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David Tracy

The Three Village Dads Foundation, Three Village school district representatives and members of the community celebrate the opening of the Merritt Hawkins Homestead property along with Brookhaven Councilmember, Jonathan Kornreich. Photo by Samantha Rutt

By Samantha Rutt

The Three Village Dads Foundation, with support from Town of Brookhaven District 1 Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook), unveiled the refurbished historic Merritt-Hawkins Homestead property on May 6. 

The 9-acre estate, located at 512 Pond Path in Setauket,  is now open for the community, students and teachers to traverse. With a half mile of freshly groomed trailways accompanied by various educational signs, a little free library and park benches, the 3V Dads hope the property will become a known feature in the Three Village community.

“The property was like a blank canvas for us — there’s a lot to think of what this place could turn into. We were very excited to sign on and we appreciate Jonathan and the town for trusting us,” said 3V Dads president, David Tracy. “Our first goal was to transform the outside … and it is now a usable property and a green space for the community.”

Though now open to the public, the work of the 3V Dads restoration is not yet finished. The nonprofit looks to continue working on the interior of the house to restore the historic 1800s feel.

“Hopefully this fall we begin work on the inside of the house. It is an old house, built in 1802 — but it looks like somebody lived there in the 1980s. So it needs to go back to a transformation of the 1800s,” Tracy shared. 

Assemblyman Ed Flood speaks in front of local politicians, educators and community members at a press conference against Gov. Hochul’s proposed school funding cuts. Photo by Mallie Jane Kim

By Mallie Jane Kim

Local political representatives and school superintendents rallied to Three Village Central School District Jan. 25 for a passionate press conference decrying proposed cuts to state school funding in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) proposed budget. 

Hochul touted an $825 million increase in state funding for schools overall, but some districts including 34 in Suffolk County and 10 in Nassau would face decreases. Of these, Three Village would lose the highest dollar amount at nearly $9 million if the governor’s plan stands, and the smaller Port Jefferson School District would be hit by the largest percentage of funding loss on Long Island over 28%. Mount Sinai, Cold Spring Harbor, Smithtown and Kings Park school districts would also see modest cuts. This marks a break from the “hold harmless” provision in New York, which in the past has guaranteed school districts didn’t receive less state funding than the previous year, a practice that takes some guesswork out of budget planning.

Political opposition

“Governor, stop playing politics with our children — because we will fight you tooth and nail,” New York State Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) said at the event. “We need to restore some common sense and do what’s right for the children of our community. Where are our priorities? Let’s put our children first.”

The politicians who spoke including U.S. Rep. Nick LaLota (R-NY-1), state Assemblymembers Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead), Jarett Gandolfo (R-Sayville), Doug Smith (R-Holbrook) and state Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James) were united in considering the cuts as a targeted political attack and a conscious choice by the governor.

LaLota referred to the Jan. 5 Long Island Association’s annual State of the Region breakfast during which, as reported by Newsday, Hochul traded barbs with Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman (R), including her quip, “I walked in, I hear somebody doesn’t want New York on Long Island, I was ready to walk off the stage right then. You don’t want me to take all the money with me, though, right?”

LaLota called Hochul a “schoolyard bully” and suggested she is using children as a political pawn against Long Island.

“It is wholly unfair and unjust to take money from our kids because she’s got a political squabble with us,” he said. “Don’t come after our kids because you have a political problem with Long Island. The right thing to do is to fully fund our kids’ education that’s something we rely upon.”

The governor’s state budget proposal represents a first draft. The state Assembly and Senate will be instrumental in crafting the finalized version, which is due April 1 but does not often come in on time. If the budget takes until early May to pass, as it did in 2023, school districts will be in a tricky situation since their budgets must be ready and made available for public review between April 30 and May 7.

Superintendents and other groups oppose cuts

“It is important to recognize that these proposed changes will create uncertainty and hardship for our districts,” said Bayport-Blue Point Superintendent Timothy Hearney, who also serves as president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association. His district stands to lose 3.34% of its state funding under the plan.

Even though the budget is a first draft and subject to political bargaining in Albany, any final answer may come too late. School districts spend the early spring ironing out budget plans, so unless there is a change soon, districts will be faced with the option of incorporating the funding loss into the 2024-25 school year budget or risk putting up a budget that could surpass the state’s mandated cap on increases to the tax levy, an unpopular option for Long Island taxpayers, who already face high property taxes. In this instance, budget passage would require approval by a supermajority of voters (60 percent or more).

Hearney pointed out that education costs have increased even as enrollments have decreased over the past decade or so, in a nod toward one of Hochul’s stated reasons why some districts should receive less funding. “It’s crucial to underscore that condensing a decade’s worth of lost enrollment in a single year places an overwhelming burden on all of our districts,” he said.

Other concerned superintendents standing in support were Christine Criscione from Mount Sinai, Jessica Schmettan from Port Jefferson and Kevin Scanlon from Three Village. 

Scanlon spelled out what he thought the “significant challenges” losing $9 million in funds for his district would pose at a Jan. 24 school board meeting, the night before the press conference. He said he hoped for compromise in Albany, but that such sudden cuts would require drastic measures to accommodate. He said the district may have to close a school or discontinue the Three Village Academy high school program, and they may have to make cuts to the pre-K and pre-K enrichment programs, the Intellectually Gifted Program, special education aides, teaching positions, administrative positions, educational and extracurricular programs and even security. 

“Every area of this community will be impacted, so Three Village needs to come together as it has never done before,” he urged at the board meeting. “Parents, students, teachers, administrators, anyone out there anyone on the street we can get in this community to be part of this conversation we need for advocacy.”

Those who showed up to advocate at Thursday’s press conference included school board members, staff and teachers union members from Three Village and Mount Sinai, as well as members of parent teacher associations, also civic and community groups, including the local parent group Three Village Dads. 

David Tracy, leader of Three Village Dads, said he isn’t interested in being divisive politically, but couldn’t ignore the air of apparent retribution in the governor’s move. “Long Island was not a huge voting fan of the governor. I hate to believe this cut in the budget is somewhat of a backlash for that,” he said, adding that the disparity in funding changes from district to district is baffling to him. “It’s just tragic that it comes from our kids.”

Three Village Civic Association president Charles Tramontana agrees the issue is bipartisan. “Nobody wants to see that amount of funding cut without some sort of warning. I don’t think it’s controversial,” said Tramontana, who was scheduled to attend the press conference but was stuck home sick. 

“I don’t understand the way the state operates sometimes,” Tramontana said. “They didn’t give any notice that they were dropping that ‘hold harmless’ provision. Basic fairness would dictate that you would give some warning.” He added, “We took some hit$9 million in one year is definitely going to cause some chaos in our budget.”

From L to R: Front Row – Mari Irizarry, Director, Dotty Miller, Recording Secretary, Holly Brainard, Judi Wallace, Treasurer, Brian Bennett, David Prestia, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn. Back Row – Vinny Menten, Patty Cain, Shamma Murphy, Corresponding Secretary, Ron LaVita, Jeff Schnee, President, David Tracy, Greg Philipps, Vice President. Not pictured: Ed Miller, Vice President, Christina Tortora, Orlando Maione and Michael O’Dwyer. Photo by: Rob Pellegrino

The Three Village Historical Society (TVHS) membership recently elected five new members: Judi Wallace, Shamma Murphy, Brian Bennett, Christina Tortora and David Tracy. The group joined current board of trustee members Holly Brainard, David Prestia,  Vinny Menten, Patty Cain, Ron LaVita, Orlando Maione and Michael O’Dwyer for a swearing in by Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn at the annual meeting of the membership and lecture on Jan. 23 at The Setauket Neighborhood House.

“These new trustees bring a wealth of experience, leadership, and perspective that will greatly enhance the ability of our board to meet the significant challenges and opportunities facing the Three Village Historical Society,” says Mari Irizarry, Director. “We look forward to working with each of them to continue the board’s focused stewardship of TVHS’ financial and community affairs to strengthen the Society’s reputation for excellence in education and community based programming.”

New Trustees

Judi Wallace, CPA, Treasurer, has owned a local accounting firm in the Three Village area for the past 19 years. Her practice includes accounting and bookkeeping services for small businesses, tax preparation and planning for individuals, corporations and non-profit organizations and she is admitted to practice before the Internal Revenue Service.

Judi has been a resident of the Three Village area since 2003 and is involved in a variety of local organizations including Treasurer of Stony Brook Rotary, Treasurer of Small Business Networking Alliance, Trustee of Three Village Community Trust, Treasurer of Three Village Historical Society, and Treasurer of SparkleFaith Inc. She is also very involved in St James RC Church in Setauket serving on the Finance Committee, Parish Council, and various other ministries.

Shamma Murphy, Corresponding Secretary has been a resident of Stony Brook for the past 10 years. She has two sons in the Three Village Central School District where she has volunteered regularly over the past seven years. Currently Shamma is the President of the Gelinas PTSA and the Treasurer of the Ward Melville High School PTSA, both in the second year of each two-year term.

For the past four years she has been recruiting volunteers to help in the Gelinas School store, keeping the store stocked and manned, being the largest fundraiser for this PTSA. Prior, she ran the Scholastic Book Fairs at Setauket Elementary School for four years, implementing a process to fill each teacher’s classrooms with at least $250 worth of new books per fair, as well as a “buy one get one free” funded 100% by the Setauket PTA to keep students reading through the summer. For the past five years Shamma has been the President’s Volunteer Service Award’s Chairperson for Gelinas Jr. High School.  She enjoys volunteering at the Three Village Historical Society very much, introduced to her by her son, Owen Murphy, a regular volunteer.

Shamma works with farmers, community gardeners and homeowners as the education and marketing director for SOS for your Soil, a local compost company, for the past ten years, prior to that, she was a civil engineer on Long Island and in Charlotte, NC for 12 years.

Brian Bennett, Trustee is a life long resident of Long Island. He received his BA in Economics from SUNY Albany and 2 MA’s from SUNY Stony Brook, in Liberal Studies and History.  Having grown up in Ronkonkoma, he had a History of Lake Ronkonkoma published in the old Long Island Forum.

Brian taught, mostly in the Sayville school district for over 30 years. He and his wife Donna have lived in Setauket for 30 years, and their 2 sons attended Three Village schools. Since retirement, he has continued to teach as an adjunct professor at both Suffolk Community College and St. Joseph’s University.  He is a coordinator of Our Daily Bread, a soup kitchen at St. James RC church and enjoys being outdoors, and doing crossword puzzles with his wife.

Christina Tortora, Trustee is a Professor of Linguistics at The City University of New York, where she is currently Deputy Executive Officer in the Linguistics Program at The Graduate Center in Manhattan. She has over 25 years of experience in higher education and management of federally funded projects from agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Chrstina is the author and editor of several academic books, journal articles, and book chapters, and has a life-long passion for teaching advanced scientific findings to students in diverse professions and academic disciplines. She grew up in Setauket and currently lives in Stony Brook, is an alumna of the Three Village School District (Nassakeag; Murphy; Ward Melville), and an alumna of Stony Brook University, where she maintains strong professional and personal ties. She has an interest in vernacular culture and oral histories and wishes to bring her academic expertise in project management and oral history to the Three Village Historical Society.

David Tracy, Trustee has been a resident of the Three Village area since 2012. He has served and continues to serve as a Law Enforcement Officer with the Department of Homeland Security since 2010. Prior to beginning his Law Enforcement career, David served in the United States Marine Corps for 4 years, completing two tours to Iraq. After serving in the military, David attended John Jay of Criminal Justice graduating with honors with a Bachelors in Criminal Justice. David has been married to his wife Becky since 2007 and has a son, Sean, who was born in 2008.

In his spare time, David is the Founder and Chairman of a local charity called the Three Village Dads Foundation. His charity is responsible for donating over $200,000 to local causes such as the Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, High School Scholarships, Veteran causes, Historical restoration projects and many other deserving recipients. David has also served as a Trustee on the Board of the Three Village Community Trust since 2020.

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ABOUT TVHS — The Three Village Historical Society (TVHS), a non-profit 501(c)(3) founded in 1964 by community members, exists to educate the public about our rich cultural heritage as well as foster and preserve local history. TVHS offers museum exhibits, events, programs, archives, and other outreach initiatives to inform and enrich the public’s interest in and understanding of the vibrant past of the Three Village area along the north shore in Suffolk County, Long Island.

At the check presentation, from left, 3VDF board member Chris Carson; Billy Williams from State Farm; 3VDF President David Tracy, and 3VDF board member Steve Uniszkiewicz. Photo from Billy Williams

Setauket State Farm agent Billy Williams has a long history of demonstrating what it means to be a Good Neighbor by stepping up to help his community. Williams recently presented the Three Village Dads Foundation (3VDF) with a $10,000 grant from State Farm® as part of the company’s Outstanding Community Engagement Program.

The Three Village Dads Foundation was selected by Williams as part of his recognition for being one of 100 agents nationwide who were nominated and selected for their outstanding community engagement. A check presentation was held on June 1.

“At State Farm, we are committed to helping build stronger communities,” said Williams. “For me, it’s not enough to simply say we’re a Good Neighbor, but we also embrace the responsibility to make Setauket better by being a part of a solution.”

3VDF is committed to being community builders who make a difference in the Three Village area. The team hosts a variety of events, such as golf outings and triathlons, to raise funds for the community. One of 3VDF’s current top initiatives is to raise funds for Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. The mission is to help kids win the battle against cancer and the Foundation has already reached $60,000 of its $100,000 fundraising goal.

“We are humbled and honored that Billy would choose our Foundation as the recipient of these funds. We look forward to putting this money to great use in the very near future. Thank you Billy and thank you State Farm!,” said David Tracy, President.

Photo from TVDF

By Heidi Sutton

The Three Village Dads Foundation recently signed an official pledge with Stony Brook Children’s Hospital to donate $100,000 over the next 5 years to the Child Life Services program. A check in the amount of $10,000 was presented on April 21 in partnership with Jeff Hendel of Hendel Wealth Management.

Photo from TVDF

“Two years ago when our Foundation began it’s local philanthropic efforts, the Children’s Hospital was actually our very first recipient. What initially was supposed to be a small Three Village Dads group BBQ where I figured we could perhaps raise a few dollars for a great local cause, turned into something so much more. That event was wildly successful as we were able to raise $12,000 which opened our eyes to the effectiveness us Dads could have on our community,” said David Tracy, Three Village Dads Foundation President & Chairman. 

“When we established that relationship with Stony Brook’s Child Life program we immediately felt as connected and dedicated to their mission as their wonderful staff do. To now be in a position where we are able to deliver so much more to this great organization truly means a lot to myself, my board members, and our amazing donors. Jeff Hendel of Hendel Wealth Management joined as a co-donor with this presentation. It is generous donors such as Mr. Hendel that have enabled us to do the good we strive to do in Three Village,” he said.  

Pictured from left, Elisa Ruoff, Development Officer of Advancement at Stony Brook Hospital; Michael Attard, Child Life Specialist at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital; Vince DiCarlo, Three Village Dads Foundation board member; David Tracy, Three Village Dads Foundation President & Chairman; Jeff Hendel, Hendel Wealth Management President & CEO; and Three Village Dads Foundation board members Chris Carson and David Bitman.

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Three Village Dads hold up a check for $15,000 that was given to the Veterans of Foreign War Post 3054 in East Setauket. Photo from Three Village Dads

When it comes to raising money, members of one Facebook parent group have been busy this year.

Just a few months after donating $12,000 to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, the fathers who make up the Three Village Dads Facebook group presented a check Sept. 16 for $15,000 to Veterans of Foreign War Post 3054 in East Setauket. The group raised the funds during an Aug. 23 golf outing at Rock Hill Golf and Country Club in Manorville where 95 people participated. Among the golfers were six post members who were invited to join the online group and play some golf as well.

Group administrator David Tracy, of Stony Brook, said the VFW post came in a close second to the children’s hospital earlier this year when administrators asked members what nonprofit they should raise money for. Tracy said the fathers were able to collect $15,000 for the post by charging for golf and offering raffles including a 50/50. They also approached businesses to ask if they would like to sponsor golf tee signs and meals on the day of the event.

“Because we had such a great turnout and a good reputation from back in May with the children’s hospital, we essentially had the same returning businesses and then a few extras,” Tracy said.

Post Commander Jay Veronko said the $15,000 came at a good time. The post recently installed a fire alarm system which cost $14,000. The members have been busy renovating the building, and after Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) reached out to local unions, sheet metal workers reworked the kitchen’s vent system as a project for their trainees. In addition to the kitchen renovations, the back steps were recently redone. Masonry union members, who have donated their time and tiles, will work on the bathrooms. The post members also are hoping to replace their windows, which aren’t energy efficient.

Veronko said by renovating the post, the hope is that it can be used as a community meeting center. Three Village Dads has planned to gather there once a month, and the Titanium Twirlers — a group of baton twirlers — just held their initial meeting at the post.

“It’s part of the mission of trying to get back out in the community,”

– Jay Veronko

Tracy said the post is the perfect place to meet. In addition to a few Facebook group members belonging to the post, since they recently formed the Three Village Dads foundation to streamline the fundraising process, they are required to meet monthly. In addition to discussing future fundraising projects, he said the group hopes to talk about local issues and how they can add their voices to concerns in the community. He said the meeting space would provide members, who may be hesitant to post on a social media, a chance to discuss issues.

“It’s nice to be able to pool together the thoughts and the ideas of everybody, and put these major concerns front and center,” Tracy said. “These meetings will make that an even more viable place to sound off.”

Veronko said the post will hold an Oktoberfest event on their grounds, 8 Jones St., East Setauket, Oct. 12 from 2 to 7 p.m. On that day VFW members will present the Three Village Dads with a plaque.

“The event really is more or less a thank you to the Three Village Dads for doing what they’ve done for us,” Veronko said.

The day will include the Chris and Ronnie Polka Band from Staten Island performing, food from Pumpernickels Restaurant in Northport, steinholding, German trivia contests and a 50/50 raffle.

In addition to the group page, Three Village Dads now have a public page, www.facebook.com/threevillagedads, to inform those outside of the group of their latest activities as well as share some fatherly tips.