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Brookhaven

Two girls haul a full trash bag at Washington Avenue park after community members worked on May 16 to clean it up. Photo from Dina Simoes

The Comsewogue community came out in full force on a rainy Saturday to clean up their hometown.

Washington Avenue park is buried behind trash bags after community members worked on May 16 to clean it up. Photo from Dina Simoes
Washington Avenue park is buried behind trash bags after community members worked on May 16 to clean it up. Photo from Dina Simoes

In honor of the eighth annual Great Brookhaven Cleanup, residents hit Washington Avenue park, at the corner of Oak Street in Port Jefferson Station, and School Street Park, on School Drive in Terryville behind John F. Kennedy Middle School.

According to Dina Simoes, one of the Washington Avenue organizers, there were more than 50 volunteers at that site, many of them students.

At the smaller but equally enthusiastic cleanup at School Street Park, some kids were led in their beautification efforts by Old Town Blooms founder Craig den Hartog.

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Old electronics, medications and papers can be dropped of at the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai on May 16, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., during the semi-annual Go Green Event.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) is hosting the event, which will feature pharmaceutical take back, paper shredding collection and e-waste drive. Electronics such as televisions, telephones, VCRs, DVD players, radios and laptops are among those accepted.

In addition, prescriptions and over-the-counter medications will be safely disposed of, and paper in boxes or bags will be shredded and recycled.

For more information, call (631) 451-6964 or email CouncilwomanBonner@brookhaven.org.

Construction could start in September

Stephen Normandin, of The RBA Group, answers residents’ questions at the Sound Beach Civic Association meeting on Monday. Photo by Erika Karp

Echo Avenue in Sound Beach is getting a makeover.

Brookhaven Town officials presented plans for a revitalization project along the busy street at the Sound Beach Civic Association meeting on Monday. Handicap-accessible sidewalks, new curbs, decorative lighting and ornamental trees are set to line the approximate .3-mile stretch between New York Avenue and North Country Road in the near future, as leaders seek to beautify and make the area safer for pedestrians.

Steve Tricarico, deputy highway superintendent, said the project will “bring that downtown feel like you may have seen the highway department do in Rocky Point.”

Late last year, the department completed a similar project along Broadway in Rocky Point.

In 2013, the town adopted a four-phase plan to revitalize Echo Avenue and received a Community Development Block Grant for the first phase. Last year, officials applied for more CDBG funding, but found out the hamlet no longer qualified for the grant.

Tricarico said the highway department went out to bid for new contracts and was able to get a better deal and was therefore able to match the 2013 grant and fund the project in its entirety — a total cost of about $240,000.

According to Stephen Normandin, director of design and planning for The RBA Group, the engineering group selected to oversee the project, starting at the intersection of New York Avenue, a four-foot-wide sidewalk will be constructed on the east side of Echo Avenue that connects all the way up to Handy Pantry. Then, a crosswalk will be created, by Devon Road and Caramia Pizzeria, that crosses over Echo Avenue and links up to another sidewalk on the west side of the street, ending at North Country Road. In addition, the triangle by Handy Pantry, which houses the civic’s “Welcome to Sound Beach” sign, will be extended in an attempt to slow traffic at the Shinnecock Drive and Echo Avenue intersection.

Normandin said the project does come with its challenges, as there are hills and existing guardrails and trees, and limited space within the public right-of-way.

“We are sensitive to the [private] properties,” he added.

If all goes according to plan, the project will commence in late August or early September and wrap up before the winter season. The road will be paved once the sidewalk and concrete work is complete.

A few residents, including Bea Ruberto, civic president and the driving force behind the project, requested some additional lighting by New York Avenue and Mesquite Tex Mex Grill. Currently, the plans don’t include new sidewalks and lighting on that side of Echo, but Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said her office would look in to it. However, an easement agreement between the town and property owner might be needed, which could delay the project.

“None of this is set in stone; the dollar amount kind of is, so wherever we can … cut from one area and add to another, we are certainly willing to do that,” Bonner said.

Port Jefferson is fighting to keep property tax revenue flowing from the power plant and to prevent restrictions from being lifted on peaker unit output. File photo by Lee Lutz

A clerical item on the Brookhaven Town Board’s agenda regarding Caithness Long Island II, a proposed Yaphank power plant, caused a stir among some Port Jefferson residents on Thursday, as they questioned what exactly the board was voting on.

Earlier in the week, Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) predicted the issue at a Monday work session meeting. The item — accepting documentation about covenants and restrictions at the project site — was included under the board’s Communication Consensus agenda. Romaine said the town received correspondence that the information was filed with the Suffolk County Clerk’s Office, and the board had to vote to accept it. He added that the Town Board was not trying to sneak anything by residents.

“We have to list correspondence that we receive,” he said Monday.

Last July, the Town Board granted Caithness Long Island II a special permit for its proposed 752-megawatt power plant. Romaine and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) remained in the minority and voted against the permit.

Some Port Jefferson residents adamantly oppose the project, as they fear it could negatively impact the chances of the Port Jefferson power plant being upgraded. Critics allege the Caithness project’s environmental impact statement was flawed and didn’t adequately address impacts on the surrounding communities and species living near the property, which is adjacent to an existing 350-megawatt Caithness power plant.

At Thursday’s meeting, standing together in the minority as they did on the special permit vote, Cartright and Romaine voted against accepting the Caithness communication. Cartright said the project should be re-evaluated, as PSEG Long Island has stated there will be sufficient local energy capacity until about 2020, and thus there is no need for Caithness II.

“In light of that fact, it appears to me that the [environmental review] process was based on an erroneous premise, as the original … findings for this project were in part based on an additional need of power,” she said.

During public comment, Port Jefferson Village Trustee Bruce Miller expressed his frustration with the Town Board granting the special use permit and with how backup documents, which officials said are available at the town and county clerk’s offices, weren’t provided with Thursday’s agenda.

Miller said he sympathized with Medford residents, some of whom attended the same meeting to advocate against a proposed casino in their neighborhood.

“Only two people on this board are voted for by the people from Port Jefferson,” he said, referring to the supervisor and the councilwoman, “and yet the rest of the board members can vote with impunity against us and against our interests.”

The town is offering free mulch and compost, above, to town residents as supplies last. Photo from Brookhaven Town

Brookhaven Town has started giving away free mulch and compost to residents as part of a push to get some more green around town.

The mulch and compost will be distributed, upon submitting proof of residency, as supplies last. The material is not bagged, so people must provide their own containers and load the mulch and compst into their vehicles themselves.

Local distribution sites are open at Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville, on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Percy Raynor Park on Route 347 in South Setauket, on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on weekends from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and the Rose Caracappa Center on Route 25A in Mount Sinai, on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on weekends from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The material is also available at the Holtsville Ecology Center off Buckley Road from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday; at the town landfill on Horseblock Road in Brookhaven hamlet on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. and on Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon; and at the town compost facility on Papermill Road in Manorville on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1 to 3 p.m.

All six sites are open to residents, but commercial vehicles may only pick up mulch and compost at the landfill and the compost facility, where there will be a fee of $12 per yard.

For more information about the mulch and compost distribution program, call Brookhaven Town at 631-451-TOWN.

Suffolk County Historian Peter Cohalan, flanked by New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and current and former Brookhaven Town officials, cuts a cake in honor of the town’s 360th anniversary. Photo from Brookhaven Town

Brookhaven town officials past and present along with New York’s lieutenant governor came out to celebrate the town’s 360th anniversary on Monday.

“When you think about 360 in geometrical terms, you’ve gone full circle,” Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said on Monday, a day before the town’s April 14, 1655 founding date. “And this town has come full circle since the day six people, one from Southold and five from New England got off a small boat and landed in Setauket and saw land they wanted to make home.”

The first town zoning map, which was created in 1936. Photo by Barbara Donlon
The first town zoning map, which was created in 1936. Photo by Barbara Donlon

The event highlighted the town’s history and featured the original Town of Brookhaven zoning map, a 1936 artifact that doesn’t see the light of day much due to its delicacy, according to Brookhaven Town Historian Barbara Russell. Partygoers, including many local historical societies, also enjoyed a slide show of photos from historic landmarks and homes across the town.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) was also at the party and presented the town with a proclamation of appreciation from Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

“I spent the entire day out in Brookhaven [National Lab] then in Stony Brook and stopping in various towns and villages,” Hochul said. “What an amazing quality of life you have here.”

Hochul reflected on celebrating her own town’s 150th anniversary and made jokes about the vast age difference.

Brookhaven Town Board members were also on hand to celebrate the event. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) who represents the district where the town was founded spoke highly of the celebration.

“Tonight was an evening of celebration and reflection on a rich history in Brookhaven,” Cartright said in an email. “I was extremely honored to be present representing CD-1 and Setauket, where much of Brookhaven’s history originated.”

Geese hang out on the banks of Lake Ronkonkoma. Their waste pollutes the lake. Photo by Phil Corso

Long Island’s largest freshwater lake is not what it used to be, but North Shore lawmakers and educators are teaming up to bring it back.

Darcy Lonsdale and her students attending the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences arrived at the docks of the 243-acre Lake Ronkonkoma on Tuesday morning, equipped with various aquatic testing supplies to study marine life in the waters. Bill Pfeiffer, part of the Nesconset Fire Department’s water rescue team, helped guide the students as residents and government officials flanked the docks in talks of a Lake Ronkonkoma that once was.

Pfeiffer has been diving in and exploring around Lake Ronkonkoma for years, mapping out the bottom of the lake and chronicling the different kinds of debris on its floor, which he said includes anything from parts of old amusement park rides to pieces of docks.

Darcy Lonsdale speaks to students at Lake Ronkonkoma before they take samples. Photo by Phil Corso
Darcy Lonsdale speaks to students at Lake Ronkonkoma before they take samples. Photo by Phil Corso

“This lake needs a healthy amount of attention,” he said. “It has been appearing clearer, but [Superstorm] Sandy turned it into a brown mud hole again.”

The lake is home to various species, including largemouth bass and chain pickerel.

Members of the Lake Ronkonkoma Advisory Task Force hosted Pfeiffer and the students with hopes of gaining a deeper understanding of the waters and encouraging the four jurisdictions overseeing it — Brookhaven, Islip and Smithtown towns and Suffolk County — to form one united board to advocate for the lake.

Newly elected county Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) said the goal was to compile data that will help secure grant money, channel stormwater runoff away from the lake and garner legislative support for the lake.

“Years ago, this was a resort. There were tons of beachfronts. There were cabins and cabanas,” she said. “This is something we all could be proud of. It could be a site where people recreate.”

Looking ahead, Kennedy said she hoped a united front could attract more foot traffic and fishing to the lake. She stood along the waters on Tuesday morning and said she was anxious to see the kinds of results the Stony Brook students help to find.

“I am dying to know what the pH levels are at the bottom of the lake,” she said.

Lawmakers and Lake Ronkonkoma advocates said one of the biggest hurdles in the way of cleaner waters rested in the population of geese gaggling around the area. As more geese make their way in and around the lake, the nitrogen in their waste pollutes the water. Volunteers with the Lake Ronkonkoma civic had to sweep the length of the dock Tuesday morning, as Pfeiffer prepared for the students, in order to rid it of geese excrement.

“To help the lake, relocating or terminating some of the geese might not be a bad idea,” Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said.

The students could be funneling data to the different municipalities overseeing the lake by the end of the summer.

“You want a report that will spell out how to improve the clarity of this water,” Romaine said. “The students are welcome back anytime.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine file photo

A state assemblywoman from Ithaca is pushing to provide state aid to municipalities that host four-year, residential State University of New York colleges and universities, and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) is signing onto the cause because of the potential financial relief it could bring to Long Island.

The legislation, introduced by Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca) on March 24, seeks to offset the cost of providing public safety services to state schools, which are currently tax-exempt. The move came shortly after Romaine vowed to work with the New York State Board of Regents to seek a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, for the Stony Brook and Setauket fire departments, which both serve SUNY Stony Brook University.

Lifton, who represents the cities and towns of Ithaca and Cortland — which host SUNY Cortland and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University — called the lack of aid a big issue for her municipalities.

“There is a deficit there that we need to makeup,” she said, noting that the state’s Aid and Incentives for Municipalities, or AIM funding, has decreased over the years.

The legislation earmarks $12 million in aid for the host municipalities, and establishes a formula to distribute the aid based on the cost of public safety services, how much AIM funding the community already receives and the student population.

Lifton said there are a lot of rental properties in Cortland, so the police and fire departments “provide more than the normal amount of services.” In the City of Cortland, firefighters are paid, but Cortland Town firefighters volunteer their time.

While the legislation currently doesn’t propose aid be rewarded to a fire districts like those in Stony Brook and East Setauket, Romaine still said he was supportive of the idea.

“We think this is a solution,” Romaine said.

Like in Cortland, Brookhaven officials have been dealing with off-campus rental properties, which university students often inhabit. Over the last two years, the town has tried to curtail illegal and overcrowded rentals in the Stony Brook and Setauket area by strengthening its codes, increasing fines and working with the university to educate students about illegal rentals. The town also hired additional investigators to stay on top of the issue.

While Romaine said the legislation would help Brookhaven, he continued to advocate for “some contribution to the fire districts involved so their taxpayers don’t have to bear that burden.”

Romaine also said he hopes Long Island’s state representatives would support the legislation, and that at some point along the line, a PILOT agreement is established.

State Assemblyman Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) did not return requests for comment.

Stony Brook Fire Department Commissioner Paul Degen, who works as a town investigator, said 50 percent of Stony Brook Fire District’s tax base is exempt, which has made things financially difficult at times as the department has spent money retrofitting trucks and adequately training volunteers.

“It is what it is, but it would be nice if 50 percent of our district paid their fair share,” he said.

According to records from Stony Brook University, alarms requiring a fire department unit on the scene have dropped since 2012 when single detector activations, which are investigated by university fire marshals and don’t require fire department presence, were implemented in May 2012.

In 2012, the Stony Brook and/or Setauket departments were on scene for a total of 137 alarms. In 2013, the number drastically dropped to 25.

While there has been progress, Degen said he would like to see more incentives to attract department volunteers, which aren’t easy to come by these days. The department currently has 72 members, and more than half of them are over 50 years old.

One idea, he said, would be to offer some sort of tuition break or benefit to volunteers, which could help attract students to the department.

“All of that needs to be visited,” he said.

Romaine, Lifton and Degen expressed similar sentiments about the universities, saying they play important roles in the host communities, which welcome them, but still shouldn’t burden the taxpayers.

“All I’m asking for is some kind of remuneration,” Romaine said. “The full burden should not fall on the taxpayer. That is just not fair.”

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.