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Nesconset Civic Association

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The Nesconset Civic Association held its first general meeting April 19. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

“We have become the dumping ground of Smithtown,” is being repeated by Nesconset residents, almost like a mantra. Now, they are banding together to form a new civic group.

The Nesconset Civic Association held its first general meeting April 19 at the Nesconset branch of The Smithtown Public Library. The members of the new association said they have felt the character of their town is slipping away due to unwanted development and increased traffic.

“We’re not against development, we’re just for sensible development,” Vice President Sal Romeo said. “We want development that takes in the quality of life.”

Its members first met in the fall of 2017 at an informal meeting where they discussed traffic and development problems in Nesconset. A core group of like-minded people started a plan to make their voices heard. News of the proposed 7-Eleven at the southeast corner of Nichols Road and Smithtown Boulevard, at the site of the former Capital One bank, served as a catalyst for the group to organize.

We feel that Smithtown has not been listening to us and they’ve used Nesconset as their dumping ground.”
– Phyllis Hart

Several members have complained that there was already a 7-Eleven located approximately one-tenth of a mile west on Smithtown Boulevard and another would negatively affect traffic patterns on an already congested road.

“In terms of increased traffic, in terms of the structure proceeding without a full debate, it was something that we were very against, and it resonated,” said James Bouklas, president of the civic association.

Bouklas pointed out that 7-Eleven already has 13 convenience stores within the Town of Smithtown, with two other locations in Nesconset.

While there are two other area civic associations, the Nesconset Civic members said they plan to be laser-focused on their town’s issues and what they perceive are its modern problems of overdevelopment, traffic and underrepresentation in town government.

“We are the forgotten hamlet,” board member Marie Gruick said. “They are concentrated on developing Kings Park, St. James, everything but us. What I would like to see is something that draws people to the community, not these 7-Elevens or foot massage places.”

Phyllis Hart said she moved to Nesconset in 1994 because she saw it as quiet and rural. But since then, Hart said she feels those qualities have been slowly stripped away and pleas to elected officials have gone unheard.

Nesconset Civic Association members protested outside the site of the proposed 7-Eleven March 31. Photo from Facebook

“We feel that Smithtown has not been listening to us and they’ve used Nesconset as their dumping ground,” she said. “You don’t see this development in St. James or Kings Park. We don’t have a main street and I feel that that’s what’s holding us back.”

Nesconset resident Gerald Abualy said that the traffic on Nichols Road has gotten worse since he moved there in 1991. He said drivers constantly go 30 mph over the speed limit, causing frequent accidents and
imposing danger to him and his neighbors.

“My feeling is that we couldn’t get anybody from town to listen to us and we’re hoping that a new administration, a new set of eyes, new set of ears, new set of hands and feet on the ground, maybe they’ll listen to what we have to say.”

Overall, the Nesconset Civic Association members said they want to be more involved in the decisions town officials make. They want their voices and opinions to be heard.

“Our point is, think about what you’re doing, think about how it affects us, and we want to be part of the discussion,” Bouklas said.

The organization’ goals include getting the town to perform a traffic study of Nesconset and become more involved in the master plan being drawn up for the Town of Smithtown.

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Nesconset Civic Association members protested outside the site of the proposed 7-Eleven March 31. Photo from Facebook

A proposed 7-Eleven on the southeast corner of Smithtown Boulevard and Nichols Road has a Nesconset civic group up in arms.

Nesconset Civic Association, a recently formed community organization, is fearful that construction of yet another 7-Eleven will negatively affect traffic safety in their neighborhood during rush hour, especially as there is already another one a short way down the road.

Civic members attended the Town of Smithtown board meeting April 10 to voice their opinions.

Bob Souto, a board member of the Nesconset Civic Association, said he and his group collected 400 signatures through an online petition from residents who opposed the proposed 2,500-square-foot convenience store. The site in question was formerly home to Capital One bank, across from Nesconset Christian Church.

“My neighbors don’t want this, are troubled by this, and say they didn’t vote for this,” Souto said. “Our roads are designed 50, 60 years ago. This new business doesn’t add more cars to road, but it does change traffic patterns. It causes safety, pollution and congestion issues.”

He also asked the board to call a moratorium on all new development in Nesconset.

It’s time to step back, moratorium’s a good word, and prepare a comprehensive master plan for all five hamlets.”
— Amy Fortunato

The project is being spearheaded by Bay Shore-based developer J. Nazarro Partnership. Nazarro could not be reached for comment before this publication’s press time.

“Historically, Smithtown’s town codes were written to protect the interests and investments of the Smithtown residents at the time of their codifications,” Nesconset resident Amy Fortunato said. “It’s time to step back, moratorium’s a good word, and prepare a comprehensive master plan for all five hamlets.”

Smithtown spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said that in order for the town to declare a moratorium on development in Nesconset, it would have to institute a townwide building ban. However, the Town of Smithtown has several villages and hamlets, including Lake Grove, Nissequogue and Village of the Branch which would be free to make their own decisions.

Civic members also said they felt that the town board has too quickly allowed the development to go through the approval process.

You have tainted the process by prematurely coming to a conclusion and have left the town vulnerable to a legal challenge.”
— Marie Gruick

“You have tainted the process by prematurely coming to a conclusion and have left the town vulnerable to a legal challenge,“ said Marie Gruick, of Nesconset.

Garguilo said that the town’s hands are tied because the developers have the legal authority to build on the property. Town officials cannot deny a site plan solely based on its intended use. She said the town could be subject to an unwinnable lawsuit if they tried to halt it.

“If something is zoned where it requires no variance or exceptions or anything like that, by law the town has to approve it unless they are asking for a special exception or something it isn’t zoned for,” Garguilo said. “All that we would be left with is a big bill that comes out of taxpayers’ pockets.”

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said that the board will arrange for all of the traffic counts and accident studies to be made available to the residents who are concerned about traffic. He also said that the county still has to approve plans to create a new curb cut onto Smithtown Boulevard.

The Nesconset Civic Association, which is not associated with either the existing Nesconset-Sachem Civic Association or Nesconset Neighbors United, will be holding a meeting April 19 at 7 p.m. The location is the Nesconset branch of The Smithtown Library at 148 Smithtown Blvd.