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Ed Romaine

The Mount Sinai Civic Association was responsible for installing welcome signs in the community. Photo from Ann Becker

The Mount Sinai Civic Association isn’t just a local organization — it’s an institution that has become part of the community’s fabric for the last 100 years.

On Oct. 6 at the Willow Creek Golf & Country Club, the civic association celebrated its anniversary with its board, community members and local politicians.

“It’s an amazing milestone,” Mount Sinai Civic Association President Ann Becker said. “We’re impressed with how dedicated people have been, always stepping up in Mount Sinai. It’s been a concretive effort. We’ve had strong leadership. It’s a community that pulls together when there are problems and tries to resolve those issues.”

Incorporated Oct. 5, 1916 as an outgrowth of the Mount Sinai Taxpayers Association, its initial objective was to construct better roads, improve the conditions of Mount Sinai Harbor and adopt means to protect against fires.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner, left, and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, right, present Mount Sinai Civic Association President Ann Becker with a proclamation. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner, left, and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, right, present Mount Sinai Civic Association President Ann Becker with a proclamation. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Over 100 years, some of those principals remain,” Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said. “The civic works hard to protect this community, to ensure that the zoning, the look of this community stays as a majority of the people in this community wants it to. They work hard to protect the harbor, the environment, and they do a tremendous job.”

Officers elected at the first organizational meeting were President Jacob Schratweiser; 1st Vice President Philip Scherer; 2nd Vice President JC Sheridan; Secretary William R. P. Van Pelt; and Treasurer Lorenzo Davis. Committees were established to focus on road improvements, fire safety, improving the harbor, taxes and bylaws. The dues were fixed at $1 a year.

Over its 100-year history, the civic association has worked tirelessly on quality of life issues for the residents of Mount Sinai and the Brookhaven Town. They’ve worked to protect the area’s coastal environment, establish community parks and preserves and maintain a balanced level of development — including recreational facilities, privately owned housing, residential opportunities for seniors and support for schools. A completely volunteer-based organization, the civic has always depended on local residents to step forward and actively work toward improving the community, protecting the environment and protesting against overdevelopment.

With Becker now at the helm, the civic association continues to strive to better the community, and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said Becker is the perfect person for the job.

“Ann and her civic board are wonderful advocates for the tiny little hamlet of Mount Sinai,” she said, adding that her husband, John Sandusky, was born and raised in the area. “People like Ann, and others in this community, keep a watchful eye, are paying attention and have the best goals for Mount Sinai — to maintain it’s quaint look and charm.”

During the 1960s and ’70s, the major civic issues included working to successfully stop the dredging of Mount Sinai Harbor, which was accomplished in the late 1960s, followed by the planning and management of Cedar Beach. The civic association also worked to preserve local wetlands, and the 1965 Mount Sinai Harbor Advisory Committee recommended limiting commercial use to the existing businesses.

Over the years, the civic has had some big accomplishments.

Out of the Mount Sinai Civic Association formed the nonprofit Heritage Trust incorporation, in which several civic members were involved. The Heritage Trust and civic members were instrumental in the formation of Heritage Park. File photo by Erika Karp
Out of the Mount Sinai Civic Association formed the nonprofit Heritage Trust incorporation, in which several civic members were involved. The Heritage Trust and civic members were instrumental in the formation of Heritage Park. File photo by Erika Karp

The association sued Brookhaven for overdevelopment in 1996, which resulted in a significant reduction in the number of houses built. They also helped in the establishment of the Willow Creek Golf & Country Club, which provided a $2 million tax windfall for the Mount Sinai school district.

Funding and installation for three welcome signs in the hamlet were also achieved with the help of the civic. In 1997, the Chandler Estate was preserved as passive parkland. With a grant received from New York State with the help of Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), 355 trees were planted along Route 25A the same year to beautify the community.

“The work that they do in the community and the difference that they make in the quality of life in Mount Sinai; the civic sets an example for all other communities,” Englebright said. “This is a shining beacon of civic activism and accomplishment. The association has continuity, initiative and history. I go to other district and I tell them to visit Mount Sinai and its park to see what a hamlet and a community can do when it comes together.”

The grant was also used to help purchase the nearly one-acre property that is known as Heritage Park. Preventing the sale of “The Wedge” to developers who planned to construct a Home Depot was also made possible with the help of Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who persuaded the owner to donate the balance of the property.

In the 1990s the civic started many of the community activities still supported through the 501(c)3 nonprofit Heritage Trust, though many have since expanded. These include the community tree lighting that started at the post office and is now held at Heritage Park, along with the menorah lighting, family day at Cedar Beach, the Halloween Parade and festival [originally held at the middle school] and Breakfast with Santa, which began at George’s Handlebar Restaurant 21 years ago and is now held at Heritage Center.

“We have to keep up the inspiration,” Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said. “We’re here to protect the Earth and we’re here to protect each other, and make sure that worries and concerns are addressed. There’s so much more that we can do, but what’s most important it that we take care of what we have.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The organizers of this community effort are cautiously optimistic.

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

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

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

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

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

Jeannean Mercuri, vice president of the Nassau-Suffolk Horsemen’s Association, mounts Cricket the horse on the new trail hub in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens. Photo from DEC

By Desirée Keegan

A day when Montauk and New York City are connected across Long Island by trails might not be too far off.

On Sept. 22, the Department of Environmental Conservation celebrated the completion of a piece of the Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest Multi-Use Trail Hub Project. The project is an effort to connect trail systems across Rocky Point, Ridge, Yaphank and Shirley. The entire trail system when completed will pass through the DEC’s Pine Barrens, Suffolk County and Town of Brookhaven parkland, and end in the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge.

The new trail hub can be found on the north side of Middle Country Road in Ridge, between Wading River Road and Woodlot Road.

“The completion of this trail hub is an instrumental step in the effort to connect Long Island’s trail systems,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “The multiple features of this hub will allow local residents and visitors, young and old, and of any ability, to take advantage of Long Island’s stunning natural diversity.”

The new hub, located on the south end of the Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest, is expected to be one of the central public access spots for the new trail system. It features a car and horse trailer parking lot, a newly built half-mile Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible hiking trail, an accessible horse mounting platform, and a half-mile connector to an existing horse and hiking trail.

Carrie Meek Gallagher, New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation's Regional Director, speaking during the grand opening of the new trail hub in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens. Photo from DEC
Carrie Meek Gallagher, New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation’s Regional Director, speaking during the grand opening of the new trail hub in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens. Photo from DEC

“I am fortunate to represent one of the most beautiful regions of New York State,” Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said. “As the sponsor of the legislation that created the Pine Barrens Preserve, I am pleased that we are creating an opportunity for more individuals to access the trails. The ADA accessibility will enable those with mobility issues to enjoy more of Long Island’s natural beauty firsthand.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) also commended the DEC for its work with the ADA.

“It’s very important that all residents get the opportunity to share in the natural beauty that surrounds us and we must do whatever we can to preserve it for generations to come,” he said.

The project began in October 2014, with funding from NY Works, and was completed in June for a total cost of $460,000. The trail hub is located on the property of the former Lustgarden Nursery in Ridge. In April, the DEC worked with Students Taking Action for Tomorrow’s Environment in an Arbor Day reforestation effort. The student volunteers planted 250 seedlings of native New York tree species.

“The new trail hub is about connecting people with nature and making it easier to get out and explore Long Island’s treasure of trails and the beautiful wildlands they traverse,” Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said.

The DEC acquired the 274-acre site in 1996 from Baier Lustgarten. It was the site of Baier Lustgarten Farms and Nursery, which used the acreage to plant nursery stock, including native and non-native trees, shrubs and ornamentals. Several neglected structures were razed from the property, including a house, a barn, greenhouses and cottages for farm hands.

“The new multi-use trail hub is a wonderful community centerpiece that gives residents greater access to enjoy the beautiful Rocky Point Pine Barrens,” Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said. “The new hub connects several communities and allows for hiking, horseback riding and bike riding. The DEC has done a wonderful job in creating this very important greenway park that will truly make a difference as we experience our spectacular outdoor environment.”

Ingrid Herland, second from left, sits surrounded by family: from left, son Warren, daughter Martha and son-in-law Don Richtberg. Photo by Donna Newman

By Desirée Keegan & Donna Newman

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) joined with the Mount Sinai Senior Citizens Club to recognize centenarian Beatrice Caravella at her 100th birthday bash on Sept. 6.

Born Beatrice Mercatante on Sept. 9, 1916, in Brooklyn to parents who emigrated from Sicily, she met her husband Fred while attending church, and together they had two children, Marilyn and Richard.

Beatrice and Fred Caravella were instrumental in spearheading a Pentecostal Church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They lived in Richmond Hill and Franklin Square before retiring to Miller Place. She was widowed in 1985, after 41 years of marriage.

Caravella is an avid reader and in retirement happily volunteered her time and service in hospitals, nursing homes and churches to help those less fortunate than herself.

Today she has four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She still lives in her own home and celebrated her milestone birthday with her family and friends.

Beatrice Caravella, center, celebrates her 100th birthday with Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, Councilwoman Jane Bonner and other family and friends. Photo from Town of Brookhaven
Beatrice Caravella, center, celebrates her 100th birthday with Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, Councilwoman Jane Bonner and other family and friends. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

The Mount Sinai Senior Citizen Club celebrated Caravella’s centennial birthday with coffee and cake at the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai. Romaine and Bonner presented her with a proclamation declaring Sept. 9, 2016, as Beatrice Caravella day in the Town of Brookhaven.

Out in Setauket, the Energizer bunny has got nothing on Ingrid Herland.

She celebrated her 106th birthday Sept. 18 with a whole weekend of partying. She shared birthday cake with her friends at Sunrise of East Setauket on Saturday and planned to spend Sunday with family at her daughter’s home.

Herland is an inspirational example of the power of positive thinking. A poetry lover, she recites verse from memory, some that she has written herself and some favorite poems — with a little Shakespeare thrown in for good measure.

Ingrid attended New York University, and said biology was her favorite subject. She left before graduation to marry and raise a family. She has three children: Warren and twins, born on Washington’s Birthday, George and Martha; five grandchildren and one great-grandchild she is looking forward to meeting at Christmastime.

Asked if she could share the secret for long life, she replied, “I never thought about it at all. I took it one year at a time. I went with the flow.” And that’s the secret. Son-in-law Don Richtberg said, “She is the most accepting person I have ever known. She seems to find the good in everyone — and everything.” And the best way to handle getting old? “You just have to be a good sport about it,” she said.

Mount Sinai Harbor. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Councilwoman Jane Bonner is getting by with a little help from a friend.

Bonner (C-Rocky Point) has aided the Town of Brookhaven to begin a long overdue jetty reconstruction project in Mount Sinai Harbor. She, along with Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and others on the town board, helped secure $5.6 million in town funding to go toward rebuilding the east and west jetties at the mouth of the harbor. The project will increase boater safety making navigation easier and could allow dredging that will bring back the winter shell-fishing season.

The issue has been a top priority for Bonner since 2010, when her office commissioned a study along with the Army Corps of Engineers to assess the need for improvements to the jetties, she said during a press conference Sept. 19 at Mount Sinai Yacht Club.

At the time, rocks had collapsed, submerging the seaward ends of the jetties at high tide, and the elevation of the jetty stones above the water at high tide was less than four feet in some places. Bonner and Romaine saw a more pressing need to address the problem after Hurricane Irene, Superstorm Sandy and other storms caused further damage, though they weren’t able to secure enough funding to complete the project until this year.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner thanks state Sen. Ken LaValle for helping to secure $3 million in funding to rebuild jetties in Mount Sinai Harbor. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Councilwoman Jane Bonner thanks state Sen. Ken LaValle for helping to secure $3 million in funding to rebuild jetties in Mount Sinai Harbor. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Bonner reached out to state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) to see if his department could kick in some additional funds to help the town reach the $10 million budget needed to complete the project.

Initially, LaValle offered Bonner $1 million.

“I was not shy, I was not embarrassed to tell him it wasn’t good enough and that we needed more money,” she said. “He actually called me at home to let me know. His first words were, ‘How’s $3 million, is that enough?’ And I said, ‘It’ll have to do Senator,’ so thank you from the bottom of my heart.’”

LaValle helped secure an extra $2 million with the help of senate majority leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport).

“From day one I’ve always had as my mantra that local control was very, very important,” LaValle said. “It is nothing but a pleasure working with Supervisor Romaine and [Councilwoman Bonner], who is always looking out for her council district, and always says, ‘Senator, I could use your help.’ It’s working with the localities to identify the problems, and make it a priority. That’s how we started with $1 million and ended up with $3 million to get this done.”

Reconstructing the jetties, according to Bonner, is critical for thousands of residents who utilize Mount Sinai Harbor for recreational and commercial reasons.

“This peninsula is not just a yacht club — we have working boatyards, we have recreational fisherman, we have fishermen and women that derive their income from this harbor,” Bonner said standing on the porch of the club. “This is truly a hub — it’s a working harbor and we are very fortunate and very blessed to be surrounded by so many people that will benefit from this project being done.”

John Howell, commodore for the Mount Sinai Yacht Club, said he has witnessed how dangerous the waters have been first hand.

“This is truly a hub — it’s a working harbor and we are very fortunate and very blessed to be surrounded by so many people that will benefit from this project being done.”

—Jane Bonner

He said he’s boated through Hell Gate, a narrow tidal straight in the East River that has the reputation of being unsafe, and said even that doesn’t compare to his harbor.

“I’ve been through Hell Gate many times through many conditions, and I can attest that our little entrance here is worse than Hell Gate,” he said.

The undertaking will help improve boater safety, as there is a large sand bar that extends deep through the middle of the channel that boats get stuck on, but according to Romaine, as part of replacing the jetties, Suffolk County has agreed to also do interface dredging at the mouth of the harbor once the jetty has been rebuilt and stabilized. As a result, winter shell fishing could resume. The harbor was closed for shell fishing for the first time last winter.

The Town of Brookhaven is hoping for added assistance from the neighboring Village of Port Jefferson, which will directly benefit from the project.

According to Romaine, the east jetty is collapsing and creating an erosion problem at Port Jefferson Village Beach. Brookhaven Town is the only municipality in charge of a jetty. The Army Corps of Engineers maintains all other jetties on Long Island but the Mount Sinai Harbor’s. While the town has always budgeted the $5.6 million, it could never get the rest of the funding needed, so now with LaValle’s contribution, Bonner said she hopes Port Jefferson Village will “step up to the plate with the difference” because the area would “benefit greatly from these two jetties.”

Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant did not respond to requests for comment.

Ralph Davenport, from Ralph’s Fishing Station & Marina in Mount Sinai, said he is excited to hear the harbor will be a safer place for recreational and commercial boaters.

“If you were a person who didn’t know this harbor and were looking for a safe place to come in, odds are that you would crash on the way in,” he said. “Big boats used to be able to come in and out of this harbor years ago, with no problem at all, and now it’s a hazard. It used to be the easiest harbor on the North Shore to navigate in, and now it’s one of the worst. So hopefully next year’s time we’ll dig the sandbar out of the way enough where the people can navigate safely again.”

Algae built up on a lake where birds and other marina life inhabit. File photo

By Rebecca Anzel

Long Island’s economic prosperity and quality of life are at risk from an unlikely source, but both the Suffolk County and Town of Brookhaven governments are taking steps to combat the issue.

Bodies of water in the county face nitrogen pollution, which leads to harmful algae blooms and a decrease in shellfish population, among other environmental defects. Critically, nitrogen seeps into the Island’s groundwater, which is the region’s only source of drinking water.

Fishing, tourism and boating are billion-dollar industries in Suffolk County — approximately 60 percent of the Island’s economy is reliant on clean water. County property values are also tied to water clarity, according to a Stony Brook University report.

Nitrogen enters ground and surface water from various sources of runoff, such as landscaping, agriculture and pet waste. But the largest contributor of nitrogen pollution is failing septic systems, which County Executive Steve Bellone (D) designated as “public water enemy No. 1.”

Elected officials and environmental advocates gathered at the home of Jim and Donna Minei, recipients of a Innovative and Alternative Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems through the Suffolk County Septic Demonstration Pilot Program. Photo from Steve Bellone's office
Elected officials and environmental advocates gathered at the home of Jim and Donna Minei, recipients of a Innovative and Alternative Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems through the Suffolk County Septic Demonstration Pilot Program. Photo from Steve Bellone’s office

Which is why Bellone signed into law last month a resolution that amended Suffolk County’s sanitary code to help protect the county’s aquifer and surface water by improving wastewater treatment technologies to combat nitrogen pollution as part of the county’s Reclaim Our Water initiative.

“It doesn’t help our tourism industry, our quality of life or our ecosystems,” county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said of issues with the Island’s water. “Tackling the nitrogen problem, while not a sexy issue, is a very important one.” Hahn is chairwoman of the county’s Environment, Planning & Agriculture Committee.

Town and county officials are tackling the problem by utilizing what Hahn called a “multipronged approach.” Brookhaven is working to track any issues with outfalls, where drains and sewers empty into local waters, and Suffolk County is employing alternative septic systems.

Municipalities like Brookhaven are required by New York State to inspect each point where waste systems empty into a body of water and create a map of their location. It is part of a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit because, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, storm sewers collect pollutants like bacteria, motor oil, fertilizer, heavy metals and litter, and deposit them directly into bodies of water.

In addition to conducting the inspections of outfalls necessary to comply with the MS4 permit, the Town of Brookhaven conducts a DNA analysis of any outfall that has indications of impacting water quality. Since 2007, Brookhaven has spent more than $880,000 on this state requirement, Veronica King, the town’s stormwater manager, said.

“You want to put your resources where it makes the most sense,” she said. “Instead of dumping millions of dollars into structural retrofits that don’t address the true problem, the DNA analysis helps us to prioritize and make educated and cost-effective decisions.”

Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said Brookhaven contracts with Cornell Cooperative Extension because it maintains a DNA “library” of Long Island wildlife, which it uses to identify the source of any pathogens in collected stormwater. For instance, if the DNA tests conclude they came from pets, Brookhaven might conduct an educational campaign to remind residents to clean up after their furry friends. If the pathogens come from a human source, there might be an issue with a septic system.

“This type of analysis could prove of great importance because any patterns identified as a result of this study can help determine what next steps can be taken to improve water quality where necessary,” Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said.

Brookhaven has applied for a state grant to help pay for these DNA tests and outfall inspections for the first time this year, because, King said, this is the first time New York State has offered a grant to cover the work.

The DNA tests are important, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said, because they help to identify ways to decrease the amount of nitrogen seeping into groundwater.

“The amount of nitrogen in the Magothy aquifer layer has increased over 200 percent in 13 years,” he said of one of the sub-layers that is most commonly tapped into in Suffolk, although not the deepest in the aquifer. “Cleaning up our waterways is not going to be done overnight — this is going to take a long time — but the waterways did not become polluted overnight.”

Suffolk County launched its Septic Demonstration Program to install cesspool alternative systems in 2014, called Innovative and Alternative Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (known as I/A OWTS), on the property of participants. Manufacturers of the technology donated the systems and installed them at no cost to the homeowner.

The county’s goal in testing these alternative systems is to lower the levels of nitrogen seeping into groundwater. According to a June 2016 Stony Brook University report, “the approximately 360,000 septic tank/leaching systems and cesspools that serve 74 percent of homes across Suffolk County have caused the concentrations of nitrogen in groundwater to rise by 50 percent since 1985.”

More than 10,000 of the nitrogen-reducing systems are installed in New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts and Rhode Island — all areas with similar environmental concerns to Suffolk County — according to the county executive’s office. County employees met with officials from these states to help shape its program.

“Tackling the nitrogen problem, while not a sexy issue, is a very important one.”

—Kara Hahn

The I/A OWTS installations worked out so well during a demonstration program that on July 26, the county passed a resolution to allow the Department of Health Services to regulate their use.

Typical cesspools are estimated to cost between $5,000 and $7,000 to install. The low nitrogen systems cost between $12,000 and $20,000, Hahn said. She added that as more areas facing similar environmental concerns require lower nitrogen standards and, as the technology improves, the cost of cesspool alternatives will go down.

Until then, Hahn said county officials have been discussing the possibility of subsidizing the cost of installing the I/A OWTS. It might begin requiring new homes to install low-nitrogen systems instead of traditional cesspools. Or, upon an old system’s failure, it might require an I/A OWTS be installed.

“We hope to eventually be able to help in some way,” she said.

County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said she hopes local businesses begin producing the alternative systems that the county determines best work for the area since it would “keep the economic dollar here” and provide jobs.

In January, Brookhaven will be the first town, Romaine said, that will begin mandating new constructions within 500 feet of any waterway to install an alternative wastewater treatment system.

“I think alternative systems work,” he said. “In many ways, even though we’re a local government, we are on the cutting edge of clean water technologies.”

Both the initiatives by Brookhaven and Suffolk County “go hand and glove,” George Hoffman, of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said. Many of Suffolk’s harbors and bays are struggling due to stormwater and nitrogen pollution, including Great South Bay, Lake Ronkonkoma, Northport Harbor, Forge River, Port Jefferson Harbor, Mount Sinai Harbor and Peconic River/Peconic Bay.

“Living on an island on top of our water supply and with thousands of homes along the shores of our harbors and bays, it never made sense to allow cesspools to proliferate,” he said.

The success of the initiatives, though, depends on residents.

“The public needs to be always recognizing that whatever we do on land here on Long Island and in Suffolk County affects not only the drinking water beneath us but the quality of our bays and waterways, streams and rivers all around us,” Hahn said. “It’s critically important that folks have that understanding. Everything we do on land affects our water here on the Island.”

Incident raises questions about high occupancy and code enforcement

A deck collapses at a home on Old Field Road, injuring at least two. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

By Rebecca Anzel

A party at an East Setauket home Aug. 26, attended by about 400 people was interrupted around 11 p.m. when an elevated deck holding 50 to 100 attendees collapsed. Two people were injured and taken to Stony Brook University Hospital, Brookhaven Town officials said.

The 10-foot high, 43-year-old deck did not violate any town codes, according to a town building inspector, but it was unclear if the structure had been inspected since it was built.

The home was illegally converted into living quarters for eight people. An investigation found it did not have carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, and had illegal key locks on interior doors and a broken basement window.

These types of changes, officials said, make it difficult for emergency personnel.

“The deck collapse that occurred this past weekend is a prime example of the serious safety hazards that exist when our governmental codes and laws are violated,” Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said. “The numerous violations at this location jeopardize the health, the safety and the wellness of the home occupants as well as the visitors to the home on that evening.”

The homeowner, identified by officials as Zeyit Aydinli, will appear in Sixth District court Oct. 27 in Patchogue. He paid fines of an undisclosed amount in May for code violations on the same property.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said the town plans to pursue legal action against Zeyit.

“We are not settling this case.his case is going to go the distance unless the homeowner wishes to enter a guilty plea.”

—Ed Romaine

“We are not settling this case,” Romaine said. “This case is going to go the distance unless the homeowner wishes to enter a guilty plea.”

He added that no one has been arrested for underage drinking, though three people have been ticketed for violating the county’s social host law, which holds homeowners responsible for underage drinking on their property. Those names were not released, but have been shared with Stony Brook University.

Timothy Ecklund, dean of students at the university, said many of those who attended the party were most likely university students, but there is no way to determine an exact number.

The university is working with town officials to learn as much as possible about the incident, and “appropriate action” will be taken in accordance with university student policy.

Nearby neighbor Lauren Krupp called the police the night of the party to complain about the noise. She said police told her there was already a patrol car in the area. Soon after, Krupp said she heard a loud noise and speculated later it was the sound of the deck collapsing.

Krupp spoke about her interactions with the first group of students to inhabit the house, last year at this time.

“They were very polite young men who introduced themselves,” she said. “We visited the house once and there was a big banner with Greek letters. It appeared that they were a fraternity.”

Krupp said she hopes the incident can be a learning experience.

“I hope this leads to some reform,” Krupp said. “It’s just not appropriate for the neighborhood. It’s lucky there was not a more serious outcome.”

Donna Newman contributed reporting.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilwoman Jane Bonner were on-site in Rocky Point for the knocking down of a zombie home on Monroe Street earlier this year. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

By Wenhao Ma

Brookhaven Town is doing everything it can to clean up neighborhoods in their area.

The town board unanimously passed a resolution to submit a grant application to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services to request funding for the Town Fire Marshals’ Anti-Blight Housing Code Enforcement Project July 21.

The town hopes to receive $25,000 from the state government to help with the cost of assessing neglected homes.

The Anti-Blight Housing Code Enforcement Project, according to town spokesman Kevin Molloy, has been going on for three-and-a-half years. It was designed to assess the abandoned properties that have harmful conditions and come up with resolutions to either repair or remove them. All the grant money, if approved, will be spent on the assessments of the homes. A mobile app is being developed for residents to report blighted buildings.

Molloy said the town’s law department and the fire marshal are responsible for the assessments. If the town attorney or fire marshal determines a house to be a threat to the neighborhood, the town may contact the owner, or when necessary, demolish the house, according to Brookhaven Town Code. The owner will be charged with the cost of tearing down the building.

“With every demolition, every property cleanup and every court case we pursue, we are turning communities around and giving people the quality of life that they deserve.”

— Dan Panico

Molloy said blighted properties can be a real danger to residents. People who enter a house that is unsafe may hurt themselves and, if the condition of the property constitutes a fire hazard, it could endanger the surrounding buildings and residents.

Safety is not the only reason for the town to establish such a project. Property values of homes suffer when an unkempt house is nearby.

One abandoned house in the neighborhood, Molloy said, could decrease the value of all the houses in the vicinity. By demolishing it, the project helps boost the value of other properties.

Eliminating “zombie homes” has long been a battle taken up by current board members.

“With every demolition, every property cleanup and every court case we pursue,” said Councilman Dan Panico (R-Manorville) July 15 in a statement after the demolition of an abandoned house in Mastic, “we are turning communities around and giving people the quality of life that they deserve.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) was on site for a demolition on Monroe Street in Rocky Point in June.

“Nearly every community in Brookhaven Town has been hit by the increase of vacant, neglected houses,” Romaine said. “Unfortunately, many of them are run-down and not secure from animals and squatters. We will continue to clean up properties.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) also attended the Rocky Point demolition.

“I am very happy for the residents that live on the street,” she said following the demolition. “Some stopped by during the demolition just to say how very thankful they were that it was coming down.”

With the help of the grant money, more homes could be demolished in an effort to clean up the neighborhoods of the North Shore.

U.S. Rep urges to cease dumping waste into Long Island Sound

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin calls on EPA to keep commitment to permanently close Long Island Sound disposal sites. Photo from Lee Zeldin

The Long Island Sound shouldn’t be used as a “dumping ground.”

That’s what U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Long Island Sound Caucus, had to say while overlooking the Long Island Sound at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai on July 29. While there, he called on the Environmental Protection Agency to keep its commitment to permanently close the Eastern Long Island Sound disposal sites. The congressman also called on the EPA to expedite the process to phase out the Western and Central Long Island Sound disposal sites.

“The Long Island Sound shouldn’t be a dumping ground, especially when there are many viable alternatives to open-water dumping, including recycling and safe disposal on land,” he said.

On April 27, the EPA issued a proposed rule, the “Ocean Disposal; Designation of a Dredged Material Disposal Site in Eastern Region of Long Island Sound; Connecticut (81 FR 24748),” which would continue open water dumping of dredge waste in the Eastern Long Island Sound for up to 30 years, despite the agency previously committing to close both disposal sites, Cornfield Shoals and New London, by Dec. 23 of this year. Last month, on June 30, Zeldin sent a letter to the administrator of the EPA opposing the proposed rule. On July 7, the EPA announced a final rule that continues open water dumping at the Central and Western Long Island Sound dump sites, while phasing these sites out over the next 30 years.

“The EPA should immediately reverse this proposal and honor their previous commitment to permanently close the Eastern Long Island Sound disposal sites by the end of this year.”

—Lee Zeldin

“This proposal is unacceptable,” Zeldin said. “The EPA should immediately reverse this proposal and honor their previous commitment to permanently close the Eastern Long Island Sound disposal sites by the end of this year. We need a much more aggressive path to phasing out open water dumping at these sites in the Long Island Sound.”

When the Eastern Long Island Sound disposal sites were created by the EPA in 2012, it was explicitly for “short-term, limited use,” but now the agency is moving to keep one or more of these sites open for up to 30 years. Zeldin expressed his support for phasing out open water dumping at these sites in the Long Island Sound over a period of five to 10 years, and expressed major concerns with ecological impacts on the Long Island Sound.

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

Congressman Zeldin was joined by local elected officials and environmental groups who backed up his argument and supported his proposals.

“I stand with New York’s state and federal elected officials and administrators in condemning this poor excuse of a document in the strongest terms,” said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. “Just in the last few years we have started to enjoy the benefits of a cleaner Long Island Sound. I cannot understand why the EPA would or should allow this plan to undo the hard and expensive work that has been done over the last two decades to restore the Long Island Sound. We simply must do better.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) agreed.

“The Town of Brookhaven is doing so much to keep the Long Island Sound and our other waterways clean, and this disposal site expansion plan is a real threat to our progress,” she said.

Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Adrienne Esposito, said the Eastern Long Island Sound is the most biologically diverse portion of the nationally important estuary.

“Continuing the use of our Sound as a dump site stymies restoration efforts,” she said. “It prevents the advancement of a long-term program for beneficial reuse of dredged materials.”

New Mobi-Mats make sand easier to navigate for those with wheelchairs, other mobility devices

Deputy Parks Commissioner Rob Maag, Councilwoman Jane Bonner, Aisha Grundmann, Supervisor Ed Romaine Jason Soricelli, Program Supervisor for Wheelchair Programs, and Alex Grundmann, stand on a new Mobi-Mat at Cedar Beach West in Mount Sinai. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

By Rebecca Anzel

Brookhaven is laying the groundwork to make its beaches more accessible to residents.

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) announced new sand surfacing mats, called Mobi-Mats, at Cedar Beach West in Mount Sinai and West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook.

“The mats open up opportunities that didn’t exist before for people that, whatever the reason, the sand was not easy to navigate,” Bonner said. “So often times they wouldn’t go to the beach.”

The nonslip, semi-rigid roll-up beach access mats, completely made from recycled polyester roll by New Jersey company Deschamps Mats Systems Inc., enable residents who are elderly or using wheelchairs, crutches, strollers or other mobility devices to more easily traverse sandy beaches. They are low maintenance — the tear-resistant, permeable structure allows sand to filter through — and are easily maintained by removing any excess sand buildup with a broom or leaf blower. Mobi-Mats have already been used at beaches in Nassau County, including Jones Beach, and by the Marine Corps for the past 20 years in vehicular beach landing operations.

Accomplishing this project was easy, Bonner said. She saw a picture of the Mobi-Mats online over the winter and showed it to Parks Commissioner Ed Morris, who ordered them. “Everything in government should be that simple,” she said.

Rocky Point resident Aisha Grundmann said the mats are “wonderful” and installing them was “a great idea.” Her son Alex, 11, uses a wheelchair and asks to go to Cedar Beach more frequently now that he knows the mats make it easier for him to navigate across the sand.

“Multiple people have asked Alex for a beach playdate now, where they otherwise maybe wouldn’t have,” she said. “I can’t think of a more accepting community.”

Alex, who is going into fifth grade, is a local advocate for greater mobility not just for wheelchairs, but for everyone. He influenced improvements to the playgrounds and restrooms at his school to make them more handicap-accessible.

“The feedback for this project has been some of the most positive feedback I’ve ever received since I’ve been in office,” Bonner said.

Cedar Beach West and West Meadow Beach are just the first of Brookhaven’s beaches to get the mats. According to a town spokesman, Brookhaven purchased three — and there are plans to expand the program.

“They will be placed at some point at all of our beaches to allow people with disabilities or physical limitations to also enjoy the beach — one of the great pastimes on Long Island,” Romaine said. “We think this has a large impact on people’s lives.”

He added that for wheelchair-bound Brookhaven residents, beaches also have “beach-ready” chairs with larger wheels available upon request from the lifeguards.

Mobi-Mats are available for use between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

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