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Smithtown

Blossom needs a home. Photo from Town of Smithtown

By Leah Chiappino

Blossom, who earned her name through a collar that she wore featuring a bright flower that stood against her silky white coat, is a playful 5-year-old pitbull mix. She arrived at Smithtown Animal Shelter on June 5, after a tumultuous journey. She was found whimpering in a park at wee hours in the morning by an off-duty police officer, essentially left for dead. She had likely been there for hours. 

Despite this, shelter workers say her sweet demeanor comes through immediately. She is very quick to warm up to people and incredibly affectionate. She would do best in a home with children older than 12 due to her size. As her history is unknown, it would be best to place her in a home without dogs or cats, as her behavior around them has not been observed. However, this is not to say her adopter could not adopt another dog, if the proper introductions were put in place. 

She is spayed, up to date on vaccines and ready to be adopted as soon as possible.

Blossom is one of 10 dogs in need of a home at Smithtown Animal Shelter, 410 Middle Country Road, Smithtown. For more information or to arrange a visit call 631-360-7575.

Schedules match play championship

Smithtown Landing golf course gets a makeover. Photo from the Town of Smithtown

On July 8, Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) and his fellow elected leaders joined with PGA master professional and golf Hall of Famer Michael Hebron and tournament organizer David Capo at the Smithtown Landing Country Club. Wehrheim announced registration was officially open for the first-ever Sarazen Par Three Match Play Championship, aka “The Squire”. The announcement came one week after major renovations and repairs to the golf club were completed.

Left to right: PGA Hall of Famer Michael Hebron, Director of Parks Joe Arico, Director of Recreation Tom McCaffery, Superintendent of Highways Robert Murphy, golf championship organizer David Capo, Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo, Director of Traffic Safety Mitch Crowley, Receiver of Taxes Deanna Varrichio, Suffolk County Legislator Leslie Kennedy, Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy, Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, Councilwoman Lynne Nowick, Town Clerk Vincent Puleo and Councilman Tom Lohmann. Photo from Town of Smithtown

“Over the last year-and-a-half we set out to invest in smart improvements to the Smithtown community that would result in a return on investment for the taxpayer. The renovations just completed here at Landing speak to this point,” Wehrheim said. “I am very pleased to present the community with this exciting match play event, which will undoubtedly bring attention to the historic roots here at Landing and generate a weekend of new foot traffic for surrounding businesses.”

Recent renovations to the Smithtown Landing Country Club include repaved golf cart paths, entryway, roads, curbs and pavement, new starter shack, newly renovated halfway house, sidewalk areas, benches and fencing. An entryway island was redesigned and landscaped with plantings, signage and renovated crosswalks featuring all new traffic calming signs and lighting. Additionally,  ID cards have been instituted for the pool and golf course, which has already generated $6,000 in new revenue in two weeks. Building renovations are set to begin in the fall. The Smithtown Departments of Parks, Building and Grounds; Recreation; Traffic Safety and Highway were responsible for the completion of the work. 

“It’s been an honor for me to be here for many years and see the influence the town’s golf course has had on the community. To be a part of this team has been an opportunity for me to share what we can do with the community,” PGA Hall of Famer Michael Hebron said. “Children’s camps, children going off to play golf in college, children developing social and business skills through golf … to be a small part of the big picture here has been a real honor.”

This event is meant to honor the life of golf legend Gene Sarazen, known as “The Squire,” who helped to design the Par Three Course at the Smithtown Landing Country Club. Many golfers who have played on the course have said it is one of the most difficult par three courses they have played. 

“We embarked on a five-year project in the Town of Smithtown, and part of that is understanding the history … it’s a fascinating place,” said golf championship organizer David Capo. “After finding an old map, learning that the course weaves along the historic Culper Spy Ring … I came down to talk with Michael Hebron and his knowledge about the history of Smithtown Landing helped to inspire this event.”

The opening ceremony will take place on July 25 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. with the two-day championship running July 27 and July 28. Golfers at all skill levels (ages 16 and older) are invited to register for the 64 available spots in this 100 percent handicap par three match play championship, held on the Sarazen par three course. 

The opening ceremony will feature presentations by Wehrheim, Hebron and members of the Sarazen Family. Practice rounds are available by contacting the pro shop at 631-979-6534. 

Registration is $29 per golfer to enter the tournament. Tickets to attend the opening ceremony party are $25. Registration closes on July 20. 

Commack School District celebrated its commencement ceremonies June 26.

Deniz Sinar has earned the title of academic leader at Commack High School, which is given to the two students with the highest weighted GPA upon the completion of high school. Sinar graduated with a 104.57 weighted GPA. She will be attending Cornell University in the fall as a biological engineering major. She has won several awards, including a National Merit Scholarship. She was involved in the National Italian, Tri-M Music and Science Honor societies, and was the secretary of the Math Honor Society and varsity math team. Sinar raised money for Long Island Against Domestic Violence and volunteered to visit nursing home residents through Commack’s Glamour Gals Club. She was also a member of the chamber orchestra for three years and took part in the Future American String Teachers Association Club and the Pathways freshman art and literary magazine.

Kings Park School District held its senior graduation June 27.

Merrick Cai and Eric Mitchko were named 2019 valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, for Kings Park High School. Cai was the captain of the math team, varsity tennis and quiz bowl team and served as co-president of the independent science research and secretary of Italian Honor Society. He graduated with a 107.36 weighted GPA. He will attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study mathematics. 

Mitchko was the captain of the quiz bowl team and treasurer of the math team as well as a member of Kaleidoscope, an art magazine club. The senior placed fifth in Suffolk County in the county high school math league. Mitchko graduated with a 106.92 weighted GPA. He will attend Stony Brook University in the fall to study chemical and molecular engineering.   

All photos by Rita J. Egan

the orphaned fawn in Bendickson living room, before finding an adoptive doe. Photos from Janine Bendickson

Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown got an emergency call May 28 from Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga). He was driving on the Sunken Meadow Parkway when he encountered a man on the side of the road aiding a dying doe that went into labor after being struck by a car.  

Janine Bendickson bottle-feeds the newborn colostrum. Photo from Janine Bendickson

The man, Gordon Edelstein, was pulling a fawn from the birth canal as Trotta got out of his car. Another newborn fawn, which was lying nearby, seemed healthy, he said. The second-born fawn was breathing faintly, so Edelstein, a retired Marine administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Unfortunately, only one fawn survived. 

“It was a horrible scene and sad to see,” said Trotta, a former cop who often stops at roadside incidents. “Life is so fragile.”

Janine Bendickson, the director of Wildlife Rehabilitation at Sweetbriar, who quickly arrived at the scene estimates that the fawns were born about one week prematurely. She wrapped the surviving baby deer in a blanket and took the animal home and bottle fed it colostrum, the nutritious milk that mammals produce and mewborns typically get when they first nurse.  

The next day, as fate would have it, Bendickson noticed that a wild deer in the nearby woodlands had also just given birth.  

A wild deer accepts an orphaned fawn as her own. Photo from Janine Bendickson

“Deer typically don’t accept fawns from another doe,” Bendickson said. “But we thought we would give it a try.”

The new mother approached the orphaned fawn and started licking and nurturing it. The doe then accepted the fawn as her own and let it nurse. 

“We were all moved to tears,” Bendickson said. “It’s a tragic story with a happy ending.”

Bendickson, who has worked at Sweetbriar for 20 years, said that the rescue was one of the more remarkable experiences of her career. 

A video of the Bendickson bottle feeding the fawn can be found here.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin. Flie photo by Alex Petroski

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) spoke on the House floor April 30, ahead of a unanimous House passage of his legislation to honor former Congressman Bill Carney. The bill, H.R. 828, designates the United States Postal Service facility located at 25 Route 111 in Smithtown, New York, as the Congressman Bill Carney Post Office.

 “Congressman Carney was an incredible man who fought tirelessly for his constituents everyday. Even before his life in politics, his commitment to serving his country and community never wavered,” Zeldin said.

William Carney, formerly of Hauppauge, died May 22, 2017, at the age of 74, after a four-year battle with prostate cancer. He served in the U.S. Army Medical Corp from 1961 to 1964 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He also served as a Suffolk County legislator in 1976 for a single term, before his election as U.S. congressman for New York’s 1st Congressional District, where Zeldin now serves. The district is comprised of Smithtown, Brookhaven and the East End. 

Carney served eight years in Congress and was a member of the Conservative Party. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, according to obituaries after his death, Carney sponsored a bill to reduce strategic arms and freeze nuclear weapons, which was backed by then President Ronald Reagan. Carney was also known for supporting the $4.5 billion Shoreham nuclear project. Carney left office in January 1987.

“Congressman Carney will be remembered for his strength, integrity and commitment to his district and nation, and there is no place he loved more than Long Island. Now, every time someone enters the Congressman Bill Carney Post Office, his legacy will be remembered forever,” Zeldin said. 

“Bill was a beloved husband, father and grandfather. For our community, for New York’s 1st Congressional District, for our nation and for the ideals in which he believed, he was a fighter until the very end,” the Carney family said in a prepared statement. “Bill loved the 1st Congressional District and it was his highest honor serving its people. Smithtown was our family’s home for decades, and it is particularly meaningful that this Post Office continues to serve the people about whom he cared so deeply. Thank you to Congressman Zeldin for helping preserve his memory in a place that was always very special to him. We know that he is smiling at being remembered back home.”

The bill is expected to pass the Senate.

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Smithtown decked out for autism awareness. Photo by Alexandra Damianos

By Donna Deedy

The Town of Smithtown held a special Light the Town Blue ceremony in front of Town Hall April 3. Local families and members of the community living with autism joined with elected officials and town employees in the ceremonial kickoff for the month-long campaign. 

The ceremony was led by 21-year-old Brendan Lanese, who lives with autism, and his family. Prior to the lighting ceremony, Lanese invited any residents living with autism to assist him in illuminating the town in blue.

For the duration of April, blue lights and giant puzzle ribbons, the Autism Society’s official symbol for autism awareness, will embellish major landmarks throughout Smithtown, including Whisper the Bull, Town Hall, the Smithtown Parks and Highway Department grounds. 

In 2018, Councilman Tom Lohmann (R)and Parks Director Joe Arico helped to revive the tradition, which began for the first time in April 2015. Residents can pick up free blue light bulbs at the Town Council Office, 99 West Main St., Smithtown.

For more information, call 631-360-7621.

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It was fun for all ages when The Harlem Wizards came to Smithtown West High School squaring off against the Smithtown faculty All Stars in a fundraising basketball game to benefit DECA Feb. 28. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Back by popular demand, the Harlem Wizards basketball team returned to Smithtown West High School Feb. 28 where they took on the Smithtown faculty all star team in a basketball fundraiser to benefit the Distributive Education Clubs of America club.

The student Club members who organized the event took care of the gate, the Wizard memorabilia sales, the raffles and the 50/50 sales infront of a packed crowd. Fun was had by all.

 

Millers Pond in Smithtown. File photo by Rita J. Egan

Suffolk County’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to those individuals who might be responsible for decapitating six birds found in Smithtown and Great River.

The Town of Smithtown’s Public Safety Department received an anonymous phone call Feb. 4 reporting three dead birds were found near the Maple Avenue and 4th Avenue entrance to Millers Pond County Park, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. The public safety officers then immediately notified the Suffolk SCPA.

Roy Gross, chief of the nonprofit animal advocacy group, said his volunteers working in cooperation with Smithtown park rangers and Suffolk County Police Department found the bodies of two chickens and a blue jay that had been beheaded lying next to a bloodied cardboard box.

“People do these animal sacrifices, and it’s absolutely illegal. They will say they are allowed to do it because it’s a religious right. It is not.”

— Roy Gross

The following day, Feb. 5, the SCPA received a report of three decapitated birds, two chickens and a dove, left alongside Wheeler Road in Great River. Gross said additional items left at the site raised questions as to whether the animals’ deaths were ritualistic in nature.

“We’ve had numerous cases over the years,” he said. “It has all the indications of a religious animal sacrifice.”

The SPCA contacted Marcos Quinones, a retired New York police detective of 36 years and renowned occult specialist, on these two cases. Quinones said he has worked with law enforcement officials at federal, state and local levels on various causes related to occult matters.

“Santeria is a nature-based religion, and it varies based on what god or goddess you worship, each has an element of nature they are thought to control,” he said. “If you needed something from them, you would do a ritual.”

Quinones said based on the location of the six birds’ bodies and items left with them, he believes the birds were killed elsewhere and brought to the pond as a religious offering for Oshun, goddess of the rivers and lakes.

“Santeria is basically a good, nature-based religion, but sometimes people take something good and misuse it,” the occult expert said. “You have to ask yourself what’s the purpose of this ritual?”

Under New York State law, to kill an animal without any intention to consume it is illegal, according to Gross.

“People do these animal sacrifices, and it’s absolutely illegal,” he said. “They will say they are allowed to do it because it’s a religious right. It is not.”

In February 2018, the Suffolk SPCA found the bodies of two hens frozen in the ice at Millers Pond. Gross said the chickens’ heads were found a short distance away, but it was originally thought that other animals may have ripped it apart from the body as potential food.

“We canvassed the area to see if anyone had chickens that were lost,” the chief said. “We did a thorough investigation but couldn’t get any information on it.”

“If there’s an arrest and conviction, that’s a check I’m happy to write.”

— Roy Gross

Gross said twice the SPCA has found a cow’s tongue nailed to a tree across from Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River. Upon further investigation, SPCA volunteers discovered candle wax, pins and nine slips of paper bearing individual names had been inserted inside the cow’s tongue, according to Gross. Another time the cow’s tongue was attached by a fishing lure and left out with a bowl of livestock feed as an offering.

“Imagine if a child had come along and grabbed it or seen something like that,” Gross said. “It’s bad enough for an adult, walking along and seeing a tongue hanging from a tree or a beheaded animal. It’s barbaric and should not exist in this day and age.”

If an arrest is made, Gross said the individual will face misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty to wildlife or farm life, which carries a maximum penalty of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine for each offense.

The SPCA is asking anyone who may have information related to the recent discoveries in Smithtown and Great River to contact the nonprofit organization at 631-382-7722. All calls are confidential.

“If there’s an arrest and conviction, that’s a check I’m happy to write,” Gross said.

The site of the proposed community residence on Twixt Hills Road in St. James. Photo from Google Maps

A new property owner in St. James is already making waves with neighbors over plans to convert a single-family residence into an adult group home.

Life’s WORC, a private nonprofit organization that supports people who are developmentally disabled or have autism, notified the Town of Smithtown Jan. 15 it purchased a home on Twixt Hills Road with the intent of creating a community residence for six adults. Several members of the St. James community have raised concerns and are asking for a public information session about the home slated for Feb. 14 be pushed back as it falls on Valentine’s Day. 

“One of our major service goals is to establish homes that will enable persons with disabilities to reside in the community close to their families and friends while allowing them opportunities for normal life-enriching experiences,” reads the organization’s letter. 

Life’s WORC purchased a two-story colonial home that currently provides four bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms on a 0.56-acre lot on Twixt Hills Road. The nonprofit closed on the home Jan. 9 at a price tag of $575,000, according to the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island’s website. The residence offers 2,857 square feet of living space and has a two-car garage. 

“The town can accept it or reject it based on saturation, but you have to define saturation legally.”

— Nicole Garguilo

“The residence is located in a pleasant, safe, neighborhood of single-family homes and is accessible to desirable community amenities, which include shopping, public transportation, medical, recreational faculties, parks and houses of worship,” reads Life’s WORC’s Jan. 15 letter to the town. 

The organization’s notice states the home will be used to house six adults under a residential manager with on-site staffing 24 hours a day. The nonprofit organization, started in 1971, currently oversees residences for more than 140 individuals in Suffolk and Nassau counties. It also operates homes in Queens. Life’s WORC could not be reached for comment. 

Nicole Garguilo, spokeswoman for Town of Smithtown, said while the town is not obligated to host an information session slated for the Feb. 14 town board meeting, it has reached out to the organization on behalf of residents. Life’s WORC has offered to host a second meeting, after the initial session slated for Valentine’s Day, to discuss the St. James home with concerned community members, according to Garguilo. 

Under New York State Law, Smithtown town officials have 40 days to respond to Life’s WORC, or until approximately Feb. 24, and raise any objections to the planned Twixt Hills Road community residence. Its primary basis for objection would be citing a saturation of group homes in the area, according to Garguilo, which can be tricky. 

“The town can accept it or reject it based on saturation, but you have to define saturation legally,” she said. “It’s almost like a trick question, you can accept with conditions. Usually, it’s accepted with conditions.”  

The public informational session on the Twixt Hills home will be held 7 p.m. Feb. 14 at the Eugene Cannataro Senior Citizens Center, located at 420 Middle Country Road in Smithtown.