Tag Archive | "Greenport"

Pierson Win Sets Up Showdown for Class C Title

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Ian Barrett goes up for two of his 16 points against Greenport on Tuesday.

By Gavin Menu; photography by Michael Heller

By Gavin Menu

Here we go again, Whalers fans.

The Pierson boys basketball team will play rival Stony Brook for the second consecutive year with the Suffolk County Class C Championship on the line after the Whalers knocked off visiting Greenport, 63-41, in an outbracket game on Tuesday night.

Although Stony Brook is the top-seeded Class C team in the county, it will be the Whalers defending their crown tonight, February 14, at Westhampton Beach High School at 6:30 p.m. The Whalers won the title last year on a last second three-pointer by then-sophomore Forrest Loesch, who gave Pierson a 34-32 victory and its first county title in 18 years.

Stony Brook this season has steamrolled the League VIII competition and took an undefeated record into Pierson’s home gym for the regular season finale on February 7. Stony Brook rested three of its regular starters and the Whalers won, 57-45, to spoil the Bears’ perfect season. In the teams’ other meeting this year, Stony Brook won a nail biter, 51-50, back on January 15.

“Hopefully this time we will be up four with a minute left,” Pierson head coach Dan White said on Tuesday when asked whether he could handle another miraculous finish with so much on the line. “I can’t do that again.”

The Bears boast a powerful front line that could pose rebounding problems for the Whalers, who lack any significant height and struggled at times Tuesday night to secure defensive rebounds against Greenport.

Stony Brook got out to a fast start against Pierson in the teams’ first meeting this year and barely held on after a frantic charge by Pierson led by Forrest Loesch and his 23 points fell just short.  Pierson outscored the Bears, 36,27, in the fourth quarter but could not overcome a slow start in which they fell behind by 10 points in the first quarter.

Pierson on Tuesday was looking to avenge a loss to the Porters late last month and came out determined with 19 first-quarter points, 12 of which came from the hot hand of senior Jake Bennett, who finished the game with 18 points while also holding Greenport star Gavin Dibble to just five points in the second half and 11 overall. Bennett also had six rebounds, five assists and two steals in one of his best overall games of the season.

“Jake Bennett with another tremendous job tonight,” White said. “He not only held Dibble back from scoring, but he didn’t even allow him to get the ball a lot of the time, so they could not set up their offense.”

Ian Barrett had 16 points for the Whalers in his best game of the season since coming back from injury and senior forward Patrick Sloane chipped in with 14 points and eight rebounds as he, Bennett, Joey Butts, Aiden Kirrane and Liam Doyle played the last home game of their Pierson careers.

Senior Jackson Marienfeld had to sit out the game after receiving two technical fouls in the regular-season finale against Stony Brook, but he will be back in the line-up for tonight’s rematch with the Bears.

Loesch, who led the team in scoring this season, scored just seven points against Greenport. Butts had six assists in the game but also struggled shooting and finished with just three points, although he received nothing but praise from his head coach after the game had ended.

“I cannot find a better defender on the ball and he’s smart out there,” White said when asked about Butts, who was an All-League selection as a junior last year. “I love that kid and I’ll stick with him no matter what.”

Timmy Stevens led Greenport with 17 points and helped spark a second-half comeback when he and Dibble connected on back-to-back three-pointers to cut the Pierson lead to 34-29 early in the third quarter.

At that point, Sloane and sophomore Robbie Evjen began pounding the defensive glass, grabbing rebounds and forcing turnovers that led to easy baskets on the offensive end. Pierson quickly grew a four-point lead to 15 with an 11-0 run in the third quarter that essentially put the game out of reach.

“I thought we did a much better job in the half court offense, and allowing 41 points is always solid,” White said. “We’re back on track.”

Greenport AD Gulluscio Named Sag Harbor Athletic Director

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By Amanda Wyatt

Todd Gulluscio is a man used to wearing many hats. During his tenure in the Greenport School District, the Shelter Island native learned how to juggle responsibilities as its director of athletics, physical education department chair and dean of discipline.

This experience may serve Gulluscio well in January, when assumes his post as Sag Harbor’s new director of athletics, physical education, health, wellness and personnel.

Gulluscio was appointed to the position for the Sag Harbor School District at the board of education’s Monday, December 3 meeting, where he was warmly welcomed.

“This gentleman duly impressed me,” said Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim school superintendent. “He just has an enthusiasm that is infectious.”

“The lines that we received when we called for his references said, ‘You don’t have a good man. You have a great man,’” he added.

Chris Tice, vice president of the school board, said in January, the board would look for opportunities for parents and community members to meet with Gulluscio, such as at PTA and PTSA meetings. More information on times to meet with the new athletic director will appear on the school website at a later date, she said.

Gulluscio will serve a two year probationary term beginning January 2, 2013 and ending on January 2, 2015. He will earn a $90,000 salary annually.

For over seven years, Gulluscio has worked in the Greenport School District, and he has spent the past two and a half as its director of athletics. However, he said in an interview this week, teaching and playing sports have been his lifelong passions.

“Ever since I was a kid … [I knew] that’s what I wanted to do,” he said.

While attending Shelter Island High School, Gulluscio was an avid basketball and baseball fan. After graduation, Gulluscio headed to Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida, and while still an undergraduate, began coaching basketball, and eventually moved into coaching field hockey, soccer and other sports as well.

Gulluscio returned to the East End where he received a master’s degree in elementary education from Long Island University’s Southampton College, now Stony Brook Southampton. He also has an administration degree from Dowling College, as well as a permanent certificate in physical education.

A self-proclaimed “lifelong East Ender,” Gulluscio still lives on Shelter Island with his family. His wife, Jennifer, is a teacher in the Shelter Island school district, where his two children, Tyler and Caitlyn, attend elementary school.

Over the years, Gulluscio said he has noticed an increase in the variety of sports played at local schools.

“There are more travel leagues and more opportunities, actually, for kids than when I was growing up,” he said. “I think it’s fantastic, the amount of the opportunities there are for kids. I hope we can strengthen them.”

Gulluscio plans to do just that when assumes his new job next month. Still, he said he is aware that working in Sag Harbor will be a different ballgame than working in Greenport or even Shelter Island.

“When I get here in January, I’m really going to have to grasp hold of the Sag Harbor culture,” he said. “While they’re all small East End towns and villages, each one of them does things a little differently.”

“It may not necessarily be the biggest challenge, but it’s the first challenge,” Gulluscio said. “For me, it’s most important to assess where we are now when I come on board, and to listen to folks and see what the interests are.”

In addition to overseeing athletics, Gulluscio’s job will also involve a number of administrative duties. In this capacity, he will have to contend with new state mandates, such as Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR) and concussion management plans.

When asked whether he was concerned about how these new initiatives would affect his new job, Gulluscio said he wasn’t too worried.

“We’re all going through the process together, it’s not one thing on me,” he said. “For me, we’re all in this together — one big team.”

“I’m really looking forward to being here,” he added. “In January, I’m ready to hit the ground running.”

Schneiderman Praises County Budget as “Good for the East End”

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At the November 20 meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said lawmakers were surprised to learn that Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone had not vetoed a single budget amendment proposed by the legislature for the $2.8 billion 2013 budget.

In previous years, according to Schneiderman, former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy vetoed many changes proposed by the legislature to the budget submitted by the county executive.

“Not this year,” said Schneiderman. “There is a much greater level of cooperation between the two branches of government. We have come together to tackle the fiscal challenges that face the county as a team, and it’s paying off.”

Schneiderman said the county’s financial situation has improved greatly, in part because of what he called “difficult choices” the legislature has made including significant reductions in the county workforce. This year alone, Schneiderman said he and other lawmakers agreed to eliminate 700 positions from the county workforce.

Legislator Schneiderman served as a member of the Legislature’s Budget Working Group.

“The approved budget is good for the East End in many ways,” said Schneiderman who said this is the ninth county budget he has participated in without a general fund property tax increase.

“These are challenging times for everyone,” said Legislator Schneiderman. “It is our responsibility as elected officials to find ways to operate government without asking residents to contribute more.”

The county also increased dredging by $5 million for next year and increased the sales tax revenues distributed to East End police departments by $3.5 million while also decreasing the amount given to western Suffolk County by $17.2 million. Schneiderman said he has also secured an additional $113,500 in hotel tax revenues for East End museums and cultural centers, including Guild Hall, Bay Street Theater, Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center and the new Parrish Art Museum.

Schneiderman said money was also allocated for the renovation of the John A. Ward Memorial Windmill in Sag Harbor. A total of $218,500 was given in cultural funding to East End organizations.

The budget also established a $5 million emergency fund for Hurricane Sandy related repairs.


Privateer Lynx Hopes to Connect East Coast Communities

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On October 12 the Clipper Schooner Lynx docked on Sag Harbor’s Long Wharf, offering residents and visitors a peek into maritime life. The visit was part of a five-year mission which is taking the Lynx up and down the eastern seaboard in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.

As part of this celebration, the Privateer Lynx spent part of its journey collecting gifts in each port of call, to be delivered to its next destination in an effort to connect the seaside communities that welcome the Lynx into its harbors.

The Lynx is a recreation of an actual privateer of the same name built by Thomas Kemp in 1812 in Fell’s Point Maryland. According to Jeffrey Woods, the executive director of the Lynx educational foundation, she was one of the first ships to defend American freedom by evading the British naval fleet then blockading American ports. Despite being captured early in the war, naval engineers continued to study the Lynx design for later vessels.

During Tuesday night’s Sag Harbor Sag Harbor Village Board meeting, Southampton resident Dr. Alan Rice said the Lynx’s journey to Sag Harbor was successful, despite the rains that pummeled the ship during its first day on Long Wharf.

The Lynx’s primary function is purely educational, said Dr. Rice, and the foundation has expressed interest in making Sag Harbor a home during its northeast tours each summer and fall.

On Tuesday night, Dr. Rice delivered the village board a gift from Mystic, Connecticut chosen specifically for Sag Harbor Village — the book “America and the Sea: A Maritime History.” In turn, Dr. Rice sent with the Lynx a copy of “Keeping Time in Sag Harbor,” signed by various residents at The American Hotel during the ship’s weekend stay in the village, to be passed on to another seaside community on its journey.

“We hope this kind of exchange can continue,” said Dr. Rice.

Havens Beach Funding Possible

As the Village of Sag Harbor continues to move forward with plans for a remediation of Havens Beach —a plan literally a decade in the making — on Tuesday night the village board adopted a resolution naming it the lead agency in a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) of the proposal.

The village, through its planning consultant Inter-Science Research Associates, has proposed to dredge the ditch leading to Havens Beach, refill the area with clean sand and native plants and install a bio-filtration unit to combat stormwater entering the ditch leading to Sag Harbor’s lone bathing beach.

The village will seek a matching grant, upwards of $140,000, from Suffolk County, to help fund the project.

Update: Pierson Boys Soccer Clinch Playoff Berth

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Friday Update: The Pierson-Bridgehampton boys soccer team clinched a playoff berth on Thursday with a 2-1 road win over Stony Brook. Christian Bautista and John Chisholm scored goals for the Whalers and Alex Gurvich added an assist. Bautista also assisted on the goal by Chisholm and Ian Barrett made three saves in goal.

The Whalers (6-3-1) will play at Greenport tomorrow night and a win would assure the team of the third-seed in the Suffolk County Class C playoffs, which would mean an opening-round game against Southold on Wednesday, October 31. Undefeated Port Jefferson has locked up the top seed for the playoffs.

From Thursday’s edition:

By Gavin P. Menu

Potential has never been a problem for the Pierson-Bridgehampton boys soccer team. Consistently living up to that potential seems to be where the Whalers fall short.

“We’re capable of playing a beautiful kind of soccer,” head coach Peter Solow said late on Tuesday after the Whalers had defeated rival Ross, 3-1, in a chilly road game up Route 114. “These guys are capable of playing better than any team I’ve ever coached, but they’re not doing it on a consistent basis.”

Pierson (5-3-1, League VIII) dominated the action during an extremely physical game against Ross and moved one win away from clinching a berth in the Suffolk County Class C playoffs, which begin Wednesday, October 31.

Jack Fitzpatrick, Forrest Loesch and John Chisholm scored goals for Pierson, while Ross’s Ben Stein scored the lone goal for the Cosmos late in the second half, long after the game’s outcome had been determined.

Solow was not pleased with his team’s performance, however, and after the game pointed instead to the team’s 3-2 loss to Southold on October 10, saying it was “one of our most complete performances of the year.”  Solow said that kind of effort is required to propel the Whalers to the postseason, and even allow them some success once they arrive.

“That game could have gone either way,” Solow said of the game against Southold, which defeated Pierson twice this year and sits in second place behind undefeated Port Jefferson. “I always said right from the beginning of the season that we could match up well against them.”

The Southold game was tied, 2-2, late in the second half on Pierson goals by Christian Bautista and Alex Liro. The Settlers were awarded a free kick just outside the goal box with less than two minutes to play and Southold’s Cole Hiney scored on the ensuing play to take a lead that held up over the frantic final minute.

What Solow would like best is to win at least two of its remaining games against Greenport, Stony Brook and Port Jefferson, which in all likelihood would give the Whalers the third-seed in the Class C playoffs and a likely third meeting with Southold. Greenport, if it gets in with the fourth seed, would play top-ranked Port Jeff, which is also the defending New York State champion.

“I don’t want to go on the road and lose to Greenport and I don’t want to go on the road to lose to Stony Brook,” Solow told his players during an impassioned postgame speech. “And when Port Jefferson comes to our place on Tuesday, I want to beat them.”

In order to do that, however, Solow said the Whalers would have to play at their best, with all their different components working together. Bautista, the team’s senior captain, has been masterful at times running the team’s offense from the midfield, and has helped set up an abundance of scoring chances that far too often the team has been unable to capitalize on.

“Christian is the catalyst for almost everything we do,” Solow said when asked about the role Bautista plays. “The irony is that for everything he and Alex [Liro] and Giordan (Zeas) are able to do with setting us up, we’ve had 20 opportunities to score where we were one-on-one with the goalie and we didn’t put the ball on goal. That has to change against these better teams.”

The Whalers will play at Stony Brook today, October 18, at 4:30 p.m. and then at Greenport on Saturday night at 6 p.m. under lights. The regular-season finale against Port Jeff will be on Tuesday at Mashashimuet Park at 4:30 p.m.

Lady Whalers Also Have Chance at Playoffs

Clad in pink uniforms to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Pierson-Bridgehampton girls soccer team scored a 4-2 win over Ross at home on Monday to improve to 4-4-1 with three games remaining this week.

The Lady Whalers were 2-1 over the last week with a 1-0 loss to Southold-Greenport on Friday as the lone blemish. A 3-1 win over Mercy on October 11 coupled with the win over Ross on Monday will give the team a chance this week to claim a berth in the Suffolk County Class C playoffs.

Against Mercy, freshman Courtney Kinsella scored two goals and Zoe Diskin scored once. In the win over Ross, Sabrina Baum scored two goals while Vanessa Cruz and Sophie Gianis scored one goal apiece.

With a .500 record required in order to advance into the playoffs, Pierson will have to win two of its last three games against Stony Brook, Port Jefferson and Smithtown Christian. The first two games will be on the road, today at Stony Brook at 4:30 p.m. and at Port Jefferson on Friday at 4:30 p.m. The Lady Whalers, who are 0-2-1 against those teams so far this season, will close out the regular season at home on Monday against Smithtown Christian at 4:30 p.m.



Future of Sag Harbor-Greenport Ferry Service Unclear

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Whether or not the Peconic Bay Water Jitney — a passenger ferry service between Sag Harbor and Greenport that operated on a pilot season basis throughout the summer of 2012 — will be proposed for 2013 remains uncertain.

The passenger ferry service has been running since July after both Sag Harbor and Greenport villages green-lit a trial run in May. The Peconic Bay Water Jitney is a partnership between the Hampton Jitney and Response Marine’s Jim Ryan, who oversees the water Jitney between the villages. The Jitney seats 53 people below deck and has over 20 seats on the top deck.

The permit from the Village of Sag Harbor allows the service to run through October 31 when the temporary law allowing passenger ferry service from Long Wharf will sunset and ferry service will become illegal in Sag Harbor without board intervention.

Since the service started, the village has been studying the impact of the ferry service through its environmental planning consultants, Inter-Science Research Associates.

According to Inter-Science President Rich Warren, that study will not be completed until later this month.

According to Ryan, there has been no official discussions about the future of the ferry service while the Hampton Jitney awaits financial statistics about the ferry service expected later this month.

While Hampton Jitney vice-president Andrew Lynch did not return calls for comment this week, in last week’s edition of The Southampton Press, Hampton Jitney President Geoff Lynch stated the service generated less than $200,000 in revenue, with daily ridership around 200 passengers, short of the 300 to 350 the company originally said was necessary to keep the business afloat.

In that interview, Lynch said outside investors would likely be needed for the service to continue in 2013.

On Monday, Lynch said nothing was off the table and that he has personally met with investors regarding the future of the passenger ferry, which he said, despite rumors, has no intention of expanding to include a Connecticut launch to casinos, nor has any dream of making Sag Harbor Village a passenger ferry hub.

If anything, said Lynch, if the service moves forward, because of the lack of infrastructure in Sag Harbor it would look to a maritime port like Greenport to become a hub, but that even for 2013, the company was simply not there yet.

If they do want to move forward in 2013, the Peconic Bay Water Jitney will need the approval, again, of the Suffolk County Legislature as well as the village boards in Sag Harbor and Greenport.

In Sag Harbor, if the Peconic Bay Water Jitney hopes to operate outside of a conditional license it will likely need approval from not only the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees, but also the Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee, its planning board and potentially its zoning board of appeals.

A Solar Stove for Haiti

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By Amanda Wyatt

While Bridgehampton School has long been committed to the environment, a group of students and teachers are embarking on a new quest to make the future even greener.

The Bridgehampton InvenTeam, made of 12 high school students and two science teachers, is hard at work to develop a solar-powered cooker. The team has been meeting since the end of last school year, when they entered to win a $10,000 grant from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop the project.

While the team successfully moved through the first part of the grant application and received “glowing reviews” on their proposal for the project, they were saddened to discover early this week that they would not be recipients of the grant.

Despite this setback, teacher Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz said the InvenTeam is “going to carry on” to try to develop the solar-cooker to the best of their ability.

“I do have students who want to continue, and that was really heartening to hear,” she said. “We’re going to plug ahead and see what we can do.”

While the students will probably not be able to build the cooker without funding, they are still working on the design and the technology behind the stove.

Carmack-Fayyaz added that the students “should all be proud of being part of a very dynamic and successful team.”

She noted that over a quarter of high school students at the Bridgehampton School are involved in the project. Not only did they give up their lunch breaks to work on the invention, said Carmack-Fayyaz, but they also met every week over the summer to brainstorm.

The $10,000 prize money would have allowed for the creation of a large, solar-powered stove, which was designed for communities where people earn less than two dollars a day. The InvenTeam, which has been working closely with Wings over Haiti founder Jonathan Glynn, planned to send their finished product to Haiti.

Originally, the solar-powered stove is designed for an institutional setting, such as a school, hospital or refugee camp. However, Carmack-Fayyaz said the InvenTeam might modify the design so that it has a wider application.

The school has been involved with Wings over Haiti for several years. In 2011, then-senior Aprillina Setyawati traveled to Haiti and used what she learned about agriculture in school to build a vegetable garden on the Wings over Haiti grounds.

Setyawati’s younger brother, Aditya Nugraha, is now a senior and a member of the InvenTeam. In fact, it was Nugraha who discovered a YouTube video that inspired the group’s invention.

The video showed how to heat a pool using a heat sink and a Fresnel lens, which “had nothing to do with cooking,” Glynn said. “We were trying to take an idea and make it better and more socially applicable.”

Nugraha dismantled his computer to find components for the heat sink, and the team began building a contraption that used the Fresnel lens – a low mass lens with a large aperture and short focal length, to trap sunlight and focus it on a heat-sink filled with water.

They hope to use this idea to create a sustainable, environmentally friendly way of heating food.

“I think it’s a really good idea not just to help people in third world countries, but here in the United States,” said senior Bryzeida Perez. “Maybe it could even work for us here, depending on how far we get with it and how well it works.”

As teacher Helen Wolfe noted, experimentation and uncertainty were part of the beauty of the project.

“We don’t know what the results are going to be, and experimentation is a big part of it,” she said. “That’s why it’s good. It’s giving [the students] a different slant on using science and using what [they] know, and doing research, which [they] don’t do a lot of in school.”

The students have also been enjoying the experience.

“I got interested in doing it because it has to do with a lot of imagination,” said senior Josh Hostetter.

“I think the science of it is pretty awesome,” added senior Vanessa Cruz.

Sophomore Hailey Lund agreed.

“I like the idea of helping out people that don’t have as much as we do — making a difference.”

Sag Harbor Community Coalition Debates Accuracy of Teen Substance Abuse Survey

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By Amanda Wyatt

Two months after new statistics on drug and alcohol use among Pierson Middle/High School students sent shockwaves across Sag Harbor, the Community Coalition met last Thursday night to discuss the results of the survey which triggered such a strong reaction.

Roughly 20 citizens gathered in the Pierson Middle/High School library for the third Community Coalition on the evening of September 27. While other items were on the agenda, the coalition devoted the span of the meeting to addressing the Youth Development Survey (YDS).

The YDS, which was administered to 339 Sag Harbor students in grades seven through 12 in December 2010, was part of a larger effort by the New York Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to look at substance use and other “problem behaviors” among students.

At last week’s meeting, Kym Laube, director of the Westhampton Beach-based organization HUGS, Inc. (Human Understanding and Growth Seminars), presented a summary of the YDS data. Before handing out hard copies of the data, she stressed the survey does not provide a complete picture of Sag Harbor students.

“I caution that this is one data point in beginning to take a look at your community,” said Laube, noting that it does not paint a complete picture of Sag Harbor students.

The merits of the survey have been hotly debated, with some residents questioning the accuracy of the survey and suggesting that numbers of drug and alcohol use were inflated.

According to Laube and Pamela Mizzi of the Suffolk County Prevention Resource Center, the survey used a number of data controls, including a question about a fake drug. If any student indicated they had used the imaginary drug, the survey was omitted.

Researchers also tossed surveys that appeared “extreme,” had conflicting answers and/or included doodles.

Principal Jeff Nichols estimated 400 students probably took the survey and that roughly 60 surveys were omitted for various reasons.

Still, the accuracy of the survey continued to be questioned by some. Dr. John Oppenheimer said that in the 30 years he had been practicing medicine he had become “more and more cynical” about data collection.

“I don’t think it’s unique to Sag Harbor,” he said.  “The point is that there’s a problem.”

“I agree with John that whether it’s five percent or 22 percent, it’s a problem and it needs to be addressed,” added Allison Scanlon, a North Haven parent and founder of Hamptons Youth Sports.

For Police Chief Tom Fabiano, the survey was “a stepping stone.” He mentioned that Sag Harbor could use the data as a tool for identifying the problems in the community and looking at what other communities are doing that is effective.

At the same time, Laube noted, “Time and time again, no matter how [researchers] have done this, they’ve found that it’s accurate information.”

Laube said the data was consistent, although Pierson students ranked higher or lower than their county, town and nationwide counterparts on certain questions.

For example, no Pierson eighth grader had reported using marijuana in the past 30 days, compared to eight percent nationally. Only two percent of Pierson eighth graders had used tobacco in the past 30 days, lower than six percent nationally.

However, Pierson students generally reported greater use of alcohol than their counterparts in Southampton Town, Suffolk County and in the nation.

For example, 77 percent of Pierson seniors reported using alcohol in the past 30 days, compared to 57 percent in the county and 41 percent nationally. And while 22 percent of 11th and 12th graders reported binge drinking nationally, 41 percent of Pierson juniors and seniors reported they binge drank.

Community Coalition participant Helen Atkinson-Barnes suggested the coalition take a “pro-social messaging” approach to dealing with the data. For instance, rather than reporting 39 percent of eighth graders have had at least one alcoholic drink in their lifetime, the coalition could focus on the 61 percent who have never consumed alcohol.

The discussion on drugs and alcohol will continue at the next Community Coalition meeting, which is scheduled for October 18 at 5:45 PM.

Finding Culture at Plant & Sing

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By Emily J. Weitz

In the five years since Sylvester Manor’s Plant & Sing was first conceived, it has evolved from a harvest festival to an all-inclusive celebration of food on the East End.

“The culture of food is really the big thing at Sylvester Manor,” says Bennett Konesni, executive director of the Shelter Island farm and 15th generation descendent of Sylvester Manor’s original family. “We’re looking at what a food system really looks like – the music, the poetry, the plays, the dishes and restaurants, the farm work and the yoga. We are saying that food doesn’t have to be just a thing on your plate.”

And it’s through celebrating the many facets of food that Konesni believes people can get back in touch with their environment.

“We’ve lost something really major – that deep connection to the land and the things that live on the land,” he says. “It used to be that people knew what things were blooming at which time and which trees had good wood for different uses. That has been lost with industrialization.”

Plant & Sing started out as a way to bring people back into that realm of knowledge. By inviting their neighbors onto the farm and teaching them how to plant garlic or pick a banjo, the Sylvester Manor crew found that they could help people develop that connection, not just to the land, but to life itself.

“People are starting to come to taste our tomatoes and sweet peppers,” says Konesni, “to embrace this place in its new form… It’s really gratifying. To have this place where people can come and nourish themselves with food and fun, and start living the life they want to live by taking music lessons or having a fresh pie. This is a place where it is not unusual to have a positive attitude and enjoy life and music and the fruits of human culture.”

One person for whom this message resonated deeply was Béla Fleck, the Grammy Award-winning banjo player who will be headlining Plant & Sing this year. Fleck has been nominated in more categories than any other musician in Grammy history, and has taken home 13 Grammy Awards.

“He thinks what we’re doing is a great idea,” says Konesni, “so he is donating this performance. The festival will be held on the lawn by the water, looking out over Gardiner’s Creek behind the manor house.”

Because of the historical significance of this setting, Konesni believes Fleck’s performance will be especially powerful.

“In the 1600s, ships used to sail in here to empty their cargo of sugar and molasses and rum, and also slaves. This was a slave plantation. And slaves brought the banjo to this country,” he adds. “So to have Béla playing the banjo, in this place where Europeans and Africans and Native Americans were exchanging culture and technology in a real way… The banjo is symbolic.”

He believes the music is also a way to put the realities of perhaps the most difficult chapter of this country’s history into perspective.

“How do you begin to understand what slavery has meant for American history and what it’s meant to this site?” he asks. “You call attention to it and start to think about what the Africans brought here, and the ways our cultures are intertwined just by having this music around.”

In addition to the profundity of having a master banjo player on these grounds, Konesni is excited because, as a musician himself, Fleck is a personal hero.

“He’s driven a lot of my own musical direction,” says Konesni. “He’s been to Africa and traveled all over hunting down the origins of the banjo. He’s a musical polymath, and so humble and kind and fun. We are really lucky.”

And it’s the connections that ultimately form the essence of Plant & Sing — connections to the land, connections to the music and connections to the history.

“It’s about those cultural things that come straight from the soil and the land itself,” says Konesni. “Our pigs are heritage pigs. The music is heritage music. The furniture is heritage furniture, and the ideas are heritage ideas. They need to be updated, of course, but they are old ideas that resonate. I feel so lucky to be living on an island with neighbors that support that alignment and these ideas.”

What’s Happening at Plant & Sing

Saturday will be jam-packed at Sylvester Manor with a Literary Lounge running from noon to 6 p.m. Featured writers, poets and playwrights include Quail Hill farm’s director and poet Scott Chaskey reading from his new book “Seedtime” at 1:30 p.m., Megan Chaskey and the Green Theater Collective at 3 p.m., Kathy Lynch and Christian McLean reading at 4:30 p.m., and Tom Leopold and Bill Persky sharing Food Stories and Songs at 5:15 p.m.

There will be a film screening of “Greenhorns: 50 Dispatches from the New Farmers’ Movement,” at 7 p.m.

Music will start at 1 p.m. Saturday with the Who Dat Loungers, followed by 10 other acts ranging from bluegrass to Gothic Americana. Headliners Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn take the stage at 6 p.m.

Farm events will also take place throughout the day, including sunrise yoga with Heidi Folkine at 6 a.m., the sweet potato harvest from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., a nature hike at 10 a.m. and a tour of the historic grounds at 2 p.m. A traditional contra barn dance will start at 9 p.m., followed by late night garlic shucking from 10 p.m. to midnight.

Sunday will be a simple day of yoga at 6 a.m., followed by garlic planting from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

CfAR Presents $5,000 to East Hampton Town Trustees

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This past weekend offered prime September beach days and on Sunday, a not-for-profit dedicated to ensuring all residents in East Hampton Town have the right to continue enjoying the town’s beaches, handed an oversized check to the town trustees in an effort to fulfill their mission.

On Sunday, September 23 Citizens for Access Rights or “CfAR” presented a check for $5,000 to the East Hampton Town Trustees at their Bluff Point Road, Amagansett headquarters during the trustees’ annual largest clam contest. The funds are designated to be used to help in the defense of current lawsuits that have been filed by some waterfront homeowners in an effort to privatize a popular public bathing beach off the Napeague Stretch.

This is the second $5,000 check CfAR has presented to the town trustees. The not-for-profit’s first donation was made in October 2011.

“If we can keep doing this year after year we should be able to at least make a dent in the kind of funding the trustees need in this effort,” said CfAR board member Nicole Starr Castillo on Monday.

CfAR was founded by a group of East End residents who support open access to local beaches. In response to two lawsuits in which private individuals are claiming to own the ocean beach at Napeague, CfAR has come together to support the trustees, the East Hampton Town Board and any other governmental body willing to oppose the privatization of local beaches. CfAR is not affiliated with any political party and its objectives include the preservation of residents’ right to enjoy local beaches and donating funds to the town trustees for beach stewardship.

For more information on CfAR, visit www.citizensforaccessrights.com.