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Jane Bonner

State and local officials rally outside the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles office in Port Jefferson Station on Tuesday, Aug. 22. From left, New York State Sen. Anthony Palumbo, state Assemblyman Ed Flood, Town of Brookhaven Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico, Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich and Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner. Photos by Raymond Janis

State and local officials are letting out a collective uproar over the planned closure of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Port Jefferson Station branch later this week.

The Port Jeff Station office serves most of northern Brookhaven and parts of Smithtown. The three nearest alternatives are DMV offices in Medford, Hauppauge or Riverhead.

With foot traffic constantly moving in and out of the DMV on Tuesday morning, Aug. 22, New York State legislators joined Brookhaven Town Board members for a press conference calling upon Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) to intervene.

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), who is running for Suffolk County executive against business leader Dave Calone (D), noted that while Suffolk is the fourth largest county by population in New York State, it tops the list in registered licensed drivers and registered vehicles.

“Closing this DMV office, which is used by so many people, is not the way to go,” he said.

New York State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) highlighted the Town of Brookhaven’s considerable population, noting that the town has more residents than Miami, Florida.

“Could you imagine ignoring the residents of Miami when it comes to licensing drivers?” he asked. “Closing this DMV, unfortunately, is quite reckless, and I don’t think we’re really thinking about the citizens and the services they need.”

The state senator added that closing the Port Jefferson Station DMV would put greater strain on existing DMV locations in Suffolk County.

New York State Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) referred to the announced closure as a “disservice to the residents of this area.”

“It’s not in any way good government to close buildings or close facilities that are necessary,” the assemblyman said. “Right now, we have a need to expand our DMV operations instead of contract.”

Brookhaven Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville), who is running for town supervisor against SUNY Old Westbury adjunct professor Lillian Clayman (D), attended Tuesday’s press event, condemning New York as “a state where people pay more and get less.”

“The overall theme and what we’re pointing out — what I’m pointing out — is that people on Long Island, specifically in Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town, are continually shortchanged by the State of New York,” he said.

Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook), whose 1st District includes the hamlets and villages across northwestern Brookhaven, echoed Panico’s sentiments. He referred to the conflict over limited state resources as a “suburban versus urban dynamic,” with suburban areas often neglected.

“The closure of this office is going to add at a minimum 40 minutes of round-trip driving for our residents who use it,” he indicated. “This is something that impacts all our residents.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), whose 2nd District encompasses the northeastern reaches of the township, said existing employees at the Port Jeff Station location do not wish to relocate.

She also suggested that the closure contradicts the spirit of Hochul’s environmental agenda.

“Our governor has a very lofty environmental initiative,” Bonner stated. “Putting people in cars for longer on our state roads — that are not well maintained — and emitting fossil fuels doesn’t go along with her environmental initiative.”

Officials encouraged residents to weigh in on the DMV closure through an online petition created by the town. Scan the QR code to fill out the survey.

U.S. Congressman Nick LaLota. Photo from LaLota’s website

Sound Beach residents are searching for answers regarding the closure of their post office, located at 25 New York Ave., but are receiving the support of U.S. Congressman Nick LaLota (R-NY1). A spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service confirmed the location has been closed since May 26.

“Sound Beach Post Office remains closed awaiting necessary repairs,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We continue to work with the building’s owner to complete the work and do not have a time frame to reopen.”

When asked to provide further detail on the repairs that are needed, the spokesperson referred TBR News Media to the building’s owner, who rents the facility to USPS.

An agent for the corporation which owns the facility, according to the Town of Brookhaven’s property records, did not respond to an email request for comment.

The spokesperson for USPS directed residents in need of “retail services” to Rocky Point Post Office located at 346 Route 25A Ste. 84, and confirmed P.O. Boxes have been relocated to Miller Place. 

A spokesperson for LaLota sent TBR News Media a copy of a letter the congressman wrote to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, Aug. 8, demanding answers and a resolution to the closure. 

LaLota noted in the letter that his constituents have been severely inconvenienced and urged DeJoy to “strongly reconsider the current mail forwarding plan in place,” in reference to the relocation of retail services and P.O. Boxes. The letter further stated that USPS has asked LaLota’s office to “check back in September for more details” on a time frame to reopen.

“I urge the USPS to find an immediate solution that provides relief to my constituents and consumers of the Sound Beach Post Office,” the letter read. “My office and I stand ready to assist the USPS resume retail and P.O. Box operations in Sound Beach and help facilitate a work around that will best serve constituents.”

LaLota said in a separate email through his spokesperson that he sent the letter after “initial staff-level dialogue proved unfruitful.” 

“The Postal Service’s lack of urgency and poor communication falls short of my constituents’ reasonable expectations,” LaLota said in the email. “Specifically, the Postal Service telling thousands of customers and my office they won’t have any more information on this issue until after September 1 demonstrates a lack of leadership and accountability at the Postal Service’s management level. I encourage my constituents to focus their frustrations on management, not the hardworking letter carriers, retail clerks and warehouse workers. I will continue a dialogue with management until this issue is resolved to my constituents’ satisfaction.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), who represents Sound Beach, said she has spoken to LaLota’s office, and while he is trying to seek answers for residents, she confirms the federal USPS has been difficult to deal with.

“The post office is not being terribly forthcoming with information, and the congressman is not happy about that at all,” Bonner said. “He knows that it’s terribly inconvenient, especially for our senior citizens, to have to drive to Miller Place to get their mail. There doesn’t seem to be any sense of urgency from the postmaster general to resolve this.”

Bea Ruberto, president of the Sound Beach Civic Association, confirmed residents have been left in the dark about a reopening date, and a timeline for the repairs.

“We have not been able to get much of an answer to what’s happening,” she said. “The concern is given the fact that the work has to be done, they use this as an excuse to shut down our post office.”

Ruberto said she heard there was an initial problem with the ceiling, which then turned into a larger repair. One day, there was a notice on the front door of the post office directing residents to go elsewhere. 

The post office is central to the business district in Sound Beach, Ruberto said, which already struggles due to not having a downtown.

“The only thing that Sound Beach has is the post office,” she said. “That’s almost like the center of our town. We lose that and we lose part of where our business district is.”

Miller Place Post Office, which is where Ruberto said people are being sent for their P.O. Boxes, and Rocky Point Post Office are 1.9 miles, and 2.1 miles away, respectively, from the Sound Beach Post Office. Ruberto said these reassignments are “not a minor inconvenience.”

In one instance, according to LaLota’s letter, a “permanently disabled combat veteran did not receive a temperature-controlled medication from the VA, which must remain refrigerated, due to mail forwarding. The VA advised this constituent the medication was being returned as undeliverable. This is a completely unacceptable failure.”

Ultimately, the post office closure, Ruberto said, is yet another example of Sound Beach being forgotten and left behind. 

“We’re off the beaten track,” she said. “So our businesses already lose customers because people have to go out of their way to get to us. The post office is really an important part of how all of this works.”

The Rocky Point community celebrated Independence Day Tuesday, July 4, with a reading of the Declaration of Independence and public recognition of local veterans. Photos by Raymond Janis

Patriotism filled the morning air in Rocky Point on Tuesday, July 4, during a communitywide celebration of American independence.

Public officials, business leaders, Scouts and community members gathered outside Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6249 — at times braving gusts of rain — for a ceremony in honor of the 247th anniversary of American independence. The festivities combined a traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence with public recognition of the area’s veterans.

Above, Joe Cognitore, commander Rocky Point Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6249, left, and Gary Pollakusky, president and executive director of the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce

“Freedom is a gift given by all of those who fought for us,” said Gary Pollakusky, president and executive director of the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce, which helped organize the event. “As we celebrate with our friends and family, we must express our thanks for feeling free to the men and women who made that possible.”

Joe Cognitore, commander of Post 6249, performed the commemorative reading of the list of hometown heroes. Following this service, the post commander reinforced the value of reading the Declaration annually.

“Today, we celebrate 247 years of freedom and independence,” he said. “Let us remember that the true power of our nation lies in the unity and resilience of our people.”

“The VFW stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of our veterans and their dedication to our country,” he added. “Together, let us renew our commitment to supporting our veterans and bridging the gap between military service and civilian life.”

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) reflected upon the uniqueness of this annual tradition, noting the sizable and proud veteran population of northeastern Brookhaven.

From left: New York State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio; Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner; and Brookhaven Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico.

“I’m proud to represent this community because, trust me, the Declaration of Independence is probably not being read anywhere else today in Suffolk County or Nassau County,” she said. “So props to the people who made it happen.”

New York State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) said the Declaration stands as a “reminder to everyone of how important it is that we have our freedoms and our liberties,” she said.

Bonner’s colleague on the Town Board, Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville), used the occasion to reflect upon the historical significance of the American Revolution and the audacity of those who signed the document nearly two and half centuries ago, tying their contributions to those of American service members today.

“We offered law and logic to the rest of the world as to why we should be free,” the deputy supervisor said. “It’s our veterans — from the American Revolution through today — that have been there to ensure that this country … ensues and keeps on going forward.”

Rocky Point School District administrators and Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner, third from left, and Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker, third from right, flank filmmaker Leon Adler, fourth from right, and author Bea Ruberto, fourth from left. Photo courtesy RPSD

Joseph A. Edgar Elementary School students recently learned about Sound Beach when they participated in an assembly program featuring local filmmaker Leon Adler and author and Sound Beach Civic Association President Bea Ruberto on June 7. 

Adler directed the film, “The History Upon Our Shores: Sound Beach, NY,” based on the book, “Sound Beach: Our Town, Our Story,” by Ruberto.

The event for third and fourth graders, coordinated by Rocky Point’s director of humanities, Melinda Brooks, gave students a glimpse into the process of storytelling, research and the value of preserving local history. 

Students welcomed the creative duo, presenting artistic gifts of thanks for their visit. The school also welcomed Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) and Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who shared their experiences representing the local community.

Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro, Councilwoman Jane Bonner and Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico, with members of the Brookhaven highway department and Alice Steinbrecher’s second grade class. Photo by Aidan Johnson
By Aidan Johnson

Town of Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Daniel Losquardo (R), along with Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), unveiled a historical sign Tuesday, June 13, marking the location where the Shoreham Railroad Station once stood.

The sign had been requested by a Miller Avenue Elementary School second-grade class after taking their inaugural walk on the North Shore Rails to Trail last year, wishing to know more about the lost station.

Losquadro holding up the class letter requesting the Shoreham Railway Station marker. Photo by Aidan Johnson

After receiving a letter from this year’s class, headed by teacher Alice Steinbrecher, Losquadro worked with the Wading River and Shoreham historical societies to collect information about the station, coordinating with the town carpentry shop and East End Sign Design, which printed and donated the marker.

 “The most important thing I think for young people is to know you can make a difference,” Panico told the class during the unveiling ceremony. “By writing to Superintendent Losquadro, you got this done with the help of your teacher.”

Steinbrecher, in an interview with News 12, described how her class was learning about their community’s history and how it changed over time, along with the Rails to Trails project, which created a public path from the former railroad corridors of the Shoreham train station.

“So I had an idea: Let’s walk to where the train station was, and my own children thought I was crazy,” Steinbrecher said. “They said, ‘Mom, you’re walking to nowhere,’” but now, “We have someplace to actually stop and see some of the history.”

The marker is located near Briarcliff Road and North Country Road just south of the current Rails to Trails.

Each class member was given a certificate of congratulations for their civic participation and contribution to chronicling the area’s local history.

Photo from Pixabay
By Aidan Johnson

With ongoing concerns about young adults leaving Long Island, other age demographics may be looking for the escape hatch.

Adults aged 60 and over, who account for roughly 20% of Suffolk County’s population according to a 2022 report from the Suffolk County Office for the Aging, have been feeling the impact of Long Island’s high prices as well.

Eric Stutz, a real estate broker based out of Baldwin who specializes in seniors and estates, said he sees Long Island as below average in being a senior-friendly place.

“I see a lot of my clients are heading to the Southeast, between North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida,” he said in a phone interview. “That seems to be the majority.”

Recently, a pair of Stutz’s clients had to choose between staying on Long Island with two of their children or moving to North Carolina, where their daughter lived.

“It was a tough decision, it took a couple of years,” Stutz said. “But their main reason for moving to North Carolina … was the cost of living on Long Island.”

JoAnn Kullack, the chair of Long Island’s chapter of the Retired Public Employees Association, sees many other senior citizens having to choose between living on Long Island or finding somewhere more affordable.

“Most seniors that I know do complain about the cost of living,” she said.

‘Most seniors that I know do complain about the cost of living.’

— JoAnn Kullack

Kullack believes that one of the big draws of staying on the Island for seniors is the abundance of medical care. Big university hospitals, such as Stony Brook, and the closeness of Manhattan hospitals and specialists offer valid incentives for seniors to want to stay.

“A lot of people that I know want to stay here on Long Island,” due to access to premium health care services, Kullack said. “They don’t wish to leave.” 

Kullack suggested lowering the utility rates could offer much-needed relief to Long Island’s senior citizens. While some programs are available that can assist, she added the qualifications are often unrealistic.

“A lot of people don’t qualify,” the RPEA chair said. “If you have two people in the household, you have to be [only earning] $30,000. How can you live here on that?” 

 “You’re taking into consideration paying taxes, paying for utilities, and even if you have no mortgage on your home, you still have to have enough money for food,” she added.

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) views Long Island as a challenging place to live, especially for those who do not make a lot of money.

“We need to address the high tax rate on Long Island,” she said in a phone interview. “We need to do a better job of taking care of our seniors and veterans. So many of our seniors are house rich and cash poor.”

Long Island can also be tough to navigate for seniors who cannot drive, as there is a lack of adequate public transportation.

“I know myself and my husband do a fair amount of taking our moms to doctor appointments and shopping,” Bonner said, adding, “Transportation services are cut when budgets are tight — bus routes are removed.” 

Brookhaven does have programs aimed at helping seniors who may have trouble with transportation, Bonner explained. Still, the town does seek to assist its aging population where it can. 

“We have our senior clubs, our senior transportation, nutrition at our senior centers and Meals on Wheels. We do our part.”

Bonner added that she wants to see seniors be able to “age in place,” where they want to be, instead of being pushed out.

“That’s what we need because if we can provide resources for our seniors to age in a place where they are most comfortable — in their home. It is more affordable that way than building large-scale senior complexes,” the councilwoman said.

Members of VFW Post 6249 pose with Post Commander Joe Cognitore and Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner, sixth and seventh from right, respectively, during the second annual Joseph P. Dwyer Memorial 5K race on Sunday, May 21. Photo by Sofia Levorchick

By Sofia Levorchick

At the starting line, the “Star Spangled Banner” played over the loudspeaker, evoking a solemn patriotic atmosphere. Veterans removed their service hats and saluted as they gazed upon an American flag rippling spectacularly beneath the May sky. All applauded and cheered as the runners took their marks. 

The countdown began, and at exactly 12 p.m. an announcer called out, “Go!” A large group of racers took off, darting toward a three-mile stretch of concrete, asphalt and pine barrens.

The Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 hosted its second annual Joseph P. Dwyer Memorial 5K race on Sunday, May 21, recognizing veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and highlighting veterans’ issues in Suffolk County. 

The race was held in collaboration with the Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Project, a peer-to-peer support program for veterans experiencing PTSD and traumatic brain injury. 

A Mount Sinai native, Joseph P. Dwyer had served in Iraq. After returning from the war, he suffered from PTSD — a mental health condition triggered by trauma that causes symptoms such as flashbacks, anxiety and emotional distress. He died from an accidental overdose in 2008.

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) reflected upon Dwyer’s legacy and the symbolism of his statue, situated on the corner of Broadway and Route 25A in the Rocky Point Veterans Memorial Square. 

“The statue’s prominence is important because it brings awareness to PTSD every day,” Bonner said, adding, “The run was born from that prominence of the statue.”

All 62 counties across New York State participate in the Dwyer Project, raising awareness for mental health and promoting the well-being of American veterans. Melanie Corinne, the Suffolk County Dwyer Project’s coordinator and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, described the program’s mission as “making sure other veterans don’t slip through the cracks with efforts to support veterans, active duty service members and their families in their wellness goals with the help of trained veteran peers.”

A family participates during the event. Photo courtesy Joe Cognitore

This year’s 5K race, held again at Rocky Point High School, was one such effort to boost public awareness and funds for veterans with PTSD, asking participants for a $25 to $35 donation. 

Veterans from Post 6249 also attended the race — some as spectators, some volunteers and some runners.

Frank Asselta, one of the organizers of this race, served as a medic during the Vietnam War and has been involved with the Rocky Point VFW for five years. He emphasized the organization’s considerable local following and success at fundraising for veteran causes. “The VFW has found support from thousands of people across Long Island,” he said.

Joe Cognitore, commander of Post 6249, said the VFW launched this annual tradition “for participants to have a great day and to reinforce everyone — veterans, teachers, students, community members — who have PTSD, spreading awareness and keeping that awareness alive.” 

And the event had participants and veterans across the community smiling while they congregated with those around them on a radiantly sunny May day, exceeding last year’s turnout.

Shannon O’Neill, one of over 100 runners and walkers who participated in this event, described herself as a woman devoted to serving veterans in the community. O’Neill, who works with military and veteran students at Suffolk County Community College, was motivated to run in this event because “no one on Long Island does more for veterans than the VFW in Rocky Point,” she said. “I wanted to support their initiatives so that they can continue to give back to veterans who are so deserving and so in need. It’s really such a great cause.”

Many volunteers helped out, performing duties such as registering runners, handing out race bibs and offering refreshments as they cheered the runners on.

Rocky Point High School student Travis Pousson finished first, crossing the finish line in just 19 minutes.

Post member Pat, a veteran and former Cold War-era spy for the United States, spoke fondly about the 5K event, calling it “a worthy cause for men suffering from PTSD, and they need all the help they can get.” He also reminisced on his memories at the VFW, expressing that the VFW has “created a brotherhood, and every member in it is very community-minded.”

Ultimately, the race not only brought recognition to veterans with PTSD but also served as a powerful reminder of the profound impact American service members have had on society.

“I think that so many of the guys in the VFW never got their welcome home and never got their thank yous,” O’Neill said. “This is our opportunity to make sure that they are seen and acknowledged for their time and service because they always continue to give back.”

She added, “These guys never stop serving — they’re still serving today, so this is our opportunity to give back and to serve in our own way.”

Sound Beach Civic Association President Bea Ruberto, left, and Dorothy Cavalier, Democratic candidate for Suffolk County’s 6th Legislative District, celebrate during the hamlet’s 2nd annual Spring Festival. Photo by Raymond Janis

Along New York Avenue in Sound Beach, before rows of storefronts and restaurant spaces — some filled, others not — thousands gathered on Saturday, April 22, for the 2nd annual Sound Beach Spring Festival and Street Fair.

The event featured dozens of local businesses and merchants tabling outside, along with food stands, face painting, music and other festivities.

The annual festival is hosted by the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce, an organization founded in 2018 to draw businesses and economic development into the neighboring hamlets.

Gary Pollakusky, president and executive director of RPSBCC, said there was a two-year gap in the first and second festivals due to COVID-19. With public health concerns abating, the chamber picked up where it had left off before the pandemic.

“We had, I’d say, over 65 vendors, and we had thousands of people come through, all seeing for the first time some of the new businesses in Sound Beach,” he said.

Bea Ruberto is president of the Sound Beach Civic Association, the leading advocacy group representing the hamlet’s roughly 7,000 residents. She has been a leader in raising awareness for this private beach community.

“One of the things that we as a civic have tried to do for years is make people aware that we exist, make our representatives aware that we exist,” she said. 

To do that, Ruberto has been forceful in distinguishing Sound Beach for its unique history and local identity. She authored “Sound Beach: Our Town, Our Story,” which was recently adapted into the documentary film, “The History Upon Our Shores: Sound Beach, NY.” 

Gary Pollakusky, above, president and executive director of the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Raymond Janis

The historical uniqueness of Sound Beach established, Ruberto has her sights on the future. She said the annual spring festival represents a vital organ in drawing attention to the area. 

“I love it because it brings people outside of Sound Beach into Sound Beach,” she said. “We want people to get to know about our community.”

Though several restaurants and merchants are in business, the commercial strip is a ways away from a fully formed, traditional main street. That, Pollakusky said, will require additional advocacy work to keep occupants of the storefronts commercially viable.

“Seeing businesses come and go is heartbreaking sometimes because those are families that are local and that are losing their livelihoods,” he said. “To see a business that did everything that it could to survive and then fail, it’s heartbreaking.”

Pollakusky indicated that countering these trends will take time and effort from local organizations and government. He outlined his aspirations for the hamlet.

“I’d like to see that our storefronts are filled,” he said. “I’d like to see that people want to come to Sound Beach to live and to patronize our businesses.” The chamber president added, “I’d like to see that we have a robust business community that is self-sustaining.”

Putting this vision into action is not so cut and dry. Consistently, Sound Beach has competed for and lost out on limited grant funding against established downtown districts also debilitated by the pandemic. 

The commercial district’s small size is another limiting factor, cutting the hamlet off from certain types of grants.

“Sound Beach does not have a downtown,” Ruberto said. “We have two commercial nodes. Therefore, a lot of the downtown revitalization grant funding we can’t have.” The civic president added, “That has to be fixed.”

The Sound Beach commercial district is currently zoned J-2, a general business zoning classification typical for retail spaces. For Sound Beach to qualify for downtown revitalization funding, the Town of Brookhaven would have to rezone the hamlet to J-6, a Main Street Business classification.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) represents Sound Beach on the Town Board. Reached by phone, she commented on the difficulties of Sound Beach making use of those granting opportunities, stressing that Suffolk County should consider easing the criteria for qualification.

“Those funds are hard to come by,” she said. “I think the onus is on the county in being a little more flexible” in dispersing downtown revitalization funds.

 

Map of the Sound Beach commercial district, which is currently zoned J-2, a general business classification. Graphic from the Town of Brookhaven website

Currently, Sound Beach has much of the look and feel of a traditional downtown despite lacking the zoning classification of one. Bonner nonetheless remained open to the proposal to rezone the commercial district to J-6, potentially giving the hamlet a proper downtown and opening it to grants. 

“If any business owner wanted to come in to become J-6, it’s certainly something that we would obviously entertain,” the councilwoman said.

The U.S. Census Bureau indicates that Sound Beach’s population shrunk by more than 2.5% between 2010 and 2020. This population decline is comparable to those of neighboring hamlets in the area, including Rocky Point, Miller Place and Mount Sinai.

Dorothy Cavalier, legislative aide to Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), is running to fill the seat of her boss this November as Anker is term limited. 

The candidate remarked upon the need for a larger governmental initiative to return small businesses to the area and keep residents from leaving the county for the Sun Belt. 

“We’re losing a lot of people to Down South and other places, and we really need to figure out how to get them to stay here,” Cavalier said. “We need to get the small businesses back here because once we get the businesses to come back, the people will follow. They’ll stay.”

In the meantime, Bonner emphasized that the businesses in Sound Beach are still recovering from the aftermath of the pandemic. To support those businesses, she encouraged the community to continue patronizing local mom-and-pops in their hour of need.

“The pandemic really brought a lot of people to their knees financially, and our small businesses are the ones that suffered the most,” she said. “That’s why we have to invest with our dollars, to shop locally and support them.”

Local offices are on the ballot this November, with legislative positions at the county and town levels up for grabs.

Suffolk County’s 6th District

Dorothy Cavalier, left, and Chad Lennon are the Democratic and Republican nominees, respectively, for Suffolk County’s 6th District. Left from Cavalier’s campaign; right courtesy Lennon

Six-term incumbent Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker is termed out, setting up an open contest to fill her seat. In Anker’s absence, two major party candidates — both attorneys — have emerged.

Dorothy Cavalier, Anker’s chief of staff, has received her party’s nod. Cavalier began her legal career with AIG and Dime Savings Bank of New York, later transitioning to a small family practice in Ronkonkoma.

She joined Anker’s staff in February 2019. Asked why she entered the 6th District race, she told TBR News Media that her four years in Anker’s office had opened her to the possibilities of government.

“I started to see all of the good things that can be done in government,” she said. “I would like to stay in office, hopefully taking her seat, so I can continue those good works and the good things that we started.”

She added, “There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done, and I think I’m the one who needs to be in the office to do it.”

If elected, Cavalier offered to prioritize environmental issues, focusing on measures promoting water quality and preserving open space.

“We need to protect our sole-source aquifer,” she said. “We need to continue to work on getting our water, keeping it clean and making it safe for everybody.”

The Democratic candidate cited coastal erosion along the North Shore as a critical situation for the 6th District. She also noted affordable housing and expanding mental health programs for veterans are priorities.

Representing the Republican Party in this race is Chad Lennon, an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps and an attorney focusing on military and veterans law. 

He has worked part-time for state Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) as a special assistant for veterans affairs and U.S. Congressman Nick LaLota (R-NY1) as a congressional aide.

“I have been someone who’s served my country, and I wanted to continue to do that at the local level,” he said. “I believe my experience with being an officer in the military, being an attorney, as well as the other positions I have held bring a level of leadership that no one else is bringing.”

He added, “I think I have an ability to lead from the front, put myself at the point of friction and make myself available to the constituents of the district.”

Lennon committed to tackling issues associated with public safety, stabilizing the county’s budget and finances and thoroughly investigating the September ransomware attack against the county’s information technology network.

He pledged to “work with the county to make sure we find out what happened with the cybersecurity breach and make sure that we have accountability, policies and training put in place to make sure that this kind of breach does not happen at our county in the future,” he said.

The Republican also cited the need for “standing with local officials to stop the ‘Queensification’ of Suffolk County that Gov. [Kathy] Hochul [D] is seeking.”

Brookhaven’s 2nd Council District

Carol Russell, left, and Jane Bonner are the Democratic and Republican nominees, respectively, for the Town of Brookhaven’s 2nd Council District. Left courtesy Russell; right from the Brookhaven Town website

The boundaries of Brookhaven’s 2nd Council District underwent a considerable transformation during last year’s redistricting process. Most notably, the district stretched southward, now encompassing a sizable swath of Coram.

Incumbent Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) is up for reelection this year, along with the other six members of the Town Board. Before entering office in 2007, Bonner served as a legislative aide to Dan Losquadro (R), then-Suffolk County legislator and now incumbent Brookhaven highway superintendent. 

Bonner also served as a trustee on the Rocky Point board of education and president of the Rocky Point Civic Association. In an interview, Bonner said she is running for reelection to continue working on various long-term projects.

“Every year you serve is like peeling another layer on the onion to tackle long-term issues,” she said. “In my years in office, we’ve done major stormwater remediation projects all along the North Shore, upgrades to our parks,” adding, “I would say, succinctly — to continue to do the good work on behalf of the residents.”

If reelected, Bonner said she would focus on the environment, noting, “We continue to battle and deal with climate change. The North Shore is always under attack, and there are more projects that I’d like to see come to fruition.”

Referencing examples of initiatives she has worked on with the Town Board, she cited cybersecurity, tax and spending caps and anti-nepotism legislation. The incumbent added that she would “continue fighting for Long Island to be a suburb and not a city.”

Challenging Bonner is Carol Russell, a resident of Coram. A retired nurse and trial attorney, she spent nearly 30 years defending doctors, nurses and other health care providers in litigation. Russell has also served as a mentor for the Dress for Success Brookhaven initiative and has volunteered to coach the mock trial team at Longwood High School.

“I look at our society, nationally and locally, and I see it is so divided and so broken,” she said. “I think people want to be listened to and included. I think our Town Board can do a better job at that, and I want to be a part of that.”

She referred to existing dynamics within the town government as “sort of a one-party rule for a good number of years now, and I’m not really sure the Town Board understands its residents or at least part of its residents.”

She regarded the two central issues within the town as the affordability crisis and the looming Brookhaven landfill closure.

“I’d like to see what can be done to alleviate some of the tax burdens on our residents,” she said, adding, “And I’m particularly concerned about the closing of the landfill, which is going to leave a huge gap in our budget.”

She further cited homelessness as an area of concern, particularly in Coram. “Homelessness is not exclusively but predominantly a mental health issue,” she said. “I think that there are ways that we as a town, in partnership with the county and the state, can do better.”

Bill Pellenz (left) with Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner. Photo by Raymond Janis

The Sound Beach Civic Association met on Monday, Feb. 13, at the Sound Beach Firehouse, joined by public officials, first responders and special honoree Bill Pellenz.

A past president and longtime civic member who also accrued over 50 years in the Sound Beach Fire Department, Pellenz was recognized for his contributions to the greater area. Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) presented Pellenz with a town proclamation.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) recognized Pellenz for his commitment to public safety. She recounted the many challenges faced in planning and launching the North Shore Rail Trail, which formally opened last summer. 

Anker said Pellenz was instrumental in bringing attention to key safety needs for the trail. “He understands where to go with issues,” she said. “We were able to make additional safety measures because of you, Bill.”

Bill Pellenz (fifth from right) poses with public officials, civic leaders and first responders during a meeting of the Sound Beach Civic Association on Monday, Feb. 13. Photo by Raymond Janis

Representing U.S. Congressman Nick LaLota (R-NY1) was Peter Ganley, who presented Pellenz with a certificate of congressional recognition, particularly noting his efforts to support veterans throughout the hamlet.

William Rosasco, chief of the Sound Beach Fire Department, chronicled Pellenz’s long service to the department, starting as a probationary firefighter and working his way up the ranks to captain of Engine Company 2. 

“In the 36 years that I’ve been a member of this department, it’s been a pleasure working with Bill and being able to call him a friend,” Rosasco said.

SBCA president Bea Ruberto discussed Pellenz’s several contributions within the civic, notably to Veterans Memorial Park. 

“On behalf of the Sound Beach Civic Association, I want to thank you for all the work that you have done for this organization and the community,” she said. “Also, I want to thank you for all of the work that you will do,” to which Pellenz responded: “I’m not going anywhere.”

General meeting

William Doherty, the Suffolk County Police Department 7th Precinct’s new inspector. Photo by Raymond Janis

Following the ceremony, the civic held a brief meeting. Members were introduced to William Doherty, the 7th Precinct’s new inspector. In a brief statement to the body, he referred to his recent promotion as “the cherry on top of my career.”

“I look forward to working with everyone in this room through your elected officials and through my community liaison officers,” he said. “I tell you in my heart of hearts that this is the assignment that I wanted,” adding, “I don’t think I would have chosen any other precinct but the 7th.”

Ruberto reported that the civic would soon welcome a student volunteer from the Rocky Point school district, who will attend meetings. 

“That’s one of the things that we really try to do,” she said. “We try to work with young people in our community.”

Following adjournment, the attendees enjoyed cake in Pellenz’s honor.