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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

There are some funny stories I could share with you about being a woman in business this Women’s History Month. Like any storyteller, I may be repeating myself with a couple, so please indulge me with your patience. I hope they will give you a chuckle even if you’ve already heard them. 

First though, I would call your attention elsewhere in the newspaper and on our website to a section in which local businesswomen are participating in this month’s spotlight. They have sent in headshots of themselves and have answered one of three questions that we posed: how do you balance work-life duties; who inspired you; what words would you offer younger women interested in following in your footsteps? Please look for them and enjoy their responses. We hope you will also shop in their stores and use their services, thus supporting both the local economy and minority-owned enterprise.

We started the first newspaper, The Village Times, on April 8, 1976. After some wildly chaotic and exciting first months, just before Christmas, I was waiting in line at the deli across from the office when I was greeted by the ad director of a local competitor newspaper. We had met several times before, and he was filled with the good cheer of the season.

“Congratulations on your new venture,” he said. “The paper looks very good every week.”

“Thank you,” I replied, thinking it was a generous thing for him to say to another publisher.

“You tell the fellow up there that he’s doing a great job,” he added, pointing upward to my office building on the hill.

“What fellow?” I asked, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ crossing my mind.

“Aw, c’mon,” he said with a laugh. “We all know you have some guy up there running the show.”

“Merry Christmas,” I replied and took the encounter back to the staff of half a dozen wives and mothers, who howled.

Then there was the time I was seated on the dais next to the New York Press Association’s keynote speaker, Mike Wallace. It was the Spring Convention, 1984. On his other side was the association’s president finishing his meal, and I was the president-elect. Wallace, good journalist that he was, chatted with us throughout the dinner, sincerely asking about the names and locations of our newspapers. After it was my turn, and I answered his queries, he looked at me and asked, “And where is your husband?”

I could hear the president choking on his food as he feared my response. “He’s at home watching the children,” I answered with a smile. At this point, the president was able to get out, “No, she is the owner and publisher of her paper.”

Wallace turned back to me, patted my arm, and after a long pause, offered, “Forgive me, my dear. I’m an old dinosaur.”

Here’s another. It was 1978 and I had arrived the night before the NYPA convention was to start. I was already checked into the hotel and was eating dinner in the dining room with a book for company. “May I join you?”

I looked up and saw a pleasant-looking man smiling down at me. “Yes,” I answered, returning the smile and assuming he was another early arrival for the convention. We exchanged names and hometowns, chatted briefly about the weather in Albany, and then he slid his room key across the tablecloth. “Come up about 9:00,” he instructed.

I stared at him puzzled, then realized what he was saying. “Why would you think I would be coming to your room?” I asked astonished.

“Well,” he said, “you are down here in the hotel eating by yourself.” He withdrew the key and quickly left. I looked around, realized I was the only woman eating alone, skipped dessert, paid the check, rode the elevator up to my room, and once inside, double-locked the door.

That was life in the fast lane for a woman in business in the 1970s.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Interim SBU President Michael Bernstein meet with Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul to discuss energy effeciency improvements. Photo by David Luces

In an effort to fight climate change, Stony Brook University will receive $79 million in energy efficiency improvements and upgrades throughout the campus. 

New York State Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was on hand at the school Aug. 19 to announce the planned upgrades in front of the university’s Center of Molecular Medicine. 

The improvements build upon the State University of New York’s Clean Energy Roadmap, a partnership between SUNY and state energy agencies that aims to accelerate progress toward the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030. 

The energy efficient upgrades will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 28,000 tons a year, which is the equivalent of taking over 5,000 cars off the road. It will also save the university nearly $6 million in energy and maintenance costs annually. 

“As the largest single site employer on Long Island, Stony Brook University must remain committed to reducing our carbon footprint,” Interim President Michael Bernstein said. 

The improvements, which will be financed and implemented by the New York Power Authority, will include a number of energy-saving upgrades such as lighting, ventilation and building management upgrades at university buildings, including residence halls, science buildings and the hospital. 

“As the largest single site employer on Long Island, Stony Brook University must remain committed to reducing our carbon footprint.”

— Michael Bernstein

The planned upgrades continue the university’s effort to reduce its carbon footprint. NYPA and SUNY have already partnered to complete more than $50 million in energy efficiency improvements at Stony Brook. If all goes according to plan, expectations are for the removal of nearly 16,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere. 

Some of those projects included interior and exterior LED lighting upgrades, replacement of older HVAC equipment, pipe insulation and lab HVAC modernization. 

PSEG Long Island provided more than $500,000 in rebates to Stony Brook University for projects underway. 

“We have a moral responsibility to protect this Earth while it is in our hands,” said Hochul. “Forty percent of buildings owned by the state of New York are on SUNY campuses … If we are going to make an impact this is where we start.” 

SUNY and NYPA, together, have completed energy-saving projects at more than 600 SUNY facilities, reducing energy consumption by more than 6.2 megawatts, removing more than 48,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere, and saving $12.1 million annually, according to SUNY. The public college institution and power authority are currently partnering to implement energy-saving measures at more than 30 additional SUNY buildings. Once completed, they expect it will reduce SUNY’s energy consumption by an additional 1.6 megawatts.

Mothers embrace one another during a Hope Walk for Addiction rally at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai last year. Photo by Kevin Redding

TBR News Media raked in 11 New York Press Association awards last weekend.

The company won prizes across the gamut of categories, from news and feature stories to photos and advertisements.

“I am so proud of the staff at TBR News Media that works hard to deliver the news each week,” Publisher Leah Dunaief said. “We are delighted to be among the top winners in the contest, as we are every year.”

“Comprehensive, sustained coverage of a life-or-death infrastructure issue. Lede with compelling citizens rather than reports from bureaucrats or written statements.”

— NYPA judges

In the feature story category, TBR News Media had two winners for its division amongst publications with similar circulation. Port Times Record Editor Alex Petroski won first place for his story on how a local political party boss helped President Donald Trump (R) win Long Island votes.

“Following the election, many wondered, ‘How did Trump win?” judges wrote about Petroski’s piece titled “One on one with the man who helped Donald Trump win Suffolk County,” which profiles Suffolk County Republican Committee Chairman John Jay LaValle and details his relationship with the president. “This story answers that on a micro level with an in-depth interview of the man who helped Trump in Suffolk County. I think more papers would have been well served to seek out similar stories.”

Reporter Kevin Redding took third in the same category for his story for The Village Times Herald on a spooky local bar in Smithtown.

“A perfect pre-Halloween story about the haunted local watering hole,” NYPA judges said. “Plenty of examples of what some have seen, heard and felt, which is just what you’d want from a story about a haunted building.”

Petroski also won second place in Division 3 for his ongoing coverage on a boat ramp in Port Jefferson Village where two people had died and at least one other was severely injured, in the news series cateogry. Times of Huntington Editor Sara-Megan Walsh took third place in the same category.

“Comprehensive, sustained coverage of a life-or-death infrastructure issue,” the judges wrote of Petroski’s five-piece submission that included three stories, a front page and editorial on the topic. “Lede with compelling citizens rather than reports from bureaucrats or written statements. Narrative scene-setting ledes can make stories like this more important and compelling.”

Alex Petroski’s story on how Donald Trump won Suffolk County won a first-place feature story prize.

Redding also roped in a second award, getting a third-place nod in feature photo Division 2 for a picture he took for The Village Beacon Record at Hope Walk for Addiction at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai.

“There was tight competition for third place, but the emotion on the faces of the people in this photo put it a step above the rest,” the judges said of the women hugging and crying in the photo, who’d lost loved ones to battles with addiction.

Arts and Lifestyles Editor Heidi Sutton won first place in the Division 2 picture story category for her layout of local Setauket resident Donna Crinnian’s photos of birds in Stony Brook Harbor. The picture essay was titled “Winged Wonders of Stony Brook.”

“Elegant way to showcase nature of our feathered friends,” NYPA judges wrote.

Director of Media Productions Michael Tessler received an honorable mention in Division 2 coverage of the arts for his review of Theatre Three in Port Jefferson’s rendition of “A Christmas Carol.”

“Nice photos and an insightful story on the characters portraying a beloved classic,” judges said.

The Village Times Herald won first place for its classified advertising, as judges said it was “clean, precise, well-spaces and not crowded,” and Wendy Mercier claimed a first-place prize for best small space ad. TBR News Media’s Sharon Nicholson won second place for her design of a best large space ad. The Village Times Herald ranked in the Top 5 in total advertising contest points with 50, good for fourth place. The first-place winner, Dan’s Papers, received 90.