Tags Posts tagged with "Leg. Sarah Anker"

Leg. Sarah Anker

By Nancy Marr

In 1978 Suffolk County Planner Lee Koppelman suggested a trail along Long Island’s North Shore for hikers and bikers. Forty years later, as a result of the efforts of elected officials, community groups and individual citizens, funding for a trail from Mount Sinai to Wading River was approved by the Suffolk County Legislature, with plans to start construction in 2019. How do such ideas become reality in our communities?  

By the time the Setauket to Port Jefferson Greenway Trail (on 3½ miles of New York state land) was completed in 2014, its supporters had been trained in advocacy. With the Three Village Community Trust as overseer, local residents and organizations supported the trail, raised funds to supplement the state and federal grants and contributed labor to complete the trail. As the trail was being built, the civic associations, the Long Island Mountain Bicyclists and other nonprofits played a role. When they needed Department of Environmental Conservation approval to pass through the Lawrence Aviation property, they pushed to get it. 

Thus when the new Rails to Trails group needed “persons of interest” to attend official government meetings, or informed residents to speak at community meetings, skilled home-grown activists were well-established and ready to work together on this ambitious goal. But advocates also knew that they needed an engaged local elected official who could help navigate the system and secure government support. When Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) became a Suffolk County legislator in 2011, this trail became a legislative goal.

Anker got past her first roadblock when County Executive Steve Bellone (D) enthusiastically endorsed the idea of creating the trail along Route 25A. The second roadblock, property owner LIPA’s concern about liability, was removed when the county executive worked out an agreement to lease and maintain the property, creating a “linear park” that would be cared for by the Parks Department and the county police. Community opposition, however, mounted at the idea of losing privacy with strangers passing near homes along the trail. With the experienced help of Friends of the Greenway Chair Charles McAteer, county legislators organized public meetings to discuss residents’ concerns.  

When the Legislature voted on the request to bond the federal money (that will be paid back in grants) on July 17, so many supporters spoke positively that it passed with only one abstention. The federal funding that had been obtained in prior years by congressmen Felix Grucci and Tim Bishop was delayed until 2016 when Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) secured final approval of almost $10 million.  

The groundswell of support from the community and Anker’s continuing commitment will make the trail’s future secure. Working together, the legislator and the community overcame many obstacles to the establishment and funding of the trail in the past 7 years. This project serves as a strong case study for Suffolk County citizens in advocating, building community support for a grand idea, finding a legislative champion and working together to make it a reality.

Nancy Marr is first vice president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org, email league@lwv-suffolkcounty.org or call 631-862-6860.

John Cerato stands next to an overgrown median on Route 25A in Miller Place. Photo by Alex Petroski

Growth is usually a positive thing, but growth in Miller Place has become a stick in the eye to a longtime resident and elected official alike.

John Cerato, a 20-year Miller Place resident who previously lived in Rocky Point, told TBR News Media this week he has progressively seen the condition of vegetation on many of the medians on Route 25A — a New York State highway — falling into a state of disrepair as it becomes overgrown and unkempt. He said he sees it predominantly as an aesthetic issue, but also has some safety concerns related to the increasingly out-of-control shrubbery. 

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) echoed much of Cerato’s observations about the medians in a June 18 letter to the editor in which she proposed removing the shrubs and weeds taking over the road dividers and replacing them with flower beds.

A median near where North Country Road and Route 25A merge in Rocky Point, which includes a sidewalk and crosswalk, is almost too overgrown to walk on.

“This will not only save money by reducing maintenance (which obviously is not being done as often as needed), but it will also provide a visually pleasing appearance as we travel along Route 25A in the 6th Legislative District,” she said. 

In the letter, Anker said she has facilitated a partnership between the New York State Department of Transportation and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office through the Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program to provide some maintenance on the medians recently, but even that hasn’t quite been enough.

“We recently heard back from the [NYSDOT] regional director, Joe Brown, that later this month they will begin to start replacing the 12 overgrown medians on Route 25A with a blue lyme grass similar to what has been successfully installed on Route 112,” said Anker’s Legislative Aide Robyn Fellrath-Maresca in an email July 19. “The grass is easier to maintain and minimizes weed growth. Legislator Anker appreciates the response and hopes that the change will improve the visual landscape of the community.”

Fellrath-Maresca added that Anker’s office had received numerous complaints about the medians in recent months from constituents.

Stephen Canzoneri, public information officer for the regional DOT office that covers Suffolk County, shared an update on the matter via email July 25.

“NYSDOT is improving the medians along Route 25A,” he said. “The current landscaping will be removed in the coming weeks and replaced with blue lyme grass, the same grass which is already in place along the renovated portions of Route 112. DOT will continue to work with residents and local elected officials to beautify our roadways.”

Cerato pointed to a particularly troublesome area on Route 25A in Rocky Point, where it merges with North Country Road on its north side. A walkway between the two roads is overgrown to the point that those looking to cross over Route 25A from north to south would have to step onto North Country Road or fight through the shoulder-high vegetation. Cerato said he has seen cases when parking at North Shore Little League baseball fields south of Route 25A is full, so people who park across North Country Road and walk to the fields are forced into unsafe situations.

“To have to sort of put up with this is ridiculous I think,” he said.

The Miller Place resident said he is also concerned that if an accident occurs on one side of the road and causes the cars to jump the median into oncoming traffic, those motorists would have no time to react.

“There should be some visibility,” he said. “You’re not going to have any idea they’re coming.”

by -
0 502
Legislator Sarah Anker played a key role in securing funding for Rails to Trails, a wooded path for bikers and hikers from Port Jefferson to Wading River. File photo by Erika Kara

Though some Suffolk County lawmakers are champing at the bit to see certain local renovations and projects get underway, finding funding has been a tall task with partisan gridlock in the Legislature.

Several items passed during the July 17 legislative session, including funding for Rails to Trails, a two-lane wooded trail that will run from Port Jefferson to Wading River; and repaving and roadwork on a portion of Commack Road from Julia Circle to Route 25A and along Crooked Hill Road from Henry Street to Commack Road. The road borders the towns of Smithtown and Huntington.

The county allocated $1.5 million for the Commack Road repaving, while another $6 million will come from federal aid. Legislator Susan Berland (D-Huntington) said that if the vote did not pass they would have lost access to those matching federal funds.

“Some of it wasn’t done correctly in my opinion, it does need to be widened, it needs to be repaved,” Suffolk County Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) said. “Some parts of that road have had potholes there for years.”

Commack Road has been a point of contention between the towns of Smithtown and Huntington and Suffolk County for close to eight years, according to Town of Huntington Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D). The dispute comes down to which side is responsible for cleaning and repairing the roads.

“We are looking to do everything to protect our taxpayers to make sure we get the appropriate county resources and the road gets paved,” Cuthbertson said.

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) has been promoting the Rails to Trails project for years. Funding the project through bonds came up for vote July 17 and it passed nearly unanimously with Kennedy abstaining.

“This is a long time coming, and in the seven years I’ve been in office I have not stopped facilitating this project,” Anker said.

The plan is to establish the trail from Port Jefferson to Wading River along rights-of-way and old train tracks able to facilitate both bikers and joggers. During the public speaking portion of the July 17 meeting, the room was filled with supporters for the trail.

“Long Island is filled with too many cars on clogged roads,” said Constance Iervolino, a board member of the Rocky Point Civic Association. “This would be a remarkable way to reduce that public safety threat.”

However, some residents still have large reservations about the project.

“The idea is good, the placement is bad,” Rocky Point resident Mary Anne Gladysz said at the meeting. “I have had many concerns that have not been dealt with. The depth of the asphalt is one of them — only three inches. The only answer I’ve gotten as to why that thin was because they wouldn’t be able to do the whole path.”

Of the $8.82 million for the Rails to Trails project, 94 percent of the project will be funded by federal grants that will be paid back to the county after the project is completed. Half a million dollars of that bond were matching funds from just one of several federal grants, which had a looming August expiration deadline.

Other projects that were re-voted on included $150,000 to finance the planning costs for a new police K-9 unit headquarters and kennel, which was voted down.

Another vote for $2 million in funding for licensing the Rave Panic Button mobile app, a police and rescue emergency application for school and government employees was passed near unanimously with Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) giving the one dissenting vote.

Both the Commack Road repaving and Rails to Trails were voted down at the June 5 legislative meeting as the seven members of the Republican minority in the Legislature voted “no,” citing the projects’ inclusion in a series of lumped bonds. 

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) brought forward a proposal at the June 5 and 19 legislative meetings that included several bundled together bond requests for a wide array of projects to be voted on as a single package, but the seven Republicans in the Legislature did not want to feel forced to vote on items they might disagree with in the future, they said.

From left, MPMS Historical Society members Nancy and Dick Pav, picture framer Eric Grotz, photographer Michael Eamotte, Leg. Sarah Anker, MPMS Historical Society Treasurer Gerard Mannarino and MPMS Historical Society members Margaret Cibulka and Antoinette Donato

HONORING HISTORY On Saturday, Feb. 10, Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) attended the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society’s gallery opening at the historic Daniel Hawkins House in Miller Place. The reception included wine and cheese and a display of beautiful photographs portraying local sites by artist Michael Eamotte, of Michael Ray Images, encased in frames donated by Rustic Frames by E.G.

“Thank you to the members of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society for their hard work and dedication to preserving out local history,” said Anker. “The photo gallery reception was an amazing opportunity to visit the Hawkins House, and to see photographs from a local artist who cares about the rich history of our community. I encourage everyone to visit this historic site and to support the historical society’s preservation efforts,” she said.

The goal of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society is to ensure that historic landmarks are remembered and preserved for future generations. Help preserve history by volunteering or making a donation to this important organization. All monetary donations will help the society renovate the historic Hawkins House and Miller House. For more information about the society and its upcoming events, please visit www.mpmshistoricalsociety.org.

Social

9,204FansLike
0FollowersFollow
1,118FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe