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Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai attack Russell Maher with a shot on goal in a home game against Kings Park April 12. Photo by Bill Landon

Kings Park boys lacrosse team was able to stay within striking distance with Mount Sinai through two quarters of play April 12, but the Mustangs exploded in the third quarter, scoring eight goals to put the game out of reach. Mount Sinai defeated the Kingsmen 14-5 at home to remain unbeaten at this midpoint of the season at 8-0 in division, 10-0 overall for second place behind Shoreham-Wading River.

Joey Spallina, the spark of the Mustang offense, split the pipes five times. Meanwhile Bobby Demeo found the back of the cage thrice and Brandon Ventarola and Russel Maher stuck it out with two goals apiece.

Vince D’Alto led the way for the Kingsmen with two goals while Alex Wenzler along with Jack Quaranto both scored as well. Kings Park keeper Christian Michaels had a busy day between the pipes grabbing 19 saves on the day.

Both teams were back in action April 16 where the Mustangs hosted Islip and the Kingsmen hit the road against Babylon. Mount Sinai will be taking the road to Sayville April 23 while Kings Park is hosting Kellenberg April 24. Game times are for 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. respectively.

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By Bill Landon

It shouldn’t surprise anyone when the Mount Sinai Mustangs girls softball team, who made it to the final four last season in the Class A state championship round, trounced visiting John Glenn, 14-1, halting play after just five innings.

Mount Sinai senior Holly McNair, a standout in the Mustangs’ Long Island championship basketball team, went three for four and drove in three runs. Senior Ilexa Skulnick plated two runners and senior pitcher Julia Golino went the distance allowing one run along with 12 strikeouts. The Mustangs have allowed only two runs through three games in this early season letting their bats do the talking by putting up 56 runs.

The Mustangs retake the field when they travel to take on crosstown rival Miller Place April 4. 1st pitch is set for 4 p.m.

Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal. File Photo by Kyle Barr

Mount Sinai residents finally have the full view of their school district budget, coming up on the annual vote in May.

The Mount Sinai School District continued its presentation of its proposed 2019-20 school budget at a district board meeting March 20. The March presentation gave residents the remaining 78 percent of the total budget. 

The total proposed budget figure for the 2019-20 school year will be $60,926,615, which is a slight increase of 1.2 percent from last year’s amount. This year will also see a tax cap increase of 2.17 percent and the district’s tax levy amount would increase close to $900,000. 

At the meeting, Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said the fund balance would decrease this year. For the 2017-18 school year, $5 million was transferred to capital projects to which the public approved to cover a new turf field, bleachers, press box, field events fencing and one-third of a new roof for the high school. 

“The board wants to set a capital reserve of $850,000,” Brosdal said. 

Including the $750,000 in funds put last year in capital reserve, the district will have $1.6 million for future capital projects. Brosdal proposed to use $1.5 million for two projects: the cost of another partial repair of the high school’s roof and to replace the middle school’s HVAC system. 

“This room here, if you recall, last spring we had to move out of this room to the high school because the HVAC system died last year,” the superintendent said. It caused a lot of hot surrounding classrooms, and [it’s something] you can’t fix, it has to be replaced.” 

The district’s $25 million bond failed to pass in December, 2018 with a vote of 664-428. The district said it had intended to use the bond to fix the high school roof, along with providing new classrooms to some aging parts of the school buildings.

Residents will be able to vote on the potential capital projects in May. 

Another issue discussed was student enrollment. According to Brosdal, the district will see a steady decrease in the number of students it has in its schools.  

The current student population is 2,240, and by 2022-23 the district enrollment could drop to 1,909.

“The numbers are dwindling at an alarming rate,” Brosdal said. 

The superintendent said the problem can already be seen in the kindergarten level. The current kindergarten class has a total of 142 students and next school year they are only projecting 89 students. 

“Should these numbers bear fruit, it will have ramifications all over the schools,” he said. “We have to look at everything and be fiscally sound. It’s going to affect a lot of decisions that have to be made.” 

Other highlights of the meeting were that the Teacher Retirement System rate decreased to 8.86 percent, and district officials said they will likely save over $376,000. 

“We are lucky that the teachers retirement system didn’t hammer us this year,” Brosdal said. “It went down significantly from last year.”

The district will look to improve outside lights at schools and parking lots, citing visibility issues and will be bidding again for a security company for the high school. The district is looking for four armed and two armed guards. 

Brosdal said they are not certain on the exact amount they will receive in state aid. In Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) initial executive budget the district would receive $18,251,235. But with Cuomo considering proposing a new budget, the district won’t have an exact number until April. 

The next budget meeting will be on April 17, and the district must adopt a budget in time for a community vote on May 14. 

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Union workers stand in front of Bristal facility in Mount Sinai in protest. Photo by Kyle Barr

As workers in bright orange crawled over the skeleton of two upcoming senior living facilities in Mount Sinai, several members of a local union stood in front of a large, blowup rat, saying the developer has refused to use unionized labor.

Local Union 66, which represents over 1,000 people in the building construction sector, stood outside the development March 25 as they criticized the developers The Engel Burman Group, of Garden City, for using Concrete Structures, a Ronkonkoma-based contractor. 

“They just poured all the concrete the last two weeks. A lot of work here has been done so far that we should have been doing,” said union member Darren Smith in front of the construction site. “Do you think I want to be out here? I could be in there, working.”

A representative of Concrete Structures could not be reached by press time.

Joe Cavalieri, the recording secretary of Local 66, said the union has had talks with Concrete Structures in the past about unionizing, but could not come to an agreement. 

“They’re not paying area standard wages,” Cavalieri said. “They do get IDA money, which is public money, and they charge exorbitant amounts of money for the housing, but they don’t want to pay the area standard of construction workers.”

Units in the complex will range from studio up to two bedrooms, but a spokesperson from Engel Burman has said they have not determined the prices of rent yet.

A scene of construction of the new Bristal facilities in Mount Sinai. Photo by Kyle Barr

Prevailing wage is the standard set by the New York State comptroller, which determines the wage and benefit rate paid to construction employees if they are working on public works projects or government-funded work sites. While the developer is the recipient of the Brookhaven town Industrial Development Agency payment in lieu of taxes agreement, the amount was not enough to conform to mandate prevailing wage, according to Cavalieri. 

The recording secretary said construction workers’ average wages on Long Island were closer to $70 an hour, including both wages and benefits. Based on conversations he’s had with the company, Concrete Structures workers make less than that.

“We live in a high-priced area, and we continually combat these contractors — not only local, but also out of state,” he said. “They take advantage of our economy out here, while not contributing anything to it.”

Construction is ongoing for two projects, a 120-unit Bristal Assisted Living community and a 225-unit senior rental complex for individuals 55 and over on a 24-acre parcel of land around the corner of Route 25A and Echo Avenue in Mount Sinai. The developers, The Engel Burman Group of Garden City, started construction around the beginning of the year. 

The development was also a recipient of a 13-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement with the Town of Brookhaven IDA, which would see the developer continue to pay $46,000 in property taxes for the first three years while the two projects are under construction. Then in the fourth year, the tax payments would increase to around $190,000 and would continue to rise to about $2.2 million at the end of the PILOT. From there, the developer would pay the full assessed value of the properties, which is expected to be more than the PILOT payments.  

A spokesperson for Engel Burman said that the problem was between construction subcontractors, and that it did not involve the developer. 

Though protesters outside the facility had signs with Engel Burman and an X through the name, some protesters complained that the developer had hired the nonunion labor in the first place.

“The contractor is paying peanuts,” said union member George Leone. “That’s a big job, a lot of our guys could be doing it.”

The Mount Sinai Civic Association, which gave initial support to the project, criticized the decision by the IDA, saying it would mean a loss in tax revenue to the area.

According to the civic association, the development is a part of a 1999 legal stipulation which resulted from a lawsuit filed against the town by them on the 24-acre parcel of land, and the land has always been designated for that purpose of creating these senior facilities.

Joe Cognitore, commander of VFW Post 6249, dedicates much of his time to helping veterans and his local community. File photo

County and state officials plan on embarking on a statewide campaign to advocate for the restoration of funds for a veterans peer support program some have called vital. 

At a press conference March 15 Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) alongside state Sen. John Brooks (D-Massapequa) urged the state Legislature to restore funding for the Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Project, after the proposed executive budget of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) included no funding for the project.  

“It is our profound duty to serve our veterans both at home and abroad,” Bellone said. “Often times when our veterans return home they carry scars with them. The Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Project has a proven track record of assisting our veterans regain their lives and I urge Albany to reverse course immediately and fund this vital program.”

The project, which is overseen by Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency and Suffolk County United Veterans, aims to serve veterans, active duty members, reserve and National Guard troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other adjustment conditions. One of the program goals is to provide peer-to-peer support and counseling to veterans who are facing challenges transitioning back to civilian life, along with offering a safe, supportive space for veterans to interact with one another. 

Brooks, chairman of the state’s Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, spoke on the challenges many veterans face when they come home and the good the program does. 

“These are heroes helping heroes,” the state senator said. “This is a program that enables veterans with knowledge and understanding of issues like PTSD, traumatic brain injury, depression and substance abuse to meet with and counsel veterans who are suffering from one, or several, of these afflictions as a result of their service to our country.”

The senator stressed the urgent need for this program and others like it. 

The program is named after Pfc. Joseph Dwyer, a Mount Sinai resident and U.S. Army combat medic who had served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. After returning home and struggling with PTSD, Dwyer succumbed to his condition in 2008. Last year, 23 counties across the state received $3.735 million in project funding.   

Joe Cognitore, commander of VFW Post 6249 in Rocky Point, knows the program works and echoed Senator Brooks’ sentiments that programs like the Dwyer project are necessary and vital for veterans. 

“It’s veterans to veterans,” he said. “Mental health is an important issue.”

Cognitore said on a grassroot level the program works, and he was disappointed about the proposed funding cuts. 

“This is not a Democrat or Republican issue — it’s a bipartisan one,” he said. “We are all in the foxhole.”       

As chair for the VFW Department of New York Legislative Committee and a member of the VFW National Legislative Committee, Cognitore was in Albany lobbying earlier this month with other veterans groups urging lawmakers to restore full funds for the program. This year Suffolk County only received a $185,000 share of the money in the state budget.  

Previously, when the project had its full funds there were plans on expanding the program further into New York state, in addition to the already 23 participating counties. Similarly, two years ago, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) introduced legislation to expand the Dwyer program to the national level.  

Cognitore mentioned if he had another chance to speak with Cuomo and other lawmakers he would tell them not to slash the budget of a program without due diligence and background research. 

“It’d be one thing if this program wasn’t working but that’s not the case here — it works,” he said. “Put yourself in our boots, come visit us and see how the program runs.” 

Cognitore hopes lawmakers in Albany reverse course and restore funds to the program. He said they are fortunate to have county and state officials on their side who are committed to helping veterans. 

Bellone plans on traveling to the Hudson Valley and Western New York over the course of the next few weeks to build a coalition of state and local officials on the issue of restoring funding. 

Beginning in 2012, more than 10,000 veterans have participated in the Joseph P. Dwyer program countywide. Suffolk County is home to the largest veterans population in New York state.

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

With the sounds of senior living facilities construction echoing up and down Route 25A, another developer has one more project coming down the pipeline for Mount Sinai, this time for a facility geared toward millennials.

The proposed development, Mount Sinai Meadows, will be a 30-acre mixed-use majority rental and part commercial facility geared toward creating a living space for young adults and young professionals.

“For people in the ages of 20 to 34, an increasing subset of the population here on Long Island, there is not appropriate housing or opportunities for such individuals who wish to stay here,” said Rocky Point-based attorney Steven Losquadro, who is representing the developer. 

Representatives of the site’s developer Mount Sinai Meadows LLC, headed by Woodmere-based real estate developer Basser-Kaufman, attended a Town of Brookhaven board meeting March 14 seeking a change of zoning from J-Business 2 to Planned Development District along with approval of the draft environmental impact study. No final decision was made on the property, and the board confirmed it would leave the proposal open for another 30 days to allow for additional comments.

“We felt it was very important for us to broaden our offerings of housing.”

— Ann Becker

In terms of amenities, the site plans to 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. There will be 21.78 acres used for residential housing, while 8.3 acres will be retail. 

The project looks to include 140 housing units, including 106 two-bedroom apartments and 34 one-bedroom apartments. Losquadro said none of the apartments will be subsidized housing.

Engineer Charles Voorhis, a partner of the Melville-based firm Nelson, Pope & Voorhis LLC, said the project includes a 170-foot buffer, incorporating a 40-foot natural buffer between the site and the surrounding woods and residential communities to the south and west of the planned development.

The Mount Sinai Civic Association president Ann Becker said approximately 20 percent of the housing stock in the hamlet is for those 55 and older. She said the developer has offered assurances that the development is not expected to bring in an overwhelming number of children into the Mount Sinai School District.

“We have worked with the developers and have been provided with assurances that the number of children … will not burden our community,” Becker said. “We felt it was very important for us to broaden our offerings of housing.”

A number of residents on Mount Sinai Facebook groups were concerned about the traffic impact these new developments could have. The developer’s representatives did not rule out a potential increase in traffic.

Maureen Bond, the communications director of the Mount Sinai-Miller Place Chamber Alliance, said she also supports the project.

“In my opinion, this is the best plan so far,” she said. “There are traffic issues that need to be addressed; however, I believe having traffic is better than having no traffic.”

The civic has been supportive of the development for years, helping to shape its identity into the millennial housing proposal. One of its most recent requests for the development was to ensure the developer would not seek and would not be given any financial assistance or tax aid from the town, especially any help from the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency. Two senior developments at the corner of Echo Avenue and Route 25A, one an assisted living facility, had recently been given a generous 13-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement, and though the civic had been supportive of that project, it was heavily against the loss of taxes from the PILOT.

“For people in the ages of 20 to 34, an increasing subset of the population here on Long Island, there is not appropriate housing or opportunities for such individuals who wish to stay here.”

— Steve Losquadro

The Mount Sinai Meadows project has been in the works for several years. Anthony Graves, Brookhaven town’s chief environmental analyst, said he had talked to Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) in 2012 about creating a “true town center” for each of the communities in Council District 2 along Route 25A. A prior project for the site was originally proposed by a different developer specifically for J-2 business zoning, Voorhis said. That project included 805 square feet of retail, 37,000 square feet of office and a 2,000-square-foot bank.

Representatives of the developer said there was no final decision on the expected price on the rentals, but Losqaudro said they have promised the civic it will be at market rate.

Voorhis added the developer is currently in talks with the owner of the neighboring strip mall to allow access between the two retail centers. The developer is also in talks about acquiring the neighboring music store property and incorporating it.

Graves said the town was interested in the PDD zoning because it could more accurately reflect the mixed-use nature of the proposed development.

“[We] believe this development is in the spirit of that original efforts we made in Mount Sinai,” the environmental analyst said. “We look at it as a true town center for Mount Sinai.”

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By Bill Landon

Mount Sinai lady Mustangs had it all on the line March 9, and they walked away from the 2019 post season with their heads held high.

Nassau county champions, Sewanhaka Central High School of Floral Park, took on Suffolk title holders Mount Sinai in the Class A regional Long Island championship finals at Farmingdale State University March 9. It was a five-point game at the half, at 25-20, but Sewanhaka stretched their legs outscoring the Mustangs 41-28 over the final 16 minutes of play to clinch the title game 66-48. 

Atop the leaderboard for Mount Sinai was senior guard Brooke Cergol who concluded her varsity career with a team high 21 points, followed by fellow senior Gabby Sartori who netted 10 despite coming back from an injury in the fourth quarter. 

During the regular season Sartori averaged 21.7 points per game with 163 field goals, 38 triples with 124 points from the free throw line, ranking her fourth in Suffolk County. The Mustangs entered the postseason as the No. 5 seed where they picked off West Babylon in the opening round, upset Hauppauge the Class A No. 1 seed, went on to defeat Westhampton then followed with a victory over Pierson/Bridgehampton/Shelter Island. Mount Sinai finished their 2018-19 campaign with a solid 21-5 overall record.

A scene of construction going on behind the fences along Route 25A in Mount Sinai. Photo by Kyle Barr

By David Luces

A long mesh fence has gone up around the corner of Echo Avenue and Route 25A in Mount Sinai. Passing cars can see heavy construction vehicles already breaking the ground on what will be an assisted living community and senior rental space.

As development and construction are underway for two projects, a 120-unit Bristal assisted living community and a 225-unit senior rental complex for individuals 55 and over on a 24-acre parcel of land in Mount Sinai, the Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency earlier last month offered a 13-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement to the developer.

“We’ve had a series of correspondence [with the town] going back two or three years about the need for this particular parcel [of land] to be generating tax income for the community.”

— Ann Becker

Lisa Mulligan, the town’s director of economic development and CEO of the town’s IDA, said the projects would be a major boon to the area, adding these two projects are a $138 million investment for the township, and construction would facilitate around 800 construction jobs, according to town officials. 

IDA documents show once the project is completed, the residential facility will provide four full time jobs with an average salary of $56,000. The assisted living facilty is listed as providing 50 full time and 20 part time jobs with an average salary $36,000 by year two of the facility.

Mulligan said that before construction began in January the developer paid around $46,000 in property taxes on the vacant land. 

The 13-year PILOT would see the developer continue to pay $46,000 in property taxes for the first three years while the two projects are under construction. Then in the fourth year the tax payments would increase to around $190,000 and would continue to rise to about $2.2 million at the end of the PILOT. From there, the developer would pay the full assessed value of the properties, which is expected to be more than the PILOT payments.  

“We are really excited for the projects and to be able facilitate 800 jobs,” Mulligan said.   

Mount Sinai Civic Association has largely been supportive of the senior housing construction plans, though civic leaders are not fond of the news that the developer has received a PILOT from the Brookhaven IDA. 

The civic association hosted a meeting March 4 to discuss the PILOT agreement.  

“The Mount Sinai Civic Association has been consulted by The Engel Burman Group and approves of their plan to construct the senior housing project currently underway on Route 25A in Mount Sinai,” the civic said in a statement provided to TBR News Media.  

According to the civic association, the development is a part of a 1999 legal stipulation which resulted from a lawsuit filed against the town by them on the 24-acre parcel of land, and the land has always been designated for that purpose of creating these senior facilities. However, civic members were disappointed in the loss of tax revenue due to the PILOT.

“Our community has gone through many proposals for this project, and is pleased that the development is finally underway,” the civic said in its statement. “However we were very disappointed to see that a PILOT was approved by the Brookhaven IDA as this parcel was always intended to provide much-needed tax relief for the Mount Sinai community.”  

At the March 4 meeting, civic president Ann Becker reiterated that stance. 

“We’ve had a series of correspondence [with the town] going back two or three years about the need for this particular parcel [of land] to be generating tax income for the community,” she said. “We’ve been concerned about that for a number of years.”

Becker said while they are supportive about the facilities coming to the area and understand there will be some tax benefits for Mount Sinai, they are just unsure if this was the best deal that could have been obtained. 

“We are really excited for the projects and to be able facilitate 800 jobs.”

— Lisa Mulligan

The developers, The Engel Burman Group of Garden City, are no strangers to the Long Island area with 13 other assisted-living locations on the Island, including facilities in Lake Grove and Holtsville. 

Census data shows the senior population will outstrip the younger generations. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2035 there will be 78 million people 65 years and older compared to 76.7 million under the age of 18. 

The Mount Sinai senior rental complex will include a 9,000 square foot clubhouse with a movie theater, card room, outdoor pool, living room and gym. 

Units in the complex, will range from studio up to two bedrooms. A spokesperson from Engel Burman said they have not determined the prices of rent yet.

Information added March 11 denoting number of jobs the two different projects should have by completion.

By Bill Landon

The Mount Sinai middle school all stars squared off against the high school varsity squad in the 17th annual Battle of the Educators faculty basketball game.

For yet another year, the middle school claims the bragging rights of the district as they snatched the victory in the final seconds winning 73-72. The fundraiser was played March 1 in front of a packed house where the proceeds benefit the Mount Sinai Booster Club.

All Photos by Bill Landon. Captions were provided in part by Matt Dyroff, the assistant principal Mount Sinai High School.

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By Bill Landon

Mount Sinai, fresh off their decisive 27 point victory against Westhampton for the Class A title game Feb. 20, squared off against Class C qualifier Pierson/Bridgehampton for the small school crown Feb. 22. Having already won against the No. 1 seed Westhampton, Pierson should have been a much easier match, yet there was nothing easy about it when the Whalers closed to with four points late in the 3rd quarter before the Mustangs stood on the gas and shut the door to win the game 69-55.

Mount Sinai senior guard Gabby Sartori led the way like she has all season nailing 11 field goals, a triple and seven free throws to lead the Mustangs in scoring with 32. Senior guard Brooke Cergol hit three from the floor, two treys and a pair from the charity stripe notching 14 followed by senior teammate Holly McNair who banked seven.

The win propels the Mustangs to the section XI championship round where they’ll face Longwood who currently sits atop Class AA field Feb. 27 at Walt Whitman High School. Tip-off is at 4:30 p.m.

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