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Comsewogue Public Library

Libraries Make Difficult Decisions Regarding Budget Votes

The Suffolk County Library System offices in Bellport have been turned into a 3D printing farm for face shields. Photo from SCLS

Libraries across Suffolk County may be closed, but they are not done serving the community.

In fact, the entire county library system has pulled together using a unique resource to benefit healthcare workers at Stony Brook hospital. 

The Suffolk County Library System offices in Bellport have been turned into a 3D printing farm for face shields. Photo from SCLS

The Suffolk Cooperative Library System has pulled together well over 50 3D printers from libraries across its network into one auditorium — now a sort of 3D printing farm — at its headquarters in Bellport. Hourly, these printers are churning out plastic parts for face shields used by medical workers. 

By March 30, officials expect over 70 printers should be hooked up to the printing farm. While the first five printers were owned by the library system, a score of others have come courtesy of local public libraries. Those who did not even have one, asked the library system to order one on their behalf, saying they will own it once the coronavirus crisis has ended.

Hospital workers use to avoid the splash of fluids to their faces from sick patients, and the printing farm is creating the headband portion of the protective gear. Stony Brook University’s iCREATE lab, hosted by IT professional David Ecker, has been producing said face shields for the past several days. Once the batch of headbands is printed by SCLS, Ecker accepts the devices and finalizes construction. 

Ecker has also included instructions for people to make their own face shields at https://nyinnovate.com/2020/03/26/face-shields-icreate/

Roger Reyes, the assistant director at the SCLS, has been working long hours getting everything up and running. While originally with fewer printers they were doing 75 a day, he said with a bevy of more printers he expects an output of about 250 a day. Each batch is delivered to Stony Brook by appointment. Each component takes around 2 to 3 and ½ hours depending on the model of the printer, but with the mass of devices at the Bellport office, they have been able to supply Stony Brook with many, many more components than Ecker was able to produce on his few machines. He added that MakerBot, a company that produces 3D printers, has committed to donate plastic filament to the project.

The Suffolk County Library System offices in Bellport have been turned into a 3D printing farm for face shields. Photo from SCLS

He was surprised by the number of libraries who went out of their way to reach out and provide their printers once the call went out. He said it was amazing for even the libraries who didn’t have printers who reached out to tell them to purchase another printer on their dime.

“I know the libraries,”Reyes said.  “I’ve worked with the library system for 11 years — they were struggling to close their buildings.Normally, libraries are there in emergency situations. That’s where people go for refuge, help and information, so to close their doors is hard for them. This idea is a relief for them.”

Comsewogue Public Library’s 3D printer was one of the first hooked up to the system after the SCLS set up its own internal bank of five printers, according to Debbie Englehardt, the library’s director. She said the library also provided its filament, which is the plastic the printers heat up and use to print said objects.

“The library system is continuing to ask SBU Hospital how else we can assist, whether it’s with encouraging the public as to a particular cover for N95 masks or getting the info out as to what’s needed.”

Tom Donlon, the director of the Port Jefferson Free Library, said they donated two of their printers, one from reference and another from the teen center. Additionally, the library has purchased an additional three printers to use on the farm. These were devices the director said his library was already planning to purchase.  The Middle Country Public Library donated five 3D printers, and the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket also announced it purchased a printer for use by the SCLS.

Libraries Look to Offer Services While Closed

Englehardt said it has been hard on the staff especially once it became clear the Comsewogue library had to close. Staff were nervous, but then something unique happened. One of her staff helped library workers through a staff Facebook group in guided meditation. The members  found it so successful, the library is now offering it on Facebook in periodic events for the general public.

Libraries all over have had to recreate its services online during the isolation of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We feel during this time that people would like a familiar librarian face to chat with,” Donlon said, also chatting up several classes including tutorials for people looking to use GoToMeeting, tutorials for how to download ebooks on Kindle and an online Teen Center Meetup, scheduled for Tuesday at 4 p.m. The library has also installed a chat app on the website that is being monitored by librarians in shifts to answer in real time.

Comsewogue Public Library has tried to bring some of its demonstrations and activities normally held in the library space online, including chats with librarians through video and cooking demonstrations. Libraries have also expanded access to sites like Hoopla and Kanopy, which allows patrons to access books and movies from home.

“We’ve all had an interesting time of it — we’ve had to basically reinvent our service program in order to bring it online and to try and differentiate what we’re offering compared to what other outlets are offering,” Englehardt said. “People are working from home. It’s discombobulating and isolating with everyone working on crazy schedules. People are overstimulated, and it’s hard to force yourself to relax.”

Libraries all across Long Island have had to make hard choices, especially those who hold budget votes and board elections in the spring months. The Port Jefferson Free Library announced March 25 it would be not holding its budget vote as scheduled for April 7. Donlon said in a statement they were looking at possibly rescheduling for June. Similarly, with libraries mandated closed by New York State until April 19, Comsewogue will also not be able to hold a public budget vote, though it plans to go ahead with a budget and board election in June.

Though there is another option available to libraries — essentially not holding a public vote, which Englehardt said would mean reverting back to last year’s tax year numbers.

This could potentially mean a drop in tax revenue and potentially financial aid to those libraries who take this route. 

“Each library would have to evaluate and re approach the operating budget,” she said “It would mean changes — we don’t know how the situation could affect state aid.”

It could also mean a change in services if the library board decides to go that route.

“Would hope the public wouldn’t notice any changes to service programs,” Englehardt said. “We know people will need us more than ever.”

The Middle Country Public Library continues to remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but library directors said its remote operations and digital platforms have been embraced and heavily trafficked by patrons who are utilizing the valuable access to information, programs and services.

The use of electronic resources has grown exponentially, and during this time, the library has offered more then 60 programs virtually, many of which were recorded and are available to view on the YouTube channel mcpl.tv. Included are programs for all ages such as instruction for using Google Classroom, yoga, cooking programs, art activities and story times. Visit http://www.mcplibrary.org/online-programs/ for a complete listing of online programs. Features include Citizenship Preparation, story times, cooking instruction, book discussions and arts and crafts activities.

In addition, Middle Country residents can register for a temporary library card online and contact the library’s customer service department to update the card to one with full privileges. A MCPL library card allows patrons to access the library’s extensive online offerings, including access to Live-brary, Hoopla, Kanopy and RB Digital, through which patrons can access thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, music and movies, as well as learning resources including online homework help and language learning.

This story was updated to say the Middle Country Public Library donated five 3D printers.

Sei Ramen in East Setauket is just one Asian restaurant on Long Island that said business is down since the start of the coronavirus panic. Photo by David Luces

The uncertainty of the coronavirus has led many people to avoid public places that see a lot of foot traffic. Some have resorted to hunkering down at home. With the first confirmed cases of coronavirus reported in Suffolk County this past week, despite efforts to sanitize their locations, some local businesses owners have been seeing the impact directly.

Since the outbreak began in China late last year, Asian American and Chinese restaurants and businesses have seen a decline in the number of customers. 

The Great Wall Chinese restaurant in Sound Beach is just one of several Asian establishments impacted by irrational fears over the coronavirus. Photo from Google Maps

Kevin Ma, co-owner of Sei Ramen in East Setauket, acknowledged the drop-off in business. 

Business “for area restaurants, it’s going down,” he said. “I have friends that run their own businesses and they are going through the same thing.”

Since opening last month, Ma believes they have been doing OK and hopes to see an uptick in customers once the coronavirus scare dies down.

“All we can do is let customers know the food is safe [to eat],” he said. “We are making sure everything is clean and sanitized.”  

Gary Pollakusky, president and executive director of Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce, said the fears of coronavirus are affecting businesses in the area. 

“I spoke to two Chinese restaurants [that are chamber members], they don’t want this to affect them,” he said. 

Pollakusky said misinformation on the coronavirus has caused the reduction in business, especially to the new owners of the Great Wall, a Chinese restaurant in Sound Beach. 

“The fears of the people toward Chinese food are irrational — people shouldn’t be afraid of eating local,” he said. “The Great Wall in Sound Beach has new owners and they are very excited to be a part of this community.”

The executive director said all businesses are taking the proper precautions and safety measures to make sure its facilities are clean. 

Libraries also see a lot of visitors and are trying to stay a step ahead.  

Ted Gutmann, director at Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket, said they are closely monitoring the situation. 

“We take the health and the safety of our patrons very seriously,” he said. “We have ordered additional cleaning supplies to clean surfaces, computers, keyboards and other areas.”

Gutmann said if patrons feel sick, he would advise them not to come to the library. 

“We have tried to be proactive, we haven’t really seen a decrease in attendance at the library,” the director said.

At this point, Emma Clark has not decided to cancel any upcoming events but has had internal discussions about the problem, should the overall situation gets worse. 

Debbie Engelhardt, director of Comsewogue Public Library, had similar sentiments. 

“We haven’t noticed a change in attendance,” she said. “We are trying to be proactive, just washing our hands is part of our daily routine.” 

Engelhardt said they already had numerous sanitizers installed throughout the building. 

“We increased signage reminding employees and patrons to wash their hands,” she said. “If employees are sick, we have told them to stay home — we are monitoring information from the state and county. We are trying to stay educated, we have a responsibility as a public service building.”  

“We are making sure everything is clean and sanitized.”

— Kevin Ma

Several local groups have been canceling events. The Three Village Democratic Club, Three Village Historical Society and Three Village Community Trust have all canceled or pushed off events out of a sense of caution. 

Brookhaven Town has released an executive order canceling all town events for senior citizens due to coronavirus concerns. Those events are suspended beginning March 12. Meals on Wheels deliveries will continue to homebound seniors, while those previously served by congregate nutrition programs at senior centers will be offered meal delivery at home.

Residents can call 631-451-8696 for more information.

Despite the preparation, other businesses said they haven’t seen much of an impact so far.

Bobby Suchan, general manager of Port Jeff Bowl, said besides less people coming into bowling alleys in general, they haven’t seen a change in business as of now. 

“We have installed more hand sanitizer in the building and just making sure everything is clean, which is something we always do,” he said. 

Charlie Ziegler, director of operations at Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook, said it’s business as usual at the hotel. 

“It’s not having an effect [on us] — the number of customers coming is the same,” he said. 

Despite that, Ziegler said they will continue to make sure everything in the building is cleaned and sanitized. 

“We had a meeting recently with the staff and we told them to make sure to wash their hands constantly,” he said. “We want to keep areas clean … we are disinfecting areas like the great room, telephones and door handles.”

Ziegler said they don’t anticipate any further disruptions from the coronavirus situation. 

Last Saturday, Feb. 29, at the Comsewogue Public Library, people from all over Long Island clutched broken antiques, busted electronics, ripped clothing and many, many battered lamps in their laps. Surrounding them were tables where fixers, experts and simple tinkerers plugging away at all things broken, trying their best to make them whole again.

Richard Feldman, a retired teacher, was one of the volunteers, called “coaches,” helping people fix their items. He’s a tinkerer, the kind of guy who could make you a homemade hammer from stained and lacquered paint stirrers and a head made from junk he found on the side of the road.

“You can fix anything, as long as you know what’s wrong.”

— Paul Orfin

Feldman was helping Centereach woman Blanche Casey open up a small antique safe. It had been closed after too many young hands of her grandchildren had fiddled with it. Casey had taken such an item to other repair shops, but none knew what to do with it. Instead at the Repair Cafe, Feldman fiddled with the safe until it finally revealed its hoard of pennies that spilled out onto the table. Casey thanked Feldman several times, but the tinkerer said sometimes such repairs require a little divine intervention.

“Sometimes, with things like this, it’s just luck,” he said. “It’s just pure fun, and I enjoy it. It’s why I’m here.” 

This is not the first time Repair Cafe Long Island has come to Comsewogue. For the past several years a small group of volunteer enthusiasts have helped save broken items from dumpsters and the landfill. 

Laurie Farber, of Wyandanch, has run the LI chapter of Repair Cafe since 2007, originally hosting her first at the Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Church in Wyandanch. Under Starflower Experiences Inc., a nonprofit, she has since hosted more all across Long Island, east and west, the North Shore and South Shore, and everything in between. This year she has more cafes planned than the past several years. She has events coming up in both March and April, including one at the Elwood Public Library April 20.

The first repair cafe was started by a Dutch environmentalist in the Netherlands in 2009. The nonprofit Repair Cafe International Foundation now has 16,000 chapters across 35 countries. Farber started her branch even before there was one in New York City.

“The items that come in are usually of sentimental value,” she said. “People go home with something that may have been sitting in the closet for 20 years and it may have been a simple thing to fix.”

Though many of the volunteers see such repair as a hobby, several had quite the resume. Neal Fergenson is a chief electrical engineer for a military contractor. His wife saw an ad asking for people to volunteer their time, and now he’s been at it for two years. 

Just one of his projects that day was helping a woman fix her stereo system. The device had worked fine for over 30 years until this year, when the tuning knob simply stopped working. That Saturday Fergenson was busy jury-rigging a way to get the knob to connect to a post on the motherboard.

“We’re a throw-away society,” he said. “It gives people a chance to recycle things.”

Paul Orfin is an engineer at Brookhaven National Laboratory who works in the collider accelerator department, but that Saturday he was more known as the “lamp whiz.” The engineer had originally heard of the event through his local library in Patchogue.

At last year’s event, he had even put his engineering skills through their practice when he helped the library fix its 3-D printer it had on display.

“You can fix anything, as long as you know what’s wrong,” Orfin said.

Not everything can be fixed. Sometimes the items are damaged beyond repair, or, as is common these days, the necessary parts are simply unavailable.

“We already have a garbage problem, and just buying things is not always the answer.”

— Laurie Farber

A movement has been growing all across the county, called the right to repair. Car manufacturers have largely worked under a memorandum, based on a 2012 Massachusetts law providing all owners with documents and information to allow people to do their own repairs, but such ideas have not made their way into the tech sector. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, passed by Congress in 1998, electronics manufacturers have largely hindered or otherwise completely forbid people from tinkering with their devices. Some states have passed right to repair laws, but the New York Legislature failed to pass one in 2015.

Such anti-consumer practices have even found their way to farm equipment, with farm utilities manufacturer John Deere using a heavy hand to stop farmers from modifying or even fixing their equipment without taking it to a dealer.

Farber said such practices are just another example why these repair cafes have blossomed all across the world. Another, and it is especially important for Long Island, is to stop much of the products from ending up in the trash. 

“I think it’s a shame, we already have a garbage problem, and just buying things is not always the answer,” she said.

Gabriele Guerra, a real estate agent from Dix Hills, traveled all the way to the Comsewogue library for the chance to fix a lamp she found at the side of the road, a marble statue of a Spanish conquistador. 

In 2024, the Town of Brookhaven plans to close and cap its landfill. Once that happens, nobody is sure what will happen.

Though Guerra said there is one sure thing, that people will need to think about throwing less things away.

“Everybody’s throwing things out — instead fix them, recycle, reuse, don’t dump it on the street.”

File photo by Elana Glowatz

Comsewogue Public Library, 170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station offers this life-saving training through New York State’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) on Thursday, Feb. 27, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Learn to understand, recognize, respond to and reverse suspected opioid overdoses using naloxone. Attendees ages 16 and up will receive a free Narcan kit. Open to all. Please register, as seating is limited. Call 631-928-1212.

Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and PJ Village trustee, Kathianne Snaden, at the town’s Quality of Life Task Force’s first public meeting Dec. 17. Photo by Kyle Barr

As members of the Brookhaven Town’s Quality of Life Task Force walked in to the Comsewogue Public Library Dec. 17, looking to talk about the homeless issue, they were each greeted with a poignant reminder, a shopping cart laden with items, of containers and blankets, sitting in a handicapped space closest to the library’s main doors.

At the area surrounding the railroad tracks in the Port Jefferson area, men and women sleep outside even as the months grow colder. They sleep on benches and on the stoops of dilapidated buildings. Village code enforcement and Suffolk County police have said they know many of them by name, and services for them have been around, in some cases, for decades.

Still, homelessness in the Upper Port and Port Jefferson Station area continues to be an issue that has vexed local municipalities. On both sides of the railroad tracks, along Route 25A, also known as Main Street, residents constantly complain of seeing people sleeping on the stoops of vacant buildings.

But beyond a poor sight, the issue, officials said is multipronged. Dealing with it humanely, especially getting people services, remains complicated, while an all-encompassing, effective solution would require new efforts on every level of government.

Phase two of the task force, officials said, will mean coming out with a full report that includes recommendations, to be released sometime in 2020. Likely, it will come in the form of proposed state legislation regarding access to sober homes, bills to allow assistance in homeless transport, increased sharing of information between departments and municipalities, increased law enforcement activity, and revitalization efforts by both village and town while concurrently tackling quality of life issues.

Efforts by the town

At the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association meeting Dec. 17, members of the town’s task force, along with other local legislators, talked with residents about their findings.

The task force came into its own last year after a video of two homeless people having a sexual encounter on a bench in Port Jeff Station exploded in community social media groups like a bag of popcorn heated over a jet engine. The task force has brought together town, police, village, county and other nonprofit advocacy groups to the table, looking to hash out an effective response.

Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said much of the first phase of the task force has been collecting data, although some items still remain up in the air. Vincent Rothaar, of Suffolk County’s Department of Social Services, said there have been approximately 48 street homeless, but he was not sure if that was 48 outreaches to a single individual multiple times.

That is not to say the homeless population in the town’s District 1 and PJ Village is stagnant. Much of them are transient homeless, said PJS/T civic president, Sal Pitti, who is an ex-city police officer. Especially since Port Jeff contains the LIRR Station, those who sleep under a tent one morning may be gone the next day.

“It’s not just an issue that’s affected District 1, it’s an issue that’s affected the entire town, is affecting the entire county” Cartright said. “A lot of the legislation we’re putting forward is not just affecting District 1.”

“It’s not just an issue that’s affected District 1, it’s an issue that’s affected the entire town, is affecting the entire county”

– Valerie Cartright

Cartright has said that several months ago she stood out by the side of the road with a homeless couple that after weeks of talks and persuading finally agreed to go into a Suffolk County housing program. The county had called a cab to pick up the couple, and the councilwoman described how the people had to figure out what they were going to bring with them, going down from several bags between them to one bag a piece.

After calling the cab company, Cartright said the car had apparently got turned around, thinking they were in Port Jefferson instead of Port Jefferson Station. To get the homeless couple their ride, she had to make Suffolk County call up the company again.

Cartright has made efforts to use town-owned buses to help transport homeless individuals in emergency situations but was stymied by other members of the Town Board and officials in the county executive’s office, who said it was both unnecessary and not in the town’s purview.

Rothaar said DSS, especially its recently hired director Frances Pierre, would not dismiss any offer from any municipality of additional transportation services.

“We’re up to working with any government entity for the transport of a homeless person to one of our shelters,” he said. “We’re adamant of not just working with the Town of Brookhaven, but working with every municipality in Suffolk County.”

County offers more collaboration

The difficulty comes in trying to get services for the homeless population comes down to two things, officials said. One is the individual’s or group’s willingness to be helped, the other is the way the county manages the homeless person once they make it into the system.

The difficulty is enormous. Cartright said she has personally talked to individuals multiple times over a year before they even give a hint of wanting to be put in the system.

COPE officer for the Suffolk County police 6th Precinct, Casey Hines Berry, said the police have stepped up foot and bike patrols in the station area, the village and the Greenway Trail, along with talking to increasing communication with local businesses and shelters such as Pax Christi.

The Pax Christi Hospitality Center in Port Jefferson. Photo by Kyle Barr

“As we were able to determine who were the individuals committing crimes, we could determine who were the individuals who need housing, who have housing, who are refusing housing,” Berry said. “We did this by collaborating all our different resources within the community.”

She said there have been more arrests, specifically 362 from May 2018 to current date, compared to 245 from the previous time period. The disparity of those numbers she attributed to warrants identifying more people in the area who may be wanted for previous citations, especially in quality of life matters such as public urination or open containers. She added there is no gang activity in Port Jefferson Station, only gang-affiliated people living in the area. In May this year, police arrested one young man of Port Jeff Station for an alleged conspiracy to murder two others in Huntington Station.

But police are not allowed to simply arrest people who may be “loitering” on the street without due cause, she said. If a person is standing on private property, it’s up to the owner to call police to ask them for help getting them to move on. In cases where homeless may be living on property such as the LIPA-owned right-of-way, it’s up to that body to request help removing them.

Police know many of the stationary homeless on a first name basis. Getting them to come in to an emergency shelter or through DSS systems is the difficult part. Many, officials said, simply have difficulty trusting the system — or can’t — such as the case when a homeless, nonmarried couple cannot go into services together and would rather stay together than be separated and have help.

Rothaar said the DSS offers much more than emergency housing, including medical assistance, financial services, along with child and adult protective services.

He said department workers often go out to meet homeless individuals over and over. Each time they may bring a different individual, such as a priest or a different social worker, as if “we keep going out to them again and again, they might respond.” He said they have conducted 18 outreaches in the Port Jeff area since 2018 and have assisted 48 people.

“If we continue to reach out to them, they have come into our care, for lack of a better term, to receive case management services,” he said.

Port Jeff Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce vice president, Larry Ryan, said the best way to give homeless access to care is to be compassionate.

“People have to be willing to accept help,” he said. “You can offer it all you want but if that person’s not willing to take help, or use the services being provided for them, your hands get tied.”

That sentiment was echoed by Pax Christi director, Stephen Brazeau, who said he has seen DSS making a good effort, especially when the weather gets cold. He added that one must be cautious of thinking someone you meet on the street must be homeless.

“You always need to be there, need to always be available when that ‘yes’ comes,” Brazeau said.

Alex DeRosa, an aide to Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), said the county has already passed legislation, sponsored by Hahn, to allow police a copy of the list of emergency homes that was originally only kept by DSS.

There are more than 200 supportive housing sites in Suffolk County that DSS does not oversee, which are instead overseen by New York State. However, the state does not list where or how many sober homes in the area.

“That’s what we’re trying to change, increase that communication,” said Pitti.

Village works with local shelter

Residents have appeared at village meetings to state they have seen drug deals happening near the LIRR train tracks in Upper Port, specifically surrounding Hope House Ministries, which has provided services for homeless for just under 40 years.

Port Jefferson residents have mentioned witnessing catcalling and harassment on the train platform from people behind Pax Christi’s fence. One resident, Kathleen Riley, said she had witnessed what could have been a drug deal between people using Pax Christi’s back gate to exchange an item that was then taken by people onto a train.

Village officials said they have been in communication with the Pax Christi’s Brazeau. In the past few weeks, village trustee Kathianne Snaden said she has communicated with Pax Christi and has toured their facility along with village manager Joe Palumbo and Fred Leute, acting chief of code enforcement. While she commended the facility for the work it does, she suggested either extending or raising the exterior fence, though Palumbo said he was told they would not be able to take any action on new fencing until at least the new year.

Snaden said the village has also reached out to a fencing company that could create a new, larger fence in between the platform and Pax Christi, in order to reduce sight lines.

Brazeau said the shelter is looking to install a new fence around the side to the front of the building, and has agreed with the village about them installing a higher fence in between Pax Christi and the platform.

Regarding the back gate, he said fire code mandates it be open from the inside, but didn’t rule out including some kind of alarm system at a later date.

MTA representative Vanessa Lockel lauded the new train station to help beautify the area, along with new security cameras for added protection. However, when it came to adding new benches, civic leaders helped squash that attempt. Pitti said they feared more people using the benches for sleeping or encouraging more people to stay and loiter.

Snaden said code enforcement meets every train arriving in an effort to show a presence, which she said has led to a reduction in incidents, though code enforcement is limited in what they can do, with no power of arrest. MTA police, Lockel said, have more than 700 miles of track to cover on the Long Island Rail Road, and not enough people report incidents to their hotline, 718-361-2201, or text [email protected]

Other services available

Celina Wilson, president of the Bridge of Hope Resource Center in Port Jeff Station, has helped identify other nongovernment entities providing services for the homeless population in the area.

She said the two hospitals in Port Jeff, namely St. Charles and Mather, provide similar amounts of service as far as substance abuse, but while St. Charles hosts inpatient detox and rehabilitation services, Mather hosts outpatient alcohol and substance abuse programs.

There are numerous soup kitchens in both the village and station areas, but only two kitchens, Maryhaven and St. Gerard Majella, host food pantries. She said both groups reported to Bridge of Hope there was a decline in people utilizing their services as of a year ago.

Hope House Ministries hosts a range of services for the homeless, including the Pax Christi 25-bed emergency shelter.

“Most people are not aware of the available resources until they are in a crisis,” Wilson said. “And they are scrambling for answers.”

She said largely in the area, “everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing,” and thanked the local officials for taking action compared to other areas, like Brentwood, whose officials did not make efforts until the situation was already out of control.

“It’s been a wonderful opportunity to work with the members of the task force,” she said.

 

 

 

A sensory-friendly screening of Beetlejuice was held at the library in September. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

By Melissa Arnold

Enjoying a movie can be a great way for the entire family to spend some quality time together. But for people who are especially sensitive to light or sound, the experience can be difficult to handle, if not impossible.

At Comsewogue Public Library in Port Jefferson Station, the staff wants to ensure no one is excluded from its programs because of a lack of accessibility. Thanks to a suggestion from a visitor, the library now offers sensory-friendly movie opportunities once a month that are open to all. 

“We’ve always tried to really listen to the community about the needs that they have, and this was something we’d been looking to do for a while,” said Lori Holtz, head of adult services for the Comsewogue Public Library. “We see very regular attendance for this program, which shows us that people are really enjoying the experience.”

Earlier this year, an employee from a local group home for adults approached the library suggesting they try offering sensory-friendly movie screenings, said adult services librarian Christine Parker-Morales, who added that the program has been well-received and is continuing to expand.

According to the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD), at least 1 in 20 adults in the general population may be affected by SPD. For people with these disorders, any kind of sensory stimuli — bright lights or darkness, loud sounds, intense smells, certain clothing textures — can be overwhelming, confusing or disturbing.

Setting up a sensory-friendly movie is a simple process, said Danielle Minard, the library’s outreach librarian. All that’s needed is a bit of extra planning by leaving the lights on, lowering the sound, adding captions and providing advance information about the movie’s storyline and elements. “We try to show films that are fairly current,” Minard added. 

“We began the program this past March with Inside Out and since then, we’ve shown Mary Poppins Returns, Guardians of the Galaxy, Singin’ in the Rain and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” she said. In anticipation of Halloween, Tim Burton’s classic Beetlejuice was screened in September.

There are no special requirements, fees or advance registration required to see the sensory- friendly movies — all are welcome to attend.

“Libraries exist for everyone and we’re here to serve people of every age, regardless of their needs,” said Comsewogue Library Director Debra Engelhardt. “Everyone deserves quality services, and we’re continuing to learn how we can deliver those services better. I’m very proud of everyone’s hard work. I would encourage any community member to bring their interests and needs to their local library. It may take a while to get something started, but it’s our job to make good things happen for everyone who lives in the area.”

Sensory-friendly film screenings are held monthly on Friday mornings at 10:30 a.m. in the Community Room at the Comsewogue Public Library, 170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station. Upcoming screenings will be held Oct. 25 and Nov. 29. The films are not chosen ahead of time, but are appropriate for all ages. For more information, including additional sensory-friendly library programs, call 631-928-1212.

This article has been updated Oct. 22.

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Comsewogue library takes up task of preserving history

A number of artifacts now being displayed at the Comsewogue Public Library. Photo by Kyle Barr

If the old, black-and-white photos could speak, some would be crying. Others, perhaps, could be looking forward to the future.

Past Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld and Cumsewogue Historical Society President Jack Smith on a recent trip to the Gentlemen’s Driving Park in Terryville. File photo by Elana Glowatz

For 10 years, Jack Smith, a Port Jefferson Station resident and retired teacher, built the historical society from the ground up. He collected countless documents and materials and became a leading figure in local history. The Cumsewogue Historical Society, named to reflect the old spelling of the original Native Americans in that area, would be at the head of numerous outreach projects, from advocating Brookhaven town buy the Gentleman’s Driving Park in Terryville to fighting to preserve two historical structures on Main Street in Port Jefferson Station. Smith was named one of TBR News Media’s persons of the year on two separate occasions.

But by the end of 2018, Smith said he had no real choice but to dissolve the historical society, leaving thousands of artifacts to the care of the Comsewogue Public Library.

Smith said the historical society’s near 10-year run ended for a number of reasons. One was the society’s space at the Comsewogue Union Hall had mold problems and was an ill place to store items of historical significance, it not being climate controlled with structural issues. The other was the charter renewal for the historical society required that the society have five board members to vote. Smith added it had gotten harder and harder to find people willing to serve. At the start of 2019, he was also planning a half-year-long trip, and there would be very few people who could have taken care of the artifacts.

“It was just a perfect storm” he said. “I was very disappointed it couldn’t continue.”

Smith, 69, said it had grown increasingly hard to get the community active in its events.

Nick Acampora, the president of the Greater Port Jefferson Historical Society, had worked for years alongside Smith on a number of projects. He said people are busy in this day and age with work, and many have little time for volunteering. While he added his group is fortunate in the amount of support it gets, he’s always worried for the future.

“It’s a tough time for all volunteer organizations,” Acampora said. “Even some of our board members, some of them have been doing it for 30 years. When one of them steps back someone needs to take over, and who do we have to pass the baton onto?”

Brookhaven town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said town officials will continue to work to preserve historical sites in the area, all the while praising Smith for his past work.

“The Cumsewogue Historical Society has laid the foundation for us to continue to highlight history,” she said.

Instead of letting all the artifacts fall to the wayside, Smith presented all artifacts as a deed of gift to the Comsewogue Public Library, which he described as one of the real community centers in the PJS/Terryville area.

Library’s new historical role

Debbie Engelhardt, the library’s director, said she has long agreed that should the historical society dissolve for any reason the library would take in its artifacts.

“So while they understood the town historian would take very good care of the items, there was concern they wouldn’t be as readily available to the local residents,” she said. 

Lori Holtz, the exhibit coordinator and head of adult services at the library, made the connection that other historical societies often have deep roots and foundations in a community, leading to greater support, while the Cumsewogue Historical Society was born out of passion, it had that much more work to do, and needed that extra community support.

A number of artifacts now being displayed at the Comsewogue Public Library. Photo by Kyle Barr

“What he [Smith] was doing which was really noble — he was trying to gather things that really haven’t been gathered all this time and trying to create something,” she said. 

The library has displayed numerous items from the old historical society’s collection, including pictures and artifacts from the Comsewogue school district, pictures of the Gladyz family on their farm and even the rusted shell of binoculars from the old Gentleman’s Driving Park. The library plans to rotate these items in and out throughout the year.

However, the library isn’t stopping there. Holtz said they have future plans, including some things the historical society wouldn’t have been able to do, including scanning and digitizing some of the artifacts to make them available on the library’s website.

In honor of October being American Archives Month, the library is planning to put together an exhibit of several of the historical pictures and artifacts still not available at the library. The display will be available during regular operating hours. 

“We’re thinking it’s not going to be a really heavy lift to continue what we were doing and hopefully do a little bit more,” Holtz said. “Hopefully more people in the community do come forth.”

Barbara Russell, the Brookhaven town historian said the group did the right thing by donating all its materials to the library. 

“It takes a group of people to maintain a historical society,” Russell said. “They had a nice group of working members, but it was small, and you can’t have that small a pool of volunteers.” 

Smith continues to be involved with his artifacts, taking the trip to the library when the directors need help identifying artifacts. Both library and Smith have long worked together since the beginning of the historical society doing displays and lectures, but the president of the dissolved society said even then he would have a hard time getting people to come to events. 

Historical advocacy

Smith said while he will still continue to be active in the area, his advocacy days are largely over.

He and the historical society were involved in several projects, having been at the head of Brookhaven buying the Gentleman’s Driving Park property to help preserve it. Last year, Smith made a huge push to preserve 101 and 105 Main St. adjacent to the south side of the train tracks in Port Jefferson. Those buildings date to the early 1900s, one of which housed E.H. Rogers Feed Mill, a relic of the area’s agricultural roots. While the 2014 Port Jefferson Station Commercial Hub Study contained recommendations from local architects for preserving a number of those buildings, Smith had said last year they were under threat by local developers.

The above photo, taken in the early 1900s, is of the Rogers Grain and Feed Mill (a.k.a. the Remz Feed and Grain Mill) in Port Jefferson Station which serviced local and far-reaching businesses, farms and families throughout Long Island including the Brookhaven National Laboratory. This photo, along with others of the era, is on view at the Terryville Union Hall. Photo courtesy of Cumsewogue Historical Society

Sarah Kautz, the preservation director of Preservation Long Island, a nonprofit that advocates for protection and stewardship of historic sites, said Cumsewogue had reached out to them over those buildings looking for support. She added lacking support like the now defunct historical society to keep tabs on such projects impacts their ability to try and preserve such properties.

“For the work we do in helping to advocate for preservation across Long Island, we really depend on partners like that in local communities, because they’re the ones on the ground, they find out about these new proposals,” she said. “Advocacy really comes from them, the grass roots.”

Cartright said there are no new plans presented to the town about those properties on Main Street, but said she will work to protect those historic sites, along with maintaining the town-owned properties of the Gentleman’s Driving Park and Terryville Union Hall.

Acampora said he had conversations with Smith last year about those particular properties and had promised to work to preserve them. The news that his neighboring historical society had dissolved came as a shock to him and to the rest of the historical society’s board. He said his group will do its best to try and preserve those properties, along with other historical sites in the PJS/Terryville area.

“I’m hoping we can do something with those buildings on the south side of the tracks,” he said. “It’s going to be up to us, and that’s what we try to do with any of our old buildings — keep an eye on it and do what we can.”

Libraries across Suffolk County will have to deal with changes to the number of e-book copies allowed to them. Photo by Kyle Barr

As the internet has connected the world, libraries across Suffolk County have never been as linked as they are today with both patrons and each other.

The written word is strong, despite claims to the contrary, especially with the proliferation of e-books and audiobooks. Suffolk County’s Library System allows for libraries to request books from fellow libraries and gives access to multitudes of e-books and audiobooks alike, all free on request, barring a wait list.

Some publishing companies are not happy with the status quo.

Macmillan Publishers, an international corporation and one of the top five publishing houses across the globe, announced its intent to limit the number of copies allowed to libraries to one for the first eight weeks of release starting Nov. 1. After those eight weeks, they can purchase “expiring” e-book copies which need to be re-purchased after two years or 52 lends.

The Port Jefferson Library will have to deal with changes to the number of e-book copies allowed to them. Photo by Kyle Barr

While this decision has rocked libraries across the country, in Suffolk County, as the interlibrary program and e-book lending is handled by the Suffolk Cooperative Library System, that will mean one copy of an e-book for the entire system, according to Kevin Verbesey, director of the county library system. Just one e-book license for the whole of Suffolk and its near 1.5 million residents for the first eight weeks of its release.

To add some perspective, Verbesey said a hot new title could have thousands of residents on a wait list for the title, and the county library system usually tries to have one copy of said book for every two or three people requesting it. Like any anticipated piece of media, new and highly anticipated titles are most often sought and bought in those first eight weeks. Following that, barring renewed interest from something like a movie deal, attention begins to wane. Basically, the library system, which would usually purchase hundreds of licenses of that book, will effectively be restricted from having any. 

In socioeconomic terms, Verbesey said it means people who can afford it can buy a book. Those who can’t afford it will have their access restricted.

“In some parts of the county where there’s not great socioeconomic need, people have the option to ‘press buy’ and buy it for $12, but that’s not the case everywhere,” Verbesey said. “Rich people can have it, but poor people can’t.”

The North Shore is one of Suffolk County’s heaviest concentration of library users, the county library system director said. Those patrons could see some of the biggest impact of this decision.

Debbie Engelhardt, the Comsewogue Public Library director, said her patrons are savvy and know when books are set to hit the street, and they depend on the library to have e-book copies available.

North Shore Libray will have to deal with changes to the number of e-book copies allowed to them. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We have a long history of working very hard to get things into people’s hands as quickly as we can,” she said. “Think about a tiny little library someplace, they can buy one, and then all of Suffolk County can buy one. It just doesn’t seem equitable.”

Engelhardt said libraries often have deals to purchase books cheaper than retail price through deals with publishers. They will also create lease agreements to gather numerous copies of whatever is popular at the time, so they are not later burdened with multiple copies of that same tome. 

Ted Gutmann, the director of the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, also pointed to the interlibrary loan system, which means not every library will need to purchase every book as long as it’s available nearby. 

E-books, on the other hand, are purchased by libraries for sometimes five times its original asking price. A regular e-book could cost around $12. A library or library system will purchase it at around $50 or $60, according to Verbesey. This is because libraries need to buy the licensing agreement of the copy in order to lend it to multiple people over the course of its license before the agreement expires in a few years. Each publisher has different policies on how long the licenses last and what is the cost for relicensing a product. 

The Suffolk library system has an annual budget of $14 million, with $4 million being spent directly on e-books and for the services of Overdrive, an application used by libraries to distribute their electronic media. E-books currently make up approximately one of every four checkout items from libraries in Suffolk. 

Despite the price of these books, Verbesey said they are happy to purchase what can be hundreds of licenses of that one e-book if there’s demand. This new policy would make it pointless to purchase any copies.

Macmillan did not respond to a request for comment, but in its original July 25 letter to Macmillan authors and agents announcing the change, CEO John Sargent wrote, “It seems that given a choice between a purchase of an e-book for $12.99 or a frictionless lend for free, the American e-book reader is starting to lean heavily toward free … Our new terms are designed to protect the value of your books during their first format publication. But they also ensure that the mission of libraries is supported. They honor the libraries’ archival mandate and they reduce the cost and administrative burden associated with e-book lending. We are trying to address the concerns of all parties.”

The changes came after the corporation tested a 16-week embargo with e-books from its subsidiary Tor Publishing, concluding e-book lending had a negative impact on sales.

The Emma S. Clark Memorial Library will have to deal with changes to the number of e-book copies allowed to them. Photo by Kyle Barr

Overdrive CEO Steve Potash condemned the move, calling the company’s original test data faulty adding that very few Tor e-books are available in public library catalogs. He pointed to other studies that showed libraries had no material impact on e-book sales.

Authors published under MacMillan include romance author Nora Roberts, young adult fantasy based in African myth Tomi Adeyemi, and even famous and deceased authors such as C.S. Lewis. The company is also set to publish whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s memoirs this month, which is sure to become a hotly requested item.

And though the libraries have no control over the publisher’s requests, some expect the onus to fall on the individual libraries themselves. 

“When a library serving many thousands has only a single copy of a new title in e-book format, it’s the library — not the publisher — that feels the heat,” said American Library Association President Wanda Brown in a July 25 statement. “It’s the local library that’s perceived as being unresponsive to community needs,” she added.

Engelhardt pointed to data from the national Library Journal’s Generational Reading Survey for 2019, which showed 42 percent of those surveyed purchased the same book they borrowed from the library, and 70 percent bought another book of the same author of a book they borrowed. She added libraries are some of the biggest promoters for individual books, authors and literacy in general, and Macmillan may only be hurting its own brand.

While the limitation on e-book lending won’t be in effect until November, libraries are already preparing to tell their patrons why Macmillan books won’t be available electronically. 

“We’re going to have to explain the publisher is not working with local libraries,” she said.

 

Comsewogue Public Library, 170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station will host a Job Fair by the Suffolk County One-Stop Employment Center on Tuesday, Aug. 20 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Representatives from AFLAC, ABLE Healthcare, Allstate, Altice USA, Amneal Pharmaceuticals, CulinArt, Developmental Disabilities Institute, DiCarlo Food Distributors, East End Disabilities, Express Employment Professionals, Family First Home Companions, Home Care Solutions, Home Instead, Jefferson’s Ferry, LI Headstart, National Recruiting Group, NYS Civil Service, Options for Community Living, RES TBI Services, Rockwell Collins, SCO Family of Services, South Shore Home Health, Suffolk AHRC, Titan Global, Triangle Building Products, Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace, US Postal Service, Walmart and YAI are scheduled to attend.

The fair is open to all and no registration is required. Bring your resume and dress to impress! For further information, call the library at 631-928-1212.