Town of Brookhaven

Richard DeBragga, Brookhaven town tax assessor, speaks to Sound Beach Civic about STAR rebate. Photo by Kyle Barr

Big changes have been made to the STAR rebate, and Richard DeBragga, Brookhaven town tax assessor, came to the Sound Beach Civic Association’s meeting Aug. 12 to explain what that means for North Shore residents.

The STAR rebate gives around 2.6 million homeowners in New York State the opportunity to get a rebate on their school taxes, which represent an average of 60 percent of a homeowner’s tax bill. Homeowners who qualify include those making under $500,000 annually and have their home as their primary residence. Those seniors, over 65 years of age, are able to get what is called the Enhanced STAR credit, and those must have an adjusted gross income below $86,300.

The state budget, approved back in April, made several changes to the program. Before, those that bought their homes starting Aug. 1, 2015, have been receiving checks in the mail instead of savings on their bills. 

In essence, the program now incentivizes a mail-in check instead of the usual savings in the school tax bill as has been normal since the program was implemented nearly 25 years ago. Now those making $250,000 and $500,000 a year will also receive checks. In addition, those enrolled in Enhanced STAR must enroll in an income verification program to verify they are making below the minimum. DeBragga said those who want to apply to have to verify their income every year through the program, unless they can sign a statement that they qualify so the program will automatically check it every year.

DeBragga said the state is incentivizing checks rather than the tax break, saying the state is only offering the 2 percent annual increase to those who receive checks.

Northport power plant. File photo

At the Long Island Power Authority’s July 24 board meeting, Larry Kelly, a trial attorney, described at a public comment session how LIPA in 2006 and 2007 instituted what he called “the largest tax fraud” he’s seen in his 35 years as a lawyer, according to Huntington Town councilman, Eugene Cook (R).

Cook has independently asked New York State’s Public Service Commission Chairman John Rhodes in a letter dated Aug. 6 to review and “forcibly address” the issues. 

According to Cook, Kelly alleged that LIPA used the tax system to extend tax exemptions and reductions to Caithness power plant, which was awarded a contract to build a new 350-megawatt power plant in Yaphank, and then used those low taxes to argue in court that National Grid’s four aging power plants on Long Island were overassessed.

“I also request the PSC review LIPA’s ‘unclean hands’ in the Northport filings, and the impact that should have on LIPA’s continued operations,” Cook’s four-page letter concluded. The letter was sent on a town letterhead, but was not signed by other town board members, the supervisor or the town attorney.  

Councilman Eugene Cook

The term “unclean hands” is a legal defense which essentially references a legal doctrine that states a plaintiff is unable to pursue tax equity through the courts if the plaintiff has acted unethically in relation to the subject of its complaint. 

The allegations are surfacing just weeks after closing arguments were presented July 30 in LIPA’s tax certiorari case with the Town of Huntington for the year 2014. It is unclear how the allegation could potentially impact the outcome of the case as post-trial deliberations continue. The unclean hands defense was not part of the town’s defense, according to the Town Attorney Nick Ciappetta, who offered no public comment on the allegations.  

Kelly, a Bayport resident who ran for a New York State Supreme Court judgeship in the 2018 election, is unaffiliated with Huntington’s case, but said his obligation as a trial lawyer is to act as a steward of the law. 

LIPA did not respond to email requests for comment on the public allegations. 

A LIPA press release dated Jan. 25, 2006, stated that the Caithness plant in Yaphank would include a $139 million payment in lieu of taxes agreement with $100 million over 20 years going to Bellport’s South Country school district. 

LIPA’s 2019 Property Tax Reduction pamphlet, which is publicly available and published on its website, highlights the value of Caithness plant in contrast to the Port Jefferson, Northport and three other plants. On page 14 of the report, LIPA stated that in 2016 Caithness paid $9.7 million annually in taxes, while the Northport plant paid “eight times” as much in taxes, or $81 million, and Port Jefferson paid “three times” as much in taxes, or $33 million.  

The report also stated on page 14 that LIPA reimburses National Grid under its contract more than it earns in power revenue, a sum that factors in property taxes. 

“Those losses, the amount by which costs exceed the value of power, are paid by all 1.1 million electric customers,” the report said. It indicated that LIPA’s goal for filing tax challenges in 2010 against Nassau County, the Town of Huntington, the Town of Brookhaven and the Village of Port Jefferson “in an attempt to obtain a fair tax assessment on the four legacy plants.” 

In a telephone interview, Kelly referred to a Feb. 15, 2012 meeting with the Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency, which recorded a Caithness representative explaining that “LIPA pays the PILOT to Caithness who then makes the PILOT payment to the IDA, and then they get a check back from New York State which is then returned to LIPA.” 

The minutes further stated, “This is the only power plant on Long Island that the ratepayers are not paying any real property taxes net out of pocket for the first 10 years, resulting in a saving of $80 million.” 

Kelly and Cook, in presenting the allegations publicly and to the commission, claimed that Bellport’s school district, South Country, which Cook said in his letter is comprised of 40 percent minority populations, were shortchanged tax revenue that could have funded school programs. Representatives from the South Country school district did not respond to email and telephone inquiries about their tax revenue from Caithness. 

The Public Service Commission has said that it has received and is reviewing the letter from Cook. It offered no other response to questions related to its potential response.

Will Ferraro, a Selden resident, is running against Ed Romaine for town supervisor. Photo from Ferraro’s campaign

For Will Ferraro, a Selden resident running for Town of Brookhaven supervisor in elections this fall, his campaign is about making solutions. 

“I’m running for working class and working poor people who feel like this current administration isn’t listening to them,” he said.    

Ferraro said he is campaigning on a platform of fixing and repairing town roads as well as addressing issues with the town’s recycling system and the Brookhaven landfill. 

“There have been roads that haven’t been paved in years. People are sick of a supervisor who just points the finger to the highway superintendent,” he said. “On the recycling issue, he points to China and says there is nothing wrong with the landfill. My campaign is about solutions.”

“People are sick of a supervisor who just points the finger to the highway superintendent.”

— Will Ferraro

Ferraro and Ed Romaine (R), who is finishing his third term as supervisor, will look to secure a four-year term in the upcoming elections, a result of Brookhaven residents voting last year to add term limits to three per seat, but also double the term length for the town supervisor and other positions like the highway superintendent. 

The challenger was against the increase in term length and co-funded Brookhaven Action Network, which helped organize and lead the “Vote No on Prop 1” campaign against the terms extensions. Despite being ultimately unsuccessful, it proved to be a motivating factor for Ferraro’s decision to run. 

This will be Ferraro’s first time running for elected office, though he says his experience working in Albany as a legislative analyst for the New York State Assembly has helped in the transition.  

“You don’t really know what to expect until you’ve actually done it,” he said. “You’re out there on your own.”

If elected, Ferraro said he would restore curbside pickup of recyclable glass on a monthly basis, make road infrastructure the top budget priority and create a task force that would expand air quality and toxicology tests in areas surrounding the landfill. 

“People feel like their concerns are not being heard,” he said. “This town and administration is run by one party.”

Ferraro, who grew up in Port Jefferson Station, works for the New York City administration for children’s services, has a bachelor’s degree in government and politics from St. John’s University and a master’s degree in public policy from Stony Brook University.   

So far, the Selden resident acknowledged he has raised far less than Romaine in political donations, but said he hopes to raise more than  $100,000 for his campaign. Ferraro acknowledges that Romaine has more campaign contributions but hopes that residents will take to his message. 

“You have to go out there and connect with them. I want to show them how passionate I am about this community,” the Selden resident said. “This administration has not been challenged — I’m not afraid to go after his [Romaine’s] record.”  

Ferraro said the feedback and responses he and staffers have gotten from residents have been positive. 

“Knocking on doors in neighborhoods you see the level of frustration residents have toward the current administration,” he said. “We have people that really believe in our message and want to see change and believe that time is now.”

Ferraro believes Romaine can be beaten. 

“I will provide leadership and a new beginning for the town — I want people to understand that I will be a candidate that answers to residents,” he said. “And I will call out what needs to be called out.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine during his State of the Town address. Photo by Kyle Barr

Click on the inset pictures to get a better view of which homes are in each defunct district.

Town of Brookhaven residents can soon expect a check in the mail after the Town Board unanimously voted to pass a resolution that would return remaining fund balances to taxpayers in six dissolved special water districts. 

A map of the defunct Sound Beach water district showing where residents will be receiving refunds. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

“This is part of the $20 million grant that the town got to consolidate shared services to improve efficiency,” Ed Romaine, town supervisor, said at the June 27 town meeting. 

The Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Plan is designed to consolidate town services and create shared services with other local municipalities to help cut costs. The dissolution of the six water districts was part of that consolidation, and when they were dissolved there were outstanding fund balances. 

The plan dates back to the 2018 $20 million grant that was awarded by New York State, which went toward modernizing services while reducing the burden on taxpayers by reducing redundancy in local governments and pursuing opportunities for increasing shared services. 

“All of that money is going back to the residents of those water districts,” the supervisor said. “They will get a check in the mail — [the amount] will vary from district to district.”

The town supervisor mentioned one of the benefits of consolidating services and eliminating the special districts, is that people who are now covered by the Suffolk County Water Authority but were once part of paper districts will get some of that money back. 

In total, the town will return approximately $500,000 to taxpayers. The money is from remaining fund balances from fiscal year 2018 that earned interest in 2019. 

The highest refund will go to the taxpayers who were served by the dissolved Sound Beach Water Supply District. The district, as of December 2018, had a remaining fund balance of $274,018.97. 

A map of the defunct West Setauket water district showing where residents will be receiving refunds. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Kevin Molloy, Brookhaven Town spokesperson, said residents of the special district that covered over 3,000 parcels will get an average refund of $89. The range of the refunds for Sound Beach varies from as low as 49 cents to as high as $2,638. 

The West Setauket Water Supply District had a remaining fund balance of $71,363.35, and each resident is expected to receive an average refund of $126, according to Molloy. 

Refunds will range from 14 cents to $476. 

Molloy said the amount residents get will depend on the evaluation of their property in their respective district. 

The refund will be handled by the town’s commissioner of finance who is authorized to remit all remaining fund balances of the dissolved special water districts, plus all accrued interest to the Town of Brookhaven tax receiver. 

“Residents will be getting a check in the mail starting the beginning of [this] month and no later than August 31,” Molloy said. 

Anthony Portesy is running again for highway superintendent. Photo from Portesy’s campaign

By Leah Chiappino

At his kickoff fundraiser, Anthony Portesy, the Democrat who is challenging incumbent Dan Losquadro (R) for Town of Brookhaven highway superintendent, held up a piece of asphalt he found while campaigning on Holbrook Road, he said, to symbolize the condition of Brookhaven’s streets. Having run in 2017 for the same position, Portesy said he looks to bring changes to what he calls “an infrastructure crisis” in Brookhaven.

Anthony Portesy is running again for highway superintendent. Photo from Portesy’s campaign website

“Since 2017, I’ve knocked on between 15,000 and 20,000 doors and I hear the same thing from people,” he said. “They want more information and to know when the plow and paving trucks are coming. They call seven times to get a street light fixed, and it still hasn’t gotten fixed.”

A native of Selden, later living in Centereach and now living in Port Jefferson Station, Portesy said he’s running because when he was growing up the roads were “atrocious,” and not much has changed. 

“The same potholes I went over as a kid, I go over now,” he said in his acceptance speech for the nomination.

 “I’ve seen my friends leave,” he said. “No one is going to want to buy a house if the streets are prone to flooding, and are pothole ridden. Brookhaven is looking more like Detroit, and less and less like a middle-class Long Island hamlet.”

Portesy, who is running on the Democratic, Working Families and Libertarian tickets, currently practices employment and commercial litigation for small-to-midsize businesses, largely in federal court. He feels this prepares him well for the position. Specifically, while studying at the New York Law School in Manhattan, he interned for city Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services.

He claims that after reviewing the contracts for projects the Losquadro has executed since he began his tenure as highway superintendent in 2013, residents deserve better.

“We can do things like potentially lowering the bonding requirements so small businesses can bid on projects and save the taxpayer money,” he said.

Portesy claims Losquadro has wasted $18 million doing “surface level mill-and-fill road resurfacing projects,” which the challenger said only work for about 30 percent of the roads that are “crumbling less than a year after the paving projects are completed.”

“I could very easily spend my free time going to Greece or Italy, but I chose to be involved because I care.”

— Anthony Portesy

“Doing 2 1/2 inches of topcoat as opposed to 1 1/2 inches may be more expensive, but it can give us 25 to 30 years, as opposed to two or three,” Portesy said. 

According to the highway superintendent’s office, the current backlog for town projects sits at around $80 million, compared to a $120 million backlog when Losquadro took office. The highway budget is expected to increase to$150 million over the next 10 years.

The challenger acknowledged there are issues with funding to pave properly. His solution is to work to increase funding through the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program, a state program known as CHIPS that provides reimbursement to municipalities for highway-related capital projects, which he said will “take pressure off the local taxpayer.”

His main policy platform is his Brookhaven 2030 initiative, a series of changes he feels the township should complete within 10 years, much of which focuses on expanding information technology.

The first includes his “worst to first initiative,” a program he said would bring structural engineers in to evaluate the quality of every road, and rate them from the worst to the best. The town would then resurface them based on funding, and in order of highest priority, with rapid response to potholes near schools and main roads. 

He also admitted that while day paving may be inconvenient, it is more expensive to do at night, and is not financially feasible to do neighborhood roads after dark. He added there will be a public list available online so people know exactly when their roads are being paved.

In addition, the Democratic challenger said he would post the contracts and bids publicly on an online database, so “the public can be informed of who is getting the contracts and why,” as opposed to “hiding behind a cloud of secrecy that the Highway Department has done for decades.”

In response to Losquadro’s claims that posting the contracts is illegal, Portesy said that they are unfounded.

“I am a lawyer who has done my research, and if Mr. Losquadro can point out to me a statute that says it is illegal, I would love to see it,” he said. “I haven’t found one state or town ordinance that says so.”

Another initiative, Portesy said, is known as STAR, or snow tracking and removal, includes installing GPS in snowplows that cannot be unplugged, so constituents can track the plows online, and gain an estimate of when the plows will arrive. He said he will ensure that all plows have a rubber bumper to ensure the roads are not torn up. 

He pledges to do quality control inspections as well as bringing much of a work back to town employees, including hiring more workers and bringing back the “black top crews” — town workers who used to handle smaller projects. 

Portesy said he was a longtime member of the UFCW Local 1500 supermarket union, and supports union labor. He called the highways workers “some of the hardest working guys in the business. They are out at 4 in the morning plowing the roads for ‘48 hours’ at a time, and don’t see their families. They earn every dime and deserve an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.”

The final initiative is the tree removal interactive management, or TRIM initiative, which would create an interactive map of all drainage and recharge basins that have overgrown shrubbery. 

“The same potholes I went over as a kid, I go over now.”

— Anthony Portesy

“No one does this if they don’t care about the community. This has affected my personal relationship, and my personal life. I could very easily spend my free time going to Greece or Italy, but I chose to be involved because I care,” Portesy said. 

So far, he has a war chest in excess of $16,300. Losquadro has raised almost $400,000, according to the New York State Board of Elections. Portesy acknowledges Losquadro has more campaign contributions and name recognition, but also points out that increased political involvement regarding everything that is going on nationally could work in his favor.

“Regardless of how you feel about the president, which I take no qualms about and express no opinion on, local elections that people did not pay attention to before are now on the minds of the average Joe who did not pay attention before,” Portesy said. “It’s tough to beat an incumbent, but we can’t wait for an open seat.”

The article originally printed in TBR News Media papers said Portesy had worked in the highways department as a laborer. This has been corrected online to say he was a longtime member of a union.

Sections of roadway in Mount Sinai show heavy wear. Photos from Repave Mount Sinai Neighborhood Streets petition

“We just want our streets paved. We are not asking for much,” said Richard Colacino, who lives on Westcliff Drive in Mount Sinai. 

Sections of roadway in Mount Sinai show heavy wear. Photos from Repave Mount Sinai Neighborhood Streets petition

This past week, Colacino, along with several other Mount Sinai residents, sent a letter and petition signed by more than 160 other residents to Dan Losquadro, the Town of Brookhaven Highway Superintendent, stating that their streets are in dire need of repair and repaving and resurfacing. 

“It’s been 25+ years since our neighborhood streets have been repaved,” the letter reads. “In addition to being an embarrassing neighborhood eyesore, our streets have now deteriorated to the point of being a safety issue.” 

Two of those streets are Westcliff and Marcy Drive. Residents say many children in the neighborhood have gotten injured playing in the streets and riding down the slight hills due to uneven pothole repairs, loose asphalt pebbles, rough patch fixes and crumbling curbs. 

Residents also pointed out six other streets that have similar problems including Helen Street, Hartwell Drive, Rita Drive, Whitcomb Avenue, Walcott Court and Chestnut Street. 

Colacino said the conditions of their roads are laughable at this point. 

“The streets and the curbs are so bad,” he said. “It has gotten so bad that when it rains it just floods people’s driveways.”

Violet Baker, a fellow resident on Westcliff Drive, said within the past couple of years there have been some minor patch work and repairs down on some streets but argues the need for full resurfacing and repaving. 

“They have patched some of the potholes but that only works for a little bit,” she said. “It doesn’t last long, and it is only putting a Band-aid on this thing.”

In addition, Baker said residents have been waiting two years for the town to get rid of trees that have been troublesome and been breaking up curbs alongside their roads. During the winter months the roads have been prone to collapse and break up quicker from the adverse weather. “There are no sidewalks, so a lot of people use the streets to walk. Kids play here with their bikes and skateboards,” she said. “The [condition of] streets is devaluing the neighborhood.”

“We are not asking for much.”

— Richard Colacino

Colacino and others said they have been trying to get their streets repaved and repaired for the past four years, adding that in 2015 the highway department had sent an inspector to the neighborhood to survey the condition of the streets. After the inspection, their streets were put on Brookhaven’s 100 worst streets list. Colacino was hopeful at the time that the streets would get fixed quickly, but a year went by without any significant repairs done.

The Mount Sinai resident then sent a letter to Losquadro’s office the following year and again in 2018. On those two occasions, he was told that they weren’t on the department’s schedule for that year and that there was no need to continue to contact the office as they were already in the system. 

“They keep saying ‘next year, next year,’” the Mount Sinai resident said. “[It’s been] four years of not knowing when they are coming.”

In response, Losquadro said he appreciates the residents for the petition and it is a neighborhood they know needs to get work done.  

“We are not ignoring the community of Mount Sinai,” the highway superintendent said. 

Losquadro mentioned that they had done work this year nearby on Mount Sinai Avenue.  

Asked about the reason for the delay in long-awaited repairs in the neighborhood, the highway superintendent said he works with a finite budget each year and they do work based on the condition of the streets, not age. 

Losquadro said the work is not done arbitrarily, and some roads are worse
than others. 

“I can say this [neighborhood] will be part of our scope of work for next year,” he said. “Those streets have already been engineered and measured out.”

Sections of roadway in Mount Sinai show heavy wear. Photos from Repave Mount Sinai Neighborhood Streets petition

Besides the letter and petition sent to Losquadro’s office, residents sent packets to other local officials including Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner
(R-Rocky Point). 

Baker said it has been so long and all they want is a definite time frame of when the work on the streets will be done. 

The highway superintendent said with the town supervisor already promising to increase this budget for next year, he hopes he can get more work done. The department’s last year’s budget was $10 million, but in the previous State of the Town address by Romaine, Losquadro was told he will receive $12 million.

“It is getting through that backlog of streets, there is far more work that needs to be done,” he said. “We ask people to continue to be patient as we continue to work on that backlog.”

Baker was disappointed with the highway superintendent’s response. 

“I wish we had a more definitive answer. We have been waiting,” she said. “It’s not the best answer but not the worst [either]. I hope it is true this time and we’ll have to wait and hope for the best.”

Colacino wasn’t surprised with what Losquadro had to say.  

“I think it’s more of the same. It’s always next year,” he said. “At least we got an answer and people are going to hold him to it. We are not giving up on this fight. This is something we believe in.”

Children enjoy the grand opening of Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Spray Park in Elwood. Photo by Kyle Barr

With weekend heat expected to reach the high 90’s plus humidity that could make it feel like well over 100 degrees, towns across the North Shore are offering ways for residents to help beat the heat.

Brookhaven

Brookhaven town is offering extended hours for pools and beaches for the weekend of July 20 through 21.

The Centereach and Holtsville town pools will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Meanwhile all beaches including:

  • Cedar Beach – Harbor Beach Road, Mount Sinai
  • Corey Beach – Corey Avenue,, Blue Point
  • Shirley Beach – Grandview Avenue., Shirley (spray park)
  • Shoreham Beach – North Country Road, Shoreham
  • West Meadow Beach – 100 Trustees Road, Stony Brook (spray park)
  • Webby’s Beach – Laura Lee Drive, Center Moriches

Will be open until 7 p.m. both days.

More information can be found at: https://www.brookhavenny.gov/216/Parks-Recreation

Smithtown

On Friday,  July 19,  the Smithtown Senior Center will operate as a cooling station until 5 p.m. The Public Safety with support staff from the Smithtown Senior Citizens Department and Senior Transportation to operate the Senior Citizens Center as a cooling center, for seniors without air conditioning over the weekend. 

All residents are advised to take extra precautions for themselves, elderly family members, children and pets for the duration of the heat watch. 

“It’s  going to be dangerously hot over the weekend,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim said in a release. “ We want to ensure the health and quality of life for our elderly residents… It is with this in mind, that our Public Safety Department has made special arrangements to make sure our seniors have a cool place to enjoy the weekend.” 

Seniors can make arrangements ahead of time by contacting the Senior Citizens Department today or tomorrow at (631) 360-7616. After 5 p.m. Friday, arrangements to use the senior center should be made so by calling Public Safety at 631-360-7553. If a senior citizen does not have transportation, the public safety department said it will make travel arrangements at the time of the call. Residents are asked to check on elderly neighbors and pass along this information ahead of the weekend. 

Huntington

The Town of Huntington is offering extended hours at its Elwood spray park and Dix Hills pool.

Extended hours at the Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Spray Park at Elwood Park on Cuba Hill Road are as follows, with weather-permitting: 

  • Friday, July 19: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (usual hours due to camp programming at the park)
  • Saturday, July 20: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 21: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The park will be waiving the Recreation Photo ID Card requirement for Town residents only for the weekend heat wave, though residents must show another form photo ID proving residence to enter the spray pad.

Otherwise, the Dix Hills Park Pool, located at 575 Vanderbilt Parkway, are now:

  • Friday, July 19: 12:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. (usual hours due to scheduled swimming lessons at the pool)
  • Saturday, July 20: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 21: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Non-residents accompanied by a town resident may use the pool by paying the daily Non-ID Card holder fee.

 Pool Admission Fees with Recreation Photo ID Card, are children (under 13) – $5; teens (13 – 17) – $6; adults (18 and older) – $7; sr. citizen / disabled – $4.50.

Pool Admission Fee (without Recreation Photo ID Card): $15 per person.

Pool Membership: Family Membership – $250/season; Individual Membership – $100/season; Sr. Citizen/Disabled – $50/season.

Otherwise, all Town Beaches will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (usual hours) during the weekend heatwave. These include:

  • Asharoken Beach, Eaton’s Neck Road, Northport
  • Centerport Beach, Little Neck Road, Centerport
  • Crab Meadow Beach, Waterside Avenue, Northport
  • Crescent Beach, Crescent Beach Drive, Huntington Bay
  • Fleets Cove Beach, Fleets Cove Road, Centerport
  • Gold Star Battalion Beach, West Shore Road, Huntington
  • Hobart Beach, Eaton’s Neck Road, Eaton’s Neck
  • Quentin Sammis/West Neck Beach, West Neck Road, Lloyd Harbor
  • Geissler’s Beach, (fishing only), Makamah Road, Northport

Miller Place Duck Pond at the corner of North Country Road and Lower Rocky Point Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

Miller Place Duck Pond may soon see drainage improvements Brookhaven town hopes will reduce sediment flow into the small, water lily-filled pond right outside North Country Road Middle School.

Miller Place Duck Pond at the corner of North Country Road and Lower Rocky Point Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

The town board unanimously agreed to shift money around in the capital budget to make room for the pond drainage improvements, allocating $135,285 for the project. At the same time, the highway department is planning to use $2.6 million in total from grants and town funds to complete road and sidewalk repair in tandem with the drainage renovations.

“The new improvements should reduce the amount of sediment from the road, sanding and salting that washes into the pond,” said town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point). “It should reduce pollutants associated with road runoff.”

Last year, TBR News Media reported both local environmental activists and town waterways management said there were problems with invasive and destructive plant species in the pond. The town applied for a grant from the Suffolk County Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program as well as the Stewardship Initiative. The grant would have had a projected cost of $240,000 with a $120,000 town match; however, Bonner said the town failed to get the grant.

Anthony Graves, Brookhaven’s chief environmental analyst, said they have not witnessed, just from viewing the water’s surface, that the pond is as dense with destructive plants as the previous year. Though he added the problem could be because of high rainfall this year compared to previous years, meaning it’s hard to gauge the plant density on the bottom of the pond. A big part of the reason for those invasive plants was the wash of sediment into the pond’s bottom from the road. 

Involved in this new drainage includes a “stormceptor unit,” a device placed in the ground used to intercept pollutants and sediments before they enter the pond. Such pollutants include oil and grease from passing cars. Graves added the town is trying to reduce nitrogen buildup in the roadside pond. 

In addition to renovating drainage of the pond, the town is expecting to go in and dredge the bottom of the pond. 

“The drainage improvements collect the sediment before it enters the pond,” Graves said.

Meanwhile, the town’s highway department has set up to work in tandem and with those drainage improvements, both in renovating the sidewalks around the pond and completing road resurfacing. North Country Road is a Suffolk County-owned road that is managed by the town. 

Superintendent of Highways Dan Losquadro (R) said his department received close to $1.25 million from grants, though the town is supplying the rest of its total $2.6 million cost. The project will include resurfacing and restriping of the road in addition to renovated sidewalks.

Losquadro said the town has had to deal with other problems in and around the pond, such that a blocked pipe was restricting enough water from entering the pond toward the southern end.

One of the biggest components of road resurfacing is drainage — getting that water off of the roadway,” he said. “So, as we’re doing this project, we want it to last as long as possible.”

Renovations to the drainage should begin sometime in August, Bonner said, while the highway superintendent said they plan to do some sidewalk work in tandem. The rest of the roadwork will start after the new drainage is installed. While they intend to finish before classes start, he added they would have to finish that work during one of the early school recesses if they can’t finish before.

Troop, town and community all had a hand in the new memorial

The Boy Scouts of Troop 161 formed lines, and in each of their hands, they clutched a small red stone. Their faces were reflective and grieved, and when they walked, they did so silently, placing those rocks around the symbolic ribbon outside the troop’s meeting place at the Robert E. Reid, Sr. Recreation Center in Shoreham, all to honor one of their member who was killed last year.

Since the death of Andrew McMorris, a fellow in their troop who was killed by a drunk driver in the fall of last year, the community has rallied in support of the family after their loss. On that June 5 evening the red stones were inlaid with phrases written by the community. Some were stenciled with “fly high Andrew” while others read “fly high on an eagle.”

The final part of the Scout law says the young men should remain “reverent,” and as they paid homage to Andrew, the Scouts in his troop remained solemn throughout the entire ceremony.

Alisa McMorris, Andrew’s mother, was struck by how much the community and Boy Scout troop came out to support her family.

“A part of me died that day, and I didn’t think that I could stand again,” she said. “When the boys and the troop surrounded us, and the community surrounded us, we realized we had a support that would go to any lengths to help us take the next step forward.”

John McMorris, an assistant Scoutmaster in Troop 161 and father of Andrew, could barely hold back tears as he spoke to the crowd of gathered town officials and friends of the troop.

“It’s a beautiful place to do it where we hold our meetings every week,” he said. “Andrew loved Scouting, he loved his Scouting brothers.”

The new garden in honor of Andrew is located just outside the windows of the Shoreham community center, facing toward the playground. Members of the troop have been working on the project for months. In May, the troop spent hours upon hours on one of the hottest days in spring to help dig the ground for the project.

Since October the troop had spent months planning and then building the garden, starting with the red dogwood tree, which was donated by local Girl Scout Service Unit 69. Alisa McMorris is a Girl Scout troop leader, and her daughter, Arianna, is a member. 

“We thought, what a beautiful way to merge the two Scout worlds is to put a garden around that tree,” she said. 

In all, it has been a complete Scout effort. Joseph Pozgay, 16, who was named an Eagle Scout earlier this month, made it his Eagle Scout project to lay the bricks in front of the new garden. The idea came to him from a friend, Ryan Ledda, who used his Eagle Scout project to construct a memorial statue for Thomas Cutinella, who died in 2014. He said he remembered Andrew, the whole troop did, as a young man with great ambitions.

“I feel honored — I feel like I’ve achieved something,” Pozgay said.

Ken Wrigley, an assistant Scoutmaster and owner of Wading River-based Emerald Landscaping, helped to design the new garden. He said some of his distributors donated the plantings seen placed around the rock ribbon and red dogwood tree.

So much had been donated to the project that there were thousands of dollars left over. In the next Brookhaven town board meeting, officials voted to take a donation of $6,839 from the troop and use the funds to construct a pergola at the town-owned community center, near the troop-built garden.

“It’s commendable for Brookhaven that the Scouts have taken the center under their wing,” said Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point). “The fact that so much money was left over shows just how generous people have been with donations.”

Throughout the ceremony, Alisa McMorris kept raising her eyes to the sky. Above, the clouds had rolled in an overcast, threatening rain throughout the evening, but Alisa was watching and listening for something. That’s when they heard it, a plane overhead, likely a passenger jet.

To the McMorris family, it was a sign. Andrew had wanted to be a pilot, and the Shoreham-Wading River middle school student had flown in local youth pilot programs.

“It’s helping healing occur — it’s helping us move forward,” Alisa said.

East Beach in Port Jefferson is getting smaller due to erosion, according to a consulting firm contracted by the village. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Town of Brookhaven has finally accepted a bid for the Mount Sinai Jetty restoration project, setting the town up to start reconstruction on the damaged jetty at the mouth of Mount Sinai Harbor.

Bay Shore-based H&L Contracting won the bid at a total of just over $7.4 million. The next lowest bid came in from SumCo Eco-Contracting of Massachusetts at almost $8 million.

“Quite frankly this was the hardest part.”

— Jane Bonner

Issues with the jetties have been on the town’s radar from way back. “It’s been 11 long years,” said Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point). “But good things come to those who wait.”

Rocks have collapsed, submerging the seaward ends of the jetties at high tide, while the elevation of the jetty stones above the water at high tide was less than 4 feet in some places. Holes in the jetty had also allowed sand to run through, causing further erosion to surrounding bluffs and beachfronts. The western jetty has been of particular concern to neighboring Port Jefferson village and its beaches.

At the June 6 meeting, town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) thanked Bonner for her work on acquiring the funds for the jetty repairs.

“It will benefit all those who use the harbor,” he said.

In September 2016, the town received $3 million in a Dormitory Authority of the State of New York grant, originally secured through New York state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). An additional $5.6 million for the project is coming from the town, partially out of a bond.

Bonner said there is another follow-up meeting required before the date can be set when the repairs will take place, though she suspects construction should begin in either fall or winter of this year or the start of next year, well after the summer season has ended. 

Further meetings will be held to determine where and when the project will begin, though the councilwoman said she hopes construction will last only one season, but it’s dependent on how mild the following winter will be.

Mount Sinai Harbor. File photo by Alex Petroski

“Quite frankly this was the hardest part,” Bonner said about coming up with funds for the project. “We’re very pleased with the bid, and then we roll it out.”

The town is hoping Suffolk County will complete their annual dredging after the jetties are fully repaired.

Meanwhile, officials in the Village of Port Jefferson relished the news of the bids being awarded for the dredging project. Trustees have held off on several major renovations to East Beach surrounding the country club because of those damaged jetties. 

Port Jeff Mayor Margot Garant said the village is in contact with the county about getting that sand back for East Beach once the harbor is dredged.

The news about the finalized bid was met with pleasant surprise at the village’s June 3 meeting. Garant said the village hopes they will receive a permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to start construction of a retaining wall on the bluffs outside of the Port Jefferson Country Club. She said the DEC approved the village’s plans May 15. 

Officials said they may wait until after the county finishes their dredging to get their sand back before starting on repairs to the bluff.