Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lost and Found Items on the Long Island Railroad

Tom writes, "I lost my camera 12-15-07 on train to Mineola. Does the LIRR have a lost and found department?"

Yes, the MTA Long Island Rail Road has a Lost and Found department open M–F, 7:20AM – 7:20PM and Weekends, 7:20AM - 3:10PM. You may be able to get specific information about a recently lost item by calling 212-643-5228. They should be able to direct you to the main storage area for lost and found items, or direct you to a local facility based on the train line.

Hopefully a conductor or a commuter turned in your lost item. If you find something on the LIRR it is always a good idea to bring it to the attention of a conductor. In light of our National security issues, the public is urged to keep their eyes open and to report suspicious packages.

Monday, December 17, 2007

North Fork Vineyards in Winter

The North Fork vineyards no longer have grapes to harvest. After all, it is winter.
They are busy for the holidays, offering special sales and wine-tastings for shoppers.
And as many farmers know, winter is the time to prepare for spring.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Major Changes Ahead for the Insurance Industry?

Aaron Stein, Long Island Insurance BY AARON STEIN

Welcome back. I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. This post will not be about the New York auto or home insurance coverage that we usually cover. This time I will be highlighting some larger trends that in some cases have already come to affect other industries but may now be coming to an insurance policy near you.

One such new area is that the 'capital markets' are starting to make eyes at the insurance industry. When I say capital markets, I'm talking about monies raised by the giant investment firms like Merrill Lynch or Goldman Sachs. Up until now, insurance companies raised the money needed to back their insurance products by selling stock, and collecting premiums and investing them. But now these super-sized financial companies have become experts at raising literally billions of dollars quite quickly and efficiently, in their constant efforts to find investments to sell to their clients.

Traditionally, these financial companies would raise money for other companies by underwriting offers of their stocks and bonds. So if General Motors wanted to raise a billion dollars to invest in a new vehicle product line, for example, they could have Merrill agree to make good faith efforts to sell enough shares of GM stock (remember that stock represents an ownership interest) or GM could offer corporate bonds (debt that has to be repaid, but does not give up any ownership) for a similar amount. They would have to weigh the plusses and minuses of each.

Now, however, with the advent of things like hedge funds, and giant pension funds and even major individual investors looking to put their money to work, enough capital can be raised to start whole new companies and industries. The capital markets were a major force behind the growth of sub-prime mortgages over the past several years, as investors chased higher yields which could only be had by coming up with the many strange variations of mortgages, and in many cases giving them to people who, it turns out, couldn't afford them and are now facing serious financial problems.

These companies could end up having a huge impact on major insurance coverages such as catastrophe insurance. For instance, billions could be quickly raised to offer reinsurance (the kind of insurance that insurance companies buy for themselves against major events like hurricanes) except that instead of insurance companies buying their reinsurance from traditional markets like Lloyds, or SwissRe, they might look for better deals from the capital markets.

Competition is generally good in that it reduces costs. For instance, it would help us here on Long Island right now if insurance carriers could lower their cost of reinsurance for windstorms and hurricanes. That's what is causing all the disruption in the insurance market for waterfront homes these days. On the other hand, the capital market's tendency to use overly aggressive sales pitches, and only shoot for short term profit as opposed to long term viability, can make for quite a mess. Right now we are going through a mortgage and real estate crisis that was made much worse by predatory lending practices and speculation, fostered by these 'capital markets' chasing down an extra per cent or two of interest on their money through sub-prime mortgages.

The one thing about insurance that is different from almost any other kind of product, is that you can have catastrophic, once-in-a-lifetime events like Katrina or the four hurricanes in 3 weeks that hit Florida a couple of years back. These require careful long-term planning and an industry with plenty of real money behind it. I'm not sure I want to see insurance get the same kind of treatment as the mortgage industry has gotten this year as a result of reckless short term practices over the past couple of years.

Next up, will the next Presidential election bring a total change to our health insurance system? As always, you can contact us through our web site at

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Autumn on Long Island


The fall is here, with Thanksgiving Day just a week away.

I hope you are enjoying the beautiful colors of our "Island"

...and that you find many reasons to be thankful!


Friday, October 26, 2007

Here’s To The New Gym. Same As The Old Gym

Ask Mr. Long IslandBy Michael Watt

When I joined yet another gym earlier this month, the thought occurred to me that I have more former gym memberships (seven) than I do former girlfriends (six – give or take a second date or two).

Make of that what you will, but I hope this gym relationship lasts a good, long time – because joining a gym can be even more awkward and uncomfortable than dating.

Take that first day at the gym, for instance. Just like a first date, you don’t really know what to expect. Will you be welcomed? How long will it take you to feel comfortable? This assumes, of course, that at some point you get to feel comfortable. This is not always the case, as gym veterans know. In the early 1980s, for instance, I joined a gym in Massapequa with my friend John. It was inhabited mostly by muscleheads and the like. John was about an inch shorter than me but a lot stronger and so he fit right in. The bulk of my exercise, on the other hand, was moving that little spike way up on the stack of weights to significantly reduce the burden I had to pull up, press down or push away. I swear I could hear the whole place silently snicker as I did so.

Did not belong to that place for long.

A couple of years later I noticed there was a ring around my waist that had never been there before. Apparently the kid who could wash down a pizza with a Fribble and experience no discernible weight gain was now the adult who did not ride his bicycle everywhere he went as he did in high school or traverse the hills posing as streets in Scranton as he did in college. I decided to explore the possibility of joining a gym again and paid a visit to the place that is across the street from the Sunrise Mall. My plan was to “check things out.” Silly me. Once I walked through that front door I might as well have had a sign on my forehead that read, “Gullible and Vulnerable – take your pick.” They assigned me to a gym bunny “to help with any questions I might have about the facilities.” During our “conversation” she took out a caliper to measure the aforementioned “ring” around my waist. She said if she could “clip” more than an inch then I had better get involved in an exercise program Post Haste. So what happens? She grabbed at least an inch of waist with the caliper – who didn’t see that coming? I was so mortified I would have signed up for a tour of duty in Iraq if doing so meant I would never again have to experience an attractive young lady measuring my fat content.

Lasted there about a year.

Soon after I left I joined a gym in Wantagh with my friend Jack, mostly to play racquetball. Well, to be more precise, mostly to lose to Jack in racquetball. Great workout, though.

Then I got married. Like most new grooms I saw little reason to exercise on a regular basis once I tied the knot. Before I knew it I was several years removed from the gym scene while knocking off a pint of Ben & Jerry’s before bedtime on a regular basis. Not good.

In the early 1990s I was living in Farmingdale and working in Valley Stream so I joined a gym in Rockville Centre. A lot had changed in the gym world in my absence, however. They had these new things called spin classes and aerobics. I found it all so intimidating I opted instead to go jogging through the streets of Rockville Centre. After a while I realized that I could just as easily run through the streets of Farmingdale without having to part with that monthly gym stipend.

I like to jog because a) I get a lot of fresh air that way and b) it does not cost anything. This plan worked through 1998. I even participated in two NYC Marathons. Then I had to have knee surgery – minor enough that I did not miss any work but major enough that I have not run since. With my 20-year college reunion coming up in 2001, however, I decided to re-visit the gym world, just in case any of my former classmates came to the reunion armed with calipers.

I am on my third gym since then. I suppose I am still searching for a gym with a comfort level, although I am not sure what that would entail. I hope this gym works out, though (wow – that pun just spilled out). Just as I don’t need any more former girlfriends, I don’t need any former gym memberships, either.

Thank you for reading this column.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

Long Island Home Insurance in the News

Aaron Stein, Long Island Insurance BY AARON STEIN

It's been an interesting Summer in the homeowners insurance business here on Long Island, but it all seemed to come to a head a couple of weeks ago when Newsday started their series about Allstate and Liberty Mutual causing some trouble by non-renewing some people because they did not carry their car insurance with them along with their house insurance.

Regular readers of this blog have known about that for some time. In fact, everybody involved, including the New York State Insurance Department, agrees that Allstate even went so far as to discuss their plans with the previous administration of the Insurance Department even though they did not think it was required, and the plans were approved. (Author's note - apparently the State Insurance Department actually reads this blog, and I had a call from them today. It is their position that Allstate did NOT receive any kind of formal approval from the prior administration at the Insurance Department for their actions) Liberty Mutual had the same opinion that approval was not required, and so did not ask.

I am certainly the last person to be an advocate on behalf of Allstate, who has always been one of our biggest competitors in the home and auto insurance market here on Long Island. But this situation points up several issues that, while seeming to help on the surface, may not be good for the overall marketplace in the longer term.

For one thing, there are several major carriers (GEICO, Progressive, AIG, Unitrin Direct, and others) who are ONLY writing auto insurance, which is currently more profitable for them and carries virtually NO catastrophe risk exposure from hurricanes and other major weather events. Yes there may occasionally be a bad car accident that costs an insurance company several million dollars, but that pales in comparison with $65 Billion of insured losses from Katrina, which was estimated to wipe out all insurance company profits in that area from the last 20 years. Why isn't the State Insurance Deparment insisting that these carriers participate in the property market some way, whether by writing propery insurance or by putting contributions in a pool to back up those companies who do?

Next problem. Allstate had gotten this approved by the State Insurance Department before they started. Now they are being told that this doesn't count. One of the advantages companies always felt they had here in New York was that, even though we are a lawsuit and claim-happy bunch here in the New York area and on Long Island in particular, at least our insurance department was known for being firm and consistent, so that decisions could be made based on what they were told by the regulators. Now the insurance department is saying that's no longer the case, they can tell you one thing and change it completely a short while later. Lack of consistency is very dangerous in terms of encouraging new companies to come in to our market.

The third issue here is the government telling a private company in an open market place who they can and can not take or cancel as clients. I know this is no consolation if you are one of the people cancelled by Allstate, Liberty Mutual, State Farm or one of the many other carriers who are taking these actions. But our economy is based on capitalism, a free market, and supply and demand for the product involved. It may indeed be the place of government to step in and say that a company can't discriminate based on things like race, national origin, or other criteria that can be broadly grouped under the heading of 'prejudice'. But to start telling companies who they must insure based on what can be considered legitimate business criteria (such as not buying more coverage from them) is a very dangerous step in the wrong direction.

The fact is that you do not have a constitutional right to be offered an inexpensive homeowners insurance policy regardless of how exposed your home is to windstorms, or if it's in an earthquake zone, or next to a brush area that has major fires each time there is a thunderstorm, or any other criteria that can be shown to increase your risk of loss. You have the right to sell your house and purchase one somewhere else, or to shop around for the best price you can get for the coverage you want from companies who, based on our highly competitive free market, are willing to sell the coverage.

The FEMA Flood Insurance Program, available throughought Long Island and all over the country, is a good example of the opposite of what is being done here in the homeowners insurance market. FEMA has to take all people who apply and qualify. The government sets the rates and is considered the only entity large enough to insure the kind of catastrophe risk represented by flooding, which can affect thousands of people at the same time (as opposed to a fire or car accident, which might affect more than one person or property, but not likely a whole town or city)

But the FEMA program is way past bankrupt, and politicians who represent areas that do not get floods are sick of their constituents' tax dollars being diverted to pay for losses to homes in flood prone areas that get damaged again and again.

I don't claim to have the solutions here, but this is a complicated issue that should not be played out in news headlines about the big bad insurance companies picking on the masses without cause.

As always, for more information, visit our web sites at and

Monday, September 10, 2007

Upcoming Photography Exhibit

Do you love nature photography? Well, if you do, don’t miss this show!

The NWPLI (Nature and Wildlife Photographers of Long Island) will have its second annual Autumn Exhibition beginning September 22th through December 9th.
It is being held at the Castello di Borghese Winery in Cutchogue.
The exhibit will showcase the group’s best work in nature, wildlife and landscape photography.

NWPLI has been awarded numerous honors for its work, most recently winning the 2006 Nature’s Best Photography International Awards (Camera Club Category) sponsored by Nature’s Best Photography Magazine.
Visit the group's website:

The photography on display will include natural subjects that have been captured with digital and film cameras. Photos are from Long Island's own natural surroundings.
Some selected images will also be available for purchase.

A Preview Show will open on Saturday, September 15, 2007

The full exhibition will begin on Sunday, November 4, 2007 at 11:00 AM, with both NWPLI Board Members and photographers on hand to discuss their work and the group’s mission.
The exhibition is scheduled to end on December 9, 2007.

For directions to Castello di Borghese…
Click Here!

For additional information, contact Lou Buonomo at

I hope you have the opportunity to stop by the exhibit on your yearly autumn visit to the wineries and to the pumpkin farms!
It’s nature photography at its best!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge, Sag Harbor

You can have the chickadee eating out of your hand! Literally!
At the Elizabeth A. Morton Wildlife Refuge in Sag Harbor, the chickadee will eat sunflower seeds right out of your hand.
There are hiking trails and a beach on the Peconic Bay, and many beautiful birds.
Now, I don't want all of you rushing over there to scare the poor little birds away!
Be respectful of nature. Stand quietly with hand extended. Quietly!
The chickadee are as light as a feather.
Try not to move!
There are some other rules that you should follow when observing nature on Long Island or elsewhere.
"Don't take anything but photographs and don't leave anything but footprints!"

Friday, August 31, 2007

It’s Takes A Labor Day of Love to Fully Appreciate the Summer

Ask Mr. Long IslandBy Michael Watt

Is there a more melancholy holiday than the Labor Day Weekend?

Think about it. Nobody even tries to guilt us into not enjoying ourselves by reminding everybody that the day was originally created to give American laborers a much-needed day off. To many of us Labor Day simply serves as the unofficial, summer-ending bookend to the unofficial, summer-starting Memorial Day weekend. To the thousands of schoolteachers living throughout Long Island it denotes the end of the party, the extended-summer-vacation equivalent of somebody turning the lights up and the stereo off as a signal for everyone to go home – or, in this case, back to work. After having ten-plus weeks with no alarm clocks ringing, that must be one nasty transition.

The Labor Day weekend also serves as a good time to assess one’s summer. I like to look back and ask myself if I accomplished all that I set out to accomplish way back in May. Of course I never do. I’m 47 and I have no recollection whatsoever of ever experiencing a summer where I felt I made the best possible use of my time. This summer, for instance, I spent zero hours with my family at the beach. Not one second frolicking in the sand and pretending to go into the ocean. Shame on me for that. I plead baseballus parentus, but still. What’s the point of living on Long Island if you don’t take advantage of all it has to offer? One little barbecue on the sandy shores of Robert Moses? Is that asking too much?

In the meanwhile, thanks to endless hours on the ball field wearing shorts and a t-shirt I find myself sporting a baseball tan – bronzed lower legs, wrists, neck and face. My chest and belly, however, are whiter than a Love Child produced by Gwen Stefani and Edgar Winter would look should such a human being ever come into existence. I should also point out that because I wore sandals whenever possible this summer I have tan lines that make my feet look like I’m wearing white buck shoes even when I am barefoot.

It was a strange summer, too, in the sense that it never really seemed to get off the ground. I blame the lackluster Fourth of July, and I blame the lackluster on the fact that the Fourth of July took place on a Wednesday. We didn’t get that extended Fourth of July break and, as a result, I never got into a summer groove.

The Yankees never really seemed to get going, either - this past week's sweep of the Red Sox notwithstanding. No long winning streaks, no running away with the pennant. They didn’t completely stink, either, as they have in other summers. Nineteen ninety, for instance, was horrific – one loss after another. If it hadn’t been for the birth of my son Alex that year the summer would have been a total loss.

It’s funny how you remember different summers, and how some summers are more memorable than others.

Since 1999 my summers have been dominated by baseball – Little League baseball initially and now travel team ball. I would not have it any other way, with the possible exception of working in a little more beach time, anyway. The summer of 2007 will be remembered by me as the summer of the weddings: my niece Nadya’s and my sister Ann’s. I have written quite enough about them of late, thank you very much, but it is funny how you spend the days counting down to an event and then the next thing you know nearly a month has gone by since the event took place.

It’s also interesting how certain songs instantly remind you of summers past. Every time I hear any of the following songs my mind is instantly transformed to good times celebrating sand, surf and sunshine: “Heatwave” - Martha Reeves & The Vandellas; “Summer Wind” – Frank Sinatra; “The Girls on The Beach” and/or “The Warmth of the Sun” by The Beach Boys; anything by The Beach Boys, really, and of course, the ultimate summer song, “Summer In The City” - The Lovin' Spoonful.

Which brings us back to Labor Day. I started the column with the notion that it is a melancholy weekend. But there is something pleasant about it, too. Donning a sweatshirt and watching the sun go down on Sunday night is something special. You feel the chill of the autumn onset and you know it is time to get back to work, time for the third act of the calendar year. Ideally you get a chance to play Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” a few hundred times, fire up a stogie, draw yourself a Scotch on the rocks and then reflect back on what was and what should have been. Then you wash the sand off your feet for the last time this year and head back to the house, knowing that the alarm is going to go off the next morning and its back to the grind.

Oh well.

Thank you for reading this column.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Living The Scooter Life

Ask Mr. Long IslandBy Michael Watt

If I could figure out a way to do it, I would walk around with the number 10 sewn onto my shirtsleeves, at least for the rest of the baseball season. That’s how upset I was last week to learn of the passing of Phil Rizzuto, even though his demise was not unexpected. (Does anybody else find it weird that Phil died on the same day – albeit 12 years later – that Mickey Mantle died, and just three days before the anniversaries of the deaths of Elvis and Babe Ruth? It’s just weird is all I am saying.)

Forget about Rizzuto the baseball player, or even Rizzuto the announcer. How about Rizzuto the living representation of how much we should enjoy life?

Even as a kid growing up watching Yankee games on TV and listening to them on the radio (back then announcers did double duty, rotating between radio and television duties), I marveled at the good fortune this man enjoyed. He grew up in Brooklyn and despite his diminutive size played on a string of championship Yankee teams the likes of which may never be seen again. Once his playing days were over – and he was rather unceremoniously dismissed from the team’s roster – he just moved upstairs to the broadcast booth and plied his art there for another 40 years. Forty years!

His success on the field was all the more remarkable because of his size. His “success” – some people would argue that he was a terrible announcer – in the booth was even more amazing because his initial two broadcast partners, Red Barber and Mel Allen, were living legends themselves and non-athletes who resented his lack of formal training and announcing skills. Yet Phil persevered and, as a result, never had to lift anything heavy for the rest of his life.

The man played the game his entire career with a piece of chewing gum on top of his hat for good luck! Can you imagine any of today’s self-important, image-is-everything athletes running around with gum on his hat? Not going to happen – unless, of course, a chewing gum company paid a small fortune for the exposure.

Then there were the games he broadcast. As I mentioned earlier, like many New Yorkers I grew up listening and watching the “Scooter” do his thing during Yankee broadcasts. His voice and persona are as integral a part of the soundtrack of my youth as my grandfather’s – and that’s saying something. Both had a certain way of talking that just could not help but entertain, and both lived and loved to tell a story.

On the night of his death my family and I were watching the Yankees being pasted by the Baltimore Orioles. It occurred to me that I had a copy of a televised Yankee game I recorded – WITHOUT expressed, written consent from Major League Baseball, I might add - in 1996. I had taped the game because my son Alex and I had tickets to it and the tickets were right along the leftfield foul line. I wanted to preserve the game for posterity just in case the camera caught us in the crowd (it did – for a fleeting second or two). Of course I forgot all about it until last week.

I dug out the tape, popped it into the VCR (yes, we still have an operating VCR hooked up in our house) and relished the dulcet sounds of Mr. Rizzuto wishing half the world a happy birthday and thanking the other half for sending fresh pastries. He bantered with his broadcast partner, former Yankee Rick Cerone, about this and that and, oh yeah, occasionally noticed that there was a baseball game going on. His storytelling meanderings notwithstanding, Phil knew the game as well as any of the other pontificating poof-heads working the baseball airwaves today. I had forgotten how much fun it could be to watch a Yankee game.

And let’s not forget the fact that Phil Rizzuto is the answer to one of the all-time great trivia questions: Who is the only American League MVP to earn a Platinum Album award as well? Phil, of course, was immortalized for his “play-by-play” interlude in “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” on Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell.” The story goes that when my man Todd Rundgren (who produced “Bat Out Of Hell”) was told that Phil Rizzuto agreed to be on the album, Todd’s reply was, “Really? What instrument does he play?”

I still haven’t figured out whether so many things worked out well for Phil Rizzuto because of his positive outlook on life or whether he had a positive outlook BECAUSE so many things worked out for him. They just did. God bless him.

So thanks, Phil, for the laughs and the great baseball and, mostly, for being such a fun part of my life. You will be missed.

Thank you for reading this column.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Metro NY Balloon & Music Festival, August 10, 11, & 12th

Photo courtesy of Alida Thorpe
My husband and I went early this morning, sunrise actually, to the
Metro NY Balloon & Music Festival,
being held August 10th, 11th & 12th at Brookhaven Calabro Airport.
Unfortunately, a north wind kept the balloons from flying.
As one balloon owner said, " this wind, nowhere to go but the ocean!"
It was wonderful to watch the balloons fire up and get ready.
For more information, directions and the festival information, visit the
I will tell you that it costs $10 to park and $25 per person to enter, so it is not an inexpensive family activity.
No coolers are allowed but you can bring in a folding chair.
Hope you enjoy your Long Island weekend!

Friday, August 10, 2007

So Many Milestones, So Little Time

Ask Mr. Long IslandBy Michael Watt

Okay, so we’re in the homestretch of what I affectionately refer to as my mini-milestone-marathon.

Last weekend (on Friday), you’ll recall, my niece Nadya got married. This Saturday it’s my sister Annie’s turn. That’s a lot of excitement in an eight-day span. Throw in the birthdays of my two sons (Alex, 17 and Max, 13), the premier of “The Simpsons Movie,” a night out for a rock concert (Todd Rundgren and “The New Cars”), more than a handful of baseball and softball games and – oh yeah, that damn day job - and you have a whirlwind couple of weeks on your hands. Did I mention that we are having the house painted this week? Right now the fumes have me higher than a Rastafarian at a Reggae concert After Party.

Whew! As my favorite rappers like to say, “It’s all good.” But is it amusing? Let’s find out.

As I predicted, at my niece’s wedding my wife Sharon and I found ourselves situated so far removed from the action you could have used a golf cart to get from our table to the dance floor. Not to worry – we were that much closer to the Viennese table at night’s end. Of course being closer to the desserts than to the dance floor probably resulted in my adding a couple of pounds to the mid-section by night’s end, but it was just as well. The DJ, believe it or not, did not have a copy of “Love Shack” to play.

Can you imagine that?

It’s times like these that I wish I could be governor of Long Island. If I were and I became aware of a “Love Shack”-less DJ I would decree – right there on the spot – that all DJs plying their craft on the Island had to be licensed and in order to secure that license they had to demonstrate a willingness and ability to spin the greatest song ever written about a shanty with a rusted tin roof. Being a DJ at a party and not spinning “Love Shack” is like opening an ice cream store and not offering chocolate. Stupid DJs. Oh, and for the record it’s not as if I was the only one asking for the song, either. A hip, vivacious, pretty young lady - in other words, everything I am not – asked repeatedly for the song to be played, too. When she wasn’t tugging on her strapless gown, that is, to make sure the situation didn’t deteriorate from a "Love Shack" request to Love Rack display, if you know what I mean.

Because I like to think of myself as a pro-active, pre-emptive, let’s-make-lemonade-out-of-a-lemon kind of guy, I have commissioned my son Alex to burn a copy of “Love Shack” onto a blank CD and will keep that CD in the glove compartment of my car go forward, so that this tragic situation will never again have to be endured.

Other than the Shack-less blemish the wedding was a blast. The DJs did, for instance, play “Shout.” “The Worm” was performed to perfection by yours truly with many, many others accompanying me. They might not have realized they were accompanying me, of course, but trust me – they were. I bow to no one – with the possible exception of my brothers Eddie and Raymond – when it comes to declaring myself “King of The Worm.”

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Nadya’s wedding was the fact that it started on time. It seems the bride has a thing about punctuality and even the priest was caught off guard. He started his sermon by commenting that in his many years of marrying couples this ceremony marked the first time one had started when it was supposed to.

The priest marrying my sister Ann and her fiancĂ© Mark will not be making such comments. Ann’s just as organized and on top of things as Nadya, mind you, but punctuality has never been a big priority at the Watt household. When my brother Ray got married, for instance, he asked all his brothers to be ushers and as a result we were there, in the back, when the Wedding Mass started. “So this is what the beginning of Mass looks like,” cracked one of my other brothers.

Ann’s getting married in St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre, the same church where my parents got married back in 1952 and almost 33 years to the day that my older sister Margaret became the first in our family to marry. In between there have been eight other Watt wedding days. (If you’re keeping score at home, that leaves three brothers yet to be married. Don’t hold your breath; as far as I can tell each is quite happy with their single status. All the more power to them.)

The reception afterward will serve as a family reunion as much as anything else, with brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles coming in from all over the country. Those are always fun, too, especially with every one all dressed up and on their best behavior. I know I plan to don the same pair of red argyle socks I wore to my wedding 22 years ago and to every wedding since (including Nadya’s). I also know that while wearing those red socks I will be the first one (okay, maybe the second or third) out to the dance floor to do “The Worm.”

Hey – you celebrate your milestones your way, I’ll celebrate them with mine.

Thank you for reading this column.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Montauk Point Lighthouse

Montauk Point Lighthouse, Long Island


For more information about the lighthouse and visitors' center...Click here!


Friday, July 13, 2007

Restoration of the Grist Mill

Grist Mill, Connetquot River State Park Preserve
The mill originates from the 1700s.
Over the years, weather and age have taken their toll on the structure.
The restoration project, initiated by the Friends of Connetquot, is now in progress.
A mill expert has been hired to oversee the restoration which includes plans to stabilize the structure, eventually raise it and build new stone piers. It needs a new foundation, new shingles and roof. Eventually, the interior and milling machinery will be restored to create a working mill.
This project is a major undertaking and will take much time and require major funds.
Monetary grants have been received from both the federal and state governments.
The Friends of Connetquot are working to contribute additional money raised from donations and fund raising events.
If you would like to donate or help in some way, please call the Park at 631-581-1005
or send contributions to:
Friends of Connetquot, P.O. Box 472, Oakdale, NY 11769

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A New Hurricane Season

Welcome back. I have not had time to post in a while but today as I was doing some "homework" I found that I needed to change the look of the blog, because with Google's new system, they had new template designs, and I had to choose one. I hope you like the look, though I know I don't have that many 'regular' readers. After all, not many people choose to while away their hours reading about insurance. I do have some regular readers of my other blog,, but that's because I write about local happenings in our Village.

But while I'm here, I will write a short post. The market for homeowners insurance on Long Island is continuing to change. This past week we had our first call from someone who's being canceled by State Farm. They were told that State Farm is canceling people within a half mile of the water. I had heard that they stopped writing new business within a half-mile of the South Shore of Long Island but not that they were canceling anybody.

I say this not to pick on State Farm in any way. I happen to think they are pretty good company, and they are the biggest in auto and home insurance. Unfortunately, I just point it out to show what is happening in the Suffolk County and overall Long Island insurance marketplace. Even the largest insurance carriers do not have the capacity to absorb the business being shed by their competitors.

We need a lot of changes in not only the insurance business but also in the codes for new home construction and in other government regulations. But in the meantime, what we need most is a number of new carriers to come in the market and each take a small percentage of the business.

A big part of my job these days is keeping my eyes and ears open all the time for these new players. We wrote our first policy with one such insurance program this week. Our agents Association works hard on this issue all the time but Independent Insurance Agents only represent about 35% of the personal insurance market (meaning car and house insurance). And so we are not the "big players."

That would be Allstate, State Farm, Farmers and a few others. The problem is that, as I pointed out above, size is not an advantage here, because of the massive damage that would be possible in a Katrina size hurricane. Allstate is in favor of a government 'backstop', which is the only thing that would help them because of the sheer volume of business they wrote in coastal areas. But that idea has not caught on with most of the other companies, who would rather see a competitive market with risk-based pricing.

And while the public may debate about global warming, and whether it's caused by humans or not, the fact remains that sea levels are rising and temperatures are going up. And so the insurance companies simply don't know what's going to happen. Even if there is no such thing as global warming (and I personally think there is such a thing), we are at the very least in a period of rising temperatures and increased storm activity, even if it's just a natural cycle that will go away at some point.

That point may still be 20 or 50 years away during which time we may or may not have some pretty strong storms. When you add that in to the amount of property value there is here on Long Island it's a pretty scary scenario.

Meanwhile, there are also a number of major insurance companies, who need no introduction here, who are chasing just the automobile insurance market without taking any share of the risk 0f catastrophic loss that mainly affects the property market. As these companies suck dollars from the insurance buying public, the effect is to weaken the financial positions of those companies who also take their fair share of the property insurance market.

We live in interesting times. As always, more information is available by visiting our web sites at and

Long Island's ''Feast of Feasts'' July 11-15, 2007 - Wellwood Ave. Lindenhurst, New York

OLPH International Feast 2007

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church
July 11-15, 2007

Celebrating it's 25th year, Our Lady of Perpetual Help(OLPH) Parish has expanded their annual feast making it bigger and better than ever! The festival committee has turned this local event into an International delight. More rides, more food, more vendors and more fun than before...

OLPH International Feast takes place on Wellwood Avenue in Lindenhurst, New York. Festival activies start on Wednesday, July 11, 2007 and run through Sunday, July 15, 2007.

The International schedule of events include Polish, Irish, Italian, American and German themed nights. Rides, games and attractions. Expanded vendor area with an assortment of ethnic inspired foods and specialty items. Air-conditioned Vegas area located in the School will be open every evening. Live music and entertainment is scheduled for each themed evening.

Polish Night - Wednesday, 7/11/07
Celebrate your Polish heritage on Wednesday July 11th, or learn about Polish tradition at the OLPH International Feast's Polish Night. Dance to the music of Polka band "Retro" performing live on stage in the entertainment area. Dine under the stars in the food court where Polish delicacies include pierogies and kielbasa. Enjoy all the other foods and browse through the specialty showcase items in the vendor area.

Special Benediction, Procession and Blessing begins at 5:00pm from the Church led by Monsignor Rev. Daniel S. Hamilton. The United States Marine Corp. will be making a special appearance providing the color guard for the opening ceremony!

OLPH International Feast - Long Island Carnivals - Lindenhurst, NYOLPH International Feast - Long Island Street Fairs - Lindenhurst, NYOLPH International Feast - Long Island Festivals - Lindenhurst, NY

Irish Night - Thursday, 7/12/07
OLPH International Feast's Irish Night celebrates and honors the Irish with music, dancing and delicious Irish food on Thursday. A changing of the flag ceremony followed by the Award Winning New York Shields. Gerry Finlay and the Cara Band will be performing live on stage in the entertainment area.

Irish delicacies, including corned beef and cabbage as well as other delicious ethnic food will be served in the food court. Additional vendor areas with ethnic inspired specialty items make this a fun-filled evening with a bit of the Irish for everyone.

Italian Night - Friday, 7/13/07
Dance "The Tarantella" when the OLPH International Feast Italian Night takes place on Friday, July 13, 2007. A changing of the flag ceremony will be held at the beginning of the evening. Enjoy live music in the entertainment area and stroll through the vendor areas for all things Italian.

Delicious food prepared by Joe's Italian Deli will be served in the outside eatery. Sausage and peppers, peaches and wine, cannoli, funnel cakes, ice cream and other ethnic treats. So, bring the family and don't miss this fun-filled evening when lil' Little Italy comes to Lindenhurst, New York.

American Night - Saturday, 7/14/07
Rock n' Roll American Style on Saturday, July 14, 2007 with special showcase 50's Band "The Beltones" at the OLPH Annual Feast. A changing of the flag ceremony takes place at the beginning of the night. Savor a variety of foods along Wellwood Avenue in Lindenhurst. Vendor areas with ethnic specialty items on sale as well rides, games and attractions. It's American, it's International, it's fun for all ages and backgrounds.

OLPH International Feast - Long Island Carnivals - Lindenhurst, NYOLPH International Feast - Long Island Street Fairs - Lindenhurst, NYOLPH International Feast - Long Island Festivals - Lindenhurst, NY

International Fair and German Day & Night - 7/15/07
The final day of the OLPH International Feast, Sunday, July 15th, 2007, will be one to remember with the biggest addition in 25 years. Wellwood Avenue from West Gates to Hoffman Avenue in Lindenhurst will be shut down for the International Street Fair! Fun filled activities begin at 10am and last until the festival closing bell at 9pm. The street fair features hundreds of vendors with food, crafts and novelty items.

The changing of the flag ceremony starts off the evening for German night. Live music in the entertainment area by long-time favorite performers, "The Spitzbaum". Knockwurst, Bratwurst, Sauerkraut and Potato Pancakes are on the menu at the outside eatery as well as other ethnic treats.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help International Feast features rides, games and attractions. Vendor area with an assortment of ethnic inspired food and specialty items. Air-conditioned Vegas area located in the School will be open every evening. Live music and entertainment is scheduled for each themed event.

For general information visit the OLPH International Feast Website
OLPH Feast Coordinator 516-242-9531.
Vendor space available 631-539-4942.

OLPH International Festival is sponsored by:, Walk 97.5 FM, Artusa Construction, Four Seasons Sunrooms, Manhattan Beer Distributor, Pepsi Cola, Joe's Italian Market, Johnstons' Funeral Home, Lindenhurst Funeral Home, OLPH Kinghts of Columbus, The Cannoli Factory, OLPH Holy Name Society, OLPH Parents Association, Allstar Midway, Carnival Amusements, Sal's Fruit Tree, All County Business Machines, Eye Values, Inc., Johnny Mica, Inc. Ridgewood Savings Bank, Giannini Landscaping and Babylon Dental Care.

Special thanks to contributors, vendors and volunteers, the OLPH Feast Committee, The Incorporated Village of Lindenhurst as well as the church staff for helping to make this event possible.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church - Lindenhurst, NYOur Lady of Perpetual Help Church
210 S Wellwood Avenue
Lindenhurst, NY 11757
Rectory Phone: 631-226-7725

OLPH School
240 S Wellwood Avenue
Lindenhurst, NY 11757
School Phone: 631-226-0208

Friday, June 29, 2007

Long Island Rail Road

The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) is operated by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) which is a state agency. The MTA provides a resource of information on their website, but it is not always easy to find information quickly, especially when there are unexpected train delays. provides Long Island Rail Road information and news as a courtesy to our site visitors. LIRR news is updated on a continuous basis through feeds from a variety of news and media outlets. Although we are not directly affiliated with the Long Island railroad we have received quite a few emails from people frustrated by the system. Basic information with quick links to the MTA and LIRR schedules is provided below.

  MTA Web Site

  LIRR Train Schedules and Information

  MTA Feedback form for Questions/Comments

24 Hour Travel Information
  Nassau 516-822-5477
  Suffolk 631-231-5477
  New York City 718-217-5477
  In case of emergency call the MTA Police directly at 888-MTA911PD

The mailing address of the MTA:
  Metropolitan Transportation Authority
  347 Madison Ave
  New York, NY 10017
  212-878-1063 is website with information on how to send comments, suggestions or complaints....

Management and Government contacts:
Peter S. Kalikow - Chairman, MTA
347 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10017
Phone: 212-878-7200
Fax: 212-878-7031

Howard Roberts, President
MTA New York City Transit
2 Broadway
New York, NY 10004
Phone: 646-252-5800
Fax: 646-252-5815

Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor
City of New York
City Hall
New York, NY 10007
Phone: 311
Fax: 212-788-2460

Eliot Spitzer
Governor, State of New York
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224
Phone: 518-474-8390

You are welcome to post your comments.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Have you been to Watch Hill?

Photo by Alida Thorpe
The photo above was taken at Watch Hill on Fire Island.
Have you been there lately"
There is so much to do and see that you must check it out for yourself.
(Click on the photo to see the larger version.)
You can take the ferry from Patchogue. The ocean beach has life guards.
There are nature trails, a marina and an information center.
The restaurant and snack bar are now open after having been closed for the last few years.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Don’t Stop Bellyaching

Ask Mr. Long IslandBy Michael Watt

Okay, so Tony Soprano didn’t die. Or maybe he did. We’ll never know, at least until the movie comes out. The movie? Oh yeah, there will be a movie. “Sopranos” creator David Chase can deny it all he wants but just as you can be sure a Lohan Family reunion will require at least one restraining order, you can be sure “The Sopranos” will make it to the silver screen.

I did not have a big problem with how “The Sopranos” ended Sunday. Remember “Lady, or the Tiger”? That short story, which many of us had to read in grammar school, leaves the reader hanging, wondering whether the princess in the story points her would-be lover toward the door hiding a tiger or the door hiding a beautiful woman. The way I see it Chase did the same thing with “The Sopranos” ending, and he did for a couple of reasons.

For one thing, Chase wanted to make fun of us for paying so much attention to such silliness. They’re fictional characters, for gosh sakes. Murderers. Liars. Cheaters. The kind of people who – when they’re late returning books to the library - use the drop off bin to avoid paying the late fee. I’ll bet you Tony - and AJ, too, for that matter – doesn’t ever put the cap back on the toothpaste. Chase’s message was, “You people should have a lot more important things to worry about than whether Tony’s going to flip or die.”

I also think Chase was in a Malthusian no-win situation. There was no way to close the series that would please everyone. He’s not the first creative force to face this dilemma, either. Some of the great television series of our time ran into the same problem. Very few people, for instance, were happy with how “Seinfeld” ended. The final episode of “M*A*S*H” was a disaster that seemed to last longer than the Korean War; and the final “Friends” was sappier than a stack of pancakes slathered in Aunt Jemima syrup and left out in the hot sun.

I have documented in this space the genius featured in the ending of the second “Bob Newhart” show: Bob waking up in bed with his wife from the first “Bob Newhart” show, freaked out by a “dream” he had about owning an inn in Vermont. But in my book the best “last episode” was the ending of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Everybody but Ted Baxter the buffoon anchorman (redundant?) gets fired and they all have to leave the newsroom. Nobody wants to, of course, so while still in the midst of one last group hug they shuffle out en masse, while singing “It’s a long way to Tipperary.” I laughed. I cried. So do the rest of America.

No, I did not have a problem with how "The Sopranos" ended. I did have a problem, however, with Mr. Chase’s use of the Journey song, “Don’t Stop Believing.”

Like a lot of people as I watched “The Sopranos” over the years I became more and more enthralled with the show. The word “genius” gets tossed around too much these days but Chase certainly had a genius for drawing the viewer into the program, so much so that almost every time the show ended I would be caught by surprise when the credits started to roll, forgetting that I was watching a television program as I became totally absorbed in the drama and action.

As a result, after a while I began to think that this Chase fellow might be smarter than your average bear. Then he picks a Journey song. Journey! A mediocre band from a mediocre musical era. Just look at sample verse:

Some will win,
some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on

Now, the hours spent learning literature from Len Gougeon at the University of Scranton may not have resulted in my becoming an imagery expert, but for my money there are not a whole of lot creative juices at work here. Couldn’t Chase have gone with something from Tom Waits or even that noted Jersey native, Bruce Springsteen?

More aggravating than anything, however, is that I have had that stupid song stuck in my head all week.

Whatever. Now it’s so long “Sopranos.” I’ve already canceled my subscription to HBO (who needs to pay a channel that runs “Momma’s House 2” six times a week.) I’ve also sworn off getting roped into watching another serial show. I hope to use the extra hour a week to finish the book I am working on, which no doubt will one day be made into a movie. I have to believe that to make it happen, but you can be sure the theme song won’t be “Don’t Stop Believing.”

Thank you for reading this column.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Coastal Homeowners Insurance - Has it stopped getting worse?

Aaron Stein, Long Island Insurance BY AARON STEIN

Apologies for not writing in a while. I'm not unhappy to say that it's because our office has been very busy. We're having other adventures as well, having just installed a new 'paperless office' software and hardware system. There is still paper on everybody's desk, but the piles are slowly going down and will not return.

In any event, there is news, and some rumors, to report. In the very short term, like right now, insurance companies are still tightening up and cancelling or non-renewing homeowners insurance for many people on Long Island and other coastal areas. In the past two weeks, two fairly large players shut off new business in Suffolk County and most of Nassau. This is a matter of how much capacity they have overall, not a fear of any one house getting damaged. Another major carrier, one of the biggest in the country, in fact, stopped writing within a half mile of the shore and rumor has it they may start canceling those within 1000 feet of tidal water.

Insurance companies can buy reinsurance to protect themselves from major catastrophes. But how much they can buy is limited to some extent by their overall size and capital reserves (that's grossly oversimplified but the longer explanation is so boring that it hurts). And the insurance regulators as well as the financial companies that give insurance carriers their precious A and A+ ratings are threatening to lower them if they don't reduce their waterfront and coastal insurance exposure.

Add in to those issues that there are a number of large carriers that have come in to the market just writing car insurance, taking no part of the risk in the homeowners insurance department, and most especially not the coastal properties. That has also reduced the capital and reserves of the remaining companies that write both auto and home insurance. That's why one of the big criteria that a certain company is using to decide who to cancel is whether they have their car insurance with them or somewhere else. They are giving preference to customers who also insure their cars along with the home, and why not? Most businesses are expected to give some discount or other incentive to those who buy more from them.

But there may be some light at the end of the tunnel. For the first time in a long time I heard at a meeting the other day some news of early discussions with insurance carriers who are not in the Long Island homeowners insurance market at all. That's what we need, some companies who can balance their exposure in other parts of the country against some new business in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. This will still take probably the rest of this year to show any real progress, but at least it's a rumor in the right direction.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Theodore Roosevelt Bird Sanctuary

Barred Owl
at the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center
Are you looking for something to do this weekend?
Why not visit the Theodore Roosevelt Bird Sanctuary in Oyster Bay?
For information and directions, visit the site:
There is always something to do on Long Island!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sunset on Long Island

West Sayville Golf Course
Beautiful sunsets are an added bonus to living on Long Island.
Notice how the tall pine tree is sculptured by the wind coming from the Great South Bay.
I love Long Island!
Click on the photo to see a larger version.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Ode to a Carbonated Beverage

Ask Mr. Long Island By Michael Watt

I attended my first college fair as a parent earlier this week and quite frankly I went in there thinking, “If nothing else, I should be able to get a column out of this.”

Alas and alack: After hours of trying the only thing I can come up with is, “Boo hoo my kid’s going off to college. Now I feel old because it seems like just last week I was going off to college and blah blah blah.” Nobody wants to read that and I certainly don’t feel like writing it.

As I contemplated what else I might want to write about, however, I poured myself a tall glass of seltzer. Now there’s something worth writing about: seltzer. It just sounds funny.

I love my seltzer. I can drink it all day and it doesn’t make me nauseous or jumpy or stupid like so many other beverages I can name. Right now under my desk is a case and a half of the stuff and I don’t have to count the bottles after I’ve been out of the house for a while to determine if my impressionable young sons got the urge to “experiment” and “explore” in my absence.

It’s fun to drink, too. If I drink a big glass quickly, for instance, I can almost always count on a huge belch ensuing. Sometimes all you need to break up your day and/or lighten the mood is a good belch. As my son Max likes to say, “Some things never get old.”

It can be a pain in the neck to order in restaurants, though, especially when I’m out with a group of friends (like that ever happens) or at a business dinner (more likely). Most folks order something cool or adult sounding, like “I’ll have a glass of Chardonnay,” or “I’ll take an unsweetened Iced Tea.” When it comes around to me I order my seltzer and for some reason I almost always have to repeat myself. Sometimes I think they think I’m saying salsa, which wouldn’t make any sense for obvious reasons. It doesn’t matter, though, because invariably they bring me club soda anyway.

Now, not too many people know that there is a difference between seltzer and club soda, primarily because not too many people care. I know I didn’t know, or care, until I was in my late teenss. I was filling in as a bartender at a Bar Mitzvah when one of the party attendees asked me for a seltzer. Not knowing (or caring) I poured him a club soda. He called me on it and when I asked – probably in a not-very-nice-way – what the difference was, he was kind enough to explain that seltzer has no sodium in it while club soda is rife with the stuff. He also explained that seltzer is Kosher and club soda is not. Unfortunately he explained this to me after several other party patrons were served club soda thinking it was seltzer.

Is that a big deal? Let’s put it this way: You don’t know guilt until you’ve discovered that several very nice folks may have to spend a few extra days in whatever it is Jewish people consider hell because their paths crossed with a brash, unthinking Gentile.

Seltzer can also be a pain because it’s not something most folks have on hand. I have gotten into the habit, therefore, of bringing my own seltzer with me on those rare occasions when I get invited to someone else’s home. You can just imagine how impressed my hosts are when I whip out two liters of “Vintage” or “Zazz.” Nothing screams “cheapskate” and “oh, this ought to be a laugh riot” like store-brand seltzer. (Don’t even get me started on what it’s like to show up at an all-night poker game packing a night’s supply of seltzer when everyone else is lugging in 12-packs of beer. Let’s just say I’m lucky they let me sit at the table).

Being a seltzer aficionado beyond the tri-state area can also be problematic. Anytime I go away on a business trip, for instance, the first thing I do when I get to my destination city is head to a local convenience store to stock up on the stuff I forgot to pack – a toothbrush, matching socks, a re-charger for my cell phone, etc. I also like to buy the basic food staples - bananas, chocolate and cookies - I need to get me through the next couple of days. I would get some seltzer, too, but for some reason seltzer does not exist west of the Hudson. I am sure it is just a coincidence but my rule of thumb is, “If you can’t find any good bagel places in the neighborhood then there’s not going to be any seltzer on the supermarket shelves, either."

Drinking seltzer does have its advantages. There are no calories, for instance, and I have never consumed excessive quantities of the stuff and then surrendered to the urge to call an old friend collect in the middle of the night. My only hope is that my older boy embraces my passion for seltzer when he goes away to college because it seems like only yesterday I was going off to college and I can tell you now the carbonated beverage I wrote odes to back then was definitely not seltzer.

Thank for you for reading this column.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Storm Damage at Davis Park, Fire Island

I just thought you might like to see some photos of the recent damage to the Davis Park area on Fire Island.

Although none of the homes were totally swept away by the waves, many were damaged and need to be moved or reinforced. Some may have to be torn down.

Here above is just one photo, but you can follow the link to see a slideshow of addtional photos.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Our First Storm Scare of the Season

Aaron Stein, Long Island Insurance BY AARON STEIN

This past weekend, Long Island and the surrounding areas got our first scare of this season. For those who don't realize it, we are already in the beginning weeks of what is considered hurricane season for our part of the world.

Here in Nassau and Suffolk counties, we got pretty lucky this past weekend. New Jersey was not so lucky and they continue to dig out of the mess. This was a nor'easter, as opposed to a tropical storm. There are a couple of things that were different. One is that it came from over the middle of the country, as opposed to tropical storms and hurricanes, which originate (strangely enough) in the tropics, out over water.

So that means that our deluge of rainfall was preceded by a bunch of snow being dropped on the middle part of the country. Usually they are laughing at us when we get hit by a tropical storm, because those rarely make it far inland. Once they do go over land, they quickly lose much of their strength.

The other thing that makes nor'easters so treacherous, especially here on Long Island and in the sort of inverted coastal corner that is the New York metropolitan area, is that the wind comes from a different direction than what is normal for us. Typically, our winds are the 'prevailing westerlies'. (Wind is named for the direction where it originates). That's why our weather patterns usually run from west to east. So if it's raining in central Pennsylvania, most times you can watch as the weather forecasters tell us how long it will be until that reaches us.

Even in this nor'easter, it came from the west relative to us. But the wind is from the northeast instead of the usual west. That means that to a certain extent, these high winds are blowing water in towards our south shores as they circulate around the storm's center! That's why nor'easters can cause heavy flooding even though it might not seem, walking out into our back yards, that things are all that horrible.

Let's hope this does not portend a more active hurricane season here on Long Island. In the past few weeks several more major insurance carriers have stopped writing in Suffolk County. The markets that are open are getting more expensive. And a couple of bad storms could really cause a crisis. We shall see.

As always for more information please visit our web sites at and

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Just a reminder...

photos by Alida Thorpe

Just a reminder to stay off the dunes while visiting Fire Island.

The dunes protect the beaches and the shores of Long Island. If you walk on the dunes or let your children play on the dunes, the grass is disturbed, and the sand will blow away in a storm.

Fire Island is our barrier beach and protects us in many ways!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Important Information About the Pet Food Recall

Pet Food Recall on Long Island, NY By Dennis Leon, DVM

As everyone probably knows by now, there is a nationwide recall on specific canned dog & cat foods manufactured by Menu Foods and sold under various other brand names. Affected pets seem to have signs and symptoms of kidney disease, including, but not limited to anorexia, lethargy and vomiting. A complete list of foods currently affected by this mass recall can be found at:

Most of the foods affected are cheaper "supermarket brand" foods, but included on the list are a few manufacturers who sell "premium" foods: Iams, Eukanuba, Science Diet and Nutro. Not all of their foods are affected by the recall -only specific canned foods produced at a specific plant in Kansas within a certain date range. More specific info can be found at the following sites:

Menu Foods says they have narrowed down the culprit to wheat gluten, an ingredient used in the affected foods. They had a "new" distributor for wheat gluten at their Kansas manufacturing plant between 12/3/06 and 3/6/07. It is unclear at this time what other foods were manufactured in this time range using wheat gluten from the same source. Other manufacturers and brand names of food may or may not be recalled as more information is gathered.

If you have any of these affected foods with matching date and plant codes, discontinue feeding them immediately. Iams, Eukanuba, Science Diet and Nutro all carry a 100% guarantee, so you will get refunded for the food. I have also been advising clients to discontinue feeding (or eating?) ANY food containing wheat gluten until the food companies and FDA sort out this whole issue.

For more information, contact:
Dennis Leon, DVM
Levittown Animal Hospital
2703 Hempstead Turnpike
Levittown, NY 11756

Dr. Dennis Leon is the owner and chief veterinarian at Levittown Animal Hospital. After working in a variety of small animal practices since 1992, he earned his veterinary degree from Cornell University in 2001. Following his veterinary education, Dr. Leon worked in a busy multi-doctor practice in Hayward, CA, where he also served as a veterinary consultant to the City of Hayward Animal Services Bureau, Hayward Animal Shelter, Alameda County Animal Control and San Leando Animal Shelter. His professional interests include preventative medicine, anesthesiology, pain management, kidney disease and and obesity treatment.

Fire Island

photos by Alida Thorpe

First day of Spring and the snow is melting!
As the temperature rises, people visit the beach for long walks and fresh salt-air.
This photo was taken just east of Parking Field 5 of Robert Moses State Park.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Snow and the Lighthouse

The Fire Island Lighthouse in the snow.....Spring begins on Wednesday!

Fire Island in Winter

A panoramic view of Fire Island, today, after the snow of the last two days.

It was a beautiful day!

Many people were walking the walkways and along the beach for fresh air, exercise and sunshine. winter or summer!

Click on the photo to see the larger by Alida Thorpe

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Homeowners Insurance Adventure Continues

Aaron Stein, Long Island Insurance BY AARON STEIN

These days, the insurance industry, especially in catastrophe hurricane exposed areas like Long Island, is changing very quickly. This is very different from not too long ago. Insurance companies and their employees tend to be very conservative, resisting changes sometimes for years before caving in. Agents tend to be the same, because our job is to protect against risk of loss, as opposed to many other business and personal models, where taking risks is part of the fun.

These days, change is fast and drastic. I have not posted here in about a month and a half, but in that time, several more carriers have stopped or severely cut back on writing home insurance on Long Island, especially within a half mile of the water. The latest one I heard about was State Farm, who stopped writing new policies within 2500 feet of the Bay. Adirondack Insurance recently severely limited their new policies in all of Suffolk County regardless of distance to water, and New York Central Mutual is not only limiting new policies, but they recently became part of the group that is actually canceling people.

Allstate continues to cancel thousands of policyholders, though they have made some efforts to bring other companies to the table so that their Long Island agents still have something to sell. There are almost no new players coming in to the New York market, except for some 'excess lines' carriers such as Lloyd's of London and Lexington Insurance Company. These carriers write policies at a much higher price, but at least they make coverage available.

If it turns out you are forced to seek insurance from one of these non-standard companies, be sure the agent you are dealing with has experience with them, especially with waterfront home insurance issues, and knows what to look for. We have seen policies that COMPLETELY EXCLUDE wind damage! What is the point of having insurance if you are not covered for a hurricane, which is just a big windstorm with a name? Some of these policies also carry exclusions for pets, underground oil tanks, and other unusual clauses. We have also seen policies that offer 'actual cash value' coverage on the structure itself, which takes depreciation based on age, as opposed to a 'regular' homeowners insurance policy which insured at replacement cost.

Of course, these policies still do not cover flood damage even though they may cost 2-3 times more than what was considered normal for Long Island home insurance only a couple of years ago. Flood insurance continues to be available through your local agent via the FEMA National Flood Insurance Program, and excess flood insurance is available from a number of companies, when the $250,000 maximum building coverage through the FEMA program is not enough.

Remember also that if your policy is through an excess and surplus insurance company, you are NOT protected by the New York State Guaranty Fund. That fund provides up to $1,000,000 in coverage if an insurance carrier defaults or becomes insolvent. Lloyd's prides itself on never having defaulted on a claim in over 100 of years of existence. And Lexington is part of AIG, the world's largest insurer. Still, the fact is they are not subject to regulation by the New York State insurance department, nor backed by the Guaranty Fund.

Another solution that is being used is the New York Fair Plan, otherwise known as NY Property or NYPIUA. That is a state-run operation that was designed to provide basic fire insurance for properties in blighted areas or which have other problems. But the policies provide NO liability insurance, no theft coverage, no coverage for burst pipes, and have many other restrictions. Again, in some cases, this may be your only practical option, but you need to be aware of just what you are buying. We have come across insurance offices here on Long Island telling their clients that they are getting a homeowners policy from NY Property, and nothing could be further from the truth.

As always, for more information, visit our sites at or

Friday, March 16, 2007

Help Keep Internet Radio Online

Dear Senator Schumer:

On March 2, 2007 the Copyright Royalty Board announced new royalty rates for all Internet Radio stations, with the new rates retroactive to January of 2006. These new rates are significantly higher than expected and are many times over what is being paid now. In fact, if they remain unchanged, many or perhaps most online radio stations will have to cease operations after having had to declare bankruptcy due to the retroactive-to-2006 aspects of these new rates.

Internet Radio is treated differently than Terrestrial (broadcast) Radio. While both Internet and Terrestrial Radio pay royalties to BMI, SESAC and ASCAP, when it comes to record labels and artists, Terrestrial Radio pays no royalties -- none at all. It is only Internet Radio stations that must pay royalties to Sound Exchange at a rate is set by the US Copyright Board.

In 2002, Congress passed the "Small Webcaster Settlement Act," that forced Sound Exchange to offer to small Webcasters a rate based on a percentage of revenue.

Last year, a new round of hearings was held by the Copyright Royalty Board to determine new rates for the 2006-2010 periods. The hearings lasted several months. Then, three judges retired to deliberate and render a decision, which decision was announced on Friday, March 2, 2007. The surprise in their decision was the elimination of the "Small Webcaster Settlement Act." This meant all small Webcasters could no longer make Sound Exchange payments based on a percentage of their revenues.

The new rates essentially levy a fee of $0.0011 per performance per listener in 2007, escalating to $0.0019 in 2010. Since each hour, the average radio station plays 16 songs, that's about $0.0176 per hour, per listener in 2007. An Internet Radio Station with a 500 listener average would now be required to pay $211 per day, $6,336 a month or $76,000 for the 2007 year!

This amount of money is beyond the resources of the small independent Internet Radio Stations, many of which are run by enthusiasts and hobbyists. These small stations are the ones bringing new music and old favorites to us every day, with their playlist fine-tuned to their listeners' choices by their listeners themselves. Music like this can not easily be found on the corporate-owned mega stations, Internet or Terrestrial.

As royalty rates were 8% of gross revenues, a $76,000 fee under the new rates equates to gross annual revenues of $950,000 under the old rates. Yet the "gross annual revenues" enjoyed by a station with 500 listeners on average, are more in the $15,000 range; most of which are derived from listener donations with the station run on a "break-even"

To expect these stations to increase their donations five-fold to cover this additional cost in 2007 is folly. To expect them to also "find" over $50,000 to pay the retroactive 2006 fee is more than a little unreasonable.

The Copyright Royalty Board must have known this.

Without your help to repeal this unfair Internet-Radio-only "tax,"
re-instate the more equitable Small Webcaster Settlement Act, or perhaps even to extend the "Act" to also include Terrestrial Radio stations, March 2, 2007 will be added to February 3, 1959 as yet another... "day the music died."

Very truly yours,
Walter C. Schmidt
383 Second Ave
Massapequa Park, NY 11762
(516) 799-8300

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Elizabeth A. Morton Wildlife Refuge

This photo was taken at The Elizabeth A. Morton Wildlife Refuge.

Click here for more details about this wonderful place to hike!

Long Island's Neediest Dogs and Cats Need Help Now!

Little Shelter Food Pantry Barren
Poor and Homeless Animals May Go Hungry In The Cold

Winter’s bitter cold and icy storms have claimed more victims. 4,000 pounds of food donations to Little Shelter Animal Adoption Center’s Animal Soup Kitchen (ASK) could not be delivered. Major highways in New Jersey were snow and ice covered and were closed down. Therefore, the truck with its precious cargo had to return to a Pennsylvania warehouse. Countless homeless cats as well as dogs whose impoverished owners are part of the ASK program rely on Little Shelter’s stock of provisions for their very lives. At this time of the year – when biting winds and killer storms take their toll on all of us – these poor dogs and cats face starvation. Little Shelter desperately needs your help to feed the hungry who are already suffering because of inadequate shelter.

Little Shelter director Maryann Chernovsky implores New Yorkers: “Frigid weather is upon us; many of these dogs and all of the cats must bravely face the cold. Don’t let them be hungry as well. Please do whatever you can to help them have the comfort of a full tummy. Please do not hesitate; act now. The situation is desperate. ”

Dog and cat food donations may be brought to Little Shelter at 33 Warner Road in Huntington between 1PM and 7PM on weekdays and from Noon until 5PM on Saturdays and Sundays. Monetary donations are also welcome and may be sent directly to Food Pantry at Little Shelter.

On behalf of all the innocent animals who need help, Little Shelter thanks you from the bottom of their hearts.

For more information about donations, please call 631-368-8770 Extension 230.

For more information about this release, please call or email:
Maryann Chernovsky, President
Little Shelter Animal Adoption Center

Friday, February 16, 2007

I Want My NANA

Ask Mr. Long IslandBy Michael Watt

Much has been said about the first of the Baby Boomer Generation turning 60 this year, lead by such stalwart citizens as President Clinton, Steven Spielberg and Cher. Sixty is the new 30, they say – which should come as no surprise because nobody deludes themselves better than members of the Woodstock Generation. The folks on Yasgur’s Farm who were going to change the world through peace, love and rock ‘n’ roll are the same people who gave us pre-schoolers under pressure to excel, gas-guzzling Hummers and New Age music. Go figure.

But there is one social trend I would love to see the Boomers usher in: the universal acceptance of nap taking.

Think about this: Why can’t we put our heads down on the desk for a quick snooze during the workday? Why is five minutes of refreshing shut-eye frowned upon but it’s okay for a worker to take a ten minute break from his or her job to go outside, ignite a toxic-spewing product that makes your clothes, breath and hair smell bad and then toss the un-smoked remnants amongst the hundreds of other similarly dispensed butts? Why is the “coffee break” a built-in part of the workday but God forbid an employee should study the inside of his or her eyelids for a few minutes?

Actually I do the cause a disservice by associating nap-taking with age. John F. Kennedy was famous for taking naps in the afternoon, despite his relative youth. Lincoln took naps. Churchill took naps. Ronald Reagan took naps. I’m only guessing here but I’m thinking Carter didn’t take any naps and the current Bush should.

Here’s the deal. We’re all working harder and later than ever and getting out of bed earlier than ever, as well. (This Ever guy has it made, by the way). Doesn’t it make sense for us to re-charge the batteries easily and naturally – the way nature intended? Even God rested on the seventh day, for Heaven’s sake. I know when I take a nap I feel better and am ready to take on the world. When I have had too much caffeine, on the other hand, I get a little zippy and perhaps a little cranky, if you can believe that.

It is going to take more than just one simple humor column to get this done, however. I’m not even sure if we can rely on a good-old fashioned grassroots movement, either. No, my friends, we have to take matters into our own hands. We have to rely on something that delves even deeper into the nation’s fabric.

That’s right. Americans who nap – or at least Americans who would nap more often if doing so did not subject us to more ridicule than the Anna Nicole Smith situation – have to form our own lobbying group.

Not being the bashful type I am willing to serve as group leader, and suggest that we should call ourselves NANA – the National Association of Napping Americans. We could raise money and then, eh, spread that money around to convince legislators to enact legislation that would ensure and safeguard each and every American’s right to take a little snooze during company time. We could work to make sure “nap time” became an OSHA regulation and that teams of inspectors employed by the federal government would focus solely on whether our nation’s employers provided clean and safe napping facilities.

We would also have to endeavor to remove the stigma associated with nap taking by striving to strike from our vernacular such phrases as “caught him napping,” “he was asleep at the wheel” and “he played that like he was asleep the whole time.”

We could get Oprah to dedicate one of her shows to the benefits of napping – maybe even convince her to take a nap on stage during the show! Letterman could do a Top Ten List of benefits to taking a nap in the afternoon and Conan O’Brien could have Triumph The Insult Comic Dog put to sleep. Wait – strike that (note to self – add “put to sleep” to list of phrases that need to be dealt with).

As someone once said, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” And what better way to dream something than while taking a nap. To paraphrase that noted philosopher Country Joe McDonald, "Give me an N! Give me an A! Give me a P! What's that spell!?!

Thank for you for reading this column.