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University launches geese control program to save Roth

A homemade vessel makes its away across Roth Pond in May. Photo by Phil Corso

An on-campus pond at Stony Brook University has been deemed unsafe, according to a report from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The state DEC reported that Roth Pond, a roughly 200-yard body of water in the center of a Stony Brook University residential housing complex, had an excessive amount of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae. It was listed as one of seven locations in the state known to pose the risk of harming anyone who might swim or wade within it, the state said.

“Cyanobacteria are naturally present in lakes and streams in low numbers,” the state DEC said in a statement. “However, they can become abundant, forming blooms in shades of green, blue-green, yellow, brown or red. They may produce floating scums on the surface of the water, or may cause the water to take on paint-like appearance.”

A spokeswoman for Stony Brook University said the campus’s Environmental Health and Safety Department posted blue-green algae bloom advisory signs in several locations around Roth Pond, as recommended by the state Department of Health. She said the university has already taken preventative measures to reduce and eliminate the algae, including diverting runoff, installing fountains to aerate water and implementing a geese control program.

“Roth Pond, a man-made pond, is not used for bathing or swimming,” the SBU spokeswoman said. “Blue-green algae, technically known as cyanobacteria, are naturally present in lakes and streams. There are many environmental conditions that may trigger algae bloom, including nutrient loading, sunlight, calm water and warm temperatures.”

The news of the health risk came just months after the university’s annual coveted Roth Pond Regatta, which tasks students with launching makeshift vessels across the pond to blow off steam during finals week. This year’s event set sail on May 1.

School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences Professor Christopher Gobbler is an expert on blue-green algae blooms and has been working with the university’s Environmental Health and Safety Department to test the water and formulate a plan for dealing with the algae bloom, the spokeswoman said.

The state said anyone who comes in contact with the water would in turn open themselves up to the possibility of nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, skin, eye or throat irritation or allergic reactions or breathing difficulties. In order to avoid such risks, the state DEC advised that anyone who comes in contact with water that appears scummy or discolored should rinse off with clean water immediately and seek medical attention.

Other areas that were also pegged for excessive amounts of blue-green algae included McKay Lake in Calverton, Fort Pond in Montauk, Kellis Pond in Bridgehampton, Wainscott Pond in Wainscott, Agawam Lake and Mill Pond in Southampton and Marratooka Lake in Mattituck.

Stony Brook University international students at a potluck supper hosted by the Colatosti family of Setauket. Photo from Susan Colatosti

Soon, hundreds of international students will be arriving at Stony Brook University to begin their academic careers in search of advanced degrees. For most, it will be their first time in the United States. They have no family or friends here, and are in a completely foreign and unfamiliar environment.

The Host Family Program, a community-based organization now in its fourth decade, provides a newly arrived international student with the friendship of a local American family.

It is run by volunteers, with the cooperation of the university, and has been directed by Rhona Goldman since 1974. It is not a home-stay program; students live on or near campus. Host families invite students to share a meal, some sightseeing, or a favorite activity.

Both students and host families can have the enriching experience of a cultural exchange and gain perspective about the world. A host family may be a retired couple, a family group, or a single individual. The only prerequisite is the desire to make an international student feel comfortable in a new setting.

Students are arriving on campus in late August for the start of the fall semester and are looking forward to meeting an American family. The university will host a reception for the students and the host families to meet each other before the semester begins.

There is always a shortage of local volunteers to host all the students who sign up for the program.
If you would like to find out more about the program, email Rhona Goldman at: [email protected]

Stony Brook University President Samuel Stanley, second from left, joins other honored guests to cut the ribbon unveiling the new Computer Science building. Photo by Rachel Siford

By Rachel Siford

There’s a new big building on the Stony Brook University campus.

Stony Brook’s new 70,000-square-foot Computer Science building had its grand opening ceremony on Wednesday, July 1, and North Shore leaders had a lot of hope for the future within those walls. The new facility cost $41 million and has 18 research labs along with classrooms and offices for professors.

Stony Brook’s computer science program is currently ranked eighth in the country for graduate programs. It was a ranking that several leaders said should improve with help from the new facility.

“The computer science department deserves a place to really showcase our facilities and to match the great people inside them,” said Samuel L. Stanley Jr., Stony Brook University president at the ceremony.

The new building is located next to Roth Pond and will start holding classes in the fall. Speakers, including Senator Kenneth P. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Chairman of the Computer Science Department of 17 years Arie Kaufman, participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“Today is a very happy day for computer science,” Kaufman said. “This might be the happiest day in the 46 years of the computer science department.”

Various demos were set up around the three-story building. The Immersive Head Monitoring Displays demo allowed attendees to put on virtual reality goggles to tour the building virtually.

The virtual colonoscopy — invented by Kaufman — was also showcased to show how it could identify with 100 percent accuracy if a patient has a tumor without going through the invasive procedure. It has been licensed, FDA approved and commercialized.

LaValle added that his goal was to get the program from eighth to first place, and the way to do that was to have state-of-the-art equipment for students to use.

“As the country and the world evolve into a high-tech economy and lifestyle, this state-of-the-art facility will ensure that Stony Brook University students and researchers have access to the newest technologies while reaffirming the university’s leadership role as a nationally ranked computer sciences center,” said LaValle.

The newest building has five centers: National Security Institute, Center for Mobile Computing, Center for Smart Energy, Center for Dynamic Data Analysis and Center for Visual Computing. Another demo shown at the opening was the Internet of Things, which predicted that by 2020 everyone would have at least five smart devices on them, like cell phones, watches and tablets.

The Department of Computer Science at Stony Brook is even starting to research how to protect people if someone’s smart device is stolen and how to limit how much information can be extracted from it.

Looking ahead, Stanley said the university would explore ways to establish a five-year capital plan to seek more ways to fund new buildings on campus.

Residents brainstorm during the Community Vision Forum. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

North Shore lawmakers are gauging the public’s opinion as they revisit what Route 25A should look like.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) gathered residents, business owners, community leaders, teachers and elected officials at a forum at the Kanas Commons of The Stony Brook School on Monday, June 30, to discuss the future of the section of Route 25A between Main Street in Stony Brook and Bennetts Road in Setauket.

“As your councilperson, I thought it was important to engage in a community discussion regarding this issue,” Cartright said to the 95 residents gathered. She said that many members of Stony Brook, Setauket, Centereach and the greater Brookhaven area had been vocal about creating a discussion on this issue.

The public was divided into groups once they arrived at the forum and each group represented a different issue facing the road. The various issues included uses and zoning, traffic safety and transportation, design and aesthetics, impact on nearby businesses, Stony Brook University, community relations and infrastructure.

Each group was given a list of questions to discuss and then present to the entire forum. These questions were designed to get an idea of the changes the community wanted, the problems they thought this zone needed to address and what things the community wanted to preserve.

“This is a precursor to a land use plan,” said Brenda Prusinowski, the deputy commissioner for the Town of Brookhaven. “There are many steps to go once anything has been discussed here.”

Prusinowski said she was encouraged by the high number of residents that came out, and expected that everyone would come up with a great discussion to make the community better.

“This should be a gauge of what the majority wants, but also what every individual feels is important as well,” Cartright said.

Cartright urged that everyone keep an open mind and accept that conflicting opinions will arise. However, as the night unfolded, it seemed that a majority of the community members were on the same page.

Major issues that were brought up, in terms of improvement, were safety measures for pedestrians and bicyclists, the architecture and look of the downtown shops and better parking options near the Stony Brook Long Island Rail Road station.

Residents expressed a desire for a more cohesive look, while still maintaining the historical nature and heritage of the town, which leaders in attendance also support.

“We have a great sense of place, and that is important to all of us, that we maintain that,” said Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). “We want people to see the historic and charming feel of this community.”

Groups also said that although students from Stony Brook University can rent bikes to ride downtown, they still needed more safe paths to take. If students felt safer to go for a bike ride, residents argued they would be investing more into the area businesses by shopping there more frequently.

Many people said they felt there was almost an “iron curtain” between the students of Stony Brook University and the towns of Brookhaven and Stony Brook, and that more needs to be done to integrate the students.

Yet, other residents said that they feared the towns are losing their identity to the university.

“We were not brought together tonight to react to a problem, rather to look at our values as a community,” said state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket).

Englebright said that this community is host to a large economic engine with the university and that keeping the community great benefits the university and vice versa.

Preserving local small business was also very important, as no one said they were interested in seeing a national chain pop up anywhere near Route 25A.

 

Builds upon revitalization efforts and Connect LI

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, center, along with regional leaders, announced a new regional plan on Tuesday. Photo from the county executive’s office

As the percentage of youth on Long Island declines, regional leaders are determined to entice young people to move in and stay, but their plan comes with a price.

On Tuesday, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and several regional leaders, including Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), announced they are seeking $350 million to fund the Long Island Innovation Zone, I-Zone, plan. I-Zone aims to connect Long Island’s transit-oriented downtown areas, like New Village in Patchogue, the Meadows at Yaphank and the planned Ronkonkoma Hub, to institutions like Stony Brook University, Brookhaven National Laboratory and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

The I-Zone plan emphasizes the use of a bus rapid transit, or BRT, system  that runs north to south and would connect Stony Brook University and Patchogue. There will also be a paralleling hiking and biking trail, and the system will serve as a connection between the Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma and Montauk Long Island Rail Road lines.

The goal is to make Long Island more appealing to the younger demographic and avoid local economic downturns.

According to the Long Island Index, from 2000 to 2009, the percentage of people aged 25-34 decreased by 15 percent. The majority of these individuals are moving to major cities or places where transportation is readily accessible.

“We must challenge ourselves because if we don’t, we have an Island at risk,” Romaine said. Government officials acknowledged that without younger people living on Long Island the population will be unable to sustain the local economy. Fewer millennials means there are less people who will purchase property and contribute to the success of businesses in the area.

The proposal comes after Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) call for regional planning.

The plan also builds upon the Ronkonkoma Hub plan, with the installation of sewers and a new parking area. The I-Zone proposal claims to improve Long Island’s water quality, as funding will help connect sewers through Islip downtown areas to the Southwest Sewer District.

Additionally, the plan calls for the construction of a new airport terminal on the north side of Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip and for the relocation of the Yaphank train station in closer proximity to Brookhaven National Laboratory.

“We have all that stuff [access to recreational activities, education center and downtown areas] here but we don’t have a connection. We don’t have any linked together,” said Justin Meyers, Suffolk’s assistant deputy county executive for communications.

Bellone and Romaine, as well as Stony Brook University President Samuel Stanley, Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter (R), Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Long Island Regional Planning Council Chairman John Cameron, Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri, Vice President of Development and Community Relations at CSHL Charles Prizzi, Chief Planning Officer of the Long Island Rail Road Elisa Picca, Director of BNL Doon Gibbs, and founder of Suburban Millennial Institute Jeff Guillot, were involved with the I-Zone proposal.

If funding for the project is received, construction could begin in approximately two years, Meyers said, adding that constructing the BRT and the hiking and biking trial would take as few as five years.

Bellone said that without younger people moving in, the trend could lead to the Island’s economic stagnation.

“We are aging faster than any other region in our country,” he said. “The inevitable result of that will be an ever-growing population that naturally is pulling more social services infrastructure.”