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Brookhaven

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, right. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie M. Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) is calling on the North Shore community to take her up on an upcoming tax grievance workshop to combat potential disasters at the height of tax season.

The upcoming workshop, led by Brookhaven Tax Assessor James Ryan, will teach residents how to grieve their taxes and survive tax season just in time for the big day on April 15.

The workshop is scheduled for Wednesday, April 15, at 6:30 p.m. at the Comsewogue School District Office, at 290 Norwood Ave. in Port Jefferson Station.

The event is open to all residents.

Town recycling program expands North Shore reach, teaming up with Huntington village to save money

A worker sorts through waste at Brookhaven Town's recycling facility. File photo

Smithtown linked up with yet another North Shore community this week as it expands its role in the single-stream recycling program on Long Island.

The town board voted Tuesday to allow an intermunicipal agreement with the incorporated Village of Lloyd Harbor for participation in its single-stream program, making Smithtown’s recycling team that much larger. The town has already teamed up with the neighboring Brookhaven Town and the Huntington village of Asharoken over the last several months.

Town officials said Lloyd Harbor Mayor Jean M. Thatcher approached Smithtown with hopes of getting its hands on the single-stream wealth. The village currently collects about 365 tons of recycling each year.

Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R) inked a deal with Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) earlier this year, buddying up to reduce waste by recycling more efficiently via Brookhaven’s new state-of-the-art facility, operated by Green Stream Recycling in Yaphank.

Under the single-stream system, residents can put all recyclables at the curb together, rather than sorting paper from bottles and cans. The result is more residents recycling more materials.

Russell Barnett, Smithtown’s environmental director, said Lloyd Harbor’s recycling will be added to Smithtown’s recyclables for shipment to the Brookhaven plant. Lloyd Harbor would not pay a tip fee, nor receive any revenue for the deal, Barnett said.

“Village residents would enjoy the convenience of single-stream recycling, mileage for the village truck would be reduced and the environment would benefit from increased recycling and reduced vehicle emissions,” he said in a statement. “Smithtown would retain the $15 per ton paid by Brookhaven for recyclables delivered to the Green Stream Recycling plant to cover handling and transportation costs.”

Barnett said the town has seen a dramatic increase in recycling since penning the Brookhaven deal. And the Lloyd Harbor agreement was not a new discussion either, as Barnett said Smithtown has already finalized similar agreements with the local villages of Asharoken, Nissequogue, Head of Harbor and The Branch.

“We’ve gotten a number of calls from residents expressing support for the new program as being more convenient to them,” Barnett said in an earlier interview. “It saves Smithtown money in many ways.”

Barnett said Smithtown’s expenses have gone down nearly $600,000 annually because of single-stream’s benefits. Since joining Brookhaven, Smithtown has been shipping its recyclable waste to the Yaphank facility instead of handling the materials within the town, costing more in labor expenses.

The single-stream recycling system, which has been nicknamed the Green Stream Machine, can process 48 tons of material per hour.

In June 2014, Brookhaven Town officials announced the town’s recycling rates had increased by nearly 25 percent since the program’s launch in January 2014, therefore saving taxpayers more than $287,000 to date.
Romaine said earlier this year that solid waste was an ongoing concern in the town of Brookhaven and single-stream helped to address that, increasing the overall amount of garbage being recycled by nearly 25 percent.

Part of Andrea Drive in East Setauket needs to be repaired as of Tuesday. Photo by Elana Glowatz

By Julianne Cuba

Following another devastating winter on Long Island, Brookhaven Town is receiving a little boost from the New York State Department of Transportation’s Extreme Winter Recovery fund for the year 2015-16, Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) has announced.

The Highway Department will receive more than $501,000, while last year it received more than $400,000 in recovery funds in order to improve Brookhaven’s infrastructure. Prior to 2014, the town had not received any additional funding recovery funds for road damage.

“I want to thank the Long Island delegation for working with me on securing this desperately-needed funding for Brookhaven,” Losquadro said in a press release. “The past two winters have been historically harsh and wreaked havoc on town roadways. The more funding we receive, the more roads we can pave.”

Part of Pleasant Drive in East Setauket needs to be repaired as of Tuesday. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Part of Pleasant Drive in East Setauket needs to be repaired as of Tuesday. Photo by Elana Glowatz

In a phone interview, Losquadro said he is continuing to look for other sources of revenue from all levels of government in order to offset the cost to local taxpayers, whether in grants or funding from the federal government.

“There’s easily five times the amount of work that needs to be done that I have money for … maybe even six or seven times,” he said.

Within the next week — hopefully by April 15 — Losquadro said he hopes the resurfacing of the roads will start, weather permitting. Like last year, the work will likely continue right up until November, he said.

For the past two years, Losquadro said the town has been able to repair about 60 miles of roadway each year.

“I’m hoping to be able to match that, if not surpass that, this year,” he said. “If we’re able to get a little extra money from New York State like we did last year, every dollar we get is another roadway I can do.”

Losquadro said “it’s not dollar to dollar,” and if he can get assistance in paying for other projects that the Highway Department would have otherwise had to fund, then he could repurpose that money for roadway paving.

He referenced the traffic safety grant, which had been awarded for North Country Road in Miller Place, as an example of money that will now be free to allocate for repaving elsewhere in the town.

“That [grant] money will allow us to redo that section of roadway, a lot of the work we would have had to do there will now be covered by that grant,” he said. “That’s an award that’s already been awarded. We are seeking grants on all levels. We are looking for sources from revenue and assistance from everywhere we can.”

Losquadro said that advocating for additional funds for the resurfacing of roads is generally not normal, but there is just not enough money in the budget.

“While we were certainly not happy to see another severe winter, I am happy that we’re able to provide additional funding. State representatives listened to myself and other highway superintendents and were able to secure additional funding again this year,” he said.

Children were delighted by tricks and treats at the Brookhaven parks department’s Spring Happening in Centereach on April 7.

The spring celebration featured a show by magician James Amore, along with crafts, games and face painting. In addition, some talented kids paraded their best spring hats for the special occasion. Claire Wagner, 7, of Sound Beach, whose hat featured New York City’s Empire State Building, took home the best hat award.

Dodge ATM
On March 27, a resident of Market Street in Port Jefferson Station reported that a wallet had been removed from a 1997 Dodge Ram.

Dial S for stolen
Two unknown males stole a cell phone from a victim on Main Street in Port Jefferson Station. According to police, the incident occurred at around 4:30 a.m. on March 27.

Unlocked
A resident of Lincoln Avenue in Port Jefferson Station reported cash had been stolen from a wallet that was left in an unlocked 1997 Honda on March 25.

Jeepers!
A 2011 Jeep was stolen from a residence on Crescent Drive in Port Jefferson Station. Police were notified of the grand larceny on March 25.

Tased and confused
A 48-year-old Port Jefferson man was arrested for resisting arrest and criminal possession of stolen property on March 29. Police said the man was found at 7-Eleven on Old Town Road in possession of a stolen 1994 Jeep Wrangler, and lunged at an officer when confronted. The officer deployed their TASER.

Faking it
A resident of Thames Street in Port Jefferson Station fell victim to identity theft, and notified police on March 23 that an unknown person had used personal info and made financial transactions.

Keg stand
An unknown person or persons removed an empty beer keg from Port Jefferson-based Schafer’s storage yard on March 25.

Needed directions
An unknown person took a GPS, cash and paperwork from an unlocked 2008 Honda on Sheep Pasture Road in Port Jefferson on March 24.

Double the drugs
A 25-year-old Port Jefferson Station man was arrested in Port Jefferson on drug charges on March 26 after police found him seated in a 2004 Chevy with an electronic smoking device that contained marijuana. In addition, police discovered cocaine in his possession.

Off-roading
A 48-year-old Mount Sinai woman was arrested on multiple charges on March 25, after police said she drove a 2002 Mercury Mountaineer in reverse and into a neighboring home on Osborne Avenue in Mount Sinai. The woman was charged with reckless driving, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief.

Feeling deflated
A woman reported her 2005 Honda Accord’s two rear tires had been punctured while parked outside the Applebee’s on Route 25A in Miller Place. The incident occurred on March 23.

We’ve been hit!
A resident of Rockledge Court in Rocky Point reported their home had been struck with several paintballs and a window screen had been broken on March 29 between 11:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.

Master of disguise
A 32-year-old Rocky Point man was arrested on a false impersonation charge on March 27. Police said the man, who did not have his license on him, was stopped at Prince Road and Harding Street for a traffic violation and gave police a false name.

Smashed
A resident of Harrison Avenue in Centereach reported the window of a 2000 Chrysler had been smashed at some point between March 25 and March 26.

DWI on road to Independence
Police arrested a 53-year-old Centereach man in Selden for aggravated driving while intoxicated after he was involved in a March 29 car crash by Independence Plaza.

Rockin’ Robin
Four Selden residents were arrested on March 27 for criminal possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell. According to police, three men, ages 31, 34, and 43, and a woman, age 33, were arrested at a residence on Robin Road. The defendants had heroin in their possession.

Civic responsibility
A 1997 Honda Civic parked at a residence on Hawkins Road in Centereach was discovered stolen between March 28 and March 29.

Thief won’t listen
Numerous headphones were stolen from the Centereach CVS on Middle Country Road on March 28 between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Out of the closet
Two unknown males broke into an apartment on Stanley Drive in Centereach and took items from a bedroom closet on March 23. According to police, the complainant said the men had a handgun and fled through the front door in an unknown direction.

Bad reality check
A 37-year-old man from Brentwood was arrested at the 4th Precinct in Smithtown on March 28 and charged with issuing a bad check while knowing he had insufficient funds. Police said he wrote a bad check to Side Lumber & Supply Co. The man was arrested at about 10 a.m.

Disenchanting
A 25-year-old man from Islip was arrested in Smithtown on March 26 and charged with petit larceny. Police said the man stole Magic the Gathering cards from a location on Route 454 in Islandia on Jan. 28.

Driving outside the lines
A 23-year-old woman from Centereach was arrested in Commack on March 28 and charged with driving while intoxicated. Police said that at about 2:30 a.m. she was driving a 1999 Dodge on Route 14 in Commack when police pulled her over for failing to maintain her lane.

Inn trouble
A 19-year-old man from Brentwood was arrested in Commack on March 28 at 12:30 a.m. and charged with two counts of grand larceny in the fourth degree. Police said he stole more than $1,000 in cash from someone’s wallet at the Commack Motor Inn and stole a credit card from a different person at the inn. He was also charged with unlawful possession of marijuana.

Cut short
Police said a 38-year-old man from Bay Shore was arrested in Commack on March 28 and charged with third-degree burglary. Police said the man stole razors from Costco on Garet Place after being prohibited from entering the store.

Identity stolen, phones purchased
An unknown person used the identity of a Larson Avenue man from Smithtown to purchase cell phones and equipment from Verizon Wireless worth more than $2,400. The crime was reported to happen sometime on March 28 at 7:30 p.m.

Not so safe
A safe was looted on March 28 at Developmental Disabilities Institute on Hollywood Drive in Smithtown.  The cash belonged to the residents of the location.

Window damaged
An unknown person threw a bottle of wine through the rear window of 3 Guy’s Hobbies on Lawrence Avenue in Smithtown. The incident was reported to police on March 28 at 3:05 p.m.

Egged
A Roy Drive home in Nesconset was egged, according to police. The incident was reported on March 29 at 10 p.m.

Mean streets
An incident of road rage took place in St. James on March 25. Police said a male complainant reported that he was driving west on Route 347. As traffic was merging, someone cut him off, he said, and a shouting match between both drivers ensued. The other driver threatened to kill the complainant and then drove away.

Gimme my pizza
Police said two men were arrested in connection to an incident that occurred at Little Vincent’s pizzeria on New York Avenue on March 29. At about 1:29 a.m., a 20-year-old from Commack was arrested and charged with criminal mischief, with intent to damage property, after he punched the front door of the pizzeria after being asked to leave. A 20-year-old from Smithtown was also arrested in connection to the incident and charged with second-degree obstructing governmental administration, as he tried to obstruct officers making an arrest.

Check it
A 34-year-old woman from Melville was arrested in Huntington on March 28 at the 2nd Precinct and charged with third-degree grand larceny. Police said that between Nov. 1 at noon and Dec. 31 at noon, the woman attempted to steal money by altering checks.

What a pill
Police said a 31-year-old man from Huntington was arrested in Huntington and charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. Police said that on the corner of New York Avenue and Gerard Street, on March 27 at 8:26 a.m. he was driving a 2004 Jeep with a suspended or revoked license. The man also possessed prescription pills without a prescription.

Busted with drugs
A 22-year-old woman from East Northport was arrested in Huntington Station and charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and loitering. Police said she was loitering at about 11:55 a.m. on March 26 at a location on West Jericho Turnpike, where she was later arrested. She was also found in possession of heroin.

Fake checks
An unknown person took two checks from a Huntington female complainant, forged signatures without permission and attempted to cash them sometime between March 16 at 9 a.m. and March 18 just before midnight. The incident was reported on March 28.

7-Eleven brawl
A male complainant reported that he and another man got into a verbal dispute at 7-Eleven on New York Avenue in Huntington. Both men fell to the ground and got into a fight, and both were transported to Huntington Hospital. The incident was reported on March 26 at 7:40 a.m.

Items stolen
An unknown person entered a 2005 Toyota Tundra on Joseph Court in East Northport and stole sunglasses, a GPS and cash sometime between March 21 at 8 a.m. and March 29 at 8 a.m.

Missing jewelry
Police said assorted jewelry was stolen from a home on Dalton Lane in East Northport sometime between 9 a.m. on March 24  and noon on March 25.

Purse taken
Someone removed a purse containing cash, a driver’s license and a credit card from a 2009 Honda Pilot parked on Croley Street in Greenlawn. The incident was reported on March 28 at 8:23 p.m.

Board approves zone change for Heatherwood housing community

Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association President Ed Garboski speaks against the housing proposal on Tuesday, as Shawn Nuzzo, Three Village’s civic leader, looks on. Photo by Erika Karp

Despite numerous objections from residents, local civic associations and the community’s own councilwoman, the Town of Brookhaven has paved the way for a 200-unit retirement community at the Heatherwood Golf Club in Terryville.

Councilman Dan Panico (R-Manorville) sponsored the resolution for a zone change from A Residence 5 to Planned Retirement Community for the property, which is located at Arrowhead Lane and Route 347 and falls in both the Comsewogue and Three Village school districts. The town board approved it in a 4-3 vote, with Councilwomen Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Connie Kepert (D-Middle Island) and Supervisor Ed Romaine dissenting.

The planning board still must approve the project’s site plan before the project can move forward.

According to the site plan application, about 25 acres of the property would be developed into the 55-and-over community, while about 45 acres would remain open, leaving a nine-hole golf course.

Since the property would be developed at an increased density, owner Doug Partrick in exchange would donate a 40-acre lot he owns in the Manorville Farm Protection Area — in Panico’s district — for open space.

While the zone change public hearing was held on Tuesday, the project had been discussed for months at Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association meetings, and that group, along with the neighboring Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook, came out strongly against it.

However, the Town of Brookhaven Planning Department supported the project — Planning Commissioner Tullio Bertoli said the proposal is compatible with existing development in the area and fits in with the town’s smart growth efforts, as it is located along a commercial corridor.

Residents and civic leaders who attended the public hearing expressed concerns about traffic and losing open space in their community. In addition, many were displeased to see the development proposed for the golf course, as the community is preparing to redevelop and revitalize the Route 112 corridor, on another side of town.

“[It’s] dismaying to see a town planning commissioner come before you and say this is a location that meets all criteria,” Bob de Zafra, of the Setaukets and Stony Brook civic, said at the public hearing. “It does not.”

He also criticized Panico for bringing forth the resolution.

De Zafra asked Panico and new Councilman Neil Foley (R-Blue Point) to recuse themselves from the vote, as the officials received campaign contributions from a company under the umbrella of Partrick’s Heatherwood Communities, the retirement community developer.

According to campaign financial disclosure records, Friends of Dan Panico received a $500 contribution from Heatherwood House at Coram LLC in September 2013, while Friends of Neil Foley received a $1,000 contribution in October 2014.

“There’s nothing illegal in that,” de Zafra said. “There’s nothing dishonest in that and I certainly don’t mean to imply that, nor am I due a lecture about it.”

Panico, who said he brought forth the zone change resolution because it was in the best interest of the whole town, interjected during de Zafra’s comments and said, “Why would you bring it up?”

Frank Gibbons, a board member of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, said he was concerned about the development’s impact on traffic.

“There are good arguments on both sides of this question, but I think that when we look at the best thing for the entire township, Mr. Panico, … how about taking care of Terryville, Port Jefferson Station and South Setauket,” Gibbons said.

The town board placed conditions on its zone change approval, including that Partrick must make the land donation, remove a billboard at the golf course, construct a sidewalk on the east side of Arrowhead Lane and complete a new traffic study for the Terryville site.

Heatherwood’s attorney, David Sloane, of Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman LLP, spoke about the positives of the project, including a decrease in the use of pesticides and more property taxes to the school districts without an influx of students.

“This proposal is the least intensive use that could be developed on this site,” he said.

The Heatherwood Golf Club. File photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association will hold a special meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 27, to discuss the proposed housing development for the Heatherwood Golf Club in Terryville.

Doug Partrick, an owner of multifamily housing developer Heatherwood Communities, has proposed a 200-unit retirement community for the golf club, which is at Arrowhead Lane and Nesconset Highway.

Developer Doug Partrick talks about his proposed development for the Heatherwood Golf Club at a recent civic meeting. File photo by Andrea Moore Paldy
Developer Doug Partrick talks about his proposed development for the Heatherwood Golf Club at a recent civic meeting. File photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

His plans for the property include turning the 18-hole golf course into a nine-hole one that would surround two-bedroom rentals — a mixture of ranches, townhouses and apartments. On the 70-acre property, he has said, 45 acres would remain open space.

At a previous civic meeting, residents shared their concerns about an increase in traffic the housing community could bring, as well as drainage and sewage issues. According to representatives at that May meeting, drainage would be handled by constructing ponds and the homes would be linked to a county sewage treatment facility.

The civic association did not take a formal position on the matter at that meeting, but an informal vote showed that most of the people present were against the proposal.

It would require extra approval from the town, as the property is zoned A Residence 5, which allows one housing unit for every 5 acres. This proposal would be more dense, with the 200 units on 25 acres.

The community is invited to discuss the development at the civic’s meeting at the Comsewogue Public Library, from 7 to 9 pm.

Harbormaster Peter Koutrakos observes the water from his patrol boat. File photo by Elana Glowatz

The Port Jefferson Harbor Complex is just that — a complex cluster of waterways that needs diligent eyes watching over it.

Those eyes belong to Brookhaven Town Harbormaster Peter Koutrakos and the others in his department, who are all working to keep the water safe this boating season.

The harbor complex includes Port Jefferson Harbor at its center, where Koutrakos is based, as well as Setauket Harbor and the adjacent Little Bay; Pirate’s Cove; Conscience Bay and the Narrows that lead into it; and a small section of water immediately outside Port Jefferson Harbor on the Long Island Sound that is bookended by Old Field Point to the west and Belle Terre’s Mount Misery to the east. Between these sections, the complex has more than 2,000 acres of surface water, and that area sees thousands of boats every season.

Peter O’Leary, the town’s commissioner of public safety, said between moorings and slips in the area, there are more than 1,200 spaces for boats, and that doesn’t include the ones just passing through.

On any given summer weekend, “the place is bedlam,” O’Leary said. “It creates quite a bit of traffic.”

With heavy traffic comes risk.

For Koutrakos, who has been harbormaster for 14 years and has jurisdiction in all town waters, it was the attack on the USS Cole in 2000 — an al-Qaida suicide attack in Yemen in which a small vessel next to the U.S. Navy ship was blown up, killing 17 Americans — that made him realize boats could be used as weapons.

Things also changed after the 9/11 terrorist attack. Officials became aware of the harbor’s vulnerability, as possible targets for terrorists include power plants, oil terminals and ferries — and Port Jefferson Harbor has all of them. Long Island has also been a concern in national security discussions because it is close to New York City and at the same time is remote: Ferries would be the only way off the island if an emergency event were to shut down transportation into the city.

The view of Port Jefferson Harbor from the harbormaster's patrol boat. File photo by Elana Glowatz
The view of Port Jefferson Harbor from the harbormaster’s patrol boat. File photo by Elana Glowatz

To keep the complex safe, the harbormaster works on a number of security exercises. One program, Operation Shield, involves coordinating with other agencies to randomly check foreign vessels for travel documents.

Though Operation Shield only runs on certain days, Koutrakos said he regularly does checks on his own. If the vessels do not have the proper documentation, he calls in customs officers to board and search them.

Another exercise he occasionally works on is search and rescue training with the U.S. Coast Guard, which helps prepare for an emergency situation, for instance if the ferry were to sink due to a mechanical problem or a bomb.

Koutrakos explained that the exercise group determines how to respond to an incident and who would take command of the scene. In the case of the ferry, officers also talk to the captain to learn how he would respond under certain circumstances and discuss a strategy for saving as many lives as possible, “before something really happens.”

The harbormaster also meets every few months with a Long Island security committee whose members range from the local to the federal level.

To boost security all over, O’Leary said, the town is working to install security cameras on its properties, and Port Jefferson is slated to receive some of that surveillance.

However, one of O’Leary’s concerns in protecting town waters is linked to the economy. He said budget cuts have meant cutbacks on seasonal employees, so there are fewer bay constables on both shores and they are working a shorter season. There are also fewer workers to pump out waste from the boats so it is not discharged into the water.

On Koutrakos’ end, he has an assistant harbormaster year-round and two seasonal harbormasters during the summer.

Most summer days, Koutrakos spends his time patrolling the waters and helping people who call him for assistance.

‘The place is bedlam. … It creates quite a bit of traffic.’
— Peter O’Leary

Born and raised in Port Jefferson, Koutrakos has a name people might recognize — his family owned the Elk Hotel and Restaurant on Main Street before it went out of business. He wife, Carol, works for the Port Jefferson ferry.

He has been around long enough to see security at the harbor change over the years. Before 9/11, if someone were to leave a bag at the ferry terminal, an employee would grab it and ask if anyone had left it behind. Now there are security protocols in place to handle such a situation. Before, there weren’t any restrictions on taking photos or video of the harbor. Now officials keep an eye out for people capturing the ferry terminal or other sensitive areas.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Koutrakos’ “only gripe with the job” — he isn’t permitted to carry a sidearm while he is on duty, though he is licensed to carry.

Other marine law enforcement agents carry a sidearm, including those from the Coast Guard, the Suffolk County Police Department’s Marine Bureau and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The harbormaster said he never knows what situation he will find himself in and “should we get put into a lethal force situation, the fact of the matter is we have no way of defending ourselves or the public.”

Despite this sticking point, another thing that hasn’t changed is Koutrakos’ playful personality and his passion for all things marine.

He has said he enjoys his job because he gets to be on the water and he gets to help people: “At the end of the day, tired or not, it makes you feel better.”

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Town acquires remainder of notable property

A ticket to a race at the Gentlemen’s Driving Park in Terryville on July 4, 1892. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Long Island’s last harness horse racing track is a step closer to being preserved, after the Brookhaven Town Board voted last week to spend $1.18 million from its land acquisition fund to purchase almost 6 acres of land at the site in Terryville.

Once the town closes on that property, it will own the entirety of the 11-acre plot off Canal Road at Morgan Avenue, less than half a mile east of Route 347.

The Gentlemen’s Driving Park is now an overgrown path in the woods, but during the Victorian Era it was a place where bettors gathered as men raced the half-mile loop counterclockwise behind their horses in carts called sulkies. The track, which was part of a circuit of harness racing tracks in the Northeast, was adjacent to the Comsewogue stables, which were owned by well-known area horse trainer Robert L. Davis and are now the Davis Professional Park.

Now that the town is acquiring the rest of the site, Cumsewogue Historical Society President Jack Smith said in a phone interview last Thursday that he would like to partner with the parks department to clear the track and he would like to “develop programs and events that are appropriate for the site to educate” visitors. He gave examples of placing signs around the track detailing its history so that people may learn while walking around it, and holding an annual fair with vintage sulkies re-enacting the horse races from the late 1800s or participating in a carriage parade.

Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld, who was a driving force behind the site’s acquisition, said last Thursday that preserving the track is important from an environmental standpoint as well — maintaining open space helps replenish the underground aquifer from where the area gets its drinking water.

Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld and Cumsewogue Historical Society President Jack Smith on a recent trip to the Gentlemen’s Driving Park in Terryville. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld and Cumsewogue Historical Society President Jack Smith on a recent trip to the Gentlemen’s Driving Park in Terryville. Photo by Elana Glowatz

In addition to working with the historical society to preserve the track, the councilman said he would like to see a stewardship agreement with the Woodcrest Estates apartments, which abut the property. Fiore-Rosenfeld said the senior residents could use the track, “a relatively tranquil place,” to go for walks without having to go into the street.

Smith discovered the Gentlemen’s Driving Park a few years ago using Google Earth. He said in a previous interview that he had heard rumors of a racing track in the area, and while looking at the aerial view of Terryville he saw a faint oval shape in the woods off Canal Road. The next day he was walking on the 25-foot-wide path in the woods.

The track is mostly whole — a Long Island Power Authority right-of-way cuts into its southwestern curve.

The historical society president reached out to Fiore-Rosenfeld and the two have since worked together to preserve the site.

“This was not some backwoods, good ol’ boy, local kind of thing. This was a big deal for its time,” Smith said last winter, as the town was still working to acquire the rest of the property. He called it the NASCAR of its day and said, “This was an era when the horse was king. The horse was everything to everyone,” including transportation, sport and work.

The historian has uncovered a few artifacts, including a pair of Victorian-era field glasses near the finish line on the track’s west side. They were broken, likely after being dropped and trampled. Smith also has a ticket from a July 4, 1892.

Ironically, the rise of the automobile likely caused the track’s demise, but cars also helped preserve the track so it could be discovered today. According to Smith, local kids raced jalopies at least through the mid-1950s, which prevented the track from becoming completely overgrown. Those kids left signs of their activities — around the track there are rusty frames of wrecked cars.

“Maybe we should keep one there as a monument,” Smith said last Thursday, with a laugh. “In a strange way we owe a lot to those kids.”

New dog park will be off Boyle Road

Irene Rabinowitz with her dog, Sydney, at the site of the future dog park in Selden. Photo by Erika Karp

Soon Middle Country dogs and their owners won’t have to travel far for puppy play dates or a walk in the park, as plans for a local dog park are moving forward.

The park, which will be located on a property off Boyle Road, just north of Independence Plaza in Selden and across from Washington Heights Street, could be completed by the end of this year, according to Councilwoman Kathy Walsh (I-Centereach).

Irene Rabinowitz, a Selden resident and the former owner of Barks-n-Bubbles Boutique on Middle Country Road in Centereach, has been a driving force behind the project. In 2011, Rabinowitz created Central Suffolk Paws, a local affiliate of Long Island Dog Owners Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing access to parkland for dogs and their owners.

“You go into this wooded property right off of Boyle Road [and] it’s just so relaxing and peaceful,” Rabinowitz said in a phone interview about the planned site for the dog park.

Walsh said in a phone interview there is money available in this year’s town budget to create a small gravel parking lot and to install fencing for the park, but she was unsure of the project’s total cost. The park will take up about four acres on the northern side of the 10-acre wooded property. Paths that already exist throughout that section will remain for dogs and their owners to roam freely.

Rabinowitz, who owns four dogs including an 11-year-old Australian shepherd named Sydney who needs to stay active, said she has always wondered why there were no dog parks in the central Suffolk area. Last October, Rabinowitz and Sydney completed a 70-mile walk from Centereach to Montauk to raise money and awareness for Central Suffolk Paws and the Arthritis Foundation, Long Island Chapter.

“It is a matter of socialization,” Rabinowitz said about the need for dog parks. “[Sydney] wants to be out there with other dogs and people.”

Brookhaven Town has a few parks for dogs already, including the town’s Middle Island Dog Park, one in Mud Creek County Park in Patchogue and another at the county’s Robinson Duck Farm in Brookhaven hamlet. There are also other dog parks throughout Suffolk County, including the Blydenburgh Dog Park in Hauppauge and East Northport Dog Park in East Northport.

All of these are 20 to 30 minutes away from this community so that’s why we need one here,” said Kevin McCormack, the former executive director of the Middle Country Coalition for Smart Growth, a nonprofit organization working to develop and revitalize the Middle Country community.

McCormack said the idea to create a dog park in Middle Country goes back to when the group was putting together the Middle Country Sustainable Community Plan. In the 2008 community plan, which listed the community’s assets and needs, a dog park was listed as an item the community expressed “significant interest” in.

For the last three months, McCormack said residents involved with the initiative have really tried to move forward with it. A car-wash fundraiser was held recently, and Rabinowitz said she wants to continue to raise funds and hold monthly car washes over the summer. Another fundraiser will be held at the Middle Country Beer Garden in July. Rabinowitz said Central Suffolk Paws is also looking for sponsors for the dog park, with the hope of purchasing things like benches for the park and developing it further.

McCormack said residents could also volunteer to help out, especially on Saturday, May 18, when the Town of Brookhaven will hold its sixth annual Great Brookhaven Clean Up at various locations throughout the town, including the soon-to-be dog park’s location. The property sometimes attracts unwanted visitors, who leave behind alcohol bottles and other trash.

“Volunteers are more than welcome,” McCormack said. “The more we can get [the property] clean, the less we have to rely on the town.”

For updates on the park’s progress or to find out more information, residents can visit the Central Suffolk Paws Facebook group or email cspaws@gmail.com.

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