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Middle Country Road

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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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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.

Teenagers across the North Shore have been seen playing chicken with motorists by cycling into oncoming traffic, popping wheelies in the middle of the road and more. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County lawmakers are looking to tackle bicyclists who have been intimidating drivers across Long Island. 

There have been several different reports of reckless bicyclists putting themselves and others in danger on the road, which included a group of teenagers who harassed a Terryville gym over the summer. 

County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said she had a “terrifying” experience first-hand a few years ago. While traveling down Route 25A at night, a person wearing all black began popping wheelies toward her car in the middle of the street.

“I wasn’t going fast,” she said. “I chose to stop in the middle of the roadway. It was really scary, and whoever it was, was recklessly trying to frighten me.”

Back in September, county Legislator Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic) introduced a “reckless biking” bill, which he advanced from Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) who passed away from cancer that same month.

After talking with other towns and villages in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, Sunderman said that although he represents the South Shore, the issue is widespread across the Island. 

“Other areas that we spoke to [with a bill in place] have already seen a decline in reckless biking,” he said. 

If Sunderman’s bill passes, it would prohibit cyclists from trick riding or weaving through traffic. Violators could also see their bikes impounded, receive $250 fines, or spend 15 days in jail. 

And on the North Shore, Hahn said she had been receiving complaints from other people from the area regarding similar concerns of packs of children doing similar things on Route 112, Nesconset Highway and Middle Country Road. 

“It’s dangerous,” she said. “The police aren’t able to do very much. They need a tool to confiscate the bike to individuals who do this.”

But along with concerned residents reaching out, Hahn said she was hearing criticism over Sunderman’s bill from bicyclist groups who use their bikes recreationally. 

“The intent is very good, and it is needed to curb this kind of [bad] activity,” she said. “The groups absolutely agree with the fact that anyone who rides in a pack and pops wheelies in traffic, that should happen. But because they’re experienced bicyclists, they see the real danger every day.”

Hahn said she is in full support of Sunderman’s reckless biking bill, but there were a few small pieces to his legislation that she wanted to suggest improvements. Her bill was laid out on Nov. 4. 

“Suffolk County is notorious for not being safe for bicyclists,” she said. “The purpose of my law is just to make drivers aware — give the cyclists the room, close your door when someone is passing you, people are not looking out.”

Her bill, which will go to public hearing on Dec. 1, will help drivers of cars and bikes be more educated of the dangers they both could face if they choose to act irresponsibly. A decision, or amending, of Sunderman’s bill will be decided on Dec. 15. 

People rallied in Ridge June 25 to decry the state of Middle Country Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

New York State Route 25, known as Middle Country Road, which crosses through several hamlets in the center of Brookhaven Town, has long gone without fixes to its cracked pavement and massive potholes. Civics, town officials and some state officials said the New York State Department of Transportation has reneged on promises to finally repair the broken asphalt this year.

Gail Lynch-Bailey, the president of the Middle Island Civic Association, calls on New York DOT to pave Middle Country Road, though the DOT claims it never had such plans. Photo by Kyle Barr

“I have been at many meetings over the years to pave Middle Country Road, and last year they did promise us it would be done,” said town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point). “The issue has not been addressed for so long, this roadway now requires complete reconstruction. And you know why? Because cheap is expensive in the long run.” 

The road runs parallel to its sister highway Route 25A, which just recently received repaving in Rocky Point. Route 25, on the other hand, has received only minor patches in the past several years, officials said.

Town of Brookhaven officials said the state DOT had promised it would repave the section of road from Mount Sinai-Coram Road to Wading River Hollow Road in Calverton by July. However, officials said recent word from the state said it likely would not happen this year.

At a press conference held in Ridge June 25, state and town officials stood alongside local civic representatives and members of local fire departments calling for the road to be repaved.

Ridge Fire Department Chief Lou Keiser said the road’s uneven surface can make cars swerve and cause accidents. It also greatly impacts ambulance drivers who may be carrying injured people in the back of their vehicles.

“I have been here since 1991, and I haven’t seen it be repaved since then,” Keiser said. 

State Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), whose district partially covers a section of the state highway, said he was copied in on an email with state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) that the construction company wished to do the road in a different order, starting with a part of the road in Nassau. The DOT is repaving Route 25B in the Town of North Hempstead and Route 107 in Oyster Bay as part of the state’s repaving project.

“My office got a response from DOT that they’ve had more complaints over in that direction in Nassau,” he said. “The only reason the complaints stopped here, which were more voluminous than anything in Nassau, is because we were told the construction was coming.”

Ridge Fire Department Chief Lou Keiser said Route 25 has not been repaved as long as he’s been in the district, since 1991. Photo by Kyle Barr

The press conference also brought in a measure of politics, even more emphasized during an election year. No local Democratic elected officials were there at the press conference. Members of the Town Board and local state Assembly members criticized the governor for what they called a dismissive attitude to the plight of local infrastructure.

Palumbo also referenced several state officials in Nassau who are seeking reelection this year for why construction was starting on that side of the Island. Palumbo is the Republican candidate looking to take the state Senate District 1 seat once LaValle vacates it at the end of the year.

In a statement, LaValle said, “My office has worked closely with the civics and constituents for well over a year in an attempt to fix the safety issues along this stretch of Route 25. We were given a commitment by DOT that repair and paving would begin this summer and completed in the 2020 calendar year. It is unacceptable that the DOT would do an about-face and put this project off for a year, especially in light of the fact that emergency vehicles cannot safely travel this stretch of road and driver safety is a major concern.”

In response, Stephen Canzoneri, a DOT spokesperson, said the resurfacing project on Route 25 has always been the end of 2021, though there will be spot repairs on the highway for this year.

“The resurfacing of Route 25 was never anticipated to be completed this year,” he said. “In addition, the department plans to make temporary repairs to sections of Route 25 ahead of this winter.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) said residents have been contacting her office for years about the state of Middle Country Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

However, that directly contradicts comments sent to local officials last year. New York State DOT sent a letter April 8, 2019, to Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) which stated that the resurfacing project on Route 25 has been “accelerated to a bid opening in early 2020” with a going out to bid in March and a schedule to start construction in spring of 2020 for the described section of the highway. 

The letter was signed by DOT Regional Planning and Program Manager Glenn Murrell. Anker said in reaching out to DOT officials, there seems to have been a mix up on their end for why she and other officials were told it was in the pipe for 2020. She added this issue has been constantly on electives’ minds, with more than a few letters being sent to the DOT over the past several years. 

“I will continue to follow this intensely as this has been going on for a number of years,” she said. “Hopefully we can see the whole road done sometime soon.”

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Suffolk County detectives are investigating a crash that killed a motorcyclist in Centereach Oct. 1.

Steven Benjamin was operating a 2004 KTM motorcycle westbound on Middle Country Road when he collided with a 2010 Jeep Liberty that had been traveling eastbound on Middle Country Road and was making a left turn onto Eastwood Boulevard at approximately 8:05 p.m.

Benjamin, 26, of Selden, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The driver of the Jeep, a 17-year-old female from Selden, remained at the scene and was not injured.

The motorcycle and the Jeep were impounded for safety checks. Detectives are asking anyone with information about this incident to call the 6th squad at 631-854-8652.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police 7th Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that seriously injured a 4-year-old girl.

Heather Lee and her daughter, Willow Lee, were walking westbound and crossing a parking lot entrance on the north side of Route 25 when they were struck by a Suffolk County Transit bus at approximately 6:55 p.m. The bus had been traveling eastbound on Route 25 when the bus driver made a left into a parking lot, located at 1175 Middle Country Road in Middle Island, when the crash occurred.

Lee, 27, and Willow, 4, of Shoreham, were both transported by Middle Island Rescue to Stony Brook University Hospital. Willow suffered head trauma and is in serious condition. The girl’s mother suffered non-life-threatening injuries. The bus driver, Thomas Lowitt, 63, of Islip, was not injured.

Highway Patrol Motor Carrier Safety Section officers responded and conducted a safety check on the bus. The investigation is ongoing.

Ronald Kelly mugshot. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives arrested a man that was overpowered after pulling out a shotgun on store employees in Centereach Aug. 19.

Ronald Kelly entered Island Thrift, located at 1770 Middle Country Road, at approximately 8:25 p.m. He pointed a shotgun at the store manager and the five other employees of the store, and demanded money. The store manager, a woman, feared the situation was becoming dire, and grabbed the shotgun. Two of the employees joined the struggle, gained control of the shotgun and wrestled Kelly to the ground, holding him down until 6th Precinct police officers arrived.

The suspect suffered non-life-threatening injuries during the altercation and was transported by ambulance to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment. None of the employees were injured.

Kelly, 45, of Holtsville, was charged with first-degree robbery and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. He was scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip Aug. 20.

Paul Sommer mugshot. Photo from SCPD

A Mastic man in possession of drugs, who allegedly intentionally struck three police vehicles injuring a detective May 23, was arrested in Centereach.

Paul Sommer was sitting in his vehicle, parked in the Wendy’s parking lot at 2278 Middle Country Road in Centereach, when he was approached by 4th Precinct detectives and police officers who believed he was engaged in a drug transaction at approximately 2:30 p.m. Detectives identified themselves and Sommer attempted to flee, rammed a police vehicle and struck a detective. The detective, who was outside of his vehicle when he was struck, was transported to a local hospital where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

Sommer fled from the parking lot, and a short time later, he intentionally crashed into two police vehicles at the intersection of Hawkins Avenue and Nicholls Road in Centereach where he was taken into custody.

Fourth Squad detectives charged Sommer, 22, with third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, fourth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia, second-degree assault, three counts of third-degree criminal mischief, first-degree reckless endangerment, two counts of second-degree reckless endangerment and resisting arrest.

Sommer was held at the 4th Precinct and was scheduled to be arraigned at 1st District Court in Central Islip.

Elvin Guzman, 21, was arrested April 27 and charged with stabbing to death of Dennis Miranda Leon on April 15, outside El Rio Restaurant in Centereach, Suffolk County police said. Mugshot from SCPD

Suffolk County Police today arrested a Centereach man for stabbing a man to death outside a Centereach restaurant earlier this month.

During an altercation with another man in the rear of El Rio Restaurant, located at 2133 Middle Country Road, Dennis Miranda Leon was stabbed multiple times on April 15 at about 12:10 a.m.

Miranda Leon, 20, of Centereach, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where he died April 19.

Following an investigation, Elvin Guzman, 21, of Willow Street, was arrested on April 27 and charged with second-degree murder. Guzman is scheduled to be arraigned today at 1st District Court in Central Islip.

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Suffolk County Police Major Case detectives are investigating a robbery that occurred April 26 at a Centereach bank.

A man entered the Capital One Bank, located at 2100 Middle Country Road, at approximately 3:25 p.m., displayed a note and verbally demanded money. The teller complied with the suspect’s demands and gave him cash from the drawer. The suspect fled the bank on foot.

The suspect was described as a white male in his mid to late 20s, approximately 5 feet, 6 inches to 5 feet, 8 inches tall, with a very thin build and a buzz cut. He was wearing a black and grey hooded-sweatshirt, black baggy pants, a black baseball cap and wool fingerless gloves.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on this robbery to call the Major Case Unit at 631-852-6555 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.