Speed Cameras Flash Forward

School zone speed cameras are beginning to turn up in Massapequa, and though the robot law enforcement tools are not yet fully operational, drivers are beginning to get road weary at the prospect of a surveillance state.

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A recently installed speed camera near Schwarting Elementary School.
(Photos by Joe Pellicone)

While officials at the Nassau County Traffic Safety Board said that only five cameras have been activated, drivers are spotting far more on daily drives through the neighborhood. Fred Bausch, a Massapequan living near Unqua Elementary School, saw one go up recently and said that while he is not a speedster, he fears getting caught in a speed trap.

“My drive to work goes right through the heart of that spot, and I’m really nervous about getting slapped with fines every week,” he said, adding that he also saw a camera at Schwarting Elementary School in North Massapequa. “I don’t know if I really trust these new cameras to enforce traffic safety. I think they are just going to be a new way for the town to inflate its wallet.”

The notion that speed zone cameras are merely a revenue generating tool for the town is not new.  A reader poll on www.massapequaobserver.com finds more than 50 percent of residents believe the cameras are solely meant to raise revenue for the county, while only 11 percent believe children’s safety is the top priority. Just over 36 percent said both revenue and safety factored into the installation of the cameras. Bausch said he believes red light cameras have served the same purpose since that program’s implementation. For him, it’s the camera’s indiscriminate nature that worries him most — a missing element of human judgement lost on the robot eye.

“You can never replace the human element,” he said. “Besides, actual human police officers would not be ticketing drivers the way I think these cameras might be.”

Joe Pellicone, also of Massapequa, said elected officials are always trying to figure out ways of raising money without raising taxes.

“They found out that the red light cameras were successful and now this is the next step,” he said. “To get to Sunrise Highway from my house, I have to drive through a speed camera zone and a red light camera. If I go west instead, I still have to deal with a red light camera, I feel like I’m trapped. I wish both counties [Nassau and Suffolk] would make a public statement about the locations of the cameras and the hours of operation.”

Chris Mistron, director of Nassau County Traffic Safety Board, cited a traffic study showing school districts in other states that have installed speed cameras have found an 80 percent drop in violations.

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A speed camera sits perched on Stewart Avenue near a school in Bethpage.

“I want this to be a dinner conversation,” Mistron said. “Positive or negative, they’ll cause some discussion. What we’re trying to do is improve the safety around the school on a school day. We’re not trying to catch people on off hours. We just want to try and slow down the traffic.”

That is of little consolation to Bethpage resident Chandra Klemmer, who, along with her husband, received five tickets July 28 through 30 from a speed camera at Plainedge Middle School in Bethpage. Klemmer said three of her tickets were within minutes of each other.

“My husband and I are fighting all five of the tickets. We are extremely careful,” she said. “I feel these were installed as a sneaky way to bring in revenue. We all have the right to face our accuser and a machine that can be tampered with is not a very accurate accuser. While I feel the safety of all children is important, this is nothing but a racket.”

Another resident near Massapequa, Joe Matthews, said safety is the secondary purpose of these new speed cameras. And worse than creating a revenue source for the town, they are part of a growing surveillance scare reminiscent of a dystopian future.

“It’s the surveillance state creeping in and it’s becoming more and more acceptable,” he said. “Pretty soon you won’t be able to leave the house without being videotaped. This is just another way for them to take your tax money in the name of safety.”

Taking Her Talents Abroad

Massapequa Park’s Kim DeCesare must like wearing blue. She starred in the blue of Duke University, then played in the blue of the Boston Breakers and is now wearing the blue of Eskilstuna United DFF, in the middle of the standings of the Damallsvenskan, the top women’s league in Sweden.

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Massapequa Park’s Kim DeCesare

After being selected by the Boston Breakers in the 2014 National Women’s Soccer League Draft, she played in one game against league-leading Seattle, and played in every match with the Boston Breakers Reserves in the Women’s Premier Soccer League. [Read more...]

Young Woman Earns Award

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Ronald McDonald House Charities scholarship recipient Tara Taradino and Assemblyman Tom McKevitt pose during the scholars luncheon. (Photo by Jon Simon)

A young Massapequan will head into college this fall with a bigger boost than she every dreamed imaginable.

Tara Tardino, a senior at Massapequa High School is this year’s recipient of the 2014 Ronald McDonald House Charities Scholarship. The Massapequan beat out thousands of applicants to win the four-year college scholarship, which will provide her the opportunity to attend Cornell University. [Read more...]

Student’s Mural Graces Eatery

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Massapequa High School senior Ana Ruiz Garcia paints her mural on the bagel store wall.

The murals painted on the side wall of Town Bagel next to Massapequa High School have become one of the most visual displays of school spirit in the community. Now, Massapequa High School senior Ana Ruiz Garcia can add her name to those who have created one. Ana’s design was chosen as the new mural after several mural designs were submitted then voted on by the student body and staff. The mural was recently painted by art students under the supervision of art teachers Gale Domingo and Julie Thornton. Ana, who has taken several art classes including Drawing & Painting I, Computer Art & Design, Sculpture and Creative Crafts, plans to pursue a career in animation.

Ames Triples Cancer Donations

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Debra Ienna of Safie Salon and Day Spa measures the ponytail of teacher Jennifer Rabie.

Amid clusters of pink balloons and a sea of cheering students and faculty, a group of 47 teachers and students from Massapequa High School-Ames Campus set a new record for the school.

Each took a seat at the makeshift haircutting station, set up in the school’s hallway by Debra Ienna of Safie Salon and Day Spa of Massapequa, to have their hair carefully measured and cut for the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program. The program transforms hair into free, high-quality wigs for patients undergoing cancer treatments. Each person who donated received a complimentary haircut and style at the salon.

More than 50 ponytails of hair was donated to the cause, after a few other ponytails from those who had recent haircuts contributed to the event, tripling the amount of ponytails collected last year.

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Ames health teacher Denise Baldinger, organizer of the event, displays her ponytail.

“We had a tremendous turnout and great support from our school and faculty,” said health teacher Denise Baldinger, coordinator of the event. “We are so pleased to be able to help cancer patients feel better about their appearance as they undergo treatment by giving them the opportunity to wear a wig made with real hair.”

Grads Grab Top Honors

Two Massapequa High School students recently received top honors in their class, as the school named Joseph Fiola its valedictorian and Brian O’Sullivan its salutatorian.

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Valedictorian Joseph Fiola

Valedictorian Fiola has a focused plan for the future. With a 99.979 grade point average and about a dozen advanced placement classes under his belt, he heads to Stony Brook University this fall to study biomedical engineering with hopes of one day becoming a surgeon.

A summer workshop experience at Brookhaven National Laboratory, where he participated in protein crystallography experimentation used in drug research, a part of biomedical engineering, helped him decide on his major. That, along with the practical thinking that he could work in the field with a bachelor’s degree should his plans on medical school change. [Read more...]

The Power Of Pequa Minds

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Superintendent Lucille Iconis with Fairfield team members.

Five teams from the Massapequa School District competed in the New York State Odyssey of the Mind contest at Binghamton University April 12 after dominating the regional tournament last month. While no trophies were brought home, students called the opportunity “a once-in-a-lifetime experience” that gave them a great sense of accomplishment.

Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program based on creative problem-solving. Students select from a variety of problems that range from building mechanical devices to interpreting literary classics and compete at the local, state and world levels.

A team from Fairfield and another from Unqua competed at the Division I level for grades 1-5. Fairfield’s team members, coached by Jennifer Tand,  included Ethan Jackson, Joseph Mocniak, Brian Bongiorno, Aryon Seraji and Joseph Rollo. Unqua’s team, coached by  Loree Moran, consisted of Alyssa Buback, Erin O’Grady, Addison Taylor, Annabelle Lesser and Caroline Pappas.

Two more teams, one from McKenna and another from Lockhart, competed at the Division II level for grades 6-8. McKenna’s team members, coached by Elizabeth Natke,  included Daniel Lobaccaro, Matthew Prusan, Aidan Gregory, Jared Gould Christopher Merlini and Christopher Bruhnke. Lockhart’s team, coached by Joanne Markowski, consisted of  Joseph Pattay, Talia Cartafalsa, Kirstin Lisnoff, Juliette Liebov and Jessica Gruenfelder.

A team from Massapequa High School competed on the Division III level for grades 9-12. Team members were Amanda Gordonson, Joe Mottola, Mackenzie Conkling, and Courtney Conkling. The team was coached by Matthew Swanson.

“We are very proud of our students for attaining this opportunity to compete at the state level and for displaying exemplary levels of levels creativity, collaboration and problem-solving throughout this year’s competitions,” said Superintendent Lucille Iconis, who attended the state tournament.

Amazing Technicolor Castmates

stageIn celebration of Arts Week, Friends Academy middle schoolers put on a tremendous production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat—despite a rehearsal schedule two weeks shorter than in most years. 

Massapequa youngster and local thespian Sharothy Mahmud made a stage appearance.

Eighth-grader Drew Donner of Old Westbury anchored the show in the challenging title role of Joseph, delivering an especially robust closing-night performance.

Old Westbury’s Ife Anyokou was one of the three Narrators, the play’s Greek chorus, who set the ‘tone’ in both senses—literally with strong voices and figuratively with elegant poise.
Courtney Taylor of Westbury Hills, playing the wandering wife to Christian Nesfield’s Potiphar, won big laughs with her exuberant mugging.

Ellis Collier of Glen Cove, as an Elvis-inspired Pharaoh, was a crowd favorite. [Read more...]

Massapequa Freshmen Jumpstart College Planning

SchoolNews_042514AIn an effort to increase college readiness, the Guidance Department at the Massapequa High School–Ames Campus took 30 ninth graders to College Awareness Day at Adelphi University. The group toured the campus, spoke to college students, addressed questions to admissions representatives and even sampled lunch.

The trip gave students the opportunity to see what college life is like, the majors that are available, and the university’s academic expectations. The trip was a culmination of the department’s effort to supplement the education students receive about career-planning. In addition, the entire freshman class will learn about a host of careers from accomplished Massapequa graduates during the 7th Annual Alumni Career Day scheduled for Friday, April 25.