Members of the Port Jefferson School District community headed south for a little enlightening Nov. 1.
If the district’s $30 million bond referendum passes following a Dec. 5 vote, stadium lights will be installed on the athletic fields at Scraggy Hill Road to allow sports teams to spread out practice times. To ease residents concerns about the lighting, the district held a South Shore meeting Nov. 1 at Sayville’s Greeley Avenue football field to show homeowners in the vicinity of the Scraggy Hill fields lights similar to those in the proposal.
The district selected a brand and model similar to what is used by Sayville Union Free School District. They would be installed for $1.6 million if the full 20-plus item bond passes. Manufactured by Musco Sports Lighting, the football stadium lighting is billed as targeted beams meant to have little glare outside of the area designated for illumination, according to district administrators.
Ryan Walker, a resident near the Scraggy Hill fields and an employee in the district, has been outspoken about this particular line item in the greater bond proposal during meetings and again voiced his concern at the Nov. 1 meeting.
“Based on the shadows I see, I would be on my deck with my deck lit up, and that concerns me,” Walker said, adding his concerns with the inclusion of the lights in the proposal will “absolutely” be the largest deciding factor in how he votes. “I came down here thinking that somehow there’d be a miracle that what they explained would be true, but just being here sort of confirms my suspicions that there will be ambient light coming over, and even more than I thought, especially when the foliage is down.”
Walker said the presence of trees between his property and the fields, which district Assistant Superintendent Sean Leister estimated are between 70 and 100 feet tall, do not put his mind at ease having seen the Sayville field fully illuminated.
“I sit in my kitchen and I watch sports, because most of the tree foliage isn’t dense enough, and then as soon as the tree foliage is down I have a complete view of [the fields],” he said. He said the brightness of the lights concerns him, though he said the financial impact of the bond as a whole and the potential for traffic issues during night hours on the dark streets surrounding Scraggy Hill Road also need to be taken into consideration by voters.
“We are all about the school, we love the school,” Walker said. “It’s just disheartening to us as a neighborhood because we are residential. [The area that surrounds the Sayville football field] is not a residential place. We are right up to the [Scraggy] fields. We think the school has other solutions that they’re not willing to negotiate with the neighborhood about. It was all or nothing, and they said they’d listen to us, which I’m sure they did, but listening and actually talking and negotiating are two different things.”
District Superintendent Paul Casciano said he is in a unique position, knowing about stadium lighting firsthand because he lives in the vicinity of Stony Brook University’s soccer fields.
“Initially, yeah I had some concerns, but you know what, they’re not an issue and they stay on until 11:30 every night,” he said. “You think it’s going to be a big issue and then you realize … kids cheering — never a big issue for me; 8:30 is not very late.”
Casciano pointed to a policy drafted by the board of education in recent weeks that would be implemented should the bond pass and would prohibit the lights from staying on past 8:30 p.m. as evidence the district is listening to concerns from the community.
He reiterated the inclusion of the lights in the bond is for safety reasons, because currently, to accommodate varsity, junior varsity and middle school practices for boys and girls teams throughout the district, more practice time options are needed. At previous meetings, Casciano and other administrators have said the district’s current practice logjam has created dangerous situations for teams trying to utilize adjoining fields around the district at the same time.
Sayville’s field is surrounded by a Long Island Rail Road station on its north side, a parking lot and a few homes near its southeastern corner, an education center on its south side and a few homes across Greeley Avenue to the west. Casciano, Leister and district director of facilities Fred Koelbel said they each would be more disturbed by train station-related noise than the lights if they lived near the field. Koelbel added the lights at Sayville are competition-level brightness, and the one’s in Port Jeff would be a duller version because they’d only be needed for practices.
Carl Saieva, a Port Jeff resident who does not live near the Scraggy Hill fields, also attended the Sayville meeting and is leaning toward voting “No.”
When asked how he would feel if he lived in a house overlooking the field’s west side, he said: “I would be pissed.”