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Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright

Local community leaders joined Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright at a press conference Oct. 24 to announce the completion of a 25A visioning report. Photo from Brookhaven Town

Route 25A in the Three Village area is one step closer to getting a makeover thanks to the collaborative efforts of residents, business owners, civic leaders and local lawmakers.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) held a press conference at The Stony Brook School Oct. 24 to announce the completion of the Route 25A Three Village Area Visioning Report. The town board is expected to vote unanimously for the report at the Oct. 26 town board meeting. The next step for changes in the area will be land use studies followed by public hearings.

“The visioning document that we’re going to be putting forward at the town board meeting on Thursday offers thoughts and ideas for improving traffic and pedestrian safety, creating and maintaining a more cohesive architecture and visual aesthetic while enhancing the existing public open spaces,” Cartwright said. “It is this type of community-based planning that we need to continue to do, and it is that work product that will be presented on Thursday, and I’m proud to be the sponsor of that resolution.”

In 2016, Romaine and Cartright co-sponsored a land use resolution which led to the Brookhaven Town Department of Planning, Environment and Land Management authorizing the creation of a land use study and plan regarding the state highway.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine shows the Route 25A Three Village Area Visioning Report at an Oct. 21 press conference. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“This report is step one but it’s an important step,” Romaine said. “It lays out the future of the 25A corridor. From this step will come land use decisions that will be put before the entire town board regarding the future of 25A, and this could not have happened without the hard work of Councilwoman Valerie Cartright and the hard work of the citizens who participated starting with the two co-chairpersons Jane Taylor and George Hoffman.”

In addition to being co-chairs of the Citizens Advisory Committee, Hoffman is vice president of the Three Village Civic Association and Taylor is assistant head of The Stony Brook School. Romaine and Cartright also thanked the representatives from local community groups who attended the press conference and were involved in the visioning process.

The supervisor and councilwoman also thanked The Stony Brook School where community forums were held. The meetings gave residents and business owners the opportunity to discuss improvements they would like to see along the corridor from the Smithtown/Brookhaven town line to the Poquott Village line. Listening to constituents’ concerns about the area is something Cartright said she has done since she took office, and she is optimistic about the future of 25A in the Three Village area, where she said residents love the historic, main street feeling and charm.

Hoffman said after a shaky start in 2013 the councilwoman was “influential and instrumental in kind of jump starting the planning process for Route 25A again.”

Romaine asked the co-chairs to present the report at the Oct. 26 meeting. Taylor said she was pleased with the results of the report that will provide the town board with a “road map” for future planning along the state road.

Local community leaders joined Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright at a press conference Oct. 24 to announce the completion of a 25A visioning report. File photo

“I was absolutely overwhelmed, when we began this process, about the excitement of being able to vision ahead maybe 20 or 30 years, when many of us won’t be here anymore, and the participation of the committee members to make that happen and to share their thoughts,” Taylor said. “And, sometimes we had varying opinions but we would all come together and the purpose was the vision of what we want to see for our community.”

President of the Three Village Civic Association Jonathan Kornreich was in attendance at the press conference. He said like many group leaders and residents he appreciated the opportunity to contribute ideas at the meetings.

“Planning for the future of the community is one of the primary goals of the civic association and it’s really our main focus,” he said. “I’m very appreciative of the work that Jane and George did, and I am especially appreciative for the leadership of Valerie and Ed.”

Romaine put the lengthy 25A visioning process into perspective.

“Society grows great when old men plant trees,” Romaine said, quoting an ancient Greek proverb. “We planted some trees here, and not all of us may see it to fruition, but this is something that speaks to the quality of this community and the people that live in it and the desire to ensure that this community remains, not unchanged, but the same type of a community that it is now 20 or 30 years from now.”

Residents will be able to review the report on the town’s website after it is presented at www.brookhavenny.gov.

The streets of Stony Brook were filled with more than 300 runners and an estimated 460 walkers participating in the Walk for Beauty and Hercules on the Harbor 10K Run Oct. 22. Cancer survivors along with family members and friends collect donations to support their walk or run, which takes them through the scenic and historic Stony Brook. All proceeds go directly to a targeted research fund at Stony Brook Medicine for Breast Cancer Research and The WMHO Unique Boutique for wigs.

Bob de Zafra, fourth from left, seen here April 21 during a dedication of additional land to Patriots Hollow State Forest, was committed to preserving open spaces and maintaining the historical integrity of the Three Village area. File photo by Rita J. Egan

By Rita J. Egan

When he passed Oct. 10 at age 85 from complications following knee replacement surgery, civic leader Bob de Zafra left behind a legacy in the Three Village area that will be remembered for decades.

The professor and scientist

A resident of Setauket for more than 50 years, de Zafra was a former president of what is now known as the Three Village Civic Association and Three Village Historical Society, as well as a co-founder of the Three Village Community Trust. His love for the area began when he moved from Connecticut to start his career in Stony Brook University’s physics department as a professor, according to Linwood Lee, a research professor at SBU.

“He helped establish experimental physics in our physics department, which was very heavily theoretical at the time, and he was really a leader in doing that,” Lee said.

He added that de Zafra conducted research in atmospheric physics, which led to him studying the Earth’s ozone layer. During trips to the South Pole and McMurdo Sound in Antarctica, de Zafra and his SBU colleagues discovered in 1986 that chlorofluorocarbon, a type of hydrocarbon, was a cause for the expansion of the ozone hole. In honor of his revolutionary climate-change work there, an Antarctic rock ridge now bears his last name.

The civic leader

Bob de Zafra at a recent civic association meeting. File photo

In the 2002 Men and Women of the Year issue of The Village Times Herald, in which he was named Man of the Year in Civics as a “steadfast preservationist,” the professor emeritus said he saw his hometown in Connecticut “ruined” by development.

“I was sure that wherever I lived, I was going to do my best to make sure that sort of destruction didn’t happen,” he said.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said de Zafra accomplished his goal. When Englebright was running for county legislator 35 years ago, he said the Setauket resident approached him and told him there was a need to protect Detmer Farm, across from the Setauket Post Office on Route 25A. The property was eventually saved from development.

“It was the centerpiece of good planning,” Englebright said. “If we won the effort to protect that open space it would mean that we had protected an important part of the watershed of Setauket Harbor and the viewshed of everyone who visits our community, or we would have taken a step toward becoming something like Queens.”

The assemblyman said the importance of saving the Detmer Farm property was only the first of countless lessons he learned from de Zafra. Englebright said a traffic island once existed at North County Road and Ridgeway Avenue adjacent to Gallery North, and with de Zafra’s encouragement, he secured the Town of Brookhaven Highway Department to cover the road with truckloads of soil.

“It was one of the first restorations that rolled back the development wave, and it was Bob that said this should be accomplished,” Englebright said.

The assemblyman said he was impressed by how de Zafra, who was instrumental in the preservation of Forsythe Meadow in Stony Brook, used his own resources to buy older houses in the area and renovate them including his own home. With the woodlands behind his property, he bought the land parcel by parcel to protect the trees; the land includes a meadow of flowers. Most recently the civic leader bought the historic Timothy Smith House, recognized as the first town hall in Brookhaven, to renovate it.

“The model of what he did with his own personal resources to enhance our community is a heroic profile,” Englebright said. “He did it quietly without fanfare but in my mind he is a civic hero of the first order. He lived what he preached and was absolutely genuine.”

Bob de Zafra in his Stony Brook University office in 1976. File photo

Three Village Historical Society historian Beverly C. Tyler and de Zafra met in 1974 when the Three Village Bicentennial Committee formed. Tyler said de Zafra was responsible for the greening of 25A by having 222 trees planted along the road from the Stony Brook train station to East Setauket, and he was instrumental in convincing local shopping centers to use unified signs.

In The Village Times Dec. 30, 1976, de Zafra was named Man of the Year for his greening efforts. The professor said during his commute to SBU he became frustrated with what he felt was the destruction of Route 25A. While he was part of the civic association, the organization had other priorities at the time, so he saw the forming of the bicentennial committee as an opportunity to beautify the road. Through letter writing and fundraising, de Zafra raised more than $13,000 for the planting.

“You only get a chance to do something like this once every 100 years,” he said during the 1976 interview. “I’m glad I grabbed hold of mine when it came my way.”

The success of the project and many others of de Zafra’s didn’t surprise Tyler.

“Bob was very well organized and relentless,” Tyler said. “He just took on a project and was a bear about it. He just kept at it no matter what the problem was until he got a successful conclusion. He was very good at talking to people and getting them to see his point of view without overwhelming them.”

Herb Mones, a former president of the Three Village Civic Association, met de Zafra 25 years ago through the organization and praised his friend for working with builders and local elected officials to curb development and maintain the historical and architectural integrity of the area. Mones said right up until de Zafra passed, he attended any event that was for the benefit of Three Village residents. Mones said his friend felt a responsibility to make the area a better place to live in.

“The thing that always impressed me is that Bob had a tremendous amount of energy and interest in preserving, protecting and enhancing the community in every way possible,” Mones said.

Current Three Village Civic Association President Jonathan Kornreich, who considers de Zafra a friend and mentor, echoed Mones’ sentiments.

“I can’t think of three people together who could fill his shoes, so great was the depth of his energy, passion and knowledge,” Kornreich said.

Local author John Broven also met de Zafra through the civic association and said the former president’s accomplishments were admirable as he fought random development rigorously, unknown to most residents.

“If Bob had been born in England, like his wife Julia, he would assuredly have been granted a knighthood for being such a dedicated community gatekeeper, let alone his incredible scientific achievements,” Broven said.

Bob de Zafra, second from right, with Norma and Walter Watson and his wife Julia at a Three Village HIstorical Society event. Photo by Maria Hoffman

Cynthia Barnes, co-founder of the Three Village Community Trust with de Zafra, said he knew a great deal of municipality and zoning code laws and was a skillful researcher. His contributions were vitally important to the trust’s mission of preserving local properties, which included moving the Rubber Factory Houses to the trust’s Bruce House headquarters.

“He was able to grasp the whole picture yet delve into the details to see where the trouble lay, and point to the areas of weakness to try to strengthen them,” Barnes said.

“He certainly brought us a long way toward [preserving],” Barnes said. “Because I think everything we saved, with the help of our elected officials as well, he was definitely a motivating force.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said de Zafra worked with her and her team on various issues and initiatives over the last few years. Most recently he was part of the Citizens Advisory Committee for Route 25A.

“Bob’s untimely passing is just before the acceptance of the 25A community visioning document later this month,” Cartright said. “Bob cared so deeply for community land use issues and for this project, and we would like to find a way to honor and recognize Bob’s massive body of work and contributions during the process and in the future.”

The person

On top of his accomplishments, those who knew him praised de Zafra as a modest man.

“He wouldn’t want to be called ‘doctor,’ he wanted to be called Bob,” Mones said. “He never referenced his degree, his status within his field, his experiences that he had. He never used that as criteria in determining what he had to say or what he was doing. It was always based upon on the merits of the case.”

Englebright said de Zafra will be remembered by many as a man of action.

“He was the leading voice for protecting the essence of this place,” the assemblyman said. “It wasn’t just his voice, it was his action as well.”

County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who worked closely with de Zafra while she was president of the civic association, summed up how his family and friends were feeling the day of his funeral Oct. 17.

“The loss of Bob de Zafra leaves a hole in our collective heart,” she said. “He played a vital role in so many organizations as a watchdog for our community. Meticulous, passionate, diligent, generous, persistent and charming in his own way — he will be missed.”

The area east of Comsewogue High School and south of Route 112 will be protected under new legislation. Image from Google Maps

A Suffolk County legislator is looking to protect Port Jefferson Station and Terryville’s groundwater, and if her plan reaches completion, it will also preserve a massive chunk of green space.

The county passed a bill sponsored by 5th District Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) Oct. 3 that allows Suffolk to begin seeking appraisals from landowners of 62 separate properties within the Terryville Greenbelt, an approximately 75-acre plot of land, of which about 40 acres has already been preserved by Town of Brookhaven through open space land acquisitions.

The town is allowed by law to acquire open space based upon environmental sensitivity. Hahn’s bill allows for the appraisal of about 17 acres of the remaining unprotected land within the parcel, designated as a special groundwater protection area, located south of Route 112 and adjacent to the rear of Comsewogue High School. The bill requires signing by County Executive Steve Bellone (D) before it becomes law; then further legislation will be required to complete the purchases.

“For the past 50 years the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville community has worked to offset its rapid growth with safeguards of its quality of life and environment,” Hahn said in a statement. She also serves as the chairwoman of the Legislature’s Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee. “Protecting these parcels, located within a special groundwater protection area in perpetuity highlights the continued commitment of Suffolk County to being a partner in this careful balance that ensures not only the local environment but also our resident’s quality of life.”

The plan has been in the works since 2003, when Terryville resident and preservation proponent Louis Antoniello began advocating for the protection of the greenbelt. After years with minimal action, in 2010, with support from former Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko (D) and former Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld (D-East Setauket), Brookhaven purchased 16 parcels of open space within the Terryville Greenbelt for $648,000.

“The dream of creating a greenbelt around Comsewogue High School started back in 2003 — we never gave up on the dream and now the dream is going to become a reality,” Antoniello said in a statement. “The preservation of the property helps to protect our drinking water; creates an ecosystem for the many species of animals that make the greenbelt their home and it creates a living biology classroom for the children in the Comsewogue school district.”

Antoniello, who thanked Hahn and Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) for their efforts in advancing the legislation during a phone interview, said the preservation of the land is important because it filters more than a million gallons of water per year that then proceeds into an aquifer, which holds much of the area’s drinking water. Antoniello also served as chairman of the Land Use, Parks and Open Space Committee for a 2008 Port Jefferson Station/Terryville hamlet study done in cooperation with the town.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, nearly all of Long Island’s drinking water comes from underground aquifers.

Charles McAteer, chairman of the Setauket to Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail and also advocate for the preservation of open space, spoke in favor of Hahn’s bill.

“It is good to see more acres set aside to remain as Long Island woods for future generations to enjoy,” he said in an email. “This will allow the treed land to filter down rainwater to our Long Island aquifer system. It is a win-win for all of us in the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville hamlet.”

Setauket Harbor Day was held Sept. 23. Attendees had the opportunity to participate in free kayak tours, harbor and maritime history tours and hands-on harborside activities. There was also a sea creature touch-tank, children’s face painting and music.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) were on hand at the event hosted by the Setauket Task Force to sign a memorandum of understanding regarding a partnering to plan to conserve the historic and natural resources of the Setauket Harbor Watershed.

The Aug. 17 suit opposes dumping in Long Island Sound

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, Councilwoman Jane Bonner and Assemblyman Steve Englebright are joined by environmentalists to support a state lawsuit against the EPA's practice of dumping dredged materials in the Long Island Sound during an Aug. 28 press conference at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is picking a fight with the federal government, and as of Aug. 28, he officially has backup.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), joined by town board members, environmentalists and State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), announced the town’s support of a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Aug. 17 against the United States Environmental Protection Agency regarding the open dumping of dredged materials in the Long Island Sound. The lawsuit alleged the Long Island Sound Dredge Material Management Plan, which was approved by the EPA, violates the Ocean Dumping Act and Coastal Zone Management Act, and also cited a “failure to address environmental impacts on the Long Island Sound.”

“The state of New York and this governor, Andrew Cuomo, has done a great service to this state and to the residents of Long Island by working to enjoin, in the court, the EPA from allowing continued dumping in the Sound.”

—Ed Romaine

In 2016, the EPA increased the number of open water dumping sites in the Sound from two to three, despite a call from state government leaders of both New York and Connecticut in 2005 to reduce and eventually eliminate the practice of dumping in the Sound. According to the suit, the dumping is also inconsistent with several investments of taxpayer dollars and policies that have sought to clean up the vital Long Island waterway. Cuomo opposed the additional dumping site in late 2016, and Romaine and the town sent a letter to the governor in support of legal action against the federal agency.

“We’re here to send a very strong message — that we are opposed to dumping in the Sound,” Romaine said during a press conference Aug. 28 at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai. “The state of New York and this governor, Andrew Cuomo, has done a great service to this state and to the residents of Long Island by working to enjoin, in the court, the EPA from allowing continued dumping in the Sound.”

Romaine accused the EPA of taking the expedient course of action rather than the most environmentally sound course with dredged materials, some of which are contaminated by pollutants.

Though a spokesperson for the EPA declined via email to comment on ongoing litigation, an April 2016 statement from the agency spelled out the motivation for continued dumping in the Sound.

“Dredging is needed to ensure safe navigation in the sound,” EPA spokesman John Martin said in an email to Times Beacon Record Newspapers. He added the agency felt the proposal struck “an appropriate balance between the need for dredging to maintain safe and efficient navigation and our desired outcome to restore and protect Long Island Sound.”

Kevin McAllister, the president of Defend H20, a nonprofit organization dedicated to defending and restoring the quality of Long Island’s waterways, spoke in support of the town and the governor during the press conference.

“We’re spending billions of dollars on water quality improvements and the open water dumping of contaminated silt flies in the face of these efforts.”

—Kevin McAllister

“As a federally designated Estuary of National Significance, Long Island Sound is in need of greater protection,” he said. “We’re spending billions of dollars on water quality improvements and the open water dumping of contaminated silt flies in the face of these efforts.”

Representatives from the nonprofits Sierra Club Long Island and the Setauket Harbor Task Force also pledged support in opposition of the dumping plan.

Englebright offered a suggestion for an alternative to the continued dumping in the Sound.

“It is ironic that at a time when we’re watching a terrible hurricane devastating the great state of Texas and reflecting on the reality that sea level is rising, that the federal government is proposing to take a vast amount of sediment that will be needed to bulwark our coastal investments, our coastal communities from a rising sea level to augment our beaches with that sediment, to take it instead and use it in the most harmful possible way,” Englebright said. He added the dumping is “radicalizing the ecology” of the waterway, saying the sediment could be needed and should be used to strengthen coastlines. Englebright cited a deadly 1953 storm in the Netherlands that inspired the same fortification he proposed, a practice that nation has continued since.

Brookhaven Town Council members Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) also voiced support of the lawsuit. Romaine said he had been in contact with 1st Congressional District U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) regarding the town’s support of the lawsuit, and Romaine said the congressman is strongly opposed to dumping in the Sound.

Zeldin has sponsored and supported bills designed to improve the health of the Sound in the past and has opposed long term dumping at the designated sites.

“The Long Island Sound shouldn’t be a dumping ground, especially when there are many viable alternatives to open water dumping, including recycling and safe disposal on land,” Zeldin said in an emailed statement through spokeswoman Jennifer DiSiena.

This post was updated to include comments by Lee Zeldin.

From left, Laura Huang-Ernst, WMHO trustee; Gloria Rocchio, WMHO president; son Leif Halvorsen; Dr. Richard Rugen, WMHO chairman; daughter Lilli Halvorsen; Councilwoman Valerie Cartright; Emilia Retzlaff; wife Britt Halvorsen; and daughter Liv Halvorsen. Photo from WMHO

Family and friends of Erik Halvorsen, along with Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Ward Melville Heritage Organization trustees, came together on the Stony Brook Village Green recently to celebrate his life. Erik was the former owner of Norse Tree and passed away tragically last November. Jeff Owen, of Owen Brothers Landscaping, donated a dogwood tree in his memory, and the Ward Melville Heritage Organization donated a boulder from the historic Mount House with an engraved bronze plaque.

The area selected for the placement of the tree and plaque (next to the Jennie Melville Gardens) was chosen not only for its beauty and peacefulness but because of Halvorsen’s help with revitalizing that area and the entire Village Green. Three Village residents made donations toward the project and their generosity exceeded the original cost. That balance was given to Erik’s widow, Britt Halvorsen. There are only three other plaques on the Village Green. One is dedicated to Jennie Melville and the other two to Ward and Dorothy Melville.

Legislators and community leaders, above, at a July 25 press conference make a plea to the New York State Department of Transportation to extend sidewalks along 25A in Stony Brook west of the train station. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Rita J. Egan

Local legislators are doing their part to create a safer Route 25A for Stony Brook pedestrians.

At a July 25 press conference held at the Stony Brook Long Island Rail Road station, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) made a formal plea to the New York State Department of Transportation to install sidewalks along Route 25A, a state roadway, from the train station heading west to Stony Brook Village’s Main Street.

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and representatives from the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, Three Village Civic Association, Three Village Chamber of Commerce and Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners joined Romaine and Cartright to show their support.

“We are blessed to have the largest state university in the state of New York here,” Romaine said. “It provides jobs, it provides culture, it provides academics, but it also provides a lot of kids who are looking to do something off campus. We don’t have a problem with that but we do have a problem with the safety of this road.”

The supervisor said there are sidewalks to the east and west of the station but they stop approximately 500 to 1,000 feet from the location. He said pedestrians are forced to walk on the roadway, and through the years, there have been three injuries and one pedestrian death along Route 25A. While the town has reached out to the state DOT in the past, they have been told that the funds are not in the budget and the installation of sidewalks in the area is not a priority.

“The state DOT has done a number of great projects throughout Long Island,” Romaine said. “We’re asking them to do one more project that may be expensive but would greatly improve pedestrian safety.”

Cartright said Brookhaven Town is completing a corridor study of Route 25A from Smithtown to Poquott, and in the beginning of the year, she attended community visioning meetings.

“Time and time again I hear from our constituents that walkers, students and residents are fearing for their safety in this particular section of 25A,” Cartright said. “Given these safety concerns, the accidents, the fatality that was mentioned, we ask that the DOT prioritize doing work, providing sidewalks in this particular area.”

Gloria Rocchio, president of WMHO, and Bruce Sander, co-founder of  Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners, both described issues with the roadway. Rocchio said there were problems with speeding, especially at night. Sander said many students walk in the roadway in the dark and don’t wear visible colors.

Englebright estimated that installing sidewalks would cost about $5 million and supported the initiative.

“If you’re a student at the university and you want to go to the namesake of your university, which is the village itself, you literally have to take your life in your hands,” he said. “This shouldn’t be.”

The now opened gate to the Brookhaven Town dock in Port Jefferson was locked to the public for much of the 2017 boating season. Photo by Alex Petroski

Restricted access at a Brookhaven Town owned facility caused a stir in Port Jefferson last week.

A locked gate with a sign reading “Boat owners only” at a Brookhaven owned public dock in Port Jefferson was the result of “miscommunication,” according to a spokesman for the town, and “insubordination,” according to the supervisor.

Myrna Gordon, a longtime Port Jefferson Village resident and former boat owner first raised the issue in calls to town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and the town’s recreation department July 13, then publicly during a board meeting July 20. She said she had seen the gate to the dock — which lies within the Brookhaven Town Marina overlooking Port Jefferson Harbor — locked with the sign prohibiting non-boaters from entry several times during the day this summer, and friends of hers told her they’d also seen the same thing. The dock is supposed to be locked to the public from dusk until dawn for safety reasons.

“It is a public dock. Those who see to make it a private dock will no longer work for the Town of Brookhaven. They are insubordinate.”

— Ed Romaine

“I do understand that there are several times that a dock must be closed — a medical emergency, extreme weather, a security issue — but closing a public walkway that is paid for by the residents of this town should be thoroughly investigated,” Gordon said during the meeting.

On July 12, Gordon said she was walking past the gate to attend a concert nearby at about 6 p.m., when she saw a woman approach the gate and enter a code on the keypad which unlocked the entry to the dock. Gordon said she confronted the woman, who explained that because of security concerns, boat owners were the only people allowed on the dock and with access to the code. Gordon said the woman closed the gate behind her and didn’t allow her in.

“I understand people take dock space and they pay for that to dock their boat there,” Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said after Gordon’s comments during the board meeting. “That does not give them ownership of that dock. That dock is owned by the Town of Brookhaven. It is a public dock. Those who see to make it a private dock will no longer work for the Town of Brookhaven. They are insubordinate.”

The town’s recreation department oversees the dock. Gordon and two boaters who dock their vessels at the town site said they hadn’t seen the lock and sign in seasons past. A spokesman for the town said in a phone interview, the locking of the gate during daytime hours was the result of a miscommunication, though he didn’t specify where the policy originated. He would not comment on whether any disciplinary action resulted for any town employees.

The now opened gate to the Brookhaven Town dock in Port Jefferson was locked to the public for much of the 2017 boating season. Photo by Alex Petroski

Gordon said she has not seen the gate locked during the daytime since July 13.

“My understanding was that it was rectified immediately once they contacted our office,” Cartright said during the meeting after Romaine’s remarks. “As it relates to who was responsible for all of this and any type of disciplinary action, the supervisor can move forward on that.”

A spokeswoman for Cartright reiterated that position in an email when asked for comment regarding the details of the situation.

Joseph Kazlau, a Port Jeff resident who has docked a boat at the town facility for about a decade, said he has no problem with members of the public utilizing the dock.

“I have an issue with them closing it to the taxpayers,” another boater, who asked not to be identified, said during an interview. “There are a lot of things we’d like to see, but keeping people off [of the dock] is not one of them.”

Both boaters said the key code was first installed on the gate during the 2016 boating season, though this season was the first they’d seen it locked during daytime hours.

Gordon also took issue with bathrooms just steps away from the gate, which are part of the town office building and lookout tower at the site, which also require a code to unlock. Romaine also condemned that practice during the meeting, and as of July 24 a handwritten note that reads, “Please see tower for access,” is taped to both the men’s and women’s restrooms.

Setauket firefighters, above, fighting a 2010 stable fire in Old Field. File photo by Dennis Whittam

Old Field Village residents may have input in official matters of the Setauket Fire District in the near future depending on the outcome of a July 20 public hearing in Brookhaven Town.

Village Mayor Michael Levine said Old Field currently receives contractual services from the Setauket Fire District and is now looking to become an official part of it. The inclusion of Old Field will require the district to expand its boundaries, which needs town approval.

While nothing would change regarding fire and emergency medical services for the village, Old Field residents would have an official say in what goes on in the district if the motion passes — including voting on budgets, referendums, fire commissioners or running themselves. Village residents currently receive fire services and can volunteer as a firefighter, though they cannot vote in fire district elections.

The mayor said for approximately 30 years Old Field has received emergency services on a contractual basis from the Setauket Fire District. In September, when the five-year contract was up for renewal, the village board members unanimously decided to become part of the fire district and received a one-year extension of their contract to start the process.

The first step of the possible expansion of the fire district was New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signing a bill Sept. 29, 2016 that permitted the Brookhaven Town board to proceed with the process.

The mayor said if the village had simply renewed the contract this year, it would have been significantly more than in previous years — from $385,000 to more than $500,000. Fire services currently make up 40 percent of the village’s budget.

If the town approves the expansion of the fire district, Levine said the current amount for contractual services will come off the village’s $1,115,500 budget, and residents will see a 40 percent reduction in their village taxes. The taxes for the fire district will then be line listed in residents’ Brookhaven tax bills as it is for all residents of the Three Village area.

Levine said he hopes the upcoming town resolution will be approved.

“[The Setauket Fire District has] always provided wonderful fire services to the village,” Levine said. “Nothing will change in that respect.”

Dave Sterne, district manager of the Setauket Fire District, said the district is happy to continue their relationship with Old Field and looks forward to village members becoming more involved.

Sterne said for the fire department there isn’t much of a difference between serving a community within the district or one that happens to have a contract with them.

“We respond exactly the same way,” Sterne said.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said in an email that the proposed expansion would have no fiscal impact on the town.

“The Setauket Fire District is not a town-wide fire district,” she said. “Therefore any potential impact will be limited to the geographic boundaries covered by the Setauket Fire District.”

Cartright also said after discussions with the town’s law department there will be no impact to current fire district residents if the expansion is approved.

However, she said there is a possibility that Old Field residents may see a slight increase to their fire taxes compared to what they are paying the village now.

“If the Village of Old Field residents are included in the Setauket Fire District boundaries, village property owners will pay the exact same tax rate for fire protection services that existing fire district property owners pay,” she said.

Sterne said the change will not affect the fire district’s budget as it’s based on needs, and they already serve Old Field.   

A map, plan and report of the proposed extension prepared by Farrell Fritz, P.C. will be available for review in the town clerk’s office Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at least 10 days before the public hearing.

The hearing will be held July 20 at 6 p.m. at Brookhaven Town Hall. Anyone with an interest in the proposal will be given the opportunity to speak on the record.

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