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East Setauket

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An East Setauket home was destroyed by fire Sept. 23.

The Setauket Fire Department responded to a fire on Franklin Avenue in East Setauket Sept. 23 after receiving an emergency call approximately 11:30 a.m. District manager Dave Sterne said the first pumper was on the scene within five minutes where the firefighters found a fully involved fire of a large structure.

Chief Paul Rodier advised the crews to attack the fire from the outside, according to the chief’s office. The fire department received mutual aid from Stony Brook, Port Jefferson, Terryville, St. James and Centereach fire departments as well as Port Jefferson and Stony Brook volunteer ambulance corps.

Sterne said the size of the fire was a rare one.

“The combination of the homeowner waiting a long time to call it in, along with all the combustibles he had stored in his house, led to an extreme amount of fire even before we got there,” Sterne said. “Given our rapid response time, we should have found a situation where a fire was just starting to spread and could have been confined to a smaller area where it had started, but upon arrival all areas of the house and contents were already on fire.”

Sterne said in case of fire or an EMS emergency, residents can call the district’s direct hotline number, 631-941-4441.

“Whether it be a medical emergency or fire emergency, seconds count and the sooner we are notified, the better,” he said.

The fire district manager shared some fire prevention tips. In addition to having working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, people should not use extension cords for permanent use and combustibles should be kept away from heating equipment. Homeowners also shouldn’t keep resetting a circuit breaker if it continuously trips and instead call an electrician. Circuit breakers trip when a faulty condition is recognized including the overheating of wires.

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A new woman-owned boutique with heart launches during COVID

Soul Chic in East Setauket features positive messages starting with the entrance. Photo from Soul Chic's Facebook

By Courtney Rehfeldt

Opening a boutique can be a tricky endeavor under normal circumstances, but launching during a pandemic is undoubtedly not for the faint of heart. Luckily, Kristen Hoffman was up for a challenge. As the new owner of Soul Chic in East Setauket and a resident of Port Jefferson, she was able to fulfill her childhood dream.

Owner Kristen Hoffman features items made by Long Island-based creators. Photo from Soul Chic’s Facebook page

A writing professor at SUNY Old Westbury and mother of two teenagers, Hoffman was just about to sign a lease for her boutique when COVID-19 shut down the world. A fast thinker, she quickly decided to launch an online shop to build a following until she could find the next perfect brick-and-mortar location.

Located at 262 Main St. in East Setauket, near Country Corner Tavern, Hoffman opened her doors June 24, only two weeks after Phase 2. She found that she created key customer relationships by prelaunching online, so women were more than ready to shop when she finally opened.

“People who did pop in were nervous about whether they could touch the clothing, but all were so relieved to be out of the house,” she said. “Word has spread, and we’ve already had to build another fitting room and add display space to the store. It’s growing quickly, and we feel really blessed.”

It was important to Hoffman that her boutique represents women of all shapes and sizes. She made sure that Soul Chic cultivates a welcoming, uplifting boutique environment for its shoppers.

“Everywhere in my store and on my site, I have words of affirmation, words to uplift women, especially in the fitting rooms,” she said. “Women are so hard on themselves — we’re our own worst critics. It’s sad to watch, and it hurts my heart because I don’t see all that when I look at other women. I appreciate their inner beauty and the energy they bring. I admire their strength and courage, and marvel at the different stories each has to tell. So, I have sayings like ‘You look SOUL beautiful’ around the store, and I want to spread that message. I want women to come here and feel beautiful and valued and heard.”

Hoffman is also an advocate for women, with a focus on Long Island-based creators.

“I want to support other women in businesses, especially artists and makers, by continuing to bring in product lines from as many local women as I can,” she said. “I want to share the success with as many women as possible.”

File photo

By Kyle Barr and Rita J. Egan

Cops said that over the past week there have been a rash of car thefts and vehicle break-ins within the Three Village area.

Now several Port Jefferson residents have also reported vehicles were stolen from their property as well, though police said they are still investigating if the same perpetrators were committing the robberies in both areas.

Suffolk County Police provided TBR News Media a list of 16 total car thefts and break ins. The list shows a total of four cars were stolen from residences in Stony Brook Aug. 23. Two of those vehicles, a 2020 Nissan and a 2019 Volkswagen were recovered — the former was found in Connecticut while the latter was located in Stony Brook. Two other cars, a 2016 Mazda and a 2009 Acura, have so far not been located, according to police.

The 12 other incidences were petit larcenies of property from cars in Stony Brook, Setauket and Old Field. Several items electronics like laptops or earphones, while others were purses, money and car keys. All incidents took place within the 6th precinct.

Suffolk County Police Detective Lt. Sean Beran said all incidents were from unlocked vehicles. The investigation is ongoing, according to Beran, though he added there are a couple of people of interest.

Uniformed and plainclothes personnel have been patrolling the area, and the Special Operations Team has been assigned to the case. Beran said no additional break-ins or thefts were reported after Aug. 23 in the Three Village community.

Beran said it’s important for car owners to remember to lock their vehicles, make sure they have their car key FOB and remove belongings even when parking a car in a driveway.

Police confirmed that more car thefts have since been reported by locals in the Port Jefferson area as well. A man in the Harbor Hills section of the village on Landing Lane said two cars were stolen from his driveway at around 1:45 a.m. Friday, Aug. 28.

One vehicle was a 2020 Honda Accord and another was a 2016 Honda CRV, according to the Port Jefferson man’s posts on social media. Cops also said that a 2013 Mercedes was also stolen from Sands Lane in Port Jeff. That vehicle has since been recovered nearby.

Police said it is still under investigation whether the Three Village and Port Jeff car thefts are connected.

People can contact the 6th Precinct with information at 631-854-8652 or submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS (8477), utilizing a mobile app which can be downloaded through the App Store or Google Play by searching P3 Tips, or online at www.P3Tips.com.

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Approximately a dozen clergy members stood for equality at a Setauket intersection June 5.

Members of the Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association gathered on the southeast and northeast corners of Route 25A and Bennetts Road/North Country Road. On the muggy Friday, with signs in hand, the peaceful protesters wanted to let the community know that black lives matter. The protest was in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a police officer.

The Rev. Linda Anderson, community minister in affiliation with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook, said it was important to organize the event with faithful people from different religions.

“We wanted to show people that we can stand together for peace and for justice, and that is what our faiths ask us,” she said.

The Rev. Gregory Leonard, of Setauket’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and one of the founding members of the grassroots organization Building Bridges in Brookhaven, said when it comes to residents caring about an issue, it starts with the faith communities. The pastor said at this significant moment in history, the group couldn’t let it pass by without doing something.

“This is a big moment,” he said. “Something is happening, and it could be something good if we stand up and speak up, and it could be something negative if we just sit there and don’t say anything.”

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky, from Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook, said the individual congregations have been emphasizing the importance of human rights, but he said it was important to come together as a community.

“This is not something that affects one group, one religion or one part of our society, but it affects everyone — everyone who believes in freedom, who believes in justice and equal rights,” he said.

Elaine Learnard, a Quaker and member of Conscience Bay Friends Meeting, said it was important for her to take part.

“Quakers, since the beginning, have believed in equality of all, and like most of the nation, we haven’t always lived up to our ideals, and it’s important,” she said. “This is a time to me of crisis with potential for great change, and it’s important to be heard and seen in support of the equality of all.”

The majority of the drivers passing by were honking and giving nods of approval.

“I think our signs saying who we are, Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association, I think that helps people have goodwill and maybe make some of them think a little bit,” Anderson said.

Leonard was not surprised.

“I have always known here in the Three Village there are more compassionate, good people than there are those who are afraid and negative,” he said.

Though Leonard did notice a few negative gestures that didn’t deter his hope in people.

“You know what, it’s the start of a dialogue, talking to each other,” he said. “When we talk to each other, get to know one another then hopefully things like what happened with George Floyd will become less and less. I think there will always be hatred and ignorance in the world. I think that’s just the way it is, but today the Three Village clergy and the other people who have joined us are making a statement that what’s going on is not right. We need to respect each other. We need to get to know one another. We need to build bridges to one another.”

Sidlofsky said the negative is expected as sometimes people misinterpret the message.

“We have to realize that when we stand up for the rights of one group such as the African American community, it doesn’t mean you’re denying the rights of others, it means you’re enhancing human rights,” he said.

Anderson said she has faith in the future.

“I always have faith and trust in the goodness that’s in humanity and I think, I hope, that we perhaps have hit a bottom and the only place to go is up,” she said.

The Rev. Ashley McFaul-Erwin, community outreach pastor for Setauket Presbyterian Church, who grew up in Northern Ireland, is also hopeful.

“I really believe in the inherent goodness in all people,” she said, adding it will take hard work to continue building relationships. “I think at the heart of it, even though we’re very divided right now, there’s a goodness that I hope will come through.”

Leonard said, regarding Floyd’s death, the thing that sticks with him most is how he cried out for his mother who died two years earlier.

“When he called out for his mother, he called out for all mothers black and white, rich and poor,” the pastor said. “That was very meaningful for me and something to think about regarding the tragedy of his death.”

Car parades to celebrate birthdays and other momentous occasions have become popular during the pandemic as people look for alternate ways to commemorate their loved ones’ milestones.

On May 9, a short distance from the TBR News Media office, a car parade was held for Siena Figliola who turned five the day before.

In addition to her father, Anthony, mother, Christine, and siblings 7-year-old Anthony and 14-month-old Celine on hand, friends, family members and her fellow Setauket Elementary School pre-K classmates headed down her street.

Her mother said the family had an amazing time.

It was so wonderful seeing the children with big smiles on their faces,” she said. “For a brief moment parents and their kids were able to forget about what was going on in the world and just be happy. The pre-K class was adorable — the children hanging out of their car with signs, birthday cards and presents. One dad retrofitted his car with microphones and flashing lights.”

Christine Figliola said the hope was to not only celebrate her daughter’s birthday but also give other children a “small break from the lack of normalcy they’ve all been experiencing.” During the birthday parade, participants received curbside favors, treats and goodie bags, handed out from a safe distance.

The mother said her daughter has been taking the recent changes to everyday life in stride and enjoyed her big day.

I know she will look back on this time, and it will be a birthday for her in the history books,” Figliola said.

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. 

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Police said an East Setauket woman, who had been trying to assist people involved in a separate crash in Islandia, was struck and killed by a passing vehicle the morning of Monday, March 2.

Suffolk County Police said a 2005 Toyota was rear-ended by a 2002 Toyota on eastbound Suffolk Avenue, west of Casement Avenue, at around 5:40 a.m. Jennifer Burgess, 36, of East Setauket, who was not involved in the crash, stopped to render assistance to the involved drivers.

A 2014 Toyota and a 2003 Chevrolet then struck the 2005 Toyota, causing Burgess to step into the westbound lane of Suffolk Avenue where she was struck by a 2018 Honda.

Burgess was transported to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore where she was pronounced dead.

The driver of the Honda, Chris Cardinale, 59, of St. James, was not injured.

The Honda was impounded for a safety check. Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the 3rd Squad at 631-854-8352.

Mark Daniels

Despite a recent setback, mornings still look bright for one East Setauket resident.

A familiar voice on Long Island radio for more than 30 years, Mark Daniels was notified he was being let go as co-host of WALK/97.5FM’s “Mark and Jamie Mornings” right before Thanksgiving. 

But with the start of a new year, the radio host embarked on a new adventure Jan. 2, launching the podcast, “Breakfast with Mark Daniels,” right from his East Setauket home.

Daniels said the 10-minute installments will be Long Island focused and told in a storytelling format. Subjects will range from pizza to the railroad.

“I always try to relate something to Long Islanders that Long Islanders call their own, and I think keeping it that way and keeping it local provides that relatability that folks in Nassau and Suffolk have to one another and to living here,” Daniels said.

A recent podcast featured the radio host’s recent adventure into the city on a day when the Ronkonkoma Branch railroad line was undergoing construction. He said he and his family headed to the Babylon station, “but so did the rest of the planet east of Babylon.” Fortunately, they were able to get a parking spot.

The idea of a podcast came about when some friends suggested he reinvent himself. In the future, Daniels said he hopes to build a big enough base to attract advertisers.

“It’s evolving every day,” he said.

An East Setauket resident for 21 years, Daniels and his wife Marianne have three children, Mark, Brian and Allison, who have grown up in the Three Village school district.

The radio host originally commuted to Patchogue for his on-air duties for WALK, and then after Connecticut-based Connoisseur Media purchased the station, he traveled to their Farmingdale studios.

While the commute may have been longer for Daniels once the studio was moved to Farmingdale, it was a job he always enjoyed.

“It is a lot of fun to be on the air and to talk to your co-host about topics, and the immediate listener response is just incredible,” he said. “It’s just so much fun. It was like a playdate every time I was on the air. I’m trying to keep that going on the podcast.”

He said among his favorite memories is collecting donations for the food bank Long Island Cares, where listeners would often contribute so much there was no room to store the contributions at the station. He also loves appearing in The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Walk for Beauty in October. He said the community’s response to such causes is overwhelming.

“To me, that’s what radio is really about,” the broadcaster said. “It’s about people. When you put out a call to attend and support, people show up, and people show up in large numbers.”

While Daniels said he is not at liberty to comment on his exit from WALK/FM, he added he wasn’t surprised when he heard at the end of the year that WALK would broadcast the same morning show as Star 99.9, “The Anna & Raven Show,” which is broadcast from Connecticut. 

“It’s a business decision and that’s what they chose to do, and that’s what I have to live with, and I have to pick up and move on,” he said.

This week Connoisseur Media also announced Daniels’ most recent co-host, Jamie Morris, will now head K-JOY’s morning show.

Daniels said he couldn’t believe the amount of support he received on social media after the news of his dismissal was announced, and he admitted it gave him goose bumps.

“I really only think of myself as just a guy that goes in, does a job and has a lot of fun with it and enjoys it, and then I’m home,” he said.

The radio host said his podcasts can be found every weekday on the “Breakfast with Mark Daniels” Facebook and Instagram pages, Spotify, Apple podcast and Buzzsprout.com.

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As his former office sits empty on North Country Road in Setauket, former investment adviser Steven Pagartanis will be spending time in jail.

The 60-year-old East Setauket resident appeared in Central Islip’s federal court Jan. 9 where U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack sentenced Pagartanis to 14 years in prison and also ordered him to pay more than $6.5 million in restitution, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. The former investment adviser was arrested May 30, 2018, and in December of the same year, pleaded guilty to charges of mail and wire fraud for orchestrating a securities fraud scheme for 18 years.

“Today’s sentence is a well-deserved reckoning for Pagartanis, who preyed on elderly investors, many of whom trusted him with their life savings, for nearly two decades,” said U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue. “Protecting investors, especially those that are vulnerable, from white-collar criminals is a priority of this office and the Department of Justice.” 

According to the press release, from January 2000 to March 2018, Pagartanis targeted elderly women to invest in two publicly traded companies. He requested the victims write checks payable to an entity he secretly controlled. After laundering the investments using a series of bank accounts, he used the money to pay for personal expenses. He also funded failed business ventures that included his wife’s pet store. 

The defendant’s victims invested more than $13 million and sustained losses of over $9 million, according to the EDNY office.

Pagartanis’ attorney Kevin Keating, of Garden City, declined to comment.

Frank Napolitano’s mother, Roseanne Maggio, of Middle Island, lost nearly $70,000 in the scam. Since Maggio died in 2018, Napolitano attended the sentencing along with other victims.

He said he was satisfied with the sentencing and was surprised that the judge ordered Pagartanis to prison immediately. While to his knowledge his mother’s $70,000 is the smallest amount lost by a victim, he said money is relative to everybody.

“Seventy thousand to one person is $3 million to another person,” he said. “It’s really kind of all my mother had in terms of investing.” 

Napolitano said it was crazy to hear of all the luxury items Pagartanis purchased with the money, including vacations and luxury cars, especially since he targeted elderly women, most of whom had recently suffered an illness or death of a family member.

“It breaks your heart,’” he said.

Despite her passing, Maggio’s family will still see some restitution. Her son said his mother had hoped to leave money to her four grandchildren.

“They’re able to see a little something of grandma’s investment so it helps a little bit,” he said.

A Walmart customer donates to Stan Feltman’s fundraising efforts for fellow veterans. Photo by Rita J. Egan

On a recent December morning, while many shoppers rushed into the Middle Island Walmart to take care of some holiday shopping, others paused in the vestibule to throw some money in a bucket.

The container sat in a shopping cart filled with articles and wartime photos that feature veteran Stan Feltman, 93, the man standing behind the cart. Feltman is a familiar face at the store as he stands there practically every day, all year long, collecting money for his fellow veterans with the recognizable red poppies in his hand. Some days he takes a break, but only from his usual spot. He then moves on to collect money at the Walmart in Centereach or East Setauket.

Feltman said he’s met so many generous people through the years. He usually can collect between $80 and $100 after standing there for two hours. One day a gentleman shook his hand and noticed he was cold and bought him a jacket from the store. One woman gave him a $20 bill one day saying it was for him to keep.

“I took the $20, and when she left I threw it in the pot,” he said. “I don’t need the money.”

A member of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336, Feltman brings the donations to the post’s monthly meetings where he and his fellow members decide where the money should go. Post Comdr. Norman Weitz said over the last few years they have been able to donate more than $21,000 thanks to Feltman’s fundraising efforts. The post is a regular contributor to many veterans efforts, including the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University.

“A common theme you will see in the veterans community is that veterans are dedicated to giving back to helping other veterans.”

– Jonathan Spier

In 2017, the post donated $5,000 to LISVH. Jonathan Spier, deputy executive director of the vets home, said the donation was used to purchase oxygen concentrators for the patients. He said the JWV has been a partner with the home for more than 20 years and other donations from them have been used for recreational therapy programs. The post also assists Jewish vets to attend Shabbat and holiday services.

“A common theme you will see in the veterans community is that veterans are dedicated to giving back to helping other veterans,” he said.

Spier added he is in awe of Feltman’s fundraising efforts.

“It’s really incredible to see that passion and that energy and the effort that he puts in to help veterans,” he said.

As for his war record, Feltman was a B-29 tail gunner in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1943 to 1945. He was a double ace, meaning he shot down 10 enemy planes. Weitz said he admires Feltman, who one time when he was shot down had to escape on a raft. When Feltman’s fellow soldier slipped off the raft into shark-infested waters, he dived down to save him and grabbed him by the collar. Feltman earned the Bronze Star Medal for saving the man’s life. The medal wasn’t the only one earned during his service, as he gained four medals in total throughout his time in the Air Corps, even though they are no longer in his possession.

“My wife was so proud of them when she passed away, I put them in her coffin,” he said.

Weitz said he believes there are more heroic acts that Feltman doesn’t talk about, and the office of U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) is trying to see if his medals can be replaced by writing to the Air Force Historical Research Agency, which has access to after-action reports. The post commander has also nominated Feltman for membership in the Legion of Honor of The Chapel of Four Chaplains, which recognizes veterans who have gone above and beyond their required duties and contribute to their community.

In addition to raising money for veterans, Feltman has participated in lectures at schools and senior groups, including Erasmus Hall High School where he attended while growing up in Brooklyn. He also has been interviewed for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, an initiative established to collect and preserve firsthand remembrances of wartime veterans.

Weitz calls Feltman amazing and said he is worthy of all the accolades he has received.

“The record amount of money he’s collected allows us to distribute thousands and thousands to local veterans organizations,” he said.