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Dan Losquadro

Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore and developer and owner of Landmark Properties in Rocky Point Mark Baisch team up to build the homes for returning veterans. File photos

By Desirée Keegan

Receiving keys can be a magical moment for anyone, but for Joe Cognitore and Mark Baisch, they’re more excited about handing them over.

The Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 commander and the developer and owner of Landmark Properties, respectively, have been building and giving homes to veterans for the last four years. They’ve created 11 homes so far, and this year, the duo amped up the intensity to build three homes, with a fourth in the works.

For their work in the community and for dedicating their time and efforts to honoring and helping those who served our country, Cognitore and Baisch are Times Beacon Record News Media’s People of the Year for 2016.

“It’s bittersweet,” Cognitore said. “There’s many candidates that we come across and every one of them deserves the home. Just to hear their stories is amazing.”

Veteran Deborah Bonacasa receives keys from Mark Baisch, developer and owner of Landmark Properties in Rocky Point, to her new home in Sound Beach. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Cognitore first met Baisch at a fundraiser Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) was hosting. Not knowing anyone at the event, the two found themselves sitting at the same table, and Cognitore began talking about the possibility of building a home for a disabled veteran.

“I thought it’d be one and done,” Baisch said, laughing, while thinking about the first home. “I never thought it would get to this level, but what we’re able to do for these families is so good that it would be hard for me to think about not doing this.”

The two recently unveiled the 11th home for returning veterans to the Cote family, who now own a home in Miller Place. The Bonacasas and Johnsons also received homes this year.

“I’m at a loss with words for everything they did for me and my family,” Deborah Bonacasa said. She is an Air Force veteran whose husband, Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa from Coram, died after a suicide bomber detonated himself outside Bagram Airfield in northwest Afghanistan. “They’re professional and thoughtful. I think it’s great what they’re doing for veterans and recognizing and advocating and stepping up to do things for those who do so much for our country. This house is, and they are, a constant reminder that there are great people still out there willing to help people.”

Rocky Point social studies teacher Rich Acritelli said no one cares more about veterans — and the entire hamlet — than Cognitore.

“He’s always got the community at his heart,” he said. “He personifies everything that a citizen should be, in terms of national and local service, between being in the military and always working for the betterment of his community.”

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) was proud to see how the two stepped up for the Cote family, who were kicked out of their home when the landlord let the Sound Beach property fall into foreclosure. The family has also struggled with illness. Mother Renée Cote has acute intermittent porphyria, a rare and painful metabolic disorder that requires expensive biweekly treatments, which she has undergone for 14 years at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson. Her 7-year-old son, Zachary, was diagnosed with Grade 4 medulloblastoma, brain cancer, in June 2014, and endured 42 rounds of radiation and nine months of intense chemotherapy, until he was also diagnosed with acute intermittent porphyria.

Mark Baisch, at left sitting at table, has new homeowner Deborah Bonacasa, right, sign papers for her new home made possible by himself and VFW Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore, standing on right. File photo from VFW Post 6249

“They are literally warriors to those that need help,” Anker said. “They get out there, they understand the struggles and they’re there to help, and that’s what’s so important. When Mark heard about Zachary Cote’s situation, he came to the rescue. Talk about superheroes, they are our local superheroes.”

Cote’s husband Glen was a U.S. Army combat medic in the Gulf War, before coming home and suffering an on-the-job injury that disabled him.

“Anyone that met them couldn’t believe what a great family,” Cognitore said. “Especially Zachary, what a little gentleman.”

But Renée Cote said she can’t believe what a great group Cognitore, Baisch and the rest of the developers and donators are.

“I could sit there and write a million thank you cards, and to me, it would not be enough for what they’re doing,” she said. “And I don’t even think they realize what they’re doing. To first serve our country, and then to give back — and I mean give back in a huge way — it’s good to be surrounded by people like that. They’re angels walking the Earth.”

Baisch said his contractors and the community showed more support for the Cotes’ new home in Miller Place than on any other house. There were over 30 volunteers, some of whom have been helping Baisch since the first home. Many of them donate windows, garage doors, bathtubs and furniture. Local supermarkets and civic associations also give gift cards to help the new family acclimate to the area.

“They just continue to give and give and give every time we do one of these homes, and they never let me down,” Baisch said of his contractors. “It’s really the only way these homes could come together. We’re not a charity; we consider these homes a hand up, not a hand out. They do the best they can and it’s amazing how much they keep giving. It shocks me after 11 houses that they’re like ‘Mark, let’s do more.’”

Cognitore said he enjoys creating a community of veterans.

“Once they get into these homes, they’re a great neighbor, a great citizen, they keep up their homes, they pay their taxes, so everything works out,” he said. “It’s a win for everybody.”

The veterans appreciate that as well.

The Cote family’s new home in Miller Place as part of the local homes for returning veterans program. File photo by Kevin Redding

“It makes me feel at home knowing there are veterans out there like me,” Bonacasa said. “If we ever needed each other, we’re right there.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said she’s thankful that most of the homes have been built in her district.

“It’s very heartwarming,” she said of the welcome-home ceremonies. “It’s impossible to not get choked up. Especially the most recent one with the Cote family — they’ve had some significant challenges. They were struggling, and Joe and Mark saved them.”

Baisch said that the real tragedy of it all is the fact that without his help, the families wouldn’t be able to remain on Long Island.

“They had no real chance of having a family here and living here if it weren’t for these homes, so that’s the all-encompassing enjoyment out of it,” he said. “These people would have been long gone, and they’re not the types of people we’d like to see leave Long Island. They served their country and they’re Long Islanders, each and every one of them. For them to have to leave because they can’t afford to live here, there’s something wrong with that.”

Bonner said what the “dynamic duo” does shows their true character.

“Mark is very altruistic, and he’s never looking for a pat on the back about it, he just feels passionately about it and does it because he thinks it’s the right thing to do,” she said. “And Joe is a tremendous advocate for veterans and a true Patriot. Their hearts are bigger than their wallets. It’s more about doing the right thing than it is about making money.”

Baisch said as long as Landmark Properties is around, he’ll continue to do something like this.

“It’s one of the best feelings of my life,” Baisch said. “I can’t explain it. I can’t come up with words enough to tell how wonderful it feels. The thought of not continuing doing this doesn’t even enter my mind.”

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Several thousand visitors came out to enjoy the festive, lighted displays and have their photos taken with Santa at last year’s Holiday Spectacular. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Town of Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Daniel P. Losquadro recently announced the return of the annual Brookhaven Town Holiday Spectacular, an indoor, walk-through holiday light show benefiting the animals at the Holtsville Ecology Site.

Last year, several thousand people walked through the winter wonderland of lighted, festive displays, before stopping to take their photos with Santa in his workshop. Admission to this event is $5 per person; children 3 and under are free. There are additional fees for raffles and photos with Santa. All proceeds benefit the Brookhaven Wildlife Center, Inc. and go directly to the feed and care of the more than 100 animals residing at the Ecology Site.

“This is a fun-filled, affordable entertainment option for families who want to come and enjoy the spirit of the holidays,” Superintendent Losquadro said. “I want to thank my staff at the Ecology Site for working so diligently to transform the greenhouses and make this event so memorable. Over the years, walking through the Holiday Spectacular has become a wonderful holiday tradition for many families.”

The show will run Dec. 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17 and 18; hours on Fridays and Saturdays are 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Sundays, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Holtsville Ecology Site is located at 249 Buckley Road in Holtsville. For more information, call 631-758-9664.

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle and Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro stand with VFW Post 400 members on the new sidewalk across from Suffolk County Community College in Selden. Photo from Dan Losquadro's office

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) and Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) joined with members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Sgt. Santora/Staff Sgt. Bonacasa Memorial Post 400 to announce the completion of new sidewalks from the VFW to the traffic signal at the entrance to the Ammerman Campus on Suffolk County Community College’s Selden campus on College Road. In addition, the Brookhaven Highway Department installed a pedestrian crossing at the signal.

“The enhancements made along College Road, across from both the VFW and SCCC, will allow for increased pedestrian safety in the area,” Losquadro said.

The highway superintendent said the VFW Memorial Post 400 offered the use of its parking lot as an overflow lot for students from Suffolk County Community College, many of them returning vets.

“Vehicle and pedestrian traffic is very heavy in the area around the college and the new sidewalk will make it much safer for all, especially for our student veterans,” LaValle said. “I thank Superintendent Losquadro and the Highway Department for the work that they did to complete this project.”

VFW Memorial Post 400 Commander John Rago also extended thanks to all of the Town of Brookhaven members involved in the project.

“They may think that they built a sidewalk and a crosswalk,” Rago said, “but what they really built is a bridge that connects those veterans who attend Suffolk County Community College with our VFW Post, where they can receive support from fellow veterans.”

Robert Murphy, left, looks to continue serving as Smithtown’s highway superintendent, while challenger Justin Smiloff, right, looks to replace him. Photos by Victoria Espinoza

Two candidates are vying to serve the unexpired term of former Smithtown Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen (R), who resigned in October 2015 shortly before pleading guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges.

When the two candidates were interviewed together at the TBR News Media’s main office earlier this month, it seemed the battle lines were drawn according to age. Deputy Highway Supervisor Robert Murphy (R) has been the acting supervisor for almost a year, since the town board named him to replace Jorgensen. He is 53.

His Democratic challenger is lifelong Smithtown resident and attorney Justin Smiloff, who said he “doesn’t need the job, but wants it because he thinks he can make a difference.” In addition to a law degree, he has an undergraduate degree in accounting, which he said he would use to “see what I can do to get more for less.” He is 35.

Among the topics of contention was the restoration of free leaf bag distribution to residents. “The leaf bag program is beneficial to taxpayers,” Smiloff said, “and if cost is a problem, cuts should be made from other areas.”

Murphy said the last time leaf bags were distributed was 10 years ago, at a cost of $187,000.

“With the 2 percent cap Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) established, some services have had to be eliminated,” he said, adding he thinks the brown paper bags could be mulched with leaves and don’t serve their intended purpose if they’ve been sitting out in the rain.

Technology use in the Highway Department was also discussed. Smiloff said his youth is an advantage in that area. He wants to see a modern, user-friendly website and feels residents should be able to text message the department. In addition, he will look at technology used in other places. Murphy said he is already networking with other highway superintendents. The Town of Brookhaven’s Dan Losquadro (R) has shared information about geographic information system currently being used to identify potholes.

Another item of debate was the use of energy-efficient vehicles.

“If we reduce the cost for fuel, money could be used for more beneficial things to help residents,” Smiloff said. On this, Murphy was in agreement. However, with $800,000 a year you can buy only four trucks, he said, indicating it will take some time to achieve true energy efficiency.

Smiloff promises voters “a new day and a new start.”

“I would deliver for taxpayers in a manner they haven’t seen before,” he said. He believes a clean sweep is necessary for taxpayers’ peace of mind.

In contrast, Murphy said his experience is worth its weight in gold.

“I have over 30 years in the field — 20 years in the private sector and [about] 10 in public civil engineering — and I have been at the department for the last five years,” he said.

In the year he’s run the department, he said he’s seen where improvements need to be made. He noted that his morals and ethics have never been questioned, and he will make sure that everything is done legally.

Andrew and Susan Ackerman are among the leaders of the "Save the Stony Brook Street Trees" effort. Photo by Donna Newman

The Sept. 29 Brookhaven Town Board meeting seemed to provide proof of Margaret Mead’s assertion: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Homeowners from the Strathmore M-section of Stony Brook were in attendance at the meeting, again seeking help to retain sycamore trees on their streets, which had been marked for removal by the Highway Department in preparation for repaving several roads. They listened as town Attorney Annette Eaderesto gave a statement at the beginning of the meeting.

Referencing the residents’ concerns, expressed at the Sept. 1 board meeting, Eaderesto said, “The supervisor directed the Law office and [the Division of] Land Management to get involved in this situation,” explaining that John Turner [the town’s open space program coordinator] visited the area, took many pictures and also took pictures of other roads, which had been paved using curb bump-outs, so that the trees would be saved.

“The project is totally on hold now,” Eaderesto said. “Your trees are not in danger.”

She added she had confirmed the hold with the deputy supervisor of highways, Steve Tricarico. Further, she indicated that Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) would put forth a resolution at the next Town Board meeting, which will establish a “tree committee” so situations like this will not recur in the future. “There’ll be much more communication,” she said. Eaderesto’s statement was met with audience applause.

M-section homeowners gather on Mariner Street to pick up spools of green ribbon to tie around trees marked for removal. Photo by Donna Newman
M-section homeowners gather on Mariner Street to pick up spools of green ribbon to tie around trees marked for removal. Photo by Donna Newman

“We’ll be dealing with a solar code that will not allow any solar [projects] to be done by taking down trees,” Romaine said. “We think Brookhaven should stay as green as it possibly can.”

Eight speakers addressed the board regarding the progress made on retaining the trees. Most of them expressed gratitude to the board, the supervisor and the town attorney for listening and responding to their pleas.

The organizers of this community effort are cautiously optimistic.

“We were surprised [by the town attorney’s statement],” said Susan Ackerman. “We’d like to find out specifics before we truly relax. What is the plan for the M-section?”

While the residents want to preserve the healthy, mature trees in the M-section, Ackerman said she’d also like to see a more modern paving policy throughout Brookhaven town.

“We had so much stuff we were going to say [at the board meeting],” said M-section homeowner Tom Caputo. “We think it was good [referring to the town attorney’s statement], but we’re still walking on eggshells.”

They both plan to watch the Sept. 29 board meeting video online, so they can listen closely to Eaderesto’s words.

“The paving project is on hold while we evaluate all of the options available to minimize disruptions to the neighborhood, while improving our infrastructure,” wrote the office of town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) in an email statement.

Jeff and Laura Long tie a ribbon on a tree marked for removal in Stony Brook. Photo by Donna Newman

By Donna Newman

Residents of the M-section of Strathmore houses in Stony Brook would like to know where things stand as far as their sycamore trees, are concerned. Will they be able to keep the trees, and get their roads paved?

They said they have been told Brookhaven Highway Supervisor Dan Losquadro’s (R) office will only say that the project is “on hold” until the re-evaluation is completed. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said she has received no potential schedule date for a meeting she plans to hold after the review has taken place, to allow the highway department to explain their re-evaluation with the chance for residents to respond.

“The need for road maintenance and repair must also be weighed against the quality and character of neighborhoods that would be impacted by the loss of trees…”

–Steve Englebright

A spokesperson for Losquadro’s office said Wednesday that the re-evaluation is ongoing and the office has received quite a few phone calls, some from residents who want the trees on their property taken down. She said they will be in touch with Cartright’s office and will work together moving forward once a plan is in place.

The reassessment of the tree removal was announced in a letter to affected M-section residents sent from the supervisor’s office, dated Aug. 26, and reiterated by Deputy Supervisor Steve Tricarico at the Brookhaven Town Board meeting Sept. 1. Since then, there have been no updates as to the progress of the review.

M-section resident Patricia Woods described a telephone conversation she had with Losquadro in which she said, “He was very nice. He said he ‘just wants to do the job the right way. [He doesn’t want to be] repairing the streets if they’re not done correctly the first time.’ I said to him, ‘if your idea is to do it the right way, you have to look at the whole picture, because [cutting down all the trees], that’s not the right way to do it.’”

Sunday morning at 10 a.m., homeowners gathered on Mariner Street, where Woods initiated another action to help call attention to their plight. At the suggestion of a friend, Deena Brando, who doesn’t reside in the M-section, but has empathy for the cause, Woods began tying green ribbons on the trees marked for removal on her street.

3-year-old Liam Fink and his brother, 6-year-old Tyler Fink, take spools of ribbon to adorn trees. Photo by Donna Newman
3-year-old Liam Fink and his brother, 6-year-old Tyler Fink, take spools of ribbon to adorn trees. Photo by Donna Newman

Spools of green ribbon were distributed to neighbors who gathered on the dead-end street Sunday morning. Petitions were available for homeowners to sign, indicating their opposition to the proposed tree removal. And after signing, M-section residents fanned out to the affected streets to encircle all the marked trees with green ribbons.

The organizers of this grass roots campaign have reached out over the last month to every official and organization they could think of to find help. They set up a Facebook page titled “Save the Stony Brook Street Trees” to facilitate communication to keep residents and others who are interested apprised of developments.

Many residents contacted Assemblyman Steve Englebright’s office (D-Setauket), because of his well-known stance on environmental issues.

In a letter to Losquadro dated Sept. 22, Englebright wrote, “Safe and well-maintained roads are vitally important to our communities and your department should be commended for striving to get the most out of the tax dollars spent on our roads. However, the need for road maintenance and repair must also be weighed against the quality and character of neighborhoods that would be impacted by the loss of trees, including the ecological benefits, aesthetics, property values, and health aspects that these mature street trees provide.”

Despite the fact that Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) informed the residents who attended the Sept. 1 board meeting that the highway superintendent is an autonomous, elected official who does not report to the supervisor, M-section homeowners plan to attend the Sept. 30 board meeting to continue to press for resolution of this issue.

Brookhaven highway dept. says it will take a second look before removal

Mosshill Place is a tree-lined street in the Levitt-built M section of Stony Brook. Photo by Donna Newman

Two weeks ago, homeowners on Mosshill Place in Stony Brook were alarmed to find virtually every tree on their street — mostly sycamores — marked with pink dots. It came as a surprise — and a shock, according to Susan Ackerman, who feels the trees add so much to the neighborhood. She immediately called the office of Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) to inquire about the dots and said she was told they marked trees to be removed prior to road paving.

Ackerman said panic set in for her and her neighbors as they began to discuss the possibility of losing all the trees on the street and the ramifications that would follow.

“We didn’t know where to turn,” Mosshill Place resident Tom Caputo said. “Someone suggested we call News 12. Maybe if we got the story out, we’d get some help. We were surprised. [News 12] was down the next day and they brought Dan Losquadro.”

Ackerman said a paving project several years ago that resurfaced several of the “major” roads in the neighborhood — including Manchester Lane, Millstream Lane, Marwood Place, Millbrook Drive and Malvern Lane — was completed without the removal of any trees. She did not understand why the same process could not be used now.

Trees on Mosshill Place are marked for removal. Photo by Donna Newman
Trees on Mosshill Place are marked for removal. Photo by Donna Newman

For his part, Losquadro said he is just trying to do his job the right way.

“I have an extreme backlog of paving work, more than $100 million,” he said in a phone interview. “With an average annual budget of $15 to $18 million, I need to get the maximum life expectancy out of the roads I am paving. I have to make sure roads are done properly.”

Decades ago, there was no thought given to what species to plant and where to place the trees, Losquadro explained. As a result, the trees are right on the curbs, their roots intertwined with them. The superintendent said the tree removal is going to be a big expense, and he wished he could spend that money on road paving.

On her way to work, Ackerman said, she drove around the M section of the Strathmore Levitt houses in Stony Brook to tally the number of spray-painted dots on trees. By her count nearly 300 trees are tagged. She estimates that approximately 200 homes will lose trees.

In a letter to Losquadro resident Barbara Caputo listed a few of the benefits of trees she feels ought to be considered. Moderating heating and air conditioning costs, enhancement of property values, use by wildlife for food, shelter and nesting, and improving air quality and reducing pollution are among the reasons she listed trees help the community.

Losquadro said he had not planned to contact residents of the M section until he had assessed the situation, but the pink marks were noticed and homeowners are concerned.

In an Aug. 26 letter to affected residents Losquadro wrote, “Despite the markings you have seen, my staff and I are currently re-evaluating which trees must be removed to eliminate road obstructions and which can remain with repairs made to cracked or lifted curbing.” It went on to say that letters to all affected residents would be sent out shortly detailing the new recommendations.

Marian Guralnick is the original owner of a home on Mosshill Place.

“I’ve watched these trees grow for 50 years,” she said in a phone interview. “To lose them now that they form an aesthetically pleasing and beneficial canopy would be an ecological disaster.”

Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro and Councilman Kevin LaValle stand on the freshly paved 43rd Street in Centereach. Photo from Losquadro’s office

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) joined with Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) to announce the completion of $1.4 million, 23-road paving project near Centereach High School and Dawnwood Middle School.

In addition to the replacement of 4,100 square feet of aprons and 2,700 linear feet of curb, this project included tree trimming; replacing area signs and guide rails; the addition of handicap ramps at the existing crosswalk by the middle school; milling and paving.

“This was an extensive paving project that addressed the concerns of area residents, motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as faculty and students in the Middle Country school district,” Losquadro said. “I am grateful that we were able to schedule and successfully complete this project during the summer.”

Roads paved during this project were 43rd Street, 57th Street, Arlene Court, Dawn Drive, Dusk Drive, Edwin Street, Forest Court, Forest Road, Irene Court, Kerry Court, Linda Drive, Linden Street, Market Street, Martha Street, Michael Court, Midday Drive, Morning Drive, Nikki Court, Noel Drive, Peggy Court, Stanley Drive, Sunset Drive and Vining Street.

“I thank Superintendent Dan Losquadro and the hardworking men and women of the Highway Department for working diligently in such high temperatures over the past couple of weeks,” LaValle said. “It was important to ensure the completion of this project occurred prior to school beginning next month. I am happy to see this project completed which positively affects the entire Centereach community.”

Friendship Beach in Rocky Point will receive renovations to improve the infrastructure which will limit erosion and enhance water quality. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

Friendship Beach in Rocky Point is next on the list of local beaches receiving renovations.

The Brookhaven Town Board recently adopted a resolution approving a $1,215,000 bond to pay for erosion control and drainage improvements, which will limit pollutants in local ground and drinking water, while also helping to improve the water quality of the Long Island Sound.

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) secured the Federal Emergency Management Agency funding through a State Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grant, which is given to help reduce or eliminate long-term risk from natural disasters. Friendship Beach, along with others on the North Shore, was heavily affected following Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

“This project will help us not only from an erosion standpoint, but also to prevent pollution,” Losquadro said. “The hazard mitigation program allows us to repair or replace, but replace with something much better and stronger. It hardens our infrastructure to leave us less vulnerable to damage from future storms.”

“The hazard mitigation program allows us to repair or replace, but replace with something much better and stronger. It hardens our infrastructure to leave us less vulnerable to damage from future storms.”

—Dan Losquadro

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) recently spoke about the significance of the Sound at press conference at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai, where he called on the Environmental Protection Agency to keep its commitment to permanently close the Eastern Long Island Sound disposal sites.

“The Long Island Sound, an EPA designated Estuary of National Significance and one of the nation’s most populated watersheds, is a cultural and natural treasure that provides a diverse ecosystem with more than 170 species of fish, over 1,200 invertebrates and many different species of migratory birds,” he said. “The Sound is also essential to the everyday economy and livelihood of millions of Long Islanders. Over the years, water quality on Long Island has suffered severely from issues such as pollution and overdevelopment, but through work between the EPA, state and local governments, and dedicated Long Islanders, progress has been made to improve water quality and ecosystem health in the Sound.”

Improving the local North Shore beaches will help eliminate some of the waste that makes it’s way into the Sound.

According to the highway superintendent, improvements at Friendship Beach include the addition of armoring stone, which are two to three-ton granite boulders that are used to strengthen and fortify the area; over 200 feet of bulkheading; replacing the drainage system with a filtration system that includes catch basins that separate sediments and solids rather than it being discharged into the water; along with replacing the stairs and planting native beach grass.

What Losquadro said is important about armoring stone is that unlike worn down Long Island boulders, the blasted granite the town will be installing is angular, helping the stones lock together to protect beaches. This is unlike the rounded edges of natural existing stone, which is easier for material like sand and debris to slide around the edges. The new uniform surface will stop the sand from migrating or getting sucked out by hydraulic action, to limit erosion. There will also be stone placed above the boulders, to disperse the energy of waves and help prevent water and sand from breaching the wall.

Improvements to Friendship Beach in Rocky Point include the addition of armoring stone and and a filtration system. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Improvements to Friendship Beach in Rocky Point include the addition of armoring stone and and a filtration system. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said it has been a long time coming.

“I sat in on several meetings with FEMA and was at the beaches with FEMA representatives showing them the magnitude of the problem,” she said. “The areas along the North Shore have become severely compromised, especially because everything around here flows downhill.”

Sills Gully Beach in Shoreham and Amagansett Drive in Sound Beach are two areas that have already received upgrades, although the restoration part of the cleanup at Amagansett Drive will not be covered by FEMA. Currently, the highway department is working on completing Gully Landing improvements in Miller Place, and is close to getting approval to renovate Hallock Landing. Broadway is also on the town’s list.

Losquadro said dealing with FEMA, is unlike the normal process of getting help from the town’s environmental division or the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The Environmental Protection Agency and United States Army Corps of Engineers are involved, which make sure the undertakings are well vetted and that the completed project meets stringent guidelines.

“This is an instance where being persistent and consistence really pays off,” Bonner said. “As a resident of the community I know how vital these structures are to bluff stabilization and water quality. These projects will help the Long Island Sound for fisherman, users, the fish that live in the water — there’s a whole host of reasons why this is a good thing. This is another spoke in the wheel to assure water quality by reducing stormwater runoff and pollutants associated with it.”

U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin, Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner and town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro at Sills Gully Beach following the revitalization. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R), U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) announced the completion of repairs intended to protect, restore and strengthen Sills Gully Beach in Shoreham, after it was severely damaged during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

“The revitalization project at Sills Gully is one of a dozen North Shore surface water quality protection projects the highway department has undertaken since I took office,” Losquadro said. “I want to thank Congressman Zeldin for expediting the federal funding necessary to complete this project and ensure the resilience of our shoreline.”

“Preventing storm water runoff from entering the Long Island Sound this is a victory for the residents of Shoreham and the environment.”

— Jane Bonner

In order to reduce risk of damage from future storm events, members of the Brookhaven highway department completely removed the ineffective gabion basket walls, replacing them with 160 feet of steel bulkhead with stone-toe protection to prevent scouring. The bulkhead — which now protects areas of the bluff that have experienced significant levels of erosion in the past — has a longer life span than the gabion walls and will better protect from future disasters.

“The completion of restoration at Sills Gully Beach is an excellent example of different levels of government working together for the benefit of our community,” Bonner said. “I have been diligently working on this issue since the damage was caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and I am extremely happy to see these necessary repairs come to fruition. By preventing storm water runoff from entering the Long Island Sound, this is a victory for the residents of Shoreham and the environment. I want to thank Congressman Zeldin and Superintendent Losquadro for working with me to make this happen.”

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro points out the new improvements his department made to protect the area. Photo from Town of Brookhaven
Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro points out the new improvements his department made to protect the area. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

As a result of these mitigation measures and to comply with Tidal Wetlands and Clean Water Act permits, the department included upgrades to the existing storm water system by installing a new bioretention area where storm water naturally collects. This bioretention area consists of two, 12-foot deep leaching basins and an 8-foot wide trash rack to capture storm water and transport it through nearly 400 feet of 48-inch, smooth, interior-corrugated polyethylene pipe for natural dissipation. Additionally, a rock-lined drainage swale was constructed along the length of the parking lot to collect any remaining runoff. These upgrades will ensure that polluted storm water is not directly entering the Long Island Sound.

The project was funded with an $875,000 federal grant secured by Zeldin through FEMA.

“Once Brookhaven Town received the necessary federal funding to make repairs at Sills Gully Beach and Gully Landing Drainage Facility, the town was able to complete this important project,” said Zeldin, who is also a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “This revitalization project will help protect, restore and strengthen Sills Gully Beach in Shoreham and the overall quality of water in our local area, and I am proud to join with Superintendent Losquadro and Councilwoman Bonner to announce the completion of this project.”

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