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Sign outside Bakewicz Farms. Photo by Kyle Barr

On 11 acres of farmland in Wading River, the cross section between green living and green energy is coming to a head as developers are looking to install a solar energy storage facility.

“There are going to be days when the sun doesn’t shine, and the wind doesn’t blow,” said Rocky Point-based attorney Steve Losquadro, who is representing the developer TradeWind Energy and property owners Manzi Homes East construction company in Rocky Point. “If you’re truly committed to renewable energy you have to have storage. Otherwise, the whole thing doesn’t work.”

The 11-acre Bakewicz Farms property, located along Route 25A in Wading River down the road from Shoreham-Wading River High School, is rented by the Bakewicz family. Justin Bakewicz, who helps run the farm along with his mother, Marianne, said he built the farm up for two years, from selling hanging baskets to now growing crops and raising livestock. It was his dream to live that rural lifestyle since he was a kid spending time on his grandfather’s farm in Southampton.

“I put my blood, sweat and tears into this farm,” Bakewicz said.

“I put my blood, sweat and tears into this farm.”

— Justin Bakewicz

The land is already zoned for residential, and Losquadro said it already has preliminary approval from the Town of Brookhaven for a subdivision of 14 single-family homes. The attorney stressed new homes could lead to more traffic along the often-traveled corridor, along with concerns over nitrogen pollution from cesspools and a tax impact from the potential new students residences bring. This development would also mean the complete elimination of any farm property.

Losquadro said, due to feedback from locals, they are planning to draft up plans of the property that would shield the station from view with trees and accommodate a section of farmland in the front of the property to maintain that rural feel.

“This is the only path they could use to keep the farm,” Losquadro said.

Sid Bail, the president of the Wading River Civic Association, said he has heard from residents who were concerned homes might increase the burden on the Shoreham-Wading River school district. Originally Bail had invited TradeWind to give talks to the civic at its meeting in April, though after listening to more feedback from the community, he said he would withdraw from that meeting and tell the developer to focus on other properties such as the unused site that was once the Shoreham nuclear power plant.

“I’m just getting it’s the wrong location in reaction from other people,” Bail said. “I’ve also had some second thoughts about this.”

For years, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has set lofty goals for New York’s renewable energy production, particularly to have 50 percent of the state’s energy consumed to be renewable energy by 2030. In January, during his State of the State address, the governor announced the adoption of a Green New Deal to promote projects and jobs in the renewable energy economy.

The area has been a focal point for renewable energy under this state initiation. Two solar farms are already soaking up the sun’s rays in neighboring Shoreham: one, a 9.5-megawatt array on a former sod farm along Route 25A, and another 24.9-megawatt array on the former Tallgrass golf course. 

While solar panels have existed for years, renewable energy storage facilities are much less prolific. The closest existing structure currently operates in East Hampton, though that property only has a 5-megawatt capacity whose facility takes up less than one acre. The Wading River facility would have a much larger capacity and need a larger footprint, according to Bail.

Brookhaven town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said the prospective location is close to the area’s power lines and the LIPA electrical substation, which is why the prospective developers are looking closely at the Wading River property. Because the technology is so new, Bonner said TradeWind and the property owner will likely have to work closely with the town, and it might require a zoning change similar to what was done with the solar farms in Shoreham, which maintained residential zoning but received 20-year zone overlays allowing for the arrays.

“You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

— Jane Bonner

She has heard from residents on both sides of the issue. Some locals raised concerns about the loss of farmland and potential noise from converters at the facility, while others are all for the idea, especially in the promise of reducing traffic on the often-congested state road.

“People don’t want houses because they don’t want traffic, some say they will miss the farm, but I have gotten complaints about traffic from the farm,” Bonner said. “You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

At a Wading River civic meeting Jan. 24, Bakewicz was asked what his thoughts on the potential facility were. 

“I wish we had another year to stay here,” he said, adding the family is trying to work out a deal to create a farm on some property in Center Moriches, and he would need time to set up that deal. “I threw my hands up and said, ‘I have handcuffs on because my hands are tied.’”

Go around me

A 47-year-old man from Asbury Park, N.J., was found in the middle of Old Nichols Road in Islandia just before 5:00 a.m. on Feb. 7, passed out in the driver’s seat of his 2016 Mazda, police said. He was charged with driving while intoxicated.

Marijuana mall

In the parking lot of the Smith Haven Mall just after 7:00 p.m. on Feb. 6, police said a 23-year-old man from Hampton Bays was arrested for possession of marijuana. He was sitting in the driver’s seat of a 2015 Volkswagen. He was charged with criminal possession of marijuana.

Driving drunk with a child

At about 5:00 p.m. on Feb. 6, a 30-year-old woman from Holtsville was driving a Nissan Frontier while drunk with her 5-year-old daughter in the car on Hawkins Avenue in Ronkonkoma, police said. She also had food stolen from Stop&Shop on Portion Road in Ronkonkoma, according to police. She was charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child under the age of 15, endangering the welfare of a child, petit larceny and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. She also violated an order of protection prohibiting her from being under the influence in the presence of her daughter, police said.

Burned

Police arrested a 21-year-old man from Kings Park for having marijuana in his home around midnight on Feb. 5. Police discovered the drugs when they responded to a fire at the home. He was charged with criminal possession of marijuana.

Foul pole

A 24-year-old man from Ronkonkoma was arrested after he crashed his 2000 Honda Civic into a telephone pole on North Country Road in Smithtown at about 5:30 a.m. on Feb. 5, police said. He was charged with operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content over the legal limit.

Mischief on Midwood

At about 2:00 a.m. on Feb. 4, a 22-year-old man from Nesconset was arrested for breaking the window of a home on Midwood Avenue, police said. He was charged with criminal mischief.

Dodge couldn’t dodge police

A 42-year-old man from Lindenhurst was arrested on Feb. 4 in Islandia and charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle. Police said he was driving on Veterans Memorial Highway just before 9:00 p.m. in a 2002 Dodge when they discovered he was driving with a revoked license.

Swerving SUV

At about 9:30 p.m. on Feb. 4, a 53-year-old man from Smithtown was stopped by police for failing to stay in his lane while driving his 2004 GMC Envoy on Veterans Memorial Highway in Hauppauge, police said. He was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated.

Ha-Sheesh

Police arrested a 17-year-old man from Smithtown and charged him with criminal possession of a controlled substance at 11:00 a.m. on Feb. 3. Police said he had hashish and THC oil when he was arrested on Lincoln Blvd. in Hauppauge.

Heroin arrest

A 27-year-old man from Shirley was arrested in the parking lot of Woodmont Village Apartments in Lake Ronkonkoma at about 11:00 p.m. on Feb. 3 with heroin on him, police said. He was charged with loitering and unlawful use of a controlled substance.

Long Island arrest-way

A 47-year-old man from Kings Park was arrested on Feb. 6 at 9 a.m. after police said he was driving a 1998 Subaru on the Long Island Expressway in Dix Hills while on prescription pills without a prescription. He was charged with seventh degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, first-degree operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs and second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

High up on the lake

On Feb. 6, a 46-year-old man from Centerport was arrested after police said he had marijuana in his possession at 5:25 p.m. on the corner of Main Street and Lakeside Drive in Centerport. He was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana.

Quite a couple

Police said a 23-year-old man from Hicksville and a 22-year-old woman from Massapequa had cocaine in their possession at 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 6 on the corner of New York Avenue and West 21st Street in Huntington Station. They were both charged with seventh degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, unlawful use of a controlled substance and loitering.

Corner of oh no and trouble

A 20-year-old man from Huntington was arrested on the corner of 11th Avenue and West 21st Street in Huntington Station on Feb. 6 at 5:15 p.m. after police said he had marijuana in his possession. He was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana.

But she got a fake ID

Police said a 39-year-old woman from Brooklyn used a fraudulent credit card and identification while shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue on Walt Whitman Road in Huntington on Feb. 5. According to police, the woman used two fraudulent credit cards just after 4 p.m. and tried to impersonate the woman using a fraudulent driver’s license to open a new credit card. She was charged with fourth degree grand larceny, second-degree criminal impersonation of another person, second-degree forgery of public record, and second-degree possession of a forged instrument.

Jewelry gone

An unknown person broke into a residence on Andrea Lane in Greenlawn on Feb. 5 between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., and stole jewelry.

RIP GMC

Police said an unknown person punctured the tires of a 2002 GMC parked on Jericho Turnpike in Elwood on Feb. 5 between 5:50 and 6:20 p.m.

Oh, boy!

Police arrested two 17-year-olds from Port Jefferson Station for petit larceny on Feb. 6. The pair allegedly stole Playboy cologne from the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove a month earlier, on Jan. 7. The teens were arrested at the McDonald’s fast-food restaurant on Nesconset Highway in Port Jefferson Station.

What a saint

On Feb. 7, police arrested a woman from Mastic Beach for grand larceny. The 33-year-old woman stole a wallet from another woman’s pocketbook that day at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, police said. The wallet contained several credit cards. She was arrested at the scene, around 10:05 p.m.

Shopping spree

A 17-year-old girl from Centereach was arrested on Jan. 31 for petit larceny after officials said she entered the Walmart on Nesconset Highway in East Setauket and stole assorted makeup and bath products. Police arrested her at the scene at 7 p.m.

Welcome home

Between 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 1, someone entered a residence on Jarvin Road in Port Jefferson Station and stole cash and jewelry.

Route to handcuffs

Police arrested a man from Patchogue for driving while ability impaired on the afternoon of Feb. 5. He had been driving east on Route 25A in Stony Brook when an officer pulled him over for speeding. Police allegedly discovered the man was intoxicated and driving with a suspended license.

Fight to the finish

On Jan. 31 around 1:45 p.m., two men got into a fight on Route 25A in Port Jefferson. Police said the men were in the street when one of them punched the other in the face. The victim refused to go to the hospital.

Green-thumbed thief

Someone entered the property of a residence on East Gate Drive in Mount Sinai and stole a Japanese maple tree planted in the yard. Police said the incident happened between 6 p.m. on Feb. 2 and 6:30 a.m. on Feb. 3.

The rest is history

Police said someone broke the door lock and latch of the Miller Place Historical Society building between noon on Feb. 4 and 1:45 p.m. the following day.

Bang bang into the room

On Feb. 4 around 9 p.m., someone shot a BB gun at a residence on Longview Avenue in Rocky Point. A pellet left a small hole in the window.

Weekend allowance

An unknown person stole a purse from a 2012 Hyundai parked outside a residence on Hawkins Road in Centereach between 6 p.m. on Feb. 6 and 9:30 p.m. the following day. It was unclear whether the suspect broke into the car or if it had been left unlocked.

Gold digger

On the morning of Feb. 4, a woman at home on Middle Country Road in Selden received a scam call from someone posing as a federal employee of the Internal Revenue Service. The unidentified person told the woman that she would be charged if she didn’t send money. Police said the victim sent more than $1,000 to the caller.

According to police, a woman on Glen Court in Stony Brook received a scam call on Feb. 5 from a man who claimed to be her grandson and asked her for money. The woman sent more than $3,000 to the man.

The Rite to remain silent

A 32-year-old man was arrested for petit larceny on Feb. 7. Police said the Middle Island man took electronic items from the Rite Aid on College Road in Selden. He was arrested at the scene.

Sight for sore eyes

Police arrested a woman from Centereach for assault on Feb. 3, after she allegedly punched another woman in the face and injured her right eye on North Coleman Road. Police said the victim required medical attention.

And you’re out

On Feb. 2 at 7:56 p.m., police arrested a man for driving while ability impaired. According to officials, the man was unconscious when he crashed his 2001 Toyota into another car in a parking lot near Route 347 in Stony Brook. Police said the man had overdosed on heroin and was taken to Stony Brook University Hospital.

Congressman Steve Israel speaks on the dangers of hoverboards at the Commack Fire Department on Dec. 15. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

One of this year’s hot holiday items might be a little too hot.

Hoverboards have been flying off the shelves this holiday season, but recent safety issues, including multiple cases of boards catching fire or exploding, have given some shoppers pause. That’s why U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D) gathered with members of the Commack Fire Department Tuesday and urged consumers against buying hoverboards specifically made in China, because he said the type of batteries used in them may ignite.

“Hoverboards may be the hot holiday gift, but they are literally catching on fire and igniting questions about their safety and the safety of lithium-ion batteries,” Israel said. “New Yorkers should remain hesitant before purchasing these hoverboards and stay vigilant while using and charging them.”

Hoverboards are self-balancing and electronic two-wheeled devices on which people can travel from place to place. When riding one, a person may appear to be levitating, or hovering, similarly to those on the hoverboards featured in the film “Back to the Future II.”

Israel stood beside a photo display of several fires that the Commack department had already responded to where hoverboards caused combustion inside someone’s home, destroying property and, sometimes, entire rooms.

Hoverboards shipped from overseas use lithium ion batteries, which can combust if heated or overcharged due to their limited voltage range. Israel called for more research from the U.S. Department of Energy on the safety of using lithium ion batteries in hoverboards.

The congressman also noted that airports already task their security personnel to remove all lithium ion batteries from checked bags for the same reason.

“Well if we know that those lithium ion batteries could be a hazard to the plane, and we know a hover board with a lithium ion battery could be hazardous to our homes, that says we need to do a little bit more research,” Israel said.

Commack Fire Marshal Joe Digiose flanked the congressman on Tuesday and said he urged residents to be careful when buying hoverboards until more research is completed. He said there is no research that shows the American-made products are not working well, but the ones from overseas pose more of a danger and are being shipped at a very high rate to the United States.

“We recommend you don’t buy them but if you do, buy an American-made one,” he said.

Don Talka speaks on research of lithium ion batteries at the Commack Fire Department on Dec. 15. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Don Talka speaks on research of lithium ion batteries at the Commack Fire Department on Dec. 15. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Don Talka, senior vice president and chief engineer at Underwriters Laboratories has been involved in research on lithium ion batteries for years, starting back when they were involved with similar issues in laptops. He said the major problem is the mating of the battery with the rest of the electronics used in the hoverboards.

“What we’ve learned through our research … is that the combination and how these pieces interact causes the issues,” Talka said. “And how the batteries are charged and discharged are all items which need further investigation.”

At the press conference, Israel inspected the box that a hoverboard came in, and said that despite all the instructions and caution labels about the product, there is nothing to be said about the battery.

“That has been established as one of the single greatest threats to property and potentially lives when they’re coming from China,” Israel said. “That’s why we want to comply with the energy chair to fully research this and make sure that people aren’t being exposed to greater risk and threat by lithium ion batteries.”

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