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Police are looking for the person (s) who spray painted cars in the Town of Smithtown. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department
Police are looking for the person (s) who spray painted a fence in the Town of Smithtown. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County Police 4th Precinct Crime Section officers are seeking the public’s assistance in identifying and locating person(s) who spray painted resident’s property in Smithtown and Nesconset.

A person or persons spray painted vehicles, fences, mailboxes and other assorted property with blue and green spray paint in the vicinity of Howell Drive in Smithtown and in the vicinity of Southern Boulevard in Nesconset sometime between June 8 and June 9.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 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.

File photo

Suffolk County Police said they are investigating a motor vehicle crash that seriously injured a person in Miller Place Sunday, July 6.

Police said Sonia Trigueros was driving a 2011 Toyota SUV eastbound on Route 25A when she made a left turn onto Hunter Avenue and the vehicle was struck in the rear by a 2011 Suzuki motorcycle driven by Brandon Rothgeb, who was traveling westbound on Route 25A at around 2:10 p.m. Trigueros, 48, of Lindenhurst, was not injured.

Rothgeb, 23, of Nesconset, was transported via police helicopter to Stony Brook University Medical Center with serious physical injuries.

Both vehicles were impounded for a safety check.

Right, Laura Burns of Nesconset just recently graduated from St. Joseph’s College, though she finds her job prospects diminished due to the pandemic; left, Matthew Hoth of Miller Place said he was unable to do his internship at a mental health care facility due to COVID-19. right photo by Claudia Reed; left photo from Hoth

Recent college graduates on Long Island are faced with uncertainty as they begin to pursue their respective careers. Their 2020 graduating class will encounter a number of challenges as they enter one of the most daunting job markets, not seen since the Great Recession of 2008. 

Not only did the COVID-19 crisis truncate their last semesters of college, it stripped them of graduation ceremonies. It put jobs, internships and other opportunities on standby. Some local graduates are being forced to adapt and stay sharp while they wait for the job market to rebound. 

Nesconset resident Laura Burns, who recently graduated from St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue with a political science degree, said when the pandemic hit it felt like “everything was spiraling out of control.” 

“A lot of my classmates, myself included, lost a lot of local opportunities because of COVID-19.”

— Matthew Hoth

“I remember taking my last midterm and then they canceled all classes before spring break. We didn’t even get a last goodbye,” she said. “It felt like we were forgotten.”

Burns was disappointed that she could have a proper graduation ceremony, saying it would have been a special moment for her and her family, as her mother also graduated from the college.  

The St. Joseph’s grad had to rethink her initial future plans. 

“Before COVID hit I was thinking about maybe pursuing a graduate school or law school — that’s what I felt was the practical thing to do,” she said. “Even if I wanted to try to get a job in political science it would be pretty difficult right now.”

Burns said some of her friends have gotten part-time jobs working at grocery stores for the time being. 

Potential short-term options such as working at a restaurant or other retailers are unavailable, as Suffolk County is only in Phase One of the reopening process. Most retailers will be able to reopen more during Phase Two. Restaurants will have to wait even longer. 

Burns said she will most likely plan on taking classes at Suffolk Community College and could continue to pursue acting, something she has done since she was younger. 

This past February, the job market looked promising with employers adding 273,000 new positions, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor. 

Just last week, more than 2 million U.S. workers filed for unemployment benefits, according to a U.S. Department of Labor weekly report. It brought the total number of jobs lost to over 40 million. 

Matthew Hoth of Miller Place, who graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh with a master’s degree in data analytics, is trying to stay optimistic and positive about his future job prospects. 

“A lot of my classmates, myself included, lost a lot of local opportunities because of COVID-19,” he said. 

Hoth had an internship lined up with a local health and mental health care facility, but that all changed when the coronavirus hit.  

“I had talks with them for a while, I was really looking forward to interning there,” the recent graduate said. 

In addition, his last semester was going to be used to network and make connections in his field. He and his peers missed out on attending workshops that could have brought him face to face with potential employers. 

“I had some leads on some jobs locally, but then everything kind of stopped dead in its tracks,” Hoth said. “Right now, I’m trying to get more program certifications to add to my resume and updating my LinkedIn [account].”

To fill the void of the internship and in an effort to add some work experience to his resume, Hoth is considering freelancing, special projects and working remotely.  

“With companies cutting and laying off people it is discouraging to see,” he said. “But I’m optimistic that the economy and job market will eventually bounce back,” he said. 

Victoria Arcuri

Victoria Arcuri of Holbrook, a recent graduate of Fashion Institute of Technology, was looking forward to starting a full-time position at a creative agency in New York City she had interned at during her last semester of school. Due to the effects of the pandemic, the agency had to put her postgraduation hiring on hold but extended her internship. 

“My boss was like, ‘right now we are not in the position to hire you, but there is still a possibility for a full-time position,’” she said. “Without COVID, I’d have a full-time job right now.”

“I remember taking my last midterm and then they canceled all classes before spring break. We didn’t even get a last goodbye.”

— Laura Burns

Due to social distancing restrictions, Arcuri, who studied graphic design, and her fellow classmates also missed out on other potential professional opportunities. Their senior exhibition, an event where students get the chance to present their portfolio in front of professors and professionals in the industry, was instead held online this year. 

“At first I was disappointed, but I realized there were worse things going on than not having the show,” Arcuri said. 

After commuting to school for the majority of her college career, the FIT grad had hopes of moving to Brooklyn once she started her full-time job. Those plans have now been stalled as well. 

The Holbrook resident said if she can’t secure a full-time position with the agency, she’ll look for other options in the short term.  Freelancing and contract work could be a possibility, given a potential business climate where there is more work done remotely. 

At her internship, presentations and meetings with clients are done through Zoom and they can send most of the things they’re working on via email. 

“In graphic design we do most of our work on a computer or on our laptops, so it wouldn’t be too bad if I worked from home,” Arcuri said. “Though if I had a choice I’d prefer to be in a studio.”

She reiterated that many college grads are a bit scared about their own futures.  

“Some companies and businesses might not come back the same, a lot of them have taken a big hit and that will affect us,” Arcuri said.

File photo
Paige Relyea was reported missing Monday, Jan. 20. Photo from SCPD

Police have reported that Paige Relyea, who had been reported missing Jan. 20 after she was last seen leaving her home in a 2009 gray Toyota Corolla was found dead in Syosset Jan. 23.

Nassau county Police Department detectives are currently investigating.

*Original story*

Suffolk County Police reported a Nesconset woman has been reported missing.

Paige Relyea, 19, was reported missing by a family member Jan. 20 at approximately 12:45 p.m. Relyea lived at 3 Premier Court, and was last seen leaving her home Jan. 19 at around 12:30 p.m. in a 2009 gray Toyota Corolla with New York plate HSA 5877.

Relyea is white, 5 feet 3 inches tall and approximately 160 pounds. She has brown hair, brown eyes, wears glasses and has multiple ear piercings. She was last seen wearing jeans, a green sweater and brown boots.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on Relyea’s location to call 911 or the 4th Squad at 631-854-8452.

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A  Nesconset school that provides  educational opportunities for deaf children is pleading for the public’s help in funding a new playground for its students.

The yard outside Cleary School for the Deaf in Nesconset lies barren, as old split railroad ties square off desolate sections of rock devoid of any slides or swings. Jacqueline Simms, the school’s executive director, said the school was forced to remove its 30-year-old wooden playgrounds in May after an engineer determined they were “inappropriate” and did not meet New York State Department of Education’s safety requirements.

Since then, parents of its deaf students have launched a GoFundMe campaign seeking to raise $100,000 toward a playground.

These are school-aged children with disabilities who don’t have a playground.”

— Nicole Abbene

“These are school-aged children with disabilities who don’t have a playground,” Nicole Abbene, of Smithtown, said. “They already feel different in regard to their disability, so for them to have a playground would allow them to have the same opportunity as every other child.”

Abbene said her son, Liam, has attended Cleary since he was 3 months old in their Parent Infant Program, designed for children with profound hearing loss from birth through age 3, with their families. Now, at age 4, he’s in a full-day preschool program for children ages 3 to 7 that has approximately 50 enrolled students from 36 school districts across Suffolk County.

“We have a growing enrollment — a huge growing enrollment — that we are meeting with our [state] legislators to see if we can do something about,” Simms said.

The executive director said the state’s funding for the school has not increased proportionally to the influx of students, leaving it tight on funds for capital improvements and the latest technology needed to assist its hearing-impaired children. Simms said she has applied to several grant programs but has yet to be awarded any money.

I took them outside, and we started to play hide-and-seek. There was no place to hide.”

— Katie Kerzner

“We’ve been trying to do everything to accommodate our population and help with the struggle of not having a playground,” she said.

The school’s staff has set up a small portable jungle gym, a few sand tables and set out tricycles and foot-powered minicars for the children to play on the blacktop. It has created a small play loft in its library, but Principal Katie Kerzner said these don’t fully fill the gap with the opportunities the children would have with an outdoor playground.

“I took them outside, and we started to play hide-and-seek,” she said. “There was no place to hide.”

Kerzner said teaching her preschool children games has been difficult without a playground. In addition, the principal said students’ interaction on playground equipment can provide vital life lessons.

“For children with hearing loss, they need opportunities to practice having those language experiences,” she said. “For our kids it’s all about language. They need more typical, realistic situations to practice their skills.”

We are all aching to have something for the spring.”

— Katie Kerzner

The GoFundMe campaign launched by Abbene has raised more than $6,000, as of press time, for an age-appropriate playground for children ages 3 to 7. Cleary’s executive director said the school once had three playgrounds divided by age group: birth to age 3, ages 3 to 7, and a third for older school-aged children in its full-time summer programs. The school has received an estimate of $150,000 to replace one playground, according to Simms, and would require significantly more funds to purchase new age-appropriate, handicapped-accessible equipment for all its students.

“We are all aching to have something for the spring,” the principal said. “Our goal is when the kids open that door, after the snow melts, there’s something out there that will facilitate their play.”

In recent weeks, the GoFundMe campaign has captured the attention of some local businesses, who have stepped forward offering aid, and community residents. Simms said one generous individual stepped into the school to donate $150 in person, not sure how to give via the website. While she is “extremely grateful,” Cleary still needs to raise significant funds.

“The playground presents itself as a must,” Kerzner said. “It’s not something on a wish list. It’s a have-to-have.”

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Contractors volunteer time, supplies needed renovate Nesconset Plaza shopping center storefront

Veteran Henry Stolberg, far left, greet others inside Paws of War’s new Nesconset location. Photo by Kyle Barr

Nesconset nonprofit Paws of War is busy wagging their tails, happy to have a brand-new dog house.

With the aid of local contractors, the nonprofit organization, which supplies and helps train service dogs for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental illness, has now moved to a new location that features more space for dog training and new room for grooming.

Robert Misseri, president of Paws of War, said when they opened the old space a year ago it quickly became apparent the size of the location was simply not enough to cover how many retired service members were coming to them for help.

“There was an explosion of needs — with constant referrals by [Veterans Affairs], and we realized we needed to expand and expand quick,” Misseri said.

There was an explosion of needs — with constant referrals by [Veterans Affairs], and we realized we needed to expand and expand quick.”

— Robert Misseri

Paws of War is now at a location just a few stores down in the Nesconset Plaza shopping center from their previous storefront, but the space is double that of what they previously had. It includes twice the floor space for dog training as well as a backroom area that Misseri said is planned to be used for dog grooming and care.

Henry Stolberg, a marine veteran and volunteer for Paws of War, said that since getting his dog, a black Labrador named Rocky, life has become so much easier to bear. Rocky was trained in a partnership with Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank that allowed a veteran inmate named Jermaine to help train the dog for Stolberg.

“Now he goes everywhere with me,” Stolberg said. “Rocky can break me out of nightmares at night, if I have anxiety attacks, he will put his pressure on me, and when I get angry, he will pick up on it and he’ll alert me that I have to calm down.”

When Paws of War originally announced their intent to move into a new space, Misseri worried about finding a way to furnish and remodel what had once been a Dollar Store, where the carpet and walls were worn down with misuse and age. Luckily Ed Rollins, the owner of NDA Kitchens, a local Nesconset contractor, along with a number of subcontractors, all stepped up to help supply all the labor and materials completely free for the nonprofit.

“They showed me the space and it was disgusting … [Misseri] was telling me what they need, walking around in circles, and I turned to him and said ‘Rob, I got this,’” Rollins said. “Everybody, all the subcontractors, said the same thing I did: ‘dogs and veterans? I’m in.’”

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Browns Road homeowner Linda Costa speaks out at the Sept. 20 Smithtown Town Board meeting. Photo by Kyle Barr

Nesconset residents fear construction of a proposed Dunkin’ Donuts on Route 347 could disrupt their neighborhood.

A small group of Nesconset residents spoke out against developer Browns & 347, LLC who has requested a change of zone to the 2.5-acre property on the corner of Route 347 and Browns Road from R-15 Residential Single Family to Whole Sale Service Industry at a Smithtown Town board meeting Sept. 20.

The developer has proposed plans to construct a 12,450-square-foot, two-story office building and a Dunkin’ Donuts on the wooded lot, according to attorney Vincent Trimarco Sr.

The official notice posted regarding the rezoning on the corner of Route 347 and Browns Road in Nesconset. Photo by Kyle Barr

Nesconset residents are decrying the plans saying it will negatively affect property values and increase traffic near Sprofera Park. For Browns Road resident Linda Costa, whose home is adjacent to the proposed project, the developer’s plans are particularly alarming.

The plans for the proposed project will create additional parking spaces on two sides of
her property.

“Now your adding more parking behind my house — I have parking next to my house and across the street from my house,” Costa said. “I feel like I’m living in a parking lot.”

Costa and other residents fear a zone change would hurt their ability to sell their homes in the future, especially if they wished to break away from this new commercial development.

“I would probably try to sell my home before the development goes through, but I would have to be completely honest with that person beforehand that the zoning changed,” Costa said. “It would be much harder to sell.”

The proposed development was previously denied by the town’s planning board in May 2017, due to traffic complaints caused by an entranceway off Browns Road, according to Trimarco. The new site plan would limit access to two driveways on Route 347, and include a 30-foot barrier of greenery along Browns Road to disguise the property from the residential street.

In addition, the applicants have agreed to provide 22 parking spaces along the eastern end of the property to the town for municipal purposes and access to Sprofera Park.

Maureen O’Connor, who lives across from the proposed project, said she feared traffic would increase if cars wanted to come down Browns Road to get to the new Dunkin’ Donuts. The problem is exacerbated with kids crossing the street to get to Sprofera Park and a school bus stop that is situated along Browns Road.

Attorney Vincent Trimarco explains the developers plans for a Dunkin Donuts and office building in Nesconset. Photo by Kyle Barr

“The traffic pattern already around this busy intersection would not only increase, but would increase the disruption in the flow of traffic as cars attempt to enter or exit onto this business on [Route] 347,” O’Connor said.

When residents questioned why developers wouldn’t create more single-family homes on the site, Trimarco said having more homes connected to Browns Road would result in more traffic. He also said that since the development will be shielded from view by that greenery it shouldn’t affect property values.

“We would have to have access through Browns Road, and you would have the same problem the neighbors are concerned about,” Trimarco said.

Nesconset resident Salvatore Vitale, a homeowner on Michael Place overlooking the park, said he fears a new parking lot and a Dunkin’ Donuts could lead to more loitering and vagrancy.

“Every few nights there’s a police car parked [in the Sprofera Park parking lot] to make sure there’s no transients or loitering,” Vitale said. “Now you put a building there, and those parking areas will need three police cars every night.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) did not give a date as to when the town will make a decision.

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The names of 163 first responders were added to the long list of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, losing their lives in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Saturday in Nesconset.

The Nesconset 9/11 Responders Remembered Park hosted its 14th annual ceremony Sept. 15 where a bell tolled for each name added to the memorial wall. Crystal Gajewski-Borella, the vice president of the 9/11 Responders Remembered Park Foundation that maintains the site, said it’s painful to see the number of names increasing every year.

“We added 163 names this year – this is the most amount of names we’ve added since we started,” Gajewski-Borella said.

“We added 163 names this year – this is the most amount of names we’ve added since we started.”

— Crystal Borella

Families members from across the U.S. came to the small corner park in the Town of Smithtown hamlet to honor those listed on the ever-growing wall first unveiled in 2011. Many used thin sheets of receipt paper to trace the names of their loved ones. Patrick Franklin flew in from California to honor his father, Detective Sean Franklin of the New York City Police Department, who died from 9/11-related respiratory issues in 2017.

“It’s a really beautiful memorial, and I’m happy they put in everyone who died from sickness after,” Franklin said.

The 11 members of the Pilcher family came from as far away as Utah to honor Robin Pilcher, Captain of Utah Task Force One who died of pancreatic cancer in 2017.

“Being here today is exciting because we get to remember our dad,” Pilcher’s daughter, Brandie Paterakis, said. “If he could have died in any way, this is the way he would have wanted to go, in honor and as a hero, sacrificing his life for others.”

Many 9/11 first responders and volunteers who helped dig through the rubble looking for survivors and clearing the area now suffer from a number of diseases tied to their service from respiratory infections to cancers.

“9/11 was the longest day in the history of days, but it’s not over – people are still dying.”

— John Feal

The September 11th Victims Compensation Fund was created following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to provide compensation for any individual who was injured or the family of those killed as result of the attack. It was renewed by President Barack Obama (D) in 2011 and again in 2015, extending benefits through 2020. Many 9/11 responder advocates fear the fund will not be renewed in 2020.

Nesconset resident John Feal, president of the FealGood Foundation that advocates for health care benefits for first responders, said the impetus is on elected officials to see these people receive the proper support. Feal regularly travels up to Washington D.C. to advocate for 9/11 responder’s health care.

“9/11 was the longest day in the history of days, but it’s not over – people are still dying,” Feal said. “We have to keep fighting so we don’t have to keep adding names to this wall.”

The park foundation is looking for donations to help maintain and add to the park grounds. For more information on how to donate or volunteer, visit www.respondersremembered.com.

Town of Smithtown residents now have a place where they can sit down to remember the life of 6-year-old Paige Keely along with other children who have died too soon.

Three Nesconset residents Danielle Hoering, Bridget Scher and Sasha Worontzoff, members of Tackan Elementary School’s Parent-Teacher Association, spearheaded the creation of a memorial to Paige Keely installed at Nesconset gazebo Aug. 2.

Paige Keeley. Photo from St. James Funeral Home

The 6-year-old Paige was first-grader at St. James Elementary who died suddenly of a rare, undetected brain condition called arteriovenous malformation Jan. 8. It’s an abnormal development of blood vessels that connect arteries and veins, which occurs in less than 1 percent of the population, according to the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center based in Minnesota.

“I know what it’s like to lose someone,” Worontzoff said. “People end up forgetting after a while or move onto the next big thing and we didn’t want people to.”

The St. James community initially showed its support for Keely’s parents, Tom and Gina, along with her two siblings by tying pink ribbons – Paige’s favorite color – around trees, stop signs and telephone poles in the community. Now, there is a permanent pink ribbon at the Nesconset gazebo.

In memory of Paige and all children who have died, a cherry blossom tree donated by Borella Nursery Wholesale Growers in Nesconset was planted near the gazebo as it will blossom with pink flowers each year. The tree was surrounded by a garden with a stone plaque, and a white bench inscribed a pink ribbon dedicating it “In Memory of Paige Keely.”  The Town of  Smithtown Parks, Building & Grounds Department helped install the memorial.

“We wanted to do it in a public area so that all families could come and enjoy it, not just at a school,” Scher said. “We just wanted a spot where people can sit and reflect or pay respect to Paige and the family.”

The gazebo was selected as the memorial site because several public events like the Nesconset Concert series are hosted at the park, attracting families and community members. Local businesses and those in the community donated money to help fund the project.

“People end up forgetting after a while or move onto the next big thing and we didn’t want people to.”

– Sasha Worontzoff

“We wanted each person and each establishment to have a sense of contribution to this permanent fixture in our community,” Worontzoff said. “We really just wanted Nesconset people to help and be a part of it.”

Worontzoff and Hoering had to get permission from Smithtown’s elected officials in order to build the memorial on town-owned land.

“We were so grateful and appreciative that the parks and rec and Town Hall were so quick and knew our story ahead of time,” Worontzoff said. “It was wonderful.”

She hopes local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops will maintain the memorial and keep it in good condition throughout the years.

This is the second memorial to be constructed in Paige’s memory. Earlier this summer, St. James Elementary School dedicated a butterfly garden on its grounds at the Keely family’s request.

A rendering of the approved plan for a Tesla showroom on Route 347 in Nesconset. Image from Smithtown Planning Department

The Tesla Inc. showroom on Route 347 in Nesconset will offer students a chance to delve into the nuts and bolts of how the luxury electric cars work.

The planned $700,000 renovation to the former Sixth Avenue Electronics shopping center at the corner of Route 347 and Hillside Avenue for a new Tesla dealership will initially work as a showroom, a service center as well as an educational and experimental center in an ongoing partnership with Farmingdale State College, according to Mohamad Zoghi, the acting chair of the automotive technology department at Farmingdale State College.

“We are working with Tesla recruiters,” Zoghi said. “They recruit based on the demand of technicians at their locations. So, once there is availability at Nesconset location, [we will have interns there.]’’

“We are working with Tesla recruiters… They recruit based on the demand of technicians at their locations.”

–Mohamad Zoghi

The showroom would be the eighth Tesla-owned facility to open in New York. Normally, New York State law requires all car manufacturers to sell their vehicles through franchises. However, Tesla struck a deal with the state to permit it to operate up to five of its own dealerships.

There is pending legislation in both the state Senate and Assembly that would allow Tesla to open an additional 15 dealerships within the state as long as five of the new locations are in upstate New York. Both bills are currently stuck in committee.

In the meantime, Tesla will use this space for its continued educational partnership with Farmingdale students that was first announced in August 2017. Based on the needs set by Tesla, students in the two-year and four-year automotive management programs can potentially obtain an internship working on Tesla’s electric vehicles and other products.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said the renovations will give life to a long blighted area off of Route 347.

“They were given permission to go inside and clean up that building, and now that they have their site plan they can go in and start the interior renovation and the exterior facade renovation,” Wehrheim said. “It’s cleaning up a real blighted section of that area.”

It’s cleaning up a real blighted section of that area.”

– Ed Wehrheim

The plans call for a more than 40,500-square-foot showroom with an attached service center in the renovated footprint of the old electronics store. The exterior lot would be relined to provide parking space for more than 300 cars in Tesla’s inventory as well as spots for potential customer use.

The company behind the Tesla property development 1000 Nesconset LLC had its site plan finally approved at the July 17 Smithtown town board meeting. The company filed for a change of zone application for the property to transition from commercial business and neighborhood business to wholesale industrial in order to accommodate the outdoor storage a car dealership needs. Attorney Vincent Trimarco Sr., who is representing the development company, said that zoning on the property has already been changed and construction is close to beginning.

“It’s imminent now that they’re going to start,” Trimarco said.

Other Tesla-owned locations on Long Island include a display gallery inside Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station and a dealership in East Hampton.