By David Luces
A nearly 30-year fight to protect 10 acres of land known in the Sound Beach community as Steiner’s Woods has finally come to an end.
On Dec. 20, Town of Brookhaven purchased the land for $5 million, effectively preserving the site as open space.
“Water has been naturally dumped to these woods, and over the years wildfire and vegetation have developed.”
— Beth Dimino
The stretch of land, situated near Lower Rocky Point Road in Sound Beach, had been owned by Robert Toussie for over 25 years. The Brooklyn-based developer proposed to build up the site as Villages on the Sound, a 15-home development clustered on the northern portion of the property near the bluff, with a single access road extending northward from Lower Rocky Point Road.
For years, the proposed plans have been marred by environmental and logistical issues raised by town officials and community members.
Local residents have voiced their concerns the development would have led to more vehicular traffic on existing narrow roads that were already overburdened in the neighborhood. The property also serves as protection for Scott’s Beach, and residents have argued development could have led to negative environmental impacts due to stormwater runoff into the Long Island Sound.
The woods serve as a natural drainage site and water recharge basin for the surrounding communities, according to an environmental analysis conducted by the town in 1989. If development went through, the town would have spent close to $2 million to mitigate stormwater runoff from Lower Rocky Point Road.
Sound Beach resident and retired science teacher Beth Dimino, who lives adjacent to the property, is glad the town was able to purchase the site.
“The woods provide natural drainage in the community,” the Sound Beach resident said. “Water has been naturally dumped to these woods, and over the years wildfire and vegetation have developed.”
The 1989 environmental report also stated the trees support the environment and also protect the community from winds from hurricanes and rainstorms.
Dimino said she has to give credit to Brookhaven town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point).
“She understood the problem and understood the concern of the community,” Dimino said. “I told her it would cost millions to mitigate the water drainage issue. We are indebted to her — she has helped save the environment in that area and it’s going to help preserve the wildlife.”
“The community and the civic association have been advocating against development for close to 30 years.”
— Bea Ruberto
Bonner said this has been a long process, one that started before she took office.
“This is a win for the community and the Town of Brookhaven,” Bonner said. “It’s a beautiful parcel of land and it’s great that it won’t be developed.”
Bonner said her office has received many positive phone calls from residents who are happy with the recent news.
Sound Beach Civic Association President Bea Ruberto said the community is elated about the news.
“I’ve been involved for the past ten years,” she said. “The community and the civic association have been advocating against development for close to 30 years.”
Ruberto said if development went through they would have had to instead fill the ravine, located in the vicinity of Steiner’s Woods, which serves as a drainage point. Filling that would have led to issues of water runoff that normally flows into the area.
“They would’ve had to mitigate the stormwater and it would’ve cost millions of dollars,” she said. “If it could be done.”
Bonner points to the advocacy done by local residents and the town as the reason the property was able to be preserved.
“This has been a total group effort,” the councilwoman said. “It’s nice to finally put this to bed.”