A St. James man was arrested for allegedly murdering his estranged wife.
A St. James man was arrested for allegedly murdering his estranged wife.
By Cindy Smith
As a Smithtown native who mobilized my neighbors to study the Gyrodyne project and speak at the hearing, and having spoken myself, I am gratified at what was predominantly an open-minded reception. Clearly many residents had not been informed of the grossly negative impact that project might have, and why they should insist the Smithtown Planning Board ask more questions before rubber-stamping the proposal.
Based on research by dozens of concerned residents, including nationally known environmental advocates like Carl Safina, we testified to evident prior use of lead arsenate, methyl bromides and excessive nitrates at Flowerfield — a fact not mentioned in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). We documented how the Planning Board excluded data concerning traffic, provided evidence of potential harm to Stony Brook Harbor and surrounding waterways, and — disturbingly — rebuffed regional officials like Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) who sought to provide information about shared infrastructure and planned regional development.
We also presented economic evidence that many jobs potentially created by the development will produce low-paying, minimum-wage positions — and that the property might actually be removed from the tax base, causing it to shrink rather than grow.
Lastly, we shared our concern that the development will trigger more high-density use along historic 25A, creating more suburban sprawl.
As a descendant of Richard “Bull” Smith, I envision a shared North Shore future that values both our history and our tomorrows. I hope Smithtown residents will visit us online at www.UnitedCommunitiesAgainstGyrodune.com and at Facebook.com/UnitedCommunitiesAgainstGyrodyne.
The conversation is not over! The Planning Board will accept written comments through 5 p.m. Jan. 24. Residents should also communicate their concerns directly to Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R).
Thank you, Smithtown, for welcoming your neighbors into the planning process.
United Communities Against Gyrodyne Development community group
Since 1639, the Gardiner family and their descendants have owned a 5-square-mile island in the Atlantic Ocean nestled between Long Island’s North Fork and South Fork. The property, known as Gardiner’s Island, was obtained from King Charles I of England as part of a royal grant. Today, that legacy is benefiting all of Long Island, thanks to Robert David Lion Gardiner, the island’s 16th Lord of the Manor, who died in 2004.
In 1987, Gardiner established the Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation to support the study of American history. Each year, the foundation awards $5 million in grants to Long Island and New York nonprofits focused on preserving history. Look around at preserved pieces of history all across Long Island and in New York City, and you will likely find the foundation often behind the scenes offering support.
The foundation helped reinvigorate the Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site in West Hills, for instance, in preparation for this year’s 200th birthday year celebration.
And as the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City prepared for its 50th anniversary of the Apollo mission this past July, Gardiner helped fund programs and space travel exhibits. It’s considered a substantial addition to the museum and Long Island’s contribution to the space program.
The 107-year old Huntington Lighthouse was preserved and restored with a $145,000 matching grant from the foundation. The Whaling Museum & Education Center at Cold Spring Harbor has the foundation to thank for its climate-controlled storage rooms for its collections.
Big or small, the foundation has been a wonderful resource for nonprofits. Since the foundation aims to preserve Long Island heritage and encourages collaboration, it is possible to find many success stories.
In Setauket, some may have noticed the sagging 1887 carriage shed at the Caroline Church has been replaced. The foundation over the last few years has helped fund its stabilization and replacement.
St. James is currently undergoing a revitalization, and the foundation helped fund the Celebrate St. James organization in staging a musical comedy about the entertainment history of the community.
This month, the foundation awarded its 2019 grants. Recipients include the Order of the Ancient and Honorable Huntington Militia which presented Dec. 14 a demonstration at Raynham Hall Museum in Oyster Bay of handmade colonial crafts and trades. The presentation included a free exhibition with artisans who showed how to do silver and black smithing, weaving, horn and leather work and basket weaving.
Harriet Gerard Clark, executive director of Raynham Hall Museum, is one of many people from organizations that recognize the distinct value of Gardiner.
“I would say that the Gardiner foundation is profoundly changing the way we understand history on Long Island, not only by providing very much needed brick-and-mortar funding, but also by proactively encouraging and incentivizing new ways of networking and collaborating among institutions concerned with historic scholarship, so that we Long Islanders can gain a truer understanding of our own identity,” she said.
The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, which owns historic properties in Stony Brook and Setauket, has also benefited from the Gardiner’s work. The foundation most recently sponsored a live historically-themed play entitled “Courageous Women of the Revolutionary War.” The production highlights the previously unsung female heroes of George Washington’s spy ring.
The Gardiner foundation is comprised of a five-member board, plus an executive director. Kathryn Curran bears that title and deserves special recognition.
“Kathryn is a terrific lady, she is very creative and brings people together.”
– Gloria Rocchio
WMHO president, Gloria Rocchio, is very grateful to the foundation and recognizes Curran’s unique qualities.
“Kathryn is a terrific lady,” Rocchio said. “She is very creative and brings people together.”
One of the conditions of WMHO’s grant was to talk to other historical societies.
“We are making new connections because of that effort,” Rocchio added. “That was all because of Kathy.”
The Smithtown, Northport, Port Jefferson, Miller Place-Mount Sinai and many other Long Island historical societies have grown or become better established because of the Gardiner foundation.
The organization also announced this month that it will fund a Long Island Radio & Television Historical Society documentary that will explore the development of wireless technology on Long Island, featuring the Telefunken wireless station in West Sayville and an international spy ring in the lead-up to World War I. The project also highlights the work of Nikola Tesla of Shoreham and Guglielmo Marconi of Babylon.
The foundation seeks to support 501(c)(3) organizations that demonstrate strong and organized internal capacity, effectiveness, financial and human resources as well as the intellectual capacity to successfully manage the project. Newly formed historical entities are welcomed to apply for a grant.
At a time when historical preservationists report a decline in financial resources, the foundation’s support becomes more and more noteworthy.
For high school students interested in studying history, the foundation also offers a generous undergraduate scholarship worth $40,000.
The Gardiner’s grant portfolio and scholarship information can be viewed on its website at www.rdlgfoundation.org, which gives an in-depth overview of its preservation efforts.
Voters have elected Kit Gabrielsen as a commissioner to the St. James Fire District for the single open seat on the five member board. He secured 390 votes. Ryan Davis, who currently serves as fire chief, also ran for a seat on the commission. He got 315 votes from the community. Incumbent Bill Kearney received 115 votes. The election means the district will operate in the new year with a majority of commissioners in support of maintaining operations at the historic St. James firehouse, one of two firehouses in St. James.
Nancy Richard died tragically Monday, Dec. 2, after being struck by a car driven by her husband, Peter, who was backing out of their driveway at their Fort Salonga home.
After walking her grandchild to the bus stop, Richard was returning to her home at 9 Concord Drive, when she was struck by a 2015 Mercedes S550 at 7:30 a.m.
Nancy Richard, 79, was transported to Huntington Hospital where she was pronounced dead. Peter Richard, 83, was not injured.
Suffolk County police state that the vehicle was impounded for a safety check.
The accident occurred just a little more than one year after the family donated more than $3.5 million to establish the expansion of the pediatric emergency care unit of Stony Brook University Hospital. The Stony Brook Children’s Hospital lobby was named in the family’s honor in recognition of that gift. The university has acknowledged the couple’s philanthropic effort has meant better services for the families and children on Long Island.
“Nancy Richard was a remarkable friend of Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, and all of us send our heartfelt condolences to Peter and the entire Richard family,” said Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, senior VP for Health Sciences and dean of the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University.
The couple’s daughter Susan Habberstad, a St. James resident, had played an important role in identifying Stony Brook Children’s Hospital as a worthwhile project to support. In a profile posted on the university’s website, she recognized her parents’ strong family values and how the donation instilled a strong sense of pride:
“My parents’ priority in their life is their children,” Habberstad stated. “And it’s not just their kids; it’s their grandchildren, it’s everybody’s kids. Everybody’s kids are so important, and they are Nanny and Pop to everybody. They’re Nanny and Pop to hundreds of kids.”
Peter Richard was the longtime executive vice president of the P.C. Richard & Son chain of appliance and electronics stores. The retailer has serviced Long Island for more than 110 years. Peter is the grandson of the store founder Pieter Christian (P.C.) Richard. The business today has 66 showrooms in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, three distribution centers and two service centers.
In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations in Nancy Richard’s memory to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital at stonybrook.edu/childrenshospitalgiving.
Funeral services have not yet been announced.
For more than a century, one thoroughfare in St. James has been hustling and bustling. It’s no surprise that the Smithtown town board and St. James residents have been directing their energy toward the revitalization of Lake Avenue in the last couple of years with the nonprofit organization Celebrate St. James. With the arrival of the Long Island Rail Road to St. James in 1872, the avenue and connecting streets quickly became the center of local commerce, especially around the LIRR station house.
Smithtown Historian Brad Harris said the station house in St. James located near the northwest corner of Lake Avenue and Railroad Avenue was built in 1873 by community members, who also paid for it. Soon stage actors and other visitors from New York City, including Mayor William Gaynor, who once lived in Deepwells Mansion, were visiting the hamlet on a regular basis, especially in the summer.
“There was activity the town had never seen before,” Harris said.
Local historian Noel Gish said the St. James station house is the LIRR’s oldest one in existence still standing in its original form. In the early 1970s, the railroad considered remodeling it or tearing it down, when it was in need of painting. Louise Hall, who was the director of the Smithtown Historical Society at the time, organized a group of women to paint it, Gish said, and when the LIRR found out, they sent staff members to do the job, and the station house remained as it was.
Harris said as more people traveled to St. James, boarding houses and hotels were built to accommodate them. One hotel was built on the southeast corner of Lake and Railroad where Garguilo’s Bakery is located today. Built in 1905, the Nissequogue Hotel accommodated the visitors vacationing in the area in the summer and coming to hunt in the cooler weather. The hotel, that was renamed the St. James Hotel, was destroyed by fire in December 1962.
“The friendly ghosts of the Calderone Theater have been with me throughout the metamorphosis of this structure.”
— Natalie Weinstein
In 1908, a unique structure was built across the street from the hotel by Joseph Amey. Shaped like the flatiron building in New York City, it still stands today and has been home to various businesses throughout the decades including a soda fountain. Harris said at one point a bowling alley was located toward the back of the building in the basement, and the roof of the alley stuck out above the street.
Through the decades businesses with names such as Harry’s Barber Shop, Riis’s Stationery and Barber Shop, Sam’s Meat Market and Bohack’s Supermarket have lined Lake Avenue. Harris, who is a 50-year resident of the hamlet, said his favorite building is where Uniquely Natalie Quality Consignment is now located on Second Street off of Lake Avenue. He said the structure dates back to the 1930s, and at one time it was the Calderone Theater, which showcased live performances and silent movies. The building now houses the St. James Museum featuring local memorabilia.
Natalie Weinstein, owner of the building, purchased it in 1985.
“The friendly ghosts of the Calderone Theater have been with me throughout the metamorphosis of this structure, since I purchased it with my husband Bernie in 1985,” she said.
In addition to housing Uniquely Natalie and the museum, Celebrate St. James hosts social and cultural events at the former theater.
“It is a pivotal place for this town to regain its love and appreciation of its history, as we begin to revitalize economically and recapture what this small town has to offer,” Weinstein said.
Harris said he believes the revitalization of Lake Avenue will be a plus for St. James.
“I think people are going to discover Lake Avenue more and more,” Harris said.
By Grace Smith
St. James resident Denise Davis will experience the 35th annual St. James St. Patrick’s Day Parade from a different perspective this year.
“I was shocked. I don’t know how they did it without me knowing.”
— Denise Davis
Since joining the hamlet’s chamber of commerce in 2004, Davis has marched at the forefront of the parade followed by floats, bagpipers and a sea of green. This year, she’ll trade carrying the chamber’s “St. Patrick’s Day” banner for a green checkered sash emblazoned with gold capital letters that will read “GRAND MARSHAL.”
“I was shocked. I don’t know how they did it without me knowing,” Davis said with a chuckle, referring to the board’s decision. “It’s really very special. I’m very honored.”
The 51-year-old, who has served as the chamber’s vice president since 2018, said her first thought upon being announced as grand marshal was of her late mother, Margaret Murphy.
“You couldn’t get more Irish than her,” Davis said, recalling her mother’s “Irish corner” — a small space in her childhood home’s kitchen filled with Irish plates and wooden plaques that read ‘Proud to be Irish.’ “I know she’s smiling down.”
Davis moved to St. James in 2003 after falling in love with the hamlet’s small-town feel. Having grown up in Brentwood, she said she wanted to raise a family in a close-knit community. It was also the perfect place to start her graphic design business, Artpix Studio, which she runs out of her home’s converted attic space.
Davis’ handiwork can be seen throughout the town. Since starting her business, the St. James resident has been the hamlet’s go-to artist for banners, logos and acrylic paintings, according to chamber President Scott Posner.
“She is awesome at what she creates,” he said.
However, Davis said her top responsibility this year is to bring the community together and pay homage to her Irish roots.
“Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day,” she said.
Parade Director Kerry Maher, who has served on the chamber’s board of directors for the past 18 years, referred to her colleague as “the perfect fit” for grand marshal.
“She really is the town’s unsung hero,” she said.
“She really is the town’s unsung hero.”
— Kerry Maher
Maher pointed to Davis’ volunteer work as a board member for the Deepwells Farm Historical Society, a nonprofit organization that runs year-round events at the historic 1845 mansion, and active involvement in the Mills Pond Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Association.
“Her love of the town is endless,” Maher said.
On March 16, Davis will walk along Woodlawn and Lake avenues amid children from the community dressed as Irish princes and princesses. She said it sparks memories of when her daughters, Jillian and Jacqueline, did the same. However, this year Davis will be joined not by her daughters, but rather by her dog, Eloise, who also serves as the chamber’s mascot.
“The parade is fabulous, the town is fabulous because we have everyone working together,” Davis said. “Like anything else, you’re stronger together.”
The St. James St. Patrick’s Day parade will kick off at 1 p.m.starting at the Smithtown High School East parking lot on Woodlawn Avenue traveling to Lake Avenue and continuing to the St. James Gazebo at the railroad station.
St. James residents were surprised to hear a shotgun go off the evening of Feb. 23. The gun was aimed at the sky, but instead of shooting at birds, a man was aiming at an unmanned drone.
Members of Missing Angels-Long Island, a Bay Shore-based organization that searches for missing pets, were using a drone to search for a missing dog named Dezi in the St. James area, according to a Facebook post.
Suffolk County police said Gerard Chasteen, 26, of St. James allegedly fired three shots into the air in a residential area, striking the drone at around 4:45 p.m.
Chasteen was charged with third-degree criminal mischief and prohibited use of a weapon after an investigation by Suffolk police. Multiple shotguns were also confiscated from the residence. Chasteen was issued a field appearance ticket and was to be arraigned at a later date.
Missing Angels did not respond to requests for comment. But Facebook posts from the organization show Dezi was found and returned home the next day, Feb. 24.
The drone used, a Mavic 2 Zoom model, is valued at about $1,500 online, depending on configurations and accessories. Unmanned drones have seen a surge of popularity in recent years, and some 7 million drones are expected to fly over American skies by 2020, according to the Federal Aviation Association. A drone is considered an unmanned aircraft, according to Suffolk County law.
In response to the Feb. 23 incident, members of Missing Angels started a fundraiser the next day on Facebook to replace the destroyed drone. Within the first two days the fundraiser reached its goal of $1,500 to replace the drone. Organizers extended the fundraiser to $1,900 to cover the expenses for a universal microchip scanner. The group has now raised more than $2,100 for a new drone.
The organization said on a Facebook post these pieces of equipment are important to continue to help search and track pets on Long Island.
By David Luces
Nearly 100 residents filled the Eugene A. Senior Citizen Center in Smithtown Feb.14 to discuss a proposed St. James group home on Twixt Hills Road. Previously, St. James residents raised concerns over the home, but the latest meeting saw a shift in the majority of residents speaking in favor of the proposed plans.
The St. James residence would be operated by Life’s WORC, a Garden City-based private nonprofit organization, to provide housing for six adults with developmental disabilities and autism. The organization currently runs a total of 41 group homes and rehabilitation programs in Nassau, Suffolk and Queens.
“If these were people of a different religion or race, we wouldn’t be having this hearing,” Joseph Winters, of St. James said. “It should be no different for people with disabilities.”
“If these were people of a different religion or race, we wouldn’t be having this hearing.”
— Joseph Winters
Winters said his son Sean would be one of the individuals who would reside at the proposed group home. He said it was upsetting that his family had to attend a hearing so his son can continue to live in the town where he grew up.
Mary Rafferty, chief operating officer at Life’s WORC, said over the past couple weeks she has spoken to about 36 neighbors who have reached out to the agency with questions and concerns, and who have voiced support for the group home. She said the nonprofit organization was formed by parents raising children with developmental disorders concerned for these individuals’ future.
Rafferty acknowledged that many of the concerns St. James residents shared with her had to do with how the home would affect the block. She said the agency purchased the home with the understanding that it would need renovations and updates. The organization plans on doing exterior work on the home, including fencing the yard to match the neighboring property owner and a circular driveway to ease traffic and parking issues.
“I’m asking you to give us a chance to show how it can work when it’s done right,” she said.
Mary Lu Heinz, of Nesconset, said she similarly related to Winters as a parent of a 21-year-old son with autism. As she and her husband near retirement age they are facing tough decisions she said, while displaying her son’s high school graduation photograph.
“We are contemplating our son’s life when we are gone,” Heinz said. “Where will he go?”
She said a home, like the proposed residence, provides living opportunities for her son and others like him.
The sole opposition of the group home at the Feb. 14 meeting came in the form of an email from the Damin Park Civic Association stating that the home could permanently alter the nature and character of the neighborhood, as well as significantly increase motor vehicle traffic. The association also said its concerns are in no way a reflection on those individuals with either a physical or a mental disabilities.
Life’s WORC purchased the home Jan. 9 for $575,000, according to the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island’s website. The four-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom home boasts 2,857 square feet of living space and will have a residential manager and on-site staffing 24/7.
“[quote_left]“I’m asking you to give us a chance to show how it can work when it’s done right.”
— Mary Rafferty
Denise Walsh, an employee at Life’s WORC who oversees all staff training, said the agency’s philosophy for each person they support is “living with dignity and growing with pride.”
“Due to the Padavan Law, people with disabilities still have to advocate for inclusive —but you and I have free will on where we would like to live — without any opposition,” Walsh said. “Each of these young men are people first, and their disability comes second.”
Smithtown officials have 40 days to respond to Life’s WORC, or until Feb. 24, to raise any objections to the planned Twixt Hills group home, under New York State law. The main objection the town could argue is citing a saturation of group homes in the area, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo.
Will Flower, who has known the Winters family for many years, asked for people who oppose the home to open their hearts.
“In the end there are only three truths,” Flower said. “Fact is, is that every town has residents with special needs and the best communities are those that welcome and have homes for them. The second is that this home is needed now and third is that this project shows that the St. James community is a community that cares.”
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.