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2009: The Year in Review

HS Sports Teams Shine; GOP Regains Control of County Legislature

Politics and sports were the big stories coming out of Massapequa in 2009.

In politics, Massapequa, a village at the heart of the Republican coalition in Nassau County, will see one of its lawmakers play a major role in the governance of the county. That will happen in the person of Peter J. Schmitt, the longtime county legislator representing Massapequa. When the GOP lost control of the county legislature in 1999, Schmitt assumed the role of minority leader. He held that post throughout the 2000s and when the GOP won back control of the legislature in November 2009, Schmitt became majority leader for the legislature that convened in January.

“We are thrilled to be taking over the majority,” a happy Schmitt said after the GOP won control of the legislature. “We look forward to doing what we told the residents we would do. We are going to repeal that home energy tax and we’re going to cut spending and we are going to repair the institutional integrity of the legislature.”

The Massapequa area played a key role in that takeover. The GOP won control of the legislature when Howard Kopel upended Jeffrey Toback in the 7th LD, one that encompasses parts of the South Shore.

That majority was buttressed by the upset victory of Joseph Belesi over David Mejias in the 14th LD. A major part of that district is in the Massapequa area, including North Massapequa, North Wantagh, Plainedge, and East Massapequa. Four years earlier, Mejias won a close race against Belesi and the one last November was decided only after a recount.

A recount also decided the county executive’s race. The eventual winner, Edward I. Mangano, represented part of North Massapequa, Plainedge, and South Farmingdale in his 17th LD. Prior to his race against Thomas R. Suozzi, Mangano trailed in the polls. However, local Republicans expressed confidence that Mangano would prevail and one of them, Village of Massapequa Park Mayor James Altadonna, said he wasn’t surprised at all by the upset win.

“When a party loses touch with the people they are supposed to represent and continues to tax them, then there are repercussions,” Altadonna said of the November vote, dismissing the idea that a low turnout had anything to do with the Republicans’ victory. “The people were tired of ineffective government and high taxes.”

Also on the political front, Jerry Laricchiuta, a longtime resident of Massapequa, was named as the newest member of the board of trustees, replacing Joseph Pinto, who, in February, was appointed to the Oyster Bay Town Board.

In April, up to 1,500 local residents gathered at the Massapequa Long Island Rail Road station to hold a “Tea Party” rally, all as part of nationwide “National Tea Party Day.”

Home of Champions

In sports, the young men and women of Massapequa High School continued their amazing prowess on the athletic fields of Nassau County.

The Massapequa girls’ volleyball squad won its 10th consecutive Nassau County Class AA championship, before losing the county title match to Ward Melville. All year long, Katie Bryson set up scores, handing out numerous assists to her teammates, among them Joanne Josephson, Samantha Berna, and Katie Newman.

Meanwhile, the Massapequa girls’ soccer squad also made history, winning its seventh straight Class AA county title. The Lady Chiefs finished the season with a 14-3-1 record.

Rosie DiMartino was the Lady Chiefs top offensive player all year, scoring 14 goals and handing out four assists. Andrea Arnold had a solid year, scoring seven goals and six assists. Taylor Elliot and Erica Modena had three goals each.

The Massapequa girls’ field hockey team won the 2009 Conference I Nassau County Championship, defeating Baldwin in a thrilling 2-1 victory.

The powerhouse Massapequa girls’ basketball squad had another great year, advancing to the Nassau County Class AA title game, where they fell short in their contest against Syosset High School.

In June, the Massapequa Chiefs conquered the world of Long Island baseball, winning both the Nassau County and Long Island Class AA titles. It was the fourth consecutive year that Massapequa won both titles, establishing its program was a true dynasty in Long Island baseball.

On Monday, June 8, the Chiefs traveled to Farmingdale State, where they defeated North Babylon, 8-3 for the Long Island crown.

The Chiefs advanced to the Long Island title game by sweeping Carey High School in a best-of-three series. Massapequa started their amazing playoff run with a similar two-game sweep of Calhoun High School, and a thrilling best-of-three win over East Meadow. In the county semifinal contest, Massapequa lost the first game, 4-2. However, the Chiefs stormed back, winning the series with lopsided 11-1 and 13-0 victories.

When the season ended, Head Coach Tom Sheedy praised in particular his senior players. They included pitching aces Ryan Scarisbrick and Matt McCormick, steady starter Joe Waterhouse, Andrew Riggio, hitting star Greg Muller, home-run slugger Mike Mauri, John Kelly, Anthony Bisignano, Nick Famulare, Patrick Friel, catcher Tony Abruzzino, plus clutch-hitting stars Frank Colavito and Vinny Caesar, and Matt Hardy, who like Joe Hardy of Damn Yankees fame, also starred at the plate. The Massapequa Hardy had three home runs during the season, while Mauri led the team with four round-trippers.

“[They were] a tremendous group of seniors,” said Coach Sheedy. “Absolutely fabulous. You couldn’t ask for more from a group of seniors. They brought the team together. They led. We had excellent motivation from the seniors. They ran the team. Senior leadership was key.”

In more baseball news, Robert Whitenack, a graduate of Plainedge High School, was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the eighth round of the 2009 Major League baseball draft. Whitenack also starred at SUNY-Old Westbury and became the first player ever from that university to be drafted into professional baseball.

In football news, both Massapequa and Plainedge High Schools had winning seasons on the gridiron. In January, three local athletes—-Rob Von Bargen of Massapequa, Nick Barbuto of Seaford, and Rob Bellairs of Plainedge—-were named to Newsday’s All-Long Island Football squad. Dan Ebbecke of Massapequa and Mike Rossi of Plainedge were named to the second team. And to top it all off, Rob Perpall, Seaford’s head coach, was named Nassau County Coach of the Year.

Drug Free Awareness Walk

In community news, the Massapequa area is beginning to grapple with its drug problem, one dramaticized by the 2008 passing of a Massapequa teenager.

In early December, the Massapequa community came together to participate in a Drug Free Awareness Walk at John J. Burns Park.

The day featured not just a walk, but also videos, a poster for children to make and walk with T-shirts, sign up for a monthly email, a presentation by both a Peer Aides Coordinator and such local officials as New York State Assemblyman Joseph Saladino, Town of Oyster Bay Clerk Steven Labriola, and Village of Massapequa Park Councilman Joseph Pinto.

The day was sponsored by Drug Free Massapequa, a grassroots movement organized to eradicate illegal drug sales in the Massapequas and surrounding communities.

A week later, the community was shocked to learn of an arrest of a Long Island doctor who allegedly sold prescription drugs to local youths.

According to Nassau County police, the defendant, Saji Francis, 49, of Melville, a medical doctor, while at his office located at 4999 Merrick Rd., did knowingly and unlawfully sell prescriptions of Oxycodone (a schedule II controlled substance) to another on nine different dates, from Aug. 1 to Dec. 8 of this year.

At a press conference announcing the arrest, Police Commissioner Lawrence W. Mulvey issued stinging criticism of the defendant.

“Dr. Saji Francis is the antithesis of the Hippocratic oath, to do no harm,” Commissioner Mulvey said. “His greed and total disregard for the ethics of the medical profession has exacerbated the opiate and heroin abuse in Massapequa.”

In creative news, John Carpenter continued his always-popular film presentations and lectures at the Bar Harbour Library. Patrick Fenton’s play on Jack Kerouac’s last night in Long Island, Jack’s Last Call, continues to enjoy a fruitful life. In June, Stanley Drucker ended an amazing 60-year career as a principal clarinet player for the New York Philharmonic.

In school news, Anthony DeRiso was named principal of Plainedge Middle School. Rita Ann Swift was named principal of Our Lady of Lourdes elementary school.

In March, Wolfgang E. Besser, the former publisher of Observer Newspapers, which included this publication, plus the Farmingdale Observer and the Levittown Tribune, passed away at age 78. Besser, a native of Germany, co-founded the papers in 1971 and later sold them to their current publisher, Anton Community Newspapers, in 1990. Besser then retired to Palm Coast, FL, where he lived until his return to Great River, NY in 2003. He started his career in journalism as sports editor for a German-language newspaper in New York. Later he would become publisher of Soccer Week, before forming Observer Newspapers.