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Steve Englebright

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Route 25A in Setauket looking east from Woods Corner Road. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Following public forums, the future of the Route 25A corridor in the Three Village area is coming into focus.

More than a year ago, the Brookhaven Town Department of Planning, Environment and Land Management was authorized to create a land use study and plan regarding the state highway from the Smithtown town line heading east to the Poquott Village line. This was after town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D–Port Jefferson Station) co-sponsored land use resolutions at the Jan. 14 and Feb. 4, 2016, town board meetings.

the inconsistent architecture of buildings located at Woods Corner. Photo by Rita J. Egan

After the go-ahead from the town, the Citizens Advisory Committee was formed with co-chairs George Hoffman, vice president of the Three Village Civic Association, and Jane Taylor, assistant head of The Stony Brook School. The committee organized a number of community meetings to give business owners, store tenants and residents in Stony Brook, Setauket and East Setauket the opportunity to discuss their concerns and hopes for land use along the state road.

The meetings, led by consulting firm BFJ Planning, culminated with a wrap-up session at The Stony Brook School earlier this month, and the result will be a document that will guide business and landowners when it comes to building and renovating in the future.

Hoffman said he found the process over the past year rewarding.

“We really made a lot of progress pulling together all the groups that make up our community, and I think we have a clearer vision of what we like about it, and what we’d like to enhance as we go forward,” Hoffman said.

At the March 4 meeting, residents were given a summary of the community’s visions for the hamlets based on previous visioning meetings. Frank Fish, Noah Levine and Graham Cavanagh of BFJ Planning informed those in attendance both unique and shared elements along the Route 25A corridor as well as recommended goals and objectives for the future.

Romaine, Cartright and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) were among elected officials who attended the visioning meetings. Englebright said he was impressed at how constructive the meetings were, and how Cartright and Romaine made themselves accessible during the process.

The assemblyman said he wasn’t surprised by the concerns and desires raised. Many residents said they did not want to see the road widened, but instead would like it to include more green space. Another hope of many residents is to make the road safer by adding a continuous sidewalk and creating lanes for bicyclists.

“The historic architectural style and character of the Three Village area is something that is a constant reminder of why a lot of us live here.”

— Steve Englebright

“I look forward to doing everything possible to add a sidewalk — the walkability aspect of this and [a lane] for bicycles,” Englebright said.

Both Hoffman and Englebright said Woods Corner at the southeast corner of Route 25A and Nicolls Road was another concern brought up by many at the meetings. Hoffman said people would like to see the buildings located on the corner updated with some sort of consistent architecture “because it’s the gateway to the Setaukets.”

The architectural consistency in all the hamlets was an additional topic raised at the meetings.

“The historic architectural style and character of the Three Village area is something that is a constant reminder of why a lot of us live here,” Englebright said. “We love the architecture. … People indicated how much they value it, and that for any reconstruction or new construction, that should be a benchmark of expectation to be compatible with who we are architecturally.”

According to BFJ Planning’s March 4 visioning report, the flow of traffic where 25A variously intersects Stony Brook Road, Nicolls Road and Main Street were also discussed at hamlet meetings. Roundabouts were suggested for both Stony Brook Road and Main Street, and the New York State Department of Transportation is considering a traffic light at the soft right turn onto Nicolls or removal of the soft right altogether. 

While other transportation issues and wants were discussed, including creating pullover areas for buses and supporting a trolley bus service for Stony Brook students and residents, recreation areas were another concern. The talks included improved civic space for gatherings, picnics and similar recreational activities as well as maintenance of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation-administered Patriots Hollow State Forest.

Hoffman said some of the proposed guidelines have already been a help to Parviz Farahzad, who is constructing Stony Brook Square located across from Stony Brook train station. Development of the shopping center was approved at the March 6 town planning board meeting. Farahzad has agreed to add more trees to the final site plan, will require tenants use signage that consists of wood-base signs with gooseneck lighting among other concessions.  The developer also hopes to install a low nitrogen septic system if he receives a waiver from the county for the new system. According to Hoffman, such systems help to protect the water in local harbors.

Hoffman said BFJ Planning is compiling a final document and, in a few weeks, the CAC will present a report to the town board. The ultimate goal is for the town to take into consideration the suggestions and incorporate them into future land use changes in the area through zoning changes.

A solar farm is still being proposed near the Shoreham nuclear power plant. Currently, there are plans near the Pine Barrens in Mastic for a solar installation. Photo by Kevin Redding

In response to a proposed solar farm in Shoreham, members of the Brookhaven Town Board urge state legislators to not only stand with them in opposition, but grant them “a seat at the table” to have their voices heard and taken seriously.

Since it was first submitted last June, National Grid and NextEra Energy Resources’ proposal to build a large-scale solar energy facility on the wooded property that surrounds the abandoned Shoreham nuclear power plant, and clear 350 acres of the 800-acre land made up of cliffs, rolling hills and a variety of wildlife species, has sparked an outpouring of local opposition, from elected officials to environmentalists, civic associations, teachers and parents in the community.

The proposed solar farm in Shoreham could look like the one seen here at Brookhaven National Lab. File photo

Those against it share the belief that “renewable energy is important but not at the expense of another section of the environment.” As recently as Feb. 27, the Shoreham-Wading River school board voted unanimously against endorsing the project, despite a considerable financial offer from National Grid, which owns the Shoreham site, and NextEra.

According to the companies, the proposal, developed in response to a PSEG Long Island request to help New York meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) renewable energy goals, would generate upwards of 72 megawatts of solar energy, provide power for more than 13,000 homes, and create between 125 and 175 construction jobs and millions of dollars in tax benefits.

It’s currently being considered by LIPA, which would purchase the electricity generated by the joint companies for a period of 20 years under the contract, and New York State.

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), a leader in the charge against the solar farm, said he thinks the companies involved are making a mistake, and wants it to be known that Brookhaven is going to do everything it can to prevent it from happening and protect the environment.

In addition to the proposed site falling within Shoreham’s A-10 residential zoning code — the most restrictive in Brookhaven — which was put in place more than 25 years ago to specifically protect the “coastal forest preserve,” he said, the proposal directly violates Brookhaven’s solar code adopted last year that opposes cutting down trees or removing native forests to build solar farms or facilities.

“You can build [solar arrays] on clear land, on rooftops, and in parking lots, but you’re not cutting down trees,” Romaine said. “Brookhaven needs to stay green and we do not need to deforest the few uncut forests we have in this town.”

The proposal by National Grid could clear 350 acres along the Long Island Sound. Photo by Kevin Redding

When Romaine and the rest of the town board first heard rumors of the solar farm plan more than a year ago, they dismissed it, confident local opposition and town zoning would be enough to prevent it from going anywhere.

However, the supervisor got word that National Grid and NextEra could get around the zoning restrictions and potentially strip away any of Brookhaven’s say in the matter under Article X of the Public Service Law — a provision allowing “an applicant seeking approval to site a major electric generating facility to obtain a final decision from the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment, waiving all local zoning requirements, if the Siting Board finds them to be burdensome in terms of technology and costs.”

The Siting Board is composed of five members appointed by the governor.

The town board sprang into action, writing and submitting a letter to nine state senators and assemblymen requesting that the law be amended to allow local municipalities to serve as mandatory parties to the proposed facility “application proceeding.”

“To allow the overriding of local zoning without allowing the local community a significant voice in these proceedings is wrong,” reads the end of the letter, which was signed by Romaine, Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), Councilman Michael Loguercio (R-Ridge), Councilman Neil Foley (R-Blue Point) and Councilman Daniel Panico (R-Center Moriches).

“We understand there’s a need for Article X and we’re not saying you can’t decide against us, but we just feel the locality should have a seat at the table, which would give us a voice,” Romaine said, admitting he decided to write to the legislature to be on the safe side, not knowing if the proposal will get that far. “Right now, we have no voice.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, has previously spoken out against a solar farm in Shoreham. File photo

According to a fact sheet provided by National Grid and NextEra, a poll to determine the attitudes of the residents of the Town of Brookhaven was commissioned, asking what they would like to see developed on the Shoreham property — “they chose ‘solar energy project’ above any other use,” it said. When residents were given information about the solar farm project, the sheet stated “level of support grew to 75 percent.”

Conversely, the proposal is an environmental nightmare as far as Sid Bail, president of the Wading River Civic Association, is concerned.

“This is just a horrible use of the land,” he said. “It’s not just cutting the trees with the thought that ‘They’ll grow back in 50 years,’ it’s the hills, the gullies, the wildlife, the plants and the fauna that would have to be destroyed. I can see why the owners of the property, National Grid, would like to do this, they can make a bundle of money from it … however the idea of deforesting several hundred acres of very special forest land in order to achieve a worthwhile goal isn’t a good trade-off.”

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), chairman of the Committee on Environmental Conservation, deemed the proposal a bad idea, stating the Shoreham site is worthy of being preserved as part of our natural history.

“This is a native forest in essentially pristine condition … it’s a museum piece of natural land,” Englebright said. “I am the original New York State legislator who sponsored what are now the laws that enabled solar energy to begin to take off. I’m a pro-solar, pro-renewable energy person … [but] it was never my intent to see environmental atrocities committed in the name of renewable energy. I’m offended, as the father of solar energy in this state, that they are attempting to so thoroughly abuse the premise of what solar is meant to be.”

A motor boat heads toward Shipman’s Point at West Meadow Beach. File photo.

The history of West Meadow beach is a contentious one. Cottages leased to private citizens left a large portion of the beach unavailable to the public throughout the years. A headline in the Port Jefferson Echo newspaper June 19, 1930, read “West Meadow Beach Cottages To Be Ousted By January 1940.” According to Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), removal of the cottages was a cyclical issue. Every decade or so there was a public outcry for a return of the beach to all Brookhaven citizens.

“This had become the norm by the 1960s,” he said.

When Englebright proposed legislation in June 1996, there was significant opposition from cottage owners who fought to keep the beach as it was. Since state legislation could only be established over the Brookhaven Town-owned property with the town’s express permission, a document called a “home rule message” had to be obtained before the legislation could move forward. Under then Town Supervisor Felix Grucci (R), the town agreed.

Even so, the opposition from cottage owners continued.

Bipartisan legislation [then Senator James Lack (R) sponsored the bill in the New York State Senate] was signed in 1996 stating West Meadow Beach “be preserved, protected, enhanced, and studied while simultaneously being made available for use by the general public for educational and passive recreational activities.” It stipulated the cottages be removed “on or before Jan. 15, 2005.” Removal of the cottages would be funded by payments from cottage owners for the use of the land over the following eight years. Interest accrued on the account, holding these payments were to be transferred annually into a separate account, previously established by the town July 6, 1993, called the West Meadow Beach capital restoration fund. This money was to be kept separately, overseen by a nonprofit Stony Brook community fund.

“When my husband Peter died last year I wrote to the town offering to fund the installation of a bench in his memory.”
—Muriel Weyl

The Stony Brook community fund became The Ward Melville Heritage Organization in 1996 and, according to a long-term board member of the organization, the town never came to them with a proposal. Since then it’s unclear who has been overseeing this money.

Attorney George Locker, a Stony Brook University graduate and former member of the Stony Brook Environmental Conservancy, believes the town is in breach of the statute.

“When the [Stony Brook community fund disbanded] instead of finding another third party to handle the funds, the town took control of the money,” Locker said. “The only thing I could find [after requesting all filings related to this account] was an invasive species plant removal.

“It took 20 years to elevate the Gamecock Cottage. At least one cottage was to be turned into a nature museum.

“[According to information provided by the town’s Department of Finance] the money is earning [virtually] no interest. The town has a fiduciary duty to grow the money in some safe way.”

Brookhaven Town spokesperson Jack Krieger provided the following information about investments in an email.

“The New York State Comptroller and New York State Municipal Law define what type of investments are acceptable for a municipality to engage,” he said. “The special New York State Law governing the WMB endowment made no special provisions for investment of the monies; therefore, the investment of the monies have been subject to the municipal law guidelines. The interest rate for the endowment account, and all town bank accounts, are monitored constantly by the finance department.”

Stony Brook resident Muriel Weyl said she is distressed by the lack of bench seating along the paved walk out to Shipman’s Point.

“When my husband Peter died last year I wrote to the town offering to fund the installation of a bench in his memory,” she said. “He was an oceanographer, and a founder of what is now the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook and I thought it would be fitting. They would not do it.”

She said she loves spending time at West Meadow Beach, and now that she uses a wheelchair she can be seated while enjoying the walk. When she was still walking, she said it was difficult because there were not enough benches to enable her to make it out to the Point. Even now, she said, “it would be nice for the person pushing my chair to have a place to sit.”

Krieger said there was a period of time several years ago where the town allowed residents to dedicate a bench with a memorial plaque if they paid all of the costs for the bench and its installation. This has since been discontinued.

He said he had no answer as to the question why there are not more benches.

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) recently sent a letter to Englebright offering to work together to solve issues regarding funding and oversight of the West Meadow Nature Preserve.

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One of the four remaining cottages at West Meadow Beach has a collapsed roof and is a virtual zombie house, orphaned by a lack of interest. Photo by Pam Botway

After demolition of the 52nd zombie house by the Town of Brookhaven in Sound Beach last month, the town had fulfilled Supervisor Ed Romaine’s (R) mission to tear down one home a week in 2016. But there are other eyesores that have yet to be addressed.

While abandoned houses in the community are eligible for demolition, the Town had taken no action to prevent Town-owned cottages at West Meadow Beach from deteriorating.

Under legislation sponsored by state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and former state Senator James Lack (R), which was signed into law in 1996, Brookhaven Town officials had agreed to maintain responsibility for the preservation of the beach and the four cottages designated to be used for security or educational uses..

Following a Nov. 24 article in the Village Times Herald titled, “A look at West Meadow Beach — 12 years post-cottages,” East Setauket resident and community activist Pam Botway wrote a letter to the newspaper asking about the condition of the remaining cottages at West Meadow Beach.

“I inquired with the town after noticing the roof caved in on one of the cottages,” she said. “It seems there is a lease agreement between the Three Village Community Trust and the town, in place since 2010. [I’m wondering] why have the cottages turned into zombie houses in the past six years when there is $1.45 million in the bank to maintain them?”

Botway said the Town claimed it has no access to the trust’s funds to make necessary repairs.

While the Town had a five-year license agreement with Three Village Community Trust for the Gamecock Cottage, which commenced in 2010, Town public information officer Jack Krieger said there are no leases for the other cottages.

The endowment fund created by the legislation currently contains $1.45 million, according to the Department of Finance, but only the interest accrued may be used for the property’s upkeep. At today’s rates, interest on the account generates about $2,000 a year, not nearly enough to achieve proper maintenance.

In an interview conducted in November, Englebright theorized that after the Stony Brook Community Fund became The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, and the new entity declined to handle responsibilities spelled out in the legislation, that left the endowment an orphan. As there was no one to oversee the proper application of the account’s interest, the cottages have been neglected.

Until such time as the endowment is actively managed, and some person or group is keeping track, things will remain the same.

“It may be time for a public/private partnership vision to be pursued,” Englebright said. “A not-for-profit operating the Nature Center in conjunction with the Town [would be preferable to what exists now].”

This version was updated Jan. 26 to correct the featured photo.

Is it time for a second look at the reclaimed nature preserve?

West Meadow Beach as seen from clear-sky day. Photo by Donna Newman

It’s been 20 years since New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) authored legislation to create a nature preserve at West Meadow Beach, with a guarantee that it would not be a drain on the ongoing Brookhaven Town budget.

Englebright described a grueling and divisive battle that continued for the eight years between passage of the legislation and the eventual reclamation of the beach.

“I wanted to write state law that established, as specifically as I could at the time, the land uses going forward,” he said, adding that West Meadow Beach is now the most valuable asset Brookhaven Town owns.

Brookhaven officials agreed to take responsibility for the preserve, via a “home rule message,” to keep it a town property.

“Home rule message” is a New York State Assembly policy that, if a proposed bill will affect a municipality, before the speaker authorizes it to come out of committee, that municipality must signal its approval, Englebright said. Brookhaven Town, under then Supervisor Felix Grucci, did just that.

The legislation — A 11008-A in the Assembly and S 7829 sponsored by former New York State Senator James Lack (R) in the Senate — included a provision for a segregated account to contain rent money paid into it by the cottage-owners who continued to occupy them during the summers between 1996 and 2004.

In 1996, nearly 100 cottages were on West Meadow Beach. The legislation required all cottage owners to pay an annual rent to the West Meadow Beach Capital Restoration Fund overseen by both the Stony Brook Community Fund and Brookhaven Town.

In 2004, that fund was used to remove the cottages to make way for the preserve, as well as restoration of the beach.

The Gamecock Cottage at the end of Trustees Road, one cottage to serve as a local museum, and two cottages for security/park protection purposes were the only buildings not removed.

Meanwhile, the Stony Brook Community Fund became The Ward Melville Heritage Organization. It has since declined to handle the responsibilities spelled out in the legislation.

According to the Brookhaven Town Department of Finance, these endowment funds are kept in a bank account separate from other Brookhaven Town funds. The current balance in this account is $1.45 million, which generates approximately $2,000 in interest per year to be used at West Meadow. If this interest is not used, it reverts back as an addition to the principal of the fund.

Jack Krieger, public information officer of Brookhaven, confirmed in an email that Brookhaven has been compliant with this law since it was created.

Englebright said he feels it might be time to revisit the management of West Meadow Beach.

“It may be time for a public/private partnership vision to be pursued,” he said. “A not-for-profit operating the Nature Center in conjunction with the town [would be preferable].”

He pointed out that the practice works extremely well for organizations like the Bronx Zoo and the American Museum of Natural History.

Check out #TBRVotes on Twitter for our reporters’ on-the-ground and up-to-the-minute coverage of tonight’s election results.

National Election

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United States Senate

Chuck Schumer (D) v Wendy Long (R)
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      59.94%               38.26%

Following his victory, Sen. Chuck Schumer (R-NY) took to Twitter to express his reaction. “Humbled by the trust that my fellow New Yorkers have put in me to continue to do my job and represent them in the U.S. Senate. I promise to work every day to be deserving of your trust. I’ll never forget what it means that you gave me the honor of working for you.”

New York State Senate

1st District: Ken LaValle (R) v Gregory Fischer (D)
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      67.18%               32.73%
2nd District: John Flanagan (R) v Peter Magistrale (D) v Stephen Ruth (I) 
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     63.57%              32.46%

Congressional District

1st District: Lee Zeldin (R) v Anna Throne-Holst (D)
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        56%                    39%
After incumbent U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) was officially declared the victor, he said, “We applaud our opponent. It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to represent the 1st congressional district.” He said while his victory is sweet, that New York is “powerful message.” He made reference to Donald Trump (R) being named president. If that were to happen, Zeldin said, “we are going to repeal and replace Obamacare. We’re going to make America great again.”
3rd District: Tom Suozzi (D) v Jack Martins (R)

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          52%                        48%

Assembly

4th District: Steve Englebright (D) v Steven Weissbard (R)
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      58.91%               41.03%
After hearing of the incumbent’s win, Steven Weissbard (R) said, “If you want to win, you can’t be afraid to fight. He called his opponent a “goliath.”
8th District: Mike Fitzpatrick (R) v Rich Macellaro (D)
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      69.81%               30.17%
10th District: Chad Lupinacci (R) v Ed Perez (D)
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      58.24%              41.71%
12th District: Andrew Raia (R) v Spencer Rumsey (D)

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      65.26%              34.70%

Highway Superintendent

Smithtown: Robert Murphy (R) v Justin Smiloff (D)
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         69%                  30.96%

*All results are from the Suffolk County Board of Elections

Assemblyman Steve Englebright’s impressive track record makes him an easy choice to represent the 4th district. File photo
Assemblyman Steve Englebright’s impressive track record makes him an easy choice to represent the 4th district. File photo

Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) is the leading environmental voice in the Assembly, and with the climate of the country ever-changing, it’s a much needed one.

Englebright, who serves as chairman of the Committee of Environmental Conservation and also is on the Committee on Energy, among others, has fought for preservation with tree removal possibilities looming in Stony Brook, helped welcome a new trail hub in Rocky Point, secured funding for Mount Sinai’s Heritage Park and opposes dumping of dredged spoils in the Long Island Sound.

His work supporting planetary exploration at Stony Brook University, ensuring water quality and lowering the cases of whooping cough is also to be commended. He’s been a big supporter of the importance of local history and has celebrated the volunteer work of countless locals who fight to beautify their communities, educate others on the past and preserve what’s left.

While we believe his Republican challenger Steven Weissbard is passionate and enthusiastic, and has some good ideas — such as better ways to manage the construction on Route 347, he’s a climate-change denier.

Englebright is still currently working to halt dumping of toxic silt into the Long Island Sound and reducing nitrogen levels in our waters. We hope the assemblyman will continue to be a strong voice for his constituents on these issues and fight to make new plans to mend the issues.

The 12-time elected assemblyman, who was initially voted in during a special election in 1992, has continued to have the support of the 4th district. And we vigorously support him for re-election.

The Mount Sinai Civic Association was responsible for installing welcome signs in the community. Photo from Ann Becker

The Mount Sinai Civic Association isn’t just a local organization — it’s an institution that has become part of the community’s fabric for the last 100 years.

On Oct. 6 at the Willow Creek Golf & Country Club, the civic association celebrated its anniversary with its board, community members and local politicians.

“It’s an amazing milestone,” Mount Sinai Civic Association President Ann Becker said. “We’re impressed with how dedicated people have been, always stepping up in Mount Sinai. It’s been a concretive effort. We’ve had strong leadership. It’s a community that pulls together when there are problems and tries to resolve those issues.”

Incorporated Oct. 5, 1916 as an outgrowth of the Mount Sinai Taxpayers Association, its initial objective was to construct better roads, improve the conditions of Mount Sinai Harbor and adopt means to protect against fires.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner, left, and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, right, present Mount Sinai Civic Association President Ann Becker with a proclamation. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner, left, and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, right, present Mount Sinai Civic Association President Ann Becker with a proclamation. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Over 100 years, some of those principals remain,” Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said. “The civic works hard to protect this community, to ensure that the zoning, the look of this community stays as a majority of the people in this community wants it to. They work hard to protect the harbor, the environment, and they do a tremendous job.”

Officers elected at the first organizational meeting were President Jacob Schratweiser; 1st Vice President Philip Scherer; 2nd Vice President JC Sheridan; Secretary William R. P. Van Pelt; and Treasurer Lorenzo Davis. Committees were established to focus on road improvements, fire safety, improving the harbor, taxes and bylaws. The dues were fixed at $1 a year.

Over its 100-year history, the civic association has worked tirelessly on quality of life issues for the residents of Mount Sinai and the Brookhaven Town. They’ve worked to protect the area’s coastal environment, establish community parks and preserves and maintain a balanced level of development — including recreational facilities, privately owned housing, residential opportunities for seniors and support for schools. A completely volunteer-based organization, the civic has always depended on local residents to step forward and actively work toward improving the community, protecting the environment and protesting against overdevelopment.

With Becker now at the helm, the civic association continues to strive to better the community, and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said Becker is the perfect person for the job.

“Ann and her civic board are wonderful advocates for the tiny little hamlet of Mount Sinai,” she said, adding that her husband, John Sandusky, was born and raised in the area. “People like Ann, and others in this community, keep a watchful eye, are paying attention and have the best goals for Mount Sinai — to maintain it’s quaint look and charm.”

During the 1960s and ’70s, the major civic issues included working to successfully stop the dredging of Mount Sinai Harbor, which was accomplished in the late 1960s, followed by the planning and management of Cedar Beach. The civic association also worked to preserve local wetlands, and the 1965 Mount Sinai Harbor Advisory Committee recommended limiting commercial use to the existing businesses.

Over the years, the civic has had some big accomplishments.

Out of the Mount Sinai Civic Association formed the nonprofit Heritage Trust incorporation, in which several civic members were involved. The Heritage Trust and civic members were instrumental in the formation of Heritage Park. File photo by Erika Karp
Out of the Mount Sinai Civic Association formed the nonprofit Heritage Trust incorporation, in which several civic members were involved. The Heritage Trust and civic members were instrumental in the formation of Heritage Park. File photo by Erika Karp

The association sued Brookhaven for overdevelopment in 1996, which resulted in a significant reduction in the number of houses built. They also helped in the establishment of the Willow Creek Golf & Country Club, which provided a $2 million tax windfall for the Mount Sinai school district.

Funding and installation for three welcome signs in the hamlet were also achieved with the help of the civic. In 1997, the Chandler Estate was preserved as passive parkland. With a grant received from New York State with the help of Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), 355 trees were planted along Route 25A the same year to beautify the community.

“The work that they do in the community and the difference that they make in the quality of life in Mount Sinai; the civic sets an example for all other communities,” Englebright said. “This is a shining beacon of civic activism and accomplishment. The association has continuity, initiative and history. I go to other district and I tell them to visit Mount Sinai and its park to see what a hamlet and a community can do when it comes together.”

The grant was also used to help purchase the nearly one-acre property that is known as Heritage Park. Preventing the sale of “The Wedge” to developers who planned to construct a Home Depot was also made possible with the help of Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who persuaded the owner to donate the balance of the property.

In the 1990s the civic started many of the community activities still supported through the 501(c)3 nonprofit Heritage Trust, though many have since expanded. These include the community tree lighting that started at the post office and is now held at Heritage Park, along with the menorah lighting, family day at Cedar Beach, the Halloween Parade and festival [originally held at the middle school] and Breakfast with Santa, which began at George’s Handlebar Restaurant 21 years ago and is now held at Heritage Center.

“We have to keep up the inspiration,” Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said. “We’re here to protect the Earth and we’re here to protect each other, and make sure that worries and concerns are addressed. There’s so much more that we can do, but what’s most important it that we take care of what we have.”

Jeff and Laura Long tie a ribbon on a tree marked for removal in Stony Brook. Photo by Donna Newman

By Donna Newman

Residents of the M-section of Strathmore houses in Stony Brook would like to know where things stand as far as their sycamore trees, are concerned. Will they be able to keep the trees, and get their roads paved?

They said they have been told Brookhaven Highway Supervisor Dan Losquadro’s (R) office will only say that the project is “on hold” until the re-evaluation is completed. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said she has received no potential schedule date for a meeting she plans to hold after the review has taken place, to allow the highway department to explain their re-evaluation with the chance for residents to respond.

“The need for road maintenance and repair must also be weighed against the quality and character of neighborhoods that would be impacted by the loss of trees…”

–Steve Englebright

A spokesperson for Losquadro’s office said Wednesday that the re-evaluation is ongoing and the office has received quite a few phone calls, some from residents who want the trees on their property taken down. She said they will be in touch with Cartright’s office and will work together moving forward once a plan is in place.

The reassessment of the tree removal was announced in a letter to affected M-section residents sent from the supervisor’s office, dated Aug. 26, and reiterated by Deputy Supervisor Steve Tricarico at the Brookhaven Town Board meeting Sept. 1. Since then, there have been no updates as to the progress of the review.

M-section resident Patricia Woods described a telephone conversation she had with Losquadro in which she said, “He was very nice. He said he ‘just wants to do the job the right way. [He doesn’t want to be] repairing the streets if they’re not done correctly the first time.’ I said to him, ‘if your idea is to do it the right way, you have to look at the whole picture, because [cutting down all the trees], that’s not the right way to do it.’”

Sunday morning at 10 a.m., homeowners gathered on Mariner Street, where Woods initiated another action to help call attention to their plight. At the suggestion of a friend, Deena Brando, who doesn’t reside in the M-section, but has empathy for the cause, Woods began tying green ribbons on the trees marked for removal on her street.

3-year-old Liam Fink and his brother, 6-year-old Tyler Fink, take spools of ribbon to adorn trees. Photo by Donna Newman
3-year-old Liam Fink and his brother, 6-year-old Tyler Fink, take spools of ribbon to adorn trees. Photo by Donna Newman

Spools of green ribbon were distributed to neighbors who gathered on the dead-end street Sunday morning. Petitions were available for homeowners to sign, indicating their opposition to the proposed tree removal. And after signing, M-section residents fanned out to the affected streets to encircle all the marked trees with green ribbons.

The organizers of this grass roots campaign have reached out over the last month to every official and organization they could think of to find help. They set up a Facebook page titled “Save the Stony Brook Street Trees” to facilitate communication to keep residents and others who are interested apprised of developments.

Many residents contacted Assemblyman Steve Englebright’s office (D-Setauket), because of his well-known stance on environmental issues.

In a letter to Losquadro dated Sept. 22, Englebright wrote, “Safe and well-maintained roads are vitally important to our communities and your department should be commended for striving to get the most out of the tax dollars spent on our roads. However, the need for road maintenance and repair must also be weighed against the quality and character of neighborhoods that would be impacted by the loss of trees, including the ecological benefits, aesthetics, property values, and health aspects that these mature street trees provide.”

Despite the fact that Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) informed the residents who attended the Sept. 1 board meeting that the highway superintendent is an autonomous, elected official who does not report to the supervisor, M-section homeowners plan to attend the Sept. 30 board meeting to continue to press for resolution of this issue.

Jeannean Mercuri, vice president of the Nassau-Suffolk Horsemen’s Association, mounts Cricket the horse on the new trail hub in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens. Photo from DEC

By Desirée Keegan

A day when Montauk and New York City are connected across Long Island by trails might not be too far off.

On Sept. 22, the Department of Environmental Conservation celebrated the completion of a piece of the Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest Multi-Use Trail Hub Project. The project is an effort to connect trail systems across Rocky Point, Ridge, Yaphank and Shirley. The entire trail system when completed will pass through the DEC’s Pine Barrens, Suffolk County and Town of Brookhaven parkland, and end in the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge.

The new trail hub can be found on the north side of Middle Country Road in Ridge, between Wading River Road and Woodlot Road.

“The completion of this trail hub is an instrumental step in the effort to connect Long Island’s trail systems,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “The multiple features of this hub will allow local residents and visitors, young and old, and of any ability, to take advantage of Long Island’s stunning natural diversity.”

The new hub, located on the south end of the Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest, is expected to be one of the central public access spots for the new trail system. It features a car and horse trailer parking lot, a newly built half-mile Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible hiking trail, an accessible horse mounting platform, and a half-mile connector to an existing horse and hiking trail.

Carrie Meek Gallagher, New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation's Regional Director, speaking during the grand opening of the new trail hub in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens. Photo from DEC
Carrie Meek Gallagher, New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation’s Regional Director, speaking during the grand opening of the new trail hub in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens. Photo from DEC

“I am fortunate to represent one of the most beautiful regions of New York State,” Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said. “As the sponsor of the legislation that created the Pine Barrens Preserve, I am pleased that we are creating an opportunity for more individuals to access the trails. The ADA accessibility will enable those with mobility issues to enjoy more of Long Island’s natural beauty firsthand.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) also commended the DEC for its work with the ADA.

“It’s very important that all residents get the opportunity to share in the natural beauty that surrounds us and we must do whatever we can to preserve it for generations to come,” he said.

The project began in October 2014, with funding from NY Works, and was completed in June for a total cost of $460,000. The trail hub is located on the property of the former Lustgarden Nursery in Ridge. In April, the DEC worked with Students Taking Action for Tomorrow’s Environment in an Arbor Day reforestation effort. The student volunteers planted 250 seedlings of native New York tree species.

“The new trail hub is about connecting people with nature and making it easier to get out and explore Long Island’s treasure of trails and the beautiful wildlands they traverse,” Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said.

The DEC acquired the 274-acre site in 1996 from Baier Lustgarten. It was the site of Baier Lustgarten Farms and Nursery, which used the acreage to plant nursery stock, including native and non-native trees, shrubs and ornamentals. Several neglected structures were razed from the property, including a house, a barn, greenhouses and cottages for farm hands.

“The new multi-use trail hub is a wonderful community centerpiece that gives residents greater access to enjoy the beautiful Rocky Point Pine Barrens,” Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said. “The new hub connects several communities and allows for hiking, horseback riding and bike riding. The DEC has done a wonderful job in creating this very important greenway park that will truly make a difference as we experience our spectacular outdoor environment.”