- Click for Restaurant Directory_____

 

Find us wherever you are!
Subscribe To Smithtown Matters
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Email Newsletter
_________________________________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________

 



*******************************************************************

Friday
Jul202012

Nesconset Resident Jason Maloney Begins Climb To Top Of Kilimanjaro

July 20th marks the day that Nesconset resident Jason Maloney starts his climb to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro. Jason and his cousin Brian Maloney are making their climb to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer research

Local cousins to scale Kilimanjaro for Breast Cancer research

Climbing for a Cause

Local cousins to scale Kilimanjaro for Breast Cancer researchMount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

By Chad Kushins

It is an obstacle that would both terrify and invigorate the best of us – scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, the symbolic and literal global precipice that has sparked the imaginations and physical limits of adventurers for decades. See article

Thursday
Jul192012

Smithtown's First Presbyterian Church Welcomes Congregation Ahava

By Chad Kushins

Last February, members of Smithtown’s Temple Beth Shalom were surprised and saddened to find financial Temple Beth Shalom - Photo by Jennifer Kleihardships plaguing the routine tasks of running their Edgewood Avenue location. Negotiations began to sell the structure outright or to merge with an outside church. This left the congregation in a state of uncertainty.  While the long-range future of the temple is still uncertain, thanks to dedicated Cantor Judy Merrick, members have found a new, yet temporary home, in the heart of Smithtown, at the First Presbyterian Church at 175 East Main Street.

“The Temple had been a regular participant in our yearly Thanksgiving Eve services for many years,” First Presbyterian Church Pastor Rev. James Hulsey told Smithtown Matters.  “So, we had rotated those services for the community among several houses of worship and Judy [Merrick] was there with us … We had that form of relationship prior to the temple’s location troubles.”

“It was ideal to go and do this,” Merrick told Smithtown Matters.  “I went to Rev. Hulsey, asking for a spiritual space really so that the people of the temple would have their spiritual space and I can run services, but I can tell you, it isn’t easy.  We just started, and it has been a lot of work … The temple has been in Smithtown for fifty years, so there is a lot going on emotionally.”

According to Rev. Hulsey, Merrick had contacted him this past May hoping that an arrangement could be reached so the temple’s congregation would be able to continue their own means of worship as a community. The governing board of the First Presbyterian Church was enthusiastically unanimous in their decision to allow the temple to host its services within the church.

“Judy wanted those from Smithtown who worshipped together to be able to stay together and continue to worship together here in Smithtown, rather then have to go to other, nearby temples or synagogues” Hulsey continued.  “That was the real aim.  So, we discussed the logistics of it, but it was an unanimous decision.”

Judy MerrickMerrick concurred, adding, “I couldn’t find just any holy space.  In this situation, you can either find a holy space, or create one – and we needed to move fast.  Really, it doesn’t matter what space or what faith it is, since a holy space is a holy space.  My idea was truly created hundreds of years ago by rabbis who held services in churches – and this is how I saw it.”

Hulsey added that, because Merrick was originally uncertain how much of the temple’s congregation would follow suit in attending their regular services at the Presbyterian Church, it was agreed that any fees that would normally be attached to renting a space within the church be waived for the first three months.  “We usually have ‘building-use fees’ when offering a space to an outside group,” said Hulsey, “but we said, ‘they’re just starting out, having to move their services and not being sure if it’s going to work out, so let’s just let them give it a go for a few months.’”

Merrick added, “Also, the location is truly wonderful, since there is a history there [at First Presbyterian].  It’s over two-hundred years old, which I find very beautiful, and it’s historical to Smithtown.”

Having begun their temporary tenure with the Presbyterian Church on July 6th, the three-month ‘grace period’ for the church space will, at least, carry the temple’s devout community members through the upcoming high holy days – one of the factors in allowing such a quick move.  Merrick, however, is quick to note that the temple’s officials are unaffiliated with the current usage of First Presbyterian Church – something that has divided opinions among the temple’s longstanding community members.

“I am calling this new congregation ‘Congregation Ahava,’” Merrick added, “which is Hebrew for ‘love.’  I see this as something new, and I am trying to just keep my people from the temple together.”

James HulseyAccording to Hulsey, such an arrangement isn’t unique to the Temple Beth Shalom’s current plight, as, in the past, several faiths denominations have turned to each other in times of community need.  “It’s not something that has never been done before,” he added, “so, in terms of our membership at the church, everyone was happy that we were in a position to do it.  I think that, initially, all of us were just sad, since it’s just a sad thing when any house of worship has to close.  And, so it just seemed like the neighborly thing to do.”

Located at 433 Edgewood Ave in Smithtown, Temple Beth Shalom was originally founded in 1956, becoming the major physical presence of Judaism for the Smithtown community.  Temple Beth Shalom was known as a “progressive Conservative congregation” and welcomed visitors of outside faiths.  The Temple shared the building with a catering facility which no longer exists on the premisies creating economic challenges for the Temple.

Originally speaking with Smithtown Matters upon the first public notice of the temple’s financial troubles in February, both Director of Building and Grounds Richard Rafle and Temple Beth Shalom Board of Trustees Director Dr. Shafer Zysman were adamant that the temple would remain open and functioning.  “The temple is not going to be moving,” Rafle initially said.  “We hope to re-build our congregation even larger and even stronger.  We had originally co-habitated in the building with a caterer, but all we’re planning now is a similar arrangement with a church.”

At the time, Zysman shared Rafle’s optimism, commenting, “Our overall plan is to sell the current facility to another religious organization and then make our arrangements to also stay … The main thing is that we are a congregation with diverse ages and backgrounds, so really, we’re re-organizing to suit our needs.  Of course, after the sale, the intention is to stay where we are – but this congregation and community would be strong anywhere.”

Zysman had added, “The main focus is that there is never a dissolution of this community, and that Judaism has a presence in Smithtown.”

Although the future of the Temple Beth Shalom is uncertain, Zysman’s ultimate hope of keeping the faith’s presence in Smithtown has already proven successful, with over two months left on the temple’s grace period within First Presbyterian Church and the possibility left open for a long-term commitment at that location. 

For this possibility, Merrick remains hopeful.  “I’m taking these three months, knowing that it is summertime and people are away or may be too busy to see the new services,” she said.  “But within these three months, I will be able to see how successful it is.  After that, hopefully, we will be able to continue the services on a regular basis as a full congregation.”

Wednesday
Jul112012

Bradley Harris - 34 Years of Service As Smithtown's Historian

By Chris Biancaniello

Bradley Harris, or a/k/a Mr. Harris if you grew up in Commack and he was your high school history teacher, or a/k/a Councilman Harris who served 12 years on Smithtown’s Town Board between 1980 and 1992 or a/k/a Brad Harris who has been Smithtown’s Town Historian since 1978, has been a key player in Smithtown for over 34 years.

Brad Harris’ path hasn’t always been a clear one. His father was a teacher whose job promotions resulted in the family being relocated many times.  Mr. Harris’ childhood included stops in Vermont, Indiana, Connecticut, and finally Long Island graduating from Manhasset High School. Brad spent two years at Vermont’s Middlebury College having what he called, “a rather undistinguished career”. He then joined the air force where he became a medic and altitude sickness instructor or “Physiological Training Technician”. His role was the to train pilots and crewmembers to be alert to the dangers of altitude sickness. His duties included exposing the crew and himself to various pressures in order to simulate specific altitudes so the crew would experience and learn the effects of low oxygen at these altitudes.

After spending four years in the air force serving in both Japan and Germany, he decided to come back to Long Island and go back to college. He graduated from CW Post at Long Island University. He taught Global Studies, Anthropology and LI History in the Commack School District for nearly 30 years, retiring in 1999. During this time Harris, a Democrat, was elected as a Town Councilman for the Town of Smithtown. In 1978, fellow Democrat and Supervisor Patrick Vecchio appointed Brad Town Historian.

Looking back on it now, Mr. Harris laughs at the fact that he was picked to be Town Historian.  “What did I know about town history? Squat!” He says his only qualifications were that he was a history teacher, a Democrat, and he lived in Smithtown.” It appears that Mr. Harris is being modest.  According to town records Mr. Harris’ name was submitted by a Mr. Edward Hayden, (Pres. of the Smithtown Historical Society), Mr. Brewster Lawrence Jr., (trustee of the Smithtown Historical Society), and Mr. Yens Christiansen, (Pres. of the Smithtown Branch Preservation Society. 

( minutes of the September 26, 1978 Town Board Meeting.)


Mr. Harris taught Long Island History for a number of years, helping him develop a strong sense of community. While teaching high school courses he offered his students what was then considered a groundbreaking option either write a term paper, or do a certain number of hours in community service. A May 8, 1977 article in The New York Times written by Robert McG.Thomas Jr, “Razing A Witness To Time” is about a barn restoration project undertaken by the Smithtown Branch Preservation Society and Brad Harris’ students. This community service project had two-dozen Commack HS students actively participating in the relocation and restoration of a historic English barn in Smithtown.

What does a historian do? Everything, and for the most part the work is an act of love. With intimate knowledge of all things Smithtown Brad Harris is ready with a fact, a detail and a story.  A request for the truth about the legend of Richard Smith’s (Smythe) riding a bull around the territory now known as Smithtown elicited a smile and a response that included everything from the casting of the bull we call “Whisper” to the Branglebrink Dairy Farm and its owner, Charles Butler a descendent of Richard Smith and grandson of John Lawrence Smith.

Up until five years ago the position of Town Historian came without compensation. In 2007 the Town Board awarded a $5,000 a year stipend to the Town Historian. Brad’s work includes researching and publishing books about Smithtown its inhabitants and its history. He has written numerous articles published in the Smithtown News documenting the development of the communities in Smithtown, and its inhabitants (Smithtown Matters also publishes articles written by Mr. Harris). He has written books about some of the hamlets that make up Smithtown including: Commack, Saint James, and Hauppauge. Currently he is documenting Nesconset’s history.

During his tenure as Town Historian Brad has made many short films and videos about Smithtown, originally working with Cablevision more recently collaborating with the Town’s Department of Public Safety. (All the information is available through Smithtown’s Historical Society).

The job of Town Historian includes attending to all matters related to historical buildings as well as various historical events that are held throughout the year. “Really the job is to promote interest in the history of the community, and I think I’ve consistently done that over the past 34 years in a number of ways.” said Harris. You’d be hard pressed to find someone that disagrees with him. It is safe to say he’s come along way since having been appointed somewhat randomly to his position.

Mr. Harris currently lives in St. James with his wife Joan. They have two sons, and three grandchildren. He continues to serve as Town Historian as he has since 1978.

(Special thanks to Maureen Sussillo, Deputy Town Clerk, for locating Brad’s appointment document.)

 

 

 

 

Saturday
Jul072012

“R.H. Handley, the man who owned San Remo before San Remo existed….”

By Brad Harris

         One hundred years ago, the little waterfront community that we know today as San Remo did not exist.  A glance at the map showing the mouth of the Nissequogue River, from the 1909 E. Belcher Hyde Atlas of Suffolk County, shows that the 187 acres of property that make up today’s San Remo was then owned by one man, R. H. Handley.   Who was R. H. Handley and why did he acquire the 187 acres of property in Smithtown on the Nissequogue River?

          Richard Hochman Handley was ”born on December 23, 1848, in New York City” but he grew up in the Handley family home in Hauppauge.  The Handleys had a large estate that was located south of Veteran’s Memorial Highway, and encompassed the land between Northern State Parkway and Old Willets Path.  The Handley home was located on what is today the southeast corner of the intersection of New Highway and Veteran’s Memorial Highway.  Richard’s father died in 1857 when Richard was nine years old, and Richard inherited his father’s estate.  Richard continued to live with his mother in the large Handley home.  Richard was home schooled since he “received his education through private tutors.”  His favorite subjects “were English literature, history and music.”  It was his love of history that led him to collect historical materials throughout his life.  As a youth he collected stamps, coins and Indian arrowheads.  As an adult, he became interested in collecting books and documents relating to Long Island History, and during the course of his lifetime, he collected over 800 books and 1,200 manuscripts that pertained to Long Island’s history.  This collection of books and manuscripts is the backbone of the unique historical material that can be found in the Long Island Room of the Smithtown Library.  (Jean Leonard, “The Richard H. Handley Collection of Long Island Americana at the Smithtown Library,” Master’s thesis submitted to the Graduate Library School of L.I. University, Brookville, N.Y., 1965, p. 10-13, on file in the Long Island Room of the Smithtown Library.)

         As a young man, Richard “represented his mother” in a number of “real estate dealings” that involved New York City property that his mother had inherited from her family, the Hochmans.  Richard was successful in his real estate transactions and “increased his real estate holdings in New York City properties” and acquired additional “holdings on Long Island from Hempstead to the Hamptons.  In later years he became greatly interested in stocks and bonds and maintained an office in New York City.”  This financial success gave Richard Handley an independence which made it possible for him to live comfortably in his family’s home in Hauppauge.  (Jean Leonard, op. cit., p. 10-13.)

         And a grand house it was that he shared with his mother.  While his mother was alive, Richard Handley remained single and didn’t get married.  Three years after his mother’s death, in 1890, at the age of 42, Richard “married Mary Lavinia Osborn … from California.”  He brought his bride to live in the big house in Hauppauge.  Downstairs Richard Handley had his library that was overflowing with the books and manuscripts he was collecting.  The kitchen, dining room, and parlor completed the downstairs.  Upstairs the house had six bedrooms on the second floor, each with a wood burning fireplace.  On the third floor there were three servants’ rooms, a study room for the children, and later a darkroom where Mr. Handley printed and developed his own photographs.  The estate even had gas lanterns that lit up the grounds at night.  It was here that the Handleys lived for the next 24 years and raised their family.  (Jean Leonard, op. cit., p. 10-13.)

         It must have been sometime after his marriage in 1890 that Richard Handley purchased the 187 acres of land on the Nissequogue River.  Why he chose to do so at this time is not known but it may have had something to do with his interest in bicycling.  Among the many interests that Richard pursued during his life was a lifelong interest in sports and outdoor activity.  Before his marriage, he made “numerous hunting trips to the Adirondacks,” he made many “fishing trips,” and he loved iceboating.  His marriage did not end these pursuits since his wife loved the outdoors and seemed to enjoy physical activity as well.  No doubt, she accompanied him on some of these forays.  One sport they both enjoyed was bicycling and the Handleys were often described as “enthusiastic bicylcists.”  To ensure they would have a suitable bicycle path to ride on near their home in Hauppauge, Richard Handley had a bicycle path built.  (Jean Leonard, op. cit., p. 10-13.)

         The first section of the bicycle path was built in 1892 and connected the Handley estate in Hauppauge with the town of Smithtown.  To create this path, Richard must have been in the market to purchase land for his bike path.  In 1897, Mr. Handley had his bicycle path extended to Brentwood.  Using the Handley Path it became possible to ride from Brentwood to Hauppauge and from there to Smithtown, or if one followed a west fork in the path, the cyclist could travel to Comac and on up to Northport.  The Handley Bicycle Path became one of Long Island’s most beautiful and popular bike paths on Long Island.  Its popularity increased when the Brentwood Wheelmen got together in 1899 and extended the bicycle path further south to Bay Shore.  That made it possible to bike from the south shore to the north shore through some of the most scenic terrain on Long island.  It is a ride that Mr. and Mrs. Handley must have frequently taken.  (Information taken from articles found in a scrapbook that belonged to Richard Handley.  These articles appeared in local papers and only one is dated and labeled:  Bay Shore Journal, August 14, 1897.  The originals are on file in the Long Island Room of the Smithtown Library.)

         We know that Richard Handley purchased the 187 acres of land sometime before 1909 since he appears as the owner on the 1909 atlas.  The property that he purchased apparently had only one dwelling on it, the house known to historians as the Lawrence House.  The house was built in 1821 on the farmland owned by Elias Smith.  Elias Smith built the house “for his daughter Phebe Tredwell Smith (1801-1889) on her marriage to Leonard W. Lawrence.”  Leonard Lawrence (1795-1887) who came to Smithtown in 1820 was “a descendant of Major William Lawrence and the Patentee’s daughter Deborah Smith.”  Elias Smith’s own home was nearby on the Northside Road not far from the farm and pond of James B. Harned.  (Colonel Rockwell’s Scrap-book, edited by Charlotte Ganz, Smithtown Historical Society, Smithtown, N.Y., 1968, p. 114.)

         Phebe and Leonard Lawrence lived in the house that Elias built for most of their lives.  They had a son named William Charles Lawrence (1827-1888).  In 1851 he married Elizabeth H. Smith, a daughter of Major Ebenezer Smith of Hauppauge.  He lived in his grandfather Elias Smith’s house, and “undertook the management of the 187 acres of his father’s farm.”  William turned out to be a “successful farmer” and, according to J. Lawrence Smith, he had “a large area” under “cultivation.”  When Leonard Lawrence died at 92 in 1887, and his son William C. died at 61 a year later in 1888, the Lawrence farm was occupied by William’s daughter Anna Willis Lawrence and her husband, Charles Hilton Brown.  But “owing to the peculiar conditions of the will of Elias Smith, it became necessary to sell the place under a suit of partition, and it was purchased by James W. Phyfe, Esq. who was the owner in 1898.”  (Colonel Rockwell’s Scrapbook, op. cit., p. 114.) 

         Sometime before 1909, Richard Handley bought the 187 acres of farmland from James W. Phyfe.  Why he chose to do this is not known.  The property certainly must have been a desirable piece of farmland but Handley wasn’t interested in farming.  The waterfront property was valuable for the docks that were located where Landing Road came down to the river’s edge, but by the turn of the twentieth century, the traffic of sloops and schooners in and out of the Nissequogue River had come to an end and the docks were rotting away.  Perhaps Richard Handley bought the property on speculation figuring that in a few years’ time he would be able to flip the property and make a great deal of money.  But that doesn’t explain why he purchased an additional 80 acres of property that was to the south of Landing Road.  This property, located on both sides of Landing Avenue, was the land owned by Aaron Smith II (1741-1794). The John Vail House is still standing on the southwest corner of the intersection of Landing Avenue and Landing Road, and on the river front below the house, was Aaron’s Landing.  When Handley purchased this property sometime between 1909 and 1914, it was owned by Mrs. K.V.K. Hale.  The addition of these 80 acres to the 187 acres of land he already owned, gave Richard Handley 267 acres of land at the north end of Landing Avenue.  Perhaps Richard Handley acquired this property so that anyone cycling north on the Handley Bike Path would have a private park where they could stop to rest and relax, break out the picnic baskets and eat lunch while enjoying the views of the Nissequogue River and Smithtown Bay.  We actually have a photograph of the Handley family enjoying a picnic lunch on this property in the files of the Smithtown Historical Society so the suggestion that he might have wanted the property for a park may not be so far- fetched. 

         What he intended to do with this land will never be known because Richard Handley met a tragic and untimely end when “on July 16, 1914, Richard Handley died from injuries he sustained as a result of a fall from a favorite polo pony which had grown fractious and which he was endeavoring to subdue.”  Richard Handley was 66 and apparently still enjoying horseback riding and polo when a fall from his pony resulted in his death.  The 267 acres of property he purchased from James Phyfe and Mrs. K.V.K. Hale was still part of the Handley Estate in 1917 and it would be a decade after Handley’s death before the land was sold to others and the development of San Remo began.    R.H. Handley Obituary - NY Times    

 

Thursday
Jul052012

Marion Carll Farm - Commack's History or Is It History?

By Chad Kushins

Part II

Part I  Marion Carll Farm - Commack’s History Or Is It History?

In the end, the CCA’s legal action proved not to be necessary. The school district responded to the impending lawsuit amid an outpouring of continued criticism.  One Commack resident, attorney James Tampellini, wrote Inside the Marion Carll Housean online article outlining recommendations to the school district, suggesting specific legal avenues that the district could take to counter the Carll heirs’ case.  According to Tampellini, two options include the “statute of limitations” law, which would prove that the heirs lost their claim to the property under the 10-year statue period dictated by Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law; and “adverse possession” laws, which would aim to prove that the Carll heirs already own the property due to the district’s previous breach of the deed’s restrictions in 1990 when it utilized the land for BOCES.  While the latter option proves the riskiest on paper, forcing the district to indicate its own breach of the will’s stipulations, if it was proven that Marion Carll’s heirs were the owners all along, it would be within the district’s legal right to point out the heirs had done nothing with the land themselves.

“In my view, there are a few avenues that [the school district] should take and also a few that they should have already taken,” Tampellini told Smithtown Matters.  “I don’t believe that the district has submitted an answer that is sufficient.  I think that they could have submitted an answer that could have raised additional defenses and potential counter-claims …  it’s deficient and there are some other things that should have been in [the district’s response].”

Tampellini continued, “Specifically, the ‘statute of limitations defense’ was never researched or submitted before, which I find odd.”

With the small exception of BOCE’s brief usage of the property – which included construction of a one-room schoolhouse and the renovation of a few of the property’s barns – the heirs’ accusations are not far off.  Although the school district had tried to find a workable use for the farm over the course of four decades, in recent years, the farm itself is most often seen as a shuttered eyesore that, despite its recognition as a historical property by the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, is largely closed to the public.  In 1977, the district attempted to put funding aside for a renovation of the barn, which met with resident criticism, and in June of 2010, residents voted against the school district’s attempt to sell the property to Plainview developer Holiday Organization for $750,000.  Holiday owner, Elliot Monter, had expressed interest in turning the farmhouse into a private residence and constructing an additional 30 homes on the land.  As the owner of The Hamlet Golf and Country Club and an adjacent gated community which directly surrounds Carll’s farm, Monet’s plan would have integrated the historic property right into the already-standing private community and golf club. 

According to Carll’s heirs, that’s not what she had in mind when she wrote her will – although if the case ultimately rules in their favor, they would be free to sell the land themselves without resident approval.  According to James Tampellini, the possibility of Carll’s heirs winning their suit to reclaim the Commack property has one major potential outcome which could ultimately ruffle even more town feathers: re-instated as the private owners of the land, Carll’s heirs could find themselves in a legal position to sell the property to anyone they want and keep the full profits; in effect, the same feared outcome that residents feared in 2010, only now without the financial benefits to the taxpayers and the school district.

“They would get [the property] free and clear with no restrictions,” said Tampellini.  “The school district would need approval to sell the property.  The heirs wouldn’t.  The only restriction that they might potentially face, would be regarding the farm’s historic designation, but the family would most likely be able to work around that or still sell certain portions.”

The Carll family owned the nine acres on the west side of Commack Road since 1701 the farmhouse was constructed in 1860, following earlier construction of some of the surrounding barns. From 1929 until 1951, a small airport built by descendent John Carll was operational on the site, housing half a dozen airplanes used for private use.  When Marion Carll was born in 1885, the local school district had no high school of its own, forcing her to attend one located in Jamaica, Queens; a lifelong advocate of education, Marion eventually became a teacher herself, returning to Commack for the duration of her career until her retirement in 1924.  But even then, Marion Carll remained an active advocate and resident, working as a treasurer for the Commack Grammar School and organizing the town’s first Parent-Teacher Association.  In recognition of her achievements and efforts, that school was renamed the Marion E. Carll School in 1957, eleven years before her death at age of 83.

Most residents were not surprised to learn that she had willed her family’s farmland to the Commack School District; she had already been welcoming visiting students to the property for years, teaching them about local history and the many functions of the farm.  As a stipulation of her will, she had also granted her niece, Alberta Jenkins, life tenancy on the property, but when Jenkins passed away in 1993, the door was opened to reassess the land’s overall value and its future. 

Carll’s only other stipulation had been that the property and farm be used for educational purposes.  However, with lack of regular usage of a master plan in place, the school district has admitted that many buildings on the property are in disrepair, primarily due to budget restraints.  With this in mind, the district is claiming that they have not only maintained the property to the best of its ability, but that it has also carried out Carll’s wishes through utilization has it has seen fit – meaning that the will’s clause reverting the property to the heirs is non-applicable.  Additionally, the Commack School District also claims that New York State Supreme Court has the power to remove the restrictive uses imposed on the land by Carll’s will, and that, as more than two years have passed, the clause in question has since expired.

The Commack School District is currently seeking to both have Carll’s heirs’ lawsuit dismissed and the usage restriction removed, claiming that a judge should have the final word on the matter. It is expected that the case will be largely discussed at upcoming school district meetings and civics meetings throughout the summer.  With the Commack School District’s 24-page “response” to the Carll heirs’ suit submitted, a preliminary response from the State is expected in Mid-July.

Next Week - The Community reacts.