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Leg. Rob Trotta

John McQuaid, president of the NRSP Foundation; Wayne Horsley, Long Island regional state park director; Charlie Reichert; Suffolk Legislator Rob Trotta; and Brian Foley, Long Island regional director of state parks, hold a check for $1 million donation. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A Fort Salonga philanthropist hopes if he can help to build central infrastructure of a park, others will come and help out. 

Charlie Reichert, owner of IGA Supermarkets, will donate $1 million to New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation through his nonprofit, Charles and Helen Reichert Family Foundation, for complete renovation of the Nissequogue River State Park’s administrative offices. He ceremoniously handed the first check to Wayne Horsley, Long Island’s regional director of state parks, Nov. 2.

“I am hoping this donation jump starts the park, that we can really get going,” Reichert said. “If people see that a private citizen is putting money into the park, maybe there will be other private citizens or corporations to put money into the park and get things going.” 

The Fort Salonga resident said he envisions the park as a green space where, one day, there could be sports fields and concerts for residents’ recreation. His donation will kick-start a makeover of the central building. 

Brian Foley, deputy regional director of the Long Island region for the state’s park system, said the $1 million donation will be used to completely overhaul the interior of the former World War I-era veterans memorial hospital. The first floor’s central waiting area will be enlarged and built to accommodate additional educational display cases, with reconstruction of the existing meeting hall and children’s playroom. The women’s and men’s bathrooms will be updated with the new addition of a family bathroom stall, according to Foley. 

“The first floor will be and stay almost exclusively devoted to the public,” he said. “That is the prime purpose of state parks.” 

The second floor of the building will be made into office space for state park employees on-site, according to Foley. Storage space will continue to be available for the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose aim is to enhance and beautify the park. 

“This money will bring us a long way to making this into a public building that everyone can be proud of,” Horsley said. 

Currently, the state is replacing the administrative building’s roof and straightening out the cupola, according to Horsley. Construction equipment is parked outside Building 40, on the former childcare center on the north side of the park’s main entrance, to begin abatement of the structure to make way for a new 25,000-square-foot headquarters for the state’s Department of
Environmental Conservation’s Division of Marine
Resource. Horsley said he expects the building to be torn down this winter into early spring 2019. 

“We are in this together to make this a premiere park in the state’s park system,” Horsley said. “As we all know, we have a long way to go, but we are well on our way.” 

John McQuaid, president of the Nissequogue River State Park, and Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said Charlie Reichert’s support through his foundation has been invaluable over the years as it also sponsors the spring and fall runs that raise funds for the park. 

“This community is forever indebted to you, the state is forever indebted to you because you have changed the course of history,” Trotta said.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim has approached Gryodyne LLC about a shared sewer plant on Flowerfield property in St. James. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Suffolk lawmakers have taken the first step toward preservation of nearly 41 acres in St. James as open space.

The county legislature voted at its Nov. 21 meeting to approve a bill introduced by Legislators Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) for an appraisal of part of the Gyrodyne LLC property in St. James, also known as Flowerfield, that runs along Route 25A. The property contains freshwater wetlands and adjacent wetlands that feed into the Long Island Sound, Mill Pond in Stony Brook and Stony Brook Harbor.

“I am greatly appreciative of my legislative colleagues’ support for our effort to preserve 41 undeveloped acres of the former Gyrodyne property,” Hahn said. “With the owner actively seeking to develop the property, this perhaps is the community’s last stand to preserve one of the last large undeveloped tracts remaining in western Suffolk County. I am hopeful that the owner will understand the property’s overall environmental significance and its potential to negatively impact surrounding ground and surface waters, traffic safety and overall quality of life should it be developed.”

The bill, which now goes to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) for his approval, allows for the county’s planning division to assess the owner’s interest in selling the tract to the county for open space purposes. An interest by Gyrodyne would mean the county could follow its initial outreach by obtaining a real estate appraisal and additional legal and environmental reviews that are required for a potential sale from the company to the county. According to county law, if sale of the land parcel can be negotiated, funding will come from the county’s Drinking Water Protection Program.

“With the owner actively seeking to develop the property, this perhaps is the community’s last stand to preserve one of the last large undeveloped tracts remaining in western Suffolk County.”

— Kara Hahn

While preservation of the land is being considered, a conceptual development plan from Gyrodyne was approved by the Suffolk County Planning Committee Aug. 2 and was met with resistance from Stony Brook and St. James residents.

Over the summer, the property’s owner submitted an application to the Town of Smithtown to construct a 150-room hotel with restaurant and day spa, two medical office buildings totaling 128,400 feet and two long-term care buildings that would have a total 220 assisted living units on the property. Many in the area raised concerns about the amount of traffic that would empty out onto Route 25A and Stony Brook Road if an exit to the Brookhaven street was made accessible on the east side.

Trotta said he’s not completely against development as he realizes the community needs businesses such as the proposed assisted living facility. However, Trotta said he understands the community’s concerns about traffic and would like to see a good amount of the property preserved. 

“It’s always about balance,” he said.

Trotta said he believes Gyrodyne will be willing to work with the community.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have it appraised and get into discussions with what the community wants, what can we put up with traffic-wise and meet somewhere in the middle,” Trotta said.

At a Nov. 15 Smithtown Planning Board meeting, Gyrodyne representatives said their own traffic studies proved residents had sound reason to be concerned about increased traffic and pointed to six local intersections that needed improvement. The results were submitted to the Town of Smithtown and New York State Department of Transportation in October 2017 but have yet to be reviewed. Conrad Chayes Sr., chairman of the Smithtown Planning Board, concluded the board would hold off on a decision until an environmental impact study is completed by the town, which he said may take up to a year.

Hahn said the commercial development of the land would “fundamentally change the character of the Stony Brook and St. James communities.”

“Each of us, regardless of which side of the Brookhaven-Smithtown border you reside on, is threatened by this project moving forward,” Hahn said. “For that reason, Legislator Robert Trotta and I put forward legislation to preserve these environmentally and historically important parcels from being destroyed.”

From left, Kerry Maher-Weisse, Leg. Kennedy, Rich Weisse, Sal Riccibono, Laurel Crotty, Clara Spadafina-Giunta, Kenneth Maher, Councilwoman Nowick, Councilman McCarthy, Pastor Neil Mittelstaedt, Conrad Chase and Leg. Trotta. Photo from Leg. Kennedy’s office

Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset), Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), Councilwoman Lynn Nowick (R) and Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) joined members of the St. James community on June 3 at the St. James Lutheran Church to welcome the opening of the St. James Farmers Market with a ribbon cutting ceremony in front of the church.

Open through summer and autumn, the St. James Farmers Market allows locals to browse and purchase locally grown produce from the people personally invested in growing them at an affordable cost. Opening day featured more than simply market stalls — attendees listened to music provided by local musicians, poetry readings by local authors and craft making, among others. “With all the conveniences supermarkets give us today, it is too easy for us to forget that much of the produce we eat can and is grown right here on Long Island,” said Kennedy. “Farmers markets like these help remind us that the food we eat and the people who grow them are right next door.”

The St. James Farmers Market will be open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the St. James Lutheran Church on 230 2nd Avenue, and will be open through Oct. 28. EBT, SNAP, FMNP and WIC are accepted. If you are interested in being a vendor, an application can be found at ligreenmarket.org/stjames.

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