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Rocky Point

Brookhaven Town councilwoman rolls up her sleeves in District 2

Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) discussed her ongoing work at Town Hall. File photo

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) has served her community for decades. In an exclusive interview, she discussed her journey into local politics, her approach to commercial redevelopment, efforts to protect the environment and the upcoming redistricting process.

What is your professional background and how did you end up at Town Hall?

I moved to Rocky Point 34 years ago. I became very active locally in the Rocky Point Civic Association, the Rocky Point school board, St. Anthony’s [Catholic Youth Organization]. I was very involved in the community, volunteering and generally trying to make things better. I was sort of a person who didn’t ask others to do things for me — if I wanted it done, I rolled my sleeves up.

When [town] Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro [R] was running for the Suffolk County Legislature, he reached out and asked if I would volunteer for his campaign. I knew him, I liked him, and I believed in what he stood for and I got involved in his campaign. He liked my work on his campaign and he hired me to be a legislative aide. I was quite shocked by the offer. Then I worked in his office for four years, always staying actively involved. 

Former Councilman Kevin McCarrick [R-Rocky Point], who was the first representative for Council District 2, ran for two terms but was very busy in his private business — the family owned McCarrick’s Dairy. He was busy at the dairy and he decided he needed to devote his time to the family business and didn’t want to run for office anymore. I was asked by the Republican Party, the Conservative Party and the Independence Party to run for this position, with others also screened as well. And they picked me.

What initially drew you to the Rocky Point community?

My first husband and I were looking to buy a house that we could afford. I grew up in Northport; he grew up in Forest Hills but was living in Centerport when I met him. We got married, had children … and had my daughter. We were renting a house in Centerport. This was when the market had really, really peaked. I had friends who had a house out here. My first husband summered out in Wading River. And 34 years later, I’m in the same house.

What is it about this area that makes it unique?

There’s a very strong sense of community, of friendliness and neighborliness, of helping each other out. I’m always in awe of the strong number of volunteers that are in every hamlet that I represent. 

I have a very healthy respect for people that volunteer. We live in a chaotic time now where people are being pulled in many different directions — and people are having to work harder because their dollar is worth less. I enjoy the job that I have because I meet wonderful people and the volunteers that I meet at civic meetings, at Great Brookhaven Cleanups, at scouting. 

Where I live in Rocky Point, specifically, it still has a touch of how it used to be. I live in the old section, the North Shore beach section, so most of the bungalows have been renovated, but they’re not cookie-cutter, not a development. Every house is a little bit different. It’s a charming community.

What is your approach, your guiding philosophy, toward commercial development and downtown beautification?

Various levels of government have worked very hard to bring redevelopment to Sound Beach — the playgrounds and the veterans monument. We’ve brought money to downtown Rocky Point, 25A and Broadway specifically – sidewalks, streetlights, street trees, the veterans square that we developed, working with business owners to come into whatever hamlet that I represent. 

Commercial development — not large-scale commercial development, not a big-box store, nothing like that — is about working hard with our local stores to help them succeed, whether that’s with permits or meeting with them to help them get through the process with the town, county or state. We kind of view the office as a clearing house. Even if it’s not under my purview, we help. We sort of roll our sleeves up and guide them through the process and stay in touch throughout the process. 

What is your office doing to protect the environment?

We rebuilt two new jetties last year — east and west jetties down at Cedar Beach. The inlet had filled in and it was a navigational hazard. At the back of the harbor, the water was not flushing well and there were water quality issues down there. Former [state] Sen. [Ken] LaValle [R-Port Jefferson] jumpstarted us with a $3 million grant from the state and then we paid $5 million. Now the back of the harbor is so clear and clean. The fish are coming back like crazy.

We’ve done a significant amount of stormwater drainage and infrastructure investment along the North Shore. During Hurricane Sandy, much of our stormwater infrastructure was destroyed. So the highway superintendent and our finance department and our department of environmental protection worked hand in hand with FEMA to capture many millions of dollars so that we could bring back a greater standard to our stormwater infrastructure. 

Can you summarize the upcoming redistricting process for the Town Council?

We undertake this every 10 years. Residents should definitely partake in the meetings. Years ago, when I first ran for office, I represented more of Port Jeff Station and more of Coram. When we redistricted 10 years ago, I lost portions of Port Jefferson Station to try to keep it contiguous to the Comsewogue school district. I lost portions of Coram to keep it contiguous with other electoral districts that it touched.

I invite residents to participate in the process. We have a board that we’ve selected — there is a requirement for specific political parties, so there are equal seats at the table for each party. And they make the decisions on how the maps are going to roll out and how the boundaries will change. We [the Town Council] vote on the redistricting plans that the appointed board makes.

After two years of cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, folks young and old were finally able to enjoy their beloved St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Hosted by the Friends of St. Patrick, the 70-year-old tradition returned to the streets of Miller Place and Rocky Point where a sea of green made of marching band members, bagpipers, local fire departments, public figures, vintage cars and more flowed past waves of revellers.  

File photo by Bob Savage

After a two year hiatus brought on by COVID 19 restrictions and mandates, The Friends of St. Patrick will resume a springtime tradition by hosting the 70th annual Miller Place-Rocky Point St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday, March 13 starting at 1 p.m. sharp. This year the committee has named all former Grand Marshals to be Grand Marshals at this year’s parade. 

“North Shore residents have been cooped up and socially distanced for two long years now. It is time to break free and come out and celebrate with your community in this annual rite of spring. Pipe bands, fire trucks, dancers and marchers promise to lift all our spirits,” said a press release.

In lieu of naming a Queen and her Court, the Friends of St. Patrick have begun a scholarship fund for our local high schools. This year’s winner of a $1,000 scholarship is Alexa Zichinelli from Miller Place High School. Alexa wrote an essay on Irish history and lore inspired by her great-great Grandma, Mary Margaret McArdle from County Clare.

Alexa will be studying pre-med in college and is an active athlete, musician, tutor and volunteer. She aspires to become a surgeon and be a part of Doctor Without Borders.

For further information please visit their website at www.friendsofsaintpatrick.com or call 631-473-5100.

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Rocky Point High School students helped create this mural of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Photo from Seth Meier

“The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself — the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us — that’s where it’s at.” — Jesse Owens

After years of training and dedication, American athletes have been competing on the world stage in Beijing, China, through the Winter Olympics in front of a communist regime that is openly competing with the United States — not only in athletics, but for social, economic, political and military prowess — to be the top superpower. 

Eighty-six years ago, during the beginning of German aggression in Europe, Jesse Owens, an African American track-and-field standout athlete competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In front of fascist powers that were bent on expanding their national power, this Alabama native was a highly regarded runner for the United States. In front of Adolf Hitler, Owen received cheers and along the way he shattered the myth of the Aryan race and the racial superiority of the Nazi regime.

Known as the Buckeye Bullet from his competitive days running at Ohio State, Owens won four gold medals and gained the respect of the global community that was on the brink of World War II. During the games, a fatigued Owens was told with Ralph Metcalfe to replace Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller in the 400-meter relay race.  

At first, Owens was reluctant to run, he was tired, and believed that these men had the ability to win this race for America. While he continued to succeed at these games, he believed in the ability of these runners that had faced anti-Semitism at home and during these games. The American track-and-field athletes won 11 gold medals, six of them were earned by African American athletes.  

Owens confidently represented the character and pride of the United States in front of the Germans, whose government sponsored racism and hatred toward minority groups. But when he arrived home, through the long-standing policy of segregation he was unable to gain the same rights as white citizens until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed. 

Rosa Parks

Another native of Alabama that changed the scope of civil rights was Rosa Parks. While she was traveling home by bus in 1955 from her job at the Montgomery Fair Department Store, several Black people were told to leave their seats to make enough room for white riders. Parks refused to stand with the other Blacks, where she defiantly remained seated to oppose the unfairness of segregation. Like other Black citizens who lived in Alabama, she observed the fire department use of hoses to push back civil rights demonstrators, the police using German Shepherd dogs to assault crowds of protesters, and the use of force to physically carry away Blacks who were engaged in sit-ins that were waged at segregated areas such as restaurants, park benches and local businesses.  

By refusing to leave her seat, Parks broke the Jim Crow segregationist laws, was photographed as she was arrested, fingerprinted and sent to jail. Her name has become synonymous for people of all backgrounds to oppose widespread civil rights abuses that have been seen within the United States. 

In 2012, at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, President Barack Obama (D) sat in the original bus seat and reflected on the strength of this little woman who was a giant toward the cause of civil rights.

Thurgood Marshall

In 1908, Thurgood Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to a mother who was a teacher and a father who was a railroad porter. At an early age, his father took him to local courtrooms to observe the legal procedures for the defense and the prosecution of local cases.    

As he grew older, Marshall was concerned about the high death rate of African Americans within the streets of Baltimore and how Blacks were defended in the court of law. He was an outstanding student in high school and attended the African American equivalent to Princeton University at Lincoln University near Oxford, Pennsylvania. 

While he was a brilliant student, Marshall enjoyed his social life and saw some trouble through a hazing incident within his fraternity. He realized the necessity of being more dedicated to his studies, as he joined the debate club and began to see law as his future calling. 

During his college years Marshall lived through the tribulations of segregation, where he helped desegregate a local movie theater. Once he graduated, he began his pursuit of attending law school, but he was denied his first choice of University of Maryland Law School.  

Through the unjust racial policies of this prominent school, he was refused admission to attain this degree, since he was Black. As a married student, Marshall graduated as a valedictorian at Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., and later turned down the chance of attending Harvard University to begin his own law office in East Baltimore. 

This emerging legal icon was interested in gaining positive changes to the civil rights laws that prevented the growth of rights for African Americans. Marshall was known for his devotion to fight against police brutality, unfair practices of landlords, and he also supported labor organizations and businesses. 

Always with an eye toward helping others, he had two key cases that saw him fight for the rights of Blacks against segregation. First, he opposed the unfair “separate but equal” parts of the GI Bill that limited the rights African American veterans that served within every component of the Armed Forces at home and overseas during World War II. 

In 1952, he fought against the government to overturn the segregationist policies that were established within the American educational system. 

After excelling within many government legal positions, in 1967 President Lyndon Johnson (D) nominated Marshall to become the first African American associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. He was a legal pioneer who always looked forward to change, through the positive beliefs that all Americans were able to get ahead in the United States, where they should receive all of the rights of the constitution.

Aretha Franklin

All I’m askin’ is for a little respect when you come home (just a little bit)

The legendary lyrics of “Respect” were sung by trailblazer Aretha Franklin in 1967. Born on March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee, her father the Rev. C.L. Franklin was a famous Baptist minister and her mom Barbara was a gospel singer.  

By the time Aretha was 14 years old, she had already recorded her first gospel single, in Detroit. In 1960, she was scouted for Columbia Records by New York’s John Hammond, who also signed Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen to professional contracts. But it would take a few years before Franklin hit fame in the late 1960s through her association with Atlantic Records and its music savvy heads, Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler.  

This was the beginning of her pursuit to consistently earn top 10 hits and gold records. Along the way, as the Queen of Soul, she sold millions of records such as with “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)” and “Respect,” a No. 1 hit. Her music was adored by people of all races, as her records made it through the tumultuous moments of the 1960s. Franklin’s success was felt during this trying decade that saw major Vietnam anti-war and civil rights protests. After the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, ironically in her birthplace of Memphis, Franklin sang at his service in honor of this noted leader.  

Many fans noticed the soulful feeling of sincerity when listening to the words of Franklin that always struck a chord with people that enjoyed music. Into the early 1970s, she gained big hits with “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Spanish Harlem” but at this moment soul music tastes began to change with disco and hip-hop. 

Her popularity never wavered on the national level as she performed at the inaugurations of Presidents Bill Clinton (D) and Obama, and she was given the Presidential Medal of Honor by George W. Bush (R) in 2005.  

The musical grace and strength of Franklin was also recognized in 1987 when she was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1994, she was honored at the Kennedy Center and was given the National Medal of Arts in 1999. 

Franklin represents the countless examples of African American accomplishments that added to the national character and pride of the United States during all periods of time.

Rich Acritelli is a history teacher at Rocky Point High School and adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College.

 

The Section XI Boys Swimming Championships took place at Stony Brook University Feb. 12.

Team Huntington/Harborfields/Whitman won the Suffolk Championship 200-yard medley relay in 1 minute and 37.23 seconds.

Miller Place junior Liam Preston won both the 200 yard-freestyle in 1:41.79 and the 500 freestyle in 4:37.58.

Middle Country’s Hunter Emerson place second in the 200-individual medley with a 1:55.94 to qualify for the state championships at Ithaca College March 4 through 5.

Ward Melville wins the 200-freestyle relay event with Muhtar Konar, Thomas Miele, Richie Richard Hall and Vincent Vinciguerra in 1:29.47. Vinciguerra placed third in the 50-freestyle event in 21.66 and the 100-yard free in 47.22.

Comsewogue’s Noah Giunta placed first in the 100-yard butterfly event with a 50.67 and second in the 100-yard backstroke with 51.59.

Thomas Manuel inside The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook. Photo by Julianne Mosher

The Long Island Arts Alliance is asking artists, performers and creators to share their stories amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lauren Wagner, executive director of LIAA, said that over the last two years, the group has been asking creatives to share the experiences pre-pandemic and onward in hopes that new legislation will be created to further help the art and culture sector locally.

“The percentage of job losses in the arts is three times worse than other nonprofit organizations,” she said. 

LIAA serves as an alliance of and for the region’s not-for-profit arts, cultural and arts education organizations.  LIAA promotes awareness of and participation in Long Island’s world-class arts and cultural institutions in both Nassau and Suffolk counties. 

Formed in 2003, LIAA offers leadership and diverse support services to arts organizations, serves as an advocate for arts education in our schools and collaborates on strategies for economic development and community revitalization.

An advocate for artists, painters, sculptors, dancers, performers and musicians, Wagner added that when things were shut down two years ago, LIAA decided it wanted to reach out to its community to find out how people were handling the stressful changes.

That’s when LIAA came up with surveys to give a platform for creators to explain what’s going on in their lives.

“The surveys are to poll everyone’s status,” Wagner said. “Then, we use those numbers to go back to our new legislators and say, ‘Hey, this is what’s going on and we need help.’”

Most recently, a 2022 update has been posted to the LIAA website. This is the third survey to make its way around the arts community.

The survey states, “As COVID-19 extends into 2022, it is important to secure updated information about the continuing impact of the pandemic on the creative sector and creative workers. The information you provide is critical to advocacy efforts for the arts and culture sector across Long Island.”

Wagner said the more creatives who participate, the better.

“Artists/creatives were — and remain — among the most severely affected segment of the nation’s workforce,” she said. “The arts are a formidable industry in the U.S. — $919.7 billion (pre-COVID) that supported 5.2 million jobs and represented 4.3% of the nation’s economy.”

She added that they have not seen significant relief funding earmarked for the arts from the local government despite the impact the sector has on the local economy.

“The American Rescue Plan provided $385,003,440 to Nassau County, $286,812,434 to Suffolk County, and an additional $170 million to our local townships,” she said.

But when it comes to the higher levels of government, Wagner said that things often get “skewed” because of the Island’s proximity to New York City.

“I hate to say compete with the city, but we do,” she said. “We’re a great economic driver on Long Island and we get forgotten about.”

She said the surveys could “paint a real picture of what it’s like to be an artist on Long Island.”

The artists

Patty Eljaiek. Photo from Patty Eljaiek

Patty Eljaiek, a visual artist from Huntington Station, said that many people might not realize the impact art has on the community — especially financially.

“I think it’s part of the perception that art is not a business,” she said. “Art is a business.”

Elijaiek added that if an artist is looking to share their expertise with the world, they are, in fact, a business. 

“Art has been something that people appreciate but they don’t know how to put value to it,” she said.

Wagner agreed. She said that early on during the pandemic, people looked to the arts for solace.

“Artists are second responders,” she said. “First responders save lives, but artists put everything back together.”

Alex Alexander, a musician in Rocky Point, said that people who work in the arts — such as being a working musician — don’t have the typical 9-to-5 routine.

“You can plan with a 9-to-5,” he said. “I can’t plan my life as other people would.”

And Tom Manuel, executive director of The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook and a musician himself, said that his venue was shut down for 15 months throughout the pandemic, but still continued to serve its community with outdoor shows despite the lack of revenue coming in. 

Manuel said that while big industries were being saved by the federal government, the nonprofit sector was “left out” and they had to look to their sponsors to help save them. 

“We were really blessed in that we had a lot of our donors and sponsors step up and say, ‘Hey, we know that you’re closed, but we’re going to still give our sponsorship and don’t worry about programming, just stay open,’” he said.

Board members at The Jazz Loft began raising money themselves for other artists who were struggling, raising nearly $20,000 worth of assistance.

But the pain and struggle were still there as they helped their peers. 

“The statistics show of all the things that could close and not reopen, the most unlikely place to reopen after being shuttered is a performing arts venue,” he said. “That’s the data.”

Manuel said that jazz is all about improvisation — which is what musicians did — and to work through the blues.

“I think that one of the beautiful things that did come out of the pandemic is people realized how important the arts were to them,” he said. “I think there was a reconnection that was established, which is a beautiful thing.”

Artists can participate in LIAA’s survey until Feb. 16 online now at longislandartsalliance.org.

“People don’t realize this is their livelihood on the line,” Wagner said. 

Stock photo

Over the course of the last year, North Shore residents have gotten relaxed or forgetful when it comes to locking their car doors. 

For example, Fred Leute, chief of Port Jefferson’s code enforcement, said that over the past month, village code has been receiving calls about people rummaging through open vehicles.

He said that right now, thanks to Ring camera footage, they have seen three separate people on camera trying to open car doors. 

“They’re looking for loose change or cash,” he said. “They’re checking for open doors — not even looking inside.”

Leute said this can be prevented.

“Lock your doors,” he said. “Double check.”

And while the village experienced these incidents over the last few weeks, he said that this problem isn’t confined to just one area. 

“We’re aware of what’s going on,” Leute said. “It’s happening all over.”

A spokesperson from the Suffolk County Police Department said several North Shore hamlets have reported thefts from motor vehicles. These numbers cannot verify if a car was unlocked or not.

From January 2021 until this Jan. 22, there have been 111 reported thefts from a motor vehicle in Old Field, Poquott, Port Jefferson, Rocky Point, Selden, Setauket and Stony Brook.

Old Field and Poquott had the least amount, with just two each in the fall, while Selden experienced 46 thefts — the most happening in July, August and December of last year. 

Port Jefferson reported 10, 13 for Rocky Point, 17 for Setauket and 21 for Stony Brook.

These numbers also do not include thefts of parts from the vehicle like tires or catalytic converters. 

But along with small thefts from inside easy-to-reach cars, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said during a recent press conference that eight cars were stolen across Suffolk County in one week — Dec. 19 through Dec. 23.

“Many victims of vehicle theft not only leave their cars unlocked, but they leave key fobs in plain sight, either on the passenger seat, the driver’s seat or in the cup holder,” Bellone said during the Dec. 23 Hauppauge press event. “This allows car thieves to easily enter the vehicle and take off.”

The Heritage Center at Heritage Park. Photo by Julianne Mosher

The Heritage Center in Mount Sinai will soon have new owners, but that doesn’t mean that things are going to completely change. 

As of Dec. 1, North Shore Youth Council took over the operations and activities of Heritage Trust.

Victoria Hazan, president of Heritage Trust, said that for the last two decades, the center and its grounds were run by a devoted set of board members and volunteers, but it was time for the center to have a new life. 

“We were looking for it to be transferred to another nonprofit,” she said. “We loved their mission — NSYC is awesome and are community oriented like we are.”

Based primarily out of Rocky Point, NSYC has been prominent within its community since the early 1980s. 

The organization was born out of concern for the high rates of substance abuse and teenage runaways on Long Island at the time. 

Driven by the desire to save as many youths as they could from drugs and alcohol, these individuals spawned an innovative model for youth prevention programming that continues to this day. Eventually NSYC began to expand and offer additional services along the North Shore including summer camps, after-school programs and mentorships.

Robert Woods, NSYC’s executive director, said that the organization always had a close connection to Heritage Trust. 

“This partnership will allow us to bring in more resources to the community and affords new and exciting opportunities for thousands of residents to enjoy and partake in,” he said. “With this expansion and increase of space for NSYC, we’ll be able to do more of what we love and serve youth and families in greater capacities.”

This doesn’t mean that NSYC will be closing or eliminating their Rocky Point presence, either. 

“We’re expanding our services to reach families in other communities,” he said. “We are thrilled for this next chapter of our organization to expand into the heart of the North Shore communities and build upon the center’s 20-year legacy.”

Lori Baldassare, founder and a board member with the trust, said NSYC was always affiliated with the group — her late husband Jaime was president of the NSYC board for a decade. 

“They share a mission that was similar to ours,” she said. “It just made sense.”

While the deal is not completely closed yet — Woods said it should be finalized within the next month — NSYC has begun hosting events and taking on the operations that Heritage is known for including the annual tree lighting and breakfast with Santa. 

“It’s great for NSYC to have a brick-and-mortar space for them to host events and use that they didn’t have before,” Baldassare said. 

Heritage Park, and the center inside it, began 25 years ago when the open land was slated for construction of a new Home Depot located at 633 Mount Sinai-Coram Road. Baldassare was a member of the Mount Sinai Hamlet Study for the Town of Brookhaven at the time. 

“People said they didn’t have a central meeting place in the area — not just for Mount Sinai, but the whole North Shore community,” she said. “The Heritage Center and park have been able to create a sense of place.”

Not only will the center host Heritage events in the near future, but Woods said they will be able to bring more activities for residents including LGBTQ youth programs and behavioral art classes. 

“It was bittersweet,” Hazan said. “But at the end of the day, it was the best thing we could’ve done for the park.”

The Rocky Point Boy’s Lacrosse Program collected over 300 bags of clothes, shoes, blankets and other donations to support our local communities. 

Families of players from kindergarten to alumni dropped off donations to spread holiday cheer and to give back to the community that they care about.

Player volunteers who helped during collection included: Colton Feinberg , Kyle Moore, Will Levonick, Jack Fredriksen, Justin Hachmann, Keith Hilts, Nate Aiello, Brogan Casper, Dj Xavier, Brennan Protosow, John-Ryan Torreblanca, John Tringone and Mason Pina.

The project was organized by the Rocky Point Lacrosse Booster Club parents’ group.

Photo from Town of Brookhaven

On Dec. 4, Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) celebrated the 37th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting in Rocky Point. 

The event was held at the corner of Broadway and Prince Road where residents were treated to holiday carols performed by local Girl and Boy Scout troops and holiday musical selections performed by the Rocky Point Eighth Grade orchestra, Middle School Brass Ensemble and the Rocky Point High School Jazz Band.

To the delight of the crowd, Santa arrived with the Rocky Point Fire Department and greeted the crowd with a hearty “Ho, ho, ho!”

“It is so much fun to attend our traditional holiday events in the community,” Bonner said. “Thank you to everyone who made it all possible and to Santa for taking the time to visit with the children at this festive holiday celebration.”