Town of Smithtown

Community members and public officials gather in Smithtown for a public hearing on the development of the Flowerfield/Gyrodyne property in St. James. Photo by David Luces

Residents of both Brookhaven and Smithtown spoke during a Jan. 8 public hearing about the impact of the proposed development of the 75-acre Flowerfield/Gyrodyne site on Route 25A in St. James. While opinions varied, one thing was certain: The project will be the largest development the area has seen in quite some time. 

The proposal seeks to subdivide the land into nine lots, keeping existing businesses and a catering hall while adding a 150-room hotel with a restaurant, two assisted living centers, two medical office parks and a 7-acre sewage treatment plant.

During the hearing, Gyrodyne representatives said they are taking a sustainable approach and have come up with multiple alternatives to the original plan that balance out potential impacts to the surrounding communities. 

Kevin McAndrew, a partner at Cameron Engineering, a Woodbury-based firm hired by Gyrodyne, discussed the potential benefits of the project. 

“The project would bring in significant economic benefits — generate over $3.5 million dollars, bring in high quality jobs and no increase to [area] school enrollment,” he said. 

McAndrew said the firm has acknowledged traffic concerns in the area. The proposed plans, he said, such as the assisted living center, would contribute minimal traffic congestion during peak commute hours. The developer pointed out the inclusion of walking trails, bike lanes, green infrastructure and a potential sewage treatment plant at the site, which representatives said could be used for sewering for downtown St. James. 

Despite what they heard from the presentation, many speakers and civic leaders said they were not convinced, including officials from Brookhaven, Suffolk County and New York State. 

“This 75-arce project will undoubtedly be the largest development in the Smithtown/Brookhaven area for the next generation.”

– Ed Romaine  

Ed Romaine (R), Brookhaven supervisor, said the project would impact the communities of Brookhaven in a devastating way. 

“This 75-arce project will undoubtedly be the largest development in the Smithtown/Brookhaven area for the next generation,” Romaine said. 

Romaine and others complained that Brookhaven is being left out of the planning process and their concerns are not being addressed. As the site is just outside their borders, it would impact their roads, particularly Stony Brook Road. 

“I submitted extensive comments on the scope of the project, to this date I haven’t been contacted about any of these concerns,” the supervisor said. “25A is over carry capacity and we are going to add more? I have concerns about Setauket Harbor and water quality as well as this sewage treatment plant.” 

Maria Hoffman, press secretary read a statement from Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket):

“Shortcomings of this DEIS include the project’s impact on Stony Brook Harbor, will the onsite [treatment] plant become a regional sewer district? What type of sewer system will be purchased and installed, and will it remove nitrate? These meaningful unanswered questions need to be answered and resolved before the project is allowed [to move forward].”

Stony Brook resident Curt Croley said he’s worried about the project’s impact on property values. 

“There is no doubt in my mind that this proposal is opportunistic based on available land,” he said. “I can’t help but wonder if there’s been enough diligence about the sewage treatment plant, the runoff and all the potential impacts that are so close to all these municipalities.”

Joy Cirigliano, chapter president of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, expressed concerns about the nearby harbor and other waterways.

“We already have water quality issues in Stony Brook Harbor and Smithtown Bay with Ecoli and hypoxia, adding more nitrogen to the harbor is significant,” she said. The applicant must analyze these impacts and the repercussions before proceeding with the plan.”

Artists, such as Kevin McEvoy, who had a thriving studio on the Flowerfield site, have already left. The atelier now has limited operations at Gyrodyne. 

 “The development of that property will only enhance us and allow us to grow,” she said. “[St. James] will become the microcosm of small-town life we yearn to be again.” 

– Natalie Weinstein

Some Smithtown residents welcomed the project, because the St. James business district on Lake Avenue could tap into the project’s proposed sewage treatment plant. 

Natalie Weinstein of Celebrate St. James stressed the importance of the potential project and how it would finally allow for the revitalization of Lake Avenue as a cultural art district. 

“The development of that property will only enhance us and allow us to grow,” she said. “[St. James] will become the microcosm of small-town life we yearn to be again.” 

Following the public hearing and end of the public comment input later this month, the Smithtown Planning Board will await submission of a final environmental impact statement in preparation for a vote on the Gyrodyne applications. 

TBR News Media has previously reported that Smithtown has already received $3.9 million from Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), so it can connect the Lake Avenue business district in St. James to the Gyrodyne sewage treatment plant. 

 

Kevin McEvoy's free art history lectures draw a crowd.

On the evening of Jan. 8, the Town of Smithtown held its first public hearing about the subdivision and development for the Flowerfield/Gyrodyne property on Route 25A in St. James. The plan, however, has already had a notable impact on the community.  

Prior to Wednesday night’s meeting, members of a vibrant local art community with studio space at Gyrodyne disbanded, leaving some artists searching for a new home.  

Kevin McEvoy, president and art director for The Atelier at Flowerfield, resigned Jan. 2. The studio’s operations director, youth program coordinator, two administrators and four teachers also resigned, he said, walking out along with more than 93 students. McEvoy is seeking new space in other towns. He was unable to respond to request for comments for legal reasons but did not deny that the subdivision and development situation was a factor. 

The Atelier trustee Barbara Beltrami, one of six trustees, said Monday’s classes were canceled, but the studio is still open for business. She expects operations to resume under a new director, when they find one.   

“Some classes are still functioning,” she said. “People should check with The Atelier for further information by calling 631-250-9009.” 

The Atelier website lacked information about the resignations. Its class schedule still lists McEvoy as instructor for 10 out of 21 classes in the winter schedule. Sources said that all but two teachers are gone.

Kevin McEvoy paints a portrait. The classically trained artist resigned Jan. 2 as president and art director of the Flowerfield Atelier.

 Paul Lamb serves as chairman for The Atelier at Flowerfield. He also has been Gyrodyne’s chairman of the board since 1999. Lamb, a lawyer with an office in Melville, was traveling and did not respond to messages left with requests for comment about the subdivision plans impact on the art community.  

Gary Fitlin, Gyrodyne’s CEO, president, CFO and treasurer, said in a phone interview the company is laying low until after the public hearings. He explained that the existing facilities will remain intact, when and if the project is ultimately approved by the town. Gyrodyne tenants, he said, will not be impacted by the subdivision development. The proposed 150-room hotel, two assisted living centers, two separate medical office parks and a new sewage treatment system, he said, will be located on the site’s undeveloped land.

“It is all very positive for our tenants,” he said. “The subdivision doesn’t impact them, its beneficial to our current tenants because it increases their opportunities.”

Sama Millwork, a fine quality handmade cabinet maker has been located at Gyrodyne for 28 years. John Sama said that he doesn’t expect any impact from the subdivision/development plans. 

“I’ve been hearing about this for a decade,” he said. “I’ll likely be retired by the time it happens.”

Vinny Galanti owns Picante Tex Mex, a Mexican deli and food truck kitchen that’s been located on the site for the last year. He said more development could be good for his operation. 

But for McEvoy and his following, doors have closed.

McEvoy and musicians perform in the atelier’s fine art library and cafe to celebrate its opening.

A native Long Islander, McEvoy was classically trained as an artist in the Charles Cecil studios in Florence, Italy. He opened the studio in the spring of 2016 with a vision to revive the classical drawing and painting techniques and traditions taught for centuries in Europe. In addition to offering instruction and hosting exhibitions of local, national and internationally renowned artists, he incorporated free art history lectures open to the community. The events typically drew large crowds. The studio recently renovated a portion of its space to create a library and café comprised of special collection of thousands of fine art books. McEvoy feverishly sketched in charcoal on the building’s cinder block walls the design he envisioned for the library space. Once the studio was gifted a collection of art books, construction was completed.

In previous interviews, McEvoy said that his hope for the library was to offer artists a space where they could share ideas and offer inspiration to each other. McEvoy also had architectural renderings created to convert the outdoor space surrounding the studio into a less industrial, more inviting garden space.

McEvoy paints with fellow artists while musicians perform at the Jazz Loft in Stony Brook.

It’s unclear how The Atelier’s unique original mission and vision will change with new leadership.  

The Atelier news comes at a time when the St. James community and its Celebrate St. James campaign is gearing up for revitalization by emphasizing the arts. Ironically, those plans hinge upon Gyrodyne’s development.  

Since the project would require the construction of a new wastewater treatment facility, town officials have been expecting to use the new plant to serve the Lake Avenue business district. 

“The town has had talks with the folks at Gyrodyne regarding their sewer treatment plant and the Lake Avenue business district, and they verbally indicated they would be willing to build their facility to accommodate Lake Avenue,” said Smithtown council member Tom Lohmann (R). “Additionally, the town received funding from Sen. [John] Flanagan [(R-East Northport)], $3.9 million, so we could install a sewer line when we start the Lake Avenue project, with the expectation we would be connecting to their plant.”

Representatives from Celebrate St. James, a group focused on the revival of the community’s art district, is also depending upon the Gyrodyne sewage treatment plant. 

“If we don’t connect, the town has to find a new location and get approvals from local, state agencies and health departments, which would take not months or years, it could take decades,” said its president, Natalie Weinstein.

Residents remain skeptical about a maintenance shed project proposal by Head of the Harbor resident and Robert Mercer, a hedge fund billionaire. Photo from Anthony Coates

Scores of Head of Harbor residents voiced their opposition and called on the village Planning Board to reject proposed plans for a 8,633-square-foot maintenance shed on property owned by hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer.

Many who spoke at a Dec. 10 public hearing stated that the rural character of the village would change, and that the maintenance shed was too big for the neighborhood. Others expressed concerns that the Mercers have additional projects in the works such as adding a guest house on their close to 70-arce Owl’s Nest property.

Christopher Modelewski, Huntington-based lawyer representing Mercer, said the shed would only take up less than 2 percent of a two-lot section of the property and the architects would make it into a “beautiful barnlike structure.”

Mercer representatives said the structure, called a “tool shed,” would house equipment used to maintain the Owl’s Nest property, including lawn mowers, golf carts, trailers and other vehicles.

Neighbor Michael Folan, who lives on Thatch Meadow Farm with his wife and two other friends, said the proposed development would impact their day-to-day life.

“Nobody stands to be impacted like we do, the northern end of this project will start 70 yards from my kitchen window, we’re the closest residents to this proposed project,” he said. “Mr. Mercer worked very hard for his money, he can spend it however he wants to. For him this would be an occasional diversion. It would be a daily hindrance and a nightmare for us.”

“For him this would be an occasional diversion. It would be a daily hindrance and a nightmare for us.”

– Michael Folan

Other neighbors said the shed would block scenic views of Thatch Meadow Farm and Stony Brook Harbor and were concerned about the increase of noise and light pollution construction would bring.

Constance “Conky” Nostrand, owner of Thatch Meadow Farm, whose estate is adjacent to the Mercer property, said the shed would threaten the location of her water supply and asked for a 30-feet buffer to be reinstated.

According to Nostrand, she reached out to the village a few times regarding the buffer with no responses. She said village officials have left her in the dark on the situation.

“You act like I don’t exist,” she said. “Thatch Meadow Farm is one of the last Smith estates that has not been split up and developed.”

Anthony Coates, village resident, said he is not convinced they have seen the last of the guest home plans and opposes the construction of the tool shed.

“We still maintain this is the wrong structure in the wrong place,” he said. “It needs a full SEQRA review.”

Coates added due to the application being incomplete, the planning board should make the developers go back to the drawing board on any proposed plans.

Harlan Fischer, planning board chairman, said the board would not vote on the proposal until it was revised by Mercer’s representatives. The application, he said, was incomplete and inaccurate because of the inclusion of proposed plans for a guest home.

In response, Modelewski said those additional plans were meant to not “see the light of day” and was never the subject of a site plan review. He admitted that submission was a mistake and that they would withdraw it.

Fischer said it would be better for the board to have a thorough review of the application before moving forward. The public hearing could continue on Jan. 28 at 5:30 p.m. if revised site plans are resubmitted in time.

Developers of the Gyrodyne complex in St. James are moving forward with plans to subdivide and potentially develop the 75-acre site known as Flowerfield. The Town of Smithtown Planning Board will consider a nine-lot subdivision for the complex at its Dec. 11 meeting.

“The Town Environmental has found the Draft Environmental Impact Statement to be complete and is preparing a resolution for the Planning Board to accept the DEIS as complete at their next meeting on Dec. 11,” said Peter Hans, director of the town planning department. 

The 2,900 page statement is not yet publicly available. Once the Planning Board accepts the report as complete, likely at the Dec. 11 meeting, the document will be posted online and the public comment period will begin. 

Subdivision plans obtained from the Town  indicate that the proposed development is extensive. The 75-acre complex currently includes a catering hall, existing light industrial buildings and open space. The proposal subdivides the lot into nine parcels that include one for the existing catering hall, one for the industrial building and a third for open space.  Six of the nine proposed sublots would be for new development. Development plans include a 150-room hotel with a restaurant and conference hall, two large-scale medical office parks, one at 75,000 square feet and another at 55,000 square feet, plus two separate 110-unit assisted living centers and a 7-acre sewer treatment facility.

If approved, the project will become one of the largest commercial transformations in an otherwise residential and agricultural setting along Route 25A in the St. James hamlet.

New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said the project, if approved, is a real threat to the quality of life in this area of the North Shore, with traffic being the more immediate concern and water quality threatened over time.

“This project is a real threat to the water chemistry of Stony Brook Harbor,” he said.  

He estimates that the treated sewage from the site would upwell into the harbor within two to five years. Aside from the environmental and water quality concerns, Englebright said that the project is a classic case of proposed overdevelopment. 

“The whole thing is a complete traffic nightmare,” he said. “Roadways are oversubscribed. Route 25A is already crowded and by extension, we find that Stony Brook Road just can’t handle any more traffic.”

The area, the assemblyman said, is not really a heavy development zone. 

The property is zoned light industrial, or LI. It does not require a zone change, town officials said, since the identified uses are conceptual at this time. If the developers decide to move forward with a hotel or assisted living facility, those uses would require Special Exception approvals from the Town Board and site plan approval. Office buildings would require only site plan approval. 

Englebright encourages people to express their concerns and appeal to the decision-makers in Smithtown.

The subdivision process began when the Smithtown Planning Board adopted May 9, 2018, a State Environmental Quality Review Act Positive Declaration. The declaration, which is simply a determination that the project has the potential to result in a significant environmental impact, establishes that an Environmental Impact Statement would be required. The applicant has now completed a Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The Planning Board is expected to accept the report as complete at its next meeting. The Town will then file with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation a Notice of Completion of a DEIS. The filing of the Notice of Completion opens the public comment period, which has to run at least 30 days. The Town anticipates that the Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the Gyrodyne DEIS in January.  

Following the close of the public comment period, a final DEIS will have to be prepared that responds to the comments received, and then the Planning Board would have to adopt a findings statement. The Planning Board will not be able to act on the pending subdivision until the FEIS and Findings Statement have been adopted. The process, though, is months away.

Representatives from Gyrodyne did not respond to telephone messages before going to print.

Photo by Heidi Sutton

Residents regularly encounter roadway flooding on Long Beach Road. Storms, full moons, tides and wind all factor into the commute to and from the area.

The Town of Smithtown is hoping to mitigate flooding, amid rising sea levels, on a road that stretches out into Long Island’s waters to reach the Long Beach peninsula.  

Long Beach Road is subject to flooding more than 36 times each year, according to town officials. The proposed project would reduce the rate of flooding to one or two incidents per year. It is expected to cost up to $854,000 for less than a third of a mile of Long Beach Road. 

The project would raise 1,500 feet of Long Beach Road by an average of 1.7 feet, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency grant documents. The work done would stabilize the slope on the seaward side of the road, using a combination of rock, vegetation, erosion control mats and other natural stabilization methods. Stormwater improvements would be incorporated into the project design as well.

The town would receive up $717,375 in FEMA funds that would be distributed by the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. 

“Long Beach Road is a place that has historically flooded,” Nicole Garguilo, town spokeswoman said. 

Carol and Drew Wendelken live out on the Long Beach peninsula and own a restaurant in Wading River. Getting to and from work is sometimes problematic.

“We have lost our brakes driving through the flooding,” she said. “But we’ve learned how to deal with it.”

This past Saturday, she said, they had to wait for more than an hour for the tide to recede. But they are used to timing it.

“It’s always a case of high tide, a full moon and a storm system,” Wendelken said. “Those three ingredients create the flooding. The winds, too, impact it. There are times when you cannot get out at all.”

Town officials say higher sea levels and worsening weather over the years have shown the need for such a project as constant flooding could strand residents and vehicles who are on the peninsula.   

Since 1900, New York has experienced at least a foot of sea level rise, mostly due to expansion of warming ocean water, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC projects sea levels will rise an additional 2 to 10 inches in the 2020s.

The Long Beach Road accesses the Long Beach Town Park, the Smithtown Bay Yacht Club and Otto Schubert Beach. The peninsula is also home to scores of residential properties that have been adversely impacted by the flooding.  

In September, the Suffolk County Legislature approved a measure requiring the county’s Department of Public Works to take rises in sea level into consideration when planning major roadwork in an effort to curb flooding and potential future damage.

FEMA does not establish completion frames for its subgrants, but the performance period ends on Nov. 14, 2020. 

Photo from Carol Wendelken

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For several years, Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) has been working with SMM Advertising in Smithtown to conduct a winter coat drive to benefit the residents of Suffolk County who are in need of warm winter clothing. They are collecting gently used or new coats, jackets, hats, gloves, mittens, scarves and new socks for infants, children, teens and adult men and women.

“As people prepare for the winter and clean out their closets or plan to give a new coat as a gift, it is important for all of us to help our fellow neighbors who need warm coats by contributing to this worthwhile drive,” said Trotta.

Donations of coats and other outerwear may be dropped off at Trotta’s district office, located at 59 Landing Ave., Suite 1, in Smithtown, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The coat drive ends Jan. 6. 

For directions, questions or if you know of an organization with an urgent need, please call Trotta’s office at 631-854-3900.

Peter Scully, Suffolk County deputy county executive and water czar, responds to questions from  TBR News Media’s editorial staff:

1. You’ve been called Suffolk County’s water czar. Why does Suffolk County need a water czar?

The need for the county to have a high-level point person to advance the water quality agenda of County Executive Steve Bellone [D] is a result of two factors: The high priority that the county executive has placed on water quality issues, and the tremendous progress his administration has made over the past seven years in building a solid foundation to reverse decades of nitrogen pollution that has resulted primarily from the lack of sewers in Suffolk County and reliance on cesspools and septic systems that discharge untreated wastewater into the environment. The county executive succeeded in landing $390 million in post-Hurricane Sandy resiliency funding to eliminate 5,000 cesspools along river corridors on the South Shore by connecting parcels to sewers, and the county’s success in creating a grant program to make it affordable for homeowners to replace cesspools and septic systems with new nitrogen-reducing septic systems in areas where sewers are not a cost-effective solution, prompted the state to award Suffolk County $10 million to expand the county’s own Septic Improvement Program. These are the largest investments in water quality Suffolk has seen in 50 years, and the county executive saw the need to appoint a high-level quarterback to oversee the implementation of these programs.

 

2. Which groundwater contaminants are the highest priorities for Suffolk County? 

In 2014, the county executive declared nitrogen to be water quality public enemy No. 1. The nitrogen in groundwater is ultimately discharged into our bays, and about 70 percent of this nitrogen comes from on-site wastewater disposal (septic) systems. Excess nutrients have created crisis conditions, causing harmful algal blooms, contributing to fish kills and depleting dissolved oxygen necessary for health aquatic life. They have also made it impossible to restore our once nationally significant hard clam and bay scallop fisheries, have devastated submerged aquatic vegetation and weakened coastal resiliency through reduction of wetlands. Nitrogen also adversely impacts quality of drinking water, especially in areas with private wells, although public water supply wells consistently meet drinking water standards for nitrogen.

Other major contaminants of concern include volatile organic compounds, known as VOCs. For example, there is perchloroethlyene, historically from dry cleaners; and petroleum constituents — most recently MTBE, a gasoline additive — from fuel storage and transfer facilities.

Then there are pesticides. Active ingredients such as chlordane, aldicarb and dacthal have been banned, but some legacy contamination concerns exist, especially for private wells. Some currently registered pesticides are appearing in water supplies at low levels, including simazine/atrazine, imidacloprid and metalaxyl.

Emerging contaminants include PFAS, historically used in firefighting foams, water repellents, nonstick cookware; and 1,4-dioxane, an industrial solvent stabilizer also present at low levels in some consumer products. 

 

3. Are the chemicals coming from residential or industrial sites?

Contamination can emanate from a variety of sites, including commercial, industrial and residential properties. Many of the best-known cleanup sites are dealing with legacy impacts from past industrial activity. Examples include Grumman in Bethpage, Lawrence Aviation in Port Jefferson Station, Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton and the Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant in Calverton. There have been hundreds of Superfund sites on Long Island. Fortunately, most are legacy sites and new Superfund sites are relatively rare.

More recently, the use of firefighting foam has resulted in Superfund designations at the Suffolk County Firematics site in Yaphank, Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton, and East Hampton Airport. The foam was used properly at the time of discharge, but it was not known that PFAS would leach and contaminate groundwater.

The county’s 2015 Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan found that some chemicals, such as VOCs, continue to increase in frequency of detection and concentration. While some of this is attributable to legacy industrial plumes, experts believe that residential and small commercial sites are partially responsible for contamination. This is partly because any substances that are dumped into a toilet or drain will reach the environment, and because solvents move readily through our sandy aquifer. Septic waste is, of course a major of contamination. Residential properties can be also responsible for other pollution, such as nitrogen from fertilizers and pesticides.

4. Which industries currently generate the most groundwater pollution in Suffolk County? 

The county’s Department of Health Services Division of Environmental Quality staff advise that, historically, the major contributors to groundwater pollution in the county were dry cleaners, and fuel storage and transfer facilities. However, current dry cleaning practices have minimized any possible groundwater discharges, and modern fuel facilities are engineered to more stringent code requirements that have substantially eliminated catastrophic releases. Low-level discharges are still a concern, and are the subject of the county’s VOC action plan to increase inspections and optimize regulatory compliance.

There are thousands of commercial and industrial facilities, most of which have the potential to pollute — for example, with solvent cleaners. Best management practices and industrial compliance inspections are key to minimizing and eliminating further contamination.

 

5. The word “ban” is often a dirty word in politics, but do you see benefits to banning certain products, and/or practices, for the sake of protecting the county’s drinking water supply? (The bans on DDT, lead in gasoline and HFCS, for example, were very effective at addressing environmental and human health concerns.) 

Policymakers have not hesitated to ban the use of certain substances — DDT, lead in gasoline, chlordane, MTBE — in the face of evidence that the risks associated with the continued introduction of a chemical into the environment outweigh the benefits from a public health or environmental standpoint. Based on health concerns, I expect that there will be active discussion in the years ahead about the merits of restricting the use of products that introduce emerging contaminants like 1,4-dioxane and PFCs into the environment.

 

6. If people had more heightened awareness, could we slow or even eliminate specific contaminants? As consumers, can people do more to protect groundwater? 

There is no question that heightened awareness about ways in which everyday human activities impact the environment leads people to change their behaviors in ways that can reduce the release of contaminants into the environment. A good example is the county’s Septic Improvement Program, which provides grants and low interest loans for homeowners who choose to voluntarily replace their cesspools or septic systems with new nitrogen-reducing technology. More than 1,000 homeowners have applied for grants under the program, which set a record in October with more 100 applications received.

If a home is not connected to sewers, a homeowner can replace their cesspool or septic system with an innovative/alternative on-site wastewater treatment system. Suffolk County, New York State and several East End towns are offering grants which can make it possible for homeowners to make this positive change with no significant out-of-pocket expense. Consumers can choose to not flush bleaches or toxic/hazardous materials down the drain or into their toilets. Consumers can also take care to deliver any potentially toxic or hazardous household chemicals to approved Stop Throwing Out Pollutants program sites. Homeowners can choose not to use fertilizers or pesticides, or to opt for an organic, slow-release fertilizer at lowest label setting rates.

 

7. Can you offer examples of products to avoid or practices to adopt that would better protect the drinking water supply? 

Consumers can choose to not flush bleaches or household hazardous materials down the drain or into their toilets. Consumers can also take care to deliver any potentially toxic or hazardous household chemicals to approved STOP program sites. Homeowners can choose not to use fertilizers or pesticides, or to opt for an organic, slow release fertilizer at lowest label setting rates.

 

8. Aside from banning products or chemicals, and raising awareness, how do you address the issue?

Promoting the use of less impactful alternatives to products which have been shown to have a significant and/or unanticipated impact on public health or the environment, on a voluntary basis, is a less contentious approach than banning a substance or placing restrictions on its use through a legislative or rulemaking process. Such an approach should only be taken with the understanding that its success, value and significance will depend in large part on public awareness and education.

 

9. What about product labeling, similar to the U.S. Office of the Surgeon General warnings about cigarettes, or carcinogens in California, etc.? Can the county require products sold to include a groundwater contamination warning?

The question of whether the county Legislature has authority to implement labeling requirements could be better addressed by an attorney.

 

10. People, including some elected officials and people running for public office, sometimes say that sewage treatment plants remove all contaminants from wastewater. Can you set the record straight? What chemicals, including radioactive chemicals, are and are not removed from wastewater via sewage treatment?

Tertiary wastewater treatment plants are designed primarily to remove nitrogen, in addition to biodegradable organic matter. However, wastewater treatment is also effective at removing many volatile organic compounds. Some substances, such as 1,4-dioxane, are resistant to treatment and require advanced processes for removal. Evidence shows that the use of horizontal leaching structures instead of conventional drainage rings may facilitate removal of many pharmaceuticals and personal care products, known as PPCPs. Advanced treatment technologies, such as membrane bioreactors, are also being tested for efficacy of removal of PPCPs.

Staff advise that the mere presence of chemicals in wastewater in trace amounts does not necessarily indicate the existence of a public health risk. All wastewater treatment must treat chemicals to stringent federal and state standards. In some cases, such as for emerging contaminants, specific standards do not exist. In those cases, the unspecified organic contaminant requirement of 50 parts per billion is commonly applied.

 

11. Can you provide an example of a place where residential and industrial groundwater contamination concerns were reversed or adequately addressed?

There are numerous examples, mostly under the jurisdiction of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, in which groundwater concerns have been addressed through treatment to remove contaminants. Because health and safety are always the most important issues, the first priority is typically to make sure that people who live near an impacted site have a safe supply of drinking water. In areas served by public water suppliers — Suffolk County Water Authority or a local water district — this is not usually an issue, since public water suppliers are highly regulated and are required to test water supply wells regularly. In areas where people are not connected to a public water system, and rely instead on private wells, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services will work with the water supplier to identify properties that are not connected to a public water system and then contact homeowners to urge them to have their water tested at no charge to make sure that it is safe for consumption. 

Over the past several years, Suffolk County, New York State and the Suffolk County Water Authority have worked together to connect hundreds of homes that had relied on private wells to the public water system, to make sure people have access to safe drinking water.

 

12. Are you hopeful about addressing the issues? 

I am hopeful and optimistic about the success of efforts to reverse the ongoing degradation of water quality that has resulted from reliance on cesspools and septic systems. For the first time in Long Island’s history, environmentalists, business leaders, scientists, organized labor and the building trades all agree that the long-term threat that has resulted from the lack of sewers to both the environment and economy is so great that a long-term plan to address the need for active wastewater treatment is not an option, but a necessity. Experience shows that public awareness can be a significant factor in driving public policy.

The St. James Historic Fire House on Route 25A. Photo from Ryan Davis.
The St. James Fire House on Jefferson Ave. Photo by Ryan Davis

Over the last few years, controversy erupted in the St. James Fire District when the board of commissioners floated a $12.5 million plan to build a new firehouse at the Jefferson Avenue substation site and potentially sell the historic St. James firehouse on Route 25A, which was built in the 1920s. The community at large ultimately rejected both ideas, but the issue has led to change.

Thomas Donohue and Joseph Kuethen were both elected commissioners, running largely on the bond issue controversy, and this year Kit Gabrielsen is challenging existing fire district leadership for the single open seat on the all-volunteer St. James board of commissioners. Both Donohue and Kuethen support Gabrielsen, mainly because of his public support for maintaining operations at the Route 25A fire house, according to Donohue.

“I’m in favor of low taxes, better service and two firehouses,” Gabrielsen said in a telephone interview. “I’m not happy with the fact that rolls are down that there’s lawsuits and other allegations.”

Kit Gabrielsen

A Suffolk County police officer for 33 years, Gabrielsen said he wants to keep the historic firehouse as a firehouse, so there are emergency services in that part of town. A lifetime resident of St. James, he said that current management raised taxes 19 percent.  He said that the fire district needs to keep below the 2 percent tax cap.

“We’re spending money on these lawsuits,” Gabrielsen said. 

Complaints, Gabrielsen said, can be fixed though management. Chiefs and commissioners, he said, are in charge of these things. 

According to a case reviewed online, volunteer firefighter John Tyson filed a suit Dec. 5, 2018, against the department, its chiefs and commissioners, alleging retaliation after publicly opposing a bond, which the chiefs and commissioners supported. It also alleged retaliation against publicly opposing the closure and sale of the historic firehouse and expressing views contrary to the majority of the governing body. 

Gabrielsen has been active in the St. James fire district for 40 years.

Ryan Davis currently serves as fire chief, the department’s highest ranking position. Davis also said he believes that the district needs to recruit more volunteers. He added that fire department membership is down from 125 people to 100. He wants to create a citizens advisory board comprised of elected officials and community members so the district has more local involvement. 

He’s running for the commissioner position to oversee taxes and allocate funding. 

Ryan Davis

“I want to balance the budget,” Davis said in a Nov. 19 interview. 

Davis said he was in favor of the bond issue for a new Jefferson fire station. Ninety percent of the district’s operations are currently based at the Jefferson Avenue station, he added. But Davis said he wants the public to know that he also supports keeping the historic St. James firehouse. The building’s interior, he said, needs work, but he believes the exterior should stay the same.  

Davis has worked as a FDNY fireman at Engine 88 in the Bronx for the last 13 years. He’s been active in the St. James fire district for 20 years.

Incumbent William Kearney is also running for reelection, handing in his petition midday on Nov. 20 to beat the 5 p.m. deadline.  

Kearney was elected to a four-year term in 2015.

“After 48 years as a resident of St. James and 39 years as a member of the St. James Fire Department, it is with a continued sense of pride in our community that I am asking for your support and your vote in the upcoming election for Fire Commissioner,” Kearney states. “As current chairman of the board of fire commissioners and having served as the fire department treasurer for 14 years, I have an in-depth knowledge of financial controls and fiscal management.”

William Kearney

Kearney also said that he will use his public service experience as well as his extensive project management background to represent the fiscal and operational concerns of for fire services in the St. James community.  A Navy veteran, his background also includes serving the American Legion Post 1152, the St. James Methodist Church and for 19 years has been the chaplain for the department.

Residents can vote Tuesday, Dec. 10, between 3 and 9 p.m. at St. James fire station at 221 Jefferson Ave. in St. James and at Fairfield Condo, 1 Fairfield Drive in St. James.

 

 

The Smithtown Fire Department was dispatched at 5:36 p.m. Nov. 12 for a reported car crashing into a building with one person trapped at the CVS at 111 Terry Road just north of Route 347.

3rd Assistant Chief Dongvort, and the EMS Fire Responder were first on scene and found a single vehicle had crashed through the south side wall and was fully inside of the CVS pharmacy. The driver was treated for minor injuries and was transported to Stony Brook Hospital by Smithtown Fire Dept. Ambulance.

Members secured any hazards and the Town Building Department and Fire Marshal were requested to the scene to determine the structural stability of the building. Engines 1, 5 and Rescue 9 operated on scene along with Utility 4-2-19. Chief of Department Kevin Fitzpatrick declared the scene under control at around 6 p.m. and all units returned to service by 6:30 p.m.

Steve Bellone discusses ideas about promoting the arts in St. James with Natalie Weinstein from the civic group Celebrate St. James during a recent visit to the Calderone Theater. Photo by David Luces

State and local officials gathered at the St. James General Store to commemorate the recent completion of the new pedestrian crossing that connects the store to Deepwells Farm and its parking. The project also included drainage and infrastructure repairs near the building as part of phase one of the Downtown Revitalization Project. 

The arts, experts state, is a sure-fire way to revitalize a community. Photo by David Luces

Smithtown Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) noted that the repairs were completed just in time as the community nears peak holiday season, when residents frequent the Suffolk County-owned and operated shop. 

“As you know this is the oldest general store in operation in the United States,” he said at a press conference. “Not only does this [repaved road] make for safe crossing on Moriches Road, but the beautification allows for more people to stop and encourages people to shop locally.”

Douglas Dahlgard, Head of the Harbor mayor, said the general store is a destination in the community. 

“This is a destination, it has been one since 1857,” he said. “History is very important in this community, tourists have come from as far as South Africa [to visit the store]. [The store] reminds me of my roots.”

Wehrheim expects the rest of phase one initiative, which includes renovating sidewalks, crosswalks and concrete gutters spanning from Patrick’s Way to Jericho Turnpike, will be completed in the next two weeks.

Phase two of the revitalization plan is expected to be completed by the end of winter.  It includes adding a sewer line and pump station along the main stretch of Lake Avenue, new off-street municipal parking and major pedestrian safety and traffic calming measures. 

After the press conference, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) joined town officials in a Lake Avenue walking tour and visited the Calderone Theater, which will soon open as a cultural arts center in the future.     

Wehrheim said they have looked at a number of parcels that are primed for economic development. Ideas include purchasing the vacant Irish Viking Bar to create a pavilion for live entertainment in the center of town and additional parking.