Authors Posts by Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr
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By Bill Landon

Miller Place’s softball team was down in runs for most of the game at Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats April 22, but the team rallied in the top of the seventh,scoring four unanswered runs to tie the game against SWR at 11-11 to force extra innings. 

It was Wildcats freshman Lindsay Cahill’s bat that decided the game in the bottom of the ninth, driving home senior Katlynn McGivney to win the game, 12-11, in a League V matchup against their crosstown rival.

Sophomore pitcher Genna Baudo was credited with the win as the Wildcats improve to 3-6 in league. The loss drops the Panthers to 6-3 with seven games left to play before the postseason. The Wildcats will need to win four games out of their remaining schedule to extend their season.

The crosstown rivals will take on two of the South Fork teams April 25, with visiting Miller Place taking the field against East Hampton for a 10 a.m. start. The Wildcats will host Westhampton with first pitch also at 10 a.m.

 

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The Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual Easter parade and egg hunt April 21, sneaking in the event between the weekend rains.

Starting from Theatre Three, the young kids of Port Jefferson and the surrounding communities strode down Main Street towards Harborfront Park, where chamber volunteers had been planting eggs since 11 a.m. Yellow police tape acted as a guard and a starting line for the kids, many dressed in faceprint and bunny ears, before they could run off to collect their eggs. Once the tape was removed, those kids were like a swarm of piranhas, and the field was stripped clean of the brightly colored eggs before one could say “Happy Easter.”

After the race for eggs, kids had the opportunity to take a picture with the Easter Bunny, namely Chamber President Barbara Ransome dressed in the trademarked costume, before walking away with a chocolate bunny.

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The Cutinella family and Superintendent Gerard Poole cut the ribbon on the new concession stand as Frank Fontinell and Peter Christ watch. Photo by Kyle Barr

The first two people to place an order from the new Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field Concession Stand April 12 were members of the Cutinella family themselves. Frank and Kelli Cutinella, who lost their son from a head injury in 2014, asked for something simple, two small cups of coffee.

Frank Fontinell, a Shoreham-Wading River high school student, was one of two students first to run the stand that day. As the small team inside the new concession stand started making up the family’s order of coffee, Fontinell shouted, “The concession stand is now officially open.” 

There on the Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field, the concession stand is just another piece of the community coming together to honor the legacy of the young man who died in 2014.

Frank Fontinell and Peter Christ give out the concession stand’s first order. The first cups of coffee went to the Cutinella family, far left. Photos by Kyle Barr

“It’s really a testament to our community, to the Shoreham-Wading River community and to Thomas,” Frank Cutinella said. “This school has been open since 1975, [the new structure] is in 2019, that’s a big accomplishment.”

The new concession stand has been a long time coming. Though the district first broke ground on the project in 2017, plans for the new structure have been ongoing for more than one district administration. Former district board members and now retired superintendent Steven Cohen were recognized for helping get the structure’s plans off the ground.

“The previous board of education, as well as this one, kept it alive, and we’re thankful for that,” Frank Cutinella said.

District officials said the total cost for the new stand was $800,000, though the district estimated 99 percent of those funds came from multiple individuals and businesses, either donating materials, money or time to building the project.

Superintendent Gerard Poole said the entire exterior brickwork was completed by a contractor who wanted no money nor recognition for the deed. Many of the same people who assisted in the project, giving thousands of dollars in time and materials, didn’t ask for recognition for their help. At the April 12 ribbon cutting, the board handed out framed acknowledgments to the people who were involved, yet at the end of the ceremony, many remained unclaimed.

“It came together with a lot of donations,” Kelli Cutinella said. 

A plaque thanking all those businesses and individuals who donated to the project. Photo by Kyle Barr

The stand will be run by two to three students at a time, with an adult supervising, as part of the high school’s career development program. Students can earn vocational credit by helping to operate the new stand, according to Poole.

The Cutinella family and the school have been working hand in hand to help build the new structure with the Thomas Cutinella Memorial Foundation, with the organization helping to add extra funding for construction, according to Frank Cutinella.

The foundation, which was founded in 2015, has since raised over $50,000 in scholarships for students, which goes out to graduating SWR high schoolers and to others from throughout Suffolk County. The family has also had a big hand in changing the rules in New York State for high school football, namely the manner in which tackles are legal out on the field.

County officials at Cordwood Landing County Park in Miller Place announce free park access. Photo by Kyle Barr

Suffolk County legislators announced April 16 all county residents will have free access to all county parks April 20 through April 28.

Parks Appreciation Week will coincide with National Parks Week, which promotes free access to all federally-owned parks.

Normally residents require the county parks Green Key Card, which charges $30 for a three-year pass; otherwise they would have to pay a parking fee. During the week the county will have no admission required.

“We have this luscious, beautiful woodland that we can enjoy,” said legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai).

During the week, Suffolk officials are also promoting a number of programs in many county parks.

For more information, go to Suffolk County’s parks website at https://www.suffolkcountyny.gov/Departments/Parks  or call Suffolk County Parks Department at 631-854-4949.

Here are some of the events going on during the week:
  • St. James General Store –New Spring Displays and old fashioned items available at the store. The St. James General Store is an historic and is a National Historic Landmark has been in continuous operation since it was built in 1857 by Ebenezer Smith. It held St James’ first post office. It is considered to be the most authentic general store in the United States.
  • Long Island Maritime Museum is hosting fun Spring Break Classes for Children April 22-26
  • The Seatuck Environmental Association (550 South Bay Ave Islip, New York 11751)  is hosting their The 10th Annual Eco-Carnival Saturday, April 27, 2019 A full day of educational family fun featuring nature programs , live animals, music, art and food to celebrate Earth Day 2019
  • Vanderbilt Museum will be hosting its annual Bunny Fest, located at 80 Little Neck Road in Centerport Saturday, April 20
  • The Vanderbilt Museum’s Spring Creative Workshops for Children (180 Little Neck Road) Centerport, April 22-26 offering a different program each day
  • Versatile Steel Silk Band Returns to Planetarium (180 Little Neck Road) April 27 @ 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
  • North Fork Environmental Council  is hosting a 5K Walk/Run –  Help “Save What’s Left” April 28. Indian Island Proceeds will be used to fund the 2019 NFEC Scholarship Fund. This fund will give two scholarships to high school seniors that plan to pursue environmental.
  • DEC Free Fishing at Southaven Park April 23 10am-12pm. In this fishing event participants can fish for free, where they supply all bait, rods, and tackle for free, no freshwater fishing license necessary. In addition to fishing, participants can learn about fish identification, fishing equipment and techniques, angling ethics and aquatic ecology.
  • Long Island Greenbelt is holding its STUMP POND CIRCULAR “CHOCOLATE” HIKE April 25 at 9:00 AM – 5.7 miles – moderate – varied – Info Nancy B., 631-682-0035. Hike around the 120-acre pond in Blydenburgh Park: bring drinks and snack: rain or shine, although extreme weather cancels; meet at the south entrance of Blydenburgh County Park, opposite the County Offices on NY 347 in the parking lot just east (above) the entrance booth; enjoy a chocolate snack when over.
  • Long Island Greenbelt LAKELAND County Park TO WESTBROOK: April 27 9:00 AM – 6 miles – moderate – flat – Info: Tom or Sherri, 631-567-9484. See Honeysuckle Pond, the Connetquot River, historic hatchery and mill and more on a walk-through Lakeland County Park and Connetquot River State Park Preserve; rain cancels; bring water; meet at Westbrook sports complex; from So. St. Pkwy. Exit 45E, follow Montauk Hwy. east over LIRR bridge to an immediate left onto Wheeler Rd.; park at bottom of hill.
  • Long Island Greenbelt San Souci Stroll April 28 10:00 AM – 4 miles – moderate – mostly flat – Info: Kathie, 631-682-5133.    We will explore two trails in the pine barrens of this county park in Sayville; heavy rain cancels; meet at park entrance on Broadway Avenue turn left to park; parking is limited; overflow parking on Broadway Ave. or side street opposite entrance.
  • Long Island Beach Buggy Association Beach clean-up of Smith Point County Park on April 27
  • Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center at Munns County Park Nanny Class. Learn how to assist our hospital staff in feeding the orphaned babies this Spring in this class. No experience necessary. We will train you. Commit to a minimum of 3 hours per week. Ages 16 and over. Call 631-728-WILD(9453) to register
  • North Fork Audubon-Earth Day and Get To Know Your Local County Park Saturday April 20 at 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Inlet Pond County Park 64795 County Rd 48 Greenport Celebrate Earth Day and “Get To Know Your Local County Park Day” with The North Fork Audubon Society at Inlet Pond County Park.  The Nature Center will be open and there will 2 guided nature walks at 10 AM and 12 PM respectively. This is a family fun day, so adults and children are welcome. Come discover Inlet Pond County Park and learn about the North fork Audubon Society as well. For more information contact Tom Damiani at (631)-275-3202
  • Sagtikos Manor Earth Day Clean-up Monday April 22 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. 677 Montauk Highway West Bay Shore Bring your gardening gloves and weeding tools and we will provide the rest.
  • Nissequogue River and Kayak Rentals open for Paul T. Given County Park, Smithtown call for tide and rental information 631-979-8422.
  • Scout Stewardship Day at SCMELC Mon 4/22/19 Hours 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Calling all scout troops. Join us for a celebration of Earth Day to learn about and get directly involved with the restoration and stewardship efforts of CCE’s Marine Program. Projects will include eelgrass restoration, shellfish population enhancement, a beach clean-up and more!
  • This program is intended for scouts ages 6-18 with their leaders. All children must be accompanied by an adult, this is not a drop-off event. Advanced registration REQUIRED via Eventbrite Fee $10/person
  • Blydenburgh Rowboat rentals available daily 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Southaven Rowboat rentals available daily 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

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Projections of what the new homes at the surf club could look like. Photo from MB Surf Club website

A once-private community club in Miller Place has sat unused for close to three years, but now a Rocky Point developer is planning to turn the site into townhomes.

Rocky Point’s Landmark Properties, owned by developer Mark Baisch, announced it had purchased the Miller Beach Surf Club, located at 23 Harbor Beach Road. The site closed in 2016 due to a lawsuit over its catering, according to Kyle Markott of Markott Realty. Since the 1960s, the site was home to a private beach club before turning into a wedding venue
in 2006.

Markott Realty facilitated the transaction and Markott said as a child he visited the location when it was still a local clubhouse for residents to barbeque and relax on the beach. 

“It was a really beautiful place,” he said. 

Baisch said the current buildings on the five-acre parcel would be bulldozed to install four waterfront townhouses, with two houses to each building. Each structure is two floors sized at 3,000 square feet, and would contain an attached garage. 

More information on the proposed townhouses can be found at: 

http://www.mbsurfclub.com/about.php

A family of deer stands, weary of strangers, at the Port Jefferson golf course. Photo by Kyle Barr

Environmental experts fear the impact of deer on local forests

Deer have made a mess out of the Long Island ecology.

It’s a sentiment shared by several federal employees working in multiple environmental departments. At a presentation held in the Port Jefferson Village Center April 11, Thomas Rawinski, who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, said deer eat the saplings that would create new trees. They eat the bushes and flowers that would bring insects to the forests. And since they have no natural predators on Long Island, they multiply at an alarming rate.

“If your land is healthy, you can sit back and rest on your laurels,” Rawinski said. “If it’s not, like every damn forest on Long Island, then somebody has work to do, including me.”

Crowded into the Port Jefferson Village Center, residents of both the Village of Port Jefferson and Village of Belle Terre spoke about their own experiences with deer, but it all begs the question: What are the local villages going to do?

“I can tell you the level of deer damage on the east end is the worst I’ve seen in New York.”

— Thomas Desisto

The villages of Belle Terre and Port Jefferson have been working out the details on some sort of organized deer hunt, either a coordinated hunt or deer culling, one that could likely happen at the Port Jefferson golf course.

“It’s either going to be a controlled hunt or it’s going to be a cull,” Port Jeff Mayor Margot Garant said. “I don’t know which way we’re going to go but we’re going to figure it out.”

Talks have been ongoing since January, where both Garant and Belle Terre Mayor Bob Sandak have expressed their intent to split the cost of a deer culling, which would likely be performed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This would involve a specialized team of hunters using thermal imaging and silenced rifles to kill deer from elevated positions at night. The cost could be expensive, with some estimates as high as $1,000 per deer.

Thomas DeSisto, a wildlife specialist with the USDA said the operation is mandated to charge for their services, as they get all their funding through cooperative service agreements. While the cost hasn’t deterred the mayors from finding a solution, DeSisto said there are issues with performing a culling on Long Island due to regulation by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. 

In 2017, new legislation has restricted hunting to the point that DeSisto said fundamentally restricts the culling process. In Suffolk County, hunting is restricted to bows, or to muzzle-loaded rifles during the January hunting season. In addition, hunters are not allowed to keep loaded firearms within vehicles, use of bait is not allowed within 300 feet of a roadway, and hunters are not allowed to discharge firearms from the road.

“We’ve seen about 50 percent decrease in efficiency in our upstate program, and on Long Island we’ve seen a 75 percent decrease in efficiency,” he said. “I can tell you the level of deer damage on the east end is the worst I’ve seen in New York.”

In January, Belle Terre changed its village code to allow hunting within the premises, saying they had received an opinion by the state attorney general who said that no municipality other than New York State could regulate hunting.

While some village members shared fears of hunting going on so close to their homes, and shared a general distaste for killing animals, Sandak said so far, the change in code, and the facilitating of hunters, has been a success. He estimates since the village allowed hunting approximately 100 deer have been killed.

“Five years ago, if you were in your car and you saw a deer, you took out your phone and took a picture of it, because it was an oddity,” Sandak said. “Now, it’s unbelievable.” 

The New York State DEC allows residents to apply for Deer Damage Permits, which allow property owners to hunt or allow hunters outside of the normal season. The Belle Terre mayor said to his knowledge there are three residents in Belle Terre with DDPs. 

“Five years ago, if you were in your car and you saw a deer, you took out your phone and took a picture of it, because it was an oddity.”

— Bob Sandak

Port Jefferson currently has code on the books that says discharging any kind of firearm, bow or crossbow is strictly prohibited. Garant said village officials are still looking at changing the code so it will allow hunting, conforming to what the state attorney general has said. However, she added the village could not and would not go after residents who break the code and allow hunting on their own property.

Sue Booth Binczik, wildlife biologist with the New York Department of Wildlife Conservation, spoke to those who attended the meeting, echoing Rawinski by saying deer lead to reduced diversity, more invasive plants and fewer canopy and trees.

Deer are perhaps the most efficient devastators of the local ecology. For one, they have prolific breeding patterns. Binczik said does can start to breed at 1 year old and can give birth to two fawns per year in May and June. While deer are naturally prey animals, Long Island shows a distinct lack of natural predators to cull their numbers. An average deer can live to be 20, and while vehicles and hunters may start to pick off the occasional deer, stags can mate with any number of females, ever increasing the population. The only things left to kill the deer are recreational hunters, starvation, but especially moving vehicles.

“Under ideal conditions the deer populations can double every two to three years,” she said. “The reason they have this high reproductive rate is because they’re a prey species.” 

State DEC regulations require that hunters only use a bow and arrow and only during the hunting season, barring a DDP permit. Hunters must also shoot 150 feet away from any structures with a bow, and of course they are not allowed to trespass onto other residents’ property without permission.

Binczik said there are means to get a community involved by completing a “controlled hunt,” which would require each individual homeowner to give permission for the village to hunt on their property. Those participating community members would come together to decide on a set of rules for any hunters participating, including the qualifications of the hunters and the times the hunters would be allowed out.

“There have been communities in upstate New York that have been running for controlled hunts for decades, and they have been very happy with it,” she said.

Despite all these efforts, Rawinski remains skeptical. He said it comes from years of seeing the damage that deer have caused to the local wildlife. People, he said, have to wake up to it. While by the roadside it may seem the forests are blooming with green, but it’s a symptom of what he called the “great green lie,” that while it may seem the forests are lush, on the ground, there’s not much left. 

“It’s hard to come by solutions, especially in this suburban situation,” he said. “Humans have a can-do attitude, but I have to tell you, we’re up against our match. I don’t hate deer. I hate what people have let them do to the ecosystem.”

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Golf holes at the Port Jeff golf course were vandalized with what’s believed to be gasoline. Photos from Brian Macmillan

The morning of April 9, Brian Macmillan, the golf course superintendent at the Port Jefferson Country Club, walked out onto the green of the village golf course and smelled something like gasoline. Five of the greens at the course had been hit with the substance.

Dead grass after the substance had seeped into the ground. Photo from SCPD

The five holes, namely numbers 8,12,13,14 and 17, had been vandalized between the hours of between April 8 at 7 p.m. and April 9 at 7 a.m. with a substance suspected to be gasoline of some type. The unknown perpetrators had released the substance in random patterns at each of the greens near the holes. Macmillan said he suspected the perpetrators did not do it by accident since each site of vandalism was specifically the greens instead of the grasses between. He added he had no notion why a person would commit the act, but suspected it was an intentional act to hurt the country club.

“This was pretty intentional and aggressive,” the golf club superintendent said. “Ninety-eight percent of the people in the club wouldn’t have anything to do with their motive.”

Suffolk County police was contacted that morning, and Macmillan said they arrived very soon after they had been called. While police have been in contact with the country club asking questions, the superintendent said they have not received any updates on the ongoing investigation. 

While the holes were sectioned off for the day when the club learned of the vandalism, they have since become playable again.

Port Jefferson village trustee Stan Loucks, the liaison to the country club, said each hole had taken excessive damage. The village has since contacted seven different golf course renovation and construction companies to find a person to schedule repairs. Currently the cost to the village is unknown, and they hope it will be covered under insurance for the course.

Suffolk County Police said the damage is estimated to cost $10,000.

Loucks said April 15 the village had contracted out to East Northport-based Delea Sod Farms to handle the repairs, which would start April 22 and should take two to three days.

“This was pretty intentional and aggressive.”

— Brian Macmilla

Macmillan said the substance permeated through the ground a foot and a half down. Repairs will require removing the damaged grass as well as the impacted soil below it. He added the country club has a nursery green used to replace portions of the holes that are damaged through heat stress and disease, though he said he had not expected to use it for a situation such as this. 

Loucks added the village will likely use extra sod from holes 14 and 17. The impacted holes will be unusable during repair but will become playable again afterward, with the affected areas sectioned off during play. 

The country club has been running with a new owner for just over a year. After a 15-year partnership with Port Jefferson village, Lombardi’s on the Sound handed ownership of the club over to Danfords in March 2018.

Gerald Cohen during a 2010 interview with TBR News Media. Image from video by TBR News Media

The former CEO of Lawrence Aviation in Port Jefferson, Gerald Cohen, has been ordered to pay $48 million in cleanup costs for the toxic underground plume caused by materials leached into the ground from the now-defunct airplane parts manufacturer.

The U.S. Attorney’s office announced the charges April 15 after a district court judge in Central Islip ruled Lawrence Aviation Industries, Inc, a former defense contractor that was based on Sheep Pasture Road, and its longtime owner and CEO, Gerald Cohen, were liable for environmental cleanup costs.

“This case and the significant monetary penalties imposed by the court should serve as a warning to would-be polluters, including individuals, that this office and the [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] will use every tool at their disposal to protect Long Island’s groundwater and to ensure that those responsible for contamination will foot the bill for cleanup costs,” said Richard Donoghue, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

The U.S. Attorney’s office detailed Cohen’s wrongdoing based on the court’s 37-page memorandum. In the early 1980s, after the Suffolk County Department of Health issued a series of recommendations for LAI to come into compliance with various pollution control laws, LAI used a front-end loader to crush 55-gallon drums containing hazardous substances, among more than 1,600 of such drums identified on the property, resulting in a massive discharge of waste directly onto the ground. Samples taken from those drums revealed impermissibly high levels of trichloroethylene, among other pollutants. Nearly two decades later, in 1999, testing performed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation revealed contamination of groundwater and surface water at the site.

“This judgment provides for the reimbursement of money spent on cleanup work and imposes penalties that act as a deterrent.”

— Pete Lopez

In a statement to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the regional EPA administrator said he was pleased with the court’s decision.

“This judgment provides for the reimbursement of money spent on cleanup work and imposes penalties that act as a deterrent,” said EPA regional administrator Pete Lopez. “Our active engagement and work at this site will continue over the long term.”

Various creditors have asserted claims against LAI and Cohen properties based on their respective liens. Those claims remain pending before the court. The 126-acre property was named a Superfund site in 2000 and was expected to take 20 years to complete the cleanup.

The EPA’s cleanup of the site, now into its 19th year, has included a remedial investigation into the nature and scope of the contamination, various hazardous waste removal and stabilization activities, and the implementation and maintenance of two groundwater treatment systems designed to capture and treat contaminated groundwater, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. The EPA’s activities at the LAI site have resulted in a decrease in the size of the groundwater TCE plume and the removal of more than 18,000 tons of soil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls, among other hazardous substances, including asbestos-containing materials.

In 2008, Cohen and LAI pleaded guilty to violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, for storing hazardous wastes at the LAI facility without a permit issued by the EPA or New York State. Cohen was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of one year and a day, and supervised release of 36 months. He and LAI were ordered to pay restitution to the EPA of $105,816.

Muddy ground was covered in the footprints of young children as hundreds gathered for the annual Fling into Spring carnival at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai April 12-14. Kids, along with their parents, got the full carnival experience as they slid, spun, raced and even flew on weekend rides. The money raised from the event helps nonprofit Heritage Trust fund other events throughout the year.

All photos by Kyle Barr

Nicolls Road. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

County Road 97, commonly known as Nicolls Road, is one of Long Island’s main thoroughfares, connecting Stony Brook on the North Shore to Patchogue on the South with nearly 16 miles of highway. For years the county has examined ideas to relieve rush hour traffic; now it is proposing a rapid-transit bus system, high-occupancy vehicle lanes and 16 roadside bus stops.

“It’s going to be dual function, and also reduce congestion on Nicolls Road, so its two birds, one stone effect,” said William Hillman, a chief engineer at Suffolk County’s Department of Public Works.

In a 2015 county report prepared by multinational engineering firm Parsons Brickerhoff, the project cost was originally estimated at upward of $200 million, though plans have been scaled down slightly since then.

“By making the buses faster, more reliable, more frequent, we may have a chance to get people to sit in it and get out of their cars.”

— Kara Hahn

Babylon-based engineering firm Greenman-Pedersen, which was the latest company tapped to research the Nicolls Road project, presented April 2 summaries of its initial plans at Suffolk County Community College. 

The plans, as they currently exist, call for 16 new stations positioned along Nicolls as bus terminals connecting to existing Suffolk County Transit routes. The plans would also include 16.5 new miles of dedicated lanes to bypass traffic congestion. Service of these bus lines include a frequency much higher than any current county bus, from a weekday peak of every 10 minutes to a weekend peak of 20 minutes.

Presenters did not offer details on the buses’ fuel source nor did they describe where new stoplights or other traffic slowing devices may be implemented. Larry Penner, who worked for more than three decades in the Federal Transit Administration regional office and now comments on ongoing projects as a self-described transit historian, said that buses typically get right of way in among normal traffic.

Mike Colletta, a project engineer at engineering firm Greenman-Pedersen, which created the most recent presentation on the road, said the firm was recently put onto the project by Suffolk County, and is still in the very early stages of design.

County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said the Legislature has been approving the project, applying for grants and getting funding toward the corridor studies for years. The project still has a while to go before the county can estimate the true impact on traffic. County officials worry that people will not use buses.

“By making the buses faster, more reliable, more frequent, we may have a chance to get people to sit in it and get out of their cars,” Hahn said. 

While representatives from the county and engineering firm could not give an estimate into the amount of vehicles, Penner said the county still has many things to consider, including costs of roughly 10 new buses, 16 stations and proposed amenities, such as real-time bus locators, similar to the units found at the train stations. Seating and overhangs for the stations themselves must also be factored in.

“Here’s the challenge they face: The density in Suffolk County is far less than Nassau, and far less than New York City,” Penner said. “How many people would drive to one of these 16 Bus Rapid Transit stations and how many people will take a commuter bus and switch to the rapid transit when you can get in your car and get there much more quickly, that will be the challenge they face, because time is money for people.”

These proposed stations would link up to existing Suffolk County Transit bus routes. Multiple existing bus routes already travel along or intersect with Nicolls, including the 3D, the S62, S69, 6B, S58 and 7A, though only two routes use the county road for a significant distance. Service on Suffolk County Transit has also been spotty for a long time, with users often left waiting for buses for over an hour. 

Bruce Morrison, the president of the Selden Civic Association, said he is skeptical of the project, questioning how many people would use it, especially with existing issues on the regular county buses.

“If it’s not attractive to the public, you’re going to have empty buses.”

— Bruce Morrison

“Will they get the ridership?” Morrison said. “If it’s not attractive to the public, you’re going to have empty buses.”

Buses would operate in the HOV lanes on the inside of the road and along the specialized bus lanes along the outside portions of the road. One proposed route would take these buses down the Long Island Expressway, through the Ronkonkoma Train Station and the expected Ronkonkoma Hub project as well before linking back up to Nicolls. 

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) has been touting his Connect LI plan for years. In 2014 the county started exploring several other possible projects. Expanding Route 110 and the Sagtikos Parkway is among the other options. In 2015, Bellone shared his expanded plans for $300 million bus transit plan to connect Long Island’s downtowns, colleges, research and business centers. 

At one point, the county executive’s office floated the idea of building a rapid transit in the median of the well-populated road. Environmental impact studies are ongoing and necessary to ultimately receive federal funding.

In addition to the new route, engineers are also touting designs for a new trail that could run parallel to Nicolls. This path would be akin to the Rails to Trails project, but unlike the 3-mile Greenway Trail from Setauket to Port Jefferson Station, and the upcoming 10-mile project from Wading River through Mount Sinai, this path could be well over 15 miles of trail, crossing under the LIE and over other high trafficked roads like Middle Country Road. The 2015 study allocated $15 million for the biking and hiking trail.

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