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Michael Levine

Sitting mayor and two new trustee candidates will run unopposed in their races during March 20 Old Field election

One of the concerns Old Field Mayor Michael Levine and two trustees will face in the near future is whether or not to install a cellphone pole in Kaltenborn Commons. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Rita J. Egan

It’s been 20 years since Old Field Village Justice Ron LaVita has been challenged in an election, but when residents vote March 20 they will see two names on the ballot.

Attorney Ted Rosenberg, who has served in various positions in the village and is currently associate justice, decided to throw his hat in the ring. Recently LaVita and Rosenberg answered questions about their backgrounds, and why they feel they would be the best choice for Old Field village justice.

Ron LaVita, village justice

Ron LaVita

LaVita, an Old Field resident since 1995, has lived in the Three Village area for nearly 50 years. For 27 years, he has been a general practice attorney working from his Setauket law office and, 18 years ago, he opened an additional office in Rocky Point.

“I have 34 years’ experience handling client cases similar to the ones I have presided over for the last 20 years,” LaVita said. “I am also a former Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association attorney. My opponent is an accident lawyer.”

LaVita became associate justice in Old Field in 1997. Soon after, he became acting village justice when William Johnson moved from Old Field and was unable to complete his term. LaVita said he has been unopposed in elections, except for his first run for office in 1998.

The attorney said he has presided over hundreds of village court cases through the years and has a perfect attendance record, which means no associate judge has had to serve on a village case. He said he prides himself on being independent from the village board and has concerns that Rosenberg, a former trustee, may be influenced by the board.

“I have done a good, dedicated and faithful job for the residents of Old Field for over 20 years and therefore there is no reason for a change,” LaVita said.

In addition to serving as village justice, the attorney said he has helped improve the village. During his early days as justice, he helped to obtain a state grant which enabled the village to update the court clerk’s office including its technology.

Ted Rosenberg, justice candidate

Ted Rosenberg

Rosenberg is a 20-year resident of Old Field and has been an attorney for 35 years. He is currently a partner with Rosenberg & Gluck LLP, located in Holtsville. He is a member of the Suffolk County Bar Association select bench/bar committee, a frequent lecturer to the bar on trial practices, and a mentor to the Ward Melville High School mock trial team

“I have 35 years of courtroom experience — most lawyers don’t spend any time in the courtroom — and I spent a better part of my career as a trial attorney trying cases,” Rosenberg said. “I very much enjoy being in the courtroom, and I have a lot of experience doing that.”

Through the years, in addition to currently being associate justice, Rosenberg said he has served as a trustee, deputy mayor, commissioner of roads and harbor commissioner for Old Field. He said while he has worked well with both past and current board members, he would not be influenced by the mayor or board members. He said he has received the highest rating from his fellow lawyers for both ethics and professionalism in the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings, which rates lawyers on their legal ability and ethical standards.

Rosenberg said running for justice is something he has thought about for a few years.

“The current justice has been in office for 20 years, and I think that I could bring some new fresh thinking to the table,” Rosenberg said.

Meet the mayor, trustee candidates

Current Old Field Mayor Michael Levine is running unopposed in the March 20 village election. With two seats open, two trustee candidates, Bruce Feller and Tom Pirro, are also running unopposed as current trustees Timothy Hopkins and Robert Whitcomb  decided not to run for re-election.

Michael Levine, mayor

Michael Levine

Levine moved to Old Field in 1992 and became mayor in 2008. The attorney, a partner with Rappaport, Glass, Levine & Zullo LLP, said he has a couple of goals in mind for his next term.

“One of my major goals if re-elected will be to restore the Old Field Lighthouse/Village Hall to its original beauty, both inside and outside,” he said. “I would also like to continue to work on grants to address stormwater runoff issues in the village. Where the funds will come from for these projects is always a major issue.”

Recently, the village board has been facing the debate over whether or not to install a cellphone pole in Kaltenborn Commons, a small park located at the intersection of Old Field Road and Quaker Path and surrounded by homes. At the January and February public meetings both residents and nonresidents filled village hall, some to voice concerns and others to show their support of the pole. Levine said the meetings have been helpful to him and board members. The vote on the tower has been postponed until the two new trustees take office.

“There are always difficult issues that must be dealt with and the way to deal with them is to listen to the residents and do what you feel is best for the village, while at the same time trying to accommodate the residents,” Levine said. “It’s a balancing act. I try to constantly strive to be fair and attentive.”

Tom Pirro, trustee candidate

Tom Pirro

Pirro recently moved from Bayport to Old Field with his fiancé, Shannon McCann. The certified public accountant, who has had his own business for 30 years, said he has been traveling to the Three Village community as a member of St. George’s Golf and Country Club since 2003. In June 2017, he opened a new office in Setauket. The candidate said he feels his work experience and love for the village will be an asset as trustee.

“I have spent my entire life in the business sector, and I feel those experiences will help me in carrying out my duties as a trustee,” Pirro said. “I chose to live in Old Field because of its natural beauty, and I would like to be a part of its continued preservation.”

When it comes to the issue of the cellphone pole in the village, Pirro said he is open to discussing the debate as long as needed to come to a decision. He said a lot of good questions were raised at the public meetings, including the aesthetics of the pole, which many feel may affect real estate values.

“I think it’s going to be difficult because no matter where it goes it’s going to impact someone,” Pirro said.

With a deep appreciation for his new village, he is on board with helping the mayor work to renovate the lighthouse.

“It’s part of the local heritage, so obviously it’s something you would want to address and maintain,” Pirro said. “It’s not something you want to go into disrepair, and I don’t think Old Field is a village that would let that happen.”

Bruce Feller, trustee candidate

Bruce Feller

A resident of Old Field since 1988, Feller retired as vice president from MetLife in 1998. Shortly after his retirement, he served as a village trustee after taking over the expired term of Barbara Swartz when she became mayor. During his first time as trustee, he said he established the village’s entitlement and access to funding from New York State’s Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program. This gave Old Field a revenue stream to improve and maintain the village’s roadways.

He and his wife, Marianne, in the past have served on a village committee to preserve the Old Field lighthouse. He currently is the vice chair of the village planning board.

Feller said when it comes to the cellphone tower, he is undecided. At press time, he was hoping to attend the March board meeting, and said he is open to hearing everyone’s opinions. He said he has heard persuasive issues on both sides at the village’s January meeting.

“There’s a lot to take into account, and I’m hoping that there is additional information that will nudge me decidedly in a direction that I can personally live with and live with as a representative of the constituents in the village,” Feller said.

He said when he was previously a trustee, a bone of contention was subdivision of properties. The candidate said listening to both sides was important, and believes his listening skills have developed even more over time. Remembering when the residents debated over deer hunting in the village and the mayor held multiple public hearings to come to a decision, he said it’s a skill he believes Levine also has.

“I give the mayor a lot of credit, he pays a lot of attention to what people think,” Feller said.

The Old Field Village elections will be held March 20, from noon until 9 p.m. at the
Keeper’s Cottage located at 207 Old Field Road.

One of the concerns Old Field Mayor Michael Levine and two trustees will face in the near future is whether or not to install a cellphone pole in Kaltenborn Commons. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Rita J. Egan

Residents of the Village of Old Field are asking the mayor and trustees, “Can you hear me now?”

The Keeper’s Cottage was filled to capacity Feb. 13 with residents and bordering neighbors expressing concerns over the proposed installation of a cellphone tower at Kaltenborn Commons, a small park located at the intersection of Old Field Road and Quaker Path and surrounded by homes. This is the second time both residents and nonresidents had the opportunity to speak and ask questions about the tower; the first opportunity being at a Jan. 9 public meeting.

A board vote to approve signing a lease with telecommunications tower site developer Elite Towers was not held during the meeting. Mayor Michael Levine said with the upcoming March 20 village elections, two new trustees would be starting in April, and the board agreed the new members should weigh in on the decision.

Former board member John Von Lintig, who lives directly across from the park, presented a petition signed by 100 residents who are against the installation of the cell tower.

“The opposition of the cellphone tower, or pole as you call it, is primarily based on aesthetic reasons, which tie very closely to the impact on real estate immediately in the vicinity of the tower,” Von Lintig said.

“The opposition of the cellphone tower, or pole as you call it, is primarily based on aesthetic reasons, which tie very closely to the impact on real estate immediately in the vicinity of the tower.”

— John Von Lintig

He cited the National Institute for Science, Law & Public Policy’s survey of 1,000 respondents on the impact of cell towers and antennas on real estate properties. He said according to the survey, 94 percent responded that cellphone towers or antennas in a neighborhood would impact their interest in a property and the price they would pay. Von Lintig said 79 percent answering the survey said under no circumstances would they buy a home within a few blocks from a tower or antenna. He said the decline of real estate prices can be anywhere between 2 and 20 percent.

John Damianos said when the land was granted to the village by Hans V. Kaltenborn in 1950 it was meant to be used for recreational purposes. He said the addition of the pole would turn it into a commercial facility.

“When I moved here there were many naturalists and environmentalists,” Damianos said. “A lot of people talked about Flax Pond and other places. They were strongly in favor of preserving natural spaces, open spaces, including this one.”

Jeff Schnee, who recently attended a board of trustees work session to discuss the technologic alternatives to a tower, said a better solution would be using distributed antenna systems. He said there is one in front of Ward Melville High School, and it consists of a 14- to 15-foot microwave antenna and a controlling box.

“[The phone companies] can put that in our neighborhood about every 20 poles in the areas that need it and that’s not intrusive,” Schnee said. “You don’t have to look at it, it doesn’t put out much power.”

Schnee asked if a cellphone tower was necessary with 5G technology, which uses millimeter waves and not microwaves, on the horizon. He said the technology uses receivers and transmitters, which would be every cellphone, Wi-Fi-enabled car and cable box. He said an area such as Old Field, where people buy the latest technology, would be perfect for 5G, and it’s possible it might be available in 2020.

Deputy Mayor Stephen Shybunko said after further research the board found that 5G would not replace 4G entirely as 5G does not penetrate walls and windows and therefore would not work well for voice transmission. Schnee said he believes more research needs to be done and said the debate on the potential of 5G could lead to the formation of a committee of residents who could research the topic before a decision is made about the tower.

Residents and nonresidents of Old Field attend the Feb. 13 public village meeting to express their concerns over the proposed installation of a cellphone tower in Kaltenborn Commons.

Physicist Oleg Gang said a committee would be ideal to also research potential health risks. The scientist handed out a sheet with a list of studies regarding the effects of cell towers on health. Gang showed a meter he used recently when near a comparable tower in Belle Terre. He said the measurements of radio frequency power near the tower — 100 feet to 0.3 mile — indicate RF radiation levels a few times higher than holding a cellphone to one’s ear 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Board members said they would be open to a committee comprised of Old Field residents. Levine reiterated what was covered at the last board meeting, that the lighthouse is not an option for the Village of Old Field to install a cellphone tower as the U.S. Coast Guard has not given approval. Also, if the village decides not to install a pole, there is still a chance that Stony Brook University will do so on its Sunwood Estate property as the university has filed a request for proposals to install a cellphone tower. If this occurs, the village would not have a say as to where the university installs it on the property and would not generate any revenue from the SBU pole.

Many residents in attendance said they would rather not have better cellphone service, or any service at all, if it negatively affects them and their neighbors in Setauket.

“I would rather pay higher taxes than shaft my neighbors down the road a mile and a half,” one resident said.

After the meeting, Von Lintig said he was optimistic and believed it makes sense to involve new board members in the process.

“As a former village trustee knowing most of the current members well, I believe they will take these concerns under serious consideration and do the right thing to preserve the bucolic nature of our village,” Von Lintig said.

Old Field residents, neighbors crowd village hall to express concerns over proposed tower in park

Residents and nonresidents of Old Field are protesting the proposed plan to install a cellphone tower on the grounds of the park known as Kaltenborn Commons saying it will be unaesthetic and create possible health consequences. Photo from the Village of Old Field website

A battle might be on the horizon over a proposed cellphone tower.

Before the Jan. 9 public board meeting in the Village of Old Field, residents living slightly outside the community’s borders received a letter simply signed “Concerned Neighbors.” A number of residents were alarmed to hear the village board was proposing the construction of a cellphone tower at a public park known by many as Kaltenborn Commons located at the intersection of Old Field Road and Quaker Path.

The letter writers asked residents of Old Field and surrounding streets to attend the monthly meeting to voice their concerns about health, economic and aesthetic issues. The agenda for the meeting included a presentation by Tanya Negron, founder of Elite Towers, a Long Island-based company that develops wireless telecommunications tower sites and is working on the Old Field project, to answer any questions.

A few dozen Old Field and Setauket residents crammed into the small Keeper’s Cottage that serves as the village’s meeting hall. Negron said the proposed tower, which is similar to the one on the bluff in Belle Terre, will have a 50-by-50-foot footprint. A stealth concealment pole, the slim structure will have cellphone carrier antennae inside, and the only antennae that would be outside are for emergency agencies, such as the fire department, if requested.

Elite Towers sketch for proposed cellphone tower in Old Field. Photo from John Coughlin

Negron said the area around it will be landscaped based on the village’s recommendations and no trees will be removed. The pole will be centralized within the property and set back from the road 132 feet on the west, 130 feet on the east and 160 feet to the south.

Many in attendance raised concerns and asked questions of the board members, with Mayor Michael Levine multiple times reminding participants to speak one at a time.

Former board member John Von Lintig said when he sat on the board for six years, the suggestion of installing a cellphone tower came up frequently. The conclusion was always that there was no suitable place to put it in the village without negatively affecting those around it.

“You put it right in the gateway of the village, and it is unconfirmed but with definitely possible health effects, it has possible economic effects on the homes immediately surrounding on resale, and it has aesthetic impact on people coming into the village seeing this thing,” Von Lintig said.

While a few in the room believed there are no health consequences in association with cellphone tower poles, one Setauket couple, who live across from the park, said they worry about potential health risks.

“We have three kids that are in that park daily,” Charles Catania said. “You can’t promise me or tell me there are no health consequences in connection with this pole.”

Oleg Gang, who works at Brookhaven National Laboratory, said he lives in close proximity to the proposed location. He said the savings in property taxes due to the revenue generated by the pole was negligible, and even with WiFi and an extender, it’s possible to improve an individual’s cellphone service at home.

Gang said board members need to research studies concerning the increase of various cancers and other disorders when living a certain distance from a tower, even if the conclusions are not definitive or there are debates.

“The bottom line is it’s not clear, but because it’s not clear, and there are so many technical solutions, and there is no benefit really from the tax point of view because it’s negligible, it’s really irresponsible to put it in the backyard of the people who will be suffering potentially five or 10 years getting cancer,” Gang said.

“We have three kids that are in that park daily. You can’t promise me or tell me there are no health consequences in connection with this pole.”

— Charles Catania

According to the website of the American Cancer Society, there is currently very little evidence to support the idea of cellphone towers increasing the risk of cancers or other health problems.

Many also said the tower will be aesthetically unappealing not only to nearby residents but to those considering buying a home in Old Field.

One resident who lives across from the park and considers the land historic said she found the board a bit smug toward those who didn’t live in the village.

“You are basically desecrating historic land by erecting this horrendous looking thing,” she said. “When we are in our yards, we are going to be laying in our pools or sitting in our lounge chairs looking at this freaking pole that is 130 feet tall. So all you’re saying, first of all comes across a little demeaning to us, and it’s not right at all. Secondly, it does affect our property values.”

She added that she spoke to a real estate agent who said home values can potentially drop 20 percent when such a pole is installed.

To address concerns regarding health issues and real estate prices dropping, Levine asked anyone who knows of experts in the fields to invite them to talk at future board meetings.

One resident in favor of the pole said it will generate tax revenue for the village and make the community more attractive to younger people who don’t use landlines.

“As I look around here, the average age of the person in this room is over 50,” he said. “Let me tell you something; your kids and my kids don’t use landlines, OK? They want cell coverage, and we don’t have decent cell coverage.”

Village lawyer Anthony Guardino said installing the pole would result in $40,000 capital at the outset and another $15,000 capital contribution for each canister that goes in the tower in village revenue. The village would also receive 40 percent of the rent stream from the first carrier, 45 percent from the second and 50 percent from any others.

Levine said if the village decides not to install a pole there is still a chance that Stony Brook University will do so on its Sunwood Estate property as the university has filed a request for proposals to install a cellphone tower, and the estate is one of the suggested locations. If this occurs, the village would not generate any revenue from the SBU pole.

Options were discussed at the meeting including installing the cellphone tower near the Old Field lighthouse. Levine said the location had been considered but the U.S. Coast Guard, which supervises the lighthouse, must approve it. While the village reached out to the Coast Guard, it did not receive a definitive answer.

Another subject of contention was the lack of notification for those who live right outside of Old Field who feel they will be affected. Others said even though they are residents, they were unaware of discussions about a cellphone tower. Levine and Village Clerk Adrienne Kessel reminded residents to sign up for email notifications, and they said the village posts meeting information on its website available to both residents and nonresidents. The mayor also said the village is not legally required to notify nonresidents but they are always welcome to attend the meetings.

Levine stressed that a lease agreement has not been signed yet, and the board will schedule one or two more meetings to hear from Old Field residents and its neighbors. The next public board meeting will be held Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. For more information visit www.oldfieldny.org.

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