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editorial

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This past Monday we celebrated Presidents Day. We should remember it’s not merely a day off from work or an excuse for a long weekend getaway. It’s a time to reflect on the impact of historical figures and the importance of leadership, both nationally and within our community.

Originally established to honor George Washington’s birthday, Presidents Day has evolved into a day of recognition for all U.S. presidents. It’s a day to celebrate the individuals who have held our nation’s highest office and led us through triumphs and challenges, shaping the course of history with their decisions and actions.

One of the primary reasons that Presidents Day holds such significance is because it serves as a reminder of the democratic principles upon which our nation was founded. The peaceful transition of power from one president to the next is a hallmark of our democracy, underscoring the importance of leadership in ensuring the continuity and stability of our government.

While Presidents Day traditionally celebrates the contributions of past presidents to the nation as a whole, it also offers us an opportunity to reflect on the importance of local leadership and its direct influence on our daily lives.

In our community, local leaders play a vital role in shaping the policies, programs and initiatives that directly impact our neighborhoods, schools, businesses and quality of life. From town council members to school board trustees, mayors to county legislators, these individuals make decisions that affect everything from local taxes and infrastructure to education and public safety.

This federal holiday serves as a reminder of the significance of civic engagement and the power of community involvement. It’s a time to recognize the dedication and hard work of our local leaders who devote themselves to serving our community and addressing the needs of its residents.

Moreover, Presidents Day encourages us to reflect on the values and principles guiding our community and consider how we can contribute to its betterment. Whether it’s through volunteering, participating in local government or simply being a responsible and engaged citizen, each of us has a role to play in shaping the future of our community.

Presidents Day provides an opportunity to celebrate the diversity and inclusivity of our community. Just as our nation is comprised of individuals from various backgrounds and walks of life, so too is our local community. Presidents Day reminds us of the importance of unity and collaboration in overcoming challenges and achieving common goals.

Each year as we observe Presidents Day, we should take a moment to express gratitude for the local leaders who work to improve our community. Let us also reaffirm our commitment to active citizenship and civic engagement, recognizing that positive change begins at the grassroots level.

Brookhaven landfill sign. Photo by Samantha Ruth

The Town of Brookhaven landfill, a titan of our local landscape, casts a long shadow over our future. While the initial plan promised its closure by 2024, the recent extension for incinerator ash disposal leaves us in a state of uncertainty. This reprieve begs a crucial question: What is the actual plan for the landfill, and where will our garbage go?

Residents deserve clarity. We’ve been told the landfill, nearing capacity, would soon reach its final chapter. Now, faced with a year or two extension, we’re left wondering: Is this a temporary fix or a signpost to a longer life for the landfill?

Beyond the timeline, the elephant in the room is ash disposal. Accepting Covanta’s waste may solve its immediate problem, but at what cost? Have the potential environmental impacts been thoroughly assessed? Are we simply swapping one set of concerns for another?

Perhaps most importantly, where is the long-term vision for waste management? Is this extension just a stopgap measure, or is there a concrete plan for a sustainable future beyond the landfill’s life span? We haven’t heard much about exploring alternatives like recycling, composting or waste-to-fuel technologies. Shouldn’t these be at the forefront of the conversation?

The Town Board owes it to residents to provide a comprehensive plan, not just piecemeal extensions. We need to know how the extension fits into the bigger picture, what alternatives are being explored and when  we can expect a clear roadmap for the future.

This isn’t just about the landfill’s closure date, it’s about responsible waste management for generations to come. While there has been a lot of discussion, this postponement raises doubts about a future course. Residents seek transparency, clear communication and a commitment to solutions that prioritize both environmental health and responsible waste disposal. Until then, we’ll remain in limbo, watching the shadow of the landfill grow longer – and wondering where our waste will ultimately end up.

George Hoffman of Setauket Harbor Task Force tests water chemistry in Port Jefferson Harbor. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Long Island Sound, our shimmering jewel, is not just a watery highway or a scenic backdrop — it’s the very lifeblood of our region, pulsing with economic vitality, ecological diversity and recreational wonder. But this precious resource is increasingly under threat, its vibrancy dimming in the face of pollution, overdevelopment and climate change.

The Sound is an economic powerhouse, supporting jobs in fishing, tourism and maritime industries. Its oyster beds once rivaled those of Chesapeake Bay, and our waters teemed with cod, lobster and striped bass, fueling a profitable fishery. For generations, Long Islanders have cast their nets and lines, and livelihoods into the waters.

But pollution casts a long shadow. Runoff from urban centers and fertilizers alike can choke the Sound with nitrogen, feeding harmful algal blooms depleting oxygen and leaving behind dead zones where no life can thrive. Plastic waste can drown marine life, and microplastics enter the food chain, silently posing a threat to human health.

The changing climate adds another layer of urgency. Rising sea levels inundate coastal communities, eroding beaches and threatening infrastructure. Hurricanes become more frequent and ferocious, battering our shores. As the waters warm, delicate ecosystems shift, impacting fish populations and the intricate web of life beneath the surface.

To stand idly by as the Sound fades would be a betrayal of our heritage and a reckless gamble with our future. We must act now, with resolute hearts and committed minds, to become stewards of this irreplaceable ecosystem.

The solutions are multifaceted. 

We must support policies that curb pollution, reduce runoff and invest in clean water infrastructure. Solutions like the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act set for reauthorization from the U.S. Rep. and advocate Nick LaLota (R-NY1). Solutions that allow for stricter regulations on coastal development and responsible management of our shorelines. 

We must continue to uplift the work of the Setauket Harbor Task Force in Setauket and Port Jeff harbors. We must recognize the diligence and continued efforts from Stony Brook University researchers at SoMAS to the ongoing betterment of our beloved Sound. 

Individual actions matter too: reducing our use of pesticides, adopting responsible waste disposal practices and supporting sustainable seafood choices — each ripple contributes to a healthier Sound.

The Long Island Sound is not just an expanse of water, it’s the soul of our region. Let us rise to the challenge, not just for ourselves, but for generations to come. 

In the wake of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) recent budget address, a cloud of concern shadows our community regarding the proposed budget cuts to our education systems. As citizens invested in the well-being and future of our children, it is crucial to address the potential consequences these cuts could have on the quality of education in our state.

Education is the cornerstone of any thriving society, laying the foundation for the success and prosperity of future generations. Hochul’s proposed budget cuts threaten to undermine this foundation, jeopardizing the resources and support necessary for students to excel.

Hochul’s plan reflects on current school enrollment rather than on decades past. It is imperative to acknowledge the difficult decisions our leaders face in managing the state’s finances, though there should be a better solution than slashing education budgets. 

Our schools need adequate funding to provide students with the tools, resources and opportunities to thrive. A cut in education funding not only impacts the students directly but also has far-reaching consequences for the community.

Several local districts will be affected by reduced state aid. Specifically, Three Village, Cold Spring Harbor, Harborfields, Kings Park, Mount Sinai, Smithtown and Port Jefferson at nearly 30%, are among some of the many districts facing budget consequences. 

Education is not merely an expense but an investment in the future. Our schools hold the power to shape the minds of the next generation, molding them into informed and capable individuals ready to contribute to society. Budget cuts threaten the resources and opportunities available to our students, potentially hindering their academic success and personal growth.

It is important to educate oneself on the specifics of the proposed budget and the potential impacts of it. We can enact real change by reaching out to local representatives and expressing our concerns. We can attend town halls or civic meetings. We can write letters, support petitions and make our voices heard.

Through collective action, we can help to ensure our children’s education is a cause worth fighting for, and together, we can ensure that the future of education in New York remains bright. We cannot afford to be passive observers while the future of our children’s education hangs in the balance. 

Education should be a top investment for a prosperous and thriving New York.

Stock photo

Recently, our community has been grappling with many unfortunate deaths among local prominent citizens. These individuals, pillars of our area, have left a mark on the tapestry of our communities, and the impact of their departures resonates throughout the richness of our existence.

These losses create a void that extends far beyond the immediate circle of loved ones. These individuals served as architects of our community’s history, culture and progress. Their contributions, whether in business, academia or civic leadership, have shaped the very essence of who we are and how we live. 

The richness of our community is intricately linked to the diversity of voices and perspectives that local notables bring. These individuals are the stories of our shared history, the advocates for progress and the mentors who guide the next generation. Losing them means losing a part of our collective identity.

But grief, while consuming, can also be a catalyst. It reminds us of the precious fragility of life and the fleeting nature of moments we often take for granted. In these losses, we see the faces we sometimes neglect to notice, the hands we forget to clasp in gratitude. We become acutely aware of the interconnectedness of our lives and how each thread in the tapestry contributes to the vibrant richness of the whole.

In times of sorrow, our community needs to unite and support one another. The legacy of the deceased can be honored through our unity. Sharing memories, celebrating achievements and acknowledging the impact they had on our lives can be a source of solace for those of us left behind.

As we mourn, we must also recognize the responsibility of preserving and continuing the work of those who came before us. The best way to honor the legacy of these outstanding members we lost is to carry forward the torch of progress, compassion and community involvement that they lit. In doing so, we ensure that their contributions live on through the actions and endeavors of the following generations.

Let us remember and celebrate the lives of our lost loved ones, cherishing their impact on our community. In doing so, we can transform the pain of loss into a catalyst for positive change, ensuring that the richness of our community endures through the years to come.

As we usher in the new year with hope and optimism, it is disheartening to shed light on an incident that occurred in the heart of our community. A distressing episode unfolded where a local business, under the guise of addressing an alleged violation, nearly fell victim to a scam that asked for money to be electronically sent to the imposter.

This incident serves as a stark reminder that despite our tight-knit community, scams can find their way into our lives, preying on our trust and familiarity. It is imperative that we, as a community, stay vigilant and informed to protect ourselves and our neighbors from falling victim to such deceitful tactics.

First and foremost, it is essential to note that our local authorities are working diligently to investigate this incident, though we must also be proactive in safeguarding our community.

In an era where technology connects us in unprecedented ways, it has also paved the way for scammers to exploit our sense of trust. We must exercise caution and skepticism, especially when faced with unexpected requests for money or personal information.

It is incumbent upon each of us to be the first line of defense against scams in our community. If you receive a call claiming to be from the police or any other authoritative figure, take a moment to verify their identity. Call the official number of your local precinct or the relevant agency to confirm the legitimacy of the request.

This incident serves as a wake-up call for us to be proactive in educating ourselves and our neighbors about potential scams. Spread the word, check in on local businesses and encourage everyone to report any suspicious activity. Together, we can build a shield of awareness that safeguards our community from falling prey to such malicious schemes.

As we navigate the challenges of the digital age, let us fortify our community against those who seek to exploit our trust. By standing together and staying informed, we can ensure that our community remains a haven of safety, trust and resilience.

The mansion at Thatch Meadow Farm. Photo by Raymond Janis

The global pandemic has cast a long shadow, obscuring the charm and dimming the collective spirit of our communities. Yet, within the confines lies a treasure trove of stories, traditions and a unique character that deserves not just protection but revival. Investing in community revitalization isn’t merely a budgetary line item but a strategic investment in the soul of the community.

The Suffolk County JumpSMART program is not a charity but a catalyst. The grants provided through the American Rescue Plan Act will inject much-needed resources into neighborhoods that may have been overlooked or bypassed by progress. This translates into restored facades, rejuvenated public spaces and the return of thriving businesses, but the true transformation lies deeper. It’s the rekindled pride in local heritage, the buzz of opportunity replacing the din of despair and the emergence of resilient communities.

We often see deterioration and neglect of history and community within our coverage area such as across Thatch Meadow Farm in St. James, according to Preservation Long Island’s recent declaration of several of the island’s historical landmarks to be endangered and in need of careful and conscientious TLC. Once again, Flowerfield Fairgrounds — also in St. James — is another community staple faced with the danger of being lost to development. 

Preserving historic sites and buildings isn’t about mere nostalgia but reclaiming a collective narrative, each restored landmark inspires tales of resilience and the paths of those who came before us. In revitalized communities, stories aren’t confined to dusty archives but instead sung in bustling marketplaces and etched in the smiles of returning residents. These revitalized landscapes will aid in the preservation of our cultural tapestry for future generations to explore and embrace.

Beyond the historical benefits, revitalization ignites economic engines, with improved infrastructure and a flourishing atmosphere, businesses return, drawing investment and creating jobs. Local talents find fertile ground for innovation, generating entrepreneurship and injecting newfound vitality into the economy. 

History isn’t something inherited, it’s something actively cultivated. Investing in community revitalization isn’t just about bricks and mortar but investing in a brighter future. It’s about revitalizing fading facades, restoring historic buildings and artifacts — and cultivating communities. We urge our readers to write us letters in support of the movement, as these actions are worthy goals in the coming year.

File photo by Erika Karp

In keeping with the spirit of the season, the governor came to town Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 12, bringing gifts from Albany.

At the Suffolk County Water Authority in Hauppauge, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) delivered a significant announcement on clean water, awarding our county tens of millions of dollars to address the deteriorating septic systems beneath our feet that pollute our drinking supply.

At a time of intense polarization over the future of our wastewater infrastructure, we regard Hochul’s action as a positive first step. Hochul’s arrival in Suffolk was a visible reminder that our state government is listening to our concerns, in tune with the pressing issues of our times and taking action to rectify them. We hope to see the governor again soon, especially given the growing list of local matters demanding her attention.

As SCWA chair Charlie Lefkowitz indicated during his remarks, the electrification of the Port Jefferson Branch of the Long Island Rail Road represents a generational investment in our transportation infrastructure. That kind of investment by New York State would help unlock the full potential of Stony Brook University, an institution Hochul just last year named the southern flagship of our state university system.

Electrifying the Port Jeff line would facilitate greater interconnectivity between communities along the North Shore, with economic development rewards for the commercial hubs around those train stations. Electrification would breathe new life into the North Shore. 

This year, the Port Jeff Branch reached a milestone when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority opted to include the electrification project within its 2025-2044 20-Year Needs Assessment. It is now time for the MTA to advance the project, laying down the necessary seed funds to kickstart the planning studies and environmental reviews. Let’s move this project out of the station.

Past generations of New Yorkers constructed the Erie Canal, the New York City subway system and the state parkway network. Our generation can electrify the Port Jeff Branch, though we need gubernatorial initiative.

Hochul made her presence felt Tuesday afternoon. We ask for her continued presence and advocacy for the project that our community needs most. We thank the governor for the state dollars toward clean water. Now, we ask for her commitment to electrify our rail line.

Photo by David Ackerman

Local news is making news lately.

Last week, tech giant Google reached an agreement with the Canadian government that will allow the search engine to continue publishing links to local news outlets under select conditions. As part of the bargain, Google will pay out roughly U.S. $73.5 million annually to Canadian news companies.

We regard this development as a significant victory for local journalism, setting a powerful precedent we can follow here in the United States.

The local press is a vital institution for sustaining democracy. We know that in news deserts — or places not served by a local newspaper — communities generally have less civic engagement and more governmental mismanagement.

Without local news, we become alienated from the democratic process. Distant bureaucracies in Washington and Albany — over which we have little influence as private citizens — dominate our mental space and shape our worldviews.

Without local news, we can consume only the most polarizing, partisan content from mainstream media outlets that prosper and profit from a national culture of division.

At TBR, we are committed to a ground-up style of democracy. A stable federalist system requires a solid foundation. Like the food chain, community journalism is the primary producer, giving life to all other levels of democracy. Without the local press, our entire democratic ecosystem could collapse.

Local journalists reporting on civic matters and informed citizens engaging in the political process are the pillars of a thriving democracy. But how our industry is changing.

Today, local outlets fight just to survive — much less thrive and expand. Local newspapers have simply struggled to adapt in this digital age. Meanwhile, tech conglomerates are cannibalizing the local media landscape, circulating and monetizing our content without equitable compensation while siphoning away precious advertising dollars from small businesses — the lifeblood of the local press.

We find this dynamic deeply problematic. Fortunately, we have recourse.

Right now, the state Legislature is considering the Local Journalism Sustainability Act. This measure would create tax credits for local journalists and monetarily reward local news subscribers.

We regard this legislation as a positive first step toward attracting and retaining talent in our industry while counteracting the declines faced by many of our shuttering peers. We ask each of our state legislators to support this measure and invite readers to lobby them on our behalf.

But the work doesn’t end in Albany. Local news outlets in the U.S. deserve compensation from Big Tech, similar to our Canadian counterparts. If Canada can defend its local press, our federal government can, too.

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate earlier this year by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) with broad bipartisan support, would allow local outlets to jointly negotiate fair compensation for access to our content by Google, Facebook and other large corporations.

We urge our U.S. Congressman Nick LaLota (R-NY1) to pick up the measure, guiding the slim House majority toward enactment.

As local press members, we are staring down an extinction-level event. The monopolistic, plagiaristic, predatory tactics of Big Tech must end. We ask for a level playing field.

To our readers and public officials alike, we urge you to do what you can to stand up for local news.

Nikola Tesla’s Wardenclyffe wireless station, located in Shoreham, as seen in 1904. Public domain photo

Tragedy recently struck our community.

The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, a regional and international treasure nestled in the heart of Shoreham, went up in flames last Tuesday, Nov. 21.

While the cause of the fire is unknown, the damages to the historical structure on-site are extensive. This sad news comes as the nonprofit organization was reaching its peak, embarking upon a $20 million redevelopment project that is now set back for some time.

Considerable effort and planning lie ahead to remediate the wreckage. Fortunately, we can all lend a hand in getting the center back on its feet.

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, center officials launched Mission Rebuild, a $3 million fundraising campaign to finance the necessary restoration work. This is a separate fundraiser from the $20 million campaign for site redevelopment. We also can empathize with the Tesla Center.

Historic preservation is an arduous, often expensive endeavor. Local not-for-profits and private benefactors invest their time and dollars in preserving historically and architecturally significant structures for our community’s benefit. These places connect us to our shared past, linking one generation of Long Islanders to the next.

If we fail to invest in historic preservation, then we run the risk of losing our sense of place and appreciation for the land. This very rootlessness can give way to unfettered demolition, development, sprawl and other ills that may imperil our collective way of life.

The brick building of revolutionary scientist Nikola Tesla’s laboratory at Wardenclyffe — its roof severely damaged by the fire — was designed by famed architect Stanford White, whose roots lie in Suffolk’s North Shore. This intersection of architectural and scientific history is unrivaled anywhere else, which is another crucial reason for us to intervene.

And what could be a more noble cause than science, that exploration into the depths of the unknown, unraveling the mysteries of the universe and elevating our human understanding?

Along the North Shore, we are blessed with a rich scientific tradition spanning several institutions, such as Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Brookhaven National Lab and Stony Brook University. Tesla’s lab is a part of that complex. Without it, our homegrown scientific community would be diminished.

As lovers of history, science, and community, we can all lend a hand in this effort. This is a call to people everywhere to help restore this vital place in our community and world.

To donate to Mission Rebuild, please visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/fire-at-tesla-s-lab-immediate-restoration-needed.