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Ed Romaine

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilwoman Jane Bonner. File photo

Supervisor

Romaine an asset to town

An undeniable by-product of the heated and often circus-like 2016 presidential election is a booming pool of highly qualified and energized people throwing their names in the ring to run for political office. This phenomenon is perfectly embodied by the Town of Brookhaven supervisor race.

Incumbent Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) often begins speaking engagements with the line, “It’s a great day for Brookhaven.” It is our belief that the day he took office in 2012 was a truly great day for Brookhaven. His experience as a public servant and ability to create partnerships seamlessly with Democrats and Republicans alike make him an asset for our town. He’s willing to fight for what he feels is right for the people of the town. Period.

On the other hand, his challenger Jack Harrington, a Democrat and resident of Stony Brook, is a qualified, young candidate with obvious confidence and leadership skills. He too would be an asset to any community lucky enough to have him as a public servant. We hope this first attempt at political candidacy is just the beginning for him, and the Democratic party within the town and Suffolk County would be wise to keep tabs on him and keep him in mind in the future should he fall to Romaine Nov. 7. If candidates like Harrington continue to come forward and run for office, our local politics can only benefit.

Despite Harrington’s qualifications, he’s not quite Romaine. We proudly endorse Romaine to remain Brookhaven’s town supervisor for another term, and if he maintains his track record and values when it comes to protecting the environment and exemplary financial management, this probably won’t be the last time this publication stands behind him.

1st District

Cartright to keep things in check

Checks and balances in government are everything, on all levels. In the Town of Brookhaven, 1st District Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) since 2013 has been the watchful eye over a board that entering this cycle features four Republicans and a Conservative, as well as a Republican supervisor. This is not to say we have any reason to distrust the members of the Brookhaven board, regardless of party, but we’d like to think that can be attributed to the existence of not only an exemplary crop of dedicated and honest public servants but also due to the presence of a dissenting political voice.

This is also not to assume the town incumbents will all be successful in their respective re-election bids in 2017. However, should the status quo remain on the Republican side, we are confident that Cartright can continue on as the embodiment of a two-party system.

Beyond her mere existence as a Democrat, Cartright has been a champion for causes aimed at improving the environment and water quality in the district and townwide. Since her first term, she has been dedicated to advancing a Port Jefferson Station/Terryville revitalization project that we’d like to see come to fruition and has played a major role in the visioning project for the Route 25A corridor.

Her opponent, Republican James Canale of Port Jefferson Station, is an enthusiastic, young politician with his head and heart both firmly in the right place. We hope his first run for political office is not his last.

We have a minor criticism of Cartright going forward, which we discussed with her personally. In seeking comment from the councilwoman on stories, which are oftentimes directly related to work she is doing, she and her staff are not always able to connect, sometimes too late for deadlines, and sometimes not at all. To be a successful leader, communication with constituents is key, and constituents read newspapers.

We strongly support Cartright in her bid to remain in charge of Brookhaven’s 1st District.

2nd District

Bonner brings experience

While incumbent Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner’s (C-Rocky Point) opponent Democrat Mike Goodman has some understandable concerns with the future of life in Brookhaven, we feel Bonner is best for the job.

Her years of experience have helped propel her to her present position. Working as a legislative aid to then-Suffolk County Legislator Dan Losquadro (R) and as a councilwoman for the second council district for the last decade has given her a breadth of knowledge, experience and connections.

Bonner said she believes there will be a resurgence of downtown Rocky Point, and we hope she strives to make changes that attract quality businesses to enhance the area, modeling from Main Street in Patchogue or Port Jefferson. We also applaud her care for shoreline structures and her involvement in the Culross Beach Rocky Point-North Shore Beach Property Owners Association debacle, as well as for monitoring the dispute against a DDI Development house in Miller Place and speaking in favor of it publicly. The councilwoman cares about her constituents, about the environment and about making things better. She has also shown she has the leadership ability to get the job done.

We have no doubt her challenger also cares. We admire Goodman for throwing his hat into the ring, raising concern over key issues like the lack of jobs and affordable housing, and we encourage the town and Bonner to bring more ideas to the table, and even explore his ticketing system suggestion.

While we vote for Bonner, we also encourage the councilwoman to work with her challenger on his ideas and use him as a resource to create a better Brookhaven.

3rd District

Leave it to Kevin LaValle

As TBR News Media’s 2016 Person of the Year piece said, Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) is a councilman you can count on.

Unlike his challenger, the councilman knows more about the issues in the 3rd Council District on a local level and has worked closely with related groups to solve problems. His work helping the nonprofit Hobbes Community Farm receive funding is commendable, and his efforts securing large sums of money through grants is a smart way to get the job done without putting the burden of the bill on the town.

Democratic nominee Alfred Ianacci has no specific solutions and lacks knowledge of what the town is currently working on, pointing out in his list of concerns some things that are already being addressed by Brookhaven.

LaValle is a perfect fit for the position he’s in. Growing up in the community he serves, LaValle offers a unique perspective, knowing his constituents well and knowing the long-standing issues he needs to tackle. We have been pleased to see his growth in the position and expect that to continue should he secure another term. Confidently go with LaValle on Election Day.

Highway superintendent

All roads lead to Losquadro

The Town of Brookhaven highway superintendent has one of the largest responsibilities of any local elected official. It is the head of the department’s job to oversee literally thousands of miles of road, and incumbent Dan Losquadro (R) has done an excellent job of making that task more manageable during his first two terms.

He set out with the goal of streamlining and updating the highway department’s systems and mechanics to create greater efficiency in the way it deals with its upward of $100 million annual budget, and he has done a masterful job at achieving that goal so far. We think the town would benefit from two more years of Losquadro to allow him more time to play out his five- and 10-year plans, which he said he established shortly after taking office.

We commend his challenger, Democrat Anthony Portesy, for taking the leap into political candidacy, and his enthusiasm, drive and education make him an attractive candidate for other offices going forward.

This time around, go with Losquadro.

Incumbent Supervisor Ed Romaine is facing Stony Brook Attorney Jack Harrington for the right to run Brookhaven Town. Photos by Rita J. Egan

The race to oversee Suffolk County’s largest township pits a pair of candidates with long résumés against each other.

Ed Romaine (R) has been Town of Brookhaven  supervisor since a special election in 2012, though his career in public service can be measured in decades. He worked for the town in the 1980s as the commissioner of housing and community development and director of economic development, in addition to two separate terms on the Suffolk County Legislature. His Election Day challenger for supervisor is Democrat Jack Harrington, a practicing Stony Brook attorney and officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve who spent time after law school interning in President Barack Obama’s White House counsel’s office. He also studied counter-terrorism and intelligence in Washington, D.C.

“I think [Brookhaven] has a remarkable amount to offer both in terms of the locality and the environment.”

— Jack Harrington

Harrington, a father of a 3-year-old, who is expecting his second child with wife Sarah, is a graduate of Miller Place High School. This is his first time running for public office. He shed light on his decision to challenge Romaine during a debate at TBR News Media’s Setauket office last month.

“I think [Brookhaven] has a remarkable amount to offer both in terms of the locality and the environment — the beaches and the beauty — and also the intellectual assets,” he said, adding he hopes to have the opportunity to make it easier for young people to establish roots in Brookhaven by utilizing the town’s assets, like Brookhaven National Lab and Stony Brook University, to create good-paying, middle-class jobs with upward mobility. He said it is the town’s responsibility to create that environment.

Romaine, who has long preached his goal of creating a better Brookhaven for the future, lauded accomplishments by the town since he took office in creating a sound financial environment for businesses and residents to flourish. The town has a AAA bond rating and is growing its reserves while maintaining a balanced budget and, for the most part, holding the line on taxes.

“We’re not perfect, but we are poised for great economic development,” Romaine said, citing the work of the town’s Industrial Development Agency, which has created or retained 7,000 jobs and $600 million worth of investment over the last three years, according to Romaine.

Harrington commended Romaine for his role in establishing the town’s stable financial footing, but offered a rebuttal.

“Unfortunately, a AAA bond rating does not get a 23-year-old college graduate a job, and that’s really something I think we can be doing better at,” he said.

“I will, as long as I am supervisor, be color blind to party and instead work with individuals.”

— Ed Romaine

Harrington said if elected, a way he would aim to promote economic development would be to simplify the town’s zoning and permit processes in the hopes of increasing efficiency for those looking to start a business in the town.

“All of the municipalities have very lengthy, convoluted processes with respect to getting through those functions,” he said.

Harrington was also critical of the town’s code enforcement practices, which often result in fines for homeowners looking to do renovations. He commended Romaine for his efforts to stop the practices of “slum lords,” or others who try to subvert building codes to increase profits, but said he wanted to see changes in enforcement to protect homeowners with good intentions.

Romaine defended his reputation as one of the most willing local politicians to reach across party lines, as is evident through his environmental protection initiatives and his recurring endorsements from Sierra Club Long Island.

“I will, as long as I am supervisor, be color blind to party and instead work with individuals,” he said.

The candidates agreed on ways to improve water quality and address environmental issues in the town, as well as the town’s responsibility in responding to heroin and opioid addiction. Both preached an approach that included prevention and education for young people.

Officials say the subcontractor for PSEG/LIPA is violating town code

Material outside Asplundh Construction, located across the street from Mount Sinai schools. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Brookhaven Town leaders are determined to stamp out what they’ve deemed an illegal eyesore in Mount Sinai — a commercial retail area turned industrial facility on Route 25A near the entrance to the school district campus. Officials said by being there, the owners and tenants of the property are willfully violating town zoning codes and damaging quality of life in the process.

During a press conference Aug. 22, town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), along with town officials and a civic leader, stood across from a fenced-in lot where concrete is crushed and dozens of the Asplundh Construction company’s trucks, as well as poles and large spools of cable, are stored.

A lineup of Asplundh Construction trucks on the company’s lot. Photo by Kevin Redding

Romaine said the type of activity on the property, which is owned by Nkp Properties LLC, of Farmingdale, is illegal under J-2 zoning and is restricted to industrial property only — a fact he said Nkp is aware of as it paid a town-issued fine of $4,000 in April. Despite paying the fine and pleading guilty to violating the town code, Nkp continues to use the property. The group was met with more fines July 24, which included a ticket for a second offense of the code violations and for not having site plans to try and legalize the activities on the site.

According to the town’s deputy attorney, David Moran, the attorney for Nkp  at the time “acknowledged that the use was not appropriate and said he was going to try to get all the necessary site plans and approvals in.”

No one from Asplundh Construction returned phone calls for a request for comment, and visits to the site for questions were directed back to the telephone number.

Officials during the press conference called on the company, a subcontractor of PSEG and LIPA, to vacate the property as soon as possible.

“The parents that drop their children off at the school, employees and civic members— residents in Mount Sinai certainly don’t appreciate what’s going on across the street from us.”

Jane Bonner

“The last time I looked, LIPA was a public utility whose subcontractor is willfully flouting zoning laws in the Town of Brookhaven,” Romaine said. “That type of zoning violation is one we will not stand for. We are particularly concerned because this is adjacent to the Mount Sinai schools. We’re asking that they come into compliance or we have to take further action.

The property was previously the site of a party equipment rental business. When Asplundh moved in, a structure on the site was demolished.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said it’s negatively impacting the town.

“One of the things that the Mount Sinai community is desirous of is a corridor that is user-friendly and appealing to the eye,” Bonner said, looking at the Nkp property behind her. “I’ve been in office almost 10 years and for the past eight years, the property behind me has been a constant source of complaints from the community, the parents that drop their children off at the school, employees and civic members. Residents in Mount Sinai certainly don’t appreciate what’s going on across the street from us.”

Bonner said she would like to settle this problem before the start of the new school year. More than 30 Asplundh trucks, she said, drive in and out of the lot every morning, which can become a safety concern once buses join Route 25A traffic.

Ann Becker, president of the Mount Sinai Civic Association, also expressed her concerns.

Mount Sinai Civic Association President Ann Becker talks about her feelings toward the construction company across the street from Mount Sinai schools during a press conference Aug. 22. Photo by Kevin Redding

“The civic, which recently celebrated 100 years, has been working to maintain the quality of life here in Mount Sinai for all that time and we continue to do so, and we continuously get complaints about this location and now it’s becoming even worse than it was before,” Becker said. “We’re really wanting to have nice businesses here and we’ve done a lot of work on beautification … what’s happening behind us is absolutely against everything the civic has stood for.”

She said she hopes the current owners ultimately cease and desist so that the location is turned into something more appropriate for the community.

Moran said he believes the businesses will try to get away with the violations as long as they can in order to maximize every dollar out of it to help fund construction projects.

“From a prosecutorial standpoint these types of flagrant violations will not be tolerated in the Town of Brookhaven,” he said. “You can’t just buy property and use it to your will. We have codes that must be followed and, in this instance, I can assure you that we will ensure that they follow our codes.”

The McCarrick's family, local politicians and store clerks bid farewell to the longstanding family business. Photo by Rita J. Egan

For 71 years, McCarrick’s Dairy has been a staple for Rocky Point residents. So it was no surprise when owners Hugh McCarrick, Kevin McCarrick and Bridget Idtensohn announced through a social media post they were closing the store and selling the family business, the news spread rapidly, and was met by many with nostalgia and sadness.

On the morning of Friday, April 7, the last day before the sibling owners retired, friends and longtime patrons filled the store to remember old times, while flipping through photo albums.

Neil Maguire urges McCarrick’s Dairy to remain open. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Among those customers was Neil Maguire, who was having a bit of fun dressed in a cow costume while holding a double-sided sign that read: “McCarrick’s don’t close. Cows in protest. Cows in udder confusion” and “Cows in protest. Cows in disbelief. Don’t close.”

Maguire, who grew up in Port Jefferson, said he remembered when the McCarrick family would deliver milk to homes, and coming to the store with his family when the now-owners’ father Tom ran the small grocery.

“Mr. McCarrick would give us lollipops or a fruit juice to drink while my parents were running around shopping,” Maguire said.

He said it was McCarrick’s Dairy that inspired him to go into the milk delivery business, and he could always count on the family for advice.

Janice Bambara was disappointed that it would be her last day walking to the store for her morning coffee, preferring McCarrick’s over large chains like Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks.

“It was a very friendly and pleasant place to shop for so many years here,” she said. “They’ll all be missed.”

Kathy DiPierro, a cousin of the McCarricks, looked at the photo albums reminiscing about her grandparents homestead which once stood where McCarrick Medical Park is today. Her husband Nick, a former Grumman employee, remembered when he worked in the stores on Saturdays for a short period in 1969. He said the senior McCarrick was always generous and patient with him.

“I remember the first day he left me all by myself in that store,” DiPierro said. “He said, ‘It’s OK, this is how you work a cash register.’ I never worked a cash register. Boy, was I nervous.”

Tom McCarrick Jr. and Tom McCarrick Sr. look over an order in 1964. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The goodbyes culminated when Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) stopped by to present the family with a proclamation and declare April 7 McCarrick’s Dairy Day in the Town of Brookhaven.

While presenting the McCarricks with the proclamation, Bonner, who lives in the area and has known the family for nearly 30 years, had to hold back the tears. Like many who filled the store, while she was sad to see the store close, she was happy for the owners.

“It’s so great that they are leaving on their own terms to enjoy their retirement, not because they were forced out by a big box store or another chain store or supermarket,” Bonner said.

The owners said nearly 500 community members have worked in the store over the decades, and nearly half-a-dozen employees met their spouses there.

The McCarricks have been an integral part of the community.

The family has been part of the Miller Place-Rocky Point St. Patrick’s Day Parade since 1950, after Tom McCarrick and other local businessmen founded the Friends of St. Patrick not-for-profit organization that fundraises for the historic event. Kevin McCarrick, Tom’s son, also served two terms on the Brookhaven Town Board from 2004 to 2007.

Hugh, Kevin’s brother, said his grandparents emigrated from Ireland to Rocky Point in 1911. The couple had a few cows and grew vegetables on their homestead. It was in 1946 when his parents, Tom and Phyllis, decided to start a milk delivery business.

“It’s so great that they are leaving on their own terms to enjoy their retirement.”

— Jane Bonner

The land parcel, where the current McCarrick’s Dairy store was opened in 1984, holds many memories for the family. The house on the west side of the parking lot is where Tom and Phyllis raised nine children; the dry cleaners that sits toward the front was once an office and the original store that opened in 1960; and the thrift store toward the back of the parking lot was once a four-bay garage where the milk trucks were housed.

Hugh McCarrick said all of the children worked in the store at one point or another, and through the years every one of his children, nieces and nephews worked in the store.

“We grew up in the business working side by side with my dad and mom,” he said.

“We met in 1970, and he put me right to work,” his wife Miriam joked.

His older brothers delivered milk to homes, and later he and Kevin delivered to schools and local shops like bakeries. When they were in their early 20s, the two became more involved in the business.

But as times changed, the business changed.

“In the ’70s supermarkets started coming out, and families were having two cars,” Hugh McCarrick said. “So now the wife who stayed home, she had her newfound freedom, so she would go out and buy her own milk and stuff.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, on left, and Councilwoman Jane Bonner, on right, present McCarrick’s Dairy owners and siblings Bridget Idtensohn, Hugh McCarrick and Kevin McCarrick with a proclamation upon the family store’s closing. Photo by Rita J. Egan

One of Hugh’s earlier memories was when milk bottles would come back and still have milk left in them. They couldn’t be returned to the processing plant like that, so the children would clean them out. He said if there was sour milk in there, and you pushed down on the lid, it would shoot out.

“To this day I can’t eat cottage cheese,” he joked.

Despite the sour milk, the years working with his family have been positive ones. His brother agreed.

“We were very fortunate in that all of our family worked in this business from my older brothers right down to my younger sister, Bridget,” Kevin McCarrick said. “It was nice to have a family business that everyone participated in.”

Their sister, who started working at the store 35 years ago, said the outpouring of good wishes touched her.

“You go to work and you don’t think much about it,” she said. “To have everyone come here like this … this is such a wonderful, wonderful community.”

During the last week, she said she heard a number of heartwarming stories about her father.

“Your father delivered milk, eggs and butter to my house every day, and never charged us until my father got back on his feet,” she said one man told her. “I’m an adult now, and I realize how important that was.”

Local patrons visit McCarrick’s Dairy one last time, April 7, on the day the family business closed its doors for the final time. Photo by Rita J. Egan

According to the McCarricks, the business will be leased to another food store and completely renovated. While they may be retiring from the store business, the owners will still manage the property.

As the store closed at 6 p.m. on its final day, former employees were invited to join the McCarricks for dinner. Family from near and far also gathered to bid farewell.

Hugh McCarrick’s daughter Kimmie Wheeler flew up from South Carolina the night before to be part of the store closing. She said she knew she needed to send off the store with her family. 

“This is my whole life,” she said. “I started working here when I was a teenager and worked here with my cousins and my whole family. It was such a great way to be part of the family and the community.”

Her sister Kendra Beavis said the younger family members’ careers have taken different directions than their parents, becoming teachers, graphic designers, getting involved in law enforcement and various other things, but said she couldn’t picture anyone else taking the place of her father and the rest of the family.

“Even if someone were to take this over … they did such an amazing job,” she said. “I don’t know if anyone could ever fill their shoes.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine is taking a leadership role in trying to streamline town government services. File photo by Erika Karp

Town, county and state officials on both sides of the aisle agree that climate change poses a real threat to Long Island. That’s why they’re taking serious steps to address the issue, protect the environment and work to save the region from projected devastation.

In his March 24 State of the Town Address, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) devoted more time to the environment than any other issue, outlining measures taken by Brookhaven to reflect the growing threats of climate change, and sea level rise especially — noting the town has the largest coastline of any in the state.

Romaine said the town will continue working to restore its wetlands and limit residential and commercial development to such critical floodplain areas, among several other initiatives to prepare for the challenges ahead.

“It’s a wake up call if we don’t sound the alarm now and come together,” Romaine said in a phone interview. “Whatever I can do, I’m on board. I wish more people in my party shared that belief … but I’m absolutely dedicated to this because I’m a human being living on this planet that’s being threatened every day. Five of the past six years have been the warmest on record. It’s time to wake up.”

Building on ambitious goals set in the past — like cutting the town’s greenhouse gas emission by 50 percent by the year 2020 as proposed in his five-year capital plan two years ago — he said the town plans to replace 35,000 streetlights with energy-efficient LED lights within the next two years to save costs and reduce its carbon footprint; will continue to replace aging cars with hybrid, fuel-efficient models; has already revised its solar code to prevent deforestation and clear cutting of trees; and has instituted wind, solar and geothermal codes, requiring new residential home construction to be “solar ready.”

Resources to help make homes energy efficient 

•Free energy audit:

Long Island Green Homes Initiative is a public-private partnership that offers homeowners a professional energy audit at no cost. It provides an easy-to-use website coupled with energy navigators that help answer any questions a homeowner has and schedule a free home energy assessment providing an in-depth analysis of a home’s energy efficiency. Visit www.longislandgreenhomes.org.

•Carbon footprint calculator:

Cool Climate, a program started at the University of California, Berkley, offers a webpage to help estimate  your carbon footprint. Visit http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/carboncalculator to find out yours.


•No-cost energy upgrades:

EmPower New York provides free energy efficiency solutions to income-eligible New Yorkers. Whether you own your home or rent, a participating contractor will be assigned to you to assess if your home would benefit from free energy upgrades such as:

-Air sealing to plug leaks and reduce drafts

-Insulation to make your home more comfortable all year round

-Replacement of inefficient refrigerators and freezers

-New energy-efficient lighting

-Plus, free health and safety checks of your smoke detectors, appliances and more. Visit www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Programs/EmPower-New-York.

•Solar energy incentives:

The NY-Sun Incentive Program provides financial incentives to help reduce the installation costs associated with solar electric systems. Incentives are based on building sector and size (residential, small commercial and large commercial/industrial), and within each sector, there are different incentives for specific regions of NY. Income-eligible households may qualify for a program that lowers the up-front cost of installing solar for a homeowner, double incentives for certain households and free home energy improvements. Visit www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Programs/NY-Sun/About.

Neighboring towns Smithtown and Huntington are also investing in their community’s environmental future. Smithtown was named the first town in New York State to be a clean energy community, and Huntington soon followed. This means both towns completed several high-impact clean energy actions like saving energy costs, creating jobs to improve the environment and more, and are now qualified for grants to further clean energy improvement in the area.

Suffolk County Leg. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who served on the county’s Climate Action Plan Committee, is no stranger to pushing aggressive energy and sustainability initiatives herself, like her seawater rise vulnerability bill introduced in 2013.

Although she feels as though there has not been a sense of immediate crisis when it comes to climate change among Long Island residents, she said it’s important for people to recognize the effects it will have on coastal communities and low-lying villages like Port Jefferson, Stony Brook and Setauket Harbor.

Hahn is passionate about increasing sewer districts and eventually switching to alternative on-site wastewater systems that remove nitrogen from wastewater altogether.

Only about 30 percent of Suffolk County uses a sewer system, she said, and the remaining 70 percent are antiquated septic cesspool systems, meaning “every time we flush, the nitrogen in most of our homes or businesses is going right into our drinking water … and eventually surface waters.”

Recently the county has followed the lead of states like Massachusetts in switching over to these new systems in pilot projects. Hahn, with the help of her colleagues and a funding stream to help with the costs, is working on a plan to make these alternative on-site wastewater systems a requirement in Suffolk.

Across the island in Huntington, Leg. William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) also wants to protect clean water from contamination. As the lead sponsor of the Long Island Commission for Aquifer Protection Act — a bi-county legislation that controls drilling into the aquifer and protecting the water for the next 50 years — Spencer said further damage to the water would be a tragic event.

“We have to be aggressive,” Spencer said. “We have a program at the Southwest Sewer District, where we’re trying to reduce fossil fuels and pollution by taking sludge from cesspools and reconstituting that into the fuel oil, instead of burning so much regular fossil fuels. We’re working on reducing nitrogen pollution within the ground, as well as working with Brookhaven National Lab looking for clean forms of energy.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said as a North Shore native her main concern has been erosion and stormwater management.

“So much here has to do with erosion from Superstorm Sandy and I’m always very concerned about these intense, ferocious storms we have and the damage created from them,” she said. “When we’re able to really significantly improve our stormwater infrastructure, the trickle down effect is that improved water quality helps not only recreation but people who derive their income from the bays and the sound.”

According to state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), the leading environmental voice in the Assembly, the superstorm and recent high tides gave Long Island residents a preview of what an elevated water table would look like in the North Shore’s harbor areas like Port Jefferson, Huntington and Nissequogue.

But as New Yorkers, he said, we have an opportunity to set an example for the rest of the country in demonstrating a strong push for climate change initiatives.

“New York can sometimes be relied upon as a model for our sister states to examine and, in some cases, to reflect similar initiatives in their own legislatures,” Englebright said. “If we can do it here, we can demonstrate that it’s doable. Fifty-three percent of the population of our nation lives within 50 miles of ocean water — half of the nation is coastal. Implementing a more widespread use of renewable energy is one of the strongest directions we should try to move our communities toward in order to basically save our island from the ravages of an ever-increasing level of the ocean around us and the shrinking of our shorelines.”

As chairman of the Committee of Environmental Conservation, one of Englebright’s first assignments was to organize a climate advisory task force made up of legislators and set up a series of hearings. Based on the testimonies he received, the assemblyman wrote the New York State Climate and Community Protection Act, legislation first introduced last year and re-introduced again this year.

The bill addresses and mitigates the impacts of climate change in the state. While it’s still a work-in-progress, it has already been heralded by many environmental voices as a significant national model for state action.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“It sets out goals and objectives to begin to reduce our greenhouse gas output, track it more effectively, and establish a series of greenhouse gas emission regulations … [as well as] focuses on disadvantaged communities that have suffered from the effect of the carbon-based economy in a disproportionate way,” he said.

Englebright added residents can probably cut energy usage in the state by as much as 30 percent just with insulation and utilizing thermal windows.

“That’s a thrust I think is prominent in the vision and reach of this bill,” he said. “It sets goals to establish implemental capacity levels for going to renewable systems, be it solar or wind or geothermal. We want to move toward having a 30 percent capacity by 2020 and a 40 percent goal by 2025, and a 50 percent goal by 2030. It’s a very ambitious goal but if you don’t start to move in that direction, then the status quo is likely to be the best you can hope for … and the status quo right now will bring us rising sea levels, increased storm frequency and invasion of disease-carrying insects [like ticks that didn’t used to live at this latitude].”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is adamant to address the restoration of Long Island’s coastal and natural defenses, including coastal vegetation, which he said acts as a natural storm barrier. The vegetation has been decimated due to the nitrogen pollution being pumped into our waterways, the county executive said, but there is good news.

“We know ecosystems have the ability to restore themselves if you remediate the pollution,” he said. “We need to learn to live better with water and put in the infrastructure that adapts to climate change. Post-Sandy, we’ve been raising houses up so they’re not going to be vulnerable to flooding. We can no longer sustain a continual year-after-year decline in water quality in this region.”

Bellone, who has been working closely with Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and his team to fund wetlands restoration projects, said he’s concerned about the federal government’s retreat from addressing climate change.

“That’s just insanity,” Bellone said. “It doesn’t make sense to ignore the science on this. For all of us on Long Island, climate change can fundamentally change our quality of life and no one wants to see that happen. We need to do everything we can to address this issue.”

National Grid and NextEra are proposing a solar farm, near the abandoned Shoreham nuclear power plant. Photo by Kevin Redding

In response to a proposed solar farm in Shoreham, members of the Brookhaven Town Board urge state legislators to not only stand with them in opposition, but grant them “a seat at the table” to have their voices heard and taken seriously.

Since it was first submitted last June, National Grid and NextEra Energy Resources’ proposal to build a large-scale solar energy facility on the wooded property that surrounds the abandoned Shoreham nuclear power plant, and clear 350 acres of the 800-acre land made up of cliffs, rolling hills and a variety of wildlife species, has sparked an outpouring of local opposition, from elected officials to environmentalists, civic associations, teachers and parents in the community.

The proposed solar farm in Shoreham could look like the one seen here at Brookhaven National Lab. File photo

Those against it share the belief that “renewable energy is important but not at the expense of another section of the environment.” As recently as Feb. 27, the Shoreham-Wading River school board voted unanimously against endorsing the project, despite a considerable financial offer from National Grid, which owns the Shoreham site, and NextEra.

According to the companies, the proposal, developed in response to a PSEG Long Island request to help New York meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) renewable energy goals, would generate upwards of 72 megawatts of solar energy, provide power for more than 13,000 homes, and create between 125 and 175 construction jobs and millions of dollars in tax benefits.

It’s currently being considered by LIPA, which would purchase the electricity generated by the joint companies for a period of 20 years under the contract, and New York State.

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), a leader in the charge against the solar farm, said he thinks the companies involved are making a mistake, and wants it to be known that Brookhaven is going to do everything it can to prevent it from happening and protect the environment.

In addition to the proposed site falling within Shoreham’s A-10 residential zoning code — the most restrictive in Brookhaven — which was put in place more than 25 years ago to specifically protect the “coastal forest preserve,” he said, the proposal directly violates Brookhaven’s solar code adopted last year that opposes cutting down trees or removing native forests to build solar farms or facilities.

“You can build [solar arrays] on clear land, on rooftops, and in parking lots, but you’re not cutting down trees,” Romaine said. “Brookhaven needs to stay green and we do not need to deforest the few uncut forests we have in this town.”

The proposal by National Grid could clear 350 acres along the Long Island Sound. Photo by Kevin Redding

When Romaine and the rest of the town board first heard rumors of the solar farm plan more than a year ago, they dismissed it, confident local opposition and town zoning would be enough to prevent it from going anywhere.

However, the supervisor got word that National Grid and NextEra could get around the zoning restrictions and potentially strip away any of Brookhaven’s say in the matter under Article X of the Public Service Law — a provision allowing “an applicant seeking approval to site a major electric generating facility to obtain a final decision from the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment, waiving all local zoning requirements, if the Siting Board finds them to be burdensome in terms of technology and costs.”

The Siting Board is composed of five members appointed by the governor.

The town board sprang into action, writing and submitting a letter to nine state senators and assemblymen requesting that the law be amended to allow local municipalities to serve as mandatory parties to the proposed facility “application proceeding.”

“To allow the overriding of local zoning without allowing the local community a significant voice in these proceedings is wrong,” reads the end of the letter, which was signed by Romaine, Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), Councilman Michael Loguercio (R-Ridge), Councilman Neil Foley (R-Blue Point) and Councilman Daniel Panico (R-Center Moriches).

“We understand there’s a need for Article X and we’re not saying you can’t decide against us, but we just feel the locality should have a seat at the table, which would give us a voice,” Romaine said, admitting he decided to write to the legislature to be on the safe side, not knowing if the proposal will get that far. “Right now, we have no voice.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, has previously spoken out against a solar farm in Shoreham. File photo

According to a fact sheet provided by National Grid and NextEra, a poll to determine the attitudes of the residents of the Town of Brookhaven was commissioned, asking what they would like to see developed on the Shoreham property — “they chose ‘solar energy project’ above any other use,” it said. When residents were given information about the solar farm project, the sheet stated “level of support grew to 75 percent.”

Conversely, the proposal is an environmental nightmare as far as Sid Bail, president of the Wading River Civic Association, is concerned.

“This is just a horrible use of the land,” he said. “It’s not just cutting the trees with the thought that ‘They’ll grow back in 50 years,’ it’s the hills, the gullies, the wildlife, the plants and the fauna that would have to be destroyed. I can see why the owners of the property, National Grid, would like to do this, they can make a bundle of money from it … however the idea of deforesting several hundred acres of very special forest land in order to achieve a worthwhile goal isn’t a good trade-off.”

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), chairman of the Committee on Environmental Conservation, deemed the proposal a bad idea, stating the Shoreham site is worthy of being preserved as part of our natural history.

“This is a native forest in essentially pristine condition … it’s a museum piece of natural land,” Englebright said. “I am the original New York State legislator who sponsored what are now the laws that enabled solar energy to begin to take off. I’m a pro-solar, pro-renewable energy person … [but] it was never my intent to see environmental atrocities committed in the name of renewable energy. I’m offended, as the father of solar energy in this state, that they are attempting to so thoroughly abuse the premise of what solar is meant to be.”

A beware of dog sign outside Peter Connelly’s home in Rocky Point. He was the owner of the pit bulls involved in last summer’s attacks. Photo from Matt Tuthill

In the wake of vicious dog maulings in the area, Brookhaven Town Board voted unanimously last week to adopt a new policy that will keep a tighter leash on dangerous dogs and their owners.

“If there’s a message tonight, the message is to dog owners: watch your dogs, protect them, protect them against other pets, and be a responsible owner because if you’re not, the town is putting things in place to act as a deterrent,” Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said during the Jan. 24 town board meeting.

Under the new county code amendment, entitled “Dog Control and Animal Welfare,” which reflects the stricter state law for dealing with dangerous dogs, the definition of “dangerous dogs” has been changed to include not just dogs that attack people, as the code was previously written, but other pets or service animals as well.

Now the town, or the person who was attacked, can present evidence with regard to an attack before a judge or local animal control officers.

“I don’t think anyone who takes a long hard look at the facts of what happened last summer could possibly conclude that the existing town codes did enough to deter negligent dog owners.”

—Matt Tuthill

The owners of a dog deemed dangerous who do not properly house their pets will face large fines. A first-time offender of dog attacks will now pay $500 as opposed to a previous fine of $100, and third-time offenders will pay up to $1,000, and must keep their dogs leashed, and in some cases, muzzled, when out in public.

“It’s an attempt to place the onus on the owner,” Romaine’s chief of staff Emily Pines, who worked closely with town attorneys to craft the revised law, said during the meeting. “If the dog is going to be around in the neighborhood, the owner has a responsibility to keep the neighbors and other people in the community safe.”

The new policy comes after two incidents in Rocky Point last August wherein three loose pit bulls attacked and severely injured a woman and her boxer on a beach. Just a week later, the same pit bulls jumped over a fence onto a resident’s property and killed two Chihuahuas and injured their owner.

The pit bulls, which were returned following the first attack without penalty, were later euthanized by the town.

Rocky Point resident Matt Tuthill, who lives close to where the attacks occurred, spoke in support of the stricter rules on dog owners during the public hearing on the amendments.

Since the attacks last summer, Tuthill said he and his wife keep a knife in their 9-month-old son’s stroller whenever they take a walk around the neighborhood.

“It’s a huge concern to go outside with our son, and we even stopped going outside for a while,” Tuthill said. “I don’t think anyone who takes a long hard look at the facts of what happened last summer could possibly conclude that the existing town codes did enough to deter negligent dog owners. A loose dog that’s allowed to roam a neighborhood is as much a danger to other children and pets as it is to itself.”

He asked that dog owners in opposition to the proposed policy “please support common sense.”

Colin Goldberg, another Rocky Point resident, who founded the website Brookhaven Bites directly following the attack on his neighbor’s Chihuahuas, echoed Tuthill’s call for enforcement on dog owners.

“Let’s not forget that five dogs were killed,” Goldberg said. “If you care about the welfare of dogs, you will choose to support these changes as well as look more deeply into a real solution to this issue.”

“If the dog is going to be around in the neighborhood, the owner has a responsibility to keep the neighbors and other people in the community safe.”

—Emily Pines

Medford resident Rick Palomo said he’s been dealing with loose pit bulls and their negligent owners for the last few years. A year and a half ago, two pit bulls charged up his front deck and killed his cat, which he said was handicapped and “never had a chance” against the dogs. About two months ago, one of the pit bulls attacked and pinned down another cat of his, but his son was able to save it in time.

He said that with town’s previous policy of capturing dangerous dogs and releasing them back to the owner after a small fine, the dogs are back in the streets running rampant and “terrorizing the neighborhood” within days.

“We don’t know what to do; we finally set up traps in my backyard last Friday and police came and captured the dogs,” Palomo said. “We’re doing everything by the book … I’m afraid they’re going to kill a kid or attack somebody and really mess them up. We have to put a stop to it. I don’t want to see the dogs get killed.”

Palomo’s son, Joseph, said the pit bull owners would just laugh at the old legislation.

“It’s time to get legal action involved, they won’t listen to anybody anymore,” he said. “They said ‘Our dogs don’t bite people, they just don’t like cats,’ and that’s very evil.”

While none of the dangerous dog owners were present at the meeting to make a statement against the proposed codes, Laurette Richin, founder of Long Island Bulldog Rescue, told board members that creating strict laws is not the solution.

“I’ve been rescuing and placing bulldogs and pit bulls in [the Town of Brookhaven] for 17 years and I think people need to be responsible with each other and mind their neighborhood by reporting these things,” Richin said. “I don’t think this should be legislated more.”

In response, Councilman Michael Loguercio (R-Middle Island) said that “sometimes you have to pass a law to protect people from themselves, so not only does this law emulate the state’s law but it helps protect the dog owners as well.”

The new policy will be in effect immediately.

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One of the four remaining cottages at West Meadow Beach has a collapsed roof and is a virtual zombie house, orphaned by a lack of interest. Photo by Pam Botway

After demolition of the 52nd zombie house by the Town of Brookhaven in Sound Beach last month, the town had fulfilled Supervisor Ed Romaine’s (R) mission to tear down one home a week in 2016. But there are other eyesores that have yet to be addressed.

While abandoned houses in the community are eligible for demolition, the Town had taken no action to prevent Town-owned cottages at West Meadow Beach from deteriorating.

Under legislation sponsored by state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and former state Senator James Lack (R), which was signed into law in 1996, Brookhaven Town officials had agreed to maintain responsibility for the preservation of the beach and the four cottages designated to be used for security or educational uses..

Following a Nov. 24 article in the Village Times Herald titled, “A look at West Meadow Beach — 12 years post-cottages,” East Setauket resident and community activist Pam Botway wrote a letter to the newspaper asking about the condition of the remaining cottages at West Meadow Beach.

“I inquired with the town after noticing the roof caved in on one of the cottages,” she said. “It seems there is a lease agreement between the Three Village Community Trust and the town, in place since 2010. [I’m wondering] why have the cottages turned into zombie houses in the past six years when there is $1.45 million in the bank to maintain them?”

Botway said the Town claimed it has no access to the trust’s funds to make necessary repairs.

While the Town had a five-year license agreement with Three Village Community Trust for the Gamecock Cottage, which commenced in 2010, Town public information officer Jack Krieger said there are no leases for the other cottages.

The endowment fund created by the legislation currently contains $1.45 million, according to the Department of Finance, but only the interest accrued may be used for the property’s upkeep. At today’s rates, interest on the account generates about $2,000 a year, not nearly enough to achieve proper maintenance.

In an interview conducted in November, Englebright theorized that after the Stony Brook Community Fund became The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, and the new entity declined to handle responsibilities spelled out in the legislation, that left the endowment an orphan. As there was no one to oversee the proper application of the account’s interest, the cottages have been neglected.

Until such time as the endowment is actively managed, and some person or group is keeping track, things will remain the same.

“It may be time for a public/private partnership vision to be pursued,” Englebright said. “A not-for-profit operating the Nature Center in conjunction with the Town [would be preferable to what exists now].”

This version was updated Jan. 26 to correct the featured photo.

Held by Greg Drossel, Holtsville Hal says hello to the large crowd gathered at last year’s event. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Six more weeks of winter or an early spring?

Pennsylvania may have the legendary groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, but New York has Malverne Mel, Holtsville Hal, Sweetbriar Sam and even Staten Island Chuck and Dunkirk Dave.

In the Town of Brookhaven, the great prognosticator of prognosticators, Holtsville Hal will be the star of the day as the Brookhaven Wildlife and Ecology Center Animal Preserve will celebrate with its annual Groundhog Day event on Feb. 2 with the gates opening at 7 a.m. Wayne Carrington will return as the master of ceremonies and Hal will be handled by Greg Drossel.

From left, Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro, emcee Wayne Carrington and Councilman Neil Foley (R-Blue Point)) at last year’s event. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

According to tradition, if a groundhog sees its shadow after stirring from hibernation on Groundhog Day, there will be six more weeks of winter weather; if not, spring should arrive early. Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) will serve as Mayor of the Day and reveal Hal’s forecast at approximately 7:25 a.m. “Our annual Groundhog Day celebration is an enjoyable tradition for many local families,” Losquadro said. “While I’m always hopeful Hal will not see his shadow, predicting an early spring, either way this is a much-anticipated event each year in Brookhaven Town.”

“Groundhog Day at the Ecology Site is always fun for families who have made it an annual tradition and for those who come for the very first time,” said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R). “I always look forward to Holtsville Hal’s prognostication, but I hope he doesn’t see his shadow and we have an early spring.”

Although he’s sure to be the center of attention, Holtsville Hal will not be the only animal available for viewing on Feb. 2. Following the ceremony, the community is welcome to stay and enjoy some free hot chocolate and visit the more than 100 animals that live at the animal preserve, which will remain open until 3 p.m. at no charge.

The Brookhaven Wildlife and Ecology Center Animal Preserve is located at 249 Buckley Road, Holtsville. Parking is free. For more information, call 631-758-9664.

The Mount Sinai Harbor, above, will undergo jetty reconstruction to make navigation easier and bring back winter shellfishing. File photo by Erika Karp

The Town of Brookhaven stands stronger than ever in the midst of a major economic lag in Suffolk County as it enters the new year.

During the final Brookhaven town board meeting of last year, on Dec. 15, Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) announced several large bond resolutions, including one for $4.5 million to pay for the dredging and restoration of Lily Lake in Yaphank and another for $12.3 million to pay for the resurfacing of various town-owned roads. These bonds will help move forward the long-term capital projects within his approved budget for 2017 — to the concern of some residents in attendance unsure as to why so much money was being proposed all at once.

The projects will be made possible with the help of bonds secured by the Town of Brookhaven, which Supervisor Ed Romaine helped secure. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

But the supervisor insists that taxpayers in Brookhaven have nothing to worry about in terms of fiscal spending.

“This is no different than what we’ve done every other year,” Romaine explained in a phone interview. “Each year, we have to authorize bond resolutions, have to go to bond counsel, and then float the bond [into the bond market] because long-term assets are what you borrow for. We need the money in 2017 and we want to get a head start on that.”

In fact, he said, Brookhaven’s borrowing in terms of bonding out is down and the township pays off its bonds well before their maturity dates in most cases.

“We don’t spend money we don’t have,” Romaine said. “When we go to bond, we go to bond very cautiously, we try to pay off our bonds very quickly, and we don’t believe in taking on too much debt.”

For instance, Romaine said, Brookhaven is the only town in all of Long Island that has paid off all of its pension debt.

“We have reserve funds for when the town landfill is closed, [as well as] a snow reserve fund of up to $2 million on top of the $6 million budgeted for snow in case we get a really heavy year,” he said.

While most every municipality in Suffolk County struggles with tremendous debt, Brookhaven has been prosperous. Standard and Poor’s Financial Services assigned its AAA credit rating to the town, the highest designation issued by the New York City-based agency. The AAA rating means Brookhaven has been recognized as having strong capacity to meet financial commitments.

It was its top-tier credit rating that allowed Brookhaven to acquire so much money for capital projects and low interest rates.

“When we go to bond, we go to bond very cautiously, we try to pay off our bonds very quickly, and we don’t believe in taking on too much debt.”

—Ed Romaine

“Where a lot of Suffolk County has been downgraded, we’re the largest town in Suffolk County and we’re getting upgraded to the highest level possible, and I think that speaks to the supervisor’s leadership and fiscal discipline,” Department of Waste Management Commissioner Matt Miner said. “We’re close to reducing [more than] $30 million in pipeline debt … and on the operating budget, he’s been very disciplined in how to spend taxpayer money, and we’re complying with the New York State property tax cap. We’re one of the few municipalities to do so.”

As for the planned projects described in the bond resolutions, Romaine said the ones most important and expensive for the North Shore will be revitalizing Lily Lake to get rid of invasive weeds and restore it back as a recreational haven, reconstructing the jetties in Mount Sinai Harbor to make boat navigation easier and help bring back shellfishing in the winter and continuing to work with the highway department to improve and pave roads.

Other resolutions included the issuance of $2.5 million to pay the cost of various original improvements to the town landfill, including, but not limited to, gas management, odor control and leachate control improvements and $600,000 to pay the cost of acquisition and installation of various equipment for use at town facilities.

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