Government

Among the suggested improvements for Route 25A is making signs more consistent, especially at Woods Corner east of Nicolls Road. File photo by Rita J. Egan

The next phase of the 25A corridor study is set to begin. Late last month, the Route 25A Citizen Advisory Committee, town officials and community leaders met to begin discussing a land use code for the corridor. This code would regulate future development and architecture styles among other things in the area.

“This is where we can take a vision and be able to actually make an impact.”

— George Hoffman

The land use phase is one of the most significant land use initiatives affecting the community in years.

George Hoffman, co-chair of the CAC, said he is excited for this next phase and to be working with this group of individuals.

“This is where we can take a vision and be able to actually make an impact,” he said.

The corridor study dates back to 2016 when the town appointed the CAC to assist them in the study and land use plan in the future development of the area. In 2017, the town came out with its Route 25A /Three Village Area Visioning Report.

The report covered the hamlets of Stony Brook, Setauket and East Setauket. Its goal was to use the report as a tool to help achieve a corridor that has a well-functioning road, quality building, site design, improved pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly facilities and preserve historic and natural open spaces.

Hoffman said 25A is an important and historical road that he believes should
be protected.

“The community has seen what has happened to Route 25 after it was turned into a highway,” he said. “They don’t want 25A to turn into Jericho Turnpike.”

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said the 25A corridor study is an important tool for land use planning in the community.

“We have just entered into the second phase of this project and I look forward to working with the Citizens Advisory Committee and the community toward implementation of the community vision,” she said in a statement. “I am proactively advocating for this project to proceed as quickly as the process allows, and I will continue to look for public input and participation as we move forward.”

“I am proactively advocating for this project to proceed as quickly as the process allows, and I will continue to look for public input and participation as we move forward.”

— Valerie Cartright

Hoffman said with the land use phase they can apply what they learned in the vision report and decide if there needs to be any changes in zone codes.

One option they are considering is a design manual for future development in the corridor.

“We want to slowly over time make the architecture more consistent,” Hoffman said.

He said residents have expressed they would like the historical nature of the area to be preserved and be a kind of colonial rural community.

The committee will look at all the available parcels in the corridor that could be developed to make sure they are appropriately zoned.

Hoffman also mentioned areas of opportunity the committee and others will look at. One of them is Woods Corner, which is a commercial area east of Nicolls Road. He said he has gotten a sense from the community that there could be improvements to the signage of the commercial buildings.

Another area is the East Setauket commercial corridor near Gnarled Hollow Road and East Setauket Pond Park.

“The boarded-up building on the corner has been an eyesore for quite some time,” Hoffman said. “The county is attempting to purchasing it.”

The first step is to get an appraisal on the land and then the owner of the property will be made an offer. Hoffman said the area is environmentally sensitive due to a stream flowing under the property into nearby waterways. The building’s basement was known to flood because of the running water.

“Because there are no sewers in the area there are limitations on how large a building can be,” he said.

The co-chair of the committee said they hope to take about six months on the land use plan process, and when completed, they will look to write an updated town zone code. If approved, it will be adopted by the town board.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) discusses local issues with Three Village Civic Association members. Photo by Maria Hoffman

Residents filled the community room in the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library June 3 as the Three Village Civic Association hosted a conversation with Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) on all things townwide. Residents and Romaine were given the opportunity to discuss the latest issues impacting the Three Village area and beyond.

Here are some important topics Romaine brought up during the conversation.

Route 25A corridor study

The town is conducting a two-phase study, starting from the Smithtown line to Nicolls Road. The second phase of the project will focus on the rest of Route 25A to the Poquott line. The origins of the study date back to 2016.

“That, to me, is a very crucial thing as it sets the future of this town — I would like to see more urgency in it,” he said. “I feel like it has lagged.”

The Brookhaven supervisor said he believes one of the reasons for the holdup is that the county is currently doing a retail study on the area.

“I haven’t seen the study but people who have seen it have told me that the study will conclude that this area is under-retailed,” he said. “I’m no expert but I believe we are over-retailed, I think we have enough and don’t need additional retail development.”

Romaine said the corridor study is very important and urged residents to be involved in the process. He also brought up zoning concerns.

“One thing I learned during my time as a supervisor is that zonings are forever,” he said. “Once you zone something, you can’t take it away.”

Romaine hopes that the corridor study will get done by the end of 2019 or the beginning of 2020.

Smithtown Gyrodyne development

Romaine expressed concern with the proposed development of the 62-acre Flowerfield property, owned by Gyrodyne LLC and adjoining Route 25A in St. James, which is in the Town of Smithtown.

“I am opposed to the development that would have any interconnection to any roads that would lead to Stony Brook Road,” he said. “We do not need any additional traffic on Stony Brook Road at all. If it connects to Stony Brook Road, it would be a disaster.”

“I don’t want to see it overdeveloped, Romaine added.

Similarly, on the topic of traffic on Stony Brook Road, he said that he proposed the need for a turning lane on Oxhead Road so university students can make a left turn onto Nicolls Road. Also, he has proposed to the county to develop a third lane from Route 347 to the Stony Brook campus to alleviate traffic jams.

Stony Brook University housing

Romaine said he still had a few issues with the university regarding student housing. One idea he proposed was the school could require all non-commuter students who are freshmen to be mandated to live on campus.

“We have a lot of students who are coming from other countries,” he said. “They may be having their first experiences in this country here.”

The other issue he touched on is rooming houses, which he said are illegal in the Town of Brookhaven.

“We have spent a lot of time in the past trying to crack down on these houses,” he said.

Romaine said these owners have sometimes put up to eight or 10 students in these houses.

“A lot of times we shut these houses down — it goes empty in the summertime and then back in the fall it gets filled up again,” he said. “I hope the next university president will have a stricter policy when it comes to rentals.”

Proposed passive park

Recently, the Town of Brookhaven approved a resolution to allow Suffolk County to begin the process of purchasing land parcels which includes an old derelict building on the southeast corner of Gnarled Hollow Road on Route 25A. The resolution also authorizes the town to demolish the buildings on the property and maintain and manage the parcel as an open-space passive park.

Recycling

Residents were wondering what the town is doing to tackle the issue of recycling.

“The recycling market collapsed last year when China stopped accepting 95 percent of recycled products,” Romaine said.

The supervisor said they have looked at a few options, but nobody wanted what they had. The town had to reevaluate its recycling program and see what still had value.

“We went back to dual stream and ended glass pickup because there really hasn’t ever been a true market for glass,” he said.

Romaine mentioned the town had found a potential suitor in New Jersey that would take some of the collected glass and use it as an industrial abrasive.

The Brookhaven supervisor said he would be open to discussing the recycling topic in more detail at a future meeting.

Stock photo

By Nancy Marr

Concern about the school to prison pipeline has mounted in recent years. At the opening of the first federal hearing on the subject, earlier this year, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said, “For many young people, our schools are increasingly a gateway to the criminal justice system. This phenomenon is a consequence of a culture of zero tolerance that is widespread in our schools and is depriving many children of their fundamental right to an education.” 

Matthew Cregot, an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, explained, “With suspension a top predictor of dropout, we must confront this practice if we are ever to end the ‘dropout crisis,’ or the so-called achievement gap.”

A zero-tolerance policy requires school officials to hand down specific, consistent and harsh punishment — usually suspension or expulsion — when students break certain rules. The punishment applies regardless of the circumstances, the reasons for the behavior (like self-defense) or the student’s history of discipline problems.

These policies developed in the 1990s in response to school shootings and general fears about crime. The school to prison pipeline starts (or is best avoided) in the classroom. When combined with zero-tolerance policies, a teacher’s decision to refer students for punishment can mean they are pushed out of the classroom, and much more likely to be headed toward the criminal justice system.

On May 10, Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon Jr. (D) and Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Wheatley Heights) from Babylon brought together experts in juvenile justice, child development, human services, law and trauma to develop A Holistic Approach to Deconstructing the Prison Pipeline.

Testimony at the hearing identified domestic abuse, substance abuse, mental health issues, lack of education and gangs as factors that lead young people into crime, and called for the creation of “safe spaces” for “at-risk” children to receive counseling, recreational activities, job training and education.

Intervention to help a child must recognize that he may be calling out for help, angry at himself and his environment; instead, what he gets is punishment. Significantly, three previously incarcerated women testified that prison had rescued them. It changed their environment by providing for their basic needs, making them follow rules, requiring them to go to school.

Jerri Katzerman, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said that the increase in police in school buildings, called school resource officers, has contributed to the increase in in-school arrests. The vast majority of these arrests are for nonviolent offenses, often for being disruptive.

A recent U.S. Department of Education study found that more than 70 percent of students arrested in school-related incidents or referred to law enforcement are black or Hispanic. Children with special needs are also arrested at a higher rate than others. Instead of pushing children out, Katzerman said, teachers need a lot more support and training for effective discipline, and schools need to use best practices of behavior modification to keep these kids in school where they belong. 

In restorative justice circles, which bring together the student who has committed the crime with the victims and any others who are affected, it is possible to repair the harm, restore relationships and help the student become accountable for his actions. 

Parent groups have successfully worked with school districts to change zero-tolerance policies and adopt schoolwide positive behavior support systems that create a more welcoming environment for children and their parents, encouraging parents to advocate effectively for their children in suspension cases. These are societal issues that will not be solved solely within schools. We need to take action to create a society that meets the needs of all children.

“Deconstructing the prison pipeline is about mobilizing all facets of the community to prevent juvenile delinquency and crime,” said Toulon. “It’s about implementing practical prevention and intervention solutions that will improve people’s lives and make our communities safer.”

You can support programs in your school or community that work for all children, but especially those who need help to overcome the trauma of family problems or mental illness.

Nancy Marr is first vice president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org or call 631-862-6860.

The Huntington Town board will consider at its June 18 meeting a plan to convert its Old Town Hall into an expanded hotel. The board previously approved the project, but will be reconsider a revised plan, which entails enlarging the size of the hotel from 55 rooms to  80 rooms. The proposal includes a three-story addition onto the rear of Old Town Hall, where the rooms would be located. The Old Town Hall building would contain the lobby, offices and common areas, as previously proposed. 

The site is located in the Historic Overlay District, a designation that gives owners of historic properties and large residential estates flexibility for use. The expansion means that the board must consider applying that special status to an additional parcel east of Old Town Hall, which the applicant acquired for the expansion.

“It’s important we bring renewed life to this historic landmark, preserving Huntington’s history and boosting our downtown economy,” Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “Huntington village has always been a destination and the idea of a boutique hotel that pays homage to the building’s past life as the former Town Hall will achieve those goals, while bringing added convenience and comfort of an overnight stay.”

The project is being developed by Huntington Village Hotel Partners with George Tsunis one of the affiliated associates. Tsunis, a former partner in Rivkin Radler LLP, a law firm that represents both private clients and municipalities has served the Town of Huntington as special counsel.

Tsunis did not respond to telephone messages. Huntington Hotel Partners, as listed in the the state’s corporate file, uses the law firm Buzzell, Blanda and Visconti as its registered agent. The firm did not respond to telephone messages before going to press.

The plan to convert Old Town Hall into a hotel dates back to at least 2013, when Old Town Hall Operating Co. developed and submitted plans for a $10 million renovation to the town’s planning board. 

Old Town Hall was built in 1910 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It last served as Huntington’s Town Hall in 1979.

On May 19, Celebrate St James hosted state, county and town officials as well as local residents at the Lake Avenue Gazebo to commemorate an official Cultural Arts District, located along Lake Avenue in the hamlet of St. James. 

The event, led by one of the organization’s founding members Natalie Weinstein, included a custom artwork unveiling by local artist Arline Goldstein, a ceremonial toast and ribbon cutting. The not-for-profit organization was also responsible for approaching the Town of Smithtown with the vision of creating a Cultural Arts District along Lake Avenue.

“There has always been something about St. James that has fostered community pride. It was and is a place where people have come together in the past and still do,” said Weinstein. “It is a place where, no matter who we are or what we think, we always share one commonality – we love our hometown.”

Weinstein went on to thank Gary Fitlin, CEO of Gyrodyne; Mario Mattera of Deepwells Farm Historical Society; St. James and Smithtown chamber of commerces; and the Smithtown Historical Society. “They, along with local and state government, realize the economic benefits that a revitalization of St. James would have, not only for Smithtown, but Suffolk County and all of Long Island,” she said. 

The Smithtown town board voted unanimously on April 25 to declare an overlay cultural arts district along Lake Avenue in St. James from Route 25A (at the St. James Firehouse) on the north end down to Woodlawn Avenue on the south end, which is intended to highlight the arts, culture and entertainment for residents and visitors alike, creating much needed attractions, tourism and foot traffic along the St. James small business district.

“Thanks to the Town Council and Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, we are on our way to making history! Celebrate St. James is about you – all of you – all who will reap these benefits as you walk down Lake Avenue, sharing a coffee or ice cream, playing a game of chess, joining your friends for a meal or just … sitting on a park bench and enjoying the best of what small town life on ‘Main Street’ was like and will be again,” said Weinstein. 

“And we are privileged to make it happen and see it become a wonderful gathering place for us all. We truly look forward to the future, joyfully, as we celebrate our past.”

The ceremony was held in conjunction with Celebrate St. James’ first St. James Art Walk, which featured vendors, art demonstrations and music along Lake Avenue.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) asked the crowd of enthusiastic residents to envision the future Lake Avenue as it undergoes a renaissance.

“An artist looks at life around him or her and sees something that most of us can not … They see colors on a blank canvas, they see the finished product looking at a blueprint. They see potential. They see an extraordinary future,” said Wehrheim. “As we cut this ribbon today, I ask that you take a moment, find your inner artist … and imagine the potential.” 

Steve Chassman, executive director of Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, speaks at a May 21 press conference. Photo from Suffolk County

Legislators are asking high school athletic coaches to help combat substance abuse in Suffolk County and are looking to give them the training needed to do so.

“This program will help save lives. I have no doubt about that.”

— Steve Bellone

On May 21, at a press conference held at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) announced a partnership with the nonprofit Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Bellone said a new, county-funded program will provide athletic coaches and trainers in middle and high schools with a 75-minute training course designed to combat substance abuse among student-athletes. Ward Melville coaches have already been through the awareness training that now will be offered to all county secondary schools.

“This program will help save lives,” Bellone said. “I have no doubt about that.”

Krista Bertschi, who lost her son Anthony Mazzella to drug addiction, attended the press conference, holding a photo of her son, to show support for the training.

Mazzella passed away Jan. 22, 2017, from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. Bertschi said her son was a boxer who was clean for two years when he dislocated his shoulder before Thanksgiving of 2016. While he refused pain medication at first, as the pain lingered, he decided to take them.

The program, developed with LICADD and Stony Brook University, will look to provide coaches with the knowledge of the warning signs of drug and alcohol abuse in student-athletes and how to engage and intervene with team members suspected of abusing addictive substances. Bellone said a coach’s knowledge of an injury may be especially critical in that they may be able to link subtle changes in a player’s behavior to the treatment they are receiving as many times opioids are prescribed for pain.

Hahn had piloted the program with several local school districts, working alongside LICADD and SBU to develop the training. The county will be providing $100,000 to LICADD to aid in developing the program.

Hahn, a graduate of Ward Melville High School, said she was pleased to launch the program at her alma mater. As a former student-athlete and the mother of a recent Ward Melville cheerleader and current Three Village athlete, Hahn said she recognizes how influential a coach’s role can be in a student’s life both on and off the field. She added that the training course was customized to address the various scenarios coaches may encounter, from an injured teenager being prescribed opioids to a marijuana bag falling out of a backpack to team members talking about a big party coming up.

“It’s a unique place in a player’s life that is provided by the coach with an unparalleled opportunity to understand the circumstances the athlete is facing.”

— Kara Hahn

“It’s a unique place in a player’s life that is provided by the coach with an unparalleled opportunity to understand the circumstances the athlete is facing,” she said.

Hahn said social workers are still needed when a problem is identified but coaches can be the first line of defense.

“They can play an important role in the fight against student drug abuse, and through this training, we have invited them to be among the traditional stakeholders working to save lives,” she said.

Steve Chassman, executive director of LICADD, said the seeds of drug disorders usually start in high school, and he thanked the legislators and coaches for their help in solving what he called a public health crisis.

“We are encouraging the coaches to create a culture where people can work together and come forward not just from a disciplinary standpoint but from a public health standpoint,” he said.

Peter Melore, executive director of health, physical education, recreation and athletics for the Three Village Central School District, said during training the district coaches had numerous questions, including how to approach a student, and what to say if they were approached first.

“It’s been a privilege and an honor to be the first to do this,” he said. “I would be remiss if I did not thank our coaches for their engagement in the workshops.”

Bertschi said she believes the program will foster essential communication between coaches and parents if an issue is identified. She will continue to support awareness and prevention programs such as the coach training course, she said, “In memory of my beautiful son and all of the other angels gone too soon to this horrific disease so that no other parent has to walk in the ugly shoes that I walk in every day.”

Districts interested in participating in the program can reach out to LICADD at 631-979-1700 to schedule a training session.

Stock photo

By Nancy Marr

After each decennial census, the Constitution requires each state to re-draw the lines for election districts in order to allocate the number of Congressional house seats fairly if they have gained or lost population. In 42 states they are drawn by the state legislature, while in six states they are drawn by independent commissions and in seven states by politician commissions, where elected officials may serve as members. 

We know that technology makes it possible to mine data for many socio-economic factors, but do you realize that candidates who are drawing the lines can access records on political party registrations of the voters in their district and which elections they’ve voted in to configure legislative districts that will protect their incumbency?

Drawing the lines so that members of the opposition party are diluted by being spread out among many districts (“cracking”) or concentrated in only one district (“packing”) denies the right to an equal vote to those in the minority party. 

The Supreme Court had found complaints about apportionment to be a purely political question outside of their purview, but 1962’s decision in Baker v. Carr held that federal courts had a role in forcing states to correct inequities in the makeup of electoral districts, leading to the rule of “one person, one vote.”  Under the Equal Protection clause in the Constitution, inequality in voting power is unconstitutional, especially when it affects the rights of minorities.  

Advocates in many states have challenged gerrymandering in the courts, based on partisanship or race. Currently, many of the cases heard by the Supreme Court have been denied because the plaintiffs lacked standing, without a finding on whether the claims were justifiable. 

The League of Women Voters of the United States and many state and local leagues have been involved in court cases with other groups or on their own. LWVUS is waiting for a decision from the Supreme Court on a gerrymandering case it brought in North Carolina, and leagues in Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, Tennessee and Texas have been involved in challenges to unfair districting or registration practices. The relief that is sought are often independent redistricting commissions to draw the new lines.  

In 2008, Common Cause led an effort to pass Proposition 11 in California. It placed the power to draw electoral boundaries for state Assembly and state Senate districts in a Citizens Redistricting Commission, as opposed to the state Legislature. The act, proposed by the initiative process, amended both the Constitution of California and the Government Code.  

It was passed by the voters in the November 2008 elections and was extended in 2010  to include U.S. House seats as well. It passed by a small margin despite opposition from the California Democratic Party, including Barbara Boxer and Nancy Pelosi, and Asian, Hispanic and African American groups. They argued that it would not prevent politicians from hiding behind the selected bureaucrats, and would not guarantee protection for minority groups. 

HR1, on the 2019 Congressional calendar, includes proposals that would mandate the use of independent commissions and the establishment of redistricting criteria, including racial fairness, protection for communities of interest and a ban on partisan gerrymandering. It would require public hearings before and after a plan is drafted, and a requirement that the responses to public comment be included alongside the final plan. 

The Brennan Center for Justice interviewed a diverse group of 100 stakeholders who were involved with redistricting in state-level redistricting and municipal commissions. It concluded that commissions can significantly reduce many of the worst abuses associated with redistricting but only if the commissions are carefully designed and structured to promote independence and incentivize discussion and compromise.  

Despite efforts to require the use of independent commissions, or amend state constitutions to prohibit gerrymandering, fair competition among candidates can only result if all voters believe their candidate can win. As long as information about party membership or voting patterns is available to those drawing lines, redistricting will not be a blind process. 

Today’s technology and algorithms make it too easy to configure districts that include voters who would consistently return incumbents or elect officials of a given party. For our democracy to prosper, all citizens must have the opportunity to vote and to know that their vote will count.  

Nancy Marr is first vice president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org or call 631-862-6860.

Protesters hold signs in front of Port Jefferson Village Hall May 8. Photo by Kyle Barr

A score of people from Port Jefferson and surrounding areas gathered in front of Village Hall May 8 to protest what they said is a potential mass slaughter of innocent deer.

Protesters hold signs in front of Port Jefferson Village Hall. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Hunting tears families apart and leaves countless orphaned … they grieve for them, just like humans do,” said Gabby Luongo, a protest organizer and representative of animal rights group Long Island Orchestrating for Nature. “Trying to manage the deer through lethal means is also inefficient. When deer are killed, more deer will use those available resources, the temporary availability in the food supply will cause those does to breed at an accelerated rate.”

The protesters traveled from nearby areas like Shoreham, Selden and Fort Salonga as well as a few from the villages of Port Jeff and Belle Terre. They said they came in response to news the village has been making plans for some sort of deer management program, particularly some kind of controlled hunt or professional culling.

The protest signs read, “Don’t kill my family” and “Port Jeff: Animals are not ours to slaughter.” The signs also had the LION and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals logos printed on them.

In April, the Village of Port Jefferson hosted a public forum with representatives from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, along with other federal environmental agencies. Those representatives said deer have had a particularly harmful effect on the Long Island environment, especially in them eating vegetation and ground cover, including tree saplings that would replace the ever-shrinking forest growth of Long Island.

Mayor Margot Garant said PJ Village has not yet made a decision about its deer policy. Photo by Kyle Bar

Village code still curtails hunting by restricting the use of any firearm or bow and arrow within village limits. However, Mayor Margot Garant said they have received a letter from the New York State Attorney General, Letitia James (D), stating the village does not have the legal capability to regulate hunting, as that is a state matter.

“The community has a lot to think about and address, the board of trustees has a decision to make, whether we change the code or keep the code in place and wait for that code to be challenged,” Garant said during the public portion of the meeting, attended by the protesters. “We are not here supporting the hunting of deer.”

The mayor said that no decisions have yet been made on the issue of deer population, and at the meeting left it open to any forms of suggestions, saying for the moment, the code restricting hunting remains on the books.

However, in conversation after the April deer forum, the mayor said if a person had the right permits and brought a hunter onto their property, and the hunter was staying a lawful distance from other residents property, the village could not and would not go after those residents who broke the code.

“I think we have to take a really hard look at what we’re doing, not just with deer, but all the other animals that pay the hard price for our greed and our non-consideration of them,” Shoreham resident Madeleine Gamache said.

Protesters hold signs in front of Port Jefferson Village Hall. Photo by Kyle Barr

Protesters at the meeting said instead of a hunt or cull, the village should instead look into nonlethal sterilization programs, such as that currently taking place in Head of the Harbor with the Avalon Park & Preserve. Scientists from Tufts University and The Humane Society of the United States have taken a $248,290 grant from the park to fund the six-year study.

“We would like to see some kind of birth control,” said Belle Terre resident Yvonne Kravitz. “We’re very much opposed to having these beautiful animals hunted and killed.”

Others called for the village to change the code to allow for higher fencing, as current fencing is restricted to no more than 6 feet.

Still, others were adamant the village needs to step up and perform a culling or controlled hunt of deer.

“I don’t know one person from where I live who doesn’t want you to go out and do a big cull,” said Port Jeff resident Molly Mason.

Garant said the village had a meeting with the Village of Belle Terre May 7, and the two villages together barely make up more than 4 square miles. A healthy deer population would be 15 deer per square mile but the local mayors have said the real number could be several hundred per square mile. Belle Terre has had 33 vehicle collisions with deer on Cliff Road alone, according to the Port Jeff mayor.

The Village of Belle Terre voted at the beginning of this year to allow hunting within the village. Since then Mayor Bob Sandak said hunters have killed approximately 100 deer so far.

A rundown building on Gnarled Hollow Road and Route 25A may be demolished and the property turned into a passive park. Photo by Rita J. Egan

A familiar corner in East Setauket may get a permanent makeover.

On May 2, Town of Brookhaven council members and Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) unanimously approved a resolution to allow Suffolk County to begin the process of purchasing land parcels containing the old derelict building that sits across from East Setauket Pond Park on the southeast corner of Gnarled Hollow Road and Route 25A. The county is buying the land under the Suffolk County Drinking Water Protection program.

The resolution also authorizes the town to demolish the buildings on the property and maintain and manage the parcel as an open space passive park.

The passage of the town resolution follows a county resolution introduced by Suffolk County legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) that was approved in March. The county legislators determined the land parcel meets the criteria for acquisition under the drinking water program due to the land containing wetlands. The approval of the county resolution also allows Suffolk to appraise the property for possible purchase. Concrete Condor, LLC and Marine Midland Tinker National Bank are listed as the current owners of the buildings on the site.

Hahn said the spot has been recognized as an eyesore for years and is an environmentally sensitive area due to a stream flowing under the property and into waterways such as Setauket Harbor and East Setauket Pond Park. The building’s basement was known to constantly flood because of this running water.

She said the first step is an appraisal of the land parcel, and then the owner will be made an offer. If the offer is accepted, the county and town can move forward with plans for a passive park. She said the municipalities would also look for community input, and they have already consulted with town historian Barbara Russell to see if there is anything of historical value that needs to be preserved.

“It’s exciting that there is real opportunity there,” Hahn said.

Town councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said in an email the town is committed to preserving open space and creating it when possible.

“In this case, the property on Gnarled Hollow is in an environmentally sensitive wetlands area,” she said. “We think it is important to restore this location to its natural state or as close to natural as possible. This parcel was part of ongoing discussion among the elected officials including myself, [state]Assemblyman [Steve] Englebright, Legislator Hahn and Supervisor Romaine.”

Before the May 2 town council vote, George Hoffman, co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, spoke in support of the resolution.

“We call it the Chippendale’s building because of the unique architecture on the top,” Hoffman said. “But it’s derelict, and it’s been boarded up now for seven or eight years.”

Hoffman described Setauket Harbor as an impaired waterway, and he said protecting the stream on the land parcel and the wetlands would help with the task force’s work to improve the waterway. He added a passive park also would be ideal in the location because it is located near where Roe Tavern once stood on Route 25A. Historians believe that General George Washington slept in the establishment in 1790 and traveled along the 25A corridor.

“It’s important for us as a community because it’s an eyesore,” he said.  “It’s helpful to us in terms of changing the ecology of the harbor, and it’s also important to us because of our historic highway.”

Michael Kaufman, of the Suffolk County Planning Commission and a task force member, said he scaled the fence one day to look at the property and described the wetlands as pristine.

He said the task force has partnered with the town to work in cleaning up and maintaining the park next to Se-Port Delicatessen across the street from the property. New York State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) secured a $1 million grant from the state for the Town of Brookhaven in 2016 to be used to improve water quality in Setauket Harbor. The grant was also allocated to help clean out the pond slightly west of Se-Port and fix the dock on Shore Road. The contract period began Oct. 1, 2018. Kaufman said the future open space would complement the current park across the street.

“There is a chance to really make something spectacular which we otherwise would not really have there on both sides of the street,” Kaufman said. “There’s an excellent entryway into the area and an excellent exit.”

Singer Billy Joel, bottom right, joined Gov. Andrew Cuomo and local legislators in the signing of the bill. Photo from Steve Englebright's office

Recently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed into law legislation sponsored by state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), while Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced that police would be cracking down harder on those who violate the Move Over law. And with temperatures rising, county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) challenges residents to get out and enjoy their local parks.

Governor signs Englebright’s legislation banning offshore oil and gas drilling

With singer Billy Joel on hand, Cuomo signed legislation sponsored by Englebright and state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) into law April 30.

The legislation will prohibit the use of state-owned underwater coastal lands for oil and natural gas drilling, and prevent state agencies from authorizing leases that would facilitate the development and production of oil or natural gas. It also prohibits the development of pipelines and other infrastructure associated with exploration, development or production of oil or natural gas from New York’s coastal waters.

“This legislation takes aggressive action to protect New York’s marine environment by prohibiting offshore drilling,” Englebright said in a statement. “This law will protect and defend our waters, keeping them safe for recreation, fishing and wildlife.”

Despite the Atlantic Coast being off limits for drilling for decades, in 2017, the federal government proposed a new National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program which would open more than 90 percent of the nation’s offshore waters to oil and gas drilling.

Englebright said the legislation will ensure the protection of endangered and threatened species as well as the state’s tourism and recreational and commercial fishing industries.

Bellone announces new campaign to crack down on Move Over state law violators

Suffolk County is cracking down on Move Over law violators with a multipronged awareness and enforcement campaign.

Bellone announced the campaign April 25 at a press conference in the hopes of increasing roadway safety for law enforcement personnel, emergency vehicles and road workers.

“Move Over is enforced for a reason — to ensure the safety of law enforcement, first responders and highway personnel,” Bellone said. “This public awareness effort is intended to protect our roads while protecting those whose job it is to enforce the rules of the road.”

Under New York State law, drivers traveling in the same direction must reduce speed and move from an adjacent lane to avoid colliding with a vehicle parked, stopped or standing on the shoulder or any portion of the highway when the vehicle is an authorized emergency response, tow truck or maintenance vehicle with its lights flashing.

The original legislation was signed into law by New York Gov. David Paterson (D) and took effect from Jan. 1, 2011. Cuomo expanded enforcement in 2012 to include maintenance and tow truck workers, and again in 2017 to include volunteer firefighters and volunteer EMTs.

Drivers who violate these laws are subject to fines of up to $150 for a first offense, $300 for a second offense within 18 months and $450 for a third offense within 18 months.

Public service announcements, including a 30-second television ad and a one-minute social media version, will educate residents on the importance of the law and how it helps keep the roads safe for police officers, emergency services personnel and roadway workers.

On April 25, the Suffolk County Police Department began using both unmarked and marked cars to crack down on violators. The department partnered with Maryland-based Rekor Recognition Systems earlier in the year to conduct a two-week study of compliance in the county.

The number of citations for the Move Over law has increased over the last five years with nearly 800 summonses issued in 2018, and since 2013 the SCPD has issued more than 2,600 summonses for Move Over law violations, according to SCPD.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn announces the A Park a Day in May challenge. Photo from Kara Hahn’s office

Hahn kicks off annual park challenge

County Legislator Hahn is encouraging Long Islanders to get out and explore once again.

On May 1, Hahn held a press conference at Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket to announce her fourth A Park a Day in May challenge. The location was the first of 31 parks that will be featured in the social media event.

For every day in May, participants will find a description with photos of a different park through Facebook. Participants are then invited to take and post a picture of themselves with the hashtags #APADIM and #aparkaday. Daily A Park a Day in May posts will be added to www.facebook.com/karahahnld5.

“The May sun has always been a beacon, drawing me back out after the biting cold of winter,” Hahn said. “With life returning to nature, my intention was to find a way to return life back into our parks.”

Linda Sanders, Frank Melville Memorial Foundation trustee, said she hopes residents will enjoy the challenge and thanked Hahn for including the park.

“I grew up visiting parks, beaches and open spaces in my youth in Southern California,” Sanders said. “My family’s trips and times together spent outside in nature are some of my fondest memories.”

Hahn’s office will also once again have Park Passport booklets available. Children can collect badges by traveling to any of 24 local parks contained in the booklet. At each park, participants search for a hidden sign and check in by either scanning a QR code or entering the web address listed on the sign, which then loads a printable logo page that the child cuts and pastes into his or her passport. Residents can call 631-854-1650 for more information.

— compiled by Rita J. Egan

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