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New York City

People from as far as Manhattan and as close as Centereach have been taking their vacations on Long Island, such as at the Fox & Owl Inn in Port Jefferson, instead of other states/countries where travel restrictions make it difficult. Photo from Rebecca Kassay

Residents of both Suffolk County and New York City have turned to local hotels and bed and breakfasts to enjoy time away from home amid limited travel options during the pandemic.

With out-of-state guests from numerous states limited in their travel to the area, corporate travel down considerably, and sports teams either shut down or playing without any fans, area hotels have still attracted guests from nearby towns and villages and from city residents disappointed with ongoing urban closures and eager to enjoy a natural setting.

People from as far as Manhattan and as close as Centereach have been taking their vacations on Long Island, such as at the Stony Brook Holiday Inn Express, instead of other states/countries where travel restrictions make it difficult. File photo

“It’s very different now,” said Jamie Ladone, sales executive at the Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook. “We’re not getting as many out-of-state guests,” but the hotel is finding people who are eager for a staycation.

Indeed, Emilie Zaniello and her family recently spent a weekend at the Holiday Inn, just 20 minutes from her home in Centereach

“We needed to get out of our element, to take a break from everyday life and the stresses right now,” said Zaniello, who stayed during a weekend with her husband John and their two children, 8-year-old Abigail, and 6-year-old John Robert.

The family felt “cooped up in the house” as their children didn’t have as much of an opportunity to do “normal, everyday things,” Zaniello said.

Abigail and John Robert enjoyed playing on the baseball field and the basketball court, while the family also booked time to go swimming.

“It just felt like a mini-vacation, where we didn’t have to go too far,” said Zaniello, who drove back and forth to her home to take care of the family’s two miniature dachshunds.

At the Holiday Inn, Suffolk residents have also enjoyed the indoor pool, outdoor patio, and volleyball and basketball courts, which families can use while maintaining social distancing, Ladone said. The hotel also has a putting green, horseshoes, and a baseball field and basketball court.

“We have people looking to spend quality time together like a family outdoors,” Ladone said.

The Holiday Inn has a meeting space upstairs with a seating capacity, under non-pandemic conditions, of 100. The hotel is hosting baby showers and corporate events outdoors on their patio.

The Holiday Inn has booked about 30 percent more outdoor parties than usual, Ladone said.

The Stony Brook hotel has also partnered with Spa Exotique, which offers massages or facials, and kayak packages with Stony Brook Harbor Kayak and Paddleboard.

Bed and Breakfast 

Bed and breakfasts in the area are also attracting attention from residents of Suffolk County and New York City.

At the Fox and Owl Inn in Port Jefferson, people are booking their rooms one to three weeks before they need them, reflecting the uncertainty about plans that might need to change amid fluid infection rates.

For the past two months, the Fox and Owl has been booking about 90 to 95 percent of their capacity, with a majority of the guests coming from New York City and Long Island rather than the usual far-flung locations across the country and world.

The bed and breakfast derived its name from “The Lord of the Rings” book series, which husband and wife owners Andrew Thomas and Rebecca Kassay enjoys. They each picked an animal that was native to the area and hoped to create a place that was akin to the respite the main characters felt when they visited an inn.

Kassay said the Inn has “kept up to date as far as the recommendations for cleaning and the response to the COVID-19.”

“It just felt like a mini-vacation, where we didn’t have to go too far.”

— Emilie Zaniello

The Fox and Owl is located in an 1850 Victorian home, which has large windows that Kassay keeps open as often as she can. Kassay and Thomas also use Lysol on surfaces regularly and ask their guests to wear masks in public.

While guests sit on sofas that are six feet apart, they have shared stories about their quarantine experiences and make predictions about what will happen next.

The Fox and Owl has three guest suites. Some family groups have booked the entire bed and breakfast, which is “really nice for families that are coming to visit other family members,” Kassay said. Groups of friends with similar quarantine habits who feel comfortable interacting with each other have also booked the entire Inn.

The Fox and Owl offers guests the use of a jacuzzi, which is complimentary with any booking. For an additional fee, the Inn provides S’Mores near the fire pit.

Kassay said she and Thomas appreciate that they can offer people an “escape and relief from the stress that everyone is handling.”

As the owner of a bed and breakfast, she said she has reflected on the challenge of remaining personable to guests even while wearing a mask. The daughter of a Sicilian mother, Kassay was raised to speak by using body language and by communicating with her hands as well as her words.

She noticed how guests have become “more expressive,” she said. “If you stop and look at people talking, there is more physicality to American’s interaction with one another.”

A resident of midtown, Mey, who preferred to use only her first name, said she and her boyfriend came to Port Jefferson to escape from the city and enjoy nature amid all the urban closures.

They planned to visit Port Jefferson for the day and wound up spending the night at the Fox and Owl Inn when they weren’t ready to drive back to Manhattan. Mey and her boyfriend enjoyed sitting on the porch, visiting a nearby park and eating ice cream.

“Port Jefferson has a lot of nature and the feeling of a vacation,” Mey said. The experience was “very chill.”

The Manhattanite enjoys attending Broadway shows when she is in the city, which are still closed.

The urban couple traveled to Long Island because they were “looking for something peaceful” and they “found it. Seeing green is better than seeing buildings.”

Elevating the Nature of Modern Landscapes
By Piet Oudolf and Rick Darke

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

“I feel very strongly in the sort of planning that I do, that you feel the changes all the time.  It is a changing beauty: from beauty into beauty.” Piet Oudolf

In the introduction of Gardens of the High Line, Richard Hammond, co-founder of Friends of the Highline, addresses the issues that confronted the creators of the gardens. Is the goal to preserve the natural wildness of the vegetation or to recreate entirely? The final decision was to find something in between, that both honors the desire to conserve but also understands the value of change. 

Matt Johnson’s Untitled (Swan) was crafted from one of the High Line’s original steel rails

What resulted was both native and introduced flora:  “[a] multi-season garden of perennials, where the skeletons of plants have as much a part in the landscape as new growth … the wilderness in the city, the art museum on a train track. Like the park itself, the gardens hover between beauty and decay.”  

The High Line gardens are a true reflection of New York City. It is a place of growth and loss, romance and introspection; elements that are fixed and others that are constantly transforming. And, amazingly, it is where these aspects can co-exist.

The book’s prose is as elegant and eloquent as its imagery. It gives multi-leveled insight to not only the creation of the space but the more esoteric motivations beneath. It takes the reader through the history of the High Line and its roots in industry. It discusses its changing identity and evolution and, finally, its reinvention. 

There is also a detailed exploration of wild gardens, citing historical sources, and how untamed growth often transforms ruins. It explains the art that inspires and the craft that designs — and, most importantly — the alchemy that joins the two. This is not your average gardening book.

“Though it’s unlikely there will ever be another place quite like the High Line, it offers a wealth of insights and approaches worthy of emulation in gardens large or small, public or private. Authentic in spirit and execution, the High Line’s gardens offer a journey that is intriguing, unpredictable, imperfect, and, above all, transformative.”

After the introductory analyses, the book begins at the southernmost end of the High Line, at the Gansevoort Woodland, the area that is Gansevoort Street through Little West 12th Street. The route continues north, each section highlighting a different area: Washington Grasslands, Hudson River Overlook, etc., going all the way up to the Rail Yards, ending at West 34th Street.  

Ultimately, the glory of this book is the hundreds of photos by Rick Darke to be seen and savored. The photography is vivid, an explosion of color and texture. The chapters offer dozens of photos that span a range of viewpoints, showing the change of seasons, both extreme and subtle. Each turn of the page reveals the gardens in some different perspective, no two alike, but allowing the viewer to see the similarities as well as the contrasts. The book shows both an unbridled and an organized environment through the prism of the world as nature’s art gallery.

A compass plant frames the view west across the Hudson River to New Jersey.

In the end, the authors see the book’s goal as one that will “serve as a beautiful memory of a great place, as guide to the infinite opportunities it presents to practice the art of observation and as an inspiration to all who, publicly or privately, seek to elevate the nature of modern landscapes.” They have succeeded in a work that honors artistry and insight with deep understanding, celebrated through hundreds of dazzling and breathtaking images.

Published by Timber Press, Gardens of the High Line: Elevating the Nature of Modern Landscapes is available online at www.timberpress.com, www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.

Brookhaven Town officials, with Supervisor Ed Romaine at the microphone, join local representatives from the state and nearby townships to protest the LIRR’s planned fare hike. Photo from TOB

Local and state officials, along with citizen advocates voiced a collective message to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York City during a press conference at Ronkonkoma train station on March 2: “Stop shortchanging Long Island.” 

The group called on the MTA to abandon its plan for a systemwide 4 percent fare increase in 2021 for Long Island Rail Road customers, including those in Nassau and Suffolk counties. The decision was a part of the NYC Outer Borough Rail Discount plan which offers an up to 20 percent discount for city riders. 

“Everything is being pushed out to Long Island in terms of expenses and it won’t be long until you’re expected to buy them a coffee and a bagel as well.”

— Ed Smyth

“Long Island is not the cash cow for New York City,” said Ed Romaine (R), Brookhaven Town supervisor. “This is unconscionable, this is a handout to the city at the expense of Long Island.”

Romaine said a typical Ronkonkoma LIRR commuter who purchases a monthly parking pass, monthly train ticket and unlimited ride Metrocard would have to pay $7,224 annually. 

“The MTA has not made the capital investments it should on Long island — what about our riders?” Romaine said. 

The supervisor added that Long Island has already been shortchanged regarding electrification, as there is no electrification east of Huntington and none past the Ronkonkoma station.

The discounts were mandated by the state Legislature as a condition of its approval of congestion pricing legislation, which would create new tolls for drivers in Manhattan to help fund the authority’s $51.5 billion capital program. The plan will go into effect in May of this year. 

Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) also took issue with the MTA’s decision. 

“We had the congestion pricing vote, which I voted against it,” he said. “This is completely counterintuitive to the folks using the trains. Congestion pricing was meant to get individuals to start using public transportation and not use their vehicles.”

He added that the MTA has billions of dollars of subsidies from the state and federal government. 

“This is a New York City problem — we should not bear the brunt of it,” he said. “Mayor [Bill] de Blasio [D] should pay for this — they are overwhelmingly serviced [by the MTA].”

The MTA board is made up of 21 stakeholders appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), including people recommended by unions and municipalities such as the city and surrounding counties. Kevin Law represents Suffolk County, and was nominated by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). The other Long Island representative, David Mack, represents Nassau.

Despite their differences, officials continued to agree with the planned change at a Feb. 26 board meeting, saying they expect the up to 20 percent discount to entice Queens and Brooklyn commuters to use the LIRR if they live far from a subway line.

MTA officials say this is a pilot program up to one year’s duration. 

However, on Long Island, other local officials voiced their displeasures. 

“This is unconscionable, this is a handout to the city at the expense of Long Island.”

— Ed Romaine

Ed Smyth (R), Huntington Town councilman, said commuters will essentially be paying for their ticket and for somebody in NYC. 

“Everything is being pushed out to Long Island in terms of expenses and it won’t be long until you’re expected to buy them a coffee and a bagel as well,” he said. 

Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), Brookhaven Town councilman, said the MTA plan would negatively affect the progress they’ve made to bring transit-oriented development to the area. 

“On a town level, this is something we’ve been working on for years,” he said. “The Tritec [Ronkonkoma Hub] development is an example of that. It will make it easier for Long islanders to get into the city. With these fee increases it will make it harder for them to afford to live here and ride here.”

Palumbo added he will be writing a letter to Cuomo in the coming days and will ask Long Island representatives from both political parties to sign it. The assemblyman is hopeful the plan can be changed before the NYS budget deadline next month. 

“Hopefully he can see it, and this can be fixed on April 1 — I’m just hoping that it doesn’t fall on deaf ears,” he said. 

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In the last few weeks we have been subjected to a constant bombardment of tragic news. The horrific mass killings in Las Vegas is just the latest. We have lived through reports of the sequential hurricanes that have killed, maimed and destroyed lives and property in Texas, Florida, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico. We have agonized for the men, women and children caught in the Mexican earthquakes. And this latest horror of crowd homicide is the worst because it is not a paroxysm of the natural world, something we have to accept, but the act of a crazed human against hundreds of other innocent humans. Imagine the concertgoers’ happy anticipation for an evening of music under the stars with lovers or family only to be killed by a sniper’s bullets. And why?

We ran away from news of the carnage the other night and took refuge in art. The glorious embrace of Giacomo Puccini and his soaring arias of “La Bohème,” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, welcomed us.

Puccini, you may well know, is considered one of the two most famous Italian opera composers of the 19th century, the other being Giuseppe Verdi. What I didn’t know is that he was the offspring of a musical dynasty in Lucca that included his father and the fathers preceding them as far back as his great-great-grandfather. All of these ancestors studied music at Bologna, wrote music for the church and, aided by their genes and family connections, were distinguished in their time.

Puccini’s first opera, “Le Villi,” premiering in 1884, when he was 26, was well enough received, and his subsequent “Manon Lescaut” was a triumph. His personal life, however, was as riveting as his librettos. He eloped with his married, former piano student at the risk of being shunned. They did eventually marry, after another husband killed her womanizing husband. By coincidence, Puccini’s opera premiered the same week as Verdi’s last opera, “Falstaff,” and talk began of Puccini being the natural heir to Verdi. At least that was what George Bernard Shaw is reported to have said.

Puccini’s next three operas are among the most popular and most often produced: “La Bohème,” “Tosca” and “Madama Butterfly.”

When “La Bohème” premiered in Turin in 1896, Arturo Toscanini conducted it, and it was immediately popular. The story is of four young artists, all starving and freezing as they work in a garret in Paris and experience the pleasures and pains of young love. The opera is at turns joyful with the energy of youth and tragic with the premature death from tuberculosis of Mimi, the seamstress, and Rodolfo’s love. As a young man in Milan, Puccini lived the life he wrote about, once sharing a single herring with three others, as portrayed in the opera.

Puccini almost died in a car accident before finishing “Madama Butterfly” but then went on to complete what is now one of the most loved operas in the world. “Tosca” followed; then “La Fanciulla del West,” a plot set in America; “La Rondine;” and a three-act opera, including “Gianni Schicchi,” which contains my favorite aria, “O mio babbino caro.” “Turandot” was his final opera, finished after his death by his associates from his sketches, and offering the memorable, “Nessun dorma.”

Publicity about his personal life continued when his wife accused their maid of having an affair with Puccini, who was known to wander off the reservation. The maid then committed suicide, and an autopsy revealed that she had died a virgin. Puccini’s wife was accused of slander, found guilty and sentenced to five months in jail; but a payment by Puccini spared her that experience.

Ultimately 11 of Puccini’s operas are among the 200 most performed operas in the world, and the abovementioned three are in the top 10. Only Verdi and Mozart have had more operas performed. By his death in 1924, Puccini had earned $4 million from his works.

I hope this excursion in art has helped you, as it did me, to escape at least briefly from the omnipresent bad news.

Owl Hill estate is located south of Sunken Meadow State Park in Fort Salonga. Photo from Douglas Elliman Real Estate

Standing for decades as the hamlet’s best-kept secret, an old, secluded manor nestled within a sprawling stretch of property in Fort Salonga has come out of hiding — with a price tag of $6.45 million.

The Owl Hill estate, located at 99 Sunken Meadow Road, spans 27.63 acres and is the largest parcel of 1-acre residential-zoned land in Suffolk County. It is up for sale for the first time in more than six decades. It’s now the most expensive property in Fort Salonga.

Owl Hill estate, a 6,500-square-foot home in Fort Salonga, was built at the turn of the 19th century and includes features such as a library. Photo from Douglas Elliman Real Estate

The 6,500-square-foot home, whose construction began in 1897 and doors opened in 1903, sits surrounded by a serene haven of wooded forest and towering oak trees. The house has been occupied, and maintained, by the same Manhattan-based family for more than half a century as a summer and weekend residence. Maya Ryan, the current owner, who was unable to be reached for comment, recently decided it was time to pass the property onto another family or developer — according to Owl Hill’s listing agent Kelley
Taylor, of Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

Taylor said she’s lived around the corner from the property for more than 20 years and never heard of it until recently.

“That’s where the ‘hidden’ comes from in hidden gem,” Taylor said, calling the Owl Hills house one of a kind. “It’s pretty remarkable — like nothing you’d expect to see in Suffolk County or on Long Island. It’s never been developed on.”

The palatial estate, which the listing agent compared to Theodore Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill home in Oyster Bay, is only 50 miles from New York City and contains more than 20 acres of completely untouched land. There hasn’t been a single renovation to the property since the 1940s when its
occupants expanded the kitchen.

The interior of the home speaks to the architectural elegance of a bygone era with original tiger oak and mahogany hardwood floors. There are five en suite master bedrooms and three staff bedrooms, with a soaring fireplace in each, as well as an expansive music/living room, a wood-paneled dining room and a massive basement. Outside, there’s a wrap-around porch and a two-car garage, all within what Taylor calls a magical forest.

It’s pretty remarkable — like nothing you’d expect to see in Suffolk County or on Long Island. It’s never been developed on.”

—Kelley Taylor

As for potential buyers, she said she’s seen a majority of interest from developers, including one evaluating the property as the site of a 55 and better community. But, she said, the owner has preserved  3.75 acres of the property under New York State’s Transfer of Development Rights.

“A big family would certainly love the generousness of the estate, as would anyone who appreciates the particular beauties of well-made historic homes,” said Dawn Watson, public relations manager at Douglas Elliman Real Estate. “It’s quite extraordinary and the parklike property is expansive and lush.”

In March, the Town of Smithtown and the county raised a $1 million grant to be used to preserve a portion of the Owl Hill property for open space.

Smithtown scholar Corey Victoria Geske said although the property has been around so long, there still isn’t a lot of information in regards to its historical details.

“Owl Hill is another example of beautiful architecture in Smithtown for which the architect, to my knowledge, is as yet unknown,” Geske said. “This is the kind of house that deserves that kind of research attention because it’s so special with regards to interior detail and its location, built high on the hills of Fort Salonga.”

have hundreds of new friends I’ve never met, and a profound appreciation for the people who created them or shared their lives.

I recently attended my first BookExpo at the Javits Center in New York City, where I was surrounded by booksellers, librarians, agents, book publishers and authors including Stephen King, James Patterson and John Grisham, with numerous budding luminaries in the mix.

A highlight for me was a panel of children’s book authors, which included actress Isla Fisher, who has starred in movies including “Wedding Crashers” and “Definitely, Maybe.” While I was intrigued to see Ms. Fisher in person, the other authors owned the stage, as Fisher readily admitted that she wasn’t a writing peer to her fellow panelists.

Jason Reynolds, an African-American writer for middle-grade and young adult novels, electrified the audience.

He talked about how he used to visit his great Aunt Blanche in South Carolina, where the sun was so scorching it burned his neck. His aunt, who was 85, sat on her hot porch, smoking cigarettes and watching the children.

Aunt Blanche planted a pecan tree — as he said, a “pea can” — when she was 4. The tree had become enormous by the time Reynolds was a child, providing shade for the younger crowd.

Reynolds, a 2016 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature with “Ghost,” suggested that books offered the kind of shade he desperately needed, providing relief from the heat.

Reynolds asked himself, “What if I get to be the pecan tree?”

Jennifer Weiner, meanwhile, has ventured from the world of adult fiction and “Good in Bed” to writing for a younger audience, which includes her recent book, “The Littlest Bigfoot.”

Weiner said she does much of her writing in the equivalent of a large closet in her home, although she completed “half of a book waiting in a carpool line.”

Dutch author Marieke Nijkamp shared some insights into her latest book “Before I Let Go,” which is about a girl named Corey who loses her best friend Kyra.

Nijkamp, with fans waiting in a long line for the blue-haired author’s signature, said she “definitely goes for a walk right after I kill a character.”

While circling the Javits Center exhibits, I bumped into Owen King. He is the son of acclaimed author Stephen King, and is promoting a book he wrote with his father called “Sleeping Beauties,” in which all the women but one in a small Appalachian town become wrapped in a cocoon when they go to sleep. If someone awakens them, they become violent. That leaves the men without the civilizing and calming influence of women. It sounded to me like an adult version of William Golding’s classic “Lord of the Flies.”

In describing the novel, Owen King said he enjoyed the time writing and editing the book with his father. He described how a King dinner time activity includes coming up with story ideas, many of which never see the light of day.

I asked Owen, who was clad in an untucked plaid shirt and looks remarkably like his father, what caught his eye at the Expo. He highlighted a book by Steve Steinberg about a Yankees pitcher named Urban Shocker. King said he loved the name and found the story compelling, about a pitcher who went 18-6 in the Yankees’ famous 1927 season despite battling heart disease. I picked up a copy, which was autographed for my son, and I look forward to learning about Shocker’s world.

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The best way to get some people motivated is to tell them what they can’t do. I learned that many years ago.

Back in junior high school, I was trying out for the basketball team.

With about a thousand other people — okay, maybe it was 50, but it felt like a thousand — hoping to make the team, I appeared at the gym after school. I remember enjoying basketball from the time I could barely throw the ball high enough to clear the basket.

As I got older, I shot up quickly in height. I was never a particularly great shooter. My five-foot, seven-inch frame, which puts me below the eye level of many of my teenage children’s friends today, seemed taller back then.

I could and did grab rebounds, fight for loose balls and play aggressive defense. At the time, we had three days of cuts. The first day, my name appeared on the “come-back-tomorrow” list, which meant that I was still one of the chosen few.

The second day, after an intense and physical tryout, I knew I’d made the list, because the coach nodded several times when I blocked shots and seemed pleased that I raced up the floor to poke the ball away from someone who thought he had a breakaway layup.

It was during lunch on the third day, before the final cut, that I lost my mojo. I was sitting with one of my friends, whom we’ll call John. Through the bits of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that were sticking to his braces, he told me he heard some other kids talking about me on the way to school.

“Oh yeah, what did they say?” I asked.

“They said you were still on the list of players who might make the basketball team,” John said.

I beamed. The final cut would only eliminate two or three more players, which meant that I just had to keep doing what I was doing earlier in the week and I’d make it.

“They also said you travel every time you shoot a layup,” he offered.

“What?” I asked, suddenly feeling as if he punched me in the gut.

“They said you didn’t belong on the team.”

Throughout the afternoon, in my head, I heard the echo of the words “didn’t belong.” When I stepped on the court that day, my feet barely moved and I didn’t even attempt a shot. Not surprising, I didn’t make the team.

Would I be in the NBA if John hadn’t planted the “you-can’t-do-it” bug in my ear? Not a chance. Would I have made the team? Well, maybe!

About 15 years later, I got a job at Bloomberg News. At the time, it was a growing news service and a securities trading device that refused to accept second place in anything. The facilities were magnificent, complete with fish tanks on every floor and free food for employees and guests, which included select company like Tom Hanks and Ed Koch, who came to the “Charlie Rose” show.

When I got the job, I overheard some of my former colleagues discussing how I didn’t belong at Bloomberg. This time, rather than slink away, I was determined to prove them wrong. While it was a challenging job, I enjoyed the opportunity not only to provide Bloomberg with relevant stories but also to compete against some of the best journalists in New York City. Early in my tenure at Bloomberg, I won a deadline writing award.

I’m not suggesting people pour cold water on each other’s aspirations through some misdirected tough love approach. I would, however, urge people not to listen to the nattering nabobs of negativism, a term coined by William Safire and shared by former Vice President Spiro Agnew.

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John Corpac. File photo by Bill Landon

In 21 years, not one Ward Melville football player has been invited to compete in the Empire Challenge. This year three Patriots will get the chance to put on the pads one more time.

John Corpac, Eddie Munoz and Dominic Pryor were chosen by the coaches of the Long Island team, all of which led their squads to county titles this year, to play in the game that pits Long Island all-stars against the best of New York City.

“It feels amazing knowing I’ll be able to suit up once more in a sport that I’ve loved since I was young,” Pryor said. “I couldn’t be more proud to represent Ward Melville, especially after what we accomplished this season.”

Dominic Pryor. File photo by Bill Landon

The three standouts were part of a Patriots team that upset No. 1 Lindenhurst in the Division I semifinals to make it to the county championship for the first time in 30 years.

“After losing in counties,” Corpac said, “this game is a redemption game for me and my teammates that made it, to show that we belonged where we were.”

Ward Melville head coach Chris Boltrek said his three athletes, who were named All-State by the New York State Sportswriters Association, don’t need redemption, because they’ve shown they belong among the best of the best.

“They are just excellent athletes who love football, and combined those attributes with a willingness to go the extra mile — whether it was sacrificing their bodies and taking a big hit, or tackling a larger athlete, it didn’t matter — they laid it all on the line to help our team be successful,” he said. “And they’re a huge part of why we made it to the county championship this season.”

Corpac, a wide receiver and free safety who signed to play for Stony Brook University this fall, finished last season with a team-high 13 touchdowns through 11 games, four of which were on kickoff returns. The All-County and All-State honoree racked up 378 yards on 27 receptions, and rushed for 131 more and one touchdown. In total, he had 1,110 yards thanks to 532 added kickoff return yards. On the defensive side of the ball, Corpac had 58 tackles, 38 solo, and two interceptions.

While Munoz and Pryor will be playing lacrosse next year, at Stony Brook and Hofstra University, respectively, the two have also battled for big numbers at Ward Melville.

Munoz gained 454 yards on 37 receptions as a wide receiver, and rushed for 90, ending the year with eight touchdowns. He intercepted the ball twice as a strong safety, and made 57 total tackles, 37 solo.

“We put in a lot of hard work, but our teammates also helped us stand out, because without a good team we wouldn’t have been selected,” Munoz said. “Football to me is all about being tough and giving it your all on every play.”

Eddie Munoz. File photo by Bill Landon

Pryor ended his senior season with a team-high 604 receiving yards, averaging a team-high 16.3 yards per catch on his 37 receptions, rushed for 88 yards, returned kickoffs for 111 and even passed for 167. The wide receiver and defensive back also had two interceptions and made 28 tackles.

“Dom and Eddie are great examples of multi-sport athletes, and demonstrate how competing in multiple sports is a benefit,” Boltrek said. “Both of those guys have played on big stages before in lacrosse, and it was evident that those experiences paid dividends for us throughout the playoffs. I know them playing football has made them better lacrosse players. The toughness and grit that it takes to be successful in football is visible every time they step on the lacrosse field.”

Pryor credits his coaches and teammates, and playing in one of the toughest leagues on Long Island, for making him a better athlete day in and day out, but his head coach said it’s all about what the boys do.

“It’s great for the program to get this sort of recognition, but of course, the program doesn’t receive these honors without the individual efforts of these three players,” he said. “It’s no coincidence that all three of them started in all three facets of the game — offense, defense and special teams — and no matter who the opponent was, they had to game plan for these three.”

New York City opponents will have to make big plans to take down the trio, who said they have been best friends since elementary school. They’ll battle on the gridiron at Hofstra University June 21 at 7 p.m.

“I was hearing rumors that I might get selected, but once I actually got the news, I couldn’t be happier — it’s a dream to be able to play in this game,” Corpac said. “This sport is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I’d do anything to play the season all over again. I cannot wait to put on the pads and play high school football one last time.”

Victoria Espinoza, left, marched with her sister Gabriella in New York City last Saturday. Photo from Victoria Espinoza

This past weekend more than one million people gathered across the world to participate in the Women’s March, a grassroots movement organized by multiple independent coordinators. I am proud to have been one of those million or so.

As diverse as the crowds were at each sister march across the country so were the reasons each person marched. The mission of the Women’s March on Washington, to give its full title, was to stand up and protect the rights of every man, woman and child in the United States.

Their website states the rhetoric of the last election cycle alienated, insulted and demonized many groups including immigrants, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, people with disabilities, and survivors of sexual assault.

Make no mistake, this is a fact — and no, Kellyanne Conway, in no way is it an alternative fact. President Donald Trump (R) alienated many groups during the campaign season. Speeches and comments targeted Hispanics, the disabled, women and many more. Trump’s own past words serve as verification of this fact with quotes like, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

So for those asking why marchers felt the need to protest, there should be no confusion: People felt the need to stand up, defend and support each other after the litany of comments made in 2016 and earlier by the president, and for others the promises and administration choices made since. This march was meant to show they are not alone, and we stand by them.

I marched to be an ally, but to also send a message to my government that my political consciousness is alive and well, and I will be watching and reacting to everything the new administration puts forward. This is not simply to make myself feel better when I air my grievances about the state of the country.

In early January, Republican members of Congress voted during a closed-door meeting to place the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under the control of those lawmakers. The proposal would have barred the panel from reviewing any violation of criminal law by members of Congress, and give the House Committee on Ethics the power to stop an investigation at any point. Currently the ethics panel operates as an independent, nonpartisan entity. Although it was served as ethics reform, public outcry condemning the legislation caused lawmakers to pull the bill almost immediately.

The public in this act was informed of the workings of their government, reacted, and was able to turn the tide. This is what the Women’s March represents to me — the beginning of a greater level of awareness.

The day after the march, the organization released their next step in continuing to fight for the rights of all citizens: 10 Actions in 100 Days. Their first action is a letter-writing campaign to senators to keep the conversation going.

Various media reports are saying the Women’s March was the largest march in U.S. history.

Let’s look back at other significant marches. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 saw more than 250,000 listen to the words of Martin Luther King Jr., demanding equality. The following year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. The first major anti-Vietnam War protest with between 500,000 and 600,00 people was held in 1969. Several more rallies, marches and protests were planned after that and in 1973 America had officially ended its involvement.

Of course these marches are not the sole reason change took place. But they were certainly part of a domino effect.

The People’s Climate Change March in 2014 was the largest climate-change march in history, and although most scientists would agree we still have a long way to go, the Paris Agreement of 2015 marked a historic turning point for dealing with the world’s emission of greenhouse gases.

Anyone who felt inspired and enthused by the marches across the globe last Saturday shouldn’t just sit back to reflect. Continue to be informed and voice opinions, because it matters. Former President Barack Obama (D) said, “If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself,” during his farewell address.

For all the participants, you were a part of one of the largest nonviolent protests in history — with zero arrests in Washington, D.C., and New York City, the marches with the most numbers. Be proud of your involvement, stay informed and do not stop letting your voice be heard.

Victoria Espinoza is the editor of the Times of Huntington and Northport and the Times of Smithtown.

North Shore natives travel to Washington with hopes of swaying lawmakers to renew health care benefits

John Feal speaks at the September 11 memorial ceremony in Commack last week. Photo by Brenda Lentsch

The 9/11 first responders who have fought for years to get health care support are heading back to Washington, D.C., in hopes of ushering in the renewal of the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act. And for one Nesconset resident, change cannot come soon enough.

Parts of the bill will expire next month, and other parts in October 2016.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act would extend the programs of the original Zadroga act indefinitely. It was introduced to Congress in April and currently has 150 bipartisan co-sponsors.

“When this bill expires, our illnesses do not expire,” said John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation, in a phone interview. Feal, of Nesconset, has been walking the halls of Congress for the past eight years to help get this bill passed.

He is also a 9/11 first responder who worked on the reconstruction at Ground Zero, and lost half of his foot in the process. He suffered from gangrene, but he says his injuries “pale in comparison to other first responders.”

President Barack Obama signed the current Zadroga act into law in 2011 and established the World Trade Center Health Program, which will expire in October if not renewed.

The WTC program ensured that those whose health was affected by 9/11 would receive monitoring and treatment services for their health-related problems. It consists of a responder program for rescue and recovery workers and New York City firefighters, and a survivor program for those who lived, worked or went to school in lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001.

The Zadroga act also reopened the September 11th Victims Compensation Act, which allows for anyone affected to file claims for economic losses due to physical harm or death caused by 9/11. That will expire in October of next year.

Feal said he was asked by television personality Jon Stewart to come on “The Daily Show” in December 2010, but the Nesconset native said he did not want to leave the real legislative fight in D.C. Instead, he helped get four 9/11 responders to the Dec. 16, 2010, episode, who helped shed light on the ongoing battle these responders were dealing with in Congress.

“He was definitely one of the reasons the bill got passed,” Feal said of Stewart. Stewart accompanied Feal and many other first responders when they traveled to Washington, D.C, on Wednesday, Sept. 16, and took part in a mini rally.

The bill did not pass the first time it was presented to Congress back in 2006. A new version was drafted in 2010 and passed in the House of Representatives, but was having trouble getting through the Senate due to a Republican filibuster. The bill received final congressional approval on Dec. 22, 2010, and was enacted by the president on Jan. 2, 2011.

“As we get older these illnesses will become debilitating,” Feal said. “Not extending this bill is criminal. People will die without it. It’s a life-saving piece of legislation.”

Jennifer McNamara, a Blue Point resident and president of The Johnny Mac Foundation, is also actively involved in the fight to keep responders health costs covered. Her late husband, John McNamara, passed away in 2009 from stage IV colon cancer.

He was a New York City Firefighter and worked more than 500 hours at the World Trade Center in the aftermath of 9/11. He worked with responders to get support for the Zadroga bill before he died.

“I made him a promise to continue to lend support to get this legislation passed,” Jennifer McNamara said in a phone interview. When her husband passed away, she said there weren’t as many responders getting sick as there are now. “People are dying more quickly, and more are getting diagnosed with cancers and other illnesses.”

The two big issues that McNamara said she feels need to continue to be addressed are monitoring these diseases and coverage of costs once someone is diagnosed. McNamara said she believes that if there were better monitoring programs earlier on, her husband could’ve been diagnosed before his cancer was stage IV, and he could’ve had a better chance.

“These people did tremendous things for their country,” McNamara said. “They shouldn’t have to guess about whether they are going to be taken care of.”