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NCPR News Staff: David Sommerstein

Reporter/ Producer
David Sommerstein, NCPR's roving St. Lawrence Valley/Fort Drum/Tug Hill reporter, began his career in radio, strangely enough, as a high school Spanish teacher in Buffalo. While drilling verb conjugations and teaching a love for Latino culture during the day, he sat in as a late night jazz and Latin DJ at Buffalo's NPR affiliate, WBFO. The radio bug bit, and David found his way to southern Colorado/northern New Mexico (the Taos/Santa Fe area) where he was Program Director, Music Director, Volunteer Coordinator, and "Just About Anything Else You Can Think Of" Director at NPR affiliate KRZA.

Since joining NCPR's news department, David has reported from the chilly deck of a St. Lawrence icebreaker, the power-chord filled stage of the High School Rock Band Festival, and the tense Albanian street market of post-war Kosovo with soldiers from Fort Drum. David also gets to fulfill his passion for music of all kinds when he spins world dance and groove music on editions of The Beat Authority. E-mail

Stories filed by David Sommerstein

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"Island Dave" is a familiar, friendly face around the city of Brockville's islands on the St. Lawrence. Photo: David Sommerstein
"Island Dave" is a familiar, friendly face around the city of Brockville's islands on the St. Lawrence. Photo: David Sommerstein

Listen: 'Island Dave' has the job you want in the Thousand Islands

Whether it's the Adirondacks or the St. Lawrence River, everyone's getting in their last licks of summer this week.

The city of Brockville owns 16 park islands on the St. Lawrence that are busy with boats docking and people picnicking and camping.

Many boaters are familiar with the friendly face of "Island Dave" Beatty, who manages and patrols the area for the city of Brockville. David Sommerstein produced this Heard Up North, which first aired in August 2013.  Go to full article
Trail Map. <a href="http://www.indiancreeknaturecenter.us/sites/default/files/trailmap.jpg">View full size map</a>. Map: Indian Creek Nature Center.
Trail Map. View full size map. Map: Indian Creek Nature Center.

A wetland maze in a birder's heaven

The end of August is a special chance to take full advantage of a birder's paradise just a few minutes from Canton. You name it: mergansers, black terns, bitterns, even loons and bald eagles, all make the Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area their summer home.

The area is off-limits to people most of the year, so the birds and plant life can thrive undisturbed. But the refuge opens to the public for two weeks each summer, this year starting Saturday, through August 29.

From a canoe, a labyrinth of shifting cattails leads to the open water of Indian Creek, which links the Grasse and Oswagatchie Rivers. David Sommerstein took a tour with a wildlife expert and sent this audio postcard. This story first aired in 2007.  Go to full article
Brian Wood at the helm. Photo: David Sommerstein
Brian Wood at the helm. Photo: David Sommerstein

A peek inside Seaway master control

Several hundred giant freighters slip through the St. Lawrence Seaway every year. They're guided by vessel traffic controllers from a squat building on top of the Eisenhower Lock in Massena.

The master control room looks straight out of Star Trek. Half a dozen big flat screens show computerized displays of real-time traffic along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario.

This "Heard Up North" feature first aired last June.  Go to full article
Hoff the Harmonica Case Man in action. Photo: Meredith Coeyman
Hoff the Harmonica Case Man in action. Photo: Meredith Coeyman

Listen: the guy with the most harmonica cases in the world plays a tune

There's an unusual art opening this Friday in Burlington. The SEABA gallery will show what it calls "the largest collection of handmade harmonica cases in the world."

The owner spends many of his Saturdays showing off his collection at the Burlington farmers market.

David Sommerstein bumped into him last summer and sent this Heard Up North.  Go to full article
Tri-Town Packing co-owner Tom Liberty. Photo: David Sommerstein.
Tri-Town Packing co-owner Tom Liberty. Photo: David Sommerstein.

Local meat movement frets as Tri Town still in limbo

One of the North Country's few slaughterhouses and meat packing plants says it's trying to regain its certification for processing retail cuts of meat.

Tri Town Packing's co-owner Jeff Liberty says he is "working as diligently as possible" to resolve differences with federal meat inspectors. Liberty says he's hired a consultant from Iowa.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service says it withdrew its inspectors from Tri Town on July 17. A spokeswoman said by email that the USDA will continue to suspend inspection until it's confident Tri Town can "operate and produce product in a safe and wholesome way."

Tri Town is located in the northern St. Lawrence County town of Brasher Falls. It remains open for private meat orders, known as custom work.

But it's one of just four plants in the North Country that can prepare beef, pork, and lamb for sale in stores, restaurants, or at farmers markets. So farmers and businesses that rely on local meat sales are facing a shortage and looking for alternatives.  Go to full article
St. Lawrence county District Attorney Mary Rain. File photo: David Sommerstein.
St. Lawrence county District Attorney Mary Rain. File photo: David Sommerstein.

St. Lawrence county DA can resume probe

A state judge has ruled St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain can resume her probe into use of county money. County officials had been seeking a special prosecutor to take over the investigation.  Go to full article
Smoke from an poorly controlled outdoor wood furnace. Photo: NYS DEC
Smoke from an poorly controlled outdoor wood furnace. Photo: NYS DEC

NY wants to help you buy a high efficiency wood furnace

Winter's still somewhat far off. But North Country residents who burn wood to heat their homes are already stacking cords for seasoning.

According to state figures, 3 percent of New Yorkers use wood as a primary source of heat, but that number jumps in the rural North Country. Fourteen percent of homes in St. Lawrence County use wood, 11 percent in Clinton County and 8 percent in Jefferson County.

Those numbers are higher than they used to be as more people have turned to wood as a renewable resource and to save money.

But older wood stoves and furnaces, even more recent outdoor wood boilers that have become very popular, are major sources of pollution, including tiny particles that are bad for the environment and people's lungs.  Go to full article
Matt Doheny endorsed Elise Stefanik on Friday, but he admitted he's still angry with the GOP establishment. Photo: David Sommerstein.
Matt Doheny endorsed Elise Stefanik on Friday, but he admitted he's still angry with the GOP establishment. Photo: David Sommerstein.

NY-21: Doheny endorsement of Stefanik improves GOP chances

Elise Stefanik continued her campaign for Congress this weekend with stops at the Seaway Festival parade in Ogdensburg and the annual steak roast in Newcomb.

They were Stefanik's first appearances as the solo Republican in the race after Watertown businessman Matt Doheny dropped out on Friday. Stefanik bested Doheny with more than 60% of the votes in the Republican primary last month.

Doheny's decision strengthens Stefanik's candidacy in a three-way race with Democrat Aaron Woolf and Green party candidate Matt Funiciello.

David Sommerstein was at Doheny's press conference Friday in Watertown and joined Martha Foley this morning to talk about how Doheny's decision refocuses the race.  Go to full article
Oral "Nick" Hillary. Photo: St. Lawrence County Sheriff Department
Oral "Nick" Hillary. Photo: St. Lawrence County Sheriff Department

Garrett Phillips murder suspect ordered to be released on bail

The man charged for the 2011 murder of a 12 year-old boy in Potsdam has been ordered released on bail.  Go to full article
The sign bearing LaBaff's name is made from aluminum smelted at Alcoa in Massena. Photo: David Sommerstein.
The sign bearing LaBaff's name is made from aluminum smelted at Alcoa in Massena. Photo: David Sommerstein.

St. Lawrence county names building for union leader

St. Lawrence County officially named its main job creation building yesterday after a man who's spent a lifetime fighting for jobs. Assemblywoman Addie Russell praised Ernie LaBaff as a man who exemplified "dignity in work".

LaBaff worked at Alcoa in Massena for some 50 years. He's now vice-chairman of the county Industrial Development Agency, whose building now bears his name.  Go to full article

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