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Town of Brookhaven

Incident raises questions about high occupancy and code enforcement

A deck collapses at a home on Old Field Road, injuring at least two. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

By Rebecca Anzel

A party at an East Setauket home Aug. 26, attended by about 400 people was interrupted around 11 p.m. when an elevated deck holding 50 to 100 attendees collapsed. Two people were injured and taken to Stony Brook University Hospital, Brookhaven Town officials said.

The 10-foot high, 43-year-old deck did not violate any town codes, according to a town building inspector, but it was unclear if the structure had been inspected since it was built.

The home was illegally converted into living quarters for eight people. An investigation found it did not have carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, and had illegal key locks on interior doors and a broken basement window.

These types of changes, officials said, make it difficult for emergency personnel.

“The deck collapse that occurred this past weekend is a prime example of the serious safety hazards that exist when our governmental codes and laws are violated,” Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said. “The numerous violations at this location jeopardize the health, the safety and the wellness of the home occupants as well as the visitors to the home on that evening.”

The homeowner, identified by officials as Zeyit Aydinli, will appear in Sixth District court Oct. 27 in Patchogue. He paid fines of an undisclosed amount in May for code violations on the same property.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said the town plans to pursue legal action against Zeyit.

“We are not settling this case.his case is going to go the distance unless the homeowner wishes to enter a guilty plea.”

—Ed Romaine

“We are not settling this case,” Romaine said. “This case is going to go the distance unless the homeowner wishes to enter a guilty plea.”

He added that no one has been arrested for underage drinking, though three people have been ticketed for violating the county’s social host law, which holds homeowners responsible for underage drinking on their property. Those names were not released, but have been shared with Stony Brook University.

Timothy Ecklund, dean of students at the university, said many of those who attended the party were most likely university students, but there is no way to determine an exact number.

The university is working with town officials to learn as much as possible about the incident, and “appropriate action” will be taken in accordance with university student policy.

Nearby neighbor Lauren Krupp called the police the night of the party to complain about the noise. She said police told her there was already a patrol car in the area. Soon after, Krupp said she heard a loud noise and speculated later it was the sound of the deck collapsing.

Krupp spoke about her interactions with the first group of students to inhabit the house, last year at this time.

“They were very polite young men who introduced themselves,” she said. “We visited the house once and there was a big banner with Greek letters. It appeared that they were a fraternity.”

Krupp said she hopes the incident can be a learning experience.

“I hope this leads to some reform,” Krupp said. “It’s just not appropriate for the neighborhood. It’s lucky there was not a more serious outcome.”

Donna Newman contributed reporting.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilwoman Jane Bonner were on-site in Rocky Point for the knocking down of a zombie home on Monroe Street earlier this year. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

By Wenhao Ma

Brookhaven Town is doing everything it can to clean up neighborhoods in their area.

The town board unanimously passed a resolution to submit a grant application to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services to request funding for the Town Fire Marshals’ Anti-Blight Housing Code Enforcement Project July 21.

The town hopes to receive $25,000 from the state government to help with the cost of assessing neglected homes.

The Anti-Blight Housing Code Enforcement Project, according to town spokesman Kevin Molloy, has been going on for three-and-a-half years. It was designed to assess the abandoned properties that have harmful conditions and come up with resolutions to either repair or remove them. All the grant money, if approved, will be spent on the assessments of the homes. A mobile app is being developed for residents to report blighted buildings.

Molloy said the town’s law department and the fire marshal are responsible for the assessments. If the town attorney or fire marshal determines a house to be a threat to the neighborhood, the town may contact the owner, or when necessary, demolish the house, according to Brookhaven Town Code. The owner will be charged with the cost of tearing down the building.

“With every demolition, every property cleanup and every court case we pursue, we are turning communities around and giving people the quality of life that they deserve.”

— Dan Panico

Molloy said blighted properties can be a real danger to residents. People who enter a house that is unsafe may hurt themselves and, if the condition of the property constitutes a fire hazard, it could endanger the surrounding buildings and residents.

Safety is not the only reason for the town to establish such a project. Property values of homes suffer when an unkempt house is nearby.

One abandoned house in the neighborhood, Molloy said, could decrease the value of all the houses in the vicinity. By demolishing it, the project helps boost the value of other properties.

Eliminating “zombie homes” has long been a battle taken up by current board members.

“With every demolition, every property cleanup and every court case we pursue,” said Councilman Dan Panico (R-Manorville) July 15 in a statement after the demolition of an abandoned house in Mastic, “we are turning communities around and giving people the quality of life that they deserve.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) was on site for a demolition on Monroe Street in Rocky Point in June.

“Nearly every community in Brookhaven Town has been hit by the increase of vacant, neglected houses,” Romaine said. “Unfortunately, many of them are run-down and not secure from animals and squatters. We will continue to clean up properties.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) also attended the Rocky Point demolition.

“I am very happy for the residents that live on the street,” she said following the demolition. “Some stopped by during the demolition just to say how very thankful they were that it was coming down.”

With the help of the grant money, more homes could be demolished in an effort to clean up the neighborhoods of the North Shore.

Legislator Sarah Anker is hoping to turn the empty lot, which used to house a Kmart on Middle Country Road, into a local park. Photo from Sarah Anker

At the general meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature, Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) introduced two resolutions that could forever change Middle Island.

The two introductory resolutions, if approved by the Legislature, will begin the appraisal steps for the blighted Kmart property on Middle Country Road in Middle Island. One of the resolutions will appraise the southern portion of the property, approximately 21 acres, to be used as active parkland, and the second resolution will appraise the northern portion of the property, approximately 28 acres, to be designated as open space.

Since entering public office, Anker has been interested in having Suffolk County acquire the property to create a community park with athletic fields. The old Kmart, which was recently demolished by the owner, remained vacant for over a decade.

This year, Anker has been working with the county, the Town of Brookhaven, community organizations, including the Longwood Youth Sports Association and Middle Island Civic Association, and the current owner of the property to bring the idea to full fruition.

A community park, according to Anker, would help decrease crime and improve the quality of life for residents in Middle Island, as well as provide a safe space for youth sports leagues from across the area to come play.

“This blighted parcel is in great need of revitalization,” Anker said. “Having been part of the creation of Mount Sinai’s Heritage Park, I know with strong advocacy and public support we will be successful in Middle Island. After meeting with a number of stakeholders interested in creating Middle Island’s community park, I feel very confident that working together we can make this field of dreams a reality.”

To voice support for this project, contact Anker’s office at 631-854-1600, or email the Suffolk legislator at sarah.anker@suffolkcountyny.gov.

Councilmembers discuss the public hearing time slot change. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Brookhaven Town is tweaking its board meetings for the sake of efficiency.

Effective the first meeting of May, on May 12, town officials passed a resolution on Feb. 25 that moves the public hearing time to 6 p.m., from its previous 6:30 p.m. time slot. Public hearings used to follow a half-hour board adjournment, but now Brookhaven officials will no longer adjourn prior to the public hearing.

Councilman Dan Panico (R-Manorville) said moving the public hearing will not only help the meetings run smoothly, but also prevent attendees from waiting for the hearing to start. Shifting the time will also help the town save money, as it won’t need to pay Brookhaven employees, excluding management personnel, overtime.

“We don’t want to waste money,” Panico said. “Budgets are tight and we want the Town Board meetings to flow continuously like every governmental meeting should.”

But Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and residents alike said the time shift will limit community participation during public hearings.

The councilwoman was the only board member who voted against the proposal. She said in her three years in office, she’s witnessed residents running into town hall five minutes after public hearings begin.

“Public hearings are extremely important and we want as many people as possible to come in and be able to voice their opinions,” Cartright said. “Our public hearings here at the Town of Brookhaven are based on either zone changes [or projects based on specific properties], which will affect people in the immediate community.”

On many occasions, there are more Brookhaven employees in attendance in comparison to residents. Many residents also leave the meeting when the town takes a brief adjournment.

According to Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto, zone changes and projects in a particular area or land use plans are brought before the respective civic association before reaching the town. While residents have three minutes to comment on the board’s resolution agenda during public comment, they have five minutes to comment on zone changes and similar issues pertaining to specific properties during public hearing.

Public hearings were initially scheduled for 6:30 p.m. during former Brookhaven Town Supervisor John LaValle’s five years in office. The civic associations requested the time slot to accommodate people’s schedules, Eaderesto said.

Recently, the town has received numerous complaints from senior citizens saying that they’d prefer earlier meetings because they don’t like to travel in the evening. But Mastic Beach resident Jim Gleason said seniors usually attend public hearings, or town board meetings in general, for certain hot-topic issues.

That’s not the case for all residents.

“There have been hearings that I’ve been involved in where people have said, ‘I just can’t get there. It’s too early,’” Gleason said of public hearings. “So if there are people who have trouble getting here at 6:30 p.m., they’re obviously more people who have trouble getting here at 6 p.m.”

But Panico said the town will see what works best and adjust accordingly.

“I think it’s a reasonable move [to change the public hearing time],” Panico said. “And if there’s a need to tweak the time in the future, everyone on [the] board is very reasonable.”

Many Suffolk County residents oppose a proposed gambling facility in the Town of Brookhaven. File photo

Local civic members are going all-in to fight a proposed gambling facility in Brookhaven Town.

After New York voters passed a referendum in 2013 that allowed for seven casinos in the state, the Suffolk Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation proposed putting a 1,000-machine casino at the former Brookhaven Multiplex Cinemas in Medford. But town residents, particularly those living in the Medford area, have railed against the project, citing concerns about it causing traffic congestion and promoting crime, drug use and prostitution.

The proposal, for a nearly 32-acre site off of the Long Island Expressway near Exit 64, is awaiting approval from the Suffolk County Planning Commission.

Delaware North, the company that runs the Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack and Hamburg Gaming in upstate New York, would operate the Medford facility.

The local residents who oppose the 1,000 lottery machines, known as video lottery terminals, have found allies in the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association. At the group’s March 25 meeting, the members voted to take an official stand against the gambling facility, upon a suggestion from executive board member Frank Gibbons.

The Terryville resident said residents must push their elected officials to derail the casino.

“If all of us get united across this entire township and say, ‘You do this and we’re going to vote you all out of office,’ I bet they’ll find a way.”

Town officials have said that their hands are tied, and they have no role in choosing where the gambling facility will be built. The town board has hired global law firm Nixon Peabody LLP to issue its own legal opinion on the matter.
The town board also approved an anti-casino statement in late January, introduced by Councilman Neil Foley (R-Blue Point).

“These are blights in a community and serve no purpose in the suburbs,” Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said at the time.

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville civic members voted against a gambling facility being built at the proposed site in Medford or anywhere else in Brookhaven Town.

“Because if it’s not Medford, it could be Bicycle Path,” President Ed Garboski said. “It could be Centereach.”

Jeff Napoleon, a Port Jefferson Station resident, said members should authorize the executive board to “to make our feelings known that we’re against this and to take whatever steps … in any way they deem appropriate. That way as they uncover things, they can take action.”

The civic supported that measure, adding it to their vote of opposition to the gambling facility.

“This is obviously a complicated issue,” Napoleon said. “A lot of angles to it.”

Miller Place property could be developed

The property is adjacent to Cordwood Landing County Park off of Landing Road in Miller Place. Photo by Erika Karp

A parcel of wooded land next to Cordwood Landing County Park in Miller Place is up for grabs, and the community isn’t letting the land be developed without a fight.

The 5.4-acre parcel, which backs up to the more than 64-acre county park off of Landing Road, has value to the residents of Miller Place, and according to Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), constituents have been making it clear that the land needs to be preserved.

A website and Facebook group, operating under the name Friends of Cordwood Landing, was launched a few months ago, and the group has been advocating for the land’s preservation. A representative from the group could not be reached for comment.

Back in December 2014, Anker began the process of acquiring the land from its owner, Rocky Point developer Mark Baisch, of Landmark Properties. The legislature unanimously voted to start the acquisition process so that the county could protect the area, which Anker described in a phone interview on March 17 as “residential,” from possible commercialization or industrialization. The county has hired appraisers to determine the land’s worth. According to law, the county can’t pay any more than the appraised value.

Anker said she would like to see the land become a part of the waterfront property of Cordwood Landing.

“I am a true environmentalist,” Anker said. “I will do everything I can to advocate and move this parcel forward through the acquisition process.”

According to Town of Brookhaven planning documents, Baisch submitted a request for a subdivision back in January. In a recent phone interview, Baisch said he would like to build homes on the land. However, if the county’s offer is sufficient, he said he would sell the land.

Anker said the proposal to acquire the land is currently in its early stages and is awaiting approval from the Environmental Trust Fund Review Board. If approved, the proposal will head to the Environmental, Planning, and Agriculture Committee, of which Anker is a member. She expects the proposal to get there by April.

In 2013, the county tried to purchase the land from its original owner, but the owner refused to sell.

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