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Selden

From left to right: Elizabeth Malafi, Sal DiVincenzo, Maryellen Ferretti and Sophia Serlis-McPhillips. Photo from MCPL

TD Bank has provided a generous grant of $5,000 to  the Middle Country Library Foundation in support of a new series focused on business and personal finance and the annual Women’s EXPO, the library’s educational and supportive venue where local women entrepreneurs and artists gain valuable tradeshow experience.

Photo from MCPL

Amongst the Middle Country Public Library’s many historical artifacts are a few that explain just how far the area has come from its pastoral roots. The picture and story below come courtesy of a collaborative effort among the library staff.

In the 10 years between 1940 and 1950, the population of Selden doubled from 847 to 1743. By 1960, it would more than double again. 

Photo from MCPL

The growth of neighboring Centereach was even more dramatic; from 628 in 1940 to 3100 in 1960 and 6,676 in 1970. For many civic-minded citizens, it was time for a community library. In March of 1957, The Mid Island News announced the forthcoming opening of the “long-awaited library serving the Centereach and Selden communities.” A library board of trustees was formed and board president, Lucille Hough, began a door-to-door canvass to solicit books for the new facility.

The former Nature’s Gardens clubhouse on Middle Country Road in Selden was acquired from area developer, O.L. Schwenke. A local carpenter began renovations and volunteers were requested to help catalog the books. The library was to be open 15 hours per week and managed by part-time librarian, Sadie Hallock, assisted by volunteers. By 1961, the topic of the need for a new branch library appeared in the board minutes. Suggested sites were Jericho School or the former Centereach school — neither proved possible. In 1963, when a new Centereach Post Office was built, the site of the former post office became available for rent. In June of 1963, a lease was signed for 8 Dawn Drive which would be available by year’s end. A “Stack the Shelves” drive suggested by Mr. Jones of Tinker National Bank announced that the bank would contribute $500 plus $2.00 for every new depositor over a stated period. In addition, Bernard Kaplan, Eastwood Village developer, pledged $500 to start the campaign.

Circulation figures for the library increased every year. In 1964, the first year both libraries were in operation, the circulation was 54,570. By 1967, it had risen to 176,145. In 1968, the name changed to Middle Country Public Library reflected the consolidation of the school district. That same year, the board hired Paul John Cirino as the library director.

Photo from MCPL

As the number of school age children surged and the school district became the fastest growing in the nation, the library kept pace to meet the needs of the increasing population. A search was begun for a suitable site of approximately three-acres with a minimum frontage of 150-feet and close to the center of population and not more than a quarter mile from Middle Country Road. In 1971, ground was broken for a new building on the corner of Eastwood Blvd and School Street and the new 19,000-square-foot building was dedicated on Jan. 30, 1972.

By 1981, the number of library cardholders had exceeded 51,000 and the annual circulation topped 500,000. Program attendance continued to rise and space for additional programming was at a premium. When the lease on the Selden Branch expired, the School District offered the unused Selden Elementary School to the library. In 1983, after remodeling the school to provide handicapped access and library furniture and shelving, the Middle Country Cultural Center at Selden was opened to the public.

An auditorium, complete with a stage and seating for almost 200, afforded a venue for community dramatic and musical a. MCPL’s 107,000-square-foot, two-building expansion made it the largest and busiest library on Long Island. 

Photo from MCPL

Dynamic architectural spaces reflect the ever-changing innovative and creative activities taking place within the library, which is always looking forward to draw in new audiences and find ways to make the library an even more responsive heart of the community.

Photo from Town of Brookhaven

On June 29, Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich welcomed Boy Scout Troop 229 from Selden to Town Hall. The group met in the Town Council conference room where Kornreich answered questions about town government and discussed his role on the town board.

Photo from Town of Brookhaven

The discussion included concerns from the Boy Scouts regarding recycling, homelessness, littering, park stewardship, clean energy and infrastructure. Kornreich also presented each Boy Scout with a Certificate of Congratulations for achieving their “Citizenship in the Community” merit badge. 

“I enjoyed hearing about issues important to the Scouts from Troop 229,” Kornreich said. “It was really thought-provoking to see the world through their eyes and understand their specific community-based concerns.”

He added that the experience was “heartening.”

“I’m optimistic that the leaders of tomorrow will step up to help our township reach new heights.”

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Photo from MCPL

Amongst the Middle Country Public Library’s many historical artifacts are a few that explain just how far the area has come from its pastoral roots. The picture and story below comes courtesy of a collaborative effort among the librarian staff.

Driving along Middle Country Road today, it is hard to imagine that only 100 years ago, this busy four- lane highway with its many intersections, signs, and streetlights started out as little more than a hard-packed dirt road. 

Go back 100 years more, and you’d only see a narrower, rutted path. We take our nicely maintained, hard paved roads for granted today, but it wasn’t always such a smooth ride. 

Today’s network of streets and highways have their origins in simple trails which were used by people and wildlife leading to sources of water and shelter. 

These paths measured only two to three-feet wide in places, but they were sufficient for the needs of the times. 

Photo from MCPL

Early English settlers began to use these footpaths as they established homesteads on Long Island, widening and improving these paths, using them as cart-ways to allow for easier travel between their farms. The cart-way needed to be wide enough for a livestock-drawn cart to traverse with ease. In those days a cart would be hauled by cattle, ox, or horsepower.

Those paths were the only way to travel around Long Island until 1703, when the NY General Assembly appointed highway commissioners in King’s County (Brooklyn), Queens County and Suffolk County to direct the building and maintenance of roads “four rods wide.” The roads were simply packed earth, hardened over time by travelers.  It took some time for conditions to improve, and eventually drainage systems were constructed, and logs or planks were laid across some roads to pave them. These log-covered roads were known as “corduroy roads” because of their bumpy surface.

Thirty years after the highway commissions laid out the routes, arranged rights-of-way between existing properties and physical construction took place, Long Island boasted three major thoroughfares: North Country Road, parts of which follow today’s Route 25A; Middle Country Road, now known as Route 25 or Jericho Turnpike; and South Country Road, portions of which serve as Montauk Highway. 

An organized system of roads was needed for many reasons as the population grew. Though most homesteads were self-sufficient at that time, people would barter for goods and gather together to socialize. Mail needed to be delivered across the Island, and prior to the establishment of the U.S. Postal Service in 1775, England’s Royal Mail System was utilized. Before reliably passable roads were built, that mail was delivered from Connecticut by boat. It was faster and easier to travel 19 miles by water than 120 miles overland from New York City.

As the farmland was cultivated and enriched over time, it produced more than one family or village could use and farming became a burgeoning industry. 

Means to transport the surplus produce was required. Farm to Market Road (also called Horseblock Road) filled this need. Farm owners would load their wagons full of fruits and vegetables to ship by rail to New York City.

 The term “horseblock” refers to a block of stone or wood used to help a person climb high enough to mount a horse or to enter a stagecoach with ease. With many homes, farms and taverns located along these miles of roadway, horseblocks were a familiar sight. We call this same Farm to Market Road by its old nickname, Horseblock Road to this day. 

Photo from MCPL

Through the years, several popular taverns and rest stops were located on Horseblock Road. As far back as Revolutionary times, Sam “Horseblock” Smith owned and ran a tavern at the intersection of Horseblock and Middle Country Roads in Centereach.

 A Smith genealogy relates that on March 2, 1806 Sam sold the inn and land to Lake Grove resident, Titus Gould. It appears that part of the tavern was dismantled and moved to another location. Generations later, Alfred Elsmann ran Al’s Tavern, at the corner of Horseblock and Granny Roads. It was advertised in the Patchogue Advance of March 7, 1946 as specializing in home cooking and “the best in beer, wines and liquors,” and was a popular destination for local festivities for several decades.

Photo by Christopher Sabella

The Selden Fire Department was activated for an Automatic Alarm just before 11 p.m. on May 25 at 1000 Middle Country Road in Selden. 

A Selden Fire Department ambulance enroute to the hospital reported flames coming from the roof of Giove’s Funeral Home. 

The initial fire was in the second-floor residence, and in the ceiling above the residence. The residents were alerted and woken by their two dogs barking and were able to escape without injury. 

Employees, who had just left the funeral home, came back, and removed the one funeral casket to a safe location. 

Under the Command of Chief of the Department William Cotty, an initial interior attack was hampered and aborted as the ceiling of the apartment began to collapse on the firefighters. At this time all manpower was removed from the building just two minutes before the roof collapsed into the apartment. 

The Selden Fire Department quickly moved to an exterior attack with ladders from Selden FD, Coram FD and Centereach Fire Department.

In all about 100 firefighters and over 20 pieces of apparatus and support vehicles from Selden FD, Centereach FD, Coram FD, Ronkonkoma FD, Holtsville FD and Farmingville FD contained the fire in a little over an hour.

In addition to the departments above, the Selden Fire Department was assisted on scene by Port Jeff Ambulance, Medford Ambulance and Brookhaven Town Fire Coordinators. Terryville FD and Setauket FD stood by at the Selden FD HQ and handled three additional EMS alarms during the fire. 

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Brookhaven Town Fire Marshals Office and Suffolk County PD Arson Squad.

Photo from Rage Room

By Chris Cumella

The area could soon have its own rage room — a creation designed for destruction. The local concept was conceived in 2019 by Michael Hellmann, who hopes to start up Rage Room Long Island.

A vacant storefront on Middle Country Road could be on its way to becoming the latest attraction that Selden has to offer its residents and visitors alike. The last hurdle for Hellmann and his crew is obtaining a permit from the Town of Brookhaven. Doing so will solidify their place in the Selden Plaza and create a therapeutic stress release for all who enter.

“We started this project two years ago,” said Hellmann, a Holbrook resident. “It is definitely an intense workout if you want it to be  — you can break a picture of your ex, you can make it whatever you want.”

Derived from Japan, the first rage room opened in 2008, known as The Venting Place. It was created in the wake of the nation’s Great Recession, putting stressed-out workers, students and people from all walks of life in an environment where destruction was therapeutic. Since then, over 60 venues are operating in the U.S. and rising, according to Hellmann.

He said that his premises would include two sizable rooms accompanied by a third, larger room designed for parties and other big groups. Once a waiver is signed, a mechanical arm will hand you a weapon of your choice to arm yourself with —including crowbars, sledgehammers, golf clubs and even pipe wrenches.

“Michael is very creative and is looking at the latest and most innovative methods,” said Michaela Pawluk, social media manager of Rage Room LI. “When you go to other rage rooms, you are just destroying things, but the way that he created it and designed it — it is an entire experience.”

Participants are equipped with thick coveralls and a face shield for bodily protection from the bits of cutlery, furniture and technology scattered throughout a room during their allotted time ranging from 15-30 minutes. For the larger room intended for parties, audiences will have access to larger objects to unload. These include an industrial humidifier and a 4-foot Xerox machine right out of an attorney’s office.

Recycling is the name of Rage Room LI’s game, and Hellmann and his team play strategically when scouting the town’s curbs for discarded objects large enough for further destruction. Once a customer is finished with their session, the leftover scraps are recycled once again in an environmentally conscious effort to avoid sending them to a landfill.

“We are literally getting things off the street,” Hellmann said. “We have a Rage Room LI van, and we drive around the neighborhoods to collect junk off the curb. We love finding things that are technologically based.”

A rage room is designed to be used in any way that customers see fit — from an outlet to unleash anger to a venue for birthday parties. Rage Room LI is attempting to break the stigma around the danger of rage rooms. One of their most significant priorities has been to facilitate a safe environment where people can let endorphins flourish and have fun.

To get up and running at the request of over 900 eager participants via email, Hellmann is seeking a permit from the town to register his business. All town board members have expressed interest in introducing Long Island’s first rage room, except for one hesitant councilmember concerned of misuse or bringing in troubling individuals.

Rage Room LI has seen support from a petition on Change.org to open shop that has garnered 586 signatures as at May 12 out of a goal of 1,000. Aside from the signatures, the purpose of creating the petition was to show local and neighboring residents that it is a worthwhile cause. It is a continuous effort which Pawluk encourages anyone who is interested to add their name to the petition to emphasize community solidarity.

Envisioning opening day leaves Hellmann and his crew optimistic that their business will make a tremendous splash in Selden. Rage Room LI is shaping up to succeed from the positive community feedback, project plans and potentially a permit at its side.

“At some point, people break things whether they want to or not,” Hellmann said. “We are just expressing positivity, that is mainly the goal.”

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Amongst the Middle Country Public Library’s many historical artifacts are a few that explain just how far the area has come from its pastoral roots. The picture and story below comes courtesy of a collaborative effort among the librarian staff.

Over the years, a variety of land developers purchased acreage in the Centereach area even as far back as 1896, despite its distance from New York City. 

It took until the 1940s and 1950s for construction to begin in earnest. 

Shortly after WWII, the Ulrich family developed Cedarwood Park on the north side of Middle Country Road in the vicinity of Elliot Avenue, Lake Grove. Roads were put in and building lots surveyed and improved. The lots sold for $250 each with a down payment of just $10.

The rural landscape of Centereach began to change dramatically in the middle of the 20th century when the Kaplan firm began to build low-priced homes in a development named Dawn Estates. Homes in this development sold for $7,000. 

While the Kaplan brothers were among the first developers, the Krinsky Organization followed them with an even larger project. Fifteen hundred homes were to be built on a 400-acre site, but there were concerns about this project from the start. 

Doubters cited its remote location and the difficulty of obtaining necessary public utilities in what was considered an isolated area. These worries were soon overcome when the Krinsky Organization created its own water company with the capacity to serve 10,000 families. 

In addition, the Long Island Lighting Company agreed to extend its gas lines more than six miles beyond the existing distribution limit, bringing in electricity to serve the new homes.

On Sept. 6, 1953, the front page of the New York Times real estate section featured a picture of the new Eastwood Village exhibit home with its raised-hearth fireplace and its combination living-dining-kitchen area. 

While the first year’s sales were slow, within five years 1,250 homes had been sold. The prices for these homes ranged from $9,990 to $13,500. 

In 1954, Eastwood Village became a multiple builder venture as other builders erected models on already improved building sites. By 1958, 2,500 homes had been sold in the development. Due to expanding job opportunities and the availability of larger houses on bigger sites, increasing numbers of people flocked to the area. 

A study by Klein and Parker Realty in 1954 indicated that 60% of those looking at Eastwood Village came from Queens and Nassau, 20% from Manhattan and the remainder from other boroughs and New Jersey. 

It has been said that so many people came to Centereach from New York City that it became known as “a portion of Brooklyn in Suffolk County.”

In 1957, the American Institute of Architects selected Hausman & Rosenberg’s  Eastwood Village model as a winner in the annual “Homes for Better Living” competition. Cited for its architecture and original design, the home won the award in the A.I.A’s Class A category for merchant-built homes under $15,000.

With the influx of new residents came the need for more services. The first supermarkets in the area were Acme Supermarket, Hills, A&P and the Blue Jay Market. Benkert’s of Centereach and Smiles 5&10 became favorite haunts. 

In 1963, the Prudential Movie Theatre made its debut and the following year, Suffolk Federal Savings moved into its new headquarters on the south side of Middle Country Road. As a variety of stores, shopping centers and businesses appeared, the remaining farms began to fade from the landscape. 

The 400 acres of land described as “a wilderness covered with heavy timber” purchased in 1790 by Isaac Hammond of Coram for 100 pounds sterling ($250) has evolved into the largest Hamlet in the Town of Brookhaven (Three Village Herald, July 15-22, 1977).

File photo by Julianne Mosher

On May 18, the Middle Country Central School District will vote on four new candidates to join, or continue on, the board of education. 

Eight individuals are running for the four spots — one of them filling the remainder of an unexpired term created by the resignation of Dina Phillips that commenced on July 1, 2020. That seat is currently occupied by William Ferraro, whose appointment expires on May 18. 

Arlene Barresi

Arlene Barresi has been a district resident for over 43 years, with her two children and their spouses all Middle Country graduates. Two of Barresi’s five grandchildren are currently attending MCCSD schools.

She said she has been committed to education for 34 years, previously employed as a school secretary, teacher aide and special education teaching assistant with Eastern Suffolk BOCES. 

Although she retired in June 2006, she said serving on the board of education allows her to continue her commitment to education.

As a community member, Barresi was a Brownie and Girl Scout leader, as well as a religious education instructor.

During her time as a board trustee, she has chaired and served on the Legislative/Community Outreach, Bond, Evaluation, Business Advisory Board and Safe Schools committees. She also serves as a board trustee for Eastern Suffolk BOCES since 2015.

Up for reelection this year, Barresi has lobbied for education in Albany and in Washington, D.C.

“I’m glad to be running again,” she said during a virtual meet-the-candidates night on April 29.  “I’ve been on the board for 16 years. We’ve accomplished a lot in our district.”

Arlene Barresi did not return calls to comment on district concerns and her plans as board member.

John DeBenedetto

John DeBenedetto graduated from the Newfield High School in 1990 and has been a resident of Middle Country for the majority of his life. 

He graduated from Stony Brook University with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Business Management. His Master’s degree is in Elementary education from Dowling College and his post-master’s degree from Queens College is in School Administration.

DeBenedetto, and his wife Kristin, has three school-aged children ranging from kindergarten to high school. They reside in Selden.

Currently a high school principal in another district, he has been in the education field for 23 years. His teaching experience ranges from elementary through high school. DeBenedetto is currently a co-principal for the William Floyd School District. 

During his tenure as a principal, he has been instrumental in creating new programs for students, improving student performance on state exams, and helped to increase the graduation rates for two high schools. DeBenedetto currently volunteers for the local Cub Scouts troop.

As a first-time runner, he said his goal is make sure MCCSD’s students are ready for the real world. 

“A big concern for me is making sure our students are when they graduate, college and career ready,” he said. 

He said he’s choosing to run because this community helped him become the person he is today.

“With the recent concerns regarding the state budget, my goal is to ensure that Middle Country receives the funding we need to challenge our students, to provide our teachers and administrators with the resources they need to be successful,” he said. 

Sandro Fernandes

Sandro Fernandes did not respond to multiple attempts for an interview.

William Ferraro

William Ferraro has been a resident of the Middle Country school district since 2016. He and his wife, Kerry, have two children in the district — their oldest in first grade and youngest who will be entering pre-K next year. 

Ferraro is a senior contract manager for the New York City Administration for Children’s Services. 

He was appointed last fall to fill a vacancy on the board.

“I always wanted to serve on a school board when my children were in school. It was a big goal of mine,” he said. 

Ferraro joined the Legislative/Community Outreach Committee as a private citizen, helping with issues like lobbying to get cameras on school-bus stop signs and getting Stagecoach Elementary School in Selden shut down as a polling site.

“I’d like to keep serving because this is extremely important to me — as a father, as a community member,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of good that somebody can do from a school board. I like being able to provide constituent services. I like being able to listen to parents and listen to district employees about what their needs are. And if I can go to the administration and go to the board, or propose a change, that at least provides a voice to those who feel like maybe they’re not heard. I can do that.”

Ferraro said his three main priorities are to continue the safe return to school during COVID-19.

“I want our kids to get back to normal, but we have to do it within the confines of the CDC and what the county Department of Health [Services] is asking for us,” he said. “My personal opinion is that we’re not going to be wearing masks for too much longer, but while we’re still required to do so we have to continue to sacrifice and continue to move forward, and make the school experience as normal as possible.”

He added that special education is a big focus, saying it can be better in the district. 

“We can always get more funding into that area. I have been on every SEPTA call since being appointed to the board, and I will continue to be as responsive as possible,” he said. 

Ferraro said his third biggest focus is the budget. 

“I’m proud that this year with our budget, we did not pierce the tax cap and we held to the lowest tax [levy] increase at 0.88%, and to do that during COVID, while maintaining funding for programs, and not having to fire any teachers or staff, I think is a great accomplishment for our district,” he said.

Robert Hallock

Robert Hallock is a father of three children who all attend the Middle Country school district. He has worked in New York City as a police officer for almost four years. 

Before joining the force, he worked with the traffic courts and for the Town of Brookhaven Public Safety Department. 

“I wanted to run mainly because of the information that I’ve been getting from the teachers,” he said. 

Hallock noted that his oldest son, a kindergartner, is in an individualized education program.

“We’ve had to do a lot of different steps in order to get him the best education possible,” he said. “And it’s been a true struggle.”

He began attending board meetings because he knew it was impacting his child and the teachers who have been guiding his family throughout this process.

“Since they helped me, and continue to help me, it’s my chance to give back,” he said.

Hallock said he thinks he has the “upper hand” on safety and security, noting his experience with law enforcement. He also wants to see if the district can get more funding for its special education program.

“We have one of the best special education programs in Suffolk County, if not Long Island,” he said. “People really rave about it, and I didn’t realize it until I was in the middle of it.”

And on top of security and special education, Hallock wants to fight back on COVID-19 restrictions in the schools.

“I’d love to see the masks come off of our students,” he said. “I want to see the board be in-person in meetings instead of on Zoom. If the kids are back in school, we’re supposed to be an example for the district.”

Hallock said they are “lucky” to have a five-day in-school program and plans to ensure students continue to have live learning.

He said he’s doing this because he’s a concerned dad in the district.

“A lot of people use this as a stepping stone to get into politics,” he said. “And I hate that, personally. It shouldn’t really be about politics in this area.”

Karen Lessler

Karen Lessler has lived in the Middle Country school district for almost 40 years, leaving Northport to settle with her family in Centereach. She has two adult sons with children of their own.

Lessler’s husband of 35 years, George, is a graduate of Newfield High School.

The current BOE president and a high school assistant principal by day, she said she decided to run for the board of education more than two decades ago to help improve the district.

“I continue to focus on what is best for students and how can we make positive changes for our children and the community,” she said in an email. “The value and reputation of our schools is a reflection of our community and home values. I want not only what’s best for students but what’s best for our community as a whole.”

Lessler said her experience as an educator brings a lot to the table. A teacher for 18 years, and a board member for 21 years, she also received a doctorate degree in education.

“I have experience in lobbying, negotiations and policymaking. I also have very strong leadership skills,” she said. “I think experience matters.”

Two issues she wants to address if reelected is the current impact of COVID-19 on students, and the implementation of several programs to help Middle Country students adjust to school full-time.

Lesser wants to address the social, emotional and academic impact the pandemic has had on students, also the continuous loss of state revenue. 

“More mandates-less funding translates to higher property taxes or cutting programs,” she said. “It’s a challenge to implement a five-year plan when the State of New York works on their budget annually.”

She added she will continue to support programs implemented by the superintendent, and meet with elected officials, along with other districts, to address concerns.

“Over the years there have been many success stories,” she said. “The Middle Country school board was the group that stopped the MTA tax on Long Islanders. The pre-K grant we receive each year was the efforts of the school board. A grant for $500,000 for our life skills program was also the efforts of the school board. And most recently, the camera on the school buses was a Middle Country school board initiative.”

Deborah Mann-Rodriguez

Deborah Mann-Rodriguez, a graduate of the Middle Country school district and Stony Brook University, is looking to run for the board of education.

She has been employed at Stony Brook University for approximately 22 years, mostly dedicated to supporting faculty members with acquiring funds for meaningful research from federal, state, and philanthropic agencies. In her role, she manages all of the grants, contracts, sub-awards, clinical trials that come from the SBU College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, which is composed of nine academic departments and five academic programs, including Women in Science and Engineering. 

Additionally, she earned a bachelor’s in health science and disability studies and a master’s in health care policy and management, both from Stony Brook University. 

She and her husband have two daughters who attend Middle Country schools. 

“I decided to run for this office because I have two amazing kids in the district,” she said in an email. “I have the unique vantage point of being a graduate of MCCSD, having children that are currently in the district, having family and friends who are educators, administrators and support staff within the district.”

She said running for this position is “uncharacteristic” of herself.

“I have never run for any political office and I am not using this opportunity as a stepping stone for something more grandiose,” she said. “I’m doing it for my two children, my two nieces and one nephew, and all of our kids in this community.”

Mann-Rodriguez said her main goal is to ensure that all students, parents and educators feel safe, acknowledged and supported in this community. 

“I will work to ensure that our children have the opportunities they deserve in order to succeed,” she said. “I will do this by helping to organize synergistic activities between MCCSD and the surrounding higher education institutions, such as Stony Brook University, Suffolk Community College, Hofstra University and St. Joseph’s College.”

She added that as board member, she wants to encourage interest in STEM fields among the students of Middle Country.

Mario Nicoletto

Mario Nicoletto is a 20-year-old Centereach High School graduate who grew up in the Middle Country school district. 

Currently a student at Suffolk County Community College, he has worked in government and local politics for over two-and-a-half years. 

He said the reason he decided to run was because he was in the shoes of the district’s students not too long ago. 

“The average age of graduating high school is 18,” he said. “My point being, I’m a better representative of students than I would say, really any of the other six folks.”

He said that with the exception of fellow candidate Will Ferraro, there are no millennial or Gen Z representatives on the board.

“I feel like, wouldn’t you want students to represent students?” he said. “I know the ins and outs. I’m not just some guy, and I’m not a teacher, not a cop. Obviously, I’m not a PTA member, I’m not a parent. I’m a real human being and I’m just trying to help out all 61,000 people that live here.”

Nicoletto has been working with state Sen. Phil Boyle (R-East Islip) representing the 4th Dis-trict as a legislative intern. Previously he helped U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin’s (R-NY1) campaign as deputy office manager. 

He said his biggest concern is the budget. 

“I am against the budget,” he said. “I think that we should have more reconciliation when it comes to things like that.”

Although he said he likes “some parts of the budget,” he is unhappy that last year 78% of it went to faculty. 

“I’m not talking about the teachers, I’m talking about the people up top,” he said. “And that, frankly, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.”

Nicoletto said that when 25% of those people are under the age of 21, he believes more money should be given back those who could benefit from it. 

“I think that we should be given more money to our students and more money into programs that will help us have a dialogue with the community,” he said.

He also wants to make safety a top priority, as well as managing the COVID-19 crisis. 

“I genuinely believe that if a student is vaccinated, he or she should not be mandated to wear a mask,” he said. “But I also don’t think that we should mandate every student to have the COVID vaccine.”

For security, although the there is a school resource officer, he thinks there should be more done. 

“I don’t think that’s going far enough,” he said. “I would like a legitimate school resource officer with arms, such as a handgun.”

Nicoletto said the district could use a revamp in its security system by hiring retired police officers and military.

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Photo from Middle Country Public Library

Amongst the Middle Country Public Library’s many historical artifacts are a few that explain just how far the area has come from its pastoral roots. The picture and story below comes courtesy of a collaborative effort among the librarian staff.

Selden schoolchildren sang “America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the ceremony on Nov. 9, 1935, when the cornerstone was laid for the soon-to-be-built new Selden School. 

Photo from Middle Country Library

Sealed within the cornerstone was a copper box containing three local newspapers of the day (the Patchogue Advance, the Argus and the Mid-Island Mail), the year’s school census, a copy of the day’s program, a 1935-minted dime and penny, and an 1885 almanac. 

The new Selden Elementary school was completed in 1936 and replaced the one-room schoolhouse which had served the community from 1898 on. The updated structure contained three classrooms, a principal’s office, a well house, indoor washrooms and an oil-burning heating system. 

Further renovations to the building were undertaken in 1948, which ultimately accommodated almost 50 years of students within its walls. 

The U.S. Army surplus cannon depicted here was purchased after WWII with nickels and dimes saved by the schoolchildren of Selden. 

You’ll see it in front of the building if you drive by 575 Middle Country Road, where Middle Country Public Library Selden stands today.  

People can take as many pictures of their friends at the new interactive selfie museum. Photo by Julianne Mosher

It’s a new place to play and all are welcomed to it. 

Popup Speakeasy is an interactive photobooth museum, that allows people to come in and take as many pictures in different settings. 

“It really is for us a place where people can be creative,” said co-owner Catherine Ovejas. “It’s a selfie studio, you come and take your own pictures, or can come with a photographer, and you get access to the whole studio.”

Located at 1860 Pond Road in Ronkonkoma, like a speakeasy of the past, it’s hidden in plain sight. From the outside of the building, one wouldn’t know what to expect when they walk through the front door — a warehouse of 14 different stations from all different eras and scenes. 

Ovejas said that each season the stations will change.

Visitors of the Popup Speakeasy can choose from 14 different photobooth stations. Photo by Julianne Mosher

But right now, there’s a “record room,” decorated with a wall of vinyls and a boombox, a picnic scene where friends can pretend to pop champagne, and a pink repurposed Volkswagen bus tucked away in the back. 

“It’s a nod to pop culture,” she said. “I love retro things. So, you will see a lot of vintage things … things from the 70s, 80s and 90s.”

She said the idea for a selfie museum came amidst the pandemic. Between production, construction and the creation of each theme, they began the process a little more than six months ago, choosing Ronkonkoma as a central location that everyone interested can get to.

As far as she and her team know, she said, this is the first selfie studio in the whole state. 

“There are pop-up photo experiences that have taken place in and around Manhattan,” she said. “But those are more of a museum-type experience where you’re taking pictures of the exhibits, not so much of yourself.”

Oveja encourages visitors to express themselves. 

“We want you to go crazy,” she said. “We want you to interact with the scenes and the different themes and make it your own story.”

She added, “It’s not about looking at an exhibit and admiring it from a distance. I want you to actually bring your personality into the theme.”

For just $25 an hour (at the adult rate), visitors get access to the whole studio. Using an online booking system, the space is reservation-only. Social distancing is required, as are masks — except for when a quick photo is being taken in the scene.

Oveja said they are allowing one group at a time, and the whole studio (plus the props) are sanitized before and after each use.

Children are also encouraged to come and enjoy the studio, where kids ages five to 12 are just $15.

“This is a judgment free zone, we want you to be yourself, have a great time and bring your own personality to the table,” she said.

Co-owner Jose Rivera said the ultimate goal is to franchise, and those future locations will have their own vibe. 

“There’s no limit to how far we can go how far we can go,” he said. “We’re looking forward to collaborating with as many businesses as we can.”

To make reservations, visit popupspeakeasy.com.