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editorial

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.

Photo by Heidi Sutton

“Thank you for your service.”

Especially around Veterans Day, we say and hear these words many times. We express our gratitude and appreciation for American veterans, those who risked it all so that we may enjoy our cherished American freedoms.

The freedom to speak one’s mind. The freedom to exercise one’s sincere religious convictions. The freedom to peaceably assemble and petition government — and the freedom of the press.

While we often take these freedoms for granted, we must remember that they are not guaranteed. Throughout our national history — from imperial Britain to the Confederate States to the Axis powers to al-Qaida — our enemies have sought to deprive us of our sacred freedoms. They have sought to undermine and wipe away our way of life and our democracy.

Standing in their way time and again have been American service members. To protect and defend our democratic norms and our way of life, veterans risked their lives, many paying the ultimate sacrifice.

Along the North Shore, we live among some of American history’s greatest patriots. No matter his or her tour of service, each veteran has a story to share. And crucially, many have carried the banner of service back into civilian life, building up our local communities and making this a better place to live.

We would be deeply troubled by the loss of local and national historical memory. Thankfully, we have history courses built into elementary and middle school curricula. We also enjoy and sincerely appreciate the efforts of local historical societies here preserving our history.

History gives us roots, establishing a sense of who we are and where we came from. To move forward as a community and nation, we must first grasp how we arrived at where we are. Fortunately for us on Long Island, we have a path ahead.

At the former Rocky Point train station, a collection of veterans and local volunteers are building out the Suffolk County World War II and Military History Museum. This regional veterans museum, to be operated by VFW Post 6249, aims to tell the stories of local service members from across Long Island. The museum is slated to launch on Thursday, Dec. 7.

Since learning of this project, our staff has enthusiastically supported its mission. We believe the museum will help foster two of our central goals as a staff: informing locals about their community and inspiring love for this place we call home.

As this year’s Veterans Day services wind down, we can all help this museum get off the ground. The museum is actively seeking donations in the form of equipment, uniforms, combat supplies and other artifacts and memorabilia.

We ask our readers to honor a veteran in their own lives by donating. We urge all to help lend a hand — because these stories are too valuable to lose to history.

To donate, contact the museum’s curator, Rich Acritelli, by emailing [email protected].

DoD photo by Samuel King Jr., U.S. Air Force/Released

As this year’s local election season comes to a close, the TBR News Media staff congratulates our newly elected officials at the county and town levels.

There is much work ahead in the coming term, with many local issues and important public business to resolve. We look forward to working with our officials to bring these issues to the public’s attention.

To those not elected Tuesday night, we strongly urge you to stay involved in our deliberative process. Incumbents need strong voices and passionate citizens who can direct them toward representative policy decisions. The issues raised and discussions shared throughout the campaign were not for nothing, so continue to speak up.

Within a broader context, many Americans are losing faith in our democratic norms. So often, petty politics erodes civility within our democracy. The bickering among politicians can give way to gridlock and a breakdown of progress. Ultimately, when politicians refuse to get along, the people lose out.

At the same time, we are confronting simultaneous regional crises from municipal solid waste disposal, wastewater infrastructure, budget stabilization and environmental degradation, among others.

Right now, the stakes are simply too high to allow for inaction in the years ahead. If our local officials fail us now, our region could undergo irreversible decline. The result will be a further exodus of people away from Suffolk County in search of a better life elsewhere.

Averting these potential calamities is easier said than done. It will require our officials put the public good over party interest or private benefit.

Political extremists and tribalists from both ends of the political spectrum tend to attract undue attention from officials and press alike. We must begin to drown out these extremes as well, lifting the voices of the more temperate majority while advancing the interests of moderate, independent-minded citizens.

To be effective, our local officials must first learn to achieve compromise. We, therefore, hope for greater bipartisanship, civility and unity in the coming term. Our community and region depend upon this critical first step. Let’s put the people first.

METRO photo

While every election is important, we take special care in informing our readers ahead of local races. With Election Day — Nov. 7 — fast approaching, we remind our readers why voting in local town and county elections is critical.

Unfortunately, many Americans today are losing faith in our democratic norms. Everywhere we look, we see partisanship, tribalism and polarization undermining our political process. National media sources often feed into and inflame these divisions for monetary and partisan gain.

Lower levels of government can offer a powerful counterbalance to all of this noise. Both literally and figuratively, local officials are closer to the people — their seats of government are located within our communities, and their decisions more immediately influence our day-to-day lives.

The issues debated by local legislatures are often far removed from the political theater observed in Washington and Albany. Local elections are not about the national debt ceiling, universal free health care or American foreign policy — remote if important issues in our ordinary lives.

Local elections are about us and the complexion of our community. They determine land use and zoning policies within our neighborhoods and commercial districts, drainage and related wastewater infrastructure investments, waste management services, park access, street paving and much more. Local elections determine the granular matters which shape our relationships to our surrounding area.

We remind our readers to be especially wary of candidates and commentators who inject national issues into our local dialogue. Those who do so are often ideologically driven, engaged in illicit political posturing.

We advise prospective voters to begin researching their ballots thoroughly. A functional local democracy requires a well-informed, enlightened electorate. And the more informed we are collectively, the better our elected officeholders will be.

When considering a candidate for local office, we should never decide based on party affiliation alone. This one-dimensional voting strategy cheapens our votes, outsourcing our decisions to the party bosses who handpick the nominees on our ballots.

We must ask ourselves whether a candidate possesses the requisite professional experience and knowledge to advance our interests. We must ask whether their values align with our own. And we must determine whether a candidate is running to promote the public good or to serve their self-interest.

Next week, TBR News Media will release its annual election supplement. Through interviews with various local candidates across our coverage area, we hope our readers will enter the voting booth better equipped to make informed judgments. We will also offer endorsements for candidates who best reflect our staff’s values.

With less than two weeks to go, we must get serious about our votes — because local elections matter.