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King Kullen

A demonstration is done at the King Kullen in Patchogue, showing how to use the drug take-back drop box. Photo from Adrianne Esposito

By Kevin Redding

With the recent launch of the first statewide pharmaceutical take-back initiative, New York residents are encouraged to be more careful, and environmentally friendly, when it comes to getting rid of their old and unwanted medications.

On Dec. 28, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced that 80 retail pharmacies, hospitals and long-term care facilities across the state  will be the first to participate in its $2 million pilot pharmaceutical take-back program, and encouraged more to get on board.

This program allows residents to safely dispose any unused and potentially harmful pills into a drop box at these locations beginning in April, when the boxes are slated for installation.

Once collected, the drugs will be weighed, tracked and incinerated.

The free, volunteer public service, funded by the state Environmental Protection Fund, is modeled after a successful safe disposal program started at King Kullen in 2014 — which, in the past three years, has safely disposed more than 7,600 pounds of pharmaceutical drugs — and aims to improve the region’s drinking water, which has become increasingly contaminated by people flushing medications down the toilet and pouring them down the sink.

Flushed pharmaceutical drugs have been found in state lakes, rivers and streams, negatively affecting the waterways and the wildlife that inhabit them.

Roughly 40 percent of groundwater samples have trace amounts of pharmaceutical drugs, with the most common being antibiotics and anticonvulsants, according to Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens
Campaign for the Environment.

“Prescription drugs should come from our pharmacists — not from our faucets,” said Esposito, whose Farmingdale-based organization founded the King Kullen program and lobbied the state to provide funding in its budget in 2016 for the DEC to create the pilot program. “Pharmaceutical drugs are considered an ‘emerging contaminant’ in our drinking water and the flushing of unwanted drugs is one contributor to this growing problem. Safe disposal programs [like this] are critical in combating this health risk. The goal really is to provide people with an easy, safe and convenient option to dispose of their drugs. We can get ahead of this problem now rather than wait until it becomes a bigger problem later.”

The pilot program is currently open and is accepting applications, according to the DEC website, which also outlines that the $2 million  will be used to cover the full cost of purchasing U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration-compliant medication drop boxes, as well as the cost of pickup, transport and destruction of collected waste pharmaceuticals for a two-year period.

Esposito said the program also serves to prevent accidental exposure or intentional misuse of prescription drugs.

“This is a service that all pharmacies should be providing their customers,” she said. “Not only does it protect the environment, it will keep drugs out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”

While there aren’t many participants so far in Suffolk  — among six volunteers are Huntington’s Country Village Chemists, St. James Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center and Stony Brook Student Health Services — many local pharmacy owners said they were interested in enrolling, while others have already been offering something similar.

At Heritage Chemists Pharmacy & Boutique in Mount Sinai, owner Frank Bosio said he offered a take-back box for more than two years, but funding ended.

“It was a great program and the community loved it,” said Bosio with interest in enrolling in the new pilot program. “I definitely want to get on board with this.”

Manager of Echo Pharmacy in Miller Place, Beth Mango, said her store has a disposal box system in place that complies with Drug Enforcement Administration requirements.

“We had a lot of customers asking us what they could do with their old medications,” Mango said. “We wanted to do something for the community. We’re trying to save our Earth for our children and for future generations — this is one way we know is safe.”

Esposito made clear that most disposal systems outside of the launched program aren’t authorized by the DEC or other agencies, and hopes the list for this particular effort will grow.

Retail pharmacies, hospitals and long-term care facilities can enroll to participate in the pilot pharmaceutical take-back program on the DEC’s website at www.dec.ny.gov/.

The current proposed site plan for millennial housing in Mount Sinai features 140 rental units, commercial stores and other amenities. Image from Basser Kaufman

A long-vacant property next to King Kullen in Mount Sinai could be a go-to living destination for young professionals and college graduates in the near future.

According to a real estate investors group’s preliminary proposal made during the recent Mount Sinai Civic Association meeting, they want to give millennials a suburban place to stay and a sense of community.

“A lot of our young people leave Long Island because they can’t afford to stay here,” said Michael Russo, an architect working with the Nassau-based group Basser-Kaufman, to residents at the Heritage Center June 5. “Mount Sinai is a desirable place to live [and] we’ve put a lot of thought into making it work for millennials.”

Architect Michael Russo talks to residents about building millennial housing in Mount Sinai. Photo by Kevin Redding

An expansive, 140-rental unit community is envisioned in the early stages of the concept, gearing toward those in their mid to late 20s, to occupy the rear portion on the nearly 35 acres of unused land along Nesconset Highway.

The proposed site would include potential retail developments such as Trader Joe’s, other commercial buildings, an open green space for public use, a community center with fitness and yoga rooms for residents and several amenities to attract a younger demographic, such as bicycle racks, dog-walk areas and electric car-charging stations. Valet trash services would also be available to eliminate large, noisy trucks.

Rental prices for one-bedroom and two-bedroom units would range between $1,900 and $2,200 a month, according to the group’s legal representative — priced lower than many competitive apartments in the area, such as the New Village apartments in Patchogue, to make it manageable for young people to live in the region.

“Having this for younger people in your district is an advantage,” said Steven Losquadro, a lawyer speaking on behalf of Basser-Kaufman. “It’s a bridge to home ownership, which is ideally what you would want. You don’t want them going out of state, you want to have them here where they grew up.”

The executive board of the civic association, including President Ann Becker and Vice President Brad Arrington, had met previously with the developers to discuss the draft proposal and ensure its concept fit the vision of the community.

“Without risking discrimination, how will you restrict it to millennials?” asked Mount Sinai resident and board of education member Edward Law.

Local residents gathered at the Heritage Center at Heritage Park to listen to a proposal for millenial housing in Mount Sinai. Photo by Kevin Redding

While the speakers said they couldn’t legally limit occupancy to just young people, their intention is to specifically market it to that age group through advertising locations and methods.

“What’s the projected time line?” was another question that was asked.

Russo said the construction would take 18 months to two years, but added it could take years to get the project approved.

Mount Sinai resident Peter Pranzo voiced his concern about the already increasing number of students in the district, he said, as a result of young parents in the housing development. He said he’s afraid of the financial pressure it could put on schools to pay additional costs for more new students.

“I’m against it,” he said of the proposal. “There’s no way we can sustain 60, 70 or 100 more children in our area.”

Arrington argued the opposite.

“Class sizes are shrinking quite a bit,” he said. “A lot of our enrollment is actually down in younger grades. These aren’t going to be terribly large apartments, so by the time that child enrolls in school it’s pretty likely the parents are going to move out and buy a house.”

Losquadro agreed, insisting the development would be geared toward young professionals and there wouldn’t be a substantial influx of children.

When a resident suggested the possibility of those behind the proposal abandoning it in favor of solely retail space, Becker spoke up.

Millennial housing proposed in Mount Sinai would replace a current wooded lot. Photo by Kevin Redding

“These gentlemen were very open with us and we were open with them,” Becker told the crowd at the end of the meeting. “We don’t want a lot of things — big box stores or gas stations — and they’re trying, and working with the town. They’re completely transparent. This is the first presentation to the community, no plans have been submitted and nothing has gone through any process of change. This is just step one. We’re very interested in hearing your response.”

For more than a decade, the town has worked alongside many developers with plans to build within the empty lot — everything from commercial buildings to retirement communities to community-oriented gathering spaces and clock towers — all of which fizzled out due to inflated visions or conflicting desires of residents.

In the last few months, Steven Kaufman and Marc Kemp of the investors group took control of the project, determined to give the community what they felt it wanted, and ask for input before anything is approved or built.

“Right now, I think I’m for it,” Mount Sinai resident Monica Stone said after the meeting. “I think we need to be open to ideas like this … We don’t want it to become an industrial business area, and it sounds to me like what the developers are proposing is a good balance.”

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The King Kullen supermarket on Route 25A will close its doors next month. Photo by Phil Corso

A North Shore grocery chain is shuttering one of its locations next month just as summer breaks into full bloom.

Joseph Brown, senior vice president and chief merchandising officer for King Kullen Grocery Co., Inc., said the East Setauket location on Route 25A will close its doors for good on June 11, answering to rumors that have been swirling through the Three Village area over the last several weeks. The chain’s workforce, however, will be taken care of, Brown said.

“We do not anticipate a layoff of employees, as they will be offered relocation to other stores, including our nearby supermarkets in St. James and Selden,” Brown said.

The East Setauket King Kullen opened back in 2005 in the same shopping center as two other grocery chains — Wild by Nature and Super Stop and Shop. The former grocery chain also operates under the King Kullen brand, which Brown said was not going anywhere.

“It has been a privilege to serve the Three Village community and we remain committed to the area through our East Setauket Wild by Nature,” he said.

Andrew Polan, president of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, said his group was sad to see the supermarket chain go after several years of service to the community. He said it was likely that oversaturation in the area could have made it difficult for King Kullen to prosper as it stood alongside two other major chains.

“Anytime something closes down, it’s a cause of concern for us. King Kullen is a longtime Long Island company and we’re sorry to see this happening,” he said. “I’m sure the increase in competition in the area has made it difficult for businesses to survive.”

King Kullen operates several other locations in communities near the North Shore area including Mt. Sinai, Lake Ronkonkoma, Middle Island, Commack, Northport, Huntington and Huntington Station among others.

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