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Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine

The community is asking SUNY for a chance to sit at the table in selecting a new president. File photo

With the departure of Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. as Stony Brook University president July 31 and the appointment of Michael Bernstein as interim president, the school and the State University of New York have begun the process of finding a new permanent president. Elected officials and community groups have called on SUNY to include local representatives in the search committee and selection process.

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

“Stony Brook University is one of the crown jewels of the SUNY system,” said Ed Romaine (R), Town of Brookhaven supervisor, in an Aug. 26 letter sent to Kristina Johnson, SUNY chancellor. 

Citing SBU as being ranked one of the top 35 public universities in the nation and a major health care provider for the community, Romaine described SBU as “an integral part of our community as an educational resource, employer and economic driver.”

“Because of this, I urge you to include at least two representatives from the community on your search committee for a new university president,” Romaine said.

The supervisor recommended eight different community groups that he felt had qualified individuals that could serve on the search committee.

“The president of the university is a huge part of the community. I believe the community should be invited to the search committee for the new president,” Romaine reiterated in an interview. “We have a lot of local issues, and there needs to be better communication between the university and the community.”

The Brookhaven supervisor brought up the issue of off-campus housing, particularly illegal rooming homes, which he acknowledged the school has worked with the town to crack down on landlords.

Romaine brought up traffic, especially the issues on Stony Brook, Oxhead and Nicolls roads.  

“I proposed to the county they consider making three lanes north and south from 347 to the university because that’s where it really jams up,” he said. “… The university is already working with us, but the best way to confirm that is to make sure the local community is represented.”

The Three Village Civic Association also sent Johnson a letter.

“We appreciate the many benefits of being the home community of a large world class university,” the association stated in the letter. “However, with those benefits come many challenges for our small community. We think it would be beneficial for the search committee to include a civic perspective that can help bridge the specific needs of the university with those of the surrounding community.”

“We have a lot of local issues, and there needs to be better communication between the university and the community.”

– Ed Romaine

University officials, said in a statement that SUNY board of trustees sets the procedure for the search and determines the mix of committee members. Members of the Stony Brook Council will be included who are also community members.

SUNY Guidelines for Conducting Presidential Searches require that the local college council, the Stony Brook Council, follow a prescribed process and submit names to the SUNY board for consideration.

The search committee would consist of four members of the local council, including the chair, seven members of the full-time teaching faculty of the campus, one undergraduate student, one graduate student, one alumni representative, two campus-related foundation representatives, one academic dean, one professional or support staff member, one incumbent or retired SUNY president from another campus or a member of the chancellor’s senior staff designated by the chancellor.

SBU said members are nominated by faculty, staff and students. The faculty then vote via a secret ballot on the seven faculty positions, and the rest of the positions are selected by the council chair from the list of nominees. 

Nominations for the committee took place over the summer, according to university officials. Voting on faculty representatives began on Aug. 26 and runs until Sept. 6. Once the faculty results are in, the council chair, Kevin Law, will finalize his selections and will convene the first search committee meeting. The first meeting will likely be in late September.

SUNY could not be reached for comment before press time.

Will Ferraro, a Selden resident, is running against Ed Romaine for town supervisor. Photo from Ferraro’s campaign

For Will Ferraro, a Selden resident running for Town of Brookhaven supervisor in elections this fall, his campaign is about making solutions. 

“I’m running for working class and working poor people who feel like this current administration isn’t listening to them,” he said.    

Ferraro said he is campaigning on a platform of fixing and repairing town roads as well as addressing issues with the town’s recycling system and the Brookhaven landfill. 

“There have been roads that haven’t been paved in years. People are sick of a supervisor who just points the finger to the highway superintendent,” he said. “On the recycling issue, he points to China and says there is nothing wrong with the landfill. My campaign is about solutions.”

“People are sick of a supervisor who just points the finger to the highway superintendent.”

— Will Ferraro

Ferraro and Ed Romaine (R), who is finishing his third term as supervisor, will look to secure a four-year term in the upcoming elections, a result of Brookhaven residents voting last year to add term limits to three per seat, but also double the term length for the town supervisor and other positions like the highway superintendent. 

The challenger was against the increase in term length and co-funded Brookhaven Action Network, which helped organize and lead the “Vote No on Prop 1” campaign against the terms extensions. Despite being ultimately unsuccessful, it proved to be a motivating factor for Ferraro’s decision to run. 

This will be Ferraro’s first time running for elected office, though he says his experience working in Albany as a legislative analyst for the New York State Assembly has helped in the transition.  

“You don’t really know what to expect until you’ve actually done it,” he said. “You’re out there on your own.”

If elected, Ferraro said he would restore curbside pickup of recyclable glass on a monthly basis, make road infrastructure the top budget priority and create a task force that would expand air quality and toxicology tests in areas surrounding the landfill. 

“People feel like their concerns are not being heard,” he said. “This town and administration is run by one party.”

Ferraro, who grew up in Port Jefferson Station, works for the New York City administration for children’s services, has a bachelor’s degree in government and politics from St. John’s University and a master’s degree in public policy from Stony Brook University.   

So far, the Selden resident acknowledged he has raised far less than Romaine in political donations, but said he hopes to raise more than  $100,000 for his campaign. Ferraro acknowledges that Romaine has more campaign contributions but hopes that residents will take to his message. 

“You have to go out there and connect with them. I want to show them how passionate I am about this community,” the Selden resident said. “This administration has not been challenged — I’m not afraid to go after his [Romaine’s] record.”  

Ferraro said the feedback and responses he and staffers have gotten from residents have been positive. 

“Knocking on doors in neighborhoods you see the level of frustration residents have toward the current administration,” he said. “We have people that really believe in our message and want to see change and believe that time is now.”

Ferraro believes Romaine can be beaten. 

“I will provide leadership and a new beginning for the town — I want people to understand that I will be a candidate that answers to residents,” he said. “And I will call out what needs to be called out.”

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The Setauket Fire Department’s Engine Company #1 firehouse is officially up and running.

Hundreds of residents, along with Setauket fire commissioners, legislators and volunteer firefighters, both local and neighboring, were on hand to celebrate the ribbon cutting of the renovated firehouse on the corner of Main Street and Old Town Road June 23.

Jay Gardiner, fire commissioner and chairman of the board, said the department has been serving the community for 108 years.

“Today we mark a milestone in that history as the beautiful new building you see in front of you is a reaffirmation of our commitment to this community, as well as a symbol of the dedication we have to the mission of the Setauket Fire Department, which is to ensure the protection of life and property to our residents,” Gardiner said.

The Setauket Fire Department, which also includes stations on Arrowhead Lane and Nicolls Road, has nearly 200 volunteers, career staff and support personnel who serve an estimated 95,000 people during the day and 26,000 residents in the evening, Gardiner said.

The fire district, which has its headquarters at Hulse Road, also covers Stony Brook University and its hospital in an about 28-square-mile area.

The fire commissioner said the new 23,000-square-foot Main Street facility includes solar heated water, LED lighting, energy recovery ventilation heating/cooling system, a large meeting room, training room and bunk rooms for overnight crews, while the entire building is Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.

“This structure is modern, yet it maintains the historical integrity of our building, complete with the brickwork matching the original building which faces 25A,” he said.

The original southeast corner that was once an asphalt parking lot, he said, is now a green space “to enjoy the view of the historical center of our town.” Gardiner said the fire department hopes the large glacial erratic rock that now sits on the green space will become a new landmark, and he joked that it was a “custom import” found during the excavation of the property.

Among those who spoke before the ribbon cutting was Paul Rodier, chief of department, who thanked the members and their families for their support, especially those who belong to Engine Company #1.

“You guys went without a building for about three years,” he said. “A lot of cold nights to stand by with no heat, plastic chairs.”

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) complimented the fire district for reaching out to the community when it came to renovating and adding on to the building.

“This is a triumph,” Englebright said. “What we’re really looking at is protection and security for our community that deserves both. We are looking at a monument to the creative cooperation between our civics and our fire service. This is in the heart of a historic district, so I really want to salute the fire department and fire district for working to make sure that the essence of this place, this place of Setauket, is reflected in the architecture and in the materials that this building is constructed of. Well done and thank you.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) were also in attendance to present the fire department with proclamations.

“Today we’re looking at a building that some people said, ‘Well, it costs a lot of money,’ but 50 years from now we’ll look back and say what a wise decision was made to invest in a building that provides fire services and ambulance services to all the people in the Setauket area,” Romaine said.

After the speeches, William Engels, a 50-year veteran, cut the ribbon surrounded by his fellow firefighters, and the new alarm was sounded. The Setauket Elementary School band also performed during the event, and residents were invited to tour the new facility and to discuss volunteer opportunities with firefighters.

To view more photos from the event, visit www.tbrnewsmedia.com.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine announced Dec. 12 that the town received the AAA long-term rating on general obligation bonds from S&P Global. File photo by Alex Petroski

Brookhaven is on solid footing when it comes to its finances.

On Dec. 12 Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) announced that S&P Global Ratings, an American financial services company, assigned its top-tier AAA long-term rating to the town’s series 2018A and 2018B general obligation bonds. The municipal bond is one that is secured by a local government’s pledge to use legally available resources, such as tax revenues, to repay bondholders.

“Our financial team has worked hard to achieve this AAA stable rating, but the real winners are the taxpayers who will save millions of dollars in the years ahead,” Romaine said. “We owe it to them to spend their money more wisely.”

S&P Global also affirmed the same rating on the town’s existing bonds. Based on recent local municipal bond sales, it’s been estimated this rating and bond sale has resulted in a $1.65 million savings for taxpayers, according to a press release from Brookhaven township. The town plans to finance construction of ambulance buildings, open-space acquisitions and other infrastructure projects with the bonds. The $20.8 million general obligation bonds will be amortized over 20 years, according to the release.

S&P cited in its AAA ranking a very strong economy, with the town’s access to a broad and diverse metropolitan statistical area and a local stabilizing institutional influence; strong management, with strong financial policies and practices; and solid budgetary performance with operating surpluses in the general fund and at the total government fund level in fiscal 2017. There was also budgetary flexibility and strong liquidity, among others.

According to S&P’s rating announcement, the Brookhaven’s rating is higher than the U.S. 10-year Treasury note. S&P believes “the town can maintain better credit characteristics than the U.S. in a stress scenario.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), who is the board liaison to the town’s Department of Finance, said the rating is due to the town’s fiscally conservative ethos.

“The AAA Stable rating is clear evidence that our conservative fiscal policies have made a significant impact, saving taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars,” Bonner said. “I am proud to continue working with Supervisor Romaine and the finance team to help build on the success that we have already achieved.”

Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) credited the board with working toward balancing the budget and responsible fiscal management.

“We tackle this process with the goal of continuous improvement,” Cartright said. “Receiving the highest bond rating, once again, is a reflection of this effort.”

Juvenile clams maturing in Brookhaven’s hatchery. File photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Restoring Long Island’s coastal waters as a haven for shellfish to thrive has been a multidecade battle for the Town of Brookhaven. This year, it has added some artillery to the fight in the form of a public-private-nonprofit partnership born in the spirit of sustainability and recycling.

In the 1800s, Long Island was considered the oyster capital of the world, according to Maureen Dunn, water quality scientist at Seatuck Environmental Association, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving Long Island’s wildlife and environment.

“So, to think that there’s virtually no wild oysters in the South Shore is incredible, but it’s really something that we can fix,” Dunn said Sept. 7 at Brookhaven’s shellfish hatchery located on the shores of Mount Sinai Harbor.

For more than 30 years, Brookhaven has been buying juvenile clams and oysters when they are just a millimeter in size, partially maturing them at the town’s hatchery and strategically returning them to North and South Shore waters in an effort to boost the population. Tom Carrano, the town’s assistant waterways management supervisor who has overseen this process since taking the position in the early ’80s, is set to retire imminently.

“Realistically, clams and oysters are the only natural resource the town actually owns because we own the bay bottom,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to make sure that there is sufficient quantities of these animals.”

To aid in fulfilling that responsibility, beginning this year the town has partnered with Seatuck and so far five restaurants to spearhead a program called Half Shells for Habitat. The program entails the restaurants setting aside shells from eaten clams and oysters; collecting them; delivering them to the town’s composting facility in Manorville where they are aged in the sun for six months to a year to ensure viruses and bacteria are not inhabiting the discarded shells; bringing the shells to the hatchery to allow the tiny shellfish to adhere to the larger shells, building what essentially amount to shellfish reefs; and then returning them to the water in the hopes of growing new shellfish. 

The town has the capability to grow more than 3 million shellfish in its hatchery per year, and officials believe the use of mature shells will give them a better chance at maturation and warding off predators. Creating the shellfish reefs has several other benefits. The juvenile shellfish require a hard bottom to survive, which the reefs can provide. They also can work as erosion control if placed properly, can counteract the effects of water acidification spurred by climate change and also help to filter algae from the water.

“As CO2 levels in the atmosphere go up, ocean and coastal acidification become more of a concern,” said Anthony Graves, Brookhaven’s chief environmental analyst. 

He said taking the shells out of the town’s solid waste stream and using them to improve water quality by staving off erosion and stimulating shellfish growth is a “win-win-win” for the environment.

“It’s tremendous how far we’ve come,” Carrano said, reflecting on the evolution of the operation of shellfish seeding in the town from when he started in his role. “When I started we were growing 100,000 clams. Now we’re growing a million and a half, close to 2 million clams this year and 2 million oysters. The town has been very generous and forthcoming in pushing this program and allowing it to move forward.”

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said he would like to see New York adopt a similar law to the state of Maryland’s, which prohibits discarding shells in landfills.

“We’ve made a major commitment to restocking our bays, our harbor ways, our Sound, doing what we can do to restore the balance of nature,” he said. “It’s a cumulative battle, but it’s a battle that we’ve joined, it’s a battle that we intend to continue to fight because we think it’s important not only for the health of the bay, but also to ensure that the bay or harbor can support clams and oysters.”

Currently five restaurants have signed on to participate in the program — Catch Oyster Bar in Patchogue, Prime in Huntington, H2O Seafood & Sushi in East Islip and Tellers: An American Chophouse in Islip — though the town is looking for more. Prior to placing shellfish reefs back in the water, Graves said the town will need permission in the form of a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Port Jeff and Belle Terre would like to be absorbed by the Mount Sinai Ambulance District, which is overseen by Brookhaven.

The villages of Port Jefferson and Belle Terre are proposing a change to its ambulance service contracts with the goal of increased efficiency on the mind.

Currently emergency ambulance services are provided to homes in Mount Sinai Ambulance District, and the two incorporated villages by the Port Jefferson Ambulance Company, a not-for-profit corporation located on Crystal Brook Hollow Road in Mount Sinai. 

The ambulance company provides services to the three entities through individual contracts, with a projected 2018 total budget of $1.4 million. Port Jeff and Belle Terre villages contracted KPC Planning Services Inc. to examine the possibility of proposing to expand the Mount Sinai Ambulance District to encompass the two villages, thus simplifying the process and requiring a single contract with the company for its existing coverage area.

Port Jeff Village Attorney Brian Egan called the current set up, “not even close to efficient,” noting the three entities do not even operate on the same fiscal year, making budgeting for ambulance services more complicated than village officials say it needs to be.

“It creates a problem for us because the 51 percent majority can pass a budget without our say,” Port Jeff Mayor Margot Garant said during a May board meeting. The Mount Sinai Ambulance District makes up more than 50 percent of the ambulance company’s territory and is overseen by the Town of Brookhaven.

KPC Planning Services’ report summed up the goal behind the proposed change: “Operationally, the district managers must answer to three municipalities to make a capital, equipment or operational decision. The goal of the expanded district is to remove the village[s] from operational responsibility and vest the power exclusively in the Town [of Brookhaven].”

In actuality, Port Jefferson Village’s contract with the ambulance company expired in 2011, meaning the entities have continued a relationship without an official contract for seven years.

“It means no change in area, no change in service, no change in population — everything remains exactly the same,” Egan said in an interview. “The only structure that we’re changing is that we would no longer be a contracting party. It would be 100 percent exclusively in control of the Town of Brookhaven.”

Egan said residents should not expect to see any changes in their taxes, services or even the name on the side of an ambulance in the case of an emergency. Both villages have passed resolutions proposing the change, which will need to be acted on by Brookhaven before it can go into effect. Egan said he’s not sure of the timeline from the town’s perspective but hopes it is soon.

Consolidating services has been on the mind of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), as the town was named the winner of a $20 million grant for its proposals as part of a New York State competition earlier this year.

“Elimination of this three-ring tangle is consistent with Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine’s goal to eliminate duplication in districts, streamline decision making and consolidate services,” the KPC report said.

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine send joint letter to state representatives

Huntington commuters board train. File photo by Rohma Abbas

The spark of hope given to electrifying the North Shore branch of the Long Island Rail Road last November convinced local leaders to take up the charge.

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) has joined with other town supervisors to urge state lawmakers to moved forward with a feasibility study on the electrification of the LIRR service line from Huntington Station east to Port Jefferson Station. Currently, trains on the line east of Huntington run on diesel fuel.

“It will have a strong affect on Huntington, Smithtown and Brookhaven,” Lupinacci (R) said. “For the commuters in all three towns this is something that’s critically needed in the area.”

“It will have a strong affect on Huntington, Smithtown and Brookhaven, for the commuters in all three towns this is something that’s critically needed in the area.”
—Chad Lupinacci

On April 4, Lupinacci along with Brookhaven Supervisor Edward Romaine (R) and Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) sent a joint letter to New York State Legislature’s Long Island delegation to express their support for the feasibility study due to potential economic and environmental benefits. They cited that the Port Jefferson and Huntington branch lines have the highest ridership, about 18.7 million annually, of any line in the LIRR service territory, according to the most recent LIRR Annual Ridership Report released in 2015.

“For decades this project has been a concept that could not reach the critical mass necessary to become a reality,” reads the April 4 letter. “However, we believe the time is now given the many roadblocks that prevented this project from moving forward have now been solved — including where to site the train cars.”

The letter details the beneficial impacts electrification of the Port Jeff branch would have for each of the townships.

In Huntington, the five stations — Greenlawn, Northport, Centerport, Fort Salonga and Commack — would benefit from additional transportation options and commuters heading east, according to Lupinacci.

Wehrheim stressed in the Town of Smithtown the infrastructural investment is a key pillar in the revitalization of Kings Park, Smithtown and St. James business areas. The town has invested significant funds in this year’s capital budget to these areas.

However, we believe the time is now given the many roadblocks that
prevented this project from moving forward have now been solved.”
— April 4 letter

In Brookhaven, Romaine said electrification of the rails would foster revitalization of Port Jefferson Station and allow for an easier commute to Stony Brook University, which has approximately 40,000 students and staff members. He also noted it would help ease traffic congestion on local roadways in the communities near SBU.

The project has received support from groups such as the Long Island Association in the past, and a more recent push from state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). LaValle met with Metropolitan Transportation
Authority board member Mitchell Paley last November, wherein the sides agreed to pursue a feasibility study to determine the potential cost and impact of electrifying the line out to Port Jeff.

“I believe it’s something we could get done,” LaValle said, in a November interview with TBR News Media. “I think it’s critically important that we can demonstrate to communities with specificity where electric substations are going. Communities need to know that before we make that decision. I’m supporting electrification that starts in Port Jeff but also goes through Smithtown and Huntington.”

Calls and initiatives to electrify the line east of Huntington go back to at least the 1980s. According to an article by researcher Derek Stadler published by the Long Island History Journal in 2016 entitled “The Modernization of the Long Island Rail Road,” in 1984, electrification of the branch was included in a nearly $600 million MTA spending package that was meant to serve as a five-year plan for LIRR improvements. However, the plans were postponed indefinitely just two years later due to a budget gap.

“This is a good time to put it out there. Now you can have serious conversations for next [budget] year.”
— Chad Lupinacci

The establishment of a one-seat ride from Port Jefferson to Penn Station has long been a goal for elected officials and LIRR riders as well, though that would require electrification as diesel engines cannot travel to the Manhattan station. In the mid-90s, a brief pilot program was tested on the Port Jeff line using dual-mode locomotive cars that could run using both diesel engines and third-rail electrification. According to Stadler’s research, in 2000 it was estimated that electrification east of Huntington could cost as much as $500 million.

“You are looking at several millions per mile of track,” Lupinacci affirmed. “This is a good time to put it out there. Now you can have serious conversations for next [budget] year.”

There is renewed hope that with a newlyannounced LIRR president, Philip Eng of Smithtown, that a feasibility study willEd be funded.

“New leadership brings in a different perspective,” Lupinacci said. “I think this is a good situation for us to be in with new leadership taking over the helm.”

Lee Koppelman, right is presented with a replica of the sign that will mark a nature preserve dedicated in his honor, by Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine. Photo by Alex Petroski

A public servant with more than four decades of planning experience now has a nature preserve with his name on it to honor his life’s work.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) hosted a ceremony at Jefferson’s Ferry Life Plan Community in South Setauket April 13 to dedicate a 46-acre parcel of woodlands in Stony Brook in honor of Lee Koppelman, who served as the first Suffolk County planner, a position he held for 28 years. He also served as regional planner for Suffolk and Nassau counties for 41 years.

“When you come to talk about preserving land; when you come to talk about planning communities; when you come to talk about vision; when you come to talk about master planners and you put that with Suffolk County, only one name comes up,” Romaine said of Koppelman. “When I look at the picture of the woods that will be named for Dr. Koppelman I can think of no better tribute to this man … Suffolk is in a large part what it is today because of this man’s vision, our master planner.”

Romaine lauded Koppelman for his dedication to preserving nature, including shoreline, wooded areas, wetlands and more. State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who served on the Suffolk County Legislature along with Romaine in the 1980s when Koppelman was also working for the county, repeatedly used the word “bold” in thanking Koppelman for his dedication.

“Suffolk is in a large part what it is today because of [Lee Koppelman’s] vision, our master planner.”

— Ed Romaine

“We had a master planner with a vision for this county that was daring and bold and unprecedented for any county in the United States,” Englebright said. “To set aside parkland — not like little pieces of confetti, but as whole sections of ecosystems and landscape segments — bold ideas. Not only was Dr. Koppleman the master planner, he was a master administrator. He hired extraordinary planners, talented people to serve with him.”

According to a press release from the town, Koppelman is regarded as the father of sustainability on Long Island, calling him the first of the “power players” to conceptualize the idea of preserving space in the interest of health and future generations. The Lee Koppelman Preserve is a heavily wooded parcel with a variety of deciduous tree and shrub species, or foliage that sheds its leaves annually. The town has owned the Stony Brook property just east of Nicolls Road and south of Stony Brook University, for about 45 years, using it as passive open space.

Cartright said she was honored to be a part of the dedication to such a prominent figure who had an impact on her district.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t have as much time to work with Dr. Koppleman as it relates to land use and planning, but it is clear to me he has left an indelible mark here within our community,” she said.

Koppelman joked that he wished the ceremony didn’t sound so much like a eulogy, though he said he was honored to be recognized by people he had considered friends for so long.

“Having that from them is a particular pleasure,” he said.

His wife Connie Koppelman was also in attendance and joked she had heard her husband honored so many times it was getting old, but called it very pleasing to hear once again how much his work was appreciated by those around him.

Koppelman currently heads the Center for Regional Policy Studies at Stony Brook University.

Map shows the conceptual plans of developing the Gyrodyne /Flowerfield property in St. James. Image from Suffolk County

Some Brookhaven residents and Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) are concerned about the potential negative impact development of a St. James property might have on Stony Brook Road.

On Aug. 2, the Suffolk County Planning Committee approved the conceptual subdivision of a 62-acre parcel of land in St. James owned by Gyrodyne, LLC. The property, known locally as Flowerfield, borders Route 25A and Stony Brook Road, and the plan includes approval for a 150-room hotel, two medical office buildings and two assisted living facilities.

One of the suggestions given at the August meeting to relieve possible traffic issues on Route 25A was to use a road that crosses over train tracks on the land parcel, passes through private property and utilizes a road owned by Stony Brook University where drivers would then be led to Stony Brook Road.

After Gyrodyne received approval from the county, resident Cindy Smith founded the Coalition of Greater Stony Brook Action Committee in the hopes of mobilizing local civic groups and providing a voice for the thousands of permanent residents in the village. Smith, along with local residents and Romaine, attended the planning committee’s Oct. 4 meeting to express their concerns to the members.

During an August meeting of the Suffolk County Planning Committee, it was suggested to use a currently closed street which leads to Stony Brook Road if development in St. James leads to increase traffic on Route 25A. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Smith said she took exception to the planning committee not seeking input from the surrounding communities. While a  developer has not been named and the Gyrodyne property is not yet on the Smithtown planning board’s agenda, she said she is concerned that no traffic studies or environmental assessments have been conducted and there has been no estimate of the impact on the local infrastructure. In regards to traffic, the commission in their resolution suggested the future applicant consider a bike share program to help reduce short distance motor traffic.

Romaine said he attended the Oct. 4 county planning committee meeting after receiving inadequate notification of the August meeting. He said the town only received 48 hours notice, and it lacked an environmental assessment form, a project description and usage of the property.

The supervisor said with Nicolls and Stony Brook roads being the only two ways to access Stony Brook University, quality of life has been impacted negatively in the area, especially on Stony Brook and Oxhead roads, due to traffic. He added the university also owns property that borders the Gyrodyne land on the east. On the grounds is the Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology where new buildings are being erected, which could cause even more traffic in the area from the center’s employees.

“We don’t need additional traffic from the Gyrodyne development pouring onto Stony Brook Road,” Romaine said. “We will strongly oppose that and we will explore all of our legal options to do exactly that.”

Smith, who is a member of Friends of Stony Brook Road, which works to address traffic and speeding issues on the street, said due to the university being state property, they do not need to follow local planning procedures or receive approval. She said she believes the lack of a master plan has created a problem and said she feels the Gyrodyne project lacks the same foresight.

“It’s really a quality of life issue — it’s safety,” she said. “It’s another town’s economic boom and Brookhaven’s financial demise because all the traffic will be on Brookhaven roads.”

Stony Brook Road residents deal with cars backed up on the street during rushed hour traffic and are concerned about the Gyrodyne project increasing the problem. Photo by Jonathan Kornreich

Smith, who lives on Stony Brook Road and works from home as a business consultant, said another issue is that the property borders 25A, which is a historic corridor, and she is concerned its value as such will be jeopardized. She said the goal of the coalition is not to impede development but to demand a better master plan when it comes to properties such as Gyrodyne’s and the areas that surround it.

“If we are going to develop it, and it’s certainly the right of that landowner to do that, let’s do it smartly,” she said. “Let’s do it with sustainability, and let’s do it with community input and let the other local officials from the Town of Brookhaven understand what’s going on and let them have a say in it, too. Because it’s going to affect the Town of Brookhaven, even though it’s in the township of Smithtown.”

Romaine said he is also concerned with added traffic on Route 25A, pointing to the intersection of the state thoroughfare with Stony Brook Road where bends in the road cause limited sight issues. He said both are beyond their capacity.

“In my view we have too much traffic and congestion now, and I want to make sure we don’t have any additional,” Romaine said.

George Hoffman, co-chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee for Route 25A, which conducted visioning meetings for residents in the Three Village area earlier this year, was also in attendance at the Oct. 4 meeting. He echoed Smith’s sentiments that there should have been more input from the community. He said he hopes Smith is successful in getting others involved in the coalition.

“Maybe this is the issue that gets us all at the same table to start working in a uniformed way where we start to talk,” Hoffman said. “I really think we need that.”

Romaine also sent a letter Sept. 20 to Smithtown Planning Board Chairman Conrad Chayes expressing his concerns and recommendations. He said while the county did not require a traffic study and only recommended one, he has faith that Smithtown will mandate it. When it comes to developments such as Gyrodyne, the supervisor said he is willing to work with the state, county and other towns.

“To think that people can blindly put traffic out on Stony Brook Road without us putting up a fight, they are going to be sadly mistaken,” he said. “Brookhaven is definitely going to fight this.”

Requests for comments from representatives of Gyrodyne were not returned by press time.

If passed, homeowners would see minimal increase in property taxes

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine. File photo by Alex Petroski

Brookhaven Town plans to spend $294.1 million in the 2018 fiscal year, about a $12 million increase compared to 2017’s budget, though the town won’t need much help from the public to do so.

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) presented his tentative operating budget for 2018 to the public during a meeting Sept. 28. Romaine referred to the plan as a “taxpayers’ budget.”

“My job is to bring in the most cost effective budget, and that’s what we think we’ve done here,” Romaine said, thanking the town’s finance department Commissioner Tamara Wright and Chief of Operations Matt Miner for their work in presenting a balanced budget. He also lauded the town’s AAA bond rating as a valuable asset in putting together a spending plan.

“We have a structurally balanced budget for the last few years and we have wound up each of the last few years with a surplus, which kind of distinguishes us in terms of our fiscal soundness,” Romaine said.

The increase compared to the 2017 fiscal year can be attributed in large part to the disbanding of the formerly incorporated Mastic Beach Village, which means some services provided to residents of the village will again become Brookhaven’s responsibility. In addition, health insurance costs for town employees are expected to increase by 10 percent in 2018, and contractually mandated raises will go up by about $1.7 million. The town’s debt requirements will be about 5 percent higher in 2018. Despite the increases, if passed, the spending plan would maintain all services provided to residents during 2017, though no new programs would be funded, according to Romaine. Less than $2 million in reserve funds were needed to balance the budget, compared to about $3.5 million in 2017.

A typical Brookhaven Town resident living outside of an incorporated village should expect to see an increase of about $11 in their town property taxes in 2018 from the town’s general funds, excluding special districts such as sewer and highway districts, which will still see minimal increases. The budget falls within the state-mandated 1.84 percent tax levy increase cap, meaning it won’t need to be pierced, which requires approval via a public vote.

The town benefitted from an additional $7 million in revenue than was budgeted for ahead of the 2017 fiscal year thanks primarily to the town’s mortgage tax and other building fees and fines. Romaine said the unexpected revenue allowed the town to anticipate higher revenues in crafting the 2018 budget.

Part of the tentative budget also includes a $40.2 million list of new capital projects to be funded by bonds and reserves over a four-year period beginning in 2018, including $18 million for road repairs, drainage, traffic safety and street lighting projects; $8 million to cap the town landfill; and $6 million for park and recreation facility upgrades and equipment, among others.

The town board will host a public hearing to allow the community to weigh in on the budget Nov. 9 at Town Hall. The full tentative budget is also available to the public on the town’s website www.brokhavenny.gov.