Written by Joe Scotchie Wednesday, 05 January 2011 15:22
It was a big year in sports, politics, and the arts in Massapequa for both its natives and residents. The village continues to solidify its standing as not only the Parade Capital of Long Island, but also as the Movie Classics Capital, thanks to the ongoing efforts of John Carpenter, whose fame as the Movie Man grows far and wide.
In 2009, the Republican Party regained control of the Nassau County Legislature, elevating Massapequa resident Peter J. Schmitt to majority leader of that body. In 2010, Schmitt steered through legislation, including a controversial budget that he maintained was necessary to prevent a NIFA takeover of county finances. But before the lawmaking session began, Schmitt had to put out a political brush fire, by supporting and then rescinding a proposed pay increase for those same county legislators.
Also on the political front, Tina Schiaffino became the newest member of the Village of Massapequa Board of Trustees when she replaced Jerry Larachiutta, who resigned from the BOT in December. Mayor James Altadonna praised Ms. Schiaffino for possessing the “integrity, intelligence, and compassion” that he was seeking in a BOT member.
Meanwhile, the village, as with those all across Nassau County, kept their annual budget in the black, benefiting from a cash surplus and a 13 percent decrease in expenditures. The Massapequa School District’s 2010-2011 budget received a solid approval from local voters, as it passed by a 3,245 to 2,621 margin. School officials said that the budget represented the lowest school budget and tax increase in the past decade. Also in education news, a more melancholy event took place in April, when low enrollment forced the Diocese of Rockville Centre to close down Our Lady of Lourdes, a local parochial school that for many years had provided first-rate Catholic education to local youngsters.
On the national front, Seaford resident Peter King, the longtime U.S. representative from New York’s third congressional district, was also set for a promotion. With the Republican Party’s takeover of the U.S. Congress, King is slated to regain his old chairmanship of the high profile House Committee on Homeland Security. In interviews following the November election, King admitted that tough economic times might mean less funding for his department, but he maintained that he would keep Washington focused on the terrorist threat still facing such a huge metropolitan area as New York.
On the civic front, Drug Free Massapequa, along with YES Community Counseling, remained on the front lines in the battle to curb the substance abuse problem in the Massapequa area. DFM held a series of talks and lectures by experts on the subject, plus an array of events that included a Haunted Walk, a Golf Outing, a Tennis Night, and a Holiday Shopping date. However, DFM members were keenly disappointed with the six-month prison sentence, along with five years probation handed down to Sanji Francis, the Merrick-based physician who was convicted this past year of selling prescription drugs to undercover police.
In more pleasing community news, the Massapequa Fire Department celebrated its 100th anniversary in June, complete with a parade and the unveiling of a New York State Historic marker, which is posted at the site of the village’s first firehouse on 84 Grand Ave.
Another anniversary marked a decade in existence for Friends of Massapequa Preserve, a preservation society dedicated to the upbuilding of that massive, 423-acre outdoor playground that is the pride of the Massapequas.
High School Sports
More than ever, Massapequa High School athletic squads continued their dominance of Nassau County and Long Island sports. In May, the MHS track squad traveled to Philadelphia to compete in the famed Penn Relays. There, the 4 x 400 team of Dan Varon, Nick Deluna, Joe Caracio, and Brian Poole won the gold medal event for the second consecutive year.
That was only a warm-up for the excellent fall season for MHS squads. The weekend of Saturday, Nov. 13 and Sunday, Nov. 14 was the most eventful one in the history of MHS sports. On those two days, no less than five varsity squads——boys’ soccer, girls’ field hockey, girls’ volleyball, boys’ volleyball, and girls’ soccer—-all competed for Long Island titles in their respective sports. Of course, all five teams had already won both conference and Nassau County titles, itself a remarkable accomplishment. Only the girls’ soccer squad prevailed in winning a Long Island title, but that hardly diminished the championship year enjoyed by all of these fine teams. The next week, the girls’ soccer squad completed their season by winning the New York State crown, defeating Webster-Thomas, 2-0. The year was also eventful in that Carol Habeeb-Keil, who has built a volleyball dynasty at MHS, celebrated her 300th career win as head coach.
In the summer, the legendary Baldinger brothers—NFL stars Brian, Gary, and Richard—-held their annual football camp at John J. Burns Park, which over the past decade, has played host to over 1,600 eager youngsters, raising, in the process, up to $100,000 in support of various Massapequa youth and sports programs.
It was also another strong year for a creative Massapequa. In November, Stanley Drucker was honored with membership in the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, all for his amazing 60-year career as a clarinet player for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
Earlier, in February and March, the Westfield Mall was graced by the award-winning artwork of Elaine Faith Thompson. During President’s Week in February, Ms. Thompson released her latest painting, one portraying Long Island’s own Theodore Roosevelt on horseback in front of his beloved Sagamore Hill estate.
In late January, Massapequa High School student Leonard Sadowsky participated in the hugely successful “Long Island Sings The Beatles” concert, one held at The Dix Hills Performing Arts Center and the John Lennon Center for Music and Technology. Lenny performed the George Harrison classic, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, along with the even more famous, Yesterday, the acoustic standard written by Paul McCartney, a song that has been covered by countless artists throughout the decades and one that Frank Sinatra once singled out as the best written song he had heard in years.
In the world of electronic media, Massapequa native Brian Kilmeade has seen his career prosper as co-host of the top-rated TV morning show, Fox & Friends on the successful cable network of that same name.
Meanwhile, Sean Kenniff, another Massapequa native and TV celebrity has turned to print to revive a career that was stalled when the former lost his job as a health reporter for CBS News. In the past year, Kenniff proved to be a versatile author, publishing a novella, Etre the Cow and a self-help book, Stop Effing Yourself: A Survivor’s Guide to Life’s Biggest Screw Ups.
The Movie Man himself did not have a bad year, either. In July, John Carpenter celebrated a birthday attended by up to 70 friends and fans, a day that saw TV legend Joe Franklin give one of his many Emmy awards to Carpenter as a gift. In December, Carpenter received another award, this one from the New York Veteran Police Association (NYVPA) in recognition for the work the Movie Man has done in bringing cheer and support to the injured and disabled among us.
Finally, everyone knows that Massapequa is a terrific place to live—-especially if you plan on reaching your centennial someday. This past year, Croatia native and longtime resident Anica Skrokov celebrated her 100th birthday. Not to be outdone, Philomena (“Fannie”) LaPolla enjoyed her 107th birthday celebration. Both ladies appeared in The Massapequan Observer, looking at least a quarter of a century younger than they actually are.