Category: News

Zoe Belodeau the hero as Penn tops Penn State in wild 2OT thriller

Originally published at College Crosse

STONY BROOK, N.Y. — Shadows crept across the LaValle Stadium field, as the game prolonged from mid-afternoon to evening. The grueling NCAA Tournament battle was deep in the second overtime. It was exhausting to just watch.

But somehow Penn sophomore goalie Mikaila Cheeseman was focused as ever. When Katie O’Donnell, Penn State’s star, raced toward the cage with 46 seconds to play in double-OT, Cheeseman was up for the task.

Throughout the week of prep, Cheeseman studied O’Donnell, the Big Ten Midfielder of the Year. She watched her release, her tendencies, her footwork.

With the game on the line, Cheeseman stabbed her stick to her left and saved the shot, her 13th of the game. But more importantly, she saved her team’s season.

“Every time she makes a save, I just stand there like ‘oh my God, she just did that,’” Penn freshman Zoe Belodeau said. “Then it takes me like five seconds to realize, ‘oh. It’s coming back now. I need to play offense.’”

Once Penn took offense, the Quakers called timeout and head coach Karin Corbett designed a play for Belodeau to become the hero. With 1.8 seconds left in double-OT, the first-year phenom sniped the biggest goal of her lacrosse life. Penn defeated Penn State, 15 to 14.

“She’s come through in every game for us,” Corbett said.

Belodeau’s golden goal was her fifth of the day and the 43rd of her freshman season. She passed the freshman goal total of another lefty who dazzles at LaValle Stadium. Make no mistake. On this day, Zoe Belodeau — from the game-winner, her ridiculous behind-the-back tally, even the eyeblack dripping from her cheek — seemed to mirror the superstar who calls the stadium her own: Kylie Ohlmiller.

Ohlmiller and the Seawolves sat in the background of Friday’s lacrosse showdown, scouting their next opponent from the far-side bleachers. Penn will play Stony Brook on Sunday at 12 p.m. Stony Brook is controversially ranked as a No. 5 seed in the tournament (Corbett thought that seeding was unfair to the Seawolves), but alas, the two schools have never met, and the Quakers are excited for an opportunity for the upset.

“I know they’re incredibly talented and can do some crazy things you’ve never seen before,” Belodeau said. “But I’m excited to see how we match up.”

Neither program, Penn nor Penn State, entered Friday’s meeting intimidated by the postseason atmosphere — the Quakers have made 12 straight NCAA Tournaments, while the Nittany Lions have made 7 straight — but it was certainly Penn State that had the more experienced offense. All three of the Nittany Lions’ key scoring options (O’Donnell, Madison Carter and Maria Auth) played critical roles when the team made a run to the Final Four in 2017. Penn State also made the Final Four in 2016. On the other hand, the Penn offense is very young; all three leading point-getters this season are underclassmen.

The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 4-2 in the first 15 minutes, with O’Donnell, Carter and Auth all scoring (they combined for 12 goals in the contest), but then the Quakers went on a 7-1 run to flip the scoreboard 9-5 in their favor. It was a rare Penn veteran, redshirt senior Emily Rogers-Healion, who drew the most excitement from the Quakers crowd.

She scored two goals and an assist in the first half, playing just a three-mile drive from Ward Melville, her high school alma mater.

“It’s really cool to come back to this field that I watched girls play college lacrosse on since I was like five,” Rogers-Healion said. “I went to the national championships (hosted by Stony Brook in 2011 and 2012), camps, all of it. I’m really blessed to be able to come back here.”

The Quakers took an 11-7 lead early in the second half, but Carter and O’Donnell clawed the Nittany Lions back into it. The duo combined for four goals over the next 20 minutes and O’Donnell tied it up at 13-13 with just over eight minutes to play.

Four minutes later, Belodeau buried one for the highlight reel… and also to give her team back the lead. Fellow freshman Elyse Decker cut through the lane and wasn’t open, but then Belodeau found the open space, caught a pass from Caroline Cummings and went behind her back with a quick flick of the wrist to give her team a 14-13 lead.


Penn State held a 43-28 shot advantage, but Cheeseman made up for it with elite goalkeeping for Penn. Finally, with 23 seconds left in regulation, O’Donnell broke through and brought the Nittany Lions within a 14-14 tie, but it was all for naught.

This was Belodeau’s night, and she seemed destined to be the hero.

“It’s pretty surreal,” she said. “Just being here and playing in this tournament is surreal as is. My dad and I and all of my friends have been watching NCAA Tournament games growing up. Just being a part of it was a surreal experience, let alone being part of a game-winning goal. It was pretty crazy.

Scores from the rest of the NCAA First Round action

  • Virginia Tech 13, Georgetown 10 — The Hokies secured their first NCAA Tournament win in program history and will go on to play #2 North Carolina on Sunday in the second round. Paige Petty and Tristan McGinley each had four goals in the win, while Meagh Graham recorded 10 saves.
  • #7 Towson 16, Wagner 6 — The Tigers scored early and often against the Seahawks, including an 8-0 run to run past Wagner, securing a trip to the second round. Kaitlyn Montalbano led the Tigers with four goals, while Emily Gillingham put up three goals and a pair of assists. Towson will face Northwestern in the second round.
  • Colorado 23, Jacksonville 18 — The Buffaloes emerged victorious from a wild scoring affair with the Dolphins. Darby Kiernan had a day with seven goals and five assists for a program record 12 points. Her seven goals in the win tied another program record. It was Colorado’s first-ever NCAA Tournament win. They’ll play #6 Florida on Sunday.
  • Princeton 12, Syracuse 11 (2OT) — Colby Chanenchuk scored the game-winner in her home city of Boston against Syracuse in a wild affair. The Orange had a huge second half comeback, using a 5-0 to take a one-goal lead with 6:57 left, but the Tigers were resilient. #4 Boston College awaits Princeton in the second round.
  • #8 Loyola 18, Fairfield 2 — The Greyhounds made quick work of the Stags behind four goals and two assists by Livy Rosenzweig. They also had two 7-0 runs to pretty much end the game early on. They’ll take on the Navy Midshipmen next.
  • Denver 19, High Point 10 — Denver earned a date with the #1 Maryland Terrapins on Sunday by virtue of beating High Point. The Pios pulled away from the Panthers by scoring 11 of the game’s final 14 goals. Quintin Hoch-Bullen had a game-high five points.
  • Northwestern 24, Richmond 18 — Goals, goals, goals. This game had a lot of them. Northwestern attacker Selena Lasota had nine, setting an all-time NCAA Tournament record, as the Wildcats will face #7 Towson in the second round.
  • Virginia 12, Stanford 3 — Goals? Not here. Not if you’re Stanford. The Cardinal offense struggled mightily against the Cavaliers, as Virginia earned the NCAA Tournament win. Rachel Vander Kolk stopped 14 shots for the win. They’ll face #3 James Madison in the second round.
  • Navy 16, Johns Hopkins 9 — After a trip to the Final Four in 2017, the Midshipmen are looking to do it again. They won against the Blue Jays in dominant fashion in the First Round thanks to Julia Collins and her six goals and one assist. They’ll face Loyola in a Patriot League rematch on Sunday.

After earning $10M from NYS, Westbury looks to cash in on downtown boom

Originally published at The Changing Face of Long Island.

For over 20 years of his career, Eric Alexander, a prominent Long Island community developer, sat in on meetings, listening to local Main Street representatives across the island linger over the stiff competition from their indoor shopping rivals.

“They’d always say, ‘we have to be more like the mall, we have to be more like the mall’,” Alexander remembered. Then he laughed. “Now the malls want to look more like downtown.”

Due to the growth of internet shopping ( sales revenue increased 1170 percent from 2006 to 2016, according to Statista), experts say there is a shift in commercial preference from malls and big-box stores to downtowns, which have become cultural centers and restaurant scenes.

“Shopping [isn’t] going out of style in the burbs,” Lisa Schamess, communications manager of Build a Better Burb, a national nonprofit group advocating new urbanism, said. “But its character is changing.”

In Westbury, a Nassau County village, the local government was awarded $10 million in funding to revitalize their downtown last year, as part of an annual grant New York State initiative (called the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, or DRI) launched by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2016. The initiative is the largest public aid program for downtown growth toward Long Island in state history.

Click to access interactive graphic.

The strategic investment plan, created by a local committee of Westbury business leaders, includes funding for rezoning a new residential area near the Long Island Rail Road, improvements to the Westbury Community and Recreation Centers, and $4.4 million toward streetscape beautification.

“We are in a bit of a holding pattern at the moment waiting for the state to sign off on some of the projects already approved so we can start spending some of the money allotted,” Tom Verni of the Westbury Business Improvement District (BID) said. “We expect that to be done by the end of the year or shortly after the new year then start rolling some of the programs and initiatives out by the spring or summer of 2018.”

One of the goals of the downtown improvements is to increase restaurant sales. Of a $33 million dollar sales surplus in Westbury restaurants, $32 million of it can be attributed to Old Country Road, which is not downtown, according to data provided by the Westbury BID. There is “unmet demand” for restaurants on Post Avenue, Westbury’s Main Street, according to the investment plan.

Food and beverage locations outnumber retail stores 35 to 31 in downtown Westbury, a margin that is expected to grow in upcoming years, according to the BID. This trend aligns with Long Island’s overall data: employment for cooks and bartenders is expected to increase by 29.8 and 26.9 percent, respectively, according to state labor data. For context, overall job growth is projected to be 11.1 percent.

“Hard goods aren’t coming back,” Alexander, who serves as the director of Vision Long Island, said. “It’s not like the shoe store is coming back to Main Street. It’s really restaurants and bars that are driving this growth.”

Growth of the arts is another major component to the project in Westbury. Funds from the state grant are being allocated to house a permanent home for the Westbury Council for the Arts, which had previously functioned nomadically.

“Ideally we’d like to have a performance space,” Maureen Baranov, vice president of the council, said. “In the basement, we would have a black box theatre, and on the main level, studios where we provide classes. Jewelry-making classes, pottery classes, art classes. Just to bring art and culture to the community.”

The Westbury Council for the Arts, founded four years ago, is heavily involved in the revitalization efforts. Peter Cavallaro, the village’s mayor is a founding member of the council. Residents of Westbury “consistently expressed support” for the arts in early DRI informational meetings, according to the strategic investment plan. Money from the state will help build murals and public art along Post Avenue. The council also sponsored, for the first time, an annual farmer’s market at Piazzo Ernesto Strada, a small park in the village.

Click to access audio slideshow.

“We had 16 straight weeks of sun,” Colleen Locascio, one of the arts council board directors, said. “Never any rain. It was an absolute miracle.”

Three miles to the east, the hamlet of Hicksville won the same $10 million grant this year and is in the preliminary stages of determining their distribution of funds. In its application to the state, Hicksville pitched reconstruction efforts along the LIRR station, the busiest outside the city.

“There are 3,000 people that live within walking distance of the station, and they want to see a true downtown there,” Alexander said.

In the meantime, zoning codes are being written by the town of Oyster Bay, which governs Hicksville, state and local officials are coming together to discuss different ways to efficiently use the money, and planning committees are meeting on a weekly basis.

But while Hicksville and Westbury are receiving lump sums of money, most downtowns across Long Island are not so lucky.

The state allocates one state grant to each region of the state, which can become proportionally unfair. Long Island, whose population is 2.86 million (not counting Brooklyn and Queens), had 21 applicant villages in 2017, according to a state DRI official. For comparison, two other regions of New York State, the North Country and the Mohawk Valley, of 428 thousand and 622 thousand people, had three and seven applicants, respectively.

“We pay 21 percent of the state’s taxes, and here we’re getting 10 percent of the payoff,” Alexander said. “It’s kind of in line with most state programs toward Long Island. We’re contribute more to the state than the state contributes to us. That’s just kind of how it is. Having said that, before this grant, there was never any direct state money for Long Island downtowns. So I applaud the governor for that.”

While other villages across Nassau and Suffolk Counties have to wait their turn for government action, Westbury is thrilled at the opportunity to fulfill its own downtown vision.

“I have so much invested in this community. I care very deeply about this community,” Locascio said. “I want to see it soar.”

Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts begins 10-week Oliver run

Originally published at The Osprey

There are many interpretations of Fagin, the 19th century British pickpocket gang leader from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. In the novel, the man is depicted as a cold and frugal crook. The Broadway adaptation casts a more amicable, comedic version.

When Nick Massone was assigned the role, director Jordan Hue gave him a lot of freedom for his own interpretation of the character in the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts production.

“Being a father, I took a nurturing approach to the kids, as if they are my own,” Massone said. “I feel bad when I have to snap at them in the show, compared with the other, more light-hearted moments.”

Oliver, a Lionel Bart musical based on the Dickens classic, opened on Saturday night at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts for the beginning of a 32-show run lasting until January 21.

“It was a little draggy but that’s normal,” 14-year-old Andrew Timmins, who plays the Artful Dodger, said of the opening weekend. “It always starts a little bit slow, because we still don’t know fully what we’re doing or what the show’s going to be like.”


There are over eight community theatres on Long Island, Ian Washington of the Smithtown box office staff said. Oliver drew about 200 people each night during the opening weekend. At these community theatres, performances are professional, and actors receive a stipend each night based on the ticket revenue.

In a community theatre setting, many of the same actors are cast in shows again and again. Massone played the titular role in the theatre’s production of Young Frankenstein over the summer.

“In many cases, the cast includes people that we’ve collaborated with before,” Hue said. “Either I, myself, have worked with, or the theatre has worked with… We have a whole lot of our local favorites back in the show.”

Long Island community theatres have to achieve a higher standard than most, due to the proximity to Manhattan, a world leader in musical theatre, Jessica Ader-Ferretti, who has starred in many plays at Smithtown, said.

The play has a larger cast than usual, due to its very long performance season. Most Smithtown productions are five to seven weeks, but Oliver will run over 10 weeks due to the holiday scheduling. Because of this, several understudies and swings had to be cast. More than half of the 32 cast members are under the age of 18, and it creates an infectious energy around the set, some of the adult actors said.

“I hadn’t done a lot of shows with kids, so it was nice to see a different work ethic,” Ader-Ferretti, who splits the role as Nancy, said. “Not that the adults don’t have a strong work ethic, they do, but the kids are just always going.”

Hue, the director, has an educational background and most of his directing experience has come with children. He chuckled and said that some of his exercises, “may have grated on the nerves” of the adult cast members, but some of these actors spoke kindly of his style.

“Some directors try to micromanage, and other directors paint in really broad strokes and allow the individual to do the shading and coloring in,” Massone said. “That’s Jordan. He really gave a lot of liberties.”

Auditions for Oliver were held on July 25, making the show a six-month commitment in all. In the last couple months leading up to opening night, there were plenty of mishaps and gaffes. Ader-Ferretti recalled one incident where Brian Gill, who plays Bill Sikes, accidentally hit her for real during a fight scene.

“He wound up to fake hit me and then he did. Right in the face,” Ader-Ferretti laughed. “That was great.”

Oliver will return this weekend for a Saturday show at 2 p.m., followed by a 3 p.m. performance on Sunday. The show costs $25 for adults and $15 for children under 12.

“All the theatres are well supported, and they support each other,” Massone said. “It would be great to have even more of the surrounding community embrace it. I think that’s starting to happen more.”

From kickball to cornhole: LI-Kick expands into Patchogue

Originally published at The Osprey

Rosemary Bair and Cassie Rienth had beers in hand at a bar on Monday night, surrounded by five TVs playing a Green Bay Packers football game. But their eyes were focused in a different direction.

“Don’t mess up, Adam!” Rienth yelled across the dance floor to her teammate. Their perfect 3 and 0 record was on the line.

Their team, “Me So Corny” was one of eighteen teams that participated in the inaugural cornhole season at 89 North in Patchogue this week. The local recreational league is the latest growth of LI-Kick, an adult social sports organization, launched in 2013.

Click to use animation.

What was started by Sal Farruggia as a seasonal adult kickball league that played year-round in Glen Cove has now expanded into a multi-sport, multi-venue venture. Last fall, Rich von Rauchhaupt met Farruggia and the two partnered. Von Rauchhaupt expanded the league into Suffolk County, and now, for the first time, to cornhole.

“I think we’re at the beginning of [cornhole] exploding around here,” von Rauchhaupt said.

Cornhole is a staple game at tailgates and parties in the American Midwest and South, but is relatively unknown on Long Island. The object of the game is to toss small bags, filled with dried corn, onto a board and into a hole 27 feet away. Many players on Monday said that they had just started playing over the last month in preparation for the league.

The organization was unable to secure a permit for an outdoor kickball field with lights in Suffolk County during the fall, so von Rauchhaupt discussed a possible cornhole league with the owner of 89 North and it was in both parties’ interest. The Patchogue bar is usually closed on Mondays this time of year, but now it has a crowd of 60 cornhole players to serve drinks to.

“We used to do bocce ball on Wednesdays and we rent out the venue for country line dancing,” Meaghan Lydon, a bartender at 89 North, said. “Rich approached us about cornhole on Monday nights and we were like ‘why not’!”

In the spring and summer of this year, kickball teams played at Heckscher State Park in East Islip. The league grew to 110 players in only four months. It was a way to make close friends, which one player, Justin King, said was hard to do in adult life.

“Playing a sport again, having not played in forever, was great,” King said. “But there were two components to it. We played kickball for a few hours, which was fun, then we all went to the bars and partied, which was even more fun.”

Click to view slideshow.

In preparation for the change from kickball to cornhole, 12 wooden boards, painted with the “LI-Kick” logo, were built over a couple weekends by von Rauchhaupt and a few of his friends over the summer. He was able to secure a sponsorship with Blue Point Brewing Company, which in return supplied prizes for the winning teams, including shirts and cornhole boards and bags.

“It’s hard to throw when you’re wearing a suit,” Anthony Fasano, a lawyer and member of one of the teams, said laughingly. “I came straight from work to be here.”

Five years later, Long Islanders are still reeling from Sandy impacts

Originally published at The Osprey

Pellets of hail splashed into the puddles in the parking lot. White-capped waves crashed on the coast. Fully grown trees bent over to the ground. Above, a gull flew toward the shore, but was moving backward in the wind.

“It was nice of Hurricane Sandy to show up for her anniversary,” Rabbi Glenn Jacob, executive director of New York Interfaith Power and Light, joked.

It was on the same day, October 29, that in 2012, Hurricane Sandy slammed New York City and Long Island, causing $71 billion in damage. On the anniversary of the storm, about a hundred local residents gathered under a pavilion at Venetian Shores Park in Lindenhurst for a vigil and a call toward the state government for action.

“Sandy is not over,” Ryan Madden, sustainability organizer of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, said. “Communities are still feeling impacts. Five years later, funds have still not been allocated to ensure that all the problems have been fixed.”

After the storm, about 11,000 qualified homeowners without flood insurance enrolled in NY Rising, the state-run housing recovery program. There are still 2,400 that have not been rebuilt, according to a source within the program.

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On the Lindenhurst coast, down the street from the rally, some houses still have plywood boards over the windows, with plastic covering flapping in the wind. After storms like the one this weekend, nuisance flooding still affects the low-lying residential areas, as drainage systems were damaged and never properly repaired after the hurricane.

“We’ve been fighting an uphill battle for five years,” Donald Werle, a Lindenhurst resident, said. “Instead of putting things back together the right way, the government came in and half-assed it.”

While Werle’s home was repaired after an expense of $100,000, some houses, he said, were never fixed. A foreclosed building next door is now only home to mildew and mold.

“There’s black mold all up the wall, and a school across the street,” Werle said, pointing to Harding Avenue Elementary School. “I’m not looking for them to make things special. I just want it healthy to live here again.”

One woman was in tears Sunday as she talked about her experience after the storm. It took her family four years to receive money from their flood insurance claim. But most of all, she was concerned with the health effects of the storm, which she said impacted her now 6-year-old daughter.

“Ella was diagnosed with one autoimmune disease,” Beth Henry, a school teacher that lives in Massapequa, said. “Then she was diagnosed with another.”

Adopt a House, which Henry is affiliated with, was a main sponsor of the event. It is a nonprofit agency dedicated to rebuilding local communities affected by Hurricane Sandy. The organization both aids recovering families both monetarily and with case-by-case advisory, director Michele Insinga said.

Several sponsors of the event also made a call for government action to combat climate change, in the wake of the worst north Atlantic hurricane season since 2005.

“We need proactive measures,” Jacob said. “Long Island is just one big sandbar, which makes it incredibly susceptible to rising sea levels and tropical storms. We can’t keep being reactive. We must be proactive.”

“Spooky Walk” raises over $150,000 for special needs summer camp

Originally published at The Osprey

She’s dressed in red and white polka dots, the same pattern as the wall behind her. She holds a red balloon in front of her face, while a stripped bulb flickers over her head. Her face is flecked with spattered blood over her Glasgow grin. Around the corner is a two-faced pagliacci brandishing a chainsaw while down the hall, a demented Bozo lurks in a bathroom stall.

The “Psycho Circus,” horrifying by any estimation, is one of four exhibits at this year’s “Spooky Walk,” an annual fundraiser at Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck in Center Moriches. Over two weekends, the haunted house walk is estimated to raise over $150,000 for the camp, which serves children with developmental disabilities.

“One hundred percent of the money goes to the camp,” Marcella Weiss, who helped start the event in 1989, said. “What we make here goes a pretty good way, while the rest is raised through fundraisers by the rotaries and other community events.”

The camp’s total operating cost is about $800,000, Weiss said. Funding efforts like the “Spooky Walk” allow the camp to keep a near one-to-one camper-to-counselor ratio, while also helping to provide financial aid for parents sending their children to camp.

“This isn’t a business to make money for ourselves,” Marina Gress, an event vendor who has been involved with Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck for the past 25 years, said. “All of this is for the kids.”

Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck is the only overnight summer camp on Long Island that exclusively serves children with autism, Down syndrome, and other disabilities.

The camp accepts up to 50 campers per week-long session, with 10 to 12 sessions throughout the summer, and requests to join have increased in each of the last four years, Weiss said. Across the country, autism is diagnosed in one of 68 children, according the latest available Center for Disease Control data, taken in 2014. The prevalence has increased over the last 30 years, from a one in 2,000 rate in the 1980s, according to the CDC.

As the camp has grown, so has the fundraising. Weiss recalled the origin of the “Spooky Walk,” nearly three decades ago, which was spurred from her own love of Halloween Her parents used to deck out their own house as the neighborhood’s haunted destination.

“We sold tickets for two dollars each,” Weiss said of the first annual walk. “We had 400 people and we made $800, and we thought that was amazing.”

Today, attendance for the event nears 3,000 people per night, with the line to enter stretching over 500 feet, a wait time of over an hour. All of the 600 “Spooky Walk” workers — set designers, actors, venders, even the DJ   — are volunteers. There are four different “houses,” each with their own theme, scary in their own way.  

“Everything you see is put up by us,” Nicole Jakob, overseer of the “Club Boo” exhibit, said. “It’s all arts and crafts, it’s what turns one of these buildings into a nightclub.”

The whole event has grown into a community Halloween tradition in the small Suffolk County village. Even adults who had never been were taken aback from the thrill factor.

“It was amazing. The houses were awesome,” Eve Goncalves, who, with her son, were first-time attendees, said. “It’s definitely something worth supporting, though I wasn’t expecting it to be so scary.”

The “Spooky Walk” will be open again for its second weekend of the year this Friday and Saturday night from 7 to 9 p.m..

Leaders of immigration and Jewish groups rally at Rep. Lee Zeldin’s office

Originally published at The Osprey

Several dozen protesters gathered outside Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R-NY/1) office in Patchogue on Monday afternoon to denounce the congressman’s inaction and complicity with what rally leaders called “Trump’s white supremacist agenda.”

The event was sponsored by Bend the Arc, a Jewish activist group, and co-sponsored by Progressive East End Reformers and Make the Road NY, a Latino immigrants’ rights group. One of the protesters, 23-year-old France Duffoo, said in a speech that she felt “freed” by DACA, the Obama immigration act that Trump and Zeldin are looking to repeal.

“It gave me the opportunity to be part of society,” Duffoo, who moved to the United States from Peru at age 6. “When you don’t have papers, you’re not part of society. My parents, undocumented, have suffered that a very long time … With DACA, I was finally able to study, to work, to drive. It let me be a person.”

Screenshot 2017-10-17 at 5.44.56 PM

Click to view audio slideshow.

The speech, one of five given during the event, was followed by a rousing applause. Several people in the crowd held signs, ranging from calls to action to caricatured drawings of Zeldin.

Organizers of the event stated four main demands to Zeldin: a censure of President Trump, a demand for the firing of White House official Stephen Miller, a call to remove Confederate symbols from the Capitol, and the passage of a clean DREAM Act to protect DACA beneficiaries.

Group organizers understand the unlikelihood of Zeldin, a fringe right-wing politician, adhering to that set of demands, however.

“Lee Zeldin is a personal embarrassment to us,” Bend the Arc spokeswoman Phyllis Hartmann said following the event. “He’s given no reason to think that he’s going to change. Really, I think the long-term goal is to replace him in the election in 2018.”

Two Jewish leaders, Rabbis Stephen Karol and Jan Uhrbach, spoke on the hypocrisy of Zeldin, one of only two Jewish Republicans in Congress, continuing to support leadership that has shown anti-Semitic undertones and allegiances.

“You cannot include Nazis as part of your political coalition, and not be complicit in their hate and violence,” Uhrbach said in her speech.

With every point the rabbi made, the crowd shouted “yes” in response with fists in the air, a theme throughout the high-energy event.

“I don’t understand how Zeldin can represent so many immigrants, so many undocumented people, and continue supporting this unjust platform,” college student Rodman Serrano, the son of El Salvadorian immigrants, said.

Trump himself has been more open in recent weeks to striking a deal with Democrats on DACA, but he is asking for funding for anti-immigration provisions — increased legal immigration barriers, a border wall, etc. — in response, according to a White House release on Sunday night.

Zeldin’s office did not respond to requests for interview for this story.

“I hope that seeing so many groups come together, seeing the energy not only here on Long Island, but across the country,” Uhrbach said after the event. “That it will at least give our Congress a little bit of courage to stand up for American values.”

Patchogue telescope business relocates to Stony Brook after 32 years

By Skyler Gilbert and Brittany Bernstein

Camera Concepts & Telescope Solutions, the largest telescope store on Long Island, will hold a grand opening this Saturday to celebrate the business’s move to Stony Brook Village after spending 32 years in Patchogue.

The store had outgrown its previous location in Patchogue, owner Jeff Norwood said. He chose to move to a place with a larger showroom to display an array of telescopes, instead of housing the majority of its pieces in basement storage.

Much to Norwood’s chagrin, he was unable to find a reasonably priced vacancy in Patchogue, which has experienced downtown revitalization and business growth over the last 15 years.

“I was in Patchogue when there were only five stores on Main Street. It was a ghost town,” Norwood said. “Now it’s thriving. But along with it thriving, landlords charge four or five times the rent. I had a lease in Patchogue that was very reasonable, but when I looked elsewhere for other locations, it was ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.”

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The grand opening this weekend will feature a solar viewing on the Stony Brook Village lawn during the daytime, a meteor shower viewing during the evening and stargazing at night. Patrons will be allowed to use store equipment.

There will be speakers, live music and food vendors at the event, which is expected to be attended by several astronomy and science clubs, including the Custer Institute, and professors and students from Stony Brook University and Suffolk Community College.

“We’re giving away thousands of dollars of prizes, door prize style,” store manager Robert Becker said. “The prizes are from donations from manufacturers. It should be a good time.”

As niche of a store as Camera Concepts is (one of the 30 largest dealers for telescopes and high-end optics in the nation), several of its customers from Patchogue have traveled across Long Island to make a purchase at the new location, making relocation less of an issue than it would be for stores of other specializations.

Once a business whose overhead costs could be covered by camera film development alone, Camera Concepts invested heavily into telescope sales in the late 1990s, when it recognized the digital age would hinder its camera revenue.

“When digital cameras came out, it killed the old business models, since the big stores, the Wal-Marts and whatnot, were selling them,” Becker said. “We had to reinvent ourselves. Astronomy is 70 to 80 percent of our business now.”

Today, a majority of the store’s sales are done online. Instead of competing against other photo shops, once a staple in every Long Island village, the company is competing with retailers across the country and around the globe.

“If this was 10-12 years ago, we would have never moved, because we were so dependent on the local business,” Norwood said. “Our internet business has increased exponentially. A lot of our business is done online. It almost doesn’t matter where we are. I always tell people, I could do this out of my garage if I really wanted to”

Suffolk County seeks septic system reform as brown tide worsens in Great South Bay

Originally published at The Osprey

comprehensive plan, released on Monday morning by Suffolk County executives, is seeking to fund action against harmful algal blooms (HABs) such as brown tide. The phenomenon, which devastated shellfish populations this summer, is primarily caused by nitrogen pollution from antiquated septic systems.

“More than 360,000 homes in Suffolk County rely on outdated cesspools and septic systems that do not treat properly wastewater to remove nitrogen, more than the entire state of New Jersey,” Dr. James Tomarken, Commissioner of Suffolk County Department of Health Services, said in a statement. An excess of nitrogen in the water allows for these algae to reproduce faster.

Brown tide levels reached a record 2.3 million cells per milliliter density in the Great South Bay this summer, according to September 2017 water quality report. Although non-toxic to humans, any amount over 50,000 cells per milliliter is harmful to shellfish, Dr. Christopher Gobler, a professor of Stony Brook University, said in the report.

Suffolk County implemented the Septic Improvement Program in July as an incentive for homeowners in need of septic tank replacement to buy an eco-friendly system with subsidized rates. To date, over 500 residents have applied to submit grant funding, which are worth up to $11,000.

“A conventional onsite septic system was never designed to remove nitrogen,” Reclaim Our Water, a group associated with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, said.

The increase in government action to combat this issue follows a brutal summer for shellfish, who, as filter feeders, are especially vulnerable to dense, toxic algae.

Click image to view slideshow.

Hart Shellfish, an oyster hatchery in Sayville, reported total mortality over a period of two and a half months. Over 8 million potential oyster seed died, a financial loss of at least $400,000.

“I’ve been working here five years, and the brown tide is always a problem,” Elizabeth Savage, the hatchery manager, said. “But this year there was just no keeping them alive. It was just too long.”

Moderate brown tide lasting one or two weeks is normal in the area, Savage said, and can be withstood using purified saltwater from an upwelling system and the hatchery’s self-grown algae to keep the seed alive.

The artificial habitat could only suffice for so long. This year, the algal bloom’s duration proved dire.

“You need nature,” Savage said. “You can’t mimic nature. There’s certain bacteria and things [in the bay] that exist that we have to give to them.”

In past years, Savage would have to scrub the hatchery’s drums and buckets of wildlife growing on them — copepods, barnacles and skeleton shrimp — twice a week. This year, the brown tide made the bay essentially lifeless.

“I didn’t have to clean these once this year,” she said, pointing to a pair of drums.

Great Atlantic Shellfish Farm in East Islip, which farms adult-sized clams and oysters, also took a toll from the brown tide.

Eighty to 90 percent of clams died over the summer. Under normal conditions, clam mortality is essentially zero.

“Our animals have been able to endure the brown tide in the past,” Joshua Perry, a marine biologist and algae specialist, said. “But this year it was so dense, and it lasted such a long time. It was terrible.”

In the 1970s, the Great South Bay clam population accounted for more than half the clams eaten in the entire United States, according to The Nature Conservancy. Today, the population borders extinction in the area.

“Back in the day, before the clams and everything were overharvested, the bay was able to filter itself every day or every couple of days,” Perry said. “Now it takes 30 days.”

The federal government has not yet given support for the problem, but Sen. Chuck Schumer said last week that he is pushing for some of the $100 million from the proposed “Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act” to be allocated for Long Island.

“Suffolk County has the very first comprehensive strategy ever developed to begin addressing the challenges of harmful algal blooms at a time when the federal government is poised to provide funding for that purpose.” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Monday in a statement. “The timing of our work could not be better.”

Long Island educators seek to increase classroom dialogue surrounding racial issues

By Skyler Gilbert and Joshua Milien

Education experts want teachers in diverse Nassau County high schools to examine national current events and have classroom dialogue addressing the current social and racial climate.

In late August, walls of Syosset High School were graffitied with swastikas and gang tags, the latest in a string of similar incidents around the county in the last year. In an unrelated event in June, Oceanside seniors distributed T-shirts with racial slurs.

The uptick in these crimes has been caused by the Trump administration’s apathy and tolerance toward extreme right ideologies, Hofstra teaching professor Alan J. Singer said. But he sees the behavior as a learning opportunity for students.

“What we need to do is to engage kids in understanding,” Singer, an expert in social studies education, said. “I don’t see [the Syosset incident] as a major disciplinary act; I see this as an educational opportunity into the meaning of these acts and what the implications are for people.”

Last month, thousands of insurgent alt-right protesters marched at the University of Virginia campus, donning swastikas and confederate flags, in support of a statue of general Robert E. Lee. Members of the group chanted, “Jews will not replace us.” According to a recent Morning Consult poll, one in five Trump supporters have a favorable impression of white nationalism.

Singer pointed to New York City’s recent commission about what to do with area statues and place names as an opportunity for community involvement for 12th grade government students. Smithtown, for instance, is named after a 17th century slaveholder.

“This is a perfect opportunity to not just study, but engage the kids in civic activism,” Singer said. “It doesn’t take kids off the curriculum, it enhances the curriculum.”

One issue in public rhetoric has been the decrease in nuanced, sophisticated argument and a reliance on name-calling, Cheryl Greenberg, a history professor at Trinity College said. She believes the onus is on the educator to demonstrate these skills.

“We, as teachers, should model appropriate civic behavior,” Greenberg, who also chairs the West Hartford School District board, said. “Teachers need to model what using facts as evidence looks like, what making an argument looks like, what kinds of evidence persuasion requires, those sorts of things

Multiple educators from Nassau County acknowledged the importance of using present-day talking points in class dialogue, although they lacked specificity in the implementation.

“It’s incredibly important our students study current events,” Thomas Troisi, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction at Valley Stream South School District, said. “We are supposed to be preparing young people for their place in the world. If we don’t, we’re selling them short.”

Following the Syosset incident, whose suspect is still at large, the district’s superintendent, Dr. Thomas Rogers, invoked the national trend in his denunciation of the actions.

“One need look no further than the nightly news to see that our nation’s broader commitment to tolerance is being tested,” Rogers said in a statement to the school community. “But I am convinced that Syosset’s dedication to diversity is not superficial. It was not created overnight, and it will not be easily undone by the overnight actions of a few.”

Long Island has great racial and political diversity in many of its school districts, particularly in Nassau County, according to data from U.S. News and World Report. Valley Stream South, for instance, is nearly equally divided across four races: 29 percent Hispanic, 26 percent black, 24 percent white and 21 percent Asian.

“It’s important we teach students how to work together,” Troisi said. “We have a very diverse student population and that foundation starts here.”

In a student body with political diversity, which stems from racial, ethnic and economic diversity, Greenberg said, racial dialogue and empathy are even more important.

“I think if you have a diverse classroom, regardless of what kind of diversity you’re talking about, you must talk about it, because they’re going to talk about it,” Greenberg said. “They have to understand the issues. That’s what school does; it educates us about issues.”