Written by Dagmar Fors Karppi Friday, 01 October 2010 00:00
This year’s Main Street Association annual meeting was held in the – still under construction – Octagon Hotel. It heralded what has been one of the most promising changes in the hamlet’s streetscape this year. It was amazing to walk up to the building on Sept. 16 as the heavy rains from the thunderstorm/tornadoes that hit the area had just ended. The porch lights were on and the Octagon Hotel was very welcoming.
The cover of the OB MSA report to members had a picture of the hotel with a photograph of TR, then governor, speaking to a crowd, from the porch. It was the motif chosen for the plaques Executive Director Isaac Kremer presented to outgoing President Ellen Roché; and to the men responsible for the recreation of the Octagon Hotel: Lou Baldino architect; and Luigi and John Lancia, owners.
Ms. Roché said she was retiring from the position for personal reasons. “Ten years went by so fast,” she said as she called the position “an honor”. She said she had no “roots” until she came to Oyster Bay in her 30s and put roots down here. “Twenty years went by and this is the longest I have lived in any place.” She said she was proud to be working here, and was always learning. She thanked the board members who over the years have helped her. “I could never do it without their efforts. I don’t need to be here. It is time to go, “ she said, adding that in the future, she would work on one of the MSA committees.
The new MSA president will be John Bonifacio, who moves up from his position as vice president. He was unable to attend that meeting. Henry Clark, design chair is the new vice president.
The evening had a great deal of announcements to herald. Oyster Bay-East Norwich Superintendent of Schools Dr. Phyllis Harrington introduced Joan Adomsky, MSA committee chair of Project Oyster Bay L.E.A.R.N.S. The concept is for the Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District to join in partnership with the OB MSA to establish Project Oyster Bay L.E.A.R.N.S. for: leadership, education, appreciation, respect, nurture, and service to the community. Students will be offered learning opportunities through service. Sarajean Anderson, OBHS social studies and business department supervisor will work with Ms. Adomsky, Bill Burke, as the MSA liaison; and Dr. Harrington.
The Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce has a similar program with the school, also overseen by Ms. Anderson, but it is for students to gain business experience.
The underlying theme of the evening was becoming a citizen of Oyster Bay. Dr. Harrington said she and her husband lived in Oyster Bay and were married at St. Dominic’s and although they live in Huntington, she said, “I knew I was destined to be part of Oyster Bay.” She has been here since 1998 in her current job. She said of the school district, “My kids are the best kids around.”
Ms. Adomsky said she is a lifelong resident of Oyster Bay, that her family immigrated here from Poland in 1909-1910. Her goal is to enrich classwork with service learning – experiential education to teach students to become lifelong civic participants.
The MSA voted on their new board members of the Class of 2013 including: Dennis Belfiore, John Bonifacio, Bill Burke, Carmine Pirolo and Patsy Randolph. They join the Class of 2011: Claude Bahnik, Walter Imperatore, and Danielle Olesen; and the Class of 2012: Henry Clark, Tracy Dellomo and Diane Meltzer. Offices are elected for three year terms.
Mr. Kremer introduced Matt LaRosa, a member of Boy Scout Troop 253. He is working on his Eagle Scout project to restore the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Assemblage, a stone garden at TR Park. The original concept was to have a “rock” from each of the places where President Theodore Roosevelt lived, mounted on a rock platform, with a plaque telling where the rock came from. Mr. Kremer, an Eagle Scout himself said, “Today, 90 percent of the rocks have been stolen.”
Mr. Kremer asked if anyone knows where the missing plaques are located or has photographs of them, they would appreciate learning of it. You can contact him at 922-6982.
Mr. LaRosa is working with the Theodore Roosevelt Association and MSA, as well as with Mr. Kremer to restore the stone garden. The work will involve scrubbing and cleaning off the moss and lichen; doing research on the stones; and to install a new plaque. They are currently working to restore the stones, said Mr. Kremer.
Mr. Kremer introduced Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia who was appointed to the town board to replace Rose Marie Walker after she won her seat on the Nassau County legislature. He thanked her for helping MSA in creating the Farmer’s Market which was done on short notice. “She has a planning background,” he said, and there are a few projects they will be working on.
Ms. Alesia said, “My dad lived across the street from St. Dominic’s and now lives on McCoun’s Lane,” explaining her ties to Oyster Bay although she lives in Plainview. She also said the board is planning to put in 10 lamp posts around the Derby-Hall bandstand to replace the industrial type they now have there. Mr. Kremer asked for some lighting around the new Octagon Hotel so people can see it. “Strobe lights,” he asked jocularly.
“We thank you for what you do and are doing,” he said seriously. Mr. Kremer said the meeting at the Octagon Hotel was a dress rehearsal for the grand opening. They hope to get their certificate of occupancy in a few weeks.
Frank Scalera, Oyster Bay Commissioner of Economic Development, was next introduced. Mr. Scalera too had a “roots” story to tell. He said when he first came to Oyster Bay he lived in an apartment on Tooker Avenue and jogged through TR Park and the streets of the hamlet. He said, “This was my first home - here in Oyster Bay - so my heart is here too.” He congratulated Mr. Kremer on his work with MSA and the town, saying every other Friday the two meet and dialogue.
He congratulated MSA on their new headquarters, at 17 Audrey Avenue. “It’s across the street from Gone Dancing; and next to Mill Pond Consignment, the former Raymon Liquor shop; in what was for a while Total Eclipse, a sports store. There will be an open house the first Thursday of the month – Oct. 9.”
The MSA meeting continued with a presentation by Nancy Melius-Murton, the director of marketing at Oheka Castle in Huntington. Nancy and the Melius family are working with the new Gold Coast Mansions Historic Long Island Alliance that was formed in 2009. The MSA is supporting their work. A website was created to promote tourism at the historic Gold Coast mansions of which Raynham Hall Museum and Planting Fields are a part.
Ms. Melius-Murton told the story of Oheka Castle, the historic home of Otto H. Kahn that was built between 1917 and 1919. He wanted it to be a high point on Long Island and brought tons of earth to create the hill it sits upon. Oheka is the second largest mansion in the United States after Biltmore Mansion in North Carolina.
Following a period of neglect, the home was purchased in 1984 by Gary Melius, and since then the estate and garden have been lovingly restored. [You may recognize it as the “home” of Hank and Evan Lawson of HankMed in the series Royal Pains.]
Today, Oheka’s magnificent rooms and formal gardens are available for weddings, banquets, charity events, and business functions as well as photo shoots.
The MSA is seeking funds for the Oyster Bay Revolving Loan Fund capitalized with an initial $20,000. This will give the resources needed to assist with façade improvement, building renovation, and business development activities. It will help to replace illuminated signs with historically appropriate signage; and replace vinyl or aluminum siding with again, historically appropriate materials – all in character with the downtown as a whole. To contribute to this fund please call the MSA at 922-6982.
The next big event for the MSA was announced as the meeting ended, the Harvest Regatta Celebration on Oct. 8 in conjunction with the Oakcliff Sailing Center. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a strolling dinner in the quaint clubhouse and grounds of Oakcliff Sailing Center at 2 South Street in Oyster Bay. It is a joint event for Oakcliff and MSA.
Tickets are $75 in advance and $100 at the door. Online registration for the event is possible by visiting www.oakcliffsailing.org.