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Mount Sinai

A sharing table at Heritage Park. Photo by Julianne Mosher

By Julianne Mosher and Rita J. Egan

Give a little, take a little — sharing is caring. 

A new phenomenon that has made its way across Long Island — and now the country — is a discreet way to help those in need. 

The Sharing Tables concept, of New York and California, was started up in November by a Seaford mom and her young daughter. 

“I woke up on Sunday, Nov. 22, and me and my 6-year-old daughter didn’t have anything to do that day,” Mary Kate Tischler, founder of the group, said. “We went through our cabinets, got some stuff from the grocery store and started publicizing the table on Facebook.”

The Sharing Table is a simple concept, according to her: “Take what you need and leave what you can, if you can.”

Tischler, who grew up in Stony Brook, said the idea is that whoever sets up a table in front of their home or business will put items out that people might need, with the community coming together to replenish it.

“The very first day people were taking things and dropping things off,” she said. “It was working just as it was supposed to.”

When the table is set up, organizers put out anything and everything a person might need. Some put out nonperishable foods, some put toiletries. Others put toys and books, with some tables having unworn clothing and shoes. No one mans the table. It’s just out front, where someone can discreetly visit and grab what they need.

“Since there’s no one that stands behind the table, people can come up anonymously and take the item without identifying themselves or asking any questions,” Tischler said. ”Some of our neighbors are in a tough time where they can’t pay their bills. I think the Sharing Tables are really helping fill those needs.”

And they’re popping up everywhere. In just three months, the group has nearly 30 Sharing Tables in New York, with one just launched in Santa Monica, California.

Mount Sinai

From clothing to toys, to food and books, Sharing Tables, like the one pictured here in Mount Sinai, are a way to help in a discreet and anonymous way. Photo by Julianne Mosher

On Sunday, Jan. 18, a Sharing Table was put outside the Heritage Trust building at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai.

Victoria Hazan, president of the trust, said she saw the Sharing Tables on social media and knew that the local community needed one, too.

“It was nothing but good, positive vibes,” she said.

When she set up the table with dozens of different items that were donated, people already started pulling up to either grab something they needed or donate to the cause.

“Some people are shy,” Hazan said. “What’s great is that you set up the table and walk away. There’s no judgement and no questions asked.”

What’s available at the tables will vary by community and what donations come in.

“The response from the community blew my mind totally,” Hazan said. “This was the right time to do this.”

St. James

Joanne Evangelist, of St. James, was the first person in Suffolk County to set up a Sharing Table, and soon after, other residents in the county followed.

The wife and mother of two said it was the end of the Christmas season when she was cleaning out drawers and her pantry. On the Facebook page Smithtown Freecycle, she posted that she had stuff to give away if anyone wanted it, but she would find sometimes people wouldn’t show up after she put something aside for them.

“So, I put it on a table outside — not even knowing about the group or thinking anything of it,” she said, adding she would post what was outside on the freecycle page.

Joanne Evangelist stands by her table in St. James filled with food, cleaning supplies and more. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Tischler saw the Smithtown Freecycle post and reached out to Evangelist to see if she would be interested in setting up a Sharing Table. The St. James woman thought it was a good idea when she heard it. While Evangelist regularly has food, toiletries, cleaning products and baby products on the table, from time to time there will be clothing, toys and other random items. Recently, she held a coat drive and the outwear was donated to Lighthouse Mission in Bellport, which helps those with food insecurities and the homeless.

She said she keeps the table outside on her front lawn all day long, even at night, unless it’s going to rain, or the temperatures dip too low. People can pick up items at any time, and she said no one is questioned.

Evangelist said she also keeps a box out for donations so she can organize them on the table later on in the day, and the response from local residents wanting to drop off items has been touching.

She said helping out others is something she always liked to do. 

“I was a candy striper in the hospital when I was younger,” she said. “I just always loved volunteering, and I’m a stay-at-home mom, so, honestly anything I could do … especially with the pandemic.”

Evangelist said she understands what people go through during tough financial times.

“I’ve used a pantry before, so I know the feeling,” she said. “I know the embarrassment of it.”

Northport

Lisa Conway, of Northport, and two of her five children, Aidan, 16, and Kate, 14, set up a Sharing Table after their garage was burglarized on New Year’s Eve.

Conway said her children, who attend St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, were looking for a community outreach project. She had seen a post about the Sharing Tables on Facebook and was considering starting one, but she was debating how involved it would be.

Then the Conway’s garage was burglarized where thousands of dollars of tools were stolen, an electric skateboard, dirt bike and more including a generator that was taken from the basement. The wife and mother said the family felt fortunate that the robbers didn’t enter the main part of the house.

Conway said after the experience she realized that some people need to steal to get what they need and decided the Sharing Table would be a good idea.

“They can come take what they need without having to steal from anyone,” she said.

Her children have been helping to organize the items they receive, and every day Aidan will set everything up before school and clean up at night. He said it’s no big deal as it takes just a few minutes each day.

Aidan said there have been more givers than takers.

“People are a lot more generous than what I expected them to be,” he said.

The mother and son said they have been touched by the generosity of their fellow residents. Conway said she’s been using the Nextdoor app mostly to generate contributions. She said she started posting on the app to let people know what they needed for the table. One day after a posting indicating they needed cleaning supplies for the table, they woke up to find the items outside.

The family has also received a $200 Amazon gift card to buy items, and another person bought them a canopy to protect the table. 

Conway said every once in a while, she will be outside when people are picking up items. One woman told her how she drove from Nassau County. Her husband was suffering from three different types of cancer, and he couldn’t work due to his compromised immune system. She told her how they had to pay the bills first, and then if there was money left over they could buy food.

Another day Conway went outside to see that someone had left gum and mints on the table.

“I just was so touched by that,” the mother said. “They wanted to leave something they didn’t just want to take, and that’s all they had.”

Conway said it’s a learning experience for her children to know that there are people on public assistance who can’t use the funds for items such as paper goods or cleaning items, and there are others who are struggling but not eligible for any kind of assistance.

“My youngest one is 9, and even he can’t believe when he sees people pulling up,” she said. “He’s not really in the helping phase but I love that he’s seeing what we’re doing.”

Aidan agreed that it is an important learning experience. He said before he wasn’t familiar with those who had financial issues.

“It’s not good to know that there are people out there with financial issues, but it’s good to know that you can help them,” he said.

Conway said the Sharing Tables came around at the right time as she was suffering from “COVID fatigue,” and it changed her outlook on life.

“I feel like my faith in humanity has been restored,” she said.

How you can help

Tischler said that if people would like to donate but cannot get to a Sharing Table, there is an Amazon wish list on the group’s Facebook page. Items ordered through the site will be delivered to Tischler’s home, where she will personally deliver to the Sharing Tables across Long Island. Addresses for locations are listed on the Facebook page.

“It’s been such a whirlwind,” she added. “I have to stop and pinch myself and take stock of what’s happening.”

Long Island Coastal Steward President Denis Mellett shows growing shellfish at Brookhaven’s mariculture facility. File photo by Kyle Barr

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) announced Dec. 21 that the town was awarded a 2020 Long Island Sound Futures Fund matching grant to fund the town’s Coastal Environment and Community Resilience Education Program. The Town will match the $8,799 grant with $4,450, making the total conservation impact $13,249. The grant combines funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

“The Long Island Sound is vital to the ecology and economy of Brookhaven town and it is our goal to preserve it for future generations,” Romaine said in a release. “Thanks to the Long Island Sound Futures Fund grant, we will continue to increase public awareness and encourage participation in our environmental protection efforts in the town.”    

Brookhaven’s year-long Coastal Environment and Community Resilience Education Program will run from Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 31, 2021. The goal is to foster conservation by bringing people to the Long Island Sound or by bringing the Long Island Sound to the people. The town’s environmental educator will conduct presentations paired with hands-on activities tailored for each audience at public libraries throughout the Town of Brookhaven. Presentations and tours will include detailed descriptions of the intricate balance of the coastal ecosystems, the wonderful flora and fauna on the shore, dunes and salt marsh, and the positive and negative impacts of human activity in these places. 

The program will also include informative, guided tours of Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai, including the town’s Marine Environmental Stewardship Center and shellfish and eel grass restoration projects. There will also be nature tours for people of all ages and hands-on conservation programs with the Junior Environmental Stewards at Mount Sinai Harbor and West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook. The series will create more sustainable and resilient communities by increasing knowledge and engagement of the public in the protection and restoration of the coastal environments of Long Island Sound. 

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The bronze eagle statue atop the plinth in Washington Memorial Park was stolen last month. Photo from SCPD

Police are currently looking for the person or people involved in allegedly stealing a statue from the Washington Memorial Park, a cemetery in Mount Sinai.

The bronze eagle statue atop the plinth in Washington Memorial Park was stolen last month. Photo from SCPD

Police said the 4-foot tall bronze eagle statue near the entrance to the park, located at 855 Canal Road, was stolen from atop its plinth Nov. 13 sometime between 5 and 7 p.m. The granite base for the statue was apparently damaged during the theft.

A representative from Washington Memorial Park said the eagle represents the parks emblem, and they were “very upset and surprised” to have seen it stolen. The park is located in a relatively quiet residential area, and has not seen any such acts in recent memory. The park rep said they found pieces of the statue on the ground, leading them to believe it must have fell as it was being taken.

The park has been around since 1926, and the front area where the statue was located was developed in the 1940s.

The park representative stressed that their biggest concern is for families and their loved ones’ graves. There is security at night and gate access to the park is shut after hours. The rep stressed has been no tampering of graves at the park.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS (8477), utilizing a mobile app which can be downloaded through the App Store or Google Play by searching P3 Tips, or online at www.P3Tips.com. All calls, text messages and emails are kept confidential.

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Broadway in Rocky Point is just one small main street on Long Island hoping for customers this holiday season. Photo by Kyle Barr

It was a fall shopping season like no other.

One doesn’t have to think too far back to remember the crowds you could practically surf off of during the annual season of Black Friday sales. Not so much this year, as more people stayed home to avoid potentially catching or spreading COVID-19. 

Online sales, however, have jumped tremendously. Amazon’s Prime Day started early in October, and Forbes has reported that original projections for the weekend before Cyber Monday indicated increases of online purchases compared to 2019 from 36 to 50%. Amazon has already said this year’s holiday shopping season has been the biggest in its history, contending that medium to small businesses that sell on Amazon have seen record numbers.

Meanwhile, as much as small brick-and-mortar businesses have been impacted by the ongoing pandemic, we will still have to wait and see how well they did on Small Business Saturday, a shopping holiday promoted by American Express.

Experts, from as close as the Small Business Development Center at Stony Brook University have expressed fear for these small shops, with expectations that close to half of businesses like restaurants could be closed by 2021. 

Alignable, a Boston-based online business referral network, reported Dec. 1 based on a poll of 9,204 small business owners that 48% fear they will not earn enough revenue this month to keep their businesses afloat. 

Main streets all over Long Island have experienced their share of woe, and while some retail owners say times remain tough, others expressed their thanks to customers who went out of their way to patronize their local mom-and-pop.

Feasts for Beasts owner Alan Ghidaleson. Photo by Kyle Barr

Feasts For Beasts

45 Route 25A, Mount Sinai

The pet store and groomer in the small outlet along Route 25A in Mount Sinai normally does not do too much for the Black Friday weekend and doesn’t have many extra sales on top of what they already do. Owner Alan Ghidaleson said things on Small Business Saturday were a bit slow.

“For brick-and-mortars, this is a tough time,” Ghidaleson said. As for the pandemic: “We’re surviving it. I’m not saying it’s easy, but we get by.”

The owner said sales start to lag after Thanksgiving, as they have for the past five years or so. However, he said his business will survive the year, and hopes for better next year.  

Tricia and Stan Niegocki of Niegocki Farms. Photo by Kyle Barr

Niegocki Farms

604 Mount Sinai-Coram Road, Mount Sinai

As the last farm in Mount Sinai, the family owned Niegocki located at the southern corner of Heritage Park has a lot riding on its shoulders as the last holdout of the area’s agricultural charm. 

It’s why co-owner Tricia Niegocki said they have been able to survive the past few months, because of the customers and locals who know and support them. For Thanksgiving, the farm sold turkeys and eggs, though on the whole more people were looking for smaller birds. The farm opened up for tree sales after Thanksgiving, and since then sales have been good.

“We have a lot of locals that love to shop local and support local,” Niegocki said. “Since we’re the last farm here in Mount Sinai, we’ve actually been blessed to have a good past couple of days.” 

She said that because Christmas trees do not have a very large margin, they did not do any sales for Small Business Saturday. Still, things on the farm do not change very much, and while other businesses were forced to close early in the pandemic, Niegocki was considered essential. She said they will be able to maintain over the winter, adding they plan to use their space to host other small shops as a pop-up mall of sorts. They have already hosted two such events over the past year.

“Most of our customers are friends, people who have become friends over the years,” the farmer said. “We are very blessed we have animals that provide us meat and eggs, so that demand will always be there.”

Cat Rosenboom, owner of Rose & Boom in Mount Sinai. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Rose & Boom Boutique

176 N. Country Road #3, Mount Sinai

Cat Rosenboom, owner of Rose & Boom in Mount Sinai and St. James, said that supporting local business is more important than ever.

“I always say to shop small,” she said. “But it’s even more true this year.”

Rosenboom, who has owned the Mount Sinai location for four years this month, opened her second store in St. James nearly six months before the stay-at-home shutdown.

“We had just opened up and then had to close the door once we started to get our name out there,” she said. 

But despite the coronavirus crisis, she said people were shopping and supporting her stores throughout the whole pandemic, by purchasing things online through her social media accounts and delivering them personally to customers close by.

“You get a personal experience here that you won’t get at a big box store,” she said. “We take pride in getting to know our customers and their families.”

She also will host local retailer pop-ups to support fellow small business owners.

“We like to help local retailers and get the word out about their business,” she said. 

Leading up to Black Friday, the shops did daily surprise sales every day in hopes to bring people in – and it worked. “We allowed 10 people in the stores at a time, and they were busy the entire day,” she said. 

— Julianne Mosher

Merrily Couture in Mount Sinai. Photo from Google Maps

Merrily Couture

340 Route 25A, Mount Sinai

Manager of the Mount Sinai formal wear shop, Krystle Weber Hughes, said times have been tough since the start of the pandemic, as so much of their business depends on formal occasions. Their stellar event, school prom, was largely canceled by every school district in the local area. They were closed during the pandemic’s height, and all their shipments were delayed. To this day they are receiving items they ordered all the way back in January.

The store doesn’t have too many discounts around the time of Black Friday, but Weber Hughes said COVID has meant they have had to clean dressing rooms every time one is used, and they have to manage their space to make sure people are socially distanced.

She said they have received some returning customers, while others are somewhat hesitant to buy anything too early before an event that may well be canceled.

“Everything really got turned upside down because of COVID,” she said. “I think people are so afraid of events being cancelled, they’re waiting until the last minute to purchase a dress.”

Weber Hughes said they are waiting for January to see how things are, as that is when their prom season starts. Once that comes around, she said they will likely know how good the year will be.

Marion Bernholz, center, the owner of The Gift Corner. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Gift Corner

157 N. Country Road, Mount Sinai

Marion Bernholz, owner of The Gift Corner in Mount Sinai, has seen the impact a loyal customer base can have on a small shop for getting through a tough time.

TBR News Media has talked to Bernholz every Small Business Saturday for the past three years, and each time she has said it’s the customers who look at her as a friend and neighbor who help her survive in a time of booming online retail.

“We have been doing OK,” Bernholz said. “People have come up to me in Stop & Shop and asked if I worked at the store. They asked me, ‘Are you doing OK?’” 

But it seems word of mouth has worked for her. She said they have been receiving a host of new customers, adding that she estimates they had been ringing up 20 new customers a day from people coming to the North Shore during the summer and fall, many of whom were not able to take their usual vacations.

Tristan Whitworth, the owner of Game On in Miller Place and Smithtown

Game On

465 Route 25A, Miller Place

Tristan Whitworth, the owner of Game On, a used and refurbished video game and console retailer with locations in Miller Place and Smithtown, said he has been doing 200% to 300% better than last year, both in terms of sales and customers, which is something that to him was concerning considering just how hard it has been for so many other businesses out there. 

When businesses were forced to close, Whitworth and his business partner each came to the separate stores on the North Shore and sold some of their product online, which kept things moving.

“We’re very blessed,” he said. “We were profitable during that phase, too, while other stores couldn’t. For example, you couldn’t do anything for a nail salon. … It’s a weird feeling to have so many places struggle and then us flourish. We didn’t do anything different, we just got lucky.” 

Whitworth hosted two $1,500 giveaways to two local businesses this year. 

While Whitworth did a host of sales during last year’s Small Business Saturday, this year he tried to make it more subdued to make sure there weren’t too many people crowded close together in his store. Still, there was a steady stream of people coming into the store all day Saturday.

“We’re lucky, we sell things people really, really want right now during a pandemic when they stay home, so we really didn’t push it this year,” he said. “I didn’t want people thinking they need to come support us, because there are a lot of stores that are really actually struggling.”

Jim Donnelly, the owner of Grand Slam Tennis in Miller Place. and Commack. Photo by Kyle Barr

Grand Slam Tennis

816 Route 25A, Miller Place

Jim Donnelly, the owner of Grand Slam Tennis in Miller Place, with his main store in Commack, said his prospects for year to year are much different as a specialty shop. Small Business Saturday normally has no effect on him.

“People that enjoy specialty stores, and have all the information, they constantly come to us, we don’t have to advertise or anything,” Donnelly said. “They’re our advertisement.”

The biggest problem for him and his shop was when different municipalities closed tennis courts all over Long Island, despite the argument that tennis is one of the safer sports one could play during a pandemic, as by necessity players are well distanced. The tennis store owner said he and other tennis advocates got together to put a paper on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) desk arguing for tennis to be permitted, and was shortly thereafter allowed along with sports like golf. 

“We had a good summer — I hate to brag — I’m just glad I was in the right business for a pandemic, because I would hate to be the rest of these guys,” he said.

Jim and Sue Fiora, along with Misty the dog. Photo by Kyle Barr

Miller Place Bait and Tackle

834 Route 25A, Miller Place

The fishing business had some interesting ups and downs this year, according to Miller Place Bait and Tackle owners Jim and Sue Flora. Their store had to close along with many others for several months, but once they opened they found many people who had never tried fishing before were buying rods and bait. It was one of the few activities still available to people during the height of COVID.

“It’s been a good season for us because everybody went fishing,” Sue Flora said. “So many people come in saying, ‘I want to learn to fish.’ It was very good for us. They supported us through it.”

She said customers were coming into the shop on Saturday to buy products or even gift cards, specifically to support them. 

“We have a nice bunch of loyal customers — we’re really fortunate,” she said.

Jim Flora said they were doing slightly better than last year, and should be in a relatively safe place going into next year.

Flowers on Broadway owner Stephanie Navas. Photo by Kyle Barr

Flowers on Broadway

43 Broadway, Rocky Point

April was supposed to be Rocky Point flower shop Flowers on Broadway’s 20-year anniversary celebration. Owner Stephanie Navas said they are still somewhat struggling as so many weddings are still on hold while big events, which usually means big sales for florists, are much more subdued.

They have had more to do with funeral work but, despite the morbid implication, even those sales are down compared to previous years, as more funerals have become much smaller events.

“Walk-in traffic isn’t anything like it used to be,” Navas said. “We are doing more home deliveries then we did in the past, but it doesn’t quite balance out.”

While she expected to see some more traffic for Thanksgiving, especially considering more people weren’t traveling, they didn’t see too big a jump in sales. Black Friday, on the other hand, is the “absolute worst” day to be open. This year she said they made little to nothing on the biggest shopping holiday of the year. Saturday did get slightly better, and now Flowers on Broadway is trying to start its big Christmas push. 

Still, she said she’s not ready to throw in
the towel. 

“My hope is just to do as well as last year,” she said. “I’m not hoping for an increase, I’m just looking to maintain at this point.”

From left, Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner, Suffolk Legislator Sarah Anker and Town Supervisor Ed Romaine join together Nov. 23 announcing the purchase of property for open space in Mount Sinai. Photo by Kyle Barr

Town of Brookhaven and Suffolk County officials are combining efforts and funds to protect 15 acres of wooded property in Mount Sinai. The land combines with previous purchases to save a total of nearly 60 acres of land from any potential development now or in the future.

The $1,653,300, 15 acres purchase, which was formerly owned by the Little Portion Friary in Mount Sinai, is in addition to 44.3 acres that had been acquired by both parties in 2014. The purchase was made based on a county bill passed in 2017.

“My hope is that purchasing this parcel will help protect the environmental integrity of the area and provide our community residents with another county park to visit and enjoy the natural beauty of Long Island,” Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said at a Nov. 23 press conference announcing the purchase. “We’re happy to see government at different levels working together — this is how you get things done.”

The county is picking up 75%, or $1,239,975 of the cost, while the town is covering 25%, or $413,325 of the total. The money used to purchase the land was taken from accounts meant to preserve open space. Officials said the property was at risk of being bought and developed on.

Anker added that with the current pandemic, the county has seen a rise in the number of people visiting parks and adding more land will only increase residents’ options. 

The now fully acquired 59.3 wooded acre lies over a groundwater aquifer and is within the watershed of the Long Island Sound national estuary, serving as a source of freshwater for the estuary system. 

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said he was also happy to partner with Suffolk in such land preservation deals, as with the combined funds they have “the financial resources to ensure this happens.” The deal also means nobody can come in to develop on the property.

“We want Brookhaven town to look like Brookhaven town, and not like Queens,” he said. “The way we do that is by saving our groundwater, preserving our open spaces and having habitats for animals — along with all the things that are important to protecting our shoreline.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) said the land holds a unique significance to her family. Her husband, John Sandusky, grew up in Mount Sinai and traveled those woods as a young man.

“We’ve seen a whole lot of development,” Bonner said. “Some of it good — most of it bad … the last thing Long Island needs is another housing development and more traffic.”

The Little Portion Friary, bordering the new land purchase, was bought by Hope House Ministries back in 2015 and is now being used to help people fight addiction.

Both county and town reps touted open space purchased using joint ventures between the two municipalities, including Cordwood Landing County Park in Miller Place and Heritage Park in Mount Sinai. The county has recently purchased other parkland in the local area, including Pine Lake in Middle Island and Chandler Estate in Mount Sinai.

The next step, Anker said, is to clean up some of the trails in the newly purchased parkland. 

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File photo

Suffolk County Police said a pedestrian in Coram was injured by a Mount Sinai man’s vehicle early Wednesday morning and is now in critical condition.

Police said Grace Schmidt, 53, of Coram, stepped into the southbound lane of Route 112, near Barone Drive, from the median and was struck by a 2018 Isuzu box truck at 4:55 a.m.

Schmidt was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where she was admitted in critical condition.

The driver of the truck, John Paola, 21, of Mount Sinai, and his passenger were not injured.

The investigation is continuing. Anyone with information is asked to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

Photo by Fred Drewes

FALL COLORS

Fred Drewes snapped this beautiful fall scene in his hometown of Mount Sinai on Nov. 10. He writes, ‘Mt. Sinai Coram Road was a painters palette of fall colors and a joy to see. Driving down Shore Road, Mt. Sinai Coram Road and  Old Post Road from ‘up street’ have always created a sense of peace as I’ve drive to Mt. Sinai Harbor. This is particularly true at this time of the year. I automatically slow down and soak in the colors and tones of the road side.’

Send your Photo of the Week to [email protected]

Volunteers from the Coastal Steward Long Island group getting ready at Cedar Beach to set sail and plant oysters in Port Jefferson Harbor. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Not only are they delicious, but they’re good for the environment, too. 

On Sunday Oct. 18, several volunteers from Coastal Steward Long Island who work at the Mount Sinai Marine Environmental Stewardship Center planted 400,000 oysters in and around the harbor.

Oysters are one of the best natural ways filter local waters. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“Fifteen years ago, there were no oysters in Port Jefferson Harbor,” said Bruce Folz, CSLI director of shellfish restoration. “When my kids were little, we were walking down the beach and they were picking up oyster shells, but there were no live ones. … We want to change that.”

According to Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Long Island used to be a saturated with shellfish. 

“There was a time 50 years ago when you could just walk down the beach and grab oysters or clams,” he said. 

But because of poachers and pollution, clams and oysters that once covered the sands have become difficult to find.

Every year, in a collaborative effort with local groups and the town, shellfish are grown in netted cages with the expectation to plant them back in the local waters, north to south, including Mount Sinai Harbor and Bellport Bay. Back in August, the town announced the supply of 50,000 seed clams for planting in the South Shore. Earlier this year, the town finished several upgrades to the Mount Sinai mariculture facility, thanks to a $400,000 state grant.

“We make sure the seeds are distributed to other groups to plant and spread them out,” Romaine said. 

CSLI originally got started restoring the shellfish population back in 2000, and now it has a steady group of volunteers who come to the mariculture facility in Mount Sinai Harbor every two weeks, May through October, to maintain both the facilities and the seed beds. As they have done every year, volunteers come down to the harbor early in the morning to head out by boat and drop the oysters into the water with hopes they survive and thrive. 

“We put them in cages and bags, or as I like to call them ‘condos,’ then every couple of weeks we check up on them,” Folz said. “They have an 80-to-90% survival rate in the cages, but only 10 or 15 while in nature.” 

By planting the shellfish, they won’t only be harvested for commercial use, but will help clean up the water as a natural ocean vacuum. The shellfish program is becoming ever more important for water quality, as locations as close as Stony Brook Harbor have experienced hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen in water, just this year, according to the annual Long Island Water Quality Impairments report. Shellfish such as oysters and clams are great for filtering out organic particulates.

The Town of Brookhaven has seeded over 1 million oysters since it started its program. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“Adult oysters can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day,” Folz said. “We’ve talked to a couple of baymen and I’ve gotten the feeling it’s become a viable product — it’s increasing the oyster count.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R) said that organizations like the Coastal Steward have played an important role in bringing shellfish back to local waters. 

“The Town of Brookhaven has beautiful and bountiful waterways that are so much a part our economy, community and the environment,” she said. “We must do everything we can to take good care of these natural assets, so generations to come will benefit by our actions to preserve and protect them.”

Since the planting program began, well more than one million shellfish have been planted in Port Jefferson and Mount Sinai harbors, helping the ecosystem and cleaning things up.

“We’re not giving up, we believe in our environment and that’s crucial,” Romaine said

File photo.

Suffolk County Police said a woman was arrested Saturday Aug. 29 for allegedly driving while intoxicated when she struck a pedestrian in Mount Sinai.

Jennifer Hohn, 50 of St. James, was driving a 2018 Toyota northbound in front of 745 Mount Sinai Coram Road, when she allegedly crashed the vehicle into a parked 2010 GMC pickup truck occupied by a man and woman, which then struck a man on a bicycle who was leaning against the truck from the right shoulder of the road at 2:27 a.m. Hohn then crashed the Toyota into a sign, a mailbox and a fence.

The pedestrian, Jason Sciortino, 40, of Port Jefferson Station, was transported by Port Jefferson EMS to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

Following an investigation by 6th Squad detectives, officers charged Hohn with driving while intoxicated. She was arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip Aug. 29. She is next set to appear in first district court Sept. 2.

Detectives are asking anyone who witnessed the incident to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

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Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D). File photo

A Mount Sinai man was officially sentenced in Suffolk County Supreme Court Wednesday, Aug. 26 for an alleged scheme to defraud people about a fake recycling plant in upstate New York.

Between August 2010 and November 2017, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office said Joseph Prosa, 53, of Mount Sinai, operated a money-making scheme where he claimed to victims that he was seeking investments to build a recycling facility in Poughkeepsie, telling them he owned land for the facility, that he had a permit and that he was a recycling and plant construction expert for a process called “gasification,” or the process of burning garbage for use in things like boilers furnaces and gas engines. Prosecutors said none of this was true. 

Through the scheme, Prosa stole around $3.6 million from a blind Poughkeepsie man in his 80s. The man has since passed away. He also allegedly stole around $250,000 from a second victim who resides in Suffolk County. Both victims were previous acquaintances of Prosa’s, the DA’s office said.

“This was a grossly deceitful scheme in which the defendant stole millions of dollars from his victims, including a senior citizen who was robbed of his life savings,” District Attorney Tim Sini (D) said. “He operated this scheme out of pure greed and callousness.”

The DA said the investigation revealed Prosa used the stolen money on personal expenses, including using more than $1.2 million in casinos and racehorse gambling. An additional amount was used to purchase a racehorse. The defendant also used the stolen funds to repay large amounts of debt incurred by gambling and to pull his house out of foreclosure.

Prosa was indicted in December 2018 and he pled guilty May 18, 2019.

Prosa was sentenced by Acting Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho for first degree grand larceny and first degree scheme to defraud. The sentence incurs 2 ½ years to 7 ½ years for the grand larceny and 1 to 3 years for the scheme to defraud. The sentences will run concurrently.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Thalia Stavrides, currently of the Conviction Integrity Bureau.