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Mount Sinai Civic Association

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A rendering of the proposed development in Mount Sinai. Image from Steven Losquadro

A Mount Sinai millennial housing project, located on Route 25A near Myrtle Street, dubbed Mount Sinai Meadows inches closer to breaking ground on construction. 

On July 19, Woodmere-based real estate developer Basser-Kaufman was approved of a change of zoning from J-Business 2 to Planned Development District. The application is currently being reviewed by the Town of Brookhaven Planning Board. 

Lori Murphy, legislative aide for Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) said the application is currently being looked at by the Planning Board and will have to be reviewed by multiple departments including the Highway Department. 

Asked if she knew how long the Planning Board would take to review the application, Murphy said it varies from a case by case basis and could only confirm that the zone change was approved by the town. 

Site plans for the project call for 140 housing units, including 106 two-bedroom apartments and 34 one-bedroom apartments. The complex will have bike racks, walkable grounds, communal barbecue areas, electric car charging stations, a large open lawn for the use of residents and four spaces toward the northern end of the property that will be used for large retail spaces, according to a March 2019 TBR News Media article. There will be 21.78 acres used for residential housing, while 8.3 acres will be retail. 

The mixed-use complex will be geared toward creating a living space for young adults and young professionals. According to the developers, they are catering toward the 20-34 age group. 

Ann Becker, president of the Mount Sinai Civic Association, reiterated that the civic supports the development and are awaiting to hear updates from the town once it goes through planning. 

“We want something for young people and professionals,” she said. “We were looking for flexible options for available housing for young people, the developer has assured us at this point that the number of children won’t burden the community.”

She brought up another point that approximately 20 percent of the housing stock in the hamlet is for those 55 and older. Becker said they didn’t want an overload of senior living facilities in the area. 

Construction is currently underway for two projects, a 120-unit Bristal assisted living community and a 225-unit senior rental complex for individuals 55 and over at the corner of Echo Avenue and Route 25A.

Becker said while some children could come out from the development, she said she believes it could aid the declining school enrollment in the Mount Sinai School District. 

Marc Kemp, a representative at Bassar-Kaufman, said once they can get site plan approval from the planning board they will move forward with the development.

“It [the review] could take eight to 10 months,” Kemp said. “Once we get the approval we want to break ground as soon as possible.”

Officials say the subcontractor for PSEG/LIPA is violating town code

Material outside Asplundh Construction, located across the street from Mount Sinai schools. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Brookhaven Town leaders are determined to stamp out what they’ve deemed an illegal eyesore in Mount Sinai — a commercial retail area turned industrial facility on Route 25A near the entrance to the school district campus. Officials said by being there, the owners and tenants of the property are willfully violating town zoning codes and damaging quality of life in the process.

During a press conference Aug. 22, town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), along with town officials and a civic leader, stood across from a fenced-in lot where concrete is crushed and dozens of the Asplundh Construction company’s trucks, as well as poles and large spools of cable, are stored.

A lineup of Asplundh Construction trucks on the company’s lot. Photo by Kevin Redding

Romaine said the type of activity on the property, which is owned by Nkp Properties LLC, of Farmingdale, is illegal under J-2 zoning and is restricted to industrial property only — a fact he said Nkp is aware of as it paid a town-issued fine of $4,000 in April. Despite paying the fine and pleading guilty to violating the town code, Nkp continues to use the property. The group was met with more fines July 24, which included a ticket for a second offense of the code violations and for not having site plans to try and legalize the activities on the site.

According to the town’s deputy attorney, David Moran, the attorney for Nkp  at the time “acknowledged that the use was not appropriate and said he was going to try to get all the necessary site plans and approvals in.”

No one from Asplundh Construction returned phone calls for a request for comment, and visits to the site for questions were directed back to the telephone number.

Officials during the press conference called on the company, a subcontractor of PSEG and LIPA, to vacate the property as soon as possible.

“The parents that drop their children off at the school, employees and civic members— residents in Mount Sinai certainly don’t appreciate what’s going on across the street from us.”

Jane Bonner

“The last time I looked, LIPA was a public utility whose subcontractor is willfully flouting zoning laws in the Town of Brookhaven,” Romaine said. “That type of zoning violation is one we will not stand for. We are particularly concerned because this is adjacent to the Mount Sinai schools. We’re asking that they come into compliance or we have to take further action.

The property was previously the site of a party equipment rental business. When Asplundh moved in, a structure on the site was demolished.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said it’s negatively impacting the town.

“One of the things that the Mount Sinai community is desirous of is a corridor that is user-friendly and appealing to the eye,” Bonner said, looking at the Nkp property behind her. “I’ve been in office almost 10 years and for the past eight years, the property behind me has been a constant source of complaints from the community, the parents that drop their children off at the school, employees and civic members. Residents in Mount Sinai certainly don’t appreciate what’s going on across the street from us.”

Bonner said she would like to settle this problem before the start of the new school year. More than 30 Asplundh trucks, she said, drive in and out of the lot every morning, which can become a safety concern once buses join Route 25A traffic.

Ann Becker, president of the Mount Sinai Civic Association, also expressed her concerns.

Mount Sinai Civic Association President Ann Becker talks about her feelings toward the construction company across the street from Mount Sinai schools during a press conference Aug. 22. Photo by Kevin Redding

“The civic, which recently celebrated 100 years, has been working to maintain the quality of life here in Mount Sinai for all that time and we continue to do so, and we continuously get complaints about this location and now it’s becoming even worse than it was before,” Becker said. “We’re really wanting to have nice businesses here and we’ve done a lot of work on beautification … what’s happening behind us is absolutely against everything the civic has stood for.”

She said she hopes the current owners ultimately cease and desist so that the location is turned into something more appropriate for the community.

Moran said he believes the businesses will try to get away with the violations as long as they can in order to maximize every dollar out of it to help fund construction projects.

“From a prosecutorial standpoint these types of flagrant violations will not be tolerated in the Town of Brookhaven,” he said. “You can’t just buy property and use it to your will. We have codes that must be followed and, in this instance, I can assure you that we will ensure that they follow our codes.”

The current proposed site plan for millennial housing in Mount Sinai features 140 rental units, commercial stores and other amenities. Image from Basser Kaufman

A long-vacant property next to King Kullen in Mount Sinai could be a go-to living destination for young professionals and college graduates in the near future.

According to a real estate investors group’s preliminary proposal made during the recent Mount Sinai Civic Association meeting, they want to give millennials a suburban place to stay and a sense of community.

“A lot of our young people leave Long Island because they can’t afford to stay here,” said Michael Russo, an architect working with the Nassau-based group Basser-Kaufman, to residents at the Heritage Center June 5. “Mount Sinai is a desirable place to live [and] we’ve put a lot of thought into making it work for millennials.”

Architect Michael Russo talks to residents about building millennial housing in Mount Sinai. Photo by Kevin Redding

An expansive, 140-rental unit community is envisioned in the early stages of the concept, gearing toward those in their mid to late 20s, to occupy the rear portion on the nearly 35 acres of unused land along Nesconset Highway.

The proposed site would include potential retail developments such as Trader Joe’s, other commercial buildings, an open green space for public use, a community center with fitness and yoga rooms for residents and several amenities to attract a younger demographic, such as bicycle racks, dog-walk areas and electric car-charging stations. Valet trash services would also be available to eliminate large, noisy trucks.

Rental prices for one-bedroom and two-bedroom units would range between $1,900 and $2,200 a month, according to the group’s legal representative — priced lower than many competitive apartments in the area, such as the New Village apartments in Patchogue, to make it manageable for young people to live in the region.

“Having this for younger people in your district is an advantage,” said Steven Losquadro, a lawyer speaking on behalf of Basser-Kaufman. “It’s a bridge to home ownership, which is ideally what you would want. You don’t want them going out of state, you want to have them here where they grew up.”

The executive board of the civic association, including President Ann Becker and Vice President Brad Arrington, had met previously with the developers to discuss the draft proposal and ensure its concept fit the vision of the community.

“Without risking discrimination, how will you restrict it to millennials?” asked Mount Sinai resident and board of education member Edward Law.

Local residents gathered at the Heritage Center at Heritage Park to listen to a proposal for millenial housing in Mount Sinai. Photo by Kevin Redding

While the speakers said they couldn’t legally limit occupancy to just young people, their intention is to specifically market it to that age group through advertising locations and methods.

“What’s the projected time line?” was another question that was asked.

Russo said the construction would take 18 months to two years, but added it could take years to get the project approved.

Mount Sinai resident Peter Pranzo voiced his concern about the already increasing number of students in the district, he said, as a result of young parents in the housing development. He said he’s afraid of the financial pressure it could put on schools to pay additional costs for more new students.

“I’m against it,” he said of the proposal. “There’s no way we can sustain 60, 70 or 100 more children in our area.”

Arrington argued the opposite.

“Class sizes are shrinking quite a bit,” he said. “A lot of our enrollment is actually down in younger grades. These aren’t going to be terribly large apartments, so by the time that child enrolls in school it’s pretty likely the parents are going to move out and buy a house.”

Losquadro agreed, insisting the development would be geared toward young professionals and there wouldn’t be a substantial influx of children.

When a resident suggested the possibility of those behind the proposal abandoning it in favor of solely retail space, Becker spoke up.

Millennial housing proposed in Mount Sinai would replace a current wooded lot. Photo by Kevin Redding

“These gentlemen were very open with us and we were open with them,” Becker told the crowd at the end of the meeting. “We don’t want a lot of things — big box stores or gas stations — and they’re trying, and working with the town. They’re completely transparent. This is the first presentation to the community, no plans have been submitted and nothing has gone through any process of change. This is just step one. We’re very interested in hearing your response.”

For more than a decade, the town has worked alongside many developers with plans to build within the empty lot — everything from commercial buildings to retirement communities to community-oriented gathering spaces and clock towers — all of which fizzled out due to inflated visions or conflicting desires of residents.

In the last few months, Steven Kaufman and Marc Kemp of the investors group took control of the project, determined to give the community what they felt it wanted, and ask for input before anything is approved or built.

“Right now, I think I’m for it,” Mount Sinai resident Monica Stone said after the meeting. “I think we need to be open to ideas like this … We don’t want it to become an industrial business area, and it sounds to me like what the developers are proposing is a good balance.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner, left, and Supervisor Ed Romaine, right, present proclamations to Ann Becker, Lori Baldassare, Fred Drewes and Deirdre Dubato at the Mount Sinai Civic Association's 100th anniversary dinner. File photo by Desirée Keegan

In October, the Mount Sinai Civic Association celebrated its 100th anniversary and further cemented its role in providing the look, helping with the maintenance and ensuring the overall quality of life of the community. Considering its century-long list of accomplishments, the civic association is still going strong.

“The success of the civic association in terms of its longevity is a reflection of how much residents of Mount Sinai care about their community,” Mount Sinai Civic Association Vice President Brad Arrington, a member since 2004, said. “It’s a mechanism to have an input in the future of my community and a place I plan to stay in for quite a long time.”

For their tireless efforts and infinite contributions, the more than 180 members of the Mount Sinai Civic Association have been recognized as Times Beacon Record News Media’s People of the Year for 2016.

“The success of the civic association in terms of its longevity is a reflection of how much residents of Mount Sinai care about their community.”

— Brad Arrington

Made up of volunteers, the organization has been, and continues to be, built on local residents stepping forward and having a voice in shaping the place in which they live.

It all began on Oct. 5, 1916, when the civic association was founded as an offshoot of the Mount Sinai Taxpayers Association for the main purposes of obtaining better roads, improving conditions in Mount Sinai Harbor and figuring out ways to protect against fires, which would ultimately lead to the establishment of the Mount Sinai Volunteer Fire Department standing today.

The original officers elected at the first organizational meeting were Jacob Schratweiser, president; Philip C. Scherer, first vice president; William R. P. Van Pelt, secretary and Lorenzo H. Davis, treasurer.

They paved the way for decades’ worth of major civic issues that include successfully stopping the dredging of Mount Sinai Harbor in the 1960s, suing Brookhaven for overdevelopment to reduce the number of housing units built in 1996 and working with state, county and town officials to purchase and preserve “The Wedge” property as Heritage Park. Developers initially planned to construct a Home Depot where the park is today.

Members of the civic association work toward improving their community, protecting its coastal environment and, perhaps most importantly, protesting against overdevelopment to keep their hamlet quaint and suburban.

“We want to [continue] protecting the open space Mount Sinai has,” Mount Sinai Civic Association President Ann Becker said. “The woodlands, beach areas … preventing overdevelopment is [crucial] because that can also have negative impacts on taxes, quality of life and even things like crime.”

Becker, an active member since 1984, said she joined the organization because of the direct impact its work had on quality of life and families in the area.

Mount Sinai Civic Association President Ann Becker at a recent meeting. Photo by Kevin Redding

What initially prompted her involvement was the proposal for a giant commercial shopping center on the corner of Plymouth Avenue and Canal Road, right behind her home, which would have been inconsistent with the aesthetic of the primarily residential neighborhood. Naturally, there wasn’t a lot of support for the planned development, and so the public — through the civic association — rallied against it and the shopping center never came to be.

Becker said the civic association is always on the lookout for problems and concerns residents might have with the ultimate goal of working on behalf of everyone to reach the best possible outcome and make a difference.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), whose office is currently working closely with the civic on two developmental projects, called Becker “a force to be reckoned with.”

“She’s exactly what a civic leader needs to be,” the councilwoman said. “The Mount Sinai community is very fortunate that Ann and the group continue to step up to the plate. They are a great group of volunteers and it’s an honor and a privilege to work with them.”

Fred Drewes, one of the civic’s long-serving members, joined in 1970, feeling it was important to be an active participant in the community and give constructive suggestions to help develop the quality of it.

Drewes, with the help of fellow civic member Lori Baldassare, projected his vision of a “central” park to help bring people together and have a location for community activities. It didn’t take long before the civic purchased the almost-a-Home Depot parcel and developed Drewes’ “Ivory Tower” idea.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the development of our hamlet,” he said, “has benefited from the input of members of the Mount Sinai Civic Association.”