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Coram

Latoya Bazmore and Devon Toney, co-founders of All Included ’N’ Treated (A.I.N.T.), near Ross Memorial Park in Brentwood. Photo by Raymond Janis

After serving out a 17-year state prison sentence, Devon Toney returned to society unprepared for the challenges ahead.

Toney described parole as just another pressurized situation in a string of high-pressure environments that he has experienced since childhood. Parole, he said, only aggravated his post-traumatic stress disorder, stymying any opportunities for upward growth. 

He soon entered the shelter system in Suffolk County, traveling between homeless shelters and health care facilities, his most recent stay at The Linkage Center in Huntington. Eventually, feeling suffocated in the shelters and unable to sleep among strangers, he left that system for a life on the streets. By night, he slept in train stations, bus stations, dugouts and public parks. By day, he stole, often reselling juices and water just to get by. 

Without adequate resources and a lack of attention, Toney said those experiencing homelessness “have to steal,” that life on the streets “causes clean people — healthy people — to become addicts because that’s all they’re around.”

Toney remains homeless to the present day, currently residing near Ross Memorial Park in Brentwood. His story is one of countless examples of how easily one can become homeless after giving up on shelter, falling through the cracks with few opportunities to rise above these dire circumstances.

‘It’s probably one of the most difficult and complex moral and legal issues that I deal with.’

— Jonathan Kornreich

A startling trend

Mike Giuffrida, associate director of the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, a nonprofit that works throughout Long Island to determine better strategies and policies to address homelessness, said he has noticed a recent trend of others fleeing from shelters.

“Although emergency shelter is available to the majority of people who present as having nowhere else to go, we are seeing an increased rate of individuals who are presenting as unsheltered and are living on the street,” he said.

Motivating this shelter shock, Giuffrida sees two principal factors: “The greatest commonality of people that experience homelessness is … significant trauma, likely throughout the majority — if not all — of their lives,” he said. The second factor is the structure of the shelter system, which is constrained by strict guidelines from New York State and “can be retraumatizing for people or the shelter settings do not meet their needs.”

An aversion to communal living is commonplace among those requesting emergency shelter. In addition, occupants of these shelters are often asked to give up considerable portions of their income for shelter payments. “They pay, in some cases, almost all of their income in order to stay in that undesirable location,” Giuffrida said. 

Clusters of homeless encampments can be found in areas throughout Suffolk County. Brookhaven Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) says there are likely dozens of individuals experiencing homelessness in his council district alone, concentrated primarily in Port Jefferson Station. 

Kornreich complained about how he is limited in his capacity to help, saying he wishes that he could do more. “It’s probably one of the most difficult and complex moral and legal issues that I deal with,” he said. “The Town of Brookhaven doesn’t have any functions with respect to social services or enforcement, but because this is an area of concern to me, I try to identify people who might be in need of services and try to either talk to people myself or put them in touch with services.” 

Those services are provided through the Suffolk County Department of Social Services. In an emailed statement, a spokesperson affiliated with DSS outlined the array of options that are available through the department.

“The Suffolk County Department of Social Services offers temporary housing assistance, in shelter settings, to eligible individuals and families experiencing homelessness,” the spokesperson said. “We contract with nonprofit agencies that provide case management services to each client based on their individual needs, with a focus on housing support. Services may include referrals to community agencies, mental health programs, as well as medical services. These services, with the support and encouragement of shelter staff, work in concert to transition those experiencing homelessness to appropriate permanent housing resources.”

In an interview, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide economic challenges have only exacerbated the conditions of homelessness throughout the county. Despite external barriers, he holds that there is room for improvement.

“More could always be done, of course,” he said. “We are — as I’ve said many times before — coming out of COVID and grappling with impacts and effects that we’re going to be dealing with for years to come and that we don’t fully understand yet.” He added, “The Department of Social Services has, throughout COVID, and as we’ve started to move out of that now, worked very hard to fulfill its mission and will continue to do that.”

‘The frustrating part is that we are limited… We are limited in forcing a person to get medical treatment.’

— Sarah Anker

Accepting services: A two-way street

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) detailed the decades-long history of homelessness in Coram. She argues that it is closely tied to other pressing matters facing county government: public safety, access to health care, the opioid epidemic and inadequate compensation for social workers. 

The county legislator also blamed stringent state guidelines that handicap DSS’s outreach efforts. “The frustrating part is that we are limited,” Anker said. “We are limited in forcing a person to get medical treatment.”

Legislator Nick Caracappa (C-Selden), the majority leader of the county Legislature, voiced similar frustrations. He said he is concerned by the growing number of people that reject services from DSS.

“Even though you offer them help, you offer them shelter, and you offer them medical [assistance], they often turn it down,” he said. “They’d rather be out in the cold, alone, in the dark — whatever it is — than seek help. And that’s concerning.”

Emily Murphy, a licensed social worker who wrote a thesis paper investigating homelessness in Port Jefferson Station, said another significant problem is the lack of assistance for undocumented immigrants, whose immigration status bars them from applying for services.

“It’s not a DSS decision, but it comes from higher up, that if you don’t have documentation you can’t receive SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] benefits or shelter,” Murphy said.

This changes during the colder months, according to Murphy, as shelters open their doors to all. Murphy also observed how a lack of political mobilization hampers the homeless community from receiving adequate government representation.

“That was the main thing,” Murphy said, referring to the homeless population. “It was a voice that was so often unheard and unlistened to.”

The gradual downward slope

Joel Blau, professor emeritus of the School of Social Welfare at Stony Brook University, has followed trends in homelessness for decades. He attributes rising homelessness in the United States since the 1970s to the stagnation of wages across that time frame coupled with the rising cost of housing.

“The notion of somebody with a high school education maintaining a decent standard of living is becoming ever more elusive,” he said. “Housing prices, particularly in cities, have escalated a lot, so unless you have two professionals in the family or one person who makes a lot of money, it’s increasingly difficult to get decent housing.” 

Today, a growing number of people are just one step away from losing their homes. “Whether it be an accident or an illness or the loss of a job, all of a sudden they’re plummeting downward and onto the street,” he said.

Evaluating long-term projections of homelessness, Blau said there have been “periods where it plateaus and periods where it gets worse.” On the whole, he said, “the general trend is downward.”

Blau believes the way to remedy the issue is to change the ways in which society is organized. “It would require social housing, decommodifying it so that housing is a right, not something sold for profit,” he said. “And that’s probably, under the present political circumstances, a bridge too far.” In other words, problems associated with homelessness in this country have grown for many years and are likely to continue.

‘We need to let them know that we love and we care about them.’ — Devon Toney

Resurrection: A reason to hope

Toney has partnered with Latoya Bazmore, also of Brentwood, to create A.I.N.T. (All Included ’N’ Treated), a grassroots organization to combat homelessness in the community. 

Toney said his primary goal is to access adequate housing. After that, he intends to galvanize his peers in the community, serving as a beacon for those who are also going through the struggle of homelessness. As someone who has experienced homelessness firsthand and who can relate to the plight, Toney believes he is uniquely situated to be an agent of change and a force of good.

“I need to be the one that interacts with these gang members, these addicts … they need somebody to articulate things to them,” he said. “We need to comfort them. We need to let them know that we love and we care about them.”

To learn more about the A.I.N.T. project, please visit the AIN’T (all included N Treated) Facebook page or visit the group on Instagram: @all.included.and.treated.

The 9/11 memorial in Hauppauge. File photo by Rita J. Egan

“One of the worst days in American history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history. We’ll always honor the heroes of 9/11. And here at this hallowed place, we pledge that we will never forget their sacrifice.” — Former President George W. Bush

These were the patriotic thoughts of this president who reflected on the heroic services that were demonstrated by Americans during and after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. 

While it has been 20 years since our nation was attacked by the sting of terrorism, Americans have not forgotten this tragic moment. On the North Shore — about 80 miles from Manhattan at its easterly point — there are many memorials that honor the local residents who were killed, the dedication of the rescue workers and the War on Terror veterans who defended this nation at home and abroad for the last two decades.

There has been a tremendous amount of support from the local municipalities, state and local governments, along with school districts to never forget 9/11. People do not have to look far to notice the different types of memorials, landmarks and resting places that represent those harrowing moments and the sacrifices that were made to help others and defend this country. 

Calverton National Cemetery

Driving northwest on Route 25A, it is possible to quickly see the reminders of sacrifice within the Calverton National Cemetery. This sacred ground is one of the largest military burial grounds in America and driving through its roads, there are flags that have been placed for veterans of all conflicts — especially the most recent during the War on Terror. 

One of the most visited sites there is that of Patchogue resident Lt. Michael P. Murphy who was killed in 2005 in Afghanistan, where under intense enemy fire he tried to call in support to rescue his outnumbered four-man SEAL team. 

As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, local residents can also see his name gracing the front of Patchogue-Medford High School, the post office in Patchogue, the Navy SEAL Museum that is near completion in West Sayville, and a memorial created for him on the east side of Lake Ronkonkoma, where he was a lifeguard.

Shoreham-Wading River—Rocky Point—Sound Beach—Mount Sinai

West of Calverton, at the main entrance of Shoreham-Wading River High School, you will notice a baseball field located between the road and the Kerry P. Hein Army Reserve Center. 

One of this field’s former players, Kevin Williams, was killed on 9/11, where he was a bond salesman for Sandler O’Neill, in the South Tower of the World Trade Center. This 24-year-old young man was a talented athlete who was recognized with MVP honors on the baseball, golf and basketball teams for the high school. 

A foundation has been created in the name of Williams, an avid New York Yankees fan, that has helped provide financial support to baseball and softball players unable to afford attending sports camps. 

Not far from Shoreham, driving westward, motorists will notice the strength, size and beauty of the Rocky Point Fire Department 9/11 memorial. This structure is located on Route 25A, on the west side of the firehouse.

Immediately, people will notice the impressive steel piece that is standing tall in the middle of a fountain, surrounded by a walkway with bricks that have special written messages. In the background, there are names of the people killed during these attacks and plaques that have been created to recognize the services of the rescue workers and all of those people lost.  

Heading west into Rocky Point’s downtown business district, VFW Post 6249 has a 9/11 tribute with steel from lower Manhattan. Less than a half mile away, on Broadway and Route 25A, the Joseph P. Dwyer statue proudly stands high overlooking the activity of the busy corner.  

This veteran’s square remembers the service of PFC Dwyer, who enlisted into the Army directly after this nation was attacked and fought in Iraq. He struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and this statue supports all veterans who have dealt with these hard psychological and physical conditions. 

A short distance away, the Sound Beach Fire Department also created a special structure on its grounds through a neighborhood feeling of remembrance toward all of those people lost.

Heading west toward Mount Sinai, it is easy to observe a wonderful sense of pride through the Heritage Park by its display of American flags. On the Fourth of July, Veterans Day and Memorial Day, residents see these national and state colors, and this always presents a great deal of patriotism for the people utilizing this park.

Coram—Port Jefferson—St. James 

More south on County Road 83 and North Ocean Avenue, visitors of all ages enjoy the Diamond in the Pines Park in Coram. There, people have the opportunity to visit the 9/11 Memorial Learning Site. This site honors all of the citizens lost from the townships of Brookhaven and Riverhead, the rescue workers and War on Terror veterans.  

For 10 years, the site has helped reflect on this assault on America through the major bronze plaques with historical information, black granite pictures, benches, and statues of a bronze eagle and a rescue dog that helped search for survivors of the attack at the World Trade Center.

Leaving this park and going north into the village of Port Jefferson, people enjoy the beauty of its harbor, its stores, and they see traffic enter via ferry from Connecticut. Through the activity of this bustling area, there is a large bronze eagle that is placed on a high granite platform.  

Perched high, citizens from two different states brought together by the ferry are able to walk by this memorial that helps recognize the lost people of Long Island and the New England state. Driving near the water through Setauket, Stony Brook and into St. James, there is a major 7-ton memorial that highlights a “bowtie section” of steel from the World Trade Center.  

Due to the type of steel on display, there are few memorials that capture the spirit of the St. James Fire Department 9/11 site.

Nesconset—Hauppauge—Smithtown

Traveling south down Lake Avenue toward Gibbs Pond Road and Lake Ronkonkoma, the 9/11 Responders Remembered Memorial Park in Nesconset is located at 316 Smithtown Blvd. This is a vastly different place of remembrance, as it is continually updated with the names of fallen rescue workers who have died since the attacks 20 years ago. 

Taking Townline Road west into Hauppauge toward Veterans Highway and Route 347, you will end up at the Suffolk County government buildings. 

Directly across from Blydenburgh Park in Smithtown, is a major 9/11 memorial created by the county. This memorial has 179 pieces of glass etched with the 178 names of the Suffolk County residents killed on September 11, with one extra panel to honor the volunteers who built the memorial.

As commuters head west to reach the Northern State Parkway, they drive by a major structure that was created to recognize all of those citizens from Huntington to Montauk killed on 9/11 by terrorism. It is just one of many such monuments created by our local townships, fire departments, parks and schools.  

Even after 20 years, our society has not forgotten about the beautiful day that turned out to be one of the most tragic moments in our history.  

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

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Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a motorcyclist in Coram Tuesday morning.

Krista D’Angelis was driving a 2021 Jeep northbound on Route 112, making a left turn into 1650 Route 112, when her vehicle was struck by a 2021 Suzuki motorcycle traveling southbound on Route 112 at 7:34 a.m.

The driver of the Suzuki, Brandon Blades, 32, of Port Jefferson Station, was transported to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson where he was pronounced dead. D’Angelis, 45, of Ronkonkoma, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

The vehicles were impounded for safety checks and the investigation is continuing. Detectives are asking anyone with information on the crash to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

Sergeant William Madden and Officer Paul Altmann were honored by SCSPCA Chief Roy Gross in front of the 6th precinct Dec. 4. Photo by Julianne Mosher

It was a ruff rescue last month when Piper the Yorkshire terrier fell down a storm drain outside his home in Coram.

A Suffolk County emergency police officer rescues a 4-month-old Yorkie Piper from a storm drain around 11:45 a.m. in front of 87 Argyle Avenue in Coram on Nov. 7. The owner of the dog Freddy Wnoa, said his wife and his two daughters were inside the home when the dog ran out of their front door and fell into the storm drain in front of their house. The dog was not injured, but the police suggested to the family that Piper needed a bath.
James Carbone/Newsday

Four officers from the Suffolk County Police Department Sixth Precinct responded to a call on Nov. 7 and began the task of climbing into the drain to save him.

“Officers safely extracted the frightened puppy and reunited it with his family,” Roy Gross, chief of Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said. Piper was, luckily, uninjured.

On Friday, Dec. 4, Gross presented certificates to Sergeant William Madden and Officer Paul Altmann outside the Selden precinct. Emergency Service Section Officer Carmine Pellegrino and Sixth Precinct Police Officer Lynn Volpe, who were not in attendance, will also be receiving certificates.

“In the 37 years that I’ve been with the Suffolk County SPCA, it’s such a great partnership because when they need us, we also need them,” Gross said. “It goes both ways, and we really appreciate the comradery we have with them.”

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Suffolk County Police said a pedestrian in Coram was injured by a Mount Sinai man’s vehicle early Wednesday morning and is now in critical condition.

Police said Grace Schmidt, 53, of Coram, stepped into the southbound lane of Route 112, near Barone Drive, from the median and was struck by a 2018 Isuzu box truck at 4:55 a.m.

Schmidt was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where she was admitted in critical condition.

The driver of the truck, John Paola, 21, of Mount Sinai, and his passenger were not injured.

The investigation is continuing. Anyone with information is asked to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

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Suffolk County Police said two people from Port Jefferson Station were seriously injured while on a motorcycle on Route 112 Sunday, Oct. 11.

Police said Melvin Rodriguez-Carvajl, 24 of Port Jeff Station was driving a 2007 Suzuki motorcycle northbound on Route 112 when a 2014 Honda pulled out of a gas station, located at 1883 Route 112, and struck the motorcycle at around 10:30 a.m. Rodriguez-Carvajl and his passenger, Elianny Feliz-Rodriguez, 19 of Port Jefferson Station, were thrown from the motorcycle.

Rodriguez-Carvajl and Feliz-Rodriguez were transported to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious injuries. The driver of the Honda, Virginia Acosta, 47, of Coram, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital with minor injuries.

The Honda and motorcycle were impounded for safety checks. The investigation is continuing. Anyone with information is asked to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

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Suffolk County Police said a Selden woman was seriously injured in an early Sunday morning crash.

Khali Armstrong, 24 of Coram was driving a 2015 Hyundai Tuscon westbound on Middle Country Road Oct. 4 when his vehicle was struck by a 2017 Volkswagen exiting the Fairfield Townhouses parking lot at approximately 6:40 p.m. The driver of the Volkswagen, Sofia Savona, 17, of Selden, was transported by the Selden Fire Department to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of serious injuries. Armstrong, 24, of Coram, was not injured.

The vehicles were impounded for safety checks. Detectives are asking anyone with information on the crash to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

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Suffolk County Police said a man was killed in Coram Wednesday, May 13 after he was struck by a car.

Police said a Shoreham man was allegedly driving a 2010 Mercedes northbound on North Ocean Avenue, near Hawkins Road, when the vehicle struck William Moschetto, 33 of Mount Sinai, who walked into the roadway into the path of the vehicle at around 12:15 p.m.

Moschetto was taken via ambulance to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check. Detectives are asking anyone with information on the crash to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

Sarah Deonarine. Photo from campaign website

Coram woman looks to face Bonner in November election

Sarah Deonarine, who is planning to run for the Town of Brookhaven Council District 2 seat on the Democratic ticket, said she believes there’s a way to balance the environmental and economic needs of the North Shore.

“Nationwide, there’s a feeling of participating in the democracy, and I just couldn’t sit by anymore,” Deonarine said. “I realized somebody strong had to stand up, and it was either going to be me or nobody was going to do it.”

In the upcoming weeks, Deonarine is looking for the petition application to run for councilwoman to come through, and she will run for the district seat against 12-year incumbent Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point).

Deonarine said she decided to jump into the race because of Proposition One, a back-of-the-ballot proposition that extended officials’ terms in office from two years to four, and limited officeholders to three terms. A total of 58 percent voted in favor of that measure with 42 percent opposing last November.

Sarah Deonarine and her family. Photo from campaign website

The Democratic contender said the proposition was a backwards means of extending the council members’ time in office, since each elected official would no longer have to run every two years, and the term limits weren’t retroactive.

“It was like they hoodwinked the voters by not giving them the right information,” she said. 

The contender for the council seat has been a resident in Brookhaven for 11 years, and in Coram for four along with her husband and three young children. A Pennsylvania native, she holds a masters degree from the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University. She has worked for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for seven years, and has spent the past four years as the executive director of the Manhasset Bay Protection Committee, which serves to protect the water quality of North Hempstead. She is a member of the Town of Brookhaven Democratic Committee, as well as a member of the Mothers of Twins Club of Suffolk County, the Coram Civic Association, Mommy and Me and Science Advocacy of Long Island.

Deonarine already has the nod of the town Democratic Committee as well as the Working Families Party, and she said she has sent in the petitions she needs to run for town council, though she has yet to receive confirmation back as of press time.

She is running on numerous issues, including reforming the town’s meeting schedule, and focusing new developments around sustaining the environment.

“A lot of what I want to do gets back to the quality of life,” she said. “People are happier surrounded by nature.”

She said that while it’s all well and good the town has meetings at 2 p.m. for those who can’t drive at night, having the nightly meetings at 5 p.m. means most people who are out working cannot attend. She said she would like to move those meetings past 6 p.m., and potentially move the meeting location occasionally to different parts in the town, giving more people availability to attend.

She also called attention to the issues of derelict housing, otherwise known as zombie homes. The biggest barrier to people making use of this property, she said, was the liens Suffolk County puts on the property after it is razed by the town. She said she would use the strong connection she said she has with Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and other county and state lawmakers to see if there could be any program of lien forgiveness, or otherwise a program that would give developers the opportunity to revitalize the destroyed parcels.

Developments and their consequences are on the minds of many North Shore residents, and with new developments coming up in the town’s agenda, including the Mount Sinai Meadows millennial housing project and the Echo Run senior living project in Miller Place, Deonarine said there needs to be attention paid to making sure these developments do not affect the local wildlife, impact the below- ground drinking water or increase traffic.

“We need to protect all our water beneath our feet — you build more development, you have more waste running off into our local waterways,” she said. “More housing means more traffic, but we also need the tax base. The cost of living is really high, people living here, more industries, it’s a Catch-22.”

“More housing means more traffic, but we also need the tax base. The cost of living is really high, people living here, more industries, it’s a Catch-22.”

— Sarah Deonarine

She said she would take a close look at the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency, especially in terms of the tax breaks it gives to developments such as the Engel Burman senior living facilities currently under construction in Mount Sinai. The development was given a 13-year Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement that would see the developer continue to pay $46,000 in property taxes for the first three years while the two projects are under construction.

She said there needs to be more public transparency with IDA meetings and decisions, along with a closer look at their decision- making process.

“Local politics matter a lot. This is our everyday lives,” she said. “We really need to pay attention and consider a new way, a new approach.”

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

The late summer extreme heat wave likely contributed to the death of an 11-year-old girl in Coram Aug. 28.

Suffolk County Police Homicide detectives are investigating the death of the girl who was found unresponsive in a vehicle on Kathleen Crescent in Coram Tuesday at about 3:45 p.m., police said.

The girl’s mother had been running errands with the 11-year-old and two other children, according to police. After returning home, the girl’s mother went inside believing all of the children were out of the car. Sometime later, the mother could not locate the 11-year-old girl and checked inside of the car where she found the girl. The mother carried her inside the house and called 911.

The girl’s mother began CPR. Police arrived in less than two minutes. Police and rescue personnel from Coram Rescue continued CPR and transported the girl to Stony Brook University Hospital where she was pronounced dead.