safe.
Middle Country school district covers a large jurisdiction, Dr. Roberta Gerold, superintendent of schools, said. In non-COVID times, there are roughly 11,000 students within the district, though now approximately 7,500 are in buildings due to hybrid and remote learning options. The district has only had 102 positive COVID cases since the start of school, a 1.3% infection rate — with 52 of those cases coming from Thanksgiving break.
“We have such strong guidelines we’re containing it, not spreading it,” she said. “We know where [students and staff have] been and who they’ve been with.”
Like all the other districts, students are required to wear a mask at all times, except during mask breaks. Social distancing has been implemented with barriers on desks, and teachers are asked to keep their windows and doors open.
If a student is showing symptoms, they are immediately placed into an isolation room and brought home.
But that barely happens, according to Gerold. “The community is doing a good job because they’re not sending us positive kids,” she said. “We’re not getting a lot of cases in the schools.”
Ronald Masera, president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association, said that over the summer, local superintendents began putting together plans to better prepare their districts.
“When the pandemic started, there was a feeling of uncertainty,” he said. “But now what we’ve found is we could place a great deal on social distancing.”
Because they have been implementing and following CDC guidelines, he said they’re not seeing spread within the schools.
“Controlled environment helps keep the community safe,” he said. “Even if we see the community numbers rise, I think the government, politicians, leadership and superintendents know how important keeping schools open is.”
A representative from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) office agreed, and said the new guidelines released last month are to keep the doors of local schools open.
“We encourage them to not be closed, but to test instead,” they said.
Guidelines now require mass testing in schools in red, orange and yellow micro-cluster zones before they reopen, followed by vigilant symptom and exposure screening conducted daily. Impacted schools can reopen as early as Monday, however students and faculty must be able to provide a negative COVID-19 test result prior to going back to the classroom. New York State will provide rapid test kits for schools wishing to participate.
After a school reopens in a red or orange micro-cluster zone, vigilant symptom and exposure screening must be conducted daily. A quarter of the in-person learning school community — both students and faculty/staff — must be tested per week, and the school should ensure that it provides opportunities to test on school grounds, or otherwise facilitates testing and accepts test results from health care providers.
If the school does not hold a testing event or provide testing on school grounds, test results provided to the school as part of the 25% testing of the population must be received within seven days.
The governor’s representative said that no regions have hit the 9% emergency number, which would close the county again. Schools, however, have flexibility regarding choosing a comfortable closing percentage.
“They can use their own metrics to close down districts or schools as long as those metrics don’t go against the state mandate of 9%,” the representative said. “A lot of things are state law governed. Schools are done by the locals, and we wanted to be within the local district rules.”
The latest number of confirmed and new COVID-19 cases in the Town of Brookhaven, according to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services on Dec. 7 is 17,307, while a school district like Shoreham-Wading River has seen just a total of 43 positive tests for students and teachers/staff as at Dec. 8.
“I would like to thank our parents, staff and students for implementing the required COVID-19 health protocols this year. The daily temperature checks, health screening forms and conversations about washing hands, wearing masks properly and socially distancing have been really effective in keeping or schools open, healthy and safe,” said Superintendent Gerard Poole in an email statement. “The district is fully prepared for a shift to distance learning if a closure is mandated. We have a great distance learning plan and have already shifted this year successfully for a day or two when necessary due to COVOD-19 related school closures.“
Port Jefferson Superintendent Jessica Schmettan said that they are hopeful to remain on their current course, but are prepared to pivot their instructional models as directed by the governor’s office.
“Moving forward, our schools will continue to follow the guidance provided at the local, regional and state levels, including any prescribed steps needed should our area become designed a yellow, orange or red zone,” she said. “We are grateful to our students, staff and community for their unwavering support of and adherence to our initiatives. Their collective efforts have helped to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within our schools and allowed us to keep our buildings open for in-person instruction.”
Marianne Cartisano, superintendent of Miller Place school district, said schools, to date, are the safest places for children to succeed academically, socially and emotionally.
“We are also fortunate to have the acknowledgement of social responsibility in our community, coupled with everyone’s common goal to keep schools open,” she said.
The latest number of confirmed and new COVID-19 cases in the Town of Brookhaven, according to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services on Dec. 7 is 17,307, while a school district like Three Village has seen just a total of 72 positive tests for students and teachers/staff as at Dec. 8.
“Our district continues to follow the guidance of the Department of Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Cheryl Pedisich, Three Village superintendent of schools, said. “We are fully prepared to implement any prescribed measures to keep our schools open, safe and operating in the best interest of all of our students and staff.”
Elwood school district Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Bossert said he agrees with statements made by Cuomo and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a recent joint press conference.
“Governor Cuomo used the words ‘amazing and astonishing’ to describe how low the infection rates are in schools as compared to many of the communities surrounding them,” Bossert said. “We agree that our schools are safe places for students, faculty and staff. The guidelines that have been put in place in collaboration with the Suffolk County Department of Health are designed to keep students and staff safe and school open.”
Bossert said in addition to mask wearing, distancing and appropriate hygiene, it’s important for those who are symptomatic or think they have been exposed to someone positive for COVID-19 to stay home.
“We are so very thankful to our parents and community members for demonstrating an understanding of the role we each play and acting out of an abundance of caution when making decisions about their children,” he said. “We are confident that we can keep students safe in our school buildings — where we know they will enjoy the greatest benefit of our instruction program, socialization with one another, and have positive interactions with their teachers.”
Smithtown school district superintendent, Mark Secaur, said he is planning for several different scenarios, including the potential of COVID testing in schools, or going back to completely remote.
“Based on the relative safety of our students and staff, providing education for those two things has been at odd at times,” he said. “But it’s the balance we have to navigate because of the pandemic.”
“We have proven that schools are safer than the outside community,” Secaur added. “Kids have been amazing. They’re excited to be with their friends again, and the kids have been more resilient than some adults.”
Responding to numerous 911 calls on Monday, Nov. 30, just after midnight, the Suffolk County Police Department arrived at 51 Hawkins Lane in Brookhaven to find an estimated 300 to 400 people arriving for a party.
Police said it took about four hours to break up a gathering that was just getting started. The owner of the 5,000 square foot property, which is listed on Air BNB for $399 per night, was one of the people who called the police.
SCPD Chief Stuart Cameron said the people who rented the house who officials believe came from New Jersey would face civil fines of up to $15,000 and criminal charges that include criminal nuisance in the second degree and section 12-B of the public health law, which are the sections the police have been using for COVID-19-related enforcement.
The “prompt response” by the police and the “effective dispersion of the crowd” enabled the police to avert a “potential supers spreader event,” Cameron said on a call with the media run by County Executive Steve Bellone (D).
“We have gotten significant cooperation from the homeowner,” Bellone said on the conference call. “When they found that the home was being used for this purpose, they did report that. We will be holding accountable the people who did hold this party.”
Bellone cautioned anyone who might consider coming in to Suffolk County from out of town that they will not be allowed to skirt COVID-19 public health rules.
“Renting a home and thinking you will be able to get away with that … that’s not going to happen,” Bellone said. “We’ve worked too hard to allow selfish and reckless individuals to set back our efforts to continue to protect people’s health.”
Bellone thanked the SCPD for their efforts.
Bellone urged people to continue to follow public health guidelines, particularly as the holidays approach. He said there was hope on the horizon with a vaccine and that there is an “end in sight. We need to do the best we can to follow the guidance so we can contain this second wave.”
Across the county, Chief Cameron described the number of 911 calls over Thanksgiving as a “handful,” which was below his expectations. In the cases when the police did arrive at a home, they didn’t notice “any gross deviations,” which the police chief described as a “testament to the people of Suffolk County.”
A Tough Beginning
As for the number of positive tests, the trend continues to provide warning signs to area officials about the return of the spread of a virus the county had originally beat back earlier this year.
Positive tests for COVID-19 stood at 5.2% as of Dec. 1, with 609 new cases in the previous day. The county hasn’t had a rate above five percent since May 17.
Hospitalizations now stand at 248, which is the highest since June 3.
“Those numbers are alarming to say the least,” Bellone said. “There’s no doubt we are in that second wave we talked about for so long.”
The county and state will now incorporate hospital capacity into cluster zone designations in determining yellow, orange and red levels.
As of the beginning of this month, 28% of hospital beds were available, with 32% of intensive care unit beds available.
Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has indicated that hospitals in the state need to prepare for surges by identifying doctors and nurses, preparing field hospitals and planning for “all the things we did in the spring,” Bellone said.
Bellone reinforced a message about schools he’s been sharing for several weeks, even as positive cases continue to increase. The county executive said Suffolk is not seeing the spread happening in schools in any significant level.
“Keeping our schools open is critical for students, families and for our continued economic recovery,” Bellone said.
Bellone reminded residents that the majority of new cases seem to be coming from small gatherings, where family and friends who feel safer with each other are congregating, often without masks and, at times, within six feet of each other.
“It is critically important that people limit those gatherings,” Bellone said.
The county continues to rely on contact tracing to try to limit the spread of the virus. On the first of November, the county had 30 people in place who were contact tracing, reflecting the smaller number of positive tests. Now, the county has over 200 contact tracers, who are reaching out to positive cases to connect with those who might have been exposed to the virus.
In the last two weeks, the county had 7,948 confirmed cases. Contact tracers reached 6,114 people, with 3,801 of those providing contacts, which represents less than half the total.
Dr. Shahida Iftikhar, deputy commissioner for the Department of Health, said the number of people who didn’t provide contacts included those who weren’t within six feet for 10 minutes or more of other people.
A Confederate flag displayed on the side of a Brookhaven Fire Department truck has caused outcry from multiple levels of government and many in the surrounding community.
A picture of the Confederate battle standard draped on the side of a ladder truck from the Brookhaven hamlet, showed up on social media where it went viral Sunday, Aug. 30. Many who saw it complained that it was a display of racism, especially in light of recent national dialogue about its use by white supremacists and the history of the Confederacy’s promotion of slavery.
In a statement, Brookhaven FD Chief of Department Peter Di Pinto said that the action was not authorized by the department and was done without its knowledge. The statement says the incident involved one firefighter acting alone during a non-response event. Di Pinto said the matter is currently under investigation, and therefore couldn’t release any further details.
“We can assure our community that ‘Racism has no home in our firehouse,’” the statement read.
That event was reportedly a fire truck parade in Patchogue to support a firefighter with cancer. Other department vehicles were present at the event though none other than the Brookhaven truck reportedly appeared with the Confederate flag.
While the The Town of Brookhaven and the Brookhaven Fire Department are separate entities, the town was also quick to condemn the flag.
“The Town Board condemns the display of this symbol of racism and hatred in the strongest possible terms and is calling for this fire department to launch an investigation into this matter and take immediate and serious action in response,” the town said in a statement. “Brookhaven town has been built upon a history of inclusion and diversity. Our cemeteries contain the graves of men who gave their lives fighting against this flag. This flag is a symbol of hatred, and there is no place for it, or the racism it displays, in our town.”
While on Facebook County Executive Steve Bellone (D) thanked the fire department for looking into the matter, he said that he was calling on the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission and New York State Division of Human Rights to also investigate the incident.
“The public also must have confidence that any review of this matter is handled independently to ensure a fair and impartial outcome,” Bellone said in a statement. “Hate and bigotry have no place in Suffolk County and we must demonstrate that we take these matters seriously.”
The Town of Brookhaven’s Black History Commission hosted its 29th Annual Black History Month celebration on Feb. 7 at Town Hall.
This year’s program included presentation of academic achievement awards to more than 77 top African-American high school seniors from 14 school districts who achieved a cumulative grade point average of 90 or higher.
The commission also recognized its honoree and keynote speaker, Derrick J. Robinson, acting Suffolk County Court judge presiding over Drug Court and Mental Health Court. He is also president-elect of the Suffolk County Bar Association.
The theme of this year’s Black History Month celebration was African Americans and the Vote. The evening included musical performances by the Brookhaven NAACP, the Faith Baptist Church Choir and Taylor Niles, as well as a dance performance by Eugenia Woods.
Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie M. Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), the first woman of African American descent to serve on the Town Board, also serves as the Town Board Liaison to the Town’s Black History Commission.
The Black History Commission’s next event is the 6th Annual Juneteenth Celebration June 20.
Miller Place Duck Pond may soon see drainage improvements Brookhaven town hopes will reduce sediment flow into the small, water lily-filled pond right outside North Country Road Middle School.
The town board unanimously agreed to shift money around in the capital budget to make room for the pond drainage improvements, allocating $135,285 for the project. At the same time, the highway department is planning to use $2.6 million in total from grants and town funds to complete road and sidewalk repair in tandem with the drainage renovations.
“The new improvements should reduce the amount of sediment from the road, sanding and salting that washes into the pond,” said town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point). “It should reduce pollutants associated with road runoff.”
Last year, TBR News Media reported both local environmental activists and town waterways management said there were problems with invasive and destructive plant species in the pond. The town applied for a grant from the Suffolk County Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program as well as the Stewardship Initiative. The grant would have had a projected cost of $240,000 with a $120,000 town match; however, Bonner said the town failed to get the grant.
Anthony Graves, Brookhaven’s chief environmental analyst, said they have not witnessed, just from viewing the water’s surface, that the pond is as dense with destructive plants as the previous year. Though he added the problem could be because of high rainfall this year compared to previous years, meaning it’s hard to gauge the plant density on the bottom of the pond. A big part of the reason for those invasive plants was the wash of sediment into the pond’s bottom from the road.
Involved in this new drainage includes a “stormceptor unit,” a device placed in the ground used to intercept pollutants and sediments before they enter the pond. Such pollutants include oil and grease from passing cars. Graves added the town is trying to reduce nitrogen buildup in the roadside pond.
In addition to renovating drainage of the pond, the town is expecting to go in and dredge the bottom of the pond.
“The drainage improvements collect the sediment before it enters the pond,” Graves said.
Meanwhile, the town’s highway department has set up to work in tandem and with those drainage improvements, both in renovating the sidewalks around the pond and completing road resurfacing. North Country Road is a Suffolk County-owned road that is managed by the town.
Superintendent of Highways Dan Losquadro (R) said his department received close to $1.25 million from grants, though the town is supplying the rest of its total $2.6 million cost. The project will include resurfacing and restriping of the road in addition to renovated sidewalks.
Losquadro said the town has had to deal with other problems in and around the pond, such that a blocked pipe was restricting enough water from entering the pond toward the southern end.
One of the biggest components of road resurfacing is drainage — getting that water off of the roadway,” he said. “So, as we’re doing this project, we want it to last as long as possible.”
Renovations to the drainage should begin sometime in August, Bonner said, while the highway superintendent said they plan to do some sidewalk work in tandem. The rest of the roadwork will start after the new drainage is installed. While they intend to finish before classes start, he added they would have to finish that work during one of the early school recesses if they can’t finish before.