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Town of Smithtown

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Smithtown town officials plan new parking lot for Kings Park

From left, Marc Mancini, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in the newly reconstructed Bellemeade Avenue Municipal Parking Lot. Photo by Kyle Barr

A newly remade Bellemeade Avenue Municipal Parking Lot in Smithtown has several local business owners excited. They hope it might not only attract more customers, but the floods that have ruined their properties in prior years will be a thing of the past.

“There was a big storm a couple years back and all of our stores got flooded,” Lisa Spica, the owner of Dance ‘N’ Things, said. “I have a lot of stuff on the floor, and merchandise got damaged, equipment got damaged. This new drainage is a beautiful thing.”

The parking lot, located off East Main Street, was once notorious for filling with water, at one point flooding the 13 businesses that it borders, business owners said. After several days of torrential rain earlier this month, Richard Daly, owner of RICHARD Salon, was happy to report he’s seen no hint of flooding.

Now, it’s great. There’s a lot of new parking spots. Clients are happy, and more importantly employees are happy.”

— Richard Daly

“When it flooded, we just got used to it — lived with it,” Daly said. “Now, it’s great. There’s a lot of new parking spots. Clients are happy, and more importantly employees are happy.”

The Town of Smithtown finished its $490,000 reconstruction of the parking lot in August, which increased the total number of parking spaces to 139 while adding new drainage and rustic lighting fixtures. Mike Petrina, the manager at Smithtown Running Company, said that the additional lighting was especially
important to him.

“Before there was hardly any lighting, so the new lighting makes it a lot safer at night,” Petrina said.

Smithtown’s elected officials have municipal parking on their minds. The town board voted unanimously Aug. 14 to enter a contract of sale to purchase two vacant lots off Pulaski Road for a price of $280,0000 from Flushing residents Matthew and Marguerite Lupoli.

“We finally brought the Queens resident to Smithtown — we purchased those lots and we’re going to make a new parking lot, similar to [Bellemeade], but with off-street parking to help the west end businesses that we have in Kings Park,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said.

This parking lot was in disarray for many, many years, and hardly ever used. Certainly, this parking lot will be beneficial to these businesses.”

— Ed Wehrheim

The parking lot was closed for roughly a month before being reopened, according to East Main Street business owners, who said they felt  construction did not affect their businesses too much. Most are now happy to walk to their cars at the end of the day without dealing with flash flooding or worrying about their safety.

“I even have some younger girls working for me and taking out the garbage late at night, sometimes we would just wait until morning because nobody wanted to,” said Erin Kahnis, the owner of DIY artistic signs store AR Workshop. “It’s much better now.”

Wehrheim said the town plans to install additional lighting fixtures and finish landscaping the gardens in the lot’s center island and along its eastern edge during the next six weeks.

“This parking lot was in disarray for many, many years, and hardly ever used,” the supervisor said. “Certainly, this parking lot will be beneficial to these businesses.”

An aerial view of Town of Brookhaven’s Green Stream Recycling plant in Yaphank is surrounded by recyclables in August. Photo from Town of Smithtown

It’s a rubbish time to be involved in the recycling industry.

The Town of Brookhaven’s recycling plant is grappling with unprecedented mounds of bottles, used paper goods and trash. Ever since China implemented its “National Sword” policy in January banning the import of various nonindustrial plastics, paper and other solid wastes, Brookhaven’s had a hard time selling off collected recyclable materials. As China was one of the top buyers of U.S. recyclables according to NPR, this move has left many Suffolk townships unsure what to do with their residents’ recycled garbage.

To recycle or not: Tips  on handling your trash

By Kyle Barr

Operators of the Brookhaven recycling plant deal with a lot of junk. Not the good kind of junk, however, as many household items that residents assume can be recycled can cause havoc in the machinery.

In the four years since the town invested in single-stream recycling,  Erich Weltsek, a recycling coordination aid for Brookhaven, said there has been increased resident participation in the recycling program. But it has also led to some residents chucking in items that have no business being recycled.

We’ve gotten chunks of concrete, and you even get sports balls — like soccer balls, footballs — constantly,” he said. “A lot of what we call ‘wish cycling,’ where people think they’re doing the right thing and when in doubt they throw it in a recycle bin instead of the right receptacle.”

Weltsek said people have tried to recycle Coleman outdoor stoves and propane tanks, which is extremely dangerous and could result in an explosion at the facility.

The most pervasively disruptive items are plastic bags and other items that Weltsek called “tanglers,” such as Christmas tree lights, pool liners and garden hoses. The recycling facility operates on a number of conveyor belts that first feed into a device called a star screen, a number of rotating cylinders with feet that separate recyclable fibers from other items. These items either wrap around the wheels on the conveyor belt or star screen, either letting fibers through the wrong end or stopping the machine entirely.

Suffolk residents should clean out any plastic bottles or cans before putting them in the recycling. Any low-quality paper products or grease-stained cardboard such as used pizza boxes, should not be recycled because they affect the sellable quality of the entire recycling bundle.

Andrade said all plastic bags should be recycled at a local supermarket, which are mandated by New York State law to have a receptacle for all shopping bags.

The plant often has to turn away other nonrecyclable material, such as plastic utensils, bottle caps and Styrofoam. All of these are considered contaminants, either because they cannot be recycled properly, or they
dilute the quality of the material.

“While it hasn’t stopped it, China’s new policies have significantly slowed down the ability of recyclers to move material to market,” said  Christopher Andrade, commissioner of Brookhaven Town’s waste management department. “There are domestic mills and domestic markets [but] the thing is just finding them, negotiating them and moving the material.”

That is easier said than done, according to Andrade, as many recycling plants across the nation now have fewer options of where to sell their collected goods. China has publicly claimed the decision has to do with the quality of the materials, as low-quality newspaper print or thin PVC plastics are not considered valuable enough for reuse. There’s also the problem of recyclables being mixed with other, nonreusable garbage.

In 2014, Brookhaven moved from dual-stream to single-stream recycling, a system that allows residents to put out all their recyclables in a single can to be sorted out at the town’s facilities instead of bringing out a different material — plastic, papers or metal — every other week. This increased overall participation in the recycling program, Andrade said, but has led to some confusion.

The loss of the Chinese market has severely interrupted the Brookhaven-owned Green Stream Recycling facility’s outflow. Green Stream Recycling LLC, a company that contracts with the town and operates the town’s facility in Yaphank, made good use of China’s market. While the facility continues to operate without a definitive answer to where else the company can move its materials, some of it is now going back into the landfill, according to Andrade.

This crisis is not only affecting the Town of Brookhaven, but other municipalities on Long Island which sell their collected recyclables to Suffolk County’s largest township. In 2014, the Town of Smithtown formed a five-year contract with Brookhaven to send 12,000 tons of garbage to the Green Stream facility,  in return for $180,000 per year. While Brookhaven continues to honor the agreements with its partnered municipalities, the lack of market availability for recyclables has some members of Smithtown Town Board concerned.

At a Sept. 4 work session, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) showed board members a photo taken by a drone in May showing recyclables piled in heaps just outside Brookhaven’s facility. The picture made Wehrheim and other board members question what might become of the town’s current recycling agreement.

“At one point, we’re going to come to some decision what to do with [Brookhaven Town,] Wehrheim said. “It could be a potential problem … in the short term.”

Andrade said that excess dumping on the facility’s land came from the “shock” of China’s National Sword policy being implemented earlier this year, though he said the situation has since been brought under control. Despite these international issues, Andrade said Brookhaven remains committed to recycling.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) “and the board believe very strongly in recycling, and we’ll bounce back from this,” he said.

The markets are being overwhelmed; the people taking the material can be picky on what they accept. We’re going to have to respond by being better at only putting out the things that people can actually reuse.”

— Russell Barnett

Russell Barnett, Smithtown’s environmental protection director in the Department of Environment and Waterways, said he is working on a solution with Brookhaven, including a regional approach comprising Smithtown, Huntington, Southold and several other communities that are partnered with Brookhaven.

Smithtown had its own dual-stream facility that was closed before it started sending its materials to Brookhaven in 2014, though reopening it could be costly.

“We’re assessing our equipment — seeing what’s operational, what’s not, what repairs need to be made and what upgrades need to be made if the occasion comes up that we want to go that route,” Barnett said.

In the meantime, he said residents need to be more discriminating when it comes to deciding what items to recycle. Otherwise, it will be much harder in the future to find a buyer for the world’s recyclable garbage.

“When they talk about the standard, they’re not just talking about nonrecyclable material
but the right kind of recyclable material.” Barnett said. “The markets are being overwhelmed; the people taking the material can be picky on what they accept. We’re going to have to respond by being better at only putting out the things that people can actually reuse.”

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Town officials trying to plan for Brookhaven landfill’s closure, evaluate potential odor issue and site locations

Power Crush, Inc. is located on Old Northport Road in Kings Park. Photo by Elana Glowatz

The Town of Smithtown is hoping to find a fertile concept for budding plans to build an organic waste processing facility, one that town officials hope might mitigate a potential Long Island trash crisis.

“We are looking in that direction as well as a number of other directions because there will come a point, not just in Smithtown but on Long Island, where municipalities are going to have to deal with solid waste once the Brookhaven landfill closes,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said.

“…[T]here will come a point, not just in Smithtown but on Long Island, where municipalities are going to have to deal with solid waste once the Brookhaven landfill closes.

— Ed Wehrheim

The town received $187,000 from the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency to undertake a study starting in 2015 on the impacts of indoor organic waste processing facilities, one that takes items like food waste and grass clippings and turns it into compost. Wehrheim said many Suffolk County municipalities are creating contingency plans should the Town of Brookhaven’s plans to close its landfill come to fruition. Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) has said it could close in less than a decade.

Suffern-based SCS Engineers partnered with Smithtown officials to release the draft study Sept. 13 with the intention to draft a zoning ordinance that would allow for its construction.  Town code does not currently allow for any composting or organic waste facility.

“This is a scoping meeting to look at all the aspects of it and, at some point, the town board will make a decision whether or not we want to have the use of a facility like that put into the town code,” Wehrheim said. “We’re just trying to get out in front of it now so that eight or nine years down the road we will have a remedy for it to take care of our solid waste.”

Wehrheim said one location the town is considering using is Power Crush Inc. gravel supplier on Old Northport Road in Kings Park. The property’s owner, Toby Carlson, presentedthe town board with a conceptual plan for constructing such a facility in 2014.

The 280-page report suggests a number of sites for the plant. These include: the northwestern corner of Commack and southwestern corner of Kings Park, adjacent to Sunken Meadow State Parkway; the east side of Commack along Route 25/Jericho Turnpike; the southern side of Kings Park; and the southwestern corner of St. James.

There are a number of potential environmental and quality-of-life hazards stemming from indoor organic waste processing facilities, according to the draft study, including odor, groundwater impacts, air emissions, traffic and dust.

These facilities are part of their particular community, they try to take the material that’s out there and recycle it into products that most of us use.” 

— Gregory McCarron

In an internet-based survey of 28 facilities as part of the town’s study, half of the plants had received odor complaints, 11 percent noise complaints, 7 percent cited dust objections and 4 percent alleged traffic grievances. Yet, a nearly equal number of facilities said they had not received any such complaints from the local populace. Another 11 percent refused to provide any details about any complaints.

“All these facilities don’t want these problems, they don’t want unexpected events,” Gregory McCarron, the vice president of SCS Engineers, said. “These facilities are part of their particular community, they try to take the material that’s out there and recycle it into products that most of us use.”

To try to mitigate  complaints and accidents, organic waste facilities have a number of management practices they employ. These may include building and maintaining vegetable buffers to allay dust issues or scheduling deliveries to lessen traffic issues.

Nearly half of the indoor organic waste processing facilities that responded to Smithtown’s survey said they use some type of air treatment system. In addition, 81 percent reported they have specific facility design-related methods to reduce odor.

“The [best management practices] are certainly effective in mitigating, at least to some extent, those impacts,” Allyson Murray, an environmental planner for Smithtown, said.

In the course of the study, Murray visited three organic waste processing facilities in North America. The most modern facility she visited was in Toronto, Canada, which operated as an  anaerobic digester. Typical composting is aerobic, meaning it uses bacteria that require air to help break down the organic waste. Modern anaerobic composting uses airless containers in both wet and dry environments. Murray said she smelled very little odor on location and the noise was kept to a minimum.

We always do things patchwork on Long Island. I think we need a more holistic approach.” 

— Adrienne Esposito

“It’s a different kind of technology — the kinds of impacts are of a different kind,” Murray said.

Linda Henninger, the president of the Kings Park Civic Organization, attended a Sept. 13 meeting held at Smithtown Town Hall to inform local civic groups about the potential organic waste facility. She said that because the idea is still in its early stages she will keep Kings Park residents up to date on any potential hazards.

“Our mission is to look out for the people in our community,” Henninger said. “We’re continuing to educate ourselves on the issue.”

Adrienne Esposito, the executive director of the environmental advocacy group Citizens Campaign for the Environment, questioned why there are not larger conversations happening on the county or state level to determine just how many facilities Long Island requires and where would be the best location for one.

“In the next few years, every person on Long Island will have to know where our garbage goes,” she said. “We always do things patchwork on Long Island. I think we need a more holistic approach.”

Murray said the town plans to release the final version of the survey by the end of 2018.

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim. Photo from Nicole Garguilo

Smithtown residents will have a voice at the table to represent them when planning the future growth and development of Long Island.

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) was one of two new appointments to the Long Island Regional Planning Council nominated by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). His appointment was unanimously approved by Suffolk County Legislature by a vote of 17-0 at its Sept. 5 meeting.

“I am extremely honored and humbled by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone for putting his faith in me,” Wehrheim said. “Together, we can unite all Long Island residents in a non-partisan effort to deliver a modern-day renaissance here in our beautiful home.

Together, we can unite all Long Island residents in a non-partisan effort to deliver a modern-day renaissance here in our beautiful home.” 

— Ed Wehrheim

The Long Island Regional Planning Council is an inter-municipal organization whose mission is representing the needs of all Long Islanders by building productive connections between communities, focusing on issues best handed on a broad geographic scale and fostering the development of regional comprehensive planning. Some of the issues it addresses include capital projects for economic growth, improving mass transit, affordable workforce housing and environmental protection during development, according to its website.

“Suffolk County is working towards a vision that keeps our region competitive and attracts the high-skill, high-knowledge workers we need to grow our economy,” Bellone said in a press statement.

Wehrheim said that he’s been able to foster a ‘perfect symbiotic relationship’ with Suffolk officials in working through capital infrastructural projects. He highlighted his recent work that has Kings Park, Smithtown and St. James sewer projects shovel ready, in addition to repaving the town’s municipal parking lots.

“We’ve worked hand in hand with county Executive Bellone who has been both a man of his word and a true champion in helping our hamlet’s plan for economy growth,” the supervisor said. “He has helped our community to understand the need for infrastructure and transportation improvements is the foundation for growth.”

Wehrheim along with Jeffrey Guillot, a partner at Huntington-based Millennial Strategies, LLC, will join the 10 existing members of the committee. Other elected officials involved in the Long Island Regional Planning Council include: Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen (D); Ralph Scordino, mayor of the Village of Babylon; Robert Kennedy, mayor of the Village of Freeport; and Barbara Donno, mayor of the Village of Plandome Manor.

The Smithtown supervisor said he anticipates working on upcoming capital projects including a $10 million state Downtown Revitalization Improvement grant awarded to Islip, further development of the Ronkonkoma Hub, and relocation of the Yaphank train station in Brookhaven to make space for a housing project.

“We all want the same thing, for our region to grow, to thrive all while preserving our suburban quality of life,” Wehrheim said.

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Kings Park Jewish Center. Photo by Kyle Barr

While the alienation bill required to move forward with Kings Park sewers is stuck in the state Legislature’s deadlock, Town of Smithtown officials are formulating a plan B.

Smithtown officials said they have been eyeing property behind the Kings Park Jewish Center, though planning director Pete Hans said it is just one option the town is considering.

“The town has said for years that they maybe should acquire it, even before the pump station, because they’re not using it,” Hans said. “The town has property on both sides, and our parks department could use a little more space.”

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that we will never see again, so the notion that an inability to have the state Assembly pass this bill and have the project move forward is concerning.”

— Peter Scully

The original plans call for 11,000 square feet in front of the town’s Department of Parks, Buildings and Grounds facility located at 110 E. Main St. in Kings Park for a sewer pump station. Since the area is zoned as parkland, the town requires approval for alienation from the state Legislature in order to build on that property. The bill was left on the floor when the Legislature dismissed for the summer, along with multiple other small local bills, without a vote.

Requests for comment from the Kings Park Jewish Center were not responded to by press time.

The Jewish Center site sits at a low elevation, similar to the parks department property, which is necessary for the wastewater to flow through. Though Hans said the town still has to contact the synagogue about the unused property, that piece of real estate is just one of several ideas the town is considering. The planning director said town officials are also looking at the water district property just northwest of the parks department building or state-owned land next to the U.S. Post Office also on East Main Street. Building on these properties also faces complications that would cost the town and county both time and money, according to Hans.

Suffolk County’s Deputy Executive Peter Scully (D), who is handling much of the county’s wastewater projects, said that while there should be no odor issues at the Jewish Center if the town does build a pump station there, the best site would still be at its originally planned location. Doing it any other way could result in both the town and county spending more money and time than needed, especially important as the Kings Park sewer project is largely funded by a $20 million state grant offered by New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in the 2018 budget.

“In this case, we wouldn’t need to issue any debt so the Kings Park business district and Kings Wood apartment complex would be connected at virtually no cost,” Scully said. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that we will never see again, so the notion that an inability to have the state Assembly pass this bill and have the project move forward is concerning.”

State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said that he remains optimistic the state Legislature will reconvene again this year. He said the most likely time frame would be after the Nov. 6 elections but before the Christmas season, leaving a very small window.

People in Kings Park and Smithtown have waited long enough for sewers and we’re trying to make this a reality in 2019.” 

— Nicole Garguilo

“I remain optimistic, we’ll see, but if not, then the goal is to pass it next year unless the town decides to look at a different piece of property,” Fitzpatrick said.

Scott Rief, the communications director for state Senate Republicans, said there has been no specific discussions at this time about the Legislature reconvening.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said he has asked county engineers to examine if the Jewish Center site is feasible, because if they delay building the pump station it could delay nearly all of the town’s other sewer projects.

“I hope we don’t have to go that way, because this other part is already designed,” Wehrheim said.

The town had planned to start construction of Kings Park sewers in early 2019. Nicole Garguilo, the town’s spokeswoman, said pushing back the alienation bill into 2019 could push all current sewer projects back a year.

“People in Kings Park and Smithtown have waited long enough for sewers and we’re trying to make this a reality in 2019,” Garguilo said.

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A Chicane, or S-shaped traffic calming measure, installed on Montclair Avenue in St. James. Photo by Kyle Barr

While new car owners in St. James are excitedly revving their engines, local residents are closing their windows and shaking their heads.

Several residents in the area of Montclair Avenue and Rutherford Street said they are tired of traffic by people test driving cars from the considerable number of dealerships on Middle Country Road. Some are asking Town of Smithtown officials to close off Montclair Avenue before the residential end of the road or create speed bumps on Rutherford Street.

he regular amount of traffic is just crazy for a residential section. When we first moved here it was nothing like this.”

— Patti McGovern

“There are more dealerships now that are taking their people and directing them to use Montclair [Avenue],” Patti McGovern, a 30-year resident on St. James Avenue South said. “The regular amount of traffic is just crazy for a residential section. When we first moved here it was nothing like this.”

The area is home to a number of dead-end residential roads north of Route 25/Middle Country Road along Rutherford Street, which is connected to Middle Country Road through Montclair Avenue and Arlington Avenue. McGovern said that many people use these roads as a shortcut due to Smithtown High School East being located to the north. Other people test driving from local dealerships push their new cars close to 50 mph on the residential road, well above the local speed limit.

The Town of Smithtown’s Traffic Safety Department conducted a traffic study through the month of May that determined average weekday traffic was approximately 500 vehicles traveling westbound and 630 eastbound between Montclair Avenue and Jackson Avenue. The study showed 85 percent of cars had an average speed between 31 and 35 mph. The survey concluded that the number of cars was normal for a road like Rutherford, and there wasn’t a speeding issue on roads north of Montclair Avenue.

A sign posted on Montclair Avenue in St. James. Photo by Kyle Barr

Despite the study results, McGovern said even a few speeding cars could be a real hazard.

“That 15 percent, stipulated with 1,200 vehicles, means there are [approximately] 180 vehicle trips coming here in speeds excess of 40 and above,” McGovern said. “That’s more than any neighborhood should bear.”

Residents have been making noise about these traffic issues for close to four years, according to McGovern. In 2015, the town agreed to build a chicane, a S-shaped traffic-slowing and road-narrowing measure, on Montclair. McGovern said that even with the road being narrowed to hinder large trucks, the chicane has not done enough to slow traffic.

“The chicane had to be built so that it had access for emergency vehicles, so any kind of truck can get through, even if they get up on the curbs of the chicane,” McGovern said.

Rutherford Street resident David Friedman said it has become a huge problem to see people test driving their cars down local residential streets — and in their haste, often running the stop sign at the intersection at Rutherford Street and Montclair Avenue. Friedman said there is a school bus stop near that same corner, and he often fears for children’s safety.

“It’s customer preference whether they want to be on the main road or the back road, but I think a lot of the traffic in this area has to do with there being multiple dealerships.”

— David Toomey

“It’s constant, and some of them are just very discourteous,” he said. “Some of them are using it to test their engine — making a lot of noise.”

Middle Country Road is home to more than 10 car dealerships all within a few miles radius of each other. Friedman said that he has seen cars from the Smithtown Nissan and Competition BMW of Smithtown driving on their roads, but the worst, he said, has come from the Competition Subaru of Smithtown located at the corner of MontclairAvenue and Middle Country Road.

David Toomey, the general manager for the Subaru dealership, said he does not specifically emphasize people test drive on Montclair; but, if they do, he said he advises them to maintain the speed limit.

“We’re trying to minimize traffic in the back [residential] areas,” Toomey said. “It’s customer preference whether they want to be on the main road or the back road, but I think a lot of the traffic in this area has to do with there being multiple dealerships.”

In terms of the number of Subaru test vehicles driving on the residential neighborhoods, he said most of the traffic is from dealership employees driving to their new dealership located at 601 Middle Country Road. He said there should be little to no Subaru cars on local roadways once the company finishes relocating in early September.

Downtown Kings Park. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Town of Smithtown officials are one concrete step closer to paving the way for municipal parking in Kings Park’s downtown business district.

The town board voted unanimously Aug. 14 to enter a contract of sale to purchase two vacant lots off Pulaski Road for a price of $280,0000. If all goes smoothly, the purchase may fulfill the five-year wish of area residents who petitioned the town to buy the property in November 2013.

“We’re very pleased, we are going into contract,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “It will be a huge advantage to the business community there.”

Originally, the town had scheduled a public hearing for Aug. 14 on whether it should pursue the process of eminent domain to take ownership of the two lots owned by Queens residents Matthew and Marguerite Lupoli.

It will be a huge advantage to the business community there.”

— Ed Wehrheim

“It was a little bit of a tussle with the property owner who resides in Queens, but he’s willing to sell it,” the supervisor said.

A June 4 real estate appraisal of the two adjacent wooded lots determined the fair market price to be approximately $270,000 for the roughly 12,800 square feet, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. The town’s first purchase offer on the property was rejected by the owners, according to Wehrheim, but the second offer of $280,000 was accepted.

The supervisor said he is hopeful that the funds necessary to purchase the land will come from Suffolk County’s coffers, citing lengthy conversations with Suffolk  County Executive Steve Bellone (D). The measure will have to be  approved by the county Legislature.

“It looks positive,” Wehrheim said.

Smithtown town officials have been eyeing these wooded lots for municipal parking dating back to 2013.

A petition started by Park Bake Shop owners, Lucy and Gabe Shtanko, in 2013 received more than 600 signatures from Kings Park residents asking town officials to purchase the lot for municipal parking. Wehrheim said a 2014 appraisal determined its fair market price at $230,000, but Matthew Lupoli wasn’t interested in selling at that time.

It was a little bit of a tussle with the property owner who resides in Queens, but he’s willing to sell it.”

– Ed Wehrheim

There is a town municipal parking lot across the street from the Kings Park Fire Department on Main Street, next to the Kings Park branch of The Smithtown Public Library.

The western portion of Main Street — dubbed Restaurant Row — is the one area that could possibly use more municipal parking, according to the results of a 2018 market analysis study of downtown Kings Park presented by Larisa Ortiz, urban planner and principal of Larisa Ortiz Associates, to the town board Jan. 25.

“The municipal lots are inconvenient for restaurants,” reads the 62-page report.

The Restaurant Row area, which includes several eateries such as Cafe Red and Relish, averages 4.7 parking spots per 1,000 square feet of retail space. This is less than the two other areas of Main Street — known as the “civic heart,” near the Kings Park library and Long Island Rail Road station, and “car-centric retail,” which is centered around Tanzi Plaza and the Kings Park Plaza shopping center.

Ortiz’s other suggestions for improving the current parking situation in the Kings Park downtown area included restriping several existing lots — such as Relish’s — to accommodate more spaces and increase their efficiency.

In addition to Kings Park, Wehrheim said the town board has received a real estate appraisal of the Irish Viking pub in St. James and remains interested in purchasing it to create off-street parking for the Lake Avenue business district.

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Screenshot of the Town of Smithtown's mobile app. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Town of Smithtown is bringing its municipal services to the mobile generation.

Town officials launched an app Aug. 14 that allows residents to more easily access government functions such as town department websites and even emergency alerts from public safety. The app, designed by members of the Department of Public Safety, has been available for download since July through iPhone App Store for Apple devices or through Google Play Store on Android phones.

The more people that are on it the better. It has all this town information right at your fingertips.” 

— John Gonzalez

“We’re in a mobile generation, everyone is on the go,” said John Gonzalez, 43, a communications technician in the Department of Public Safety who developed the app. “They can go to Facebook and look it up there, but to have it all at your fingertips is where everybody’s going now.”

The Town of Smithtown Mobile App contains a menu of options that include a mobile-friendly version of the town’s website, links to all town departments in addition to the villages of Head of the Harbor, Village of the Branch and Nissequogue. Other tabs include social media posts from both the town itself and the Smithtown Animal Shelter relating to animal adoptions. It is designed to automatically update if any changes occur to town websites.

The app also contains links to an up-to-date weather forecast in Smithtown, by-the-minute information on power outages from PSEG Long Island’s website and announcements regarding road closures and delays through the Notices tab.

This is a tremendous step in the transparency process …”

— Ed Wehrheim

“This is a tremendous step in the transparency process and we’re so lucky to have the talent in house to develop an app that would normally be a very costly process to design,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “I am extremely grateful for our public safety communications department for taking the initiative and I am excited to hear from the residents after using this app.”

Gonzalez said the original idea had been kicked around the public safety office, but department Chief John Valentine finally set him to the task of sitting down to work on it in March. Gonzalez thought it would take five to six months to develop, but he finished the project in only three.

“I am so impressed with the finished product and I just hope the community feels the same way,” Valentine said.

It did not cost the town money to release the app on Google Play Store. Town spokesperson
Nicole Garguilo said that the town did not have to pay the usual fees for uploading an app because it was done as a government entity. Apple also made uploading an app free for government entities and nonprofits earlier this year.

I am so impressed with the finished product and I just hope the community feels the same way.”

— John Valentine

Gonzalez said he started coding at a young age and created his first program by age 9. After working at the video game company Acclaim Entertainment, which became defunct in 2004, he has kept up to date on current programming languages. He said that this type of app is great for residents who wish to stay updated while moving about the town.

“If there are any emergency announcements, it is another tool for residents to use,” he said. “The more people that are on it the better. It has all this town information right at your fingertips.”

Gonzalez said the public safety department has plans to continue updating the app. First on the list is allowing users to click on public safety notifications to bring them straight to the original location. Gonzalez expects to add more features in the future based on community feedback.

Town of Smithtown residents now have a place where they can sit down to remember the life of 6-year-old Paige Keely along with other children who have died too soon.

Three Nesconset residents Danielle Hoering, Bridget Scher and Sasha Worontzoff, members of Tackan Elementary School’s Parent-Teacher Association, spearheaded the creation of a memorial to Paige Keely installed at Nesconset gazebo Aug. 2.

Paige Keeley. Photo from St. James Funeral Home

The 6-year-old Paige was first-grader at St. James Elementary who died suddenly of a rare, undetected brain condition called arteriovenous malformation Jan. 8. It’s an abnormal development of blood vessels that connect arteries and veins, which occurs in less than 1 percent of the population, according to the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center based in Minnesota.

“I know what it’s like to lose someone,” Worontzoff said. “People end up forgetting after a while or move onto the next big thing and we didn’t want people to.”

The St. James community initially showed its support for Keely’s parents, Tom and Gina, along with her two siblings by tying pink ribbons – Paige’s favorite color – around trees, stop signs and telephone poles in the community. Now, there is a permanent pink ribbon at the Nesconset gazebo.

In memory of Paige and all children who have died, a cherry blossom tree donated by Borella Nursery Wholesale Growers in Nesconset was planted near the gazebo as it will blossom with pink flowers each year. The tree was surrounded by a garden with a stone plaque, and a white bench inscribed a pink ribbon dedicating it “In Memory of Paige Keely.”  The Town of  Smithtown Parks, Building & Grounds Department helped install the memorial.

“We wanted to do it in a public area so that all families could come and enjoy it, not just at a school,” Scher said. “We just wanted a spot where people can sit and reflect or pay respect to Paige and the family.”

The gazebo was selected as the memorial site because several public events like the Nesconset Concert series are hosted at the park, attracting families and community members. Local businesses and those in the community donated money to help fund the project.

“People end up forgetting after a while or move onto the next big thing and we didn’t want people to.”

– Sasha Worontzoff

“We wanted each person and each establishment to have a sense of contribution to this permanent fixture in our community,” Worontzoff said. “We really just wanted Nesconset people to help and be a part of it.”

Worontzoff and Hoering had to get permission from Smithtown’s elected officials in order to build the memorial on town-owned land.

“We were so grateful and appreciative that the parks and rec and Town Hall were so quick and knew our story ahead of time,” Worontzoff said. “It was wonderful.”

She hopes local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops will maintain the memorial and keep it in good condition throughout the years.

This is the second memorial to be constructed in Paige’s memory. Earlier this summer, St. James Elementary School dedicated a butterfly garden on its grounds at the Keely family’s request.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, left of center, draws names in lottery for the San Remo affordable home. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Dozens of people crowded into the Town of Smithtown’s board room at 2 p.m. July 31 waiting eagerly for their name to be called.

Neil Coleman, of Lake Ronkonkoma, walked into the room and casually replied “Here,” as he had not yet realized his name was the first drawn in a lottery for the opportunity to purchase an affordable San Remo house — the first to be raffled off in Smithtown under New York State’s Long Island Workforce Housing Act.

Neil Coleman, 25, of Lake Ronkonkoma. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“I was shocked,” he said. “I had barely made it through the door. I understand it was a lottery. It was luck of the draw, and I was the one picked today.”

Coleman, 25, works as an electrician for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 25 union. He lives with family members in Ronkonkoma and said he’s spent the last year and a half searching through real estate listings trying to find affordable housing.

“It’s daunting,” he said. “It’s difficult to find affordable housing at a young age.”

Coleman said in June he stumbled upon Long Island Housing Partnership’s website while searching for grant programs or assistance in obtaining housing. The Hauppauge-based nonprofit organization has helped aid more than 35,000 residents looking for affordable rentals or housing since 1988, according to its president and CEO Peter Elkowitz.

“It’s really important for us to recognize that affordable housing is a crucial issue here on Long Island,” Elkowitz said. “We all have family members who are living with us or who may not be on Long Island anymore. It’s important to keep our workforce here.”

LIHP worked in conjunction with Smithtown’s elected officials to host the lottery for the newly constructed 3-
bedroom, 1.5-bathroom workforce housing built on Locust Drive in Kings Park held on Tuesday. In order to qualify, applicants’ income can be no more than 120 percent of the median household income for Nassau-Suffolk counties as set by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Guidelines. For 2018, this limit is set for $112,500 for two individuals, increasing to $140,050 for a family of four. There were 39 families who applied for the chance to purchase the San Remo home by June 15.

This 3-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom home in San Remo was raffled off under the town’s workforce housing program. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for a family to be successful in coming into Smithtown and living in a beautiful, affordable home,” Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said.

Coleman said he has a German shepherd that will be coming with him if he’s approved to move in the home. He must provide LIHP with income documentation and pass a credit check to demonstrate he meets the program’s requirements, according to Elkowitz, or the opportunity will pass to the next person on the list. Each applicant who entered the lottery was assigned a number as their name was pulled and will receive a letter documenting their ranking in the mail.

“This is the first of many units that will be built with an affordable price tag for our residents to come,” Wehrheim said.

The supervisor said construction is currently underway on seven more affordable workplace homes in the new Country Pointe Woods Smithtown development, off the intersection of Route 347/Smithtown Bypass and Route 111. The sale of these units will also be determined via lottery in conjunction with LIHP at a future date.

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