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Mark Baisch

For one of two veteran families, receiving a new home is bittersweet.

Deborah “Dee” Bonacasa and her daughter Lilianna entered their new home on Tyler Avenue in Sound Beach Monday morning as part of a new chapter, but it wasn’t without great grief because husband and father Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa wasn’t there to join them.

Following what was his fourth deployment to Afghanistan, Bonacasa, a Coram native, wanted to settle down, have a second child and buy the family’s first house with a Veterans Affairs home loan that the couple had been approved for.

But that was taken from them on Dec. 21 when a suicide bomber detonated himself outside Bagram Airfield in northwest Afghanistan, killing Bonacasa and five others in his New York Air National Guard Unit.

“My husband is not here to share this wonderful gift we’ve been given, but at the same time they fulfilled a dream that he’s always wanted to be able to do for our family,” said Bonacasa, who is also an Air Force veteran.

The widow said she was thankful for Landmark Properties owner Mark Baisch, Rocky Point’s VFW Post Commander Joe Cognitore and all of the other locals who have made the new home possible.

“Everybody has been supporting us since the beginning. I just want to thank everybody.”

The house, which would normally go for $350,000, was sold to Bonacasa for $200,000, Baisch said. He and his employees at Landmark Properties donated $50,000 to Bonacasa. The families got to pick out the flooring, fixtures and décor to help personalize the home, and Baisch even had a surprise for 5-year-old Lily, painting her room blue, her and her father’s favorite color.

“My husband is not here to share this wonderful gift we’ve been given, but at the same time they fulfilled a dream that he’s always wanted to be able to do for our family.” —Dee Bonacasa

The second house, just next door, was sold for $250,000 to Joshua and Megan Johnson. Joshua Johnson will have 14 years of military service this July. He too deployed four times, serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait and is currently in the Air National Guard. Megan Johnson’s father and older brother are also in the Air National Guard, with her brother being in the Marine Core. Her husband, who the Sound Beach native met three years ago, works in the same base as them, and the two met during her friend’s going away part for deployment.

“We were awestruck,” Megan Johnson said of finding out they were chosen to receive the second house. “Then, when we found out we were going to be neighbors with an amazing family. We just felt so honored.”

Because of the lot’s size, existing town laws only permitted one house to built there, but county and Brookhaven officials agreed to allow two houses to go up for this cause. The neighbors did not object, but actually supported the idea, which Baisch said would not have been possible without the help of county and town governments, private industry and neighbors.

More than 30 subcontractors worked with Baisch, donating material and services to help construct the houses, furnish them and even gave contributions like store gift certificates and a new bicycle for Lily.

The community outpour of welcoming and support was also felt by the families, as over 100 people packed down the small street to say hello to their new neighbors, bring flowers and gifts and show their gratitude for all the families have sacrificed.

“I felt a little worried actually, because to see something happen like this, I couldn’t imagine it, so when it actually did happen to us I felt blessed and just amazed to have this opportunity,” Joshua Johnson said. “I couldn’t imagine it being this huge.”

Megan Johnson said there aren’t words that could adequately express her family’s gratitude and say thank you in the appropriate way, but said it’s been a humbling experience. And they hope to be able to pay it forward.

“To see the outpouring of love, support and generosity from such a small community, it hits it home,” Megan Johnson said. “This is where we’re meant to be and this is why. We still can’t believe that we’re getting our dream home in our dream place, and it feels so great to have all of these people supporting us.”

Director of Suffolk County's Vetereans Service Agency's Human Services Divison, Thomas Ronayne; Rocky Point VFW Post Commander Joe Cognitore; Brian Fabian, executive of Four Seasons Sunrooms & Windows; Landmark Properties owner Mark Baisch and Councilman Kevin LaValle teamed up to help build a new home for a veteran in Miller Place. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Suffolk County has a rich stock of heroes, and lawmakers this week were making special moves to say thanks.

“Of 62 counties nobody has more veterans who call their county home then we do right here,” said Thomas Ronayne, Director of the Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency’s Human Service Division.

So with boasting so many veterans should come a big way of thanking those who return from their huge acts of service. And Rocky Point continues to do just that.

Mark Baisch, a developer and owner of Landmark Properties in Rocky Point, first met VFW Fischer/Hewins Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore at a fundraiser that Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) hosted. Baisch said he didn’t know anyone in the room except for Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden).

While speaking, Baisch said Cognitore lamented to him that he’d like to do more for returning veterans.

Mark Baisch, owner of Landmark Properties, thanks all those who have helped make building homes for returning veterans possible. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mark Baisch, owner of Landmark Properties, thanks all those who have helped make building homes for returning veterans possible. Photo by Desirée Keegan

That’s where the idea of building homes came about, after Baisch mentioned a small piece of property in Sound Beach back in 2009. Since then, the two have partnered to build 10 homes for returning veterans, and will soon break ground on the 11th and 12th houses, the next being on Helm Avenue in Miller Place.

“It just shows you how little things can happen and can foster themselves into things like this,” Baisch said of his “crazy, chance meeting” that he and Cognitore had. “We are delivering homes nine and 10 on June 6. ‘D-Day’ is going to be delivery day for us this year.’”

It was no small undertaking, and Baisch mentioned that besides Cognitore’s help, he couldn’t have done it without the help of his employees who work tirelessly to get the job done, and the county and town for taking care of permits, entitlement of land and sanitary flow credits.

“Everyone seems to use me as the catalyst or the lightening rod, but the county and the town do the best that they can to make sure that this program goes off without a hitch,” he said.

LaValle said that what he does working with those like Baisch and Cognitore is important to the community.

“What started with a humble beginning — this is what we have to do for our veterans — government working with the private sector to put our veterans first and make sure we take care of the people that take care of us and put their lives at risk for our freedoms here at home,” he said.

And others have followed suit.

Four Seasons Sunrooms in Holbrook donated 22 windows and a sliding glass door toward the completion of the next home in Miller Place. LaValle went to high school with Cammie Manganello, marking manager for the company, who reached out to him because she wanted to get involved.

“I gave Mark a call and everything played out from there,” she said. “I think the work they do is excellent. These are people that protect us and they give us the life that we have, so if we can give back in any way, absolutely we should be doing it.”

Windows like the one scene here are being donated by Four Seasons Sunrooms & Windows in Holbrook toward the construction of a home for a veteran in Miller Place. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Windows like the one scene here are being donated by Four Seasons Sunrooms & Windows in Holbrook toward the construction of a home for a veteran in Miller Place. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Baisch said the company has never received a donation of windows before, which is a big purchase. Manganello and others hope the donation, and the program that Baisch and Cognitore have created, serve as a model to show others what they can be doing.

“It’s amazing on Long Island to see how much they care,” LaValle said of companies like Landmark Properties and Four Seasons Sunrooms. “It’s not always about the bottom line to many of our builders here and Mark is a prime example of that. He gives back.”

Ronayne said he agrees, adding that even the veterans working tirelessly, almost entirely behind the scenes for what veterans deserve and have earned.

He pointed out most specifically, the work Cognitore has done.

“We are able to be a part of something so important and so incredibly unique here on Long Island,” Ronayne said. “Don’t underestimate Joe Cognitore. I always look to see if his wings are visible under his jacket because he really has become a guardian angel to countless veterans. He’s a presence in the community, on Long Island, as a national advocate — every step he takes is intended to serve veterans of this great nation.”

Baisch said that all those involved are just good people doing the right thing, and added he is honored to be involved in the process.

“I will keep doing this … I’m not going to stop,” he said. “I love this program and I have no plan to stop doing it. It’s turned out to be something much more than I ever envisioned when Joe and I started talking about doing this.”

Developer Mark Baisch wants to establish 40 one-bedroom apartments for senior citizens on the former Thurber Lumber property in Rocky Point. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Nearly a month after Rocky Point’s Thurber Lumber Co. Inc. closed its doors, developer Mark Baisch of Landmark Properties plans on transforming the property to make room for senior citizens.

Baisch said he wants to establish 40 one-bedroom apartments on the former 1.8-acre space near Broadway to help the area’s aging population. Baisch hasn’t finalized rent for these 600 square foot apartments, but said future residents will pay a little more than $1,000 a month.

Baisch has been met with some opposition on his plans.

“People say he does good work, but to come in and say ‘this is what’s going to work down here, even though you don’t want it,’ is kind of strange,” said Albert Hanson, vice president of the Rocky Point Civic Association and chair of the land use committee.

Hanson said the civic and members of the community, who found out about the plans in February, haven’t had ample time to brainstorm alternative ideas for the area. Hanson added that the area doesn’t need additional housing.

According to Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), Rocky Point is a high-density area already, and she added that the Thurber property is also a small area for Baisch’s apartments. The Legislator said she envisions different plans for the property.

“I would love to see a community center over there,” said Anker. “[The property is in] the heart of downtown Rocky Point.”

But Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said Baisch’s plans comply with a land use plan conducted in the area several years ago. Brookhaven officials adopted the land use plan for downtown Rocky Point back in 2012. The plan called for medium density housing in downtown Rocky Point, among other improvements. Although some residents oppose the plan, the councilwoman said there is a need for these kinds of residences townwide.

“There’s a large number of seniors who live back in North Shore Beach …. and many have reached out to me excited about this,” the councilwoman said.

Baisch wanted to create apartment units because of the property’s sanitary flow requirements — the amount of sewage per unit is less for a 600 square foot unit. According to Baisch, the apartments will give seniors more freedom in their daily lives. He added that Suffolk County is committed to establishing a bus stop in the area to further assist prospective senior residents.

“They have to pay taxes, they have to pay their oil bill, they have to pay for repairs [for their home] — Rocky Point is probably one of the most unsafe communities I know of, to walk around,” Baisch said. “So they have all these things that are burdening them as seniors and they basically have nowhere to go.”

Baisch added that these residents could live comfortably in his apartments on their Social Security or the equity they received after selling their home. While some senior citizens, like Linda Cathcart of Rocky Point, don’t plan on selling their home any time soon, she said Baisch’s plans will bring a stable population to the area.

“There’s 40 units proposed, so you’re talking about possibly 80 seniors who could bring business to the existing businesses,” Cathcart said. “Also, it would encourage new businesses to come into the area.”

Cathcart added that Baisch discussed putting the original railroad station structure from the area on the property, in addition to the apartment units. The railroad structure dates back to the 1920s and 30s.

Despite the proposed plans for the property, Hanson said the civic and some community members were debating using other local talent or developers to establish a vision and plan for the area that appeals to other residents.

“We have to think of what we would like to see down there that would make us draw [people to downtown Rocky Point],” Hanson said about the property. “I think what a lot of people don’t want is losing the opportunity to actually have a downtown.”

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Deborah Bonacasa signs the deed for her new home in Sound Beach. Photo by Ron Pacchiana/JPA STUDIO

When Louis Bonacasa was to return home from his fourth deployment to Afghanistan, he told his wife he’d make it his last. He wanted to settle down, buy a home, become a dietician technician, open a business, give his 5-year-old daughter Lilianna a sibling and finally begin his life.

But Bonacasa didn’t return home.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner presents Deborah Bonacasa, who is fighting back tears, with a certificate of congratulations. Photo by Ron Pacchiana/JPA STUDIO
Councilwoman Jane Bonner presents Deborah Bonacasa, who is fighting back tears, with a certificate of congratulations. Photo by Ron Pacchiana/JPA STUDIO

To honor him and his wife Deborah, also a veteran, the Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 chose the Bonacasa family to receive one of two homes being built on Tyler Avenue in Sound Beach.

“I don’t have the words,” said Deborah Bonacasa, whose husband was one of six killed in a suicide bomb attack on Dec. 21. “It’s an honor and I’m just very happy and overwhelmed with joy for their support in fulfilling this dream, because it’s something that my husband always wanted to do for the family — to provide the home for us. So it’s quite an honor.”

VFW Post Commander Joe Cognitore held the contract signing at the Fischer/Hewins post last Wednesday, and said it was a moving moment to be a part of.

“It was one of the best days I’ve had in all my time here at the VFW,” he said. “It was very cathartic. To know that we’ve helped Deborah out, and not only was her husband a veteran but she is too, it’s that much more gratifying to be able to honor both for their service.”

This is the ninth home that Cognitore and the VFW have partnered with Mark Baisch on, of Landmark Properties in Rocky Point.

“It’s my way of giving back,” Baisch said. “The Bonacasas are fantastic. It couldn’t be a better selection.”

Landmark Properties builds the houses from the ground up, and Bonacasa was able to pick out some of the finishing touches to make the house special to her.

Lilianna Bonacasa, 5, holds up a photo of her family's new home given to them by the Rocky Point VFW Post 6249. Photo by Ron Pacchiana/JPA STUDIO
Lilianna Bonacasa, 5, holds up a photo of her family’s new home given to them by the Rocky Point VFW Post 6249. Photo by Ron Pacchiana/JPA STUDIO

“I was able to pick out cabinets, flooring, what type of granite I wanted,” she said. “I was able to personalize it and able to pick certain colors that my husband would have liked to have in the kitchen and bathroom, so that was a special time.”

Bonacasa currently lives in California and lived with her husband in Coram for nine years after leaving the U.S. Air Force in 2006, and said that being able to move into the new home in two-and-a-half months is even more special because she’ll be able to be closer to him.

“We’ll be 20 minutes away from Calverton, so we’ll be on the Island with my husband,” she said, fighting back tears. “It’s bittersweet. I wish he were here to see and experience all of these wonderful things. It’s a beautiful home.”

Through tragedy, Bonacasa has been brought closer to her husband and to the new community she will be a part of. A home next door to hers will also house a veteran family. It has not yet been determined who will receive that home.

“I just want to thank everyone involved for all the love and support that they’ve shown our family,” Bonacasa said, sobbing. “I’ll never forget my husband and the sacrifices that he made. Not only did we lose a hero, but a wonderful man.”

The property is adjacent to Cordwood Landing County Park off of Landing Road in Miller Place. Photo by Erika Karp

Acquiring land for open space preservation is usually straightforward, but that wasn’t the case for a piece of property adjacent to Cordwood Landing County Park in Miller Place.

What started as a simple purchase of the land and a quest to preserve it, ended with bad blood between a legislator and those involved with the property, after Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) accused developer Mark Baisch and Friends of Cordwood Landing of colluding together to defraud the county. The accusation, which Baisch and Tom Cramer, president of Friends of Cordwood, said is not true, was enough to discourage Baisch from following through with his initial plan to sell the property for open space preservation.

“I’m not interested in selling the property … not after I’ve been accused with stuff like this,” Baisch said. “Who in their right mind would go ahead and keep negotiating further?”

Baisch acquired the property in September 2014 for $750,000 from the original owner. When asked why Anker accused him and Friends of Cordwood Landing of conspiring together, Baisch was unsure where the accusation came from.

Anker said she thought Baisch and Friends of Cordwood Landing were conspiring together after receiving an email from Cramer that criticized Anker’s efforts regarding the property, and added he thought Baisch’s asking price was reasonable.

The accusations did not stop there. According to a previous interview with Cramer, Anker did not do what she could to help purchase and preserve the land — a statement Anker refutes. The resolution for this property was Anker’s first piece of legislation when she was elected in 2011. According to Anker and Jon Schneider, deputy Suffolk County executive, Anker did what she could within the law to acquire the property. In 2011, before the original owner sold the property to Baisch, Anker said the land was appraised for $783,000 — the owner refused to sell the land to the county for an unknown reason.

After Baisch purchased the property from this owner, Cramer approached Baisch about selling the property for open space preservation. According to Baisch, once he agreed, Cramer put the steps in motion to get the land reappraised and encourage the county to purchase and preserve the land. Baisch said he would sell the eight parcels for $1.25 million. He said he offered the property for 24 percent more than the purchase price, knowing what he could get out of the 5.5-acre property.

According to Schneider, based upon as-of-right laws, the property yielded five one-acre parcels plus an additional parcel using Pine Barrens credits, which allows a developer to add parcels to the land according to their individual credits. Baisch explained that he had several Pine Barrens credits, which increased the number of possible parcels to eight.

After Anker issued another appraisal of the property, the county offered $930,000, despite Baisch’s selling price — they did this with the understanding that six parcels were permitted on the property, as Baisch must get approval to add the two additional parcels to his plan. While Baisch claims to have said “no” to the offer, Schneider said he did not respond to the offer, and it expired.

“We can only make an offer based on land as it sits,” Schneider said. “We can’t make an offer today as though he has eight lots. He doesn’t have eight lots he has six.”

While Cramer said Anker didn’t work hard enough to acquire the property, Schneider said there is little else the legislator could have done.

“All a legislator can do is set the process in motion,” he said, “Then we make an offer based on fair market value. At the end of the day, the goal is … we want to make the best use of taxpayer dollars.”

Anker said she can’t “break the law” and get involved in the negotiations regarding the property, and added the issue, including the rally Friends of Cordwood Landing organized on Oct. 15, was political. Steve Tricarico, who ran against Anker for Legislator of the 6th District, attended the rally, according to Anker. Anker was not invited to the event.

Although Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) attended the rally and promised to pay 30 to 35 percent of the property’s cost, Baisch is currently in the process of approving his eight-parcel plan for the property with the Town of Brookhaven.

He intends to build seven homes and one Workforce home. According to Baisch, the law states that if a developer intends to establish more than five parcels, they must provide at least one Workforce house, otherwise known as affordable housing. Baisch plans to market the affordable home to a returning veteran.

According to Cramer, the property is the last remaining tract adjacent to Cordwood Landing County Park. Despite the controversy surrounding the property, officials like Anker would like to see the property preserved.

“This parcel would make an excellent addition to Cordwood Landing County Park and the nearly 65 acres already preserved by Suffolk County,” Anker said. “I know Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilwoman Bonner share my desire to preserve this parcel, and I look forward to working with them in preserving this important piece of land.”

The Friends of Cordwood are trying to preserve the Cordwood Landing Nature preserve. Photo by Giselle Barkley

After years of frustration, the Friends of Cordwood Landing have had enough.

On Thursday, Oct. 15, the group had a rally alongside residents, environmental activists and elected officials to fight for the preservation of a parcel of land next to the Cordwood Landing Nature Preserve, a county park in Miller Place. The rally was held to help the Friends of Cordwood find a different means of acquiring the land after the group hit a standstill with county legislators.

According to Tom Cramer, one of the founding members of Friends of Cordwood Landing, any resolution regarding the purchase of property must go through the county legislator — Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai). Cramer said getting in touch with Anker regarding this issue was difficult when he and the Friends of Cordwood attempted to get an appraisal for the property.

The interaction ended with the Friends of Cordwood turning to Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). Cramer said Hahn helped the group push the resolution through, and an appraisal was done for the property.

While Cramer said Anker didn’t follow up with the group’s initial resolution proposal, Anker said she did all that she could to assist the organization. The resolution was Anker’s first piece of legislation, according to an email from her office. Her office also said the county did an appraisal of the property. The county offered $783,000 to the original owner of the parcel and the owner refused the offer. In September of 2014, Mark Baisch, the developer, purchased the property for $750,000.

Cramer said Baisch asked for $1.25 million for the approximately 5.5-acre property, and they increased the appraisal to $930,000. After Baisch refused this offer, Cramer claims Anker said Baisch and the Friends of Cordwood were in collusion with one another and were attempting to defraud the county. Cramer said they were not.

Anker denied the idea that Baisch and the Friends of Cordwood were working together.

With the tension between those involved, Baisch refused to sell the property to the county and is currently in the process of going through the town to handle the matter. Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) attended the rally last Thursday. According to Cramer and Bonner, Romaine was promising to pay 30 to 35 percent of the property’s cost.

“In our mind, it’s illogical to build houses near a nature preserve,” Bonner said about Baisch’s plan to put houses on the property. She added that the wildlife in the area would be affected.

In a phone interview, Anker said her goal was to help preserve the property, as it is one of the last few tracks of land in the North Shore area that needs to be preserved. According to Cramer, many residents thought the property was part of the Cordwood Landing county park, which lies adjacent to the piece of property.

Now it’s simply a waiting game, as Baisch waits for his plan for the property to be approved by the town.

Bonner said the town is working on it.

“We are ready, willing and able partners … [the property] has always been on our radar,” Bonner said in a phone interview. “It will make a wonderful addition to the Cordwood Landing.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine breaks ground where the two homes are being built for returning veterans. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Local officials joined Mark Baisch, president of Landmark Properties in Rocky Point, and Joe Cognitore, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6249, to celebrate the groundbreaking of two homes Baisch is building for returning veterans and their families.

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and Councilman Dan Panico (R-Manorville) attended the groundbreaking event, which took place on Aug. 20 in front of the property on Tyler Avenue in Sound Beach.

“We as a nation — we as a country, as a state, as a county, as a town owe them our thanks,” Romaine said.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post Commander Joe Cognitore, Councilwoman Jane Bonner, Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilman Dan Panico pose for a photo before tying a ribbon around the oak tree that will rest between two homes being built and given to returning veterans. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post Commander Joe Cognitore, Councilwoman Jane Bonner, Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilman Dan Panico pose for a photo before tying a ribbon around the oak tree that will rest between two homes being built and given to returning veterans. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Bonner also commended Baisch for his efforts.

“Kudos to Mark for having the creative brain to come up with an idea and push the envelope, as you will, to create an opportunity to build houses for veterans,” Bonner said.

Baisch purchased the property two years ago and wanted to give back to the veterans by building two homes. These are Baisch’s ninth and tenth homes for returning veterans. The first home he built was also in Sound Beach, and was given to a veteran who earned a Purple Heart for his services.

“This is not something for the faint of heart,” Baisch said during the press conference.

Cognitore joined Baisch to help him execute his idea. As Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, he took on the responsibility of selecting candidates for the two $249,000 homes.

In order for the veterans to qualify for the homes, they must be first-time homebuyers making less than $200,000 to $300,000 annually. The amount of time a vet served in either the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the size of the vet’s family and whether they received awards for their service are determining factors in deciding which applicants will receive the homes.

It is still unknown which veterans and their families will receive the homes.

“If you all go away with one thing, I want you to go and find me two veterans for these houses,” Baisch said. “That’s the most important thing.”

Landmark Properties set to break ground next week

Two veterans and their families will soon be Sound Beach homeowners. Stock photo

For Iraq and Afghanistan veterans living on Long Island, finding an affordable new home is the difference between remaining on the Island and leaving.

According to Mark Baisch, of Rocky Point-based Landmark Properties, many Long Island veterans cannot afford to purchase a home on the Island and are forced to move.

Baisch, alongside Commander Joseph Cognitore of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Fischer/Hewins Post 6249 of Rocky Point, is helping two veterans and their families live a little easier with the construction of two new homes on Tyler Avenue in Sound Beach.

According to Cognitore the $250,000 homes are actually worth around $400,000. Basich said the properties could not exceed $250,000 in order for the vets to afford the property and mortgage rates. But, with the help of Suffolk County and the Long Island Housing Partnership, Baisch said the price of the properties could be reduced to $190,000 each.

“They’re getting a brand new Landmark house for it looks like possibly … a hundred plus thousand dollars less than market value,” Baisch said.

The reduced price allows veterans to get an affordable mortgage like the VA mortgage, which offers zero down payment.

According to Cognitore, he and his committee of veterans screen each candidate to determine the vet’s need for the home after the mortgage company approves them for a loan. The vets must also be first-time home buyers who make less than $200,000-$300,000 annually. The amount of years a vet served, the size of their family and whether they received awards for their service are determining factors. However, for Cognitore and his committee the hardest part is selecting the candidates.

“It’s a good opportunity for a couple of families,” Cognitore said. “Unfortunately, everybody that we interview deserves a home.”

Although this is not the first time Cognitore and Baisch are helping Long Island veterans, this is the first time Baisch is constructing the homes alone. Landmark Properties’ construction workers may start clearing the land this week, according to Baisch.

While a veteran with physical disabilities has not received one of the homes in the past, Baisch said he could tailor the home to the veteran’s needs. Cognitore hopes to select the veterans before Landmark Properties finishes construction.

“What happened in the past, we got all the candidates together and a lot of times they couldn’t wait to build the home,” Cognitore said regarding construction. “They didn’t know who the candidates were right away so they had to start building the home prior to the candidates being picked.”

Cognitore said they would reach out to previous candidates who did not receive a home and bring them up to speed with the process.

Regardless of the veterans who get the homes, both Cognitore and Baisch are happy to make a difference and help vets in need.

Cognitore said the lower cost of the homes “makes it affordable for them and they could just make it. That’s the kind of opportunities that we’re looking for.”

Baisch expressed similar thoughts.

“Every veteran that I’ve sold a house to has told me that if it weren’t for [the homes], they would have left Long Island,” Baisch said.

This version corrects a typo that misidentified a country where American veterans served overseas.

The property is adjacent to Cordwood Landing County Park off of Landing Road in Miller Place. Photo by Erika Karp

By Jenni Culkin

A parcel of wooded land next to Cordwood Landing County Park in Miller Place is up for grabs, and the community isn’t letting the land be developed without a fight.

The 5.4-acre parcel, which backs up to the more than 64-acre county park off of Landing Road, has value to the residents of Miller Place, and according to Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), constituents have been making it clear that the land needs to be preserved.

A website and Facebook group, operating under the name Friends of Cordwood Landing, was launched a few months ago, and the group has been advocating for the land’s preservation. A representative from the group could not be reached for comment.

Back in December 2014, Anker began the process of acquiring the land from its owner, Rocky Point developer Mark Baisch, of Landmark Properties. The legislature unanimously voted to start the acquisition process so that the county could protect the area, which Anker described in a phone interview on March 17 as “residential,” from possible commercialization or industrialization.  The county has hired appraisers to determine the land’s worth. According to law, the county can’t pay any more than the appraised value.

Anker said she would like to see the land become a part of the waterfront property of Cordwood Landing.

“I am a true environmentalist,” Anker said. “I will do everything I can to advocate and move this parcel forward through the acquisition process.”

According to Town of Brookhaven planning documents, Baisch submitted a request for a subdivision back in January. In a recent phone interview, Baisch said he would like to build homes on the land. However, if the county’s offer is sufficient, he said he would sell the land.

Anker said the proposal to acquire the land is currently in its early stages and is awaiting approval from the Environmental Trust Fund Review Board. If approved, the proposal will head to the Environmental, Planning, and Agriculture Committee, of which Anker is a member. She expects the proposal to get there by April.

In 2013, the county tried to purchase the land from its original owner, but the owner refused to sell.