The race for Town of Brookhaven supervisor sees one candidate with years of electoral experience facing a young newcomer who says he’s representing those in town who have been ignored by government the past several years.
Seven-year town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) is facing Democratic challenger, first-time candidate and Selden political activist Will Ferraro. While the incumbent cites his efforts over the past seven years, including his work on getting control of Brookhaven’s budget and the push toward clean energy, Ferraro is pushing hard on recycling and trash issues, as well as keeping young people on Long Island.
Romaine said the town has made huge strides toward clean energy in the past several years, including incorporating wind and solar technology at Town Hall in Farmingville.
“You had a year, a year and a half, where that market had been collapsing and the town just waited.”
— Will Ferraro
Recently, a new offshore wind project, Sunrise Wind, has plans to create an offshore wind farm off Montauk, and plans to have a home base in Port Jefferson Harbor. Romaine claimed he had been a big proponent of that project and will have a large impact on it going forward.
“I’m not a proponent of fossil fuel,” Romaine said.
Ferraro criticized the town’s movement on the Caithness II plant, which has since stalled, though Romaine said he had voted against the plant.
More eyes have turned toward Brookhaven’s waste management and recycling since the market crashed in 2018, leading the town’s recycling contractor, Green Stream Recycling, to void its contract. Brookhaven has switched from single-stream to dual-stream recycling and has asked residents to drop glass off at 21 points in the town instead of picking it up at curbside.
The Democratic challenger criticized the supervisor for not seeing the writing on the wall when it came to the recycling market and single-stream recycling.
“Where I find problem is that [the Town] waited and tried running out 20-plus year contract with Green Stream,” Ferraro said. “You had a year, a year and a half, where that market had been collapsing and the town just waited.”
He advised the town should look into a pay-as-you-throw program, which would lessen the cost of people’s trash bill for those who turn out less trash. He said he would cap the cost of people’s bills to where it currently sits at $350, enticing people to throw out less. He added he would want to return to glass pickup once every two weeks or once a month.
Romaine said such a program might work in the long term, but believed it would lead to illegal dumping, which he added was already a huge problem in Brookhaven.
The town’s landfill has long been a hot spot for controversy. The landfill currently only accepts ash and construction debris. All garbage is taken to a plant outside of town, while the ash is returned to the landfill. Current plans see Brookhaven capping the landfill by 2024. Romaine said closing the location will be a net loss for the town but suspects they will not take a large hit. Otherwise, Brookhaven, along with other townships that dump their ash at the Brookhaven landfill, still needs to decide where that trash will go once the last landfill on Long Island is closed.
“This is not a Brookhaven problem, this is a regional problem,” Romaine said.
People around the landfill have long complained about the odor from it, and many claim they have experienced negative health effects from living close to it. Ferraro criticized the town for not doing more to research what could be causing such effects or doing air testing during an odor event and called for an air quality task force for the area.
Romaine said a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation does testing every day, and they have no research that qualitates the landfill has resulted in these negative health effects at the nearby school district.
“Health to me is the most important thing,” Romaine said. “If we knew there was something, we would have stopped.”
Recent years have shown people, both young and old, moving off the Island due to high property taxes. While both candidates agreed the majority of taxes come from the local school districts, Ferraro said the most important thing is to attract industries that provide jobs, while working on town infrastructure to get people to those jobs. He suggested that Brookhaven should look into some sort of limited public transportation system, similar to Huntington’s Area Rapid Transit system.
“Health to me is the most important thing.”
— Ed Romaine
He agreed with Romaine on a lack of multifamily housing but said some residents are being heard more than others.
“A lot of NIMBY [not in my backyard] is being pandered to,” the challenger said. “A lot of their concerns are valid, some are not … We need a comprehensive approach. It’s one thing to have $1,800 rent, but when you talk about transportation costs, other factors than just rent that play into that.”
Romaine said he and fellow council members have done a good job in securing large industries to the town, such as Amneal Pharmaceuticals, which brought a facility to Yaphank with several hundred jobs earlier this year. He added the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency has been key in bringing jobs like these to the area. He also cited intent to lessen the cost of gas and electricity by allowing the town to purchase those resources on behalf of its residents through a Community Choice Aggregation program.
Ferraro said many of those jobs created through the IDA were temporary construction jobs. Though some residents have complained about some of the tax breaks some of these developments have received, such as the Engel Burman-owned senior facility currently going up in Mount Sinai for only providing around 50 full-time employees after the facilities finally open. Romaine agreed that the IDA should avoid multifamily housing unless its “affordable.” He said he was opposed to the IDA giving tax breaks to the Heatherwood apartment complex in Port Jefferson Station and South Setauket, which were ultimately rejected.