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Councilman Kevin LaValle

Fans of White Castle’s iconic Original Sliders have a cause for celebration as the long-awaited renovation of the hamburger restaurant in Centereach is complete. Brookhaven Town Councilmen Kevin LaValle and Neil Foley attended the grand reopening and ribbon cutting ceremony at the 2201 Middle Country Road eatery on Dec. 3.

“White Castle has been a staple in Centereach and has continued to give back to the community for nearly 40 years. Congratulations and best of luck on your reopening,” said Councilman LaValle before presenting the store manager with a Certificate of Congratulations.

The Ohio-based company has more than 370 restaurants in 13 states. Like most of the chain’s other restaurants, the Centereach location offers a drive thru and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, satisfying the crave of White Castle fans morning, noon and night. While the restaurant does not deliver, they work with delivery partners  Uber, Door Dash, Grub hub.

For more information, call 631-467-3147 or visit www.whitecastle.com.

Photos courtesy of Councilman LaValle’s office

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle attended a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new 7-Eleven at 1545 Middle Country Road in Centereach on Oct. 30. The new location showcases the latest national interior decor, design and equipment including Bean to Brew coffee and espresso machines, flavored frozen lemonade, baked-in-store danish and cookies and more.

Hosted by the Greater Middle Country Chamber of Commerce, the event was also attended by Robert Martinez, Chief of Staff, 4th Legislative District, New York State Assemblyman Doug Smith, Thomas Lupo on behalf of Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy and members of the chamber and community. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the store’s grand opening community festivities have been postponed to a later date.

“It was my honor to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony [last Friday]. This property had been a deteriorating eyesore until 7-Eleven came in to redevelop it. I am happy to see so many new businesses opening up across the Middle Country corridor. Congratulations to the 7-Eleven team and best of luck with your new location!” said Councilman LaValle.

 

The Greater Middle Country Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony for Voodoo Crab in Centereach on Oct. 20.

Pictured from left, Robert Martinez, Chief of Staff, 4th Legislative District; Assemblyman Doug Smith; co-owner Scott He; Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle; and Thomas Lupo on behalf of Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy.

The new restaurant, located at 1759-G Middle Country Road in the New Village Plaza shopping center, joins locations in Massapequa and Rockville Centre in offering New Orleans-inspired appetizers, cajun boil and fresh seafood dishes, and dessert.

The event was attended by members of the chamber as well as local, county and state officials who presented proclamations to co-owner Scott He and welcomed the business to the Middle Country community.

Hours for lunch are Monday through Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. and dinner hours are Monday to Thursday from 4:30 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 4:30 to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 9 p.m.

For more information, call 631-676-7007 or visit www.voodoocrab.com.

Photos from Councilman LaValle’s office

Photo from Councilman LaValle's office
Photo from Councilman LaValle’s office

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (third from left) joined representatives of the Selden Civic Association the Suffolk County Police Department for the grand opening celebration of Texas Roadhouse in Selden on Sept. 1. The councilman presented the staff with a Certificate of Congratulations and wished them many years of success.

Construction began last fall at the former location of Ruby Tuesdays at 289 Middle Country Road at the corner of Route 83 in the Selden Plaza shopping center. The steakhouse is the third Texas Roadhouse on Long Island, joining the East Meadow and Deer Park eateries famous for its hand-cut steaks, ribs, freshly baked bread, made-from-scratch sides, bottomless peanuts and 15 different varieties of margaritas.

The 7,163 square-foot space is open Mondays to Thursdays from 3 to 10 p.m., Fridays from 3 to 11 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. For more information, call 631-496-3073 or visit www.texasroadhouse.com.

Town of Brookhaven Councilmen Neil Foley (R-Blue Point) and Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) joined the Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group and members of the community at Lake Ronkonkoma on Feb. 21 to cover graffiti and restore a popular mural painted on an old concrete retaining wall along the beach. The wall is one of the last remnants of a bygone era when grand pavilions lined the once-popular tourist destination. 

The mural, which depicts scenes that tell the story of the lake’s history, was originally painted by the LRIG in 2017. 

Between Jan. 31 and Feb. 2 vandals spray-painted obscenities and profane images on the mural, which is located along Lake Shore Road. Evelyn Vollgraff of the LRIG put out a rally cry and organized the cleanup. 

“It’s always amazing to work with the LRIG. The group is very proactive in addressing issues around the lake but when something like this happens they always react quickly and turn a negative situation into a positive one. I guess that’s what happens when you work with a group whose catchphrase is ‘Just get it done!’” LaValle said.

“It was great to see so many people come out to help restore the Lake Ronkonkoma mural. These people take pride in the community and are determined to keep it looking beautiful. Vandalism isn’t just mischief, it’s a crime that will not be tolerated anywhere in Brookhaven Town,” Foley said.

“I want to thank everyone who answered the call and helped to turn a bad situation into a group effort to make it better. That’s what this community is all about and I was proud to join in the cleanup of this beloved piece of Lake Ronkonkoma’s legacy,” LaValle added.

The police urge anyone who knows who committed this crime to call 800-220-TIPS (8477). All calls will be kept confidential.

Photos courtesy of LRIG

Cayla and Iris Rosenhagen pose for a photo during a beach cleanup at Cedar Beach last August. Photo by Kyle Barr

Approximately 8 million tons of plastic waste is dumped into the oceans each year, according to the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy. Long Islanders have seen what plastic waste can do to their waterways and beaches firsthand.

Cayla and Iris Rosenhagen, two 14-year-old twins from Selden, wanted to change that and in July 2019 they created a beach cleanup initiative fittingly called the Beach Bucket Brigade.

Throughout the summer, the duo hosted seven beach cleanups, and with the help of about 300 volunteers they were able to remove more than 23,500 pieces of litter off Long Island beaches — 45 percent of that was plastic waste.

The sisters said now that they are not too focused and busy planning events, they’ve been able to reflect on the success they’ve accomplished these past few months.

“We are ecstatic, everything has gone so well, and everyone has been so supportive of us,” Cayla said.

From a young age, the sisters have had a keen interest in the environment, nature and animals. They said they would go out on their own and do cleanups and wanted to see if they could get more people involved.

“They really thought of everything, they’ve done this all on their own and really made their vision a reality.”

– Jane Bonner

“We had the idea for a couple of months and we wanted to find a way to get the community involved,” Iris said. “We reached out to the Town [of Brookhaven] and they liked what we had in mind.”

Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) said it was great seeing young people take the initiative for a good cause.

“The presentation they gave us was so well done, we were immediately all on board and wanted to help in any way we could,” LaValle said. “It has been a great collaboration and the whole program/initiative really sets up well for the future.”

One of the events hosted by the twins included a Beach Bucket Brigade Books at the Beach event that involved a story time for young kids before heading out to clean the beach. At all cleanups, for each bucket of trash volunteers returned they were given a raffle ticket in which they could win eco-friendly prizes, recycled toys and products donated by a number of local businesses.

“They really thought of everything,” said Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), who attended one of the beach cleanups at Cedar Beach back in August. “They’ve done this all on their own and really made their vision a reality.”

For the duo’s effort, the town honored them by making Sept. 12 Cayla and Iris Rosenhagen Day. They also appointed them to the youth board, which advises the Brookhaven Youth Bureau about issues affecting young people.

The twin sisters said they have already begun formulating ideas and events for next spring and summer. They also stressed that there are small things people can do to alleviate the abundance of plastic waste.

“What kind of eco-friendly [New Year’s] resolution are you going to make?” they said. “Everybody can do their part and cut out the amount of plastic they use.”

Like LaValle, Bonner has been impressed with what the Rosenhagen twins have accomplished.

“We have been blown away by their presence and passion, this is not the last time you will hear of Cayla and Iris — they are going places and they have a bright future,” Bonner said.

To find more information about Beach Bucket Brigade and future events visit their Facebook page.

SUNY Empire State College cut the ribbon on its new $14 million Long Island campus in Selden on Nov. 13. 

Located at 407 College Road, the 6.6-acre learning center features public nature trails that will connect to Suffolk County’s comprehensive hiking and biking trail network, and provides students with cutting-edge learning facilities for both in-person and distance learning. It will also be equipped with performing arts spaces for programming under the college’s Arts Empower initiative. 

SUNY Empire currently serves more than 1,300 students in Suffolk County through both online and in-person instruction. 

“We’re proud to offer this incredible new learning facility and beautiful campus to our students on Long Island as well as the broader community,” said SUNY Empire State College President Jim Malatras. “I’m grateful to Governor Andrew Cuomo, the State Legislature, including the effort of Senator Kenneth LaValle, and the leaders in Suffolk County who helped make this happen. We look forward to making this campus a hub for both our students and the community, so stay tuned for upcoming events.” 

 Photo by Heidi Sutton

“This new state-of-the-art campus will connect thousands of Long Island students with world-class learning opportunities for decades to come,” said NY State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. “When we provide New Yorkers with 21st century learning facilities like the SUNY Empire State College Long Island campus, we are helping them reach their full potential and preparing them for the jobs of tomorrow, today.” 

“With cutting edge technology and instructional methods, SUNY Empire under the leadership of President Malatras is committed to providing educational opportunities for working professionals across Long Island,” said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. “Our new Long Island hub will expand those opportunities, foster innovation, and build community partnerships, all of which advance SUNY’s broad mission of connecting students to an affordable, high-quality education that meets their specific needs. Thank you, Governor Cuomo, and everyone involved in making today a reality.”  

Senator Ken LaValle, ranking minority member of the NY State Senate Higher Education Committee, said, “This Grand Opening is a culmination of hard work of many people over a number of years. I’m excited that the Long Island Campus will bring leading-edge technology here for SUNY Empire students. The state-of-the-art Immersive Cloud learning will enable real time interaction between students and faculty between campuses and expand learning opportunities. This facility will meet critical needs for SUNY Empire students across Long Island. I am pleased to be a part of the process.” 

“With the grand opening of the SUNY Empire State College Selden Campus, students of all ages and background across Suffolk will now have the opportunity to study and learn at one of New York’s premier educational institutions right in their backyard,” said County Executive Steve Bellone. “We have already begun to partner with Empire State College and I look forward to continuing our work to ensure Suffolk remains a hub of innovation and higher learning.”    

“Having SUNY Empire State College here in Suffolk County, and more specifically in my legislative district, is a very welcomed addition to our community,” stated Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore. “Changes in lifestyle and technology have made education more accessible to nontraditional students, and I am grateful for the collaborative efforts of all involved with bringing this state-of-the-art facility to Selden.” 

Pictured in top photo, from left, Erin Young, Selden faculty academic coordinator; Ellyn Okvist, SUNY Empire State College student; Marion Conway, chair of the SUNY Empire State College Foundation Board SUNY; Kevin LaValle, Town of Brookhaven council member; Gregory Blower II, director of communications for Sen. Kenneth LaValle; Jim Malatras, president of SUNY Empire State College; Thomas Muratore, county legislator; Rob Basedow, SUNY Empire State College student; Jason Richberg, clerk of the Suffolk County Legislature; Robert Haelen, senior vice chancellor for Capital Facilities and general manager of the State University Construction Fund; Diane Conard, interim director of facilities and capital projects at SUNY Empire State College; Dennise Waters, SUNY Empire State College student; and Meg Benke, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at SUNY Empire State College.

From left, Leg. Tom Muratore; partners Nick Haviaras, Peter Dilis, Corey Catechis, Gus Catechis and George Dilis of MVC Properties; and Councilman Kevin LaValle. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

Local officials, members of the Centereach Civic Association, Middle Country Chamber of Commerce, family and friends were on hand to celebrate the grand opening ribbon cutting of MVC Properties’ latest venture − New Village Plaza in Centereach − on Nov. 2.

Above, Gus Catechis, center, accepts Certificates of Congratulations from Councilman LaValle on behalf of the Town of Brookhaven and Legislature Muratore on behalf of Suffolk County. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Located at 1707-1759 Middle Country Road across from McDonald’s, the shopping center will have over 75,000 square feet of space when the project is completed over two phases. Tenants include an Arby’s, Wingstop, an AT&T store, Swolehouse, Brownstones Coffee and Pacfe Nail & Spa. Cabo Fresh, Voodoo Crab and ProHealth are soon to follow. 

Gus Catechis of MVC Properties thanked the community, Councilman Kevin LaValle, Legislator Tom Muratore and Diane Caudullo of the Centereach Civic Association before cutting the ribbon. “I just want you to know how grateful I am for all the support you gave me from the very beginning and to everyone who made this a reality,” he said.

“This special project has been a long time coming. We took something that was a blight in our area and Gus put the time in, put the money in, really giving back to the community to build this great shopping center that we have here with great brand names. It’s really going to be something we are proud of here in Centereach,” said Councilman LaValle, adding “This grand opening shows once again that Brookhaven is open for business.”

“I am always happy to support new businesses in our community, and an entire shopping center is a home run for the local economy,” said Leg. Muratore. “Congratulations to the owners, MVC Properties. We are happy to welcome them to our business community.”

Photo by Kyle Barr

Growing up in Centereach and a graduate of Centereach High School, Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) has deep roots in the community. He has seen the area grow, and at times suffer, and therefore fights for what’s best for his district.

It’s because of his commitment to Town of Brookhaven District 3 that we strongly endorse him in his fourth term as town councilman.

LaValle has developed strong relationships with business owners in his district and listens to their needs. He also understands the importance of open spaces as he remembers being a child with no proper ball fields to play on.

He has worked with the state, county and town to get the Selden Park Complex developed that will provide multipurpose fields, a walking trail, ice skating rink and playground and is a proponent of the last working farm in Centereach, Bethel Hobbs.

He also strongly supports Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) with his study for a sewer district.

We applaud his challenger Talat Hamdani for her work in battling Islamophobia and fighting for social justice. We encourage her to remain in the public eye, and we hope we will see her name on an Election Day ballot in the future.

Incumbent Kevin LaValle faces challenger Talat Hamdani for the District 3 seat in the Town of Brookhaven. Photo of LaValle by Kyle Barr; photo of Hamdani from her campaign website

On Oct. 28 Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) sat down with the TBR editorial board to talk about his run for a fourth term in District 3. His opponent Talat Hamdani did not attend the debate and did not respond to voicemails and emails asking for an interview, but we summarized points posted on her campaign website at the end of this article.

Incumbent Kevin LaValle

LaValle said he has spent the last few years in office ensuring that his district, which is the smallest geographically in the county, receives its fair share of funds. He said he is out in the community regularly meeting with constituents and addressing quality of life issues such as zombie homes and illegal apartments.

“Six years ago, people were like, ‘What about us in the community?’” he said. “Now people are asking, ‘What are you going to do next?’”

The councilman said when he first took office, he drove down Middle Country Road and found more than 30 buildings had graffiti on them and over 45 had illegal signs. His staff sent notices to clean up the graffiti and get rid of the signs to owners and tenants, and most complied. With thousands of cars traveling daily along Middle Country Road, he said, the clean sites encourage others to open businesses.

LaValle prides himself on his work with the business community, citing bringing brands such as Rite Aid, Five Guys and Guitar Center to Independence Plaza in Selden, and Panera Bread to nearby College Plaza. The councilman said he will sit with owners and developers to hear their needs about zoning and has them work with the town’s Building Division and Law Department to ensure the businesses know what is required of them with codes. He said representatives from larger corporations such as Target travel to Brookhaven to discuss their needs with him.

He said it’s important to build relationships and foster trust.

“A lot of people don’t trust government,” he said. “[They say,] ‘This guy is all right. He’s going to work with us. If he gives us his word that he’s going to do something, he’ll do it.’”

He said building those business relationships has led to many of them participating in events that he organizes such as the annual National Night Out, where residents can interact with police officers and other first responders at the Centereach Pool Complex.

When it comes to water quality issues, while he said his district does not include much shoreline — just a small piece of Lake Ronkonkoma — he supports the initiatives of Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) whom he called “the most fervent advocate of the environment” that he knows. One of the programs LaValle supported was the requirement that new construction within 500 feet of water be required to install a new nitrogen-reducing septic system.

He also supports legislation spearheaded by Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) for a study to create a sewer district along Middle Country Road. He said it may take eight to 10 years for the district to be included in the sewer program, but he believes it will attract more businesses to the area.

He added a sewer district, in turn, attracts developers who want to buy a few lots together instead of one, which means one entrance for several stores, instead of one for each business, creating a better flow of traffic. 

“It’s so crucial that sewer district, on so many different levels, that we get that,” he said.

LaValle also recognizes the opioid problem in the town. He said Brookhaven has two social workers who will talk to teenagers and families for free about drug addiction problems. When the social workers came to him and said it would be beneficial to raise the age they can treat people from 18 to 24, he sponsored a bill to make it happen.

He said many young people who may have overcome addiction can relapse, especially on returning to Long Island from college while having to deal with multiple stresses.

“I can tell you that’s a great key to be able to give that education, to be able to have that outreach,” he said.

LaValle also said he believes that the state needs to push insurance carriers to provide coverage for those battling addiction and has approached both state senators, Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and John Flanagan (R-East Northport).

He said the Island currently doesn’t have enough beds for treatment in hospitals and clinics, and patients may be not covered unless they have fought addiction multiple times.

“I think it’s a fight that should be fought,” he said.

He also has worked with Muratore to purchase property behind Hawkins Path Elementary School. An agreement between the county and town allowed the county to buy the property if the town would develop. LaValle said the park, called Selden Park Complex, will have two multipurpose fields with a walking trail, playground and ice-skating rink. Flanagan recently secured $1 million to fund phase 3 of the park, which includes the construction of two baseball fields and a playground.

“It’s great because growing up here, we had the worst fields,” LaValle said.

Challenger Talat Hamdani

Hamdani grew up in Pakistan and immigrated to New York in 1979. She is a retired English teacher, who in 2018 was appointed by County Executive Steve Bellone (D) to the Suffolk County Muslim-American Advisory Board. She is also a regular commentator on CNN, MSNBC, “Democracy Now!”and other media outlets.

The challenger’s family was a victim of Islamophobia when false media accusations linked her son to the 9/11 attacks, according to the challenger’s website. Mohammad Salman Hamdani, her son, worked at Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Manhattan and went down to the World Trade Center to help victims. He, too, died in the aftermath of the attacks.

According to her website, she aims to end corruption “by stopping the endless waste, fraud and abuse in the Town of Brookhaven.” She said she will call out “pay-to-play politics and end the hold of special interests in town government and one-party rule.”

Currently, Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) is the only Democrat on the Brookhaven Town Board.

Hamdani would also like to enhance residential recycling by implementing weekly pickup of plastic, paper, cardboard and aluminum/metals, as well as expand the types of plastics that get collected. She said this would make it easier for residents and not burdensome for taxpayers.

The challenger plans to work to enhance oversight for clean water to increase environmental safety and incentivize small businesses with economic development zones. Her website says she would look to provide rebates for startups and family businesses. She also wants to curb overdevelopment with plans to put a check on big developers and advance a sustainable affordable housing agenda.

“Today, I am passionately involved in social justice,” Hamdani posted on her website. “I want to serve my local community in addressing their issues and trying to resolve them. Like Salman, we need to transcend the barriers of race, faith and ethnicity and stand united for our democracy and our freedoms guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, with liberty and justice for all.”