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As local journalists, we spend many hours attending meetings. Many, many meetings. Our goal is to know what’s happening in our communities at every level of government, from county to town to village.

A good way for people to become better engaged in community affairs is through civic groups. These groups, which are often overlooked, serve as the bridge between local government and residents.

They are the closest to the ground, with their ears toward local developments, both public and private. They are meant to represent the community. They ask businesses looking to develop the tough questions, mainly how the new Starbucks or Popeyes or hotel, just to name a few, will impact people in their daily lives.

Sadly, though, these civic groups often struggle with lack of participation. Groups like the Shoreham Civic Association publicly asked in a local Facebook group for people to show up, saying without participation their capacity for change goes out the window.

“Without Shoreham citizen participation we can do nothing,” the group wrote on Facebook.

If one were to get very Disney with their analogies, civics and civic participation are like … well, fairies. If one says out loud, “I don’t believe in fairies,” then the fairy dies.

Still, it’s clear why civics lack participation. Despite reports of a strengthening economy, people continue to work long hours and, in several cases, multiple jobs. Civic meetings often take place on weekdays and, understandably, the last thing one wants to do after getting home at 5, 6 or even 7 p.m. is rush out again to sit in another hour-long-plus meeting to discuss, for example, road issues.

When we attend these meetings, we see the demographics. Most people who attend are older and likely have the time to sit and discuss the issues.

That’s not to say the younger generations don’t attend solely because of time constraints. In all likelihood, many community members don’t even know who their local civic leaders are, and when or where they meet.

If you are asking yourself: How can I have a hand in designing my community? Or, how can I keep taxes down? Well, it starts with the civics, so reach out to your local civic group.

It may also be time for civics to reach out more to their community residents, as well.

As reporters, we have noticed times when local elected officials, like in the Village of Port Jefferson, have actually become active in local Facebook pages. Some of these pages are full of comments, and often facts get misrepresented. If civics would take videos of their meetings, then upload them directly to these Facebook groups. It may be a means of bridging the knowledge gap. Civic leaders need to reach out by every means possible, including social media.

The issues aren’t going away. The only way to have your voice be heard is to get involved.

On Wednesday, Aug. 14, New York’s Child Victims Act took effect. Under the law, people have one year to file a civil suit related to childhood sexual abuse, regardless of when they say the molestation occurred.

After that, victims will be able to file a case any time before they reach 55 years of age. For a criminal case, victims can now file a complaint up until they turn 23 years old.

It’s unclear exactly how many people will come forward to file charges from past abuse or how many people and organizations will be impacted by the temporary removal of the statute of limitations on cases. But, the new law promises a legal remedy for past abuse that aims to institute more sensitivity toward victims, while holding perpetrators accountable.

The website www.BishopAccountability.org lists 68 documented offenses by priests in the diocese of Rockville Centre, which includes Catholic churches on Long Island’s North Shore. One victim came forward and shared his story in the pages of our publication on Feb. 21, 2018, which is still available online at https://tbrnewsmedia.com/diocese-compensation-program-help-clergy-victims/.

But, whether it’s been in church groups, schools, Scouts or other organizations or perhaps in a family settings, children have been in situations where they were vulnerable. Offenses typically occur, experts say, in scenarios where adults are entrusted with the care of children without the supervision of parents.

Part of the solution to address childhood sexual abuse going forward will be through prevention. This means adults, organizations, parents and children have certain responsibilities. If you see red flag behavior, such as an adult ignoring boundaries and exhibiting secretive behavior with a child, this is a warning sign, and adults should respond with confronting the individual. Circumstances can be nuanced, so trust your instincts, say something and remove the child from the situation and otherwise respond appropriately.

The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is a confidential resource available 24/7 that offers crisis intervention, support services and information on social services. Counselors there can help you decide what to do next. The telephone number is 800-422-4453 or 800-4-A-Child. The website is www.childhelp.org/hotline.

If victims need legal help, they can reach out to the Suffolk County Bar Association for a referral to a qualified attorney who can evaluate their case. Its website is www.scba.org and the telephone number is 631-234-5577.

With an estimated one in five people becoming victims of childhood sexual assault by the time they’re 18 years old, according to The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, a new era of accountability may be at hand.

Take the time to familiarize yourself with what predatory activity looks like. Talk with your children and learn about age-appropriate lessons on body safety. Good resources on these topics include www.nyspcc.org/resources/.

With the window open, people should feel comfortable coming forward. We all need to give them support when they do.

Stock photo

Americans feel sorrow and fear whenever we learn that a gunmen carrying a high-powered firearm has committed a mass shooting. In one week, three shootings occurred in three separate states. While none of them took place on Long Island or even New York, the tragedy still hits home. The situation is for too long unbearable and action is overdue.

We are too often reminded that we aren’t safe whether we are at work, school, a movie theater, a store, nightclub, a concert or a festival. 

After the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018 many school districts on Long Island began contemplating whether or not to have armed guards, while systematically upgrading security in their buildings. Children coming back to school in the Comsewogue School District, for example, will walk through vestibules lined with bullet resistant glass.

One editor was talking about an upcoming garlic festival with a group of friends the other day when one shuddered and said, “Please, don’t go to any garlic festivals,” all in relation to a shooting at a garlic festival in Gilroy, California, July 28. 

After the recent tragedies, with one shooter robbing the lives of 22 in El Paso, Texas, and another killer murdering nine in Dayton, Ohio, with dozens injured in both cities, many have said that we need to remember these events and how we feel when we vote in 2020. Why wait? 

Our local legislators, even members of our boards of education, make decisions that affect our everyday lives. They can write stricter laws when it comes to purchasing and owning guns, allocate funding to patients seeking mental health care or help schools with grants for security. Make sure they are making the decisions you want them to. Even though the 2019 elections involve local municipalities and not federal offices, every legislator can affect laws that protect our lives and well-being.

This week’s headlines made many Americans feel helpless. Police responded to the Dayton shooting in 30 seconds since the first round left the gunman’s chamber. In that time, nine people were dead. The suspect used a 100-round magazine and a semi-automatic rifle. It took five times as long to write this paragraph as it took a murderer to kill nine people.

But there’s something all of us can do. We can vote for those who represent our values. This year and next, the time is now to look deep inside our hearts and ask what we feel is the best route to stop the violence. Then research the candidates who are running for office to see where they stand.

And even before election day, call your local representatives and tell them something must be done now, not after election day.

Every time you vote for a candidate, your ballot is a show of confidence to continue in the political realm. Today’s member of town council can be tomorrow’s county or state legislator or next year’s congressional leader.

Nov. 5, Election Day, will be here before you know it. The time is now to start doing the footwork and for everybody to vote. Our editorial staff will soon be hosting political debates to prepare for our election issue. We’re not waiting until 2020 to ask the candidates tough questions and neither should our readers.

Photo from SCPD

There was a time when we were all children, and while some of us may claim to have been perfect saints of juvenile life, many of us surely broke the rules.

Long Island is a particularly strange place to grow up. Its suburbia is often bordered by mini-metropolitan areas, but for long stretches of the North Shore, there is nothing but roads and the trees that border them.

That brings us to the bikers, the terrors of the streets. Pedals pumping, wheels in the air, driving in and around traffic, these young bikers have left an impression on local Facebook groups, to say the least. We hope parents will have a conversation with their children about bicycle safety relating to our article in this week’s edition of the paper.

But what has changed to create this fad of running bicycles in dense areas? Really, has anything changed?

There’s been no new bike technology that makes popping a wheelie easier. There’s no singular popular figure emphasizing kids take their bikes to the streets. In fact, you would likely have a harder time finding a house on Long Island that doesn’t have at least one bike in its garage.

The thing is, there is no real safe place for the youth to ride their bikes in this manner. If a person started biking from Rocky Point, it would take traveling all the way to Huntington or Riverhead just to find a single skate park that can accommodate a more adventurous biker than hike and bike trails can handle.

That’s not to mention just how dangerous our roads truly are. According to a 2015 report, seven out of 10 of New York state’s most dangerous roads are right here on Long Island, including such roads as Route 25.

Not to give any sort of pass to the young people playing chicken with a vehicle four times its size with twice as many wheels, but the case of these bicyclists is just one story that is the saga for youth having nothing to occupy them on the
North Shore.

No, the kids should not be allowed to bike in and out of traffic, intimidating those behind the wheel. They are a danger to themselves and others, but ask what they should be doing instead? There is a significant lack of skate parks in which people can ride their bikes.

The Rails to Trails project, which will create a hiking and biking trail from Wading River to Mount Sinai, is a good start, but we still do not have a confirmed date when that project will begin, let alone at which end of the trail construction will kick off. There is also the Greenway Trail from Port Jefferson Station through Setauket, but again, that will only scratch the itch of those into a relatively leisurely ride.

For years now, kids on the North Shore have had very little in terms of outdoor sports for those who are not into the classic school-based team sports. 

Perhaps it’s time North Shore parents, officials and business leaders think about finding a better place for those kids to bike, where they won’t drive into traffic. There is obviously a market for it. 

Or maybe we should start an organization like the Peace Corps, only local in scope, to encourage our young to aid the elderly and the needy. All that youthful energy could be put to a more noble purpose.

Photo from Rep. Kathleen Rice

Since congressional leaders visited detention facilities at the U.S. border with Mexico in the last few weeks, readers have been reaching out to us about the immigration issue. Overall, these letters have a common thread: Continue to cover the topic.

As a community newspaper, our focus is mainly on local news, rather than international affairs. But, local elected officials are telling their constituents that border conditions are awful. Immigrants are living in cages and unusually crowded. We hear you and out of humanitarian concern promise to follow the issue. In turn, we ask you to stay in touch and share your perspectives. Your comments and criticism help us all become better informed.

Two members of the U.S. House of Representatives live in our circulation area: U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who lives in Glen Cove, runs an office in Huntington. His district includes parts of Queens and the North Shore of Long Island in Nassau and Suffolk counties extending west to include parts of Kings Park and Commack. U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who lives in Shirley, and runs an office in Patchogue, represents most of Suffolk County. 

Suozzi sits on the House Ways and Means Committee and is vice chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of 48 congressional leaders that are “not afraid to take on tough issues.”

Zeldin sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, which deals with issues related to Central America. It passed H.R. 2615, the bill that authorizes foreign assistance to fight corruption and improve economic conditions in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, nations from which many immigrants originated. The bill currently awaits action in the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee.

People can contact Senators Charles Schumer (D) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D) on H.R. 2615, called The U.S. Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act, and other immigration issues. You can also leave messages with the White House on your position.  

One U.S. policy that may be the most unrealistic is expecting people to seek asylum in the first country they encounter. Immigrants often leave to escape violence and not all countries are bordered by nations able to protect them.

On July 16, the Trump administration published a new rule, 8 C.F.R. Parts 1003 and 1208 on the Federal Register, stating that any immigrant who fails to seek protection from a country outside their native land before crossing the U.S. border is ineligible for asylum.

On Long Island and nationwide, Catholic Charities is one the largest providers of legal services for all people in the immigrant community. They agree that policies need to be humane. Policies should not prevent people from seeking asylum.

We the people need to bear responsibility.  Call your elected officials today:

White House: 202-456-1111

Sen. Chuck Schumer: 202-224-6542

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: 202-224-4451

Rep. Tom Suozzi: 202-225-3335

Rep. Lee Zeldin: 202-225-3143 

Long Islanders can be particularly proud on July 20, as Americans celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first human steps taken on the moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Many of the men and women who once worked at the Grumman Corporation in Bethpage, right here on Long Island, played a significant part in the project.

The aerospace engineering company, now known as Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, was integral in the design, assembly, integration and testing of the lunar module used in the Apollo 11 mission. In fact, by 1969 approximately 9,000 people, according to the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, were working on the project. This team included 3,000 engineers, scientists, mathematicians and supporting technical personnel.

We owe a lot to the men and women of Grumman who played a part in the Apollo 11 mission and all lunar landing missions that followed. One small step for man led to giant leaps in technology. Among the technological advances to emerge from the Apollo missions, according to NASA’s website, is the AID implantable automatic pulse generator. Using Apollo technology, it monitors the heart continuously, recognizes the onset of a heart attack and delivers a corrective electrical shock. Developed by the company Medrad, it consists of a microcomputer, a power source and two electrodes that sense heart activity. When medically necessary, the product is available as an implant today.

Many Grumman employees still live on Long Island, and when our editors started asking friends and social media connections if they knew anyone who worked on the moon mission, we were surprised at how easy it was to find these people who worked on the lunar module or LM. One editor sat on the board of a nonprofit with one of the people we feature in this edition, and she never knew he played a role in such a historic event.

During this milestone anniversary, we hope our readers will take the opportunity to ask around and find out if anyone knows a family member or friend who worked on the mission. Their stories are interesting, and, as they are now in their 70s and 80s, we hope their memories will be passed down to not only family and friends, but to everyone. 

Imagine, just a little more than 50 years ago it was unfathomable that humans could put a person on the moon, but Americans did. The mission reminds us of what a group of people working in various fields can collectively accomplish. If we can put a man on the moon, maybe one day we’ll be able to figure out how to put an end to hunger even with a food surplus, cure cancer and convert our fuel economy to alternative, clean forms of energy.

Let’s remember that dreams do come true. What once seemed impossible was achieved. The spirit that captured our country enabled men and women to work together towards a common goal. 

With a common belief in ourselves as Americans, such a thing can happen again.

Photo by David Ackerman

The showers of sparks that rained down on our heads the night of Fourth of July were inspiring — grandiose and touching all at once. Fireworks and Independence Day go together like old friends, a tradition that touches the heart. Long Island is home to many of these shows, from the Bald Hill spectacle to the fireworks set off on the West Beach in Port Jefferson.

Then there are the smaller shows, the ones put on by the local neighborhoods in the cool of night. While the grand displays of the professional shows are like standing in the majesty under the lights of Times Square, the small community shows are more like candles set along the mantle in a dark room. Both can be spectacular in their own ways.

Though of course, one is done by amateurs, often in illegal circumstances. And even after the festivities, fireworks continue to light up the sky despite its danger and how it may impact the surrounding community.

Unlike other New York counties, Suffolk County has bans on sparklers, along with firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles, spinners and aerial devices. The Suffolk County Fire Marshals beg people to put down their own fireworks and attend one of the professionally manned shows.

And it seems they have had good reasons, both past and present, to press people for caution. Two women from Port Jefferson Station were injured with fireworks the night of July Fourth when one ended up in their backyard. While other media outlets reported only light injuries, in fact their injuries were much more severe, and readers will read that story in the coming week’s issue.

But of course, the injuries don’t just happen here on the North Shore. A 2018 report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission shows that in 2017, fireworks were involved in an estimated 12,900 injuries. Children under the age of 15 accounted for 36 percent of these injuries. Sparklers accounted for an estimated 1,200 emergency department-treated injuries.

And it’s not over yet. Even a week after July Fourth, fireworks continue to go up with sparks and bangs in the din of night.

Residents know to handle their pets scared by the booms of fireworks on Independence Day, but should they have to cower with their pets for days and days afterward?

And of course, that’s not even to mention U.S. veterans, many of whom know what they must do to stay safe if they are suffering from PTSD on July Fourth, but should they have to sequester themselves every day afterward for a week or more?

Sending up fireworks after July Fourth is inconsiderate, to say the least. We at TBR News Media beg people with excess fireworks to put them in packages or put them aside.

And next time July Fourth comes around, we urge caution when using these explosives. Nobody should have to find refuge from their neighbors on the day of the birth of this nation.

Shoreham-Wading River's 2019 commencement exercises. Photo by Bill Landon

We congratulate each and every one the 2019 high school graduates in our circulation area. These students were born 18 years ago, at a time when planes deliberately took down the World Trade Center in New York City and crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a hillside in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. At around the time these children turned 8 years old, the U.S. and world economy collapsed after the financial industry bundled and sold bad mortgage debt. Currently, the nation and countries of the world are coping with election systems troubled with interference from foreign adversaries, whose interests aim to make people question the efficacy of democracy as a form of governance.

As we look forward, and put the past behind us, let’s make sure we take time to remind these graduates of the greater good of humankind. We should also celebrate the good nature within themselves to reassure these young adults that the future is perpetually full of hope and opportunity.

Over the last several decades, despite the tragedies, we have also seen many remarkable achievements. A nation elected its first black president, and we’ve seen women march for their rights and run and be elected to public office at historic rates. Aside from politics, over the last 20 years, scientists have sequenced human DNA, which is helping to develop effective treatments for cancer and other potentially deadly diseases. We’ve also watched the world change as the home computer and telecommunication turned mobile. Consequently, it’s become easier than ever to stay in touch. With the touch of a finger, we can access and enjoy the music, stories and performances of a world full of talented artists, writers and filmmakers.

Adversity and tumultuous times somehow, thankfully, spark creativity and inspire people’s inner goodness. Think of the ’60s, and how that peace and love-conquers-all theme galvanized a culture. It’s an age-old message, really, of biblical proportion. High school graduates should know that as caring human beings they already hold the core qualities they need to thrive.

While the U.S. women’s soccer team waits to enter mediations regarding the discrepancy between their pay and the men’s team’s earnings, Suffolk County women, as well as racial and ethnic minority workers, are about to enter a more even playing field when they decide to apply for a new job starting June 30 thanks to a new law.

We say it’s about time.

Historically, women along with racial and ethnic minority workers have earned lower than average wages. Before passing the law, the county Legislature used an April 2018 New York State Department of Labor report that found women in the county earn 78 percent for what their male counterparts earn. The statewide percentage is 87. The same report cited that in New York African American or black women earn 64 percent and Latino or Hispanic women earn 53 percent of what men earn.

The Legislature recently decided to do something about the injustice by creating a local law, called the RISE (Restrict Information Regarding Salary and Earnings) Act, to restrict divulging earnings history during the interview process. County Executive Steve Bellone (D) signed the legislation into law in November.

This means when a Suffolk County resident searches for a new job, they will not be haunted by their last salary. Now, employers and employment agencies cannot ask for salary history on applications or during interviews.

In addition to women and minority workers being offered less in the past, there are also cases where people have been out of work for a long time — whether due to layoffs, taking care of children or a sick relative — who take the first job they are offered, regardless of pay just to get back on track careerwise.

This can cause problems when they apply for a job and the company asks for their salary history. The job applicant might be offered a salary below the range the employer was originally thinking. The employer may see it as an opportunity to save money, thinking if the applicant got by on their last wage, why would they need much more.

But no more. Now employers have to decide how much they believe a job is worth, then offer that salary. And while it makes sense that there may be a salary range based on experience, it also makes sense to pay people similar pay for doing the same job.

And the law benefits more than women and ethnic and racial minority workers; it even helps those who are leaving a high-paying position. In the past, if someone wanted to travel down a different career path, they may have been willing to accept a lower salary. But a company may not have called them for an interview when they saw how much they made at previous jobs, thinking they wouldn’t take a lower salary.

In the end, the new law may even help the local economy. With more money in women’s bank accounts, they will have more buying power or the opportunity to escape from dysfunctional relationships and get a place of their own.

Confirmed with a bipartisan, unanimous vote, the Suffolk County Legislature apparently believes the RISE Act will help break the cycle of wage discrimination in the area. We agree, and we say to those who have felt stuck in their financial situation that now is the time to RISE and shine.

Melissa Marchese. Photo from SWR School District

One has to understand that journalists are human beings, and just as much as it pains people to learn about the death of a young woman, it can be even more painful to write about it.

Melissa Marchese, 18, died June 14 after being injured in a terrible car crash in Shoreham. She passed only two weeks before she was set to graduate high school.

Since then, the local community has rallied around the family, donating well over $60,000 for the Marchese family in a GoFundMe campaign in less than a week after the crash. Likely the community will continue to support the family even after graduation.

It is truly amazing to watch a community come out full force to support a grieving family but, even still, too many Shoreham and Wading River residents recognize the black cloud hanging over their hamlets. Nobody should have to read about a young person dying, but in Shoreham the situation is familiar, just all too familiar.

The community went through this grief in 2014, after Tom Cutinella died from receiving a head injury due to an illegal tackle on the SWR football field. In 2018, the community was again devastated after learning about the death of Andrew McMorris, who was killed by a drunk driver while hiking with his Boy Scout troop.

In both circumstances, the community rallied behind the families. The SWR football field and a new concession stand was renamed in honor of Tom, while a statue with brickwork done by an Eagle Scout was erected in his honor. In the case of Andrew, the Boy Scout troop has planted a new garden at the community center, where the scouts meet, while the community hung red ribbons on telephone poles, fence posts and mailboxes in his honor from Riverhead to Miller Place. These ribbons still flutter in the wind more than a half-year since he was killed.

Shoreham residents have talked to one TBR News Media editor about the black cloud hanging over the small North Shore community of Shoreham-Wading River. One resident succinctly described the circuitous nature of Shoreham’s grief and support in the community: “We’ve had too many opportunities to show what a great community we are.”

This tragedy reaches out beyond the community’s boundaries. It is in the nature of editorials like this one where we would ask people to take care, to always wait several seconds when the light turns green before making a move, to wear a seatbelt and to instill the importance of road safety in your kids, but those might be mere platitudes in the face of tragedy.

All these tragedies were preventable. If only the driver of the car that hit Melissa’s vehicle was not “distracted,” as he later told police. If only the man who went out drinking that one day in October 2018 hadn’t gotten in his car to drive. If only Tom was not tackled in such a way to collide with
his helmet.

But whatever happens, Shoreham needs to never lose its sense of community. Let it never become complacent and numb in the face of tragedy. Whenever we have talked to the families who’ve lost loved ones, each time they are comforted by how much the community has come out to support.

There may have been too many opportunities to show the humanity of local Long Island residents, but let us never stagger or fall in making sure we all remain compassionate for all who suffer.