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George Hoffman

Among the suggested improvements for Route 25A is making signs more consistent, especially at Woods Corner east of Nicolls Road. File photo by Rita J. Egan

The next phase of the 25A corridor study is set to begin. Late last month, the Route 25A Citizen Advisory Committee, town officials and community leaders met to begin discussing a land use code for the corridor. This code would regulate future development and architecture styles among other things in the area.

“This is where we can take a vision and be able to actually make an impact.”

— George Hoffman

The land use phase is one of the most significant land use initiatives affecting the community in years.

George Hoffman, co-chair of the CAC, said he is excited for this next phase and to be working with this group of individuals.

“This is where we can take a vision and be able to actually make an impact,” he said.

The corridor study dates back to 2016 when the town appointed the CAC to assist them in the study and land use plan in the future development of the area. In 2017, the town came out with its Route 25A /Three Village Area Visioning Report.

The report covered the hamlets of Stony Brook, Setauket and East Setauket. Its goal was to use the report as a tool to help achieve a corridor that has a well-functioning road, quality building, site design, improved pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly facilities and preserve historic and natural open spaces.

Hoffman said 25A is an important and historical road that he believes should
be protected.

“The community has seen what has happened to Route 25 after it was turned into a highway,” he said. “They don’t want 25A to turn into Jericho Turnpike.”

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said the 25A corridor study is an important tool for land use planning in the community.

“We have just entered into the second phase of this project and I look forward to working with the Citizens Advisory Committee and the community toward implementation of the community vision,” she said in a statement. “I am proactively advocating for this project to proceed as quickly as the process allows, and I will continue to look for public input and participation as we move forward.”

“I am proactively advocating for this project to proceed as quickly as the process allows, and I will continue to look for public input and participation as we move forward.”

— Valerie Cartright

Hoffman said with the land use phase they can apply what they learned in the vision report and decide if there needs to be any changes in zone codes.

One option they are considering is a design manual for future development in the corridor.

“We want to slowly over time make the architecture more consistent,” Hoffman said.

He said residents have expressed they would like the historical nature of the area to be preserved and be a kind of colonial rural community.

The committee will look at all the available parcels in the corridor that could be developed to make sure they are appropriately zoned.

Hoffman also mentioned areas of opportunity the committee and others will look at. One of them is Woods Corner, which is a commercial area east of Nicolls Road. He said he has gotten a sense from the community that there could be improvements to the signage of the commercial buildings.

Another area is the East Setauket commercial corridor near Gnarled Hollow Road and East Setauket Pond Park.

“The boarded-up building on the corner has been an eyesore for quite some time,” Hoffman said. “The county is attempting to purchasing it.”

The first step is to get an appraisal on the land and then the owner of the property will be made an offer. Hoffman said the area is environmentally sensitive due to a stream flowing under the property into nearby waterways. The building’s basement was known to flood because of the running water.

“Because there are no sewers in the area there are limitations on how large a building can be,” he said.

The co-chair of the committee said they hope to take about six months on the land use plan process, and when completed, they will look to write an updated town zone code. If approved, it will be adopted by the town board.

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Jane and Rob Taylor: Maria and George Hoffman; and Gretchen and Herb Mones are familiar to many in the Three Village community. Photos from Jane Taylor, Maria Hoffman and Herb Mones.

The Three Village area is filled with movers and shakers, so it’s no surprise that many of them are married to each other. Recently, three of the area’s community-minded couples took time out of their busy schedules to talk about their relationships and balancing their active lifestyles.

George and Maria Hoffman

“We make time to balance all the busyness. So, I think that is part of keeping things alive.”

— Maria Hoffman

George Hoffman, of East Setauket, is a familiar face in the Three Village area. He is first vice president of the Three Village Civic Association and co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force. Maria Hoffman is chief of staff for state Assemblyman Steven Englebright (D-Setauket), a local beekeeper and a volunteer with the harbor task force.

The Hoffmans married in 2009 in Frank Melville Memorial Park, and they said it’s the second time around for both of them. A couple of years before they tied the knot, the two met through Englebright’s office. George Hoffman, who has worked in the political field for 35 years, was living on the South Shore working with a former county legislator, Wayne Prospect, when he first met Englebright. One day when he saw Maria at the office, she asked him to take a walk in the park and soon after they started dating.

The husband said with both being community activists they understand each other’s schedule, like when she’s under deadline or he has a night meeting, and they don’t get as stressed as some couples might. George Hoffman said it also helps that their interests overlap, and they have easygoing temperaments.

“I think we are respectful of each other’s responsibilities,” he said. “We have separate spheres that overlap a little bit in terms of the environment and community. She’s involved more in government, and then it overlaps into environment and community.”

The husband, who said his wife is the first one he goes to for editing his work, added the two are good for each other especially making sure the other doesn’t procrastinate. Maria Hoffman said they also work on ideas together.

The wife said it’s important for busy couples to spend time alone with each other too, calling the time “regeneration periods.”

“We also make time for things that are important, whether it’s walking or in the summertime boating — being on a sailboat,” Maria Hoffman said. “We make time to balance all the busyness. So, I think that is part of keeping things alive.”

Herb and Gretchen Mones

Herb and Gretchen Mones, from Stony Brook, have been married for 28 years and have three grown sons. The two met while teaching at Centereach High School where she was an English teacher and he was a social studies teacher.

“Gretchen has such an integrity to do the work she does correctly and immaculately, and with a degree of professionalism, that it becomes a model to attain to.”

— Herb Mones

Gretchen Mones is the first vice president at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium, an organization where she has been an active board member for 15 years, and has chaired the education and exhibits committee for more than a dozen years.

Herb Mones has been a board member of the Three Village Civic Association for almost 30 years. A past president of the civic, he currently serves as the organization’s land use chair. In addition to his work with the civic association, he is a board member of the Three Village Community Trust, which works to preserve and protect buildings and properties in the community. He co-chaired the civic’s task force for more than a decade which eventually resulted in the construction of the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail. Herb is a past chair of the Greening of 25A and was active in the movement to restore the West Meadow peninsula. He currently serves on a Town of Brookhaven West Meadow Beach steering committee.

Herb Mones said his wife’s commitment to everything she does inspires him to do things to the best of his ability. It’s something he noticed when they both taught at Centereach High School.

“Gretchen has such an integrity to do the work she does correctly and immaculately, and with a degree of professionalism, that it becomes a model to attain to,” Herb Mones said.

Gretchen Mones said her husband has never met a project he couldn’t conquer and has the energy of four of five people. He is up early every morning and walks the Greenway trail, where he cleans up any graffiti he sees.

“He’s just so capable and optimistic — dedicated,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a short term or long term. Once he starts, he’s in it until he finishes it. It’s really incredible. I don’t know how he does it. All my friends tell me how lucky I am and how lucky the community is, and I have to agree with them. He’s an incredible person.”

Gretchen Mones said sharing calendars helps them manage their schedules and attending each other’s social functions, especially fundraisers and annual events, is important.

Herb Mones said volunteer work helps with one’s personal growth as well as a relationship, even when a husband and wife may be involved in different community activities.

“You have a greater understanding not only of what you’re doing but what the other person is doing,” he said.

Jane and Rob Taylor

Jane and Rob Taylor, who have been married for 47 years, were introduced by a friend at a Doors concert. Three Village residents know Jane Taylor from her various roles with The Stony Brook School during her 44-year career. Her husband graduated from the private school in 1967 and worked in the school’s business office for a time after college.

“Blending all the parts of your life together is never easy and it’s never going to go smoothly, and there are going to be bumps. And you have to accept that fact that it’s going to be bumpy. Some seasons are going to be a little harder than others.”

— Jane Taylor

Last summer Jane Taylor stepped down from her role as assistant head of school and is currently the executive director of The Three Village Chamber of Commerce. Rob Taylor, a CPA and a former partner in the Manhattan office of CapinCrouse, still provides virtual chief financial officer services for local organizations.

Successful careers haven’t kept the couple from being involved in the community. Jane Taylor serves on a West Meadow advisory committee, co-chaired the Route 25A Corridor Citizens Advisory Committee, is a long-term member of the Walk for Beauty Committee, among others. Over the years, Rob Taylor has served as an elder of a local church, is a founding president of Leadership Huntington, and is on the boards of The Jazz Loft and Citygate, which works with the homeless. He is also a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

The couple said a wife and husband don’t have to be involved in similar activities, and sometimes one’s community work not only helps them each to become a better person but improves relationships. The two have also learned from each other.

While Jane Taylor admires her husband’s knack for writing, she also appreciates his energy. Rob Taylor said he takes joy in seeing how his wife works with people from many different perspectives. He also credits her for bringing order to his life.

Jane Taylor said a shared calendar is helpful to keep their schedules in sync, even though she admitted sometimes they forget to tell one another about an activity here and there.

“Blending all the parts of your life together is never easy and it’s never going to go smoothly, and there are going to be bumps,” she said. “And you have to accept that fact that it’s going to be bumpy. Some seasons are going to be a little harder than others.”

Rob Taylor, who together with Jane has two grown children, said commitment helps with balancing, too.

“I think some of it is a matter of just, from a philosophical and practical standpoint, knowing that you want to be involved in community and to make a commitment to business and family at the same time and just working together to make it work,” he said.

Know someone in the Three Village area who is mover and shaker? If so, send an email to rita@tbrnewsmedia.com, and you may see his or her story in a future edition of The Village Times Herald.

A stormwater retention pond on Route 25A created by the state continues to cause problems for residents, including those living in the Village of Poquott. Photo by Maria Hoffman

Village of Poquott officials are keeping a close eye on a Route 25A stormwater retention pond directly outside of the hamlet.

Richard Parrish, Poquott’s stormwater management officer, sent a letter last month to New York State Department of Transportation calling for the state to fix persistent problems with the stormwater retention pond slightly east of Route 25A and Van Brunt Manor Road on the south side of the roadway.

Poquott residents complained that the retention pond creates unsafe and unsanitary conditions, according to Parrish’s letter. The unfenced structure is constructed of earthen walls and an earthen base, and residents are concerned about stabilization issues, where the sidewalls can collapse and cause a person or animal to fall or become trapped. Parrish said after a heavy rainfall the structure can fill with up to 4 feet of water.

It is the second letter in a year that Parrish, president and CEO of environmental consulting company Impact Environmental, has sent to Margaret Conklin, DOT’s acting transportation maintenance engineer.

“It’s not working because it’s always full of water, and it’s supposed to drain.”

— George Hoffman

After the first letter Parrish wrote in June 2018, the state sent DOT workers to the site July 10 to investigate the reported issues, but village residents still see it as a nuisance and have not seen any improvements.

Residents are worried that the standing water has attracted rats and mosquitoes; the structure has no controls when it overflows for capturing sediment and preventing the distribution of sediments; contaminants such as nitrates, chlorides and pathogens can possibly run into the road and village; and runoff might go directly to the water table and cause possible contamination.

“While we are aware that the department is exempt from certain environmental regulations with respect to road maintenance, we believe it is your requirement to operate within the intent of these regulations,” Parrish said in the December letter.

George Hoffman, co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said placing a filter system at the location was an opportunity for the state to create a rain garden that usually has vegetation that thrives on the nitrogen in the water, with rocks and stones to improve drainage.

By comparison, he said the current structure looks like a big pit with an asphalt strip to drain water.

“It’s not working because it’s always full of water, and it’s supposed to drain,” he said, adding he’s heard stories of animals getting trapped in it.

Maria Hoffman, a volunteer with the task force, said the particular stretch of Route 25A on the south side is known for clay under the surface, which causes poor drainage.

Stephen Canzoneri, a DOT spokesman, said the agency is aware of the situation and continues to investigate options for a more permanent solution.

During the Jan. 10 Village of Poquott work session, the board of trustees decided to table a decision as to how to proceed about the matter until its next meeting Feb. 11 and allow the state additional time to respond to Parrish’s December letter.

The pond near Se-Port Delicatessen, in a photo from last year, will benefit from a $1 million state grant. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Setauket Harbor and its surrounding area will be a bit cleaner due to a grant secured by a state senator.

“Long Islanders are fortunate to have access to natural resources like the Setauket Harbor and we must continually fight to preserve them.”

— Sen. John Flanagan

Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) secured a $1 million grant from the state for the Town of Brookhaven in 2016 to be used to improve water quality in Setauket Harbor, which will also help clean out the pond slightly west of Se-Port Delicatessen on Route 25A and fix the dock on Shore Road. While the grant was secured two years ago, the contract period began Oct. 1.

“Long Islanders are fortunate to have access to natural resources like the Setauket Harbor and we must continually fight to preserve them,” Flanagan said in a statement. “That is why projects like this are so important, and it is my pleasure to work with the Setauket Harbor Task Force as well as the Town of Brookhaven to ensure that this beautiful natural resource is protected.  These fragile ecosystems are so critical to every facet of life for the people who live, work and play in our region, and it is imperative that we continually join together to make sure they are available to future generations of Long Islanders.”

Veronica King, the town’s stormwater manager, explained how the money would be put to use.

“The project has three distinct components — repair the failing bulkhead at the Shore Road park, remove sediment from the retention pond at [East] Setauket Pond Park, and implement stormwater improvements to mitigate stormwater inputs into the harbor,” she said.

King said the work will take approximately three years to complete and a professional engineering firm will be hired to assist with design, permitting and construction.

“If we don’t fix the pond, we’re just kind of spitting into the wind in terms of all the other stuff we do.”

— George Hoffman

Members of Setauket Harbor Task Force, an organization created with the goal to improve water quality in the harbor, have been consulting with the town about the project, according to task force co-founder George Hoffman.

He said the largest source of pathogens in the harbor are most likely from stormwater from the pond.

“If we don’t fix the pond, we’re just kind of spitting into the wind in terms of all the other stuff we do,” he said.

Hoffman said the pond near the delicatessen serves as an inlet to Setauket Harbor, and stormwater from Route 25A — from around the fire station northeast to the water — washes into it. Hoffman said the pond’s old, faulty water treatment structure is allowing sediment to build up and currently stormwater is going straight into the harbor. He said sediment can include sand that’s been put down on the roads in the winter, items that fall off trucks and cars and pet waste.

“The town has a strong commitment to protecting our natural environment.”

— Veronica King

Hoffman said the goal is to dredge the pond and remove 10 feet of sediment. He said the reconstruction of the stormwater inputs would enable the sediment to go into a catch basin that’s specifically designed to capture it. The sediment will settle and then only water would go into the harbor.

King said the town will contribute $500,000 worth of capital funds, bringing the total allocation to the project to $1.5 million.

“The town has a strong commitment to protecting our natural environment,” she said. “It makes it so much easier when we have the community’s support for projects such as the Setauket Harbor project.”

The town will also need to get approval from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation before removing the sediment, which is standard DEC procedure as at times it may contain toxins. King said it shouldn’t be a problem as the town recently did a grain size analysis and found a high percentage of coarse sand material, and she doesn’t expect any surprises as far as chemical compounds.

Hoffman said he looks forward to the improvements as many people attending the Route 25A Visioning meetings in 2017 pointed to the area around the harbor as having potential.

“We see it as the first phase,” he said. “I think we have some plans to make it the centerpiece of downtown East Setauket.”

A stormwater retention pond on Route 25A east of Old Coach Road. Photo by Steve Antos

Sometimes what seems like a simple solution to an issue can lead to pesky problems.

New York State Department of Transportation workers were on the site of a stormwater retention pond, also known as a rain garden, on Route 25A in Setauket July 10 investigating reported problems. Richard Parrish, stormwater management officer for the Village of Poquott, sent a letter June 18 to follow up with a conversation he had with NYSDOT Regional Director Margaret Conklin, on issues with the newly installed rain garden that is causing problems for Poquott residents.

“The structure always contains standing water and attracts vectors such as rats and mosquitoes.”

— Richard Parrish

Among the issues Parrish cited is that after it rains the pond is filled up to 4 feet deep with standing water. He also said the structure is made of earthen walls and an earthen base and is not fenced in, which can present a danger to people and wildlife. In the letter, he provided the example of a deer stuck in the rain garden a few weeks ago, and residents needed to enter it to release the animal.

He also stated in his letter that he believed the retention pond is not compliant with stormwater regulations under the federal Clean Water Act as it has no controls for capturing sediment or preventing the distribution of sediment and contaminants such as nitrates, chlorides and pathogens.

“The structure always contains standing water and attracts vectors such as rats and mosquitoes,” Parrish wrote, adding this was the cause of most of the complaints village officials receive.

Parrish said Conklin was immediately responsive to the issue of mosquito control as a Suffolk County Department of Health Services vector control unit came the day he spoke with her. He said road and safety issues still remain.

George Hoffman, co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said the organization advocates the use of small rain gardens at the ends of streets leading into the harbor to contain road runoff. It is one of the biggest challenges impacting water quality. However, he agreed the Setauket one is poorly designed, a safety hazard and is not compliant with the federal Clean Water Act.

“Right now, it seems to be a small basin to collect water and doesn’t have any aspects of a rain garden.”

— George Hoffman

The Route 25A rain garden had recently been installed as a temporary solution to deal with roadway flooding.

Hoffman said rain gardens are an environmentally friendly way of handling stormwater, replacing traditional recharge basins like sumps and storm drains. The retention ponds are more beneficial as they are built differently.

“They are generally constructed in a small depression composed of porous soils and planted with native shrubs, perennials and flowers and work by slowly filtering rainwater through the soils and plants and filtering out nitrogen and other pollutants,” he said.

Hoffman said the spot, off Route 25A east of Old Coach Road, is not ideal for a rain garden. The site directs water runoff onto the side of the roadway and is not conducive to natural drainage.

“Right now, it seems to be a small basin to collect water and doesn’t have any aspects of a rain garden,” Hoffman said.

Stephen Canzoneri, public information officer for NYSDOT, said workers were at the site in early May to remove invasive Japanese knotweed and other debris to improve the drainage.

“NYSDOT has cleaned invasive vegetation and other waste out of storm drains as well as diverted water off the road to the shoulder as part of a short-term plan to curb flooding along Route 25A,” Canzoneri said. “We continue to investigate options for a more permanent solution.”

Owners of the Shell gas station on the northwest corner of Route 25A and Jones Street have submitted variances to the Town of Brookhaven's board of zoning appeals to construct a gas canopy and install a 72-square-foot lighted sign. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The Three Village Civic Association is taking action to prevent a gas station from “changing the scenery” in the area.

Magid Setauket Associates LLC, owner of Shell gas station on Route 25A and Jones Street, applied for variances to the Town of Brookhaven Board of Zoning Appeals in the beginning of March. The company submitted proposed plans to construct a large canopy and a lighted electric sign at the gas station.

Members of the civic association have expressed concerns over the proposed plans to build the fuel canopy, which would measure 79 feet in length, 26 feet in width and approximately 25 feet in height, setback 14 1/2 feet from 25A, which is less than the distance required by the town. The company has proposed plans to install a 72-square-foot freestanding ground sign that exceeds the 24 square feet permitted by Brookhaven, with a maximum illuminance that also surpasses the town’s requirements.

“The large canopy proposed by the Shell station is unusual and out of place in our historic downtown Setauket.”

— Herb Mones

After receiving news of the proposed variances, the civic association informed its members via email and stated that between a seven-mile stretch along 25A, from St. James to Port Jefferson, there are no gas station canopies.

“This canopy and the associated digital sign would make this a precedent-setting project which would open the door for all the other stations along 25A to do the same,” the email read.

Representatives from Magid Setauket Associates were originally scheduled to
appear before the board March 21, but due to inclement weather, the meeting was postponed until March 28. The company’s
petition was then scheduled as a holdover for the board’s April 18 meeting.

Herb Mones, chair of the civic’s land use committee, said he is hopeful the postponement may mean the applicant is rethinking their proposals. He said state Assemblyman Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) and town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) wrote letters to the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals to oppose the station’s request for variances.

“The large canopy proposed by the Shell station is unusual and out of place in our historic downtown Setauket,” Mones said. “Simply put — it overwhelms the sense of place we have worked so hard to preserve and protect in the Three Villages. The electronic sign, positioned close to the roadway, may be well suited for a four-lane highway, not for our historic Main Street.”

The civic association was one of the key organizations involved in the Route 25A resident visioning meetings that were spearheaded by Cartright in 2017, and its officers have discussed changes at the Shell station with Magid Setauket Associates in the past, including the addition of a convenience store, according to George Hoffman, the civic’s first vice president.

“As far as our position on this, we’re basically about how it affects our community, how it affects our children, how it affects the traffic.”

— Omar Ishtiaque

“We opposed the plan, citing the location and limited parking space on the property,” Hoffman said. “The civic association hopes the current plan is not a way to gain approval by seeking several variances from the ZBA and, once in hand, seeking the final approval for the convenience store.”

Omar Ishtiaque, who owns Cupeez Drive-Thru less than a quarter of a mile west from the Shell station, said he and a few of his customers also have concerns. The business owner said he has seen many changes along the roadways since his family opened the store 35 years ago. He said he feels the historical aspect of the village is something that draws people in and makes residents appreciate their surroundings.

“As far as our position on this, we’re basically about how it affects our community, how it affects our children, how it affects the traffic,” he said.

Ishtiaque said while he’s not against development, a sense of place is important to him, and with his own business, he has taken down signage that was near the roadway and has tried to keep the store as traditional looking as possible.

“When a lot of the newer changes come in with corporations funding these type of businesses, yes, it’s great in a lot of ways, but at the same time I think it takes away a piece of our community,” he said.

A representative for Magid Setauket Associates did not respond to inquiries for comments.

Developer decides not to proceed with low-nitrogen septic systems for Stony Brook Square shopping center

Construction will soon begin on the Stony Brook Square shopping center, rendering above. Photo from the Stony Brook Square website

By Rita J. Egan

After three years of planning and changes, things are gearing up for the Stony Brook Square shopping center, which will be located near the Long Island Rail Road Station in Stony Brook on Route 25A. However, local environmentalists and legislators are disappointed the developer will not be installing low-nitrogen septic systems.

While the developer, Parviz Farahzad, a former scientist with Brookhaven National Laboratory, was encouraged by Brookhaven Town and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services to install a low-nitrogen septic system, and said he originally hoped to, he has now opted to use a traditional waste system.

“It’s in the area that if you flush the toilet there, under two years that water ends up in the harbor loaded with nitrogen.”

— George Hoffman

In a letter dated Jan. 4, 2017, to Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), SCDHS Commissioner James Tomarken said the Stony Brook Square property was proposed to be served by public water and on-site sewage, and advanced wastewater treatment was not required under the current Suffolk County Sanitary Code. However, he wrote that the systems were encouraged by the county for both new development and retrofits to existing development.

“Although nitrogen reduction from advanced wastewater treatment is not required for this project, Suffolk County would be committed to working with the town and the applicant in reviewing the potential use of alternative, advanced wastewater treatment technology,” Tomarken wrote.

George Hoffman, co-founder of the Setauket  Harbor Task Force and vice president of the Three Village Civic Association, said he and other environmentalists were disappointed to hear Farahzad was not installing the low-nitrogen systems. Hoffman calls the septic systems the “wave of the future” and said he believes most commercial properties will install them in the next year or so.

“Everybody at some point, when it comes time to redevelopment, they should be putting in low-nitrogen systems,” he said. “It’s crazy to put in the old system that we know really doesn’t work and could cause problems.”

Hoffman said the shopping center site, which is a mile from Stony Brook Harbor, is within the watershed of the waterway.

“It’s in the area that if you flush the toilet there, under two years that water ends up in the harbor loaded with nitrogen,” Hoffman said. “It really is a missed opportunity. He knows our concerns. He can be a real leader here in the community. I think people would think very highly that he was doing the right thing.”

The land parcel was recently fenced off to prepare for construction. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), who spearheaded community visioning meetings for Route 25A, said the town encourages project applicants to follow environmentally friendly practices when possible.

“In this case, both the town planning board and the 25A Citizens Advisory Commission strongly encouraged the applicant to utilize a low-nitrogen septic system,” Cartright said. “As of earlier last year, it was the town’s understanding that the applicant would be applying for the low-nitrogen system. This recent development is very disappointing and a missed opportunity to benefit our environment.”

According to the SCDHS website, three systems have been approved for commercial properties that process between 1,000 and 15,000 gallons of water per day. According to Tomarken’s letter to Romaine, the calculation for the proposed density flow of the shopping center was 1,800 gpd.

County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said Farahzad met with SCHDS staff members who were eager to assist him, and other Suffolk County developers have used the systems.

“As the county health department works to update county requirements for on-site wastewater treatment, this project could have led the way and shown our community that our drinking and surface waters are a priority to protect,” Hahn said.

Farahzad said he was hesitant to use technology that he feels is fairly new, and he said he feared if it failed it could let off obnoxious odors in an area surrounded by homes.

“If you want true elimination [of nitrogen] — basically what we want for it not to get into the groundwater — you have to have a sewer system.”

— Parviz Farahzad

The developer said such systems only reduce a percentage of nitrogen, and he believes sewers are more appropriate for commercial use. If a sewer district was established in the area, he said he would immediately connect the shopping center to it.

“If you want true elimination [of nitrogen] — basically what we want for it not to get into the groundwater — you have to have a sewer system,” Farahzad said.

Development of the shopping center was approved at the March 6, 2017, Town of Brookhaven Planning Board meeting. Farahzad agreed to add more trees to the final site than originally planned and will require tenants to use signage that consists of wood-base signs with gooseneck lighting, among other concessions after receiving community feedback. He said originally there were plans to add a clock tower; however, residents at a town board meeting objected to permitting a 60-foot height to raise a clock tower in the middle building at the rear of the center.

“It’s going to be something that is good for the community, good for the university, good for The Stony Brook School,” Farahzad said. “These are the people that are going to basically need it.”

In December, the vacant nursery that stood on the land designated for revisioning was demolished, and the parcel is currently fenced off and ready for construction once the weather warms up. Farahzad said it will take a year before the shopping center is completed, and owners of a bank, restaurants, a neighborhood pharmacy and a coffeehouse have already shown interest in leasing.

Charles Lefkowitz, right, one of the co-founders of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, presents an award to state Assemblyman Steve Englebright, center, along with George Hoffman, left, another founding member of the task force. Photo by Maria Hoffman

By Anthony Frasca

When he noticed there were issues with the cleanliness of Setauket Harbor, Charles Lefkowitz took matters into his own hands. A founding member of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, Lefkowitz has become an advocate for attention to the harbor.

“Nobody was doing anything and it was just deteriorating until Charlie and a bunch of us got together and said this harbor needs a group of people that will start advocating for its improvement,” said George Hoffman, also a founding member of the task force and a vice president of the Three Village Civic Association.

By forming the task force to call attention to the issues regarding the cleanliness of the harbor, such as roadway runoff, the group was able to procure a $1 million dollar grant in state funding with the help of state Senator John Flanagan (R-East Northport). The task force was also appointed to the Long Island Sound Study, a cooperative multistate effort to improve the water quality of Long Island Sound, in existence since 1985.

“As a founding member of the Setauket Harbor Task Force he has involved himself from the very beginning,” said state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who has attended numerous task force meetings. “He has made time out of his very busy schedule to attend meetings, sometimes in the middle of a workday. He very often offers some of the most sage advice around the table. This is worth noting and saying thank you to Charlie for being part of the individual glue that holds our community together. It speaks to a level of sincerity of love of the community and serves as an example of what it means to be a community leader.”

Once an elected official in the Town of Brookhaven, Lefkowitz continues to involve himself with numerous community issues and advocacy groups in addition to the task force.

“He’s a former town councilman and his involvement in our community and to our town continues,” Englebright said. “If anything he is even more effective now because he is unshackled from politics, and he is able to express his commitment to making our community even better.”

“The subtle side of Charlie is that he is the owner of the Stop & Shop [shopping center] on Route 25A, and I’ve seen him outside pulling weeds out of the flower beds. That’s an indication of the level of detail he’s willing to invest himself in.”

— Steve Englebright

Hoffman said Lefkowitz is vice president of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce and has reinvigorated the chamber by recruiting new people, broadening the chamber’s focus and making it more representative locally.

“Charlie is responsible for reinventing the chamber of commerce,” Hoffman said. “He is a driving force in keeping the group together and focused.”

Lefkowitz was also involved in the community visioning committees for the re-examination of the zoning along the Route 25A corridor in the Three Village area. Drivers along the state road in the vicinity of the Ridgeway Plaza Shopping Center can sometimes see Lefkowitz tending to the flower beds that are planted every spring.

“The subtle side of Charlie is that he is the owner of the Stop & Shop [shopping center] on Route 25A, and I’ve seen him outside pulling weeds out of the flower beds,” Englebright said. “That’s an indication of the level of detail he’s willing to invest himself in.”

Lefkowitz’s influence also extends beyond the Three Village area, according to Hoffman.

“He is a visionary on land use issues especially upper Port Jefferson in terms of its commercial viability,” Hoffman said. “He is also an advocate for electrification of the Port Jefferson branch of the Long Island Rail Road. He focuses on how to make it happen and for the first time we are seeing progress.”

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said she has worked on various projects with Lefkowitz, and he is currently working with the town on implementing aspects of the Port Jefferson Station Commercial Hub Study on some of his properties.

“As a former councilman, chamber vice president, business owner and resident, Charlie has a unique perspective of our community,” Cartright said. “Charlie’s knowledge of real estate and of the history of the Three Village area was a valuable addition to the community forums my office held while working on the Route 25A-Three Village area corridor community visioning report this past year. The award of Person of the Year is well deserved by Charlie, and I look forward to seeing him continue to work with residents on community projects.”

Local community leaders joined Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright at a press conference Oct. 24 to announce the completion of a 25A visioning report. Photo from Brookhaven Town

Route 25A in the Three Village area is one step closer to getting a makeover thanks to the collaborative efforts of residents, business owners, civic leaders and local lawmakers.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) held a press conference at The Stony Brook School Oct. 24 to announce the completion of the Route 25A Three Village Area Visioning Report. The town board is expected to vote unanimously for the report at the Oct. 26 town board meeting. The next step for changes in the area will be land use studies followed by public hearings.

“The visioning document that we’re going to be putting forward at the town board meeting on Thursday offers thoughts and ideas for improving traffic and pedestrian safety, creating and maintaining a more cohesive architecture and visual aesthetic while enhancing the existing public open spaces,” Cartwright said. “It is this type of community-based planning that we need to continue to do, and it is that work product that will be presented on Thursday, and I’m proud to be the sponsor of that resolution.”

In 2016, Romaine and Cartright co-sponsored a land use resolution which led to the Brookhaven Town Department of Planning, Environment and Land Management authorizing the creation of a land use study and plan regarding the state highway.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine shows the Route 25A Three Village Area Visioning Report at an Oct. 21 press conference. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“This report is step one but it’s an important step,” Romaine said. “It lays out the future of the 25A corridor. From this step will come land use decisions that will be put before the entire town board regarding the future of 25A, and this could not have happened without the hard work of Councilwoman Valerie Cartright and the hard work of the citizens who participated starting with the two co-chairpersons Jane Taylor and George Hoffman.”

In addition to being co-chairs of the Citizens Advisory Committee, Hoffman is vice president of the Three Village Civic Association and Taylor is assistant head of The Stony Brook School. Romaine and Cartright also thanked the representatives from local community groups who attended the press conference and were involved in the visioning process.

The supervisor and councilwoman also thanked The Stony Brook School where community forums were held. The meetings gave residents and business owners the opportunity to discuss improvements they would like to see along the corridor from the Smithtown/Brookhaven town line to the Poquott Village line. Listening to constituents’ concerns about the area is something Cartright said she has done since she took office, and she is optimistic about the future of 25A in the Three Village area, where she said residents love the historic, main street feeling and charm.

Hoffman said after a shaky start in 2013 the councilwoman was “influential and instrumental in kind of jump starting the planning process for Route 25A again.”

Romaine asked the co-chairs to present the report at the Oct. 26 meeting. Taylor said she was pleased with the results of the report that will provide the town board with a “road map” for future planning along the state road.

Local community leaders joined Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright at a press conference Oct. 24 to announce the completion of a 25A visioning report. File photo

“I was absolutely overwhelmed, when we began this process, about the excitement of being able to vision ahead maybe 20 or 30 years, when many of us won’t be here anymore, and the participation of the committee members to make that happen and to share their thoughts,” Taylor said. “And, sometimes we had varying opinions but we would all come together and the purpose was the vision of what we want to see for our community.”

President of the Three Village Civic Association Jonathan Kornreich was in attendance at the press conference. He said like many group leaders and residents he appreciated the opportunity to contribute ideas at the meetings.

“Planning for the future of the community is one of the primary goals of the civic association and it’s really our main focus,” he said. “I’m very appreciative of the work that Jane and George did, and I am especially appreciative for the leadership of Valerie and Ed.”

Romaine put the lengthy 25A visioning process into perspective.

“Society grows great when old men plant trees,” Romaine said, quoting an ancient Greek proverb. “We planted some trees here, and not all of us may see it to fruition, but this is something that speaks to the quality of this community and the people that live in it and the desire to ensure that this community remains, not unchanged, but the same type of a community that it is now 20 or 30 years from now.”

Residents will be able to review the report on the town’s website after it is presented at www.brookhavenny.gov.

The reverse of the 2017 Election Day ballot will feature a proposition regarding a Constitutional Convention. Image from Suffolk County Board of Elections

By Donna Newman

As amended in 1846, the New York State Constitution includes a mandatory requirement that every 20 years state voters be offered the opportunity via a ballot proposal to convene a constitutional convention — called “Con Con” by those familiar with state politics — to review and revise the existing document. If a majority votes “yes,” delegates are elected to serve at a convention held in Albany.

A recent meeting of the Three Village Civic Association was devoted to informing the public about the proposal to be presented to New York State voters on Election Day with the debate titled “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?”

Two guest speakers were invited to present opposing views of Proposal 1, the first of three proposals that will appear on the reverse side of the ballot listing the candidates for office Nov. 7. The civic association’s Vice President George Hoffman moderated the debate at the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket.

The ballot question was last posed in 1997, when a majority of those voting said “no.” The last Con Con was held in 1967 and the voters later rejected all of the proposed changes. If a majority votes “yes” this time around, three delegates from each state senatorial district and 15 at-large statewide delegates will be elected in November 2018, according to the State Board of Elections website, www.elections.ny.gov.

“The delegates will convene at the Capitol in April 2019,” according to the website. “Amendments adopted by a majority of the delegates will be submitted to the voters for approval or rejection in a statewide referendum to be held at least six weeks after the Convention adjourns. The delegates will determine whether to submit proposed amendments as separate questions. Any amendments that the voters approve will go into effect on the January 1 following their approval.”

Anyone may run to be a delegate.

Anthony Figliola, vice president of Empire Government Strategies of Uniondale, a governmental consulting firm representing a variety of clients seeking liaisons in Albany, New York City or local municipalities, recommended a No vote.

Figliola’s primary argument is that a constitutional convention is an extremely expensive and risky way to affect change, especially when the document itself provides an alternative.

Anthony Figliola and Al Benninghoff participate in a debate about the constitutional convention at a recent Three Village Civic Association meeting. Photo from Jonathan Kornreich

“The referendum process has been more successful as compared to Con Con,” he said. “There have been 600 amendments passed by the voters in our history. This year there will be a question on the ballot as to whether pensions should be taken away from any state legislator convicted of a felony. In 2013 there were six constitutional amendments proposed. Five of them were approved. The good government groups are coming from a good place. They are [working] to enact change and they are trying to move the legislature and get the public at large involved in the process.”

He also spoke about the last Con Con, held in 1967, calling it “an utter failure.”

“Of the delegates elected 80 percent were politically connected,” he said. “And 45 percent were either sitting [or retired] elected officials … collecting — or in the pension system. This allowed them to take two salaries, as there is no prohibition against it in the constitution. In addition to doubling their income, pension credits accrued by doing this raised their pension payouts.”

In the end, all of the proposed amendments to the constitution were submitted for voter approval in one package — which the voters rejected.

Al Benninghoff is a campaign manager for the Committee for a Constitutional Convention and also with New York People’s Convention. A longtime political strategist and reform advocate, he recommended a Yes vote.

Benninghoff’s case can be summed up in two words: It’s time.

The last time a Con Con question was proposed to voters in 1997, the New York City Bar Association called for a “no” vote and suggested: “Let’s give the legislature a chance to reform itself. We gave it 20 years and nothing has happened,” he said.

“Frankly, enough is enough,” Benninghoff said. “The legislature holds all the power. If the legislature doesn’t want to find it within itself to give us the opportunity to vote on an amendment to the constitution, then they can absolutely withhold it. And they have done that a lot.”

He went on to list things he believes should have already been addressed.

“There have been no ethics reforms; independent redistricting in name only, not in actuality; no term limits; and no campaign finance reform,” he said. “There’s still a tremendous loophole with LLCs [limited liability companies]. If a person running for state legislative office wants to take campaign donations from an infinite number of LLCs created by one person, or one company, they can do so. That’s a campaign finance loophole big enough to drive a truck through. What it does is empower the political status quo. It takes all the power away from the people — and that is exactly what a New York State Constitutional Convention changes.”

In New York State history there have been nine constitutional conventions. The longest gap between conventions has been since the last one in 1967. It’s been 50 years. The last one did not produce any changes, arguably because all the proposals were lumped together in a single vote.

As moderator of this informational session and the Q&A period that followed it, Hoffman remained clearly impartial. But in supplying additional data after the event he said he formed an opinion.

“I take the question to hold a constitutional convention very seriously and I am leaning to supporting it,” Hoffman said. “I see it as a solemn responsibility to periodically review our state constitution. I think it’s clear to most that many things need to change in Albany and a constitutional convention might be the only way to bring that change. I would seriously consider running for delegate if the constitutional convention is approved.”

For more information on the New York State Constitutional Convention, visit www.rockinst.org/nys_concon2017.

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