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Middle Country Road

Suffolk County Legislator Nick Caracappa opens up during a one-on-one interview with TBR News Media. Photo by Raymond Janis

In the race for Suffolk County’s 4th Legislative District, incumbent Legislator Nick Caracappa (C-Selden) is running virtually uncontested.

Caracappa’s Democratic Party challenger, Tim Hall (D-Selden), is not openly campaigning and declined to participate in an office debate with TBR News Media. One-on-one with the incumbent, who currently serves as majority leader within the county Legislature, Caracappa outlined various quality-of-life concerns within the 4th District, touching upon the ongoing countywide wastewater debate, economic development, homelessness and finances.

Wastewater

This year’s county elections are happening beneath the cloud of the Water Quality Restoration Act, a proposed 1/8-penny sales tax to finance wastewater infrastructure in Suffolk County. Along with the Republican Party caucus, Caracappa voted no, pointing to several perceived deficiencies within the legislation.

He suggested that the debate over wastewater infrastructure is a matter of finding the correct balance between laying down seed funds for large-scale sewer projects and financing innovative/alternative septic systems, known as IA systems.

“The most critical flaw of that legislation was the distribution percentages,” he said. “No less than 75% would go toward IA systems, and the rest would go toward sewers.”

Caracappa contended that IA systems have not been requested or used by LD4 residents, saying that this technology is necessary for places along the East End that lack the density to support sewers.

“We have these hundreds of millions committed to shovel-ready projects,” he said. “Planning and development stages are already done. All we’re waiting for is to get the shovels in the ground.”

But getting those shovels in the ground, the legislator noted, requires significant state and federal subsidization. To tap into those large pots of cash, he said a reworded wastewater protection plan would be appropriate, devoting a much larger percentage toward sewers.

“We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars” to complete full-scale sewer projects, Caracappa said. “We don’t have that kind of money in Suffolk County, but we do have the tens of millions” to generate the local match necessary for full-scale subsidization.

He added, “I will continue to fight for legislation for the projects that are needed at this time,” namely for sewers.

Middle Country Road

Amid the countywide debate over wastewater, there remains the local matter of introducing sewers into the Middle Country Road corridor, extending a sewer line from Lake Grove to Coram.

Caracappa stated that various businesses and restaurants are interested in entering the Middle Country area, though the existing wastewater infrastructure cannot adequately accommodate these establishments. “Because of the lack of sewers, we can’t facilitate their waste needs,” leading to a local decline.

He said that new sewers would revitalize the Route 25 commercial strip, enhancing the quality of life for residents.

“The sewers, in this case, are for downtowns, for economic development and for new businesses coming in,” he said, adding that the project aims to incentivize “knocking down those small, shuttered buildings and attracting businesses that can come in.”

He pointed to downtowns such as Patchogue, Babylon and Sayville as a model for downtown development along Middle Country Road. “All those downtowns are thriving, and the common denominator is that they have sewers in the ground.”

He regarded sewers as a regional economic development tool. “From putting in the sewers to roadways to drainage to new businesses coming in, they’re going to need employees, and it’s going to create jobs,” Caracappa said. “Jobs give people a reason to stay.”

Affordability/housing

In attracting new businesses into the Greater Middle Country area, Caracappa said there would be several steps toward overseeing the planning for new developments.

“We have to recognize the housing issues here in Suffolk County,” he said. “That’s why I’m a staunch advocate and supporter — and I generated two bills signed into law — that for each development that’s built and that seeks county subsidies, they have to set aside a certain amount of affordable housing for veterans and those in our special needs community.”

Due to the high cost of living in Suffolk, he noted that many young people are struggling to find a place to live. He proposed that county subsidization should come with the caveat of setting aside workforce housing for those earning below the average median income.

Developers “may not get as rich or as quick as they want, but if they’re going to get county taxpayer funding, then there has to be a return on that investment,” he added. “That’s true workforce housing.”

Budgets

With long-term economic uncertainty and a county budget increasingly unstable, Caracappa offered his approach to reigning in the county’s budget. He highlighted some of the principles he said have guided the Republican majority in the county Legislature, noting efforts to improve the county’s bond rating and lower interest rates.

“The first initiative we took is to stop bonding everything,” he said. “We have cash on hand, so we stopped bonding out projects that were $50,000 or less,” adding, “Taking out a bond on $50,000 makes no fiscal sense because you’re going to pay more on interest than you are on the initial loan.”

He also advocated against appropriating funds for projects and programs with minimal return on investment. He supported filling vacant positions within the government and raising salaries for existing county employees.

The majority leader added that the county Legislature must consider a “full circle” approach to economic sustainability, exploring ways to keep young people living and working in Suffolk, where their money can be returned to the community.

“You have to create opportunities here, so they can work here, collect a salary here and recycle that money back into” Suffolk County, he noted.

Homelessness

Amid these fiscal and regional economic challenges, LD4 communities continue experiencing pockets of homelessness, notably in and around Coram.

In addressing the plight of homelessness, Caracappa supported a multipronged effort, tailoring unique intervention strategies to different cases.

“We have to provide opportunities,” he emphasized. “A lot of these homeless people are veterans or people who lost their jobs due to COVID. … For others, there are mental health issues, and we have to provide opportunities for that and get them treatment.”

He referred to homelessness as a “very difficult issue,” especially given the challenges within the shelter system. He noted, “There’s never going to be an answer to all of it because not everybody wants to be helped.”

Given the influx of migrants entering New York state, Caracappa expressed concerns over its implications on local homelessness. 

“Promises that are being made to these individuals who are crossing our border are fundamentally and outright lies,” he said. “They’re being promised an opportunity for a better life, and they’re all ending up in gymnasiums and warehouses.”

He added, “It’s a false promise for a false life that cannot be provided. I will not support having the taxpayer money of Suffolk County residents — who are already struggling day-to-day to help their own families — to provide for these other families.”

Political influence

When asked about the role of outside stakeholders in county government, Caracappa responded that these influences did not affect him personally.

He cited the wastewater bill as a moment in which he received considerable pushback from stakeholder groups, such as unions and environmentalists.

“My job is to protect and serve those in Suffolk County — be their voice and present legislation that’s going to benefit them,” he said.

Alyson Bass, left, candidate for the Town of Brookhaven’s 3rd Council District, and Brookhaven Councilman-elect Neil Manzella. Left from Bass’ LinkedIn page; right courtesy Manzella

In the race to fill Brookhaven Town Clerk Kevin LaValle’s (R) seat on the Town Board, Neil Manzella (R-Selden) handily secured victory on Tuesday, April 25.

LaValle took over as town clerk in February, vacating the 3rd District and triggering a special election to complete his term, which ends in December. An unofficial tally from the Suffolk County Board of Elections indicates Manzella comfortably defeated his Democratic opponent, Alyson Bass, of Centereach, holding a 57-43% margin of victory.

The councilman-elect explained that there was little time to celebrate. The true test will be this November when he and Bass will be back on the ballot to compete again for a four-year term.

In exclusive post-election interviews with Manzella and Bass, the two CD3 candidates set the table for round two. Following resident feedback heard throughout the special election cycle, repaving the district’s roadways will be a primary focus.

“One of the biggest topics that I heard from the district [residents] themselves is the condition of the roads,” Manzella said. “One of my plans is to go and sit down with the Highway Department — the Superintendent of Highways [Dan Losquadro (R)] — and try to see if we get that taken care of during the summer months.”

Bass, too, heard from district residents about the disrepair of the roadways. To mitigate those concerns, she proposed enacting measures to promote transparency within the road prioritization process.

“You hear of roads being paved multiple times while other roads haven’t been paved in six or seven years,” she said. “How does that happen? There are definitely areas in our district that are neglected, and there are other districts that are not neglected at all.”

The two candidates also narrowed in on the other major overhanging issue for the area, commercial redevelopment. CD3 contains two prominent commercial corridors along Middle Country and Portion roads. The candidates departed in their approach to building up the many undeveloped parcels.

Bass approached the redevelopment issue with caution, noting the need to protect open spaces and restrain sprawl. 

“We’re looking at every piece of green land being sold with no inhibition,” the Democrat said. “You have shopping centers with less than 50 percent capacity, parking lots that are barely used, yet all of our green spaces are being sold.”

Manzella offered a different perspective on redevelopment, viewing the undeveloped lots as a potential tax base for the town while building upon the aesthetic character of the area.

“I see our district trying to thrive in the commercial region,” the councilman-elect said. “I want to push redevelopment of areas along our Middle Country and Portion roads. I want to push redevelopment that can help fill vacancies, empty lots, to make it a more aesthetic and more business-friendly [area].”

Ahead of this November, the closure of the Brookhaven Town landfill looms as one of the most pressing issues facing residents townwide, with regional implications as well. 

Manzella said his campaign has yet to focus on the landfill closure but expressed optimism toward working with his colleagues to remediate the issue.

“The plans for what happens when the landfill closes is not something that I would have even been a part of before now,” he said. “But now that I am in a role where I can contribute to it, I can’t wait to have that conversation.”

Bass said the Town Board staying proactive in the landfill closure would serve the best interest of the residents townwide. “I think pushing to have a plan in place so that we aren’t so affected by the closure of the town dump is huge,” she said in an earlier interview.

Residents of the 3rd Council District will decide upon these two candidates again in just over six months. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Brookhaven Town councilman on redeveloping the Middle Country Road corridor

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), above. Photo from Brookhaven Town website
Part I

Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) has worked on several major initiatives during his time at Town Hall. In Part I of this two-part interview, LaValle discusses the recent completion of paving projects in Selden, the need for sewers on Middle Country Road, his background in government and the influence of his family on his decision-making. 

Could you discuss the recent paving projects completed in Selden and your ongoing work with the Town Highway Department?

Well, that is a major, major issue in my area. I have the smallest geographic area in the whole town. Our districts are broken up by population — about 80,000 people in each district — but my area is a very dense, compact area. What that means is that, obviously, I have a lot of roads, a lot of neighborhoods, a lot of businesses.

One of the things that we did a few years ago was that we made a commitment that we were going to spend $150 million on the town end, which is $15 million a year for the next 10 years, in paving. We made a pledge to the community that that’s what we were going to do to try to help the infrastructure in the town. We’ve been on target with that.

How have you coordinated with Suffolk County to bring sewers into downtown areas within your district?

That is absolutely crucial for the growth of the business community in Centereach and Selden along the Middle Country Road corridor. Hundreds and hundreds of businesses that run up and down this road are unsewered, and even the houses there, every one has a cesspool.

Our big issue on Middle Country Road is that if you look at these lots, they’re all half-acre and acre lots. So what can you build on it? You can’t really get the nice restaurants that other areas have, and that hinders how we can develop and how we can move forward.

We’ve had a lot of success in redeveloping a lot of these lots throughout this corridor, but bringing [sewers] here allows us to take some of these beat up lots and have developers come in and combine them and build something new, whether it’s a two-story office building or a nice restaurant. Because with that sewer capacity, you have the ability to do that.

That’s really why it will be a huge game changer for this area. It will bring good new development down the road. When I was with [the late Suffolk County Legislator] Tom Muratore [R-Ronkonkoma], we kind of started that process to get the sewers going. Now [county Legislator] Nick Caracappa [C-Selden] has jumped into office and it’s really getting supercharged right now.

The county is going to be setting this up, but it gives the town the option — because I deal with rezoning — to be able to start talking to property owners and say, “Hey listen, we have sewers coming down here. If you put this lot together and this lot together, then we could do this.” That’s when you really start getting some exciting opportunities with new businesses and various other things that we want to come into the area.

To follow up, what is your organizational philosophy toward commercial redevelopment?

I think the big key is that when you look up and down the road, we have some small lots that are a quarter-acre or a half-acre — all beat up properties. Right now, anybody coming in and buying them asks, “What can I really do with them?”

Take a look at the property values on Middle Country Road. Some 37,000 cars drive down the portion of Middle Country Road in my area every single day; 37,000 is a massive number — a lot of cars. And great property values. It’s prime real estate, but for developers to come in, you need to have the sewer capacity to be able to build a two-story building on an acre lot, and right now you can’t do that.

If you’re a developer, you have to spend money to buy the property, then money to build it, and then you have to be able to rent it to make your money back. Let’s be very honest about it. That’s what developers do. That’s what businesspeople do, they’re here to make money. So you have to be able to attract them in. By giving them sewers, you will then give them the capacity that their money will go out to redevelop, but it’s also going to come back to them because they’ll be able to bring in new businesses.

We’ve come a long way in the last nine years. The big thing for me as far as developing properties is developing that relationship with the business owners and the property owners, being a straight shooter, telling them, “Hey, this is going to work and this is not going to work.” It’s about not wasting people’s time.

A mentor of mine once asked me, “What’s the most important thing in business?” At the time, I was young — like 24 or 25 — and I said money. He said, “No, not even close.” The most important thing in business is time. If you’re a service provider, it’s the time from when your order is made to when you provide that service to your client. Or if you’re a builder, it’s the time it takes to buy the property, to get through the zoning process and to finish off building. If it takes more time, it’s going to cost you more money.

For me, I like to be a straight shooter with the developers, with the property owners, with the businesspeople, and say if it’s not a realistic concept, don’t string people along, just tell them. If it is a realistic concept, then how can we get you from point A to point B? How can we get you from when you buy the property to when you develop the property?

What is your professional background, and how did you end up at Town Hall?

I started off many years ago, after I graduated college, as chief of staff for Dan Losquadro [R] when he was a [county] legislator many years ago [and is now town highway superintendent]. I worked with Dan for about two years and then I went into the private sector — I owned a title agency for about four years. We have since sold that business and I went into the mortgage business, which I still do to this day.

During that time a bunch of years back, I was asked to come back part time to the [county] Legislature to work for Tom Muratore. He was about a year into the job and was trying to figure out his way a little bit. I decided to come back and I was with Tom for about three years. Then the opportunity to run for Town Council came up.

I never really thought that I would run for office, even though my family had been in office. I didn’t think that was what I wanted to do, but I had a lot of friends and family and people in the community come up to me — because they saw all the work that I was doing with Tom — and they said, “Listen, you do a great job and we really need you to run for the Town Board. We think you could do a great job here.”

I took that run back in 2013 and I was fortunate to get elected. I’ve been a sitting town councilman ever since. It’s been nine years of working on a lot of things within the district and it’s really something that I’ve grown to love and enjoy.

How has your family shaped your approach to public service?

My brother, John [Jay LaValle (R)], was a town councilman and a town supervisor. My cousin, Ken LaValle [R-Port Jefferson], was a state senator for over 40 years. They had very different styles when they were in office. When I was a kid, I watched how they worked.

Ken was very statesmanlike in the way he went about things. John was very aggressive and would take care of business and kind of push things and run around with a lot of energy. I kind of look at both of them and have learned from both styles.

I think there are opportunities to be aggressive when you have to push things and show excitement, like my brother John. I also think there are other opportunities when, like my cousin Ken, you have to sit back, listen, take it all in, really understand the situation, and do your homework to make sure that you know what you’re talking about. I think both of those styles kind of mesh with who I am.

Part II

For over a decade, Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) has worked on the Selden Park Complex. Now he can see the finish line. In Part II of this two-part interview, the councilman reflects upon the role of parks, open spaces and the mentorship of the late Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), under whom LaValle served as legislative aide.

What is the status of the Selden Park Complex?

Now this is something that I’ve been working on since I was aiding Tom Muratore 12 years ago. This is going to be the largest park in the Town of Brookhaven — 24 acres that we’re breaking ground on.

Heritage Park [in Mount Sinai] is a park that’s at the end of County Route 83. When we started talking about this with the community years ago, people said, “That’s something we want. Can we do that?” And now we’re right there.

Phase I was to bring back the two Little League fields near Grace Presbyterian Church. I actually grew up playing baseball on these fields. Grace used to lease them to the Little League, but then Grace was having issues with its insurance, so [the fields] went fallow. We were able to work with the county to buy this property. The deal was cut so that the county would buy the properties and the town would develop them. Veterans [Park] used to be a baseball field. We then came in, redid it, and now it’s a multipurpose field for all the kids. That was Phase II.

We just broke ground recently on the third and final phase, the biggest phase that we have going on here. We’re building two additional baseball fields, a basketball court, pickleball courts, playgrounds, a concession stand, shade shelters throughout, a storage facility for our guys and batting cages. And for the first time in the town’s history — and I always like to be the first guy — I was the first guy to pickleball and now I’m going to be the first guy to roller and deck hockey.

This really comes back to my childhood growing up in Centereach. We had two deck hockey and roller hockey rinks, and I would play deck hockey with my friends. We talked about it and said, “You know what? This is a good idea. Let’s bring this back to the community.” It will be the first time ever that we’re bringing that back.

I kind of refer to this as a generational park. This is where we hope that families that come to the area will walk their children around in strollers around the walking trails. Then when they get a little bit older, they bring the kids over to the playgrounds. Then they get a little bit older and play any kind of sport, whether it’s softball, baseball, lacrosse, soccer … whatever sport they want. Then the kids go off to college, and hopefully they come back to the community where they’re going to be doing the same thing and raising their families using this facility.

What is your office doing to protect open spaces?

Just this past year in the Centereach/Selden community, right on the corner of Old Town Road and County Route 83, there’s a parcel over there that we just made a preserve. That happened to be a town property, and we saw an opportunity to kind of protect it and consider it a nature preserve.

That’s something that I think is really important that we do and that we continue to do as a township. You have to keep in mind that our drinking water is extremely important to what we’re doing — it’s right under our feet. And protecting our lands protects that drinking water. Bringing sewers protects that drinking water, so that’s a critical issue for us.

What do you foresee as the long-term impact of bringing more public funds into the Middle Country area?

It’s one of the reasons I ran for office nine years ago. I grew up in this area, and I can tell you the sentiments of people back then. Generally, we were looking around at all these other communities and watching what they were building — money going here, they’re building a park there, preserving property over here. They said, “This guy’s getting this, they’re getting that, and what are we getting? Are we getting our fair share here?”

That’s something I focus on every day, about how we can rebuild and what money we can bring in. Bringing in new development is one thing — the town doesn’t put money into that. I have to go out and recruit people and work with businesspeople. But making sure our parks are up to par, making sure we’re getting extra money for our roads, these are things you are required to do as a town councilman.

As far as parks go, in my time here, we really have run through all of our parks. We have built a dog park since I’ve been here. We rebuilt Iroquois Avenue Park [in Selden] completely — the walking trail, everything is getting redone.

I grew up less than a mile from the Centereach Pool Complex. When I was a little kid, I would go up and play basketball. When I got elected, the backboards at Centereach Pool were rusted out and the ground was broken up on the basketball courts. It had been just horrendous. Since I’ve been in office, we’ve redone the basketball courts. We’re the first facility to have pickleball, we’ve built sun shelters, we’ve rebuilt the bathrooms and redone the walking trail.

Can you describe the mentorship of Tom Muratore and his influence on you now?

Tom was an unbelievable guy. We were a good team. He was the vice president of the [Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association] before he became a legislator. He was a soft-spoken guy, wasn’t the kind who was flashy or who would always jump to the mic. That wasn’t Tom.

Tom was a guy who liked to work with people and had the biggest heart of anybody I’ve ever known in politics. He just cared for everybody, didn’t need to get credit for things, just wanted to make the community a better place.

He hired me when I was young and aggressive, bouncing off the walls with a lot of energy. And he was a great mentor because he would look at me sometimes and just say, “Kevin, we can pass it today and just push it through, or we can pass it tomorrow with everybody’s consensus.” Or say, “Let’s take our time and get everybody on board.”

I’m an aggressive guy. I like to keep moving and get things going. Tom kind of put the brakes on me. He taught me to take a little extra time to build that extra consensus, making sure everybody’s on board. There were just so many different lessons that I learned from him.

Next year, when we open up [the Selden Park Complex], it will be weird not to have him here. But I know he’s looking down with a big smile on his face, and he’s glad we’re going to finish this out for the community. Something we started together.

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Photo from MCPL

Amongst the Middle Country Public Library’s many historical artifacts are a few that explain just how far the area has come from its pastoral roots. The picture and story below comes courtesy of a collaborative effort among the librarian staff.

Driving along Middle Country Road today, it is hard to imagine that only 100 years ago, this busy four- lane highway with its many intersections, signs, and streetlights started out as little more than a hard-packed dirt road. 

Go back 100 years more, and you’d only see a narrower, rutted path. We take our nicely maintained, hard paved roads for granted today, but it wasn’t always such a smooth ride. 

Today’s network of streets and highways have their origins in simple trails which were used by people and wildlife leading to sources of water and shelter. 

These paths measured only two to three-feet wide in places, but they were sufficient for the needs of the times. 

Photo from MCPL

Early English settlers began to use these footpaths as they established homesteads on Long Island, widening and improving these paths, using them as cart-ways to allow for easier travel between their farms. The cart-way needed to be wide enough for a livestock-drawn cart to traverse with ease. In those days a cart would be hauled by cattle, ox, or horsepower.

Those paths were the only way to travel around Long Island until 1703, when the NY General Assembly appointed highway commissioners in King’s County (Brooklyn), Queens County and Suffolk County to direct the building and maintenance of roads “four rods wide.” The roads were simply packed earth, hardened over time by travelers.  It took some time for conditions to improve, and eventually drainage systems were constructed, and logs or planks were laid across some roads to pave them. These log-covered roads were known as “corduroy roads” because of their bumpy surface.

Thirty years after the highway commissions laid out the routes, arranged rights-of-way between existing properties and physical construction took place, Long Island boasted three major thoroughfares: North Country Road, parts of which follow today’s Route 25A; Middle Country Road, now known as Route 25 or Jericho Turnpike; and South Country Road, portions of which serve as Montauk Highway. 

An organized system of roads was needed for many reasons as the population grew. Though most homesteads were self-sufficient at that time, people would barter for goods and gather together to socialize. Mail needed to be delivered across the Island, and prior to the establishment of the U.S. Postal Service in 1775, England’s Royal Mail System was utilized. Before reliably passable roads were built, that mail was delivered from Connecticut by boat. It was faster and easier to travel 19 miles by water than 120 miles overland from New York City.

As the farmland was cultivated and enriched over time, it produced more than one family or village could use and farming became a burgeoning industry. 

Means to transport the surplus produce was required. Farm to Market Road (also called Horseblock Road) filled this need. Farm owners would load their wagons full of fruits and vegetables to ship by rail to New York City.

 The term “horseblock” refers to a block of stone or wood used to help a person climb high enough to mount a horse or to enter a stagecoach with ease. With many homes, farms and taverns located along these miles of roadway, horseblocks were a familiar sight. We call this same Farm to Market Road by its old nickname, Horseblock Road to this day. 

Photo from MCPL

Through the years, several popular taverns and rest stops were located on Horseblock Road. As far back as Revolutionary times, Sam “Horseblock” Smith owned and ran a tavern at the intersection of Horseblock and Middle Country Roads in Centereach.

 A Smith genealogy relates that on March 2, 1806 Sam sold the inn and land to Lake Grove resident, Titus Gould. It appears that part of the tavern was dismantled and moved to another location. Generations later, Alfred Elsmann ran Al’s Tavern, at the corner of Horseblock and Granny Roads. It was advertised in the Patchogue Advance of March 7, 1946 as specializing in home cooking and “the best in beer, wines and liquors,” and was a popular destination for local festivities for several decades.

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Photo from MC Library

Amongst the Middle Country Public Library’s many historical artifacts are a few that explain just how far the area has come from its pastoral roots. The picture and story below comes courtesy of a collaborative effort among the librarian staff.

Photo from MC Library

The junction of Boyle and Middle Country Roads in Selden was the setting for this early 1940s winter view of the homestead of Wendell Shipman Still (1896-1954) and his wife, Pauline Dare Still (1895-1950). They were married on March 29, 1920 and raised two daughters, Maybelle and Lucille in this home.

Wendell served in the U.S. Navy during World War I, and after receiving an honorable discharge in 1919, he returned to Long Island and purchased a truck farm in Selden. Still grew vegetables and raised poultry as a source of income.

By the 1940s, his poultry plant had the capacity to raise 250,000 chickens per year. He was a successful businessman, establishing Wendell Still Enterprises. Later, Still became a wholesale gasoline distributor and retailer of fuel oil and kerosene, as well as marketing various products, including different types of feed and commercial fertilizer.

Wendell was a very civic-minded citizen and a member of the American legion, the Selden Volunteer Fire Department, and the Port Jefferson Yacht Club. He also served as chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Selden Public School District. 

Photo from MC Library

Pauline (Dare) Still was a lifelong resident of Selden. She attended public school in there and continued her education at the Patchogue High School. Pauline graduated from Cortland State Teachers College in 1916 and taught in both the Selden and Centereach schools for a period of 12 years. In this charming 1896 photograph, baby Pauline sits with her parents, Samuel and Henrietta (Wicks) Dare. 

Pauline was very active in church, civic and local affairs, serving in the Ladies Auxiliary of the Selden American Legion, the Ladies’ Aid Society of the Coram Trinity, National Society of Daughters of the Union 1861-1865, Order of the Eastern Star and the Coram and Selden Community Clubs. 

She also was one of the founders of the Farmingville Reunion Association and was instrumental in obtaining the Bald Hill School House when it was to be removed in 1929. The Greek Revival Style School House had served the community continuously from 1850 until 1929. Today, the Farmingville Historical society runs educational, recreational and virtual events in the School House and on the property. 

Samuel Dare, Age 16. This image was donated to the library’s collection by Samuel Dare’s great grandson and area resident, Larry Grignon.

Pauline’s father, Samuel Dare (1847-1913) was a Civil War veteran who enlisted in the Union army in 1863 at the age of 16. Samuel was part of the 165th Regiment, 2d Duryea Zouaves, (an elite fighting force) which was a division of the NY Volunteer Infantry. In this portrait, Samuel is dressed a Zouave uniform which included woolen trousers, shirt, waistband, jacket, and traditional tasseled hat.

Samuel was a lifelong member of Selden, active in community affairs, and member of a fraternal organization called the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). This group was comprised of members of the Union Army, Navy and Marines who fought in the U. S. Civil War. He was a prominent member of the Selden community for many years, serving as a member of the Brookhaven Board of Trustees, serving as its president from 1894-1897.

Photo from Rage Room

By Chris Cumella

The area could soon have its own rage room — a creation designed for destruction. The local concept was conceived in 2019 by Michael Hellmann, who hopes to start up Rage Room Long Island.

A vacant storefront on Middle Country Road could be on its way to becoming the latest attraction that Selden has to offer its residents and visitors alike. The last hurdle for Hellmann and his crew is obtaining a permit from the Town of Brookhaven. Doing so will solidify their place in the Selden Plaza and create a therapeutic stress release for all who enter.

“We started this project two years ago,” said Hellmann, a Holbrook resident. “It is definitely an intense workout if you want it to be  — you can break a picture of your ex, you can make it whatever you want.”

Derived from Japan, the first rage room opened in 2008, known as The Venting Place. It was created in the wake of the nation’s Great Recession, putting stressed-out workers, students and people from all walks of life in an environment where destruction was therapeutic. Since then, over 60 venues are operating in the U.S. and rising, according to Hellmann.

He said that his premises would include two sizable rooms accompanied by a third, larger room designed for parties and other big groups. Once a waiver is signed, a mechanical arm will hand you a weapon of your choice to arm yourself with —including crowbars, sledgehammers, golf clubs and even pipe wrenches.

“Michael is very creative and is looking at the latest and most innovative methods,” said Michaela Pawluk, social media manager of Rage Room LI. “When you go to other rage rooms, you are just destroying things, but the way that he created it and designed it — it is an entire experience.”

Participants are equipped with thick coveralls and a face shield for bodily protection from the bits of cutlery, furniture and technology scattered throughout a room during their allotted time ranging from 15-30 minutes. For the larger room intended for parties, audiences will have access to larger objects to unload. These include an industrial humidifier and a 4-foot Xerox machine right out of an attorney’s office.

Recycling is the name of Rage Room LI’s game, and Hellmann and his team play strategically when scouting the town’s curbs for discarded objects large enough for further destruction. Once a customer is finished with their session, the leftover scraps are recycled once again in an environmentally conscious effort to avoid sending them to a landfill.

“We are literally getting things off the street,” Hellmann said. “We have a Rage Room LI van, and we drive around the neighborhoods to collect junk off the curb. We love finding things that are technologically based.”

A rage room is designed to be used in any way that customers see fit — from an outlet to unleash anger to a venue for birthday parties. Rage Room LI is attempting to break the stigma around the danger of rage rooms. One of their most significant priorities has been to facilitate a safe environment where people can let endorphins flourish and have fun.

To get up and running at the request of over 900 eager participants via email, Hellmann is seeking a permit from the town to register his business. All town board members have expressed interest in introducing Long Island’s first rage room, except for one hesitant councilmember concerned of misuse or bringing in troubling individuals.

Rage Room LI has seen support from a petition on Change.org to open shop that has garnered 586 signatures as at May 12 out of a goal of 1,000. Aside from the signatures, the purpose of creating the petition was to show local and neighboring residents that it is a worthwhile cause. It is a continuous effort which Pawluk encourages anyone who is interested to add their name to the petition to emphasize community solidarity.

Envisioning opening day leaves Hellmann and his crew optimistic that their business will make a tremendous splash in Selden. Rage Room LI is shaping up to succeed from the positive community feedback, project plans and potentially a permit at its side.

“At some point, people break things whether they want to or not,” Hellmann said. “We are just expressing positivity, that is mainly the goal.”

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Amongst the Middle Country Public Library’s many historical artifacts are a few that explain just how far the area has come from its pastoral roots. The picture and story below comes courtesy of a collaborative effort among the librarian staff.

Over the years, a variety of land developers purchased acreage in the Centereach area even as far back as 1896, despite its distance from New York City. 

It took until the 1940s and 1950s for construction to begin in earnest. 

Shortly after WWII, the Ulrich family developed Cedarwood Park on the north side of Middle Country Road in the vicinity of Elliot Avenue, Lake Grove. Roads were put in and building lots surveyed and improved. The lots sold for $250 each with a down payment of just $10.

The rural landscape of Centereach began to change dramatically in the middle of the 20th century when the Kaplan firm began to build low-priced homes in a development named Dawn Estates. Homes in this development sold for $7,000. 

While the Kaplan brothers were among the first developers, the Krinsky Organization followed them with an even larger project. Fifteen hundred homes were to be built on a 400-acre site, but there were concerns about this project from the start. 

Doubters cited its remote location and the difficulty of obtaining necessary public utilities in what was considered an isolated area. These worries were soon overcome when the Krinsky Organization created its own water company with the capacity to serve 10,000 families. 

In addition, the Long Island Lighting Company agreed to extend its gas lines more than six miles beyond the existing distribution limit, bringing in electricity to serve the new homes.

On Sept. 6, 1953, the front page of the New York Times real estate section featured a picture of the new Eastwood Village exhibit home with its raised-hearth fireplace and its combination living-dining-kitchen area. 

While the first year’s sales were slow, within five years 1,250 homes had been sold. The prices for these homes ranged from $9,990 to $13,500. 

In 1954, Eastwood Village became a multiple builder venture as other builders erected models on already improved building sites. By 1958, 2,500 homes had been sold in the development. Due to expanding job opportunities and the availability of larger houses on bigger sites, increasing numbers of people flocked to the area. 

A study by Klein and Parker Realty in 1954 indicated that 60% of those looking at Eastwood Village came from Queens and Nassau, 20% from Manhattan and the remainder from other boroughs and New Jersey. 

It has been said that so many people came to Centereach from New York City that it became known as “a portion of Brooklyn in Suffolk County.”

In 1957, the American Institute of Architects selected Hausman & Rosenberg’s  Eastwood Village model as a winner in the annual “Homes for Better Living” competition. Cited for its architecture and original design, the home won the award in the A.I.A’s Class A category for merchant-built homes under $15,000.

With the influx of new residents came the need for more services. The first supermarkets in the area were Acme Supermarket, Hills, A&P and the Blue Jay Market. Benkert’s of Centereach and Smiles 5&10 became favorite haunts. 

In 1963, the Prudential Movie Theatre made its debut and the following year, Suffolk Federal Savings moved into its new headquarters on the south side of Middle Country Road. As a variety of stores, shopping centers and businesses appeared, the remaining farms began to fade from the landscape. 

The 400 acres of land described as “a wilderness covered with heavy timber” purchased in 1790 by Isaac Hammond of Coram for 100 pounds sterling ($250) has evolved into the largest Hamlet in the Town of Brookhaven (Three Village Herald, July 15-22, 1977).

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Photo from Middle Country Public Library

Amongst the Middle Country Public Library’s many historical artifacts are a few that explain just how far the area has come from its pastoral roots. The picture and story below comes courtesy of a collaborative effort among the librarian staff.

Selden schoolchildren sang “America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the ceremony on Nov. 9, 1935, when the cornerstone was laid for the soon-to-be-built new Selden School. 

Photo from Middle Country Library

Sealed within the cornerstone was a copper box containing three local newspapers of the day (the Patchogue Advance, the Argus and the Mid-Island Mail), the year’s school census, a copy of the day’s program, a 1935-minted dime and penny, and an 1885 almanac. 

The new Selden Elementary school was completed in 1936 and replaced the one-room schoolhouse which had served the community from 1898 on. The updated structure contained three classrooms, a principal’s office, a well house, indoor washrooms and an oil-burning heating system. 

Further renovations to the building were undertaken in 1948, which ultimately accommodated almost 50 years of students within its walls. 

The U.S. Army surplus cannon depicted here was purchased after WWII with nickels and dimes saved by the schoolchildren of Selden. 

You’ll see it in front of the building if you drive by 575 Middle Country Road, where Middle Country Public Library Selden stands today.  

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Photo from the Middle Country Library

Amongst the Middle Country Public Library’s many historical artifacts are a few that explain just how far the area has come from its pastoral routes. The pictures and story below comes courtesy of a collaborative effort among the librarian staff.

For over 40 years, Aggie’s Bar and Grill (also known as Aggie’s Steakhouse), located on Middle Country Road in Selden, was the “local watering hole” for area residents. 

Aggie’s opened its doors in 1927 and was owned and operated by Agnes O’Hagan, who moved to the United States at age three from Calabria, Italy. Events at Aggie’s and their contributions to community life were a mainstay in Selden during these years. Celebrations like wedding showers, birthday parties, costume balls, amateur nights, card nights and St. Patrick’s Day parties were held there. The staff even formed a shuffleboard team, which participated in local competitions with neighboring teams in the area.  

Saturday nights would find considerable crowds enjoying 45 cent spaghetti and meat sauce, square dancing and other specialty dances with music provided by Aggie’s Brown Jug Mountaineers. An advertisement for a Gala New Year’s Eve Party was placed in the Patchogue Advance of Dec. 25, 1936 to publicize the event, which featured noisemakers, hats and souvenirs, music and entertainment, and a seven-course turkey dinner. Tickets cost $1.00 for this specially licensed nightlong event, which concluded at 8 a.m.  

In the summer of 1939, Aggie’s showed appreciation to their summer patrons by announcing “a surprise” for them on a Saturday night from 10 p.m. until midnight. 

The festivities included dancing to the music of Leonardi and his Club orchestra, and listening to the pride of Harlem, “Singing Sam” and Aggie’s customary entertainer, Eddy Kane. Earlier that summer, Aggie’s advertised their official Ham and Cabbage Summer Opening for the night of July 22 in the July 19, 1939 edition of The Mid-Island Mail. Performers included Don Ritchie and his Rhythm Masters as well as Eddy Kane and Virginia Servidio. 

These are just a few examples of the central role that Aggie’s Steakhouse played in Selden’s social world, bonding its residents in family, friendship and community for more than four decades. 

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File photo

Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating a five-vehicle crash that killed a man in Centereach Jan. 30.

Ant’Wan Pevy was driving a 2011 Kia sedan northbound on Nicolls Road when he suffered a medical event that caused him to lose control of the vehicle at approximately 5:30 p.m. The Kia struck a 2016 Nissan SUV being operated by Zachary Morrison that was westbound at the traffic light at the intersection of Middle Country Road and Nicolls Road. Pevy’s vehicle also struck a 2000 Jeep, a 2015 Audi, and a 2018 Mercedes, all at the intersection.

Morrison, 29, of Holbrook, was pronounced dead on the scene by a physician assistant from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner. Pevy was taken to Stony Brook University Hospital for evaluation. Pevy, 25, of Ronkonkoma, was charged with Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle and will be arraigned at a later date. There were no other injuries reported from the scene.

All five vehicles involved in the crash were impounded for safety checks. Anyone with information on the crash is asked to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.