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Mary Ann Fox stands behind veteran Jack Grady, her proofreader and historical expert. Photo by Kyle Barr

It’s been little less than a year since Mary Ann Fox, of Leisure Glen in Ridge, finished her book of veterans in her own small community, titled “Proudly We Served.” 

There are a few hundred homes in the 55-and-older gated community of Leisure Glen,  and the stories of 63 veterans of that community lie within those pages, tales of both horror and heroism, of people who constantly and consistently told her they were proud to serve their country, hence the book’s title. 

The 63 veterans and their families from Leisure Glen in Ridge whose stories were published in a book by Mary Ann Fox.
Photo from Fox

In the time since the book was officially released last April, 325 copies have been printed, and Fox  has brought her books and those stories to local vets groups, schools, libraries and other civic-type groups.

But the time since her book’s release has also been heartbreaking. She has seen several of those men whose lives were memorialized in the pages of her book pass away.

On April 28, 2019, she held a ceremony in Leisure Glen that displayed her work to a packed room, including several elected officials. Just two months later, one of the vets, Andy Estrema, died. His story is one of the most harrowing described in the book. As a Marine during the Korean War, he fought in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, where soldiers struggled against not only enemy machine guns but also a bitter cold that reached as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit. He fought off waves of the enemy that struggled up the hill in the face of American machine gunners. He fought barefoot and lost all of his toes from frostbite. He was shot and injured during the battle in his lower back and only survived thanks to the men who fought alongside him.

Yet, Fox knew, this was the reason she wrote the book. The stories of those 63 veterans from Leisure Glen would, if not etched in stone, be forever contained in the glossy pages of her book. It would remain in the hands of the veterans’ families for as long as they could keep it.

“I felt very privileged,” she said. “They were sharing stories with me [that] some had not even shared with their family.”

She had been invited to Estrema’s military funeral, where she sat with the family as the ceremonial officers snapped the flag 13 times into a tight triangular fold. There, she said she could  not help but tear up knowing the honor she was witnessing for the first time, firsthand. 

Though it was the first military funeral she personally experienced, it wouldn’t be her last in the several months since her book was released.

That is the reality of the book she wrote, as she knows the stories contained within would outlast the men who told them. It has become a boon for the families whose loved ones have served, helping to prompt conversations about such events that they had rarely experienced before. Even during the writing process, Fox saw the effect that simply listening could have. 

“They were waiting for someone to say, ‘I know you served in World war II …’ [I say] you served your country, tell me what you did, tell me your story and let me weave it into a story of your service to the country,” she said. “I say ‘tell me what you want me to write.’”

The Writing Process

Fox never had it in mind to write a book such as this. Before retiring, she owned a travel agency in Middle Island. She retired and moved to North Carolina in 1998. After 12 years, when her husband passed, she decided to move back to Long Island to be closer to her daughter, picking a spot quite close to the center of Leisure Glen.

It was 2018, Memorial Day, and American Legion Post 352 held a meeting at the gated community that would etch the idea in Fox’s mind. 

“She heard our voices before our voices were stilled.”

— Jack Grady

The post commander said that one should get to know the stories of the veterans around them, because come Memorial Day next year, many would not be around any longer, their lives and stories taken by the march of time.

“He said, ‘Look at us, we get smaller in number every year, and we’re not going to be here forever.’” Fox recalled. “And then he finished by saying, ‘and you know what and nobody is going to know we were here.’”

It was the first time she had ever even thought about publishing a work such as that. 

Before writing the book, she said, like most people, she had no real idea just what it was to have gone through war. Listening to their stories, she said she could tell just what kind of person it requires to go through that experience. Some stories hit her hard, such as Estrema’s. He had written everything out himself, what ended up being five pages in her book. During their conversation, she had to excuse herself. 

“I went into the bathroom and I cried my heart out,” she said. “What they went through in this battle … he thoroughly believed that somewhere in battle, the blessed mother came to him — a very religious man, and he was until the day he died.”

With the massive number of interviews under her belt, with the piles and piles of notes on her desk, she quickly learned she needed somebody to help her unpack all the jargon and help her with grammar. That’s where Jack Grady came in, a 93-year-old World War II Army vet who also sees himself as an amateur military historian. Fox would drop off the pages to him, and then a day later he would call her back to give her the pages dotted with red pen marks and questions, asking her to go back and confirm some information with those fellow vets.

Before Fox, he said he had never been asked much about his own story. In his mind, it is mostly du to people’s desire to move on from such grave history.

“It was in the past,” Grady said. “The war was over, and of course we had Korea and, unfortunately, Vietnam, so World War II faded into [the] distance … it’s not that people were callous or anything, but they have their own concerns, and they don’t want to listen to these kinds of things unless somebody broaches the subject.” 

The elder veteran looks at the book now as a testament, a means to forever keep their stories alive.

“We’re gone, almost,” he said. “She heard our voices before our voices were stilled.”

If Fox couldn’t talk to the veterans themselves, such as several who had recently passed, she received their stories from their wives. She got to know the tales of so many vets, and in writing the book, many of those family members finally got to hear the story of their service. After doing the first stint of a two-day interview with Korean War veteran James Dragone, his daughter followed Fox outside, quickly wrapping her arms around her with tears in her eyes. Fox thought, at first, she must have done something wrong, asked the wrong question or said the wrong thing, but then the daughter started thanking her, saying it was the first time she heard that story of her father.

“Her contribution to her community has been very significant — it was a labor of love you rarely see.”

— Jane Bonner

Each of the stories tells not just of a man, but a man within a community. It speaks of their children and grandchildren, of men like Daniel Testa, a Korean War vet’s amazing homemade mozzarella. Dragone’s story says Leisure Glen members knew him as the Flag Man because “for 20 years he raised and lowered our flags daily.”

Why had they not talked about it before to their families? Fox said in many cases it was the past, and these men wanted to move on.

“The World War II men — they saw so much they wanted to put it behind them — they were still young men — and start their life,” Fox said. “The Korean War veterans — they, I think, pretty much felt the same … The Vietnam veterans, they came home wounded, mentally, physically, but mostly mentally.”

Of the three wars covered in the book, the Vietnam War section is the shortest. She thinks that was due to the war they fought, and the things they must have witnessed during the fighting, and most simply they were proud to serve.

“There’s a Vietnam veteran in there who has three Purple Hearts, and when I introduced him at the ceremony, the one thing he asked me to do was not mention that,” she said. “They’re not looking for any glory.”

Ceremony and Reaction

At last year’s ceremony, which finally displayed more than a year’s worth of effort, a packed crowd listened to the introduction of all service members included in the book. The ceremony was joined by Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and a representative from U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R-NY1) office. 

Little less than a year since then, Bonner said seeing all the work that went into such an event, and all the effort Fox put into the book, it was hard to come away not being dazzled by her efforts. 

“I was just so impressed by her passion to undertake something like this,” she said. “Her contribution to her community has been very significant — it was a labor of love you rarely see.”

The book is a coil-bound glossy print, with a cover designed by her daughter. The ceremony’s program cover was designed by Carl Schmidt, a 95-year-old World War II veteran who was Fox’s first interview.

The event was officiated by Monsignor Charles Fink, himself a Vietnam veteran and the author of the famous poem “Bury Me with Soldiers.” After all names were called, Fink was recognized for his service, and once Fox said the Catholic priest was a Purple Heart recipient, all men who could stand stood, and all applauded.

Fox has taken her book nearly everywhere it has been requested, including Comsewogue and North Shore public libraries, the Tesla Science Center, the Long Island State Veterans Home and Albert G. Prodell Middle School for their annual Living History Day last May. She said she plans to attend this year’s event and hopes to bring with her a veteran from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. She also hopes she may be able to start a letter-writing campaign between the students and veterans.

Last year at the Rocky Point VFW Post 6249, she was also awarded a plaque for her work by the Town. 

“They were sharing stories with me [that] some had not even shared with their family.”

— Mary Ann Fox

Joe Cognitore, the Rocky Point VFW post commander, called Fox “a very dedicated woman.” She came to one of the VFW’s meetings last year with several of the vets described in her book, and a few even decided to become members of Post 6249. He had even seen her at the Long Island Veterans home, handing out ornaments to some of those living there.

“I couldn’t thank her enough for all her work of preserving veterans’ history, especially the World War II veterans,” Cognitore said. 

Before it was printed, two publishers were interested in the book, but the issue was it would have taken six to seven months for them to produce a finished product. For the veterans whose stories needed to be told, she knew she needed to print as soon as possible. Since April 2019, Estrema, Dragone and several other vets or their wives who provided the stories for the book have passed away. She knows she made the right choice, and she currently plans to keep it self-published with any additional printings.

Grady said Fox was one of the few people who could pull off a work like this, but of course, there are always more stories to tell.

“Most fellas don’t want to talk about those things, and it takes prodding to get the story done,” he said. “Mary Ann did 60, and I bet you she could do another 30 who didn’t answer the original ad.”

The VFW has asked if she could do a similar work for them, but she is still unsure since the men whom she wrote about in her book were from her own community, and it would be different venturing out to neighboring places. In Leisure Glen, newly arrived residents and others who did not originally respond to the first book requests have asked if they too could be included in later editions, and she said she is still trying to wrap her mind around what could be next. 

For now, she’s simply looking to spread the stories of the veterans, her friends, the members of her community. She hopes other people look to the veterans in their communities and look to learn their stories as well.

“To be honest, before the book, I didn’t really grasp the concept of what these men went through,” she said. “You have to sit across from them, you have to see it in their eyes, and it just comes pouring out.”

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County police last night arrested four people after conducting State Liquor Authority inspections on June 20 in the Town of Brookhaven.

Seventh Precinct Crime Section officers conducted SLA inspections utilizing an underage police agent.

The police agent attempted to purchase alcoholic beverages from targeted businesses within the Town of Brookhaven.

The following businesses did not comply with the New York State Liquor Authority and sold an alcoholic beverage to an underage police agent:

  • 25A Gas Plus located at 613 Route 25A in Rocky Point
  • BP Gas Station located at 367 Route 25A in Rocky Pont
  • Handy Pantry located at 280 Echo Ave. in Sound Beach
  • BP Gas Station located at 1470 Middle County Road in Ridge

The following people were charged with NYS penal law 260.20 — first-degree unlawfully dealing with a child. They were issued field appearance tickets and will be arraigned at a later date.

  • Natwarbhai Patel, 55 of Rocky Point
  • Alican Mavruk, 54, of Port Jefferson
  • Amir Riaz, 55, of Riverhead
  • Nicholas Derosa, 16, of Miller Place

The following businesses complied with the New York State Liquor Authority and refused to sell an alcoholic beverage to an underage police agent:

  • USA Petroleum located at 681 Route 25A in Rocky Point
  • BP Gas Station located at 779 Route 25A in Rocky Point
  • USA Gas Selda Corporation located at 1146 Middle Country Road in Middle Island

Rocky Point resident Maryann Horton picks out fruit at the Stop & Shop on 25A in Rocky Point's grand opening Sept. 29. Photo by Kevin Redding

A new Stop & Shop on Route 25A in Rocky Point officially opened its doors to the public Sept. 29, offering its customers an expansive selection of organic and natural foods, fresh meats and locally-sourced produce, as well as the company’s only fresh herb garden and its largest deli department in the region.

The 58,000 square foot store replaces the former Super Foodtown and stands as the second Stop & Shop in the immediate area, with a location down 25A in Miller Place. It has created 20 new jobs for Suffolk County residents, while keeping 99 percent of Foodtown’s associates employed.

The new Stop & Shop in Rocky Point is located at 277 Route 25A, which was previously Super Foodtown. Photo by Kevin Redding

“We’re trying to give the customers absolutely everything,” said Bob Harman, the director of deli and bakery. “We’ve gone above and beyond to try to make this the best offering for them, and we’re trying to make the old Foodtown customer happy as well as any Stop & Shop customer — just trying to blend the best of both worlds to make everyone happy.”

Kelly Scott, of Ridge, said she’s happy to have a new Stop & Shop close by.

“It was definitely needed here,” Scott said. “And it seems to have a lot more of a selection of everything. I’ll be coming back here all the time.”

Monica Stone, from Mount Sinai, called Stop & Shop her supermarket of choice and said she understands why a second location was put on 25A.

“I’ve always shopped at the Miller Place one, but it’s always crazy in there,” Stone said, referring to that location’s crowds and it being under-stocked as a result. “This one is well-stocked and everything’s new and it looks great. I’m glad they handed out aisle guides because items aren’t exactly in the same places as in Miller Place, but it’s very nice overall.”

“When you only have one store, you have one choice. I don’t like when there are two next to each other because then they’re the only game in town.”

—William Pellenz

Manager Paul Gallo pointed out the “bigger and better” aspects of the store, including the organic herb garden.

“We’re here for the community ,and this is one of our bigger facilities where the customer can really shop more freely,” Gallo said.

The store has an all-new layout with wider aisles and selection. The deli department offers customers the same Boar’s Head sandwiches and grab-and-go coldcut offerings, but also boasts a new slider program and slab bacon.

There is a variety of fresh sushi available in the prepared food department and even fresh-fried tortilla chips. The bakery section is not only stocked with store-made cakes, but local Long Island pies and shelves of gluten-free, sugar-free and peanut-free treats.

Customers will also experience all-natural seafood, like shrimp, scallop, smoked salmon and crawfish pulled straight the Great South Bay.

“You name it, we have it,” said Al Apuzzo, director of meat and seafood.

Rocky Point resident Kathy Gallup said she feels good about what the store has to offer.

“I like to eat organic food and it definitely offers more of that than Foodtown,” she said.

The Stop & Shop on 25A in Rocky Point boasts the only local, fresh her garden. Photo by Kevin Redding

But Rocky Point’s Susie Capell said she’s going to miss Foodtown.

“I loved Foodtown,” she said. “I liked the setup and the sales were good.”

But Capell also understands why what Stop & Shop has its benefits to the community.

“For my nephew, gluten-free is a big deal,” she said. “My sister only goes to Stop & Shop for that reason. She’s thrilled, I know that.”

William Pellenz, of Sound Beach, raised concern over this one being so close to the one down the road.

“That doesn’t give you any choices,” he said. “When you only have one store, you have one choice. I don’t like when there are two next to each other because then they’re the only game in town.”

But Maryann Horton was all smiles while she picked out fresh fruit.

“I love it,” the Rocky Point resident said of the new store. “We always went down to the other one and we just love the store. Now that Stop & Shop’s here, I’m very happy.”

Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco signs $10,000 check presented with Legislator Sarah Anker, on right, to the North Shore Youth Council for a new family counseling initiative to combat substance abuse. Photo from sheriff's office

A strong support system is vital in a fight against drug abuse, and now North Shore families will have more options to help struggling loved ones manage their addiction.

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco delivered a check for $10,000 to the North Shore Youth Council in Rocky Point this week, which will be designated for its new family counseling initiative to combat substance abuse. The grant, which is funded from the sheriff’s office asset forfeiture monies, will engage whole families in therapy designed to help them cope, understand the root causes of addiction and support their loved one’s recovery.

Anker proposed the pilot initiative following a conversation with Father Frank Pizzarelli from Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker and Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco with members of the North Shore Youth Council after presenting the check for it's new substance abuse program. Photo from sheriff's office
Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker and Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco with members of the North Shore Youth Council after presenting the check for it’s new substance abuse program. Photo from sheriff’s office“Father Frank is on the frontlines in our battle against addiction in Suffolk County,” she said. “He impressed upon me the importance of the family unit in successfully treating addiction.”

When Anker approached the sheriff about the possibility of using asset forfeiture funds dedicated for this purpose, DeMarco was all in favor of the project.

“Family therapy can lower relapse rates, help parents with addicted children find effective ways to support their loved one’s recovery and even help children with addicted parents deal with their struggles,” he said. “ I am hoping this initiative will serve as a model and get more families involved in recovery.”

The North Shore Youth Council serves communities across the North Shore, including Port Jefferson, Wading River, Middle Island, Ridge and Coram. The agency helps hundreds of families each day through their school-based prevention and before and after care programs. According to the youth council’s Executive Director Janene Gentile, many people within the community can’t afford family counseling, because money is tight due to lost wages and the cost of treatment.

“Treatment is the first step, but ongoing family therapy is often essential to getting to the root of the problems that led someone to use drugs in the first place,” she said. “This grant will defer the cost of family counseling, which will eliminate the most common barrier to families engaging in therapy.

North Shore Youth Council’s Board President Laurel Sutton joined with Gentile in thanking the County sheriff and legislator for their support.

“I want to thank Sheriff DeMarco and Legislator Anker for giving us this opportunity to enhance our counseling services to struggling families impacted by the opioid [problem],” she said.

For more information about the family counseling initiative, or to schedule an appointment with a counselor, call the North Shore Youth Council at 631-744-0207.

Jeannean Mercuri, vice president of the Nassau-Suffolk Horsemen’s Association, mounts Cricket the horse on the new trail hub in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens. Photo from DEC

By Desirée Keegan

A day when Montauk and New York City are connected across Long Island by trails might not be too far off.

On Sept. 22, the Department of Environmental Conservation celebrated the completion of a piece of the Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest Multi-Use Trail Hub Project. The project is an effort to connect trail systems across Rocky Point, Ridge, Yaphank and Shirley. The entire trail system when completed will pass through the DEC’s Pine Barrens, Suffolk County and Town of Brookhaven parkland, and end in the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge.

The new trail hub can be found on the north side of Middle Country Road in Ridge, between Wading River Road and Woodlot Road.

“The completion of this trail hub is an instrumental step in the effort to connect Long Island’s trail systems,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “The multiple features of this hub will allow local residents and visitors, young and old, and of any ability, to take advantage of Long Island’s stunning natural diversity.”

The new hub, located on the south end of the Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest, is expected to be one of the central public access spots for the new trail system. It features a car and horse trailer parking lot, a newly built half-mile Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible hiking trail, an accessible horse mounting platform, and a half-mile connector to an existing horse and hiking trail.

Carrie Meek Gallagher, New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation's Regional Director, speaking during the grand opening of the new trail hub in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens. Photo from DEC
Carrie Meek Gallagher, New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation’s Regional Director, speaking during the grand opening of the new trail hub in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens. Photo from DEC

“I am fortunate to represent one of the most beautiful regions of New York State,” Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said. “As the sponsor of the legislation that created the Pine Barrens Preserve, I am pleased that we are creating an opportunity for more individuals to access the trails. The ADA accessibility will enable those with mobility issues to enjoy more of Long Island’s natural beauty firsthand.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) also commended the DEC for its work with the ADA.

“It’s very important that all residents get the opportunity to share in the natural beauty that surrounds us and we must do whatever we can to preserve it for generations to come,” he said.

The project began in October 2014, with funding from NY Works, and was completed in June for a total cost of $460,000. The trail hub is located on the property of the former Lustgarden Nursery in Ridge. In April, the DEC worked with Students Taking Action for Tomorrow’s Environment in an Arbor Day reforestation effort. The student volunteers planted 250 seedlings of native New York tree species.

“The new trail hub is about connecting people with nature and making it easier to get out and explore Long Island’s treasure of trails and the beautiful wildlands they traverse,” Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said.

The DEC acquired the 274-acre site in 1996 from Baier Lustgarten. It was the site of Baier Lustgarten Farms and Nursery, which used the acreage to plant nursery stock, including native and non-native trees, shrubs and ornamentals. Several neglected structures were razed from the property, including a house, a barn, greenhouses and cottages for farm hands.

“The new multi-use trail hub is a wonderful community centerpiece that gives residents greater access to enjoy the beautiful Rocky Point Pine Barrens,” Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said. “The new hub connects several communities and allows for hiking, horseback riding and bike riding. The DEC has done a wonderful job in creating this very important greenway park that will truly make a difference as we experience our spectacular outdoor environment.”

By Rebecca Anzel

In an unassuming shopping center on the corner of North Country and Sound Roads in Wading River, across from the duck pond, is one of the area’s best coffee shops. It has only been opened for six weeks, but there is already a stream of locals who stop in to Hudson Market every morning for the proper cup of coffee the sign out front promises.

The space is small and smells deliciously of fresh coffee — a far cry from the accounting office the space once was. Owner Anthony Coates, who was involved in politics in Suffolk County for about 40 years, transformed the yellow-tinged off-white walls and moldy shag carpeting into a quaint, sunny spot to get a cup of coffee and read the day’s newspaper or a book, which he says many come in to do.

Hudson Market is just one of North Brookhaven’s new eateries that has quickly become a community favorite — the Flying Pig Café on 25A in Miller Place and Go Burger on the same route in Mount Sinai are other spots that opened within the past few months and have been embraced by locals. Two other new food businesses to the area are Lemongrass Asian Fusion in Mount Sinai and Burrito Palace and Grill in Miller Place.

The summer season is often the busiest season for restaurants. Aside from supplying other dining options, Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) pointed out that with new eateries come new jobs. According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurants in New York are expected to add the highest number of summer jobs of any other state — over 44,400 of them.

“We appreciate the diverse food options that’s opened up in our community,” Bonner said. “It’s a good thing.”

That idea — of opening a restaurant that served something not offered by another place — is what led Marianne Ferrandino to open the Flying Pig Café with her husband Jack Schwartz six months ago. The pair owns another restaurant in Center Moriches, called the Country Cottage, but they live in Miller Place.

A burger from Go Burger in Mount Sinai. Photo from Go Burger
A burger from Go Burger in Mount Sinai. Photo from Go Burger

“I felt that there was something missing from the area,” Ferrandino said. “There was a need for somewhere nice to go for breakfast where you could have a nicer experience than just going to a diner.”

Modeling the new restaurant’s concept after Sarabeth’s in New York City, the Flying Pig Café serves upscale American comfort food with new specials each week, but offers it in a much different setting, with ceramic pigs and canvas paintings modeling the large spotted pig statue outside. For breakfast, customers can get traditional eggs, omelets and pancakes, but they can also get the Café’s more playful breakfast burger, granola crusted French toast and crab Benedict. Ferrandino recommended the famous cinnamon bun pancakes.

Mario Gambino and Marie Desch said their first experience at the Flying Pig Café was a great one. They described the menu as “extensive,” and after looking it over, settled on omelets. “We would definitely come back,” Desch said, looking over at Gambino as he nodded in agreement. “It is very clean inside and the decor is nice.”

The lunch offerings at the Flying Pig Café are just as creative as the breakfast ones — the cranberry almond chicken salad is a best seller, and the half-pound burger options are popular as well. Ferrandino said the burgers are made with a custom blend of ground beef and served on a big brioche bun. She added that the Flying Pig Café also uses artisanal breads baked especially for them.

Breakfast and lunch are the two most popular meals — breakfast on the weekends and lunch during the week. Both are served seven days per week, with dinner offered Thursday through Saturday. Ferrandino recommended the homemade herbed meatloaf and gravy, braised short ribs and half herb roasted free range chicken.

“Our portions are enormous,” she said. “We want people to feel they’re getting a really good value for their money.”

Prices at the Flying Pig Café range from $4 to $12 for starters and salads at $7 to $18 for entrees. Dinner is a bit more expensive.

Serving good food to customers is also something the owners of Go Burger value. Christine Donofrio, who owns the joint with her husband Philip, said their motto is “fresh, quality and family friendly.” She said the burgers are delivered fresh every day from a top New York meat distributor; the potatoes are the top-grade ones available each season and are fresh cut each day; and the ice cream, the only thing ever frozen, is from a company that specializes in the treat.

“We only use the freshest, best ingredients,” Donofrio said. “We strive to get and provide the very best so families can come out for good food and not spend a million bucks.”

Go Burger started as just a food truck on Middle Country Road in Ridge near a pizzeria the couple owns. The Donofrios were looking to open another truck but realized they would be limited in the amount of food they could serve because any new truck would not be parked as close to one of their other businesses. When an opportunity arose to buy the L.I. Burger brick-and-mortar location in Mount Sinai, they took it.

Customers from their truck come to this location for dinner — Donofrio said they love that they can sit inside and eat. This location allowed for an expanded menu from the one on the food truck. Starters, such as onion rings, sweet potato fries and a cup of chili, were added to the restaurant’s menu, as were salads and desserts.

“There was a need for somewhere nice to go for breakfast where you could have a nicer experience than just going to a diner.”

— Marianne Ferrandino

The real deal ice cream sandwich, made with in-restaurant baked chocolate chip cookies and ice cream, is the most popular of the newly added desserts. A customer favorite that was carried over to this location is Go Burger’s milkshakes, which come in the traditional flavors of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry as well as the weekly specials Donofrio concocts.

“Everything here is customizable — it’s all up to you,” she said. “Build it the way you want it.”

Nothing on Go Burger’s menu is over $9, unless a customer adds a lot of extra toppings to a burger. The restaurant is opened daily, but if you’re in the Ridge area, you can still find the food truck if you’re looking for a quick fix.

For Anthony Coates, opening Hudson Market was a “labor of love.” He was running for Riverhead Town Supervisor in 2015 and jokingly said that if he was not successful, he would open a shop in the strip across from the duck pond.

Hudson Market specializes in coffee — it is the only thing made in-house. Coates said he searched high and low for the best quality coffee beans he could find, and he cycles between the blends he found, such as variety coffee roasters from Brooklyn. He also searched for the best types of coffee prep machines to brew the “hearty” cup of coffee he was after.

Coates organized this business, where prices range anywhere from $2 for a regular cup of coffee to $4 for specialty coffee drinks and is open daily from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., with few moving parts so it was easier to run.

“Everything here is miniaturized,” he said, smiling.

After looking around at other businesses in the area, he decided Hudson Market would exclusively focus on making excellent coffee beverages as opposed to also preparing bagels or breakfast sandwiches, which customers come in asking for sometimes. “I didn’t want to set up a ‘me too’ business,” he said.

Customers can purchase baked goods, such as muffins, scones, biscotti and cookies, made by D’Latte in Greenport. Hudson Market also carries bottled drinks, New-York-style hot pretzels, cinnamon buns (but only on the weekends) and pies during the holidays. Neighborhood children ride up on bicycles in the afternoons and scrape money out of their pockets for candy he stocks specifically with them in mind.

His inspiration was the many businesses that were community touchstones in the Three Village area where he grew up.

“I wanted to make a little slice of that here by the duck pond,” he said. “Improving the community really starts at the most basic level, and it does my heart good to have a business here.”

A man has pleaded guilty to murdering his girlfriend outside their apartment and then firing on officers in a subsequent standoff, during which he held his two children hostage.

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office announced on Wednesday that Jose C. Rodriguez will soon be sentenced to 30 years to life in prison for his two charges, second-degree murder and attempted aggravated murder of a police officer.

At the time of the shooting, in November 2013, the Suffolk County Police Department said officers responding to several 911 calls about hearing gunshots found a woman, 36-year-old Kimberly Sellitto, lying on the front lawn of the apartment in the Brookwood at Ridge complex, off of Middle Country Road. They moved her body to safety, but authorities later determined she was dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

Rodriguez, who is now 34, fired several shotgun rounds at those responding officers while he was barricaded in the apartment with his two children, the DA’s office said.

Emergency Service Section and Hostage Negotiation Team officers got Rodriguez to release his two children, police said at the time. Later on, the man fired multiple rifle rounds at officers.

None of the officers were hurt, police said, but bullets struck an armored SCPD vehicle.

The officers fired back, also not injuring Rodriguez. The man subsequently surrendered and was taken into custody, a couple of hours after the incident began.

The children were not hurt, and were released to the custody of their mother. Sellitto was pronounced dead at the scene.

Although Rodriguez originally pleaded not guilty to the charges and has been remanded to jail since the murder, he pleaded guilty during a pretrial hearing in Riverhead this week, the DA’s office said. He was scheduled to be sentenced in State Supreme Court to 30 years to life in prison on Jan. 8.

Kiernan Urso as Oliver and Jeffrey Sanzel as Fagin in a scene from ‘Oliver!’ at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

By Erin Dueñas

Twelve-year-old Kiernan Urso can trace his love of acting back to preschool where a creative teacher engaged him and his classmates in games of “Let’s Pretend” where the only limit was their imaginations.

“She let us choose whoever we wanted. We would all pick a character, and she would write a script based on the characters,” said Kiernan. “I remember once there was a play with Peter Pan and Rocky Balboa and three Disney princesses. That’s when I learned that performing was a way of communicating.”

In addition to “Let’s Pretend” sessions, the Longwood Middle School sixth-grader said he would accompany his father, a teacher in Longwood, to the plays put on at school.

“I remember sitting in the front row and thinking I can see myself doing that.”

On May 23, Kiernan will take to the stage as the title character in “Oliver!” at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson.

It will be his third time on the main stage there, having appeared in “A Christmas Carol” as Scrooge as a Boy this past year and Tiny Tim the year before. Kiernan said he is excited to play Oliver.

“He is very innocent but very strong,” Kiernan said of his character. “He can survive anything. Despite his life, that hasn’t gone well, he’s a fighter and he won’t give up.”

But playing the title role, which puts him in nine of the play’s 12 scenes, is also making Kiernan nervous.

“Playing the main character is nerve-wracking,” he said. “What are people going to think? I don’t want to disappoint anyone.”

With rehearsals at least five times a week, preparing for “Oliver!” has taken up a lot of Kiernan’s time, but he manages to complete schoolwork thanks to supportive teachers and making good use of his time.

“I get my homework done during the school day and maybe some in the morning,” he said. “I don’t know how I do it but it works out.”

The demanding rehearsal schedule also keeps Kiernan’s mom Christina busy, driving her son back and forth from their home in Ridge to Port Jefferson.

“It’s all worth the crazy hours. It’s such a great experience for him” she said. “To see that spark in your child’s eye — to see him love it and not just like it. It’s all worth it.”

A self-described movie buff, Kiernan said he enjoys watching movies with a lot of drama, and he said he would love to appear in a horror movie one day. He is a big fan of television as well, counting the ABC show “Once Upon a Time” as a favorite.

“I love how they twist fairy tales and compress them with our modern world,” Kiernan said. “I would love to be on that show someday. I don’t even care what character I would play.”

Kiernan said eventually he would like to audition for commercials and possibly even Broadway. A dream role would be to play King Triton in “The Little Mermaid.”

“He’s in control and I like the feeling of how he can boss people around.”

For now Kiernan is enjoying his time at Theatre Three, which he said is unlike anything he has ever experienced.

“The adults here treat you like one of them,” he said. “They are not distant and they try to help you out and do what it takes to make you comfortable.”

Kiernan said he is particularly inspired by Jeffrey Sanzel, who is directing “Oliver!” and playing the role of Fagin. Sanzel also plays Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.”

“The way he directs, acts and portrays any character he plays is amazing,” Kiernan said. “I want to be like that when I grow up.”

Sanzel is equally impressed with Kiernan.

“When he auditioned for Oliver, we saw something truly extraordinary,” Sanzel said. “It was a combination of raw honesty and underlying fire. In Kiernan, we saw the passion and the light that shines through underneath. The audience will root for him from the first moment to the last.”

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present the timeless musical “Oliver!” from May 23 to June 27. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

One woman is dead and another seriously injured after a car crashed into a tree on Thursday afternoon.

The Suffolk County Police Department said Grace Quinones, 20, was driving north in a Dodge Caravan on Randall Road — north of Whiskey Road, along the border of East Shoreham and Ridge — at about 1:15 p.m. She lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a tree.

Her passenger, 38-year-old Deidre Bifulco, was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. Quinones was in critical condition at Stony Brook University Hospital.

According to addresses provided by police, Quinones and Bifulco are neighbors on Sally Lane in Ridge.

Detectives from the SCPD’s 7th Squad are investigating the single-car crash and police impounded the Dodge for a safety check.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call detectives at 631-852-8752.

Christopher Collins mugshot from SCPD

Police arrested a Ridge man on Tuesday afternoon who they say robbed two banks this past winter.

The Suffolk County Police Department alleges Christopher Collins, 25, robbed the Bank of America on Bennetts Road in East Setauket on Jan. 31 and the Capital One bank on Smithtown Boulevard in Nesconset on Feb. 17. The suspect in both robberies presented a threatening note to the teller at the bank.

According to police, Pattern Crime Unit detectives used video surveillance and tips from community members to identify Collins as a suspect. The detectives then placed him under their own surveillance.

Collins was arrested on Tuesday at about 3:15 p.m. on Middle Country Road in Ridge. He was charged with two counts of third-degree robbery.

No attorney information was available for Collins, a resident of Ruth Lane.

The defendant has unrelated charges already pending against him, including for petit larceny.