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Port Jefferson Station

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Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) with Irving Roth. Photo by Peter DiLauro

Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) has been a Brookhaven Town councilwoman for the past six years, but now she is looking a little higher, the New York State Senate District 1 seat. That position is now an open battleground since 44-year Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) announced earlier this month he would not be seeking reelection.

Cartright said she had been asked numerous times by people in and out of the Democratic Party to run for higher office but had not considered it until LaValle made his announcement.

“He had a significant impact on the region,” she said. “For the past 44 years he has worked hard to take care of District 1.”

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

With the change two years ago of the Democrats taking control of both the Assembly and Senate, she said the person who comes into the seat should have the ability to deliver for the district. As someone who sees herself as having worked hard on community issues at a town level, taking that mentality up to Albany will allow her a greater access to resources to help people at home.

Cartright said there are several issues that she sees as very important which she’s worked on  with the Brookhaven board to attack at the Town level, including water quality and protecting a sole-source aquifer and improving the quality of state roads. 

Another is moving away from fossil fuels, for which she said electrification of the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Jefferson line is a must.

Having been a civil rights attorney before joining the Town board in 2013, she congratulated the legislature for working on a number of items to address equity, including health care, voting rights, education and criminal justice, though there is “more work to be done.” 

She cited the need for New York to crack down on prescription drug pricing, with some drugs costing a few hundred dollars in Canada but several thousand in the U.S. She said New York needs to hold drug companies to task and to set limits.

She added she is an advocate for allowing paid gestational surrogates in New York, which is one of the few states that still bans the practice. As a survivor of breast cancer, she said she was once forced to consider a surrogate as an option, before she overcame the disease and had her first child.

In terms of housing and affordability, Long Island has suffered under sky-high housing prices and rents. Cartright said there is a need for “smart growth,” along with an increased acquisition of open space at multiple levels of government, to mitigate the impact to Long Island’s sole-source aquifer. She said there is a need for a complete restructure of property taxes and called for a study on the property tax structure.

Though the state is currently controlled by Democrats in both the Assembly and the Senate, things could always swing in the opposite direction, and like LaValle and his fellow Republicans found themselves in 2018, suddenly Democrats could become the minority. Cartright said that should the situation change, she has already proven she can work alongside Republicans being the only Democrat on the Town board.

She is not the only Democrat seeking the nomination. Other contenders for the seat include Parents for Megan’s Law founder and Port Jeff resident Laura Ahearn, Suffolk County Community College student and Mount Sinai resident Skyler Johnson and Tommy John Schiavoni, a Southampton Town board member. The Suffolk County Republican Party has named state Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) as its front-runner.

Though she said she has respect for all the other Democratic contenders, she feels she is in the best position to take her message to Albany, with the most legislative experience over her contemporaries.

“I know it’s a crowded race, with some formidable candidates,” she said. “But I’m putting my best foot forward … I look forward to serving my [area] and the whole of District 1 on the state level,” she said.

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File photo.

Suffolk County Police said a man was killed in Port Jefferson Station early this morning in a single vehicle crash.

Cops said Joel Almanzar, 35, of Port Jefferson Station was driving a 2014 BMW sedan on Green Avenue, off Bicycle Path, when the vehicle veered off the roadway, hit a parked car and continued through a fence before striking a tree and a shed at around 1:30 a.m., Jan. 30.

Almanzar was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

A Gofundme for Almanzar has already raised just shy of $1,500 for what is described as the man’s funeral costs and his only son, Niko.

At the Jan. 1 fundraiser, Patti Kozlowski, left with tie-dye shirt, Danielle Warsaw, Kate HIggins, Tara HIggins, flanked by Warsaw’s four daughters. The HIggins said the family showed real strength after the tragedy of their father passing. Photo from Kozlowski

On New Year’s Day, Tara Inn in Port Jefferson was flooded with people, from young children to adults, people from Port Jefferson to people in Brentwood, all to support a family who lost their father from cancer.

Locals and attendees helped raise close to $20,000 for the Warsaw family of Manor Park. Wayne Warsaw, a teacher and football coach in the Brentwood school district, died Dec 8. at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. He had only received news of his diagnosis of neuroendocrine cancer 30 days before he passed.

His family, which includes his wife Danielle and four young girls, all attended the fundraiser. One of the children had also battled and fought off cancer at a young age.

Tara and Kate Higgins, whose family owns Tara Inn, said well over 100 people came to the event. Funds were raised through raffles and T-shirt sales. On those shirts there was a quote from Wayne Warsaw saying, “Life’s too short, do what you love and do it with all your heart.”

The Higgins normally provide the food and drink for the fundraiser, absorbing the cost to the business themselves. Bartenders also donate their time and tips. The place was packed “wall-to-wall,” said Kate Higgins, who helps run the restaurant full time.

“It was great to see Port Jeff and the businesses go out for this.”

Kathleen Barber Mercante

Other businesses in the community also donated their time and efforts to the event. Just a few examples include Terryville’s Port Jeff Sports, which donated shirts, Butcher Boy in Mount Sinai donated food and Joe DeNicola, the owner of Ruvo in Port Jeff and Del Fuego in St. James, donated gift cards for the raffles.

Brentwood’s South Middle School Assistant Principal Kathleen Barber Mercante, a Port Jefferson resident, also thanked all the people who donated their time for the event.

“It was great to see Port Jeff and the businesses go out for this,” she said at a Jan. 6 village meeting. 

Patti Kozlowski, who runs the grassroots community organization North Shore Neighbors Helping Hands, learned about the family through their GoFundMe, which as of now has raised over $19,000 for the family. Her group normally helps local families fight cancer, and so she reached out to the person organizing the GoFundMe and brought it to Higgins’ attention.

She said that once Danielle Warsaw learned about her husband’s diagnosis “all bets were off.”

The night of the fundraiser was filled with both Tara Inn regulars, who often support the restaurant’s fundraisers, and of many friends, family and community members of the Manor Park family.

“It was a complete cross section of the community,” Kozlowski said. “It warms my heart to bring so many aspects of their community together.”

The Higgins family has had generations now of providing such fundraisers. Joseph Higgins was honored by TBR News Media in 2017 for his help in getting over $15,000 for Hurricane Harvey relief, along with years of other fundraisers including for the employees of Billie’s 1890 Saloon after a devastating fire. Previous fundraisers held at Tara Inn also helped the Port Jefferson School District with over $7,000 to construct their veterans memorial outside the high school.

“We try to do it for an individual or family rather than a major organization — they get all the funds,” Tara Higgins said.

Her sister agreed that it was less of a generally nice thing to do, but more of an obligation.

“I almost feel like it’s our responsibility, that the community has supported this business for over 40 years, it’s just a small way we can pay back,” Kate Higgins said. 

 

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Police said a man robbed the TD Bank in Port Jefferson Station Jan. 3. Image from Google Maps

Suffolk County Police are investigating an alleged robbery at a Port Jefferson Station bank that happened Friday evening, Jan. 3.

Police said a man entered TD Bank, located at 86 W. Nesconset Highway at around 6:55 p.m. and demanded cash from an employee. The teller complied with the his demands and gave him cash from the drawer. The suspect fled the bank on foot.

The suspect was described as white. He was wearing a mask and dark clothes.

Police are asking anyone with information on the robbery to call the Major Case Unit at 631-852-6555 or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

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Rabbi Aaron Benson of the North Shore Jewish Center hosts a ceremony condemning recent anti-Semitic violence. Photo by Les Goldschmidt

Numerous acts of anti-Semitism in the past week have left Jewish community leaders concerned for the welfare of its congregates during one of the most joyous celebrations of the Jewish calendar.

Members of the North Shore Jewish Center host a ceremony condemning recent anti-Semitic violence. Photo by Les Goldschmidt

On Saturday, a man broke into a rabbi’s home in the town of Monsey in Rockland County where he assaulted the rabbi and those assembled there. Police said the assailant, 37-year-old Grafton Thomas, allegedly stabbed five people gathered in the rabbi’s home, including the religious leader’s son. According to the Washington Post, one of those attacked remains in critical condition. Thomas has plead not guilty.

The North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jefferson Station gathered together Sunday, Dec. 29 with members of the faith and local officials from the surrounding area to show strength in the face of the violence, lighting candles on a menorah in light of the attacks. Rabbi Aaron Benson, of the Jewish Center, spoke of the need for unity and forward thinking as they looked to “come to grips” with recent anti-Semitic attacks.

The rabbi said such ceremonies are both necessary and helpful for the Jewish community, finding a way to respond to such unnecessary and unprovoked violence. While he said he has seen consistent acts of anti-Semitism over the past several years, seeing several acts of hate over the course of Hanukkah was something new and distressing.

“It was a way to express hope — that we will prevail over violence and hate,” he said. “People of the Jewish faith has faced such attacks and harassment for centuries, but we have always been able to survive, to stay strong.”

Rabbi Aaron Benson of the North Shore Jewish Center hosts a ceremony condemning recent anti-Semitic violence. Photo by Les Goldschmidt

Other recent events during the days of Hanukkah have made Jewish leaders concerned. On Dec. 23 a man allegedly shouted anti-Semitic slurs while assaulting a woman in Manhattan. On Dec. 26, another Brooklyn woman was harassed by a woman shouting other slurs towards her and her son. The next day, a woman slapped three Orthodox Jewish women in the face in Crown Heights, which is known for its Orthodox Jewish population.

Benson said around 75 people came to the ceremony Sunday night, and while many of them were from his congregation, more came from surrounding communities. Fellow clergy from neighboring churches such as the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook also came to show support.

Rev. Linda Anderson of the Unitarian fellowship said such shows of support from non-Jews are important so that all know that no one faith is standing alone in the face of violence. Earlier this year, after an attack on mosques in New Zealand, she and other members of the local Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association and Building Bridges in Brookhaven gathered at a mosque in Selden, forming a ring around the building to show support. Anderson is the president of the interfaith group.

“The idea that we have to keep doing this is discouraging,” she said, lamenting about the seemingly constant violent attacks on minority faiths around the world. “But we will keep it up, we will stand for fellow faiths in our community.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) attended the ceremony and called it a “beautiful display of community unity.”

She said that after numerous incidents of anti-Semitism across the country, local centers have looked to review their own policies in protecting their congregation.

In terms of Suffolk County Police, she called them “proactive” in looking to stop such incidents happening locally.

Members of the North Shore Jewish Center host a ceremony condemning recent anti-Semitic violence. Photo by Les Goldschmidt

SCPD said in a statement they have stepped up patrols at and around synagogues and Jewish community centers.

Benson said he has found that both the SCPD and sheriff’s departments have been very proactive in their efforts to confront anti-Semitism. He said the local precinct often reaches out to his synagogue and offered added protection for the location after the violent attack Sunday.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) also condemned the attacks.
“Hanukkah 2019 in New York will be remembered for a sick amount of violent anti-Semitic attacks in and around New York City. From colleges to Congress to Hanukkah parties and synagogues, anti-Semitism is on the rise and on full display in many ugly forms,” he said in a statement. “The violent anti-Semitic attacks in and around NYC are being caused by raw hate, feckless leadership, a culture of acceptance, education and promotion of anti-Semitism, and lowering quality of life. All elected and community leaders need to step up to confront and crush this threat.”

Larry Ryan was named one of TBR News Media's 2019 People of the Year. Photo from Michael Garguilo

By Julianne Mosher

Larry Ryan of Port Jefferson Station is known to keep busy with different projects and volunteerism, but he stays modest about the work he’s doing within the community. 

Ryan was instrumental in facilitating an inclusive lacrosse clinic in Centereach. Photo by Michael Gargiulo

“He does things with the best interest at heart,” Doreen Guma, a board member with the Port Jefferson/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, said. “He brings smiles to people’s faces.”

Ryan has been with the chamber for a few years and throughout that time has contributed so much to the overall community, his longtime friend Michael Gargiulo said.

“People know Larry Ryan some way or another,” he said. “He works tirelessly and works with so many different groups and is always there to be involved, offering his help and assistance.”

But one of his true passions is helping those with special needs. 

“Larry previously worked for Maryhaven Center of Hope for 28 years, which included running an intermediate care facility that specialized in supporting those with autism,” Gargiulo said. “Throughout that time, Larry interfaced with the community and continued to be a strong advocate for the special needs population.”

Right now, he is working toward his doctorate in special education, all while continuing his community service and working full time. 

“He has a ‘can do’ attitude,” Joan Nickeson, who works closely with Ryan, said. “He’s open and accepting and is always looking to the future. He has a vision for our community and connects with all types of people — some people are called to serve and he’s the real deal.”

Ryan is also the co-owner of Sensory Solutions of Long Island, a gym that supports the special needs population with inclusive programming and recreational activities like art, music, Zumba and yoga. It also helps those who are seeking occupation, physical and speech therapy.  

“He exemplifies all that is good in our community through his work with children and adults.”

— Joan Nickeson

The Port Jefferson Station resident also is part of a nonprofit inclusive lacrosse program that started last summer, bringing both special needs and typical children together to play in a noncompetitive atmosphere. 

“He really tries to unite different people together and is continuing to connect with the community,” Gargiulo said. 

And with whatever spare time he has, Ryan works with Port Jeff Bowl, has his own business, and works with the Town of Brookhaven. 

“Larry will often collaborate with current Councilwoman Valerie Cartright and Brookhaven Town’s District One [D-Port Jefferson Station] on community integration,” Gargiulo added. “You will usually spot him at a local or town event, interfacing with the community or running an informational table.”

Gargiulo added that Ryan’s honor for Person of the Year is long overdue as “he is an intricate part of the community, and continues to make a positive impact, locally and across Long Island.”

Nickeson agreed. “He exemplifies all that is good in our community through his work with children and adults,” she said. 

Outside the Port Jefferson LIRR Station. The ticketing office was subject to closure as part of the LIRR'S plan. Photo by Kyle Barr.

After initially proposing to prohibit cash transactions on trains, the Long Island Rail Road announced it has decided to shelve its plan temporarily at a Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s LIRR Committee meeting Dec. 16.

Phillip Eng, LIRR president, disclosed at the meeting that the plan would be put on hold until the MTA’s new fare payment system, OMNY, is in place. The system is expected to be implemented into the LIRR and MetroNorth in early 2021.

The plan was meant to save the LIRR money by eliminating several tickets agent positions, as well as close of station ticket offices in Patchogue and Port Jefferson. This is despite recent renovations to the Port Jefferson station, which included additions to the ticket office.

Mederith Daniels, MTA spokesperson, confirmed the two ticket offices would no longer be closing in 2020. She also said the LIRR regularly reassesses customer usage of ticket windows and that the ticket offices could be considered for closure in the future.

the MTA spokesperson said these ticket offices were mainly used for conductor remittances and had a relatively small number of customers utilizing them. At Port Jeff and Patchogue – a full service ticket machine and daily ticket machine are located outside each of the station buildings.

Port Jefferson LIRR station serves 1,375 weekday riders, according to the MTA.

In November, OMNY surpassed three million taps from New York City bus and subway riders as well as riders from the Staten Island Railway.

 

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Top, William, Charles and Marie Reed at the harbormaster building in Port Jeff. Below, William and other volunteers make sure the trains run smoothly. Photos by Kyle Barr

As the Dickens Festival filled in the chilly outdoor air with 19th-century charm, the harbormaster building itself piped into the village a different kind of old-time allure, that of locomotives and steam engines. More than 20 miniature trains ran in inexhaustible loops, little jets of steam puffing from their chimneys. Boy Scouts of Troop 354 hovered over the tracks, along with Charles, Marie and William Reed of Port Jefferson Station. 

Charles, the father, owns the trains and knows how to put all the complicated parts and tracks together. William, who makes the words “train enthusiast” seem an understatement, knew each of the models and could do “train talk” with something of a dizzying speed. Ask the youngest Reed, who’s an Eagle Scout with Troop 354, about trains and he’ll tell you about trains in far-off places.

“Korean railways is the national railway they have there, some of their high-speed trains are French derived, based on the French models like the KCX1 and 2,” he said.

The young man dashed around and between the tables, adding liquid to the trains’ stacks and helping his father fix the tracks.

The Reed family has been chugging along for the last several weeks setting up the train display, although in earnest the family spent several months beforehand gathering all the materials it needs to have on hand. Setting up the public display has meant several long nights, carting box after box of train collections, laying it out and making sure each is in operating order. The family asks for donations at the door, where on average around $1,400 is raised for Toys for Tots.

“We don’t need them in the boxes, that’s why we can take them out and share them,” Marie, the mother, said.

In previous years, another man used to set up trains during the Dickens Festival. After he moved away, the Reed family stepped in. Marie said that, while he would have a score of volunteers, the Reed family only has themselves and a few people from the Scout troop.

Charles said that each year since they started, six years ago, they have added more tables. At first, they had six tables with 10 trains. Today they set up 10 tables with 20 trains. 

“It’s crazy, but it comes together eventually,” the father said.

The amount of effort the family puts into it was recently acknowledged by Mayor Margot Garant at a Port Jefferson village meeting in November. 

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Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce celebrates its tree-lighting ceremony Dec. 7. Photos by Joan Nickeson

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce opened the holiday season Dec. 7 with its annual tree-lighting ceremony outside the chamber-owned train car at the corner of Routes 347 and 112.

Chamber leaders were joined by Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), not to mention Santa Claus himself. Members of the PJ Station-based School of Rock and Backstage Studio of Dance were available for live entertainment. Refreshments were served by Buttercup’s Dairy Store and Colonial Coffee.

The next night, Dec. 8, the chamber started its annual Polar Express Experience nights, allowing young people to watch “The Polar Express” inside the chamber’s train car, where they were served a candy cane, cookies and hot cocoa.

The chamber is hosting additional Polar Express experiences Saturday and Sunday through December.

Aventura in Commack was cited by feds for allegedly giving Chinese-made technology to the U.S. Govt. Photos from U.S. Attorney’s Office

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is charging a Commack company, Aventura Technologies Inc., and seven current and former employees with allegedly selling Chinese-made electronic equipment with known cybersecurity vulnerabilities to the federal government and private customers, while falsely representing the equipment as made in the United States.

Yacht seized from the owners of Commack business Aventura. Photos from U.S. Attorney’s Office

The individual defendants charged in the alleged scheme include Northport residents Jack Cabasso, Aventura’s managing director and de facto owner and operator, and his wife Frances Cabasso, purported owner and chief executive officer. The Cabassos were also charged with money laundering proceeds from the alleged schemes and fraud for falsely representing Frances Cabasso as chief executive of Aventura to gain access to government contracts set aside for women-owned small businesses. The government froze approximately $3 million in 12 financial accounts that contain proceeds from the alleged unlawful conduct and seized the Cabassos’ 70-foot luxury yacht Tranquilo, which was moored in the gated community where the Cabassos reside. 

“As alleged, the defendants falsely claimed for years that their surveillance and security equipment was manufactured on Long Island, padding their pockets with money from lucrative contracts without regard for risk to the country’s national security posed by secretly peddling made-in-China electronics with known cyber vulnerabilities,” stated U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard Donoghue in a release. 

In addition to Aventura and the Cabassos, the company’s senior executives Jonathan Lasker of Port Jefferson Station, Christine Lavonne Lazarus of Shirley and Eduard Matulik of North Massapequa were charged in the complaint, along with Wayne Marino of Rocky Point, a current employee, and Alan Schwartz of Smithtown, a recently retired employee. 

If convicted, the defendants each face up to 20 years imprisonment on each charge of the complaint, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. No trial dates have been set, according to John Marzulli in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. 

The attorney for Frances Cabasso was out of town. Jack Cabasso’s attorney did not respond before press time to messages left on his answering machine.

Equipment labeled with the Aventura logo. Photos from U.S. Attorney’s Office

“With the arrests, the defendants’ brazen deceptions and fraud schemes have been exposed, and they will face serious consequences for slapping phony ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ labels on products that our armed forces and sensitive government facilities depend upon,” Donoghue said.

Case documents state that the company lied to its customers, including the U.S. military, for more than a decade. Aventura reportedly generated more than $88 million in sales revenue from November 2010 and the charged scheme has allegedly been ongoing since 2006. 

“Greed is at the heart of this scheme, a reprehensible motive when the subjects in this case allegedly put into question the security of men and women who don uniforms each day to protect our nation,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney Jr. 

The money laundering scheme allegedly entailed siphoning illegal profits out of the company through a network of shell companies and intermediaries, including transferring hundreds of thousands, and in some cases, millions of dollars into an attorney escrow account belonging to an unnamed Long Island-based law firm, where the funds were used to purchase homes, in some cases for relatives. 

The FBI has established an email hotline for potential victims. Anyone with information regarding Aventura’s alleged crimes or anyone who believes they have been a victim can send an email to [email protected]