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Port Jefferson Station

Annemarie Lopez holds a police pin for her brother Christie Masone, an officer who died in the line of duty June 22. Photo by Kyle Barr

Crowds numbering in the several hundreds rallied at the corner of Route 112 and 347 in Port Jefferson Station June 22 calling for people to support police. It was a counterpoint to the over 100 protests all across Long Island calling for an end to police violence for the past several weeks.

People waved thin blue line flags and held signs supporting police reading “back the blue” and “respect and honor our law enforcement.”

The pro-police rally came three weeks after a protest against police violence in the same location, which some local progressive activists have called “resistance corner.” Some came with flags, signs or hats supporting President Donald Trump (R). Most people in the crowd at the June 22 rally were not wearing face masks, compared to other recent protests where the majority were wearing some kind of face covering.

Suffolk County Police officers stood at both sides of the protest line and entrance to the small park, and others milled about the crowd, with many people thanking them for their service. Most cars passing by honked in support, though there was a small number of counter protesters holding signs supporting Black Lives Matter on the other side of Route 347. Towards the start of the rally a woman pulled to the side of the road and got out of her car, cursing at the people standing on the sidewalk who responded with expletives of their own before a cop came by to tell her to get back in her car.

People at the rally said police have become disrespected since the start of the nationwide protests after the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd in police custody. Though they admitted what the police did in that situation was wrong, when one officer leaned his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes until EMTs arrived, they said most cops want to do good.

Annemarie Lopez, of Port Jefferson, said she was at the rally in remembrance of her brother, Christie Masone along with his partner Norman Cerullo who were shot and killed in the line of duty in 1978.

“There are good cops and bad cops, but these are people putting their lives on the line,” Lopez said.

Others said the calls for police budgets to be cut will ultimately make the Island less safe.

“Cops are being treated unfairly — this will be detrimental to our safety, we don’t need cuts to police,” said Maria Leonette, a nurse at Stony Brook University Hospital.

The Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association had a large presence, sporting a trailer which handed out water to people during the hot June afternoon.

PBA President Noel DiGerolamo saw it as an incredible turnout that showed a “humbling support for the men and women of law enforcement. The silent majority isn’t silent anymore.”

At the height of the rally, the crowds gathered under the trees in the center of the park to hear people speak, including former chairman of the Suffolk County Republican Party John Jay LaValle, who was introduced as a spokesperson for Trump.

One of the two main organizers for the rally, Jonathan Stuart of Manorville, said “I could not let the broad stroke of social justice, virtue signaling and cancel culture paint all the police in the shot of the heinous death of George Floyd,” adding, “Is every person who puts on their bullet proof vest, turn their radio on, holster their pistol, shine their badge and kiss their family goodbye a murderer? No. Racist? No.”

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The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce reminded residents their stores are open for Phase Two after a chamber meeting June 16. Photo by Joan Nickeson

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce released a video June 16 after a chamber meeting reminding the public that its stores, restaurants and other businesses are largely open since the start of Phase Two reopening on Long Island.

In Phase Two, restaurants are allowed to do outdoor sit-down dining, and stores are allowed to have customers shop inside, though at a reduced capacity. Hair stylists, salons and barbershops are also allowed to open, though most place require an appointment and there are other restrictions involved.

Click here to watch the video. For a full list of businesses in the Port Jefferson Station and Terryville communities and how they are operating, visiting the chamber website at https://pjstchamber.com/available-chamber-businesses/

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Lily Brosseau, on guitar, and Sydney Antos, both Comsewogue alumni, play and sing to residents and nursing staff of the Woodhaven Center of Care. Photo by Kyle Barr

What a year it has been so far. 

Since the passing of former Comsewogue Superintendent Joe Rella back in February, the entire nation has been shook by what seems like a crisis after crisis. 

High school students Gianna Pelella and Faith Schlichting perform for the residents of Woodhaven Center of Care in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Kyle Barr

But June 2, with school buildings closed and the community only now crawling out from under the rock of months of quarantine, district teachers and officials still found ways to honor Rella’s ideals of service above self. This year, students, faculty and alumni showed their support to a local assisted living facility.

Joe’s Day of Service, which was started in 2018 by special education teacher Andrew Harris, usually includes students, faculty and alumni supporting the community by participating in projects around the district. Past years included cleaning graves at Calverton National Cemetery, cleaning animal cages at local rescue shelters and singing to residents of the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year district leaders had no choice but to think of something different.

Around midday, just under 30 cars crowded with district residents drove through the Woodhaven Center of Care facility in Port Jefferson Station. There, cars honked horns and shouted their support to the residents and staff of the home, who like many assisted living and elder care facilities have seen months of lockdown, and residents are only now able to spend time outside. However, they must be wearing masks at all times out of their rooms, and visitors are still not normally allowed to enter the facility.

“In this time, with everything going on, I think this is wonderful,” said Patricia Cagney, a resident of the assisted living facility and longtime PJS resident. “We need celebration and good remembrances, and that’s what this is all about.”

While the passing cars showcased Comsewogue pride, two sets of musical artists performed for the assisted living residents and to the nursing staff of the long-term care facility. 

Cars lined along Woodhaven Center of Care in Port Jefferson Station to offer their affection to those inside. Photo by Kyle Barr

High school students Gianna Pelella and Faith Schlichting performed renditions of Andra Day’s “Rise Up” and Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

Lily Brosseau and Sydney Antos, who both graduated from Comsewogue in 2018, presented Drops of Jupiter’s “Train,” with Brosseau on guitar and Antos on vocals. Both said their lives were impacted when college campuses shut down, but they said they plan to attend again when campuses hopefully reopen in the fall. 

“We felt really close to Dr. Rella, and we really wanted to participate in this day of service,” Brosseau said. 

Laura Marinus-Menno, the director of recreation for Woodhaven, said the last months have been especially hard for the residents, but this show of love and compassion from the school community has “lifted the spirits of our residents who are still under quarantine,” and called it “inspirational” as residents came out of their cocoons from being in isolation since March.

She said she is a Comsewogue alumni, as well as her children, and said Rella was “an amazing man.”

District staff and students also performed other acts of community kindness June 2. Residents made signs thanking local businesses, painted kindness rocks to display uplifting messages for essential workers and wrote messages for the community in chalk on their driveways. The school district finished planting sunflowers at Jackie’s Garden at the high school. There is a flower for each senior graduate they will be able to take home when they’re fully grown. 

Harris said such days as this stand in direct opposition to the pandemic and the horrors witnessed for the past several months.

“It’s the antithesis of everything going on,” he said.

“No justice, no peace” and “I can’t breathe” chanted hundreds of protesters gathered near the intersection of routes 347 and 112 in Port Jefferson Station. Wielding signs condemning police brutality and racism, scores of passing cars near the intersection honked their horns in a show of support. The June 1 rally was one of many peaceful demonstrations occurring around the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a now-fired and arrested police officer.

“We have seen the murders of black men, women and children, this wasn’t an isolated incident,” said Skyler Johnson, a Mount Sinai resident and Suffolk County Community College graduate who organized the rally. Johnson is set to primary several other Democrats in the race for state Senate 1st District seat. “We are here to show that we won’t stand for this anymore.”

Anthwan Newell of Uniondale said he was glad to see an ethnically diverse group of protesters.

“I’m happy to see so many people stepping out of their comfort zones and really letting their voices be heard,” he said

Newell, who made the trip to Port Jefferson Station with a group of friends, reiterated the need for immediate change.

“As black people, we sadly have gotten numb to seeing someone killed by police brutality,” he said. “We’re all out here for the same reasons, we’re fighting for change. It has to happen, and it has to happen fast.”

Josh Parish and Ashley Barry of Centereach said white people can’t ignore this issue anymore, especially on Long Island.

“It is important to not let people forget what is going on,” Barry said. “People can’t drive past us today without seeing and reading the signs and hearing the chants.”

He stressed the need for institutional reform in law enforcement and to demilitarize police departments.

“It is not just one cop, it is a systemic issue — it starts from the top,” Barry said.

Denzel Johnson of Coram said conversations on racism need to continue after these protests.

“It is still here, and it won’t go away until we make a change,” the Coram resident said. “The only way to make that change is by taking that first step and that’s what we’re doing today. This is a great demonstration, it is good to see people of all colors standing together against racism.”

Suffolk County Police Department’s 6th Precinct was on hand and reached out to organizers beforehand to ask if they could stand with the protesters. More than a dozen police officers monitored the rally.

The nationwide protests were sparked by a video that was shown on TV and circulated on social media showing Floyd on the ground as a white officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Chauvin, who was fired from the Minneapolis Police Department, has been charged with third-degree murder. Three other officers who were at the scene were also fired but have not been charged with a crime.

Protests have rocked the country, with some of them turning violent in several major metropolitan areas, including New York City. Long Island has already seen several such protests in places like Brentwood, but most have remained peaceful. Late on Monday, June 1, police said a group of approximately 100 protesters marched toward the 7th Precinct building in Shirley, but police set up a skirmish line along William Floyd Parkway, and after two hours the crowd disbursed.

Throughout the week, local officials have weighed in on the issue.

“In my 30 years of service, I have never witnessed such a cruel and heinous act of violence by anyone wearing the uniform as we saw in Minnesota last week,” said Errol Toulon Jr. (D), the Suffolk County sheriff. “The killing of George Floyd is so contrary to the mission of law enforcement, and to the oath that officials take to uphold the Constitution. We must never forget that we are here to protect the rights of the people.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) called Chauvin’s actions a type of racism.

“Perhaps the most disturbing thing is the lack of concern that this officer showed in knowing that he was being videotaped,” Bellone said. “That suggests this officer felt that there was no accountability.”

The Miller Place Teachers Association along with Tuscany Gourmet Market organized a soup donation to Mather Hospital. Miller Place alumnae, Sammy Schaefer and Nicole Ellis, are among the people on the front lines. Photo from MPSD

By Rita J. Egan and Kyle Barr

With so much going on day to day, with people stuck at home and fearing for the future, there are consistent hopes provided by the men and women doing more to help the people most in need. Whether it’s people making masks for essential workers or meals for hospital employees on the front lines, we asked local officials, business and civic leaders who they would like to thank during this time of crisis.

New York State

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) wanted to thank both those on the front lines and the “unsung heroes.”

“I want to thank each and every one in our community who has been on the front lines of this battle,” he said. “Doctors, nurses, first responders and all of our volunteer firefighters have been fighting a war that they never expected. Their efforts are truly heroic, and we owe them a debt we may never be able to repay. But equally as notable is the work of our unsung heroes — retail workers, postal employees, cleaners, truck drivers, restaurant employees, delivery people and every single person who continues to show up every day to help make sure we have food on our table, gas in our cars and electricity in our homes. This is an effort that requires so many to work together and these men and women are the ones who will lead us to victory over this virus. We say thank you for all you do for all of us.”

Rocky Point residents the Palifka family have been putting up signs saying “Rocky Point Strong” on people’s front lawns, as a simple way of keeping spirits high. Photo by Jane Bonner

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) is thankful for several local residents.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to the members of our community who, week after week, have shown up for their jobs — our health care workers, first responders, grocery workers and all the others who have provided the crucial services we need to get through this shutdown. Through their courageous commitment to service, essential workers have enabled the rest of us to do our part by staying home.”

Englebright was grateful also for those doing their part at home. 

“For those of us at home, it is hard to reconcile that staying put is actually doing something important,” he said. “But by working from home, helping our children with their schooling, social distancing and wearing masks when out in public, our responsible behavior has worked to flatten the curve and slow down the transmission of the coronavirus. So, my gratitude goes to everyone who responded so admirably to the challenge before us. Your collective actions combined with others around the state have literally helped save thousands of lives.”

State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) said it’s difficult for him to just name one person or one group of workers.

“Everybody’s different and everybody, in different ways, has done so much incredible work,” he said.

He said in addition to medical and nursing home professionals, it’s important to remember the volunteer firefighters and EMS workers.

“They’re basically volunteering to put themselves in harm’s way,” he said.

He also credited police officers who have had to assist more so in ambulance calls during the pandemic.

“They are busier than they have ever been before, but it’s less with crime and more with dealing with so many health emergencies,” he said.

Gaughran added that medical calls are more involved than before as additional protocols need to be followed to protect first responders from COVID-19.

He said he has seen so many restaurant owners doing remarkable work too, donating food to nearby hospitals and firehouses.

“Some of these businesses are operating almost on their last dollars, just using it to help people,” he said.

Suffolk County

Suffolk County Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) had health care and front line workers as well as residents on her mind when giving thanks.

“I would like to thank the doctors, nurses, aides, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, techs, phlebotomists, dietary workers, custodians, mechanics, grocery workers, restaurant workers, car mechanics, moms, dads, grandparents and daycare teachers and aides who have sacrificed their personal health and safety during this time as essential workers,” she said. “I would also like to thank all of those that continue to wear masks, maintain at least a 6-foot distance from others, sneeze and cough into the crook of their arms and wash their hands frequently. These little efforts protect not only them and their families from COVID-19 and other viral and bacterial infections, but they protect us all! Stay strong, stay safe!”

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) also had an array of people to thank.

Bagel Express employees custom made and donated 50 feet of hero sandwiches spelling out “thank you” to health care workers at Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo from David Prestia

“During this unprecedented pandemic, it has been wonderful to see our neighbors coming together to support and help one another,” he said. “All of our essential workers (first responders, health care providers, postal and delivery people, store clerks and many more) deserve our gratitude for the sacrifices they make each day to do their job to help keep us safe and healthy. It is important to recognize everyone stepping up to make a contribution, from students sending kind messages — to sewing groups and seamstresses making and donating face masks — to restaurants/food establishments donating meals — to the libraries and businesses making PPEs and hand sanitizers — to nurseries donating plants to residents and health workers — and to the newspapers and media outlets keeping us informed. The work of those on the front lines is truly heroic and I can’t thank them enough.”

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) wished to thank Heritage Trust and the Mount Sinai Congregational Church for their food drives, which each raised thousands of food and toiletries items that will go to those who need it. She also thanked essential workers including law enforcement, health department and Department of Social Services.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said she’s grateful for a range of people.

“Like so many others, my gratitude goes first to our health care and frontline workers,” she said. “Their courage and devotion is the brightest star in this dark time. I’m grateful that people in our community are staying home, following social distancing guidelines, and wearing face coverings in public so we can all help slow the advance of this invisible enemy. We all have that essential role to lower the toll COVID-19 takes by being responsible.”

Hahn also pointed out the importance of mental health professionals. 

“I am grateful too for the mental health professionals providing counseling, guidance and emotional support for domestic violence victims, as well as the many among us who are struggling to hold on to hope and the tattered shreds of what was a normal life just a few short months ago,” she said. “As someone with a social work background, I know for certain that these caring individuals are critical to the wellbeing of our community. We need their skills and their caring hearts now more than ever.”

Hahn added that the community has played an important role to help fight the pandemic. 

“From people making masks for others, delivering food to seniors and neighbors in need, to journalists bringing us the facts and stories or the lost and to the families teaching their kids at home, I see bravery and love everywhere,” she said. “It gives me hope that we will come through this stronger than ever.”

Children across the county have been writing and drawing encouraging messages in chalk. Photo by Stefanie Werner

Suffolk County Legislator Susan Berland (D- Dix Hills) thanked not only those on the front lines but also her staff members and many others. 

“During this most unprecedented time, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all essential workers,” she said. “You are on the front lines providing us the goods, services, care and protection we need to keep moving forward. A special thank you to the members of the Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees who prove time and time again that their willingness to serve the residents of our county knows no bounds. I would also like to thank my staff for their hard work during long days that often become long nights. Their commitment to serving the constituents of the 16th Legislative District and all residents of Suffolk County is most admirable.”

She also had praise for the residents of the district.

“Thank you for demonstrating what makes Suffolk County the best place to live,” she said. “As a community we have shown that we are in this together, and surely, if we can get through this together, then we can get through anything together.”

Brookhaven Town

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) said she has been holed up in her house since the start of the pandemic, only having one kidney and knowing it’s a potential comorbidity. Still, she said she has seen a tremendous amount of community support, such as from Rocky Point residents Quentin Palifka and his mother Alicia who have been putting up signs saying “Rocky Point Strong” on people’s front lawns, as a simple way of keeping spirits high.

Otherwise, both she and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) pointed to Lighthouse Mission, which despite all the constant pressure and expanding need has kept up its mission to give food to those who need it. In April, the town gave Lighthouse Mission the green light to start delivering food and toiletries directly to homebound residents. With volunteers which has included a few elected town council members, they have been delivering upwards of 100s of meals a day, Romaine said.

Margaritas Cafe in Port Jefferson Station, along with the owners’ other franchise The Cuban in Patchogue, is just one of many examples of businesses supplying food to hospital workers during the ongoing crisis. Photo from Facebook

The supervisor also looked to thank the town personnel who are delivering close to 425 hot meals to seniors who were in the town’s congregate nutrition program. That is 425 meals each and every day.

“People feel like somebody still cares,” Romaine said.

Along with that, he also thanked all the people who are continuing to operate the many food pantries in the town of Brookhaven. 

“They are doing God’s work — they are helping people in desperate need,” he said. “Nobody should go hungry.”

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said she was thankful for many “hometown heroes.”

“I am incredibly thankful for the essential workers who are diligently providing support to individuals and families, including those most vulnerable, in our community during the COVID pandemic,” she said. “Without their commitment, none of us could be safe. In addition to our outstanding health care and medical professionals, I would like to highlight and thank the janitors, custodial, and maintenance staffs that are keeping our essential facilities and businesses running, as well as the grocery workers, the United States Postal Service and the many delivery drivers who continue to ensure that we receive the food, medicine and other supplies that we need during this time. A final thank you goes to all those hometown heroes in our community, too numerous to name, who have stepped up to fill a community need during this challenging time.”

Smithtown

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) had many to thank from restaurant owners to residents and community organizations that have taken the time to help out others to his fellow “partners in government” at the federal, state and county levels. Most of all, he wanted to show town employees his gratefulness.

“None of this would be possible without the hard work and dedication of the town’s department directors and our labor force who stepped up in every way, during this pandemic,” he said. “The department leadership has worked through this entire pandemic, without time at home to be with their families. Our Senior Citizens Department teams and volunteers have pushed through exhaustion to deliver weekly meals for over 200 homebound residents. Our parks department has worked tirelessly to keep town buildings and grounds sanitized, while helping us to deliver PPE supplies to local frontline workers and facilities. And most of all, the job that our Public Safety department has done over the last two months has been nothing short of extraordinary. They did not get to rotate out of the schedule and work from home like all other departments. Public Safety has managed our Emergency Response, patrolled our parks, assisted SCPD, enforced social distancing requirements and all executive orders from the state. They have done an exceptional job, in an impossible situation and we all owe them a debt of gratitude.”

Huntington

Town of Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinaci (R) also had a number of community members to thank.

Susie Owens of St. Charles Hospital delivered a special message to her colleagues in chalk. Photo from St. Charles Facebook

“While it goes without question that all frontline workers deserve our heartfelt thanks, special recognition is due to the volunteers who have come out of the safety of their own homes, out of retirement, or who have traveled to Long Island from less affected areas of our country to put their lives on the line to participate on our front lines,” Lupinaci said. “From fire, rescue and EMS volunteers, to retired volunteers serving alongside our doctors and nurses, and military service members who are supplementing the efforts of our local front lines — our thanks can never be expressed fully enough. As we plan to kick off National Nurses Week on May 6, I’d like to thank Theresa Sullivan, whose Huntington Hospital Meals initiative delivered thousands of meals and raised over $150,000 to thank medical professionals and staff at Huntington Hospital over the several initial weeks of the pandemic, giving a boost to our doctors and nurses, who have found themselves in the difficult position of filling in, bedside, for the families of isolated patients during overwhelming, non-stop shifts. I encourage everyone who is still working and collecting a paycheck to join me in donating to the Northwell Health COVID-19 Emergency Fund to support our amazing nurses!”

Three Village

Jonathan Kornreich, president of the Three Village Civic Association and a member of the district’s school board, said he would like to thank the teachers.

“These people have devoted years to learning their craft and developing the skills to be effective in the classroom, and they suddenly find themselves engaged in a practice very different from what any of us could have predicted,” he said. “And yet, they have risen to this challenge with compassion, with great effort and yes, with newly developed skills.”

Kornreich said that even though school is not in session in the usual ways, Three Village Central School District teachers are working harder and longer than usual “and in ways that have challenged them professionally and personally.”

“I think that many parents have a newfound appreciation for what’s involved in getting developing minds to focus on learning,” Kornreich said. “I’m thankful that the kids of Three Village have a warm, dedicated and professional teaching staff to keep the wheels on this thing as we head into an uncertain future.”

Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, said she is thankful for Three Village residents.

“They just keep giving and giving freely,” she said. “It’s just extraordinary.”

Rocky Point community members and the VFW Post 6249 arrive at the Long Island State Veterans Home to show support despite horrible losses suffered inside. Photo from Facebook

Rocchio said she has witnessed a huge number of philanthropic acts during the pandemic that it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. The WMHO along with Stony Brook Village Center restaurants created a health care meal program and are currently donating meals to Stony Brook University Hospital. Rocchio has been touched by the number of residents who have been donating funds to help with the mission. More than 9,000 meals have been donated to health care workers.

“It’s such a wonderful place to live,” she said.

Port Jefferson/Port Jefferson Station

Barbara Ransome, executive director of the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, thanked A Cake in Time and its owner Sherry Sobel, who after a donation to help her business, took that money and made cookies and then made arrangements to have them delivered to the underserved. She thanked other individual businesses including the Fifth Season Restaurant, with owners John and Deb Urbinati and Steam Room manager Vinnie Seiter who have been supplying lunches and dinners to the Welcome Friends Kitchen without any compensation.

Indu Kaur, who with The Curry Club’s Feed the #HealthCareHeroes Campaign has been raising money and donating meals since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis back in March. They have donated 2,000 meals thus far and hope to continue our work and feed the homeless shelters, and families that lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Carolyn Benson, a musician and singer, partnered in The Journey Home Project to support veterans through the pandemic. People can go to www.carolynbenson.us to buy a shirt which now through May 31 all proceeds are going to The Journey Home Project, which assists nonprofits aiding vets.

Front Porch Photographer Andrew Theodorakis of Yellow House Images has been taking front porch photos and setting up a Gofundme page to then donate that money for meals for the underserved through the PJ Chamber.

Rebecca Kassay of Suffolk County Creators of Covid-19 Medical Supplies and her team of volunteers have been making facial masks by the hundreds.

Debbie and Jerry Bowling, the owners of Pasta Pasta, have been cooking countless meals donated to charitable causes, hospitals, women shelters.

Legislator Sarah Anker joins the Island Heart Food Pantry, which operates out of the Mount Sinai Congregational Church, in a food drive. Photo from Anker’s office

Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce Community Liaison Joan Nickeson named several chamber and non-chamber community members alike, including Jennifer Dzvonar, owner of Bass Electric and president of the chamber who helped purchase nearly $700 in groceries for the needy in the community; Jackie Kirsch, of PJS, who has been making masks for a variety of organizations since March; and Toni St. John of PJS, who is sewing as part of Facebook page Operation Headband making the straps hospital workers use to hold masks to their face, taking the stress away from their ears. St. John is also one of the costume designers down at Theatre Three.

She also wished to thank Debra Quigley, a trained Literacy Suffolk volunteer — who while in-person Comsewogue Library ESL classes have been cancelled, she has managed to offer ESL classes virtually through the library. 

“Our parents in this community are diversified,” Nickeson said.

Smithtown

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) had many to thank from restaurant owners to residents and community organizations that have taken the time to help out others to his fellow “partners in government” at the federal, state and county levels. Most of all, he wanted to show town employees his gratefulness.

“None of this would be possible without the hard work and dedication of the town’s department directors and our labor force who stepped up in every way, during this pandemic,” he said. “The department leadership has worked through this entire pandemic, without time at home to be with their families. Our Senior Citizens Department teams and volunteers have pushed through exhaustion to deliver weekly meals for over 200 homebound residents. Our parks department has worked tirelessly to keep town buildings and grounds sanitized, while helping us to deliver PPE supplies to local frontline workers and facilities. And most of all, the job that our Public Safety department has done over the last two months has been nothing short of extraordinary. They did not get to rotate out of the schedule and work from home like all other departments. Public Safety has managed our Emergency Response, patrolled our parks, assisted SCPD, enforced social distancing requirements and all executive orders from the state. They have done an exceptional job, in an impossible situation and we all owe them a debt of gratitude.”

Port Jefferson/Port Jefferson Station

Barbara Ransome, executive director of the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, thanked A Cake in Time and its owner Sherry Sobel, who after a donation to help her business, took that money and made cookies and then made arrangements to have them delivered to the underserved. She thanked other individual businesses including the Fifth Season Restaurant, with owners John and Deb Urbinati and Steam Room manager Vinnie Seiter who have been supplying lunches and dinners to the Welcome Friends Kitchen without any compensation.

Indu Kaur, who with The Curry Club’s Feed the #HealthCareHeroes Campaign has been raising money and donating meals since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis back in March. They have donated 2,000 meals thus far and hope to continue our work and feed the homeless shelters, and families that lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Thank you signs outside Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson. Photo by Kyle Barr

Carolyn Benson, a musician and singer, partnered in The Journey Home Project to support veterans through the pandemic. People can go to www.carolynbenson.us to buy a shirt which now through May 31 all proceeds are going to The Journey Home Project, which assists nonprofits aiding vets.

Front Porch Photographer Andrew Theodorakis of Yellow House Images has been taking front porch photos and setting up a Gofundme page to then donate that money for meals for the underserved through the PJ Chamber.

Rebecca Kassay of Suffolk County Creators of Covid-19 Medical Supplies and her team of volunteers have been making facial masks by the hundreds.

Debbie and Jerry Bowling, the owners of Pasta Pasta, have been cooking countless meals donated to charitable causes, hospitals, women shelters.

Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce Community Liaison Joan Nickeson named several chamber and non-chamber community members alike, including Jennifer Dzvonar, owner of Bass Electric and president of the chamber who helped purchase nearly $700 in groceries for the needy in the community; Jackie Kirsch, of PJS, who has been making masks for a variety of organizations since March; and Toni St. John of PJS, who is sewing as part of Facebook page Operation Headband making the straps hospital workers use to hold masks to their face, taking the stress away from their ears. St. John is also one of the costume designers down at Theatre Three.

She also wished to thank Debra Quigley, a trained Literacy Suffolk volunteer — who while in-person Comsewogue Library ESL classes have been cancelled, she has managed to offer ESL classes virtually through the library. 

“Our parents in this community are diversified,” Nickeson said.

North Shore Brookhaven Civics/Chambers of Commerce

Civics have also noticed the massive amount of support generated by local residents. Bea Ruberto, the president of the Sound Beach Civic Association, thanked Rose Mayer and her daughter Lily, who as their own organization, The LilyRose Collective, are making masks along with Facebook group Long Island Love for police and other essential personnel. 

“We’re (the Civic) planning to donate to help her do this,” Ruberto said. “We’re also going to be asking the community at large to donate fabric, etc., and she will give us the masks to donate to whoever needs them.”

Health care workers at Stony Brook University Hospital crowd together after the flyover April 28. Photo by Kyle Barr

Chambers also wanted to respect the multiple strides businesses have made in the community despite the strains and stresses from lost business. The Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce thanked Dan Reinwald of Tilda’s Bake Shop who donated pastries, donuts, rolls and bread to Mather as well as Hope Academy at Little Portion Friary in Mount Sinai in appreciation of medical professionals and security staff. 

Tom O’Grady of Tuscany Market, who partnered with the Miller Place Teachers Association and organized soup and food donations for Mather Hospital,wanted to recognize our medical professionals.

Roy Pelaez of Island Empanada donated empanadas to the Suffolk County Police Department to show appreciation for our law enforcement. 

Joe Cognitore and the Rocky Point VFW Post 6249, escorted by Peter Oleschuk, Rick Mees and the North Fork Cruisers, took to the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University to pay tribute to the staff and volunteers serving there as well as to remember and honor deceased heroes. 

Eufrasia Rodriguez of Justice 4 Autism has been donating masks to ambulance drivers, nurses at Stony Brook, Good Samaritan Hospital, Pilgrim State and Southside Hospitals along with local businesses like Spiro’s, Fantasia Bridal and Bakewicz Farms.

Tino Massotto of Cow Palace donated complete dinners to St. Charles Hospital’s ER Department and ICU as well as Good Shepherd Hospice.

Michelle LaManno of C.P. LaMannos Have a Pizza in Miller Place donated salads and pizza pies to Mather Hospital, and Michelle and Stelios Stylianou of Studio E hosted free virtual art classes for the community.

Lindsey David, a Medford EMT, is tested for coronavirus antibodies at New York Cancer and Blood Specialists in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Kyle Barr

With the amount of testing for COVID-19 still nowhere where it needs to be, locals in emergency service are starting to get such necessary information whether they have COVID-19 or its antibodies from some unexpected places.

Kenneth Spiegel, a Medford volunteer department member, is tested for COVID-19 antibodies. Photo by Kyle Barr

The New York Cancer and Blood Specialists location in Port Jefferson Station started offering tests to firefighters, emergency responders and other essential workers Saturday, May 2. Throughout the morning, cars from districts such as Medford pulled into the parking lot located at 1500 Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station. Many who arrived said this had been their first opportunity to get tested, even though as EMS workers in an ambulance they have been handling COVID-positive patients for nearly the past two months.

Marcia Spiegel, an EMT for the Medford Fire Department, said she had been exposed all the way back in early March when at a surprise party she learned one of the persons there had it, but even close to two months since,she was never able to get tested.

Both her and her husband Kenneth both traveled to Port Jefferson Station to get tested, as did many from her department that morning May 2.

“If we’re in fact negative, it doesn’t mean that we still can’t get sick, but if we know if we have the antibodies, that would be better,” she said.

Staff in full body gear went out to each car to administer the tests, including the notorious long-stemmed nasal swab to test for the virus and drawing blood to test for antibodies. About 35 visitors came to the location last Saturday, including some essential workers from a construction company. NYCBS officials said another 50 would attend next Saturday’s marathon. The testing is held Saturdays at that specific location when no other employees or clients come through, medical workers said.

Lindsey David, a Medford EMT, said she donated blood right at the start of the pandemic, but has been looking for ways to help even more. That would be especially important if she can confirm she may have had the virus and perhaps can donate her blood plasma if she indeed has the antibodies.

“I just want to help any way I can,” she said.

Diana Youngs, a VP of Clinical Operations at NYCBS, said all readings from the tests are being done in-house at the Route 112 location. Fire departments and companies receive their antibody tests within the day, while the virus test is available within the next 48 hours.

Lindsey David, a Medford EMT, is tested for COVID-19 at New York Cancer and Blood Specialists in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Kyle Barr

Researchers are still trying to understand what are the likelihood of developing antibodies for the virus after infection, but theoretically, Youngs said, if one has tested negative for the virus and for antibodies then likely they have never had the virus.

“They don’t know, and say you call an ambulance to your house, you don’t know if they have it,” Youngs said. “So it works both ways, it helps everybody.”

All testing supplies are coming from the company’s own suppliers.

Such efforts are some of the few non-governmental testing initiatives on the island that specifically offer help to emergency responders. While Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced plans for testing to be held at local pharmacies, specific details of locations and how those tests will be processed have not yet seen the light. New York state is also offering people the chance to try and get tested, with people able to visit covid19screening.health.ny.gov

Though, barring a vaccine, officials said testing is the only way the economy will eventually be able to safely reopen.

“Increased, reliable testing is going to be the key to reopening businesses, public facilities, and protecting our workers,” Brookhaven town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said in a release. “Offering these tests to our frontline workers is a critical first step.”

New York Cancer & Blood Specialists in PJS.

Starting May 2, the Port Jefferson Station location of the New York Cancer & Blood Specialists will begin to offer COVID-19 testing to local fire and ambulance districts.

A spokesperson for the company said multiple local fire departments have committed to be the first groups tested at the site. It is reserved specifically for first responders only. The site will offer both antibody and nasal swab testing for COVID-19, and such results of this testing could also be useful in determining the utilization and allocation of personal protective equipment.

“We are trying to help the fire departments determine who can go back out into the field safely, whether or not members were previously exposed, if they’re not actively infected anymore, or if they have the antibodies so it’s safer for them to go into certain areas,” Diana Youngs, the vice president of clinical operations at NYCBS said in a release.

“Increased, reliable testing is going to be the key to reopening businesses, public facilities, and protecting our workers,” Brookhaven town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said in a release. “Offering these tests to our frontline workers is a critical first step.”

The location which is closed on weekends ensures no potential exposure to patients. Nurses in PPE will test the local fire and EMS volunteers at a designated drawing station in the parking lot. The results are processed within 30 minutes for the antibody test and between 18-24 hours for the nasal swab test.

“Volunteer ambulance workers on Long Island place themselves at risk of contracting this virus every day that they report for duty. Every single call they respond to is a potential COVID-19 positive patient,” said Greg Miglino,  the chief of South Country Ambulance. “We’re grateful to New York Cancer and Blood Specialists for offering testing to these volunteers, who put their lives on the line, not for pay, but to serve the most vulnerable people in our community.”

The location is at 1500 Route 112 Port Jefferson Station.

The nursing staff at Mather Hospital thanks people for their donations and for keeping up social distancing. Photo from Kathy Long and Nicole Flatley

By Rich Acritelli

“When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is!”

From the start of the coronavirus epidemic that has hit this nation, this saying has been followed by local nurses Kathy Long and Nicole Flatley. These two hospital workers are at opposite ends of their careers, but share the common goal of helping their patients. Within a medical crisis that rivals and surpasses all other illnesses in recent history, COVID-19 has left a mark on the nation that will never be forgotten. Currently, at the time of reporting, there are well over 400,000 cases of this virus with close to 13,000 American lives lost. In New York State alone, there are almost 5,500 deaths with close to 140,000 confirmed cases that are growing every day.

Newbie nurse Nicole Flatley has only been working at Mather for less than a year before the advent of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo from Flatley

Healthcare workers of every kind are facing extreme health hazards and working an extraordinary number of hours to help save lives and help stem the tide of the virus. Never has any other generation of Americans watched the USNS Comfort dock in New York Harbor to care for local citizens or see the government build field hospitals in Central Park, the Jacob Javits Center in New York City and closer to home at Stony Brook University.  Even during times of war, children and young adults were still able to go to school to get an education. Due to the severity of COVID-19, some of the most common parts of our society have changed through online teaching, a practice now seen from one coast to the other.

As a 22-year-old resident of Sound Beach, Flatley has been a nurse at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson since August, 2019. It has been less than a year since she graduated from St. Josephs College, but she is now one of the 3.8 million registered nurses nationally battling the virus. For the last eight months, this newly hired employee has flourished into a trusted nursing member of the 3 South team in Mather, one that has been at the forefront for treating COVID-19 patients within Mather.  

It is no surprise that Flatley is working long shifts to help men and women of all different ages fight the virus. As her former social studies teacher, I recognized her as a prepared, organized and motivated student willing to do her best within every assigned task. Flatley was a key member of the Rocky Point field hockey team which was amongst the most competitive on Long Island. In school, Flatley’s excellence with her academics enabled her to be placed on the National Honor Society. Armed with a brilliant smile, Flatley enjoys her time with family and friends.

Flatley is a “spunky” well rounded young lady who has the ability to talk to others with an upbeat personality, something she has utilized to care for her COVID-19 patients. Working overtime and in midnight shifts, Flatley said she is extremely thankful for the nurses that have helped guide her during the start of her career. With the staff around her, these nurses help determine any positive and negative coronavirus cases. Mather has seen the wide variation of symptoms, from shortness of breath, fever, diarrhea, and chest tightness. Nurses are covered from head toe in protective gowns and gear with suction and surgical face masks, along with face shields. While she said she has limited experience, Flatley has received an into-the-fryer education that has seen her handle daunting responsibilities at an extremely high level. 

Experienced health care worker Kathy Long is the nursing manager for the 3 South Unit. This 30-year  nursing veteran nurse and Port Jefferson Station resident said she is extremely proud of her colleagues. During these stressful moments, her nurses have not taken a day off and have worked long hours through the rigors of the crisis. Long said she is extremely thankful for the compassion of her staff who have worked under the most challenging conditions that could be asked of any nurse. Former Athletic Director to St. Anthony’s High School in Huntington and  Port Jefferson Station resident Don Buckley has known Long for many years, saying she has outstanding professional qualities and that he views her as a “wonderful, caring, loving nurse, and most of all wife and mother.  It was no surprise to us when she became supervisor of 3 South, as she is a natural leader and highly respected.”

Veteran nurse Kathy Long has been working at Mather for 30 years, but has “never experienced anything like this.” Photo from Long

As the senior member of this department, Long was pleased with Flatley’s skills, and that she has shown to be “an advocate for her patients, a critical thinker, and a quick study.”  

While Flatley may be a younger nurse, Long said she was pleased with her progress shown through many of these dark moments. As a parent of three boys who are about the same age as many of the younger staff at Mather, she has guided these younger nurses with vital information to get her through the hard days.

For 30 years, Long has observed trying medical conditions, but she maintains that this epidemic is by far the worst situation that she has ever endured as a nurse. The scary part of COVID-19, she said, is that the increased “spike” has not yet hit New York. Every precaution has been taken. In order to keep the contact limited between the patients and healthcare workers, the hospital issued I-Pads to people suffering from COVID-19. They use this technology to speak to the doctors and nurses when they are not in these rooms. The “nucleus” program, as its called, has allowed the patients greater access to those professionals that are helping them and for additional face time to see their loved ones who are unable to visit them. Long said the program has strengthened morale for their patients.

During every major moment that America has faced national adversity, people have always helped each other through trying times. Over the last twenty years, rescue workers spent countless hours at Ground Zero during and after the 9/11 attacks. For the previous two decades, American soldiers have been supported from home as they fought in major battles in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now the next major aspect of patriotism has undoubtedly been observed through the healthcare workers in New York. New York City Fire Department trucks and crews have been placed in front of hospitals cheering the healthcare workers. With a smile, Flatley explained how the local fire departments have blasted their sirens at the same time to show appreciation to local hospitals that are on the “front lines” of the virus response.

Newbie nurse Nicole Flatley, left, has only been working at Mather for less than a year before the advent of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo from Flatley

As a senior nurse, Long said she is incredibly thankful of the outside aid sent to this hospital from restaurants like Ruvo East, the Port Jeff Lobster House and Rocco’s Pizza, just to name a few. She would like to recognize the local families that have also brought food for her staff and the many appreciation cards from children from as far away as West Sayville. These colorful notes by the kids have highlighted the many sacrifices all hospital workers are conducting on a regular basis for the COVID-19 patients. Many of these pictures are hung in an populated area in the hopsital, serving as a vital morale booster for all the hospital staff. It is possible Flatley will serve in the same role as Long in the future, supporting her staff as a pillar of nursing expertise and understanding. 

Flatley has grown immensely during this mounting crisis. One of the greatest concerns that she deals with at her job is the “unknown” of this medical condition. The nurses continually work under unyielding pressures with no known cure, no timetable for it to end, and no shift ever being the same. Always a young lady with a can-do attitude, Flatley’s mother Jill describes her sheer pride in her daughter by saying, “I know it’s your job, but your kindness and courage to do it inspires me beyond words. I can tell you are making an immense difference in many lives. Love you and stay safe.” 

Thank you to the doctors, support staff and nurses like that of Long and Flatley that have strenuously labored with their peers to provide love and comfort to the victims of this virus.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

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The cell tower has been proposed for the southwestern portion of the property. Photo from Google maps

The Terryville Fire District is moving ahead on plans for a cell tower at its main firehouse, one they say could make the difference in emergency situations. 

The fire district has proposed creating a 120-foot monopole cell tower at the southwest portion of the property. Steve Petras, the district manager, said they are working with East Patchogue-based tower construction company Elite-Towers LP, which on its website says it specializes in working with municipalities to build these towers in conjunction with cell service providers (www.elite-towers.com). While Petras said they have not yet confirmed which provider would be on the tower, he mentioned AT&T was currently at the top of the list.

The cell tower, which district officials called a “mobile communications tower,” will include apparatus to extend the reach of the fire department’s radio equipment. 

So far, the final engineering reports have yet to come in, according to Petras. At its last meeting, March 26, the Town of Brookhaven voted unanimously to waive the site plan requirements and building fees for the cell tower, due to the district being a nonprofit. The fire district would still need to bring such a plan before the Town Planning Board in public hearings.

In May of last year, residents living near the Terryville Fire Department’s Station 2 firehouse on Canal Road vehemently protested the proposed cell tower. That tower had been proposed for the rear of the property, closer to the trees on the north side of the facility. 

Residents had complained that it would be an eyesore and decrease their property values. Leaders of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association joined in the protest, saying the fire district had not properly advertised its intentions to residents.

District officials disputed that, saying they had placed a legal notice in the March 16, 2017, edition of The Port Times Record on proposals for a cell tower on Canal Road and Jayne Boulevard as well as broadcasted those plans on all the digital signs outside each firehouse.

“When we sat down at those meetings, nobody from the community came out,” Petras said.

However, the new proposed location for the cell tower is enclosed, not by residential homes, but by retail businesses. 

Sal Pitti, the president of the civic, said he has not been contacted yet by the fire district, but the civic has not yet taken a stance on such a cell tower at the Jayne Boulevard location and would have to talk to the few people residing in the area, such as those living in the Fairfield Gardens on Terryville Road. 

However, of the three firehouses that could house a cell tower, “that’s the most desirable one,” he said.

The district manager said the fire district’s main justification in building a tower is two pronged. One is to eliminate dead zones within the district, while the other is to open up more potential revenue to the district to try and help keep taxes down.

The first point could mean the difference between a quick or slow response, or life and death.

“We’re having a hard time communicating with portable radios,” Petras said. “All our apparatus is outfitted with 4G, but we’re getting really bad reception in some areas — that’s a life safety issue for us … that’s unacceptable.”

The district manager said he did not yet know how much revenue the district would receive from the cell tower, and, depending on which service picks it up, the fire district would not have to spend time or money on building it or its maintenance.

Slurp Ramen in Port Jefferson has set up a unique means of serving customers, with a large screen in between workers and patrons. Photo by Kyle Barr

Local business owners are looking at an uncertain future due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis here on Long Island.

Due to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) executive order that shut down nonessential businesses last Saturday in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus, entrepreneurs and others are worried if they will be able to survive the financial blow. With bills due at the beginning of the month and with no new income coming in, many are calling on the state and the federal government for help.

Indu Kaur, the director of operations of The Meadow Club, looks at blueprints of new the building in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Kyle Barr

On Tuesday, Congress and the President Donald Trump (R) administration finally reached a $2 trillion agreement to assist people during the ongoing crisis. The new bill includes one-time direct payments to residents of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year or $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child. It also includes a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home. Meanwhile, for larger industries the bill includes $500 billion for guaranteed, subsidized loans to bail them out as revenue has severely dropped.

Still, the question remains of how small local businesses will remain intact or even be able to open their doors again as the crisis ebbs.

Indu Kaur, director of operations of The Meadow Club in Port Jefferson Station, said, “This is a burden my father and I are trying to figure out, just like everyone else,”

A family of restaurateurs who recently took over The Harbor Grill had plans to open their third restaurant this month. In addition, The Meadow Club was set to reopen after being closed due to a fire in 2018. Kaur said the ongoing health crisis has put both openings on hold.

In the meantime, she said, The Curry Club in East Setauket is taking take-out and delivery orders.

“We had to lay off our staff,” she said. “There are still things like rent, insurance and utility bills that we have to worry about.”

When asked about the recent virus rescue bil from the federal government, Kaur said “it was great news and a good first step. “Many of us are suffering financially right now.”

She also said she is hopefully that Suffolk County can eventually do something similar to help business owners.

Currently, the U.S. Small Business Administration is offering economic injury disaster loans to affected businesses. Funds come directly from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the maximum unsecured loan amount is $25,000.

Kaur said she doesn’t think that is a viable option for her and other business owners.

“I’m not sure we can take out one more loan on what we already have,” she said. “For others there might be no other option.”

Last week, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced the launch of the Business Recovery Unit, a component of the county’s Business Response Plan, to address concerns and questions that businesses have amid the coronavirus outbreak. Businesses are asked to complete a comprehensive survey on the county’s website (www.suffolkcountyny.gov).

In a conference call March 23, Bellone said that, with several hundred surveys completed, over 4,000 workers were indicated as laid off or furloughed.

“We keep getting calls and the numbers are going up; we are getting calls from workers who are self-employed who are in the same boat,” Bellone said.

In the new federal relief package, furloughed workers will have their salaries replaced for four months, getting whatever amount the state provides in unemployment plus a $600 add-on per week. Gig workers such as Uber drivers are included in that as well.

“There are still things like rent, insurance and utility bills that we have to worry about.”

Indu Kaur

In an effort to help business owners, New York State Republicans sent Cuomo a COVID-19 action plan that includes extending the payments of monthly sales tax by 90 days, making available no-interest loans immediately to entities that face a dramatic decrease in business and eliminating penalties for late payments of business and property taxes, among other things.

Similarly, over 17,600  people signed a Change.org petition titled Save Small Business Before It’s Too Late. It also called on the city, state and federal governments to take the necessary steps to save local businesses.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our communities, creating jobs, generating tax revenue and providing valuable services,” said New York City Councilman Mark Gjonaj (D), who started the petition.

Lenore Paprocky, president of the Greater Middle Country Chamber of Commerce, said, while a lot of businesses are hurting, she is grateful how everyone is willing to come together and help fellow entrepreneurs.

“It’s difficult right now but we want to keep these businesses afloat,” she said.

The chamber has come up with a list of local businesses that are offering catering/takeout and automotive services.

Paprocky said they are trying to stay optimistic amid the ongoing shutdown, and she hopes elected officials can hash something out to help them.

“The future is uncertain, but we need to stay positive and work together to get through this,” the president of the chamber said.