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Leg. Tom Muratore

SUNY Empire State College cut the ribbon on its new $14 million Long Island campus in Selden on Nov. 13. 

Located at 407 College Road, the 6.6-acre learning center features public nature trails that will connect to Suffolk County’s comprehensive hiking and biking trail network, and provides students with cutting-edge learning facilities for both in-person and distance learning. It will also be equipped with performing arts spaces for programming under the college’s Arts Empower initiative. 

SUNY Empire currently serves more than 1,300 students in Suffolk County through both online and in-person instruction. 

“We’re proud to offer this incredible new learning facility and beautiful campus to our students on Long Island as well as the broader community,” said SUNY Empire State College President Jim Malatras. “I’m grateful to Governor Andrew Cuomo, the State Legislature, including the effort of Senator Kenneth LaValle, and the leaders in Suffolk County who helped make this happen. We look forward to making this campus a hub for both our students and the community, so stay tuned for upcoming events.” 

 Photo by Heidi Sutton

“This new state-of-the-art campus will connect thousands of Long Island students with world-class learning opportunities for decades to come,” said NY State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. “When we provide New Yorkers with 21st century learning facilities like the SUNY Empire State College Long Island campus, we are helping them reach their full potential and preparing them for the jobs of tomorrow, today.” 

“With cutting edge technology and instructional methods, SUNY Empire under the leadership of President Malatras is committed to providing educational opportunities for working professionals across Long Island,” said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. “Our new Long Island hub will expand those opportunities, foster innovation, and build community partnerships, all of which advance SUNY’s broad mission of connecting students to an affordable, high-quality education that meets their specific needs. Thank you, Governor Cuomo, and everyone involved in making today a reality.”  

Senator Ken LaValle, ranking minority member of the NY State Senate Higher Education Committee, said, “This Grand Opening is a culmination of hard work of many people over a number of years. I’m excited that the Long Island Campus will bring leading-edge technology here for SUNY Empire students. The state-of-the-art Immersive Cloud learning will enable real time interaction between students and faculty between campuses and expand learning opportunities. This facility will meet critical needs for SUNY Empire students across Long Island. I am pleased to be a part of the process.” 

“With the grand opening of the SUNY Empire State College Selden Campus, students of all ages and background across Suffolk will now have the opportunity to study and learn at one of New York’s premier educational institutions right in their backyard,” said County Executive Steve Bellone. “We have already begun to partner with Empire State College and I look forward to continuing our work to ensure Suffolk remains a hub of innovation and higher learning.”    

“Having SUNY Empire State College here in Suffolk County, and more specifically in my legislative district, is a very welcomed addition to our community,” stated Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore. “Changes in lifestyle and technology have made education more accessible to nontraditional students, and I am grateful for the collaborative efforts of all involved with bringing this state-of-the-art facility to Selden.” 

Pictured in top photo, from left, Erin Young, Selden faculty academic coordinator; Ellyn Okvist, SUNY Empire State College student; Marion Conway, chair of the SUNY Empire State College Foundation Board SUNY; Kevin LaValle, Town of Brookhaven council member; Gregory Blower II, director of communications for Sen. Kenneth LaValle; Jim Malatras, president of SUNY Empire State College; Thomas Muratore, county legislator; Rob Basedow, SUNY Empire State College student; Jason Richberg, clerk of the Suffolk County Legislature; Robert Haelen, senior vice chancellor for Capital Facilities and general manager of the State University Construction Fund; Diane Conard, interim director of facilities and capital projects at SUNY Empire State College; Dennise Waters, SUNY Empire State College student; and Meg Benke, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at SUNY Empire State College.

From left, Leg. Tom Muratore; partners Nick Haviaras, Peter Dilis, Corey Catechis, Gus Catechis and George Dilis of MVC Properties; and Councilman Kevin LaValle. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

Local officials, members of the Centereach Civic Association, Middle Country Chamber of Commerce, family and friends were on hand to celebrate the grand opening ribbon cutting of MVC Properties’ latest venture − New Village Plaza in Centereach − on Nov. 2.

Above, Gus Catechis, center, accepts Certificates of Congratulations from Councilman LaValle on behalf of the Town of Brookhaven and Legislature Muratore on behalf of Suffolk County. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Located at 1707-1759 Middle Country Road across from McDonald’s, the shopping center will have over 75,000 square feet of space when the project is completed over two phases. Tenants include an Arby’s, Wingstop, an AT&T store, Swolehouse, Brownstones Coffee and Pacfe Nail & Spa. Cabo Fresh, Voodoo Crab and ProHealth are soon to follow. 

Gus Catechis of MVC Properties thanked the community, Councilman Kevin LaValle, Legislator Tom Muratore and Diane Caudullo of the Centereach Civic Association before cutting the ribbon. “I just want you to know how grateful I am for all the support you gave me from the very beginning and to everyone who made this a reality,” he said.

“This special project has been a long time coming. We took something that was a blight in our area and Gus put the time in, put the money in, really giving back to the community to build this great shopping center that we have here with great brand names. It’s really going to be something we are proud of here in Centereach,” said Councilman LaValle, adding “This grand opening shows once again that Brookhaven is open for business.”

“I am always happy to support new businesses in our community, and an entire shopping center is a home run for the local economy,” said Leg. Muratore. “Congratulations to the owners, MVC Properties. We are happy to welcome them to our business community.”

The slight chill in the air Oct. 5 created the perfect feel for Bethel Hobbs Community Farm’s annual fall festival.

Hundreds joined the fun at the farm where there were bounce houses, pumpkins, music, tractor rides, face painting, vendors and more.

Country Line Dancing featuring Skip from Country Rhythms Long Island was on hand to provide line dancing lessons throughout the day.

Lauren Auerbach’s ‘Keeta Kangaroo’ teaches kindness in rhyme
Above, author Lauren Auerbach and Leg. Tom Muratore

Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

 

For nearly 10 years, Lauren Auerbach of Port Jefferson has been hard at work as a legislative aide for Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma). She’s always dreamed of writing her own children’s book; however, and after two decades of nurturing the idea, she’s proud to share her first story with the world. “Keeta Kangaroo Learns a Lesson (or Two)” follows young Keeta, who has just learned how to rhyme, as she shows off her new skill with the animals in her neighborhood. But Keeta quickly discovers that using the wrong words can be hurtful to others.

Auerbach’s book is a sweet and funny tale of making mistakes, saying you’re sorry and learning to be kind.

Tell me a bit about your background. Have you always been a writer?

I went about my education the nontraditional way. I had an associate’s degree from Suffolk County Community College, then married young and had children. I went back to school later to get my bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing from the New York Institute of Technology. I always had an interest in advertising. I was a stay-at-home mom for the better part of 20 years, until my children were grown and went off to college. Since 2010, I’ve been working in marketing for Legislator Tom Muratore, planning his events and writing press releases.

How did this book come about?

I’ve always had a dream of having a book published, and writing was always my strong point in my school years. Believe it or not, I actually wrote “Keeta Kangaroo” about 25 years ago. When I was a stay-at-home mom, I did take a few noncredit courses in children’s literature writing. That was always interesting to me. I learned some really valuable information not only about writing, but how to submit a story for publication. 

At that time, it was common to print out hard copies and send them to publishers with cover letters, so that was what I did. I got some lovely rejection letters, and as life got busy I tucked the book away. A little over a year ago, I was cleaning out some old files and found a copy of the book, which sparked my interest again. Since we’re in the age of self-publishing now, I figured I would give it another shot.

Who is the illustrator for the book? How did you connect?

Erin Bonner is my adult niece and an amazing illustrator. She has a background in photography and teaches art at a local library. I told her about the book and she loved the idea of doing the illustrations. 

What drew you to children’s literature as opposed to other kinds of writing?

To be honest, I would love to write the Great American Novel, but I know that involves a lot of research and time — you have to have the resolve for it, and I’ve never been in a place in my life where I’ve had the time to devote to a project of that size. Beyond that, I’ve just always loved children, and I felt drawn to writing a children’s book. We’ll see what the future holds after my retirement.

Was there any particular reason you chose to make the main character a kangaroo?

The name Keeta Kangaroo rolled off my tongue, and it was a simple decision after that. I wanted to choose animals for the book that kids would find interesting, and I think kangaroos are one of them.

What is the target age for this book?

Ideally, it would be best for children ages 4 to 7. We all know that there’s a lot of negativity out there. In this internet age, it’s all too easy for kids to learn to be unkind and treat one another poorly. It’s important to show them that using kind words goes a long way. Sometimes people can be mean without even realizing it, and we have to think hard about what we say before we say it. All of those messages are wrapped up in a sweet story. 

What has the experience been like for you now that the book is published?

It’s pretty awesome. It’s one thing to have an idea and a vision in your head, but to hold the tangible evidence of that and see your name on it is an incredible feeling. I may never get rich because of this book, but the sense of accomplishment goes so much deeper than any monetary gain could. 

I haven’t had as much time to market the book as I would like, but I have been going around to some of the local elementary schools and reading in classrooms. The feedback I’m getting from the children is very positive because the overall message is about kindness. They really seem to be responding to its message, and in this age of anti-bullying efforts the timing really couldn’t be better. It’s been a lot of fun to share with people, and accomplishing a goal I dreamed up a long time ago.

“Keeta Kangaroo Learns a Lesson (or Two)” is available in paperback and digital formats at Amazon.com. To order a copy from the author directly or to schedule a classroom or library reading, send an email to auerbach.lauren@gmail.com.

Dr. Kourtsounis, center, and his staff cut the ribbon in front of their new Centereach location as Councilman LaValle, center in back, and Leg. Muratore, far right, look on. Photo from office of Leg. Muratore

GRAND OPENING: On May 21, Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) and Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) joined Dr. Paraskevas Kourtsounis and the staff at Dental Smiles 4 Kids at their Grand Opening celebration and Ribbon Cutting event for Dental Smiles 4 Kids in Centereach. To commemorate the event, the legislator presented Kourtsounis (“Dr. K.”) and his staff a Certificate of Recognition and a warm welcome to the community.

Dental Smiles 4 Kids is a team of professionals whose goal is to offer quality dental care to children and adolescents in a safe, nonthreatening environment. In addition to the new Centereach location at 7 Mark Tree Road, they have offices in Whitestone, Ronkonkoma and Astoria. “I love welcoming new businesses to the community,” stated Muratore. “I wish Dr. K. and the friendly staff at Dental Smiles 4 Kids much success.