Town of Smithtown

Visitor’s entrance to the Town of Smithtown Animal Shelter and Adoption Center. Photo from Town of Smithtown

Every dog has its day, and Town of Smithtown could be handing a juicy opportunity to any private organization looking to run its animal shelter.

Town officials are looking to potentially turn partial control of the Town of Smithtown Animal Shelter and Adoption Center over to a private company. One caveat, though, is board members warn they will only go through with the plan if it doesn’t cost more than the town already spends.

“In my opinion, if this were to go through, the organization would have to be animal experts or organizations that are expert in the care of animals,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “And it has to be financially feasible. If the RFP comes back and it would be in excess of what we pay now we wouldn’t support it.”

The town board voted 4-1 July 17 to put out a request for proposal for any private organization that is interested in assuming day-to-day operations of the shelter. 

“We’ve been discussing this for more than 18 months as a board,” Wehrheim said. “Prior to choosing the director, if that happens and we keep it, the board has had conversations for professional animal
organizations who would agree to come in and operate the animal shelter in a public-private partnership. This is strictly exploratory.”

The supervisor said that some groups have already shown interest. Under the proposed plan, current animal control officers employed by the town would remain in place. The town would continue to assume the maintenance of the property and building, as well as handling any animal control or capture programs. The incoming private organization would handle the day-to-day operations, including feeding, cleaning and fostering the cats and dogs. 

The shelter has not had a director since Sue Hansen was suspended by the town from the position in February 2017 after allegations surfaced of incompetence and mismanagement. Hansen has a pending lawsuit against the town for being arrested on allegations of criminal trespassing on the town property after her suspension. She had taken over the reins from George Beatty, who resigned in 2015, after a
scandal surfaced with claims of animal neglect and abuse. 

Supervision of the shelter has since fallen to the town’s Department of Public Safety headed by Director John Valentine. Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo (R) said those public safety officers in the shelter would move back to the department office should this plan go into effect.

Wehrheim said they were looking for nonprofits already involved in animal care, but he did not rule out any for-profit organizations coming in.

Inzerillo, the liaison to the shelter, voted against the RFP, though she said she didn’t necessarily disagree with the concept. Instead, the councilwoman said she wished the town would have waited until after they finished upgrades to the shelter such as the construction of the new independent Trap, Neuter and Release building.

Smithtown has attained a $168,000 grant to build a new TNR building on the existing property. The town will pull matching funds equal to 25 percent of the grant, or approximately $56,250, from the town’s capital budget to complete the project, and it expects to begin building in early 2019. 

“I would have preferred to have some more time to make an informed decision … or to potentially discuss the idea with experts first or in a work session with the board,” Inzerillo said. “I have the utmost faith in my fellow board members that they would not commit to anything concrete that would put these projects in jeopardy.”

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County police arrested three people yesterday for allegedly selling e-liquid nicotine to minors at businesses located in the Town of Smithtown.

In response to community complaints, 4th Precinct Crime Section officers conducted an investigation into the sale of e-liquid nicotine to minors at 12 businesses June 27.

The following persons at local businesses allegedly did not comply with the law:

  • Ahmed Chattha, 45, of Smithtown, employed at 50% Off Cards at 975 West Jericho Turnpike in Commack was arrested and charged with second-degree unlawfully dealing with a child.
  • Malik McFadden, 27, of Middle Island, employed at Long Island Artisan Wine and Spirits at 1171 Jericho Turnpike in Commack was arrested and charged with first-degree unlawfully dealing with a child.
  • Steven Bannon, 62, employed at Grape Culture Wines and Liquors at 248 Lake Ave. in St. James was arrested and charged with first-degree unlawfully dealing with a child.

The following businesses complied, and refused the sale of e-liquid nicotine to minors:

  • Cards Gifts & Lotto at 22 Motor Parkway in Commack
  • Vanderbilt Fine Wines & Spirits at 42 Motor Parkway in Commack
  • Long Island Cork & Bottle at 213 Commack Road in Commack
  • Card Smart at 18 Veterans Memorial Highway in Commack
  • Commack Beverages at 2055 Jericho Turnpike in Commack
  • Wine & Liquor at 214 Jericho Turnpike in Commack
  • Northgate Cards at 1139 Jericho Turnpike in Commack
  • Food Beer & Smoke Shop at 863 West Jericho Turnpike in Smithtown
  • Shell Gas at 1331 Motor Parkway in Hauppauge

The three people arrested were issued field appearance tickets and are scheduled to be arraigned at 1st District Court in Central Islip on a later date.

Smithtown Animal Shelter. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

By Kyle Barr

Town of Smithtown officials and animal advocates are purring over a new addition to the town animal shelter that will help mitigate the local feral cat issue.

The Town of  Smithtown Animal Shelter has received a New York State grant that it plans to use to build a new trap, neuter and release building on Middle Country Road. The TNR building will be separate from the main shelter in an effort to keep feral cats, also known as community cats, which may have fleas or spread infection or disease to the other animals, privately sequestered.

“The isolation is important because some of these cats are going to be sick, they’re going to have fleas — this actually separates these [community cats] from our current cats in the building that are up for adoption,” said Denise Vival, a town animal control officer.

This grant will help us to keep our adoptable pets healthy while humanely and effectively controlling the free-roaming cat population through our spay, neuter and release program.”

— Lisa Inzerillo

Town officials voted to accept the $168,750 grant at their June 12 board meeting. The town will pull matching funds equal to 25 percent of the grant, or approximately $56,250, from the town’s capital budget to complete the project.

Town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said the town is already soliciting contractor bids for the design and construction of the TNR building. The state grant funds will become available in early 2019 and the town hopes to begin construction immediately, according to Garguilo.

“This grant will help us to keep our adoptable pets healthy while humanely and effectively controlling the free-roaming cat population through our spay, neuter and release program,” Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo (R) said.

The nonprofit American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ website advises shelters to have a TNR program to deal with feral cats, or cats that have adapted to living in small communities in the wild rather than indoors. A TNR program helps stabilize cat populations as well as prevent the spread of disease, according to the ASPCA’s website.

Vival estimates the Town of Smithtown has approximately 30 to 40 different colonies of community cats, each of which contains anywhere from 10 to 30 cats of different breeds. Without programs such as TNR, cat populations can quickly get out of control.

“We have around 80 cats in foster [care] right now, and if you release them on the street and you don’t spay and neuter them, 80 turns into a ridiculous amount,” said Kathy Giglio, a kennel attendant at the shelter.

These grants were awarded to shelters specifically that have made strides to improve the treatment, training and medical care of all our animal guests.”

— John Valentine

Vival said the town’s current TNR program, which operates behind a closed door in the back of the shelter, has six cages that each house two to three cats at a time. The shelter has a waiting list of two to three weeks before they will be able to trap and neuter different cat colonies across the town. The wait time is a problem because cats could become pregnant or give birth in that time, according to Vival. With the new building, the shelter would be able to quadruple the number of cats it can hold.

Animal rights advocate Diane Madden from the protest group Hope for Hempstead Shelter said the creation of a TNR building in the Smithtown sets up a service other government-run shelters lack.

“I wish that every town would put together a program such as this because that’s how overwhelming the amount of cats there are out there,“ Madden said. “TNR is the best, most humane way to deal with the community cat problem.”

The grant is part of a $5 million fund created by New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) that gave out awards to 14 animal shelters and humane societies across New York State. The grant is funded by the state’s 2018  budget.

“These grants were awarded to shelters specifically that have made strides to improve the treatment, training and medical care of all our animal guests,” Chief John Valentine, director of Smithtown’s public safety department said. “Building a TNR structure will give strays and rescued animals a state-of-the-art facility to comfortably isolate and medically assess them for adoption and spay/neuter release programs.”

The new building will be installed on the south side of the property, behind the main facility and east of the office trailer the shelter installed in 2017.

Callahans Beach in Fort Salonga. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

News of plans to construct a cell tower on a town-owned Fort Salonga beach is getting a warm reception from first responders and rescue workers.

Plans for a new cell tower at Callahans Beach has public safety officials across the Town of Smithtown excited that it may increase response times and stop misplaced emergency calls to Connecticut.

“Say you’re down at the bluff, sometimes your 911 call would go across the Sound to Connecticut because it’s the easiest and quickest line of sight,” Chief John Valentine, director of Smithtown’s public safety department said. “Most of the departments [in Connecticut] know to transfer them to 911 in Suffolk County, but those time frames, although only miniscule, are valuable time to any 911 emergency.”

This thing is imperative because it’s going to complete communications we need for our public safety issues, which includes everything — fire, ambulance, police…”
– Ed Wehrheim

The new cell tower is to be built in a corner of theupper parking area, adjacent to the campground portion of the beach property, according to Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R). Every cell tower erected in the township has the Town of Smithtown’s public safety network built into it, and this new cell tower will complete the triangulation created by existing towers at the Landing Country Club in Smithtown and the Smithtown Public Safety building on Maple Avenue. 

Valentine said that there are dead zones in terms of public safety communications in the Kings Park Fire Department area, in Nissequogue and the Village of the Head of the Harbor hamlets.

Wehrheim said that completing this cell tower will enable first responders at all levels to better react to emergencies.

“This thing is imperative because it’s going to complete communications we need for our public safety issues, which includes everything — fire, ambulance, police — all our public safety people will all be on that tower,” the supervisor said.

The Smithtown Town Board voted unanimously at its June 12 meeting to sign the lease agreement between the town and Propagation Solutions Inc., for Site Tech Wireless  LLC to install the approximately 150-foot cell tower. Valentine said the planning department still has to go through procedures before installation can begin.

The town’s public safety director said the effort to build a third cell tower has been in the works for the past four years, and has been held up in the process of getting approval from both town and state entities as it is being built on parkland.

If the chief gets on scene to say there’s an issue like a cardiac arrest, and he can’t reach the dispatcher to relay that information, it might be life threatening.”
– Peter Laura Sr.

“We’re anxious to get it done, Valentine said. “The Kings Park Fire Department and all our other users on our network are anxious to get it in place.”

Kings Park Fire Commissioner Peter Laura Sr. said that the area of Fort Salonga is notoriously bad for radio reception because of its hilly landscape.

“It’s of great importance to us, we need to be able to talk,” Laura said. “If the chief gets on scene to say there’s an issue like a cardiac arrest, and he can’t reach the dispatcher to relay that information, it might be life threatening. This tower would hopefully solve the radio communication problem.”

Valentine said that he has not heard any concerns or complaints regarding the installation of a new cell phone tower. 

“We have been met with nothing but encouragement to get this done from both public safety interests and residents,” he said.

Pete Hans, the principle planner for the Town of Smithtown, said that the planning department must still complete a local waterfront revitalization program review, which if everything goes according to plan will be presented at the July 17 town board meeting. In the best case scenario the cell tower should be presented for approval to the board by September.

From left, Anna Mcauley and Smithtown Councilwoman Lynne Nowick unveil the sign renaming Landing Avenue Park June 12. Photo by Kyle Barr

A Smithtown park now bears the name of Peter Nowick Sr., a man who current town board members say paved the way for what the Town of Smithtown is today.

He was one of the town’s founding =fathers … he served for near[ly] 20 years,” Smithtown Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) said. The councilwoman is related to the late Nowick Sr. through his son.

“He really shaped the town into the close-knit community it is today,” she said.

On May 8, the town board unanimously voted to rename Landing Avenue Park, and June 12 Nowick Sr.’s family members and friends along with local officials came together to celebrate Nowick Sr. and express how deeply he affected the makeup and ideology of the town.

Smithtown Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) looks at her late father-in-law’s World War II pilot’s cap. Photo by Kyle Barr

“I remember my early days here,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “Peter Nowick Sr. was one of the founding members of the town.”

Peter Nowick Sr. and his family moved to Smithtown in the 1930s. As a young man, he worked as a farmer on his father’s potato farm in Kings Park. Five days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps where he obtained the rank of major. He flew 35 combat missions in the Pacific theater during the war, including one where he was awarded a citation for leading his squadron on the deepest penetration into enemy territory by a fighter aircraft on a mission over Southeast Asia. Nowick was a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, five Air Medals and the Asiatic-Pacific Ribbon with two battle stars.

When he returned to Smithtown, Nowick was elected justice of the peace and later to the town board where he served for 20 years as chair on the town Planning, Engineering and Traffic Safety Committees. Nowick Sr. lived on Landing Avenue until he passed away in 2002 at the age of 84.

His niece Anna Mcauley remembers her uncle as a family man and a considerate public servant, who made himself available all hours of the day to help local residents.

An upclose look at Peter Nowick Sr’s WWII pilot cap. Photo by Kyle Barr

“The name Nowick still has a zing in Kings Park from all the people who remember him and what he did for the town,” Mcauley said.

Councilwoman Nowick remembered her father-in-law as stingy, yet extremely gracious person.

“Peter Nowick Sr. never had change [for] a hundred dollar bill,” she said. “If he sent you off for lunch as a secretary, you never got your money back because he said he only had a hundred dollar bill. But if you needed help — if your house was going into foreclosure, anything — he’d come up with whatever you needed to help.

Many years ago, Nowick Sr.’s friend, Robert Baffa, was visiting when he found the councilman’s old leather pilot’s hat. He jokingly put it on, remarking on how a simple hat was supposed to keep a pilot warm. Nowick Sr. asked Baffa if he wanted to keep it, and he still has it to this day.

“I think Peter would have really loved [the park’s renaming],” Baffa said. “I think he would have got a big kick out of it, seeing his name there like that.”

A rendering of the proposed outline of the Kings Park sewer lines. Photo from Smithtown Planning Department

Town of Smithtown officials are counting the days to June 20 to see if state officials will take the necessary steps to help Kings Park sewers become a concrete reality.

Smithtown town board held a special session June 1 to approve an amended home rule bill requesting permission to alienate, or use, 11,000 square feet of parkland to construct a pump station necessary to move forward with sewering the Kings Park business district. The paperwork was overnighted to Albany, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said, in hopes the legislation will pass before the state legislative session ends June 20.

“They are only in session for a few more weeks, if we miss the end of their legislative session it would put that whole project off for at least a year,” Wehrheim said.

“[I]f we miss the end of their legislative session it would put that whole project off for at least a year.”
– Ed Wehrheim

Smithtown and Suffolk County require approval from the state to turn parkland located on the property of Smithtown’s Department of Parks building, located at 110 E. Main St. in Kings Park, into a sewage pump station. While the state Senate previously granted its permission, the state Assembly took issue with the town’s request.

“The Assembly takes the alienation of parkland very seriously, there must be an equal or greater amount of land that is sterilized,” Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said. “There is never a net loss of parkland.”

The Assembly has requested three changes in order for the process to move forward, according to Wehrheim. The first requirement was to permanently preserve an additional 7,000 square feet of open space in exchange for constructing the pump station and to provide an aerial overview of the property to see the layout. Minor wording changes to the legislation were also requested.

“[The Assembly] wanted some additional data to make sure everything passes muster,” Fitzpatrick said.

The Suffolk County Legislature must take up the same amended home rule bill, pass it and send it back to the state legislature for approval as well, according to the assemblyman, for the project to move forward.

Wehrheim said he will be watching and waiting to make sure the alienation bill passes, while the project has funding from the state. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has earmarked $20 million for sewering of the Kings Park business district in the 2018 state budget, but it is not in the town’s hands yet.

“We haven’t been notified by anyone or assured that the money will stay there until we are ready to do the project,” the supervisor said. “We are methodically pursuing it.”

The governor has made a commitment to Smithtown and Kings Park. I think we will continue to keep it.”
– Michael Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick said home rule requests, such as Smithtown’s to use parkland for the public purpose of creating a pump station to install sewer lines, are usually handled at the very end of a legislative session.

“I have every confidence on the Assembly side that we will get this done,” Fitzpatrick said. “The governor has made a commitment to Smithtown and Kings Park. I think we will continue to keep it.”

The amended bill must also be reapproved by the state Senate, which passed the prior version in May, but has been deadlocked in recent days.

“Once the home rule messages are adopted and filed by the town and county, the Senate has every intention of passing the bill again,” said the office of state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) in a statement.

The supervisor said the final draft of the Kings Park market analysis study to revitalize the area — in which sewers are noted to play a critical role — is expected to be finished shortly and presented to the public. The study, which cost $200,000 and was paid for by county taxpayers, could become outdated, according to Wehrheim, if the project gets delayed because the state approval isn’t granted this year.

“I understand the town supervisor is worried about getting this done,” Fitzpatrick said. “But it ain’t over till it’s over, and it ain’t over until June 20.”

File photo

By Sara-Megan Walsh 

A Smithtown contractor has pled guilty to scamming Hurricane Sandy victims out of more than $100,000, according to the Nassau County district attorney’s office.

Lee Moser, 49, pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny, a class D felony, and first-degree scheme to defraud, a class E felony, June 1 in Nassau County Supreme Court before Justice Robert Bogle.

“Superstorm Sandy savaged our communities, and contractors who defraud those who suffered from the storm’s wrath are especially despicable,” District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a press statement. “This unscrupulous defendant took his victims’ money to help them rebuild, regaled them with excuses for delay and never performed the work.”

Lee Moser. Photo from Nassau County district attorney’s office

From April 2015 to August 2016, Moser signed contracts with five Nassau County homeowners to perform work on their homes that have been severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy, according to Singas. In most of these cases, the defendants wrote Moser a down payment check for the work, using funds from New York Rising, made payable to his business Capstone Remodeling.

New York Rising is the state-run program that assists homeowners impacted by natural disasters. The homeowners had applied for and received money from New York Rising to rehabilitate their homes after they were damaged by the Oct. 29, 2012, storm.

Instead of performing the contracted work, Moser repeatedly provided excuses as to why his business had not started, such as he was in the hospital or caring for his sick mother, according to prosecutors. In total, Singas said he is suspected of stealing $113,485 from Nassau homeowners. Moser allegedly spent these funds on gasoline, dining at restaurants, telephone services and other expenditures to continue running his construction business that were unrelated to the homeowners’ contracts, according to the district attorney’s office.

The Nassau County Office of Consumer Affairs received five complaints from victims of Capstone Remodeling between June 2016 and April 2017, which were forwarded to the district attorney’s office. An investigation immediately commenced.

To date, the district attorney said that Moser is currently an unlicensed contractor and has not attempted to repay any of the homeowners.

Moser is due back in court July 12, where he is expected to be sentenced to 45 days in jail and five years of probation, if he pays $50,000 in restitution to New York Rising and pays the remaining amount while on probation. If he does not pay restitution, he would be sentenced to one year in jail, according to the district attorney’s office.

Smithtown supervisor promises to reach out to county to see if traffic signal can be installed

A look inside Dejana Truck & Utility Equipment's facility in Kings Park. Photo from Facebook

Fort Salonga and Kings Park residents are calling on Town of Smithtown officials for a second time to take steps to address the issue of commercial vehicles cutting through their neighborhood streets.

Several Kings Park residents attended the May 24 Smithtown town board meeting to ask for elected officials help in addressing an increasing number of Dejana Truck & Utility Equipment company trucks driving through their local residential streets, particularly Orchard Drive. Kings Park and Fort Salonga residents have been pushing for the issue to be addressed since February.

“The community is extremely upset,” said Karen Wellus, of Fort Salonga. “Dejana is pretty much running wild and doing whatever they want with very little input from the community and those of us who are affected.”

“Dejana is pretty much running wild and doing whatever they want with very little input from the community and those of us who are affected.” 

– Karen Wellus

Dejana currently has an application pending with the town to construct a second building next to its current existing facility, at 490 Pulaski Road in Kings Park, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. While the building is under construction, the company has been entering and exiting the site using an entrance on Pulaski Road, which is a county-owned road.

“Dejana Trucking has still not acknowledged the traffic and safety concerns of Fort Salonga residents that we brought to their attention in a petition February 2018,” Orchard Drive resident Kathleen Montemurro said, reading from a letter sent out to the community. “To summarize, Suffolk County mandates that all trucks exiting the new Dejana facility must exit eastbound on Pulaski Road. The most expedient route is to turn around and head westbound through Orchard Drive.”

Melissa Langino, an Orchard Drive resident, said as a mother of four children under age 10 that she is highly concerned about increased truck traffic and possibly larger vehicles coming down her residential block, rather than sticking to larger roadways.

“I think they have a legitimate argument, that if you send traffic out right-turn only they will, but through the residential areas instead of driving all the way north to Main Street in Kings Park to head west,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said.

The supervisor said he has instructed members of the town’s Department of Public Safety to evaluate traffic on Orchard Drive while he reaches out to Suffolk County to discuss the issue.

“We are currently exploring traffic flow options for the property,” read a statement from the town.

We are currently exploring traffic flow options for the property.”

– Town of Smithtown

Wehrheim said he has also reached out to Dejana’s attorney Vincent Trimarco to see if the company would be willing to have a traffic signal installed at their property’s entrance on Pulaski Road to allow trucks to safely exit heading westbound. The trucking company would be responsible for paying for the signal’s installation, according to the supervisor.

Trimarco could not be reached for comment by press time, but Smithtown town officials said they’ve been informed that, “his client is willing to work with the community.

The town was also in court against Dejana May 29 for violating the zoning code by allegedly storing commercial vehicles outdoors. Wehrheim said the trucking company purchased a new piece of property, graded it and is allegedly storing trucks there.

“We’ll clean that issue up in court and hopefully have some answers from the county on whether they will make an application to put a traffic signal in,” Wehrheim said.

St. James artist Arline Goldstein stands with a piece of her work in Studio 455. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

Among the empty storefronts, cracked sidewalk and blighted buildings along Lake Avenue, local artist and longtime St. James resident Arline Goldstein drives down the road and pictures something better, something that will draw crowds and make the area vibrant with art and music.

“When I ride down Lake Avenue, I don’t see [the blight], I see boutiques and cafés and art galleries,” Goldstein said. “I use my imagination.”

In a new twist on St. James revitalization, local artists are putting forth the idea of creating an art district along Lake Avenue in an effort to make St. James a hot spot for art and culture. Goldstein presented the idea to Town of Smithtown officials at the May 8 board meeting.

“It’s in my heart for artists to show their work, and for others to see that work,” she said. “This project is the culmination of all my ideas about art.”

When I ride down Lake Avenue, I don’t see [the blight], I see boutiques and cafés and art galleries. I use my imagination.”
– Arline Goldstein

In April, Golsdstein and Eric Neitzel, the owner of DeBarbieri Associates Real Estate agency, went up and down Lake Avenue from Moriches Road to Woodlawn Avenue. Together, they counted nearly 20 empty storefronts along the approximately .8 mile stretch of road. Nietzel hopes the project could not only increase interest in the arts, but bring in restaurants, retail and other businesses.

“I think we could make a prosperous little downtown here in St. James,” Neitzel said.

The artists involved in the project believe this project could be a way to bring business back to downtown St. James.

“I think it is one thing that will help save this town,” photo artist Jack Ader said. “It has been proven all over the country that when places get together and create an art district, it revitalizes the town, it helps the local businesses.”

On June 12, Goldstein and some of her compatriots will meet with the town board and town planning department in a work group so she can fully explain what she has in mind. She said that if all goes well she hopes they could form a committee to truly start work on creating plans for the project. Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) has already shown support for the idea.

“In my opinion it’s a great idea for St. James, and I think it could really work well,” Wehrheim said. “Once it gets advertised, and people come and see it, word of mouth goes around and it really attracts people to it.”

Smithtown historian Bradley Harris said there are a number of historical underpinnings of art in St. James, including the St. James Calderone Theater off Lake Avenue that was built in 1929 and hosted many early vaudeville shows.

“There were a couple of individuals, artists and musicians who made a big impact in the area,” Harris said. “We’re still rediscovering that history in what was devoted to the arts in the past.”

“It has been proven all over the country that when places get together and create an art district, it revitalizes the town, it helps the local businesses.”
– Jack Ader

Even with the excitement she’s seen from the community and town board, Goldstein said she knows that creating an art district could take quite a long time. In March, the Village of Patchogue named Terry Street an art and culture district, but the revitalization of the area into the artistic hot spot it is today took many years. Not only that, but making Lake Avenue an art district would require not a small amount of legal commitment. It would mean a total rezoning of the area, and Goldstein predicted there would likely need to be incentives for businesses to open along the road and for landlords to upgrade buildings while not increasing rents.

Wehrheim said the St. James revitalization project, slated to begin this month, has been pushed back approximately a year to allow the installation of dry sewer mains at the same time. The revitalization plan calls for the renovations of Lake Avenue from Moriches Road to Woodlawn Avenue. This will include new sidewalks, planting of trees, installation of street lighting, curbs, concrete gutters and crosswalks, driveway aprons, asphalt, driveway aprons, benches and other decorative amenities.

Goldstein said she believed that if all goes according to plan and everything from the sewers to the new sidewalks are installed in time, then this project could really get underway.

Natalie Weinstein, the owner of Natalie Weinstein Design Associates and Studio 455 Art Gallery in St. James, said they are not going to wait for the sewers and revitalization to move forward. The artists are already looking to create events to promote art on Lake Avenue this summer, at the St. James gazebo.

“The art district will not be able to occur before we have the sewers hookup,” Weinstein said. “While we are waiting for that we are not sitting on our duffs. We’re doing exciting things to excite people and help spread the word.”

The Irish Viking Pub in St. James has stood vacant for nearly a decade. Photo by Kyle Barr

The doors have been closed and the windows shuttered on the Irish Viking pub on Lake Avenue in St. James for nearly a decade. Town of Smithtown officials are considering turning the eyesore into a parking lot.

Smithtown Town Board voted unanimously at its May 8 meeting to hire John S. Goess Realty Appraisal Inc. to
appraise the value of 369 Lake Ave. property to see the viability of turning it into a municipal parking lot.

“That building’s been vacant for years,” Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) said. “I have to be honest, even when the place was open the place was an eyesore. It’s really time for this thing to become something better.”

Smithtown spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said that if the property owners agree to sell at the appraised value the town will look to turn the site into a parking lot that would include a center pavilion that could be used by local chamber or civics groups for many different kinds of events.

Additional parking is a key part of the revitalization efforts and is one of the main issues our residents want addressed, along with speeding and safety.”

– Ed Wehrheim

“This will help generate tourism, revenue and aid in the goal to encourage residents to shop local,” Garguilo said in an email.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said that the town will wait for a return on the appraisal before moving forward with contacting the property owners. He also said the parking lot could become an aspect of the St. James revitalization project, which is set to begin work early next year after the town installs a sewer system along Lake Avenue.

“Additional parking is a key part of the revitalization efforts and is one of the main issues our residents want
addressed, along with speeding and safety,” Wehrheim said in a statement. “By providing both the parking space and a venue that can be used for small business, markets and showcasing the arts, we can be proactive in our efforts to ensure that Lake Avenue will be an epicenter for arts and entertainment, while maintaining its quaint, historic charm.”

Town Attorney Matthew Jakubowski said that he expects the appraisal to be completed in three to four weeks.

Nowick said the town hopes to get a grant from the county in order to build the parking lot, if the town wants to acquire the property.

There are two municipal parking lots in the area. One is down the road from the Irish Viking property used by the St. James Long Island Rail Road train station. There is a second municipal parking lot behind Spage’s Pharmacy, hiding behind the front facing businesses along Lake Avenue. Nowick said there is a definite need for more parking along that road.

I do like the idea of parking, and we want people to walk to places and it is in the center of town. We still want to have more businesses to come in.”

— Kerry Maher-Weisse

“Cars often line up on both sides of the road where two cars in opposite lanes cannot pass through after that,” Nowick said. “You really cannot go through, and if you have a truck trying to get through, because there are trucks that need to deliver to King Kullen, it’s nearly impossible.”

Kerry Maher-Weisse, the president of the Community Association of Greater St. James said that while she likes the idea of a municipal parking lot, she also believes that Lake Avenue needs more restaurants to make the area more attractive to both businesses and customers.

“Here we are having people who are very interested to open up business in town, and [the Irish Viking property] would be a great place for a burger joint in the middle of town,” Maher-Weisse said. “I do like the idea of parking, and we want people to walk to places and it is in the center of town. We still want to have more businesses to come in.”

The town is required to buy the property at the appraised value. If the property owners decide they don’t want to sell, Nowick said there is not much the town could do and the only way the town would apply for eminent domain is if the aging building is posing a danger to the community. It would then take several hearings involving the owner.

“He’s still paying his taxes and it’s his property,” she said.

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