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North Country Peace Group

The Golden Rule, a peace ship manned by Veterans for Peace, enters Port Jefferson Harbor. Photo by Aidan Johnson
By Aidan Johnson

The Golden Rule, a peace ship operated by Veterans for Peace, docked in Port Jeff on Friday, May 26, encouraging conversations about ending wars, raising environmental consciousness and promoting nuclear disarmament.

Over a dozen people welcomed the vessel into Port Jeff Harbor. As it arrived, crew members, led by Captain Steve Buck, symbolically asked permission to dock and come ashore from members of the Setalcott Nation. This Native American tribe had initially inhabited the land. 

Myrna Gordon, a member of the North Country Peace Group and coordinator of the docking ceremony, said plans for the event were in the works for over four months. NCPG had also collaborated with the South Country Peace Group and the Conscience Bay Quakers, among other local peace groups.

Veterans for Peace were looking for a North Shore harbor to dock their ship. When their original plans to bring their boat to Northport didn’t work out, Port Jefferson was suggested. 

“I jumped on board and said this is the most beautiful harbor on the North Shore,” Gordon said. “We have a park. We have all the facilities. We have an agreeable government who will willingly accept the boat for a few days.” 

After docking, Catherine Green, a representative of Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), read a proclamation in which the Suffolk County Legislature recognized the efforts of the crew of the Golden Rule in the cause of peace on earth. Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) also presented a proclamation on behalf of Brookhaven, establishing the date as Veterans for Peace Day.

Veterans for Peace Golden Rule sailing into Port Jeff Harbor

The Golden Rule, above, will enter Port Jefferson Harbor tomorrow, May 26, at 6 p.m. Photo courtesy Myrna Gordon

Veterans for Peace Golden Rule will be sailing into Port Jefferson Harbor on Friday, May 26, at approximately 6 p.m. and will be docked at Harborfront Park from May 26-28.

This historic small ship is currently on a journey along the Atlantic coast for educational conversations about peace, nuclear disarmament, clean water and collective consciousness for our environment.

In 1958, as atmospheric nuclear testing heightened the stakes in the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, the Golden Rule sailed toward the Marshall Islands aspiring to stop early atmospheric testing.

The Golden Rule was the first sailing vessel in American history to practice nonviolent activism on the high seas 65 years ago and was the forerunner for today’s better-known Greenpeace ships, as well as the template for every kayak, canoe and outboard motorboat that’s peacefully protested anything in the nearly seven decades since.

The Golden Rule helped ignite a worldwide movement to end nuclear testing and led to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty signed by President John F. Kennedy [D] in October 1963, some five years after the initial action.

The boat has a significant connection to Long Island as its first crew included William Huntington, a Quaker from St. James. In homage to him, a true trailblazer, the Society of Friends, Conscience Bay Quakers Meeting will join members of the Setalcott Nation, the original stewards of our waterfront community, and many other peace and justice organizations in meeting the boat and welcoming its captain and crew.

North Country Peace Group with South Country Peace Group are the sponsors of this event with a special acknowledgment to the Conscience Bay Quakers. We hope everyone can join us.

Myrna Gordon

Port Jefferson

Words matter in immigration dialogue

One of the most beautiful elements of America is diversity. The immigrants who live in our communities contribute to our economy, our culture and our public life. We are a better nation for it.

We have seen a vilification of those seeking asylum at our southern border. This past Sunday, local, state, and federal Suffolk County Republicans held a press conference, announcing a plan to hire legal counsel to block asylum seekers from entering Suffolk County.

Though seeking asylum is legal, county Legislature Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey [R-Lindenhurst] said, “We don’t know who’s coming over.” In doing so, McCaffrey implies that asylum seekers are a danger to us.

U.S. Congressman Nick LaLota [R-NY1] differentiated between documented and undocumented immigrants. Both ignore a basic truth: Asylum seekers are fleeing their countries because of climate change, poverty and political violence. They are not seeking to do us harm. Our federal government must provide assistance and address these root causes in our foreign policy. That is the direction we must take, rather than demonizing and “othering” asylum seekers.

Today’s asylum seekers remind me of my paternal grandfather. As a teenager, he fled Odessa [now in Ukraine] after his father, a practicing rabbi, was murdered in Siberia. My grandfather didn’t consider paperwork — he fled to survive. My grandfather may have had a different religion and skin color than the migrants at the border, but their stories and their humanity are quite similar. As a Jew who has had branches of my family tree cut off by political violence, I know that “Never Again” applies to every one of us, including asylum seekers.

Words matter. When our politicians use xenophobic rhetoric like the county Republicans are, it makes all of us less safe. Will the base they have riled up distinguish between which of their neighbors are documented or undocumented? Did the teenager who murdered Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue in 2008 check his immigration status before ending his life? Rather than learning from our history, the county Republicans seem intent on repeating that harm, all in the name of firing up their base for the November elections.

We cannot accept this in Suffolk. We must seek solutions that bring us all together, rather than divide us up. We must expect more from our elected leaders. If they cannot deliver, we must vote them out and replace them with moral leaders who can.

Shoshana Hershkowitz

South Setauket

Concerns about proposed Maryhaven development

The 19 units in Canyon Creek, which were completed in 1999, are directly impacted by any activities on the former Maryhaven Center of Hope site on Myrtle Avenue. 

All four Port Jefferson Village trustees have met with several of the Canyon Creek Home Owners Association members on-site, and we expressed to them our overall concerns about the proposed development of the site by Beechwood Homes.

Our biggest concern is the proposed nearly 200 units, on the 10-acre site, to be priced at approximately $1 million each, in buildings that would be allowed to be three stories in height, plus the requirement for two parking spaces per unit.

Canyon Creek is located on close to 10 acres and has 19 units. We would hope that the village Board of Trustees would change the zoning to include a requirement of an equal density in the adjoining property. Our quiet and peaceful neighborhood will be detrimentally impacted with the proposal now before the board.

The proposed development plan calls for preserving the old building on the former Maryhaven site, but Beechwood is seeking concessions from Port Jefferson Village to change the zoning code to allow for increased density of residences on the site. The consensus among the homeowners is that while there are positive considerations for preserving the historic building and converting it for residential and recreational use, as proposed by Beechwood, the allowance of an incentive of increased units and taller structures as a tradeoff is absolutely detrimental to the Canyon Creek community. 

There are numerous serious adverse impacts on our community from such a development so close to our backyards: loss of privacy, noise, change in ambience of the surrounding area, increased traffic, water runoff into properties and many more.

We as a community are very concerned that there appears to be a rush to change the code to allow the development of a property that would be inconsistent with the surrounding area without submitting an environmental and traffic study for full public review and comment. 

We recognize that the board’s only role is to alter the zoning code, and we hope that they will take into consideration how all of Port Jefferson will be impacted, as well as the devastating impact it will have on Canyon Creek.

Philip A. Velazquez, President 

Canyon Creek Homeowners Association

Port Jefferson

Plan realistically for future of Port Jeff schools

In commenting in the May 18 issue of The Port Times Record about the third defeat of a 15-year bond proposed by the Port Jefferson School District, Mayor Margot Garant said she hoped the “community would have a little bit more vision and understanding of the consequences.” 

Maybe it’s the mayor and school board that lack that vision and understanding. The community wants answers. Port Jefferson currently spends over $50,000 per student, well above other districts. Our enrollment is declining, with graduating classes projected to drop to near 60 students by 2031. 

Taxes are already projected in the school district’s current financial plan to increase 34% by the 2027-28 school year. After the LIPA glide path expires in 2028, taxes would double if the plant is closed. Mayor Garant said “The norm is like another 10-year glide path to give you a chance to settle into another loss of revenue.” [“Powering down?” May 18, TBR News Media]. Really, another glide path — what norm? 

Over 10 years, Shoreham saw its LIPA taxes — which represented 90% of its budget — drop 10% per year. There was no further assistance. If the mayor knows where Port Jeff would get yet another glide path, please let us know the source, and have their representatives confirm it. And will this white knight also provide additional benefits for Northport and Glenwood Landing, which are on similar glide paths to Port Jefferson?

As an alternative to hoping for a magical rescue, let’s plan appropriately and realistically, with every option considered before we are asked to commit to another long-term bond that would effectively remove several options from consideration. Let’s find out if other districts would be interested in a merger or tuitioning our students. Let’s have an impartial consultant analyze the numbers and determine what our taxes would be with LIPA gone if we continue alone, or with a merger or some combination. 

Also, let’s discuss whether the opportunities for our projected 60-student per grade high school enrollment would be greater, and at less expense, in a merged or tuitioned district.

And will the mayor and school board please stop discounting the feasibility of a merger based on our current school tax rate being so much lower than neighboring districts. That projected rate is 190.11%, according to PJSD’s Summary of Estimated Revenues in the 2023-24 Draft Budget, an increase from 178.46%. Take out LIPA’s assessed value and by my calculations the rate jumps to 330.37% which is equal to or greater than surrounding districts.

Our vision and understanding needs answers.

Robert J. Nicols

Port Jefferson

The reality of closing local generating plants

Your editorial and lead article [TBR News Media, May 18] both address the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed stringent limitations on power plants’ emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that cause the climate change we already see here.

 The EPA’s proposal is consistent with the existing state Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act that mandates similar reductions in New York state of fossil fuel generation and its replacement with renewably generated electricity.

Both TBR pieces recognize that the Northport and the Port Jefferson plants cannot continue for too many more years to be powered by natural gas.

 Your editorial correctly challenges local governments and school districts that have been subsidized by tens of millions of dollars annually that are indirectly paid by other Long Island residents through the taxes on these greatly overassessed properties to start “imagining a future in which those subsidies no longer exist.” These entities should certainly seek state aid to ease this transition, but that is not a long-term solution.

There could be other uses for these sites that are robustly connected to the grid, such as for landing power cables from offshore wind farms, or massive batteries to store electrical energy during times of low renewable generation.

Bruce Miller, former Port Jefferson Village trustee, suggested two possibilities for continued onsite electrical generation. One would be continuing to burn natural gas, while adding equipment to capture the resulting carbon dioxide. This possibility ignores the known substantial leakage of methane — a powerful greenhouse gas — at the well, and all the way to the generating plant. Such carbon dioxide removal equipment does not now exist at scale, and would be rather expensive.

He also suggests burning hydrogen to produce electricity when renewable generation cannot meet demand. Such “green” hydrogen would be produced during the summer from water using renewably generated electricity, stored in large quantities, transported here by pipelines that could not leak even small amounts of climate-changing hydrogen, and burned to produce electricity. The main combustion product would be harmless water. However, the oxides of nitrogen and other polluting combustion products would have to be removed before being released, adding to the cost of the electricity generated. 

There are no certain answers to continued use of these sites for electrical purposes to replace lost tax revenues. Just the opposite is true: The higher the taxes on any new facilities, the more expensive will be their operation and less likely they would be built here.

Peter Gollon


Editor’s note: The writer was a LIPA trustee from 2016-21.

EPA power plant standards are cost prohibitive

The EPA’s proposed rules for cutting emissions are so onerous that older generators, like Northport and Port Jefferson as well as hundreds around the country, will be shut down because the expense to upgrade would be prohibitive.

These power stations have operated since the 1960s with incredible reliability and cost-effectiveness. They have blessed Long Island and the communities that host them with tax income and life-sustaining, consistent energy. The developed world survives on this. 

A main difference between our society and the third world is their lack of affordable, reliable energy. It is also a matter of survival. One can broil in the heat and freeze in the cold. One can starve for lack of food and water. One can die from inadequate health care facilities and resources. 

Note well that these power plants have operated within EPA pollution regulations. Now the EPA is moving the goalposts. Companies, towns and cities that have relied on the energy for our civilization will be in mortal danger. 

It is extremely difficult, costly and lengthy to site, plan, permit and build a new power station. The real estate is gone. The possibility of rebuilding an old power station to new standards, repowering, may not be cost-effective, especially if there are the preferential power purchase agreements that put wind and solar electricity ahead of fossil fuel generation.

Another consideration is China, Russia, India and the Global South in general are building fossil-fueled power plants, including coal, at a breathtaking rate — hundreds a year. Decarbonization of New York state and the U.S. power plant emissions will have no effect.

Furthermore, wind and solar power operate on average about 20% of the nameplate capacity of generation. Spinning reserves are mandatory. Battery backup, aside from the huge expense, child labor and devastation to the environment in obtaining rare earths, may work for a few hours. Where is that coming from if Northport, Port Jeff and other power stations are closed?

Planet Earth, throughout its billions of years, experienced much higher temperatures and CO2. In fact, the Holocene period, with the greatest explosion of flora and fauna in history, flourished with way higher temperatures and CO2. Life adapted and thrived. In fact, thousands of scientists confirm there is no CO2 crisis.

Buy some candles if this goes through.

Mark Sertoff

East Northport

Have you seen my wife?

If you live in the village of Port Jeff, I’m sure you have.

The kids and I, however … not so much. Since my wife, Kathianne Snaden, became village trustee in 2019 and deputy mayor in 2021, I sometimes think village residents get to see her more than we do.

When I get home from work, my first question to the kids is, “Where’s Mom?” Their answer in that typical teenage voice is usually, “At a meetinggggg… .”

It seems like my wife is always at a meeting. Board meetings, trustee work sessions, union negotiations, meetings with business owners, meetings with residents, meetings with Suffolk County Police Department brass, and on and on the list goes. When what she does as deputy mayor comes up in conversation and she explains all that she actually does here in the village most residents respond with some variation of “wow, I didn’t realize that you did so much.” All the nice flowers you see planted this week … Kathianne personally worked with the garden center and the parks department to make that happen and so much more.

Kathianne makes so many positive safety and quality-of-life improvements here in the village it would be difficult to list them all in under 400 words.

On top of all that, I think one of the things that really sets Kathianne apart is her willingness to meet with people, be approachable and be open to any inquiry from residents. On more than one occasion, Kathianne and I have been out in the village and she will post online where we are and anyone who wants to talk can come down and sit with us, whether we are at the Farmers Market, watching our kids play at Rocketship Park or even out to dinner. Kathianne makes herself available to everyone.

As a business owner, I recognize the drive and positive spirit my wife has to get anything done that she sets her mind to, and I’ve seen her do it. As a Port Jeff resident, I’m thankful for the great ideas, programs and initiatives she has brought to the village that benefit us all.

As a husband I’m so proud — she impresses me every day. And while it means I (and the kids) still won’t see her that much at home, I urge everyone to vote for Kathianne Snaden for mayor so she can continue to excel for us here in Port Jeff.

William Snaden

Port Jefferson

Sheprow will put residents first

It’s time for a change of direction in Port Jefferson. That’s why I’m proud to endorse my long-time friend, Lauren Sheprow, for mayor.

I’ve known Lauren since our days at Scraggy Hill Elementary. She’s always been bright, dedicated, focused and, most importantly, a great friend. As a single mom, she raised three wonderful children while pursuing a career that ultimately led to her becoming chief media relations officer at Stony Brook University.

I know running for mayor wasn’t in Lauren’s plan. But when she became a village trustee, she saw major decisions being made without any input from residents. So she did what Lauren always does — started asking the tough questions. The concerns she raised, however, even when they identified a potential conflict of interest or a question of ethics, were frequently met with denial or simply ignored. That’s part of the reason she decided to run.

With deep roots in Port Jeff, Lauren has a vision that’s focused on putting residents first. She wants to bring best business practices back, increase transparency and put an end to closed-door decision-making. Lauren is a communications professional and as mayor will work to improve our relationships with the business community — as well as our town, county and state governments — to ensure we’re making the most of all our resources.

She’ll also put an end to wasteful spending. On day one, Lauren will seek board consensus to enlist the expertise of a forensic accountant and an administrative consultant to help bring fiscal responsibility and operational excellence to Port Jefferson.

If, like me, you’re ready for new leadership and a fresh start for the village, I urge you to vote for Lauren Sheprow as our next mayor.

April Quiggle

Port Jefferson

Exploiting bail reform is not a solution

In response to my letter on bail reform [“Eliminating bail reduces recidivism,” TBR News Media, May 4], Jim Soviero takes exception to my use of the term “crocodile tears” [“Local crime exposes bail reform dangers,” May 18] to describe his professed concern for “minorities” that “tragically . . . continue to suffer disproportionately from violent crime.”

This was not an attack on his person or behavior, or an attempt to question the sincerity of his political beliefs. My point was that it seems a trifle presumptuous for Soviero, who is white, to proffer ending bail reform as a cure for the suffering of “minorities” when they themselves overwhelmingly disagree.

The larger point is that exploiting bail reform to excite fear and division for political gain is the worst possible way to actually address the underlying issues behind violent crime. Bail reform isn’t something that was just dreamed up by “leftist think tanks” as Soviero puts it. It was to address a very real problem he ignores, namely, the inequity of a system that condemns people who have not been convicted to days, weeks or even months in jails such as Rikers Island, for, in effect, the crime of being poor. As I noted in my May 4 letter, it is overwhelmingly supported in the minority community. If it’s so harmful to them there’s a very simple remedy  — they can vote out their representatives who support it.

Soviero scoffs at the data presented by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice study I cited, surrounding the word “data” with scare quotes. Naturally, since the data doesn’t support his contention that bail reform is terrible, he would much rather rely on anecdotal evidence that seems to. And for every horror story he could cite where someone was harmed by a person arraigned and released without bail, I could cite a horror story of someone who committed suicide or whose life was damaged beyond repair by being held in jail for days or weeks without being convicted. The point is, this is no way to formulate criminal justice policy. If we don’t use data, what do we use? Who can cite the most sensationalized anecdotes?

New York City Mayor Eric Adams [D], whom Soviero approvingly cited in his original letter denouncing bail reform, recently termed fixing it a “bumper sticker slogan.” Adams is right. Instead of politicians weaponizing this issue for political gain what we need is reasoned discussion of underlying issues. The problems with the criminal justice system are much deeper and more entrenched beyond the obsession with this one issue.

David Friedman

St. James

Editor’s note: This correspondence on bail reform is now closed.

Above, members of North Country Peace Group on Saturday, Dec. 10. Photo by Raymond Janis

This month, North Country Peace Group marks its 20th anniversary.

Posted at the southeast corner of Route 25A and Bennetts Road in Setauket, NCPG has maintained a visible weekly presence within the community, advocating various causes throughout its history. On Saturday, Dec. 10, some members reflected on this milestone year for their organization and discussed why they remain committed to their cause.


Bob Becherer was among the founding members of the peace group. He traces the organization’s origins beyond 20 years when, in the early 1990s, a group of civic-oriented parishioners of the St. James R.C. Church formed the Peace and Justice Community.

“It was really out of that group that we became the North Country Peace Group,” Becherer said, crediting Bill McNulty as the founder and leader of both organizations.

In an exclusive interview, McNulty chronicled his “traditional, apolitical” upbringing and his eventual reawakening. Growing up, he said he maintained a 16-year connection to the military. Between U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, ROTC, active duty and active reserve service, McNulty kept in close contact with the military and military culture. Over time, however, he began to question these ties.

Catalyzing McNulty’s transformation was America’s foreign policy throughout Latin America during the 1970s and ’80s. His early advocacy work centered around the School of the Americas, a training ground founded as a bulwark against the spread of communism. Over time, McNulty said, the school devolved. A string of murders and rapes connected to the School of the Americas prompted him into action.

During that time, McNulty said he devoted his energies to “increase the knowledge among the American population that this school existed and that we were, through our tax dollars, paying for training for these soldiers.” His resistance led him to a federal prison, where he served for six months.

Within the full swing of these events, McNulty soon got involved with the Peace and Justice Community, initially focusing on America’s involvement in Iraq during the Persian Gulf War (1990-91). As the PJC’s work took on more secular aims, they moved out of the church and onto the streets. NCPG emerged from the second Iraq War (2003-11). 

Organizational principles

Above, Bill McNulty, one of the founders and thought leaders within NCPG. Photo courtesy Myrna Gordon

McNulty offered some of the philosophical precepts underpinning the NCPG’s activism. He said the group seeks to challenge conventional wisdom, to prompt community members to think critically about the information authorities give them. Through this, he said the group has often met fierce resistance from dogmatists and partisans.

“Very often, when you bring a message that’s contrary to the conventional wisdom, they get angry at you,” he said. “They don’t want to hear what you have to offer because it’s very startling and shocking. There’s a cognitive dissonance.”

McNulty maintained that NCPG, since its inception, has rejected the notion of reciprocal violence. “The Old Testament thinking of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, you have to break it with that idea of love and acceptance,” he said.

He viewed the human propensity toward violence as a conflict between instincts and ideals. Though he held that most people are born peaceful and good, he sees many as conditioned to accept violence and war as the natural order.

“People, I think, are pretty good, but they acquire a lot of these characteristics as a result of what they experience in life,” he said. “Down deep, people are good because they always act well when the dog falls down the well or when the tornado rips the roof off the house.”

McNulty said that overcoming aggression requires conscious effort, but doing so may be the recipe for lasting peace. “The idea is to take the words of the song, the words of the poem, to take the suggestion of the painting or the sculpture or whatever else and to put it into practice,” he said. “It’s a very hard job.”

Two decades into the struggle for peace

One of the essential features of NCPG throughout its 20-year history has been the persistence of its members. Member Susan Perretti regards the organization as a weekly reminder to the community that there is an alternative to unceasing human conflicts worldwide.

“We’re sort of a reminder to the community that passes us by,” she said. “It’s a reminder that we still have war — endless war — going on and that violence itself is not the answer.”

Robert Marcus, another NCPG member, said the fight for peace and preserving democracy go hand in hand. He said that standing on the street corner is a way to promote both ends.

“We have to do everything we can to make a more peaceful world,” Marcus said. “We can’t just take it for granted. We have to work really hard for peace and to strengthen our democracy because it’s under threat.”

For John Robinson, participating in the peace group’s various activities is a way to connect to a larger cause and to make a difference on a grander stage. “It feels good to be around people who have the same concerns, the same thoughts, the same issues that I do,” he said. “Coming out here makes a real statement about the need for peace and the need to treat each other well.”

Myrna Gordon said she and NCPG use their platform to advocate a new mode of thinking around the way the United States government spends its taxpayer dollars. According to her, too great a share of the federal budget is devoted to perpetuating violence.

“We need to move the money out of the military and back into human needs and human lives so that we will have that money and be able to fix roads, provide better education, health care and everything else,” she said.

An alternative to war

‘We have to evolve past this idea — as a human species and not just as Americans — that war and killing one another is the only solution.’

— Susan Perretti

McNulty was asked if he believes a lasting peace is possible or if humanity is doomed to a fate of unending war. He admitted that lasting peace may not be attainable but that pursuing such an ideal is.

“We would like to hope that it is possible,” he said. “We helped each other to a great extent, and we have affected a few people around our immediate neighborhood, but they’re still making war. The School of the Americas is still open, still training soldiers to keep people under control.”

Perretti offered a slightly different take by suggesting humanity could adapt itself to a condition without war.

“The point is that we have to evolve past this idea — as a human species and not just as Americans — that war and killing one another is the only solution,” she said. “I don’t know what that takes, but for me I’m here because I won’t give up the struggle, and I want to be faithful to what I believe in my heart.”

Whether humans can coexist and overcome violence is still to be decided. Twenty years after their organization’s founding, members of North Country Peace Group remain stationed at their usual street corner, committed to giving peace its fair shake.

The North Country Peace Group hosted a birthday commemoration for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Saturday, Jan. 15, at the corner of Route 25A and Bennetts Road in Setauket. Community members came together to remember King with songs, music and speeches. Photos by Myrna Gordon

Photo by Julianne Mosher

Dozens of community activists from across Long Island rallied outside Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s (D) office in Hauppauge this week, asking lawmakers to adopt “The People’s Plan.”

Earlier this month, police reform advocates created their own plan to hold law enforcement accountable and calling on them to be transparent within the community.  

“We’re gathering here today nearly a year after the George Floyd uprisings because our communities took to the street and said enough is enough,” said Elmer Flores with Long Island United to Transform Policing and Community Safety. “We are yearning for change. And for far too long our elected officials have not met our demands with the gravitas that it demands.”

Some of the plan includes civilian oversight of police misconduct, creating unarmed traffic enforcement and ending pretextual stops when someone is pulled over. 

“Mistrust is pervasive between the police and the communities they are supposed to represent,” he added. “And part of that is that we need to get to the root causes of why crime happens and how we can address it and prevent it from happening. But to do that, it requires leadership. It requires bold and effective action that’s going to change the way policing happens on Long Island.”

This plan is separate from the reform Bellone submitted to lawmakers last week, and these local activists demand the reforms be included in the plan due to the state April 1. 

Jackie Burbridge, co-founder of the Long Island Black Alliance, said to the crowd that for years the Suffolk County Police Department has been actively turning a blind eye to crime being committed in this county in order to continue harassing people who are not white. She said the recommendations that the county task force came up with don’t go far enough in preventing or mitigating discriminatory policing. 

“The plan that was released by Suffolk County in response to Governor Cuomo’s [D] executive order falls short of the transformative changes to the way we conceive of public safety that this moment in our community members are demanding,” she said. “Black and brown communities across Long Island are overpoliced, resulting in outsized opportunities for interactions between vulnerable community members and police officers. … It’s not that people are being brutalized because cops see threats. They don’t see threats in our community, they see prey. And what we need is police reform that’s actually going to address that.”

The collective groups have spent months crafting the 12, research-backed proposals for structural reform that make up the 310-page “The People’s Plan” to address numerous structural components of transforming and reimagining policing and public safety on Long Island.

Suffolk’s police reform proposal directs the county’s Human Rights Commission to review complaints of police misconduct. 

However, the police department would still have the power to investigate and discipline police misconduct. Activists say they are asking for lawmakers to consider other measures, like mental health counselors for certain situations, and create a community council to review and hold police accountable for misconduct.

Members from local groups headed to Hauppauge, too, including Myrna Gordon of the North Country Peace Group, to show their support and signs.

“How can we not be here?” she asked. “It’s what we need to do to keep fighting for peace and justice. We need to see that Steve Bellone is on board with ‘The People’s Plan,’ and every peace and justice group in Suffolk County and the Three Village area needs to be on board.”

Peggy Fort, a member of the United For Justice in Policing Long Island and Building Bridges in Brookhaven groups, said ‘The People’s Plan’ addresses not just the community, but could benefit police officers, acknowledging the stresses police officers face. 

“We’re not trying in ‘The People’s Plan’ to micromanage the police department,” she said. “What we’re trying to do is really address the problems and the racial bias that exists.”

Caravan goers and Counterprotesters Butt Heads in Setauket

UPDATE: On Feb. 22, all charges were dismissed against Deborah Kosyla. She was also identified as the victim of the hit-and-run crash that occurred in Setauket on the day of the caravan. 

For close to an hour, hundreds of President Donald Trump’s (R) supporters rolled through the North Shore and parts of the Middle Country area during a huge caravan Saturday, Oct. 17.

Members of the Trumpalozza event, organized by right-wing online group Setauket Patriots, leaned on their horns and shouted “four more years” and “Trump” while people lined up at the corner of East Broadway and Main Street in Port Jefferson shouted their support as well. Some cars sported bull horns that blasted their support into the cool fall air. Many cars and pickup trucks were hung with flags supporting Trump’s reelection campaign, as well as many pictures and even some blow up representations of the president.

Some cars also used tape to cover up their license plates, which is a violation of New York State law. Many of those gathered to cheer on the caravan were not wearing masks.

In a previous article, James Robitsek, the event organizer for the Setauket Patriots, said they did not ask participants to block their license plate numbers but added people had been doing it to avoid being outed online.

The Setauket Patriots also brought an impersonator  of the president to lead the caravan. The actor’s name was Thomas Mundy, aka TOMMY Trump45, who is listed as a comedian on his Facebook page.

The caravan originally organized at the LIRR parking lot in Port Jeff Station a little before noon, where the actor portraying the president, speaking in Trump’s voice, called Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant “evil.” The Patriots were issued a summons earlier this month for hosting a parade on 9/11 without a permit. The village put a moratorium on any new parade or march permits in June, citing fear of spreading COVID-19. A Black Lives Matter march was held in June, followed by a Setauket Patriots-held car parade for Fourth of July. Village officials have said they are the only group to have attempted a parade since the moratorium was put in place.

Robitsek has previously told TBR News Media he feels he and his group are being targeted by local Democrats in the area. The original date for the summons was moved to November, but Setauket Patriots had planned to protest in front of Village Hall.

While many supporters saw the event as a success in getting the word out about their support, some felt they were harassed by participants if they shared any dissent.

Andrew Rimby, a doctorate student at Stony Brook University and Port Jeff resident, said he was called a gay slur by a member of the caravan as he walked in the village.

“There were those of us who expressed our dissent, who said we don’t agree,” he said. “A woman started to call me a gay slur, and I had a lot of time to talk to her. I was, like, ‘Why are you insulting me like this?’ And she said, ‘You don’t support our president.’”

Rimby sent a letter to Garant voicing his and 14 other local residents’ concerns about the caravan that went through the village. The letter complained about the caravan violating noise codes as well as how people harassed him and anybody else who showed dissent.

During the village board meeting Oct. 19, Garant made a statement about the weekend’s events, saying they have received multiple complaints from residents though none of those issues were addressed specifically. Police were on-site as they could issue citations for traffic or moving violations, though she commended both them and code enforcement for keeping things organized in a tense situation.

“I want to reemphasize the Village of Port Jefferson does not condone lawless or disrespectful behavior regardless of any messaging a person or group is attempting to convey,” Garant said. “We’re hoping that with each day that ticks off the calendar that we may return to somewhat of an existence of peaceful and quiet enjoyment in our community. … I just wanted to let everybody know it was a tough day for everyone here in the village.”

Once in St. James, the caravan stopped at Patio Pizza, which had come under several bouts of controversy after people threatened to boycott the establishment after it was shown with a Trump flag. Trump’s Twitter account has previously tweeted about the St. James pizza parlor.

The parade traveled a circuit first through Port Jefferson up into Setauket, down through St James and going through Centereach and Selden before eventually coming up Route 112. In Setauket, members of the North Country Peace Group stood in front of the caravan, blocking its path. Some caravan goers got out of their cars to confront the people blocking their path. One woman yelled into a megaphone, “Liberals go home.”

Police said three people were arrested for disorderly conduct, namely Deborah Kosyla of Setauket, Anne Chimelis of Setauket, and Myrna Gordon, a Port Jefferson resident and leader of the peace group. A video from the Setauket Patriots Facebook page shows peace group members standing in front of vehicles clenching fists in the air and holding signs. In that same video, the Trump look-alike also called the people assembled in front of them “evil people.” A man in the car with Mundy apparently makes a crack about how the “Secret Service is going to take out the machine guns.”

Gordon, speaking on behalf of the peace group, said they were unable to release a comment at this time, citing it being an ongoing police issue.

Separately, Suffolk County police are investigating a hit-and-run crash that occurred at the corner of Route 25A and Bennetts Road in Setauket that same day. Police said the call came in at around 1 p.m. for the crash, which they said occurred some time around 12:45 p.m. They did not release details on whether the crash involved a member of the caravan or a protester.

The Setauket Fire Department confirmed they did take one person to a hospital for minor injuries around that time, but department officials declined to offer further comment.

There was not much in the way of counterprotesters, though at one point during the parade a driver threw up the middle finger to supporters assembled on the sidewalk. One counterprotester stood at the turn into the Port Jeff train station parking lot holding a sign that read Black Lives Matter. He was later seen down at the corner of East Broadway and Main after the caravan had already gone ahead. There was also a separate protest held by progressives next to the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber train car about the ongoing controversy over Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court replacement.

The Trumpalozza event ended with many caravan goers returning to Port Jeff to participate in a rally across from Port Jefferson Village Hall, in the Town of Brookhaven-owned park for locals who died on 9/11.

The North Country Peace Group stood outside the Setauket post office Aug. 12 to show support for the system. Photo from the North Country Peace Group

The North Country Peace Group, a local grassroots organization, held a vigil in front of the Setauket post office on Route 25A Aug. 12 to show support for postal workers and to express concerns that the Trump administration’s cutbacks in United States Postal Service services will undermine mail-in voting, according to a press release from the group.

About two dozen people took part in the hour-long demonstration, titled, Sound the Alarm: Attacks on the USPS Threaten Our Democracy. Several protesters went inside the post office to thank the postal workers and to deliver a message directly to the postmaster.

“Since President Donald Trump’s (R) new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy instituted cuts designed to slow down the mail, deliveries are languishing at postal hubs,” the press release read. “This year, with so many people choosing the safety of mail-in ballots due to the COVID pandemic, a delay in mail delivery could deny voters’ constitutional rights and egregiously impact the November election.”

Many drivers honked in support of the ralliers who held signs that read “Protect Mail-In Voting,” “Save the USPS — Save democracy,” and “Thank You, Postal Workers.”

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Local teens have been adding their voices to weekly rallies in Setauket.

Every Saturday morning, drivers can count on the grassroots activist North Country Peace Group on the corner of Route 25A and Bennetts Road and the North Country Patriots across the street. For three weeks now, Three Village school district students and their friends have joined the Peace Group to protest police brutality and call for justice and equality, joining forces with Black Lives Matter groups across
the country.

Myrna Gordon, of the North Country Peace Group, said she is proud of the young people and happy that they have joined them. She said one week more than a dozen joined them, but two weeks ago more than 250 protesters stood on the corner, and this past Saturday, there were more than 150 rallying. She said there was no advertising about any themed protests.

“I think they know that our corner is such an important part of our community, and they know that we have been there for issues of peace and justice, and all of a sudden said this is where we’re going.”

She called the students “truly inspirational and a credit to their generation.”

“They are amazing young people, and they are going to carry the baton through all of this,” she said.

During the teenagers’ visits to the corner, they crossed over to the Patriots’ side (upper left photo), Gordon said, and continued to display their Black Lives Matter signs.

Gordon has been part of protests since the 1960s, and she said sometimes movements die out quickly, but she had advice to the young people to stay the course.

“They need to be tenacious,” she said. “They need to be vigilant. They need
to vote.”

While tensions may have lessened slightly between the U.S. and Iran after the assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, many Americans are still bracing for the possibility of conflict.

Protesters took to the streets around the nation Jan. 9 to oppose the escalation of war with the Middle Eastern country during what was coined as No War With Iran: Day of Action. At the intersection of routes 347 and 112 in Port Jefferson Station, which has been dubbed as Resistance Corner, two dozen protesters took part in a rally organized by North Country Peace Group, a local activist organization.

Myrna Gordon, a member of NCPG, said Americans need to say enough is enough when it comes to war and aim to stop being consumed by war and militarization. She suggested that people read the poem “Suicide in the Trenches” by Siegfried Sassoon reflecting the tragedies of World War I.

“This is not a glorification when we see the military and the militarization of what’s happening in our country,” Gordon said. “Listen, I support the veterans. We are very supportive of them, but we’re not supportive of war, and this is what the North Country Peace Group is about. That’s what our main goal is, to say, ‘End this absolutely foolish nonsense that we’re engaged in.’ This is a horrific thing for our future, for our young children, for everything.”

She suggested investments should be made into items that promote peace such as the Peace Pole installed in Rocketship Park in Port Jefferson village, which reads “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in 10 different languages, including the motions for sign language and braille.

“We have to get back to so many things that promote peace,” Gordon said.

Nancy Goroff, Democrat primary candidate for Congressional District 1, participated in the Jan. 9 rally

“I think it’s important, especially in today’s politics, for people to make their voices heard,” she said. “Government needs to be responsive to the will of the people, and far too often that’s just not happening. From anti-war rallies to the women’s marches, times when people stand up and speak are good for our democracy.”

She expressed her concern over the current situation with Iran.

“With Iran, the real question is whether eliminating Suleimani leaves America safer, and that’s still an open question,” Goroff said. “The stakes could not be higher, but time and again we have seen President Trump [R] making critical military and foreign policy decisions based on his own political goals, rather than what will actually help this country.”

Also among those protesting in Port Jefferson Station Jan. 9 were two members of the Long Island Chapter of Veterans for Peace, Camillo Mac Bica, of Smithtown, and Ray Zbikowski, of Huntington Station. Both veterans fought in Vietnam, and Bica is an author and philosophy teacher at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Veterans of Peace includes vets and nonveterans working to raise awareness about the horrors of war. Zbikowski said there is a misconception about those who fought overseas in a war.

“The myth is if you’re a veteran, you are supportive [of war],” he said. 

“War has been so glorified with mythologies that we have come to know the myth without the reality,” Bica said.

Zbikowski agreed.

“It’s important to educate the public, even if they’re passing by, make them aware of what’s going on in this country as well as overseas,” he said.

People driving by either honked their horns in support or shouted at the protesters from their open windows.

Bica said when one opposes a rally such as the Jan. 9 event, it’s because they don’t realize the potential horror of war.

“People pass by and they yell things but they’re not the ones going,” he said. “Their kids aren’t the ones that are going. If they had skin in the game, the cost-benefit proportion would be different. They might not say, ‘Let’s go to war.’”

The veterans added that while every community in the U.S. was impacted by the Vietnam War due to most people knowing someone who went off to fight, with less than 3 percent of Americans knowing anyone who’s in the military today, many have not come in contact with a recent veteran. 

Bica said it creates a separation between what’s going on in the military and the average citizen’s life.

“The killing and the dying that’s going on is going on in our names, while we look the other way, and we think we’re untouched by it,” he said. “There’s blood on all of our hands.”

Activists wave to drivers beeping their support during the Families Belong Together rally in Setauket June 30. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Rita J. Egan

Two grassroots activist groups have become staples on the corners of Route 25A and Bennetts Road in Setauket every Saturday, but this past weekend residents out and about likely noticed something different on the south side.

Activists join members of the North Country Peace group for a Families Belong Together rally in Setauket June 30. By Rita J. Egan

While a dozen or two members of the North Country Peace Group meet every Saturday at 11 a.m. with signs in tow on the southeast corner of the intersection, and a similar number of conservatives, members of the North Country Patriots, gather on the other side, June 30 the south side drew approximately 300 activists as the NCPG hosted a Families Belong Together rally. The protest was organized to stand in unison with hundreds of thousands of Americans across the nation who participated in similar events in several cities including Washington, D.C., New York City and Miami.

The rallies were held to protest the separation of immigrant children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border that occurred as a result of President Donald Trump’s (R) newly instituted zero-tolerance policy for prosecuting illegal immigration, which has resulted in the detention of thousands. Trump recently signed an executive order meant to end the policy, though many families remain separated as officials work to undo the effects of the policy.

Attendees held signs that read, “11,869 children held captive”; “Yes, Melania, we do care”; and “Put ICE on ice.” NCPG members said many children are still separated from their families and there are fears that many may never find their parents.

Activists join members of the North Country Peace group for a Families Belong Together rally in Setauket June 30. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“This is not what our country is about,” said Myrna Gordon, of Port Jefferson. “Detaining children — separating families — is a crime, and this is the time that we now all have to come together and resist the policies of the Trump administration. Detaining families is not a solution. It’s a jail sentence that some of our immigrant brothers and sisters are facing.”

Many on hand at the rally said they felt the current situation is reminiscent of the Holocaust.

“We need to remind all Americans of the horrors that preceded the Holocaust,” said Marci Lobel of Setauket. “This is reminiscent of what occurred in Europe in the lead up to the Third Reich, and we have to stand up for what is right, what is humane, what is civil and what is lawful. These people are coming to our country seeking asylum. All human decency dictates that we stand up to protect them. If we don’t stand up for them, who will?”

Setauket’s Susan Perretti said she sees the separation of families along with cuts to Medicare and ineffective gun laws as moral issues.

“It’s almost like we have forgotten about the common good,” Perretti said. “So, my big cry is, ‘Whatever happened to the common good?’”

Activists join members of the North Country Peace group for a Families Belong Together rally in Setauket June 30. Photo by Rita J. Egan

While the North Country Patriots didn’t organize a counter-rally, about two dozen members stood on the corner like they do every Saturday, except this week a handful remained until around 3 p.m. just like a few on the other side did.

Jim Soviero, of East Setauket, said the peace group’s rally reminded him of his nephew who was a solider in Iraq 14 years ago and separated from his young children, and the Angel Families in this country whose loved ones were killed by undocumented immigrants.

“You have over two dozen Angel Families that were separated, and they will never be united,” he said. “When my nephew went overseas, he was separated, and he never knew if he was going to be reunited.”

Setauket’s Howard Ross, who held a pro-life sign, said he and others were upset by a sign across the street that read, “God is Watching.”

“How can they stand there and say protect immigrant children and not protect our own children,” Ross said. “There are 1,000 babies being murdered every day due to abortions.”

Setauket resident George Altemose said the stance of conservatives is misunderstood.

Members of the conservative organization North Country Patriots stand across the street with signs like they do every Saturday on the day of the rally. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“Nobody wants to see families broken up,” Altemose said. “Nobody wants to see kids in jail. I think what we would like to see — we would like to see everybody obey the law as it stands.”

Altemose said he feels obeying the laws applies to everyone, from immigrants to the president, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and those who don’t like a law, need to follow it until it is changed.

“I think that the other side implies that this side likes to see children taken away and put in custody and families broken up, and it’s just not true,” Altemose said. “I don’t think anybody likes that.”

Back over on the Families Belong Together rally side, NCPG member Bill McNulty said one day a woman asked him about his stance on immigration and families being separated. He said he told her that many Central American countries’ social orders have been disrupted by American policies leading to violence. McNulty said the woman told him that people still should not cross the U.S. border illegally.

“I said, ‘Madam, if you were involved in the violence that these people are facing in these disrupted countries, you would take steps to protect yourself too,’” McNulty said.