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Smithtown Man Arrested - Driving With A Suspended/Revoked License 64 Times

Stefan GiokasSuffolk County Police arrested a man yesterday for having his license suspended and/or revoked a total of 64 times, driving while ability impaired by drugs and in possession of a controlled substance.

Officers Paul Viteritti and David Fuentes of the First Precinct Patrol arrested Stefan Giokas, 30, and charged him with Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle 1st Degree, DWAI and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance 7th Degree.

Giokas, Smithtown, will be arraigned Friday at First District Court in Central Islip.

A criminal charge is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.


Jump Out Of A Plane? Really Dad?

People In The News - 

Kings Park resident Jim Dipelesi would do anything for his dad.  Anything? absolutely. So when his 86-year old dad announced he was going to fulfill a lifelong goal and skydive, it was a no-brainer that Jim would  say count me in.  

86-year old Jim L. DipelesiAt 13,500 feet, local Kings Park resident and business owner (JRD Tech) Jim Dipelesi, and hisKings Park resident Jim Dipelesi dad, Jim L Dipelesi, each checked one thing off their bucket lists on Saturday, April 28, 2012.  Exiting from a perfectly good twin engine plane, in fact three generations of the Dipelesi family stepped out.  It had been a lifelong ambition of the WW2 Navy Veteran’s, which was picked up on by his grandson Danny.  His gift to his grandfather was to skydive from the SkyRanch up in Gardiner, NY.  But the elder Dipelesi had another goal of his own.  He wanted to wait until his 86th birthday, which was earlier this month, so that he was a year older than George H Bush when he celebrated his 85th birthday with a parachute jump.  Dad knew that the record was by a 100 year old, but there is time for that.

The staff at the SkyRanch were all very impressed with the 86 year old.  Dad commented that the day was perfect, and once back on the ground, he shook the hand of his tandem instructor Steve, thanking him for a great ride.

Along for the adventure with the two Jim’s, was sister Joan, and two of her sons, Danny and Chris, with their two girlfriends.


Making Nissequogue a Place of “Healing”

The push to construct a public garden in Nissequogue State Park grounds

By Chad Kushins

Last week, details were unveiled for New York’s state parks within the Town of Smithtown, including plans for funding allocated towards Nissequogue River State Park. 

At a Kings Park Chamber of Commerce luncheon meeting on April 18th, Deputy Director of the Long Island Region of State Parks, and former State Senator, Brian X. Foley spoke in regards to $14 million that was secured for the park by State Senator John J. Flanagan.  According to Foley, those funds are slated for the demolition of some of the condemned and vacant structures of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center.

In an additional effort towards beautification, the Commack-Kings Park Rotary is planning to install a “healing garden” on the property, kicking off with an upcoming “wine and cheese” fundraiser on May 2nd

“The biggest project taking place within he property will be the demolition of fifteen buildings and a few other, smaller structures,” Director of the Long Island Region of State Parks Ron Foley [no relation] told Smithtown Matters.  “Once that is complete, then the main focus is to clear the full area of dangerous and hazardous materials, which is always part of that type of project.”

According to Foley, the actual demolition is slated to begin in early July of 2012, with an approximate completion date of November 2013 – however, it could be finished well before that time.  “The contractors are confident that the work could be done quite a while before November and we agree, once it’s underway.” 

Additionally, Foley stated that the proposed “Healing Garden”, while only being one facet of the finished park, will bring an area of “serenity and quiet” to the property as a whole.  “Right now, much of the park property off of St. Johnland Road is already open to the public and people are free to come and enjoy it.  But the garden will be a specific area where visitors can sit in peace and quiet, see the butterflies, and have a place of serenity.”

According to Foley, the “Healing Garden” is a collaboration between the Commack-Kings Park Rotary Club and the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation. 

The park is located on the banks and bluffs of the Nissequogue River.  The park was initially announced in 1999 on the site of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center.  Many of the hospital’s original buildings remain standing in the park, and a few have been renovated and reused, most notably Building 125, the former Veterans Administration Building which currently serves as the main park office.  Recreational events for residents usually take place there, in the public-friendly areas, including, bird-watching, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, hiking, biking, and guided tours, many of which are conducted by the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation. 

The proposed “Healing Garden” takes as its inspiration the numerous such designated areas located within public sanctuaries, monasteries, and other places of mediation, where the design and layout is made to exist concurrently with the natural surroundings.  In New York’s Central Park, eight separate areas are officially designated as “quiet zones” and the Nissequogue State Park “Healing Garden” would function for similar usage. 

According to Commack – Kings Park Rotary Club President, Pat Biancaniello, “the idea of a “healing garden” came about when Assemblyman Steve Engelbright suggested a tour of Snug Harbor Park in Staten Island. One look at the wonderful gardens at Snug Harbor and its creative reuse of the property and I was sold.”

Our Rotary Club was looking for a local project that was meaningful and would have a lasting impact on the community.  “A “healing garden” on the grounds of a former psychiatric center was very appealing.  But the intent of the garden is so much more. We are hoping to create a place of serenity for reflection and rejuvenation.”

According to Nissequogue River State Park Foundation Chairman Mike Rosato, the “Healing Garden” is slated for construction in the more northern end of the grounds.  “Right now, we’re just preparing for the first phase of the demolition,” Rosato told Smithtown Matters.  “We’re looking forward to partnering with New York State Parks Recreation and Historic Reservation and the Rotary to establish the garden.  It will provide the public with a peaceful place with the park, overlooking the Long Island Sound and the Nissequogue River.”

Additional information regarding the future plans for Nissequogue State Park are available through the Foundation at their official website: http://www.ourstatepark.com/ as well as the park’s official site through New York’s Park and Recreation: http://nysparks.com/parks/110/details.aspx

The Commack-Kings Park Rotary’s “Wine and Cheese” fundraising event, aiming to meet the financial needs of the proposed “Healing Garden”, will be taking place at Nissequogue State Park, 799 Saint Johnland Road in Kings Park, on Wednesday, May 2nd.  As a formal affair, the event is a donation of $50 per plate, or $75 per couple.  Further information is available at http://www.commackrotary.org/




Man Arrested for Aggravated DWI with Child in Vehicle; Child’s Father Flees Scene

Suffolk County Police today arrested a man for driving under the influence of drugs with a four-year-old child in the vehicle - child’s father arrested after fleeing from the scene.

While on routine patrol, a Fourth Precinct Community Oriented Police Enforcement (COPE) officer observed a 1995 Lincoln sedan cross over the center divider line on Route 25, east of Southern Boulevard, in Smithtown at 11:40 a.m.  When the officer pulled the driver of the vehicle over, the passenger, Paul Lucente, 30, of Kings Park, fled the scene, leaving his four-year-old child in the backseat.  Further investigation revealed that the driver, Benjamin Laudonio, 26, of Stony Brook, was under the influence of drugs.

Benjamin LaudonioLaudonio, was charged with Operating a Motor Vehicle Impaired by Drugs, Aggravated DWI with a Child Less Than 16 Years Old (a Felony under Leandra’s Law), Aggravated Unlicensed Operation 3rd Degree, One Count of Endangering the Welfare of a Child and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance 7th Degree.

Lucente was located a short time later and arrested.  Fourth Precinct detectivesPaul Lucente charged Lucente with one count of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance 7th Degree and one count of Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

Fourth Squad detectives are continuing the investigation.  Anyone who has information is asked to call detectives at the Fourth Squad at 631-854-8452.

A criminal charge is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.


Titanic Passenger James Clinch - Part Of Smithtown's History

1912 - Titanic And Smithtown

By Rita Egan 

All photos courtesy of the Smithtown Historical Society

With the recent re-release of the movie Titanic, the 1912 tragedy is brought to the big screen once again. With a storyline revolving around passengers from both the upper and lower social classes, movie goers can get a glimpse of what life was like a hundred years ago.

James Clinch SmithTo get a sense of Smithtown and its residents in the early 1900s, one can look at the lives of Titanic victim, James Clinch Smith, and his sisters. Descendants of town founder, Richard Smythe, the siblings were prominent local citizens, and their lifestyles and homes brought a sense of high society to our area.

Children of Judge J. Lawrence Smith, James, Bessie, Cornelia, Kate and Ella all maintained homes in our township that still stand today. Despite their father’s career as a lawyer turned judge, the Smiths had a humble upbringing. In herBessie unpublished manuscript written in May of 1926, Bessie described their post-Civil War childhood as being a poor one. Like many during that era, they experienced rations where meat could only be eaten on Sunday and most of their food came from the farm.

However, in 1886, the Smith siblings and their mother Sarah inherited a significant amount of money from Sarah’s aunt. According to a November 2, 1886 The New York Times article, their Aunt Cornelia was the widow of the wealthy A.T. Stewart, who was the owner of the first department store in New York City. Besides being the recipients of the generous inheritance, the Smiths married impressive spouses.

James Clinch, a lawyer like his father, married a musician and composer, Bertha Ludington Barnes, in 1895. According to Portrait and Biographical Record of Suffolk County, (Long Island) New York, Bertha worked primarily in Paris, France, and James would travel regularly between Europe and New York. The young Smith inherited his father’s homestead in 1889 and was on the Titanic to return to Smithtown and prepare the home for the couple’s return to the states. This structure remains today in its original location on the property of the Smithtown Historical Society.

Smithtown Historian, Brad Harris, said James had a great interest in horses. He owned the St. James Driving Park, a horse racetrack that was located at Edgewood Avenue and Fifty Acre Road from 1888 to 1905, and he was a member of the Smithtown Hunt Club, which was established in 1900. James and his wife also enjoyed the lifestyle of high society in New York City. The resident of Smithtown was well liked by many and was remembered fondly in the Book The Truth About the Titanic written by his friend Archibald Gracie.

Gracie, who watched helplessly as James was engulfed by a wave on the ship, wrote of his friend, “He never showed the slightest sign of fear, but manifested the same quiet imperturbable manners so well known to all of his friends.”

Bessie’s HouseWhile James may have added the spirit of horse racing and the hunt to our area, the Smith sisters added the feel of the Long Island Gold Coast with their country estates. This was mostly due to Bessie’s marriage to prominent architect Stanford White in 1884. To this day, all of the sisters’ homes exist in Head of the Harbor as private residences.

In her manuscript, Bessie wrote of the couple’s home at Box Hill. It was the spot that she and her sisters would pass on their way to the beach at the harbor when they were younger. Whenever their buggy would reach the hill, the young Bessie would get out and run across the fields to take in the view.

The Whites acquired Box Hill in 1892 and quickly expanded the once simple Carman’s farmhouse. According to the AIA Architectural Guide to Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Long Island, White added many personal touches to the home. The structure features walls covered with split bamboo, a staircase of green tiles and 16h century Italian spiral pillars. Box Hill is also known for its pebble-dashed exterior that was accomplished by submerging pebbles in wet cement.

When the Whites moved to Head of the Harbor, Cornelia Stewart and her husband, lawyer Prescott Hall Butler, already owned the estate By-the-Harbor. According to Images of America: St. James, White’s architecture team of McKim, Mead and White designed the casino and playhouse on the property that is now used as a private residence. The structure included a large ballroom where the Smithtown Hunt Balls were held and also a squash court in the north wing.

The Butler property was once the spot of the highest wooden windmill. According to Colonel Rockwell’s Scrap-Book, the four-sided structure was 28’ in diameter and 150’ above the bluffs. Overlooking Stony Brook Harbor, the windmill was designed by White in 1893 and completed in 1895. The windmill that once supplied spring water to the houses on the property burned down in 1964.

Sister Kate also chose to live in the Head of the Harbor right by Bessie and CorneliaKate’s Home in a home designed by White. According to Noel Gish’s Smithtown, New York, 1660 – 1929:  Looking back Through the Lens, Kate moved back to our area when her husband Reverend J.B. Wetherill passed away. The Wetherill Mansion was completed in 1895, and is described by the AIA Architectural Guide to Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Long Island, as octagon in shape. With the look of Maltese Cross, each face of the structure is surrounded by a gable with alternating round-headed Palladian windows.

Ella lived in the old family homestead of Sherrewogue on Harbor Road with her husband noted golf architect Devereux Emmet.  White also worked on the designElla of Ella’s home to convert it into a country estate, and by 1912 she had acquired 600 acres of land in the area. According to Colonel Rockwell’s Scrap-Book, Sherrewogue most likely was built before 1688, and due to Ella, it remained in the family until 1935.

Ella’s HomeThe Smith sisters not only contributed beautiful estates to the area. Visitors to St. James Episcopal will find the family’s involvements in the early days led to White designing three of the stained glass windows in the church. According to the church’s brochure, oak choir stalls were donated by Bessie in 1901.

According to the website Antiques and the Arts Online, the family also contributed to the Episcopal chapel in Stony Brook that is now All Souls Church. The original baptismal font and communion service were donated by Cornelia and Kate, while White contributed architectural plans as well as the gold leaf in the ceiling decoration.

Harris said it was Cornelia who contributed the most to our town. Among her financial backings were a school in St. James in 1880 and the first permanent library structure in Smithtown. In 1911 Cornelia donated property for the building. Located on the north side of Middle Country Road where we find Route 111 today, the town’s first library was designed by Cornelia’s son, Lawrence. The building was moved across the street in 1950, and the original structure has remained as the children’s wing.  

Taking a closer look around town, present residents can feel the effects of the lives and contributions of the Smith siblings; their influences allowing a bit of the early 20th century to be carried into modern times in Smithtown.