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Development

A scene from Steiner's Woods. Photo from Beth Dimino

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.”

Civic leaders Charlie McAteer, Edward Garboski and Sal Pitti discuss local developments. Photo by Kyle Barr

Port Jefferson Station and Terryville residents may be willing to give a proposed apartment complex a tentative thumbs up, but a new potential fast food restaurant is having its feet put to the fire.

Members of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association listened to the developers of several prospective businesses and apartment complexes at a Nov. 27 meeting, one the once-maligned Concern for Independent Living apartment complex off Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station.

The 77-unit complex, slated for north of East Grove Street and south of Washington Avenue across from the Sagamore Hills Condominiums, originally came under fire from residents when Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced May 10 that New York State was setting aside $8.1 million for the project to promote affordable homes, particularly for the homeless.

Sal Pitti, the president of the civic, said after talking with representatives of the apartment’s developers he realized there was much misinformation about the project. “It was a culmination of nonsense,” Pitti said.

The civic leader said Ralph Fasano, the executive director for Concern for Independent Living, has also been extremely forthcoming and attentive to addressing the community’s concerns.

Fasano said 75 units in the complex will be single bedroom, and only two are two-bedroom, one of which is reserved for the apartment manager. Veterans would get preference when applying for these apartments, and the remainder will be available for people making up to 60 percent of the area median income, which is about $40,000 to $60,000 a year according to U.S. Housing and Urban Development guidelines.

A majority of the civic voted to write a letter of conditional support to the Town of Brookhaven, with specific requests for the town to compel the developer to work to obtain a traffic light on Route 112, provide as much fencing as possible between adjacent housing, provide a landscaping screen for the adjacent property and preserve open space.

“They seem to be trying to address [those concerns],” Charlie McAteer, the civic’s corresponding secretary, said.

While the apartment complex received support, a potential Popeyes, to be located on property east of the TD Bank on Nesconset Highway at the corner of Old Town Road, garnered the opposite reaction. The proposal was spurred by residents angry over the amount of existing fast-food restaurants on Route 347 and fears of an increase in traffic.

While the land has not yet been sold,  Jim Tsunis, the CEO of Hauppauge-based The Northwind Group, said preliminary designs  call for a 2,400-square-foot restaurant with access from Route 347. Tsunis said they are seeking a change of zoning application to allow for the restaurant use.

Residents were especially concerned about traffic on a road that has already seen its share of accidents. Tsunis said that he doesn’t expect the project to put any more cars on the road, but rather some drivers would decide to pull into the Popeyes rather than visit other existing restaurants further down the highway.

“It’s a balance, not a give and take,” Tsunis said.

Craig Fazio, a lifelong Port Jeff Station resident, said he disagreed with others about the Popeyes, especially since Tsunis still owned the property. Fazio said Tsunis could push to build a 14,000-square-foot medical office complex in that same spot, which he believes would be even worse for traffic.

“If you put health care there, how many doctors will see patients every 15 minutes versus a much smaller restaurant?” Fazio asked.

Tsunis said that he has considered building medical offices and the property is zoned for a two-story office building. 

“I hope we can work together in the future to mitigate some of these points,” he said.

Jennifer Dzvonar, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, asked why  Popeyes wasn’t considering building on Route 112, other vacant land or existing empty retail space.

McAteer said he didn’t believe the civic was totally against Popeyes, but it needs to be located on a better and safer site. “We were not saying, ‘We just hate your restaurant, we just want you out.’ Just put it in an area that could use a little boost,” he said.

The civic’s next meeting will be held at Comsewogue Public Library, 170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station on Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m.

Craig Turner, Town of Huntington’s principal planner; Matt Suter, a founder of the Save the Village civic group; Emily Rogan, a former Huntington school district trustee; and Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, discuss affordable housing issues in Huntington. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Town of Huntington has made efforts to tackle the lack of affordable housing in the past, but the best method to do so isn’t always clear. Town officials attempted last week to open public channels of communication, as housing legislation proposing additional changes is being put up for public feedback.

That question and more was discussed at a Community Conversation on Housing for All held at the Cinema Arts Centre Nov. 17. Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said the issue has only become more apparent with time.

“If you look at renting someone’s basement, the average cost is $1,200,” Lupinacci said. “If you go for living in some of those beautiful new apartments in the village or elsewhere its $2,500.”

“If you look at renting someone’s basement, the average cost is $1,200.” 

— Chad Lupinacci

Huntington has hosted numerous lotteries for affordable housing, including a Sept. 5 lotto for a four-bedroom house in the Harborfields Estates housing complex in Greenlawn for $221,000. The supervisor said more than 800 applicants came out that day hoping their name would be chosen, but of course only one would be so lucky.

The town passed legislation in 2017 that required all new mixed-use developments in C-5 shopping center and C-6 general business zoning to consist of 20 affordable housing units. Yet, a 2018 study conducted by Huntington Township Housing Coalition found there are only 729 units of affordable housing in the township. The town would need 2,798 affordable housing units to meet demand by 2020, according to a 2016 HTHC report that used information from a 2005 Rutgers University study.

“In the private market, supply and demand will dictate what a property will sell for, but it’s important that once a home is built and it is offered as affordable, it stays affordable,” Lupinacci said.

Town officials, local advocacy groups and community members came to the forum in the early morning hours to hear what can be done to address affordable housing issues. The event featured information sessions on
issues of accessory apartments and how housing and apartment developments impact the town from an environmental, parking and community character perspective.

Accessory apartments

Since 1991, Huntington has allowed residents to acquire a permit to partition their households to use them as rental space. While this has allowed for an increase in the number of inexpensive living spaces within the town, it has also faced pushback from neighbors.

Joe Rose, the deputy director of the town’s public safety department, said there are approximately 1,750 accessory apartments spread evenly throughout every hamlet in Huntington. Yet, residents have complained about tenants taking up on-street parking spots in front of neighbor’s homes, as well as fears of illegal or problematic connected apartments.

“It’s the mystery of the accessory apartment, its ‘Who’s going to be living there, what are the conditions of it?'”

— Ed Nitkewicz

“We want to keep the integrity intact as far as single-family dwelling having very minimal impact,” Rose said. “Every single complaint is investigated by code enforcement.”

Ed Nitkewicz, an attorney who serves Huntington as the accessory apartments hearing officer, said residents often come to hearings arguing why these apartments should not exist in their neighborhoods. He frequently hears concerns about potential illegal or problematic rentable spaces. In response, Nitkewicz said most concerns are due to the mystique of these partitioned residences, and many issues can be directly reprimanded by town officials, unlike issues some might have of their regular neighbors’ homes.

“It’s the mystery of the accessory apartment, its ‘Who’s going to be living there, what are the conditions of it?’” Nitkewicz said. “Let’s say the applicant sells their house to the Brady family… And they all have cars — all of them park in the driveway, and you have no control over that. You can’t tell the Bradys to pump their cesspool, you can’t tell the Bradys the numbers on the house are viewable.”

The town board is considering new legislation that would allow residents to live in the smaller partitions of their homes, which would typically become the accessory apartment, and instead rent the majority of the available living space. A public hearing was held Nov. 20 at 7 p.m., after this publication’s press time.

Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) said she was very much in support of such an idea, but accessory apartments only address a small part of the affordable housing issue.

“The crux of it is that Huntington village sits atop a watershed that is 1.9 square miles. Anything you build on the watershed impacts this local ecosystem.”

— Matt Suter

“It’s one way to make an impact, but I think it’s easiest to have because we’re talking about existing inventory versus new inventory,” she said.

Impacts of new housing

While most elected officials and advocacy groups agreed there is a problem with a lack of affordable housing, several speakers said one cannot underestimate the environmental and community cost of increased development.

Matt Suter, one of the founders of the Save the Village civic group, has helped circulate a petition requesting that the town restrict allowing developers to build above existing storefronts in Huntington village by adding apartment space on top of existing retail or commercial spaces until a environmental review on the area is completed. He said he fears the increase of hundreds of apartments being built in the village could go on to escalate the already high amount of nitrogen in areas like Huntington Bay, which has led to a rash of dangerous algae blooms during the summer 2018.

“The crux of it is that Huntington village sits atop a watershed that is 9.4 square miles,” Suter said. “Anything you build on the watershed impacts this local ecosystem.”

Huntington’s Department of Planning and Environment is in charge of conducting the town’s State Environmental Quality Review Act surveys on any new developments. Craig Turner, the department’s principal planner, said stormwater and the nitrogen filtration is a problem in Huntington village, these new developments are not having that much of an effect because they are built on already developed sites.

“SEQRA asks us whether there are significant environmental impacts, not if there are any environmental impacts,” Turner said.

When the projects are planned with the local community, and there’s real local support, projects get approved, things get built, and people are generally happy with them.”

— Eric Alexander

One project that was often referred to was the Avalon Huntington Station venture, which started nearly a decade ago. Developer AvalonBay Communities looked to build a large-scale apartment complex as well as change the property’s zoning to Transit Oriented Development. Opponents feared the project would raise taxes and create higher population density.

Emily Rogan, who served 12 years on the Huntington school district’s board of education and was on the board when the Avalon Huntington project was underway, said one of the biggest fear residents expressed was that the project — if it went through as originally proposed — would increase the number of students in an already overflowing school district.

The town board ultimately voted down the initial proposal in favor of a revised version that Rogan said had no impact on the number of children in the district once completed.

“You can’t get stakeholder buy-in unless there is communication all throughout the process,” she said.

Eric Alexander, the director of regional smart growth planning organization Vision Long Island, said there are ways to build residential developments to minimize the impact on both the surrounding community and the environment.

“When the projects are planned with the local community, and there’s real local support, projects get approved, things get built, and people are generally happy with them,” Alexander said.

*This post has been amended to reflect Suter’s groups intentions and actual square miles of the Huntington watershed.

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E.H. Rogers Feed and Grain, circa 1910. Photo from Ken Brady Collection

Revitalization plans between the train tracks and Route 347 in Port Jefferson Station have an eye toward the future, but those who have dedicated their lives to the community’s history have a message: not so fast.

Five buildings with historical roots in Port Jefferson Station that fall squarely within the bounds of Town of Brookhaven’s territory slated for redevelopment, as indicated during its planning board’s July 24 presentation during a Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association meeting, could be at risk of being demolished. Two of the buildings, 101 and 105 Main St., adjacent to the south side of the train tracks, could be in more imminent danger, according to Jack Smith, president of Cumsewogue Historical Society, based on a phone call he said he had in March with Charlie Lefkowitz, a real estate developer who owns many of the buildings in the area personally or in part with business associates.

The present day Costigan building, which operates as a law office. Photo by Jack Smith

The buildings, dating from the early 1900s, one of which housed E.H. Rogers Feed Mill, serve as links back to the area’s agricultural roots, according to Smith.

“We worked with the community and town for several years,” Lefkowitz said in a phone interview about the proposed redevelopment as a whole, though he declined to comment specifically on the historical buildings other than to confirm he spoke with Smith in March. “We will continue to work with the community and the town to create the best product and vision for Port Jefferson Station.”

In 2014, the findings of the Port Jefferson Station Commercial Hub Study commissioned by the town to compile community feedback and detailed analysis from professionals to determine what redevelopment of the area might entail were released to the public. Though the study has no legal bindings, it contains recommendations from Port Jefferson-based architects and consultants for the study, Campani and Schwarting Architects founders Frances Campani and Michael Schwarting, as well as longtime Suffolk County planner Lee Koppelman, calling for the preservation and incorporation of the five buildings into future redevelopment plans.

Smith said Lefkowitz told him the two buildings nearest the train tracks specifically are in a state of disrepair and cannot be preserved, despite the fact that they are occupied by businesses currently. Smith said the developer was willing to preserve relics from the historical structures and even establish a museum to memorialize the history, which Smith called “nonsense” and “insulting.” Schwarting said he disagreed with Lefkowitz’s assertion, relayed to him by Smith during a joint interview July 20.

“They’ve got good bones,” the architect said of the buildings.

Schwarting’s partner Campani said she understood the dilemma developers like Lefkowitz face in situations like these, though she agreed she does not see a case for needing to knock the buildings down rather than refurbishing them and incorporating them into revitalization plans.

“These buildings should be celebrated not simply demolished.”

— Nick Acampora

“Part of the problem, which is one of the things we tried to address in the study, is that it’s not a very pedestrian-friendly area right now, and you sort of have to slow down to a pedestrian pace to start to appreciate these things,” Campani said. “If you’re flying by at 40 miles per hour, you’re not going to.”

Sarah Kautz, preservation director of Preservation Long Island, a nonprofit that advocates for the protection and stewardship of historic sites, said the buildings’ location on a state road and proximity to a Long Island Rail Road station would trigger review by New York State as part of the State Environmental Quality Review Act prior to demolition, though getting the sites listed on state or national historic registries would go a long way toward securing their protection.

“It doesn’t prevent [demolition], but it does put it on a longer path, and it can bring private owners to the table in a serious way and kind of leverage a little bit of a negotiation,” she said, adding that public support and collaboration between the two historical sites would ultimately serve as strong deterrents against the approval of any plans ultimately necessary from the town’s planning board when a site plan is eventually weighed. Kautz said the organization would support a push to preserve the buildings. “They’re important buildings. The local community will benefit more from a rehab than it would by a total blitz.”

Nick Acampora, president of the Historical Society of Greater Port Jefferson, pledged to support Smith in his efforts, even if it comes to “laying down in front of a bulldozer.”

“These buildings should be celebrated not simply demolished,” Acampora said.

Brightview Senior Living is looking to construct a 170-unit facility on about nine acres of land off Route 112 in Port Jeff Station, illustrated above within the red box. Image from Google Maps

Another large-scale development project is in the works for the Port Jefferson Station area.

Brookhaven Town approved a zone change at its July 12 meeting paving the way for the construction of a 170-unit assisted living facility on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station on a parcel near The Meadow Club banquet hall. With plans already progressing in recent months to construct a 244-unit residential complex for senior citizens on North Bicycle Path just off of Route 112 and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s allocating of $8 million in funds for a roughly 100-unit project for affordable and homeless housing on Route 112 near East Grove Street, this will be the third property set for massive development in a roughly mile and a half stretch of the state highway.

Baltimore-based developer Brightview Senior Living will be building and operating the assisted living facility, as it does with each of its 35 properties, according to Vice President of Development David Holland, who spoke during a town public hearing on the zone change July 12.

“We intend to be long-term citizens of Brookhaven and strive to be good neighbors to all who are around us,” Holland said.

The VP said the company expects the majority of its tenants to be in their 80s and 90s and in need of regular, daily care. Brightview’s current site plan for the approximately nine-acre plot of land includes a three-story building with dining venues, a theater, a pub, a library, indoor and outdoor lounges, as well as its own sewage treatment facility for the site.

The property was previously owned by area resident Jeff Kito and his family dating back to the 1950s, he said during the hearing. Kito is the former president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association and lives on the nearby Canal Road currently. He said he and his brother decided to sell the property about three years ago and sought to find a developer interested in building something along the lines of what Brightview proposed. He said he has met with neighbors in the vicinity to discuss the plans.

“I think we’ll have a great facility for the community,” he said.

Kito’s former colleagues in the civic association submitted a letter to Brightview dated Jan. 25, 2017, stating the members had no objections to the project.

“We look forward to working with your firm as this assisted living facility proposal is further developed in our Port Jefferson Station Terryville Hamlet,” said the letter, signed by then-President Ed Garboski, who is now the vice president.

Current President Sal Pitti said in an email the civic association still has no objections related to the project. Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Anthony Guardino, an attorney representing the applicant at the July 12 hearing, each said they had received a single letter from a community member in opposition of the development in addition to several in favor, including one signed by all homeowners on Patty Ann Court, which is also nearby the boundaries of the parcel. The property is expected to have a significant buffer from other residential properties that will include sizable evergreen trees.

Holland indicated a demand for such a facility exists in the area, as Brightview determined about 1,500 assisted living beds are currently available in the town.

About 16 percent of Suffolk County’s population is 65 or older, according to the website www.censusreporter.org, which is slightly higher than the New York state and United States rates. Port Jefferson Station’s 80-plus population is substantially larger — about 20 percent — than that of the state and surrounding region, according to the site.

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A recurring battle along the North Shore that we’re noticing is the struggle communities go through to maintain historical characteristics while also satisfying modern business needs.

Where town or village codes may be lacking to maintain historical and/or architectural cohesion, community leaders are recognizing the importance of creating visioning plans. Our hope is that the want for sense of place is mixed with the needs of businesses in order to fill empty storefronts when crafting each plan in order to create a healthy mix.

Setting up guidelines to maintain its architectural heritage and cohesion is something Port Jefferson Village is paying attention to. At the end of last year, a draft resolution based on a meeting of the village’s architectural review committee was introduced. If passed, it would require new buildings in the village’s commercial districts to adhere to designs consistent with Port Jeff’s “Victorian, maritime heritage” and to avoid a “hodgepodge” of buildings. The policy is far from complete but standards are being discussed, and that’s a good start.

Constructing a visioning plan, with the assistance of residents and business owners, would be beneficial for revitalization in areas like Broadway in Rocky Point. Setauket and Stony Brook residents took a step in the right direction when community leaders, residents and business owners met in 2016 and 2017 to create the Route 25A Three Village Area Visioning Report. The report, approved by the Brookhaven Town Board and pending the adoption of a land-use study by the town’s planning department, creates guidelines for issues that affect the Three Village area including maintaining cohesive architecture.

It gave the Three Village Civic Association some backup when it opposed the owners of a Shell gas station in Setauket on Route 25A applying for variances to the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals. The company submitted proposed plans to construct a large canopy and a lighted electric sign at the gas station. The board closed an April 18 hearing without a decision and, according to town guidelines, has 62 days to make one. While the owners say most gas stations have canopies, residents at the hearing provided evidence to the contrary along Route 25A between St. James and Port Jefferson.

If the gas station doesn’t get its way with its plans, we doubt it will vacate the premises. But what about other cases when a business owner feels an addition would attract more customers? This is when a visioning plan created with history in mind, but also present business needs can have the most impact. During discussions, compromise may be the key.

Northport Village has been able to strike such an agreement. Last summer, the village board was approached about building a hotel at 225 Main St. — something unheard of before then. While residents criticized the proposed plans, the village approved a code modification to make way for the inn. Then the village’s architectural review board toured the 1950s building to determine firsthand if it had any historic value, before allowing the proposed plans to move forward. This two-step process allowed for a democratic proceeding, while protests may have otherwise left empty storefronts or rundown properties standing as eyesores, which is not the best option.

With some discussion, civic-minded folks with a respect for historical aspects can keep business districts from looking like an unattractive mixture of buildings. Taking in the concerns of business owners, can keep those buildings filled.

A public hearing on the Creekside by the Harbor II apartment's plans will be held Feb. 15 at 7 p.m

Valencia Tavern in Huntington. Image from Google Maps

As Huntington residents rally against demolition of a local watering hole for mixed-use development, they were surprised to learn of a second set of plans.

Elizabeth Turney, owner of Huntington’s Valencia Tavern, stepped forward at the Feb. 6 Huntington Town board meeting to ask residents to stop protesting plans for the future mixed-use development of the site for retail with 24 apartments overhead.

“It’s wonderful so many people love the Valencia and have great memories there, I have great memories there too,” Turney said. “I now have the opportunity to get out of the bar business and focus on my health and family.”

If the petition is successful in stopping the sale of the property, I’m left with empty buildings as my tenants have already found new [premises], and I have no other offers.”
— Elizabeth Turney

The bar owner said she can no longer continue running Valencia Tavern as she is dealing with health issues, and neither of her children are able to take over the family-run business as originally planned. The building, she claims, is in need of costly repairs to remain in good standing — funds she doesn’t have.

Turney said the only offer she’s received to purchase the land is from developer, 236 VT Wall Street LLC, which submitted conceptual plans to demolish the tavern and construct a three-story building with 7,840-square-foot retail space and 24 apartments above. The developers seek to acquire more than 9,000 square feet of town-owned land along West Shore and Creek roads in Huntington.

An online petition titled “Save the Valencia Tavern,” that has received more than 375 signatures as of press time, was presented by Huntington resident Bob Suter to the Huntington Town Board Jan. 23 in an effort to save what he called one of the town’s most iconic taverns.

“If the petition is successful in stopping the sale of the property, I’m left with empty buildings as my tenants have already found new [premises], and I have no other offers,” Turney said Feb. 6. “Abandoned buildings, that’s not a good thing for the town either.”

Matt Suter, Bob’s son and a Huntington native, said that the petition signers are angry and frustrated with the direction of development in the town.

“This is an epidemic of apartments on one of Huntington’s most environmentally sensitive areas and it must be stopped.”
—Matt Suter

“This petition reflects mounting opposition among your constituents against another real estate deal to replace another corner of Huntington’s heritage with a mixed-use monstrosity no one wants,” he said.

He also pointed to plans submitted by Creekside by the Harbor Phase II LLC to construct an 18-apartment complex on Creek Road in Halesite, approximately 500 feet down the road from the Valencia Tavern.

A public hearing on the Creekside plans will be held before Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals Feb. 15 for a zoning change from residential to garden apartment special district and for parking relief.

Matt Suter asked town officials to also consider that both Valencia Tavern and the Creek Road property border the town’s Mill Dam Park, environmentally sensitive wetlands that are both protected and prone to flooding.

“This is an epidemic of apartments on one of Huntington’s most environmentally sensitive areas and it must be stopped,” Matt Suter said.

Conceptual drawing of the proposed new marina at Nissequogue River State Park. Image from NYS DEC

New York State officials have revealed a $40 million proposal for the next phase of Nissequogue River State Park development.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation, in partnership with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, held two public presentations Nov. 2 at the Kings Park Fire Department for Phase 3 of rehabilitation and restoration of  Nissequogue River State Park, built on the former grounds of the Kings Park Psychiatric Center. Wayne Horsley, regional director for the state office of parks, said that with Phase 3 residents will start to see a substantial improvement in the park.

“This is a community effort; Nissequogue River State Park is worth the effort,” he said. “The park is going to come to life. This will be a positive thing for everybody concerned.”

A state official and resident discuss plans for Phase 3 of the Nissequogue River State Park rehabilitation revealed Nov. 2. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

At the center of the preliminary plan is the construction of a new 25,000 square-foot headquarters for the DEC’s Division of Marine Resources in the existing footprint of Building 40, the former child care center, which would be demolished. The move would bring more than 100 DEC employees in the marine fisheries, marine habitat, shellfisheries and oceans program bureaus to Kings Park. It would also house the DEC’s Marine Enforcement unit and bring year-round law enforcement into the park.

“This is a much more ideal place for us,” said James Gilmore, director of the DEC’s Marine Resources Division. “Having a marine program next to the water makes so much more sense than where we are right now, in a medical park that’s six miles from the water.”

The $26 million building would also be equipped with the state’s only FDA-certified shellfish laboratory, for testing and maintaining the health and safety of harvested shellfish, in addition to a marine permit office. Construction of the new facility is expected to begin in the winter of 2018 with a targeted completion date of winter of 2020.

The DEC would also partner with the state parks’ office to design and construct a brand new marina. With a proposed $8 million budget, a new Nissequogue State Park Marina would be built to the south of the existing marina with a 151-boat capacity, new year-round floating docks, boat pump-out facility,  comfort station including restrooms and improved parking area for boaters.

“The advantages I think are pretty clear,” said Craig Green, with the consulting firm D&B Engineers and Architects that has been hired to oversee engineering and design of Phase 3. “It would provide new facilities. It has capacity for existing boats plus DEC’s boats, greater security, better lighting and better access to the boats.”

The parks’ existing north and south marinas would be largely demolished and restoration efforts would be made to return them to wetlands. The existing boat ramp may be retrofitted to be used as a launch for nonmotorized boats, kayaks and paddle boards, according to Horsley. Construction of the new marina would be tentatively slated to begin in 2019.

“The park is going to come to life.”

— Wayne Horsley

The proposed Phase 3 sets aside $1.5 million to bring new water mains and fire hydrants to the park. The announcement was answered with loud applause by approximately 85 attendees at the Nov. 2 meeting.

“If we ever had a fire, [the firefighters] would have adequate water supply to put out the fire,” Horsley said. “It will bring potable water to the DEC building, the administrative building and the park.”

The parks regional director called it a “win-win” as he said new lines would be water to the soccer fields frequently used by local teams.

Other improvements under the proposed Phase 3 include demolition of three fire-damaged buildings and several upgrades to the park’s administrative headquarters including a new roof, window restoration, new heating and cooling systems and improved handicapped access to the building in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Detailed conceptual renderings of the proposed DEC building can be found on the agency’s website at www.dec.ny.gov/about/796.html.

Individuals who were unable to attend the two public meetings can comment on the plan until Nov. 30. Feedback may be submitted via email to FW.Marine@dec.ny.gov or via mail to: Stephanie Rekemeyer, NYSDEC, 205 Belle Mead Road, Suite 1, East Setauket, New York 11733.

A rendering of the proposed Country Pointe Woods development, if state approval is given to build in Smithtown. Photo from Beechwood Organization

By Kevin Redding

The remains of a demolished hospital on the northwest corner of Routes 347 and 111 could soon become the site of Smithtown’s newest residential community for all ages.

A Jericho-based residential developer, the Beechwood Organization, has proposed plans to build Country Pointe Woods, a 69-unit condominium community on the property of the former Smithtown General Hospital. The hospital was shut down in 1999 and the land has been vacant since then. For more than a decade, various developers have eyed the abandoned lot — seen by some residents as an eyesore — as the potential site of their projects, but all plans up until Beechwood’s have fallen through.

The award-winning home builder’s proposal was approved by Smithtown Town Board at its July 12 meeting and is currently under review by the New York State Attorney General’s Office. If approved, the developer would construct villas and townhomes with a starting price tag of $600,000. The units within the community range in living space sizes from 1,395 square feet to more than 2,400 square feet. The site plan  also includes  a 1,500-square-foot clubhouse with a fitness center, lounge, outdoor pool, sun deck and gated entrance, as well as lawn maintenance and snow removal.

Of the 69 homes proposed, the plans call for 56 units,  or approximately 80 percent, to be age-restricted to buyers 55 and older. The remaining 13 units, or 20 percent, will be open to all ages, according to the developer.

If approved by the state, pre-construction sales will begin offsite at Country Pointe Huntington sales center in November with first occupancy slated for summer 2018.

“Country Pointe Woods in Smithtown gives those who are just starting, downsizing or working nearby the benefits of condominium living in a central North Shore location,” said Michael Dubb, CEO and founder of the Beechwood Organization, in a press release. “They will have brand new energy-efficient homes built to our signature quality construction with the amenities our buyers tell us they value the most.”

Smithtown Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R), who voted to approve Country Pointe Woods’ site plan application in July, said condominiums are needed in the town.

“Frankly, we have a fair number of homeowners that are emptynesters, whose
children have all grown up or gone to college [or are ] in the workforce,” Wehrheim said. “I get at least a couple calls a month asking me where they’re developing nice condos because they all want to sell their single-family home and move into them.”

During the town board’s meeting over the summer, it was discussed that the abandoned sewage treatment plant on the grounds of the former hospital had been removed and most of the site was cleared for development.

The application was approved under several standard conditions and requirements, such as building permits from the town and the installation of a fence along tree-clearing limits.

Residents on a closed Smithtown-oriented Facebook group were mixed on the proposal. While some applauded the development’s proposed location, others voiced concerns over it.

“Traffic was always an issue with either entrance to the hospital and I don’t see how it could be any better with condos,” said Lee Buxton Brooks, a former Smithtown General employee. “The intersection doesn’t need any more traffic because it can’t handle what it has now.”

But James Brako-McComb spoke in favor of the proposal.

“Higher density developments like these are the types of developments we need to keep millennials on the island,” Brako-McComb wrote.

Steve Gardella, too, spoke up for young adults who might occupy some of the condominiums.

“If you don’t want traffic — people who stimulate the economy and help make the town what it is — then continue to allow Smithtown to die and lose its citizens to towns that aren’t stuck in the 1950s,” Gardella said.

Susan Mahoney said the development’s demographic is crucial to the town’s survival.

“The older generation are people that you want to keep here since most of them will spend their money in restaurants, theaters, etc.” Mahoney said. “And it is better than that ugly lot.”

A satellite view of the Steck-Philbin Landfill site that the County plans to repurpose in cooperation with the Suffolk County Landbank. Image from Suffolk County Landbank Corp.

The site of the former Steck-Philbin Landfill on Old Northport Road in Kings Park will finally receive an overdue facelift after 30 years of tax delinquency. The Suffolk County Landbank Corp., which is a not-for-profit entity that works with the county to redevelop tax-delinquent properties, issued a request for proposals to revitalize eight brownfields, including the one in Kings Park, in a press release from Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) in late January.

“We are working to partner with the private sector to revitalize brownfields sites which have been blights on communities for nearly two decades,” Bellone said in the release.

A property is classified as a brownfield if there are complications in expansion or redevelopment based on the possible presence of pollutants or hazardous materials, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The site on Old Northport Road is still owned by Richard and Roslyn Steck of Steck & Philbin Development Co., though penalties and interest bring the total owed in property tax on the roughly 25 acres of land to nearly $1.5 million. The property has been tax delinquent since Steck-Philbin Development Co. was found to be using the site to dispose of waste that they did not have a permit for in 1986. It is located less than a half mile east of the Sunken Meadow Parkway and about a half mile west of Indian Head Road.

The former Steck-Philbin Landfill on Old Northport Road in Kings Park is one of the eight blighted brownfields that the Suffolk County Landbank requested proposals for repurposing. Image from Suffolk County Landbank Corp.
The former Steck-Philbin Landfill on Old Northport Road in Kings Park is one of the eight blighted brownfields that the Suffolk County Landbank requested proposals for repurposing. Image from Suffolk County Landbank Corp.

“This has been a long time coming and creating policies and procedures for the Landbank has been an arduous task, but I’m beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Suffolk County Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) said in the release. Cilmi is a member of the board of the Landbank. “Hopefully, soon we’ll see the remediation of this and other properties, which benefits our environment. We’ll put the properties back on the tax rolls, which means millions of dollars of savings for taxpayers.”

The Suffolk County Landbank was established in 2013 after their application was approved by the New York State Empire State Development Corporation, according to the release.

“This program represents a tremendous opportunity that will help remediate these contaminated and blighted properties, transforming community burdens into community assets,” Acting Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Basil Seggos said.

The property in Kings Park is next to the future location of a multisport complex being developed by Prospect Sports Partners LLC. The $33 million plan for the 44-acre site was approved in July 2015.

Some of the other brownfields included in the request for proposals include Hubbard Power and Light and a gas station on Brentwood Road in Bay Shore, Lawrence Junkyard in Islip and Liberty Industrial Finishing in Brentwood, among others. Cumulatively, the eight properties owe more than $11 million in delinquent taxes.

Proposals for the eight sites are due by March 18 and should be sent to the Suffolk County Landbank office on Veterans Memorial Highway in Hauppauge.

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