Port Times Record

THANKFUL FOR THE SEASON

Thanks to all the children who entered Times Beacon Record News Media’s first Thanksgiving Coloring Contest and for helping to make it so successful! This year we had 27 entries making it very difficult to choose a winner. Congratulations to Jameson Flaiz of Miller Place, sisters Deryn and Shaelea McNamara of East Setauket and Andrew Cleary of Rocky Point for being this year’s winners and receiving a family four-pack of tickets to see “Barnaby Saves Christmas” at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. Special thanks to Theatre Three for sponsoring our contest! 

See all of the wonderful entries on this slide show. Happy Thanksgiving!

Nick Dattilo, a salesperson for Nesconset-based electrical supplies company Kelly & Hayes, during his presentation to the village board Nov. 18. Photo by Kyle Barr

Port Jeff village officials are considering installing an electric car charger into an existing parking space toward the west end of the lot off Barnum Avenue.

Nick Dattilo, a salesperson for Nesconset-based electrical supplies company Kelly & Hayes, presented to the village board Nov. 18 about the possibility of installing a Charge Point electric vehicle charging station. Each station comes with two extendable charging ports and can be accessed with either an app or with a device that usually comes with a standard electric vehicle.

Kevin Wood, parking and mobility administrator, said the village is looking to make use of a New York State Energy Research and Development grant, which will provide up to an 80 percent rebate for such projects, from $250,000 up to a max of $500,000. The village would have to put the money upfront to be reimbursed. Mayor Margot Garant said she wanted to make sure the grant was in place before signing any contract for Charge Point.

Wood said the village could benefit, as the demographic of electric car owners is on the rise.

“As soon as you drive in [to the parking lot] you drive right into these,” Wood said. “I just like the idea that a person could come to Rocketship Park with their kids and charge their car.”

Officials said the hope is people with electric vehicles would shop while waiting for their car to charge. Each charge takes from three to five hours for a full charge.

The station includes an 18-foot retractable cord that winds up like a vacuum electric cord.

Though each station comes with two ports, Wood said he would like to see only one port be used with one space as a pilot. He added the village’s parking committee is usually hesitant to give up even a single space.

“If we saw it being used a lot, we’d open the second one up,” he said. “This town can’t afford to give away spaces.”

There are several electric vehicle charging stations in the immediate area. One set is in the parking lot of Heritage Park in Mount Sinai, and another set is provided at Stony Brook University, whose services are not billed for use.

The village board would still have to decide upon cost to the driver, with the rate depending on how long a car is being charged. Garant mentioned, depending on cost, the service could be offered free to attract people into downtown Port Jeff.

The board plans to reassess the feasibility of the charging station at the next board meeting, Dec. 2.

Wood said his goal is for installation of the charger next to Rocketship Park to take place in the first quarter of 2020.

 

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright during a town board meeting. TBR News Media file photo

A local town council member has put forward attempts to offer emergency transportation for the homeless when the county cannot, though not all parties are on the same page if the service is necessary or even wanted.

The Brookhaven Town Board meeting Nov. 19 showcased a rare public heated moment between members of the town council, specifically over a resolution to offer jitney services for the homeless when the county cannot.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) has for months been supporting a resolution to allow the town to enter an intermunicipal agreement with Suffolk County for the town to provide jitney services to transport homeless people to a shelter or other facility in an emergency situation. The Democratic councilwoman’s move to table the resolution resulted in a heated discussion over the timing and merits of the bill, and after advice from town attorney Annette Eaderesto, the councilwoman withdrew the resolution.

In a letter to the Town, Suffolk County Deputy Executive Jon Kaiman said that the county had “no ability” to put forward a memorandum of understanding regarding using municipal town buses for transporting the homeless.

“There would be a number of issues such as cost of personnel, operations and administration that we would need to explore before we would consider making any recommendations,” said the letter sent to Matt Miner, the town chief of operations.

Kaiman did not respond to requests to his office for additional comment.

The lone Democrat on the Town Board asked why she had not seen the letter until 18 days after the town had originally received it. 

“I’m looking at an email that was sent to Matt Miner on Nov. 1. Today is Nov. 19,” Cartright said to Supervisor Ed Romaine (R). 

In a previous interview, Cartright described an encounter with one homeless couple several months ago. After the work of convincing them to accept residence in a Suffolk County shelter, the councilwoman waited outside with them for a cab that was ordered by the county. After more than two hours of waiting, the cab had not shown and had been misdirected to Port Jefferson village instead of Port Jeff Station. 

She said the event showed there was a missing piece to available transport for the homeless, who are often very hesitant to accept assistance from the government in the first place. If she wasn’t there, the councilwoman said, she felt the homeless couple would likely never have gotten in the cab to go to a shelter.

“This is basically a backstop measure in case of an emergency,” Cartright said. “Everybody is clear whose responsibility [transportation for the homeless] is.”

“This is basically a backstop measure in case of an emergency,  everybody is clear whose responsibility [transportation for the homeless] is.” 

– Valerie Catright

In the letter, Kaiman wrote that he was aware of the incident in October but described it as an “infrequent occurrence.” 

The county provides tokens for public transportation to the homeless in need of transit to a shelter, and on occasion Suffolk will facilitate pickup with a taxicab.

Cartright has sponsored the resolution since early October, but the bill has been tabled two times, Oct. 3 and 24. Both times Councilman Neil Foley (R-Blue Point) moved to table the resolution and was accepted by the supervisor and all council members, except for Cartright. 

Romaine said he and the board initially thought they had the support of the county through Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), however, the letter, he said, disproved that assumption. The supervisor added he had no means to put forward an MOU without the consent of the county.

“I think we should defeat this until the county expresses an interest — it takes two to tango,” Romaine said. “We don’t have the willingness and cooperation from the county of Suffolk.”

He later added that transportation for homeless individuals was under the county’s jurisdiction, and not of the town’s.

“It’s like asking the county to pave our roads, they don’t do that,” he said. “That’s why we have different levels of government.” 

Hahn released a statement on the ongoing discussion.

“We are in the process of discussing the possibility of a multijurisdictional solution with cooperation between the Town and County to address a specific community concern identified by Councilwoman Cartright,” the legislator said. “It is premature to identify details before we have an agreement between the two municipalities.”

Eaderesto said, upon speaking to county attorney Dennis Brown, that the request should have come from the Department of Social Services rather than just from Hahn, who cannot speak for the entirety of the Legislature.

Councilman Dan Panico (R-Manorville) asked for their intentions not to be misinterpreted.

“This has never been put together properly on the county’s side,” he said. “The deputy county executive said he has no interest … If we can fill that need and truly fill that need, not just saying we do on paper, because it really isn’t the purview of the town government, it’s squarely the county’s purview.”

Cartright said after the meeting she is hoping the town and county attorneys can sort out differences between the two municipalities, adding she feels such a resolution is necessary, and it conforms to previous resolutions that offered town services in emergency situations with New York State Department of Transportation.

The councilwoman and other members of the Quality of Life Task Force will meet with the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, Dec. 17 at the Comsewogue Public Library, where they will discuss homlessness and other area issues. 

 

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Construction continues on the Brockport apartment complex. Photo by Kyle Barr

Village residents living near the construction of The Brockport apartment complex on the old Cappy’s Carpets site have been hearing the hammering of pilings going in, signaling construction starting on the long-awaited project.

Some residents have complained about the noise of the pilings hammered into the ground, comparing the noise to what residents heard when the original Shipyard apartment complex was being constructed. 

Rob Gitto, of The Gitto Group, the developer behind the project, said that, weather permitting, the significant construction noise should cease by around Wednesday, Nov. 27. 

“We are also very sensitive to the noise issue as our office building is on the north side, adjacent to the project and our Barnum House/CVS property is located directly south and adjacent of the project,” Gitto said in an email.

He said the next phase of the project will include helical piles, which are drilled into the ground and make significantly less noise.

Alison LaPointe, the special village attorney for the Planning and Building department, said the developer had received the project’s site plans after sending them to another firm for additional review in October. The planning board received the site plans and had issued the developer a building permit last week. She confirmed the developer’s projection of finishing hammering the pilings by at least the end of the week.

“They are making good progress, no snags thus far,” she said.

 

Local Union 154 workers held a protest in front of Brookhaven Town Hall Nov.19. Photo by David Luces

Hauppauge-based Local Union 154 workers protested outside of Brookhaven Town Hall Nov. 19, disputing the Town of Brookhaven’s decision to hire another contractor to work on roofing of the government building. 

The protesters who stood at the entrance to Independence Hill did not want to speak on the record, but said they were protesting because town officials hired nonunionized workers for the ongoing roof work being done at Town Hall. Brookhaven has ongoing projects to put solar panels on the Town Hall roof.

Local 154 did not respond to multiple requests for comment by press time. 

The contractor, Ronkonkoma-based Statewide Roofing, has been performing commercial and industrial roofing on the Island since 1983, according to its website. Notable projects include replacing the roof and deck waterproofing at Stony Brook University South Stadium. The company is a member of the National Roofing Contractors Association and North East Roofing Contractors Association. 

Gerry Curtin, president and part owner of the company, believes his workers are more than qualified to do the work and said the problem is with Local 154, who “wants everyone to go through them.” 

Curtin said they have long resisted unionization. 

“We’ve been around 36 years — we pay our workers prevailing wage and we’ve had apprenticeship program for over 25 years, we have done a lot of public work [over the years],” he said. 

The president of the company said they do have labor union agreements and take on other laborers if needed.

A Brookhaven spokesperson said they make sure the union/contractor they hire offers a prevailing wage and has an appropriate apprenticeship program in place. 

The spokesperson said work being done on the roof is part of the town’s solar energy program. The town put out a request for bids for the roof work and got a response from five different companies. They ultimately went with Statewide Roofing, which came in $1 million less than the next lowest bid. 

 

Map of 1,4 Dioxane across Long Island by highest level detected within each water district. Photo from Citizens Campaign for the Environment

Suffolk County residents are being asked to reach into their wallets to help the water authority deal with the ongoing presence of 1,4-dioxane in local groundwater, which is the sole source of drinking water on Long Island. 

The Suffolk County Water Authority announced Nov. 22 that the board approved a $20 quarterly fee added onto customers bills starting Jan. 1, 2020. The bill will go toward the cost of developing and operating treatment systems for filtering 1,4-dioxane and other perfluorinated compounds PFOS and PFOA in anticipation of New York State mandating such regulations.

“As we’ve said since state officials first began considering the regulation of 1,4-dioxane and perfluorinated compounds, we fully support taking whatever measures are necessary to ensure our customers continue to have a drinking water supply that is among the best in the country,” said SCWA CEO Jeffrey Szabo. “But, as we’ve also said, these regulations come at a high cost. We need the funds that will be raised by the quarterly fee to develop the treatment systems to meet the new standards.”

In an October presentation to Suffolk County legislators, SCWA proposed installing 31 new advanced treatment systems at a number of sites where the levels of 1,4-dioxane are higher than the state proposed limit, which is 1 part per billion.

Water officials and environmental activists have made 1,4-dioxane a topic of concern this year, pointing out that it is a likely carcinogen with links to liver and kidney damage after a lifetime of exposure.

If the state limits 1,4-dioxane to 1 part per billion and PFOS and PFOA at 10 parts per trillion, the water authority will have to put into service 56 new advanced oxidation process treatments, and 20 new granular activated carbon systems. The total cost for all these systems is expected to exceed $177 million over the next five to six years. 

The $80 yearly charge is expected to cover those costs over time. The water authority services approximately 1.2 million Suffolk residents, including most parts of the North Shore. 

 

Individuals and groups dived into frigid waters Nov. 23 for the 10th annual Brookhaven Polar Plunge. Photo by Kyle Barr

The icebox temperature of the coastal waters of Long Island Sound keep most away from any bathing activities, but on Nov. 23 the Suffolk County police and other volunteers could barely contain the crowd who rushed in wave after wave to bathe themselves in the frigid Sound off Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai. 

Close to 750 participants joined in the 10th annual Town of Brookhaven Polar Plunge, raising a projected $150,000 for the Special Olympics. Diane Colonna, the regional vice president of development for Special Olympics New York, said it costs about $400 to provide training and to sponsor one athlete per season, though many train and compete over multiple seasons. 

“Most people are not really into jumping into freezing cold waters, but people are doing it — they’re doing it for our athletes,” Colonna said. “What’s really cool is our athletes are doing it as well, and it’s something they can do together.”

She added that the number of participants has been relatively steady over the past several years and is one of the biggest fundraising events for the Special Olympics in New York.

“Our athletes live to the extreme every day in showing they are part of things and want to be included,” she said.

Plungers participated alone or in teams, with some raising several thousand dollars. Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) along with the team Frozen Eagles have raised $2,555 so far. The Port Jefferson High School Varsity Club announced it had 70 students intending to participate in this year’s event, which is about 25 percent of the total population of grades 9 through 12. By the end, the group raised over $11,000, according to club co-adviser Deirdre Filippi, and that donation will help to sponsor approximately 27 athletes. 

“We are incredibly proud of our student athletes and their efforts,” Filippi said. “It truly was a rewarding experience for all.”

Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) co-hosts a forum on water quality Nov. 19. Photo by David Luces

The New York State Assembly Minority Task Force on Water Quality hosted an informational forum at the Mount Sinai Rose Caracappa Senior Center Nov. 19 to discuss the condition of the state’s water sources, address emerging contaminants and prioritize and fix aging infrastructure, but some environmental activists disagree with the officials positions. 

State assemblymen Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), Joe DeStefano (R-Medford) and Dan Stec (R-Queensbury), took feedback from community members, stakeholders, environmental experts, among others to assist the group in its efforts to develop long-term solutions to those issues. 

“If we had a different model that said that the use of the water should be returned to nature as clean as we got it [then] we wouldn’t have this problem — and present model.”

— Kevin McDonald

“We all know how important water is — we are here to listen and learn,” DeStefano said. “Hopefully we can have a spirited conversation on the things that are important to you and what we need to do to make those things come to fruition.”

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said Long Island and the state is in a better place than it was five years ago but acknowledges there’s still work to be done. 

“Let’s go to some facts here. We need to treat our sewage in 2019, as you’ve heard we don’t necessarily do that on Long Island,” she said. “Close to 400,000 are still on outdated septic systems which is virtually untreated sewage.”

Esposito brought up harmful algal blooms that are being found throughout Long Island’s coastal waters. She said due to increased nitrogen concerns, which leaks into the local waterways through outdated septic systems and from fertilizer, as just two examples, these algae blooms are spreading to other parts of the state. 

“It is killing off the shellfish industry — people are calling us asking why their water looks like coffee,” she said. 

Palumbo agreed the main issue was excess nitrogen.

“What would you attribute for all the increase in algal blooms and water quality issues?” Palumbo asked. “You could say it is a direct result of excess nitrogen because it’s ‘Miracle-Gro’ essentially that makes this grow at such an alarming rate. It’s a concern for me because clearly nitrogen has been the boogeyman.”

Esposito also mentioned blue green algae being found in all parts of the state, including the Albany drinking reserve, which attacks the liver and could potentially cause liver failure.

The executive director praised Suffolk County’s septic improvement program, saying residents need to replace their old septic systems with new technology, though at the same time current sewage treatment plants don’t treat volatile organic chemicals, 1,4 dioxane, pharmaceutical drugs, pesticides or chemicals found in hair products. 

“It’s going to take time and money, but what plan does not take time and money?” she asked. 

A number of local residents disagreed with scientists’ findings, with a few  skeptical of the recent nitrogen findings on Long Island, one calling it “a naturally functioning
occurrence.”

One resident criticized a map from the Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook University showing the impacts of sewage pollution and blue green algae.  

“It has been overstated and overexaggerated. We have looked at the data over the last five years and there is no trend of increase in nitrogen,” he said. 

Kevin McDonald, conservation project director of The Nature Conservancy, on the other hand said we have to reduce nitrogen use. 

“Close to 400,000 are still on outdated septic systems which is virtually untreated sewage.”

— Adrienne Esposito

“It’s a global problem, it’s a national problem, it’s a regional problem. Any rational person would say in a place as populated as Long Island, it is probably a problem as well,” he said. 

Similarly to Esposito, McDonald criticized how the county treats water.  

“If we had a different model that said that the use of the water should be returned to nature as clean as we got it [then] we wouldn’t have this problem — and present model,” he said. “Instead we can use how you want, pollute and dump it back into the environment.”  

In 2014, Suffolk County asked IBM to look at how it could treat water better and manage a water system for the 21st century. McDonald said the corporation told the county to treat water delivery and treatment as a single concept. 

He said the current model is based on selling as much water as it can.  

“That’s how we have the problem we have now, part of the mess is from us and we have to fix it,” McDonald said.

Stock Photo

Port Jefferson Village officials have settled on a cost for impounding bicycles after a person is caught riding recklessly within village lines.

The cost has been set at $25 upon originally impounding a bike, which is kept at the DPW building at 88 N. Country Road. Every day after the original impounding incurs an additional $1 per day. Bikes stuck in the DPW for a significant time will be scheduled for public sale as abandoned property, with bids starting at the unpaid amount currently accrued on the bike. The bikes are sold together every few months.

Village Attorney Chris Bianco said the code follows what the village has done in the past regarding kayaks left over on racks after the season ends. 

Check out TBR News Media’s previous coverage of the subject here.

Brookhaven town hall. File photo

The Brookhaven Town board passed Nov. 19 its $312.9 million budget also establishing its capital budget plan for the next four years. 

The budget is a nearly $10 million increase from last year’s $302 million, but officials have said there would only be a small increase in property taxes.

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) praised the budget for not dipping into the town’s fund balance, or its rainy-day funds, and for staying under the 2 percent state tax cap.

The board unanimously voted to amend the two budgets at the Nov. 19 meeting. Town Chief of Operations Matt Miner said those amendments were cases of overestimating or underestimating revenues from specific items. Other areas were changed to make the final document budget neutral.

“There were no changes to the overall budget or the tax levy,” Miner said.

New budget capital projects comes in at $43.9 million, which is $14.6 million less than 2019. The town budget eliminates $15.8 million in pension debt and $30.1 million in “pipeline” debt, which is money left over from the closed bond projects, either unused or unappropriated.

“The budget meets my original three-point plan to reduce deficit spending,” Romaine said. “All funds are in compliance with the fund balance policy.”

The 2020-24 capital budget sets up public improvement projects established via bonds and reserves. This includes $26.4 million for the Highway Department, comprised of road repairs, drainage, traffic safety, facilities and machinery/equipment. This is in addition to a $5 million increase for road resurfacing in the operating budget from $10 million to $15 million.

Elected officials will also see a small raise in annual pay. Council members will receive a $1,446 increase to $73,762, while the supervisor will be bumped by $2,398 to $122,273. The highway superintendent salary is set at $121,515. Town clerk and tax receiver will each receive around $2,000 in increases. Elected officials have seen an approximate $2,000 pay increase over the past few years.