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Town of Brookhaven

The Town of Brookhaven held a public hearing Oct. 3, to consider a program that could lower electric and gas rates for residents. TBR News Media file photo

The Town of Brookhaven outlined the first steps toward creating a program that could lower gas and electric rates for homeowners at a public hearing Oct. 3. 

Town officials are considering creating a Community Choice Aggregation or CCA, which is an energy program that allows local governments to buy electricity and gas on behalf of its residents.

In a presentation to the Town Board, Matt Miner, town chief of operations, outlined how the program could be beneficial to residents. 

Essentially, CCA is a municipal energy procurement model that replaces the utility companies as the default supplier. It can be used for either gas or electricity.  

“The suppliers, National Grid and PSEG, would still be responsible for energy delivery and billing,” Miner said. “The advantages of a CCA is pooling those demands and allow us to negotiate lower rates for residents.”

The town chief of operations added it would allow Brookhaven to pursue other clean energy programs. 

The next step in the program would be for the town to begin to work with its eight villages to see if they wanted to participate in the CCA. From there, the town would seek to appoint a program administrator. 

“[The] CCA administrator would then seek bids from energy services companies to obtain competitive rates for residents on behalf of the town,” Miner said. “They would be responsible with creating a data projection and implementation plan.”

CCA is an opt-out program, so residents are not bound by a contract and can go back to their original supplier if they chose to do so. 

The CCA program was created by the New York State Public Service Commission in April 2016. Westchester was the first New York county, through the Sustainable Westchester consortium, to launch the CCA program under Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). If successful, Brookhaven will join more than 50 municipalities in the state to enact legislation to begin a CCA including the towns of Hempstead and Southampton on Long Island. 

Miner said if the bids and rates aren’t competitive then the town doesn’t have to move forward with the program. 

“I want to be clear, this only goes forward if we can save all the residents and businesses in Brookhaven money” 

– Supervisor Ed Romaine

The town would first pursue competitive rates for gas and then would move on to electricity. According to town officials it could take about a year to implement the program. Bid contracts could last from two to four years.  

George Hoffman, a vice president of the Three Village Civic Association, said at the public hearing he supports the town’s initiative to adopt the CCA and believes it moves them closer to clean energy.

“It’s about time we started to take back some local control over our energy future,” he said. “We all thought then, when LIPA was created, we would be starting to get back some of our local control of our energy policy, but that was taken away by Albany. I think this a good start in taking back our energy future.”

 

Dom Pascual seeks to unseat Louis Marcoccia as Brookhaven Town Reciever of Taxes in the November elections. Photo provided by Dom Pascual

“I want to be an advocate for the people,” said Dom Pascual, a Farmingville resident running for Town of Brookhaven receiver of taxes in the November elections. “I live in a blue-collar community that feels that they are not being represented.”

Pascual, who is running on the Democratic ticket, said an important issue for him is helping to keep young families on the Island. 

“I want to keep them here, right now it’s not good — the cost of living is too high,” he said. “We need housing for working families — there’s no jobs on Long Island, taxes are too high.”

– Dom Pascual 

Pascual is vying to secure a four-year term in the upcoming election against longtime town receiver of taxes, Louis Marcoccia (R). This will not be Pascual’s first time running for elected office. In 2017, he ran for the 4th district Suffolk County Legislature seat but ultimately lost to incumbent Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma). 

“I’m fighting for change, we have had a receiver that has been around for a long time and hasn’t had an opponent in 12 years,” Pascual said. 

If elected, the challenger said he would make his office more accessible and have more available hours to accommodate residents. He said he also wants to look into more tax relief programs for senior citizens, veterans and emergency response workers as well as getting more homeowners into the STAR program. 

He also wants to make it possible for residents to see multiple years of tax bills when filing their taxes, host workshops aimed at explaining to residents where their taxes are going and helping them through the filing process. 

“It’s about educating people on the resources that are available for them and letting them know we can do these things,” the Farmingville resident said. 

Pascual, who was raised in Dix Hills, currently works as a bank compliance and financial crimes attorney. He graduated from Binghamton University and received his law degree from Vermont Law School. Previously, he has worked for JPMorgan Chase  and for five years he worked as a New York City administrative law judge hearing Section 8 rent and fraud cases. Pascual is also a commissioned officer in the New York Army National Guard. 

The challenger said his previous lines of work would help him in the new position, as he had experience reviewing budgets and has reviewed billions of dollars of transactions looking for indicators of corruption, criminal activity or other violations. 

Other areas Pascual would like to address are developments approved in the town. In terms of planning and land use he would like the town and the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency to scale back on giving tax breaks to developers. 

“These tax breaks are not affordable,” he said. “Taxes and student loans are crippling young people [in the Town of Brookhaven].”

Pascual said the position, while tasked with the town’s budget and taxes, is connected to other facets of the government. He wants to be an honest broker for residents. 

“I want to make sure we can help get more roads paved,” he said. “The town is already in debt. How are we going to pay those off? What’s going to happen when the landfill closes?”

Pascual reiterated that he believes it is time for change in Brookhaven. 

“The establishment has been in the town for a long time — it’s time for new blood,” he said.

 

Ed Romaine presented the Town of Brookhaven's 2020 tentative operating budget at a media briefing meeting Sept. 30. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Town of Brookhaven is proposing a $312.9 million budget that Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) called “a taxpayer’s budget.” The proposed budget is a near $10 million increase from last year’s $302 million, but officials say there will only be a minor increase in taxes.

In a budget media briefing meeting Sept. 30, officials said there will be a small increase to property taxes, but are looking to end deficit spending, reduce debt and restore surpluses. The 2020 tentative operating budget of $312,868,413 is not set to dip into the town’s fund balance, essentially its rainy day bank, for the second year in a row. The new budget stays at the 2 percent state tax levy cap.

In 2019, the town did not appropriate any use of its fund balances, effectively the rainy day funds in case of need for emergency spending. This is compared to nearly 10 years ago during the Great Recession where the town was using approximately $28.5 million in fund balance to balance the budget.

The town is also looking to decrease debt, with new capital projects coming in at $43.9 million, which is $14.6 million less than 2019. With the budget, the town is looking to eliminate the current $15.8 million pension debt and eliminate the $30.1 million in “pipeline“ debt, or the extra money left over from the close of bonded projects, either unused or unappropriated.

“It’s move it or lose it for pipeline debt,”

– Ed Romaine

The new operating budget also sets aside $1.6 million additional funds in the post-closure landfill reserve. The town’s landfill is set to close by 2024.

The 2020 tentative capital budget sets up public improvement projects established via bonds and reserves. This includes $26.4 million for the Highway Department comprising road repairs, drainage, traffic safety, facilities and machinery/equipment. This is in addition to a $5 million increase for road resurfacing in the operating budget from $10 to $d15 million.

“That’s part of the supervisor’s commitment to spend $15 million a year in road resurfacing,” said Matt Miner, town chief of operations. “This is the first year that will be going into effect.”

Those funds do not include funding from New York State, especially the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program — known as CHIPS — from the state Department of Transportation, worth on average about $4.5 million to the town, according to officials.

“The Highway Department will have sufficient funding, far in excess of what they’ve had in the past years,” Romaine said.

In attempts to reduce debt in a faster manner, the town has looked toward 12-year loans instead of 20-year loans. Brookhaven officials hope to reduce overall debt to $20 million by 2021 from $600 million at the end of 2018.

Despite a complete restructuring of the town’s garbage and recycling apparatus, the annual cost for garbage pickup will remain flat at $350 for a single home, with each home on average getting around 171 pickups per year.

Romaine said the town has looked to reduce the amount of revenues gained through property taxes. Currently property tax makes up 53.3 percent of the 2020 tentative budget.

Commissioner of Finance Tamara Branson said the town has looked to focus on getting grants instead of spending through capital expenditure involving tax-raising initiatives.

“We have 50 grant projects that are public improvement projects,” she said, adding that the town has received grant funds of $63.2 million. 

Elected officials will also see a small raise in annual pay. Council members will receive a $1,446 increase to $73,762, while the supervisor will be bumped by $2,398 to $122,273. The highway superintendent at $121,515, town clerk and tax receiver will each receive around $2,000 in increases. Elected officials have been seeing an approximate $2,000 increase in pay for the past few years.

The new budget went before the Town Board for preliminary adoption Oct. 3. A public hearing on the budget will take place Nov. 7, but town finance officials said they don’t expect the budget to change much between then and now. The full budget must be adopted by Nov. 20.

 

Simple Good in Port Jefferson offers zero waste and sustainable products. Photo by David Luces

Millions of people around the world demanded action from world leaders on climate change as part of the Global Climate Strike Sept. 20. The protests have put the ongoing crisis back in the forefront. 

Recently, New York lawmakers aimed to tackle the climate change issue head on, as they passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, a bill that will aggressively target greenhouse gas emissions in the state. On Long Island, there are plans for two offshore wind projects, located off the East End and South Shore. The wind farms will provide close to 1,700 megawatts of energy, and are expected to power more than 1 million homes. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has mandated 9,000 MW of offshore wind capacity by 2035. 

 

Simple Good in Port Jefferson sells items made to be reusable or nontoxic to the environment. Photo from Melanie Gonzalez

While those goals are in the distant future, there are still things the average person can do on their own to help in the fight against climate change and environmental degradation. 

“It all comes to educating people and making sure they are aware of these issues,” said Melanie Gonzalez, owner of Simple Good at 35 Chandler Square in Port Jefferson which offers a number of sustainable and zero waste items. 

Gonzalez said the inspiration for the store came after buying plastic toys for years for her son, Julian, when she noticed the toys would break easily and she was left with tons of plastic packaging. 

“I was like, ‘What happens to all this plastic and where does it go?’” she said. “I was totally ignorant … but once I learned the facts [on plastic waste], it was life changing.”

Since then, Gonzalez has been an advocate of reducing plastic waste and protecting the environment. She believes Long Island has moved in the right direction on climate change and plastic reduction, but it may also come down to changing people’s habits and behaviors. 

The Rocky Point resident said it could be as simple as switching your plastic toothbrush with alternative that is made out of bamboo, which is more cost effective and in turn better for the environment. 

Gonzalez said everybody should avoid single-use plastic items and recommended using your own utensils when ordering takeout food. She also spoke on the importance of composting and recycling. 

“People are frustrated about recycling,” she said. “Long Island isn’t the easiest place to recycle.”

Last year, the towns of Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington had a rude awakening about their recycling practices when China announced it would cut its intake of U.S. recyclables by a huge margin. Municipalities across the nation were affected. In just one example, Brookhaven Town has moved back to asking residents to separate their garbage.

Gonzalez said she remains optimistic that the climate change movement on the Island is on the right track. 

A non toxic dishwashing bar that is sold at Simple Good in Port Jeff. Image from Melanie Gonzalez

Elisabeth Van Roijen, vice president of the Sierra Club at Stony Brook University, said Long Island is a much better place environmentally than it has been in the past. 

With about 60 other SBU students, she attended the Global Climate Strike rally in New York City. The Sierra Club at SBU helps students gain experience in political activism as well as experience the outdoors first hand.   

“The experience as a whole was incredible,” she said. 

The senior at SBU said the plans for the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and offshore wind is something she is hopeful for. 

“The only problem is that it takes time, but having a goal is good because it pushes us to achieve results faster,” Van Roijen said. 

The chemical engineering major added that getting to those goals will need behavior and culture changes. 

“We have to start teaching these things at a younger age, as it is much harder to break out of habits when you get older,” she said. “It comes down to being more mindful.”

Sunrise Wind official speaks of ‘underutilized facilities’ in Port Jeff

Ken Bowes, a vice president at Eversource, talks of using Port Jeff as a headquarters. Photo by Kyle Barr

Imagine a field, not on land but on the open ocean — not of green plants topped with colorful flowers, but of huge, 800-foot towers topped with spinning, white wind blades.

That is what officials from two companies and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority asked Brookhaven Town residents to envision. At a public meeting hosted at Town Hall Sept. 17. Plans are for two offshore wind projects, located off the East End and South Shore of Long Island. Eventually, the wind farms will provide close to 1,700 megawatts of energy to Long Island, powering 1 million homes and generating up 30 percent of New York’s power capacity by 2035, according to NYSERDA officials.

One offshore wind project, Sunrise Wind, a combined venture with U.S.-based Eversource and Denmark-based Ørsted, is of special interest to Brookhaven Town and the Village of Port Jefferson. The companies have announced its intent to use Port Jefferson Harbor as a headquarters and base of operations for not only this upcoming project, but for offshore wind across the Eastern Seaboard.

Ken Bowes, the vice president of offshore wind siting and permitting at Eversource, said they are currently working with local realtors, as suggested to them by Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant. The business is searching for warehouse and office space in the local area. He said they are looking for space in close proximity to the village, though finding a suitable location within the village boundaries will likely be difficult.

He said he expects around 50 full-time employees will work on the vessel the company uses to go out and provide maintenance and service the wind turbines, though they expect the project to supply 100 jobs over the planned 25-year lifespan of the turbines. These employees would stay on the vessel for weeks at a time before arriving back in Port Jeff, and he said the vessel should not interfere with the Port Jeff to Bridgeport ferry.

Representatives from Eversource and Orsted
presented plans for its offshore wind project at a Port Jeff Village meeting Sept. 17. Photo by Kyle Barr

If the plans pan out, Bowes said its ambitions are for Port Jefferson to be the headquarters for all work done for their company’s wind projects on the Eastern Seaboard, including current projects off Rhode Island and Massachusetts. 

“We may look to do this as a service for all of our projects and possibly for others as well,” he said. “We’ll see how that all unfolds.”

Sunrise Wind will encompass 110 wind turbines situated 30 miles off the coast of Montauk, and at full capacity will generate 880MW of electricity. Both projects, which include Empire Wind, are expected to be operational by 2024, according to current timelines. 

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said they are in support of renewable energy projects but said there are numerous questions that still need answered about how the projects will impact people, especially in terms of how it will affect fishing communities and in its cost to the surrounding communities.

“We all need to have clean renewable power — I think it’s more urgent than ever,” he said. “There’s a promise of not only clean power but also a little bit of economic opportunity.” 

Some major concerns have come from Long Island fishermen, who have said the planned wind projects could impact their business. Jennifer Garvey, the Long Island development manager at Ørsted, said there is no exclusion area for their project, and fishermen can get as close as they want to the turbines when fishing. Each turbine is planned to be spaced 1-mile apart east to west in a grid-like pattern, which, she said, will aid in navigation and in search and rescue operations.

In addition to the offshore wind projects, both Sunrise Wind and New York State say they plan to invest heavily in college-level training programs for people to work on offshore wind. Doreen Harris, vice president for large-scale renewables at NYSERDA, said the state has already invested around $20 million for an offshore wind training institute through the SUNY system. She described it as a hub-and-spokes model, where colleges and universities such as Stony Brook will contain centers for education and training in harnessing wind energy. For their part, Bowes said Sunrise Wind has already promised invested $10 million for a training program at Suffolk County Community College, though the college has not received any funds yet and details on the program remain sparse. The energy company vice president said they were still hashing out the details, adding more information will be available in the near future. 

Bowes said they chose Port Jefferson because of its deepwater harbor and its existing amenities. He also said they chose it due to its currently “underutilized infrastructure,” though when asked if that indicated the
LIPA-owned Port Jefferson Power Station, he declined to say. He did not wish to speak about Sunrise Wind.

The Sunrise Wind project is expected to be operational by 2024. Photo by Kyle Barr

“I can say we are looking at sites that would be natural for [the project,]” he said. 

The Port Jeff power plant, which recently settled in a tax certiorari agreement with the Town of Brookhaven over its tax assessments, has been running at low percentages for the past several years. It was only 11 percent in 2017, for example. In a previous Port Times article, LIPA said the reduction in taxes may help move the plant toward a clean energy recourse but has not provided more details on what that could entail.

The recently passed state Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act calls for a transition to a carbon-free electric grid for New York by 2040. A LIPA spokesperson previously told TBR News Media the Port Jeff power plant will be more than 70 years old by 2030. LIPA has already decommissioned fossil-fuel power plants in Far Rockaway and Glenwood Landing. LIPA has also said Sunrise Wind is key to transitioning toward the state engineered clean energy milestones.

Adrienne Esposito, director of the environmental advocacy group Citizens Campaign for the Environment said the best-case scenario would be Ørsted and Eversource using the power plant.

“Think about the symbolism of repurposing a fossil fuel plant and transform it to something that will help wind power. How great would that be?”

This story has been amended Sept. 19 to say Sunrise Wind has promised $10 million for SCCC has been promised but not yet received.

The Walmart in East Setauket was cited for fire extinguisher and storage violations. File photo

*Click this link to see which stores in Brookhaven were cited for safety and storage violations.

Brookhaven Town has issued 22 summonses and 21 violations for numerous alleged safety violations of big box stores.

Town fire marshals visited 39 big box stores Aug. 30 to ensure they were in compliance with fire codes. The 22 summonses were for various infractions including blocked aisles and exits, and one for propane stored inside. 

“Our number one priority is the shoppers and employees who expect to be safe and able to exit the store in the event of an emergency,” said Brookhaven Town Chief Fire Marshal Christopher Mehrman. “Ensuring aisle widths are maintained and exits are not blocked by merchandise are just some of the things we are looking at. The town has a zero-tolerance approach to these violations.” 

Amongst multiple egress summons in some big box stores like the Kohls and Modells in Rocky Point, the Best Buy in Setauket was cited for an egress violation and the Kohls in Setauket was cited for a propane storage violation. Lowes in Stony Brook was cited for a Storage Violation and had two egress summons and one propane summons. The Walmart in East Setauket was cited for one fire extinguisher and one storage violation. The BJ’s in Setauket was also cited for one propane violation.

The fire marshals also issued 21 violations that did not warrant a summons and were not egress related. Each summons issued is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $10,000 and/or up to six months in jail. 

“A blocked aisle or exit could mean the difference between life and death during a fire or other emergency,” town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said. “We will not tolerate any violation of our fire codes.”

People who suspect that any store or business is in violation of Brookhaven’s fire codes can call 631-451-TOWN (8696). 

VFW Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore salutes those soldiers lost through the years along with other veterans. Photo by Kyle Barr

A local town official is asking people to donate their unused phones for veterans.

Brookhaven town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) is teaming up with Cell Phones For Soldiers, a national nonprofit dedicated to providing cost-free communication services and emergency funding to active-duty military members and veterans. Donations of devices allow the organization to fund its three programs, which include:

Minutes That Matter: Domestic air time that provides domestic wireless minutes and phones to veterans, military personal and military family members

Minutes That Matter: International calling cards that provide free calling cards to troops overseas to help connect to loved ones.

Helping Heroes Homes: Assists veterans with emergency funds to alleviate communication challenges, as well as physical, emotional and assimilation hardships.

“Our military men and women take extended time away from their families to ensure our safety,” Bonner said. “It is an honor to work with Cell Phones For Soldiers to provide them with a connection to their loved ones while they are serving and protecting our country.”

The drive will take place from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Residents can donate their cell phones at these four Brookhaven town locations:

Highway Department, 1140 Old Town Road, Coram

Rose Caracappa Senior Center, Route 25A in Mount Sinai

Henrietta Acampora Recreation Center, 39 Montauk Highway, Blue Point

Town Hall, 1 Independence Hill in Farmingville

For further information, call  631-451-6964.

The Mount Sinai Jetty will see reconstruction early September. Photo by Kyle Barr

After a decade delay and wringing of hands, the Mount Sinai Jetty project is going to start construction within a week as the end of summer closes in.

The ramp up East Beach in Port Jefferson is splashed with waves at high tide. Photo from Margot Garant

Ed Morris, the Brookhaven Town Parks & Recreation  commissioner, said construction is ready to start the project within the week. The contractor Bay Shore-based H&L Contracting is already in the process of gathering supplies. Materials will be stored at the Cedar West Beach Parking lot, which is down the road of the main town beach parking lot. 

“H&L will be starting up a staging area sometime in the next few days — [and will] be mobilizing everything,” he said.

H&L’s $7.4 million contract to rebuild the east and west jetties, which has been crumbled mess for close to a decade. The jetties rocks collapsed and submerged at the seaward ends during  high tide, and lower than 4 feet in some places. Holes in the jetty have also caused erosion to surrounding bluffs and beachfronts. The western jetty has been of particular concern to neighboring Port Jefferson village and its beaches.

Matt Miner, Brookhaven Town chief of operations, said an outside engineering firm did an underwater review of the jetties, which confirmed that sand is slipping through it. The rocks that will be placed in the jetties will match the size as the ones currently used and will restore the structure’s integrity.

In addition, Melville-based surveying and engineering firm Nelson & Pope is being paid $86,000 for full-time construction inspection services. 

The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year, with a finalization hopefully by spring, Morris said. Construction will be done on opposite sides of the inlet, which the commissioner noted, to allow boats through in both the on and off season.

The jetties are expected to increase in height and become slightly wider. The west jetty will extend slightly further south than the east jetty.

One element of the project that is still to be determined is the outcome of the sand sitting at the bottom of the inlet. Suffolk County has promised to dredge the sand from its bottom once the jetty project is concluded. Port Jefferson Village officials have been chomping at the bit looking to get sand back to repair its rapidly diminishing East Beach. Morris could not confirm where the sand would end up.

“Ideally, sand would be going on both sides of the jetty,” he said.

In the meantime, Port Jefferson officials have plans to piggyback the town’s contracts to aid their own beach restoration efforts.

Mayor Margot Garant said the village will be entering into contract with H&L to drop off materials at East Beach and to use the village’s East Beach parking as a staging area. She said it was still unclear how much of the parking lot they would be using. With the massive amount of rocks the company will be hauling, it could mean several trucks traveling down the steep driveway on a consistent basis. 

“I don’t know to what degree they’re going to be using the east end parking lot as a staging area for some heavy equipment, maybe not at all, but it’s mostly for access,” Garant said. 

As of Sept. 3, the village attorney was set to go over the details with the contractor.

Port Jefferson has plans of its own to revitalize its easternmost beachfront. The contract with H&L allowing them use of the beach will give them stone for use in rebuilding its cracked concrete access ramp. Plans are for a steel wall to cut back 200 feet tied into the hill along the country club property. The mayor said they originally looked at 356 linear feet to run along the tennis courts area, but New York State Department of Environmental Conservation restricted them to the 200.

However, the mayor said the state has promised to allow them to create a rock revetment wall around that tennis courts area to help offset erosion.

The village is still waiting on its permits from the DEC before going out to bid on those projects.

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Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, center, honors Black Women’s Equity Day Aug. 21 with local young women and officials. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

In honor of Black Women’s Equity Day Aug. 22, local women gathered together to raise awareness about the enduring problem of pay inequality and its effect on women of color.

Brookhaven town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), along with Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Wheatley Heights), Babylon town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon (D-Copiague) and Victoria Gumbs Moore, Esq., spoke with children in the Keep Your Change program in North Amityville and other young women at Bethel AME Church in Setauket Aug. 21. The women led activities with the youth to illustrate pay disparities and discussed the effects on families and community. 

“Unequal pay and discrimination impact a woman of color as an individual, it impacts her family and the larger society,” Cartright said. “As the mother of a young Haitian-American girl, I want my daughter to know that her mother fought for equal rights and equal pay for women of color when I had the opportunity.”

Speaking at the meeting, the women spoke to the young people about the continuing culture surrounding issues of pay equity.

“I am proud to say that this experience has given me faith that these issues will not be allowed to endure another generation,” she said.

Moore, a past president of Amistad Long Island Black Bar Association and past president of Suffolk County Women’s Bar Association, said young black women need to know their inherent value.

“It’s important that young women know their value and learn that being paid anything less than their full value is unacceptable,” she said.

Jean-Pierre said the issue needs to be addressed in every instance. 

“We won’t achieve real economic justice unless we confront this issue head-on, and I was pleased to join some of my colleagues to help start and continue this much-needed conversation,” she said.

The Black Women’s Equity Day is Aug. 22 this year. It was commemorated by the National Bar Association, which asked its membership to participate nationwide.

Tracy Kosciuk is running against Valerie Cartright for Brookhaven Council District 1. Photo from Kosciuk for Brookhaven Facebook

By Leah Chiappino

Tracy Kosciuk, who identifies first as a wife, mother and nurse, is challenging town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) for Brookhaven Town Council in the first district. And Kosciuk lives right down the street from the incumbent.

Kosciuk said she has been drawn to political participation since childhood, as she watched her grandmother, an active Democrat, become president of her local Democratic club. 

“I got to see how politics ran,” she said.

Having once been a Democrat, she is now challenging Cartright on the Republican ticket. 

“I did not leave the Democratic party, the Democratic party left me,” she said. “It’s just not the party I grew up with … I want to help make a difference and make things better and work across party lines.”

Still, she said her focus is on local issues.

Past legal history between candidates

Despite initial claims of a cordial relationship, when Cartright moved into her home in 2005, she inherited a lawsuit upon buying the property based on its property lines. The suit had been filed in the New York State Supreme Court, but ended in 2008 with the judge siding with Cartright.

Cartright had this to say about the lawsuit:

“My first interaction with my new neighbor Tracy was surrounding a baseless lawsuit over property boundaries. Having to deal with an inherited lawsuit commenced by my next-door neighbor was an unfortunate situation and I would not wish that experience on anyone moving into a new neighborhood,” she wrote via email. “I am thankful that the lawsuit was not representative of what I had to look forward to in my future years in Port Jefferson Station. Over the years, many of my other neighbors showed themselves to be welcoming, accepting and loving toward me and my family. The many positive interactions and relationships with other wonderful neighbors is what helped keep me here and led me to serve as councilperson of this amazing community.”

Kosciuk did not return multiple calls for comment.

“There are issues such as the opioid epidemic, tax increases and revitalizations that need to be done and have not been done, plaguing my area such as the opioid [crisis] that are not being addressed properly and resolved,” she said. “[Cartright] may have intentions to do things but they have not been done.” 

Given the fact Kosciuk grew up in Coram, and has lived in Port Jefferson Station for 25 years, the challenger says she has deep roots in the local community. She is an active member of the Comsewogue PTA, having had all of her three children attend Comsewogue schools, as well as the Drug Task Force Committee, Port Jeff Station/Terryville Civic Association and a self- initiated member of the neighborhood watch. 

Most notably, Kosciuk has been a registered nurse for over 30 years, after receiving her degree from Suffolk County Community College. She currently works in maternal care at St. Charles Hospital and has been a past representative for the New York State Nurses Association and the local union president for the last five years. She has traveled to Albany to lobby for improved working conditions. 

“I know how important it is to be someone who represents something and allows members of my union to have a voice, so I know how important it is for the council district to be able to have a voice,” the challenger said. “Our district has not gotten the accountability it deserves.”

Her main initiative is to increase the effectiveness and transparency of the town council. Though she plans to continue her current role as a nurse upon election, she promises the same 24/7 attention she gives to her nurses, even pausing in the interview saying she “doesn’t like to leave my nurses hanging if they need something.”

She said she plans to help streamline the tax grievance process and have elderly residents call her office to walk them through any questions they may have, as well as advocating to get them any tax relief to which they are entitled. 

As her husband is a Suffolk County police officer, she says she understands the impact of crime, especially in Port Jeff Station. Kosciuk feels that the drug epidemic is contributing to this, and that prevention education is one of the best ways to alleviate the issue. 

Kosciuk added that she believes she can help to make progress of revitalization projects throughout the district she said have been pushed aside, while remaining fiscally responsible.

She cites environmental preservation as an important issue for her and promises to ensure the maintenance of local parks as well as collaboration with the “experts’ such as Stony Brook University and Department of Environmental Conservation in order to help combat erosion as well as rust or “red” tide algae, which has appeared in Port Jefferson Harbor and Conscience Bay and is known to suffocate fish and shellfish.

Kosciuk says she faces few challenges in the race. 

“While campaigning, I have found that a lot of the same concerns that I had that caused me to want to run for town council are the same issues throughout the entire council district,” she said.