Town of Smithtown

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim. Photo from Nicole Garguilo

Smithtown residents will have a voice at the table to represent them when planning the future growth and development of Long Island.

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) was one of two new appointments to the Long Island Regional Planning Council nominated by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). His appointment was unanimously approved by Suffolk County Legislature by a vote of 17-0 at its Sept. 5 meeting.

“I am extremely honored and humbled by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone for putting his faith in me,” Wehrheim said. “Together, we can unite all Long Island residents in a non-partisan effort to deliver a modern-day renaissance here in our beautiful home.

Together, we can unite all Long Island residents in a non-partisan effort to deliver a modern-day renaissance here in our beautiful home.” 

— Ed Wehrheim

The Long Island Regional Planning Council is an inter-municipal organization whose mission is representing the needs of all Long Islanders by building productive connections between communities, focusing on issues best handed on a broad geographic scale and fostering the development of regional comprehensive planning. Some of the issues it addresses include capital projects for economic growth, improving mass transit, affordable workforce housing and environmental protection during development, according to its website.

“Suffolk County is working towards a vision that keeps our region competitive and attracts the high-skill, high-knowledge workers we need to grow our economy,” Bellone said in a press statement.

Wehrheim said that he’s been able to foster a ‘perfect symbiotic relationship’ with Suffolk officials in working through capital infrastructural projects. He highlighted his recent work that has Kings Park, Smithtown and St. James sewer projects shovel ready, in addition to repaving the town’s municipal parking lots.

“We’ve worked hand in hand with county Executive Bellone who has been both a man of his word and a true champion in helping our hamlet’s plan for economy growth,” the supervisor said. “He has helped our community to understand the need for infrastructure and transportation improvements is the foundation for growth.”

Wehrheim along with Jeffrey Guillot, a partner at Huntington-based Millennial Strategies, LLC, will join the 10 existing members of the committee. Other elected officials involved in the Long Island Regional Planning Council include: Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen (D); Ralph Scordino, mayor of the Village of Babylon; Robert Kennedy, mayor of the Village of Freeport; and Barbara Donno, mayor of the Village of Plandome Manor.

The Smithtown supervisor said he anticipates working on upcoming capital projects including a $10 million state Downtown Revitalization Improvement grant awarded to Islip, further development of the Ronkonkoma Hub, and relocation of the Yaphank train station in Brookhaven to make space for a housing project.

“We all want the same thing, for our region to grow, to thrive all while preserving our suburban quality of life,” Wehrheim said.

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Kings Park Jewish Center. Photo by Kyle Barr

While the alienation bill required to move forward with Kings Park sewers is stuck in the state Legislature’s deadlock, Town of Smithtown officials are formulating a plan B.

Smithtown officials said they have been eyeing property behind the Kings Park Jewish Center, though planning director Pete Hans said it is just one option the town is considering.

“The town has said for years that they maybe should acquire it, even before the pump station, because they’re not using it,” Hans said. “The town has property on both sides, and our parks department could use a little more space.”

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that we will never see again, so the notion that an inability to have the state Assembly pass this bill and have the project move forward is concerning.”

— Peter Scully

The original plans call for 11,000 square feet in front of the town’s Department of Parks, Buildings and Grounds facility located at 110 E. Main St. in Kings Park for a sewer pump station. Since the area is zoned as parkland, the town requires approval for alienation from the state Legislature in order to build on that property. The bill was left on the floor when the Legislature dismissed for the summer, along with multiple other small local bills, without a vote.

Requests for comment from the Kings Park Jewish Center were not responded to by press time.

The Jewish Center site sits at a low elevation, similar to the parks department property, which is necessary for the wastewater to flow through. Though Hans said the town still has to contact the synagogue about the unused property, that piece of real estate is just one of several ideas the town is considering. The planning director said town officials are also looking at the water district property just northwest of the parks department building or state-owned land next to the U.S. Post Office also on East Main Street. Building on these properties also faces complications that would cost the town and county both time and money, according to Hans.

Suffolk County’s Deputy Executive Peter Scully (D), who is handling much of the county’s wastewater projects, said that while there should be no odor issues at the Jewish Center if the town does build a pump station there, the best site would still be at its originally planned location. Doing it any other way could result in both the town and county spending more money and time than needed, especially important as the Kings Park sewer project is largely funded by a $20 million state grant offered by New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in the 2018 budget.

“In this case, we wouldn’t need to issue any debt so the Kings Park business district and Kings Wood apartment complex would be connected at virtually no cost,” Scully said. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that we will never see again, so the notion that an inability to have the state Assembly pass this bill and have the project move forward is concerning.”

State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said that he remains optimistic the state Legislature will reconvene again this year. He said the most likely time frame would be after the Nov. 6 elections but before the Christmas season, leaving a very small window.

People in Kings Park and Smithtown have waited long enough for sewers and we’re trying to make this a reality in 2019.” 

— Nicole Garguilo

“I remain optimistic, we’ll see, but if not, then the goal is to pass it next year unless the town decides to look at a different piece of property,” Fitzpatrick said.

Scott Rief, the communications director for state Senate Republicans, said there has been no specific discussions at this time about the Legislature reconvening.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said he has asked county engineers to examine if the Jewish Center site is feasible, because if they delay building the pump station it could delay nearly all of the town’s other sewer projects.

“I hope we don’t have to go that way, because this other part is already designed,” Wehrheim said.

The town had planned to start construction of Kings Park sewers in early 2019. Nicole Garguilo, the town’s spokeswoman, said pushing back the alienation bill into 2019 could push all current sewer projects back a year.

“People in Kings Park and Smithtown have waited long enough for sewers and we’re trying to make this a reality in 2019,” Garguilo said.

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A Chicane, or S-shaped traffic calming measure, installed on Montclair Avenue in St. James. Photo by Kyle Barr

While new car owners in St. James are excitedly revving their engines, local residents are closing their windows and shaking their heads.

Several residents in the area of Montclair Avenue and Rutherford Street said they are tired of traffic by people test driving cars from the considerable number of dealerships on Middle Country Road. Some are asking Town of Smithtown officials to close off Montclair Avenue before the residential end of the road or create speed bumps on Rutherford Street.

he regular amount of traffic is just crazy for a residential section. When we first moved here it was nothing like this.”

— Patti McGovern

“There are more dealerships now that are taking their people and directing them to use Montclair [Avenue],” Patti McGovern, a 30-year resident on St. James Avenue South said. “The regular amount of traffic is just crazy for a residential section. When we first moved here it was nothing like this.”

The area is home to a number of dead-end residential roads north of Route 25/Middle Country Road along Rutherford Street, which is connected to Middle Country Road through Montclair Avenue and Arlington Avenue. McGovern said that many people use these roads as a shortcut due to Smithtown High School East being located to the north. Other people test driving from local dealerships push their new cars close to 50 mph on the residential road, well above the local speed limit.

The Town of Smithtown’s Traffic Safety Department conducted a traffic study through the month of May that determined average weekday traffic was approximately 500 vehicles traveling westbound and 630 eastbound between Montclair Avenue and Jackson Avenue. The study showed 85 percent of cars had an average speed between 31 and 35 mph. The survey concluded that the number of cars was normal for a road like Rutherford, and there wasn’t a speeding issue on roads north of Montclair Avenue.

A sign posted on Montclair Avenue in St. James. Photo by Kyle Barr

Despite the study results, McGovern said even a few speeding cars could be a real hazard.

“That 15 percent, stipulated with 1,200 vehicles, means there are [approximately] 180 vehicle trips coming here in speeds excess of 40 and above,” McGovern said. “That’s more than any neighborhood should bear.”

Residents have been making noise about these traffic issues for close to four years, according to McGovern. In 2015, the town agreed to build a chicane, a S-shaped traffic-slowing and road-narrowing measure, on Montclair. McGovern said that even with the road being narrowed to hinder large trucks, the chicane has not done enough to slow traffic.

“The chicane had to be built so that it had access for emergency vehicles, so any kind of truck can get through, even if they get up on the curbs of the chicane,” McGovern said.

Rutherford Street resident David Friedman said it has become a huge problem to see people test driving their cars down local residential streets — and in their haste, often running the stop sign at the intersection at Rutherford Street and Montclair Avenue. Friedman said there is a school bus stop near that same corner, and he often fears for children’s safety.

“It’s customer preference whether they want to be on the main road or the back road, but I think a lot of the traffic in this area has to do with there being multiple dealerships.”

— David Toomey

“It’s constant, and some of them are just very discourteous,” he said. “Some of them are using it to test their engine — making a lot of noise.”

Middle Country Road is home to more than 10 car dealerships all within a few miles radius of each other. Friedman said that he has seen cars from the Smithtown Nissan and Competition BMW of Smithtown driving on their roads, but the worst, he said, has come from the Competition Subaru of Smithtown located at the corner of MontclairAvenue and Middle Country Road.

David Toomey, the general manager for the Subaru dealership, said he does not specifically emphasize people test drive on Montclair; but, if they do, he said he advises them to maintain the speed limit.

“We’re trying to minimize traffic in the back [residential] areas,” Toomey said. “It’s customer preference whether they want to be on the main road or the back road, but I think a lot of the traffic in this area has to do with there being multiple dealerships.”

In terms of the number of Subaru test vehicles driving on the residential neighborhoods, he said most of the traffic is from dealership employees driving to their new dealership located at 601 Middle Country Road. He said there should be little to no Subaru cars on local roadways once the company finishes relocating in early September.

Downtown Kings Park. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Town of Smithtown officials are one concrete step closer to paving the way for municipal parking in Kings Park’s downtown business district.

The town board voted unanimously Aug. 14 to enter a contract of sale to purchase two vacant lots off Pulaski Road for a price of $280,0000. If all goes smoothly, the purchase may fulfill the five-year wish of area residents who petitioned the town to buy the property in November 2013.

“We’re very pleased, we are going into contract,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “It will be a huge advantage to the business community there.”

Originally, the town had scheduled a public hearing for Aug. 14 on whether it should pursue the process of eminent domain to take ownership of the two lots owned by Queens residents Matthew and Marguerite Lupoli.

It will be a huge advantage to the business community there.”

— Ed Wehrheim

“It was a little bit of a tussle with the property owner who resides in Queens, but he’s willing to sell it,” the supervisor said.

A June 4 real estate appraisal of the two adjacent wooded lots determined the fair market price to be approximately $270,000 for the roughly 12,800 square feet, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. The town’s first purchase offer on the property was rejected by the owners, according to Wehrheim, but the second offer of $280,000 was accepted.

The supervisor said he is hopeful that the funds necessary to purchase the land will come from Suffolk County’s coffers, citing lengthy conversations with Suffolk  County Executive Steve Bellone (D). The measure will have to be  approved by the county Legislature.

“It looks positive,” Wehrheim said.

Smithtown town officials have been eyeing these wooded lots for municipal parking dating back to 2013.

A petition started by Park Bake Shop owners, Lucy and Gabe Shtanko, in 2013 received more than 600 signatures from Kings Park residents asking town officials to purchase the lot for municipal parking. Wehrheim said a 2014 appraisal determined its fair market price at $230,000, but Matthew Lupoli wasn’t interested in selling at that time.

It was a little bit of a tussle with the property owner who resides in Queens, but he’s willing to sell it.”

– Ed Wehrheim

There is a town municipal parking lot across the street from the Kings Park Fire Department on Main Street, next to the Kings Park branch of The Smithtown Public Library.

The western portion of Main Street — dubbed Restaurant Row — is the one area that could possibly use more municipal parking, according to the results of a 2018 market analysis study of downtown Kings Park presented by Larisa Ortiz, urban planner and principal of Larisa Ortiz Associates, to the town board Jan. 25.

“The municipal lots are inconvenient for restaurants,” reads the 62-page report.

The Restaurant Row area, which includes several eateries such as Cafe Red and Relish, averages 4.7 parking spots per 1,000 square feet of retail space. This is less than the two other areas of Main Street — known as the “civic heart,” near the Kings Park library and Long Island Rail Road station, and “car-centric retail,” which is centered around Tanzi Plaza and the Kings Park Plaza shopping center.

Ortiz’s other suggestions for improving the current parking situation in the Kings Park downtown area included restriping several existing lots — such as Relish’s — to accommodate more spaces and increase their efficiency.

In addition to Kings Park, Wehrheim said the town board has received a real estate appraisal of the Irish Viking pub in St. James and remains interested in purchasing it to create off-street parking for the Lake Avenue business district.

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Screenshot of the Town of Smithtown's mobile app. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Town of Smithtown is bringing its municipal services to the mobile generation.

Town officials launched an app Aug. 14 that allows residents to more easily access government functions such as town department websites and even emergency alerts from public safety. The app, designed by members of the Department of Public Safety, has been available for download since July through iPhone App Store for Apple devices or through Google Play Store on Android phones.

The more people that are on it the better. It has all this town information right at your fingertips.” 

— John Gonzalez

“We’re in a mobile generation, everyone is on the go,” said John Gonzalez, 43, a communications technician in the Department of Public Safety who developed the app. “They can go to Facebook and look it up there, but to have it all at your fingertips is where everybody’s going now.”

The Town of Smithtown Mobile App contains a menu of options that include a mobile-friendly version of the town’s website, links to all town departments in addition to the villages of Head of the Harbor, Village of the Branch and Nissequogue. Other tabs include social media posts from both the town itself and the Smithtown Animal Shelter relating to animal adoptions. It is designed to automatically update if any changes occur to town websites.

The app also contains links to an up-to-date weather forecast in Smithtown, by-the-minute information on power outages from PSEG Long Island’s website and announcements regarding road closures and delays through the Notices tab.

This is a tremendous step in the transparency process …”

— Ed Wehrheim

“This is a tremendous step in the transparency process and we’re so lucky to have the talent in house to develop an app that would normally be a very costly process to design,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “I am extremely grateful for our public safety communications department for taking the initiative and I am excited to hear from the residents after using this app.”

Gonzalez said the original idea had been kicked around the public safety office, but department Chief John Valentine finally set him to the task of sitting down to work on it in March. Gonzalez thought it would take five to six months to develop, but he finished the project in only three.

“I am so impressed with the finished product and I just hope the community feels the same way,” Valentine said.

It did not cost the town money to release the app on Google Play Store. Town spokesperson
Nicole Garguilo said that the town did not have to pay the usual fees for uploading an app because it was done as a government entity. Apple also made uploading an app free for government entities and nonprofits earlier this year.

I am so impressed with the finished product and I just hope the community feels the same way.”

— John Valentine

Gonzalez said he started coding at a young age and created his first program by age 9. After working at the video game company Acclaim Entertainment, which became defunct in 2004, he has kept up to date on current programming languages. He said that this type of app is great for residents who wish to stay updated while moving about the town.

“If there are any emergency announcements, it is another tool for residents to use,” he said. “The more people that are on it the better. It has all this town information right at your fingertips.”

Gonzalez said the public safety department has plans to continue updating the app. First on the list is allowing users to click on public safety notifications to bring them straight to the original location. Gonzalez expects to add more features in the future based on community feedback.

A conceptual rendering of the approved site plans for TDG Commack on Jericho Turnpike. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Planning Department

Town of Smithtown officials gave their seal of approval to two developers to construct a total of 160 new apartments between two complexes. 

The town board voted unanimously Aug. 14 to approve site plans for two housing projects: a mixed-use development featuring 62 units at The Lofts at Maple & Main in Smithtown and a 92-unit complex by TDG Commack, LLC to be built on Jericho Turnpike. 

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said he hopes the two projects will help provide much needed housing in the township. 

The Lofts at Maple & Main by East Hampton-based developer VEA 181st Realty Corp. will consist of four buildings on the site of the former Nassau Suffolk Lumber & Supply Company in Smithtown. A mixed-use, three-story building will be constructed facing Main Street consisting of approximately 9,400 square feet of retail space on the ground level divided into two storefronts. The second and third floors will each contain 13 residential units consisting of six one-bedroom apartments and seven two-bedroom apartments per floor. Set back behind the Main Street building, three additional three-story apartment buildings will have 12 apartments each, primarily two-bedroom units. 

“This will be the first opportunity for a young person, a young professional coming out of college that cannot afford to buy a single-family home on a half acre of property, to have an avenue to live in the business district,” Wehrheim said. “It puts them in walkable distance to restaurants, a railroad station and everything they really require.” 

The development will have six affordable workforce housing units constructed and rented out for below-market price, according to town planner Liam Trotta. 

The supervisor said he hopes the apartment complex will help push downtown revitalization.“It will have a positive effect on the local business community as well,” he said. “The people that go into those 62 units will frequent the businesses that are along Main Street.” 

The town board expressed it was “pleased” with the agreements struck with the developer during planning, such as agreeing to permit three-story buildings instead of the four stories initially requested. 

The developer, Salvatore DiCarlo, of VEA 181st could not be reached for comment by press time. Wehrheim said that DiCarlo still needs approval from Suffolk County’s Health Department for the on-site sewer treatment, which may take a few weeks, but construction will begin immediately afterward. 

The second garden apartment complex designed by TDG Commack was approved as  a seven-building apartment complex along Jericho Turnpike, taking over the site of the Courtesy Inn. Each building will have two stories and, when completed, offer a mix of 48 one-bedroom and 44 two-bedroom units. There will be a
community pool for residents. 

Similar to The Lofts at Maple & Main, the Commack housing development has proposed to build a sewer treatment plant into the site to handle all wastewater at the location. However, Trotta said as the developer did not exceed the maximum density for the site, it will not be required to designate units as affordable workplace housing.

Town of Smithtown residents now have a place where they can sit down to remember the life of 6-year-old Paige Keely along with other children who have died too soon.

Three Nesconset residents Danielle Hoering, Bridget Scher and Sasha Worontzoff, members of Tackan Elementary School’s Parent-Teacher Association, spearheaded the creation of a memorial to Paige Keely installed at Nesconset gazebo Aug. 2.

Paige Keeley. Photo from St. James Funeral Home

The 6-year-old Paige was first-grader at St. James Elementary who died suddenly of a rare, undetected brain condition called arteriovenous malformation Jan. 8. It’s an abnormal development of blood vessels that connect arteries and veins, which occurs in less than 1 percent of the population, according to the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center based in Minnesota.

“I know what it’s like to lose someone,” Worontzoff said. “People end up forgetting after a while or move onto the next big thing and we didn’t want people to.”

The St. James community initially showed its support for Keely’s parents, Tom and Gina, along with her two siblings by tying pink ribbons – Paige’s favorite color – around trees, stop signs and telephone poles in the community. Now, there is a permanent pink ribbon at the Nesconset gazebo.

In memory of Paige and all children who have died, a cherry blossom tree donated by Borella Nursery Wholesale Growers in Nesconset was planted near the gazebo as it will blossom with pink flowers each year. The tree was surrounded by a garden with a stone plaque, and a white bench inscribed a pink ribbon dedicating it “In Memory of Paige Keely.”  The Town of  Smithtown Parks, Building & Grounds Department helped install the memorial.

“We wanted to do it in a public area so that all families could come and enjoy it, not just at a school,” Scher said. “We just wanted a spot where people can sit and reflect or pay respect to Paige and the family.”

The gazebo was selected as the memorial site because several public events like the Nesconset Concert series are hosted at the park, attracting families and community members. Local businesses and those in the community donated money to help fund the project.

“People end up forgetting after a while or move onto the next big thing and we didn’t want people to.”

– Sasha Worontzoff

“We wanted each person and each establishment to have a sense of contribution to this permanent fixture in our community,” Worontzoff said. “We really just wanted Nesconset people to help and be a part of it.”

Worontzoff and Hoering had to get permission from Smithtown’s elected officials in order to build the memorial on town-owned land.

“We were so grateful and appreciative that the parks and rec and Town Hall were so quick and knew our story ahead of time,” Worontzoff said. “It was wonderful.”

She hopes local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops will maintain the memorial and keep it in good condition throughout the years.

This is the second memorial to be constructed in Paige’s memory. Earlier this summer, St. James Elementary School dedicated a butterfly garden on its grounds at the Keely family’s request.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, left of center, draws names in lottery for the San Remo affordable home. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Dozens of people crowded into the Town of Smithtown’s board room at 2 p.m. July 31 waiting eagerly for their name to be called.

Neil Coleman, of Lake Ronkonkoma, walked into the room and casually replied “Here,” as he had not yet realized his name was the first drawn in a lottery for the opportunity to purchase an affordable San Remo house — the first to be raffled off in Smithtown under New York State’s Long Island Workforce Housing Act.

Neil Coleman, 25, of Lake Ronkonkoma. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“I was shocked,” he said. “I had barely made it through the door. I understand it was a lottery. It was luck of the draw, and I was the one picked today.”

Coleman, 25, works as an electrician for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 25 union. He lives with family members in Ronkonkoma and said he’s spent the last year and a half searching through real estate listings trying to find affordable housing.

“It’s daunting,” he said. “It’s difficult to find affordable housing at a young age.”

Coleman said in June he stumbled upon Long Island Housing Partnership’s website while searching for grant programs or assistance in obtaining housing. The Hauppauge-based nonprofit organization has helped aid more than 35,000 residents looking for affordable rentals or housing since 1988, according to its president and CEO Peter Elkowitz.

“It’s really important for us to recognize that affordable housing is a crucial issue here on Long Island,” Elkowitz said. “We all have family members who are living with us or who may not be on Long Island anymore. It’s important to keep our workforce here.”

LIHP worked in conjunction with Smithtown’s elected officials to host the lottery for the newly constructed 3-
bedroom, 1.5-bathroom workforce housing built on Locust Drive in Kings Park held on Tuesday. In order to qualify, applicants’ income can be no more than 120 percent of the median household income for Nassau-Suffolk counties as set by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Guidelines. For 2018, this limit is set for $112,500 for two individuals, increasing to $140,050 for a family of four. There were 39 families who applied for the chance to purchase the San Remo home by June 15.

This 3-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom home in San Remo was raffled off under the town’s workforce housing program. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for a family to be successful in coming into Smithtown and living in a beautiful, affordable home,” Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said.

Coleman said he has a German shepherd that will be coming with him if he’s approved to move in the home. He must provide LIHP with income documentation and pass a credit check to demonstrate he meets the program’s requirements, according to Elkowitz, or the opportunity will pass to the next person on the list. Each applicant who entered the lottery was assigned a number as their name was pulled and will receive a letter documenting their ranking in the mail.

“This is the first of many units that will be built with an affordable price tag for our residents to come,” Wehrheim said.

The supervisor said construction is currently underway on seven more affordable workplace homes in the new Country Pointe Woods Smithtown development, off the intersection of Route 347/Smithtown Bypass and Route 111. The sale of these units will also be determined via lottery in conjunction with LIHP at a future date.

Residents question how town officials are selecting priority list of park updates for upcoming 2019 capital budget

A spring rider at Morewood Park in Smithtown

Town of Smithtown officials have taken steps to approve roughly $4.5 million in investments in its parks, but residents are questioning which ones are given top priority. 

Smithtown approved a $174,500 contract to redesign Flynn Memorial Park into a modern sports complex while greenlighting plans to construct a new playground and spray park at Callahans Beach at its July 17 meeting. The total price tag for those two projects is estimated at $4.5 million. 

“We are doing a lot of work that needs to be done at the parks and beaches at a huge financial cost,” Councilman Tom Lohmann (R) said. “It won’t be done in one year, it has to be done smartly. But, it has to be done.” 

The barbecue area at Callahans Beach. Photo by Kyle Barr

At Callahans Beach, town officials have proposed a plan to rip up a portion of the asphalt parking lot in order to install a new playground at an estimated cost of $175,000, a spray park for roughly $150,000 and to construct picnic area shelter for approximately $200,000. Lohmann, who serves as the board’s liaison to the town Department of Parks, Buildings & Grounds, said the improvements are a result of the town’s approved lease agreement with Propagation Solutions Inc., for Site Tech Wireless LLC to install a 150-foot cell tower in the upper parking lot. 

“As part of their recommendations and requirements for the cell tower, we had to make changes to Callahans Beach,” the councilman said. “We will be adding the playground and some beautification to ensure it is still aesthetically pleasing.” 

Lohmann said the town hired St. James-based RDA Landscape Architecture to create a plan for the Kings Park’s Flynn Memorial Park project. One of the first steps is $2.2 million for all new LED lighting for the fields along with new field layout, new fencing as well as a new concession stand in the center of the park that will also contain bathrooms. The proposed plans call to tear out the existing facilities, install a new playground, repave the parking lot and redesign the layout to reduce it to one main entrance.

“By making it a true softball-baseball complex with a playground for kids to come play on, we hope it will help drive people into our communities,” Lohmann said. “It will be done and upgraded to where it should have been many years ago.” 

The latest announcement of capital improvements to Smithtown’s parks comes shortly after the town celebrated the grand reopening of three parks after $1.3 million in refurbishments: Joseph Andreoli Park in Nesconset and Gaynor Park and Veterans Memorial Park in St. James.  

Smithtown residents have questioned how elected officials are deciding which parks take priority in receiving upgrades. 

A Town of Smithtown parks employee spreads fresh wood mulch at Morewood Park July 27. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Michael Vizzini, a four-year homeowner on Stanwich Road, said he hopes there will be some consideration given to Morewood Park. The park consists of two basketball courts whose surfaces have a spiderwebbing of cracks stretching across it, with the back boards showing signs of rust. The playground fell victim to a fire more than 10 years ago, according to the town parks
department, and was rebuilt on a soft wood mulch base with metal slides, a set of swings and dotted with a few spring-based animals on which to ride. 

Vizzini, who lives adjacent to the park’s back entrance, has been looking for a way to improve its aesthetics since he moved in. 

“I’ve called the town to see if they will remove the partial sidewalks so I can plant bushes there next to my white picket fence,” he said. “Contractors won’t touch it, it’s town property.” 

Vizzini said he purchased on Stanwich Road to be close to the park for his two young children, but unfortunately, there isn’t much there on which they can safely play. 

Commack resident Bridget Zaminer, a Knolls Lane homeowner, said she’s lived in the area for three years and has only taken her three young children to Morewood Park a handful of times to use the basketball courts. 

The basketball courts at Morewood Park. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“The play equipment is old and dingy,” Zaminer said in an email. “Not to mention, I would not want to be there alone since it’s so desolate.” 

Lohman said the town’s parks department did a full review in 2017, which estimated the town would need $11.6 million to bring all its parks and beaches up to date.  

“Where do you get $11.6 million?” he asked. “Monies weren’t properly put back into the property to keep these facilities and assets up to standard.” 

The councilman said factors used to determine which sites will get funding include estimated community use, safety concerns and consideration for those facilities where the town provides additional services for which a fee is paid — such as boat slips at the marina or sports fields utilized by adult leagues. He admitted dozens of town “pocket parks,” or recreational areas surrounded by residential properties like Morewood, are in desperate need of updates so it’s a tough call. 

Lohmann said he has a meeting with Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) and parks director Joseph Arico scheduled for Aug. 2 to discuss the town’s 2019 capital budget and which parks to update. Residents should be pleased to know sites being given consideration include the town’s marina and Morewood Park. 

“[Morewood] doesn’t get a tremendous amount of use,” Lohmann conceded. “But with younger and younger families moving into the neighborhood, it’s getting attention.”

Downtown Kings Park. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Town of Smithtown officials have tried to negotiate a fair price for two Kings Park properties for years and are now considering bringing down the hammer.

Smithtown town board voted unanimously to schedule a public hearing Aug. 14 on utilizing the process of eminent domain to forcibly take ownership of two vacant lots off Pulaski Road, which are currently owned by Matthew and Marguerite Lupoli. The measure is being considered as a step toward securing Kings Park’s downtown revitalization.

“Actually, the appraisal for eminent domain came back offering the Lupolis more than they wanted initially for the property.”
– Ed Wehrheim

“My hope is that we don’t have to go there,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “We’ve done an eminent domain appraisal. Actually, the appraisal for eminent domain came back offering the Lupolis more than they wanted initially for the property.”

A June 4 real estate appraisal of the two adjacent wooded lots determined the fair market price to be approximately $270,000 for the roughly 12,800 square feet, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. The property is located south of Park Bake Shop off the intersection of Pulaski Road and Main Street.

“It’s never going to be anything other than an open field or parking lot,” Garguilo said. “Those are the limited possibilities due to the lots’ size and condition.”

Wehrheim said the town attorney’s office will continue to reach out to the property owners in attempts to negotiate a purchase price.

If an agreement cannot be reached, the public hearing scheduled for 2 p.m. Aug. 14 will move forward. Based on the hearing, the town board can make a determination on the use of eminent domain and then make a formal offer on the property before taking the matter to court if needed.

Smithtown town officials have been eyeing these wooded lots for municipal parking dating back to 2013.

A petition started by Park Bake Shop owners, Lucy and Gabe Shtanko, in 2013 received more than 600 signatures from Kings Park residents asking town officials to purchase the lot for municipal parking. Wehrheim said a 2014 appraisal determined its fair market price at $230,000, but Matthew Lupoli wasn’t interested in selling at that time.

There is a town municipal parking lot across the street from the Kings Park Fire Department on Main Street, next to the Kings Park branch of The Smithtown Public Library.

“It’s never going to be anything other than an open field or parking lot.”
– Nicole Garguilo

The western portion of Main Street — dubbed Restaurant Row — is the one area that could possibly use more municipal parking, according to the results of a 2018 market analysis study of downtown Kings Park presented by Larisa Ortiz, urban planner and principal of Larisa Ortiz Associates, to the town board Jan. 25.

“The municipal lots are inconvenient for restaurants,” reads the 62-page report.

The Restaurant Row area, which includes several eateries such as Cafe Red and Relish, averages 4.7 parking spots per 1,000 square feet of retail space. This is less than the two other areas of Main Street — known as the “civic heart,” near the Kings Park library and Long Island Rail Road station, and “car-centric
retail,” which is centered around Tanzi Plaza and the Kings Park Plaza shopping center
.

Ortiz’s other suggestions for improving the current parking situation in the downtown area included restriping several existing lots — such as Relish’s — to accommodate more spaces and increase their efficiency.

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