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Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine

By Rita J. Egan

On April 19, residents joined Stony Brook Village Center President Gloria Rocchio, Chairman Dr. Richard Rugen, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Three Village Chamber of Commerce President Andrew Polan in welcoming five new businesses to the center.

The grand opening and ribbon cutting stroll included gift and clothing store Madison’s Niche, Camera Concepts & Telescope Solutions, interior design business Cervo Design, Village Florist and Events and Sweet Mama’s Family Restaurant. Before and after the ribbon cuttings, attendees had the opportunity to stroll through each establishment, and enjoyed refreshments at Cervo Design and Sweet Mama’s.

Elected officials, scientists and environmentalists fill the legislative auditorium of the William H. Rogers Building in Hauppauge Feb. 14 to provide testimony against offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. Photo by Maria Hoffman

Long Islanders filled the legislative auditorium of the William H. Rogers Building in Hauppauge Feb. 14 to let the federal government know that the Atlantic Ocean is not the place for offshore drilling.

In a public hearing, state legislators, including Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), listened to more than five hours of testimony provided by nearly 50 local elected officials, scientists and environmentalists. The hearing followed the Jan. 4 announcement made by the U.S. Department of the Interior proposing plans for expansion of natural gas and oil drilling along coastal waters. The plan includes the potential lease of acreage in federal offshore areas such as the Atlantic region.

In the Jan. 4 announcement, Ryan Zinke, secretary of the interior, said developing resources on the Outer Continental Shelf would provide billions of dollars to fund the conservation of coastlines, public lands and park. He noted that not all areas are appropriate for offshore drilling and laid out the plan for hearings across the country in the areas that may be affected.

“The important thing is we strike the right balance to protect our coasts and people while still powering America and achieving American Energy Dominance,” Zinke said in the statement.

Assemblyman Steve Englebright addresses the crowd before a Feb. 14 hearing in Hauppauge concerning the proposal of offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. Photo by Maria Hoffman

“The Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf is not an appropriate area for offshore drilling, period,” Englebright said in the beginning of the Long Island hearing. “There are many reasons for that, and we’ll hear some of those reasons, I’m sure, today, but the risks associated with drilling, including oil spills, far outweigh any potential benefits. Especially since the state is currently working to advance renewable energy projects on our continental shelf area rather than climate change inducing, fossil fuel-oriented projects such as the drilling.”

While the federal government chose to hold a public hearing in Albany Feb. 15, Englebright said the location, as opposed to coastal areas in the state, was not the right spot for such a hearing as inland would not be impacted like coastal areas would be if offshore drilling would occur in the Atlantic. He also said many who live by and are worried about local waters may not have been able to travel to the federal hearing.

Speakers during the Long Island hearing touched on the ramifications drilling would have on the area in regard to water quality, marine life, coastal management and more.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), who wrote two letters to Zinke, one opposing drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans and another one requesting a hearing on Long Island, read from one of the letters.

“Brookhaven Town has the largest coastline of any town on Long Island with three distinct coastal waters; ocean, bay and sound,” Romaine said. “As supervisor, I do not support drilling in waters off our coastline.”

The supervisor said he supported forms of renewable energy such as wind, solar and geothermal because an oil spill anywhere along the Atlantic coast could decimate large portions of the town’s coastline and negatively affect the coastal economy.

“The 1970s called, and they want their energy plan back.”

— Adrienne Esposito

“The Long Island coastline supports nearly 350,000 jobs and generates millions of dollars through tourism, fishing and other industries,” Romaine said, adding he was also concerned about the potential environmental harm to Fire Island.

Romaine said he’s also concerned about the expiration of the 9-cent per oil barrel tax which funds emergency cleanups of spills. He said the lack of a congressional plan to extend the tax makes ocean drilling riskier than ever.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, also suggested more modern energy solutions.

“The 1970s called, and they want their energy plan back,” she said.

Esposito cited a 1990 study that was conducted after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska. She said the study showed a $19 million decrease in tourism dollars the summer of the oil spill in Alaska and 43 percent of businesses in the Gulf of Alaska significantly or completely shut down. Esposito said the ocean generates $24 billion into New York’s economy every year. She also raised health concerns, calling crude oil a toxin.

“It causes kidney liver and lung damage and can even kill people,” Esposito said. “It can cause neurological damage and endocrine disruption — things that are vastly overlooked.”

Speakers also highlighted the effects of seismic testing, which uses air gun blasting to locate underwater fossil fuels. Guy Jacob, conservation chair of the Nassau Hiking & Outdoor Club, said seismic booms are among the loudest underwater noises recorded and the proposed plan would give businesses permission “to fire seismic air guns every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day for months.” He said that a single vessel could deploy up to 96 air guns, which in turn is damaging to marine life and the fishing industry.

“Seismic blasts drive commercially-viable fish literally running for their lives. While the fossil fuel industry profits, our fishing industry suffers.”

— Guy Jacob

“Because water is such an excellent conduit for sound, seismic blasts become weapons of mass mutilation maiming and slaughtering organisms, from the largest whales to the most diminutive invertebrates throughout the web of marine life,” Jacob said. “Seismic blasts drive commercially-viable fish literally running for their lives. While the fossil fuel industry profits, our fishing industry suffers.”

Kevin McAllister, founder and president of the nonprofit Defend H2O, spoke of the ecological impacts from oil spills at the hearing. He said after the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, 36,000 birds and hundreds of marine mammals died. McAllister said only 10 percent of the oil was effectively cleaned up after the Exxon Valdez spill, and as of 2007, more than 26,000 gallons of oil remain in shoreline sentiments. According to McAllister, the 2010 Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico impacted 68,000 square miles of ocean, the size of Oklahoma, and washed up on 1,074 miles of coastline.

During a phone interview after the hearing, McAllister said he felt the hearing was productive. He said he hopes other Atlantic states will join in a lawsuit against the federal government if New York state moves forward in filing one. During the hearing, Peter Washburn, policy adviser in the attorney general’s environmental protection bureau, said the New York State Attorney General is prepared to sue the interior department.

Englebright said a transcript of the hearing will be submitted to the federal government prior to March 9, the end of the comment period.

Town to set up program that would provide energy audits, fund some upgrades for homeowners

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine. File photo by Alex Petroski

And Brookhaven Town said: “Let there be light.”

The town unanimously approved a resolution at its Feb. 8 board meeting authorizing the repurposing of unused funds received as part of a 2009 grant to the town-wide street lighting fixture replacement capital project.

The town began the process of replacing old, high-wattage street lights with LED, energy-efficient ones in 2013. In 2015, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) announced a five-year, capital plan, called the Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Initiative, which was established with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2020. An estimated $1.45 million of that plan was slated for street lighting fixes. The Feb. 8 authorization to repurpose the funds added $943,000 to aid in the upgrades. The new LED street lights — white light that increases visibility for drivers and in turn increase safety for pedestrians and bicyclists on the roadways — increase energy efficiency and reduce costs for taxpayers by decreasing electricity used. Romaine said during a Feb. 5 board work session about 6,000 of the town’s 40,000 street lights have been upgraded, and are estimated to have a 15-year lifespan.

The unused money was left over from the Energy Department’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, allocated to the town in 2009 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to fund the town’s green homes and go solar initiatives. Brookhaven received more than $4 million to fund the two — green homes seeks to help residents make their homes more efficient at little or no cost, and go solar pays town residents’ upfront costs for solar panel installation.

As a result of the funds being repurposed, Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) questioned whether or not this would be the end of the green homes and go solar programs. The money that will be saved will allow for funds to become available to create a replacement program that will aid in energy efficiency, according to Cartright.

“One of my concerns when I saw this was on the agenda, was that I was hoping this repurposing would not mark the end of these types of programs,” Cartright said during the meeting. “But I’m happy to announce after speaking to the supervisor and our Housing and Human Services Department, and of course our commissioner of finance, it looks like we may be able to create basically a town-sponsored grant, where there will be revolving loans, which would also help individual homeowners have more energy efficient homes, as well as including a component of upgrading sanitary systems. We’re looking into all of the details here and plan to form a committee.”

Romaine announced the plan is to establish a program that would allow for these initiatives to potentially continue, through energy efficiency audits made available for town homeowners, even providing funding to do upgrades. Romaine said the details are still being worked out and will be officially announced sometime in March. Romaine thanked Cartright for raising the concerns about the two long-running Brookhaven programs.

“It will apply town-wide,” the supervisor said about the soon-to-come program. “It will be to encourage homeowners in Brookhaven to do energy audits, and to provide the funding in either a low-interest or no interest loan to make those improvements and make Brookhaven the most energy-efficient town that we possibly can be.”

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.

Participants in the Handcuffs to Healing program at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility show off their progress during a press conference Oct. 4. Photo by Kevin Redding

In a new program at Yaphank Correctional Facility, Suffolk County inmates and homeless dogs are helping each other get a second chance.

Six men in orange jumpsuits lined up on the grounds of the jail Oct. 4, each with a shelter dog at their side, and took turns walking their four-legged companions around in a large circle, demonstrating the dog’s new socialization skills along the way. With a quick command, the dogs either sat, stayed or laid down. One of the dogs, named Bain, an 11-month-old Rottweiler, even showed off how he can help someone get back on their feet — literally.

Participants in the Handcuffs to Healing program at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility show off their progress during a press conference Oct. 4. Photo by Kevin Redding

The demonstration was all part of a presentation of Handcuffs to Healing, a pilot program that teaches low-risk, nonviolent offenders to train abandoned dogs — Rottweilers, pit bulls and German Shepherds plucked from the Brookhaven Town animal shelter.

The aim of the program, which started in mid-September, is to socialize the dogs well enough so they can be put up for adoption. But it’s also doing plenty of good for their trainers too. The inmates train the dogs three nights a week for two hours each day.

“We’re rehabilitating humans through animals,” said Michael Gould, the president and founder of Hounds Town Charities, who pitched the idea of the dog training program to Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco in the spring. “When I see inmates, I see humans. When I see these big, powerful dogs, I see animals that shouldn’t be in a shelter.”

Gould, a former commanding officer of the Nassau County Police Canine Unit, admitted these breeds of dogs are difficult to adopt out because they carry reputations of being dangerous. But they are caring, loving and now well-trained, thanks to the inmates, Gould added.

“These are among the best dogs you can come across,” he said. With a quick snap of his fingers, the dog at Gould’s side stopped and sat at attention. “Everything is low-key. There’s no crazy energy. It’s all about structure and love. Firm hand. Kind heart.”

Undersheriff Steven Kuehhas said he believes the program will reduce recidivism among the inmates, all of whom are serving a local sentence.

“This program gives the inmates the opportunity to learn responsibility,” Kuehhas said. He also added the program may help the inmate’s’ chances of employment, in an animal shelter or as a dog handler, after they leave. He called the program a win-win situation.

Jackie Bondanza, a Hounds Town representative and one of the program’s coordinators, said she’s noticed significant changes among the inmates and dogs since the program started.

“It’s been a very inspiring transformation,” she said. “When the inmates first came, they were all composed and didn’t want to be here. They’ve since really opened up and I think it’s helped build their confidence. Same with the dogs. These dogs would be sitting in cages in a shelter a majority of the day otherwise. This is incredible for them.”

Participants in the Handcuffs to Healing program at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility show off their progress during a press conference Oct. 4. Photo by Kevin Redding

The inmates turned dog trainers were chosen by the sheriff’s department under the criteria of being nonviolent offenders and being physically capable of handling their canine.

One of the inmates — Joseph Dima, 36, from Bohemia — said he was thinking of his own dog back home when he signed up for the program.

“To help these dogs find a home and owners that will handle them well — that was a big thing for me,” Dima said, referring to the pit bull he was assigned to, Carl, as a loving mush. “He’s such a great dog. People get the wrong misconceptions about pit bulls. He just wants affection. All the dogs do.”

When the dogs weren’t demonstrating their new skills, they were perched next to their trainers, being petted and rubbed. During the course of the program, the dogs live at Hounds Town Charities, which is housed in Ronkonkoma. Plans are in place to continue Handcuffs to Healing after the expiration of the current six-week program as those behind it seek corporate sponsors and residents interested in adopting the dogs.

“There’s nothing like a dog to help an inmate heal,” said Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), who spoke during the event. “These are six dogs and six inmates needing a fresh start. It’s a tremendous program and one we’re going to continue.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine will seek re-election in November. File photo by Alex Petroski

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) got into politics to get things done. After two terms as the town’s leader, which came after a lengthy career working for the county, the 70-year-old Center Moriches resident says he still has a job to do.

“What gets me up every single morning is that I want to build a better Brookhaven,” Romaine said. “This town can look a lot better than it does. I have a sense of purpose and it drives me every day. While I don’t think my job will ever be complete, I hope to leave more good than bad whenever I leave this office — and I work every day to accomplish that.”

The incumbent supervisor will run for a third full term in Brookhaven in an election this November against challenger Jack Harrington (D), a Stony Brook attorney and political newcomer.

Romaine, the former high school history teacher-turned-county legislator, grew up in Bayport and Central Islip, graduated with history and political science degrees from Adelphi and Long Island universities. He said he devotes any time outside town hall to his two grandchildren. If re-elected, Romaine said he will build on his long list of initiatives to move Brookhaven forward.

“What gets me up every single morning is that I want to build a better Brookhaven.”

— Ed Romaine

Since taking over the position from former Supervisor Mark Lesko (D) after a special election in 2012, Romaine has helped pull the township out of its fiscal crisis to become the only municipality on Long Island to pay off all of its pension debt. For the last two years, Brookhaven has secured a AAA bond rating, the highest designation issued by Standard & Poor’s Financial Services of New York City.

A lifelong advocate for environmental preservation, Romaine consistently pushes for greener, cleaner living across Brookhaven and has been endorsed by the Sierra Club and Long Island Environmental Voters Forum during past campaigns. He also pledged a commitment to the Paris agreement in the wake of the June decision of President Donald Trump (R) to withdraw from the climate change agreement.

“I intend to defend the environment,” Romaine said. “I’m a big open-space guy. I believe in preservation because I do not want to see the wave of development that has swept east to west across this Island continue.”

Under Romaine’s supervision, the town created nitrogen protection zones to preserve local waterways, kick-started a multiyear project to convert all of Brookhaven’s streetlights to LED bulbs, opposed dumping of dredge spoils into the Long Island Sound and opposed plans to clear 800 acres of woodlands near the former Shoreham power plant.

In July, the town launched a food scrap composting program at town hall to reduce food waste and use the materials for garden beds around town buildings. Also, more than 100 abandoned homes have been demolished across the hamlets, the supervisor said, in an effort to stamp out eyesores and criminal activity in quaint neighborhoods.

“The thing I like most about this job is you can actually make a difference,” Romaine said, adding that successes are made possible because of a mixed-party town board — four Republicans, one Democrat and one Conservative — that he said votes together 99.9 percent of the time.

He made it clear he works with people of all parties and values common ground.

“It’s less about party affiliations and more about common sense and practicality, and doing what works,” Romaine said. “You’re not coming to put boxing gloves on. You’re coming here to do some heavy lifting and that requires teamwork. I am blessed with six good people who vote together, don’t look to create party differences or personality disputes, which you do see in other towns.”

“His breadth of knowledge is incredibly impressive, and I always learn something when I’m with him.”

— Jane Bonner

High among his Democratic allies is state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who was elected into public office on the same day as Romaine nearly 40 years ago. The two have since worked together on countless issues, oftentimes pertaining to preserving the waterways and natural environment of Brookhaven Town and Long Island as a whole.

During a recent interview, Englebright called Romaine “a peacemaker” who can draw people to their commonalities and pays attention to the things that bring people together.

The assemblyman also credited Romaine with serving as a conduit to Republican state Sens. John Flanagan and Ken LaValle, who have taken up the mantle of inviting local leaders from both parties “into the photo,” so to speak.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said all levels of government could learn a lesson from how Romaine leads Brookhaven.

“He eats and sleeps this job,” Bonner said, adding how effective she believes Romaine is. “A board that works as well as we do together benefits the taxpayer. His breadth of knowledge is incredibly impressive, and I always learn something when I’m with him.”

But for all its strength, Romaine said he’s not blind to Brookhaven’s shortcomings and, on a daily basis, asks himself, “What can we do to make this town better?”

He said he wants to dissolve many special districts in the town in order to cut costs and streamline services, push for better treatment and vocational training facilities for struggling drug addicts, and build better public transportation systems.

At the start of Romaine’s career, he taught history in the Hauppauge school district for 10 years and a parochial school in Cedarhurst for two, all the while writing grants for the school district. In 1980, he entered public service and became Brookhaven’s first commissioner of housing and community development before being appointed director of economic development.

Romaine was elected to the Suffolk County Legislature for two terms, in 1985 and 1987, and became Suffolk County clerk in 1989, a post he served for 16 years.

On the side, he took a job at Dowling College teaching managerial economics for seven years, then moved over to teaching history courses at Suffolk County Community College for another seven before landing at Stony Brook University teaching administrative law at the graduate level in 2005 — the same year he was elected again as county legislator of the 1st Legislative District.

“He will, arguably, go down as one of the most effective, approachable and innovative supervisors in the history of this great town.”

— Jesse Garcia

When he was eventually approached by Jesse Garcia, chairman of the Brookhaven Town Republican Committee, to throw his hat into the ring for supervisor, Romaine hesitated. He said he loved his job as legislator too much.

“I didn’t want to do it,” Romaine recalled. But it was the memory of his late son, former Brookhaven Councilman Keith Romaine, who died in 2009 from pneumonia-related conditions at age 36, that finally convinced him to pursue the position. “I knew if he had lived, he would have been supervisor. Unfortunately, while it’s usually sons that follow fathers, I did it in reverse.”

He said such personal lows in his life have helped inform how he approaches the position.

“The bottom line is, it’s a very short life,” he said. “I didn’t get into politics to call people names. I got into politics to get something done. This job has a lot of frustrations and I’ll be happy when I leave it, but I’m doing my time here because I still have a sense of purpose.”

Garcia said he’s glad Romaine accepted the job when he did.

“What separates Ed Romaine from the rest is just his ability to not look at challenges but look at solutions that benefit the people of this town,” Garcia said, commending the supervisor on his record of tax control, job growth and bipartisanship. “He will, arguably, go down as one of the most effective, approachable and innovative supervisors in the history of this great town.”

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.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine will seek re-election in November. File photo by Alex Petroski

Off-campus housing riddled with town code violations and unsafe conditions for Stony Brook University students has plagued Three Village residents for years. In 2013, the situation inspired community residents Bruce Sander and Anthony DeRosa to start the nonprofit organization Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners.

Coordinated with the start of a new school year, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) delivered a clear message to landlords who rent to university students within his jurisdiction during a press conference Sept. 8: follow town building and fire safety codes or face consequences. The town and university presented a united front from Stony Brook Fire Department Sub Station 2 and stated their intentions to ensure students who reside in off-campus housing are safe in homes that meet town and state codes.

“We have codes for a reason — to protect health and safety,” Romaine said. “We are going to protect the health and safety of the students.”

The supervisor said many of the illegal rooming houses where students live have been subdivided into as many as 10 bedrooms, and a home on Christian Avenue, which he called the “showpiece” of illegal homes, had at least 16 occupants. Romaine said the house is now in foreclosure.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said it is important that renters in the town know their rights when dealing with landlords, and she said town officials are available to assist renters who feel they are in an unsafe situation.

“The supervisor and I cosponsored a number of resolutions over the years to improve the quality of life of residents and to improve the safety of the residents renting here in the Town of Brookhaven,” she said. “Over the past two years or so we have a had a number of roundtable discussions with Stony Brook University, the supervisor’s office, Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners, and of course, our law department and planning department, to make sure we are addressing this issue, as it is a very important issue in our community.”

Bruce Sander of Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners thanked Brookhaven Town and SBU for their efforts in curbing illegal rentals. Photo by Alex Petroski

Deputy Town Attorney Dave Moran said there has been an increase in foreclosures in the community not due to financial reasons but due to the enforcement of building codes.

“We have broken [landlords’] business models in some circumstances, where it is no longer profitable for them to own their second and third house and collect those thousands in rents, by enforcing the statutes that we’ve put in place, by monitoring the rental permits and complaints that come in,” Moran said.

Moran said the town has collected $211,000 in fines over the last month for building violations, compared to only $300,000 collected for the entire year in 2008.

He said partnering with the university, which has educated students on their rights, has helped in uncovering issues as more students are contacting the town to report violations by their landlords.

Judith Greiman, chief deputy to the president of Stony Brook University and senior vice president for government and community relations, said the university has the most beds of any SUNY campus and are second among all universities in the state. The university added 759 new beds this past year with the opening of Chavez and Tubman residence halls and an additional 173 new beds will be available in the fall of 2018.

The chief deputy said the university has taken great steps to ensure students’ safety thanks to the input received from the community and support Romaine, Cartright, Brookhaven Town code inspectors and others have provided.

Among measures the university has undertaken since March 2013 are prohibiting advertisements of off-campus rentals on SBU’s website, unless the landlord can provide a Brookhaven Town rental permit, and prohibiting posting on campus bulletin boards. The university also holds tenants’ rights workshops to help students understand what to look for when renting.

Sander was on hand for the conference representing the Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners organization, and he commended the town and the university for their efforts.

“Unfortunately there will always be those landlords who still believe in the secret method of evading the laws and endangering the students and their community,” Sander said. “I’d like to send a message to the housing landlords: obey the laws.”

The organization founder said there should be no more than four people in a home. He said landlords can also do their part by maintaining their property, mowing grass weekly and providing garbage cans and enough parking space in driveways for tenants.

When it comes to circumventing the law, Romaine had a warning for landlords.

“Don’t do it, we’re coming for you,” he said.

Additional reporting by Alex Petroski

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.

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