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Head of the Harbor

In addition to concerns over a proposal to build a house of worship and school on the grounds of Timothy House, village residents have had other issues with the monastery that owns the property, including a storage container that has been outside the historic house for months. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Many St. James residents as well as those in surrounding communities are breathing a sigh of relief after a recent update from the Town of Smithtown regarding a proposed assisted living facility. However, homeowners living near Route 25A in Head of the Harbor and St. James are growing concerned and impatient about a proposed church on the corridor.

Bull Run Farm

Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said in a statement that the Town Board would not move forward with a special exception for a proposed assisted living facility on the former Bull Run Farm parcel on Mills Pond Road.

“We as a board demanded community outreach by the applicant, prior to bringing this application to the board for a public hearing,” he said. “This is something we insist on when large development is proposed in an area that abuts up to residential zoning, and to provide total transparency to the community. In the end, there was insufficient support from the Town Board to proceed with a special exception.” 

Earlier this month residents crowded the second floor of the St. James Firehouse on North Country Road to air their concerns about the possible development of former farmland. An informational meeting was headed up by attorneys for Frank Amicizia. The Fort Salonga developer had proposed a two-story, 97-bed facility on 9.02 acres of property on Mills Pond Road that is zoned residential. The facility would have needed a special exception from the Town of Smithtown.

Residents’ concerns included the proximity to the Gyrodyne property on Route 25A which also faces potential development; 24-hour lighting on the property; increased traffic; and the building not fitting the community aesthetics. Others were concerned about a sewage treatment plant that is proposed for the property, ranging from how it would affect local waterways due to the disposal of pharmaceuticals in the facility to the noise it would make.

Judy Ogden, a Head of the Harbor trustee and spokesperson for the Saint James-Head of the Harbor Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, said, “This is exactly the kind of leadership that residents hope for in their elected officials.” The coalition along with the Facebook group Save Bull Run Farm headed up the opposition against the proposed development citing the plans were not in line with the town’s Draft Comprehensive Plan.

“The supervisor’s comments about the need to protect the bucolic nature of this portion of Mills Pond Road is especially encouraging,” Ogden said.

Timothy House

Less than 2 miles down the road, residents of Head of the Harbor and those surrounding the historic Timothy House on Route 25A were prepared to attend a public hearing Wednesday, March 15, to air their concerns about a proposed house of worship to be built on the property. The day before the meeting, Village of Head of the Harbor officials posted on its website that it was canceled.

According to an email from Head of the Harbor Mayor Douglas Dahlgard, the monastery monks originally submitted an application to the village’s Planning Board in 2021. The application, which included constructing a house of worship and school, was delayed when the monastery decided to change counsel and amend the plan.

Dahlgard said the amended plan will require a special use permit and will also involve a time-consuming process.

“Prior to last week’s scheduled trustees meeting, we decided to delay to give us more time to prepare to properly represent our village,” Dahlgard said.

The mayor added they will be checking with the monastery’s counsel to see what date works for him for a public meeting.

The Russian Orthodox Monastery of the Glorious Ascension, also known as the Monastery of Saint Dionysios the Areopagite, purchased Timothy House in 2018.

The amendments to the proposed 3,341-square-foot building include being situated farther from Route 25A than originally presented and moving planned parking spots from the front of the building to the back.

Head of the Harbor historian Leighton Coleman III said in an email that local residents have concerns about multiple issues regarding the proposed house of worship and school, including the parking lot for 35 cars being situated close to neighbors’ properties.

Among the residents’ concerns are also the impact the construction will have on the historic property, lighting from the parking lot and increased traffic on Route 25A. Many have had issues before the application, including a huge metal storage container on the property that has become an eyesore.

Timothy House, constructed in the 1800s, was once the home of former Head of the Harbor historian and architectural preservationist Barbara Van Liew, who died in 2005. The house was built by a descendant of Smithtown founder Richard Smith.

Head of the Harbor resident Lisa Davidson is in the process of gathering signatures to run for village trustee. Photo from Lisa Davidson

Rallying against a proposed private dock has given one Head of the Harbor resident inspiration to run for village trustee.

Head of the Harbor resident Lisa Davidson is in the process of gathering signatures to run for village trustee. Photo from Lisa Davidson

Last year, Lisa Davidson and her neighbors were busy fighting the proposed construction of an 186-foot private dock on Swan Place in Nissequogue, which, if approved, would have been right next to Cordwood Park and Head of the Harbor.

Now, Davidson aims to collect 51 signatures by Feb. 14 to run for trustee in March. Two trustee seats will be open during the March 21 election as Daniel White and Jeff Fischer are up for reelection.

Not one to sit on the sidelines, Davidson said, “Just complaining accomplishes nothing.”

A village resident for more than two years, she immediately fell in love with Head of the Harbor. During her short time living on Long Island, Davidson said she has been a representative on the village’s Joint Village Coastal Management Commission, a Suffolk County polling inspector and a volunteer with Island Harvest food bank.

The wife and mother, who recently became a grandmother, was born in Los Angeles, and raised her two sons in New York City. An alum of UCLA, her professional career includes working as a business reporter with the Los Angeles Times and a field producer with Fox News. She has also worked for the National Geographic Society. Currently she is a consultant for those looking to produce their own television projects.

She said in addition to living in places such as California and New York City, her work as a print journalist, news and television producer took her around the world, which Davidson said has given her even more appreciation for her current hometown. She added Stony Brook Harbor, the village’s “tree-lined streets, and the views from Cordwood Park rival them all.”

The trustee-hopeful explained her run all comes down to preserving the rustic charm of Head of the Harbor. 

“It’s human nature when you’re exposed to something of beauty, you take it for granted instead of realizing, ‘Wow, this is so special,’” she said.

Last year her love for the village inspired her to help gather signatures for a petition, organize a rally at Cordwood Park and attend Nissequogue Village Planning Board meetings multiple times to speak out when the private dock on Swan Place was proposed. The board denied the owner’s request at the beginning of this year.

She and others collected 787 signatures on the petition to oppose the structure.

“It was really clear that the community did not want that dock,” she said.

An Aug. 27 rally at Cordwood Park, organized by Davidson, drew environmentalists such as former state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket); Kevin McAllister, founder and president of Defend H2O; and John Turner, conservation chair of Four Harbors Audubon Society. 

Ralliers listed issues with private docks in the area, such as the shallowness of the water in the area. The Department of Environmental Conservation requires docks stand in 3 1/2 feet of water even at low tide. The length of the proposed Swan Place dock would have obstructed residents’ view of Stony Brook Harbor and restrict access to those walking along the beach or using their kayaks and canoes in the water. A dock would also adversely affect birds, turtles, flora and fauna as well as the water quality.

Another concern of Davidson and others was that if the village allowed one to be built, others would follow. 

“If that one dock would have been allowed, he’d be representing every single person on this harbor, who wanted a dock demanding that, ‘Well, you let that one in, you have to let this other one,’” she said.

According to Davidson, another issue is that while an owner may own their land, they do not own the water. If a dock were allowed, she said, it would be the private taking of public land.

“If it was somewhere else on the harbor, it wouldn’t have been so catastrophic to the community,” she said. “That dock was going to take public land that was used all the time and make it private.”

“Let’s figure out how this can work for everybody, and that’s what I would like to do in general.”

— Lisa Davidson

Davidson said it’s vital for the villages to follow the Local Water Revitalization Program when making decisions regarding coastal management, something she said some seem to have forgotten.

She added that another one of her concerns is the budget as the village has started to spend its reserve, and she would like to see more transparency in the village, as she believes many residents don’t know the trustees’ decisions before they finalize them. Davidson said updating the village’s website and the return of the newsletter would help the trustees communicate better.

Many residents have also asked for the Hitherbrook Road extension, where kayaks were once launched, to be restored for use. Currently there are boulders there, because in the past a few drivers were known to have driven down the dirt road and wind upin the harbor at low tide and thenbe stuck. She said there has to be a solution to allow people to use their kayaks there once again but also be safe.

“There’s no listening,” she said. “Let’s figure out how this can work for everybody, and that’s what I would like to do in general.”

Like many in the village, Davidson has also been keeping an eye on the Gyrodyne property on Route 25A, right outside of the village, and its possible development in the future. In the past, the owners have talked about the possibility of developers constructing a hotel and assisted living facility. She said, “The village and its residents have made it really clear — they want to preserve our historic corridor and open spaces because once we allow development we’ve lost those assets forever.”

Davidson added she supports Head of the Harbor Mayor Douglas Dahlgard’s plea to preserve the entire property as a park.

“Short of that, the compromise plan, whereby half remains as open space and half is developed, is acceptable to the community,” she said. “Unfortunately, we now have another threat to that area as Albany is seeking land on which to build affordable housing. Whether it’s housing or a hotel, the streets cannot handle the additional traffic those would bring so we have a real challenge ahead of us.”

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Brookhaven Superintendent Dan Losquadro, left, and Village of Head of the Harbor Mayor Douglas Dahlgard. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Daniel Losquadro announced the recent completion of a stormwater project at the culvert on Rhododendron Drive in Stony Brook, just before the entrance to the Village of Head of the Harbor.

Following a pipe collapse, Rhododendron Drive was experiencing an erosion and flooding issue during heavy rainstorms. In addition, the roadway often saw runoff from the spring-fed wetland that crosses under Rhododendron Drive.

The Brookhaven Highway Department replaced the damaged pipe, installed new gabion baskets on each side of Rhododendron Drive to eliminate erosion, extended the curb, and installed a new drain to capture sediment.

The total cost for this project was approximately $30,000.

“We were happy to partner with the Village of Head of the Harbor to complete this stormwater project,”
Losquadro said. “The project successfully eliminated the flooding experienced on Rhododendron Drive following a heavy rainstorm.

Village Head of the Harbor Mayor Douglas Dahlgard added,  “It protects the environmentally-sensitive wetlands in the area. This was a win-win for community members and the environment.”

This year one of the new Rockettes is Head of the Harbor’s Courtney File. Photo from MSG Entertainment

A Head of the Harbor native is proving that dreams really do come true.

Courtney File, 24, is among the newest members of the Rockettes who are kicking their way through the holiday season, performing multiple shows in Radio City Music Hall’s “Christmas Spectacular.”

Seeing the Rockettes staple at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan has been an annual tradition for File since she was 6 years old.

“I just fell in love with it immediately,” she said.

Her parents were nervous about taking her and her brother Connor when they were younger, but she said her parents told her she was mesmerized by the show.

When the curtain came down, she turned to her mother and said, “That’s what I want to do, and it never changed my whole life.”

The 2016 Smithtown High School East graduate attended Chorus Line Dance Studio in St. James until she was 11. She then started training at the Broadway Dance Center in Manhattan, where she was part of its Children & Teens Program for four years.

File said her parents, Richard and Wendy, have always been supportive of her dreams and would drive her into the city when she was in middle and high school.

“My parents have been unbelievable since I was younger and really decided that I wanted to commit myself to dance,” she said.

This year one of the new Rockettes is Head of the Harbor’s Courtney File. Photo from MSG Entertainment

The dancer was also taking acting classes in addition to the CTP program. Sometimes she would audition or take a master class.

While she juggled a busy schedule, after being on Smithtown’s kickline team in middle school, she could not be on the Whisperettes, the high school kickline team at Smithtown East. While she wanted to, she said it would have been difficult with her schedule, and she would have missed some practices and games.

“That was probably one of the hardest things that I had to give up,” File said.

She added once in a while she was able to catch a game to see the kickline team perform

“I always supported them, and I thought they were great,” File said. “It was so fun to sometimes be able to watch.”

Standing 5 feet, 8 inches tall, her height fits in perfectly with the Rockettes’ range of 5 feet, 5 inches to 5 feet, 10 1/2 inches. The minimum requirements were recently changed from the previous 5 feet, 6 inches tall.

File, who was part of the Rockettes Conservatory program this summer, said among her fellow rookie Rockettes are a few dancers who were able to audition due to the new height requirements.

“They have made a lot of amazing strides to open up the opportunities to a bunch of different women this year,” she said, adding 17 of the 18 new dancers were from the conservatory program.

File said she was honored to be invited to participate in the program, which enables dancers at no cost to work with the Rockettes as well as performers with Alvin Ailey Dance Theater and Syncopated Ladies, a female tap dance band.

“It was a really awesome opportunity that the Rockettes gave, to give us a real life experience of what their day-to-day kind of looks like.”

This year wasn’t her first audition, though. She first aimed to be a Rockette when she was 18, and she was cut. In total, she has auditioned six times for the coveted spot.

“It was my dream, and I couldn’t give up on it,” she said.

She was home with her mother and brother when she received the call telling her she had made it. File said she kept asking her mother and brother if it really just happened.

“It was an unbelievable moment that I will never forget for the rest of my life,” she said.

A typical day for File now involves waking up every morning in her apartment and stretching. She said eating enough is also important as the dancers burn a lot of calories.

As a part of the gold cast, she performs in the evenings. The number of shows in one day can vary, and she recently had her first four-show day.

This year one of the new Rockettes is Head of the Harbor’s Courtney File. Photo from MSG Entertainment

The “Christmas Spectacular” began Nov. 18 and runs through Jan. 2, meaning dancers worked Thanksgiving and will be performing Christmas and New Year’s Day, too. Fine said she doesn’t mind as the cast and crew have become like family to her since they have been working regularly together from the beginning of October.

She added she’s lucky that her own family lives close to the city, and it’s easy for them to come to Manhattan to see the show. They have attended the show three times so far
this season.

Among her favorite dances is a lyrical number called “Dance of the Frost Fairies,” where each of the 36 Rockettes has a different costume that includes fairy wings that easily work during the complex, athletic number.

Another highlight, Fine said, was performing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and she also attended the premiere of the Hallmark Channel movie “A Holiday Spectacular,” which features two current Rockettes with speaking parts.

While living a dream come true, File had advice for young people regarding their goals.

“Never give up,” the Rockette said. “Every day in the audience, I see little girls that are looking up at the stage like how I did when I was 6 years old. Just work hard and never give up. Dreams do come true. I’m very lucky to be able to say that. Just keep going because all the hard work will be worth it.”

The Village of Nissequogue Planning Board put off a decision about a private dock in the village until Oct. 3. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The Village of Nissequogue Planning Board announced on the village’s website Tuesday that it would be adjourning an application for a private dock at Swan Place in Nissequogue scheduled for Sept. 6 until its Oct. 3 meeting at 7 p.m.

The proposed dock would be adjacent to the Town of Smithtown’s Cordwood Park, which is located in Head of the Harbor. The application has received criticism from neighbors and environmentalists, including state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and John Turner, conservation chair of Four Harbors Audubon Society.

At an Aug. 27 rally at the park, organized by Head of the Harbor resident Lisa Davidson, local residents voiced concerns over the possible construction of the 186-foot dock and the potential of another 200-foot dock a few houses away in the future. The footage includes a combination of permanent and floating docks. Because the harbor is shallow, the dock must meet New York State Department of Environmental Conservation requirements that it stands in 3 1/2 feet of water even at low tide, hence the lengths of the proposed docks.

Protesters and speakers, including Englebright and Turner, cited among their concerns the 186-foot dock spoiling the view of Stony Brook Harbor and restricting access to those walking along the beach or using their canoes and kayaks in the water. Many also feel it may encourage other homeowners to build similar private docks, leading to harbor pollution due to more or large boats.

Davidson, a member of the Joint Village Coastal Management Commission, a waterfront board of the villages of Head of the Harbor and Nissequogue, recused herself from the commission on the matter of private docks. The commission recently concluded that the Swan Place dock is inconsistent with Nissequogue’s waterfront revitalization program.

At a June 6 Nissequogue planning board meeting, George Jacob Turner, an attorney for the dock applicants Andrew and Maria Georgakopoulos, represented them along with a Land Use Ecological Services representative, according to the board’s minutes. During the meeting, representatives stated the proposed dock’s use “is in character due to other docks.” The trustees responded that existing docks were preexisting to the current requirements. The board members also questioned if public access would be impacted due to the applicants indicating “that the only public access will be by going under the dock.”

A view of Stony Brook Harbor from Cordwood Park in Head of the Harbor. Photo by Rita J. Egan

A rally held at Head of the Harbor’s Cordwood Park Aug. 27 combined a bit of history, nature’s beauty and activism in one short hour.

Protesters at the Aug. 27 rally in Head of the Harbor. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The Rally to Block the Docks, organized by Head of the Harbor resident Lisa Davidson, attracted dozens of local residents, environmentalists and Stony Brook University students. Village residents have voiced concerns over the possible construction of a 186-foot dock on private property next to Cordwood Park and the potential of another 200-foot dock a few houses away. The footage includes a combination of permanent and floating docks. A Sept. 6 Village of Nissequogue Planning Board meeting currently has a vote scheduled regarding the 186-foot dock.

Protesters cited among their concerns the 186-foot spoiling the view of Stony Brook Harbor and restricting access to those walking along the beach or using their canoes and kayaks in the water. Many also feel it may encourage other homeowners to build similar private docks, leading to harbor pollution due to more or large boats.

“One property owner should not be allowed to ruin what is cherished and loved by an entire community,” Davidson said.

Among the speakers at the event were state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket); Kevin McAllister, founder and president of Defend H2O; John Turner, conservation chair of Four Harbors Audubon Society; and Head of the Harbor/Nissequogue historian Leighton Coleman.

Davidson is a member of the Joint Village Coastal Management Commission, a waterfront board of the villages of Head of the Harbor and Nissequogue. She said she recused herself from the commission on the matter of private docks.

“Because after seeing the numerous petitions we get for private docks, I realized that this beautiful bay is in grave danger if we as a community do not come together and take action now before it is too late,” she said.

She encouraged residents to reach out to the Town of Smithtown and New York State Department of Conservation, both of which approve first-phase private dock permits, to prevent future approvals. Davidson said homeowners might argue that they have riparian rights. She said those rights are satisfied when walking in the water or taking a kayak or canoe out on it, and do not include building docks.

Because the harbor is shallow, the dock must be meet DEC requirements that it stands in 3 1/2 feet of water even at low tide, hence the lengths of the proposed docks.

McAllister said, based on his experience, when one dock is built, there tends to be a push for more docks and bigger boats in the body of water, which he said leads to issues in the water such as prop dredging and salinity problems where the water is always cloudy.

Coleman said commerce once took place at the park, which had a negative impact on the harbor.

Head of the Harbor/Nissequogue historian Leighton Coleman talks about the history of the Cordwood Park location. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“We are now standing at the site of what was once an active boatbuilding yard and shipping port, where New York City’s manure was traded for cordwood to fuel the city’s numerous town houses,” the historian said.

He added, eventually, a boatyard’s use of arsenic to cure wood along with human and livestock waste runoff affected the harbor’s health. It was in the 1870s that Smith siblings, descendants of Smithtown’s founder, bought up large parcels of land. The harbor was then used for more leisurely activities, he said, until the 1920s brought to the area “commercial dredging for mining of sand and gravel, and the subdivision of the large estates into developments,” which threatened the waterway’s health once again. This led to the formation of incorporated villages, which in turn created zoning laws to protect the harbor and, in the 1940s, the Stony Brook Harbor Association was created.

“Sadly, the old guard has passed on, and we were left, apparently, with a false sense of security that our harbor’s healthy future was in safe hands, but thankfully as of today I see that we have a new generation of stewards stepping forth,” he said.

In the 1920s and ’30s, when there was dredging of the harbor as well as others on the North Shore, Englebright said, it was important that villages were formed to protect them. He called those who wanted to dredge the waters “essentially gangsters” who were “buying influence” with the towns, and “the towns were selling out the harbors.”

“That is the legacy of this village,” Englebright said. “That’s your birthright. That’s how you came into existence as a municipal jurisdiction in state law. There was no other way at the time to prevent the disposition of the permits by the towns.”

He added, “The Town of Smithtown has sold out the harbor bottom with approving the initial permit for a dock.”

Englebright said the body of water’s bottom is public property and “to give away public property is illegal.”

“It’s an echo of the outrage that led to the creation of these villages,” he said.

While waiting for the rally to begin, Turner said he saw a bald eagle, osprey, snowy egrets and more.

“Any time hiking the harbor, you know that the harbor, from an ecological and biological perspective, it’s just a really vibrant ecosystem,” he said.

Turner added there are several diamondback terrapins in the harbor, too. The DEC has listed the decrease in the animals a concern. They come ashore in June to lay their eggs, Turner said, and a dock could increase human traffic which in turn could have an adverse impact on the terrapins.

“We hope that the villages and the Town of Smithtown will not grant private access to a public trust resource that could ultimately have a really adverse impact upon the harbor,” he said.

Turner added he looked at the Suffolk County GIS viewer and counted approximately 54 properties around the harbor.

“If these are approved, what prevents those other 52 or 50 owners down the road from requesting permits to build docks — docks that are on the same scale as what these are,” he said.

To pay homage to the history of the location, rally organizers served ginger ale and root beer, and the Once Upon a Tyme Barbershop Quartet performed for the attendees at the beginning and end of the rally.

Davidson said she and others have been working on circulating a petition which they will present to the Nissequogue Planning Board on Sept. 6.

Nick Paccininni during his days as a Ward Melville wrestler. File photo

Hometown supporters of a Ward Melville graduate and Head of the Harbor native will gather to cheer him on virtually at a popular local spot when he makes his mixed martial arts debut in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Friday, June 18.

Nick Paccininni training in San Jose, California. Photo from Nick Piccininni’s Instagram

Nick Piccininni, a 24-year-old MMA fighter, will be fighting during the XFN-371 event at the River Spirit Casino. While Piccininni is competing in Tulsa, family and friends can gather at The Bench Bar and Grill in Stony Brook to watch the match, which will be live-streamed. Owner Marios Patatinis said the fight will be shown on all the TVs in The Bench, and the night will feature various drink and food promotions. At the beginning of the week, reservations were already limited.

The Bench, with the Country Corner bar in East Setauket, which Patatinis also owns, are sponsoring Piccininni. The restaurant owner said the sponsorship came about because one of his managers, Michael Cohen, is a friend of the MMA fighter. Sponsorships help athletes with expenses incurred while training.

“Ultimately, what we get in return is partnering up with a local kid who’s on to some big dreams, and we’re glad to be part of that,” Patatinis said.

Piccininni is currently training at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California, according to his father Anthony Piccininni.

His father said his son began wrestling in the Three Village school district when he was in seventh grade, but was unable to compete that first year in the league and county tournaments due to being too young. He went on to become a four-time New York state champion.

After graduating from Ward Melville with an impressive high school wrestling career under his belt, he attended Oklahoma State University where he continued competing in the sport. During his time with the university, he was a three-time NCAA Division I All-American and a four-time Big 12 Conference champion.

“Ultimately, what we get in return is partnering up with a local kid who’s on to some big dreams, and we’re glad to be part of that.”

—Marios Patatinis

The folkstyle wrestler decided to compete in the flyweight division of MMA when the 2020 college sports season was cut short due to COVID-19. His father said Nick attended the university on a full scholarship, and while he thought about continuing to achieve his master’s at OSU where the odds of becoming an assistant coach at the university were good, with the 2020 wrestling season cut short, he decided to go into MMA.

“He was only 23,” the father said. “He still had his competitive spirit, and he wasn’t ready to enter into the coaching world, which he probably will do sometime down the road, whether it be 10 or 15 years.”

Anthony Piccininni said it’s not unusual for OSU wrestlers to go on to compete in the MMA world. Among the former OSU athletes who went on to become MMA fighters are Johny Hendricks, Randy Couture and Nick Piccininni’s mentor Daniel Cormier.

The father said his son was always a fan of MMA but the family didn’t realize how much so until recently. When he was younger, Nick always thought he may be a professional athlete, as he also excelled in baseball as a pitcher for the Patriots.

“When he was going through college, I had no idea that he had the passion for MMA,” the father said. “But in his senior year is when he obviously had to make his decision, and he did. We support him. It’s his dream.”

Nick Piccininni said in an email from California that he appreciated the support he has received from home. He said The Bench and Country Corner are two of his biggest sponsors.

“I am grateful to come from a town where so many people continue to care about my career,” he said. “So, seeing everyone support me on my upcoming fight is amazing to see.”

Stock image

By Iryna Shkurhan

In the Village of Head of the Harbor, two trustee incumbents, Daniel White and Jeffrey Fischer, are running for another two-year term March 16.

Daniel White

Both candidates are currently serving in their eighth year as trustees for the village. As a result of the pandemic, this past year brought new budget challenges due to a shortfall of court and sales tax revenues. But both candidates credit working effectively and diligently with their team to prevail through unforeseen circumstances.

“The village faces significant problems this year because we have a very tight budget as a result of a pandemic, and I think that I can contribute to the overall effective functioning and improvement of life in the village,” White said.

During his service so far, White worked with his fellow trustees to initiate modern radio communications for the highway trucks. Most recently he also helped secure funding for reflective stainless steel clips on the fire hydrants so the firemen can find them easily, even when covered with snow.

“It seems very small, barely worth mentioning, but it can make a significant difference in a situation where if it’s not there, it could be a problem,” White said.

White, 66, has worked as a fidelity lawyer for Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi PC firm for the past three years, specializing in fidelity and surety law. His past law experience includes serving as assistant district attorney in Kings County.

He has lived in St. James at intervals since 1965. Currently White and his wife reside in the home he grew up with their two labradors, Daisy and Holly.

White also served as president of Preservation Long Island, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving Long Island’s diverse cultural and architectural heritage, and completed his extended term in June. He also served on the organization’s board for 13 years.

White and Fischer align with the village statement on the proposed Gyrodyne development project in St. James, which raised concerns about negative traffic and environmental impacts on the village. They are concerned about the possible consequences of a proposed treatment plan on the property so close to Stony Brook Harbor and drastic changes to historic Route 25.

“I think that the historic corridor along Route 25A in that section is a resource that we must conserve and that we must preserve,” said White, who views the proposed location of the site as the “wrong place.”

Jeffrey Fischer

Gyrodyne has proposed to subdivide its 75-acre-property to build a 150-room hotel with a restaurant, two assisted living centers, two medical office parks in addition to a 7-acre sewage treatment plant.

Fischer believes that a moratorium needs to be placed on this project until further studies are conducted on the environmental impact, as well as from a traffic standpoint.

“Our biggest concern right now is the potential Smithtown master plan Gyrodone property,”  Fischer said. “It can have such a negative impact on our village.”

Fischer, 64, has lived in St. James for the past 27 years with his wife and two children.  He is the president and CEO of Atlantic Business Systems, an IT company in Hauppauge that he started 33 years ago. During the past four terms as trustee, he served on the finance board and is responsible for maintaining and balancing the budget.

“With the financial shortfalls that were unforeseen, due to COVID, it’s been challenging,but you know, we’ve prevailed,” Fischer said.

He has also served on the zoning board of appeals for 17 years, for ten of those years he was chairman of the board.

Fischer spearheaded the joining of the St. James fire district for the village, rather than being a customer of the fire district. The initiative was approved this year, giving residents the opportunity to vote in the fire district elections and join as volunteers or commissioners.

“I love doing it,” Fischer said. “I work with a great team of people. Our mayor and my fellow trustees are outstanding people to work with, and we’re getting a lot accomplished.And, I really enjoy it.”

Voting will take place March 16 at Head of the Harbor Village Hall located at 500 North Country Road, St. James. The polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m.

“We live in a wonderful community and people are willing to help in all kinds of ways, and I want to work to focus on getting participation even greater, so that we can make things better,” White said.

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Visitors to Avalon Nature Preserve will find a new boardwalk along the mill pond. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Enjoying the great outdoors has become even easier at Avalon Nature Preserve.

Visitors to the preserve in Head of the Harbor, adjoining Stony Brook, will soon see the completion of a much-anticipated boardwalk. While nature lovers in the last few weeks have been able to enjoy the new boardwalk at the preserve, the Monday after Thanksgiving will see work begin for the installation of additional railings. The work will close part of the boardwalk near the grist mill Monday through Thursday, but it will be open to visitors Friday through Sunday. Katharine Griffiths, director of Avalon Nature Preserve, said the boardwalk should be completed by the beginning of the new year.

The boardwalk and other projects are part of the park’s strategic master plan. Work on the boardwalk began in March, but once the pandemic hit, construction halted for 10 weeks, according to Griffiths. Once work was able to begin again, production was delayed sporadically due to wait times on materials, as many supply chains were slowed due to the pandemic. Originally, the hope was for the boardwalk to be completed in May.

Griffiths said the preserve has also installed new benches along the boardwalk, and the upper frog pond is being repaired due to a hole in the liner. Trail systems have been redone and many paths have been resurfaced during the last few months, and due to the renovations, the park’s labyrinth will now only have one access point. Restorative plantings have been placed around the labyrinth as well as other areas in the park, and Griffiths said they will be more plantings in the spring. Currently, the frog pond and labyrinth are closed due to
the renovations.

With many seeking outdoor activities during the pandemic, Griffiths said she has seen an increase in visitors.

“When the world feels a little crazy, people want to come here to feel better,” she said.

Head of the Harbor resident Harlan Fischer said he visits the park often with his dogs. While he hasn’t seen all of the improvements yet, he’s thrilled with what he has seen so far. He described the preserve as an asset to the area.

“It’s a really neat place, the nature preserve,” he said. “Kathy Griffiths sees everything gets done and is really good at this.”

The park abuts the T. Bayles Minuse Mill Pond Park, which also will be undergoing a makeover of sorts. Maintained by The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, the duck pond park is in need of restoration after damage sustained during Tropical Storm Isaias in August when more than a dozen trees fell as the storm ripped through the park. There was also major damage to the park’s braille-engraved handrails, the borders maintaining the gardens and the walkways along the pond.

The entrance to Avalon Nature Preserve is located at the corner of Harbor Road and Route 25A in Stony Brook. Additional parking is available on Shep Jones Lane in Head of the Harbor.

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Gloria Rocchio, left, presents Ellen Rappaport, right, with a Volunteer of the Year award. Photo from WMHO

Submitted by Ward Melville Heritage Organization

On July 6, beloved resident of Head of the Harbor, educator and friend, Ellen Rappaport, died at the age of 76 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Ellen Rappaport, below first row, second from left, attended a check presentation at Stony Brook Cancer Center. Photo from WMHO

After graduating from Brooklyn College with a degree in biology in 1965 and a master’s degree in library science from Columbia University in 1967, Ellen went on to pursue a career as a science librarian. After her career as a science librarian for pharmaceutical companies, she became a certified library media specialist and educator in the Patchogue-Medford Union Free School District, where she worked for over 30 years.

She was devoted to her Stony Brook and Head of the Harbor community where she lived for more than 50 years. Ellen’s passion was connecting with people. This was evident through her frequent walks within the community and beyond.

“Our roadside chats were a fixture in my workday,” said Katharine Griffiths, executive director of Avalon Park & Preserve. “Ellen was truly a woman about town, almost always traveling by foot in the village. … Ellen was spry, spirited and dedicated to her causes. Everyone at Avalon sends our deepest sympathies to her family and loved ones.”

Gloria Rocchio, president of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, also met with Ellen on her daily walks around Stony Brook Village Center.

“[She] loved to walk,” Rocchio said. “I met her on one of her walks which sometimes took her as far as Port Jefferson. After my first encounter, I looked forward to seeing her. I discovered her thirst for knowledge, which she would impart to others. She loved life … always looking forward, never back. Other people she met while walking felt the same way. Ellen had an infectious smile, and when she was going to tell a joke she would get a twinkle in her eye and you knew the punch line was coming. Always making others smile. She was a beautiful person inside and out.”

Over the years Ellen frequently collaborated with the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s education department. Her dedication to education shined when she would don authentic 18th-century clothing at the WMHO’s historic properties for students and visitors. She guided WMHO’s Youth Corps in planning its annual Santa Fund, a program that raises money to purchase presents for local families in need, foster children and women in recovery from substance abuse. She volunteered every year.

The Stony Brook Cancer Center remarked that, “[We] lost a pillar of the community when Ellen Rappaport passed away. … She will be fondly remembered for her smile and willingness to tackle any assignment to support the success of the Walk for Beauty fundraiser. … She was a shining example of passion, energy and creativity and she will be deeply missed.”

Ellen Rappaport, middle, would don costumes for WMHO educational tours. Photo from WMHO

Ellen was always looking for ways to connect members of the community with one another. In her efforts to do this, she reached out to the St. James Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center. Through her creative thinking, she suggested that the Center have their patients create artwork to sell at their Fall Festival to raise funds for Walk for Beauty. The patients “have been so proud to create and donate their works and be an important part of Walk for Beauty’s fundraising efforts year after year,” said Maureen Ingram one of the directors from the center.

Danielle Snyder, director of therapeutic recreation echoed her sentiments, “[Her] contagious smile, enthusiasm and joy for life … Her love, energy and the pep in her step lit up our hearts and every space we were blessed to share with her.”

For over 15 years Ellen served on the board of Walk for Beauty — an annual walk that raises funds for breast cancer research at Stony Brook University. Suffolk Country Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said she will remember her as “an incredibly kind and passionate person. Her altruistic nature was evident for all to see … her big smile and her kind words of encouragement … Ellen’s absence will be felt throughout the community.”

Another member of the Walk for Beauty board, Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartwright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said that, “She was always brimming with ideas on how to make the walk even better and tried to include different community groups in the work. Ellen was a kind and warm person who always had a smile and a positive word to share.”

Ellen projected only positivity and thoughtfulness to the people around her — she had an innate gift that made you understand that you were important, and that you had something of equal importance to offer to the world.

She is survived by her daughter Stacey Rappaport and son-in-law Craig Solomon of Ridgewood, New Jersey; her son Hartley Rappaport of Long Beach, California; her grandchildren Eli and Audrey; her sister Lois; her brother-in-law Michael; her sister Myra and her other brother-in-law, also named Michael. Ellen remained devoted to her late husband Stephen until her last day.

Ellen asked that donations in her memory be made to the Ward Melville Heritage Organization and the Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College of Education in New York City, organizations to which she devoted many hours and through which she shared her love of history, reading and educating young people.

For more information about the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, call 631-751-2244 or send an email to [email protected] More information about donating to the Children’s Book Committee Fund at Bank Street College of Education can be found by calling 212-875-4540 or emailing [email protected]

Ellen also requested donations in her memory to Sanctuary for Families, New York’s leading service provider to victims of gender-related violence, and Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, her daughter’s congregation, which always welcomed Ellen with open arms. Sanctuary for Families can be reached at 212-349-6009 or [email protected] For more information about donating to Barnert Temple call 201-848-1800 or email [email protected]