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Revitalization

Huntington Town Board approved the transfer of 1000 New York Ave. to Renaissance Downtowns April 10. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A Town of Huntington councilman sharply criticized his fellow board members’ willingness to transfer town-owned land to a private developer for Huntington Station’s revitalization as a “betrayal of public trust.”

Huntington town board voted 4-1 to give 1000 New York Ave. to Renaissance Downtowns, the master developer behind Huntington Station’s revitalization, at its April 10 meeting.

Councilman Ed Smyth (R) was the only one to vote against, blasting his colleagues that giving the property away for free was “unconscionable.”

“Giving away this property without knowing its current fair market valuable is grossly irresponsible,” Smyth said. “Our roads have potholes, marines and docks are in disrepair, the main floor of this building is covered by rubber matting that’s held down by tape. … The town cannot afford to give away this real estate for free.”

The town had acquired the former Tilden Brakes site through use of eminent domain for about $700,000. Since then, the town has spent funds to demolish the former auto care center and clean up the land, Smyth pointed out.

Giving away this property without knowing its current fair market valuable is grossly irresponsible.”

—Ed Smyth

A Town of Huntington councilman sharply criticized his fellow board members’ willingness to transfer town-owned land to a private developer for Huntington Station’s revitalization as a “betrayal of public trust.”

Huntington town board voted 4-1 to give 1000 New York Ave. to Renaissance Downtowns, the master developer behind Huntington Station’s revitalization, at its April 10 meeting.

Councilman Ed Smyth (R) was the only one to vote against, blasting his colleagues that giving the property away for free was “unconscionable.”

“Giving away this property without knowing its current fair market valuable is grossly irresponsible,” Smyth said. “Our roads have potholes, marines and docks are in disrepair, the main floor of this building is covered by rubber matting that’s held down by tape. … The town cannot afford to give away this real estate for free.”

The town had acquired the former Tilden Brakes site through use of eminent domain for about $700,000. Since then, the town has spent funds to demolish the former auto care center and clean up the land, Smyth pointed out.

The land is one of four parcels Renaissance Downtowns needed to acquire to move forward with Gateway Plaza redevelopment. The approved site plan for 1000 to 1026 New York Ave. calls for the construction of a mixed-used building consisting of 16,000-square-feet of retail space and 66 apartments — 33 studios and 33 one-bedroom units. The existing Brother’s Barber Shop will remain in place.

Smyth said the developer has paid more than $3 million to private owners to acquire the three neighboring properties, yet the town will not receive any funds for 1000 New York Ave.

“It’s not a free transfer by any stretch,” said Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D).

Cergol said that the town-owned property was appraised two years ago when the master development agreement for Huntington Station was negotiated. Renaissance Downtowns has invested funds into the revitalization project that was levied against the property’s value or “baked into the transaction.”

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said he found himself in a difficult position in voting on the contractual agreement negotiated by former Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) to give the land to Renaissance Downtowns under Huntington Station’s master plan. If the transfer was voted down, Lupinacci said he knew the town would be immediately hit with a lawsuit and face tens of thousands in legal fees.

We owe it to Huntington Station, revitalization is important.”

— Chad Lupinacci

“I care too much about the town and taxpayers to waste this type of money,” he said.

The supervisor suggested the funds could be better spent by improving the town’s parks, offering childcare services or keeping the town’s tax rate low. His proclamation that he would support the measure and encouragement to his fellow board members to do the same, was met by a round of applause from residents.

“We owe it to Huntington Station, revitalization is important,” Lupinacci said. “We want to restore it. It’s an excellent area.”

Renaissance Downtowns had initially projected a time line of groundbreaking on the Gateway Plaza in fall of 2017. The developer hopes to be able to begin demolition within 60 to 90 days once proper permits are in order, according to Renaissance Downtowns Community Liaison Andrea Bonilla. A groundbreaking ceremony on construction is projected for this fall.

“This is the next stage in the overall development,” Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said. “I think it’s a good stepping stone.”

The developer has already completed construction of Northridge, a multiuse building consisting of 6,200-square-feet of retail space and 16 one-bedroom apartments further south on New York Avenue.

A Huntington resident signs the steel beam. Photo by Kevin Redding.

By Kevin Redding

When it comes to revitalization, Huntington Station is building a future as solid as steel.

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) could barely contain his excitement June 8 as he, along with town board members and developers, kicked off Huntington Station’s long-planned revitalization phase with the signing of a steel beam to be installed over the entrance of a new, mixed-use building currently under construction at the intersection of Northridge Street and New York Avenue, a site on which the town has been trying to develop a property for decades.

“Finally, this is happening,” Petrone said to cheers and applause from at least 50 residents and local leaders standing in front of the construction site. “All of you who are here have been inspirational in his whole process and we know it’s taken a long time, but it’s happened…and thank goodness it’s happened.”

The mixed-use building, under construction since January and expected to be completed in October, will be made up of 6500 square feet of retail space on the first floor, with May’s Gourmet Delicatessen signed up as the first and only commercial tenant so far, and a total of 16 one-bedroom apartments, eight on the second floor and eight on the third, for a total cost of $5.5 million. According to the town, it’s projected to “generate $55,007 in tax revenue the first year, rising to $132,016 (at present rates) in 15 years.”

Huntington officials and community members smile. Photo by Kevin Redding.

This will serve as the first concrete project in Huntington Station’s next phase of youth-friendly revitalization and was developed in partnership with Renaissance Downtowns, a nationally-renowned development group chosen by the town to be a master developer in 2011. Blue & Gold Holdings, a Huntington-based contracting business, is in charge of construction.

“We’re going to attract millennials to this facility, and that speaks highly because the station is a hub, the station is a nucleus of people that commute, especially, and that’s who we are looking to attract,” Petrone said. “There was considerable money put into this, and commitment, because that’s the commitment necessary to start the engine of economic development. The collective work with the communities, with Renaissance Downtowns and with the town has paid off.”

Town Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) and Councilwoman Susan Berland (D), both integral players in the town’s revitalization efforts, were equally excited about the progress being made on the site.

“Today is a great day for Huntington Station,” Cuthbertson said. “Anytime we can see brick, mortar and steel [in Huntington Station] with housing going up is a good sign. We have beautiful mixed-use buildings like this going up in Huntington Village that really, really add to the downtown area…but when we can have a building like this, when the economics are right, when government and the private sector come together and are able to do this in Huntington Station, we’re certainly on the right track.”

Berland assured the crowd that although it’s been long in the making, the project will be worth the wait.

“The businesses that are going to happen here and the people who are going to be able to move in to the heart of the station and live here and prosper here and shop here —it’s going to be fantastic,” Berland said. “It’s a beautiful design and it’s going to be a beautiful project when it’s done and we wish everybody who’s going to move in here lots and lots of happiness and years of shopping in Huntington and spending your money. They say the best things in life are worth waiting for and, well, this is absolutely worth waiting for.”

Don Monti, chairman of Renaissance Downtowns, referring to Petrone, said, “Huntington Station is something he’s wanted to see developed for many years and I’m happy and proud that prior to the supervisor departing that the dream has come true…and this is just a beginning… the first of many to come.”

“We’re going to attract millennials to this facility, and that speaks highly because the station is a hub, the station is a nucleus of people that commute, especially, and that’s who we are looking to attract.”
— Frank Petrone

Future projects proposed by Renaissance Downtowns, currently in the approval process, include a mixed-use building at the intersection of New York Avenue and Olive Street that will include 66 apartments and ground-level retail, a hotel and office building at New York Avenue and Railroad Street, and artists’ studios in what is currently a municipal parking lot at New York Avenue and Church Street.

Dolores Thompson, a community activist for more than 70 years and the mother of Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D), said she’s been trying to bring back Huntington Station since it was “taken away in the 1950s.”

“This is one of the things that I wanted to see before I leave this world and to be here today and be able to witness the fact that we actually have started is like a blessing…I’m so pleased to be here,” Thompson said. In terms of what she hopes will come to Huntington Station, she laughed, “We need a hair salon, then a shoe store, we want a gathering place and a community room…we want everything, okay?”

Robert Rockelein, a member of the civic group Huntington Matters, called this “progress in the right direction.”

“The revitalization has been backsliding for decades, it’s long overdue and it’s going to help populate and reflourish the downtown area,” Rockelein said. “I’d like to see more neighborhood-established businesses rather than regional chains obviously, and give people that live and work here an opportunity to establish something here and build their American dream.”

Local leaders, developers and residents each took turns signing their names on the last piece of steel to be installed on the mixed-use building, which will be placed at the entrance.

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

Smithtown is moving ahead with plans to beautify its downtowns, this time with St. James.

The town board voted May 9 to amend the 2017 capital projects plan and budget to add a $2 million reconstruction to enhance the St. James business
district.

The project, adopted in a 3-2 vote, will renovate approximately 4,300 feet of Lake Avenue, from Moriches Road to Woodlawn Avenue, by restoring its sidewalks and putting in new street trees, street lighting, curbs, concrete gutters and crosswalks, driveway aprons, asphalt, driveway aprons, benches and other decorative amenities.

The project, spearheaded by Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) in collaboration with the traffic, engineering, highway and planning departments, aims to make Lake Avenue the focal point of the St. James community, improve business activity in the downtown area, and encourage private investment in adjacent properties.

“It’s about time we step up to the plate, swing the bat, and make St. James Village and all our other villages the light of Suffolk County,” McCarthy said to the board during the work session Tuesday morning. “We have the best budget of all towns in the county and some of the most affluent people in the county … and I think we have to lead the way for the community to fix our infrastructure that’s aged and decrepit and if we don’t, then shame on us.”

According to Town Planning Director David Flynn, Lake Avenue was last reconstructed with a crown and base and street trees, concrete curbs, sidewalks and gutters in the 1930s. The work done at the time served the hamlet well for many years but new surfacing is desperately needed today, Flynn explained to the board.

“The sidewalks in St. James today would be rated the lowest in terms of walkability, smoothness, and crookedness, and the trees have been cropped severely by utilities to the point where they are more like weeds,” Flynn said. “The vacancy rate in the business district has increased the past few years and our approach is to bring downtown back to what it was, add amenities, put some trees back, rebuild what’s there … restore the pavement and make the pedestrian environment better, safe and more attractive.”

To further improve the aesthetic of the streetscape, according to the project proposal, the species and locations of street trees will be selected based on overhead wires, underground utilities and other urban conditions.

When asked by Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) why St. James should be the first of the hamlets to be worked on, as opposed to Kings Park and Smithtown, Flynn said it is the only one not sitting on a state highway, so state approval wouldn’t be necessary. The state of repair is also better in other hamlets, he added.

Nowick said during the work session she was in agreement with the project.

“We need to take care of our downtowns, whether it’s Smithtown or Kings Park or St. James,” she said. “There is no foot traffic in St. James … it’s a little sad.”

According to Superintendent of Highways Robert Murphy (R), renovations to Lake Avenue will begin as soon as possible, in coordination with schools and local businesses.

The cost estimate total of $1,994,836.60 — for asphalt, concrete, trees, amenities, surveying, drainage and lighting — will come out of the town’s general fund balance and will not be bonded.

“It’s a great project and we’re moving in the right direction,” McCarthy said.

During the vote, Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R), McCarthy and Nowick said yes. Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) and Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo (R), saying they support the project but request it be tabled for a couple weeks, voted no. The two opposed said they wanted more time to review the plan in its entirety.

Miller Place art teacher Julia Vogelle helped form The Brick Studio and Gallery nonprofit. Photo from Julia Vogelle

Who better to bring vibrancy and revitalization to downtown Rocky Point than a group of local artists? With the support of elected officials, a new nonprofit organization is leading the charge to help enrich, educate and electrify the Rocky Point community and surrounding areas.

The Brick Studio and Gallery is an art collective of more than 20 local artists and instructors with aspirations to grow and develop into a full-fledged community studio and hub.

Spearheaded by Miller Place High School art teacher Julia Vogelle and professional ceramicist Justine Moody, the group blossomed around the time Stony Brook University’s Craft Center and ceramics studio closed for renovations in January 2016, leaving potters and artists without a space to do what they love.

Pottery making will be offered at The Brick Studio and Gallery. Photo from Julia Vogelle

Vogelle and Moody, who shared dreams of opening up a cooperative to bring art back into the community, met in the wake of the Craft Center shutdown and enlisted the help of the “homeless” artists to form the organization.

Since then, the project has grown, culminating in a Kickstarter campaign with an ambitious goal of $18,000 to turn a dream into a reality. With 120 backers, their goal has already been exceeded, raising a total of $18,150.

The money will cover the start-up costs to find a location and equip and supply the studio with 14 pottery wheels, two electric kilns, kiln shelves, clay, glazes and ceramic tools. According to the fundraiser page, the studio “has the potential to begin a renaissance in historic Rocky Point, with other artists and artisans joining in bringing life to other empty buildings” and plans to open in early spring.

“My vision is to have this cultural center energize and bring all the money back into the hamlet,” Vogelle said. “Rocky Point has a lot to offer. People 16 and up can come; we’d have services for students, seniors, veterans and anyone who would like to work. I want to look at Broadway in Rocky Point as ‘artist’s row.’”

In addition to pottery, glass and jewelry making, the studio will be a venue for documentary showings, live poetry, trivia nights and  live music.

Moody expanded on the grand vision.

“I think it’s going to become a destination place … I don’t know that Rocky Point has one, and there are a lot of towns here with a tremendous group of creatives who don’t really have a place to call their own,” Moody said.

She’s hoping it could be a place to attract locals during the summer to take lessons, and others from outside the community on Friday nights, saying she envisions big events on weekends and other pop-up events throughout the year.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) believes The Brick has the potential to be a tourist attraction that could boost Rocky Point’s foot traffic and revenue — much-needed since the state built the bypass, which encourages traffic to go around the area, hitting downtown businesses especially hard.

“There are a lot of towns here with a tremendous group of creatives who don’t really have a place to call their own.”

— Justine Moody

“So many of our residents come in from the Long Island Expressway, from Sunrise Highway, and they look to go east from the North Fork, and my hope is that maybe they’ll turn left and go west to experience what Rocky Point and Shoreham have to offer,” Anker said. “There are so many high-level artists that live in the area and this will hopefully give them a way to stay local and promote their craft to the public.”

Anker has been involved in North Shore revitalization plans since 2011, participating with the Rails to Trails project and the clean-up of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, and said that art is not just trendy.

“We underestimate how important art is, it needs to be cultivated,” she said. “It’s part of our culture and it has an educational component. It will definitely benefit downtown Rocky Point.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), who contributed $100 to the art collective’s Kickstarter campaign, said she’s so excited about the studio and points to Vogelle and Moody’s hard work and dedication.

“They’re very dedicated and committed and they’re not looking for somebody else to solve their problem … grass isn’t growing under feet at all and it’s hard not to pay attention to that,” Bonner said.

As a 30-year Rocky Point resident, the councilwoman is hopeful that the artists can bring people back to downtown Rocky Point and trigger change.

Vogelle feels the same, stating that she believed that the art can bring value to homes and surrounding businesses.

“If you put art into a community, people want to move in,” she said. “If you put music in town, people want to gather around and enjoy it. A cultural center like this always connects with schools in the district and it will also help people realize there’s so much culture that’s hidden. And anyone can get hooked on ceramics — the elderly, veterans, teens. Once you touch mud, you never go back.”

A rendering of the Gateway Plaza development on the left, and on the top right, the envisioned artist residences on the corners of New York Avenue and Church Street. Image from Renaissance Downtowns

The effort to revitalize Huntington Station got out of the gutter this week, as Suffolk County approved $1.25 million to study the possibility of extending the Southwest Sewer District to cover part of Huntington Station, which would help push the area’s plan along.

Local officials, community residents, and organizations have been collaborating to improve Huntington Station and bring new life to the area.

The lack of sewers is one of the areas desperately in need of improvement to make revitalization possible, as the land north of the Long Island Rail Road train tracks in Huntington Station is served by the town’s sewer district, but the south side is not, which limits development and economic opportunities.

Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Huntington) said he was pleased with this development at a press conference Jan. 9 at the Huntington Opportunity Resource Center.

“This funding marks an important first step in the long-awaited revitalization of Huntington Station,” he said at the event. “Sewer infrastructure is important not only for economic development, but also to support small businesses, expand opportunity and improve the quality of life for all of Huntington. It is also critical to preserving our environment and protecting water quality.”

The fund will include a comprehensive report with an engineering and design plan to add sewer coverage along New York Avenue south of the train station by hooking up to the county’s Southwest Sewer District.

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said reconfiguring the sewer lines is crucial to the success of Huntington Station.

“As we continue to build momentum in Huntington Station’s revitalization, it is important that we identify and address possible impediments,” he said. “The lack of sewers … is one of those impediments, and this grant will start the ball rolling toward solving the issue.”

The resolution was originally sponsored by County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport).

“Investing in sewers is the foundation of advancing the revitalization and will open the door to a bright future for the community,” he said. “With engaged partners in the town and community moving this forward, the sewers will enable Huntington Station to once again reclaim our strong sense of place and become an attractive downtown.”

According to the Town, the investment is the roadmap for the larger $20 million project included in the 2017 capital budget for the construction of sewers in subsequent years. The project is expected to lift the local economy, provide new housing opportunities, create jobs and increase property values.

Andrea Bonilla, community liaison for Source the Station, a group working to ensure the future of Huntington Station’s downtown is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable, echoed the importance of this fund.

“Source the Station has been collaborating and working with the Huntington Station community for over four years,” she said. “We understand the importance of sewers for a sustainable revitalization of our community, and are excited to see this component come to fruition as we all continue to strive for a better future for all Huntington Station stakeholders.”

A view of the downtown Kings Park area. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

The Kings Park revitalization effort received inspiring news this week, as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced his intention to invest $40 million to build sewers in Smithtown and Kings Park.

“These major, transformative investments in Long Island’s core infrastructure invest in the future resiliency and strength of the region,” Cuomo said. “Vital water infrastructure projects will support environmental sustainability and bolster economic growth. With these projects, we equip Long Island with the tools and resources to drive commercial activity, create jobs and build a stronger Long Island for generations to come.”

Sean Lehman, president of the Kings Park Civic Association, said before the governor’s announcement that revitalization of the Kings Park downtown seemed impossible without enough money to build a sewer system there.

“Any movement depends on [Kings Park] getting sewer money,” Lehman said in a phone interview. “Everything hinges on it.” Lehman estimated the hamlet would need “between $16 and $20 million just to bring sewage to the business district in Kings Park.”

Kings Park Civic Association Vice President Linda Henninger said this money marks a new chapter of the revitalization effort.

“This is really the beginning of not only revitalization of our hamlet, which holds so much potential, but we shouldn’t forget the positive impact it will have on the environment,” she said in an email. “Sewering is not only important for economic reasons, but also environmental. We’re very happy and look forward to rolling up our sleeves and continue to work hard for and with the community.”

Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) agreed hearing of the possibility of receiving funds is a step toward bettering the Kings Park and Smithtown communities.

“It’s a great thing,” he said in a phone interview. “I’ve been asking the county for the last three years for sewers in Kings Park and Smithtown.”

At a recent civic association meeting, the group was also enthused by news that Suffolk County put forward an economic stimulus package including $200,000 in grant money for Kings Park revitalization efforts.

“We’re excited by this,” Lehman said. “Anything that can help us move forward is good, and we appreciate the county’s effort.”

Vecchio said the town has not yet drafted a specific plan on how they will use the $200,000 grant from the county, intended to study traffic impacts and parking for revitalization, since no real specifics have been given to the board yet.

In November of last year, the civic association presented the Smithtown board with its plan for revitalization, created by Vision Long Island, an organization that works to create more livable, economically stable and environmentally responsible areas on Long Island. The plan studied the demographics, and commercial areas of Kings Park, and includes recommendation and suggestions from the many meetings the organization had with Kings Park residents.

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Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant shows attendees at a public hearing Sept. 26 plans for the revitalization of Port Jefferson Station. File photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson Village is looking to bring Uptown Funk to Port Jefferson Station, but it’ll need some help.

The Port Jefferson Village board of trustees plans to submit a funding proposal to the Empire State Development Corporation to breathe new life into upper Port Jefferson.

The plans are part of the Restore New York Communities Initiative, which was funded in the 2015-16 state budget for the sole purpose of supporting municipalities in rehabilitating blighted commercial properties.

If awarded, the funding proposal would grant the village up to $500,000 to be used to clean up five adjacent parcels near the intersection of Perry Street and Main Street, about a block north of the Long Island Rail Road station. The village is calling the multiphased project Uptown Funk.

Mayor Margot Garant said during a public hearing on the matter Sept. 26 that the village plans to apply for the grant yearly in the hopes of redeveloping multiple areas in upper Port over time. The grant will also require the village to match at least 10 percent of the $500,000 toward the project, according to Garant.

“The $500,000 can be used for sidewalk restoration, demolition, redevelopment, parking lot improvements — all the things that would be necessary to help a developer make an improvement to this area.”

— Margot Garant

The location was selected following a blight study in May, which targeted several areas in Port Jefferson Station in need of attention. The buildings named in the funding proposal were ultimately chosen because of the village’s belief that the property owner will cooperate. The grant requires a willing participant from the private sector. Currently the buildings on the property are vacant.

Village grant writer Nicole Christian said she expects to hear back regarding the application by the spring of 2017, and at the moment no concrete parameters have been established for how exactly the money would be put to use.

“The $500,000 can be used for sidewalk restoration, demolition, redevelopment, parking lot improvements — all the things that would be necessary to help a developer make an improvement to this area,” Garant said. “The $500,000 is sort of loosely prescribed, and what I mean by that is we’re not told we have to put it into sidewalks, or told we have to put it into one aspect of the project. So as far as we see it, it enables the village to bring $500,000 to the table to help incentivize a project that will give back to the village perhaps more of what it would like to see, which is a strong, anchor retail establishment on the main floor, or a restaurant with housing above.”

Trustee Bruce D’Abramo expressed his excitement to get the project started.

“I’m really happy to see the village moving forward on this particular issue,” he said of the revitalization of Port Jefferson Station. “It has been a clear goal of mine since I became a trustee to do something about upper Port, and this is one of the mechanisms that I’m happy we can embrace.”

Trustee Larry Lapointe also voiced support for the plan.

“I think this particular corner is perhaps the worst corner uptown,” he said. “The two buildings that are on site were deemed to be so unsafe that we had to vacate and board them up. Two of the lots behind are magnets for homeless people, and we’re constantly working with the owners to get camps moved out of that area when they spring up. It’s sorely in need of redevelopment.”

Barbara Ransome, director of operations for The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, addressed the proposal during the hearing.

“The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce certainly supports this potential funding and really feels it’s very important, especially in upper Port, in our business community there, and as a gateway coming into the village,” she said. “It’s critical for this type of development to continue.”

U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin, Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner and town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro at Sills Gully Beach following the revitalization. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R), U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) announced the completion of repairs intended to protect, restore and strengthen Sills Gully Beach in Shoreham, after it was severely damaged during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

“The revitalization project at Sills Gully is one of a dozen North Shore surface water quality protection projects the highway department has undertaken since I took office,” Losquadro said. “I want to thank Congressman Zeldin for expediting the federal funding necessary to complete this project and ensure the resilience of our shoreline.”

“Preventing storm water runoff from entering the Long Island Sound this is a victory for the residents of Shoreham and the environment.”

— Jane Bonner

In order to reduce risk of damage from future storm events, members of the Brookhaven highway department completely removed the ineffective gabion basket walls, replacing them with 160 feet of steel bulkhead with stone-toe protection to prevent scouring. The bulkhead — which now protects areas of the bluff that have experienced significant levels of erosion in the past — has a longer life span than the gabion walls and will better protect from future disasters.

“The completion of restoration at Sills Gully Beach is an excellent example of different levels of government working together for the benefit of our community,” Bonner said. “I have been diligently working on this issue since the damage was caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and I am extremely happy to see these necessary repairs come to fruition. By preventing storm water runoff from entering the Long Island Sound, this is a victory for the residents of Shoreham and the environment. I want to thank Congressman Zeldin and Superintendent Losquadro for working with me to make this happen.”

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro points out the new improvements his department made to protect the area. Photo from Town of Brookhaven
Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro points out the new improvements his department made to protect the area. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

As a result of these mitigation measures and to comply with Tidal Wetlands and Clean Water Act permits, the department included upgrades to the existing storm water system by installing a new bioretention area where storm water naturally collects. This bioretention area consists of two, 12-foot deep leaching basins and an 8-foot wide trash rack to capture storm water and transport it through nearly 400 feet of 48-inch, smooth, interior-corrugated polyethylene pipe for natural dissipation. Additionally, a rock-lined drainage swale was constructed along the length of the parking lot to collect any remaining runoff. These upgrades will ensure that polluted storm water is not directly entering the Long Island Sound.

The project was funded with an $875,000 federal grant secured by Zeldin through FEMA.

“Once Brookhaven Town received the necessary federal funding to make repairs at Sills Gully Beach and Gully Landing Drainage Facility, the town was able to complete this important project,” said Zeldin, who is also a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “This revitalization project will help protect, restore and strengthen Sills Gully Beach in Shoreham and the overall quality of water in our local area, and I am proud to join with Superintendent Losquadro and Councilwoman Bonner to announce the completion of this project.”

The second phase of construction is underway at the Texaco Avenue apartments. Photo by Elana Glowatz

If you build it, they will come.

Port Jefferson developer Rail Realty LLC proved that old adage when Rob Gitto, from its parent company The Gitto Group, confirmed its uptown apartment project is already at full rental capacity — a month before it is even slated to open.

Gitto said the 38 units in the first completed apartment building has been completely pre-leased and there is a waiting list for the second building, which will add another approximately 36 units when completed next year.

Most of those future tenants are affiliated with Stony Brook University in some way, Gitto said, whether they are graduate students, medical residents, professors, nurses, doctors or other staff. There are also a few people from John T. Mather Memorial Hospital’s new residency program.

The first phase of the Texaco Avenue apartments is complete. Photo by Elana Glowatz
The first phase of the Texaco Avenue apartments is complete. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Officials broke ground on the much-anticipated project, dubbed The Hills at Port Jefferson, in May 2015, expressing hope that the first new development in upper Port would spur revitalization efforts in the troubled area.

Village leaders have been trying to enhance the uptown’s Main Street corridor, between North Country/Sheep Pasture Road and the Long Island Rail Road tracks, with the goal of improving quality of life, making it more pedestrian-friendly and attracting developers and visitors.

At the groundbreaking last year, Mayor Margot Garant said the 74 Texaco Avenue apartments would be “so important” to the revitalization.

Gitto thinks it’s already propelled other improvements. He said Monday that he has seen one nearby business making improvements to an existing establishment and two others sign leases to bring in new ones.

“We wanted to see the area revitalized and we’re seeing it,” he said, adding about the rest of the uptown area, “We definitely hope they follow suit.”

There are other community benefits attached: Under the conditions of the project’s approval, Rail Realty has to make improvements to a pocket park on the west side of Texaco that currently has a jungle gym, swings and a basketball hoop, and improve traffic flow in the area by redesigning the intersection of Main Street and Sheep Pasture Road.

Construction has gone in phases. Last year, Rail Realty knocked down vacant homes and buildings along the east side of Texaco Avenue between Sheep Pasture Road and Linden Place to make way for the two three-story buildings — which will have a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments — and began working on the northern building. That was completed recently, with the new apartments visible from some angles on Main Street, a block over. The developer got started right on the foundation of the second building, to the south.

The first phase of the Texaco Avenue apartments is complete. Photo by Elana Glowatz
The first phase of the Texaco Avenue apartments is complete. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Garant announced the milestone at a village board of trustees meeting on June 6, saying people would start moving into the first apartment building in mid-July.

Resident parking is underground, a noteworthy element for a small village in which having more cars than parking spaces has long been an issue. And toward the end of the second ongoing apartment construction phase, the developers will bring down a building on the south side of the Texaco Avenue and Linden Place intersection, the Stony Brook Electric Inc. building, to make room for additional above-ground parking.

That’s also when the park improvements will take place, Gitto said. Plans are still developing, but they might include landscaping, such as flowers and necessary irrigation, and taking down an unused shed there.

For The Gitto Group — which has built up other parts of Port Jefferson, including an office building, the CVS and the Barnum House apartments on Main Street — things are falling into place faster than anticipated. Rob Gitto said the project was done in phases because the developers weren’t sure how well the first set of apartments would be received and how quickly they would be leased.

“We knew it would be successful but we didn’t know it would sell that quickly.”

Brookhaven Town Highways Superintendent Daniel P. Losquadro, Sound Beach Civic President Bea Ruberto, and Councilwoman Jane Bonner near the expanded community entryway. Photo from the Town of Brookhaven

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Daniel P. Losquadro (R) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) announced the completion of a revitalization project designed to enhance pedestrian safety and beautify a busy stretch of Echo Avenue between North Country Road and New York Avenue in Sound Beach.

The downtown project, which included the addition of handicap-accessible sidewalks, new curbs and guiderails, crosswalks, decorative lighting and ornamental trees, was made possible, in part, from a Community Development Block Grant.

With CDBG funding covering a portion of the project, the Brookhaven Highway Department went out to bid for the project. The total cost was approximately $500,000, including the CDBG grant in the amount of approximately $110,000.

“The completion of this project is another example of the Highway Department’s continuing efforts to bring a downtown feel to one of our Brookhaven communities, similar to what we had done in Rocky Point in 2014,” Losquadro said. “In addition to beautifying the area, this project provided long-term solutions to many of the safety concerns voiced by local residents and business owners.”

As part of this three-month revitalization project, a four-foot wide sidewalk was constructed on the north side of Echo Avenue, beginning at North Country Road. A crosswalk was installed at the corner of Devon Road, near CaraMia Pizzeria, across Echo Avenue to connect the sidewalks that continue to New York Avenue. In addition, the triangle at the Shinnecock Drive and Echo Avenue intersection — the site of the Sound Beach Civic Organization’s “Welcome to Sound Beach” sign — was expanded to provide an entryway to the community.

“Walkable communities can only happen if pedestrians feel safe and the streetscapes that they travel are pleasant and inviting,” Bonner said.

Bea Ruberto, president of the Sound Beach Civic Association, said the improvements to the roadway have not only made it better for residents to walk and drive, but have also made it more welcoming to those entering the hamlet.

“We’re so grateful to Jane, Dan and the Town for realizing that smaller towns like Sound Beach add to what makes Brookhaven such a great place to live, work, and play,” she said. “And, of course, we look forward to further improvements in our little hamlet.”

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