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Men’s coach continues to push program to new heights

Will Brown coaches Hooley on the sideline during a game. Photo from the University at Albany

By Clayton Collier

The University at Albany Great Danes have only been a Division I men’s basketball program since 1999, but their accomplishments in the past decade are not short-lived.

Miller Place native Will Brown Jr., who recently completed his 14th season at the helm of the men’s hoops team, has taken the program from a team initially accustomed to the lower portion of the America East standings, to one with three-straight NCAA Tournament berths and five within the last decade — the most recent of which came on the strength of a miracle, last-second 3-pointer by junior guard Peter Hooley to punch the Great Danes’ ticket to the Big Dance.

Becoming a regular in March Madness is no small task for a mid-major program like Albany, but then again, Brown is not one to balk in the face of a challenge.

Before Brown was a coach, the 43-year-old was a standout basketball player at Miller Place High School. Coached by his father, Bill Sr., Brown was never mistaken for getting preferential treatment. In fact, it was made clear that Brown was to be held to a higher standard than his teammates.

“It’s hard when you’re in tenth grade and your dad kicks you out of practice and you have to call your mom to pick you up,” Brown said.

The coach said it wasn’t until he began leading his own team that he fully understood that his father was pushing him in order to reach his max potential.

“Bill Brown was an amazing coach,” Miller Place athletic director Lisa Lally, who coached girls’ basketball while Bill Brown was the boys’ head coach, and taught Will Brown when he attended the school, said. “He knew what his son was capable of, what potential he had, and I think he pushed Will. I think there were probably some very interesting times around that dinner table after practice.”

To prevent such interesting times, Brown’s mother Diane implemented a house policy: leave the arguments from practice in the gym.

“We weren’t allowed to talk hoops, that was mom’s rule,” Brown said. “But very rarely did we pay attention to that rule.”

Will Brown discusses plays with his Great Danes during a timeout. Photos from the University at Albany
Will Brown discusses plays with his Great Danes during a timeout. Photos from the University at Albany

As Brown progressed in high school, he began to see recruiting interest from major college programs like the University of Notre Dame and Seton Hall University. At the end of his sophomore year however, Brown found himself laboring more and more to continue to complete practices that once came easier to him. He began losing weight dramatically — something was wrong.

Brown was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the beginning of his junior year of high school, at one point causing him to miss six or seven weeks of school. The fluctuation in weight wreaked havoc on Brown’s energy level and subsequently, his ability to practice.

Per doctor’s orders, Brown sat out of soccer season for his junior and senior years and committed himself to getting his weight up in order to be able to participate in basketball.

Brown Sr. said he found himself in a difficult situation, as he was hesitant to push his son, given his condition.

“It’s almost like you’re walking on eggshells; it was hard as a parent,” Brown Sr. said. “You want to push him, but you don’t want to push him. I had to use him as a guide. I listened to what he told me.”

Brown told his father he wanted to get to work.

“When he said ‘dad can we go up to the gym?’ that’s when we went. I would never say ‘Hey Will, let’s go and work out;’ I let him come to me,” Brown Sr. said. “I would say ‘let’s call it quits’ and he would say ‘no, let’s do a little more.’”

Brown committed to the University of Pennsylvania to play basketball, but transferred to Dowling College to be closer to home after another bout with Crohn’s disease. Brown continued to work diligently to maintain his weight and finished his collegiate career with more than 1,000 points and 500 assists.

Upon graduation, Brown’s parents assumed he would get a regular, nine-to-five job. Instead, Brown followed in his father’s footsteps and entered the world of coaching, and shot rapidly up the ranks. Beginning as an assistant coach at the College of Saint Rose, Brown moved on to his first head coaching job at Sullivan County Community College, where he compiled a 90-10 record in three seasons.

Soon thereafter, Brown was hired as an assistant on Scott Beeten’s coaching staff at Albany. Beeten would be reassigned from the head coaching position just before conference play in December of 2001. The University named Brown, at just 29 years old, interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

“I thought I had it all figured out, I never understood why coaches weren’t successful,” he said. “I quickly learned when you’re an assistant, it’s easy to make suggestions. When you move one seat over, you have to make the decisions.”

Now, 14 seasons later, Brown has made Albany a nationally recognized name. Five NCAA tournament berths and 215 wins later, Brown has taken his “baby” to never before seen heights.

This past season was one to remember, in particular, for Brown’s Great Danes. Conference season began with the tragic news that Peter Hooley’s mother, Sue, had taken a turn for the worse in her battle with cancer.
Hooley flew home to his native Australia to be with his mother in her final moments, missing nearly a month of the basketball season. Upon his return following her passing, coach Brown found himself experiencing a similar dilemma to his father many years ago, although his and Hooley’s situations were vastly different, in terms of reintroducing a star player back into basketball following hardship.

“The tough part for me was that I like to ride my captains and my better players pretty hard. I get after them; I challenge them. Peter is no different,” Brown said. “But I did find myself kind of trying to lay off Peter a little bit, give him some space and some time.”

Hooley said Brown allowing him to work at his own pace was helpful in allowing him to get himself refocused on basketball.

“He’s been a father figure over here in every way,” he said. “I think coming in he knew what I was dealing with back home and he checked in on me every single day. He almost knows what it is like to be in that situation. It certainly helps me to keep going.”

Albany went 8-0 in Hooley’s absence. In the conference tournament, with Hooley back on the court, the Great Danes found themselves in a familiar location — the America East championship game against Stony Brook University.

Down by two with seconds to go and Stony Brook out of timeouts, the Great Danes had the ball. Hooley drained a 3-point basket to win the game for Albany, 51-50, off an offensive rebound, and punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Hooley, who pointed to the sky after the buzzer sounded, said he had his mother to thank for the ball reaching the net in the final moments.

“That ball shouldn’t have been kicked to me,” he said. “There’s no way that that should’ve fell to me; there’s no way they should have had no time-outs; there’s no way that ball should have made it to me to get a shot off. Everything was set up perfectly and what mum would’ve wanted.”

With their season completed following a 69-60  loss to the University of Oklahoma in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Brown and the Great Danes set their sights on next year. With so much success, one could see Brown as a larger than life figure, but his father still fondly remembers those early days in the gym.

“Just to be there when these arenas are owned with 15-20,000 people, and you have all the glitz and the glamour, and you have all the national news there,” Brown Sr. said of seeing his son coach in the Big Dance. “As a father you sit back, and to this day, I look down, I see Will, and I still see a kid from Miller Place.”

Dodge ATM
On March 27, a resident of Market Street in Port Jefferson Station reported that a wallet had been removed from a 1997 Dodge Ram.

Dial S for stolen
Two unknown males stole a cell phone from a victim on Main Street in Port Jefferson Station. According to police, the incident occurred at around 4:30 a.m. on March 27.

Unlocked
A resident of Lincoln Avenue in Port Jefferson Station reported cash had been stolen from a wallet that was left in an unlocked 1997 Honda on March 25.

Jeepers!
A 2011 Jeep was stolen from a residence on Crescent Drive in Port Jefferson Station. Police were notified of the grand larceny on March 25.

Tased and confused
A 48-year-old Port Jefferson man was arrested for resisting arrest and criminal possession of stolen property on March 29. Police said the man was found at 7-Eleven on Old Town Road in possession of a stolen 1994 Jeep Wrangler, and lunged at an officer when confronted. The officer deployed their TASER.

Faking it
A resident of Thames Street in Port Jefferson Station fell victim to identity theft, and notified police on March 23 that an unknown person had used personal info and made financial transactions.

Keg stand
An unknown person or persons removed an empty beer keg from Port Jefferson-based Schafer’s storage yard on March 25.

Needed directions
An unknown person took a GPS, cash and paperwork from an unlocked 2008 Honda on Sheep Pasture Road in Port Jefferson on March 24.

Double the drugs
A 25-year-old Port Jefferson Station man was arrested in Port Jefferson on drug charges on March 26 after police found him seated in a 2004 Chevy with an electronic smoking device that contained marijuana. In addition, police discovered cocaine in his possession.

Off-roading
A 48-year-old Mount Sinai woman was arrested on multiple charges on March 25, after police said she drove a 2002 Mercury Mountaineer in reverse and into a neighboring home on Osborne Avenue in Mount Sinai. The woman was charged with reckless driving, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief.

Feeling deflated
A woman reported her 2005 Honda Accord’s two rear tires had been punctured while parked outside the Applebee’s on Route 25A in Miller Place. The incident occurred on March 23.

We’ve been hit!
A resident of Rockledge Court in Rocky Point reported their home had been struck with several paintballs and a window screen had been broken on March 29 between 11:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.

Master of disguise
A 32-year-old Rocky Point man was arrested on a false impersonation charge on March 27. Police said the man, who did not have his license on him, was stopped at Prince Road and Harding Street for a traffic violation and gave police a false name.

Smashed
A resident of Harrison Avenue in Centereach reported the window of a 2000 Chrysler had been smashed at some point between March 25 and March 26.

DWI on road to Independence
Police arrested a 53-year-old Centereach man in Selden for aggravated driving while intoxicated after he was involved in a March 29 car crash by Independence Plaza.

Rockin’ Robin
Four Selden residents were arrested on March 27 for criminal possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell. According to police, three men, ages 31, 34, and 43, and a woman, age 33, were arrested at a residence on Robin Road. The defendants had heroin in their possession.

Civic responsibility
A 1997 Honda Civic parked at a residence on Hawkins Road in Centereach was discovered stolen between March 28 and March 29.

Thief won’t listen
Numerous headphones were stolen from the Centereach CVS on Middle Country Road on March 28 between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Out of the closet
Two unknown males broke into an apartment on Stanley Drive in Centereach and took items from a bedroom closet on March 23. According to police, the complainant said the men had a handgun and fled through the front door in an unknown direction.

Bad reality check
A 37-year-old man from Brentwood was arrested at the 4th Precinct in Smithtown on March 28 and charged with issuing a bad check while knowing he had insufficient funds. Police said he wrote a bad check to Side Lumber & Supply Co. The man was arrested at about 10 a.m.

Disenchanting
A 25-year-old man from Islip was arrested in Smithtown on March 26 and charged with petit larceny. Police said the man stole Magic the Gathering cards from a location on Route 454 in Islandia on Jan. 28.

Driving outside the lines
A 23-year-old woman from Centereach was arrested in Commack on March 28 and charged with driving while intoxicated. Police said that at about 2:30 a.m. she was driving a 1999 Dodge on Route 14 in Commack when police pulled her over for failing to maintain her lane.

Inn trouble
A 19-year-old man from Brentwood was arrested in Commack on March 28 at 12:30 a.m. and charged with two counts of grand larceny in the fourth degree. Police said he stole more than $1,000 in cash from someone’s wallet at the Commack Motor Inn and stole a credit card from a different person at the inn. He was also charged with unlawful possession of marijuana.

Cut short
Police said a 38-year-old man from Bay Shore was arrested in Commack on March 28 and charged with third-degree burglary. Police said the man stole razors from Costco on Garet Place after being prohibited from entering the store.

Identity stolen, phones purchased
An unknown person used the identity of a Larson Avenue man from Smithtown to purchase cell phones and equipment from Verizon Wireless worth more than $2,400. The crime was reported to happen sometime on March 28 at 7:30 p.m.

Not so safe
A safe was looted on March 28 at Developmental Disabilities Institute on Hollywood Drive in Smithtown.  The cash belonged to the residents of the location.

Window damaged
An unknown person threw a bottle of wine through the rear window of 3 Guy’s Hobbies on Lawrence Avenue in Smithtown. The incident was reported to police on March 28 at 3:05 p.m.

Egged
A Roy Drive home in Nesconset was egged, according to police. The incident was reported on March 29 at 10 p.m.

Mean streets
An incident of road rage took place in St. James on March 25. Police said a male complainant reported that he was driving west on Route 347. As traffic was merging, someone cut him off, he said, and a shouting match between both drivers ensued. The other driver threatened to kill the complainant and then drove away.

Gimme my pizza
Police said two men were arrested in connection to an incident that occurred at Little Vincent’s pizzeria on New York Avenue on March 29. At about 1:29 a.m., a 20-year-old from Commack was arrested and charged with criminal mischief, with intent to damage property, after he punched the front door of the pizzeria after being asked to leave. A 20-year-old from Smithtown was also arrested in connection to the incident and charged with second-degree obstructing governmental administration, as he tried to obstruct officers making an arrest.

Check it
A 34-year-old woman from Melville was arrested in Huntington on March 28 at the 2nd Precinct and charged with third-degree grand larceny. Police said that between Nov. 1 at noon and Dec. 31 at noon, the woman attempted to steal money by altering checks.

What a pill
Police said a 31-year-old man from Huntington was arrested in Huntington and charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. Police said that on the corner of New York Avenue and Gerard Street, on March 27 at 8:26 a.m. he was driving a 2004 Jeep with a suspended or revoked license. The man also possessed prescription pills without a prescription.

Busted with drugs
A 22-year-old woman from East Northport was arrested in Huntington Station and charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and loitering. Police said she was loitering at about 11:55 a.m. on March 26 at a location on West Jericho Turnpike, where she was later arrested. She was also found in possession of heroin.

Fake checks
An unknown person took two checks from a Huntington female complainant, forged signatures without permission and attempted to cash them sometime between March 16 at 9 a.m. and March 18 just before midnight. The incident was reported on March 28.

7-Eleven brawl
A male complainant reported that he and another man got into a verbal dispute at 7-Eleven on New York Avenue in Huntington. Both men fell to the ground and got into a fight, and both were transported to Huntington Hospital. The incident was reported on March 26 at 7:40 a.m.

Items stolen
An unknown person entered a 2005 Toyota Tundra on Joseph Court in East Northport and stole sunglasses, a GPS and cash sometime between March 21 at 8 a.m. and March 29 at 8 a.m.

Missing jewelry
Police said assorted jewelry was stolen from a home on Dalton Lane in East Northport sometime between 9 a.m. on March 24  and noon on March 25.

Purse taken
Someone removed a purse containing cash, a driver’s license and a credit card from a 2009 Honda Pilot parked on Croley Street in Greenlawn. The incident was reported on March 28 at 8:23 p.m.

Retirement incentive offered to teachers

Superintendent Marianne Higuera discusses the proposed 2015-16 budget at a March 25 school board meeting. Photo by Barbara Donlon

Eight veteran teachers from the Miller Place school district will take advantage of a recently approved retirement incentive, according to district Superintendent Marianne Higuera.

The teachers are set to retire at the end of this school year, and will be given a one-time lump sum of $20,000, according to the agreement reached between the district and the Miller Place Teachers Association at the end of February.

“We wish them the best as they begin to not set their alarm clock,” Higuera said in an interview following a March 25 school board meeting.

In order to receive the incentive, the teachers must be at least 55 years old, a full-time salaried district employee and have served a minimum of 10 years in the district and the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System. They’ll be eligible to receive any applicable contractual retirement benefit, as well.

According to Higuera, the school district plans on replacing each position with a new hire as long as the budget, which the school board adopted on March 25, is approved. While she wouldn’t name the teachers retiring, Higuera said they work in the art, music, speech and elementary fields. It is unclear what sort of savings, if any, the district will enjoy from the retirements.

The adopted 2015-16 budget, which will be up for a vote on May 19, stays within the district’s tax levy increase cap of 2.85 percent.

If the district’s total assessed property value stays flat, residents will see a tax rate of nearly $260 per $100 of assessed value, an increase of a little more than $7 from the current year.

The proposed $70 million budget increases are just shy of $1 million from the current year, and all programs are maintained. In addition, the district will add new instructional initiatives, student support services and extracurricular activities. New courses, such as sports medicine, a performance class and an English elective will be offered.

The district will also implement an English language learners program, for students whose primary language is not English. According to the district, there are 25 students who speak 11 different languages and the program is catered toward those students.

According to a budget presentation, the district will increase its contribution to its capital fund by $50,000 to bring the total yearly contribution to $150,000. The monies will be used for future capital project work.

The budget also allocates for a one-time payment of $32,673 for a food services software program, as the district still uses pen and paper to track lunch purchases.

Earlier this year, board President Mike Unger said he was pleased the district stayed within the tax cap, while still maintaining programs and staff.

“This is all due to the fiscal excellence of our district and sheds light on the collaborative relationship we share with our valued employees and partners in education,” Unger said. “This is a great budget for the students, parents, staff and taxpayers.”

The upcoming budget vote is at the library on Thompson Street. File photo

The average Port Jefferson resident will pay $10.80 more in library taxes next year, if members approve a proposed $4.33 million budget for 2015-16.

Most of the Port Jefferson Free Library’s expense lines would increase or decrease modestly under the spending plan, according to a budget breakdown from the library. One of the larger changes would be in materials and programs — the library would spend $42,500 less on books next year, for a total of $178,000. Spending on programs, meanwhile, would increase almost $15,000.

In personnel expenditures, salary and retirement costs would both decrease next year, while insurance costs would increase.

Library Director Robert Goykin explained that the decrease in the book budget “is largely the result of many of the expensive print items moving to less expensive electronic versions or publications going out of business,” such as encyclopedias.

While Goykin called it “sad” that those publications are no longer being printed, he said that many of them work well in a digital format because “people don’t read them cover to cover as much as consult them for facts.”

Library Director Robert Goykin says a decrease in spending on books can be partially attributed to reference publications going digital. File photo
Library Director Robert Goykin says a decrease in spending on books can be partially attributed to reference publications going digital. File photo

The director said, “In this case the economics work in our favor despite the fact of losing some ‘old friends’ on the shelf.”

The proposed increase in funding for library programs reflects a higher demand, Goykin said, and more programming in science and technology, which can be more expensive than other areas.

In addition to those budget lines, the library would transfer $107,000 into its capital fund for facility improvements.

The library board of trustees has been working on a strategic plan for how the establishment will serve residents in the future, which includes improving the facilities and deciding what to do with a recently purchased residential property that is located next door on Thompson Street.

“With the plan almost concluded,” Goykin said, “the board wanted to set aside some funding to make improvements in the facility.”

All together, the budget would increase less than 0.6 percent next year, and would carry a roughly $3 million tax levy.

If the proposal is approved, for every $100 of assessed value, residents would have to pay an extra quarter to the library next year. The average house in the community is assessed at $4,500.

“The board and the staff have been very mindful of the difficult economic circumstances of the last number of years,” Goykin said. “This is our fifth straight year of minimal budget increases.”

Voting is at the library on Tuesday, April 14, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Miller Place property could be developed

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

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.

Just do it
A 35-year-old Bay Shore man was arrested in Stony Brook on Nesconset Highway on March 21 at about 4:43 p.m. and charged with petit larceny. Police said the man stole two pairs of Nike sneakers from Sports Authority.

You’ve got mail
Police said a 28-year-old man from Brooklyn was arrested in Setauket-East Setauket on March 17 at Brewster Lane and charged with two counts of petit larceny. Police said the man, who was arrested at about 1:15 p.m., stole two pieces of mail from a mailbox on Brewster Lane.

Hit the gas
A driver made off without paying for gas after fueling up at a BP gas station on Route 25 in Setauket-East Setauket sometime around 8:54 p.m. on March 22. Police described the car as an older, dark-colored Toyota.

A hairy situation
Police said someone broke into a Cactus Salon on Nesconset Highway in Setauket-East Setauket just after midnight on March 19. A piece of cement was thrown at a rear glass door and a suspect walked through, but police said nothing was taken.

Off the grid
A resident of Patchogue Road in Port Jefferson Station reported an unknown person had cut cable wires at their residence on March 20 at approximately 2 a.m.

Clean sweep
A ring was stolen from a 2005 Toyota Land Cruiser while it was at a Port Jefferson Station car wash on Route 347. The grand larceny occurred on March 19 at 11 a.m.

Cash station
An employee at a Port Jefferson Station gas station on Route 25A reported a white male had attempted to purchase cigarettes, but then demanded and stole cash from the cash register. He then fled from the scene. According to police, the incident occurred on March 17 at around 8 a.m.

Not very loyal
A gold claddagh ring and other items were stolen from a North Bicycle Path residence in Port Jefferson Station sometime between 8:30 p.m. on March 16 and 5 p.m. on March 17.

Brawling
A person was taken to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in the early morning of March 22 after an altercation at Schafer’s in Port Jefferson. According to police, the victim was punched in the face and no arrests have been made.

A taxing crime
A Port Jefferson resident fell victim to an IRS letter scam on March 16. According to police, the Longfellow Lane resident mailed a check in response to a fraudulent letter.

Cat burglar nap
A 23-year-old Miller Place man was arrested in Port Jefferson Station for criminal mischief and burglary on March 20 after he broke into a commercial building on North Country Road in Port Jefferson by breaking the window and fell asleep inside.

Cheap ride
A 31-year-old Holbrook woman was arrested in Port Jefferson after she refused to pay for a cab service on March 20.

Sneaky critter
An unknown individual damaged the basement door of the Miller Place Animal Hospital on Route 25A on March 17 at around 2:30 a.m. Police said the suspect broke the door’s windowpane.

To the max
The RE/MAX Alliance office in Miller Place was robbed of laptops, office furniture and cash between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. on March 17.

Airing his dirty laundry
An unknown man entered the Rocky Point Laundromat on Broadway and demanded money on March 22. He then fled the business without taking anything.

When a stranger calls
A resident of Sunburst Drive in Rocky Point reported receiving threatening phone calls from an unknown person on March 19.

Can’t Beats the police
A Ridge man was charged with petit larceny on March 19 for stealing two Fitbit watches and two Beats headphones from the Rocky Point Kohl’s.

Space opens up
An unknown person forced their way into an ExtraSpace Storage unit in Centereach and removed three motors and parts on March 21, shortly after 3:30 a.m.

Carjacked
A 1999 Honda Civic parked on North Coleman Road in Centereach was stolen between 7:15 p.m. on March 19 and 9 a.m. on March 20.

Ganged up on
A man was punched by an unknown number of males at a BP gas station in Selden on March 21 shortly before 2:30 a.m. It was unclear if the man needed medical attention, and the group of assailants fled.

Scratched
An 18-year-old Selden man was arrested in Selden for criminal mischief after he scratched the passenger side door of a 2014 Toyota Camry on March 22.

Miller Place officials proposed a driver's education program for next year. Stock photo

The Miller Place school district plans to bring a driver’s education program back to the district after roughly 10 years without it.

At the Feb. 25 budget meeting, Superintendent Marianne Higuera included a summer pilot driver’s education program in the budget — at no cost to the district. She said course fees would cover the cost of the self-sustaining program.

The district decided to add the program back as there is no location in Miller Place for students to take driver’s education. Currently, they must travel to neighboring districts or schools to participate.

No details have been made regarding the program, but the district expects to have more information at the end of May.

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.

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