12/28/12 2:00pm
12/28/2012 2:00 PM

SUFFOLK COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE PHOTO | The proposed pool and fitness center at Suffolk County Community College’s eastern campus would be similar to this one at the Brentwood campus.

Suffolk County Community College’s proposed “Health and Wellness Center” at the Eastern Campus in Northampton, a project that would include an indoor swimming pool, will need to get an exemption from the state’s Central Pine Barrens Commission before it can move forward.

The Eastern Campus, which was built in 1977, is located within the core of the Central Pine Barrens, an area where the state’s 1993 Pine Barrens Protection Act places strict limits on new development.

But the college argues that the health and wellness center was part of a 1973 college master plan for the Eastern Campus, and that many other components of that plan have been allowed to be built by the Pine Barrens Commission.

The fitness center project, which would be similar to what the college has at its Brentwood campus, would include an eight lane indoor swimming pool, fitness center, meeting space and nursing laboratory, according to George Gatta, an executive vice president at the college.

The fitness center would include a strength training room, aerobic room, gymnasium, classroom space, office space, locker rooms and lobby, according to the county.

The Suffok County Legislature has included $17.75 million for the project in its capital budget.

The college plans to make the fitness center and pool opened for use by the general public when not being used by the college. At Brentwood, the fitness center and pool have more than 1,440 members, who pay a membership fee, and the pool is also used by local high schools and swim clubs that rent it for meets, according to Mary Lou Araneo, the college’s vice president for institutional advancement.

Mr. Gatta argued at a Dec. 21 meeting of the Pine Barrens Commission that the college’s 1973 master plan for the Eastern Campus included six buildings that the Pine Barrens Commission has allowed to be built on the campus since 1995, including the 40,000 square foot Montauk Learning Resource Center, which was formally opened last year.

In order to get an exemption to build in the Pine Barrens Core, a development must qualify as “non-development” under the guidelines of the 1993 law.

One category that the Pine Barrens law does not define as “development” is “public improvements undertaken for the health, safety and welfare of the public.”

The college is arguing that the health and fitness center falls under that category.

In 1995, the college submitted its 1993 master plan for the Eastern Campus, which included the health and wellness center in a “phase two,” and which included the Montaukett building in Phase One, to the Pine Barrens Commission.

The commission, on Jan. 3, 1995, ruled that Phase One of the master plan “constitutes non-development” under the Pine Barrens Act, but it made no mention of phase two or three of the college master plan.

“We never got an explanation why phase two and three were not included,” said Louis Petrizzo, the college’s general counsel.

“The college continued to inform the commission of its plans to implement the remaining elements of the 1973-76 and 1993 master plans, as well as the 2001 master plan update,” Mr. Gatta said. They sent letters to the commission in 2005 and 2006 and have received no response or explanation why the second and third phases of their master plan didn’t receive approval.

He said the college, “receiving no response to either communication, moved forward with the planning and contraction of the Learning Resource Center and continued to plan for the implementation of the Health and Wellness Center.”

The Pine Barrens Commission is made up of the supervisors of Riverhead, Southampton and Brookhaven towns, along with one representative each from Suffolk County and New York State.

“We’ve already passed judgment that this is non-development,” said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, alluding to the 1995 Pine Barrens ruling.

John Milazzo, the attorney for the commission, reminded him that the master plan was in three phases, and only the first one received commission approval in 1995.

“So, if the first phase was non-development, couldn’t we just pass a resolution at the next meeting saying this is non-development too?” Mr. Walter asked.

Richard Amper, the executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society (which is not part of the pine barrens commission, although Mr. Amper was instrumental in developing the Pine Barrens Act), pointed that there were amendments to the Pine Barrens Act in 2005, and that there may be different criteria now than there was in 1995.

Mr. Milazzo concurred. He also said that the presentation at the Dec. 21 meeting was just for informational purposes, and that there is currently no formal application before the commission for the college’s plans, so they couldn’t approve them yet.

Mr. Amper later criticized commissioner members during a hearing that same day on Kent Animal Shelter’s proposal for a new shelter building at its River Road location, which needs an exception to build in the Pine Barrens core.

During that hearing, Mr. Walter praised Kent, saying they are “our defacto municipal shelter” and handle 50 percent of the dog needs for the town.

Mr. Amper said that “Kent’s providing a great public service is entirely irrelevant to the application.”

He said he’s been complaining lately that the commission members are judging applications based on whether they are a good use or provide a public service, rather then whether they meet the criteria set forth of the Pine Barrens legislation.

“Even if it were a place to honor saints, that doesn’t mean it qualifies for a hardship exemption,” Mr. Amper said.


08/20/12 11:15am
08/20/2012 11:15 AM


Shaun McKay, get comfortable.

Dr. McKay, president of Suffolk County Community College, just had his employment contract extended to 2020.

The school’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously on Thursday to adopt a resolution extending the contract, school officials said.

“We know Dr. McKay will continue to strengthen the college’s reputation for excellence and that he is committed to ensuring its operations are focused upon enhancing student success,” board chairwoman Dafny Irizarry said in a statement. “The board would like to publicly acknowledge its satisfaction with the broad range of accomplishments achieved to date under Dr. McKay’s leadership.”

“We are confident that we will all see many additional, noteworthy gains as Dr. McKay continues his tenure as president, she added.”

The move comes at a time when Dr. McKay and school officials are trying to grow the college’s Eastern Campus in Northampton.

Just last year, the school began construction on a new, $14.5 million learning center at the campus, commonly referred to as the school’s Riverhead campus. The project is now complete.

Officials also plan to build a fitness center at the campus, complete with an indoor pool.

The plan took a step forward in June, when the county Legislature voted to include the $17.75 million for the project in the county’s capital budget.

The proposed gymnasium and health/fitness center would include an indoor pool, a strength training room, an aerobic room, a gymnasium, classroom space, office space, locker rooms and a lobby, according county officials.

Currently, Eastern Campus students have to trek to the Brentwood campus to complete physical education requirements.

Dr. McKay, of Manorville, was appointed president in 2010 at a salary of $230,000, according to a State University of New York officials.

The extension doesn’t make any salary changes, college officials said, adding that Dr. McKay “surrendered” an annual cost of living adjustment both this year and last.

With some 26,000 students at three campuses, Suffolk Community is the largest community college in the SUNY system, officials said.

Read about Dr. McKay on the Suffolk County Community College website.


08/31/11 1:15pm
08/31/2011 1:15 PM
Suffolk Community College Culinary School

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Kellyann Zito, 25, of Riverhead, in the Baker's Workshop kitchen earlier this summer. She was working on a 'Baking and Pastries Certificate' to improve her skills for her job at 'Sweet Jenni's Bakery' in Center Moriches.

It could be crusty loaves of semolina one week and slices of apple-pecan layer cake the next — and after that, a variety of hand-decorated sugar cookies.

Those are among baked goods that could pop up on the shelves of The Baker’s Workshop on East Main Street in Riverhead, depending on what culinary arts students at Suffolk County Community College are learning that week.

The bakery, set to open Tuesday is a transformation of the former Baker’s Workshop Café and Bistro. It will be a bakery only and will be run almost entirely by students.

Students previously contributed cooking to the café, but now they’ll take the reins on all aspects of food preparation and management.

“This will give them a good opportunity to see what it’s like working at a bakery,” said Christina DeLustro, professor and manager of The Baker’s Workshop.

Dave Bergen, associate dean of the culinary arts and hospitality center, said portions of the former café’s operations were curriculum-driven, but school officials wanted to focus on baking only, infusing education into every aspect.

That means no more sandwiches or burgers. But it does mean sweets — and lots of them.

The bakery won’t have a regular menu, as offerings will coincide with a changing curriculum. But treats likely to make appearances include scones, muffins, cupcakes, mousses, cakes and puff pastries.

Each culinary arts student must complete an internship, and working at the bakery will fill that requirement, Ms. DeLustro said. In addition to gaining management and customer service experience, students will learn a variety of baking techniques, including glazing, decorating, folding, creaming and mixing.

“We want to make sure they’re capable of making cookies, cakes and other staples in the industry,” Ms. DeLustro said.

Prices have not yet been set, but Ms. DeLustro said they’ll be comparable to those of other area bakeries. The bakery will operate as a nonprofit, as did the former café, and she expects it to break even.

The shop will offer much more than scones and muffins during October and November. That’s when students will serve “fine dining” dinners and lunches offering multiple courses that connected to the curriculum. But college officials say they don’t see The Baker’s Workshop as competition for other downtown eateries, since it won’t offer hot food most of the time.

“We think it’s going to be well-received by other eating establishments in downtown Riverhead,” Ms. DeLustro said.

The Baker’s Workshop will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.


08/16/11 5:54am
08/16/2011 5:54 AM

COURTESY PHOTO | Edward Stever, a former postal service employee who didn't write a thing until he was 30, was recently appointed Suffolk County Poet Laureate.

Edward Stever has published two collections of poetry. He has written and performed in dozens of plays, many of which he also directed. He has won a number of prestigious awards and recognitions for his writing.

And the Rocky Point resident never wrote a thing until he was 30 years old.

“I was kind of a late bloomer,” said Mr. Stever, a one-time postal worker, who later became a poet and professor.

Now Mr. Stever, 56, has been appointed Suffolk County Poet Laureate, a two-year position that began June 1 and may require him to write poems for government occasions.

Poet Laureate wasn’t something Mr. Stever, who dreamed when he was little of becoming a police officer, planned to tack on to his résumé. He realized he had a gift when he enrolled in his first college course, a writing class, at Suffolk County Community College and his professor told him he was the best in the class.

Now he calls writing “something I have to do.”

Each morning, he’ll read poems from other writers, gaining inspiration and becoming mesmerized with the rhythm of the words.

“It gets you in the right mood,” he said.

And then he’ll write.

Many of his poems contain an element of humor, a mechanism for him to reach a wide audience who can find something in his lines to relate to.

He says he’s inspired by his college professors and by acclaimed poets Charles Simic and William Stafford. Mr. Stafford once told Mr. Stever that his writing allowed him to get on a “deeper wavelength,” a compliment that overcame Mr. Stever.

For his first endeavor as Poet Laureate, Mr. Stever, an adjunct professor of English at SCCC’s Eastern Campus, is currently selecting works from Suffolk County poets which to be performed by actors.

“It’s an attempt to bring poems to a wide audience in a palatable form,” he explained. He strives to “get poetry out there in a way people have not seen it.”

Mr. Stever, who is married and has three daughters, said he was especially pleased to receive the title since he was nominated by former Poet Laureate Tammy Nuzzo-Morgan.

“It’s a great honor,” he said. “I’m extremely flattered and extremely happy.”


07/07/11 5:16am
07/07/2011 5:16 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Suffolk County Community College nursing students Carol Markland of Manorville (left) Krystle Murnane of West Babylon (center) and Gerard Connolly perform on a patient mannequin.

A nursing shortage on the East End spurred Suffolk County Community College to launch a licensed practical nursing program at its downtown Riverhead center in 2008. And the program is about to gain accreditation from the National League of Nursing.

“It has been a long journey,” said program director Doreen Biondolillo. At the same time, she admits that gaining accreditation is usually a much longer process, and she’s pleased that the school’s program has been 100 percent recommended.

The college accepts 30 students into its 11-month program each year — 10 from St. Catherine of Siena Nursing Home in Smithtown and 20 general applicants. The students from St. Catherine’s are nurses’ assistants whose $4,026 tuition is paid by the institution in return for their commitment to serve there for three years after graduation.

This year’s students were selected from among 256 applicants based on grades and recommendations, Ms. Biondolillo said.

“The students are so responsible and the professors are so respectful that there’s a mutual admiration between them,” said Mary Feder, director of college relations and publications.

Students learn about the history of nursing and are steeped in the responsibility they are assuming in learning to properly dispense medications and administer fundamental patient care. They practice in the school lab and receive on-site clinical training at various institutions.

“It’s really a struggle,” Ms. Biondolillo said of the rigors of the program and the challenge of juggling jobs, family life and studies.

“You find a balance if you want it enough,” said 28-yeard-old Krystle Murnane of West Babylon. She still works at St. Catherine’s as a certified nurse’s assistant while raising a 6-year-old daughter and pursuing full-time studies.
“It’s a great opportunity to better myself,” Ms. Murnane said. “I enjoy taking care of people.”

It’s worth sacrificing other activities, according to Carol Markand of Manorville, 42, because nursing enables you to have “an impact on the ill.” It’s why she abandoned her industrial engineering degree to pursue nursing, she said.

“Health is a really big burden on society and it’s very rewarding to look in patients’ eyes and see you’re having a great impact,” Ms. Markand said. “Everybody complains about society, but we are doing the right thing to have an impact. Learning is power.”

While her children are grown, she still has to balance her studies with a full-time job at Island Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Holtsville. She also does private duty nursing in the few free hours she can find in her busy week.

For Gerard Connolly, 29, of Babylon, leaving work as a chef to become a CNA at St. Catherine’s was a real transition. While his former job was high stress, he said, “If you overcook a steak, you just make another one.” Medical errors can have far more serious consequences, he said.

While learning about Florence Nightingale, the English nurse considered to have been a pioneer in the field, Mr. Connolly said he wondered what she’d make of the advances in technology and procedures today.
“But human needs have never changed,” he said.

As a man in what has often been seen as a woman’s field, Mr. Connolly said some patients assume he’s a doctor or plans to be one. But older patients with whom he works simply accept that he’s a nurse.

Despite the program’s rigors of the program, Ms. Biondolillo said there haven’t been any dropouts. She recalls one program participant who was “petrified” the first time she went out to do a clinical assignment with a real patient.
By the time she completed her studies, however, patients were asking for her, Ms. Biondolillo said.

Before taking over the program, Ms. Biondolillo was a nurse for 40 years. She now describes her job as nursing educator as that of a “facilitator,” charged with guiding students.

“These people come with a thirst for knowledge,” she said. “You need to instill your love of nursing and the art and science of nursing. We want them to be the best nurses they can be.”

While Mr. Connolly said he misses the income from a second job and the time he doesn’t have with his wife and child because of his studies, “It’s the only way I’m not going to have to be working two jobs for the rest of my life.”

“This is like a baby I have here that’s growing up and I’m so proud of it,” Ms. Biondolillo said of the program.

An application is pending in Albany to enable SCCC to expand the program to accept more students in the future, she said. Beyond that, the next step will be to develop “a seamless transition” that would educate practical nurses and put them on track to earn credentials as registered nurses.

But a tight economy will likely keep that from galloping forward immediately, Ms. Biondolillo said.


03/12/11 10:08am
03/12/2011 10:08 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Elected offcials and SCCC president Shaun McKay cheer during the unveiling of the colleges new Montaukett Learning Center.

For some students at Suffolk County Community College’s Eastern Campus, finding a spot in the computer lab, until recently, meant getting there very early, very late or when classes were in session.

“I actually had to cut a few classes during finals [to use a computer],” said student government vice president Nathaniel Raffloer of Mastic. Mr. Raffloer said he’s had little choice when writing papers, because he does not own a computer himself.

Finding a computer to use should be much less of a problem with the opening of the $14.5 million Montaukett Learning Resource Center on the Northampton campus.

Construction on the 40,000-square-foot library, which features a lecture hall, study rooms for small groups and twice as many computers as the old library, began last April and was recently completed.

It is the first new building at the college’s Eastern Campus in 34 years.

The structure received a silver certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which ensures that buildings adhere to strict environmental standards. Officials hope it will be upgraded to the highest gold certification.

Elected officials, Eastern Campus executive dean Evon Walters and college president Shaun McKay spoke about the project during a ribbon-cutting ceremony inside the library Friday afternoon. Members of the Montaukett tribe also gave the building a Native American blessing.

“Yes, it’s a beautiful building,” Legislator Ed Romaine said during the ceremony. “But I look even further at the students who will use it and I see Suffolk’s future.”

The county split the project’s cost with New York State, officials said.

SCCC alumnus Brian Linnen of Riverhead noted that the expansion was especially needed at the campus, since enrollment there has swelled from about 3,200 to 4,000 students in the poor economy.

Student space was sparse at the school, he said, forcing many students to study in the noisy cafeteria.

Mr. Linnen is also hoping the new learning center will encourage more students to want to stay on campus, instead of heading straight home after class, and get involved in extracurricular activities. He said he’s happy that the library’s services will be available for younger generations, including his younger brother, Christopher, who is an Eastern Campus student.

“It’s not a luxury,” Mr. Linnen said of the new center. “It’s a necessity.”


03/02/11 11:03am
03/02/2011 11:03 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Chef Instructor Andrea Glick (left) talks to students James Roberts, Corey Woodley and Frank Greenwood as they make wild rice Tuesday morning.

There was no one reminiscent of TV chef Gordon Ramsay screaming obscenities and tossing would-be chefs from the kitchen at Suffolk County Community College’s Culinary Institute Tuesday, as students offered a gourmet luncheon to about 35 guests in Riverhead.

Click to see more photos

Indeed, the atmosphere was filled with enthusiasm from students, instructors and guests who were delighted with the food and service. This was the second successive year that culinary students got out of the classroom to prepare and serve a full upscale meal for community members.

“They have to get real-life experience that this provides,” said David Bergen, associate dean at the college.

The culinary institute operates a regular luncheon program serving sandwiches, soups and pastries on Riverhead’s East Main Street, but the upscale service the students are being trained to perform doesn’t come into play on a daily basis, Mr. Bergen said.
And though many of the events at the school are geared at drawing more foot traffic into the eatery, Mr. Bergen noted the entire operation is nonprofit, with prices geared toward breaking even. And if there is occasional profit from the lunch operation, the money goes back into the culinary program, which has been based in Riverhead for three years.

And the program seems to be operating smoothly. The students preparing and plating meals in the kitchen and bringing them gracefully to the tables Tuesday was truly balletic, more reminiscent of a well-run restaurant than a restaurant college.

For $15, diners enjoyed a three-course meal, including warm baked goat cheese with baby greens and a sherry vinaigrette dressing; seared duck breast with port wine cherry sauce, served with wild rice and haricots verts; and strawberry shortcake.

“The duck is done right,” said Jim Short of Mastic Beach as he devoured his lunch. He noted it’s not an easy dish to prepare.

“It’s just great that they have something like this,” said former Mattituck educator Brigitte Gibbons, who serves on the New Suffolk Board of Education. She had come to the luncheon with her family after seeing an ad for it. Her son Marc pronounced the food as good as his mom’s, then, caught in that impossible conundrum, stressed that Ms. Gibbons is a fine cook in her own right.

Special guest Karen Lapidez, a culinary institute student who retired from the Marine Corps as a staff sergeant and formed the Suffolk County Community College’s Veterans Association, had nothing but praise for the food and service. She said she’d been invited to the luncheon, but not told she was to be a special guest.

While instructors were on hand to answer questions for their fresh-faced restaurant workers, they left the direction of operations to the students, with Kassie Watson of Shirley directing the kitchen operation and Amanda Barbella of Port Jefferson Station overseeing the waitstaff in the dining room.

The students had a run-through without the customers, Ms. Watson revealed. That left her feeling optimistic that Tuesday’s service would go smoothly, she said.

“I wouldn’t change anything,” Ms. Barbella said of the preparation for the service.

“It’s all about preciseness, timing and teamwork,” said Jim Fogarty, the culinary institute’s community liaison.

“Presentation is almost as important as taste,” said Mr. Bergen. That was attested to when one plate was rejected before it left the kitchen simply because the wild rice wasn’t in the perfect circle the students intended.

The two most important lessons the students are taught were summed up by instructor Nancy Morro: The customer is always right and the customer is always right.

Students give high marks to the instructors from whom they are learning their craft and the program they believe is preparing them well for their future jobs.

“I love it; I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” said Corey Woodley of Riverhead. His job Tuesday was to prepare the port wine cherry sauce.

“It’s not hard; it’s all about technique,” he said.

Greenporter Tania Maria Garcia pronounced the program “really good” as instructor Andrea Glick praised her as “one of the best” with her kitchen knife skills.

“The teachers here are phenomenal,” said Michael Greene of Mastic. “I’m honored to be here.”

A second luncheon service is planned for Thursday and a dinner service for Friday night.

“Book early; the seats go fast,” advised luncheon guest Janet Walsh.


02/02/11 9:59am
02/02/2011 9:59 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Suffolk County Community College Chef instructor Andrea Glick watches as students (from left) Nicole Vitellaro, 12 of Dix Hills, Margaux Reidy, 13, of Mattituck, amd Kevin Comiskey, 13 of Shoreham cut of lamb patties for mini gryos.

How do you take raw mussels, marula liquor, bosc pears and frozen waffles, and within 30 minutes create a meal that will wow a panel of expert chefs?

That was the challenge Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts Program instructor Andrea Glick of Riverhead was faced with while appearing on the Jan. 11 episode of the Food Network show “Chopped.”

The show takes four chefs and challenges them to create three dishes — an appetizer, an entree and dessert — in three rounds, using a list of ingredients that most cooks would never consider pairing. And if he or she can’t take a combination of say, cream of coconut, baby turnips, wakame seaweed and fish heads and turn it into a tasty gourmet meal, host Ted Allen (of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy fame) informs the chef that he or she has been “chopped.”

An admitted lover of competitive food shows like “Top Chef,” Ms. Glick said she jumped at the chance to show off her skills on national television. She sent an application one day last summer and got a call from producers the next day.

Ms. Glick, who had worked under world renowned French chef Eric Ripert at his 4-star restaurant Le Bernardin in New York City, knew that not only was the $10,000 grand prize on the line, but her reputation as well.

She took the frozen waffles and turned them into a bread crumb consistency and made a complex broth with the liqueur and pears, a move that seemed to impress the judges.

She called the final dish “New Zealand Mussels with a sweet and sour marula sauce in pear chutney with toasted spiced waffle crumbs.”

“I really like the combination of flavors that you did,” said judge Maneet Chauhan, executive chef of Vermilion restaurant in Chicago. “I think it complemented the natural sweetness of the waffles very well.”

So confident after the contest she was, that she told her fellow contestants that she wouldn’t be the one going home.
“I left that room thinking I won,” she told the News-Review last week. ‘I was like, there was no way.”

Waffle bread crumbs aside, Ms. Glick’s dish failed to make the cut — she was chopped after the first round.
“I was pretty shocked,” she said.

She said her biggest mistake was trying to cook the mussels in a wok that just wouldn’t heat.
“I kicked myself over that one,” she said.

The judges said they had high hopes for Ms. Glick, but the unopened, still-bearded mussels  were big strikes against her.

“Andrea your dish was the one we were anticipating the most, given your history,” said Ms. Chauhan. “But there was some serious, basic mistakes.”

She said one of the biggest challenges was that she only had a few minutes to look over the facilities before the show. She also thought her background hurt her chances.

“I thought they put me on a pedestal over the other people,” she said while leaving the show. “And that’s a shame.”

Despite getting kicked off so early, Ms. Glick, who teaches advanced cuisine and international cuisine at SCCC, said it was a fun experience and that she would gladly take a second shot — if there was ever a redemption episode.

“It was great,” she said of the experience. “I would recommend it to anyone.”