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Commack

The Setauket branch of Investors Bank will close in February. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Many Investors Bank customers will soon find an empty building where they once traveled to take care of their financial matters.

Last year, Citizens Bank, headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, acquired New Jersey-based Investors Bank. While Investors’ doors remained open to customers, the process of the merger began in August as investmentaccounts transferred to Citizens, and in October, mortgage loan services transitioned from Investors to Citizens.

According to the Citizens website, the merger will “offer Investors’ customers an expanded set of products and services, enhanced online and mobile banking capabilities, and more branch locations, along with a continued commitment to making a difference in our local communities.”

While the East Northport location on Larkfield Road will remain open doing business under the Citizens name, the Investors Commack location on Jericho Turnpike will close Feb. 14. The Huntington branch on Main Street and the Setauket location on Route 25A will close their doors for the last time Feb. 15. All three due-to-be closed branches have Citizens operating nearby.

Nuno Dos Santos, retail director of Citizens, said the banks located in Commack, Huntington and East Setauket are less than 2 miles away from the Investors branches that are closing.

“As we continue to integrate Investors with Citizens, we have been reviewing customer patterns and branch locations to ensure we are serving customers when, where and how they prefer,” Dos Santos said. “As a result of this review, we will close the Investors branch locations in Commack, Huntington and Setauket.”

Current Investors employees have been encouraged to apply for positions at Citizens, according to a company spokesperson.

FIle photo

Suffolk County Police Fourth Squad detectives are investigating a motor-vehicle crash that killed a teenager and seriously injured two others in Commack the afternoon of June 15.

A teenager was driving a 2008 Ford Mustang northbound on Indian Head Road when he swerved to avoid another vehicle and lost control. The Mustang struck a 2015 Jeep Wrangler that was traveling southbound near Carldon Road at approximately 3:45 p.m. A female passenger in the Mustang, Isabel Carella, 17, of Smithtown, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver of the Mustang, Dominic Crocitto, 17, of Kings Park, was transported via ambulance to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of serious physical injuries. A passenger in the Mustang was transported to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip with serious physical injuries. A third passenger from the Mustang was transported to South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

The driver of the Jeep, Annalise Wilkes, 19, of Commack, was transported to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

 

File photo by Desirée Keegan

For the past six years, Suffolk County Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) has represented Legislative District 12, which includes the southern section of the Town of Smithtown and western Brookhaven. This year she is running once again, and while Mike Siderakis will be listed as the Democratic candidate come election day, the candidate who ran unsuccessfully for state senator against Mario Mattera (R-St. James) last year stopped actively campaigning this summer.

Before taking on the role of county legislator, Kennedy worked for 13 years as a legislative aide for Donald Blydenburgh (R-Smithtown) and her husband John Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset), who for the last six years has been Suffolk County comptroller. When her husband won his bid for the comptroller’s seat, she stepped into his former position in a special election six months before she had to run again.

“I love my job,” Kennedy said during a recent phone interview with TBR News Media.

COVID-19

Kennedy said the last two years have been tough dealing with the issues the pandemic has presented as well as the restrictions that went along with it to curb the virus. She said the changing rules made it challenging.

“It created all sorts of new issues,” she said.

The former nurse said she believes in wearing masks and getting vaccinated, but she did take issue with the state’s shutdown orders of businesses. The legislator and her office staff were busy earlier in the year helping residents get immunized when it was first difficult to find appointments. She said they secured more than 500 vaccination appointments. “I think that our purpose should be to aid and assist human beings and not to torture them,” she said.

Kennedy also said she is concerned with some of the anti-mask and anti-vaccine rallies and some of the information and arguments that are out there, even though she respects everyone’s rights to express their concerns and opinions.

“They have the right to their opinions, but let me tell you my opinion and how I feel the way I do,” she said. “And then you can keep your opinion or you can think about mine.”

Legislative bills

Kennedy said regarding sponsoring bills she chooses wisely. “I tried to put in a limited amount of bills and just do more government,” she said.

She is most proud of her initiatives that have helped preserve land, and the legislator said it’s important to get out there and meet with all of the people involved and discuss all the options with them.

An example of her preservation efforts is the 2018 acquisition and preservation of the Hauppauge Springs that she led along with Seatuck Environmental Association. The 42-acre property is located on the south side of Route 347 in Hauppauge and there had been a builder interested in constructing eight houses on land at part of one of the headwaters of the Nissequogue River. 

Kennedy said she made sure to meet with both the owner of the property and the builder’s lawyer. It was an issue the county legislator was extremely familiar with, as she said it was on the county’s list of environmentally sensitive priority properties for more than 20 years.

“Putting up those houses would have been the end of the Nissequogue River,” she said, adding waste from them would go into the headwaters.

County budget

With more money coming the county’s way in 2022 due to COVID-19 aid, Kennedy said she agrees with paying off pension debts and other monies the county borrowed. However, she said Suffolk should also save as much as possible because she fears it will run out of funds by 2023.

“I would love to give everybody who wants things everything, but we can’t,” she said.

The 12th Legislative District includes Smithtown, Nesconset, Hauppauge, the Village of the Branch, Lake Grove and parts of St. James, Commack, Lake Ronkonkoma and Centereach. The district is bounded roughly by Route 25 to the north, Commack Road to the west, Townline Road to the south, and Oxhead Road to the east, with Veterans Memorial Highway running through the heart of the district northwest to southeast.

File photo

Suffolk County Police last night arrested a man for Leandra’s Law for driving while allegedly intoxicated with his three children in the vehicle following a crash in Commack.

Ryan McDonald was driving a 2019 Nissan Pathfinder northbound on Townline Road, just south of Old Northport Road, when the vehicle left the roadway and crashed into a large boulder at approximately 7:10 p.m. McDonald’s three children, a 6-month-old boy, a 3-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl, were in the backseat of the Pathfinder. Fourth Precinct police officers responded to the scene and determined McDonald was intoxicated.

McDonald and the children were transported to a local hospital. McDonald was treated for minor injuries. The children were not injured and were released to the custody of their mother at the hospital.

Fourth Squad detectives charged McDonald, 33, of Commack, with Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger 15 Years Old or Younger (Leandra’s Law), Driving While Ability Impaired by Drugs, and three counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child. He is being held overnight at the Fourth Precinct and was scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip Aug. 19.

The pandemic may have caused it to be canceled last year, but the annual Cars and Guitars Classic Car Show and Fundraiser came back stronger than ever Sunday, April 18, in the Miller’s Ale House parking lot in Commack.

Throughout the late morning and early afternoon, hundreds viewed the classic cars on display. Hosted by East to West Classic Cars, the event raises money for the national nonprofit Hope For The Warriors, which provides assistance to combat wounded service members, their families, and families of those killed in action. East to West Classic Cars president Dean Nichol said the club has had a relationship with the nonprofit for 10 years, and 91 cents on every dollar donated goes to the cause. Nichol said this year the event was so popular that they ran out of room after 700 car owners showed up to display their vehicles. He added that 30% more than 2019 was raised for the cause.

The event also included entertainment by the band RPM and Friends. 

According to a press release from the car organization, Robin Kelleher, president and founder of Hope for the Warriors, was in attendance April 18.

 “I left with tears in my eyes as I drove away, after such a tough year in 2020 finally some normalcy,” Kelleher said.

A sharing table at Heritage Park. Photo by Julianne Mosher

By Julianne Mosher and Rita J. Egan

Give a little, take a little — sharing is caring. 

A new phenomenon that has made its way across Long Island — and now the country — is a discreet way to help those in need. 

The Sharing Tables concept, of New York and California, was started up in November by a Seaford mom and her young daughter. 

“I woke up on Sunday, Nov. 22, and me and my 6-year-old daughter didn’t have anything to do that day,” Mary Kate Tischler, founder of the group, said. “We went through our cabinets, got some stuff from the grocery store and started publicizing the table on Facebook.”

The Sharing Table is a simple concept, according to her: “Take what you need and leave what you can, if you can.”

Tischler, who grew up in Stony Brook, said the idea is that whoever sets up a table in front of their home or business will put items out that people might need, with the community coming together to replenish it.

“The very first day people were taking things and dropping things off,” she said. “It was working just as it was supposed to.”

When the table is set up, organizers put out anything and everything a person might need. Some put out nonperishable foods, some put toiletries. Others put toys and books, with some tables having unworn clothing and shoes. No one mans the table. It’s just out front, where someone can discreetly visit and grab what they need.

“Since there’s no one that stands behind the table, people can come up anonymously and take the item without identifying themselves or asking any questions,” Tischler said. ”Some of our neighbors are in a tough time where they can’t pay their bills. I think the Sharing Tables are really helping fill those needs.”

And they’re popping up everywhere. In just three months, the group has nearly 30 Sharing Tables in New York, with one just launched in Santa Monica, California.

Mount Sinai

From clothing to toys, to food and books, Sharing Tables, like the one pictured here in Mount Sinai, are a way to help in a discreet and anonymous way. Photo by Julianne Mosher

On Sunday, Jan. 18, a Sharing Table was put outside the Heritage Trust building at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai.

Victoria Hazan, president of the trust, said she saw the Sharing Tables on social media and knew that the local community needed one, too.

“It was nothing but good, positive vibes,” she said.

When she set up the table with dozens of different items that were donated, people already started pulling up to either grab something they needed or donate to the cause.

“Some people are shy,” Hazan said. “What’s great is that you set up the table and walk away. There’s no judgement and no questions asked.”

What’s available at the tables will vary by community and what donations come in.

“The response from the community blew my mind totally,” Hazan said. “This was the right time to do this.”

St. James

Joanne Evangelist, of St. James, was the first person in Suffolk County to set up a Sharing Table, and soon after, other residents in the county followed.

The wife and mother of two said it was the end of the Christmas season when she was cleaning out drawers and her pantry. On the Facebook page Smithtown Freecycle, she posted that she had stuff to give away if anyone wanted it, but she would find sometimes people wouldn’t show up after she put something aside for them.

“So, I put it on a table outside — not even knowing about the group or thinking anything of it,” she said, adding she would post what was outside on the freecycle page.

Joanne Evangelist stands by her table in St. James filled with food, cleaning supplies and more. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Tischler saw the Smithtown Freecycle post and reached out to Evangelist to see if she would be interested in setting up a Sharing Table. The St. James woman thought it was a good idea when she heard it. While Evangelist regularly has food, toiletries, cleaning products and baby products on the table, from time to time there will be clothing, toys and other random items. Recently, she held a coat drive and the outwear was donated to Lighthouse Mission in Bellport, which helps those with food insecurities and the homeless.

She said she keeps the table outside on her front lawn all day long, even at night, unless it’s going to rain, or the temperatures dip too low. People can pick up items at any time, and she said no one is questioned.

Evangelist said she also keeps a box out for donations so she can organize them on the table later on in the day, and the response from local residents wanting to drop off items has been touching.

She said helping out others is something she always liked to do. 

“I was a candy striper in the hospital when I was younger,” she said. “I just always loved volunteering, and I’m a stay-at-home mom, so, honestly anything I could do … especially with the pandemic.”

Evangelist said she understands what people go through during tough financial times.

“I’ve used a pantry before, so I know the feeling,” she said. “I know the embarrassment of it.”

Northport

Lisa Conway, of Northport, and two of her five children, Aidan, 16, and Kate, 14, set up a Sharing Table after their garage was burglarized on New Year’s Eve.

Conway said her children, who attend St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, were looking for a community outreach project. She had seen a post about the Sharing Tables on Facebook and was considering starting one, but she was debating how involved it would be.

Then the Conway’s garage was burglarized where thousands of dollars of tools were stolen, an electric skateboard, dirt bike and more including a generator that was taken from the basement. The wife and mother said the family felt fortunate that the robbers didn’t enter the main part of the house.

Conway said after the experience she realized that some people need to steal to get what they need and decided the Sharing Table would be a good idea.

“They can come take what they need without having to steal from anyone,” she said.

Her children have been helping to organize the items they receive, and every day Aidan will set everything up before school and clean up at night. He said it’s no big deal as it takes just a few minutes each day.

Aidan said there have been more givers than takers.

“People are a lot more generous than what I expected them to be,” he said.

The mother and son said they have been touched by the generosity of their fellow residents. Conway said she’s been using the Nextdoor app mostly to generate contributions. She said she started posting on the app to let people know what they needed for the table. One day after a posting indicating they needed cleaning supplies for the table, they woke up to find the items outside.

The family has also received a $200 Amazon gift card to buy items, and another person bought them a canopy to protect the table. 

Conway said every once in a while, she will be outside when people are picking up items. One woman told her how she drove from Nassau County. Her husband was suffering from three different types of cancer, and he couldn’t work due to his compromised immune system. She told her how they had to pay the bills first, and then if there was money left over they could buy food.

Another day Conway went outside to see that someone had left gum and mints on the table.

“I just was so touched by that,” the mother said. “They wanted to leave something they didn’t just want to take, and that’s all they had.”

Conway said it’s a learning experience for her children to know that there are people on public assistance who can’t use the funds for items such as paper goods or cleaning items, and there are others who are struggling but not eligible for any kind of assistance.

“My youngest one is 9, and even he can’t believe when he sees people pulling up,” she said. “He’s not really in the helping phase but I love that he’s seeing what we’re doing.”

Aidan agreed that it is an important learning experience. He said before he wasn’t familiar with those who had financial issues.

“It’s not good to know that there are people out there with financial issues, but it’s good to know that you can help them,” he said.

Conway said the Sharing Tables came around at the right time as she was suffering from “COVID fatigue,” and it changed her outlook on life.

“I feel like my faith in humanity has been restored,” she said.

How you can help

Tischler said that if people would like to donate but cannot get to a Sharing Table, there is an Amazon wish list on the group’s Facebook page. Items ordered through the site will be delivered to Tischler’s home, where she will personally deliver to the Sharing Tables across Long Island. Addresses for locations are listed on the Facebook page.

“It’s been such a whirlwind,” she added. “I have to stop and pinch myself and take stock of what’s happening.”

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Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County Police 4th Precinct Crime Section officers are seeking the public’s help to identify a man who allegedly stole property from a Commack store in May.

A man allegedly stole a portable generator from Walmart, located at 85 Crooked Hill Road May 25 at approximately 10:25 a.m. The stolen merchandise was valued at approximately $300.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS, utilizing a mobile app which can be downloaded through the App Store or Google Play by searching P3 Tips, or online at www.P3Tips.com. All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.

Tandy Jeckel, above, stands in the expanded Tandy Wear. Photo by Julianne Mosher

A pandemic didn’t stop TandyWear from expanding, in fact, it gave them the push do something great. 

The upscale clothing boutique located at 89 Commack Road in Commack is celebrating 10 years at its location with a store expansion and launch of its junior’s selection, TandyGirl.

An inside look at the expansion of TandyWear in Commack. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Owner Tandy Jeckel began her brand 25 years ago selling woman’s accessories and handbags. Then 10 years ago, she moved to the current brick and mortar store with a goal to dress local women in the trendiest of clothes with a low budget. She said that she began noticing girls shopping alongside their mothers, so Jeckel wanted to cater to them, too, by expanding her inventory and sizes. 

“Everybody feels like they can shop here,” she said. “They can feel good about themselves, and they can be with their moms.”

With inclusive sizing ranging from extra small to 2XL, Jeckel realized that she needed to expand her square footage to meet the demands of a bigger catalog. 

And while the COVID-19 pandemic was hard on many businesses, Jeckel said she and her store lucked out, taking advantage of masks early on and making them a fashion statement. “That was something that we knew everybody needed, but they wanted to be fashionable,” she said. 

Jeckel said that next door to her shop, an empty storefront laid vacant for nearly three years. She always wanted that space, she said, and decided in August to make the jump.

“Since we were doing really well during the pandemic with the mask sales and curbside pickup, we pivoted,” she said, “We just took something and made it happen.”

She had a short amount of time to break down the wall of the former Karate school and reinvent the space. They officially opened the second side the day before Black Friday.

With the new side of the store contemporary casual wear for the young and young-at-heart, it also includes a wall of dressing rooms, sparkling chandeliers and a positive message.

TandyWear wanted to give back to the community while opening up their new space. This week, a portion of all sales from the weekend of Dec. 11-13 will be donated to the Long Island Coalition Against Bullying.

A table featuring cards from the anti-bullying campaign that TandyWear is taking part in. Photo by Julianne Mosher

LICAB helps to create bully-free communities across Long Island through education, increased awareness and therapeutic outlets, offering a variety of programs and services such as school assistance programs, care packages, youth leadership programs and subsidized therapy. 

On the counter and inside those fresh dressing rooms, are 5×7 index cards that subtly say that “you’re beautiful,” and encourages girls who are struggling with bullies to reach out — a discrete way for girls to find information. 

LICAB founder and Executive Director Joe Salamone said that partnering with a store like TandyWear helps get the word out on his organization and gives girls an outlet that will make them feel better if they’re struggling. “Any opportunity that gets us in front of the community who may need us so we can help is great,” he said. “The cards give us the opportunity for kids to get in touch with us in a judgement-free way.”

Salamone said the cards were delivered to the store in early November, and Jeckel said the first pile of cards is almost gone. 

Jeckel said the anti-bullying campaign hits close to home, as her daughter was bullied as a child.

“I’m very happy to get involved with the anti-bullying coalition because my daughter was bullied in middle school and high school,” she said. “She never really came out and said anything — she just dealt with it and masked it, and she was one of the lucky ones that got through it. But if she had this group, it would have really helped her.”

Jeckel said that she knows girls are embarrassed to talk about how they’re feeling, and often hears stories from mothers and their daughters who were also struggling with bullies at school and online. But now with the partnership, she’s already receiving positive feedback. 

“Moms are just really happy because they know someone or their child is being bullied, and they didn’t know there was a place that could really go for help,” she said.

These anti-bullying materials will be available in store year-round at TandyGirl.

“I would like to make a difference,” she said. “I want to make people feel good who are all shapes and sizes. When they look good, they feel good.” 

An inside look at Huntington Village's Little Switzerland Toy Store. Photo by Lina Weingarten

COVID-19 has impacted business globally, but for local mom-and-pop shops across Long Island, they have been hit twice as hard. 

Between the impact of online retailers, plus big box stores, the pandemic has made it even more difficult to make a sale for these smaller businesses.

When people shop small, the sales tax goes right back into the local economy. The community depends on these stores to make the village look great, while also supporting a neighbor. 

That’s why on Thanksgiving weekend, Small Business Saturday immediately followed the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, with hopes to bring revenue into the smaller stores. 

All weekend long throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties, local shop owners gleamed with hope that customers would continue their holiday shopping “small” and keeping these businesses afloat. 

Here’s what some small business owners had to say: 

Madison’s Niche employees at the Stony Brook store. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Madison’s Niche 

83 Main St., Stony Brook/14 Wall St., Huntington

Madison’s Niche, with four locations throughout Long Island, is a lifestyle boutique that sells everything from baby onesies to UGG boots to home décor.

At the Stony Brook Village Center store, director Carolynn Mertens said that they did “fantastic” this past holiday weekend.

“We’re up in sales,” she said. “We’re very grateful to be up, and we didn’t think it was going to happen, but we’re very lucky.”

From Friday to Sunday, Mertens said she saw dozens of people shopping with their holiday lists in hand, while a lot of people were even shopping for themselves.

“I think people want to support small businesses,” she said. “They don’t want to see any more empty stores in their community and are trying to keep our mom-and-pop stores alive.”

Compared to a big box store or the mall, Mertens believes that customers feel more comfortable shopping in her stores.

“Our stores are easy to shop in,” she said. “We can maintain social distancing and we are constantly disinfecting.”

Morolay Children’s Boutique is now open by appointment only. Photo by Lina Weingarten

Morolay Children’s Boutique 

302 New York Ave., Huntington 

This holiday season is looking a little different for Morolay Children’s Boutique on New York Avenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Under these unique circumstances, we’re fully by appointment,” said owner Leah Casabona. 

But that works in the customers favor, because it provides an even more one-on-one shopping experience for people looking to come in. 

“The customer service here is much better than big chain stores,” she said. “We personally deal with our customers and live in the community.”

For the past 21 years, Morolay has been a staple to the Huntington community, known for selling special occasion wear to local children. 

“If you support small business, that sales tax goes back into our own local community,” she said. “And, the uniqueness of Huntington makes it a desirable place to live.”

Casabona said that shopping small is the way to go this and every other year.

“We need to be more conscious to help small businesses now more than ever,” she said.

Lily Bergh stands behind the counter at Little Switzerland Toys & Dolls. Photo by Lina Weingarten

Little Switzerland Toys & Dolls

267 Main St., Huntington

Lily Bergh, owner of Little Switzerland Toys & Dolls, said she has been in the business for more than 30 years. 

This holiday season, she’s reminding people that shopping in-store is part of the magic that is Christmas. 

“It was so nice seeing the kids with their big smiles this weekend,” she said. “They were making lists for Santa while walking around the store.”

Since opening in 1981, Bergh said that three generations now have been walking through her front door to buy presents during the holidays.

“The kids will come in with their grandmas and say with excitement, ‘Wow, a toy store!’”

And that reaction isn’t the same when a child walks through a toy aisle at a larger retailer.

“You’re just a number at a big box store,” she said. “And, I think it’s important to actually be able to pick up or touch a toy.” 

Bergh said that the last nine months have been hard for her and the business, but Saturday and Sunday had a great turnout. 

“It was awesome,” she said. “But we need more to make up for the four months we were closed. We want to stay in Huntington. It’s important.”

She said her toy store is a “wonderland” and strives to bring good memories to little ones visiting inside. She hopes that more people will continue to shop at her store, especially now. 

“I don’t care who you shop from, but you need to shop local,” she said.

TandyWear in Commack recently expanded. Photo by Rita Egan

TandyWear

89 Commack Road, Commack

TandyWear has been in business for over 20 years and owner Tandy Jeckel said shopping at her store is a safe and fun experience, especially during these unprecedented times.

“We’re on a first-name basis with our customers,” she said. “You’ll get a personalized experience — we have an amazing team, amazing stylists, we’ll find your style.”

Jeckel said that this past Saturday was the best Small Business Saturday they have ever had.  

“It was amazing,” she said. “We had so much foot traffic. It was great.”

Known for their dressy wear, comfy wear, going out wear and trendy wear, the store has something for everyone. 

“We get new styles daily, and we sell masks to match,” she said.

Throughout the holiday weekend, Jeckel said she offered doorbusters and 20% off the entire store.

Jeckel thinks people are gravitating toward the smaller shops because the big box stores are also competing with online retailers and are closing due to them. 

“The big box stores aren’t around anymore,” she said. “You have a few small chain stores, and then us.”

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Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County Police 2nd Squad Detectives are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate the man and woman who allegedly used stolen credit cards at a Melville store and two Commack stores in September.

Credit cards were stolen from a purse in a shopping cart inside Trader Joes, located at 5900 Jericho Turnpike in Commack, Sept. 17 at approximately 1:15 p.m. Later that day, a man and woman used the stolen credit cards at Home Depot, located at 65 Crooked Hill Road in Commack, as well as at two separate Dick’s Sporting Goods, located at 6070 Jericho Turnpike in Commack and 870 Walt Whitman Road in Melville.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS.