Tags Posts tagged with "Parks"


Town's 2018 capital budget of $9.5 million features Lake Avenue revitalization in St. James

A plan for what Lake Avenue would look like post-revitalization. Photos from the Lake Avenue renovation capital project report, prepared by the Smithtown Planning Department

By Kevin Redding

With the adoption of more than $30 million in  capital plans Tuesday, Smithtown officials hope to be looking at a robust future.

Smithtown Town Board approved its 2018 capital budget of $9.5 million — $8.8 million is bonded — and a proposed 2019-22 capital plan — totaling $20.8 million.

The majority of the 2018 capital budget funds St. James downtown business district improvements, with $4.6 million in bonds set aside for the revitalization of Lake Avenue, of which $2.4 million will fund water main replacement.

2018 Capital Budget

For 2018, town officials have set aside funding to completely revise the town code — $300,000 — and update the town’s master plan on a budget of $500,000. Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said these will serve as “blueprints for all downtown revitalization throughout Smithtown.”

We cannot move forward without modernizing the town codes, zoning and planning. It is the first big step in making downtown revitalization a reality.”
— Ed Wehrheim

“Without these two items, downtown revitalization is merely a concept,” Wehrheim said. “We cannot move forward without modernizing the town codes, zoning and planning. It is the first big step in making downtown revitalization a reality.”

Wehrheim said the town’s existing master plan was written in-house at least 10 years ago.

Bouncing off the success of a recent market analysis study by an outside urban planner of what was needed to revitalize downtown Kings Park — that broke down the pros and cons of different sections of the hamlet — the town will issue a request for proposals to bring in a new set of eyes to evaluate and suggest improvements to the existing plan.

“The master plan is essentially going to be that, but times 10 or 20,” town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said. “It’s geared toward figuring out where the town is going to be decades down the line and the focus of progress for this new administration. It’s really the start of making this town more small business friendly and civic minded.”

Once the results of the evaluation are collected, Wehrheim and other council members will pick and choose what improvements work best for Smithtown.

“We want to hear what they think we need to move forward in the business districts and the rest of the town going into the future,” Wehrheim said.

While discussing the recodification plans, Councilman Thomas McCarthy (R) said, “This is going to bring things into the 21st century.”

“There are so many things, and this is just the beginning”
— Tom McCarthy

“It’s going to streamline things and help residents, help small businesses,” McCarthy said. “It’s been decades now and there’s no reason to make people have to — as I like to say — ‘spit blood’ just to get a permit. Right now they have to go to the board of zoning appeals and planning boards for things approved 95 to 100 percent of the time.”

2019-22 Capital Plan 

Among its planned projects for 2019-22, the town will look to fund $2.2 million in improvements at various town parks: Flynn Memorial Park in Commack to turn it into a premiere Long Island sports park; $500,000 in renovations to Gaynor Park in St. James that include new tennis and basketball courts, a playground with improved surfacing, installation of refurbished, handicap-accessible bathrooms; and new surfacing in the waterpark at Veterans Memorial Park in St. James.

The town also plans to add steps leading to the gazebo at Nesconset Chamber of Commerce, install LED lighting in Maple Avenue Park in Smithtown, repave and landscape the Bellemeade Avenue parking area and replace its deteriorating showmobile. New highway equipment will be purchased, including yard generators for Smithtown and Kings Park.

“There are so many things, and this is just the beginning,” McCarthy said.

By Alex Petroski

It was like Christmas in June for kids in Port Jefferson, as an iconic village park is finally ready for a new launch. Rocketship Park, located on Maple Place between Mill Creek Road and Barnum Avenue, had been closed since the fall for a massive renovation project that saw funds pour in from private donations, fundraising events, grants and taxpayer dollars. At least 200 kids lined the fences June 15 eagerly waiting for the official ribbon cutting to try out the new equipment for the first time, which now includes a tree house, pirate ship and of course, a rocket ship.

The refurbishment effort was done thanks in large part to a three and a half year mission by the Port Jefferson “Treasure Your Parks” campaign, an initiative created to help give a facelift to the more than 50-year-old Clifton H. Lee Memorial Park, which has commonly been known as Rocketship Park. Suffolk County Leg. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket); Jennifer Martin, a representative from Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright’s (D-Port Jefferson Station) office; the 2016 New York State championship runner up Port Jefferson High School girls basketball team, and droves of excited local kids joined members of the Port Jeff Village board and Mayor Margot Garant to cut the ribbon and officially open the park for the summer.

Garant also recognized two Port Jeff kids, Cooper and McKenna Negus, who collected change in a jar and periodically went to village hall to contribute to the fundraising efforts for the park. The mayor said she planned to use the money to purchase a tile to commemorate the generous young donors.

“Everyday we were building this park we’d have kids hanging out on the outside of the fence saying ‘when can we come and play,’” Garant said. “It’s all about the kids right?”

Garant added the park will be under video surveillance and asked that all those who visit the park help to ensure it remains clean, and free of graffiti, vandalism and litter.

The total cost of the project was about $900,000, with $500,000 coming from taxpayer dollars, $265,000 from a New York State parks grant and about $120,000 from donations, according to Barbara Sakovich, assistant to the mayor.

This version was updated June 16 to include the total cost and breakdown of funding for the park renovation. It was edited June 19 to correct that it will still be officially called Clifton H. Lee Memorial Park and commonly referred to as Rocketship Park.

Daniel Stratton (center) speaks at a press conference about a resolution to ban smoking at athletic fields with Legislator William Spencer, (left) and Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (right). Photo from Jennifer Mish

By Wenhao Ma

It’s official: You can no longer smoke on any athletic field in the Town of Huntington.

The town board unanimously passed legislation at an Aug. 16 meeting to prohibit smoking on athletic fields across Huntington.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) originally brought up the resolution in June and was supported by Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport).

“I am pleased that we have passed a common-sense measure to limit exposure to secondhand smoke at our athletic fields,” Cuthbertson said in an email.

Smoking in town parks and beaches has been banned for years — but athletic fields have not been specifically addressed in town laws. The new legislation, according to Spencer’s office, is a response to residents who have expressed concerns about being exposed to secondhand smoke at sporting events.

“Our youth, parents and coaches all deserve to breathe air free from secondhand smoke when visiting local sports fields,” Spencer said in an email. “This is critical to protecting the health of our residents and I applaud Councilman Cuthbertson and the rest of the town board for moving quickly to close this apparent loophole in the smoking policy.”

According to the legislation, no person shall smoke a tobacco product, herbal product, marijuana, cigarette, electronic cigarette, pipe, cigar, vapors, e-liquids or other legal marijuana derivatives in an outdoor playground or athletic field that is town-owned property.

Facts from the American Lung Association show how secondhand smoke affects children’s health.
Facts from the American Lung Association show how secondhand smoke affects children’s health.

Spencer thanked Cuthbertson for drafting the new legislation, which he called “a bold step” in helping to reduce the rate of smoking among the youth and ensuring clean air for all who visit the town’s sports fields.

“Everything counts,” Spencer said in a statement. “Even a child becoming conditioned to see cigarettes out in public or out at a ball field has an impact. [The legislation] is something that in the long term will save lives.”

Daniel Stratton was one of the concerned residents, and he said he brought the proposed code amendment to Cuthbertson’s attention.

“I noticed some of my children’s coaches leaving the dugout to smoke a cigarette just outside the fence of the field,” Stratton said in an email. “Aside from this being an obviously unhealthy behavior to model for the children, it seemed very counterintuitive when we are trying to get our children outside to be active and healthy.”

Stratton, who is a former health teacher, said he started researching laws and regulations for smoking at athletic fields and that is how he got involved with Cuthbertson.

“I discovered [there] was already a ban at Huntington beaches and playgrounds and I saw that this was spearheaded by Councilman Cuthbertson. So I contacted him to find out if there was already a law that encompassed [athletic fields] and if not, how I could pursue a resolution to this situation,” Stratton said.

“This new regulation extends my no-smoking legislation to include playgrounds, beaches and athletic fields,” Cuthbertson confirmed.

The village has scaled back a plan to stripe its basketball courts for pickleball after one resident said it would be a big dill to hoops players. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Village officials are making a compromise to avoid a pickle.

The basketball courts at Rocketship Park in downtown Port Jefferson were due for a redo, and while a Long Island company was repairing the court surface, village Trustee Stan Loucks had arranged for workers to also add stripes for people to play pickleball when the four hoops were not being used. But that plan has changed.

Pickleball is a sport that involves paddles and a net and has similarities to tennis and badminton. Officials added pickleball striping at the basketball courts at the park, between Barnum Avenue and the municipal parking lot behind Village Hall, to other work — which included repairing cracks, and dips in the surface that attract puddles — to embrace the growing sport trend.

But one resident was half-soured on the idea of basketball players potentially turning green with envy as they lost out on court time while others were playing pickleball.

Myrna Gordon called the courts a spot that “attracts many people from surrounding communities” in a letter to the editor last month, an opinion she also expressed to Loucks in person during board of trustees meetings in recent months.

“Culturally diverse people come to play pick-up games,” she wrote. “Converting this area for dual purposes would be an especially negative act when there are alternative sites for pickleball in the village.”

Gordon has suggested using the park on Texaco Avenue in uptown Port Jefferson, across from the upcoming apartment complex, for pickleball to avoid taking away court time downtown and to potentially attract people to the blighted uptown area.

Loucks announced at the board meeting on Monday that the pickleball proposal would be bumped back to keep ballers cool as cucumbers.

Instead of putting down lines for the sport on the basketball courts at Rocketship, the village is going to start by running a one-hour pickleball program on the court with removable nets and stripes, as a method of gauging resident demand for a venue for the activity.

The program will take place in the middle of the day, while young players are in school, the trustee said.

Park rangers would monitor Huntington Station parks to give a greater sense of police presence to the area. Stock photo

After a slew of violent incidents in Huntington Station, town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) has proposed using park rangers to help monitor the area and improve security.

In the past two months, Suffolk County Police Department has publicly reported two dead bodies found in Huntington and three shootings in the area. Residents have asked officials at town board meetings for resolutions to the safety issue.

According to town spokesman A.J. Carter, the town plans to hire three to four park rangers, who would be recently retired or active but off-duty policemen and have the same powers as peace officers.

Although their jurisdiction specifically would be town parks, Carter said the park rangers would be allowed to intervene if they see activity on the roads or other areas outside the parks.

Huntington Station borders the Froehlich Farm Nature Preserve, where the body of a young woman was found in 2013, and includes the following parks within the neighborhood: Gateway Park on New York Avenue at Lowndes Avenue; Manor Field Park on East 5th Street; Depot Road Park; and Fair Meadows Park on East Pulaski Road and Park Avenue.

According to New York State criminal procedure law, peace officers can make warrantless arrests, use physical force to make an arrest or prevent an escape, carry out warrantless searches with probable cause and issue appearance tickets, among other powers. They can also carry firearms and take away weapons from people who do not have the proper licenses to carry.

All peace officers in New York need to go through a special training program.

Carter said Petrone has spent months researching the idea.

Many other towns on Long Island use systems like this, including Smithtown, which has a park ranger division comprised of “law enforcement personnel” acting as peace officers in town-owned facilities to “enforce town codes, parks rules and regulations, as well as state and federal laws,” according to Smithtown’s website.

Smithtown park rangers work in conjunction with Suffolk police, and Carter said Huntington plans to do the same. Duties for Smithtown rangers include preserving town property, deterring crime, arresting offenders and assisting in searches for missing persons.

“It’s another presence in the community with the ability to make arrests,” Carter said in a phone interview.

The town spokesman also said the money to hire peace officers would be taken from the part of the budget set aside for additional seasonal hires.

As for information on uniforms, salary, shift schedules and more, Carter said the program is still in the works and no other news is available at the moment.

Eric Powers holds a great horned owl. Photo from Carole Paquette
Eric Powers holds a great horned owl. Photo from Carole Paquette
Eric Powers holds a great horned owl. Photo from Carole Paquette

Biologist and outdoorsman Eric Powers will conduct a birding walk at Caleb Smith State Park Preserve on Jericho Turnpike in Smithtown on Saturday, May 14, from 9 to 10:30 a.m.

Preregistration is required as space is limited. Call 631-265-1054.

The free event is part of the 2016 Lecture Series sponsored by the Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve, and will involve walking about two miles. Walkers are urged to wear sensible footwear and bring binoculars and a camera with a telephoto lens, if they are able.

Having extensively explored the historic Caleb Smith park, “Ranger Eric” — as students know him — will lead attendees to some of his favorite locations to see birds and other wildlife, as well as highlighting plants and freshwater springs, the lifeblood of the park. Ranger Eric suggests bringing any bird feather you would like to share with the group.

See more of Ranger Eric on his new television show “Off the Trail” at www.myNHTV.com. For more information, visit his website at www.YC2N.com.

For more information about Friends activities and events, visit www.friendsofcalebsmith.org.

Roosevelt Avenue’s park is tucked away in the woods. A path leads from the road to the field, which is next to the railroad track. Photo by Elana Glowatz

A hidden park in the corner of Port Jefferson could soon expand, as village officials line up paperwork on a few small properties they were supposed to take ownership of 45 years ago.

Roosevelt Park, tucked away at the end of a grassy path beyond Roosevelt Avenue in the village’s southwestern corner, is as big as the ball field it contains — but it was meant to be larger. A corporation that built houses in the village in the 1970s, as a condition of project approval, was supposed to give three parcels on the western side of Roosevelt Avenue, opposite the ball field, to the village for recreational use. It was also supposed to contribute $5,000 to the village so it could acquire a fourth piece of land, which is pinned between the existing park, the three adjacent parcels and the Long Island Rail Road track that borders the park’s southern end.

But the deed transaction was never completed, although no taxes have been paid on the group of three parcels since the 1970s, according to Port Jefferson Village Attorney Brian Egan.

Roosevelt Avenue’s park is tucked away in the woods. A path leads from the road to the field, which is next to the railroad track. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Roosevelt Avenue’s park is tucked away in the woods. A path leads from the road to the field, which is next to the railroad track. Photo by Elana Glowatz

The village board of trustees, in a legal action at a board meeting on Monday night, called the discrepancy a “scrivener error.”

It is not clear what happened to the $5,000; the village does not own the fourth piece of land either.

At the meeting, the trustees gave Mayor Margot Garant authorization to record three quitclaim deeds, which would transfer the titles of the properties to the village.

Egan said he has spoken to the family of the construction corporation’s owner, who has since died, and “they don’t want to have anything to do with this property.”

The fourth piece of land might be a little trickier — property taxes have been paid on that lot, and Egan said the village might have to acquire the sliver through eminent domain, an action in which a municipality claims private property for a public benefit and compensates the owner.

When combined with the existing Roosevelt Park, the land could make a spot larger than 2 acres, Garant said at a previous meeting. She has also said that she would like to see the expanded spot become a “dedicated space for peewee programs,” because older players sometimes dominate the Caroline Avenue ball field up the road.

While the mayor had said she doesn’t want to impact the surrounding residences, in the village neighborhood off Old Post Road known as the “presidential section,” she had suggested adding some parking at Roosevelt Park.

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The Gentlemen’s Driving Park is currently overgrown and hidden, but will soon be restored. Photo by Elana Glowatz

By Elana Glowatz

Officials are on track to restore a piece of Long Island history, bringing an abandoned and forgotten horse-racing site back to life.

The Cumsewogue Historical Society has a ticket to the Gentlemen’s Driving Park from July 4, 1892. Photo by Elana Glowatz
The Cumsewogue Historical Society has a ticket to the Gentlemen’s Driving Park from July 4, 1892. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Brookhaven Town finished purchasing a swath of wooded land off of Canal Road in Terryville at the end of 2013, after Cumsewogue Historical Society President Jack Smith discovered the faint outline of the horse track and dug up information about what was once called the Gentlemen’s Driving Park. The town now owns the entire 11-acre site.

Today it’s an overgrown path hidden among trees, but the Gentlemen’s Driving Park used to be a place where Victorian Era bettors watched men race around the half-mile loop — counterclockwise — behind horses in carts called sulkies. It was part of a circuit of harness racing tracks in the Northeast, according to Smith, but likely fell into neglect with the rise of the automobile.

But cars have also helped keep the track viable: Smith previously reported that at least through the mid-1950s, kids raced jalopies around the track, preventing it from becoming completely overgrown.

Smith said on Monday the effort to restore and preserve the track is moving slowly, but there has been progress since the town finished acquiring the property. There are plans in place to clear the track to about 20 feet wide, although leaving larger trees in place, and to move up the southern curve of the oval, he said.

Jack Smith takes a closer look at a wrecked car on the Gentlemen's Driving Park track around the time he first discovered the forgotten historical spot. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Jack Smith takes a closer look at a wrecked car on the Gentlemen’s Driving Park track around the time he first discovered the forgotten historical spot. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Currently, a small PSEG Long Island facility cuts into that southern tip. Rather than moving the facility or leaving the track incomplete, the town would retrace that small section of track, slightly shortening the loop but completing the oval so as to make a walkable path for visitors.

“The town is in the process of working on the track to restore the track as closely to the original footprint as possible,” Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said in a statement this week. “There will be some adjustments needed and the town is actively working on that.”

If all goes according to plan, the councilwoman said, the restored track could open late in the summer or early in the fall.

“The important thing is that it will be an oval,” Smith said Monday. “We want to keep some of the historical integrity.”

His goal is to put informational signs around the track that will teach people about its history.

The Gentlemen’s Driving Park is currently overgrown and hidden, but will soon be restored. Photo by Elana Glowatz
The Gentlemen’s Driving Park is currently overgrown and hidden, but will soon be restored. Photo by Elana Glowatz

The driving park was adjacent to well-known horse trainer Robert L. Davis’ Comsewogue stables, now the Davis Professional Park. After hearing rumors of such a track in Terryville, Smith discovered it by looking at an aerial image of the neighborhood taken during the winter, when the foliage was less dense. He saw the faint shape in the woods near Canal Road and went walking in to find it. Since that visit, he has uncovered a broken pair of Victorian-era field glasses near the finish line on the track’s west side, which may have been dropped and trampled. He also has a ticket from a racing event on July 4. 1892.

Once restoration work is completed, Cartright said the town hopes to work with the historical society and the community “to hold a kickoff event to highlight the track and its history.”

For his part, the historical society president has said he would like to hold a fair in which people will re-enact the late 1800s horse races with vintage sulkies or participate in a carriage parade.

“We can’t be happier that it’s been preserved,” Smith said.

The southern pine beetle has been spotted in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens Preserve. Several trees, including oak trees, are marked for harvesting throughout the park. Photo by Giselle Barkley

In light of the uptick in southern pine beetle populations on Long Island, environmental officials are looking to weed out the issue in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens Preserve.

Last December, the Department of Environmental Conservation proposed a timber thinning to combat the beetle’s presence in the state park. The prospective contractor wouldn’t only harvest pine trees in the park, but also cut down hardwood trees to use for personal benefit. New York State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), Assemblyman Fred Thiele (D-Sag Harbor) and Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) voiced their opposition to the proposal on Feb. 11.

According to their statement, the project mainly involves the selling of scarlet oak trees rather than harvesting the beetle-infested pitch pine trees in the park. The property was not preserved to provide contractors with lumber, but to preserve the land, as the pine barrens property sits on the Island’s purest waterway. No bids were made on the contract thus far.

“We were going to do this thinning out as a preventative measure, and [the proposed plan] was their response, and we didn’t feel that it was logical,” Englebright said. “This doesn’t address that this crisis is advancing.”

The southern pine beetle appeared in Long Island en masse, in fall 2014, and has devastated thousands of acres of Pine Barrens property, according to Englebright. The beetle, which creates tunnels in the tress, targets all types of pine trees, including pitch pine trees like those found in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens Preserve. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation found infested pine trees in October 2014.

“When the extent of the infestation became known, it was apparent that there needed to be a lot of control efforts,” said Anthony Graves, the Town of Brookhaven’s chief environmental analyst. “But there was no funding. … the State was trying to figure out a way to go ahead and engage control efforts [with the opposed timber harvest plan].”

According to Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, there are not many cases of beetle infestation in the park. However, the Connetquot River State Park in Oakdale lost around 3,600 acres of pine trees to the Southern Pine Beetle. Graves added that wind could have picked up the small beetles and carried them from New Jersey to the Island.

Warmer winter weather over the past few years has also contributed to the increase in pine beetle populations.

In the DEC’s proposal, it added that harvesting the trees will also help other trees grow. It added that harvesting is a common practice when combatting this type of infestation. There’s no mention of harvesting oak trees in its preventative thinning plan. Amper said the reasoning was odd, as the pitch pine trees are much taller than the oak trees that are currently marked in the park.

Englebright, LaValle and Thiele requested $3.5 million in the 2016-17 state budget to properly address the infestation without unnecessary harvesting. Graves said the best and cheapest way to deal with the beetles is to cut down infected trees.

“The cutting of the heavily-infested stands is widely accepted by federal and state agencies that have been dealing with this problem for the last 100 years,” Graves said. “In the U.S., it’s a long-term problem with the beetles damaging commercial forests. It’s that long-term information that’s being used to drive the plan.”

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Professors Gil Hanson and Malcolm Bowman are awarded the Guardian of the Glade certificate by Paul Siegel, center, for their many years of work to ensure that the Ashley Schiff Park Preserve remains forever wild. Photo from Joe Ryder

By Carolann Ryan

The Fourth Annual “Fire and Water” Party and Membership Reception was held on Thursday, Sept. 24, at Stony Brook University, in celebration of the 45th anniversary of the Ashley Schiff Park Preserve.

This special event was presented by The Friends of Ashley Schiff Park Preserve — a membership organization dedicated to the managing and promoting of the Ashley Schiff Park Preserve — for its educational and research value with students, faculty, staff, and the community.

The reception recognized students and several members of the community for their efforts to continue the legacy of Dr. Ashley Schiff.

Schiff was a dedicated professor of political science and avowed naturalist in the early days of Stony Brook University. In the early fall of 1969, at the age of 37, he died suddenly and unexpectedly. To honor him, in 1970, a 26-acre woodland often walked by Professor Schiff and his students, was set aside and dedicated in his memory to be “forever wild.”

The reception, held at the Simons Center Café on Stony Brook’s campus, began at 5:30 p.m. This year’s awardees included Drs. Susan and Daniel O’Leary, Malcolm Bowman, and Gil Hanson, as well as the presentation of undergraduate scholarships to Stony Brook students involved with promoting the preserve.

Following the welcome and introductions, the awards ceremony commenced.

To begin, two Stony Brook undergraduate students were awarded the 2015 Ashley Schiff Scholarship Awards. Alexandrea Van Loo and Andrew Fiorenza participated in a yearlong project where they installed cameras throughout the nature preserve to detect foot traffic patterns from both humans and animals to determine how much the preserve is used.

This year’s Appreciation Award was presented to Drs. Susan and Daniel O’Leary for their contributed time and resources in efforts to beautify the area surrounding Stony Brook’s psychology building. Both psychology professors at Stony Brook, the O’Learys planted azaleas and spruce trees, the same plants Schiff had planted with his students in 1969 around the then-new Roth Pond. Presenting the award was Schiff’s wife.

The final award of the evening, the Guardians of the Glade, was presented to both Bowman and Hanson. They were recognized for their heroic efforts in raising awareness for the Ashley Schiff Park Preserve. Professor Bowman, who teaches at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook, has worked for more than 15 years writing articles and forming committees in order to raise public awareness about the preserve. Professor Hanson, from the Department of Geosciences at Stony Brook, used the preserve as a place to mentor graduate students in their studies of environmental and geological systems on Long Island for many years. These men were honored for keeping Schiff’s legacy alive.

Following the awards, invited guest speaker Carl Safina to speak and sign copies of his book. The ceremony was preceded by a wine and cheese reception. The event was free, but donations were gratefully accepted.

The preserve is located in the southern campus between Roth Quad and the Marine Science Research Center. It can be easily accessed through pathways located across South Loop road from Roth Quad and just north of Nassau Hall, near the Marine Sciences Research Center.