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Lee Zeldin

At the site of the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Memorial in Rocky Point Aug. 5, veterans, public officials and community members joined U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), the Republican nominee in this year’s New York gubernatorial contest, to champion legislation that would expand peer-to-peer veteran support services nationwide.

The PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Memorial in Rocky Point, the site of this press event.

The Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Project, initiated in 2012 by Zeldin when he was a state senator, is a peer-to-peer program that assists veterans through support groups and other resources. The program is designed to promote mental health and alleviate the challenges of those affected by post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

“As I travel around Suffolk County for years, I have had countless veterans tell me that because of the Dwyer program, they are alive, they have a job and they have a family,” Zeldin said. “They credit the support that they have gotten from the Dwyer program for their ability to be able to cope with the mental wounds of war.”

Zeldin credited the success of the Dwyer project to its design, which was tailored to meet the needs of veterans. The peer-to-peer setting, moderated by veterans trained to lead discussions around personal and highly sensitive matters, offers a unique venue for vets to open up to those who are best equipped to understand them.

Zeldin is sponsoring legislation — H.R.1476 PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Program Act — that would make these services accessible for veterans nationwide.

“The Dwyer program needs to be expanded nationally,” the congressman said. “To the [other 534] members of Congress … please do everything you can to co-sponsor this bill.” He added, “Get educated on what peer support should be all about and let’s get this over the finish line and passed into law.”

Zeldin was joined by a host of veterans leaders and public officials representing various levels of government. His efforts to expand the Dwyer program were backed by Joe Cognitore, commander of the VFW Post 6249, based in Rocky Point. Cognitore discussed the lasting effects of combat and the difficulties that veterans encounter when they return from active duty.

Joe Cognitore, commander of VFW Post 6249, discusses the challenges of post-traumatic stress disorder

“Post-traumatic stress affects all of us,” the post commander said. “The statue you see behind us was put up this past year and it represents the post-traumatic stress that we all go through — not just veterans but all walks of life.”

State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) expressed support for the bill as well. She emphasized the uniqueness of the peer support offerings through the Dwyer program.

“Nobody knows the devil and the demons more than veterans,” she said. “Today, New York State has $7.7 million in its budget this year for this program, but it’s not enough,” adding, “I am here at Congressman Zeldin’s plea … to acknowledge our veterans and realize what they need in order to be successful and reintegrate into life after coming home.”

State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead), at podium, on why the Dwyer program should be expanded nationally

State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) spoke of the success of the Dwyer program locally and the need to bring the program onto the national stage.

“It makes so much sense now to see the success of the program,” he said. “It’s something that should have existed for many, many years, but this is the sort of effort that you need to get those ideas … to ultimately come to fruition and then to show the success that we have seen.”

Suffolk County Legislator Nick Caracappa (C-Selden), the majority leader in the Legislature, shared how the Dwyer program supports those in the community. Caracappa, who also chairs the county veterans committee, stressed that veterans issues are human issues that need to be met with human solutions.

“These are our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters … these are our family members,” Caracappa said. “I’m proud to say that this project is a product of Suffolk County.” Due to its success locally, Caracappa advocated “bringing this forward on a national level.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) offered her support for the proposed legislation 

Also on hand was Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), who was instrumental in helping the town secure the land where the Dwyer memorial now resides. [See TBR News Media story, “Students, elected officials reflect on new Dwyer statue” (Jan. 21, 2021)].

Bonner spoke of the hidden wounds of war. “Not all war injuries are visible,” she said. “So it’s incumbent upon us to do everything that we can do as citizens and residents to make sure that this legislation is passed federally.”

Following the press conference, Zeldin was asked what he would do to relieve the plight of veteran homelessness if elected as governor. He highlighted the need to improve outreach initiatives and bring down any barriers that may impede those efforts.

“Outreach to the homeless, outreach to people who are struggling with mental health issues, is not just about what you say to them, but also about being able to listen to people in need and hear those stories,” the Republican gubernatorial nominee said. “If there’s any type of red tape that’s preventing those conversations, then that red tape needs to get torn down.”

Voters will choose between Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) and U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) for governor in the November gubernatorial election. Photos from candidates’ offices

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) and U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) each won their party’s primary election on Tuesday, June 28, setting the stage for the gubernatorial election this November.

Hochul won her race handily, winning every county in the state. She became the first female candidate to win the Democratic nomination for governor.

“I stand on the shoulders of generations of women, generations of women who constantly had to bang up against that class ceiling,” the governor said. “To the women of New York, this one’s for you.”

Hochul bested New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Long Island native Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3). Along with his unsuccessful bid for governor, Suozzi vacated his seat in Congress, triggering a primary election to fill that seat which will be held Aug. 23.

Suozzi was not the only Long Islander in the running for governor. On the Republican side, Lee Zeldin, of Shirley, beat out three other Republican candidates, including Andrew Giuliani, carrying 43.9% of the vote statewide with over 95% reported.

In his victory speech, Zeldin said, “I commend all of the candidates in this primary for running a hard-fought race and look forward to working together to fire Kathy Hochul and save our state. This is a rescue mission to end the attacks on our safety, wallets, freedoms and kids’ education. Losing is not an option.”

Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado (D) also won his race and will run alongside Hochul throughout this election cycle.

In the legislative race, two Republican candidates — Edward Flood and Thomas Wiermann — competed for their party’s nomination in the 4th Assembly District. Flood, a narrow winner unofficially by 2,491 votes to 2,375, will take on state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) this November in the general election.

At the county level, Republican Vincent Puleo, town clerk of Smithtown, defeated incumbent Suffolk County Clerk Judith Pascale, who has served in that position since 2006. Puleo received 60% of votes in the primary election.

State assemblywoman on Albany’s neglect of Long Island

Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead). Photo from Giglio's website

New York State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) has openly criticized the state government for neglecting Long Island communities.

In an interview earlier this week, she addressed the upcoming gubernatorial primary election, her efforts to reach out to colleagues across the political aisle, the backward state of public infrastructure on the Island and more.

What is your professional background and how did you end up in the state Assembly?

I started my own construction company in 1997. I went to Stony Brook [University] at night while working full time during the day. I started to become very active in the construction industry and in land use — we owned 146 acres in East Quogue. My company is a certified Women Business Enterprise and I’m also a member of [the International Union of Operating Engineers] Local 138.

At the time, the Southampton Town Board put us in a moratorium for 2 1/2 years and raised our property taxes from $80,000 to $400,000. I was present at every hearing for the moratorium, where we couldn’t file an application and basically couldn’t do anything with our property. I felt that my property rights had been violated and became very involved in the political spectrum.

I started the Riverhead Business Alliance, where I had 50 businesses pay $300 a year so that I could hire somebody to send out emails letting businesses know about zoning changes that would be detrimental to their businesses. I set up a board of directors — and I was the president and the founder — and we just let everyone know what was happening in local government. A couple of years later, the business community asked me to run for the Town Board, which I did. I served on the Riverhead Town Board [as councilwoman] for 10 years.

There was a shift in government when [former state] Sen. [Kenneth] LaValle [R-Port Jefferson], who was a tremendous asset to the 1st Senate District, decided that he was no longer going to run. That’s when Anthony Palumbo [R-New Suffolk] decided to run for Senate. They asked me to run to fill his [state Assembly] seat, which I did, and I’m happy to serve the 2nd Assembly District in Albany.

You have spoken recently about the need to funnel tax dollars back into Long Island communities. In your opinion, are Long Islanders underserved by Albany?

Absolutely. I think all of Long Island is underserved by Albany. The largest concentration of New Yorkers is in New York City, so a lot of the money gets funneled into the five boroughs. I think that we pay a tremendous amount in tax dollars and a tremendous amount in our utility costs and that we are underserved.

However, I am very close to a lot of people on the other side of the aisle. I explain to them the problems that we have in our district and that we need help. I have been inviting them out here to come to different events, such as the Bell Town Heritage Area [in Aquebogue], where a friend of mine in the Assembly, Alicia Hyndman [D-Springfield Gardens], actually came out with her daughter and spent the day with me out here in the district, so that I could show her some of the challenges we face. On Saturday for Juneteenth, I went into Hempstead and spent the day with my dear friend, Taylor Darling [D-Hempstead] who is also in the majority, to see what her population is faced with.

I think that’s what it really takes: Not being a foreigner to other areas of the state, to realize what their needs are, and to make sure that we all work together to bring some of that money and some of those resources back to Long Island. 

As local residents enter the voting booth for next week’s gubernatorial primary elections, what are some important issues that they should keep in mind?

The important issues are the high taxes that we pay in New York state and getting people back to work. I think that shutting down the economy and making people dependent on the government is problematic and it hasn’t worked in other countries. 

I’ve worked with Congressman Lee Zeldin [R-NY1] since 2009 in his campaigns and have worked very closely with him over the years to make sure that our voices are heard here on Long Island. I think he’s been a pretty good advocate for us. I’ve listened to the debates and I think all of the candidates make great points. They have different areas of expertise that could help the state and I hope that whoever becomes the governor will tap into those assets, knowledge and experience that those others have. 

I think that Lee Zeldin is the most experienced person running for governor in that he served in the state Senate and he also served in Congress, so he knows the mechanisms of government and can hit the ground running right away because we need a quick reversal of what is happening right now in the state.

Two Long Islanders will be on the primary ballots next week: Zeldin and Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3). What does this say about the relationship between Long Island and Albany?

Long Islanders are mad. Whether it’s from the South Shore or the North Shore, the East End or the middle of Long Island, people here are mad. Our Long Island Expressway was a debacle for too many years. We needed that federal infrastructure money and I’m glad to say some of it is coming back to Long Island. 

Long Island is a very unique place. There are a lot of people across the state that are spending a lot of time on Long Island, enjoying our waterfronts and our fisheries, our marinas and our farms, our commerce and our beaches. It’s important that we promote ourselves and make sure that Long Island has a strong voice in the state government.

In your opinion, is the MTA-LIRR underperforming? And what can be done to expedite services and make the railroad more responsive to Long Island communities? 

I can tell you that the New York State government is a crutch for the MTA whenever the MTA fails or overspends or has issues. I think that the current governor [Kathy Hochul (D)] shutting down the government for so long, especially in New York City — and the city government that shut everything down from theaters to shopping to restaurants — it really showed New York City that Long Island can work from home and that we don’t need to go into the city. 

I think that is going to cripple the MTA even more. The fact that the current governor held back and kept shutting everything down, sending the troopers and child protective services into restaurants on Long Island and throughout the state to make sure that everybody was shut down was a further step into government dependency. We were just writing unemployment checks and encouraging people to stay home and not go to work. 

How can the state government be brought closer to the people of Long Island?

As I said previously, by bringing people out here. A lot of people on the other side of the aisle in the majority are planning on coming out and spending some time with me out on Long Island this summer, including Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes [D-Buffalo]. We’re going to visit the wineries and the farms, look at the beaches and spend some time together. She has assured me that she will be out here with me and I plan on taking a trip up to Buffalo to see what her hurdles and her struggles are.

I think that by bringing people out farther on Long Island and seeing what we have out here … especially our expressway. Long Island has been neglected for far too long and we need to make sure that our roads are safe, that our law enforcement is making sure that our communities are safe and that there’s always somebody at the other end of the phone to answer the call. 

Our volunteer firefighters and our volunteer EMS workers, they are finding it very unaffordable to live here. We need to make sure that there are incentives for them to stay as another aspect of public safety. That is the fundamental reason why we have a government: public health, safety, welfare and prosperity.

Is there anything else you would like to say to our local readers?

I would like to say that elections have consequences. It’s very important that everyone pays attention to who is running for office. Look them up on the internet. We have easy access now to look at the platforms of the people running for office. Pay attention to who’s running and who best represents your ideals, your values and your concerns.

Photo by Julianne Mosher

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) rallied with health care workers to boycott Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) vaccination deadline, Sept. 27.

Zeldin, who is campaigning for governor, joined other elected officials outside the state building in Hauppauge Monday just hours before health care workers were required to get the COVID-19 vaccine by midnight or risk losing their jobs.

On Monday night, Hochul signed an executive order to significantly expand the eligible workforce and allow additional health care workers to administer COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. 

According to the mandate, if health care workers do not receive at least one dose of one of the COVID-19 vaccines by the end of day Monday — without a medical exemption or having previously filed for a religious exemption — they will forfeit their jobs. 

The congressman has been vocal over the mandates, locally and nationally. 

“Our health care workers were nothing short of heroic the past 18 months,” Zeldin said. “We shouldn’t be firing these essential workers. We should be thanking them for all they’ve done for our communities.”

Zeldin was calling on Hochul to work with medical facilities and the state’s health care workers to “implement a more reasonable policy that does not violate personal freedoms, fire health care workers who helped us through the pandemic’s worst days, and cause chaos and staffing shortages at hospitals and nursing homes.”

Hochul stated this week that to fill the vacancies in hospitals, she plans to bring in the National Guard and other out-of-state health care workers to replace those who refuse to get vaccinated.

“You’re either vaccinated and can keep your job, or you’re out on the street,” said Zeldin, who is vaccinated.

State Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James) said he was angered when health care employees were given limited ability to negotiate the vaccine mandate through their unions.

“This isn’t a state of emergency, like a hurricane,” he said. “This is a state of emergency that people get fired, and not going to have unemployment insurance. I am a union leader. This is a disgrace to all Americans.”

According to the state Department of Labor, unvaccinated workers who are terminated from their jobs will not be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. A new Republican-led bill introduced in Albany would restore those jobless benefits.

On Tuesday, the state released data noting the percentage of hospital staff receiving at least one dose was 92% (as of Monday evening) based on preliminary self-reported data. The percentage of fully vaccinated was 85% as of Monday evening, up from 84% on Sept. 22 and 77% on Aug. 24.

 “This new information shows that holding firm on the vaccine mandate for health care workers is simply the right thing to do to protect our vulnerable family members and loved ones from COVID-19,” Hochul said in a statement. “I am pleased to see that health care workers are getting vaccinated to keep New Yorkers safe, and I am continuing to monitor developments and ready to take action to alleviate potential staffing shortage situations in our health care systems.”

Long Island’s three health care providers have already implemented the mandate and are taking action. 

Northwell Health, the state’s largest private employer and health care provider — and which includes Port Jefferson’s Mather Hospital and Huntington Hospital — previously notified all unvaccinated team members that they are no longer in compliance with New York State’s mandate to vaccinate all health care workers by the Sept. 27 deadline.

“Northwell regrets losing any employee under such circumstances, but as health care professionals and members of the largest health care provider in the state, we understand our unique responsibility to protect the health of our patients and each other,” Northwell said in a statement. “We owe it to our staff, our patients and the communities we serve to be 100% vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Catholic Health Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Jason Golbin said in a statement that the provider is “incredibly proud of our staff’s dedication to protecting the health and safety of Long Islanders during the COVID-19 pandemic and are grateful for their heroic efforts over the last 18 months.”

He added, “In keeping with our commitment to ensuring the health and safety of our patients, visitors, medical staff and employees, we are complying with the New York State vaccine mandate for all health care workers.”

Golbin said that as of Tuesday, Sept. 28, the vast majority of staff is fully vaccinated with only a few hundred people furloughed from across six hospitals, three nursing facilities, home health care, hospice and other physician practices. 

Stony Brook University officials added Stony Brook medicine has been preparing for New York State’s mandate all healthcare workers get at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the deadline. 

As of 8 p.m. on Sept. 28, 94.07% of Stony Brook University Hospital employees have been vaccinated, and this number continues to increase, 134 Stony Brook University Hospital employees are being placed on suspension without pay and will be scheduled to meet with Labor Relations representatives to discuss their circumstances. While awaiting this meeting, they can use vacation or holiday time off. If they continue to elect not to receive the vaccine, they will be terminated in accordance with the NYS DOH order. 

Less than 1% of the hospital’s total employee population are in a probationary employment period and while they are currently suspended without pay, they are still eligible to be vaccinated before their terminations are processed and could still return to work. 

Officials said these numbers are fluid and are expecting further declines.

Photo by Kimberly Brown

By Julianne Mosher & Kimberly Brown

Parents, students and school districts had a confusing week with mask mandates for kids pre-K through 12 needing clarification from the governor. 

On Friday, June 4, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said an announcement was coming to drop in-school mask mandates for children. But shortly after, the state Department of Health’s announcement didn’t align with what he said. 

Health officials said they had not yet received an OK from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and on Monday, Cuomo announced the CDC would not be changing guidance for wearing masks, therefore they are still required inside schools. 

According to Cuomo, school districts can lift the requirement that students must wear masks outdoors. The state’s guidance on mask use indoors remains in place, but school districts may choose to no longer require masks outdoors, for example during recess. This change aligns with guidance relating to summer camps, where even unvaccinated campers are not required to wear masks outdoors. 

“Children wear masks in school inside, and when they’re outside of the school building in recess, etc., it’s hot, they’re running around, but they’re outside, there is no mandate for masks outside. We’ll leave that up to the local school districts,” Cuomo said Monday. 

This came just days after rallies were hosted across Long Island, demanding that the governor “unmask our kids.”

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) and upset parents gathered Wednesday, June 2, outside the H. Lee Dennison building in Hauppauge to demand a mask-free environment for children in schools and camps. 

“This is the right decision for children across New York, who have sacrificed so much throughout the pandemic and suffered emotionally, physically and mentally from lockdowns and remote learning,” Zeldin said at the rally.

The week before, May 26, Andrew Giuliani (R) — another contender for Cuomo’s seat in 2022 and son of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) —  stopped by the same spot to show his support for the same cause. 

These rallies were put together by parents and advocacy groups who hoped to influence Cuomo’s decision to lift the mandate. 

“It’s a parent’s right to take care of their children the best way they feel fit,” said Mike Hathaway from Long Island Loud Majority, a conservative organization. “Not the government, not for political pull, and not for control.”

Moms for Liberty, an advocacy group from Suffolk County that focuses on unifying America while educating and empowering parents to defend their parental rights, has been working to get the mask mandate lifted in New York. 

A member of the group, Barbara Abboud, said her children, among many others, have been suffering in school, whether that be academic, mental or physical.

“Everyone here today knows what’s at stake,” she said. “It’s more than just unmasking our children, it’s about getting our basic freedoms back.”

Zeldin also discussed his animosity with the prior COVID-19 restrictions, where businesses were forced to close at earlier hours to prevent the spread of the virus.

“There was a time when they said you couldn’t go to the gym after 10 [p.m.] because, apparently, that spreads COVID,” Zeldin said. “However, if you go at 8:30 with a whole group of people, that would mitigate the spread.”

Cuomo said virtually all restrictions can be lifted once 70% of New Yorkers aged 18 and older have received the first dose of the vaccine.

A statue of Joseph Dwyer in Rocky Point. File photo by Kyle Barr

By Chris Cumella

As the deadline for approval of New York State’s final budget approached on April 1, U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) joined the state Senate Republican Conference March 24 on a call to action from Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to restore funding for the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Program for veterans.

The Dwyer program was introduced in 2012 by Zeldin, then a state senator and a U.S. Army veteran himself, having served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Essential health support was provided to veterans in the state. Zeldin’s home county of Suffolk was among the first to utilize the program.

The program has received bipartisan support from local governments up to the State Capitol. However, funding has been omitted in this year’s Cuomo budget proposal.

“It has been an honor to help lead the effort to take a model here in New York and try to expand it nationally,” Zeldin said. “Every veteran in every corner of America deserves to have that resource available to them.”

According to Zeldin and the Republican Conference, the operation was labeled as “immensely impactful” based on the ability to provide various mental health services designed to help veterans reintegrate back into civilian life.

The program was named in honor of Dwyer, an Army combat medic in the Iraq War who was in an iconic 2003 photo carrying a young Iraqi boy away from danger.

After Dwyer’s return home from service overseas, he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder. He died in 2008.

The Dwyer program stands as a peer-to-peer support model, which provides a safe, confidential and educational platform where all veterans meet in support of each other’s successful transition to post-service life.

The program also seeks to help aid “vet-to-vet relationships” to enhance positive change through shared experiences, a process combined with learning and personal growth.

“As a combat veteran, I fully understand the difference the services provided by the Joseph P. Dwyer program can make in the lives of our veterans who are struggling,” said state Senate Republican Leader Robert Ortt, an Army National Guard veteran who served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. “The need for these critically important services has never been more important, and they should be made permanent.”

On March 15, the state Senate majority proposed funding of up to $4.5 million for the Dwyer program, which is the same funding level adopted in 2020-21. However, the state Assembly majority has proposed $6.05 million in funding.

Suffolk County alone has been described as having “one of the largest veteran populations in the nation” by state Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk).

Two local beneficiaries of the Dwyer program felt the experience was well worthwhile.

“I was struggling with both substance use and abuse and thoughts of self-harm as well as a suicide attempt,” said Smithtown resident Robert Carrazzo in a Zeldin press release. “The Dwyer program and those involved helped me battle all this, and now I am over five years sober, have a family, two degrees and a new career.”

“I was a single mom who was furloughed and attending grad school online, which was taxing on my mental health,” said Northport resident Danielle Koulermos in the same press release. “The Dwyer program grew into a sisterhood of support and guidance geared toward the needs of us as female veterans.”

“Playing games with our veterans’ lives is unacceptable,” Zeldin said. “Not only must full funding for the Dwyer program be restored in this year’s final budget, but this program’s funding must become a permanent component of all future state budgets.”

Photo from Pixabay

By Leah Chiappino

News of the COVID-19 vaccine was met with immense excitement and demand after the pandemic ravaged for almost a year with no apparent light at the end of the tunnel. 

Excitement stifled among New Yorkers, many say, as the distribution of the vaccine supply in New York state has been filled with supply issues, appointment cancellations and an online portal that is difficult to navigate.

Distribution began with health care workers in December (Phase 1a) and on Jan. 11 (Phase 1b) expanded to other frontline workers such as teachers and police officers, along with anyone ages 65 and older. 

This seems to have been when the demand surged out of control. Long Islanders have been trying to access the portal to make an appointment only to find available appointments to be both miles and months away, leaving residents to consistently call the New York State hotline, hoping for a cancelation and appointment to open up — a process especially challenging for elderly residents. As of Feb. 8, the state has received 2,808,825 vaccinations and administered 2,228,567. On Long Island, 82% of the vaccine doses distributed have been used. There are about 7 million eligible residents throughout the state. 

On Feb. 15, those with certain comorbidities and underlying conditions will be eligible to sign up for appointments.

“The entirety of our week seven allocation was delivered to providers yesterday and already New York has administered 90% of its first doses while prioritizing fairness and equity,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said in a statement. “Week after week we exhaust our vaccine supply and are basically left waiting for the next week’s delivery. This is not unique to New York. It’s happening in states across the nation because the previous administration grossly mismanaged and politicized the vaccine distribution process from the beginning by not ordering enough vaccines from manufacturers. With new leadership in Washington, the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight but we must manage our expectations. Production of the vaccine alone will take six to nine months. In the meantime, we will continue to distribute the supply we do get quickly and fairly as we have from the start.”

To try to find out the best way to go forward, TBR News Media spoke with a bipartisan group of local elected officials to ask what we can hope for in the future, where they think the biggest problems are in the distribution chain and whether or not they have received the vaccine.

File photo by Kevin Redding

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) 

“We need to make it easier, not harder, for New Yorkers to get the coronavirus vaccine who want it,” Zeldin said in a statement. “New York’s rollout has been an unmitigated disaster: Unused coronavirus vaccines sitting in freezers for weeks, doses ending up in the trash, local health departments overwhelmed with vaccine demand, thousands of appointments canceled, New Yorkers showing up to appointments only to be turned away and more. While these drug companies need to continue ramping up the production and distribution of vaccines, the state needs to ramp up its strategy, rules and communications.”

“While I believe vaccine distribution should be prioritized to those who need it most — the elderly, frontline workers and more — as soon as the doctors say it’s my turn, I won’t hesitate to get it.”

When asked about the state health department lacking vaccine supply from the federal government he said, “Drug companies need to continue ramping up production and distribution, but when these vaccines get to states around the country, they need to be put into people’s arms effectively and efficiently, not thrown in the trash.”  

 

File photo of Jane Bonner

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point)

Bonner said that the issue with the distribution is at the federal level. “President Biden [D] said throughout the entire campaign that he had a plan [for vaccine rollout] and clearly he doesn’t,” she said. “Never make campaign promises that you can’t keep.”

Bonner has been working with her elderly constituents to try and guide them to the New York State website, or to the hotline.

“Seniors have lost so much throughout this pandemic,” she said. “They really need to be able to socialize and go out again. We need to work together for our seniors, and to get the schools and businesses open.”

Bonner has not yet received the vaccine, as she wants elderly people to receive it before she does.

 

File photo by Kevin Redding

County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai)

Anker has sent letters to Cuomo, as well as U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) seeking answers for the failures in the vaccine rollout.

In a letter to the governor dated Jan. 11, Anker conveyed the frustrations of senior citizens and  essential workers trying to get appointments immediately after the  Phase 1b distribution, only to find out they were already booked

“As the Suffolk County chairwoman of both the health and seniors committees, I am writing to acknowledge my frustration and concerns regarding the disbursement of the COVID-19 vaccine in the county,” she wrote. “With my district having one of the largest senior populations in Suffolk County, I offer the suggestion of providing accessible locations, including community on-site availability, to our senior communities who are more at risk of COVID-19. While I appreciate the many Suffolk County staff members doing their best to facilitate the vaccination process and the patience and cooperation of the residents eagerly awaiting their turn in getting inoculated, I ask that a more cohesive process be implemented as soon as possible as we move forward in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Anker wrote to Cuomo again Feb. 3. “Since the county is not able to provide vaccinations to our senior citizens under New York State executive order 202.91, it would be helpful to have a comprehensive list that outlines all locations, including pharmacies and other vaccination sites,” she said. “Without this information, we as elected officials cannot provide our constituents, in particular our senior citizens who may not have the ability to register online, with accurate information and guidance about how and where to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Anker also stated in the letter the Suffolk County Disabilities Advisory Board advised her that accommodations were not being made for disabled people at state-run vaccination sites. For instance, the New York State COVID-19 vaccine form, which patients are required to fill out before receiving the vaccine, does not have a braille version nor is it compatible with screen reading software for the blind. Anker also reached out to Schumer and Gillibrand on Feb. 3. expressing concern with the limited federal supply of the vaccine being distributed to the county.

“Currently, the vaccinations that are available are a mere fraction of what our constituents need, and the current climate is getting more desperate. Increasing vaccinations are not only the best way to combat the pandemic, but paramount to keeping our large population of seniors and others healthy,” the letter read.

“I say I’m like a dog with a bone,” Anker said. “I will not let this go until I’m assured that this process is fixed. I don’t want to wait a week. I don’t want to wait a month. I know that we may not have the vaccines right now, I understand that,but while we’re waiting fix the process.”

She said she has been working with local pharmacies to try and get them a supply of vaccines, as well as local senior communities to figure out their vaccination plans.

Anker has not yet received the vaccine but said that she “probably will” once she is eligible.

 

Leg. Nick Caracappa

County Legislator Nick Caracappa (R-Selden)

“I believe I share the same view as many residents of Suffolk County in that the initial rollout of the vaccine was a disaster, with the short supply and limited venues of distribution,” he said in a statement. “Recently, this office has aligned with other county, town and state officials in demanding that the governor stops ignoring the needs of Suffolk County. Additionally, I’d love to see the New York State health commissioner and local government agencies collaborate to expedite supply and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to our frontline workers, essential workers and vulnerable senior citizens.”

“The time is now to get our residents a sufficient supply of the vaccine to combat this deadly virus once and for all,” he added. “I encourage all those who are eligible for the vaccine to sign up as quickly as possible. Although I haven’t received the vaccine to date, I intend on doing so once I qualify in accordance with New York State guidance.”

When asked to expand on what he meant by the governor “ignoring the needs of Suffolk County,” as well as how specifically the state health department and local governments could collaborate, he said, “The governor should have sent more doses to Suffolk County and more specifically to Brookhaven Town. County and town agencies have the venues available to provide ample locations to receive these much-needed vaccinations and easing the overcrowding we are experiencing at the limited locations currently available. We should work collectively with the state, county and town to arrange for these vaccines to be expedited and administered to those who need them. We all knew this vaccine was coming but the preparation to distribute was completely mishandled.”

 

Steve Englebright

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket)

“New York’s vaccination rollout and its online system for determining eligibility and booking appointments has resulted in a great deal of anger and frustration for residents anxious to get vaccines for their parents or themselves,” Englebright said in a statement. “We need to have a simple, more user-friendly system for signing up online for  vaccines.  A universal preregistration system where eligibility can be approved, and appointments allotted as doses arrive would save us all a lot of time and angst.”

Although he has yet to be vaccinated, he knows the importance of getting it to Long Island seniors. 

“It makes little sense for residents of retirement communities to make appointments and travel separately to mass vaccination centers when medical teams can bring vaccines to them. For seniors who have their homes in the community and, soon, residents with comorbidities, there should be pop-up vaccine centers run by hospitals or the County Department of Health at local libraries and senior citizen centers. Elected officials on the state, county and town levels could help get the word out to their local communities.”

 

Photo from Kara Hahn

County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket)

Hahn shared constituents frustrations regarding the New York State online registration system and expressed regret that she is limited in what she can do to reform it as a county legislator. She called the process of seniors trying again and again to get an appointment without success as “dehumanizing.”

“I feel their pain,” she said.

Hahn has been working with the county to establish distribution locations within the community for when supply is more abundant.

She has not received the vaccine, as she is not yet eligible but said she will when she is.

 

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim. Photo from Nicole Garguilo

Smithtown Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R)

Wehrheim said that he signed a letter to the governor Jan. 14, in coordination with the Suffolk County Supervisors Association asking that essential town workers be vaccinated. He said that a lot of town workers were exposed to COVID-19 in recent weeks and he was concerned, but if they were still quarantined when the storm hit, town workers would still be quarantined.

“The majority of our employees still are not included in any vaccine schedule as of today, endangering our abilities to provide essential services like senior meal delivery, animal shelter staffing, duties of the town clerk and the functions of our building departments,” the letter read. “Should these workers be included in a phase in the near future … allow us to help the process by setting up vaccination sites in each of our towns and by including municipal workers in the next phase of vaccine rollout to ensure that our essential services are not disrupted.”

Wehrheim said that he had not yet heard back from the governor. He also has not personally received the vaccine.

Smithtown Town spokeswoman, Nicole Garguilo, said the town has received approval from the county to use Nesconset and Branch Brook elementary schools as vaccine distribution sites as supply becomes more widely available. “If the county doesn’t get the number of vaccines from the state that they require, they’re not going to greenlight any other vaccine distribution sites,” she said.

Another roadblock is the fact the site needs to be staffed with certified vaccinators, a process that takes four-to-six weeks. While the site must be supervised by a nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant or a licensed physician, pharmacists, midwives, EMTs, medical students, podiatrists, dentists, dental hygienists and students in medical studies programs can get certified to give the vaccine, pursuant to New York State guidelines.

Garguilo said the town is working on partnering with a private pharmacy or hospital in order to streamline the vaccine process. The town’s priority would be to get vaccinations for teachers, as well as seniors in assisted living communities who live on a fixed income and are generally not technically savvy.

“That would make the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time,” she said. You would give the schools everything they need to get back to in-person learning and you would help the people who have those who are in that high-riskcategory that have suffered the most through this pandemic,” she said. Ideally, they would have “targeted vaccine weeks” in which they would focus on vaccinating the schools, and the senior population, one at a time.

 

Mario Mattera. File photo

State Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James)

Mattera said the “whole” problem with the vaccine distribution is a lack of federal supply being delivered to the state. “Every CVS, every Walgreens, every pharmacy, just like with the flu shot, could go and get the supplies and give it, our residents could go right around the corner from their home to go and make this easy … the problem is the federal government releasing as many [vaccines] as they can.”

When asked what he thinks the realistic timeline for the vaccine to be widely available is, Mattera said, “I really wish I could answer that. If I had the crystal ball, I guess I would be a hero. I just really feel the more companies that the FDA approves … there’s going to be more that’s going to be distributed out there.”

He is specifically optimistic for the Johnston & Johnson vaccine, which will be administered in a single dose. He also said that he has not personally received the vaccine, as he “wants everyone else to go” first. He emphasized the importance of following social distancing measures and wearing a mask to continue to curb the spread of the virus.

 

File photo

County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga)

Trotta said the state should have granted eligibility to a smaller population, such as those 85 years old and over, studied the backlog, and then opened it up to other groups such as teachers.  Cuomo “created the panic,” he said. Trotta added the state was “giving people the hope that they’re going to get [the vaccine], and in doing so “clogged the system up.”

“Anybody with common sense would never do that,” he said.

Trotta has not yet received the vaccine because he is not yet eligible, but he was able to secure his parents an appointment at Jones Beach after spending hours on the computer attempting to secure one.

“Everyone was very nice,” he said. “The National Guard’s running it. It went very smoothly, and it could have all been like that if they would have just opened it up slower.”

 

Steve Stern. Photo from Stern’s office

State Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) 

“The COVID-19 vaccine is a light at the end of the tunnel and our best hope for recovery from the pandemic for our health standpoint and for our economic recovery,” Stern said in a statement. “I share the frustration that my neighbors feel about the scarcity of vaccines, difficulty securing appointments and a hard-to-navigate system. New York has been receiving 250,000 vaccines a week for the entire state, which has 19 million residents, seven million of whom are eligible under current CDC guidelines. This is clearly inadequate and totally unacceptable. Our new administration in Washington is actively working to procure and produce more vaccines, vials, syringes and to develop logistical support to enable the states to vaccinate at least 150 million Americans by the end of March. Our office has been working with our partners in state government to ensure that we receive our fair share of vaccines and that residents are kept informed about how they are vaccinated when they are eligible. I have not received the COVID vaccine and like my neighbors, will wait until it is my turn. It is in all of our interests to have as many of our neighbors vaccinated as soon as possible to bring an end to the pandemic.”

 

File photo

County Legislator Susan Berland (D-Dix Hills)

“Suffolk County is ready with the infrastructure and personnel necessary to help vaccinate the public,” she said in statement. “The problem we’re facing now is that we don’t have enough vaccines. Recognizing that demand is clearly outpacing supply, I will continue to advocate for increased supply from the state and federal governments so we can reach our goal of vaccinating 75% of our eligible residents as soon as possible.”

Berland said she is “neither eligible for, nor has she received, the vaccine.”

 

 

 

File photo by Alex Petroski

State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport)

“What we’ve seen so far has been problematic,” Gaughran said. “The biggest issue is twofold: One is the lack of supply coming out from Washington, and what I think made it even worse was that the state was told it was going to get a supply that it never got; and two, the rollout itself, including at the state level, has been problematic.”

He acknowledged that there have been issues with the state website crashing, and appointments being made when there was a lack of supply. 

“It’s been a mess, but I believe it’s going to get significantly better,” he said “I think you’re going to see an addition to the large state-run sites, large county-run sites. Eventually it will be distributed even more on a community-by-community basis.” He is hopeful that the senior population can be vaccinated within “the next month or so.”

Gaughran added he has pushed for additional community pop-up distribution sites, as well as a plan to vaccinate seniors that are “shuttered in their homes.” He also acknowledged seniors are having difficulty navigating the vaccine website and there needs to be a solution to make it more accessible. He said that he worries that once the vaccine becomes more widely available, people are going to be making cancelations to try and get an earlier appointment which could create a “bureaucratic nightmare,” and feels as though there needs to be a system in place to prevent that from happening.  

The state senator said that he has not yet received the vaccine, as he is not a member of any occupational group that is eligible, nor is he over 65. 

“I’m waiting for millions of other people to get the vaccine before it’s my turn,” he said. “But once it is, I’m going to sign up.”

File photo

County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) 

Spencer said that his office has been getting calls from seniors, who are having trouble getting on the phone, or going on the computer to make an appointment. 

“For seniors that may be less tech savvy, to go online and make the appointment is not so easy for them,” he said. “My wife was able to do it for her parents, but she had to do it, they would never have been able to do it. Sometimes the website is down, sometimes the hotline is down, so I think that that’s probably one of the biggest things is expanding that infrastructure once you’re actually doing the vaccines. I think this is almost as much as an IT job as it is a health department job.”

Spencer stressed the importance of making sure the vaccine is going into underserved areas, not only in the United States but around the world. 

“I believe there’s a lot of nationalism that’s going on right now. People are like, ‘We’ve got to get enough vaccines for people in our country,’ and I can understand that, but there’s definitely been some reports that if we don’t vaccinate in a lot of our third-world countries, it will become  not only a humanitarian crisis, but it’s an economic crisis too.”

Spencer is focused on ensuring that vaccines get to communities of color hard hit by the pandemic. 

“If we don’t get enough vaccinations in areas where there are Hispanic and African American populations, where they may be in close quarters there’s less opportunity for social distancing, we’re not going to be able to control the virus as effectively,” he said. He added that he is advocating to place vaccine sites in communities like Brentwood, Huntington Station, Central Islip and Gordon Heights that are walkable.

Spencer has not yet received the vaccine but will do so once he has “the opportunity.”

 

 

By John L. Turner

Situated a mile east of Orient Point, the eastern tip of the North Fork and separated from it by Plum Gut, lies Plum Island, an 822-acre pork-chop shaped island that is owned by you and me (being the federal taxpayers that we are). 

The island’s most well-known feature is the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC), situated in the northwestern corner of the property, but Plum Island is so much more. On the western edge lays the Plum Island lighthouse which was built in 1869 to warn mariners of the treacherous currents of Plum Gut. On the east there’s the brooding presence of Fort Terry, a relict of the Spanish-American War, with scattered evidence in the form of barracks, gun batteries, and the tiny tracks of a toy gauge railroad once used to move cannon shells from storage to those concrete batteries. (The cannons never fired except during drills).

And there’s the stuff that excites naturalists:

■ The largest seal haul-out site in southern New England located at the eastern tip of the island where throngs of harbor and grey seals swim along the rocky coastline or bask, like fat sausages, on the off-shore rocks that punctuate the surface of the water.

■ The more than 225 different bird species, one-quarter of all the species found in North America, that breed here (like the bank swallows that excavate burrows in the bluff face on the south side of the island), or pass through on their seasonal migratory journeys, or overwinter.

■ Dozens of rare plants, like ladies’-tresses orchids, blackjack oak, and scotch lovage that flourish in the forests, thickets, meadows, and shorelines of Plum Island.

■ A large freshwater pond in the southwestern section of the island that adds visual delight and biological diversity to the island. 

■ And, of course, the ubiquitous beach plums that gave the island its name!

For the past decade a struggle has ensued to make right what many individuals, organizations of all sorts (including the more than 120-member Preserve Plum Island Coalition), and many public officials consider a significant wrong — Congress’s order to sell Plum Island to the highest bidder, forever losing it as a public space. 

This ill-conceived path of auctioning the island was set in motion by a half-page paragraph buried in a several thousand- page bill to fund government agencies in 2009. Fortunately, this struggle has been won — the wrong has been righted — as language included in the recently adopted 2021 budget bill for the federal government, repeals the requirement that the General Services Administration sell the island. 

Thank you to Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Senators Christopher Murphy and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and members of Congress Lee Zeldin,Tom Suozzi, Rosa DeLauro and Joe Courtney!

Thanks is also due to New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright who sponsored legislation that was signed into law creating a Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle area in the waters surrounding Plum Island.

While this victory is a vital and necessary step to ultimately protect Plum Island, it is a temporary and incomplete one since the island can still be sold to a private party through the normal federal land disposition process if no government agency at the federal, state, or local level steps up to take title to the island. 

The Coalition’s next task, then, is to ensure that a federal agency such as the National Park Service (National Monument?), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (National Wildlife Refuge?) or the state of New York (New York State Park Preserve?) expresses a willingness to accept stewardship of this magnificent island, since they get first dibs to the island if they want it. A key enticement toward this end is the $18.9 million commitment in the budget to clean up the few contaminated spots on the island.

Why the sale in the first place? Since 1956 PIADC has been conducting top level research on highly communicable animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease. To this end, several years ago staff developed a vaccine for this highly contagious disease that holds great promise in controlling the disease globally.

Despite this successful research, Congress determined the facility was obsolete and should be replaced, approving the construction of a new state-of-the-art facility, known as the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), to be located on the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. NBAF is complete and will soon be fully operational so as a result PIADC is no longer needed; PIADC is expected to transfer all operations to Kansas and close for good in 2023.

Plum Island is a rare place — a remarkable asset that holds the promise of enriching Long Islanders’ lives —your family’s lives, if we can keep it in public ownership. The Preserve Plum Island Coalition, with the input from hundreds of Long Islanders, has painted a vision for the island … so, imagine throwing binoculars, a camera, and a packed lunch enough for you and your family into your backpack and participating in this realized vision by:

— Taking a ferry across to the island, debarking to orient your island adventure by visiting a museum interpreting the cultural and natural riches and fascinating history of the island before you wander, for countless hours, to experience the wild wonders of the island. A most worthwhile stop is the island’s eastern tip where, through a wildlife blind, you enjoy watching dozens of bobbing grey and harbor seals dotting the water amidst the many partially submerged boulders.

— Standing on the edge of the large, tree-edged pond, watching basking turtles and birds and dragonflies flitting over the surface.

-Birdwatching on the wooded trails and bluff tops to view songbirds, shorebirds, ospreys and other birds-of-prey, swallows, sea ducks and so many other species. Perhaps you’ll see a peregrine falcon zipping by during fall migration, sending flocks of shorebirds scurrying away as fast as their streamlined wings can take them.

— Strolling along the island’s eight miles of undisturbed coastline, with the beauty of eastern Long Island before you, offering distant views of Great Gull, Little Gull and Gardiner’s Islands, Montauk Point, and the Connecticut and Rhode Island coastlines.

— Lodging at the Plum Island lighthouse, converted into a Bed & Breakfast and enjoying a glass of wine as the sun sets over Plum Gut and Orient Point.

— Learning about the role Fort Terry played in protecting the United States and the port of New York as your explore the many parts of the fort — the barracks where soldiers stayed, the gun batteries that once housed the cannons angled skyward to repel a foreign attack.

— At the end of day, if you don’t stay over, taking the ferry back to the mainland of the North Fork, tired after many miles of hiking in the salt air of the East End stopping at a North Fork restaurant to share a chat among friends and family about what you’ve learned relating to this fascinating place.

This legislation has given Plum Island (based on the above perhaps we should call it Treasure Island!) a second chance and an opportunity for us to achieve this vision. But this law is only the first step. We need to take the vital second step of new ownership and management in the public interest if all of the above adventures are to become realities. We collectively need to tell those elected officials who represent us, and who can make a difference in determining the island’s fate, that we want Plum Island protected in perpetuity and the opportunity for its many wonders to become interwoven into the fabric of life on Long Island. 

Go to www.preserveplumisland.org to learn more about the Coalition, receive updates, and what you can do to help.

John Turner is the spokesperson for the Preserve Plum Island Coalition.

Groups gathered outside local congressional offices demanding that President Donald Trump (R) be impeached and convicted, and for Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) to be expelled from Congress following his vote against the certification of Electoral College ballots. 

On Monday, Jan. 11, the group Suffolk Progressives organized the protest and created a petition, demanding Zeldin leave his position. 

Shoshana Hershkowitz, from South Setauket, who founded the group, said they are against the congressman’s vote challenging the results of the 2020 presidential election — even after the deadly riots at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6. 

“He continued to talk about his feelings despite the evidence from the country,” Hershkowitz said. “On Jan. 2, he put a tweet out saying this is a lie. … Those words unfortunately they came to fruition on Jan. 6.”

After the mass attack on the Capitol by pro-Trump extremists, Zeldin still voted to object the election of President-elect Joe Biden (D), and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (D). 

“The combination of all of it, and then going back into the chamber after all of this violence and death, refusing to accept those results, trying to overturn the people … it was mind-blowing,” she said.

Upon Zeldin’s vote, Hershkowitz and her group penned a petition that is now up to nearly 2,000 signatures, calling for his expulsion.  

“I was hoping that after all this he would change his tune,” she said.

On Monday, Jan. 11, a group of more than 100 people gathered outside of Zeldin’s Patchogue office. A smaller group of counter-protesters stood across the street. 

Members further west rallied outside Rep. Tom Suozzi’s (D-NY3) Huntington office, asking him to demand that Zeldin be accountable. Suozzi supports the removal of Trump through the 25th Amendment or impeachment. 

The day of the insurrection, Zeldin released a statement.

“This should never be the scene at the U.S. Capitol,” he said. “This is not the America we all love. We can debate, and we can disagree, even on a January 6th following a presidential election. We can all passionately love our country, but in our republic, we elect people to represent us to voice our objections in the House and Senate on this day.”

He added that there must be “zero tolerance for violence in any form.”

Hershkowitz said she will be sending the petition to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). 

“I believe that these people shouldn’t be sitting in Congress,” the group organizer said.

Stony Brook University has changed its class policy during the coronavirus outbreak. File photo

Stony Brook University has been awarded more than $2 million in grants that will go toward funding mathematics, engineering, physics and other science education.

On July 26, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) announced the university had been awarded five grants.

“Whether it’s educating the next generation, helping us protect our planet or pioneering the future of mathematics, Stony Brook University is on the front lines of research and innovation,” said Zeldin in a press release. “Driving this critical federal funding back to some of the brightest minds of our generation, located right here on Long Island, will go a long way in helping these scientists carry out their vital work.”

Of the five grants, the university’s engineering academy will receive the most funding with more than $1.1 million going to the program.

The academy’s stated goal is to increase students’ motivation to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The program will prepare middle school students for advanced science and math courses as well as potential engineering careers down the line.

Stony Brook University has been awarded more than $2 million in grants. Photo from SBU

“The programs we have in place targeting K-12 students, teachers and counselors, as well as undergraduate and graduate students at Stony Brook, are key building blocks in constructing a diversity pathway in STEM,” said Fotis Sotiropoulos, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “Targeted to middle school students and teachers, this unique program will engage them in the excitement, challenge and opportunity in engineering as a field of study and potential career.”

The remaining funds will go toward research studies. More than $365,000 will be used to study physics and climate regulation. Also, researchers will look into understanding radiative balance and precipitation changes in tropical weather patterns.

Close to $300,000 will fund a study spearheaded by Anatoly Frenkel, which will look at electro-chemo-mechanical processes at the atomic level. According to Sotiropoulos, Frenkel’s research has the potential to transform a wide range of vitally important technologies, ranging from focusing devices in the cameras of cellular phones to fuel injectors in automobiles.

In addition, more than $300,000 will be used to fund two mathematics studies through the mathematics department.

“There is no greater catalyst for scientific discovery than research universities,” said Michael Bernstein, the recently appointed Interim President of Stony Brook University. “The grants we have received allow us to address society’s most pressing challenges. As Long Island’s sole public research institution, we remain committed to advancing scientific knowledge throughout our region and around the world.”

The five grants were awarded by the National Science Foundation, an agency created by Congress in 1950, which promotes the progress of science; advances national health, prosperity and welfare; and works to secure national defense.