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Affordable Housing

Huntington town officials, members of Veterans of War Post 1469 and Lipsky Construction representatives celebrate the official groundbreaking on a veterans housing complex in Huntington Station Oct. 30. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Columbia Terrace veterans affordable housing project, which has been promised for close to eight years, might be finally coming to fruition.

Town of Huntington officials, members of the Huntington Community Development Agency (CDA) and members of the local Veterans of Foreign War Post 1469 joined Bayport-based Lipsky Construction Oct. 30 to celebrate the start of the project’s construction.

Huntington Station has been waiting decades for neighborhood and economic revitalization, which over the past several years is beginning to mobilize,” Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “Our veterans and their families make many sacrifices to keep them safe, and we owe them the opportunity and ability for owning a home they can live in.”

Our veterans and their families make many sacrifices to keep them safe, and we owe them the opportunity and ability for owning a home they can live in.”

— Chad Lupinacci

The new development features 14 apartments at the corner of Lowndes Avenue and Railroad Street in Huntington Station. It consist of six, one-bedroom units and eight, two-bedroom condo-style apartments, according to CDA Director Leah Jefferson.

The project was put out to bid again in June with a budget of approximately $3.5 million, Jefferson said. Lipsky Construction was the lowest bidder and a contract signed in September. The project is expected to be completed within 300 days, and have all units sold and occupied by Sept. 30, 2019.

“When I heard it about veterans, I took extra steps to make sure we got on the project,” said Barry Lipsky, the president of Lipsky Construction.“It’s a matter of how much to give back.”

The costs of the units will be offered at 80 percent of the Nassau-Suffolk median income, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo. The one-bedroom apartments  starting at $200,000.

The veterans housing project was first proposed back in 2010, according to Lupinacci. That same year, the CDA was awarded $1.56 million grant from the New York’s Empire State Economic Development Fund Program. An additional $2 million dollars were borrowed by the town from the town’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund And Agency Fund for the sake of the project, which will be paid back upon the sale of the apartments. Interim funding has been secured by Huntington’s elected officials through People’s United Bank in the form of a construction loan.

“What I found out over the years, veterans don’t ask for a lot. They’re not banging on doors saying ‘gimme, gimme, gimme.” 

— Rick Seryneck

Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D), former director of the town’s CDA, said one of challenges has been  rising costs compared to the amount of grant funding available.

The town has also secured $250,000 in funds from the county to go toward road realignment, curbing and street lighting, which Lupinacci said would be installed after construction is finished.

The supervisor said a lottery will be held to fill the apartments closer to the project’s completion.

Rick Serynek, a member of the Huntington Veterans Advisory Board, said he knows veterans who could make use of affordable housing. He said  many of those who have served are not the type to ask for help, even if they need it.

“What I found out over the years, veterans don’t ask for a lot. They’re not banging on doors saying ‘gimme, gimme, gimme,” Serynek said. “All they want is a fair shake.”

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As Election Day rapidly approaches, we have been busy at TBR News Media interviewing candidates for our 2018 election preview issue coming out Nov. 1. In grilling politicians on everything from taxes and education to women’s rights, there has been some striking presumptions made on a topic not directly raised, but one we feel can no longer be ignored.

There have been repeated statements made by incumbents and challengers alike about millennials and their desired future on Long Island that are misguided at best and blatantly wrong at worst.

Millennials, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, is a term for Americans born between 1982 and 2000. The oldest members of this population are turning 36 this year. No longer youths or young adults needing guidance, but full-time adult employees in your office and local businesses building their careers and families.

It’s inaccurate to say mid-30-somethings on Long Island aren’t at all interested in owning their own suburban home complete with the idealistic white-picket fence to raise a family in, just like the one many of us grew up in, as is regularly asserted by many candidates. It is not a question of desire, but of ability. Spending more than $450,000 on average for a house with an additional $10,000 or more per year in property taxes — according to a report released by property database ATTOM Data Solutions in 2017 — is simply not in the cards for many of this generation. Oh, and we’re well aware those property taxes will only continue to increase.

Politicians are quick to talk about how transit-oriented hubs will reduce the need for cars, as millennials like walkable communities and prefer to use public transportation. Walkable communities are great, but millennials, like every other generation, want to be able to afford to buy nice, new cars.

The 2016 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, found roughly 80 percent of Suffolk residents commute to work alone via car, truck or van, and an additional 8 percent carpool. Having and owning a car is necessary to get to and from work, grocery stores or visit friends. It’s also another added expense for a generation saddled with crippling student debt.

Another oft-repeated sentiment is this generation isn’t as interested in having and raising children or are doing so later in life. A middle-income, married couple should expect to spend more than $280,000 to raise a child born in 2015, with projected inflation factored in, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s a lot to consider in an area with a high cost of living and higher taxes, when the average worker’s wages are holding around the levels reached back in 1970, according to the Pew Research Center. Simply put, wages haven’t kept up.

These are real issues to those living on Long Island, millennials or not, cutting across all age groups. What we need are politicians in office who will make policies aimed at tackling these problems to improve our quality of life and keep the hope of the American Dream alive on Long Island. What we don’t need are more presumptions about people’s wants and desires.

Signing off, not just a millenial, but a multigenerational staff.

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.

The four-bedroom affordable Greenlawn home in Harborfield Estates that will be sold for $221,000. Photo from Town of Huntington

One lucky family will have the chance to move into a new Greenlawn home for $221,000 — if they can beat the odds.

The Town of Huntington started accepting applications July 16 from first-time homebuyers interested in moving into a four-bedroom, 2 1/2-bathroom house in Harborfields Estates. The housing complex is a collection of 47 single-family homes on half-acre plots ordinarily sold at starting at $800,000 each, according to the development’s website. A lottery will be held Sept. 5 to choose at random an individual or family who will be offered the opportunity to purchase the property for about a quarter of the usual cost.

“This is a very unique opportunity for a first-time homebuyer,” said Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R). “The exterior is beautiful and I cannot wait to see what it looks like when the interior is complete.”

“This is a very unique opportunity for a first-time homebuyer.”

– Chad Lupinacci

Leah Jefferson, director of the Huntington Community Development Agency, which oversees the town’s Affordable Housing Program, said this is the first time the town is holding a lottery for a single-family home. The two-story house, constructed by developer Island Estate Homes, will be a little less than 2,8500 square feet and move-in ready by the 2018 holiday season.

She said she expects there to be high interest in the property. When town officials held a lottery for affordable senior housing at The Seasons in Elwood in January, the CDA director said nearly 400 applications were received for 10 available units.

“Even though there is only one unit for sale, I would not let that impede people from applying,” Jefferson said. “One person has as good of a chance as anyone else to obtain the unit.”

In order to qualify, those interested must be a first-time homebuyer which the town has defined as a person who has never owned a home, has not owned a home in the last three years or is a displaced homemaker. The purchaser must also demonstrate that their total income — including adult persons age 18 and older combined salary, overtime, bonuses, pensions, social security, tips, etc. — does not exceed 80 percent of the area’s average median income of $61,350 for a single individual increasing to $87,600 for a family of four, in accordance with federal guidelines set by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“One person has as good of a chance as anyone else to obtain the unit.”

– Leah Jefferson

“[The purchaser] must give us three years information,” Jefferson said. “If their salary has fluctuated or changed, we will work on the average.”

All applicants must be able to secure a mortgage on their own, according to the CDA director, as the town will not offer financial assistance or financing options. In addition to mortgage payments, the town has estimated potential owners should account for paying $6,000 annually in real estate taxes and $460 in homeowner association fees, which will be billed twice a year.

Town officials will not host an open house, but interested purchasers may contact the developer, at 631-588-8818 to set up a tour of the property.

Those interested must fill out the forms available online at www.huntingtonny.gov/harborfieldsestates by Aug. 17 at 4 p.m. There is a non-refundable processing fee of $26.50 and only one application may be submitted per household.

Income Guidelines to Qualify

Household size     Maximum Income
1 person               $61,350
2 persons              $70,100
3 persons              $78,850
4 persons              $87,600
5 persons              $94,650
6 persons              $101,650

Jefferson said a live lottery will be held Sept. 5 in Room 114 of Town Hall at 5 p.m. There will be two drawings, according to the CDA director. The first will create a priority list for those who are a current resident or employed by a business located in the Town of Huntington, and non-residents who can show they have relatives living in the Town of Huntington. The second drawing will be for all other applicants.

The selected purchaser will not be required to live in the house for any specific length of time, according to Jefferson, as sometimes required with many down payment assistance programs. However, there is a restrictive covenant on the house that the owner must promise to contact the CDA upon putting the house up for resale in the future so as it will remain affordable in perpetuity.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” Jefferson said. “It’s not just another rental property, it’s something that they can list and invest in.”

Anyone with questions regarding the application guidelines should contact the Huntington Community Development Agency at 631-351-2884.

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Hundreds of Long Island students have accepted their high school diplomas this week. We’ve sent them off into the world armed with the best advice and pearls of wisdom we have to offer. In doing so, we can’t help but hope this isn’t goodbye.

The Class of 2018 students are each pursuing his or her own version of the American Dream. What defines that dream can vary greatly — whether it’s studying medicine at Stony Brook University, learning a trade or joining the military. The question we have to ask is this: When these students are envisioning their futures, how many picture himself or herself staying on Long Island?

While parents and teachers are taking pride — and deserved pats on the back — in getting this year’s seniors through their first 12 years of schooling, it doesn’t stop there. The older generation and its leadership must continue to take action to transform Long Island into an attractive and affordable place for young adults to live.

“We spend a lot of money educating our kids here,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) acknowledged in his 2018 State of the County address. “Too many of them have left for other parts of the country, where they are helping to power their regional economies. We have to stop that.”

For the first time in two decades, there is a glimmer of hope that the brain drain trend is starting to slow. The population of people between ages 20 and 34 living in Nassau and Suffolk counties has increased by 7.6 percent from 2010 to 2015 — for the first time since 1990 — according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 Population Estimates, as stated in a June 2017 report by the Long Island Association. LIA is a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies, programs and projects that benefit Long Island and support economic development and infrastructure investments.

However, there’s still 100,000 fewer residents in the 20 to 34 age group on Long Island than in 1990. So, there’s still a ways to go in attracting and keeping bright, young professionals on Long Island.

To this end, Suffolk County Legislature’s Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) proposed legislation June 22 that would instruct Suffolk’s Department of Economic Development and Planning to create a pilot program to address the issues causing millennials to leave for less expensive areas. While there are few specific details available on this proposal, Gregory has pointed to other municipalities creating programs that help young adults with student debt purchase homes while still paying down their loans.

This is but one step in the right direction. As the Class of 2018 disperses, their parents’ work shifts from helping with science projects and math homework to advocating for local change that will improve the quality of life young adults can expect on Long Island. Better entry-level job opportunities that offer competitive salaries without requiring travel into the city are needed, and more affordable housing and assistance to put the down payment on a house to help start a family are also important.

Take a few days to rejoice and celebrate with the graduating Class of 2018, but there is much work to be done creating a brighter, more youthful future for Long Island.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. File photo by Erika Karp

Homeless people living in Suffolk County might soon find a roof over their heads in Port Jefferson Station.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced May 10 that $25.6 million has been awarded to four housing developments on Long Island to create 239 affordable homes.

There is $8.1 million set aside for construction of six two-story buildings on vacant land off Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station, north of East Grove Street and south of Washington Avenue. Phase One of the project would create 77 units, while a potential second phase would add an additional 31 apartments, according to Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) speaking during a May 22 Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association meeting. The site plan application for the project was listed as
“in-review” in Brookhaven documents as of April 30, though the property is already properly zoned for the requested use and it doesn’t require any variances, according to town spokesperson Kevin Molloy. The Port Jeff Station project would include 45 units for homeless individuals, half of which would be reserved for veterans, Cartright said.

“Our biggest concern, besides the tax part that they’re not bringing any kind of revenue to our community, is also the amount of kids that may come out of this facility.”

— Sal Pitti

The May 10 announcement ignited a strong reaction from the Port Jefferson Station community both on social media and at the May 22 meeting. Civic association President Sal Pitti said he, Cartright and representatives from Concern for Independent Living Inc., the nonprofit agency seeking to construct the facility, met in March to discuss the potential project, concerns of the community and the agency’s efforts to gain tax exempt status for the project from the state. Cartright and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) both said May 22 they were caught off guard by the governor’s announcement about the funding.

“As soon as I found out anything about it, I ran into the supervisor’s office asking him what he knew about it and wanted to make sure that I had all the information necessary,” Cartright said. “Immediately afterwards we contacted the civic association … it was news to us as well.”

Pitti said he thought the organization had been less than forthcoming about its plans, suggesting Concern for Independent Living initially didn’t mention the potential second phase, which is also not referenced in Cuomo’s announcement.

“Our biggest concern, besides the tax part that they’re not bringing any kind of revenue to our community, is also the amount of kids that may come out of this facility, because more kids in our school district means more taxes on top of the taxes we’re already paying for that location,” he said.

Elizabeth Lunde, Senior Associate Executive Director for Concern for Independent Living said leadership of the civic association had been invited to visit one of the organizations other facilities, and the invitation remains on the table.

“Concern for Independent Living is a local organization that has been providing quality housing in Suffolk County for decades,” she said in an email. “We were founded in 1972 and our first office was located in Port Jefferson Station. We currently operate over 1,000 units of affordable rental housing that has made a very positive impact in Suffolk and Nassau Counties as well as Brooklyn and the Bronx.”

Several attendees of the May 22 civic meeting expressed displeasure about the project, suggesting Port Jeff Station already has its fair share of facilities for homeless people.

“Homeless families need a place to live — our community is a very giving community.”

— Edward Garboski

“Homeless families need a place to live — our community is a very giving community,” civic association Vice President Edward Garboski said May 22. A resident at the meeting responded, summing up a sentiment seemingly shared by most of the attendees: “We don’t want to be the only community giving.”

The Port Jefferson project is receiving only a small part of more than $200 million the state is awarding to build or preserve more than 2,800 affordable apartments across New York, according to a press
release from Cuomo’s office. The governor called the $200 million investment a “giant step forward to increase access to homes for families, seniors and our most vulnerable men and women across the state.”

RuthAnne Visnauskas, commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal program, said the investment would address the crisis of homelessness among other benefits.

“By delivering affordable homes to Long Island, we continue to grow its economy,” she said in a statement.

Romaine said the town is concerned about the governor’s announcement and suggested other ways he thought the money could be better used. He also instructed concerned residents to start a petition and direct it to Cuomo’s office.

“We’ve been begging the state of New York to give us some money to fix up zombie homes, and to make them available to first time home buyers and veterans,” he said. “We’d like that money going toward that housing, instead of building something new, how about we rebuild some of the neighborhoods that we lost during the Great Recession to foreclosures and zombie houses. How about giving homes to our veterans and first-time home buyers who are leaving the area.”

Hauppauge Industrial Association of Long Island launches year-long study on maximizing park's potential

Terri Alessi-Miceli, president and CEO of the Hauppauge Industrial Association of Long Island. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh.

The Hauppauge Industrial Park’s future may include  new apartments and recreational spaces as it looks to move into the 21st century.

The Hauppauge Industrial Association of Long Island announced Jan. 19 at its annual conference that it is launching an opportunity analysis study that will attempt to identify ways the park can maximize its growth and competitiveness — with a focus on keeping millennials on Long Island.

“We have the ability to really keep these kids on Long Island,” said Terri Alessi-Miceli, president and CEO of HIA-LI. “We see the Hauppauge Industrial Park as an opportunity to do that. We are looking to make better
connections to how they get jobs, where they get jobs and where they live.”

The year-long study will be led by the Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit
research, planning and advocacy firm dedicated to the tristate area’s business growth and sustainability, which will work with Stony Brook University and the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency. It aims to build off the results of an economic impact study of the park completed last year by SBU.

“The Hauppauge Industrial Park is the second largest industrial park in the country,
second to only Silicon Valley,” said Joe Campolo, board chairman of HIA-LI. “That’s an amazing statistic if you think of how much notoriety Silicon Valley gets and how little notoriety Hauppauge Industrial Park gets.”

Campolo said the two-year economic impact study, included research performed by three SBU graduate students, concluded that Hauppauge’s business economy lagged behind due to Silicon Valley’s partnership with Stanford University.

“A light bulb went off after that phase of the study to say, ‘How do we now collaborate with Stony Brook University directly?’” he said. “Because from a business owner’s perspective the No. 1 challenge is getting and keeping good talent here on Long
Island, and the No. 1 challenge Stony Brook has is making sure their graduates have good, solid jobs.”

The opportunity analysis will consist of surveying and gathering input from current Stony Brook students of what changes they would like to see made to the park to make it more attractive to live and work here,
according to Campolo, citing successful revitalization of Patchogue and Port Jefferson. In addition, there will be a series of meetings with current Hauppauge businesses to discuss what they need to grow.

“There’s no reason the HIA and the Hauppauge Industrial Park cannot also be a tremendous success in integrating where people work and where people live and where people recreate,” said Mitchell Pally, CEO of the Long Island Builders Institute.

One major factor the study will look at is the creation of multistory apartments in the industrial park in mixed-use buildings or along neighboring Motor Parkway. Alessi-Miceli said this is a new possibility since the Town of Smithtown created a zoning overlay district in 2015 that allows buildings along Motor Parkway up to 62 feet in height and along Northern State Parkway up to 50 feet.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said the overlay zoning is a “vital component to the success of the park” as the area saw a 2015 development spike after the zoning change, largely in recreational businesses and programs moving into the area.

If this new study confirms more zoning changes are needed for the park’s future growth, Wehrheim said he would welcome the HIA-LI to discuss it with the town.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner is up against Coram resident Democrat Mike Goodman to represent the 2nd Council District Nov. 7. Photos by Kevin Redding

Coram resident Mike Goodman is running against incumbent Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) because he said he thinks he could bring positive changes to the town — ones that will streamline services, create more jobs, keep young folks on Long Island and make transparency changes with lasting effects.

An English major from St. Joseph’s College, who also studied religion and computer science, the Democrat challenger said he takes major issue with the lack of job creation and affordable housing in the town.

Flooding in Rocky Point has been a cause for concern in relation to sewers on the North Shore. File photo from Sara Wainwright

“My brother is a recent graduate, he’s a really smart, great, hard-working guy and it’s hard for him to find a place to live here, and I’ve seen all my friends leave for the same reason,” he said. “I want to put a stop to the brain drain. There are a lot of companies that don’t come here because it takes so long to deal with the bureaucracy of the town. I’m personally affected by a lot of these problems.”

Bonner, who is running for her sixth term at the helm of the 2nd Council District, said during a debate at the TBR News Media office in October she didn’t know if it’s her 27-year-old opponent’s age or inexperience but he lacks knowledge of affordable housing issues.

“To say you want more affordable housing, it’s a lofty and noble goal, it just has to make sense where you put it,” she said.

She also pointed out the flaws in fulfilling some of her opponent’s goals in her district, specifically constructing walkable downtowns and affordable housing complexes.

Coram resident Mike Goodman is running for political office for the first time. Photo by Kevin Redding

“Sewers are very expensive and with that, developers are going to want density,” she said. “Density doesn’t work if you don’t have mass transportation to have these walkable downtowns, to have trains and expanded bus system, but also the county cut the bus system in the districts that I represent and the current legislator wrote a letter to not bring sewers to Rocky Point and Sound Beach. We don’t have expanded gas lines in Rocky Point either, and the seniors in the leisure communities are struggling with getting heat. As the closest level of government to the people that’s responsible for the least amount of your tax bill, we are great advocates to other levels of government to help the residents out because we’re the ones that end up cleaning up the mess.”

Goodman also suggested more housing attractive in price and environment to millennials, and Bonner pointed to the current project proposed for the site next to King Kullen in Mount Sinai, but also pointed to issues with affordable housing.

Stimulating job creation was a goal raised by both candidates.

Bonner said 500,000 positions could be created if Brookhaven wins the bid to bring an Amazon headquarters to the Calabro Airport in Mastic and the site of former Dowling College.

“Something that takes 45 days to get cleared with any other town takes two years to do here,” Goodman said in response. “I don’t think Amazon of all companies wants to deal with a town that’s bragging about recently getting computers. If we want to deal with the tech sector, if we want to have good paying jobs in manufacturing or technology, instead of the more and more retail I see happening, we need to attract big businesses here, and that happens by streamlining bureaucracy.”

Millennial housing was a topic for discussion, which there are plans to construct in Mount Sinai. Image top right from Basser Kaufman

The Newfield High School graduate pointed to his software development background at Hauppauge-based Globegistics, and side business building websites and fixing computers, as evidence of his abilities to cut administrative “red tape.”

“I would like a publicly-facing forum,” he said, referring to a ticketing system like JIRA, a highly customizable issue-management tracking platform. “Everyone can see all of the issues that have been called into the town, who in the town is working on it, how long it will take to get done and what it’s going to cost. I think town contracts should be made public so people can see who is getting the work done and how much they’re being paid, so people aren’t just getting family members jobs.”

Bonner emphasized many of hers and the town’s efforts in streamlining services, managing land use and implementation of technology, but also noted her and her colleagues’ desire for transparency.

“I think it is an overused expression, because I don’t know any person I work with on any level of government that doesn’t advocate for transparency; gone are the days of Crookhaven,” she said. “We’ve become more user-friendly, we aren’t as archaic as we used to be.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner is seeking her sixth term. Photo by Kevin Redding

Bonner has a long list of accomplishments she said she’s proud of playing a part in during her 12 years on the board. Bringing single-stream recycling to her constituents; refurbishing and redoing most of the parks and marinas; and working on a land use plan for the solar farm at the old golf course grounds in Shoreham that will generate about $1 million in PILOT payments for 20 years were some of the examples she noted.

She said she is also looking forward to improving handicap accessibility at town parks.

“When you’re walking in a particular park you see maybe a park needs a handicap swing and think about where in the budget you can get the money for it,” Bonner said. “The longer you’re at it there’s good things you get to do, they’re very gratifying.”

Goodman said he’s hoping to just create a better Brookhaven for the future.

“I’m running to make the town I’ve always lived in better, and not just better now, but better 10, 20 years from now,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of things that can be done better, I want to do the work and I think I’m qualified to do the work.”

The current councilwoman said she hopes to continue to improve and build on the things already accomplished.

“The longer you serve, the more layers you can peel back in the onion and you see problems that need to be solved,” Bonner said. “With length of service you can really get to the root of the problem, solve it significantly and hopefully, permanently.”

Lawyer Edward Flood is challenging incumbent Kara Hahn for the county legislator seat in the 5th district. Photos by Desiree Keegan.

By Rita J. Egan

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) is seeking re-election for her fourth term Nov. 7. Challenging her is Republican Edward Flood of South Setauket. A lawyer with offices in Smithtown and Port Jefferson, he is the chief of staff for state Assemblyman Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue).

Hahn and Flood sat down at the Times Beacon Record News Media office in October to discuss their stances on various issues, with the county’s growing debt and poor credit rating serving as a backdrop.

Hahn, chairwoman of the Environment, Planning & Agriculture Committee, said she has worked on a water quality program that helps homeowners obtain grants up to $11,000 to replace their outdated septic systems or cesspools with advanced wastewater technologies, which are designed to significantly reduce nitrogen pollution. Hahn said older septic systems create nitrogen issues in local waterways since they don’t remove the chemical and can leave between 55 and 80 parts of nitrogen per million — drinking water is acceptable at 10 parts per million.

“We need to come to the table and we need to put a more appropriate budget out there and work to solve some of these crises.”

— Edward Flood

“It degrades our resilience — coastal resiliency — by degrading our marshlands, the nitrogen in the water actually hurts the grasses that grow and protect us and as an island that’s important,” Hahn said.

She said the county secured grants for $6 million over three years for which homeowners can apply.

“I’m fully supportive of that project; it’s just that we have to find ways to pay for it ourselves,” Flood said.

He pointed out the county borrowed $30 million against the sewer stabilization fund and will have to start paying the money back. He said the county needs to work with other levels of government, especially federal, to come up with more money for projects in the future.

Both candidates discussed providing more affordable housing options. Hahn said she is in favor of increasing the percentage of inexpensive options available, which is now 15 to 20 percent, and working with developers to ensure that buildings include more one-bedroom and studio apartments.

Flood said he supports programs where first-time homeowners receive assistance with down payments. He also suggested mandate relief to bring property taxes down by having every organization that receives tax benefits go through their budgets and find state mandates that may not be regionally appropriate.

Flood said to stimulate the county’s economy new businesses need to be attracted to the area. He is supportive of the group Long Island Needs a Drag Strip building a strip in Suffolk County. He said it is estimated it could bring in $40 million in tax revenues due to concessions, ticket sales and businesses that open around tracks such as high-end motor vehicle parts stores and hotels.

“We faced a $500 million deficit when I took office, and we have cut that down significantly by making very difficult cuts to staffs, combining departments.”

— Kara Hahn

Hahn said she believes a convention center near MacArthur airport, Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood or Kings Park would be a boon to the economy because it would bring in off-season visitors.

Flood said the high cost of living and poor economic outlook is his top concern as he has watched friends leave the island for better opportunities. He said the county needs to stem the tide on taxes.

“We need to come to the table and we need to put a more appropriate budget out there and work to solve some of these crises,” Flood said.

The legislator-hopeful pointed to Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy’s (R) auditing receipts, which led him to discover overpayments to one emergency homeless shelter.

“We have a lot of money that we waste, and not just the way we grant and the way we give out grants, and we’re finding [this] out as we audit,” he said.

Hahn said she feels the county legislators have been responsible budget managers.

“We faced a $500 million deficit when I took office, and we have cut that down significantly by making very difficult cuts to staffs, combining departments,” Hahn said. “We have done fiscally responsible things to get a handle on it, and when you have a budget of $3 billion and have a structural imbalance over three years of a $150 million, give or take, it’s reasonable,” Hahn said.

Pax Christi Hospitality Center in Port Jefferson has been around for almost 30 years, though its founder said homelessness was an issue in Port Jeff long before that. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

An Aug. 28 post by a user in a private Facebook group of about 1,300 Port Jefferson Village residents featured a photo of two men sleeping at the Port Jefferson Long Island Rail Road station. Amidst a longer message attached to the image was the phrase: “I’ve had it.”

The post inspired comments from more than a dozen users who began a lengthy discussion about homeowners’ concerns over property values as a result of activity related to homeless people in the area. Some responses included efforts to tackle the issue of homelessness after the main poster asked: “Does anyone know what is being done about this?”

Elected officials, local leaders and data from nonprofit organizations serving the state, Long Island and Suffolk County seem to agree: Efforts exist to reduce the number of undomiciled residents, but the problem is not going away and more needs to be done.

Volunteers at Welcome Friends Soup Kitchen in Port Jefferson prepare a meal for guests. Photo by Alex Petroski

Homelessness has been a topic of conversation in Port Jeff for decades, and Father Frank Pizzarelli, a Port Jeff resident and founder of the nonprofit Hope House Ministries, began addressing the issue in 1980. With 10 facilities, he helps serve groups and people in need. His first endeavor was The Community House in Port Jefferson.

A 30-bed long-term facility, the home on Main Street is still in operation today for at-risk 16- to 21-year-old males in need of a place to live. Almost 28 years ago, Pizzarelli said he opened Pax Christi Hospitality Center on Oakland Avenue after a Vietnam veteran froze to death in winter while living in what he described as a cardboard box village in Port Jefferson.

At least seven people listed as undomiciled by the county police department were arrested on the morning of Oct. 4 for sleeping in tents in the woods behind the Comsewogue Public Library on Terryville Road, according to police.

According to the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, a nonprofit organization established in 1985 that works with government agencies to secure funding and services for homeless people in Suffolk and Nassau counties, 3,937 people on Long Island were classified as homeless as of January 2017. The number includes people in emergency or transitional housing, as well as those who are completely unsheltered, of which there were 64, according to the group’s annual report for 2017.

In context, the number of homeless people living on Long Island hasn’t changed much over the last three LICH yearly tallies. In 2016, New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli (D) conducted an audit to examine the issue of homelessness in the state, which reached some discouraging conclusions.

Homelessness is on the decline nationwide, according to the report, though New York was one of 18 states to see an increase in the number of people without a permanent residence between 2007 and 2015. The number rose by 41 percent to more than 88,000 statewide during that span, which was the largest increase of any state in the country. Much of the increase was attributable to New York City, though DiNapoli’s audit stressed homelessness as a state problem and not simply a city problem, saying homelessness is affecting “communities in virtually every corner of the state … on a daily basis.”

‘Hope House Ministry lives and has lived for 38 years because of this community. I find this one of the most extraordinary communities when it comes to compassion and generosity.’

— Frank Pizzarelli

“The homeless problem pre-existed Pax Christi,” Pizzarelli said. The licensed social worker said the idea that his facilities attract the homeless to Port Jeff is a common refrain he’s heard cyclically over the years from people like the Facebook poster, though he said he has found those voices are few and far between and don’t represent the majority of the community.

“Hope House Ministry lives and has lived for 38 years because of this community,” he said. “I find this one of the most extraordinary communities when it comes to compassion and generosity. Yes, there are always people that are super critical and, because of the socioeconomic nature of our community, would prefer certain things not be here. They’re a very small minority from my experience.”

He said he receives no financial support from the government other than reimbursements from the county’s Department of Social Services to barely cover his costs for sheltering people overnight at Pax Christi. His entire budget, which he estimated to be in the ballpark of $5 million annually, is covered by donations and grants. He also said he believes homeless people who commit crimes or contribute to tensions in the Port Jeff community tend not to be the same people who are interested in getting help.

“Uptown is a complicated place,” he said. “The homeless have no fixed address and they also have no voice, so it’s easy to blame them. They’re a part of the issue, but it’s not that simplistic. I don’t think the larger community really realizes that.”

Pizzarelli pointed to insufficient funds from the county and state governments as his and other organization’s biggest obstacle in providing services for those in need. He said mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction, especially to opioids, are at the root of Suffolk County’s homelessness problem. Once people are in treatment for substance addiction or any mental health affliction, he said more transitional housing needs to be made available to get people on the road to recovery.

Pizzarelli said Pax Christi does not admit any persons under the influence of drugs or alcohol, so they occasionally have to turn people away.

“We probably all need to take a firmer stand so [homeless people being aided by services] understand if they’re not going to take care of business — hanging out at the train station is not the answer,” he said. “I agree, people don’t need to be harassed when they’re getting off the train.”

A breakdown by race of Long Island’s nearly 4,000 homeless people, according to the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless. Graphic by TBR News Media

DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, in conjunction with the Welfare to Work Commission of the Legislature, arranged a public hearing Oct. 10 to discuss the impact that massive cuts in President Donald Trump’s (R) early budget proposals to funding for human services would have on local residents.

Michael Stoltz, the executive director of Ronkonkoma-based Association for Mental Health and Wellness said before the hearing he thinks the county fails to adequately invest in mental health services.

“We see a proportionate rise and increase in the number of people in our jails who have mental health conditions — untreated and under treated — and among our homeless populations,” he said.

Stoltz was representing one of the 13 agencies slated to speak during the hearing.

“The county and these agencies are facing a crisis of what could be unparalleled and unprecedented proportions,” commission chairman Richard Koubek said before the hearing. “We have watched with dismay and frustration the chronic underfunding of contract agencies that serve Suffolk County’s poor people.”

Suffolk and Nassau counties collectively are considered a Continuum of Care community, which is defined as a community with a unified plan to organize and deliver housing services to meet the needs of people who are homeless. Grants from the CoC are funded through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is a federal department responsible for more than $10 million in CoC grants obtained each year to aid locals, according to its website. DiNapoli’s report found of the smaller communities with CoC programs, Long Island’s counties had the third largest homeless population in the United States.

Long Island’s relative lack of affordable housing can further complicate the issue, as housing units are priced to rent or own in Brookhaven Town according to HUD guidelines, which are dependent on the area median income of a region. In 2017, Suffolk County’s average household income was $110,800. To qualify to rent an affordable living space, household income must be less than 50 percent of this number, meaning in Suffolk, any family earning less than $55,400 annually has a right to reduced rent. Monthly rent for a three-person home for a family earning less than that, for example, by law cannot exceed $1,200.

Pax Christi Hospitality Center in Port Jefferson has been around for almost 30 years, though its founder said homelessness was an issue in Port Jeff long before that. Photo by Alex Petroski

Because of the relatively high average income in Suffolk, “affordable” rent is a term that most likely wouldn’t apply to someone sleeping on the street or residing in a homeless shelter. According to Pizzarelli and Brookhaven Housing and Human Services Commissioner Alison Karppi, there’s far less affordable housing available in the town and the county as a whole than demand would dictate.

“It is estimated that 42,500 renters spend half or more of their income on household costs,” Gregory said prior to the Oct. 10 hearing. “That startling figure emphasizes the need for cheaper housing our working families and young people can afford. We are here today to send a message that we simply can’t afford this budget.”

Last week Brookhaven Town announced a new initiative to acquire vacant “zombie” homes and make them available for veterans and first-time homebuyers at reduced costs as a way to expand the availability of affordable housing in the town. Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) estimated there are as many as 2,000 vacant homes in the town with many in a salvageable state.

Port Jeff has another resource in its backyard to help those in need, which reiterates Pizzarelli’s sentiment that on the whole, it is a compassionate community.

Welcome Friends Soup Kitchen in Port Jeff Village has been serving people in need, homeless or otherwise, in the area for 28 years. The group also has two locations in Port Jefferson Station comprised of about 200 volunteers and functions entirely on donations of money and food, oftentimes from a local Trader Joe’s. Five days a week, the soup kitchen opens its doors to serve as many as 100 guests free of charge each night. Unlike Pax Christi, Welcome Friends never turns away guests due to intoxication. The volunteers prevent entry to those who could be a danger to other guests, but even in those instances the person is sent away with a to-go meal, always well balanced and fresh. Multiple courses are available but served once a day Sunday to Wednesday and also on Friday.

Lorraine Kutzing, a longtime coordinator at the soup kitchen, said the organization’s sole focus is having as many meals as possible prepared each day, and hopes that she and others like Pizzarelli can continue to try to fix the problem highlighted by community members like those in the Facebook group.

“I think the need has always been there,” she said. “I don’t think that has changed that much.”

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