Tags Posts tagged with "Port Jefferson Station"

Port Jefferson Station

 

The Eagles of Rocky Point faced a formidable Comsewogue squad in the opening week of League IV bowling action at Port Jeff Bowl Jan 14. Despite falling to the Warriors 29.5 — 3.5, Eagles head coach Anthony Vertuccio, who fields a young roster, said a bright spot on the day was senior Sean Vogel. Sean has tremendous potential this season but was also impressed by his 8th grader along with three 10th graders.

Comsewogue retakes the lanes Jan 21 on the road against Middle Country at AMF Centereach Lanes at 3:30 p.m.

The Eagles were back in action Jan. 19 where they hit the road against East Hampton at The All Star lanes in Riverhead. Results were not available as of press time.

Above photo of Comsewogue junior Steven Orland; bottom photo of Comsewogue senior Joshua Rivera.

by -
0 433
File photo

Suffolk County Police Sixth Squad detectives are investigating a two-vehicle crash during, where one driver was seriously injured and the other fled the scene in Port Jefferson Station.

On Sunday,  Jan. 17 at approximately 10:30 p.m., a woman driving a 2002 Ford Explorer was stopped in the westbound left turning lane of Route 347, at the intersection of Sara Circle, when she made a U-turn in the vehicle and collided with an eastbound 2012 Toyota Prius.

The driver of the Prius, Deogracias Pablo, 65, of New York City, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of serious injuries. The woman driving the Explorer fled the scene on foot.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on the crash to contact the Sixth Squad at 631-854-8652 or Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS. All calls will remain confidential.

A protester holds up an "Impeach Trump" sign. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Protesters rallied in two North Shore locations this past weekend, to demonstrate their First Amendment right to protest. 

Nearly 100 people stood on the corner of Route 25A and Bennetts Road in Setauket on Saturday holding signs urging that President Donald Trump (R) be impeached. For the last 18 years, the North Country Peace Group has stood on the bend, every weekend, to protest.

This year was different.

“I’m going on 79 years, and I’ve seen a good chunk of American history,” said protester Jerry Shor. “I’m really sad this happened to our government, which I owe a lot to … We have tremendous respect for our government.”

And although Shor said he doesn’t always agree with what the government does, he knew he had to exercise his right to demonstrate, protest and make his feelings known. 

In response to the storming of the United States Capitol Wednesday, Jan. 6, members of the group wanted to make their voices heard — their anger at the president for inciting violence, and their urge to remove Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) from Congress. 

“I usually don’t come out, but today seemed like a day we had to because of what happened in Washington on Wednesday,” said protester Bob Keeler. “And Lee Zeldin, who supposedly represents us in the Congress, is not representing me very well. It’s time for him to be a former congressman.”

Several protesters stand on the corner of Routes 347 and 112 in Port Jefferson Station, responding to events taken place at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Normally the corner has a large group of counter-protesters — known as the North Country Patriots — across the way. This weekend there was only a small group of five. 

“The real patriots are the ones who are voicing their opinions the way our forefathers really meant to be voiced,” Shor said. 

Protester Paige Pearson said she had a bad feeling that something was going to happen Jan. 6. 

“My immediate thought was I wasn’t surprised,” she said. “But I’m extremely disappointed.”

Pearson said she was disheartened to see what was happening in Washington D.C., especially when she previously participated in other protests that were peaceful and civil. 

“We’ve been fighting for months and months, trying to stay as peaceful as possible,” she said. “And then all of these people can just storm into the Capitol, and cause all of this violence and destruction, and get out clean and unharmed.”

At the same time, at Resistance Corner on Routes 347 and 112 in Port Jefferson Station, a smaller, but just as loud group rallied against the president. 

A protester at a rally on Routes 347 and 112. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Organizers of the Friends for Justice group Holly Fils-Aime said the protesters chose to stand at the corner of Nesconset Highway because nearly 3,000 cars pass every hour.

“Obviously we were very upset when Trump claimed election fraud,” she said. 

With the riots down south, Fils-Aime said she and her group are calling for the president to be impeached. 

Holding signs of Trump’s face on a peach, the group voiced their hopes that Congress will vote to remove the president from power. 

“I can’t believe this is happening to our country,” Fils-Aime said. “He’s been talking about this for months. … We need to get him out of office, so he can’t do this again.”

Protesters at the North Country Peace Group rally. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Riley Meckley, a junior at Ward Melville High School has won the 84th annual Suffolk County American Legion Oratorical Contest.  

Riley Meckley

Gene Ordmandy Jr., a past commander of American Legion Wilson Ritch Post 432 in Port Jefferson Station, was the representative from the sponsoring post. 

On Dec. 5, high school students from public and private schools in Suffolk County came together to compete in a speech contest based on the United States Constitution. Each participant had to prepare a 10 min speech (no notes allowed) based on the Constitution. The contest teaches the importance of research, preparation, speaking and presenting skills as well as the history of our nation’s laws. On Jan. 9, the winners from Suffolk, Nassau and Queens debate for the title of Long Island Champion. 

Besides their prepared oration, competitors also have to give a second speech based on an Amendment or Article in the Constitution. Over the next few months, there are several elimination rounds and regional winners advance to the New York State Finals in Albany. Last year, Riley took 3rd place at the NY state finals.  

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright and her aide Jenn Martin were at Saturday’s PJS/T Chamber Santa event handing out hot chocolate packets and hand sanitizer. Photo by Kyle Barr

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) could be seen as the maverick of the Town Board. Of the five other councilmembers and the supervisor, she is the only Democrat. Beyond that, she was the first Black person elected to the board in the town’s history.

And by next year, Cartright will move on to the New York State Supreme Court. In a Zoom interview with TBR News Media, the councilwoman said that while she will try to remain involved in the community, it will no longer be in an official capacity. 

“It has really given me a different perspective on what governance of a municipality truly means.”

— Valerie Cartright

Cartright said she was tapped to run for Supreme Court justice this year after the results of the state Senate District 1 primary. After she was asked, she took some time to think about the move.

“It was clear to me that, you know, based on all of my experience as an attorney — I’ve been a civil rights attorney for 17 years or so now — and I’ve been fighting for fairness and equity within our judicial system during that time,” she said. “Those have always been paramount concerns for me. So it was a natural progression to some degree.” 

Based on all counted ballots, Cartright received the most votes of all Suffolk supreme court candidates, though voters did have little choice to which justices were on the ballot due to cross party endorsements. Justices serve for 14-year terms, and though she still intends to live in Port Jefferson Station, by the nature of her office, she will have little to no involvement in politics. Instead, she said her focus on the bench will be toward justice within the legal system.

“When you’re in court, it’s the last-mile marker of the justice system — you’ve tried everything else,” she said. “I’ve found some of the judges that I’ve sat before or have come before that they were not listening to both sides of the argument — they were not giving people their day in court as I would have liked.”

It’s been an interesting seven years on the Town Board, ones which included initiatives to revitalize Port Jefferson Station and combat homelessness in the area, environmental issues and water-quality issues with local bays and harbors, and the ever-present contest between developers and those looking to preserve land. And then 2020 came along with all the issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the spark of protests that ran all across the country plus the backlash to those protests. Council District 1 has been home to a multitude of rallies and protests from both sides.

Cartright said the key has been to listen and become intimate with the various local groups in her area. CD 1 is home to a diverse population in areas like Port Jefferson Station and Terryville, as well as the more opulent areas on the North Shore. It maintains several unique historic areas in Setauket and Stony Brook, various civic groups and chambers of commerce. It also contains four independent incorporated villages, all with their own small forms of government.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, right. File photo by Elana Glowatz

The varying levels of municipal and civic groups make it a challenge for anybody looking to get their feet wet in governing, but Cartright called it “a pleasure” getting to know all the different organizations and governing bodies. Being able to see things from both a macro and micro level, one thing she looked toward was taking small ideas and introducing them to the town on a wider basis. 

“It has really given me a different perspective on what governance of a municipality truly means,” she said. 

As the lone Democrat on the board, Cartright has had no other option than work with her Republican counterparts. While she said that the board has frequently worked together despite politics, Cartright has often enough been a lone voice of dissent on several issues. Just recently, at a December Town Board meeting, she and Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) went back and forth over plans to add parking meters at several town parks and beaches. The board passed that impending change, where Cartright also voted “yes.”

The upcoming Supreme Court justice said it has long been an effort to increase transparency. Such efforts include a community connection campaign, where she pulls information relevant to the district and sends it in an email blast to community members. She also lauded her roundtable discussions she’s had with civic and chamber leaders, as well as the town planning and law departments, as well as her own office to discuss pending applications for new development.

“I know there are times when I don’t vote the way that some of my community wants me to vote, but all of those votes, all those decisions that I make, are informed decisions,” she said. “And they’re done based on all of the community input that I can receive.” 

It is something she hopes the next person to represent CD1 will continue. She said the three biggest issues coming up for whomever takes over the seat are going to maintain diversity representation so that “the board has a diverse body representing the community itself, the town itself.” 

The second big issue would be the landfill, which the town plans to close by 2024. Capping the landfill will represent a big blow to town finances and will likely mean a new kind of waste crisis for the entirety of Long Island. The other aspect to that is the environmental impact, as the town is now considering putting in a new ashfill site at the landfill, which some groups have opposed. Whoever takes over her seat, she said, will need to consider all sides and help build consensus.

“We need to push outside of what is customary, so that we can actually help those that are being impacted by these things like food insecurity and homelessness.”

— Valerie Cartright

The third issue, she said, is going to be quality of life. Especially because of the pandemic, more and more people are experiencing food insecurity. Lines at food pantries and soup kitchens are increasing, which are only exacerbated by an ongoing homelessness crisis in the area.

“I think that we need to do more and we need to be creative,” she said. “And we need to push outside of what is customary, so that we can actually help those that are being impacted by these things like food insecurity and homelessness.”

What happens now, she said, is a transition phase for her office. She is developing a comprehensive list of what’s going on with her staff, while bringing in all the local civic, chamber and governing groups to compile that info on all large projects.

“What is going to happen is when the new elected official steps into office, there’s going to be community organizations and individuals that are already going to be armed with what needs to move forward — so the community will be able to hold [the new councilperson] accountable as to some of these initiatives,” she said.

Peter Goldstein, staff pharmacist at Jones Drug Store in Northport. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Amazon says it can save people money on their medications, but local pharmacy owners say there’s a big problem with that: There won’t be that human element customers get from a pharmacist behind the counter if they order from behind a computer screen. 

This week the online retailer announced new pharmacy offerings to help customers purchase their prescription medications through Amazon Pharmacy — a new store on the website that provides an entire pharmacy transaction through an Amazon account. 

Mike Nastro, owner of Fairview Pharmacy in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“People like their community pharmacy,” said Mike Nastro, owner of Fairview Pharmacy & Homecare Supply in Port Jefferson Station. “I take care of the specialty patient populations that require intimate service — hopefully that will sustain me.”

Amazon Pharmacy states that by using a secure pharmacy profile, customers can add their insurance information, manage prescriptions and choose payment options before checking out. Amazon Prime members will receive unlimited, free two-day delivery on orders through the online shop.

But this announcement isn’t new, according to Nastro.

“They’ve been talking about this for a while,” he said. “It’s going to hurt the industry a lot. It may hurt the chains more initially, but it’ll hurt the entire brick-and-mortar industry.”

Two years ago, Amazon purchased PillPack, an online pharmacy startup, in a $753 million acquisition. 

“As more and more people look to complete everyday errands from home, pharmacy is an important and needed addition to the Amazon online store,” Doug Herrington, senior vice president of North America Consumer at Amazon, said in a statement. “PillPack has provided exceptional pharmacy service for individuals with chronic health conditions for over six years. Now, we’re expanding our pharmacy offering to Amazon.com, which will help more customers save time, save money, simplify their lives and feel healthier.”

Local pharmacies might be in danger with Amazon’s new pharmacy service. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Nastro said that there are many benefits with personal pharmacy service like privacy and face-to-face communication.

“We keep people out of the hospital by intervening, and by knowing the person and seeing what medications they’re on,” he said. “It’s an important role, and if that’s obliterated it will have an adverse effect on the medical industry.”

Peter Goldstein, a staff pharmacist at Jones Drug Store in Northport, said in the 30-plus years he’s been in the industry, Amazon will not be able to help patients like he and his colleagues do.

“I will put my service against any mail order or Amazon any day,” he said. “We know the patients, especially in the community. We know their family history and there’s so much that goes into it, that quite frankly people will miss. What will you do if your insulin gets sent to the wrong site?”

Goldstein noted something like storing medications at the required room temperature is an issue if it ends up sitting in a mailbox. 

“It’s personal touches that we take for granted,” he said. 

And one of those personal touches is quick delivery that Nastro’s store has been doing all along.

“We’re not there in two days,” he said. “We’re there in two hours.”

Michael DeAngelis, owner of Village Chemists of Setauket, said his family has owned their store since 1960. DeAngelis and his father saw the changes in pharmaceutical care throughout the years although this is a whole new level. 

Michael DeAngelis, owner of Village Chemists of Setauket. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“We managed to survive Genovese, Eckerd, Rite Aid and now Walgreens,” he said. “[Those stores] even sent people here to solve a problem or order something they couldn’t get.”

While COVID-19 has conditioned people to stay indoors more, DeAngelis said contacting a pharmacy store is a different experience.

“If you call the Village Chemists, you will not get a machine that makes you listen to an endless menu,” he said. “You will get a human being who will be more than happy to answer any of your questions.”

These local pharmacists want people to know they are here for them and will be, despite the larger competition coming their way.

“Community pharmacists are really your advocate,” Nastro said. “With Amazon, what you’re not going to have is that personal service. It’s not just buying goods — we both have medication — there’s a service that comes with that medication and that service keeps people out of the hospital. It keeps people alive.”

by -
0 869
Photo from Kiran Wadhwa

After a fire devasted The Meadow Club more than two years ago, the family behind Setauket’s The Curry Club and Port Jefferson’s SāGhar felt like their world was falling apart. 

Known for its weddings in Port Jefferson Station, and being a structure on Route 112 for more than five decades, the building has been fixed and revamped. It’s a whole new sight. 

The Meadow Club’s new look. Photo from Kiran Wadhwa

“Our logo has always been a closed lotus, but the closed lotus represented the fire,” said Kiran Wadhwa, owner, creative director and event planner at the Meadow Club. “The lotus needs to open up and blossom — it represents rebirth, freshness and a peaceful, new environment.”

Wadhwa and her sister, Indu Kaur, took over the club in 2014. 

“We’re looking towards the light at the end of the tunnel,” Kaur said. “Two years ago, we thought we were done, but now we’re excited to bring our gem back to Suffolk County.”

The rebirth of The Meadow Club began after Kaur got the call her venue was a blaze in the early morning of July of 2018. Since then, she and her team had been working hard to get the property back in shape. “This is our legacy,’ Wadhwa said. “We want to leave this behind to our kids.”

But because the venue was so old and outdated, the process took longer than they initially thought. Kaur and Wadhwa had to redo the roof as well as add new air conditioners, sprinkler systems, floors and bathrooms. The permits prior to renovation were also outdated.

“We thought of everything,” Wadhwa said. “Everything we had issues with inside the old building, we fixed.”

Which worked in their favor. Although they didn’t disclose when the grand opening date is, construction is almost done and they’re starting to book weddings for 2021 and 2022.

“Everything is literally brand new,” Wadhwa said. “We build the new COVID guidelines into our construction.”

When one walks through the front door of the new Meadow Club, they are greeted with white walls and marble floors. Several crystal chandeliers hang from the ceilings in each room and the staircase, which was formerly to the right-hand side, now expands on the left. A waterfall is located at the bottom of the stairs, and a live-moss wall sits above it. They added handicap accessible restrooms to the space, redoing everything. 

The Meadow Club’s former look before its fire. Photo from Kiran Wadhwa

There are other changes, as well, including COVID-friendly additions the family made to their venue. Each of the three ballrooms now has their own exits and there is a new outdoor patio full of flowers and evergreens. Owners also installed sanitation stations throughout the property and have planned for sanitizing after each and every event. 

“We don’t want anyone to get sick,” Kaur said. “And we don’t want them to feel unsafe.”

As for the food, they are changing up the menu. They are adding a new chef who specializes in fine Italian cuisine, but also offer Pakistani and Indian food. They also made their kitchen completely Kosher. 

“We’re the only catering hall that offers Halal, Pakistani, Italian and Indian,” Wadhwa said. 

Although for now weddings must be at the 50-person limit, with no mingling, dancing or cocktail hour, the family said they are excited to bring this whole new space to couples walking down the aisle next year and beyond.

A family-owned business, they want their brides to feel special. 

“We’re accommodating and flexible,” Kaur said. “We personalize to each brides’ different needs.”

“I wait for the gasp,” Wadhwa added about the current tours they’re offering. “And I love seeing the look on their faces. The venue is brand new, clean and safe. It’ll be every brides’ dream come true.”

Completely redone by Ronkonkoma-based BELFOR Property Restoration, Project Manager Scott Sommerville said redoing the venue has been a journey. 

“It’s been the most wonderful transition from old to new,” he said. “We resurrected it.”

by -
0 301

Celerina Maureen Miguel Cristy, age 53, died April 15 this year of respiratory heart failure resulting from infection by COVID-19. She died at Richmond University Medical Center, Staten Island. Friends called her Rina.

Rina, who grew up in Port Jefferson Station, had a career that intersected with national events in politics and developing the economy, particularly by enhancing global financial security after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Rina Cristy. Go to the bottom of the article to see the date and time for an online memorial.

Rina and her husband of 23 years, Sam Cristy, were parenting two teenage children at the time of her death. The Cristys have lived in Staten Island since 2004. Rina had lived or worked in Port Jefferson Station,  Boston,  metro Washington, D.C., Manhattan and Jersey City.

Born in November 1966 in Chicago, Rina was the first of her family born in the U.S. Her parents, Art and Gloria Miguel, immigrated from the Philippines, then met and married in America. Art was an engineer in aviation, and Gloria was a nurse. The Miguels moved to Port Jefferson Station, where they still live. The gregarious household grew to include Rina’s two younger brothers and two grandparents. Later, the Miguel home expanded again to incorporate Rina and Sam, and soon thereafter a grandson. Four generations gathered daily for breakfast.

Rina is a Comsewogue High School alumna. She attended Emerson College in Boston, graduating in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science in speech communications, advertising, and public relations. In 2000, she received her Master of Business Administration degree in computer information systems from Hofstra University, where she earned the prestigious Hofstra University MBA Fellowship.

Community service is an innate Miguel family hallmark. Rina’s grandfather was an educator and a decorated officer of U.S. and Philippine armies. Rina described her mother as the springboard to political engagement and developing a New Yorker ethos. Rina recalled co-piloting a plane with her father, Art. Such moments inspired her to imagine boundless agency, Rina said. Thus prepared, she moved from Boston to Washington, D.C., to start her career in 1988.

Rina served the Honorable U.S. Rep. George Hochbrueckner (1-NY), Eastern Long Island, administering finance and fundraising in his congressional campaigns. She joined the congressional staff and quickly advanced to senior legislative aide. Reflecting on Rina’s accomplishments, Hochbrueckner commented, “Rina’s diligent activities aided in the funding of the initial as well as the ongoing dredging of Shinnecock Inlet, thus preventing the loss of lives of the local commercial fishermen. She also assisted in the designation of Peconic Bay as a new member of the National Estuary Program, providing special environmental funding to this day.” Her collaboration also secured federal funds for Lyme disease mitigation and education.

Following her congressional work, Rina proceeded to the Defenders of Wildlife conservation society. As aide to the director, she served the executive board and contributed to the conservation of wild lands and restoration of wolf habitats.

The 1990s on Capitol Hill invigorated Rina’s optimism that she could make an enduring contribution in the nexus of public policy and business. The Calverton Enterprise Park is an example. Rina facilitated the legislative steps that converted the federal aviation site to ownership by the Town of Riverhead. This pivot from Cold War defense projects opened the way for emerging environmental health sciences. Calverton now stands primed to open temporary hospital services during the COVID pandemic.

Rina’s pivot to finance came via her Hofstra MBA. She was subsequently hired by the Federal Reserve Bank in Manhattan. There, she supported the U.S. Federal Reserve System’s function in regulating and examining regional and global banks. Her work protected deposits, assessed bank solvency, and engaged protections against money laundering and terrorist financing.

Starting in 2004, Rina developed her specialty as an executive in retail and wholesale banks developing data, personnel, and operations systems for transaction security and compliance with regulations and best practices.

She worked in the Staten Island offices of Independence Community Bank. She proceeded to Rabobank International and ultimately to Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in Manhattan, where she rose to Director & Group Manager of Compliance Operations before being assigned as Director of Compliance Department, Americas Division.

In the era following the 2001 terrorist attacks, bankers wrestled with costly and demanding federal laws for enhanced fiduciary obligations. Evaluating competition, profits, and best practices called for a newly specialized banker. Banks were tasked to ask clients prickly questions, slow deals, and (perhaps) defer legitimate loans until novel risk assessments were satisfied. The urgent world of finance strained to adopt these subjective analyses. As banks with problems incurred fines, compliance experts like Rina proved essential to keeping banks in good control.

Rina’s policy and bank experience fit this role. Her teams set out to divine regulatory expectations and move banks to comply. Foremost, she assured profit drivers that the evolving security measures were intrinsic to bank success. Rina was gratified to see her early interpretations as an auditor at the Fed gain adoption as trade standards years later.

One of Rina’s work colleagues, Risë Zaiser, bonded with Rina as mentor and friend. They shared triumphs in motherhood and careers. Zaiser tracked Rina’s moves in various banks and trade panels.

“When we first met her, she came in guns a-blazing, and we were talking about how we were going to get her a bat. But she didn’t need a bat. She was just able to convince, and they followed her direction,” Zaiser said.

Industry colleagues noted that Rina was an effective department director because of her genuine humanity, humor, and collaboration. Life in banking cubicles can be fraught, staid, and tedious. One boss recalled surprise, then gratitude in receiving an office hug.

“Smiles can tear down the tallest, thickest walls. The power of Rina’s smile was the selflessness behind it,” he said. “Rina was always positive and upbeat, addressing adversity with that smile. I challenge all of us to take what Rina has given us and pass it along.”

Rina was passionate about cultivating professional opportunities for women and developing diversity in business and civic leadership. Hofstra invited her to speak quarterly to business students, and she regularly trained interns. SMBC designated a scholarship in Rina’s name to enhance the Women’s Inclusion Network  professional development project. SMBC noted her continuous mentoring of students and professionals.

“That enthusiasm and willingness to take on things widened her scope,” Zaiser noted. In the Women’s Inclusion Network, Rina was a “tireless devotee,” and she answered a call to be a co-president. “We all voted for her. It was great to work with her. I’m really going to miss her joyfulness.”

Rina was a devoted member of Brighton Heights Reformed Church in St. George. She joined the denomination as a long-time member of the Reformed Church of America at Stony Brook, previously known as Christ Community Church.

Staten Islanders knew Rina as a passionate supporter of families at Dance Dance Dance, Ltd., where her daughter thrived as a student. Many knew Rina through her masterful knitting, which she shared lovingly with cancer patients, premature babies and many friends.

She loved ballroom dancing with Sam. She engaged her kids’ every pursuit with verve, including raising a rescue pitbull. From Rina, her children learned faith in God, the enduring affection of family, and how to cook from scratch.

When Rina contracted COVID, the disease was daily killing 2,000 in the U.S., 8,000 people worldwide. To her family, she endures in death as a true a love and steadfast guide. Quarantined, short of breath, and resolute, she typed her gratitude to the world: “Be kind to each other.”

Rina is survived by her husband, Sam; their children, Alex and Amelia, of Staten Island; parents, Art and Gloria Miguel; brother Arturo Miguel, his wife Kim, and nephew Gabriel; and brother Fernando Miguel, his wife Kim, and nephews Colin, Elias, and Reece.

A family memorial service will be recorded and broadcast on YouTube at 3p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21. Matthew Funeral Home, Staten Island, arranged the cremation. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to ameliorate effects of the pandemic.

The funeral home and Rina’s Facebook page will post updates about observances, including congregational observances in future months at Brighton Heights Reformed Church, Staten Island. To view the memorial, use these links:

Main link: https://youtu.be/7jQKsQzd1r4

Backup link: https://youtu.be/UHYVv2152-c

Little ballerinas wear their masks and stay in their special boxes to maintain social distancing at Chance to Dance in Setauket. Photo by Julianne Mosher

They all decided to think outside the box when it comes to socially distanced dancing. 

When dance studios across Long Island had to close their doors at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic back in March, owners were concerned about what that meant for their studios. 

Ballerinas at Backstage Studio of Dance in Port Jefferson Station balance in their boxes. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Gwenn Capodieci, executive director at Backstage Studio of Dance in Port Jefferson Station, said in her 35 years at the studio, this year was unlike any other. 

“This was probably one of the hardest times of my life,” she said. “It was so very stressful trying to get the PPP loans, any other grants, working with our landlords, worrying about not being at the studio — I’m in the risky age group and I want to continue doing what I love.”

But within a week after the shutdown, she said, Backstage posted 65 classes to Zoom.

“Teaching on zoom was difficult,” she said. “In the beginning the kids were excited, but then it wore off. Part of dancing is they’re your family, you want to see them in class.”

Capodieci said her studio surveyed parents on holding a recital — a rite of passage for many ballerinas where they adorn sparkly tutu’s and dance for their families on the big stage after months of rehearsals. They decided to cancel it this year. 

But in mid-July they were allowed to reopen in person, changing shape, and adhering to the new state’s guidelines for teaching. Inside her studio taped to the floor are different grids, a socially distanced box for each dancer to twirl and tap in, while wearing their newest accessory — a mask.

Ballerinas at the barre stay six feet away from each other during warmups. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“We’ve perfected the cleaning routine,” she said. “We clean the floors in between every class, wipe down the barres and have taken every chair, cubby and bench that’s in the studio away.”

“I want to be safe,” she added. “I don’t want to get anyone sick, and I don’t want to close my business.”

Capodieci said the added costs of Zoom and the cleaning supplies took a toll, especially with enrollment down.

“Enrollment was 60-something percent of what we normally have,” she said. “I’m hoping that next year is a good year for us.”

Down the road, also in Port Jefferson Station, Port Jefferson Dance Academy was celebrating its 25th year in business when the virus struck.

“We did not do Zoom classes, instead I started a private Facebook page and my teachers would upload videos so students can do classes, warmups, barre work and across the floor whenever they chose to so they wouldn’t have to miss out on a Zoom meeting time or class,” Director Tara Lennstrom said. “Financially it was rough because I wasn’t making a profit off of that. The hope was when we opened up again, we could just resume where we left off.”

The outdoor stage at Port Jefferson Dance Academy. Photo from PJ Dance Academy

When they opened back up during Phase 4, they picked up on rehearsals for their recital. Normally the dancers perform at the Staller Center at Stony Brook University but were unable to due to COVID. She decided to hold an outdoor recital, instead. 

“I rented a giant dance floor with a DJ to play the music and people didn’t feel like they were behind the shopping center,” she said. “It was one of the most difficult recitals I’ve ever had to put together, but it was probably one of the best.”

Now in its 26th year, her classes look a little different. “We have 10 students per class, and I have a rather large studio, so that gives us ample space to dance,” she said. “People seem to be happy that there is something for their kids to do that’s fun and creative.”

Decked in their leotards and masks, Lennstrom said her students are not even phased by the new guidelines anymore.

“The resilience these kids have just shows you how they were able to adapt and how flexible they are,” she said.

Gabrielle Cambria, special productions manager at Chorus Line Dance Studio in Smithtown and Miller Place, said opening back up under the new guidelines was a no-brainer.

Ballerinas must stay within their boxes at Chorus Line Dance Studio in Smithtown. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“We all know that physical health isn’t the only health you need,” she said. “Everyone’s been really lucky and safe at our studio, and we’ve been dancing ever since.”

Chorus Line also implemented a large TV screen into their classrooms so students can Zoom in from home. 

“Our in-class group is cut in half, so they go back and forth each week,” Cambria added. 

Chance to Dance in Setauket did the same thing and opened up a Google Classroom account back in April.

“Anybody can take virtual class if they want to,” Jennifer Kranenberg, studio owner said. “If they’re not comfortable yet coming to class, they can still do something.”

Kranenberg said the virtual option was one positive that came out of COVID, because it allows students to makeup a class from home, or if they’re feeling slightly under the weather, they can still dance online. 

Young members of Chance to Dance studio in Setauket are also being recorded and livestreamed for other members not present. Photo by Julianne Mosher

At the start of the pandemic, Kranenberg said she knew how important the social aspect was for her students, so she added bonus weekly fun calendar of events including show and tells, Netflix movie nights, tea parties and family game nights online so her kids could still communicate virtually. She also featured her graduating seniors on social media, along with a surprise graduation car parade and a small, socially distanced prom. 

“I gave a huge piece of myself to make sure that the kids were having fun, staying engaged and getting to be with each other, having interactions with their dance friends,” she said. “It goes a long way.”

And, like the other studios, she faced similar challenges. She had to cut one of her three rooms to maintain a cap on students. “Enrollment is definitely low,” she said. “I wish it was higher than it was, but it’s not awful. I feel hopeful, but I’m scared. I feel like it’s a tight margin financially to, swing it and to get by.”

Miss Gwenn and her students at Backstage Studio of Dance in Port Jeff Station. Photo by Julianne Mosher

being in different locations with different students and classes, all four owners can agree that being back with their students was worth the hardship they faced the last nine months.

Capodieci said that her first day back in the studio she cried when she saw her students. 

“I love teaching dance,” she said. “I love my kids. I want to be with them, and if wearing the mask allows us to dance then we have to wear a mask.”

by -
0 974
Port Jefferson Station resident Brian Muff shares unique insights into local legends through his writing. Photo from Muff

Long Island’s largest lake, and a place of legend, Lake Ronkonkoma was the perfect setting for Brian Muff’s debut young adult suspense novel, Lady of the Lake. 

“It’s such a mysterious place that really inspired me to write the book,” he said. 

Port Jefferson Station resident Brian Muff shares unique insights into local legends through his writing. Photo from Muff

The 25-year-old Port Jefferson Station man came up with the idea nearly four years ago. While reading up on legends of the lake, he found its stories so intriguing that he decided to write a fictional story around the tales many locals have come to love.

There are several versions of Lake Ronkonkoma and the lady who haunts it.  The most common tale is that of a young Native American princess who fell in love with an English settler. Their relationship was kept secret, and depending on the story, one or both of the lovers gets killed. 

But the common denominator for all of the legends is that for every year on, the princess haunts the lake and drowns a young man in her murky waters – hoping to find her one true love again. 

“I took all of the legends that I’ve heard, and I made my own version of it,” Muff said. In his novel, a teenager named Miley and Braden visit the lake. He’s then dragged underwater by the Lady of the Lake, and with the help of a classmate and his eccentric “mad scientist” father, they devise a plan to reunite the princess with her forbidden lover. 

Muff said the novel took about 16 months to write, all while working part-time and working on his MBA at Stony Brook University. Eventually it was picked up by The Word Verve, Inc. who published it last month.

“I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from people who have really enjoyed it,” he said. “Older people that have heard the legend for years, they’re excited to read about it.”

Muff’s interest in local legends and all things paranormal are leading him towards writing more novels down the road. He said there might even be a trilogy bringing Miley and Braden back for another spooky adventure. 

“I try to do well-known Long Island landmarks and legends because I feel like people know them,” he said. “They know where the lake is, and it makes it more immediate and impactful for them when they read the book.”

Lady of the Lake can be purchased right now on the publisher’s website. It is also available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.