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Herb Mones

Sarah Lansdale updates the Three Village Civic Association on plans for the Lawrence Aviation superfund site. Photo by Mallie Jane Kim

By Mallie Jane Kim

A redevelopment plan for the Lawrence Aviation Superfund site in Port Jefferson Station is at risk due to a proposed rail yard intersecting a straight strip of property owned by the New York Department of Transportation, where the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway trail runs, according to Suffolk County Planning Commissioner Sarah Lansdale.

Lansdale, speaking at a Three Village Civic Association meeting on June 3, reviewed the existing plan to transform the former aviation factory into three parcels: a 5-megawatt solar array, space for a rail yard that the MTA will own and protected open space that is earmarked for the Town of Brookhaven.

“We’re in contract with all three parcels right now,” Lansdale said, adding that contract terms require an agreement between DOT and MTA by the end of June. “In order to get to closing, there are conditions that need to be met.”

DOT would need to agree to divert a small section of the Greenway path to make way for the planned rail yard, which would help accommodate future modernization of the Port Jefferson Branch of the Long Island Rail Road. However, this change would interrupt DOT’s solid straight line of property, which they reserve in case the need for a highway arises in the future.

“From what I understand, that would serve as a bypass for Route 25A should sea level rise or climate change impact the navigability of 25A,” Lansdale explained.

The Greenway is not currently protected parkland, though Suffolk County Legislator Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) spoke up at the meeting to announce that he had been working with state Assemblyman Fred Thiele (D-Sag Harbor) to fast-track last minute legislation designating the Greenway as parkland. 

“The session has the potential to resolve this question,” Englebright said, though as of press time, no related bills had been yet introduced and the 2024 legislative session in Albany is scheduled to end June 6.

Civic association leaders expressed frustration at DOT even considering the possibility of tearing up the Greenway sometime in the future.

“They shouldn’t be going down that road — that’s insulting to our community,” said Herb Mones, who also heads the Three Village Community Trust which oversees the nonprofit that maintains the trail.

Mones added that the DOT had always been a vital partner in building and maintaining the Greenway. “It would be very disappointing if the DOT as an agency isn’t the most cooperative, most helpful in making sure the future of the Greenway continues without nonsense talk of putting in a highway,” he said.

The Lawrence Aviation plan has been in the works since 2022, though discussions between officials and concerned community members about what to do with the site have been going on much longer.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has already led the demolition of buildings on the site, according to Lansdale, who added that the DEC also completed an environmental investigation to remove the site from the Superfund list, which will clear the way for the solar development.

Lansdale expressed hope that the contract requirements will be ironed out on time, as she said the plan has had the benefit of community involvement and support.

“This is a federal Superfund site,” she explained. “The way that these sites are usually sold is on the auction block, with zero community input, to the highest bidder.”

Advocating for modern train technology

Though the Lawrence Aviation site plan reserves space for a rail yard, the MTA has given no indication it has imminent plans to modernize the Port Jefferson Branch of the LIRR, according to clean-train-energy advocate Bruce Miller, who said he has been talking with MTA officials and keeping tabs on the agency’s plans.

At the civic meeting, Miller urged local civic associations to lobby Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) to force the MTA to follow state environmental laws by looking into new train technologies to replace the diesel trains running along Long Island’s North Shore.

“It would be very helpful to be somewhere on the [MTA’s] 20-year plan,” said Miller, who indicated one of his catchphrases when dealing with a New York City-focused MTA is, “We pay taxes, too.”

Miller, who favors hydrogen-powered or separate-car battery trains, said he’d like to get civic leaders and elected officials from both sides of the political aisle to put their heads together and figure out how to get the MTA to explore cleaner train technologies.

Englebright agreed with Miller’s assessment that the MTA is essentially a “rogue agency” not following state directives toward cleaner energy, and suggested lawsuits as a good way to rein it in. He pointed to both the 2021 state constitutional amendment that gives residents the right to clean air and water, and the State Environmental Quality Review Act as bases for lawsuits from the community to force the MTA to look into newer, cleaner trains.

“There should be a lawsuit considered by the civic community to challenge whether the actions or inactions of the MTA and the LIRR are consistent with the Constitution of the State of New York,” Englebright said, adding, “No agency of the state is immune to SEQRA.”

Civic association board member George Hoffman, who said he had listened to LIRR President Rob Free speak earlier in the year, expressed frustration that North Shore trains seem to be an afterthought with the MTA.

“We want to get a solution for the Port Jefferson line,” Hoffman said. “I don’t know if it’s electric, I don’t know if it’s hydrogen — we certainly know it shouldn’t be diesel, it’s one of the dirtiest forms of air pollution.”

Hoffman praised Miller for his leadership on the issue and indicated the civic association hoped to support his advocacy efforts. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” he said

Artist Stuart Friedman paints at Frank Melville Memorial Park during a previous Wet Paint Festival. Photo courtesy of Gallery North
Two-day plein air painting event combines art, history and nature

By Rita J. Egan

Gallery North’s 20th annual Wet Paint Festival will take place in what was once considered a Setauket hub.

Held on June 1 and 2, the plein air painting event, featuring more than 40 artists, will be held on the grounds of the Tyler Homestead. Located at 97 Main Street, the mid-1700s home sits across the street from the Setauket Post Office and Frank Melville Memorial Park. Right in the homestead’s backyard is the Patriots Rock Historical Site, where the Battle of Setauket was fought.

For the 2024 event, Gallery North has partnered with Three Village Community Trust (TVCT), which owns the Tyler home. Erin Smith, Gallery North’s director of development, said they were pleased that the land trust was willing to make the Tyler Homestead available for the event.

The property will serve as the center point, where artists can explore around and near the property to decide the subject of their paintings. Choices include the house and property, Frank Melville Memorial Park, Patriots Rock, the Setauket Green, Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, nearby churches and the three Factory Worker Houses located less than a mile down the road.

“You bring your easel, and whatever vignette or view that moves you, you paint,” Smith said. “It’s nice because the whole idea of plein air painting is that it captures the light really well, and it gets you outside. You can really capture the historic beauty of the area in a unique way.”

Smith added that, during past festivals, some artists have chosen to paint objects such as an ice cream truck or bench. As for the Tyler Homestead and the area, it was chosen for “its historical significance and natural beauty.”

“It’s a highly visible central location for the community,” she explained.

Herb Mones, TVCT president, agreed that the Tyler house is the perfect location.

“It not only has the expansive yard, but it’s on Main Street, and it’s so close to so many other historical sites, parks and venues that the artists could spread out, and yet the Tyler house is the central focus,” he said.

In addition to various activities set up in the Tyler Homestead’s back and side yards, Mones said TVCT will provide tours of the Patriots Rock site and discuss the role early Setauket residents and British occupiers played during the American Revolution.

Artist Angela Stratton, who has participated in past Wet Paint Festivals, said she always looks forward to being outside and choosing what to paint.

“When you go out to paint, and you’re looking around, it’s kind of what hits you in your heart,” Stratton said. “One day, to some, a certain spot can look beautiful. The next day you can go and that doesn’t intrigue you.”

The artist added that she welcomes spectators’ questions and appreciates children being exposed to art at the festival. How quickly an artist completes a painting, she said, depends on the person and the canvas size. She said many base how long they spend on a painting on how the sunlight hits a subject during a certain time of day or some will stay despite the light passing.

For Three Village Historical Society Historian Beverly C. Tyler, the homestead is more than a landmark; it’s the home he grew up in. The historian said for a time the property had flowers all over, from front to back, that his stepfather, Lou Davis, cared for. Tyler described the flowers as “absolutely gorgeous.”

“Having the Wet Paint Festival there is sort of a continuation of his efforts to use the property,” Tyler said.

The historian fondly remembers playing on the grounds.

“Everything was very interesting around there, and I would sometimes sit on the front porch and just watch the cars go by and count the number of Chevys and Fords and other types of cars that were going by, and I could see everybody that came into the post office.”

Tyler added the area appeared in several postcards, and the Neighborhood House next to his family home was once a summer boarding house his grandfather ran in the late 1800s and the early 1900s.

In addition to viewing artists at work, attendees can participate in wildlife and plant life lectures or go on a guided tour of plein air paintings with regional artists Doug Reina and Christine D’Addario. WUSB 90.1 FM/107.3 FM will present live musical performances each day. Visitors will also be able to purchase food from LevelUp Kitchen and enjoy a delicious picnic in an idyllic setting.

Later in the month, from June 25 to July 7, art lovers can enjoy an exhibition at the Reboli Center for Art and History, 64 Main St., Stony Brook featuring the participating artists’ paintings. An opening reception will be held on June 25 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Schedule of Events

Saturday, June 1

11 a.m. History Walk with members of the Three Village Community Trust

Noon to 2 p.m. Music by Tom Killourhy

12:30 p.m. Meet local wildlife from Sweetbriar Nature Center

2 p.m. Take part in a plein air art tour with artist Christine D’Addario

Sunday, June 2

11 a.m. History Tour with Margo Arceri of Tri-Spy Tours

11:30 a.m. Nature Walk with the Four Harbors Audubon Society

Noon to 2 p.m. Music by Kane Daily

1:30 p.m. Plein air Art Tour with artist Doug Reina

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Generously sponsored by the Village Art Collective and Suffolk County’s Department of Economic Development and Planning., the Wet Paint Festival will be held on the grounds of the Tyler Homestead, 97 Main St., Setauket from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 1, and Sunday, June 2. The event is free of charge for spectators. A rain date is scheduled for June 15 and 16. For more information, call 631-751-2676 or visit gallerynorth.org/pages/wet-paint-festival.

Conceptual plans for the 126-acre Lawrence Aviation Superfund site in Port Jefferson Station. Graphic from Suffolk County Landbank

By Sabrina Artusa

The long-abandoned Lawrence Aviation Superfund site in Port Jefferson Station is now completely demolished, and nearly ready for development.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has been pursuing a contract to purchase 40 acres of the property to convert into a rail yard. Another portion is expected to be used for a solar farm. The rest will likely be preserved as open space. 

Herb Mones, Friends of the Greenway editor-in-chief and president of the Three Village Community Trust, wrote in an email that while there hasn’t been an official sale to either the MTA or to a solar farm firm, it is likely that these sales will happen and that a portion of the Greenway trail will have to be rerouted to accommodate a new rail yard. 

“This is great news for the surrounding community as it finally clears a giant eyesore and place for hanging out,” said Charlie McAteer, chair of Friends of the Greenway. “The idea of relocating the train yard to this site, along with the proposed passive solar farm and one-third of the space as open space, is a great benefit to all.”

The buildings are indeed demolished, but the area may need to undergo further examination to ensure that all harmful chemicals are neutralized. In order to continue with development plans, the Environmental Protection Agency is investigating for any residual contamination. The EPA expects to have more knowledge about the land’s status this summer. If further extensive remediation is required, it will be addressed in a public meeting. 

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website stated, “Remediation activities will continue for several years to come. The site cleanup activities will also result in site safety and security, allowing for a planned solar farm to be installed in the former footprint of the site buildings.

According to Mones, the MTA and the NYS Department of Transportation are in disagreement over a portion of the Greenway. Reportedly, the NYSDOT is unwilling to relinquish the portion of the Greenway that the MTA plans to use for the new rail yard. 

The MTA hasn’t explicitly stated any intention to electrify the Port Jefferson Branch line. TBR News Media reported MTA CEO Janno Lieber as having said at an October meeting that electrification of the line was under consideration. 

In rerouting, Friends of the Greenway wants to ensure the preservation of the trail experience, and has noted “requirements” such as security barriers between the rail yard and the path, a “significant buffer” between the path and homes, and accessibility. 

“The redevelopment of the Lawrence Aviation property will benefit the wider community,” Mones said. “The removal of the buildings finally brings to an end a decaying, dilapidated industrial site that often attracted criminal activity: vandalism, graffiti, trespassing.”

Dan Kerr, on left, passes the baton to Herb Mones. Photo from Dan Kerr

Herb Mones was recently elected warden at historic All Souls Church in Stony Brook.  He succeeds Dan Kerr who served the maximin of two consecutive terms as the senior elected lay leader of the church.  Herb was formerly installed in his new leadership role by Father Tom Resse at the Sunday service on Feb. 4.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Kerr

Outgoing Warden Dan Kerr noted, “It is time to pass the leadership baton to someone else, and Herb is a great choice.”  Herb has served in many leadership roles throughout our community over the decades, including president of the Three Village Civic Association, Chair of the Friends of the Greenway, President of the West Meadow Conservancy, and Chair of the Greening of 25A. He continues his thirty plus years on the Board of the Three Village Civic Association as the Chair of its Land Use Committee.

Reflecting on his new role, Herb said, “This is a wonderful opportunity to serve a warm and welcoming congregation that is rich in history, tradition, and spirit. My hope, and prayer, is to advance our mission: All Souls is a Christian community in the Anglican tradition. We strive to be mutually supportive of the personal spiritual journey, respecting the individuality of all, and accepting the value of meeting people where they are on that journey.”

The Stanford White designed church at 61 Main Street in Stony Brook is open every day for prayer and reflection.  In addition to its Episcopal services on Sunday, All Souls offers Interfaith Morning Prayer every Tuesday at 8:00am and an Interdenominational Rosary on Wednesday at Noon.  Its monthly outreach events include Saturdays at Six concerts, Second Saturdays poetry readings and Native American Drumming. 

The Brookhaven Town Board will consider a proposed change of zone for the Jefferson Plaza property on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 5 p.m. File photo by Raymond Janis

Port Jefferson Station/Terryville is approaching a potentially community-defining transformation as the Brookhaven Town Board weighs the future redevelopment of the Jefferson Plaza shopping center, owned by Islandia-based Staller Associates.

Later this month, the board will consider rezoning the 10-acre parcel at the intersection of state Route 112 and Terryville Road to a Commercial Redevelopment District, or CRD, a new classification within the town’s Zoning Code. Jefferson Plaza would be the first property in town history to receive this designation if approved.

Enacted in 2020, the CRD enables mixed-use development along parcels of over 5 acres in size. According to the code, the CRD aims “to create the type of planning and zoning flexibility which is necessary to stimulate the revitalization of abandoned, vacant or underutilized commercial shopping center, bowling alley and health club properties.”

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) represents Port Jefferson Station on the Town Board. In an exclusive interview, he summarized the CRD’s purpose as “more housing, less commercial space, generally.”

“The local government has created an incentive to spur redevelopment,“ he said. “But it hasn’t been used yet, so we’re trying to use it now.”

Commercial decline

Kornreich said this new approach to commercial revitalization is guided by a sequence of “extinction events” occurring within the local retail market.

Since the establishment of these local downtowns in the previous century and even earlier, Kornreich identified the emergence of automobile culture and the growth of large box stores as the first threat to traditional mom-and-pop storefronts and downtown economies. In the wake of this first extinction event, “retail took a hit that it never really recovered from,” Kornreich said.

Retail’s downward trajectory was further exacerbated by e-commerce, which began to put even the big box stores and large retailers out of business. “And then, of course, COVID came, and that hit commercial real estate and retail,” the councilmember noted.

Confronting the many changes reshaping the commercial landscape, Kornreich said the CRD would help spur commercial redevelopment.

“This is our existential challenge: How do we help guide the redevelopment of our community so it can be healthy, so that it can thrive, and so that people can afford to live here and have a good quality of life,” he said.

Richard Murdocco is an adjunct professor in the Department of Political Science at Stony Brook University, specializing in land use, real estate markets, economic development and environmental policy. Given the current pressures upon the commercial sector, Murdocco concluded that “these antiquated shopping centers need a redo.”

While redevelopment has traditionally elicited local opposition from nearby residents, Murdocco suggests that various projects throughout the region have gained traction among locals.

“It seems to me that a lot of these redevelopment projects are starting to gain momentum because the property and the blight are so large,” he said. “These are significant pieces of property,” adding, “Government responded to the need for adaptive reuse, and now there’s a legal mechanism through the zoning district on which to do that.”

Questions raised

The push for commercial redevelopment has met with scrutiny from some.

Ira Costell, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, raised several questions about the Jefferson Plaza proposal.

The CRD “hasn’t been used previously, and this does seem to be the test case,” he said. “In my estimation, it’s the lynchpin for further development in our community, so that’s why it’s essential that we get this right and not rush to judgment.”

“To address those things, I think we need better community input,” he added. To generate such input, he has asked residents to attend the civic’s upcoming meeting at Comsewogue Public Library on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 7 p.m.

Local civic members are ringing the alarm over the CRD in the neighboring Three Village community. Herb Mones, land use chair of the Three Village Civic Association, highlighted the need to remediate commercial blight but suggested the CRD code is too developer-centric.

“On every level, the intention of redeveloping neglected or failing shopping centers is an admirable goal,” he said. “But the way that the code is written allows for really unprecedented development that has a tremendous negative effect on communities that are impacted by the density that results.”

Mones said the language of the CRD code is “so vague, so arbitrary and so capricious that it could be applied to virtually any shopping center in the Town of Brookhaven.”

Based on the statute, which incentivizes redevelopment of blighted properties through relaxed land use standards, Mones said the CRD code “encourages landowners to purposely neglect their properties in order to promote this eventual redevelopment.”

George Hoffman, also a member of TVCA, concurred with Mones, referring to the CRD code as “a very vague law that I think was done in haste.”

“It was really a code change that was done when we didn’t know what was going to happen with COVID,” Hoffman said. “I think it really has to be reevaluated, and I don’t think it works in this situation here” at Jefferson Plaza. 

Given that Jefferson Plaza would be the first parcel listed as a CRD, he added that this matter has implications for residents townwide.

“If they use this code to the maximum allowable density, I think it’s going to set the standard of a new suburban model for development,” he said.

The Town Board will consider the proposed change of zone for the Jefferson Plaza property on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 5 p.m.

Caretaker informed minutes before animals due to be taken away

Locals confront Preservation Long Island on Wednesday, Nov. 8, during the nonprofit’s attempted removal of the animals at Sherwood-Jayne Farm in East Setauket. Photo by Mallie Jane Kim

Local residents rallied outside Sherwood-Jayne Farm in East Setauket Wednesday, Nov. 8, when representatives from Preservation Long Island — the nonprofit that owns the farm and its animals — made an unexpected attempt to remove the elderly pony and four sheep that live there.

The impromptu protest was confrontational and tense, with caretaker Susanna Gatz visibly distressed, and PLI executive director Alexandra Wolfe expressing frustration. Suffolk County police officers who cleared the 20 or so people out of the pasture area as requested by Wolfe also worked to maintain a calm atmosphere where possible.

In the end, the sheep and pony were spooked amid the tension, so the Save-A-Pet representative engaged to move the animals wouldn’t do so while they were agitated, and left the scene.

PLI has long planned to rehome its animals, but paused for review in August after significant community outcry. Gatz has lived on the property and cared for the sheep and pony for more than eight years. She and other local residents have been hoping the sheep and pony could live out the rest of their lives there.

On Nov. 8, Wolfe told Gatz the animals would leave just minutes before a Save-A-Pet van arrived to transport them.

Gatz said she felt blindsided. “To show up here today with a 15-minute notice to start moving the animals is not fair.”

Suffolk County Legislator-elect Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) attempted to help mediate and said he had a productive start to a conversation with Wolfe. He explained that the animals are an important educational and cultural resource for the community, but that he also understands PLI is essentially a collection of small museums and not in the business of caring for live creatures.

“She’s unhappy because the ownership that they have of these animals is not part of their mission,” he said, but added, “There has to be a solution other than removing the animals.”

Englebright said Wolfe expressed willingness for the idea of a separate organization owning and taking charge of animals on the property — though as police cleared people out of the pasture area and the protest grew heated with sobs, yelling and even a bit of shoving, Wolfe told the crowd she did not want the current animals to be part of any discussion.

Gatz’s sister, Sharon Philbrick, pulled three of her children out of school so they could come say goodbye to the animals, but police were no longer allowing people to go near the barn by the time they arrived. The kids were crying, and one ran past police officers to get close. “They’ve been around these animals their whole lives.” Philbrick said, adding that they’d held the sheep when they were little lambs. “The animals know them.”

PLI explained in a fact sheet provided to TBR News Media that the sheep are slated to get a private enclosure at Berkshire Farm Sanctuary, a nonprofit farm in Massachusetts that rescues and rehabilitates “abused and neglected companion and farm animals,” according to its website.

Snowball, the old white pony, PLI’s fact sheet indicated, would move to a private farm “a short distance away from the Sherwood-Jayne Farm,” and would have access to another elderly pony and 24-hour veterinary care. 

PLI provided a statement Thursday suggesting it still planned to move the animals, without indicating when.

“Regrettably, the emotions of our property custodian and some protesters disrupted the attempt to gently move the animals yesterday, and that effort had to be paused. We continue to believe that Berkshire Farm Sanctuary will provide the humane and caring environment we seek for the grazing animals,” the statement read.

Compliance issues for Sherwood-Jayne

In an additional layer of complication for PLI, a Sept. 8 letter from the county procured by TBR News Media informed them the property is out of compliance with the Farmland Preservation Development Rights Program. Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven purchased development rights to the 10.6-acre farm parcel in 2003, requiring Sherwood-Jayne to maintain a working commercial farm. The county also owns the 36 acres directly north of the property.

A county statute about the program stipulates “no owner shall leave agricultural land uncultivated and not engage in agricultural production … for more than two consecutive years.”

The letter also informed PLI it needs to apply for special-use permits to host events like the recent Baseball on the Farm, and the nonprofit also needs to discontinue the practice of allowing nearby schools and camps to use the field for overflow parking.

According to PLI’s fact sheet, the organization met with Mikael Kerr, the county’s farmland and open space supervisor, Sept. 30 to talk through options of bringing the property into compliance with the program.

PLI has not provided details about those options, but it will need to create a plan to put forward for approval by the county’s farmland committee.

Though there was no indication the current animals staying at the farm would hinder that process, the effort to move the animals last Wednesday made clear the organization is so far not interested in rethinking the decision.

“We have made arrangements to rehome our animals to a private sanctuary, where they will peacefully live out the rest of their days in a beautiful, park-like environment,” PLI said in a statement.

But some area residents think the animals should stay. One protester, Judy Wilson, who has helped feed the animals during times Gatz needed coverage, twisted a lock of the pony’s coarse white tail she found in the grass as she watched the situation unfold.

“What has happened today is atrocious,” she said. “The animals don’t need rescuing.”

Herb Mones, land use chair of the Three Village Civic Association, also came to the farm to show support. He took issue with the way the nonprofit handled a delicate situation, because the last the community heard, the plan to move the animals was on pause.

“We are quite shocked that something like this would happen by any organization that depends upon Long Island communities’ support,” said Mones, who is also president of the Three Village Community Trust, another organization that acquires and preserves local properties of historical importance. “These are really actions that go beyond anything that’s reasonable. It just amazes me.”

Gatz said she was touched that so many neighbors and friends stopped by — some who noticed the commotion while driving by and others who got calls to support the effort to keep the animals at the farm.

“People love this place, and they care about these animals,” she said. “I want them to stay here. This is their home, and I don’t know why [PLI] doesn’t understand that.”

Norma Watson and Steve Englebright shake hands as Johanna Watson, John Cunniffe and Three Village Community Trust board member Robert Reuter look on. Photo by Herb Mones

Abraham Woodhull’s ancestral property to be preserved, showcased to the community

By Mallie Jane Kim

Several blue-and-yellow historical markers dot Setauket streets, and the hamlet can truly boast “George Washington slept here.”

But none of these signs feels more out of the way than the one on the road to Strong’s Neck, in a peaceful corner of town overlooking Little Bay. And yet this sign marks the ancestral property of an important player in the Revolutionary War: Abraham Woodhull, “chief of Long Island spies under Gen. Washington,” the sign reads. In coming years, the marker won’t be the only way history buffs can enjoy this important piece of the past, which was at the heart of the historic Culper Spy Ring.

Three Village Community Trust is in the process of purchasing this property, with plans to preserve and eventually use it as a setting for community historical events. In a press release about the purchase, TVCT President Herb Mones wrote that he wants to “have children walk in the very steps of the founders of our country.”

Woodhull, code name Samuel Culper Sr., was one of the primary members of the group that tracked British troops and provided key information to Gen. George Washington and the American forces during the Revolutionary War, using espionage tradecraft like secret codes, invisible ink and dead drop secure communications. An article on the Central Intelligence Agency’s website identifies the Culper ring among “the founding fathers” of intelligence gathering by Americans.

“It’s a tremendous win for the community to be able to protect it and preserve it going forward,” Mones added. 

The trust, a community organization focused on preserving local natural resources and historical properties, owns several Three Village spots with Revolutionary War-era significance, including Patriots Rock Historical Site and the Smith/de Zafra House, home of Timothy Smith who, according to the TVCT website, mounted a broken musket over his fireplace to divert attention of suspicious British soldiers from his real cache of weapons hidden nearby.

“We’ve had a collection of properties that represented the foundations of the American experience,” Mones said. Thanks in part to “Turn,” the AMC television series about the spy ring popularizing Setauket’s history, the Woodhull property has the potential to draw even more interest in local history. “It’s important — it’s a feather in the cap,” the trust president said.

TVCT confirmed in a press release that the sales contract has been signed. The trust is in the process of submitting other required documentation to the state to finalize the purchase, which was made possible by a $825,000 grant secured in 2022 by then-New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket).

Norma Watson, who currently owns and lives on the property, will have a life tenancy, according to Mones. Watson herself has a history of advocating for natural and historical preservation, and she was involved with the trust at its inception.

According to Mones, the Woodhull property currently houses a pond and a barn — with a history of its own — that was reclaimed and converted around the 1950s into the home where Watson now resides. Woodhull’s original 1660 house burned down in 1931.

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By Rita J. Egan

Saturday’s heat and humidity couldn’t spoil the enthusiasm of local history lovers as they embarked on a journey back in time.

Three Village Historical Society, Tri-Spy Tours and several area historical and cultural organizations hosted the 9th Culper Spy Day on Saturday, Sept. 9. The annual event celebrates regional history, especially the Culper Spy Ring that operated during the Revolutionary War.

According to Kimberly Phyfe, TVHS development coordinator, more than 1,000 people stopped by the historical society’s property. Other locations were sprinkled throughout Setauket, Stony Brook and Port Jefferson.

Phyfe said more than 1,000 samples of curry soup and colonial waffles were handed out at the table for Stirring up History with Diane Schwindt from Ketcham Inn, while historian Beverly Tyler, dressed as Abraham Woodhull, wax sealed 125 “spy” letters. According to Phyfe, the Huntington Militia’s cannon firing and musket drills were the most popular feature.

“They drew a huge crowd for all three demonstrations, and everyone walked away wowed by the experience,” she said. “The 23rd Regiment of Foot caused a fantastic scene, rounding up a rebel colonist and tying him to a tree for having the treasonous Declaration of Independence in his pocket and speaking out against the king. Not to worry, a brave band of musket-trained children ran to his rescue with the aid of General Washington.”

Guests were also able to tour the Spies exhibit inside TVHS headquarters, and visit George and Martha Washington along with their squire at their tented field office. For the first time this year, the event was kicked off with a ceremonial raising of the Betsy Ross flag.

Participants could also take docent-led tours of the Setauket Neighborhood House; visit Patriots Rock, where the Battle of Setauket took place Aug. 22, 1777; and tour the Caroline Episcopal Church and Setauket Presbyterian Church as well as view the gravestones of famous residents and Patriot soldiers. 

At Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, history lovers listened to live music while children played outdoor games, and those entering the library’s lobby viewed 18th-century items on display.

Herb Mones, Three Village Community Trust president, said TVCT members and Boy Scout Troop 427, Setauket, greeted hundreds of visitors at Patriots Rock Saturday to discuss the importance of the glacial erratic boulder and its role in history.

“There was a real enthusiasm and interest in this trust property,” Mones said. “We’re always thrilled to participate in Culper Spy Day — a celebration of our community’s colonial heritage.”

Over in East Setauket, “Big Bill the Tory” (aka William Jayne III), gave tours and told stories at the Sherwood-Jayne House. Visitors to Stony Brook’s Long Island Museum viewed the newly discovered Culper Spy Ring letter by Benjamin Tallmadge to Robert Townsend. In Port Jefferson, the Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum presented the new exhibit, Privateers: Pirates with Permission.

Runners take off from the starting line on Main Street in Stony Brook Village at last year's race. Photo from Dan Kerr
Registration underway for SOLES for All Souls Race

By Daniel Kerr

Historic All Souls Church has stood on the hill at the entrance to Stony Brook Village since 1896. Although much has changed in the village since then, the simple beauty of the building and the interior have remained true to Stanford White’s vision. 

Interestingly, life expectancy back then in the United States was less than 50 years, and accessibility for the elderly or handicapped was not part of the design. On Sunday, October 1st, the 15th SOLES for All Souls 5K Race/2K Walk will celebrate the role of the National Landmark chapel in the community and raise funds to make it accessible to all. 

Episcopal Bishop of Long Island Lawrence Provenzano stated, “Accessibility is an integral part of welcoming everyone in our communities into our parishes and we are proud to support this fantastic event with its goal to make All Souls a place that can truly serve everyone.” 

Three of the winners from last year’s race. Photo from Dan Kerr

Herb Mones, an All Souls Church member, and both president of the Three Village Community Trust and Land Use Chair for the Three Village Civic Association, recently observed “SOLES for All Souls is vital to raising the necessary funds for our accessibility project. I am hoping that the entire running and walking community turns out to support our efforts.” 

Richard Bronson, MD, former Suffolk County Poet Laureate, remarks, “How many times have I entered All Souls Church, felt its sanctity, marveled at its quiet beauty while listening to recited verse at the Second Saturday Poetry Reading? How can one not wish to participate in the SOLES for All Souls Race/Walk, an event that will raise funds to make this treasure accessible to all…and it is good for one’s health.”

SOLES For All Souls is perhaps the most inclusive race/walk on Long Island.  Serious runners compete for gold, bronze, and silver medals in age groups from under 13 to over 80 and receive their hard-won medals in an Olympic-style awards ceremony. Dogs are welcome to accompany their masters and students from Stony Brook University and others often come in costume. Senior citizens with walking sticks line up at the starting line along with parents pushing their kids in strollers. 

Looking back on last year’s race, East Patchogue resident and Overall Winner Adam Lindsey commented, “I love the opportunity to run in Stony Brook Village. The hills are the right amount of challenging yet very fun with lovely scenery. All Souls is such an integral part of Stony Brook Village, and it is a joy to run in a race to support them.” 

Port Jefferson Station resident Margaret Kennedy shared, “I look forward to this race every year, eager to see familiar faces and the creative costumes. The matched pair of peanut butter and jelly comes to mind. It is the camaraderie and fellowship that keeps us coming back to collect a new color in our t-shirt rainbow. Everyone is welcome, whether running up the challenging hill or walking with a team. This race is truly a labor of love.” 

The event is also a food drive for St. Gerard Majella’s food pantry. Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine encourages runners and walkers to feed the hungry: “I am proud to support the SOLES for All Souls and I urge everyone to donate to the ‘Lend a Hand, Bring a Can’ food drive. There are so many of our less fortunate neighbors who experience food insecurity and they rely on donations to feed themselves and their families. If we all chip in and do our part, we can help so many people in need and make a real difference in our community.”     

Registration for SOLES for All Souls 5K Run/2K Walk is through the ACTIVE.COM website (Search: SOLES for All Souls) or register on Race Day at the Reboli Center for Art & History, 64 Main St., Stony Brook from 7:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m.; the race/walk begins at 9 a.m. Complimentary pre and post event stretching will be provided by Progressive Personal Training.  Local musician Bill Clark will perform throughout the morning.  

Please call 631-655-7798 for more information on the event or if you would like to be a sponsor. Donations dedicated to Handicap Accessibility Project can be mailed to All Souls Race, P.O. Box 548, Stony Brook, NY 11790.

Daniel Kerr is the Director of SOLES for All Souls Race/Walk.

By Sofia Levorchick

The 8th annual Chicken Hill Country Picnic and Barbecue, hosted by the Three Village Community Trust on Saturday, Aug. 19, gathered over 100 people on the grounds of the Bruce House at 148 Main St. in Setauket to celebrate the history of Chicken Hill and support TVCT.

Attendees enjoyed live music and the spread of barbecued food catered by Bagel Express, with opportunities to participate in raffles and learn about Chicken Hill’s history through TVCT’s videos.

The event began around 4 p.m., with TVCT president Herb Mones delivering a speech of gratitude, thanking the community members for their continual support. He awarded The Mr. and Mrs. De Zafra Scholarship and Dr. Watson Scholarship to two devoted teen volunteers: 15-year-old Lily Rosengard and 17-year-old Eve Rosengard, respectively.

“The organization has a large impact on our community, and I am beyond grateful to play a part in their events and help out my community,” Eve Rosengard said of this honor.

Eve and her sister Lily assisted in setting up this year’s Chicken Hill event as volunteers and the daughters of the trust’s artistic director, Michael Rosengard. Michael Rosengard featured prominently in organizing the event, enhancing the grounds with antiques, paintings, handmade decorations and photographs. 

Motivated by his ownership of two of the factory homes on his street and his membership in the TVCT, Michael Rosengard took it upon himself to research the historical background of the factory homes. He further coordinated that with articles that state when the houses were built, solidifying their origins.

“This event is aimed toward commemorating the history of Chicken Hill,” Michael Rosengard said. “Without that recognition of our history, people wouldn’t realize the importance of where they live.”

As Mones concluded his speech, he shifted his focus to commemorating the history of the Chicken Hill area, which was home to factory tenements that accommodated immigrants who worked at a five-story factory that was previously situated across from the Bruce House. 

That factory produced shoes, belts, baskets and hoses until it burnt down in the early 20th century. Chicken Hill was deemed its name as those who lived in the area began raising chickens that were often let out to run awry and came back home at night to be fed. 

Mones connected this history to the present-day community. “The three houses behind me were those provided to the immigrants by the factory, and they have been preserved by the Trust,” he said. “I think what’s important is that we come and celebrate Chicken Hill. We look back, but we also recognize with gratitude where we are today.”

Among the attendees present were numerous community leaders, including New York State Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson), Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Setauket), former state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) — who is running against Anthony Figliola for the Suffolk County Legislature’s 5th District — and business leader Dave Calone, a Democrat running against Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) for Suffolk County executive.

Kornreich has been involved in this event for years, this time strumming the guitar and singing some tunes in the live band. He said the event has progressed significantly each year, particularly noting its emphasis on celebrating the land on which it is held. 

“I admire the opportunity to get together with the people who are the original inhabitants who grew up here, like Helen Sells,” president of the Setalcott Native American Council, Kornreich said. “It’s important to honor them and respect their continued residency in this area.”

Calone had attended the event in the past and said he had enjoyed it every time. “I think what’s great about the event is that it brings people of all different ages from all around this community to understand the history we have in our area,” he said. “It helps us remember where we came from as a community.”

While in office, Englebright helped secure funds to preserve the historical houses on Chicken Hill. Englebright’s successor Flood said he plans to continue this work, preserving the Chicken Hill houses and maintaining their historical significance within the Three Village community. 

“This area is rich in history, dating all the way back to the Revolutionary War,” Flood noted. “It’s highly important to maintain the history so that the future generations can continue to learn about the history of their neighborhoods.”

Sells, also known as Morning Star, took part in this event. She was raised on the lands of Chicken Hill, describing a sense of deep connection to the area.

“This is home,” the Setalcott leader said. “It will always be home. There are so many memories here,” adding, “I love it here. This event means a lot to me.”

Volunteers and trust members said the event has made notable progress over the past eight years. While raising money for the trust, the event has also fostered awareness about the value of the Three Village community’s local history.

“Throughout the years I’ve attended and volunteered, the event has grown and expanded,” Eve Rosengard said. “I’m ecstatic to see that growth, and I can’t wait for what next year has to bring.”