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Kings Park

After a threat of storms postponed the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce’s Summer Nights in the Park: Monday on Main on July 19, the event was rescheduled for July 26. This time around, Monday night went on without a drop of rain.

The event included live bands along Main Street, dance performances, face painting, local photographers and authors displaying their works, a classic car show and more.

Rocky Point senior Emmarose Hansen clears from behind the cage in a home game against Kings Park June 4. Bill Landon photo

The Eagles of Rocky Point had a six-goal cushion at the halftime break, but Kings Park came out strong early in the second half drawing within three goals two different times when the Eagles slammed the door to win the Division II matchup 19-13 at home, June 4.

Senior Kelly Logue topped the scoring chart for the Eagles with five goals. Lindsey Lucia followed with four, and seniors Kaleigh Wilgeroth and Emmarose Hansen both had hat tricks.

A pair of sophomores led the way for Kings Park with Jaxie Cestone and Anne McGovern scoring three goals each.

Rocky Point senior Jenika Cuocco had 12 saves at net.

The Eagles finish their regular COVID- shortened season at 11-3 to ready themselves for post season play which began Tuesday June 8. Rocky Point was scheduled to play Comsewogue June 9. Results were not available at press time. Kings Park concluded their 2021 contest at 7-6.

Pictured clockwise from above left, Kings Park sophomore Anne McGovern crosses midfield pursued by Rocky Point junior Lindsey Lucia; Rocky Point junior Victoria Curreri takes possession for the Eagles; senior Emmarose Hansen pushes up-field; senior Kelly Logue sets up the play; senior goalie Jenika Cuocco with a save in a home game.

 

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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Smithtown Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim cut the ribbon at the new parking lot on Pulaski Road. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Town officials joined together to celebrate the completion of a new municipal parking lot located on Pulaski Road in downtown Kings Park.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Smithtown Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim cut the ribbon at the new parking lot on Pulaski Road. Photo by Julianne Mosher

On Monday, Nov. 23, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) was joined by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) to mark the new parking spaces and its quick completion with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“This completed project, finished just one year from the date of award, comes at a crucial time when many restaurants have used portions of their parking lots to expand outdoor dining,” Wehrheim said. “However, in the long term, the municipal lot will create a more pedestrian-friendly downtown that supports walkability, increases foot traffic to local businesses and decreases traffic congestion.”

In October last year, Bellone signed a bill awarding the Town of Smithtown $500,000 in county Jumpstart funding to build the lot in downtown Kings Park on Pulaski Road, right off of Main Street. The Jumpstart program is part of a comprehensive economic development plan designed to encourage, foster and enhance the planning and developments of Suffolk’s downtowns. Since 2013, the county has awarded almost $14.5 million in funds.

“The fact that we’re standing in this parking lot today, basically a year from when this bill was signed, is an extraordinary act of efficiency and excellence by the Town of Smithtown,” Bellone said. “My hat’s off to you and your team for getting this done.”

The new lot features 23 spaces and several electric charging stations. To celebrate the upcoming holidays, the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce decorated the lot with festive wreaths.

“You don’t often describe parking lots as beautiful,” Bellone added. “But this is a beautiful parking lot.”

The lot will help small business, as parking is a constant concern in local downtowns, especially with spots taken over by outdoor dining. Members from the chamber of commerce and the officials in attendance all agreed that shopping and dining in downtowns will help the local economy.

“The small business community has been hard hit across Long Island,” said Vision Long Island’s Eric Alexander. “A government that listened on multiple levels and funded — this is how you do good downtown projects. This is wonderful.”

According to Wehrheim, the Kings Park Downtown Market Analysis and Action Plan was completed by Larisa Ortiz Associates in 2017. The study determined that businesses along “restaurant row” were suffering due to a lack of sufficient parking. The analysis was backed up by public polling from both residents and business owners.

“We have to do everything that we can to support small businesses, not only to survive this crisis, but to get back to thriving,” Bellone said. “We will get through this and we will overcome this.”

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Florence Blydenburgh holds a proclamation from Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone presented to her and others over 100 at St. Johnland Nursing Center. Photo from St. Johnland Nursing Center

Kings Park is known locally for its large Irish-American population. Many of the hamlet’s residents can trace their ancestry back to those who immigrated from Ireland and settled in Kings Park for jobs at the former psychiatric hospital.

One of those Irish Americans and longtime Kings Park residents is Florence Blydenburgh, 104, who currently resides at St. Johnland Nursing Center on Sunken Meadow Road. Blydenburgh, who goes by the nicknames Flo or Flossie, remembered those early days during a recent phone interview.

Both her parents emigrated from Ireland and took separate paths to Kings Park. Her mother was from Limerick and her father from County Clare. She said her father, John Coughlan, first worked in New York City, and when he heard of job opportunities at the psychiatric hospital in Kings Park, he traveled out to Long Island to see what it was all about. After working as a hospital attendant for a few months, he noticed several women regularly gathered together and wondered what they were doing. They told him they were part of a nursing school and told him how to enroll for the following September. Her father decided to sign up and went on to become a registered nurse and then took the test to be a licensed RN.

“He went up the ladder fast,” she said.

Her mother, Josephine, was brought to the United States by an aunt and uncle who promised her parents that they would treat her like a daughter and send her to school. Once her mother arrived in the city, Blydenburgh said the couple, who owned a bar and grill, made her work as a waitress. She said the Long Island Rail Road used to back their trains in where the bar and grill was, adding that people would stop at the restaurant where a few noticed how her mother was being used by her relatives as labor and told her all about Kings Park.

“She said, ‘I only have one day off, and that’s a Wednesday, I’ll go out and see,’” Blydenburgh said. “They said they would take her out on the train, and it wouldn’t cost her anything, and they’d pick her up on the train back.”

She said when her mother was in Kings Park a doctor hired her, and she was back in the hamlet a week later.

“She packed her clothes and she came out here, and her aunt and uncle never looked for her,” Blydenburgh said, adding her mother found a better life on the Island.

“In those days they gave you room and everything,” Blydenburgh said. “She had her own room. Oh, she loved it.”

After her parents met and married, they had Blydenburgh and her two brothers Francis and Vincent. She said her mother sent her and brother Francis to St. Philip Neri in Northport.

“It was the only Catholic school around, and my mother figured she didn’t know enough about her religion to teach us, so that’s why she sent us there,” Blydenburgh said, adding that there weren’t many public schools to choose from back then.

Blydenburgh, who worked as a secretary, met her first husband, Walter Lynch, who grew up in the city but came out to Kings Park to work. She said that at first his parents didn’t want him to work out on the Island, but he told his parents he just bought a car and needed to keep the job.

She said for about 15 years she and her husband lived in Brooklyn and had one daughter Marilyn. Blydenburgh missed Kings Park at times, she said, when she lived in the borough.

“I liked the nice and quiet, where you knew your neighbors,” she said. “When we moved into Brooklyn, we never got to know our neighbors.”

While she eventually moved back to Kings Park, she said one of the things she noticed changing over the years is that store employees don’t know customers’ names like they used to do in the earlier days.

“They got to know you, too,” she said. “That doesn’t happen anymore. Your face looks familiar to them, that’s it.”

Blydenburgh and Walter were married for 30 years before he passed away. When her husband passed, she said they had been dancing, which they loved to do, and he fell to the ground. She found out he had a blood clot. She was a widow for about 20 years when Joseph Blydenburgh, a widower and a descendant of the family that Blydenburgh County Park in Smithtown is named after, asked if she would like to go out for dinner. The two attended the same church in Kings Park.

“No thank you, Joe, but I don’t want to become involved anymore,” she said she remembers telling him.

She lived with her mother and father at the time, Blydenburgh said, because they didn’t want her to live by herself. When she told her mother, her elder gave her some advice.

“My mother said, ‘You fool, why don’t you go?’” she said, pointing out to her that going to dinner wouldn’t necessarily mean that they would be involved.

The two eventually dated and were married for eight years before his passing in 1993.

Florence Blydenburgh said her daughter Marilyn still lives in Kings Park. The centenarian also has a granddaughter and two great-grandchildren who live in Connecticut. She said she’s had a great life and credits the people who have been in it.

“I had great parents, two great husbands, and my kid was a good kid,” she said. “My grandchildren are the same way.”

When it comes to the younger generations, her advice regarding tough times is not to worry too much.

“It would be great if everyone can do that, because we don’t have control,” she said.

Stock photo

The Father Seyfried Council, Knights of Columbus will hold its annual clothing drive to help local families on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 14 and 15 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. both days. Members will be accepting adult and children’s clothing, shoes, sneakers and boots at the Knights of Columbus Hall 44 Church Street, Kings Park. Call Bob at 631-724-1410 for more info.

Parents from all over Long Island have the hard decision of what to do with their kids on Halloween, whether going out trick-or-treating or finding something else to do. Stock photo

By Angela Palumbo

Halloween is looking scarier than ever on Long Island this year. Parents, costume shop owners, and even seasonal event planners have had to come up with new ways of having a successful holiday, all while dealing with the consequences of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Halloween events have had to change their programs to follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines, which has been a challenge. Seasonal businesses, including local ones, that usually thrive around Halloween have seen a decrease in customers. Local Facebook groups such as “Mom’s Group – Long Island” and “Northport Moms” are filled with posts questioning whether or not it’s safe to send their children trick or treating this year.

With the number of people infected on the rise nationally, the CDC has released a list of low risk Halloween activities to do this year to decrease the spread of COVID-19. This list has been a guide for local families who, despite the dangers, wish to celebrate Halloween.

Ronald Diamond, in front of his store, Ronjos Magic Shop, in Port Jefferson Station. Photo from Diamond

Costume stores and festive events are depending on the continuation of this holiday to stay afloat, and parents are determined to bring their children a fun and safe time.

Local Costume Stores

Ronald Diamond, longtime owner of Ronjos Magic Shop in Port Jefferson Station, has changed the way his business runs to ensure safety for himself and his customers.

“We have been health conscious for 46 years,” Diamond said. “Right now, the status quo is that there are no try-ons. You cannot try on a costume here anymore. We’re putting a pause on that until we get the clearance and the world is safe, and then we can go back to maybe trying on, or we’ll just continue to keep that, at this point.”

With the changes Diamond has made to his store, which also doubles as a CBD wellness shop, he has not yet seen a change in business this year.

“Right now, it’s too premature to tell, because people wait until the last second to make their purchases,” Diamond said. “The consensus that I got is people are having a party, and they are taking their children trick or treating. Is there a percentage that may not have a party? Yes. How big that percentage is, I won’t know until Nov. 5.”

With the pandemic being a concern for many costume shoppers, Diamond recommends purchasing a cloth face mask that matches the costume people are wearing, to avoid contact with the public.

“This way, you are still wearing a mask and you’re protected, and you can go to the party safely,” he said.

Ronjos is not the only local costume business that has had to change the way they function this season.

Last year, Costume America in Farmingdale rented out around 30 to 40 costumes for Halloween, an important season for their bottom line. So far this year, they have seen 10 rentals.

Costume America in Farmingdale has seen a significant drop in sales due to the pandemic. Photo from Costume America’s Facebook

“It was an extremely busy year last year,” said Shelly Brennan, office manager at Costume America. “The Halloween business did very well”

Not only has Costume America seen a drop in business since last year’s Halloween season, they also had to make changes to the way their store runs in order to try to keep up with CDC guidelines.

“If it’s busy in the store, there’s a sign that says not to come in and please call us,” Brennan said. “When people try on the clothes, we have to air everything out and wash it all.”

Spooky Long Island Events

The Spooky Walk is an annual fundraiser located in Center Moriches and has been around for 31 years. The event runs for two weekends in October; Oct 16 and 17, and Oct 23 and 24. The Halloween event is attended by thousands of locals annually.

The Spooky Walk’s goal is to raise money for Camp Paquatuck, a day camp for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Each year, this event has brought in the most money of all the fundraisers Camp Paquatuck hosts. With the importance of this fundraiser in mind, the executive director of the camp, Alyssa Pecorino, and the camps board of directors, has made it their mission to ensure the Spooky Walks remains, while following CDC guidelines.

“The Spooky Walk was created by the Paquatuck Squaws, which is a group of women who do nothing but raise money for the camp, which is amazing,” Pecorino said. “I think they made $1,000 the first year they did it.”

Now, the Spooky Walk covers a majority of Camp Paquatuck’s operating cost, with last year bringing in $240,000.

This year, with the pandemic changing the way all events run, the Spooky Walk was no exception. Instead of patrons walking through the campgrounds and being approached by volunteers dressed in costumes, the Spooky Walk has transformed into the “Spooky Drive Through.”

“Obviously we can’t have everybody together in a large crowd going through the entire camp,” Pecorino said. “This year we had to come up with something that allowed people to still do it, but in a safe way, and the idea was to have everybody come through in a car. This is the safest possible way to do it.”

Camp Paquatuck in Center Moriches normally hosts a Spooky Walk fundraising drive for Halloween, but has had to change this year due to the pandemic. Photo by Angela Palumbo

Changing the way a 31-year-old event runs did come with its challenges. How successful it will be could be impacted by the necessities of keeping people distanced.
“Normally, we get thousands of people who come through and they pay individually,” Pecorino said. “This year is by carload. Last year it was 20 dollars a person, this year it’s 45 dollars a car, so obviously the amount we expect to generate is going to be less. I’m not sure how much is going to come in, but realistically speaking we’re hoping for half, at least.”

Even though the camp is aware they may not make as much on fundraising at this year’s Spooky Walk compared to years prior, there has been an obvious demand for tickets and participation in the community.

“The first weekend it got very crowded. The last weekend we sold less tickets to make sure people don’t wait in line for three hours to get in,” Pecorino said. “There’s so many people that were excited to get in and participate.”

Long Island Parents

Long Island parents have been trying to decide how they will celebrate Halloween with their children since the beginning of October. Even though there may be disagreements on whether or not it is safe to go trick or treating this year, they all agree that they want their children to have an enjoyable, safe holiday.

Dee Santiago, a single mother to her almost three-year-old son Logan from Patchogue, will not be taking her son trick or treating this year.

“We will be doing an at home scavenger hunt and pumpkin carving,” Santiago said. “I feel like if he was older, maybe I’d try to figure a way out to allow him to go trick or treating, but since he is so much younger, I feel like he doesn’t get too much out of it anyway.”

Santiago stresses the importance of keeping her son safe during the pandemic, but also creating a state of normalcy around her home.

“We respect all around us. We wear masks. And if people choose not to participate, I’m ok with that and my son understands.”

— Dawn Miller-Silke

“During a pandemic I don’t want to put him in a bad situation, but I’m trying to make things as normal as possible,” Santiago said. “It’s hard. Not much is available for Holidays.”

Santiago is not the only mother keeping her child home this year. Nicole Oluwatoyin Lucas, from Baldwin, has a 13-month-old son who she will not take trick or treating on Halloween.

“My whole house had the virus when it first came out and I kept my son and myself healthy this whole time,” Lucas said. “I hope everyone who does it [trick or treat] is careful and safe.”

However, there are Long Island mothers who plan on taking their children out trick or treating this year. Both Dawn Miller-Silke of Kings Park and Jessica Joy Landsman of Lindenhurst want their children to experience as normal a Halloween as possible.

“This isn’t going away anytime soon,” Miller-Silke said. “So, we have a choice. Live, or don’t. We respect all around us. We wear masks. And if people choose not to participate, I’m ok with that and my son understands.”

Landsman will be taking her son Brayden out, but is keeping limitations on the Halloween experience.

“He really wants to go trick or treating, so I’m going to take him just to a few houses,” she said “Then, we will go home and give out candy. I still want him to experience Halloween and have fun dressing up. I’m going to try to make him wear a mask. My husband and I will be wearing a mask. As for giving out candy, I was thinking of giving them in little baggies or making a small little ghost hunt for the kids. But then again, we don’t know if kids will be trick or treating.”

COVID-19 has put an obvious damper on the Halloween spirit, but the community on Long Island isn’t letting that bring them down. Whether its events, costumes, or trick or treating, the celebration will continue, safely.

Angela Palumbo is a Long Island native and recent college graduate from SUNY Cortland with a degree in communications and journalism with a minor in professional writing. Angela is currently studying remotely at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism for her masters in journalism with a concentration in business and economic reporting. 

Bob and Nancy Hendrick inside their new shop, Treasures America’s Artisan Gallery. Photo by Julianne Mosher

By Julianne Mosher

After traveling throughout the country, Bob and Nancy Hendrick knew where their next stop would be — Port Jefferson at Lighthouse Landing. 

Everything inside their new shop, Treasures America’s Artisan Gallery (or TAAG for short), is made in the USA. 

Both artists themselves, Bob Hendrick said that while traveling cross-country to and from California, the pair has seen a lot of talent that is often underappreciated. 

“With big-box stores, we often lose sight of the great people in our country who produce great work,” he said, “But there are people out there with talent who deserve the recognition.” 

The Kings Park couple said they have always loved Port Jefferson and wanted to become more involved with the village. Originally, they thought to open a pop-up shop for the goods to sell but decided on a whim to fill a vacant space at 14 East Broadway in Lighthouse Landing.

After about a month of planning, they officially opened their doors earlier this month. 

Inside the store are all handmade gifts and fine art from local to national artisans. 

“We seek out specific items,” he said. “And we want to give the opportunity for local artists to come by and show and sell their work.”

TAAG does custom work, as well, on-site.

While everything inside the Hendricks’ shop is made in America, they want it to be known they are huge supporters of those who have risked their lives keeping the country and its people safe. 

“We’re heavily involved in supporting military, police, firefighters and first responders because they mean a lot to us and to the community,” he said. “We like to give back to those who serve.”

One way they are giving back is by honoring different heroes every week. During the month of September, they offered 20 percent off purchases to firemen, healthcare workers and police officers, thanking them for their service. This week they honored military vets with an extra 10 percent discount.

The back part of the store is dedicated to veterans with its “Wall of Heroes.” The Hendricks encourage customers who have served to come in and sign their names within the stars that decorate the wall. Nancy’s father’s folded burial flag hangs upon them. 

And although they are new, the couple is excited to bring their own art and the art of others to downtown. Up until Oct. 15, TAAG is hosting a contest in honor of the upcoming election and will be creating a painting based on ideas that people in the community can submit. The winning idea will be created on a canvas, and the winner will be presented with the first number framed print.

“We have lot of things in mind for the future,” he said. “We want to support the area.”

TAAG is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., Friday through Saturday 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. 

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Kings Park restaurant owners and Smithtown election officials celebrate businesses receiving new propane heater lamps. Photo from Town of Smithtown

By Julianne Mosher

With the changes in how customers shop and dine across the region, PSEG Long Island wanted to step in and help.

Relish in Kings Park, above, was one of the eight restaurants gifted outdoor propane heaters thanks to the grant given to local chambers from PSEG Long Island. ‘I’m so excited that we were given them,’ manager Kristy Ludeman said. ‘It helps keep everyone at night warm and the guests are really enjoying it.’ Photo by Julianne Mosher

John Keating, manager of economic development with PSEGLI, said that the company began its Main Street Revitalization Program about two years ago with the goal to bring business back downtown. But because of the COVID-19 crisis, PSEGLI saw an opportunity to help out during the changing times.

“We saw a lot of areas were looking at outdoor dining and outdoor shopping,” Keating said. “It has become a lifeline for them to stay in business.”

The Chamber of Commerce Main Street Revitalization Award grants up to $5,000 to chambers and business improvement districts to help purchase durable goods that support outdoor commerce.

“It’s our small way to help businesses thrive,” Keating said.

To date, PSEGLI has paid or preapproved grants for 20 Chambers or BIDs in towns and villages across Long Island — from Sag Harbor to Great Neck — totaling nearly $100,000.

Keating said that when a chamber or BID is approved, the funds are based on a reimbursement process.

“We want to make sure the money goes to durable material that supports outdoor shopping,” he said. “Once approved, they can make the purchase, send us the receipts and then we reimburse them.”

And many of the local chambers have either applied or are considering it. The Town of Smithtown announced last week that the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce was awarded the grant and was then gifted new outdoor propane heaters — the first chamber to do so.

Diane Motherway, executive director of the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, said that she was surprised to hear that they were the first to use the money for heat. Other recipients used the funds to purchase outdoor tables, chairs, umbrellas or planters, but Kings Park saw what was already implemented and decided to add to what shops have established outside.

“Some restaurants were set up already,” she said. “So, we were trying to think of ways to help since that was taken care of.”

That’s when they thought of the heaters, especially since Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) made an announcement Sept. 17 extending the temporary outdoor dining permit to Dec. 31.

“We’re trying to do our part in any way that we can,” Motherway said.

It was announced that the Nesconset Chamber of Commerce is also a recipient of the award and will be using the funds to gift outdoor heaters, as well.

“We’re trying to help businesses through their chambers,” Keating said. “It’s been a very positive experience because most chambers don’t have a lot of funds to work with — this was something that they could help make a difference.”

Keating added that 90 percent of the Long Island economy comes from small business, so the pandemic caused stress for small shops.

“Our end game is keeping more businesses surviving during the pandemic,” he said.

File photo.

Suffolk County Police arrested a man after he pointed a shotgun at a group of people in a commercial parking lot in Kings Park June 2.

Kenneth Kopek was engaged in a verbal dispute with a group of people in a parking lot, located in front of Key Food at 66 Indian Head Road, when he pointed a loaded double-barreled shotgun in their direction at approximately 9:15 p.m. Kopek fled before officers arrived at the scene.

Following an investigation, Kopek, 39, was arrested a short time later at his residence on Shay Drive in Kings Park. He was charged with menacing and criminal possession of a weapon. He was held overnight at the Fourth Precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip June 3.

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Suffolk County Police have arrested a Medford man after he allegedly assaulted a woman and barricaded himself in a Kings Park house for approximately 8 hours April 26.

Mark Reyes entered the home of a female acquaintance, located on Clover Lane, the evening of April 25 and allegedly held the woman against her will overnight. The 33-year-old woman was assaulted and sustained knife-wounds in the incident. She escaped the house at approximately 9:30 a.m. Sunday and was taken to an area hospital for treatment of serious but non-life threatening injures. Two children who were in the house at the time of the incident were unharmed.

Reyes fled the house on foot and kicked in the back door of a nearby house, located at Rumford Road, at approximately 9:35 a.m. Sunday.

A good Samaritan saw Reyes enter the home on Rumford Road and called 911. Suffolk County Police Emergency Service Section officers and members of the hostage negotiation team responded to the scene. Emergency Service Section officers were able to enter the home and bring a 77-year-old female resident to safety while Reyes barricaded himself in an upstairs bathroom. The woman was uninjured.

At approximately 5:45 p.m., Emergency Service Section officers re-entered the home and removed Reyes from the house. Reyes, who had a self-inflicted knife wound, was transported to an area hospital for treatment of serious but not life-threatening injuries.

Reyes, 51, is being charged with criminal mischief, criminal obstruction of breathing, two counts of unlawful imprisonment, assault in the first degree, aggravated criminal contempt, two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, criminal trespassing in the second degree, and criminal mischief in the third degree. Other charges may be pending. He will be arraigned on a later date.