Tag Archive | "jacqui lofaro"

Film Explores The Woman Behind Secretariat

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Penny Chenery Tweedy with Secretariat. Secretariat.com

By Stephen J. Kotz

Few horses have captured the public’s imagination like Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner, whose success made its owner, Penny Chenery Tweedy, the public face of horse racing. With the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby this weekend, the Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival will present the East Coast premiere of a documentary that explores the life of the famous champion’s owner, who was a trailblazer herself in a sport long dominated by men.

“Penny & Red: The Story of Secretariat’s Owner,” which is directed by Ms. Tweedy’s son, John Tweedy, will be screened at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Bay Street Theatre. The screening will follow a “Triple Crown Benefit” lunch and silent auction of Secretariat memorabilia that will take place at noon at The American Hotel and raise money for the film festival and two charitable organizations dedicated to the welfare of horses, Amaryllis Farm Equine Rescue and the Secretariat Foundation.

Jacqui Lofaro, the director of the film festival, said the idea for turning the event into a three-way fundraiser was a natural. Amaryllis, run by Christine Distefano, which now has eight locations on Long Island, has several of Secretariat’s offspring among its rescued horses, and Ms. Tweedy founded the Secretariat Foundation.

Mr. Tweedy, who has enjoyed a long career as a documentary filmmaker, and Bill Nack, a former Newsday reporter who covered horse racing and wrote, “Secretariat: The Making of a Champion,” will attend both events and take part in a question-and-answer session following the screening.

“I realized my mother was getting older and her story needed to be told,” said Mr. Tweedy in a telephone interview this week. “It transformed my mother’s life—she became the human face and voice of Secretariat. And she transformed how thoroughbred owners interacted with fans.”

Ms. Tweedy was a child of self-made man who first made a fortune in New York before rescuing the old family farm, The Meadow in Doswell, Virginia, from foreclosure and transforming it into a horse farm. Ms. Tweedy, who worked in New York during World War II, was studying for an MBA at Columbia University when she got married. At her father’s request, she dropped out of school a month before graduating.

She moved with her husband, a successful lawyer, to Denver, where he became one of the founders of Vail as a skiing center. In the film, Ms. Tweedy who is now in her 90s, admitted that she was unhappy in her marriage and frustrated with her role as a housewife. When her father became ill in the late 1960s, she had her escape. She began splitting her time between her family, in Denver, and the horse farm in Virginia.

In 1972, she began a streak of remarkable success, when her horse Riva Ridge won both the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes.  But those accomplishments would pale in comparison to what would transpire just a year later.

Entering the season, Secretariat was considered a potential star, and Ms. Tweedy was able to syndicate the breeding rights for more than $6 million, an unheard of sum at the time and enough to rescue the family horse farm, which had been running losses for several years.

In the Kentucky Derby, jockey Ron Turcotte guided Secretariat from the back of the pack to a two-length win. At the Preakness, Secretariat showed a remarkable, and sustained, burst of speed in the back stretch to move from dead last to an easy victory. But it was at the Belmont, the grueling mile-and-a-half race that foils so many Triple Crown hopefuls that Secretariat enjoyed his greatest triumph, obliterating a small field of only five contenders to win by an astounding 31 lengths and shave more than two seconds off the track record.

Mr. Tweedy said that because at the time, America had been torn apart by anti-war protests, the beginning of the Watergate scandal and other problems, “there was a hunger in the culture for an uncomplicated hero.” And Secretariat fit the bill.

“We would get 250 pieces of fan mail day,” Mr. Tweedy said, adding that Secretariat was on the cover of Time, Sports Illustrated, and Newsweek in the same week. The horse, he added, was a natural ham, straightening up and posing when he heard the click of a camera.

“It was a very cathartic opportunity to talk about and explore issues that we hadn’t talked about as mother and son,” he said of making the film. It was also very much an opportunity for my siblings.”

“She was extremely capable and interested in business and she was passionate to have her own career,” said Mr. Tweedy of his mother. “She did have a heroic journey, but the back story was not known to the public.”

Tickets to the Triple Crown Benefit luncheon at the American Hotel are $125 and include admission to the film. Tickets for the film only are $15. For more information visit HT2FF.com or info@ht2ff.com or call Bay Street Theatre at 631-725-9500.

Bid to Replace Guy-Wire with Monopole Moves Ahead in Noyac

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By Claire Walla

Plans to replace a 203-foot guy-wire tower that stretches up out of the hills of Noyac with a 190-foot monopole have slid through the Southampton Town Planning Board without a hitch. Last Thursday, March 8 the public hearing on the application (by AT&T and Verizon Wireless, LLC) was officially closed.

After a 10-day comment period, the planning board will reconvene to discuss the written report submitted by town planner Claire Vail.

“The guy-wire pole was much larger and less attractive,” said planning board member Jacqui Lofaro.

The board has 60 days in which to make a decision. The application is tentatively scheduled to be discussed by the board at its April 26 meeting.

The property in question belongs to Noyac resident Myron Levine, whose house sits on an adjoining piece of property just off Middle Lane Highway. According to Levine, the cell-tower swap is a win-win for all parties: it replaces a large wiry tower with a less-imposing pole, and the new structure will allow for more wireless carriers to put antennae in the area.

“AT&T has already decided to come onto this tower, so one benefit already is that you’ll have Verizon and AT&T,” he said. Currently, the tower only carries signals for Verizon.

Levine said that after the board makes its decision in April, he’ll have to file for a building permit for the new monopole and then construction can begin. Vail confirmed the whole replacement process should take about two months to complete.

“Everyone anticipates that probably by the end of the summer the tower will be up and the other will be down,” Levine continued.

The current structure — in the shape of a capitol ‘H’ with a cross bar on top — was erected sometime in the 1940s as a radio tower. AT&T eventually acquired the structure, which now only sends cell-phone signals. But, it wasn’t until Levine actually purchased the property in 2008 that the plan to replace the old model with a newer monopole was enacted.

According to a presentation on the project from Verizon Wireless, LLC the monopole will hold all of its antennae internally. So, in addition to being far shorter than the current structure, it will never have to branch out vertically to accommodate more carriers. The pole would have room for up to six different carriers at one time.

As part of Verizon’s presentation on the proposed monopole, the company worked with Creative Visuals, Inc. to produce computer generated imaging that shows the visual impacts of a monopole as opposed to the current structure.

The company took pictures from 16 different vantage points, including stretches of Noyac Road, Long Beach and the Jordan Haerter Memorial Bridge. The company concluded that — when swapping the guy-wire tower for the monopole — the proposed monopole improved the Noyac vista.

Can You Hear Me Now, Bridgehampton?

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By Claire Walla

According to Lawrence Ré, an attorney for AT&T, the company has searched high and low in Bridgehampton for an existing site at which to place a new cell tower.

“We’ve been looking since 2008,” he said. “We thought the best spot would be the fire house, and repeated attempts were made to see if we could lease space on the tower there.”

“Attempts were also made to go into church steeples,” he continued. However, he said those efforts proved fruitless.

Now, AT&T is eying a 16,213-square-foot parcel off Foster Road (near the train tracks and Butter Lane) to place a new cell phone tower. The structure would be a monopole, meaning all antennae would exist in the interior of the pole, but — without an existing structure to attach itself to — the proposed 120-foot tower would sit in an open lot within the hamlet’s business district.

Ré went on to explain at a Southampton Town Planning Board meeting last Thursday, January 26 that AT&T’s service gap fades west of Butter Lane and one mile to the east of the proposed cell tower property on Foster Avenue.

Cell phone towers “really have to be [placed] every mile, to a mile-and-a-half,” he continued. “Your phone is only eight-tenths of a watt, that’s really low power.”

(AT&T is also proposing to place a 120-foot tall monopole on a 71,000-square-foot parcel on Seabreeze Avenue in Westhampton.)

While Ré explained that the tower could be reduced to a height of 90 feet, AT&T has proposed making the pole 120 feet in order to give it the capacity to take-on other wireless carriers, like Sprint, Verizon or T-Mobile. He also added that 120 feel is well within the threshold of 200 feet required for a cell tower to be built near the East Hampton Airport.

However, according to town planner Claire Vail, the proposed height does not currently meet the “fall zone” requirements mandated by town code. But, she added that the town does prefer industrial zones to residential areas for such structures. So, the Southampton Town Planning Board would be able to issue a variance for the structure, if it chose to go ahead with the project.

Board member Jacqui Lofaro asked whether AT&T had considered installing a Distributed Antennae System (DAS) instead of a monopole. (DAS is a way of transporting wireless signals through a collection of small, black boxes that are evenly distributed throughout a community. DAS also operates at a lower frequency.)

However, Ré said people tend to object to DAS. Signals only penetrate 30 or 40 feet from the DAS antenna. And while this system may work in heavily concentrated areas like Manhattan, Ré said, “If a house is set-back 100 feet from the road, it would still get marginal service.”

While Ré acknowledged that the site AT&T is now eyeing for the monopole is not ideal, he said it’s relatively far from residences.

“That’s why we ended up here, it’s an industrial area,” he continued. “We’re trying to remain away from as many houses as we can.”

Though the Hayground School is also in proximity to the site, Ré noted that it’s roughly 1,300 feet away.

“On Long Island, no matter where we pick, there’s always something 1,300 feet away!” he joked. “Again, this wasn’t our first choice, but it really seems like we’ve run into a dead end.”

In other news…

The Southampton Town Planning Board passed a resolution to commence a SEQRA report for the demolition of an existing 203-foot cell tower on a property in Noyac. The decades-old tower — currently a structure made of two large metal beams connected by two large crossbars — would be replaced by a 190-foot monopole.

“The Last Fix” Found with East End Drug Courts

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web Judge and Jacquie Hug

In the criminal court system, there is often a barrier between judge and defendant. The judge speaks directly to the lawyers, and rarely to the accused.

But almost 10 years ago, Southampton Town Justice Deborah Kooperstein lobbied for a different approach to handling drug offenses and offenders. She went on to establish the East End Regional Intervention Court in 2004 as a way to blend accountability with treatment. Her work is featured in a new documentary “The Last Fix,” which documents three addicts’ journeys through the East End drug courts.

Above: Southampton Town Justice Deborah Kooperstein hugs one of the graduates of the East End drug courts.

In a final scene in the film, Dave, one if the recovered addicts, is graduating from the program and giving a speech. As Dave thanks Judge Kooperstein, who is sitting next to him, her eyes well with tears. When he finishes his speech, the pair hug as the other graduates and court coordinator cheer Dave on.

The East End drug courts, which are located in Riverhead and Southampton, offer a novel way in handling drug related crimes, explained “The Last Fix” director Jacqui Lofaro, who co-directed and co-produced the film with Victor Teich. The documentary sheds a spotlight on the effectiveness of the drug courts through a local lens. Lofaro adds that 2,200 similar drug courts have mushroomed across the country in all 50 states. However, the courts remain under funded and in need of expansion.

“The Last Fix” not only highlights the work of the drug courts, but offers an indictment of “the war on drugs” and the conventional method of handling drug cases.

“It is different than the justice system which is based on punishment. The drug courts are therapeutic jurisprudence,” noted Lofaro.

In the East End drug court, non-felon drug offenders sign a contract to enroll in the program. A judge, who volunteers his or her time, a court coordinator, a probation officer, an assistant district attorney, a private defense lawyer, a legal aid bureau chief and other treatment advisers all work on the drug offender’s case and help in formulating an appropriate treatment plan.

This team also decides who to accept into the program. The team can make a number of different recommendations, from making the offender move into a sober living house or enroll in a rehabilitation program as well as be subjected to periodic drug testing. If a defendant relapses during the program, they must start at the beginning of their treatment plan. Where rehabilitation programs last around 30 days, some defendants are in the drug court program for over two years.

Of the intimate bonds formed by the offender and the judge during the process, Lofaro explains, “The judge becomes a compassionate mother or father figure. They [the defendants] are accountable to this person. They speak on a weekly basis about their lives. They have never really had that before … a judge saying ‘tell me how your week went.’ The judge is interested in them.”

In “The Last Fix,” Lofaro and Teich focused their attention on the stories of three recovered addicts: Jacquie, a mother of three who was addicted to crack-cocaine, Dave, a plumber and small business owner who had a $3,000 a week habit, and Matt, a young graduate of Southampton High School who, despite having succeeded in sports, spiraled into a life of addiction as a teenager.

“For me, they represented a cross section of humanity,” said Lofaro. “Matt is represented as the youth figure. Dave is strong and articulate. He had great leadership skills and was very successful in business but had an inability to recognize his addiction. Jacquie was extraordinary in the film in the way she pulled herself out of addiction. Her husband Tommy said the drug court didn’t only give him back Jacquie but it gave him back his family.”

These three locals tell their stories of addiction from the beginning to the end, but all note a moment of epiphany when they finally decided to kick their habit. For Jacquie, it came after an arrest in front of her family. As Matt was about to go on a night-long bender, he found himself accidentally locked in a bathroom and after 20 minutes decided to turn a new leaf. During the film, these recovered addicts spare no uncomfortable or humiliating details when telling their stories.

“They peeled away their skin. They were willing … They said, ‘If this film could make a difference and help even on addict than it is worthwhile,’” remarked Lofaro.

The drug courts are astonishingly effective in reducing the rates of recidivism, or re-arrests. Of the 100 East End drug court graduates, only three have been arrested again. At a time when the nation’s prisons are overcrowded and one out of every 200 Americans are in jail, the drug courts could help in reducing the number of incarcerations and save money in court and prison expenses, observed Lofaro. As shown in the film, Dr. Joseph Califano, Jr., who is the president of the national center on addiction and substance abuse at Columbia University, said nearly 80 percent of the felons and juvenile criminals currently in prison carried out their crimes under the influence of drugs or alcohol, were known users of drugs or stole in order to pay for their addiction.

“As for the East End courts, more than 50 percent of cases are drug related. It has been a shift in the last 15 years. The drug cases have come to dominate the criminal court calendars in all five towns,” noted Judge Kooperstein in an interview.

Lofaro hopes “The Last Fix” will serve as both film and educational tool. She would like to preview it at local schools, to community organizations and lawyers’ associations. The film will be accompanied with a discussion guide.

Lofaro and Teich were just awarded a grant from the Suffolk County Film Commission in conjunction with the Tribeca Film Institute. With the new money, the film making team will add an additional six minutes of footage.

Lofaro calls “The Last Fix” a documentary-in-progress but it will be shown as part the Hamptons Take Two Film Festival at Bay Street Theatre this Sunday.

“A good documentary has the ability to engage people in that topic of conversation,” said Lofaro. “People need to talk about this.”

“The Last Fix” will be shown at the Hamptons Take Two Film Festival on Sunday, November 22, at the Bay Street Theatre on Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. Four documentaries will be screened beginning at 1 p.m. Admission is by donation. Call 537-3361 for details.