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Heritage Trust

The Mount Sinai Civic Association was responsible for installing welcome signs in the community. Photo from Ann Becker

The Mount Sinai Civic Association isn’t just a local organization — it’s an institution that has become part of the community’s fabric for the last 100 years.

On Oct. 6 at the Willow Creek Golf & Country Club, the civic association celebrated its anniversary with its board, community members and local politicians.

“It’s an amazing milestone,” Mount Sinai Civic Association President Ann Becker said. “We’re impressed with how dedicated people have been, always stepping up in Mount Sinai. It’s been a concretive effort. We’ve had strong leadership. It’s a community that pulls together when there are problems and tries to resolve those issues.”

Incorporated Oct. 5, 1916 as an outgrowth of the Mount Sinai Taxpayers Association, its initial objective was to construct better roads, improve the conditions of Mount Sinai Harbor and adopt means to protect against fires.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner, left, and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, right, present Mount Sinai Civic Association President Ann Becker with a proclamation. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner, left, and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, right, present Mount Sinai Civic Association President Ann Becker with a proclamation. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Over 100 years, some of those principals remain,” Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said. “The civic works hard to protect this community, to ensure that the zoning, the look of this community stays as a majority of the people in this community wants it to. They work hard to protect the harbor, the environment, and they do a tremendous job.”

Officers elected at the first organizational meeting were President Jacob Schratweiser; 1st Vice President Philip Scherer; 2nd Vice President JC Sheridan; Secretary William R. P. Van Pelt; and Treasurer Lorenzo Davis. Committees were established to focus on road improvements, fire safety, improving the harbor, taxes and bylaws. The dues were fixed at $1 a year.

Over its 100-year history, the civic association has worked tirelessly on quality of life issues for the residents of Mount Sinai and the Brookhaven Town. They’ve worked to protect the area’s coastal environment, establish community parks and preserves and maintain a balanced level of development — including recreational facilities, privately owned housing, residential opportunities for seniors and support for schools. A completely volunteer-based organization, the civic has always depended on local residents to step forward and actively work toward improving the community, protecting the environment and protesting against overdevelopment.

With Becker now at the helm, the civic association continues to strive to better the community, and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said Becker is the perfect person for the job.

“Ann and her civic board are wonderful advocates for the tiny little hamlet of Mount Sinai,” she said, adding that her husband, John Sandusky, was born and raised in the area. “People like Ann, and others in this community, keep a watchful eye, are paying attention and have the best goals for Mount Sinai — to maintain it’s quaint look and charm.”

During the 1960s and ’70s, the major civic issues included working to successfully stop the dredging of Mount Sinai Harbor, which was accomplished in the late 1960s, followed by the planning and management of Cedar Beach. The civic association also worked to preserve local wetlands, and the 1965 Mount Sinai Harbor Advisory Committee recommended limiting commercial use to the existing businesses.

Over the years, the civic has had some big accomplishments.

Out of the Mount Sinai Civic Association formed the nonprofit Heritage Trust incorporation, in which several civic members were involved. The Heritage Trust and civic members were instrumental in the formation of Heritage Park. File photo by Erika Karp
Out of the Mount Sinai Civic Association formed the nonprofit Heritage Trust incorporation, in which several civic members were involved. The Heritage Trust and civic members were instrumental in the formation of Heritage Park. File photo by Erika Karp

The association sued Brookhaven for overdevelopment in 1996, which resulted in a significant reduction in the number of houses built. They also helped in the establishment of the Willow Creek Golf & Country Club, which provided a $2 million tax windfall for the Mount Sinai school district.

Funding and installation for three welcome signs in the hamlet were also achieved with the help of the civic. In 1997, the Chandler Estate was preserved as passive parkland. With a grant received from New York State with the help of Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), 355 trees were planted along Route 25A the same year to beautify the community.

“The work that they do in the community and the difference that they make in the quality of life in Mount Sinai; the civic sets an example for all other communities,” Englebright said. “This is a shining beacon of civic activism and accomplishment. The association has continuity, initiative and history. I go to other district and I tell them to visit Mount Sinai and its park to see what a hamlet and a community can do when it comes together.”

The grant was also used to help purchase the nearly one-acre property that is known as Heritage Park. Preventing the sale of “The Wedge” to developers who planned to construct a Home Depot was also made possible with the help of Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who persuaded the owner to donate the balance of the property.

In the 1990s the civic started many of the community activities still supported through the 501(c)3 nonprofit Heritage Trust, though many have since expanded. These include the community tree lighting that started at the post office and is now held at Heritage Park, along with the menorah lighting, family day at Cedar Beach, the Halloween Parade and festival [originally held at the middle school] and Breakfast with Santa, which began at George’s Handlebar Restaurant 21 years ago and is now held at Heritage Center.

“We have to keep up the inspiration,” Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said. “We’re here to protect the Earth and we’re here to protect each other, and make sure that worries and concerns are addressed. There’s so much more that we can do, but what’s most important it that we take care of what we have.”

On Aug. 20, Mount Sinai’s Heritage Trust, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, hosted Summerfest 2016 at Heritage Park.

The event featured live music, including Dog House Blues Band, The Jukebox Explosion and Rock Nation; vendors; a beer tent; raffles and other family fun.

Little kids dressed to impress at the Heritage Center’s annual Halloween Festival on Sunday, Oct. 25.

Residents could pick out and paint pumpkins, get their face painted, play Halloween-related games for prizes and make arts and crafts. They could also get a cupcake from Desserts on the Spot, a local food truck in Mount Sinai.

According to Lori Baldassare, president of the Mount Sinai Heritage Trust, members of Enterprise, the car rental service, volunteered to work at the event as part of their management training.

The Heritage Center began its Halloween festival almost 10 years ago. The event is one of several that helps the center raise money. Due to poor weather, it has been more difficult for the center to raise money this year, but aims to raise more money from future events that aren’t weather-dependent like the upcoming “The Class of Life,” a theatrical performance starring Paul Failla. The performance will take place on Friday Nov. 6, and is open to those who are 17-year-old and up.

The fourth day was a charm for the Heritage Trust Center’s carnival. After three days of wet and windy weather, residents of Miller Place, Mount Sinai and neighboring communities finally gathered at Heritage Park to enjoy the fourth and final day of the center’s seventh annual carnival on Sunday, Oct. 4.

Children and adults alike enjoyed rides like Pharaoh’s Fury, Tornado, the Swinger and others, and could choose between savory foods and sweet surprises like zeppole and deep fried Oreos, Greek food and Philly cheesesteak sandwiches. Those who stayed into the evening hours were also treated to fireworks, which were pushed from Friday to Sunday.

By Talia Amorosano

Despite 95-degree weather, car enthusiasts young and old gathered at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai on Saturday to get up close and personal with old and new local cars.

Cars displayed were in pristine condition and many had been refurbished or restored. Attendees were able to view parts of the cars that they wouldn’t normally see, as many owners propped the trunks and hoods open to enable full viewing. Because some cars were accompanied by informative signs with origin stories, or were staged with time-period-appropriate memorabilia, the car show was surely a learning experience even for already knowledgeable viewers.

They buzz and flutter and they are disappearing from Long Island’s environment. Pollinators are on the decline on the Island and nationwide.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, native pollinators such as Monarch butterflies have decreased in numbers by more than 80 percent in the past two decades. Native bee populations, among other indigenous pollinator species, are also on the decline, which can put local farms at risk as less pollinators mean less pollination.

But Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) hopes to help Long Island farmers combat the population decline with her new Educational Agriculture Support Initiative, which aims to increase the amount of native plant species on Long Island, starting with the Heritage Park in Mount Sinai.

“The history of Heritage Park is [that] we wanted to take care of the rural character and the heritage of the area,” Lori Baldassare, president of Heritage Trust, said about how the park got involved with Anker’s initiative. According to Baldassare, Anker has a long history with the park so “it just seemed like a natural place to do [a] … demonstration garden.”

Honeybees, above, which are native to Europe are efficient pollen collectors and honey producers but they are not effective pollinators because pollen sticks onto their legs so well. They are one of the few bee species that live in a hive. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Honeybees, above, which are native to Europe are efficient pollen collectors and honey producers but they are not effective pollinators because pollen sticks onto their legs so well. They are one of the few bee species that live in a hive. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Although Anker has teamed up with Heritage Trust, Girl Scouts of Suffolk County, Long Island Native Plant Initiative, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County and the Suffolk County Soil and Water Conservation District to help create a pilot native plant species garden at Heritage Park, she said that it will take more than the individuals from these organizations to bring back local pollinator species.

“I need people to participate,” she said. “I need people to understand that this is really important. If we don’t preserve [the environment] nobody else will.”

According to Polly Weigand, executive director of the plant initiative and senior soil district technician for the conservation district, the team is trying to provide the pilot garden with various native plant species, including native grasses, which will attract and sustain pollinators throughout the year. While these plants are neither flowering nor the most visually appealing, Weigand said the grasses provide a place for insects to lay their eggs and shelter during the winter months.

While some invasive or nonnative plants, like butterfly bush, can provide food for native butterflies, it isn’t sufficient for these insects to lay their eggs or seek shelter. Native insects evolve with the native plants in the area. The evolution allows these creatures to use a plant for shelter and sustenance. Although some invasive or nonnative plants can provide food and habitat for these small creatures, this is not always the case.

“Plants have a little chemical warfare that they play with the species that are going to [prey] on them,” Weigand said. “They put out toxins to try to keep the animal from eating the leaves.”

It takes several generations before an insect can successfully utilize the foreign plants for their life cycle.

But according to Robin Simmen, community horticulture specialist for the cooperative extension, and Laura Klahre, beekeeper and owner of Blossom Meadow in Cutchogue, in addition to the lack of suitable plants, the use of pesticides and lack of suitable habitat for Long Island pollinators are some of the many factors contributing to the decline in the native species.

Polly Weigand, left, of the Long Island Native Plant Initiative, and county Legislator Sarah Anker, right, discuss native plant species for Anker’s Educational Agriculture Support Initiative pilot garden at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Polly Weigand, left, of the Long Island Native Plant Initiative, and county Legislator Sarah Anker, right, discuss native plant species for Anker’s Educational Agriculture Support Initiative pilot garden at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“We used to just think that we would get these free pollination services from nature,” Klahre said. “But in the future that may not be the case because there aren’t enough flowers around [and] we have so many pesticides.”

Pesticides that target unwanted pests, like ticks, are also detrimental to native bees, which live underground.

When the toxins seep into an area in close proximity to native insects, some eventually develop dementia.

Klahre also mentioned the lack of open space as an issue as it jeopardizes the livelihood of the bugs.

While Klahre does not know by how much the native bee population has declined, she said they are struggling to maintain their populations just like their European counterpart, the honeybee. According to Klahre there are about 4,000 different bee species nationwide and 450 different species in New York state alone.

Unlike docile native bees like mining, mason or sweat bees, honeybees are not efficient pollen collectors.

Native bees are among the best pollinators for a variety of plant species. The native bees also yield higher quality and longer lasting fruits like apples or cherries, which can have a thicker outer skin; a thicker skin means that the fruits have a longer shelf life than those pollinated by honeybees.

Although Anker said farms across Long Island are affected by the decline in pollinator species as they are forced to import pollinating bees to the locations, Klahre said she only saw a disruption in growing produce with home gardeners.

Monarch butterflies, above, fly from their wintering grounds in Mexico to Long Island, which serves as their breeding range during the summer. Monarchs born during the summer only live three to five weeks in comparison to overwintering adult Monarchs that can live up to nine months. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Monarch butterflies, above, fly from their wintering grounds in Mexico to Long Island, which serves as their breeding range during the summer. Monarchs born during the summer only live three to five weeks in comparison to overwintering adult Monarchs that can live up to nine months. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Pollinators like bees usually have a route that they go on to collect pollen and nectar before returning to their habitat. If these insects are not accustomed or attracted to a homeowner’s property, it is unlikely that the pollinator will visit the area. This is especially the case for homeowners who have a simple grass lawn.

While some grasses help native insects, a bare lawn does not provide a pollinator with the necessary sources of food in order to survive.

But Anker’s goal is to educate the community about the best way to attract and support these insects using appropriate native plant species like milkweed, among others.

“I’m actually looking to have [pilot gardens] throughout Suffolk County,” Anker said in regards to her initiative.

The plant initiative has selected the types of native plants that will go into Anker’s pilot garden, which could be designed and constructed toward the end of August.

Individuals like Klahre believe there is enough time to heal the environment and help increase native pollinators like bees, but she does acknowledge the reality of having little to no pollinators.

“In China there are some areas that are so polluted that they actually have people that are going from flower to flower in orchards with feathers moving the pollen,” Klahre said. “I just never want us to get to that point.”