Tag Archive | "Stony Brook Southampton"

Robert Reeves

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Stony Brook Southampton’s conferences in writing, children’s literature, screenwriting and now playwriting are in full swing and Robert Reeves, director of both the Southampton Writers Conference and the MFA in writing and Literature Program at Stony Brook Southampton, tells us what is new this year, ways the community can enjoy the fruits of the students’ labor and how the program will evolve.

 

What is different about this year’s conference and what has remained the same?

What’s new? We’ve added a Playwriting Conference this summer that runs concurrently with the other conferences throughout the month of July. We’re also sponsoring in residence a distinguished theater company, Ensemble Studio Theatre (EST). EST will be working with our playwriting workshops, developing their own work, and presenting two staged readings open to the public. That’s something else new — evening events. We have many more theater events this summer in our newly renovated Avram Theater.

What’s the same? As it happens, for the past two years, with Stony Brook University as the new institutional parent for the Southampton campus, one constant has been our continuous growth. The MFA in Writing and Literature sponsors a range of programs, including the summer conferences, and all of these are growing in scope, quality, and reputation. In addition to adding Conferences in Screenwriting, Children’s Literature, and Playwriting, we’ve turned The Southampton Review into a first-rate literary journal. We’ve begun the Young American Writers Project (YAWP), and we will be expanding our offerings the in the fall. We’re building a significant presence at the Stony Brook facility in Manhattan, so students can earn an MFA by combining course work in Manhattan and Southampton.

 

The faculty this year is especially strong. How do you put together your list of faculty?

Our faculty has always featured writers and teachers of the first rank. This summer there are simply more of them. What is common to all members of our faculty is this: they are accomplished, working writers who enjoy teaching and are good at it. We also have a family feel to our group, and our writers actually like each other. As for recruiting, it’s not difficult to entice writers to come to the Hamptons. Our reputation for attracting very talented students doesn’t hurt, either.

 

It seems as if there are also a number of local writers (Alan Alda, Marsha Norman, Emma Walton Hamilton) on the faculty this year. Was this a conscious choice?

We’ve always drawn on the enormous reservoir of talent on the East End, writers who live here either year-round or part-time. Roger Rosenblatt has been a mainstay of MFA faculty, along with Ursula Hegi, Melissa Bank, Marsha Norman, Alan Alda, Jules Feiffer, Lou Ann Walker, and Julie Sheehan, among many others. Just in the past year we’ve recruited local screenwriter and producer Annette Chandler to develop our screenwriting program, as well as theater luminaries Emma Walton Hamilton and Steve Hamilton to lead the playwriting effort. The result is we’ll have many distinguished playwrights, actors, and screenwriters joining us: Craig Lucas, Emily Mann, Robert Brustein, Lanford Wilson, Andrew Bienan, Christina Lazaridi, Ken Friedman, Peter Reigert, Alec Baldwin, Jon Robin Baitz.

 

Has the recession led to decreased enrollment and how is the college handling that?

I wasn’t sure what to expect with the dire economic news, but as it happens, we have the highest enrollment ever for this summer, with over 240 students registered, and dozens of faculty and distinguished visitors. Students apply to particular workshops — the novel, poetry, creative nonfiction, for example — and admission is competitive by writing sample. This summer most of our workshops have been filled with waiting lists for some time now. How to explain this? We may be at a time when people are assessing what is truly important, and in our view, there is nothing more important or lasting or meaningful than the creative process that leads to literary art.

 

At the close of the workshops, is there an opportunity for the students to share their work with the community?

The participant reading is on the last Saturday of the conference, July 25. It’s a daylong reading and all members of all workshops read, and the playwriting workshops put together special staged performances. In many ways, it is the most memorable single day of the conference. Unfortunately, it is restricted to workshop participants. The evening before, Friday, July 24, is the launch of The Southampton Review, featuring a reading by faculty member, and former US Poet Laureate, Billy Collins. For members of the community, that is one not to be missed.

 

Every year it seems the Southampton Writers’ Program expands to encompass new forms (most recently, screenwriting and children’s literature). How do you expect the program to evolve in the future?

We’ll be growing in many ways, but here are two areas in particular: Our “Manhattan Track” for the MFA promises to be hugely successful, offering the opportunity to earn an MFA by combining course work at Stony Brook Manhattan during fall and spring terms, with summer work at Stony Brook Southampton. Given the quality of our faculty, and the affordability of state tuition, I can’t think of another program that can match that.

Our second area of growth will be in collaboration with our new Dean and Vice President, Dr. Mary Pearl, a truly exceptional leader whose vision for science and the arts puts us very much at the forefront of interdisciplinary education. Our first step is to design for Southampton undergraduates an innovative minor in creative writing.

Author, Author! Young writers hone their craft at Stony Brook Southampton

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Rehearsals got underway in earnest earlier this week, and as lighting technicians scaled ladders and inserted gels, costuming choices were made and the sound system adjusted. On stage, Ben Stein and Madeline Kiss, a pair of middle school students from Ross School, worked with director Stephen Hamilton on blocking as they ran through the lines of “Unholy Night,” a play written by fellow student Jon Lesser.

This Saturday at 7 p.m., Ben, Madeline and other students from five area middle schools — including Pierson — will present nine original short plays, the culminating event of a seven week workshop which began in February. 

This scene of local students working with seasoned theater professionals is a familiar one — for more than a decade, Bay Street Theatre has offered the Young Playwrights Program in which middle and high schoolers create and produce their own original plays. What’s different this time around is that the theater in question is not Bay Street, but rather the Avram Theater at Stony Brook Southampton.

It’s all part of YAWP (Young American Writers Project) a new component of Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA in Writing and Literature program. This weekend’s middle school performance represents the first public event for YAWP, which is designed to bring all forms of writing into the classroom via teaching artists who work with students in honing their ideas into viable pieces. 

If the idea is familiar, so too are the principals involved in the new venture — several of them came to Stony Brook after leaving Bay Street Theatre last year. YAWP’s executive director is Emma Walton Hamilton (a co-founder of Bay Street along with her husband, Stephen Hamilton) and YAWP’s program director is Will Chandler, Bay Street’s former education director. Another Bay Street alum, Bill Burford, an instructor and director at Stony Brook University, will be producing the program’s inaugural performance this weekend.

The seeds of YAWP were sown last summer when Robert Reeves, director of the MFA in Writing and Literature program at Stony Brook Southampton, learned that the Bay Street Theatre had opted to limit their playwrighting program to the high school level.

“After Bay Street Theatre decided not to continue with the middle school component of their playwrighting program, Reeves saw an opportunity to fill a need,” says Emma Walton Hamilton, the keynote speaker at the university’s children’s literature conference last summer.

 “It’s a tremendous MFA program,” says Chandler who taught screenwriting at the conference. “The middle school program was orphaned. He [Reeves] had heard this program needed a home, and said, ‘Why not bring it here?’ His vision was to expand it beyond playwrighting — to a whole new curriculum.” 

“Bob is very visionary about what he’d like to see happen to the arts,” offers Hamilton,

At Stony Brook Southampton, YAWP is not just an acronym, it is also a clever nod to Walt Whitman who used the phrase “barbaric yawp” in his poem “Song of Myself.” It’s a fitting reference given that in addition to playwrighting, poetry is another discipline that YAWP will be bringing into classrooms, along with essay writing, screenwriting and fiction — the MFA program’s other primary writing focuses.

“The faculty members are writing the curriculums for each individual discipline,” explains Chandler. “Lou Ann Walker, a well recognized writer, is creating the fiction and personal essay portion – which is important for students getting ready to take the SATs. Poet Julie Sheehan, who recently won the Whiting Award, will create the poetry curriculum.”

“In fall, we’ll add high schools and they can chose from all sorts of writing from seven week residencies to one day workshops,” says Hamilton. “For each of those programs, the curriculum will be created by the person who heads that discipline. All these incredibly gifted writers who are part of the MFA program will be staffing it.”

“There are a lot of ways we can go beyond what we were able to do at Bay Street,” adds Hamilton who, along with Stephen Hamilton, will direct a playwrighting conference as part of the writer’s program this summer. The conference will function in a writing lab setting and participants will be able to take advantage of having members of the Ensemble Studio Theatre from Manhattan on hand to try out their new work.

“That’s been the premiere developmental theater for years in New York and it’s where we met,” explains Hamilton. “Steve and I ran their summer program. They were looking for a new summer home, they’ll be in residence all summer at Stony Brook Southampton, and will staff the conference with actors and directors. It’s very exciting.”

Another important component of YAWP is the classroom experience the program will provide MFA students who will work with the middle and high school students.

“One of the things grad students want is teaching experience,” says Chandler. “Prior to this program, there were only so many courses a grad student could TA in or teach. This vastly expands that. As we have different kinds of programs and more schools, there will be more opportunities for those getting their MFAs to get into the classroom.”

As far as the playwrighting portion of YAWP is concerned, though the program resembles Bay Street’s in that workshops are offered in the classroom and culminate in a single night of performances, Hamilton notes there are important new elements in the Stony Brook program.

 “We rewrote the curriculum and we started with a framework of Aristotle’s poetics — the first articulation of dramatic concepts and writing,” explains Hamilton. “It’s incredibly relevant even today. We took that thesis and used is as the structure for the curriculum. We used it in writing exercises and improv exercises. We also have incredible teaching artists, lots of them with theater background and new ideas.”

For Chandler, one of the most important things about the new program is the validity it will bring to the lives of students — particularly those in middle school whose opinions and feelings are frequently overlooked by the adults in their lives. 

“I feel really passionate about this,” he says. “We may be teaching dramatic writing in the form of playwrighting, but what we’re really teaching is that each student has a voice.”

“We’ve spoken at length with educators, they have said this age is tremendously critical for expressing their personal voice,” says Chandler. “In any case, for me on a personal note, this is the age I remember. The school I attended required we write a play. It scared the heck out of me. But it unlocked something and once it’s unlocked you can’t lock it up again. I was inspired to become a screenwriter.”

“When someone is treated with respect and there’s an expectation that you can do this, you rise to the occasion,” he adds.

Robert Reeves has long been interested in reach out to younger members of the community through the MFA program and he explains why he feels it’s important to expand the curriculum now.

“I think our ambitions to grow arise primarily from the fact that Stony Brook, as our parent institution, is being well supported, and there’s an opportunity to do this now,” says Reeves. “We’ve been thinking of ways to expand and efforts to have young writers in the program. We have the facilities now and part of the mission is to grow a program that has national prominence in the arts — an opportunity to do theater is one of them. I see Avram in such good shape and people who have the talent and ability. It seems a natural extension of what we do.”

“This is a very good match for our program,” he adds.

These days, given the rapidly changing face of many forms of media reliant on the written word, including journalism and publishing, with the MFA program at Stony Brook, Reeves sees not obstacles but opportunities to guide the next generation of writers.

“Introducing students to the creative process is more important than ever,” says Reeves. “Like any change, there are good things and bad things. Production of literature has always been sensitive to changes in technology. If the bad news changes publishing and the way business is conducted, the good news is technology represents the democratization of writing. If there is a decline in gatekeepers, more people can be writers.” 

“People who write well will be more important than ever,” he adds. “We’re just at the beginning of great change. We support the people who still care about the things we care about – we feel writing is the most complicated way you can engage the world. We help people achieve what they want in writing.”

The Young American Writers Project (YAWP) features plays by middle school students from Bridgehampton, Pierson, Shelter Island, Ross School and Eastport South Manor at Stony Brook Southampton’s Avram Theater on Saturday, April 25 at 7 p.m. Admission is free. To reserve seats, visit www.stonybrook.edu/southampton.

Above: Pierson students Hannah Kaminski and Gabrielle Gardiner rehearse a play by Madeline Webber on the Avram Theater stage.  Jessica Adamowicz photo


 

Sustaining

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By Gabrielle Selz

We are a community shaped and surrounded by water, bounded on one side by the Atlantic Ocean and on the other by the Peconic Bay and the Long Island Sound; we inhabit one of the most beautiful and highly developed regions of coastal land. However, despite increased awareness of the issues of global climate change, most of us on the East End are still unaware of the vulnerability facing our immediate area. 

Not only are sea levels rising, the rate is accelerating. Projections of sea level increases vary from, on the conservative side between 2 to 5 inches by the year 2020 to a more realistic estimation of 12 inches if rapid ice sheet melting is taken into account. Even with variance in forecasting, authorities agree that any amount of sea level rise is alarming. Additionally, because of the rising temperature of the upper level of the ocean, hurricanes are predicted to be more powerful and to last longer: Homes could be damaged, access roads flood and salt water intrude into the ground water aquifer system. 

Though there may be a discrepancy in the degree, the change in sea levels will reconfigure the nature of our landscape within the next decade no matter what we do. The question then becomes, how do we plan for a problem that encompasses uncertain projections, sudden and devastating storms as well as incremental changes happening over long periods of time?

It’s easy to visualize the impact of a major storm. We’ve seen the images of the devastation wrought by Ike and Katrina and some of us even remember The Great Hurricane of 1938, which created the Shinnecock Inlet. Though such storms are historically rare, they are occurring with greater frequency and severity. However, it’s the gradual impact over decades from the incremental rise in sea level, that are harder for us to encompass and prepare for, and yet these are the changes that will affect our lives and communities.

The news isn’t all grim. The slow and insidious nature of the problem of rising sea levels gives us a window of opportunity to plan, both for gradual change and for the catastrophic event of a major storm.

At this point, local decision makers in our communities have been unable to effectively integrate sea level rise and coastal hazard risk into any kind of policy that would protect our human communities, our natural resources and shape land use management. Even the recent new flood maps implemented by FEMA were confusing to individual homeowners as well as town officials and land use authorities. 

The fragility and beauty of our environment, combined with the highly developed nature of the area, offer unique challenges to the East End. We are now faced with the task of advocating for an approach to adaptation. This will take tremendous support for public policies that address sustainability.

In order to implement the changes that are necessary for a resilient community, we must come together as a society. We need to change land use policy and manage our resources, to acquire open space on the coast, to restore habitats as natural buffers, to move public structures, such as the Montauk Lighthouse which is an historic treasure and still dangerously situated, to change our wetland laws and, in the event of a catastrophic hurricane, to develop a post storm redevelopment plan that does not offer perverse incentives that keep people in harm’s way. All this takes time. 

A forum to address these issues is being held over the weekend of March 27th on the Southampton campus of Stony Brook University. The 1st Women’s Conference on Sustainability, co-hosted by WISE (Women’s Initiatives for a Sustainable Earth) along with Stony Brook Southampton and the Stony Brook University Center for Wine, Food and Culture is designed to empower, inspire and educate. The conference is open to women, men, professionals and novices and includes information, discussion and entertainment all focused on the issues of climate change and creating resilient communities. One of the speakers, Sarah Newkirk from The Nature Conservancy, will demonstrate an interactive map server that works much like Google Earth in helping East Enders to visualize, pinpoint and generate predictions of sea-level rise and hazards to individual homes.

Other speakers include Richard Leakey (the anthropologist who lives in Kenya on a self-sufficient farm), Patti Wood (Grassroots Environmental Education), Sara Gordon (trained by Al Gore for the Climate Project), and many more.

Designed to flow from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, with one price of $165 for the entire weekend, attendees are still free to pick and choose from the events that interest them most.

Personally, the flood of problems we face sometimes overcomes me. Yet the truth is that there are simple steps we can take. Passivity is often the result of not knowing how to participate. The conference offers us the opportunity to come together, educate ourselves, learn grassroots leadership practices, understand how change happens, and move toward action and advocacy. 

For more details and to register for the conference, go to www.sowise.org.

 

Gabrielle Selz is a freelance writer living in Southampton. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, More Magazine and Art Papers. She’s writing on behalf of WISE and The 1st Women’s Conference on Sustainability.

Films With Green Theme Underscore College’s Mission

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By Marianna Levine

With movies ranging in subject from butterflies and turtles to building in an eco-friendly way, Stony Brook Southampton’s First Annual Green Film Series was started as a way to further celebrate and communicate the campus’s focus on sustainability. It features a free film about environmental sustainability each Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. and was  the brainchild of interim Dean Martin Schoonen, and the Avram Theater’s manager Leonard Ziemkiewicz. 

For the past two years Stony Brook Southampton has billed itself as a “green campus” and even offers a major in sustainability. In fact, according to Mr. Ziemkiewicz, it is one of the first colleges in the country to offer such an academic focus. 

The film series’ primary goal, according to the school’s media relations manager Darren Johnson, is to get the community, along with students and faculty, involved in serious and lively discussions about the varying aspects of sustainability and how it impacts everyday lives. 

The word “sustainability” has become a popular catchall phrase recently, but in this case it refers primarily to the idea that the Earth’s resources should be replenished at the same rate as they are used. However with today’s economic and environmental complexity one cannot just study ecology without bringing in economic and social issues.  Therefore the film series covers a number of topics including this week’s documentary, “Buyer be Fair,” a film that examines fair trade certification throughout the world.  Another film shown on  March 19th, “Black Diamond” explores all aspects of the diamond trade from the miners to the jewelry dealers.

After each viewing, the college hosts a discussion about the featured topic with one or two of Stony Brook Southampton’s teachers. Faculty members Heather Macadam, a writer, and Dr. Arlene Cassidy, the director of sustainable studies, will host this week’s discussion. 

“Sometimes the discussions last longer than the movie,” Mr. Johnson relates.  He notes that most of the films are just about an hour in length. Mr. Ziemkiewicz has been told that the students who attend the screenings bring the discussions into the classroom soon thereafter. 

However he notes, the crowds haven’t been entirely made up of students and faculty.

“We get a good mix of students, professors, and the general public attending each screening,” said Mr. Johnson. Which is exactly what the series’ founders were hoping would happen. Mr. Ziemkiewicz is hopeful the series will become an annual event, and stresses that he “really wants to get the local community involved in the discussion.”

Other upcoming films include, “The Monarch, A Butterfly Beyond Borders” and “Water First and Turtle World.” 

The film series will end with a film entitled, “Build Green,” which features Canadian environmental activist, David Suzuki, showcasing various environmental buildings and architects from around the world. This film should be of interest to the local community as Southampton Town has been trying to revamp its own building codes more recently to effectively comply with current green building standards.

Above: A scene from “Buyer Be Fair.”

Green Lining

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This week, we would like to applaud Stony Brook Southampton for taking the initiative to educate their students and the public with an eye on creating more jobs related to green energy practices in the future. We find this way of thinking refreshing in these troubled times and see it as a “green lining,” as it were, in an otherwise bleak cloud.

The forum on Friday at the university was a strong reminder that great business opportunities can and, in fact, are almost always, found during difficult times such as these. It is when the chips are down and all that is familiar turns to dust when Americans tend to get truly creative by reinventing themselves, their businesses and the country. Now, looking at the economy all we can do is keep our heads up and take this breath of fresh air as a reminder that there just might be green light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.

That “green” light is a movement towards focusing on low energy consumption, reduced carbon output and general greener practices in many aspects of our daily lives — from green building construction to more fuel efficient cars to alternative energy sources for inside homes.

In his keynote address at the forum, Congressman Tim Bishop, said that “green collar jobs” are on the rise and we can only hope the new Congress — under leadership from a new president — will prove more successful in furthering the effort than they have been in recent years.

During this difficult time we do know of at least one local company, however, that is booming by offering consumers alternative energy sources and products for their home. If they can prove to be successful at the worst possible time for a business to be in business since the Great Depression, then they must be on to something.

Additionally, we also applaud Southampton Town for all that they have done this year to create mandates on green energy building practices, and we hope this will further help push a new industry.

It is not simply a business boom that we hope to create, it is business whose very benefits will help us all. We should be excited about that.

The East End has long struggled to find a niche economy that would provide decent living wages to residents. The service economy will take us only so far. Surrounded as we are by the unspoiled beauty of one of the last great places on Earth, doesn’t it make sense to think about creating here one of the first green business community models for the 21st century?

East End Digest – November 6

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Looking Towards Christmas

Sag Harbor residents are already gearing up for the Christmas holidays with a planned afternoon tea and Christmas workshop. Last week Dolores Zebrowski, Sister Ann Marino, Michael Grim, Carol Ahlers, and Diana Brennan began planning the event, which will take place on November 29 from 2 to 4 p.m.

Southampton Town: 20th Anniversary

Officials from the Town of Southampton’s Department of Public Safety celebrated today as its Hazardous Material Team reached the 20th anniversary of its activation.

Started in 1988, the team was designed to supplement the local volunteer fire service with individuals providing advanced training and specialized equipment, and who could respond to incidents involving chemicals, fuels, biological agents, radioactive materials, and unknown substances. In doing so, the team can bring to bear guide meters, protective suits, computer mapping programs, and skills in “protecting the citizens of Southampton from the release of materials dangerous to life and health.”

“Many of the Hazmat Team members have background in the fire and emergency medical services,” said Supervisor Linda Kabot. Town Public Safety Officer John Ryan added that Hazmat participants have also been trained in basic chemistry, identification of unknown substances, transportation-related incidents, and monitoring radioactive material. There has also been instruction in subjects to meet the changing times in regard to terrorism — including weapons of mass destruction.

“Training, drills, and daily working partnerships help to keep the members in sync as a team,” added Kabot. 

Stony Brook Southampton: Ocean Issues

The School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and Stony Brook Southampton will present a talk on how increasing ocean acidification is affecting ocean ecosystems in its “Critical Issues Facing the World’s Oceans” lecture series. Last month’s talk on endangered marine fishes was attended by over 90 audience members.

Dr. Cindy Lee, a SUNY Distinguished Professor, will discuss “Ocean Acidification and the Global Carbon Cycle” on Friday, November 7, at 7:30 p.m. in Stony Brook Southampton’s Duke Lecture Hall. A reception will follow. For further information, call 632-5046.

Global warming is just one of the results of increasing carbon dioxide concentrations. This gas also forms an acid when it dissolves in water, and is thus acidifying the oceans. Coral reefs and calcareous shells are in danger of depletion. One of the few natural processes that removes carbon dioxide from the ocean’s surface waters is the sinking of particles to the deep sea. These particles carry organic carbon with them that is derived from the surface plants and animals in the ocean.

 Professor Lee has studied the organic chemistry of the oceans for the past 35 years and has focused on the transport of particulate carbon to the ocean’s interior. She has participated in research cruises in the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian and Southern Oceans, with most recent work in the Mediterranean Sea. Dr. Lee will describe how ocean acidification is occurring, and how particle transport processes will be affected.

Suffolk County: Specials, Please

It’s not an uncommon experience to go to a restaurant and order a special that a waiter or waitress announces is available — and then later, upon receiving the bill, realize it had an especially high price.

A Suffolk County legislator has just introduced a bill to prevent that: a proposed law “requiring restaurants to disclose prices of specials.”

Lynne Nowick of St. James believes that consumers should have the “information necessary to make informed decisions”—and that includes the prices of food in a restaurant.

Her bill charges that “certain restaurants in Suffolk County do not recognize this ‘right to know’ when it comes to their policy for so-called ‘daily specials.’” These do not appear on the regular menu, and restaurants “in many cases fail to voluntarily apprise their customers how much these specials cost.”

As a result, states the resolution, “too often consumers learn when their bill arrives that the special they ordered costs far more than they anticipated.”

If Nowick’s bill is enacted, all restaurants in Suffolk County would have to “give their patrons adequate notice of the prices of all food items offered for sale including those items known as ‘daily specials.’”

This could be by including the price of specials on the regular menu or “on a printed daily specials page” or otherwise “posted in a manner and location so the price” would be “readily observable by patrons.”

The penalty for non-compliance would be enough to give a restaurant operator indigestion: “not less than $50 nor more than $500” for each violation.

The proposed law would be enforced by the Suffolk County Office of Consumer Affairs. It has gone to legislative committee for consideration.

Reported by karl grossman        

Suffolk County: Gang Seminar

Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent F. DeMarco will host the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office Second Annual Gang Seminar this Thursday, November 6 at 9 a.m. at the Smithtown Sheraton in Smithtown.

The seminar will feature multiple speakers with expertise in gang intelligence, including investigator Sheridan of the New York City Department of Corrections, Detective Gordon of the Chicago Police Department, Retired Investigator Valdez of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, Retired Investigator Harlin from the New York State Police, along with members of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office Gang Intelligence Unit. The seminar is being presented with the support of the mid-Atlantic Great Lakes Organized Crime Law Enforcement Network.

“It is imperative to realize we are not insulated from the insidious effects of gang violence,” said Sheriff DeMarco. “Gang intelligence gathering and sharing is our best tool in battling today’s organized crime.”

New York State: Home Heating Assistance

Governor David A. Paterson announced on November 3, eligible New Yorkers can apply to the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) for this winter season, allowing them to receive as much as $2,500 to help pay for heating costs. Governor Paterson also highlighted recent changes to HEAP including an expansion in income eligibility requirements for New Yorkers facing an energy emergency. Additionally, Paterson announced an agreement between the state and utility companies, which will allow customers to pay their energy bills and keep service in place using HEAP money.

“Under the best of circumstances, New York winters can be difficult,” said Paterson. “With continued economic uncertainty, it is not just the poor and elderly who will have a difficult time paying for the cost of heating their homes this winter. With high energy prices still a concern, we have greatly increased heating assistance to low-income New Yorkers while expanding eligibility to those earning more but who are still struggling to make ends meet.”

The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) – the agency responsible for administering HEAP in New York – has implemented changes to HEAP that will allow New York’s most vulnerable residents to receive as much as $2,500 this winter season. Additionally, New York will take advantage of a one-time federal authorization to increase the income eligibility for HEAP emergency benefits from $45,312 to $56,635 for a family of four effective January 1, 2009. Income eligible homes without heating fuel that are running low on fuel or have heat-related utility service currently disconnected or scheduled for disconnection, may be eligible for HEAP emergency assistance.

New York State has received $550.9 million in federal HEAP funding, which has enabled the OTDA to allow for those earning more to qualify for an emergency benefit, while also making available a second emergency benefit for those most in need. The increased funding will also enable a $100 regular benefit supplement provided to all HEAP recipients who pay directly for heat starting in January 2009.

In September, Governor Paterson requested that an emergency utility summit be held to address rising energy costs. During the summit, all major utility companies in the state agreed that during the cold weather period they will accept HEAP payments from customers and offer them a fair and reasonable deferred payment agreement.

In addition to increasing eligibility levels for HEAP, the state has also increased HEAP’s regular and emergency benefits to $800 for those heating with oil, kerosene and/or propane, to enable them to purchase a minimum delivery of fuel, and has raised the maximum regular benefit to $585 for all other customers. The state has also received a $32 million increase in the amount of low income funding, approved by the PSC and provided by local utility companies and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSDERA), to improve the energy efficiency of homes. NYSDERA will also spend an additional $2 million this winter to help more New Yorkers reduce their energy while also keeping their homes heated. The state has also worked towards providing $5 million for weatherization and energy efficiency services, designed to enable HEAP recipients to realize immediate energy savings this winter. Ten million dollars has also been made available by LIPA to its low income senior customers for direct bill payment assistance. In addition, LIPA will be expanding its support for improved energy efficiency in homes for all of its customers.

For additional resources, visit HeatSmartNY.org or call 877-NY-SMART, or for HEAP questions, call 1-800-342-3009 or visit www.myBenefits.ny.gov.

 

 

 

 

East End Digest – October 9

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Bridgehampton Student Honored

On September 18, Bridgehampton School senior Pablo Londono was awarded the 2008 County Executive Achievement Award. This award recognizes students who have demonstrated growth and personal achievement, overcome adversity or met challenges successfully. The awards dinner was held in Holbrook at Village Lombardi’s where Louis Medina, director of the Suffolk County Youth Bureau, presented Londono with the honor.

Londono aspires to be a police officer and is currently enrolled in the law enforcement program at HB Ward Tech in Riverhead each school morning. Londono then spends afternoons at Bridgehampton School completing his twelfth grade course work. He is employed as a waiter at The American Hotel in Sag Harbor, and also works with the Sag Harbor Village Police Department as a traffic control officer.

Southampton Town: Preservation

The Town of Southampton has officially acquired two sought after parcels slated for preservation, according to details released from town hall on Tuesday, September 30.

The first, the Baird property, consists of 40.5 acres of vacant land on Red Creek Road and Old Squires Road in Hampton Bays at a purchase price of $4,000,000.

“We are very fortunate to be able to buy this property,” said town supervisor Linda Kabot. “If we hadn’t been able to act, this pristine land would be a 13 home subdivision.”

Kabot added that the Baird parcel is located in the Paumanok Path Trail area of the Community Preservation Project Plan. It is named after a hiking-trail project of regional importance that will ultimately extend 125 miles from Rocky Point to Montauk Point. It has been a municipal planning objective for more than 12 years.

In conjunction with the second acquisition deal, the town became part owners with Suffolk County of a piece of the Topping family farm. The 7.54 ace parcel is located on Halsey Lane in Bridgehampton and also lies within the town’s farmland Preservation Target Area. The Southampton Town Board has considered the Topping Farm a “high priority” under the town’s Community Preservation Project Plan, and the $2,625,312 needed to fund 60 percent of the $4,375,520 purchase price will come from the Community Preservation Fund.

The recent closing marks the second time within the past year the two governments have partnered to keep the Topping land a farm forever. Last fall, the town paid $8,856,252 to acquire the development rights for 25 acres. Like the current 7.54 acre buy, the county contributed 40 percent of the purchased price.

East Hampton: Centarian Celebrated

On Thursday, October 2, East Hampton Senior Nutrition participants, close friends and family gathered at the East Hampton Senior Center to honor the milestone 100th birthday of Paul Miano. The day was also recognized by the East Hampton Town Board in a proclamation, presented to Miano by board member Brad Loewen.

Miano was born in Brooklyn on October 1, 1908. He worked as an accountant until his retirement at the age of 72, continuing on as a consultant until he was 80. Shortly thereafter, he joined the East Hampton Senior Nutrition Center, and has been a member for the last 20 years. Miano and his wife, Eileen, purchased property in East Hampton in 1969, moving into the residence full-time in 1980.

According to the nutrition center, Miano credits a daily, one-mile walk and his friendly nature for his longevity — never passing anyone without saying hello, making many friends along the way.

Bridgehampton: Cancer Conversations

On Saturday, October 18 from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Southampton Hospital and Cancer Care of the East End will host a forum, “Conversations about Breast Cancer: Update on Medical Treatment, Side Effects, and Psychosocial Issues” at the Bridgehampton Union Free School District auditorium.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Maria Theodoulou, associate attending physician for breast cancer service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Care Center. The day will also feature a host of panel discussions, as well as break out sessions designed to tackle issues like stress reduction, intimacy and cancer, nutrition, and how to discuss the disease with children. Resource booths will be available throughout the day.

For more information, call (516) 364-8130 or visit Hamptonscancercare.org.

Stony Brook-Southampton: Open House

Stony Brook Southampton, the newest addition to the SUNY system, is holding two events for high school students who may be considering college in the near future.

On Saturday, October 11, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., an Open House will be held in the Avram Theater on the Southampton campus. Then on Columbus Day, Monday, October 13, high school students are invited to sit in on real college classes with Stony Brook Southampton’s faculty from 12:50 to 3:40 p.m.

To reserve a spot for one or both events, call 632-5035 or e-mail joinsouthampton@stonybrook.edu.

Now in its second full year, Stony Brook Southampton continues to grow. Earlier this year, the New York State Department of Education had approved three new majors including Ecosystems and Human Impact, Environmental Design, Policy and Planning, and Sustainability Studies, which join SBS’s existing three majors in Environmental Studies, Marine Sciences and Marine Vertebrate Biology.

A “green” business major is also being introduced this fall. ??This year, the student body has almost doubled in size to over 300 full-time students and approximately 400 students overall while maintaining the same rigorous admissions standards as parent Stony Brook University. The number of classes offered, majors and professors has also increased. ??More residence halls are online with over 150 students living on campus now; again, almost double last year’s number. Residence Life has also added a community service element that will see more Southampton students going into the larger community to volunteer with not-for-profit, community and civic groups. This past spring, new state monies were announced for the Marine Center and the Student Center. ??

Long Island Farm Bureau: Scholarship

The Long Island Farm Bureau invites all Nassau and Suffolk County High School seniors to apply for a $1,000 scholarship from Long Island Farm Bureau. Students must be planning to continue their education in a career related to the agricultural industry, live or work on a farm involved in agriculture and be active members of the community.

In addition, the Long Island scholarship winner will have an opportunity to compete for additional scholarship funds – $1,500, $1,200 and $1,000 – at the 2008 New York Farm Bureau “Spring Break” Conference. The deadline for submission is November 21. For more information, call 727-3777.

Long Island Nursery & Landscape Association: Grants Available

The Long Island Nursery & Landscape Association is offering an opportunity for innovators to apply for grants. Applications will be accepted from nursery and landscape professionals, students, clubs or organizations, colleges, universities and schools, research facilities, botanical gardens or arboreta.

Awards may be presented for activities, projects, studies, programs, equipment development, courses, tours, trips or other endeavors that may qualify. Proposals must have some impact on the local nursery, landscape or retail horticulture industry. In reviewing applications from qualifying institutions, the innovative nature of the request as well as the effectiveness of the proposal in enhancing learning in the field of horticulture will be considered. Applications must be postmarked by November 1 and include the title of a proposed innovative activity, contact information, a summary of objectives, project outline, anticipated costs, how the grant would facilitate the project and explanation of local benefits. Applicants should also include a request for funds at a maximum of $2,500 and the date needed to start. For more information, call the Long Island Nursery & Landscape Association, Inc. (516) 249-0545 or log on to linla@nysnla.com. 

East End Digest – September 18

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Celebrating Local Ecology On The Greenbelt

On Saturday, September 27 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. will mark the 10th Annual Long Pond Greenbelt Celebration Day. Trail hikes with botanists, birders, local historians and a snake expert will be on hand, as well as Goat on a Boat Puppet Theatre, ready to provide children’s activities, and exhibits from local environmental organizations. There will also be updates on the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt’s own vineyard field restoration project. Confirmed exhibitors include South Fork Natural History Society, Southampton Town Community Preservation Fund, Southampton Town Environment Division, Southampton Town Trustees, The Nature Conservancy, Southampton Trails Preservation Society, East Hampton Trails Preservation Society, Group for the East End, Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference, Long Island Trail Lovers’ Conference and the John Jermain Library.

Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt is a non-profit membership organization formed in 1997 dedicated to the preservation, stewardship and public appreciation of the Long Pond Greenbelt — a unique expanse of over 600 protected acres of freshwater swamps, wetlands, and woodlands, stretching from Ligonee Creek in Sag Harbor to Sapaponack Pond in Sagaponack.

For more information on the celebration, call Sandra Ferguson at 537-3752.

Southampton Town: High-Tech Park At Gabreski

Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot and councilman Chris Nuzzi traveled to Hauppauge on Monday, September 8 to join Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy in announcing a county deal struck with a major development firm to build an industrial-commercial park at Gabreski Airport.

The choosing of Rechler Equity Partners of Melville marks a milestone in the long-awaited collaboration between Suffolk County and the Town of Southampton to re-develop 58.6 acres of industrial land into a homeland security-oriented “Hampton Business and Technology Park.”

The project is part of a larger effort to foster economic development in the region, and more specifically to generate revenue from the county-owned property. Both the county and the town of Southampton have had long-held plans to upgrade Gabreski’s facilities and transform the area into a long-term economic rejuvenator.

“We want attract businesses offering year-round, decent-paying, jobs for East End residents,” said Kabot. “The Town of Southampton is excited about the selection of Rechler Equity Partners to capitalize the necessary improvements and create a visually-pleasing business center. The initial concept plan includes a 145-room hotel and conference center, as well as technology-based industries.”

The redevelopment will be made possible through the Town’s designation of the area as an Airport Planned Development District (APDD), with an accompanying Master Plan to detail site requirements and the types of businesses allowed there. Long-standing issues over zoning and suitable uses slowed the project for years, but it was revived and brought to fruition through the cooperative efforts of County Executive Levy and the Southampton Town board led by former supervisor-turned county economic development commissioner, Patrick Heaney.

Under the APDD, Gabreski Airport will be converted into a hub of commercial activity that will permit a host of high-tech industrial, office, service, support, ancillary retail, transportation, lodging, and related uses. In making the changes, the objective is to lure businesses involved in homeland security, alternative energies, and “green” research and development. Particular attention will also be paid to courting producers of film, television, and digital media.

In addition, the New York State Department of Economic Development designated 48 acres within the proposed park as an “Empire Zone” in 2004 for enhanced incentives to stimulate private investment. They include lower business tax rates, reimbursement of local taxes, exemption from state sales tax, lower utility rates, and up to $3,000 in annual credits for each new employee hired. The Gabreski Airport PDD is one of five such areas in Suffolk County, and officials say the designation complements Suffolk’s effort to increase investment in commercial sewer capacity upgrades and the potential development of workforce housing.

Overall, according to the county, the area’s redevelopment is anticipated to generate more than $7 million in rental revenue to Suffolk County over the next 10 years, and more than $40 million over the life of the 40-year lease.

Supervisor Kabot credited Deputy County Executive Jim Morgo “for helping to build consensus among community stakeholders and environmental advocates to balance the need for economic development, cap the site’s build out capacity, and ensure the County’s commitment to not grow aviation uses at the airport.”

“This project is a great example of all levels of government and the community working together,” concluded Nuzzi. “It not only offers an essential component for our affordable housing initiatives, but promises the creation of economic development opportunities within the town.”

Stony Brook Southampton: Doubles Students

It’s back to school for Stony Brook Southampton. Now in its second full year, the campus continues to grow as planned.

The student body has almost doubled in size to over 300 full-time students and approximately 400 students overall while maintaining the same rigorous admissions standards as parent Stony Brook University. The number of classes offered, majors and professors has also increased.

“We are very pleased with the progress we have made here at Stony Brook Southampton with our curriculum and our infrastructure,” Interim Dean Martin Schoonen said. “Students really seem to be responding to our focus on the environment and sustainability, and that shows with their increased interest in our programs.”

Building continues on a new library while more space for student affairs and student services will open in early October in the renovated Atlantic Hall building. This follows the recent renovation of the Avram Theater and Gallery that saw the Sustainable Treasures vocal series and the Southampton Writers Conference doubles its offerings this past summer. This past spring, new state monies were announced for the Marine Center and the Student Center. The historic and symbolic Windmill on campus is also undergoing a facelift with new blades being installed later this fall.

More residence halls are online with over 150 students living on campus now; again, almost double last year’s number. Residence Life has also added a community service element that will see more Southampton students going into the larger community to volunteer with not-for-profit, community and civic groups.

Stony Brook Southampton, a model of sustainability that was featured in The New York Times this past summer and on “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams” and “The Today Show” this past spring, also continues with its plans to build one of the nation’s truly green campuses. All new buildings will have LEED certification, while, already, lighting systems, a greenhouse and even vehicles on campus are energy efficient and use alternative forms of energy. The school café doesn’t use deep fryers and uses local produce, some of which is grown on campus, whenever possible.

Earlier this year, Dr. Schoonen announced that the New York State Department of Education had approved three cutting-edge, new majors for Southampton: Ecosystems and Human Impact; Environmental Design, Policy and Planning, and Sustainability Studies, which join SBS’s existing three majors in Environmental Studies, Marine Sciences and Marine Vertebrate Biology. A “green” Business major is also in the works for Fall 2009.

Southampton Hospital: Collecting Clothing

Southampton Hospital proudly announces a new fundraising system utilizing the collection of used clothing. This concept will help to raise additional funds towards the expansion of the Hospital’s Breast Health Center in 2009. The pink metal containers, which stand 5x5x6 in size, raise awareness of the Breast Health Center, while housing all unwanted used clothing. Although new to the Hospital, this program has proven fundraising success. The company administering this program, Earthrite Textile Recycling, is presently working with North Shore LIJ, Southside Hospital, Carol M. Baldwin Breast Care Imaging Center, Breast Cancer Help Inc. and its Long Island Cancer Help and Wellness Center. For more information on this program, please contact Earthrite Textile Recycling at 580-7092.

Westhampton Beach: Restoring Environment

Sun Stream USA, The Renewable Energy Company, located in Southampton will take part in an upcoming CURE (Classmates United in Restoring the Environment) meeting at Westhampton Beach High School on Friday, September 19 at 2:30 p.m. to help kick-off the year’s CAUSE program at the school.

The CAUSE (CURE Alumni Undertaking for Solar Energy) program is made up of alumni and students of CURE, who work to raise awareness about environmental protection and conservation.

CAUSE was developed by Jok Kommer, the environmental and marine science teacher at Westhampton Beach High School and Brian Tymann, Director of Operations at Sun Stream USA.

This year’s CAUSE program will focus on developing and installing two renewable energy solutions at Westhampton Beach High School. One system will use solar power-to-power waterfall pumps in the school’s new courtyard, and the other solar solution will provide back-up power to the school’s science lab, which contains many living organism such as marine animals, reptiles, plants, and a working tidal salt marsh ecosystem.

Suffolk County: Text Ban Begins

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy was joined by County Legislator Jay Schneiderman at a press conference Tuesday afternoon to remind Suffolk drivers that effective next week the text message ban will be in place for drivers in the county.

Suffolk’s landmark legislation banning text messaging while driving — sponsored by Legislator Schneiderman and co-sponsored by Legislator Jon Cooper — passed in May, was signed into law in June of this year and will formally take effect September 21. Violations will carry a fine of $150.

“Drivers of any age, but most especially young drivers who have practically grown up with a cell phone in their hands, need to realize how distracting typing and reading text messages can be while behind the wheel of a car,” said Levy.

“This groundbreaking law continues the long tradition of Suffolk County taking the lead in adopting innovative and important legislation that sets an example for the rest of the nation,” said Schneiderman, noting that similar bans are under consideration in Nassau and in New York City.

Conserving Sea is Goal for College’s New Center

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The already strong School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (SoMAS) at Stony Brook University became even stronger on Friday when the university announced plans to establish the new Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at the Southampton campus. SoMas professor Dr. Ellen Pikitch, who was named the institute’s Executive Director, called the announcement a “high water mark” and said the new research team will build on the program’s “impressive track record” and together will make it an “even more powerful force” in ocean conservation.

The institute, which is expected to be completed in the fall of 2010, is being made possible by a $4 million grant from the Pew Charitable Trust, will be located where the current marine center now stands, on Little Neck Road just south of the Southampton campus. The institute is also expected to benefit from $6.9 million in state funding.

“Our oceans are in a state of emergency,” said Pikitch. “[The institute] will generate the science needed to better safeguard threatened marine life and ecosystems and we will use those findings to shape smarter policy.”

She said the university plans to enlist a number of top scientists, beginning this fall, and their first project will be to establish a forage fish task force to look at the rapid depletion of small schooling fish such as sardines, anchovies and menhaden. These fish serve as the primary food source for most ocean mammals, larger fish and seabirds. As a result of the health trends involving fish oil supplements, which are believed to reduce the chance of heart disease, and the demand for livestock feed which also uses the small fish, their population is dwindling. Pitcitck described the over-fishing of forage fish as “pulling the rug out from under ocean ecosystems.”

A number of elected officials were on hand at Friday’s event at the site of the new institute, including U.S. Congressman Tim Bishop and New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele. Bishop, who once served as Southampton College provost when the school was part of the Long Island University system, said, “It was wonderful to see the investment being made [in the university].”

He said that both he and Thiele often face the challenge of balancing commercial fishing with recreation fishing, both of which are prevalent on the East End. He said many times they battle with the decisions and policies they make being based on “good science.” He said with the institute in Southampton now in the works, he felt “confident” knowing the decisions they make would be based on the excellent research that will take place there.

Thiele graduated from Southampton College. He said everyone knew it was “diamond in the rough” that only suffered because of a lack of “support. Thiele also brought up the fact that ocean conservation is “near and dear” to everyone on the East End. He mentioned the fact that the Shinnecock and Montauk canals are the two largest commercial fishing ports in the state.

President of Stony Brook University Shirley Strum Kenny said, “This new institute was important not only to Southampton, but to New York State, to the nation and to the world.”

Stony Brook University is the only institution in New York State that offers degrees in marine science at the bachelors, masters and doctorate level.

Future site of multi-million dollar marine science study center is pictured above

 

James McMullan: Imagining the Scene

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Theater posters represent a unique art form. Graphically intriguing and designed to catch the eye, in a single moment, a good poster says enough about a play to entice audiences – yet does not risk alienation by revealing too much.

Tapping into the core idea of a play and interpreting it in a single iconic image is a talent that Sag Harbor’s James McMullan has mastered. For 23 years, McMullan has been the principal poster artist for Lincoln Center Theater productions. From “South Pacific” to “Six Degrees of Separation” and “Carousel,” McMullan’s work is instantly identifiable and always unique.

By its nature, poster art is fleeting — pasted up on train station platforms or in subway corridors, it is both transit and transient. Yet long after the plays have closed, many of McMullan’s posters remain larger than life (literally) and continue to persist in the mind’s eye.

Fans of McMullan’s work can see some of his most famous posters up close and personal in “McMullan’s Theater Posters: First Sketches to Final Art” on view through September 8 in the Avram Gallery at Stony Brook Southampton. The exhibit features more than a dozen full size McMullan posters, along with his original artwork for each. Also on view are four projects which show his entire working process from pencil sketch to final product — complete with photographs, rejected sketches and alternate versions.

“People are always amazed that these originals are so tiny yet they blow up very big,” notes McMullan, holding his latest mock-up for “Dividing The Estate” a poster he is currently designing for Horton Foote’s play starring Elizabeth Ashley which opens at Lincoln Center in October.

McMullan almost always portrays key characters from the play in his posters. Through photographs — ideally taken of the actual actors, though he will use stand-ins if necessary — he strives to capture the essence of the play in a single pose.

“That is really my take on the play — the pose,” explains McMullan. “It’s important for me to find that moment of connection in the play. What am I interested in? What connects to my own psychology?”

“It’s what every artist does,” he says. “Within the subject matter you find the hot spot, the place that really interests and intrigues you and makes you want to go in. It’s a point of entry. I know what the play’s about — but where do I get into the play?”

Many times, that answer reveals itself with help from the actor who brings his or her own unique take and mannerisms for the character to the photo session.

“Every person gives you a new kind of landscape of detail, particularly in the way people move,” adds McMullan. “I like to immerse myself in the ideas and details of the photograph, and then at a certain point during the process, I stop looking at the photograph. I’ve internalized what’s in the photo and draw without it.”

The process has worked well for McMullan, whose reputation is now such that directors often insist on a McMullan poster for their Lincoln Center productions. He notes that it’s always important that they be included in the discussion as well.

“I read the script two or three times and talk to the director and playwright if available,” says McMullan. “One thing I don’t want to happen is that the director doesn’t feel like I listened to him and taken into consideration what he’s thinking.”

While many of the ideas for McMullan’s posters gel organically through a flash of inspiration, there are other times when the process is a struggle — particularly when a director has preconceived notions about what a McMullan poster should look like.

“It starts with this idea that they love me enough to want my poster,” says McMullan. “Then as it’s going on they think, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to have a hand in Jim McMullan’s poster?’”

“If my first art doesn’t go through, I do a second one adjusting to what they said. Then it goes to a third one and after that it becomes a long winded situation,” he grins. “If I didn’t have a streak of masochism, I’m not sure I would be able to do it as long as I have.”

“McMullan’s Theater Posters: First Sketches to Final Art” runs through September 8 at the Avram Gallery at Stony Brook, Southampton, 239 Montauk Highway.