Town of Smithtown

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Since Oct. 29 the Town of Smithtown has been piling up residents’ recyclables at its Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park. File Photo by Kyle Barr

Smithtown residents will soon be asked once again to separate their recyclables as town officials have chosen to return to dual-stream recycling in January 2019.

Town of Smithtown officials held a special meeting Nov. 20 where they announced their finalized bids for its recycling contracts. The town board tapped West Babylon-based Winters Bros. Waste Systems of Long Island, who have agreed to take the town’s unprocessed newspaper and cardboard in exchange for paying $30 per ton, or approximately $177,000 a year to the town. Another company, Islandia-based Trinity
Transportation, will be handling the town’s unprocessed curbside metals and plastics, with $68 per ton being paid by the town, costing approximately $104,000 per year in expenses, according to the final documents.

“Working together with our fellow municipalities and villages is, for us, a win-win opportunity.”

— Ed Wehrheim

The bids are part of a partnership with the towns of Brookhaven and Southold. Brookhaven will use its own contractor to ship its recyclables to Smithtown’s Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park. Brookhaven will pay the town $5 per ton, or $130,000 a year for its expected tonnage. Smithtown estimates there will be 45 of deliveries per week from Brookhaven, totaling approximately 500 tons of material. Brookhaven announced it will be moving back to dual-stream as of Nov. 28 and has already been issuing notices to its residents.

“Smithtown has always had a phenomenal relationship with the Town of Brookhaven and Supervisor [Ed] Romaine,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “Working together with our fellow municipalities and villages is, for us, a win-win opportunity. We help our neighbors who have helped us for so many years and we avail ourselves to favorable pricing which alleviates any burden on the taxpayer.”

Smithtown moved away from dual-stream in 2014 when it finalized a recycling contract with Brookhaven and has been left without a recycling-service provider since Oct. 29 when Green Stream Recycling, Brookhaven’s recycling contractor, voided its contract with the town. Smithtown, among numerous other local municipalities, had an agreement to sell all its recyclables through Green Stream for a $180,000 annual profit.

The new contracts approved Nov. 20, including the money from Brookhaven, will deliver $178,517 in revenue for Smithtown per year, according to town officials.

Under the new intermunicipal agreement, the townships will no longer be collecting glass for recycling. If Smithtown residents wish to recycle glass bottles or containers, they will be asked to take it to one of three locations: the Municipal Services Facility building at 85 Old Northport Road in Kings Park; the town Highway Department building at 758 Smithtown Bypass in Nesconset; or Town Hall, located at 99 W. Main St. in Smithtown. The town estimates that it will cost $23,850 annually to dispose of this glass

Russell Barnett, the town’s recycling coordinator, previously told TBR News Media that glass is a major contaminate to other recyclables when it is mixed in with other materials in single-stream. Not only does broken glass wear on processing machinery, it is difficult to remove should it become entangled in a soft product like paper.

The recycling market changes constantly, and we have to be prepared.”

— Nicole Garguilo

The town signed a six-month contract with these two companies, including an option to renew for an additional six months, according to Smithtown spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. This was intentionally done in case the recycling market changes in the future.

“The recycling market changes constantly, and we have to be prepared,” she said.

Starting immediately, the two garbage carting companies will begin taking the recyclables that have been accumulating since Oct. 29 at Smithtown’s Municipal Services Facility, sorting it for the town, and processing it.

The town plans to begin a public information blitz before the new recycling system goes into effect, according to Garguilo, including social media spots, informational mailing flyers and information on the official Smithtown phone app to inform residents on the details of what recyclables they can put out on which days.

Since Oct. 29 the Town of Smithtown has been piling up residents’ recyclables at its Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park. File Photo by Kyle Barr

With bids in for the Town of Smithtown recycling contract, town officials have a big decision to make that may change how and when residents take their bins to the curb.

“Perhaps there’s a market for it — perhaps these bidders have a place where they can bring it,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said prior to the opening of the bids.

The Town of Smithtown has been left without a recycling-service provider since Oct. 29 when Green Stream Recycling, the Town of Brookhaven’s recycling contractor, voided its contract with the town. Smithtown, among other local municipalities, had an agreement with Brookhaven to sell all its recyclables through Green Stream for a profit. Now, Smithtown has been left without a recycling contract and has been dumping all its recyclables at the Municipal Services Facility located on Old Northport Road in Kings Park. The facility has approximately two-to-three weeks before it is full to capacity.

You’re going to be hard pressed after years of single stream to go back to dual stream…”

— Ed Wehrheim

The town unsealed four bids for its recyclable materials Nov. 8. Two bids, received from West Babylon-based Winters Bros. Hauling of Long Island and Islandia-based Trinity Transportation, offered both single-stream recycling and dual-stream recycling. Single-stream recycling is the process of taking all recyclables in a single can and everything would be sorted at a facility. Dual stream requires residents to sort out different types of recyclables, including different kinds of plastics, metals and papers, and putting out each kind of material on different days of the week for collection.

Smithtown officials estimate the town picks up 11,500 tons of recyclables each year. If the town wants to stick with a single-stream recycling process, it may cost close to $1 million to send these materials off for processing. This would be a major difference compared to the small $180,000 in profit it made in annual revenue selling its recyclables to Brookhaven.

Bids received for dual-stream recycling, including both Winter Bros. and Trinity Transportation, propose rates the companies would be willing to pay for each specific product. For example, Trinity would pay the town $68 a ton for its newspaper and cardboard.

Joseph Kostecki, the town’s purchasing director, unseals bids received for the town’s recycling contract Nov. 8. Photo by Kyle Barr

The town calculated it would collect approximately 6,500 tons of paper and 1,900 tons of metal, plastic and glass combined from residents if households were required to sort their own recycling.

Russell Barnett, the town’s recycling coordinator, said one of the options Smithtown is considering is taking glass off the list of curbside materials and setting up a specialized locations where residents can drop off their glass products.

Recycled glass is a major bane for Patricia DiMatteo, owner of Trinity Transportation. She said that recyclable products can easily become contaminated, especially with glass, when collected in a single can. In particular paper, her company’s specialty, becomes easily contaminated by fine pieces of glass crushed so small they’re barely visible to the naked eye, making the product unsellable.

Wehrheim said he doesn’t expect residents to continue recycling at the rate they have under the single-stream process if the town reverts to dual stream.

“You’re going to be hard pressed after years of single stream to go back to dual stream and tell people, ‘Now, you’re going to have go back to the two pails, sort your metal and sort your paper,’” he said. “I think what you’ll see is you’ll lose a large percentage of your recycling.”

While Barnett agreed losing single-stream recycling could result in less participation, he added that changing back to dual stream could improve the overall quality of the product collected, raising its market desirability.

“There are other markets, and you can achieve a China market quality product if you process it well.”

—Patricia DiMatteo

Smithtown began its single-stream process in 2014 when it signed a contract with Brookhaven and the Green Stream facility. Previously, the town had used its own dual-stream recycling processing facility. Barnett said the town is internally discussing bringing that facility back online, but that site was mothballed in 2014. Since then, the facility has aged without use and would require revitalization. In addition, all the town employees who once worked at the facility — 12 in total — have been reassigned to other departments or no longer work for the town.

To make the facility operational would require hiring multiple new employees, which means weighing the costs of salaries and benefits into the price of reopening, according to Wehrheim. Barnett said the town is still calculating the total cost of restarting the plant.

Recycling has been an ongoing issue for Long Island municipalities since the China market, one of the world’s largest importers of recyclables, severely restricted the quality of material it would import. This policy, named National Sword, started in January and its effects have stung local townships hard as of late, but DiMatteo said there are other markets if one knows where to look.

“There is definitely an issue with the China market, no doubt, you have to make a pristine product for them now,” she said. “There are other markets, and you can achieve a China market quality product if you process it well.”

John McQuaid, president of the NRSP Foundation; Wayne Horsley, Long Island regional state park director; Charlie Reichert; Suffolk Legislator Rob Trotta; and Brian Foley, Long Island regional director of state parks, hold a check for $1 million donation. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A Fort Salonga philanthropist hopes if he can help to build central infrastructure of a park, others will come and help out. 

Charlie Reichert, owner of IGA Supermarkets, will donate $1 million to New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation through his nonprofit, Charles and Helen Reichert Family Foundation, for complete renovation of the Nissequogue River State Park’s administrative offices. He ceremoniously handed the first check to Wayne Horsley, Long Island’s regional director of state parks, Nov. 2.

“I am hoping this donation jump starts the park, that we can really get going,” Reichert said. “If people see that a private citizen is putting money into the park, maybe there will be other private citizens or corporations to put money into the park and get things going.” 

The Fort Salonga resident said he envisions the park as a green space where, one day, there could be sports fields and concerts for residents’ recreation. His donation will kick-start a makeover of the central building. 

Brian Foley, deputy regional director of the Long Island region for the state’s park system, said the $1 million donation will be used to completely overhaul the interior of the former World War I-era veterans memorial hospital. The first floor’s central waiting area will be enlarged and built to accommodate additional educational display cases, with reconstruction of the existing meeting hall and children’s playroom. The women’s and men’s bathrooms will be updated with the new addition of a family bathroom stall, according to Foley. 

“The first floor will be and stay almost exclusively devoted to the public,” he said. “That is the prime purpose of state parks.” 

The second floor of the building will be made into office space for state park employees on-site, according to Foley. Storage space will continue to be available for the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose aim is to enhance and beautify the park. 

“This money will bring us a long way to making this into a public building that everyone can be proud of,” Horsley said. 

Currently, the state is replacing the administrative building’s roof and straightening out the cupola, according to Horsley. Construction equipment is parked outside Building 40, on the former childcare center on the north side of the park’s main entrance, to begin abatement of the structure to make way for a new 25,000-square-foot headquarters for the state’s Department of
Environmental Conservation’s Division of Marine
Resource. Horsley said he expects the building to be torn down this winter into early spring 2019. 

“We are in this together to make this a premiere park in the state’s park system,” Horsley said. “As we all know, we have a long way to go, but we are well on our way.” 

John McQuaid, president of the Nissequogue River State Park, and Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said Charlie Reichert’s support through his foundation has been invaluable over the years as it also sponsors the spring and fall runs that raise funds for the park. 

“This community is forever indebted to you, the state is forever indebted to you because you have changed the course of history,” Trotta said.

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New York State Sen. John Flanagan, far left, and Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, third from left, announce the $3.9M in state funding for infrastructural improvements. Photo by Kyle Barr

With funds finally in place for St. James sewers, Smithtown’s capital projects might finally be getting off (or under) the ground.

New York State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) announced Oct. 29 that the Town of Smithtown would be receiving $3.9 million from the State and Municipal Facilities Program, a non-specific discretionary pot of funding for municipal assistance. The funds will be added to the town’s available money to create a sewer
district along Lake Avenue.

This is how I see it, [the town] come up with the plans, and we do whatever we can to help them out, especially when it comes to the actual cost of the project.”

—John Flanagan

“This is how I see it, [the town] come up with the plans, and we do whatever we can to help them out, especially when it comes to the actual cost of the project” Flanagan said. “This is a great indication of cooperation: town cooperation, local cooperation and intermunicipal cooperation.”

In June, the town released a report provided by Melville-based H2M architects + engineers that calculated the projected costs of installing dry sewer mains and pump stations needed to build a sewer district for the Lake Avenue business district. The architectural firm came up with two methods to install the sewers: the first would cost approximately $3.8 million to install gravity sewers, a force main and pump station needed to reach a sewage treatment plant but would not provide for full road restoration; the second design would cost the town roughly $6.2 million with road restoration costs included.

The estimated costs for the proposed St. James Sewer District were calculated on the premise that Gyrodyne, LLC will build a sewage treatment plan with the capacity to accommodate its neighboring Lake Avenue businesses. Gyrodyne has continued to say it will work with the town, according to Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R).

“The main component to revitalize any business district is you have to reach the [Suffolk County] Board of Health requirements, and because of the present-day septic systems it’s just not possible to do,” he said. “The new sewer mains are what will make this project successful.” 

The town is currently sitting on $4.6 million for St. James business district improvements, including $2.4 million to replace the area’s 54-year-old water mains. The supervisor added he expects the town will sit down with engineers either in January or February 2019 to discuss the logistics of the project, and that construction could begin by fall 2019.

A number of local business people and civicleaders attended the Oct. 29 press conference where Flanagan and town officials announced the funding. Though many said they were excited by the prospect of sewers, they were also aware that construction, both the tearing and replacing of sidewalks and asphalt, could disrupt existing businesses. Wehrheim said there could be plans for doing the work in sections, separated by the connecting streets all the way down Lake Avenue.

“Everyone on this street is nervous about what’s happening. But I’m certain in the long run it will do amazing things for our town, community and business life.”

— Natalie Weinstein

“It’s going to be a huge disturbance, but we’re prepared for that,” the supervisor said.

Kerry Maher-Weisse, president of the Community Association of Greater St. James, said they will take the long-term view that the community will benefit more from construction.

“We’re going to help them, whatever the time frame,” Maher-Weisse said. “Our organization represents the businesses and we’ll be there to get people in to patronize.”

Natalie Weinstein, a Lake Avenue business owner and president of the nonprofit Celebrate St. James, an organization that hosts artistic events in the community, said the best way to revitalize the area is to make it focused on the arts.

“We have a wonderful challenge,” she said. “Everyone on this street is nervous about what’s happening. But I’m certain in the long run it will do amazing things for our town, community and business life.”

Line shows the route of new sidewalks in Stony Brook village, which will travel west off of Shore Road, north of the traffic circle and curl around to connect to the edge of Stony Brook Yacht Club’s pier. Image from The Ward Melville Heritage Organization

St. James and Stony Brook will be giving their downtowns a small face-lift thanks to a recent Suffolk County grant.

The two projects, one for the St. James business district along Lake Avenue and the other near the harbor front of Stony Brook village, were part of 11 recipients of a $500,000 county pool to partially fund downtown capital projects. Seven other municipalities who applied did not receive any grant funds.

“As we move full steam ahead with our economic development agenda, we will continue to make quality investments to create the robust, vibrant downtowns that make Suffolk County the ideal place to work, live and raise a family.”

— Steve Bellone

“Our downtowns are essential to keeping our region competitive and attracting the high skill, high knowledge workers we need to grow our local economy,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said. “As we move full steam ahead with our economic development agenda, we will continue to make quality investments to create the robust, vibrant downtowns that make Suffolk County the ideal place to work, live and raise a family.”

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization secured a $20,400 grant that should facilitate new sidewalks in Stony Brook village, which look to travel west off of Shore Road, north of the traffic circle and curl around to connect to the edge of the pier of the Stony Brook Yacht Club.

Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, said the funds will help complete the “harbor walk” project started several years ago. The original plans were to create sidewalks and streetlights with decorative plaques starting at The Long Island Museum continuing down to the harbor. She added that this new sidewalk, which travels down to the water’s edge, should go a long way toward making the area a more walkable destination.

“This is a highly used area for walkers and runners and people watching the sunsets,” Rocchio said. “Now the path is worn. This concrete sidewalk will make it a defined area for all to walk or run on by the harbor.”

The Community Association of Greater St. James received by far the largest amount of revitalization funds equaling more than $60,000. The funds will be used for the installation of crosswalks along Lake Avenue between Moriches Road and Woodlawn Avenue. This will also include 22 new pedestrian-activated LED crossing beacons at 10 separate crosswalks. Locals have long complained about speeding along oft-congested Lake Avenue and the safety of pedestrian trying to cross the road.

“As much as it will be pleasing to the eye, it will be safe for our kids and people to be using these crosswalks.”

— Kerry Maher-Weisse

“Even though this is going to be great for the look of the area, we still need everyone’s cooperation to take control and know what’s around them,” association president Kerry Maher-Weisse said. “As much as it will be pleasing to the eye, it will be safe for our kids and people to be using these crosswalks.”

The grant funds will also go toward new gateway signage at the entrance to Lake Avenue along Moriches Road along more discernable and stylized street signage, which Maher-Weisse said should have a homely, rustic “Nantucket” kind of feel.

The association president said she expects the funds to cover the construction, but if it doesn’t, she said her association could work with the town to help find additional funds. Both Maher-Weisse and Rocchio expect construction to begin shortly after they receive the grant funds.

Plans for the revitalization of Lake Avenue have continued for more than a year, which includes road reconstruction and new amenities like new sidewalks and $2.9 million in bond funds to replace water mains. The Town of Smithtown has recently had an appraisal done of the Irish Viking pub along Lake Avenue to hopefully turn it into more municipal parking. Also, in the pipeline are plans for dry sewer mains and pump station around the Lake Avenue business district, which could cost the town approximately $7 to $10 million. Revitalization plans were originally slated for May 2018 but were pushed back a year to coincide with these sewer projects.

Brookhaven’s single-stream recycling facility in Yaphank is going to need a new contractor to operate the facility. File photo by Clayton Collier

By Alex Petroski & Sara-Megan Walsh

Recyclable materials have been building up at the Brookhaven Town recycling plant in Yaphank ever since China stopped accepting imports from American facilities in January, but the future of the facility is even more up in the air now.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said contractor Green Stream Recycling terminated its 25-year contract to operate the Yaphank facility effective Oct. 29 citing financial woes due to market changes. The company signed the agreement with the town in 2013.

“We’re a regional facility — for them to do that it certainly isn’t going to speak well of the future of their waste management business on Long Island,” Romaine said.

The town plans to pursue legal action against the contractor for breach of contract, according to the supervisor.

Green Stream Recycling, owned by principals Joe Winters and Anthony Core, also of Hudson Baylor Brookhaven LLC, did not return a phone call requesting comment.

An aerial view of Town of Brookhaven’s Green Stream Recycling plant in Yaphank is surrounded by recyclables in August. Photo from Town of Smithtown

Romaine said the town will be putting the contract out for an emergency bid Nov. 1 for a new facility operator, and the town board will select a replacement at a Nov. 2 special meeting.

“They had three years of very good profits, and then as you know more recently there have been changes obviously in the recycling market where most of our recycling goods went,” Romaine said. 

The terms of contract with Green Stream Recycling yielded $20 per ton of processed recyclables, a quarter of which went back to Brookhaven with the remaining 75 percent
redistributed to neighboring municipalities that had agreements with Brookhaven to send their recyclables to the Yaphank facility, Romaine said. The supervisor said the town hadn’t received any money from Green Stream since May, though Brookhaven has continued making payments to other municipalities.

“The Town of Brookhaven believes very strongly in the benefits that a municipal recycling program brings to our respective communities and hence the reason we continued acceptance and payment for the material received from the Town of Huntington,” Romaine wrote in an Oct. 23 letter to Huntington Supervisor Chad
Lupinacci (R).

Similar letters were also sent to Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) and the other municipalities that have single-stream recycling agreements with Brookhaven.

John Clark, director of Environmental Waste Management for the Town of Huntington, said the town was previously informed Aug. 23 Brookhaven would not renew the intermunicipal agreement to accept Huntington’s collected recyclables set to expire at the end of this year. Under the terms of the agreement, Huntington received up to $15 per ton of recyclable material delivered to the Yaphank facility.

In 2017, Huntington collected and delivered more than 14,000 tons of material to the single-stream recycling plant that was processed through the intermunicipal agreement. This resulted in more than $152,000 in net revenue, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo.

The town had already issued a request for proposals Oct. 18 in an attempt to find an alternative solution to start Jan. 1, 2019, which may include converting back to dual-stream recycling where residents may be held responsible for sorting their trash again.

The news of Green Stream Recycling ending its contract with Brookhaven will pose only a temporary issue for Huntington, Lembo noted.

“The Town of Brookhaven believes very strongly in the benefits that a municipal recycling program brings to our respective communities and hence the reason we continued acceptance and payment for the material received from the Town of Huntington.”

— Ed Romaine

“We are already in the process of reaching out to potential recycling vendors and other municipalities to execute a two-month agreement that would get us through the end of the year under our single-stream recycling mode,” Lembo said.

Russ Barnett, Smithtown’s environmental protection director, said the town had received a telephone call from Brookhaven Oct. 19 to immediately cease sending recyclables to Brookhaven’s Yaphank facility. Smithtown’s town board plans to issue an emergency request for proposals at its Oct. 25 meeting seeking a new contractor to cart and process its residents’ recyclables, according to spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. It’s unclear what if any impact this may have on Smithtown’s tentative 2019 budget.

“Residents should continue doing what they are doing right now,” Barnett said. “We’re not asking residents to make any changes.”

Smithtown Town plans to temporarily store all collected materials at its Municipal Services Facility on Old Northport Road in Kings Park until a new carter is found. A new recyclable operator could mean a move back to dual-stream recycling.

“We’ve got a broad solicitation out there to identify what our options might be,” Barnett said. “Whether we will be offered services as an unsorted single-stream recyclables for sorting and purification elsewhere, or whether or not people might propose that prior sorting [by residents] needs to be done.”

A spokesperson for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said in a statement the agency is working with Brookhaven and the other towns impacted to develop solutions that will allow for processing of existing materials at the site and long-term solutions to continue recycling in the region, as well as working with industry stakeholders to solve the problem of drying up markets for the recycled material.

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Photo from Metro

Though it goes hardly noticed, the Town of Smithtown’s curb cut program has made more than a dent in the last 20 years.

Kelly Brown, the housing rehabilitation administrator in the town’s planning department, has been supervising the creation of several hundred curb cuts throughout the town for the purposes of increasing accessibility for people who are disabled. Though she said she did not have a way to give a precise number as to how many have been created around Smithtown, she estimated the town has made more than 700 cuts in the two decades the program has been around.

“We’ve been doing the handicapped curb cuts in neighborhoods where there are sidewalks, and if the handicap ramps in an area are not up to code we redid them or where there weren’t any we put them in,” Brown said. “Some of these developments go back 40, 50, 60 years, and handicap accessibility wasn’t on the forefront like it is now.”

You need to do it, and there are handicapped people that under the Americans with Disabilities Act need to access the sidewalks properly. “

— Tom McCarthy

Current plans for curb cuts will address sidewalks between Gibbs Pond Road and Andreoli Park as well as Woodview Drive and Nichols Road. Those spaces are priorities, Brown said, so that people who use a wheelchair or are otherwise disabled can more easily access the Nesconset public park.

Town Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) is the liaison to the planning department and has overseen a lot of the cuts.

“You need to do it, and there are handicapped people that under the Americans with Disabilities Act need to access the sidewalks properly,” McCarthy said. “[Brown] does a fantastic job with it. She gets it down without any fanfare, and that’s just how [she] is.”

Though the program goes often unremarked, advocates for those with disabilities say it makes a huge difference for people who simply do not have the ability to take the step off a sidewalk. While the ADA requires all new sidewalks to be installed with disability accessible curb cuts, on older streets without them many people see their independence severely limited.

“They’re critical, they’re absolutely critical,” said Frank Krotschinsky, the director for Suffolk County’s Office for People with Disabilities. He speaks from experience, as he has used a wheelchair since he was a kid growing up in Queens. “I get annoyed if there’s no curb cut, I got to try to find a driveway to go up or risk falling out of my chair if I try to jump the curb.”

While it is a simple change to existing streets, the disabilities office director said these slopes in sidewalks do more than just help the disabled. It’s something called the “curb cut effect,” where changing things to benefit people with disabilities also helps society at large.

It’s good for not just people in wheelchairs — it’s good for people pushing baby carriages or shopping carts.” 

—  Frank Krotschinsky

“It’s good for not just people in wheelchairs — it’s good for people pushing baby carriages or shopping carts,” Krotschinsky said. “It’s all part of universal design, it’s just a good thing.”

Other curb cuts being considered for this year include Meadow Court and Whitecliff Lane; Plymouth Boulevard and Central Road; and River Road and Long Hill Drive in Smithtown. In Commack, Brown said they are considering intersections with Parnell Drive including Hollywood Drive, Concord Land and Roosevelt Drive. Whether cuts get installed depends on how much funds the planning department has before the start of the new year.

The curb cuts are funded through a Suffolk County Community Development Block Grant, the 43rd year of the program, which provides federal assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Though Brown said once the planning office received $300,000 in total block grant funds, it got just $130,000 for the current year. More than half of this year’s grant money is slated to create curb cuts.

“I don’t know how long I can continue this program,” Brown said. “I know we will have funding into next year, but we go year by year.”

Krotschinsky said the number of curb cuts have increased drastically in only a few decades in Suffolk County, and local governments should continue to fund programs that install them.

“Things have improved a lot, and are they perfect yet, no, but they have improved,” Krotschinsky said.

Hundreds of Commack residents came together to take pride in their community at the first Commack Day celebration in more than 30 years Saturday, Oct. 6, at Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve. 

The event was put together by two childhood friends, Jim Manikas, a Commack resident and local real estate agent, and Commack native Dean Spinato. It featured live musical performance, free food from area businesses, with a variety of vendor booths covering fitness to chocolate. 

“Thank you to everyone who attended and was a part of Commack Day,” read a post-event message on the website. “This event could not have been as successful at it was without your contributions. Your support means the world to us, so thank you.” 

A check of $3,000 from the proceeds of the event was presented as a donation to Commack Fire Department.

Smithtown Town Hall. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A change of leadership at Smithtown Town Hall has resulted in a proposed 2019 budget that could increase homeowners town taxes for the first time in three years.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) presented his $109 million tentative budget for 2019 to the town council in a short meeting Oct. 5, on deadline under New York State Law. The proposed budget represents an increase of $4 million more than this year’s budget, with $1.5 million additional in the taxes levied among Smithtown’s homeowners. The supervisor promised it will be used to the benefit of its residents.

“We’ve committed in this administration to invest in Smithtown,” Wehrheim said. “We are going to do just that. I looked at the operating budget and we’ve stayed within the 2 percent mandated state tax cap.”

If approved, the 2019 tentative operating budget will be a total $66.60 annual increase for the average Smithtown homeowner, according to Wehrheim, with $28 of that increase attributable to a rise in solid waste district fees.

This graph shows the Town of Smithtown’s 2018 salaries for three positions — town supervisor, town council member and supervisor of highways — with their proposed 2019 salary increases and how that relates to similar positions’ pay in the neighboring townships of Brookhaven and Huntington. Graphic by David Ackerman

The town’s singular largest driving cost behind the proposed budget was a $1.1 million increase to health care insurance contributions for its full-time union employees, according to the supervisor. He also expects operational expenses such as fuel and utility costs to continue to grow over the year ahead.

The tentative budget sets aside $5.5 million for road, curb and sidewalk improvements, which Wehrheim said he decided in conjunction with Superintendent of Highways Robert Murphy (R).

The town supervisor has also proposed an approximately 40 percent increase to the Community Development Fund, which he said is used to help fund a list of neighborhood projects to improve local look and character of the neighborhoods. Most of the town’s funds will be used to kick-start projects, according to the supervisor, before hopefully being reimbursed through a combination of state aid or other grants.

Wehrheim is looking to increase the salary of each town council member by more than $9,000; from $65,818 up to $75,000. This represents a year-to-year increase of about 14 percent.

“I feel that it is in line with surrounding neighboring municipalities,” he said. “I feel the council position deserves that salary. It’s a different administration and they have far more responsibilities than they did previously.”

By comparison, each Town of Brookhaven council member is poised to make $72,316 in 2019 while to the west, the proposed annual salary for Huntington town council members is $76,841 next year.

In Smithtown, Wehrheim has proposed $30,000 for a new government liaison position, which if approved, will become an additional title and responsibilities for one of the town board members. The supervisor said the individual appointed will take on responsibilities similar to a deputy supervisor or chief of staff.

“It’s a more economical way as opposed to additional full-time staff in the supervisor’s office,” he said.

Murphy also stands to get an additional $20,000 a year, increasing the highway supervisor’s salary from $110,000 up to $130,000 per year, if the proposed budget is approved. Wehrheim said the 18 percent hike is warranted and has been talked about for several years.

“[Highway] is the town’s largest department,” Wehrheim said.

In perspective, Murphy’s new salary would be more than Brookhaven’s highway superintendent, poised to earn $119,132 in 2019 but less than Huntington’s $140,000 salary per year.

Wehrheim said that while he has added a few new positions to his administration in 2018, including a public information officer, he is hoping to hire two additional laborers each for the Highway Department and Parks, Buildings & Grounds Department next year. The exact salary for these positions has yet to be determined, according to the supervisor, as the town is in the midst of negotiating new contracts with both the Civil Service Employees Union, representing the municipality’s employees, and the Smithtown Administrators Guild, which represents its departmental directors. The previous contracts expired Dec. 31, 2017.

“Any increase would be result of union negotiations,” Wehrheim said.

The supervisor has also put forth a proposed $10 million capital budget for 2019, presented at the same time as the operating budget. He said $8 million of that budget will be borrowed by the town, and allocated toward large projects such as $2.3 million for new water mains along St. James Lake Avenue business district and $2 million in 2019 toward renovation of Flynn Memorial Park.

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The space in Smithtown where Chick-fil-A wants to establish a new branch. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Chick-fil-A is finally coming to Hauppauge, though the last store operating where the corporate company intends to build doesn’t see much of a reason to celebrate.

“We knew it was going to happen, but of course it’s very sad because we’ve been there for over 30 years,” said Donna Ahr, matriarch of the family-run Bagel Gallery Inc., locally known as Hot Bagels in Hauppauge and Smithtown.

The bagel shop is the last store that remains open in the doomed shopping plaza.

We knew it was going to happen, but of course it’s very sad because we’ve been there for over 30 years.”

— Donna Ahr

The Town of Smithtown town council conditionally approved the site plan for the restaurant chain to demolish the existing 15,743-square-foot  shopping center at the corner of Route 347 and Route 111 in Hauppauge to make room for a 4,650-square-foot counter-service restaurant.

The round-the-clock open bagel shop has endured in that location since 1980, owned and operated by the Ahr family since 1985. In 2016, local residents got wind that Chick-fil-A was intending to tear down the shopping center where Hot Bagels was located to put in one of its restaurants. In the months that followed, close to 5,000 people signed a Change.org petition to try and keep Hot Bagels around. Though the fast-food chain won its petition for a zoning change two years ago to create a drive-thru, the restaurant’s site plans were only approved this month.

“I got a year and half more out of it than I originally thought I would, so God is good,” Ahr said.

The location houses two shopping centers, both of which are independently owned. Those stores in the building directly opposite the impending Chick-fil-A fear what could happen once construction begins.

It’s going to kill my business, or at least hurt my business with all the construction going on.”

— Tony Barbato

“It’s going to kill my business, or at least hurt my business with all the construction going on,” said Tony Barbato, the owner of Ciro’s Pizza located at 550 Route 347. “I think the chicken shop coming in is the stupidest thing ever. Everybody in that shopping center was pretty successful, but then they threw everybody out so they could send more money to [a national corporation] instead of keeping it local.”

In February 2018, the Ahr family opened up a second location along Hauppauge Road in Smithtown, a little less than two miles from their  original storefront. Even though Ahr and her family appreciate that many of their loyal customers will still be sticking around, their old location is where the family holds many of their fondest memories.

“It will be a very sad thing when the store goes because as much as people love the new location its still not the store that we all grew up in; my customers, me, my kids, my customers kids,” she said.

The approved Chick-fil-A site plans call for a reconfiguration of the parking lot surrounding both current shopping centers to allow for drive- thru access and additional spaces.

“It will be a very sad thing when the store goes because as much as people love the new location its still not the store that we all grew up in.” 

— Donna Ahr

Al Amato, founder of the Garden City-based Amato Law Group, PLLC, who is representing Chick-fil-A, attended the Sept. 20 meeting and said both locations would provide an adequate amount of parking individually, and that the new property would not block access to the other shopping center. Neither Amato nor a representative of Chick-fil-A were available to say when demolition on the old structure and construction of the new restaurant will begin.

In the meantime, Bagel Gallery is the last store in that shopping center that remains open. Ahr said she has been notified a tentative date to move out is Nov.10. She said she hopes to host a going away party for their old shop before they have to close for good.

“When I do have the exact date I want to do [something] special,” Ahr said. “They will tear it down in front of our eyes, and we’re all going to cry.”

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