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Rocky Point Fire District

Rocky Point's Rob Bentivegna was the driving force in reconstructing a historic building. Photo by Kyle Barr

At the tip between Hallock Landing and Rocky Point Landing roads, the old schoolhouse building, known as the Lecture Room, stands with its luminous white siding and large, red door. It’s situated like a moment out of time.

Rob Bentivegna points to the windows that had been reinstalled in the old Lecture Room’s interior. Photo by Kyle Barr

For Rob Bentivegna, a member and general handyman at the Rocky Point Fire Department, it’s a beaming example of more than two years’ worth of work to restore a historic property.

“This was all stuff the fire district wanted to do, but the estimates were so high,” Bentivegna said. “I said, ‘Let me do it, it’s what I did for a living.’”

In March 2017, the Rocky Point Fire District bought the 0.92-acre property across from the fire department building on Hallock Landing. The site was to be used in the construction of a new EMS vehicle garage to bring EMTs closer to the Rocky Point/Sound Beach edge of the district line. In addition to the garage site, the property also came with the 2,000 square foot building known as the Rocky Point Lecture Room, also as the community church and Parish Resource Center. The whole property came with a price tag of $250,000.

With occasional help by fellow fireman Frank Tizzano, Bentivegna renovated and transformed what was once a termite-infested ramshackle building north of the Lecture Room. He transformed another building into a maintenance facility. 

But he didn’t stop there. It’s since become part passion project, part public service. The building is now being used for meetings and even for cheerleaders to practice.

When Bentivegna first came onto the project, vines had wormed their way under the walls and were crawling up along its inside. The windows were falling out of their frames and had been covered by plexiglass because they had been broken on the inside. The basement would flood during every storm. The roof was falling apart.

Once work began, the fire district maintenance manager said local residents came forward. They each had old photographs of the building, showing how it looked from the 1940s, and even further back to the 1920s.

“I did this with the love of making something what it used to be.”

— Rob Bentivegna

“That door is the same color door as it was in 1927,” he said.

The Lecture Room now has a completely new roof and new windows. He spent months searching for a company that would re-create the classic look of the crossbars on the windows. Inside is new carpeting, ceiling and walls. He even installed the walls and plumbing for a bathroom to the rear of the structure. 

Outside, the front door gleams with new paint, but all the doors’ glass are the original, hand blown windows. The tower above the front door and chimney to the rear are also original.

Fire Commissioner Kirk Johnson said Bentivegna worked near tirelessly on the project, often using his off time when not doing repairs at district buildings. In one case, the window shutters needed to be replaced, but nothing that could be bought matched how they looked historically. The maintenance worker instead crafted the shutters by hand.

“He really wanted it to look like it did back in the day,” Johnson said.

The handyman has plans come Christmas season as well. A tree in front of the building fell down during a storm earlier this year, landing full across the road. After removing it, Rocky Point-based Long Island Elite Landscaping Construction stepped in to supply a new pine tree, one Bentivegna plans to decorate along with the building for a bright and colorful tree lighting ceremony come December. 

Arnie Pellegrino, the owner of Elite Landscaping, has lived across from the building for more than a decade, saying he had once provided landscape designs to the previous owners, but nothing came of it. Once the fire district and Bentivegna got their hands on the property, he said, things have finally changed for the better.

“He’s a good man, he’s a good contractor,” Pellegrino said of Bentivegna. “He thinks about the neighbors.”

The Rocky Point Historical Society posted to its Facebook page thanking the fire district for keeping the historical building alive.

“We’re happy the fire department has saved the building and preserved it because it is a special historic site for the community of Rocky Point,” said historical society President Natalie Aurucci Stiefel. “We applaud their efforts to take care of the building.”

The Lecture Room’s interior was remade with new walls, ceilings and windows. Photo by Kyle Barr

The building was built in 1849 on land donated by Amos Hallock of the famed local Hallock family. It was built to serve the community as a lecture room and an extension of the Mount Sinai Congregational Church for the local area, getting together to raise $500 to erect the building. Stiefel said once the local one-room schoolhouse became too crowded, people taught school out of the building as well. Later the Long Island Council of Churches declared it as a Parish Resource Center.

Johnson applauded Bentivegna for all the work he’s done, not just with the church but with buildings around the district. He said without the energy of its handyman the district would need to constantly pay outside contractors. Instead, Bentivegna jumps in saying he can take care of it.

“He deserves a ton of credit for the way that place looks,” the commissioner said. 

But the fire district handyman said he doesn’t want to take all the credit. He thanked the district for its years of support and willingness to let him do what he needed to do with little hand holding.

There are still finishing touches Bentivegna is looking to add to both the building’s exterior and interior. The next step is to replace the rotting back deck with new wood, adding ramps to make it accessible for wheelchairs and people with disabilities. He is currently working on the basement, where the district has stored numerous items from the other firehouse located on King Road, which is currently being rebuilt. The plan is to use the basement for washing gear after a fire, which is now mandated by New York State. After replacing the basement windows, he plans to make the basement a sort of training room, with removable walls for firefighters to practice search and rescue.

It’s at least another year of work, but for the Rocky Point handyman, he’s nothing but excited to see the entire project come to completion.

“I never once looked for someone to tap me on the back,” he said. “I did this with the love of making something what it used to be.”

The Rocky Point Fire Department Company 2 is using a warehouse on Prince Road as its main base. Photo by Kyle Barr

Changes are happening for the Rocky Point Fire Department Company 2, otherwise known as the Black Sheep Company, as the fire district finally settles in to replace the aging firehouse on King Road in Rocky Point.

The night of May 1 the company moved all its equipment and vehicles into one of the warehouses of what was once the Thurber Lumber Yard property. The warehouse has enough room to fit the ladder truck, fire engine, brush truck, two EMS vehicles, and will also be home base for around 40 volunteers. The dirt road out of the property leads onto Prince Road, just a five-minute walk from the old firehouse.

The Rocky Point firehouse on King Road in Rocky Point. File photo by Kevin Redding

Anthony Gallino, the chairman of the board of fire commissioners, said they were lucky to get those trucks in such a close location.

“It would have been a big problem for us,” Gallino said. “We might have been able to relocate some of the equipment into the other firehouses and pulling certain stuff not used as frequently and leaving it out. This is just a block away, and response times probably won’t change at all.”

Mark Baisch, the owner of Landmark Properties and the old Thurber property, said he was approached by the department and didn’t hesitate to offer one of the buildings for free for the fire company’s use. While plans are still in motion to break ground on 40 one-bedroom apartments for seniors, he said the fire department being in that building won’t disturb that development.

“We’ll work around them,” Baisch said.

District manager Ed Brooks said the deconstruction will start May 13 with asbestos removal, which could take from two to three weeks. Once inspection of the building is completed, demolition will begin, and that could take a number of weeks before construction on the new firehouse truly begins. Overall construction could take upward of a year, according to Gallino.

Citing that the aging firehouse, built in the 1950s, had received little upgrades and attention for half a century, the district proposed a $7,250,000 firehouse project that was approved by residents 204 to 197 in an August 2017 vote. Also approved in a separate vote were plans for the purchase of a new ladder truck at a cost of $1,250,000. While plans were originally set to break ground in early 2018, Brooks said the first set of bids came in too high for the project, and when the district put in for a new set of bids, too few came in. The fire district has since changed construction managers and has settled on a new set of bids. The new ladder truck won’t be purchased until after construction of the future firehouse is finished.

The board chairman said the new firehouse is especially important as the community grows.

“This is just a block away, and response times probably won’t change at all.”

— Anthony Gallino

“The other building was outdated, heating and air conditioning was a problem, the bays were so tight that when trucks were moving out, the guys were changing just a foot from a truck coming in and out,” Gallino said. “It’s a conservative building, but it will suit our needs.”

Members and friends of the Black Sheep Company took to Facebook to commiserate about their old firehouse as they moved into the warehouse on Prince Road.

“Tonight is a bittersweet night for the North Shore Beach Fire Company [as] we said goodbye to our firehouse,” local resident Theresa Lattman wrote in a Facebook post May 1. “Our trucks pulled out for the last time, but a new firehouse will be built in its place that will hopefully serve this community for a long time.”

Plans for the new Rocky Point firehouse on King Road. Ground is scheduled to be broken in June. Rendering from Michael Russo/Hawkins Webb Jaeger

With an extra push from the town, Rocky Point Fire District is setting its sights on early June to begin construction of a more durable and up-to-date firehouse in the footprint of its existing one at 90 King Road. The $8.5 million project, approved by the public in a vote in August 2017, also includes the acquisition of a new aerial ladder truck.

During the Jan. 25 Town of Brookhaven board meeting, council members voted to waive the project’s site plan requirements and building fees, turning an administrative review over to its Department of Planning, Environment and Land Management instead of outside engineers. This reduces the overall cost to taxpayers and speeds up the “shovel in the ground” process, according to fire district officials.

“Every little bit helps,” said Rocky Point Fire District Vice Chairman Kirk Johnson, who was unable to provide the exact costs the fire district would be saving at this time. “It’s not astronomical, but there are significant costs, and those things add up.”

“The fire district is very fiscally conservative, but the first responders don’t have room, they respond to an enormous amount of calls and the building isn’t very energy-efficient. This needs to be done.”

— Jane Bonner

Fire district officials have been working alongside architect group Hawkins Webb Jaeger since last year to fine-tune the design of the new firehouse — which the project’s architect said will be made of natural stone as opposed to brick; consist of pitched roofs and a hidden flat roof for storage of mechanical equipment; and include a spacious meeting room as well as a “ready room” for responders, who currently have to put on their gear in the way of incoming and outgoing fire trucks.

The building will also be up to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, the most widely used green building rating system in the world; include energy-efficient LED lights; and be equipped with better, more cost-efficient heating and cooling systems.

It was designed to have a “more residential feel” than the existing, decades-old building, according to Michael Russo, an associate architect at Hawkins Webb Jaeger.

“We felt this would be the bookend to the north end of the Rocky Point business district and something that works well for the edge of a residential community and the end of a North Shore downtown center,” Russo said.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) spoke of the benefits of the new design.

“It’s a very modest firehouse, very traditional looking, and it will blend in nicely in the community and downtown,” she said. “The fire district is very fiscally conservative, but the first responders don’t have room, they respond to an enormous amount of calls and the building isn’t very energy-efficient. This needs to be done.”

Russo and Johnson said upon breaking ground in June, they hope to complete construction of the new building’s apparatus bay by winter, so the fire vehicles can be stored and protected against freezing temperatures. During construction, fire district personnel will work out of portable trailers and possibly garages being offered up by community members.

Johnson said he estimates the project will take up to a year to complete. The fire district will be going out to bid for contractors in the coming months.

Rocky Point residents took to the polls Aug. 8 to vote on propositions to demo the old and rebuild a new North Beach Company 2 firehouse, and purchase a new fire truck. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Following a tight vote Tuesday, a decades-old firehouse in Rocky Point will officially be replaced with a more modern one, and a brand new fire truck will inhabit it.

Rocky Point Fire District residents took to voting booths at the North Beach Company 2 firehouse on 90 King Road Aug. 8 to weigh in on two propositions, one, to knock down the existing station for a safer, updated structure and the other, to acquire a new aerial apparatus.

Among a total 401 votes, 204 residents voted “yes” and 197 voted “no” to demolition, costing $7,250,000 to do so. Taxes will increase, but the maximum maturity of the bonds will not go beyond 30 years.

Rocky Point residents took to the polls Aug. 8 to vote on propositions to demo the old and rebuild a new North Beach Company 2 firehouse, and purchase a new fire truck. Photo by Kevin Redding

To purchase the new ladder truck, with a total cost of $1,250,000, members of the district voted 214 to 187 in favor. The maximum maturity of the bonds is said to not exceed 20 years.

“I’m very relieved,” Rocky Point Fire District Secretary Edwin Brooks said upon announcing the tallied votes to a crowd of cheering volunteer firefighters. “I didn’t think it would be as close as it was, but I’m relieved it passed. The majority of the community thought it was the right thing.”

Tim Draskin, a volunteer firefighter within the district for two years now, said it was an absolute necessity to refurbish the firehouse.

“The whole community will realize once it’s done just how much it’s going to impact everything,” Draskin said. “The building’s old and definitely needs it.”

Built in the early 1950s with very few upgrades since then, the current structure has been in need of repair and renovations for decades to accommodate for more modern requirements of firefighters, from new safety regulations to equipment and apparatuses, as well as mandatory handicap-accessibility.

Also, major out-of-date infrastructure, like heating systems, will be replaced.

Before votes were tallied, residents explained where they stood on the propositions.

“I’m not ashamed to say I voted ‘yes’ on both,” Pam Fregeau said, adding she knows the equipment needs to be updated. “I just want the firemen to be safe, because them being safe means my family is safe, means my grandchildren here are safe. I want us all to be safe. These firefighters put their lives on the line and they’re not even paid for it. For the amount it’s going to cost me a year, I think I can handle that.”

Mary Volz shared the same sentiment.

“I just want the firemen to be safe, because them being safe means my family is safe, means my grandchildren here are safe.”

— Pam Fregeau

“For the firefighters to do their job properly, they need a well-working building,” Volz said. “It should definitely be refurbished and if the taxes are going up either way, they should really do this work.”

One man, however, who asked to remain anonymous, did not agree.

“I think they’re excessive,” he said of the costs. “I’ve been in contact with numerous fire departments for many years and I’ve seen excessive spending of taxpayers’ money, so that’s why I did double ‘no.’”

District Commissioner David Brewer, who was among the board of commissioners that set the project in motion in June, said he was extremely grateful for the community’s support.

“The Board of Fire Commissioners is always trying to balance the needs of the fire department with the tax burden of the residents,” Brewer said over the phone. “We think these two bonds do just that.”

According to district officials, final design of the project will go forward, as well as the bidding processes for contractors.

They hope to break ground next spring.

The Rocky Point Fire District’s North Beach Company 2 station is located at 90 Kings Road. File photo by Kevin Redding

Sounding all alarms. Big changes within the Rocky Point Fire District will be left up to voters next month.

On Aug. 8, between 3 and 9 p.m., qualified residents in the district are encouraged to take to the North Beach Company 2 firehouse on 90 King Road to decide the fate of the decades-old building.

Following a resolution adopted by the Board of Fire Commissioners in June, voters will decide on two propositions: an authorization to completely demolish the existing firehouse and construct a new one on its footprint with updated infrastructure with a maximum, an estimated cost of $7,250,000; and the purchasing of a new aerial ladder truck with a maximum estimated cost of $1,250,000.

“It needs a lot of renovations and it’s not cost-effective to renovate. It’s cost-effective to look to the future to make it better.”

— Edwin Brooks

According to the fire district, if the propositions are approved, residents will see an increase in taxes, but will gather interest on each proposition in no more than 30 years and 20 years, respectively.

Built in the early 1950s, the current building has been in need of repair and renovation for decades, to accommodate for more modern requirements of firefighters — from new safety regulations to larger updates to equipment and apparatuses as well as mandatory handicap-accessibility.

A new firehouse will make for better safety to the community as well, according to fire district commissioners.

“This enables us to continue the service we’re already providing well into the future,” District Vice Chairman Kirk Johnson said at last month’s commissioner meeting. “It’s just a modern, environmentally-conscious building that will be able to run over the next 20, 30 years — one of our main focuses with the new building.”

Rocky Point Fire District Secretary Edwin Brooks echoed Johnson’s words.

“The old one has reached the end of its useful life,” he said. “It needs a lot of renovations and it’s not cost-effective to renovate. It’s cost-effective to look to the future to make it better. It’s good for everybody — good for the fire department, good for the public. It’s a win-win situation.”

Brooks said there are no projected tax figures or construction timelines as of yet in the event that the propositions are approved.

Rocky Point Fire District paramedic Rob DeSantis; Carol Hawat, EMT supervisor in Rocky Point and Miler Place fire commissioner; firefighter Rob Bentivenga; and district vice chairman Kirk Johnson are thrilled to cut response time and help those in need with the new building. Photo by Kevin Redding

Residents on the west end of Rocky Point no longer have to wait long for urgent medical attention thanks to a new paramedic station right in their backyard.

Rocky Point Fire District’s new first responder building is located at 89 Hallock Landing Road. Photo by Kevin Redding

The Rocky Point Fire District unveiled a newly renovated first responder’s office building July 3, along with an EMS vehicle garage on 89 Hallock Landing Road that will give residents in the area closer access to paramedics, who previously had to travel from the far east end of the district at Shoreham Fire Company 3 to provide for those in emergency situations. John Buchner, chairman of the board of the fire district, was the initiator and prime mover behind this project.

The new location, across the street from the Rocky Point Fire Department, cuts a paramedic’s response time down about five minutes, which could be the difference between life and death, District Vice Chairman Kirk Johnson said.

“If you have chest pains and you can’t breathe, you want somebody there as quickly as possible,” Johnson said, pointing to heavy traffic on Route 25A as a main reason for the delay in response. “We wanted to even out the protection of the district and now we can get the first responder to the front door quicker on the west side of town.”

Rocky Point Fire District’s new paramedic building has a garage to help with the lack of storage, especially for vehicles. Photo by Kevin Redding

Paramedic Rob DeSantis believes it will be a great help to responders and residents alike.

“Driving from Shoreham to here is difficult, and coming from here, we beat all that traffic,” DeSantis said. “Response time has lowered incredibly. Give it four or five months when they do statistics on different responses, you’re going to see a big change in time.”

The paramedic headquarters sits on .92 acres of what had long been a mostly abandoned stretch of property, which includes a 2,000 square foot building previously used as a community church known as the Parish Resource Center, and what were once two rotted buildings seemingly beyond repair.

In March, the fire district bought the entire property, including the buildings, for $250,000, allocating from its capital reserve budget, and got to work to turn the eyesore into a vital part of the community.

Rocky Point Fire District’s new paramedic building will help cut down time when traveling west into Rocky Point. The time saved is crucial to saving lives. Photo by Kevin Redding

Starting May 5, firefighter and go-to maintenance man Rob Bentivegna renovated the roofs, gave new paint jobs and transformed the termite-infested remains of one of the buildings into an administrative paramedic office stocked with a kitchenette and lounge area. Out of the other building he set up a maintenance facility for repair needs. The new, expansive garage on the property will help with the fire district’s lack of storage space for its vehicles. As for the church, members of the district hope to utilize its basement for fire and EMS training classes in addition to the Suffolk County Fire Academy in Yaphank, as well as meetings with neighboring departments and town associations.

“We have had a lot of compliments from a lot of the community — they’re like ‘oh, it’s great what you guys have done,’” Johnson said. “People hear the fire department bought this property, and figure it’ll just level everything and put a bunch of fire trucks there, but no, it’s part of the community.”

Kirk Johnson discusses authorizing the fee for an engineering survey of Rocky Point Fire District's North Beach Company 2 firehouse, to get the building reconfigured. Photo by Kevin Redding

It will eventually be out with the old and in with a new firehouse in Rocky Point.

The Rocky Point Fire District set in motion June 7 a long-term project that will replace its decades-old North Beach Company 2 firehouse, at 90 King Road, with a new, updated one that will better meet the needs of the modern firefighter.

According to District Vice Chairman Kirk Johnson, the proposed building project will not expand on the current firehouse’s footprint but reconfigure its floorplan.

Rocky Point Fire District commissioners authorized a fee for an engineering survey of the North Beach Company 2 firehouse, to get the building reconfigured. Photo by Kevin Redding

Major, out-of-date, infrastructure — including heating systems — will be replaced, and accommodations will be made for safety requirements, larger equipment and apparatus needs, and mandatory handicap-accessibility — none of which were factors when the firehouse was built in the 1950s.

“This enables us to continue the service we’re already providing well into the future,” Johnson said. “It’s just a more modern, environmentally-conscious building that will be able to run over the next 20, 30 years. And overall safety to our members is one of our main focuses with the new building.”

Johnson, joined by district commissioners Anthony Gallino, David Brewer and Gene Buchner, met at the administrative office in Shoreham and unanimously voted to approve a State Environmental Quality Review Act expenditure of $2,500, a required fee in the preliminary planning of any privately or publicly sponsored action in New York, with a considerable focus on the environmental impacts of a project.

The funds will go to Nelson & Pope, a Melville-based engineering and surveying firm, whose associates will help with planning, designing and completing the projects on-schedule and within budget.

By authorizing the fee, the district’s first step in the process, it propels the necessary studies to get the project off the ground. No budgets have yet been drafted.

Rocky Point Fire District commissioners Gene Buchner, David Brewer, Kirk Johnson and Anthony Gallino during a recent fire district meeting to set a plan in motion to renovate Rocky Point’s North Beach Company 2 firehouse on Kings Road. Photo by Kevin Redding

“We’re at the mercy of certain phases which are out of our control, but we’d like to get it moving as expeditiously as possible,” Johnson said.

Renovations to the building have long been discussed by members of the Rocky Point district — with more than 2,000 calls a year in the department, split between EMS and fire calls, and equipment upgrades and training requirements increasing on a regular basis due to mandatory standards set by the National Fire Protection Association, the firehouse’s physical restrictions have become more obvious.

“With the age of this building, a lot of equipment is currently outgrowing current structures,” Gallino said. “Thirty years ago there was plenty of room, but now, trucks have had to get bigger, equipment needs have gotten bigger and firefighters literally can’t change their clothes.”

He added firemen are currently changing between a steel pillar and a fire struck that’s about to start rolling, and doorways to get through to the different rooms are only 10-feet high.

“Back in the day, the apparatuses were smaller and now we’re limited on what we can do to raise those doors,” Gallino said. “Some of the advanced firefighting apparatuses we’ve been looking at will be difficult to get into the building … it just needs to be replaced.”