Village Beacon Record

Green was the color of choice from Miller Place to Rocky Point as thousands lined the roads to celebrate the 69thannual Miller Place – Rocky Point St. Patrick’s Day Parade March 17.

With a cool, sunny day preceding the coming Spring, families sat along Route 25A from the Rocky Point Business District all the way into Miller Place and watched as members of the Miller Place, Rocky Point and Sound Beach fire departments walked in step to members of local family farms, the fife and pipe bands, marching bands, baton twirling teams and many, many more.

Before the parade even began, children and adults alike walked through the streets blasting from green plastic trumpets and horns, painted their faces with clovers and even brought their pets out dressed in Irish flair.

A house located at 55 Shinnecock is torn down by Brookhaven town. Photo by Bea Ruberto

There was once a house on Shinnecock Drive in Sound Beach. Now there is a vacant patch of land and rubble. From the front, it was close to idyllic, featuring a small single-floor cottage, a mason stone exterior, a picket fence and a worn birdbath sitting just behind a fence. 

The house is gone, torn down by the Town of Brookhaven for being a derelict property. Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) said the frontage of the home was beautiful, but everything behind the front, what one couldn’t see from the street, was torn up and run down.

“It was like on a theater stage, the front looked good, but there was nothing behind it,” Bonner said.

A house located at 55 Shinnecock is torn down by Brookhaven town. Photo by Bea Ruberto

The work to take down derelict homes is constant. At the tail end of February, the town had demolished another home on Audrey Street in Miller Place. These vacant and derelict houses have had a menacing moniker affixed to them, zombie homes, and since the 2008 mortgage crisis and subsequent recession, they have become endemic on Long Island. At a Sound Beach Civic Association meeting March 11, Bonner explained the process the town takes to removing these blighted structures and explained the reasons why it’s difficult to repurpose the land after the home is torn down.

Town officials are informed about zombie homes in multiple ways. Residents can call up town hall or contact the council district office directly. Otherwise, Bonner said her office learns about these derelict buildings through interacting with the community at civic meetings or by just driving around the district.

The town sends out a third-party inspector, namely Hauppauge-based engineering firm Cashin, Spinelli & Ferretti LLC, to check on the home and make sure the property is vacant. If not, the house is then put on the vacant home registry, a long list of houses in the town that no longer have legal occupants.

At its annual March 11 state of the town address, Brookhaven town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said more than 250 zombie homes had been demolished since 2014. Bonner said the town currently has approximately 2,000 zombie homes in the process of being demolished by the town.

“When I started, I never thought the town would be in this kind of business,” Bonner said. 

Bonner said her office often gathers information on a derelict property from the Suffolk County Clerk’s office, especially looking at whether the property’s taxes are current, whether there is a mortgage on the property, or whether the land is owned by an LLC. Town employees try to contact the homeowner, who is required to contact the town clerk, pay a fee of $250 and provide a point of contact for the maintenance company. However, this step is especially challenging, as often there are little means of contacting the homeowner, especially if they no longer live in the state and their contact information is not current. It could mean months of work talking to the banks or going through other channels to contact these people.

“When I started, I never thought the town would be in this kind of business.”

— Jane Bonner

If there is a significant number of problems with the property, and if there is no property management company the town can get a hold of, Brookhaven will go in and cut overgrown grass or board and secure the property, though they will only board and secure the first floor and the town does not repair roofs. After the inspection is done the inspector determines whether it meets the threshold for demolition. The inspection will also detail if there is asbestos on the property, which will mandate additional work to contain during demolition.

After the home is recommended for demolition, the town hosts a public hearing on the property. A typical town board meeting could have several of these public hearings for properties all across the town. Occasionally, the homeowner or bank that owns the property will come to the hearings and based on the arguments of the property owner, an extension could be made to allow the owner to fix up the property. Otherwise, the town allows 30 days after the public hearing before a final decision to raze a property is made.

“Occasionally, I think they don’t think we’re serious at the public hearing,” Bonner said. “Sometimes we give them time, other times we tell them they already had their 30 days.”

Brookhaven spokesperson Jack Krieger said the town expects to spend $1.8 million in 2019 on derelict properties, of which $1.2 million is directly related to demolition. The rest of that money is spent on support staff dealing with matters on contacting property owners or taking care of the property. The property owner is responsible for the demolition costs.

The town has two full-time employees who work directly on these derelict properties. Beyond that, each council member is supposed to be involved in the houses within their own district. Bonner said her office will spend a cumulative time of a full eight-hour day each week just dealing with these zombie homes.

Krieger said there have been 35 zombie homes demolished in district 2 since the zombie program began in 2013. That is peanuts compared to the likes of Mastic Beach, a village that had disincorporated in 2016. In that area, the town is dealing with more than 100 known derelict and run-down properties.

“Talk about impacting the quality of life,” Bonner said. “Talk about squatters, talk about drug dealing, talk about impacting your property values — there are a lot of components to it.”

These derelict properties often have issues with animal infestation, break-ins and squatters, which can intensify and lengthen the process of removing the run-down properties. But the biggest roadblock to bringing a house back up to standards might be the lien put on the property. 

“Talk about squatters, talk about drug dealing, talk about impacting your property values — there are a lot of components to it.”

— Jane Bonner

After the town cleans up the property, Brookhaven will often put a lien on that property for the property taxes, either expecting the property owner or the county to pay back the town. In order to buy that property, a prospective buyer must satisfy that lien first, which on the steep end could be as high as $500,000, such as the case with the house on Audrey Street, according to Bonner.

These liens could make buying the now vacant property much harder, often leaving the property vacant for years with minimal means of getting a developer to build on the property with the extra fee coming from the lien. 

“It’s kind of like a cog in the wheel, it gums up the work, it really does,” she said.

Mimi Hodges, a Sound Beach resident, asked why these houses couldn’t be rejuvenated using state loans to rehabilitate them. That, or start community projects in order to buy the property and turn it into housing for homeless veterans or other needy groups, an example of which was a land trust that was recently created in Uniondale by community members.

“To support the character of the community,” Hodges said. “Make it an affordable house.”

From the view of a Brit, drawing parallels to elections in the U.S.

Stock photo

By John Broven

Part 1 of 2

After 46 years, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is due to leave the European Union March 29 in an exercise that has been labeled Brexit. You may have heard the term on BBC World News, C-SPAN2’s “Prime Minister’s Questions” and John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” (HBO), or read about the ongoing saga in The New York Times or The Washington Post. Still, in general the United States media coverage has been relatively muted in what has been a complex, often hard-to-understand process. Yet there are enough parallel circumstances across the pond to warrant making it a big news event over here in the U.S.

John Broven. Photo

It certainly matters a lot if, like me, you were born in England and are not happy with the Brexit decision. Before I proceed with my personal observations, let me give a brief backdrop to the Brexit scenario.

Brexit is a crude abbreviation of “British exit” from the European political and economic union of 28 countries that allows seamless movement of goods and citizens between each member state. Britain’s withdrawal was determined by a referendum held June 23, 2016, in which the “leave” voters outpointed the “remain” side by 17.4 to 16.1 million. In percentage terms it was 51.89 to 48.11. The turnout was some 33.5 million voters out of a possible 46.5 million, 72.1 percent of the registered electorate. As I’ve been living over here for more than 15 years, I was not allowed to vote along with an estimated 700,000 expats and some 3 million EU citizens living in the UK. Gerrymandering, anyone?

The UK referendum

I well remember the day when Prime Minister David Cameron (Conservative) announced there would be a referendum for Britain to leave the EU after he was re-elected in the general election of May 7, 2015. He had been the country’s leader since 2010 in a coalition government with the pro-European Liberal Democrats, but against all expectation the Conservatives won the election outright. At the time I asked myself, “Why call a referendum?” What I didn’t know was that Cameron wanted to quell once and for all the rebellious EU leavers in his own party and thwart the rise of the populist United Kingdom Independence Party, led by Nigel Farage.

To my mind, Cameron compounded his disastrous decision of placing party politics on a national stage by agreeing to put the referendum to the people in the simplest of terms:

• Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union. Yes or No.

The openness of the referendum wording gave voters, fed up with years of austerity, a chance to kick the government without understanding the full consequences of their actions. The many dire economic warnings of a precipitous EU exit, ranging from the Bank of England governor to President Barack Obama (D), were riposted as fearmongering.

England and Wales voted to leave, Scotland and Northern Ireland did not. London voted overwhelmingly to remain, but the industrial North — the equivalent of our rust belt — predictably went to the leavers. Not surprisingly, the majority of the 50-and-overs, with their rose-tinted memories, voted to leave. On the other hand, the younger generation was largely in favor of remaining, feeling more European and with less attachment to the days of the British Empire. Interestingly, the peak share of any sector came from women between the ages of 18 and 24, with 80 percent voting to remain. Yet too many millennials, as over here in the last presidential election, did not bother to go to the voting booths.

As we have seen from the HBO film, “Brexit: The Uncivil War,” the Vote Leave campaign — led by notorious Cameron-backstabber Boris Johnson, U.S. President Donald Trump (R)-acolyte Farage, prominent Tory politicians such as the overbearing Jacob Rees-Mogg and double-dealer Michael Gove — were always a step ahead of Vote Remain, led by Cameron himself, future prime minister Theresa May and reticent Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. The leave effort was brilliantly masterminded by Dominic Cummings who outflanked his traditionally minded opponents by using computer algorithms devised by Cambridge Analytica, partly owned — whisper it low — by Robert Mercer from our own Head of the Harbor village on Long Island.

With new data available, Cummings understood there was a raft of disaffected voters that had been ignored by politicians of all parties for years. He proceeded to woo them with an appealing slogan, “Let’s take back control,” aided by a red bus carrying the false message that leaving the EU would save the British people £350 million a week (about $450 million), adding, “Let’s fund our NHS [National Health Service] instead — Vote Leave.” Without justification, it was said the country would be overrun by Islamic immigrants should Turkey be admitted to the EU. (It hasn’t.) It was a campaign of distorted facts, appealing to those who remembered the good old days when Britannia ruled the waves and the world map was colored mostly British Empire pink.

Earlier, I mentioned “parallel circumstances” in relation to the U.S. How about disaffected and ignored voters, a fear campaign based on immigration and Islamophobia, protest votes, absent millennials, discarded trade agreements, gerrymandering, a populist insurrection — and, I hate to say it, fake news. Does that sound familiar?

Events of June 2016

I was in England the week before the referendum and was astonished at how the youthful, vibrant atmosphere I felt on my last visit had evaporated into a sour mood. As a confirmed Europhile, I was even more amazed to see how finely balanced the polls were. The omens were not good, especially when state broadcaster, British Broadcasting Corporation, adopted a neutral stance giving equal time to both campaigns. Why did the leave campaign, with no governmental responsibility or track record, deserve the same coverage as the in-power remainers?

I was still in England when staunch remain campaigner and promising Labour member of parliament, Jo Cox, was murdered June 16, 2016, in her native West Yorkshire at age 41 by a right-wing extremist. Had politics become so divisive that a life had to be taken? Surely, I thought, the British people, with their long-held sense of justice and fair play, would rebel against such a dastardly act and vote for the “good guys” out of respect to Cox. The referendum campaign was halted temporarily, but a news blackout contrived to neutralize any widespread outrage at her death.

Referendum night June 23 was covered in full over here by BBC World News. Ironically, with the five-hour time difference, U.S. viewers were more up to date than the sleeping British public. I knew the writing was on the wall when early voting in Sunderland and Swindon went to the leavers. And yet Sunderland, in the relatively impoverished North East, was home to a major Nissan factory (jobs, jobs, jobs), with Swindon in the affluent South West housing a big Honda factory. Both Japanese car companies used their English bases for easy access to the European markets. What were the voters in those towns thinking by voting leave?

The leave campaign was victorious. A distraught Cameron resigned July 11, 2016, to be succeeded by May. It was up to her to negotiate a withdrawal agreement with the EU, with a leaving date eventually set for March 29, 2019 — the end of this month. The protracted negotiations have been rocky, to say the least, and the outcome has still not been resolved at this late hour thanks mainly to a problem that should have been foreseen at the time of the referendum but wasn’t: the Irish backstop. Stay tuned.

Part 2 will bring matters up to date, with crucial parliamentary votes due to be held this week. John Broven, a member of the TBR News Media editorial team, is an English-born resident of East Setauket, and has written three award-winning (American) music history books.

Political cartoon by Jake Fuller. Image courtesy of SunshineWeek.org

By Donna Deedy

It’s Sunshine Week (March 10-16), time for recognizing and celebrating the importance of freedom of information  laws and open government in our democracy.

Newsrooms nationwide are participating in the weeklong event, which specifically aims to help people better understand their everyday right-to-know under federal and state laws. Sponsored since 2005 by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the American Society of News Editors, TBR News Media is joining in for this year’s tribute. 

We’re focusing on New York State’s Freedom of Information Law. First enacted in 1974, the law succinctly states: “The people’s right to know the process of governmental decision-making and to review the documents and statistics leading to determinations is fundamental to our society. Access to such information should not be thwarted by shrouding it with the cloak of secrecy or confidentiality.” The law applies to schools and all government entities within the state.  

We’ve taken a look at the websites of towns and villages within our circulation area on Long Island’s North Shore to gauge whether or not the process is user-friendly. 

What we’ve found is most entities acknowledge their obligation to respond to Freedom of Information Law, or FOIL, requests. The towns of Huntington, Smithtown and Brookhaven post their record access codes online, along with most incorporated villages.   Rather than posting their FOIL codes, the villages of Huntington Bay, Nissequogue, Head of the Harbor and Port Jefferson simply provide a link to a one-page preprinted FOIL request form. Port Jefferson village online code explicitly directs the public to visit Village Hall during business hours to examine its record access policy. 

Political cartoon by Joe Heller. Image courtesy of SunshineWeek.org

It’s important to note that state legislators created a special unit within New York State to answer the public’s questions and render legal opinions about open government practices. The unit, known as the Committee on Open Government, has determined government entities should not mandate the use of record request application forms. 

Villages that currently require the public to use their application forms to request records may need to revise their practices to align with state’s legal advisory opinions. 

“There’s no obligation on behalf of the requester to travel to town or village offices to view records,” said Robert Freeman, the executive director of New York State Committee on Open Government.

Fortunately, requesting records in the electronic age is easier than ever. If documents aren’t already posted online, people can simply request copies of records via an email to the record access officer. Instructions can be found on the state department’s website: https://www.dos.ny.gov/coog/freedomfaq.html#howrequestemail. The record request template clearly outlines requesters basic rights within the form letter. 

Christian Trejabal is the open government chair for the Association of Opinion Journalists.  In a blogpost for Sunshine Week he opined on the need for journalists in this day and age.

“Thousands of newspapers have closed over the last 20 years,” Trejabal said. “Tens of thousands of journalists have lost their jobs. Without them, government is under less scrutiny, and that isn’t healthy for democracy.” 

If you would like to know more, visit the New York Department of State Committee on Open Government website. It provides volumes of information about the Freedom of Information Law, the Open Meetings Law and the Personal Privacy Protection Law. The committee’s lawyers can also be reached by telephone at 518-474-2518. 

Donna Deedy is currently a freelancer for TBR News Media, and has years of experience in the journalism field.

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

The Town of Brookhaven is boasting of its finances while promising to improve town infrastructure, both in its railways and along its streets.

The town will be offering up $150 million to fix and aid town-owned roadways in 2019. Town spokesmen declined to offer more details but said more information will be coming later in the week.

“We need to ensure solid infrastructure is in place,” town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said. “We cannot wait any longer … we have to bite the bullet, we can’t wait any longer for federal or state assistance.”

During a 45-minute speech March 11, Romaine boasted of the town’s finances, citing its 2019 $304.2 million budget which stayed within the tax cap while not using any of the town’s fund balance. The supervisor added that fund balance was another point of pride, saying the fund balance grew by 9.4 percent across the six major funds while the town’s bond rating remained at Triple A, according to Standard and Poor’s. He said this fund balance should the town suffer any unexpected financial issues, such as the 2008 recession.

Further, he promised explicitly to keep taxes as low as possible, despite the town making up approximately 8 percent of residents’ overall tax bill.

“Our residents cannot pay more in taxes,” Romaine said. “I don’t have to tell you, but too many people, young and old, are leaving Long Island.”

The town also boasted of its Brookhaven United Consolidation and Efficiency Plan, which has started to look at creating shared services between other local municipalities and the town. The plan is due to a $20 million state grant the town received in June 2018 for the purpose of consolidation. In February, the town went into an agreement with Port Jefferson Village to consolidate its tax receiving methods with the town, using $478,000 of the grant funds. Brookhaven Town Receiver of Taxes Louis Marcoccia has said he expects the program will be extended to other villages.

In addition to tax receiving, the supervisor said the town has also consolidated services with local municipalities in purchasing road salt and sand, paving, as well as doing road clearing during snows such as with the Village of Shoreham. In April, the town has advised it will launch a municipal market portal, which will enable villages and special districts to have full access to all town contracts.

Romaine said the plan, once fully implemented over the next few years, will generate an estimated $61 million in savings for the town.

Romaine had complaints about the speed of development by New York State, not only on its roads but also the rail network in the town. Brookhaven has three Long Island Rail Road lines, one going through Port Jefferson, the Montauk line and the Ronkonkoma line, the most trafficked, which goes through the center of the town. He continued calls for electrification of these rail lines which has also been supported by state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who appropriated funds for an electrification study on the Port Jeff line.

“We cannot compete in the 21st-century economy with a 19th-century rail system,” Romaine said. “We collect a ton of money for the MTA, but we don’t see it here.”

The LIRR has also agreed to relocate the Yaphank train station so it is adjacent to William Floyd Parkway, just south of the Long Island Expressway. He said this will could take much of the burden off the Ronkonkoma train station, whose parking lot is often way past its max capacity.

While touting town savings, Romaine said officials were still concerned about the loss of $1.8 million in state aid through the NYS Aid and Incentives for Municipalities program.

“We need to start working as a region, or we will watch the rest of the country pass us by,” the supervisor said.

He also discussed environmental measures, including the town’s solar projects, the water table underground and fears of rising tides.

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Suffolk County officials have set their sights on the wallet of a disgraced ex-police chief, looking to recoup costs of litigation.

Nearly three months after Suffolk County legislators tabled a proposal to sue former police chief James Burke over the $1.5 million settlement it paid out to his victim, the Suffolk County Legislature passed a measure March 5 to begin a lawsuit in an attempt to recoup compensation and salary Burke had received up to when he resigned in October 2015. 

“Burke clearly breached the oath he took as an officer and the duty he owed the county to serve in his capacity faithfully and lawfully,” Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said. The Smithtown legislator was the main sponsor of the bill. 

The bill would authorize the county attorney to file a lawsuit by using “the faithless servant doctrine,” which dates back to the 19th century and allows employers to recoup all compensation paid to an employee while they acted in a disloyal manner. 

The resolution was drafted to recover the compensation paid specifically to Burke and no other county employee. 

“It feels great,” Trotta said. “Finally a victory for Suffolk County taxpayers.”

Originally, Trotta wanted to recoup money from a 2018 settlement the county paid to Christopher Loeb, who was shackled and beaten by Burke back in 2012 as part of a cover-up. County attorney Dennis Brown said at a December 2018 Ways and Means Committee public hearing there was no basis for a possible lawsuit and there was no way to recover or recoup the settlement dollars paid in the lawsuit, according to previous reporting by TBR News Media.  

In the federal civil lawsuit, the county agreed to pay the settlement amount for the civil rights offenses as they were the ex-police chief’s employer at the time. The county also paid the settlement for the actions of six other police officers who helped cover up Burke’s actions when he allegedly beat a handcuffed man for stealing a duffle bag from his vehicle.  

At the same hearing, Howard Miller, a Garden City-based attorney with the law firm Bond Schoeneck & King, presented a case for the county suing Burke for his wages and compensation paid by the county under the faithless servant doctrine.

Miller mentioned that he had successfully represented clients at the state level in similar lawsuits, including the William Floyd School District.

“This doctrine is designed to create a deterrent to future acts like this, of corruption and misconduct,” Miller said at the December 2018 public hearing.

Brown also said in a statement that the Suffolk County Charter authorizes either the county executive or the Legislature to direct legal action. The resolution that was passed by the Legislature provides a framework specific to that action, but does not limit the ability of the county executive to pursue additional legal action.

Trotta hopes the measure sets a precedent that anyone, whether in government or not, will be held accountable for their actions. 

“Former District Attorney Spota empowered and conspired with Jim Burke and Chris McPartland,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) spokesperson Jason Elan said in a statement. “Clearly, all three fall under the faithless servant doctrine so any legal action to recoup taxpayer-funded salary and benefits should include each individual.”

According to a representative from the county executive’s office, Bellone signed the legislation to recover salary and benefits from Burke on March 11 and further directed a similar suit be filed against ex-District Attorney Thomas Spota and his top aide who have also been indicted on related charges.

by -
0 230

The walls of East Wind in Wading River were bathed in green as the Friends of St. Patrick hosted their annual Luck of the Irish Casino Night March 8 at the East Wind hotel in Wading River. 

Attendees paid a $75 ticket and were given $200 in fake money, which they then used to play an assortment of games including black jack, Texas Hold’em, craps and slot machines. Money won could be used to buy raffle tickets for an assortment of prizes.

Attending was the recently named grand marshal, John McNamara; along with the recently named queen, Jazmine Lang, a Rocky Point High School junior; and her lady-in-waiting, Emily Hampson, a sophomore at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

The Miller Place-Rocky Point St. Patrick’s Day Parade is set for March 17 starting at 1 p.m. beginning at Harrison Avenue in Miller Place. Roads will start to close at 12 p.m.

by -
0 232

By Bill Landon

Mount Sinai lady Mustangs had it all on the line March 9, and they walked away from the 2019 post season with their heads held high.

Nassau county champions, Sewanhaka Central High School of Floral Park, took on Suffolk title holders Mount Sinai in the Class A regional Long Island championship finals at Farmingdale State University March 9. It was a five-point game at the half, at 25-20, but Sewanhaka stretched their legs outscoring the Mustangs 41-28 over the final 16 minutes of play to clinch the title game 66-48. 

Atop the leaderboard for Mount Sinai was senior guard Brooke Cergol who concluded her varsity career with a team high 21 points, followed by fellow senior Gabby Sartori who netted 10 despite coming back from an injury in the fourth quarter. 

During the regular season Sartori averaged 21.7 points per game with 163 field goals, 38 triples with 124 points from the free throw line, ranking her fourth in Suffolk County. The Mustangs entered the postseason as the No. 5 seed where they picked off West Babylon in the opening round, upset Hauppauge the Class A No. 1 seed, went on to defeat Westhampton then followed with a victory over Pierson/Bridgehampton/Shelter Island. Mount Sinai finished their 2018-19 campaign with a solid 21-5 overall record.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. File photo by Kyle Barr

Suffolk County financial reform has leaped to the tops of the minds of members of both parties in county government.

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced proposals aimed at strengthening Suffolk’s financial future at a press conference in Hauppauge Feb. 27. As part of the Securing Suffolk’s Financial Future Act, Bellone proposed amending the county Tax Act to allow the county to collect tax revenue that is owed in January, instead of waiting until June. Officials said the plan is the latest in the county’s efforts to streamline operations and be more efficient. 

Bellone said the goal of the plan is to help strengthen the county’s financial condition going forward. 

“It would ensure the county would get tax revenue that it is owed at the beginning of the year instead of waiting until June and [being] forced to borrow funds.”

— Steve Bellone

“When we look at planning ahead, looking beyond where we are today and thinking about where we’ll be five, 10, 15 years down the road — it’s important that we do that,” the county executive said. 

The plan would build upon previous undertakings by the county, which include bipartisan efforts to bring the county in line with the best finance practices set forth by financial experts from the Office of the New York State Comptroller and the Government Finance Officers Association, according to Bellone. 

In doing so, the county would press to amend the Tax Act, which would require state legislation. The county executive said the 100-year-old law is seriously outdated.

“It would ensure the county would get tax revenue that it is owed at the beginning of the year instead of waiting until June and [being] forced to borrow funds,” he said. “This is an issue that crosses party lines, this is not an issue that is partisan or [one] that should be partisan.”

The county executive called for the authorization of a four-year budget plan, which would allow the county to focus on long-term projects as well as updated debt management and fund balance policies. New computer software will be purchased to enhance transparency and
accountability.

Suffolk Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R), a known critic of Bellone, announced plans in February to run for county executive in November. His campaign has attacked Bellone on the current state of the county’s finances, placing a lot of the blame on his Democratic contender for a downgrade in Suffolk’s bond rating and for raising county fees. 

Kennedy said Bellone is just attempting to look fiscally responsible.

“Steve Bellone doesn’t know how to spend less,” Kennedy said. 

In a Jan. 31 TBR News Media article, Eric Naughton, Suffolk’s budget director, said while the county’s bond rating has dropped, Kennedy were “overstating” the impact. He said Moody’s, which gives the bond grades to municipalities, was only looking at the past and not the future. Kennedy has said he plans to consolidate county offices in order to reduce taxes.

Legislator Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue), deputy presiding officer, said fiscal responsibility is the top priority when talking about taxpayer dollars. 

“These policies that we are laying out are common-sense ways to ensure that we are transparent with the public,” he said. 

The county executive also called for re-establishing an insurance reserve fund, originally created in 1980, which would assist in paying unexpected legal expenses. There was a call as well to reorganize the county’s audit joint committee and add more members. 

“Steve Bellone doesn’t know how to spend less.”

— John Kennedy Jr.

Bellone said the changes would allow for a more robust and diversified review of the fiscal condition of the county. 

Deputy County Executive Jon Kaiman (D), who helped piece the plan together along with a team from the county executive’s office, said its goal was to figure out how Suffolk County can be best managed and reach its fullest potential. 

“What we can do is to present reform in a manner to get the best out of what this county can offer,” Kaiman said. 

County officials indicated legislation has been filed and expect a hearing to be set at the end of March and the proposals could be up for consideration into law sometime in April. 

A scene of construction going on behind the fences along Route 25A in Mount Sinai. Photo by Kyle Barr

By David Luces

A long mesh fence has gone up around the corner of Echo Avenue and Route 25A in Mount Sinai. Passing cars can see heavy construction vehicles already breaking the ground on what will be an assisted living community and senior rental space.

As development and construction are underway for two projects, a 120-unit Bristal assisted living community and a 225-unit senior rental complex for individuals 55 and over on a 24-acre parcel of land in Mount Sinai, the Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency earlier last month offered a 13-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement to the developer.

“We’ve had a series of correspondence [with the town] going back two or three years about the need for this particular parcel [of land] to be generating tax income for the community.”

— Ann Becker

Lisa Mulligan, the town’s director of economic development and CEO of the town’s IDA, said the projects would be a major boon to the area, adding these two projects are a $138 million investment for the township, and construction would facilitate around 800 construction jobs, according to town officials. 

IDA documents show once the project is completed, the residential facility will provide four full time jobs with an average salary of $56,000. The assisted living facilty is listed as providing 50 full time and 20 part time jobs with an average salary $36,000 by year two of the facility.

Mulligan said that before construction began in January the developer paid around $46,000 in property taxes on the vacant land. 

The 13-year PILOT would see the developer continue to pay $46,000 in property taxes for the first three years while the two projects are under construction. Then in the fourth year the tax payments would increase to around $190,000 and would continue to rise to about $2.2 million at the end of the PILOT. From there, the developer would pay the full assessed value of the properties, which is expected to be more than the PILOT payments.  

“We are really excited for the projects and to be able facilitate 800 jobs,” Mulligan said.   

Mount Sinai Civic Association has largely been supportive of the senior housing construction plans, though civic leaders are not fond of the news that the developer has received a PILOT from the Brookhaven IDA. 

The civic association hosted a meeting March 4 to discuss the PILOT agreement.  

“The Mount Sinai Civic Association has been consulted by The Engel Burman Group and approves of their plan to construct the senior housing project currently underway on Route 25A in Mount Sinai,” the civic said in a statement provided to TBR News Media.  

According to the civic association, the development is a part of a 1999 legal stipulation which resulted from a lawsuit filed against the town by them on the 24-acre parcel of land, and the land has always been designated for that purpose of creating these senior facilities. However, civic members were disappointed in the loss of tax revenue due to the PILOT.

“Our community has gone through many proposals for this project, and is pleased that the development is finally underway,” the civic said in its statement. “However we were very disappointed to see that a PILOT was approved by the Brookhaven IDA as this parcel was always intended to provide much-needed tax relief for the Mount Sinai community.”  

At the March 4 meeting, civic president Ann Becker reiterated that stance. 

“We’ve had a series of correspondence [with the town] going back two or three years about the need for this particular parcel [of land] to be generating tax income for the community,” she said. “We’ve been concerned about that for a number of years.”

Becker said while they are supportive about the facilities coming to the area and understand there will be some tax benefits for Mount Sinai, they are just unsure if this was the best deal that could have been obtained. 

“We are really excited for the projects and to be able facilitate 800 jobs.”

— Lisa Mulligan

The developers, The Engel Burman Group of Garden City, are no strangers to the Long Island area with 13 other assisted-living locations on the Island, including facilities in Lake Grove and Holtsville. 

Census data shows the senior population will outstrip the younger generations. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2035 there will be 78 million people 65 years and older compared to 76.7 million under the age of 18. 

The Mount Sinai senior rental complex will include a 9,000 square foot clubhouse with a movie theater, card room, outdoor pool, living room and gym. 

Units in the complex, will range from studio up to two bedrooms. A spokesperson from Engel Burman said they have not determined the prices of rent yet.

Information added March 11 denoting number of jobs the two different projects should have by completion.

Social

9,231FansLike
0FollowersFollow
1,143FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe