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Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim

The owner of The Oasis club in Smithtown is in talks with town officials to negotiate a sale of the building. Photo by Donna Deedy

The Town of Smithtown is looking to close a deal with the owner of The Oasis club, a business that calls itself “a gentlemen’s club’ located under the railroad trestle across from the town’s iconic bronze bull.  

“We’re seeking appraisals,” said Town Attorney Matthew Jakubowski. “It’s going to take some time, if it’s going to happen at all.”

The transaction is part of multifaceted plan to create a swath of parkland along the Nissequogue River where a Suffolk County park vendor currently rents canoes and kayaks.

Since at least 1994, court records show that the town has attempted, so far with limited success, to enact and legally enforce ordinances against The Oasis club that would prevent adult entertainment from being located near parks, playgrounds, schools, churches and residential districts. 

The decades-old dispute may ultimately end with the sale of the property.  

A privately held company, 490 West Jericho Realty Corp., owns the premises, with Thomas Murray of Pelham Manor named in public documents as owner. The Oasis club has paid its $10,943 tax bill for the first half of 2019 through TJS of New York, a corporation referenced in town and court documents as the club’s owner, with Murray as CEO. He was unable to be reached for comment. 

Attorney Howard Greenberg, of Smithtown, who represents the club, said in a phone interview that his client is working in a coordinated effort with the town, but added that talks are in the early stages and noted that his client is operating a business and not necessarily eager to sell. 

“The town board is taking some preliminary measures to potentially purchase the property,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “However, this is all contingent on whether we can secure a mutually beneficial idea that was discussed during talks with the County Executive [Steve Bellone (D)] and myself to swap some parkland with the town.”

In an April 4 letter to Suffolk County Attorney Dennis Brown, Jakubowski described exchanging the town-owned Bill Richards Park with county-owned Givens Park, which is adjacent to The Oasis club along the Nissequogue River. The county-owned former Bavarian Inn site along Lake Ronkonkoma is also part of the swap. The exchange, according to the letter, complies with New York State law, but will require special legislation from the New York State Legislature as parkland is involved.  

State Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said in a phone interview that he expects the parkland swap agreement between the town and county to sail through the Senate and Assembly and is happy to act as a vessel to get the agreement passed as long as the state’s Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation system gives it the thumbs up. 

According to the town attorney, Smithtown would continue to contract the county’s kayak vendor once the swap is complete. 

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By Donna Deedy

It was a life well-lived. A first-generation American, the child of Italian immigrants, born during the Great Depression and dedicated to public service.

“At the end of the day, I’ve done something for people. And that’s the guiding principle of my life,” said former Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio in a 2015 interview with The Times of Smithtown. 

“At the end of the day, I’ve done something for people. And that’s the guiding principle of my life.”

— Patrick Vecchio

Patrick Vecchio died Sunday, April 7, at age 88. For a record 40 years — nearly half of his lifetime — he held the Town of Smithtown’s highest office. During his tenure, seven different U.S. presidents held office, while the residents of Smithtown re-elected the same man to represent them again and again for 13 terms.

Roughly half of his years in office, he served as a Democrat, the other half a Republican. Today, people in both parties recognize his distinct leadership qualities. In fact, his portrait hangs in the Town of Smithtown Town Hall, and the building itself bears his name. The gesture, announced while Vecchio was still in office during a March 3, 2015 board meeting, surprised Vecchio and left him humbled and teary-eyed.

During the 2015 town hall dedication ceremony, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) made a point to say that Vecchio had served Smithtown the right way. At the same event, New York State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) was equally complimentary.

“He’s cheap, and he wears it like a badge of honor,” he said. “He never forgot, never forgets and never will forget where the money is coming from.”

Vecchio was legendary for his fiscal restraint. Town Historian Brad Harris said with a laugh that it’s more apt to call him “tight.” But Vecchio’s 40-year Smithtown legacy is rich and storied on a range of topics from open government policies to environmental conservation.

Under his leadership, Smithtown earned national recognition for many environmental and clean energy projects. The town pioneered a development rights program that enabled — at no cost to taxpayers — the preservation of important land such as the historic Harned Saw Mill site in Commack and the Saam wetlands at the headwaters of the Nissequoque River. Thanks to Vecchio, Smithtown was the first community in the nation to voluntarily convert its diesel-powered fleet of refuse trucks to run on compressed natural gas, which saved money and reduced noise and
air pollution.

“I’ve been here for 35 years; the Town of Smithtown never had a better friend than Pat Vecchio.”

— Russell Barnett

Smithtown was also an early adopter of wind generators and solar panels. Under Vecchio, the state awarded Smithtown in 2016 a $250,000 clean energy grant. Thanks to that award, solar electric projects are still underway at Smithtown Landing Country Club and town hall.

“I’ve been here for 35 years; the Town of Smithtown never had a better friend than Pat Vecchio,” said Russell Barnett, the Smithtown environmental protection director.

The community regarded Vecchio as a man with conviction. And people, whether they agreed with his position or not, said that they respected his opinion.

“He’s a feisty guy … ready to take on an issue or political opponent,” said Harris, after the town hall dedication ceremony. “He does battle for the people of Smithtown.”

People consistently note the leader’s commitment to the local community.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said that he recognized Vecchio as a true public servant. “In his historic time in office, he always did what he thought was best for residents … that was always at the forefront of his every decision,” he said.

December 12, 2017 was Vecchio’s last board meeting as Smithtown supervisor. The occasion drew a crowd that filled the board room and trailed through the hallways and down staircases. People bid farewell and thanked the supervisor for implementing his vision on their behalf. Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) noted during the tribute that Vecchio was leaving Smithtown with a budgetary surplus rather than debt.

“This town is in such good financial shape, it is all because of you,” Trotta said. “You should be a model for every other town in the nation, the state and certainly the county.”

A conceptual rendering of the approved site plans for TDG Commack on Jericho Turnpike. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Planning Department

Town of Smithtown officials gave their seal of approval to two developers to construct a total of 160 new apartments between two complexes. 

The town board voted unanimously Aug. 14 to approve site plans for two housing projects: a mixed-use development featuring 62 units at The Lofts at Maple & Main in Smithtown and a 92-unit complex by TDG Commack, LLC to be built on Jericho Turnpike. 

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said he hopes the two projects will help provide much needed housing in the township. 

The Lofts at Maple & Main by East Hampton-based developer VEA 181st Realty Corp. will consist of four buildings on the site of the former Nassau Suffolk Lumber & Supply Company in Smithtown. A mixed-use, three-story building will be constructed facing Main Street consisting of approximately 9,400 square feet of retail space on the ground level divided into two storefronts. The second and third floors will each contain 13 residential units consisting of six one-bedroom apartments and seven two-bedroom apartments per floor. Set back behind the Main Street building, three additional three-story apartment buildings will have 12 apartments each, primarily two-bedroom units. 

“This will be the first opportunity for a young person, a young professional coming out of college that cannot afford to buy a single-family home on a half acre of property, to have an avenue to live in the business district,” Wehrheim said. “It puts them in walkable distance to restaurants, a railroad station and everything they really require.” 

The development will have six affordable workforce housing units constructed and rented out for below-market price, according to town planner Liam Trotta. 

The supervisor said he hopes the apartment complex will help push downtown revitalization.“It will have a positive effect on the local business community as well,” he said. “The people that go into those 62 units will frequent the businesses that are along Main Street.” 

The town board expressed it was “pleased” with the agreements struck with the developer during planning, such as agreeing to permit three-story buildings instead of the four stories initially requested. 

The developer, Salvatore DiCarlo, of VEA 181st could not be reached for comment by press time. Wehrheim said that DiCarlo still needs approval from Suffolk County’s Health Department for the on-site sewer treatment, which may take a few weeks, but construction will begin immediately afterward. 

The second garden apartment complex designed by TDG Commack was approved as  a seven-building apartment complex along Jericho Turnpike, taking over the site of the Courtesy Inn. Each building will have two stories and, when completed, offer a mix of 48 one-bedroom and 44 two-bedroom units. There will be a
community pool for residents. 

Similar to The Lofts at Maple & Main, the Commack housing development has proposed to build a sewer treatment plant into the site to handle all wastewater at the location. However, Trotta said as the developer did not exceed the maximum density for the site, it will not be required to designate units as affordable workplace housing.

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