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The Mother Theresa Council Knights of Columbus hosted its second annual car show at St. James R.C. Church Oct. 3. With more than 50 cars in the church’s parking lot, the vehicles represented a variety of classic and muscle cars.

Attendees were able to vote for their favorite on their way out and proceeds from the event benefitted the Council Youth and other charities.

File photo

By Kyle Barr and Rita J. Egan

Cops said that over the past week there have been a rash of car thefts and vehicle break-ins within the Three Village area.

Now several Port Jefferson residents have also reported vehicles were stolen from their property as well, though police said they are still investigating if the same perpetrators were committing the robberies in both areas.

Suffolk County Police provided TBR News Media a list of 16 total car thefts and break ins. The list shows a total of four cars were stolen from residences in Stony Brook Aug. 23. Two of those vehicles, a 2020 Nissan and a 2019 Volkswagen were recovered — the former was found in Connecticut while the latter was located in Stony Brook. Two other cars, a 2016 Mazda and a 2009 Acura, have so far not been located, according to police.

The 12 other incidences were petit larcenies of property from cars in Stony Brook, Setauket and Old Field. Several items electronics like laptops or earphones, while others were purses, money and car keys. All incidents took place within the 6th precinct.

Suffolk County Police Detective Lt. Sean Beran said all incidents were from unlocked vehicles. The investigation is ongoing, according to Beran, though he added there are a couple of people of interest.

Uniformed and plainclothes personnel have been patrolling the area, and the Special Operations Team has been assigned to the case. Beran said no additional break-ins or thefts were reported after Aug. 23 in the Three Village community.

Beran said it’s important for car owners to remember to lock their vehicles, make sure they have their car key FOB and remove belongings even when parking a car in a driveway.

Police confirmed that more car thefts have since been reported by locals in the Port Jefferson area as well. A man in the Harbor Hills section of the village on Landing Lane said two cars were stolen from his driveway at around 1:45 a.m. Friday, Aug. 28.

One vehicle was a 2020 Honda Accord and another was a 2016 Honda CRV, according to the Port Jefferson man’s posts on social media. Cops also said that a 2013 Mercedes was also stolen from Sands Lane in Port Jeff. That vehicle has since been recovered nearby.

Police said it is still under investigation whether the Three Village and Port Jeff car thefts are connected.

People can contact the 6th Precinct with information at 631-854-8652 or submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS (8477), utilizing a mobile app which can be downloaded through the App Store or Google Play by searching P3 Tips, or online at www.P3Tips.com.

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A dozen people stood on the corner of Main Street and Route 25A Aug. 1 in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Photo by Odeya Rosenband

By Odeya Rosenband and Rita J. Egan

Community members gathered on the corner of Main Street and Route 25A in East Setauket Aug. 1. They were there to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

A protester at the Aug. 1 rally. Photo by Odeya Rosenband

Standing in front of the Pen & Pencil Building, about a dozen ralliers held signs reading, “Racial equality now,” “Equality & justice for All, Black Lives Matter,” “Stop the hate” and “A change is gonna come.”

One of the organizers, Kathy Schiavone of Port Jefferson, said they picked the corner because it’s a well-trafficked intersection with a red light, which would give drivers an opportunity to read their signs. The participants received displays of support from some drivers honking or giving the thumbs up, while others in vehicles passing by yelled out, “Communists,” “Trump 2020,” “All lives matter,” “Blue lives matter” and “Get over it.”

“We are only on this planet for a short period of time, and it really behooves us to be kind to one another,” Schiavone said. “And as Rodney King [a 1992 police victim] said, ‘Can we all just get along?’”

She said she was touched by the work of former Georgia U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D), a civil rights activist who would frequently say get into “good trouble.” The congressman died July 17.

“It brings tears to my eyes when I listen to the tributes for him and all he went through his entire life for the good of the community, and I just want to support the Black Lives Movement and everyone who feels that they need support at this time,” she said.

Protester Sue Hoff, also of Port Jefferson, said she participated to make it known that she believes in the movement. She said of the upcoming 2020 election, “I’m voting Black Lives Matter.” She has protested since the late 1950s for civil rights, for peace during the Vietnam War and for the reduction of nuclear weapons.

“I have grandchildren,” she said. “I’m not going to give up.”

Another protester, Kevin Mulligan of Setauket, said it was a responsibility to speak out.

“It’s an obligation in these times of political divisiveness to choose a side and not stay complacent and set a model for the children that change only comes through action,” he said.

Attendee Jeff Goldschmidt said as a longtime resident in the Stony Brook area the last few years have been revealing to him.

“I never knew Suffolk County was so undemocratic,” he said. “It’s so red and so bigoted. I was very surprised.”

Organizer Christina Maffia, of Setauket, said it was important to her to rally at the corner because she feels the nation’s rhetoric has turned negative, especially after what happened with the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in May.

“Just because people feel Black lives matter does not mean white lives don’t matter or blue lives don’t matter,” she said. Because if Black lives matter, we wouldn’t have to worry about anybody else’s life mattering, because all lives would matter.”

The silver maple tree outside Chris Ryon’s home in Setauket rises about 60 feet. Photo by Kyle Barr

Along a small East Setauket street off Shore Road and near Se-Port Deli, a giant stands dying. 

It’s hard to relate just how large it is in words, let alone photos. Nothing does it justice. At approximately 60 feet high and 222 inches in circumference, measured at 4.5 feet off the ground, the enormous silver maple in Setauket is one of the few of its kind that remembers a time potentially up to the Revolutionary period or even further back.

Three-year-old Dina Amelchenko standing in front of the enormous tree in Setauket. Photo by Chris Ryan

Along Carlton Avenue, in front of Chris Ryon’s house, the best way to gauge the size of it is by comparison. Three-year-old neighbor Dina Amelchenko is dwarfed by it. Ryon, at 5 feet, 7 inches tall, can only reach the crook of the lowest branches with the tips of his fingers.  

Ryon, a lifelong area resident and village historian for Port Jefferson and Poquott, has taken care of it for more than two decades. Now its bright bark is flaking off its core, and limbs are starting to tear from the trunk.

“Although the tree has been admired by many, for hundreds of years, it has reached the end of its lifetime,” he said. 

Silver maples once lined the streets in the Setauket community, but the tree is not known for its steadfastness over such a long lifespan. Ryon said almost all have fallen or been removed, though none were anywhere near the size of the one in front of his house.

Ryon and his wife Karen purchased the house in 1996 from Fred and Betty Griffith, he said, which meant they also started taking over care of the tree. Prior to their moving in, the Griffiths had installed three cables connecting six of the giant tree branches together. Since then, the Ryons have paid for trimming the maple and removing any of the dead wood, with the help of neighbors Rich and Jeff Usher. 

Despite these efforts, the tree still seems to be on its last legs. Some of the tree’s limbs have snapped off and crushed a part of the Ryons’ fence. Others could also come loose and damage neighboring homes or cars. 

“We want to document it before it goes, if it does go, since it is unsafe at this point,” Chris Ryon said. “There’s a lot of question marks — we don’t know what the town is going to do with it.”

The race is now on to preserve the great silver maple and find some way to preserve the specimen for future generations.

There are ways to date it, either by bisecting it to count the rings or by coring it using a specially made device, or by carbon dating it. Without state foresters able to take any kinds of measurements, the exact age is still unknown.

John Wernet, the regional state forester of Long Island, said he has had conversations with Ryon but has not been able to go out to see the tree, as the pandemic and state cuts have left him unable to leave his office. Though he said the tree is not the biggest tree of its type in New York state, based solely on its circumference, it could easily be one of the largest on Long Island, if nothing else. 

The state keeps a registry of all large trees, but the list does not offer any kind of protections. 

“It’s more for bragging rights,” he said, adding that there is little he can do on the state side in tree preservation efforts, though he hopes the silver maple can somehow be protected.

Setauket groups are especially keen on preserving local history. with entities like the Three Village Historical Society and its annual Culper Spy Day event. Ryon said the tree could be used by local historical societies, where even a bisection of the tree could show what years showed more or less rain, and even relate which years local or national historical events took place.

The question lingers on what can be done to or for the tree. Three Village Civic Association 1st Vice President George Hoffman said the organization was just recently contacted about it, but said that they want to work with both residents and the town to help preserve the giant maple in some way, shape or form. 

“I know highways [department] have responsibility, but that should be the last resort to take down a tree,” Hoffman said. “We’re here to support the community, but it’s still really early.”

Those in the community who were there in the 1970s are still burned by the loss of another tree, known as the Lubber Street Oak at the corner of Lubber and Black Duck Drive in Stony Brook. According to a bronze plaque residents set up at the site, the tree stood at 84 feet tall with a circumference of 280 inches. It was believed to be over 300 years old when it was taken down by the Town of Brookhaven Highway Department in 1979.

Bill Schaub, the Ryons’ neighbor and member and past president of the civic, said they would like the tree preserved in some way, especially considering residents’ past consternation with local government unilaterally removing those trees without first speaking to residents.

“If it has to be cut down because of disease then that’s understandable, there has to be a balance between beauty and safety,” he said. “But I think we can achieve that.”

A Highway Department spokesperson said the tree was only recently brought to the department’s attention, and no final decision has been made.

Along Nicolls Road, where dozens of people held signs thanking the hospital workers both leaving and arriving at Stony Brook University Hospital, another truck, one bearing a large screen and speakers, rumbled down the road bearing another kind of thank you to the folks on the front lines.

Christian Guardino, a Patchogue resident, came down to the hospital late on Thursday, May 22 to serenade the workers just after their 8 p.m. shift change. The singer, a America’s Got Talent’s Golden Buzzer and Apollo Theater Competition Grand Prize Winner, sang three songs to a crowd gathered in front of the children’s hospital. Others watched from the windows above, even waving lighters from a dark room as Guardino finished a rendition of Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.”

He said he too has been stuck at home because of the pandemic, unable to perform because practically all venues have been shut down. First performing at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson, he came to Stony Brook to make sure those workers knew they were top in people’s hearts and minds.  

“The one thing I want to say and for them to get out of this is just thank you, how grateful we are for everything they’re doing for us,” Guardino said. “They’re on the front lines taking care of the people who are sick, risking getting the disease and I just want to thank them.”

Nicole Rossol, the chief patient experience officer at SBUH, said Empire Entertainment, a New York City-based event management company, reached out to Stony Brook looking to do a late show. At the same time, the patchogue singer also made mention he wanted to give back to the hospital. Guardino’s mother, Beth, had worked as a nurse at the hospital previously for nearly a decade.

“We thought if we could do it together, it would be a very beautiful thing for our staff,” Rossol said. “I think the staff has been looking for things to keep them upbeat and help them through this time. Every piece of support from the community really makes a difference.

Empire Entertainment, with their Illuminate Our Heroes tour has brought crews from the city, to New Jersey, and now out to Long Island. Alyssa Bernstein, a senior producer for empire entertainment is herself a Setauket native, and she said she made it a point to come back and support her hometown during the ongoing pandemic.

“We decided, what is a way that we can give back and say thank you, and that’s putting on a little show, that’s what we do best,” Bernstein said. “The work that they’re doing means that we’ll get back to work.”

 

Bud Conway and Kalpana Astras outside the camper where Nic Astras is staying during the ongoing pandemic. Photo by Kyle Barr

At the end of a grueling 12 hour shift as an internal medicine resident at Long Island Community Hospital in East Patchogue, Setauket resident Nicolas Astras can’t simply enter his home, put his feet up on the couch and relax, not anymore, not since the pandemic hit Long Island hospitals like a tidal wave. 

Drawings Kalpana’s daughter drew for her father. Photo by Kyle Barr

He has a wife and three kids, ages 13, 10 and 5. For all he knows, he is covered in COVID-19. If he wanted to go in and take off his clothes and shower, he knows he could potentially spread the virus to other parts of the house and to his family members.

Astras’ wife, Kalpana, said her husband had few choices. He could have lived in an unused hotel room or house, but that would have been a bitter and depressing pill to swallow, having nobody to come home to, nobody to talk to. 

Then, Kalpana said after friends referred her to Facebook group RVs 4 MDs, the family was given a third option, one that while nowhere near as good as getting to be home with the family, it would offer a degree of separation and homeyness, despite the need to be separated.

“It has given us an area where he can be secluded from us so he cannot give us anything,” Kalpana said. “It makes him feel safe that he’s not spreading it.”

From the street, it seems like the Grey Wolf camper parked in Nicolas and Kalpana Astras’ Setauket driveway would just be a summer getaway vehicle. Though now it has become a saving grace. It belongs to Bud Conway, a Farmingville resident who heard about the Facebook group through a family member. Not having an account, he signed up and put his name down as having a camper. Soon, he was linked with the Astras family, and that was that.

Kalpana, who herself is still working full time at a clinical trials company, takes in her husband’s clothes to be washed, trying to be careful around them. She also stocks up the fridge and makes meals for the doctor when he goes to work. Every time she enters the camper, she wears an N95 mask and is careful when touching anything.

Though it’s not completely isolated. The daughter’s bedroom overlooks the driveway on the second floor, and when the husband walks out to get air in the morning, the daughter talks with him and connects.

Despite how thankful the family is, Conway said it wasn’t much, even with him and an electrician friend traveling there to help fix the camper when something was broken. With him not using it, he said it was the least he could do.

“I’m not the hero here,” he said. “It’s just a camper, not a kidney.”

RVs 4 MDs started March 24 as just Texan Emily Phillips, the wife of an emergency room physician, was convinced to ask the community if anyone had an RV for her husband. Days later she founded the Facebook group,which has since blown out into a nation-spanning movement to connect camper and trailer owners to doctors who need to be able to self-quarantine.

But over a month since that started, as the number of hospitalized patients decline in the county, officials say there is some hope on the horizon. But for hospital workers still in the midst of it, the silver linings usually come not from thinking of work, but with communicating with the family.

“Yesterday he said they extubated some patients, which is good news — it’s a flicker of good news,” Kalpana said. “It’s really to boost his morale, to keep him home with us.”

Inside the camper, a number of index cards lay on the table in the suffused light. They show pictures of rainbows, hearts and messages saying, “We love You” and “Your Our Hero,” all from his kids.

“My 10-year-old, her way of coping is with art,” Kalpana said. “Every time I come in with food, she does artwork, and he just collects them on the table.”

Police and PSEGLI have been trying to catch scammers pretending to be from the utility company for several years, but the con is still on the rise. Stock photo

Phone scammers have used a number of tactics to get unassuming people to hand over their money, but one con has police and a Long Island utility company especially concerned.

Some scammers have been claiming they are employees of a utility company like PSEG Long Island, and then tell a person their bill is in arrears. They threaten to turn off heat or electricity if they do not receive hundreds or even thousands of dollars, often in the form of a gift card instead of the normal check or direct deposit.

“The elderly might not say anything because they may be embarrassed.”

— Stuart Cameron

Such is what happened to Setauket resident Candy Maeder, who said she was called March 5 by a person claiming to be from the utility company. The man on the phone said Maeder was late on her bills and her service would be shut off in a matter of hours if she didn’t give them hundreds of dollars in cash. She said they would not even take a debit card over the phone.

“I fought with them back and forth,” the Setauket resident said. “At first, I really believed it was them.”

After hanging up the phone, and after talking with her boyfriend and also her electrician, she came to the conclusion it had been a scam. 

That day, she called PSEGLI and the police, but Maeder’s experience is all too common in the modern day — almost textbook with what others have experienced. Suffolk County police has records of the number of reports of phone scams received over the past several years. Records show the frequency of the PSEGLI scam has increased. In 2018, there were 56 reported cases of the scam throughout Suffolk. In 2019, police received 76 reports of scammers claiming they were PSEGLI, where people did not give them money. An additional 55 actually resulted in the scammers stealing money from victims for a total of 131. In January and February of this year, police have received reports of 30 scams so far.

Suffolk County Police Chief Stuart Cameron said scammers are always coming up with novel frauds, but the PSEGLI scam has been on the rise. Like many scams, it particularly targets the most vulnerable residents, such as the elderly, who particularly can’t afford to be out several thousand dollars as some scammers demand.

“The elderly might not say anything because they may be embarrassed,” he said. “Scammers play on that type of fear and embarrassment to exploit money from those residents who are probably in the worst position to lose money like this.” 

New Jersey-based PSEG has been tracking this scam even before taking over the electric infrastructure portion of LIPA’s business from National Grid in 2014. Robert Vessichelli, the senior security investigator for PSEGLI, said the actual number of people falling for the scam has decreased over the years. In 2019 the utility company received notice of 6,574 scams for the whole of Long Island, where 305 of those fell victim to the scammers. The con artists often ask for as little as a few hundred dollars and up to several thousand. 

“The best way to combat these scams is by educating the public,” Vessichelli said. “When I learn people haven’t heard of the scam, it kind of concerns us.”

Tracking these individuals is difficult, even when scammers are calling locally. While the police chief said they have made some arrests, the suspects often do a process to their phone numbers called “spoofing,” making their caller ID on answering machines appear as a completely separate number, even making it out to look like it was coming from PSEGLI or even police.

The Long Island utility company has been participating in a national campaign to promote awareness of phone scams. Utilities United Against Scams, a U.S. and Canadian consortium of utility companies, ran the campaign during National Consumer Protection Week March 1-7 to promote scam awareness. Vessichelli said the consortium uses its influence to block the numbers of callers they confirm are from scammers, but of course the perpetrators will simply move on to use a different phone number. Sometimes, these calls come from people outside the U.S. 

The scam comes in multiple forms. While often it’s a person on the phone proclaiming a bill is in arrears, con artists also conduct phishing schemes by telling people they are owed money from overpayment and ask for bank account information. They may also call saying they need a deposit for a new meter, though PSEGLI does not charge a deposit for such a thing.

“At first, I really believed it was them.”

— Candy Maeder

One of the more frightening tactics is when charlatans show up in person at people’s houses claiming they are utility employees. When such people come to the door, Vessichelli said its best to call PSEGLI to confirm those are legitimate employees. The security expert suggested if they show ID, ask to take a picture for you to send to the utility to confirm identities.

Warning signs are often readily apparent. If a resident receives a cold call without any prior email or snail mail notifications, that’s usually a bad sign. Another sure sign is if they ask for any nontraditional form of payment, such as asking you to buy gift cards which the person then asks for those to be scratched off, or a payment of cash by drop off or in person. 

These are points often seen across all sorts of scams, so police’s general advice is to not relay any kind of personal information, such as your name or the name of family members or where you live. Scammers often take private information off social media such as Facebook, so if one starts hearing familiar names, don’t take it as a sign they are who they say they are. 

PSEGLI workers are required to wear photo IDs, so in meeting one of these scammers in person, a surefire sign is if they cannot produce such an identification. 

Cameron said if one suspects a caller might be a scam, then one should hang up, get the number where called from and phone PSEGLI at 800-490-0025 or the police at 631-852-2677. For more information, visit www.psegliny.com/scam and www.utilitiesunited.org.

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Harbor Grill in Port Jefferson is now under ownership of the people behind the Meadow Club and Curry Club. Photo by Kyle Barr

The owners of a popular catering hall and Indian cuisine restaurant along the North Shore are making their move to West Broadway in Port Jefferson. 

The family of restaurateurs has plans to take over the Harbor Grill, previously known as Schafer’s. The new restaurant would be one of the latest addition to the Port Jeff harborfront. 

Indu Kaur, the director of operations of The Meadow Club, is part of a family of business owners on the North Shore. Photo by Kyle Barr

Indu Kaur, the director of operations of The Meadow Club in Port Jefferson Station, said they had been renting out the space in Port Jeff during the holiday season and hosted their annual Small Business Holiday Party there. 

It was during that time that they realized the potential of the building. 

“We noticed that our clients really liked the space and the overall ambiance,” Kaur said. “It was perfect for smaller parties — we saw a great opportunity.”

In addition to the client’s feedback, Kaur said she liked the layout of the two-story restaurant with an outdoor dining section that boasts views of the harbor. 

“We have been brainstorming a few things, we wanted to move into a new direction and are excited to offer something different to Port Jeff residents,” she said. 

Kaur said they haven’t decided on a name for the restaurant yet, but are leaning toward a water theme being they are close to the harbor as well as incorporating a touch of their business background.  

A chef has already been hired for the new space, and the family is in the midst of finalizing the menu and other aspects of the new restaurant. 

Kaur said that residents can expect Indian cuisine and a fusion of menu items similar to what they offer at their other two restaurants. 

“It’s going to be great to offer new options to our customers,” she said. “It will be a great place to have a nice lunch or dinner.”

In addition, they hope to attract visitors coming in from Bridgeport. Kaur also teased the possibility of adding a brunch menu as a way of attracting more patrons. 

As the family prepares to open the new restaurant, the Meadow Club which was closed due a fire in 2018, is expected to reopen this spring. 

Despite rumors that The Curry Club may close, Kaur said the restaurant will continue to be open and that the famed train cart will remain. 

One of the first events the family will host in the building will be a Valentine’s Day four-course dinner. Tickets for couples are $120 which will include a Champagne bottle and a cocktail drink. Reservations from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. can be made by calling 631-928-3800. The dance floor will be open, and a DJ will be playing all night. 

“We are excited about the move and we are looking forward to helping bring more people into Port Jefferson,” Kaur said. 

The hill going down on West Broadway in Port Jefferson is well known for its potholes and ripped up pavement. Photo by Kyle Barr

A section of North Shore roadway will benefit from new state funding for the renewal of streets impacted by extreme weather events.

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Jan. 23 that $151 million in new funding to complement $743 million in direct state aid provided through the PAVE NY Initiative for local road and bridge projects. Of the new allocation, $6.6 million will be used to renew Route 25A from Nicolls Road in Stony Brook to Main Street/East Broadway in Port Jefferson, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

A portion of Route 25A in Setauket will benefit from state aid. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“New York continues to make nation-leading investments in the renewal and modernization of the state’s roads, bridges, transit systems and airports,” Cuomo said in the release. “These investments are laying the foundation to ensure sustained growth throughout the 21st century in tourism, business and workforce development, and economic opportunities.”

According to the release, the improvement will enhance highway safety and reduce the roughness of roads, which in turn will make them more fuel efficient. Work is estimated to begin this spring and be completed in the winter of 2020.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) brought the severity of local road conditions to the attention of the state Department of Transportation last year, according to a press release from his office. The designated areas have been subjected to serious degradation due to water seepage into road seams and large clusters of filled potholes creating rutted, uneven and unsafe surfaces. One of the worse sections is the roadway near the East Setauket Post Office to CVS, but other sections have deteriorated rapidly, including the hill from Poquott into Port Jefferson.

“Last summer, we noticed an acceleration in the deterioration of different sections of Route 25A,” Englebright said in the statement. “So, I met with DOT staff to communicate the urgent need for repair. After evaluation of the road confirmed the urgency, [NYSDOT] regional director, Joseph Brown, indicated that he would do his best to find funds to do repairs. We want to thank the regional director and his staff for working to include the main highway of our community in this funding program.”

Town of Brookhaven Highway Supervisor Dan Losquadro (R) said while he’s always grateful when he hears of state funding coming the town’s way, when he heard the recent news, he was disappointed as to how little aid was coming to Suffolk County. He pointed to the fact that the section of Route 25A is the only one designated in the area. He added there is a desperate need for state funding to be reinstated for work on Route 347, specifically for the Nicolls Road overpass and intersection.

Losquadro said he will continue conversations with state legislators about state roads, also the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program, otherwise known as CHIPS, allocation for local streets.

“I really hope that this is a starting point and not an endpoint when it comes to the proposal for funding for infrastructure for Long Island, because paving one road in Suffolk County really isn’t to me an adequate investment on the part of the state Legislature,” Losquadro said.

Lise and Steven Hintze. Photo from Three Village Historical Society

By Donna Newman

Lise and Steve Hintze have been caring, contributing, active members of the Three Villages for more than two decades. They are both generous givers, willing to share their energy and talents for the benefit of the community. It is with gratitude that we honor them as 2019 TBR News Media People of the Year.

Residents who frequent the Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket may or may not know of the Hintzes’ efforts to keep improving and growing this valuable community venue.

Lise Hintze at a recent event at the Bates House. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Steve Hintze has been a Frank Melville Memorial Foundation trustee since 2008. He served several terms on the board as secretary. At present, he chairs the Park’s Building and Grounds Committee.

“Steve has brought a firefighter’s grit, an MBA, and a wealth of knowledge of all aspects of building and site design to the role,” said FMMF President Robert Reuter. “He also brings an admirable collection of professional-grade tools, and he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. Steve is always an absolute pleasure to work with and he knows how to complete a project to the high standard for which the park is known.”

His projects have included park lighting, the mill restoration, which is now in progress, and assisting Eagle Scout candidates with their endeavors for park enhancement.

Lise Hintze was recruited to join the park’s staff in 2011 in the dual role of office manager and director of the Bates House. Regular visitors know her as the friendly face of the Frank Melville Memorial Park. Her finger is always on its pulse, and she is ever on the lookout for potential improvements.

“The quintessential office manager, Lise efficiently handles park business,” Reuter said. “As director of the Bates House, she works with demanding brides and anxious grooms on wedding weekends — and then manages all manner of programs during the week. The full schedule of special events and gatherings keeps her on call, but her thorough planning makes it all look easy. A pioneer in social media reporting, Lise has enabled the park to keep Friends informed via a website.”

Lise Hintze has been described as a “Saint on Earth” and a “Super Hero” by folks who know her but wished to remain anonymous. They see her as “the height of humanity” always ready to help. Her credo: “What does anybody — or any animal — need that I can give them?” It is an attribute reportedly shared by her husband.

Steve Healy, president of the Three Village Historical Society, is happy to add his voice to those impressed with Lise Hintze’s abilities.

“Her work at the Frank Melville Park — between the Bates House and the Grist Mill and the growth in the park has been fabulous,” Healy said. “She synergizes the park with the community, is admired for her efforts and she does a great job taking the park to new levels.”

Lise Hintze does not let her job description limit her. If it’s happening in the park, it’s on her radar. Among her many contributions outside of official duties include the Wind Down Sunday outdoor concerts, begun with Katherine Downs and others and an ambitious schedule of three concerts. The park now offers nine. She has, when needed, instigated wildlife rescues. When drug abuse cropped up in the park a few years ago, she took a pragmatic stance and turned a potential security issue into an educational opportunity.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) lauded — and also joined in — that effort.

“Lise has a keen eye for what’s needed in the area,” Hahn said. “The opiate group she helped create in the fall of 2017 brought in speakers and provided a place for parents and students to openly and without judgment discuss the opioid crisis they were witnessing firsthand. It was a critical step for our community.”

The creation of this parent group was most likely the impetus for the Three Village school district’s hiring of a dedicated drug and alcohol abuse counselor, who began serving students and their families the following fall.

Steve Hintze, left, with Tim Smith of Old Field Landscaping preparing the site of Frank Melville Memorial Park’s new pollinator garden. Photo by Robert Reuter

These efforts alone would suffice to warrant community kudos, but there’s more.

Steve Hintze is still heavily involved with the Three Village Historical Society. A past president, he is currently the organization’s grants administrator and is busy gathering the resources to reconstruct the historic Dominick-Crawford Barn on TVHS property in Setauket.

Sandy White, office manager at TVHS had nothing but praise for her former boss.

“Steve was the president when I started working at TVHS. He hired me,” White said. “And to this day he is always there to help — willing to do anything. He’s working now with Steve Healy on the grants for the barn and comes into the office as often as he can. Willing to help anyone with everything, Steve tries to make a difference in everything he does.”

Healy and Hintze, who knew each other as firefighters in New York City before they became active in Three Village nonprofits, apparently share many of the same values. Healy has great respect for his colleague’s vast knowledge and willingness to share it.

“Steve is one of the people I have on speed dial,” Healy said. “When I call I know I’ll get a ‘Yes.’”

“If there’s ever a problem, he doesn’t just give me his input, he’ll roll up his sleeves and get involved in the solution. He’s a special breed with excellent leadership skills and creative ideas. The TVHS is blessed to get someone of his caliber and work ethic.”

Hahn completely agrees.

“Steve Hintze is a pillar of the community and a local hero,” Hahn said. “He contributes so much in real and tangible ways. His calming presence is valuable. He knows how to deal with people, how to motivate them, and how to find solutions, and he is always willing to do what’s necessary.”

There is general consensus with Reuter’s final assessment of these two exceptional individuals.

“They are remarkably modest people and would insist that what they do is nothing special,” Reuter said. “But they are, in fact – something special.”