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Town of Smithtown

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Since Oct. 29 the Town of Smithtown has been piling up residents’ recyclables at its Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park. File Photo by Kyle Barr

Smithtown residents will soon be asked once again to separate their recyclables as town officials have chosen to return to dual-stream recycling in January 2019.

Town of Smithtown officials held a special meeting Nov. 20 where they announced their finalized bids for its recycling contracts. The town board tapped West Babylon-based Winters Bros. Waste Systems of Long Island, who have agreed to take the town’s unprocessed newspaper and cardboard in exchange for paying $30 per ton, or approximately $177,000 a year to the town. Another company, Islandia-based Trinity
Transportation, will be handling the town’s unprocessed curbside metals and plastics, with $68 per ton being paid by the town, costing approximately $104,000 per year in expenses, according to the final documents.

“Working together with our fellow municipalities and villages is, for us, a win-win opportunity.”

— Ed Wehrheim

The bids are part of a partnership with the towns of Brookhaven and Southold. Brookhaven will use its own contractor to ship its recyclables to Smithtown’s Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park. Brookhaven will pay the town $5 per ton, or $130,000 a year for its expected tonnage. Smithtown estimates there will be 45 of deliveries per week from Brookhaven, totaling approximately 500 tons of material. Brookhaven announced it will be moving back to dual-stream as of Nov. 28 and has already been issuing notices to its residents.

“Smithtown has always had a phenomenal relationship with the Town of Brookhaven and Supervisor [Ed] Romaine,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “Working together with our fellow municipalities and villages is, for us, a win-win opportunity. We help our neighbors who have helped us for so many years and we avail ourselves to favorable pricing which alleviates any burden on the taxpayer.”

Smithtown moved away from dual-stream in 2014 when it finalized a recycling contract with Brookhaven and has been left without a recycling-service provider since Oct. 29 when Green Stream Recycling, Brookhaven’s recycling contractor, voided its contract with the town. Smithtown, among numerous other local municipalities, had an agreement to sell all its recyclables through Green Stream for a $180,000 annual profit.

The new contracts approved Nov. 20, including the money from Brookhaven, will deliver $178,517 in revenue for Smithtown per year, according to town officials.

Under the new intermunicipal agreement, the townships will no longer be collecting glass for recycling. If Smithtown residents wish to recycle glass bottles or containers, they will be asked to take it to one of three locations: the Municipal Services Facility building at 85 Old Northport Road in Kings Park; the town Highway Department building at 758 Smithtown Bypass in Nesconset; or Town Hall, located at 99 W. Main St. in Smithtown. The town estimates that it will cost $23,850 annually to dispose of this glass

Russell Barnett, the town’s recycling coordinator, previously told TBR News Media that glass is a major contaminate to other recyclables when it is mixed in with other materials in single-stream. Not only does broken glass wear on processing machinery, it is difficult to remove should it become entangled in a soft product like paper.

The recycling market changes constantly, and we have to be prepared.”

— Nicole Garguilo

The town signed a six-month contract with these two companies, including an option to renew for an additional six months, according to Smithtown spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. This was intentionally done in case the recycling market changes in the future.

“The recycling market changes constantly, and we have to be prepared,” she said.

Starting immediately, the two garbage carting companies will begin taking the recyclables that have been accumulating since Oct. 29 at Smithtown’s Municipal Services Facility, sorting it for the town, and processing it.

The town plans to begin a public information blitz before the new recycling system goes into effect, according to Garguilo, including social media spots, informational mailing flyers and information on the official Smithtown phone app to inform residents on the details of what recyclables they can put out on which days.

Since Oct. 29 the Town of Smithtown has been piling up residents’ recyclables at its Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park. File Photo by Kyle Barr

With bids in for the Town of Smithtown recycling contract, town officials have a big decision to make that may change how and when residents take their bins to the curb.

“Perhaps there’s a market for it — perhaps these bidders have a place where they can bring it,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said prior to the opening of the bids.

The Town of Smithtown has been left without a recycling-service provider since Oct. 29 when Green Stream Recycling, the Town of Brookhaven’s recycling contractor, voided its contract with the town. Smithtown, among other local municipalities, had an agreement with Brookhaven to sell all its recyclables through Green Stream for a profit. Now, Smithtown has been left without a recycling contract and has been dumping all its recyclables at the Municipal Services Facility located on Old Northport Road in Kings Park. The facility has approximately two-to-three weeks before it is full to capacity.

You’re going to be hard pressed after years of single stream to go back to dual stream…”

— Ed Wehrheim

The town unsealed four bids for its recyclable materials Nov. 8. Two bids, received from West Babylon-based Winters Bros. Hauling of Long Island and Islandia-based Trinity Transportation, offered both single-stream recycling and dual-stream recycling. Single-stream recycling is the process of taking all recyclables in a single can and everything would be sorted at a facility. Dual stream requires residents to sort out different types of recyclables, including different kinds of plastics, metals and papers, and putting out each kind of material on different days of the week for collection.

Smithtown officials estimate the town picks up 11,500 tons of recyclables each year. If the town wants to stick with a single-stream recycling process, it may cost close to $1 million to send these materials off for processing. This would be a major difference compared to the small $180,000 in profit it made in annual revenue selling its recyclables to Brookhaven.

Bids received for dual-stream recycling, including both Winter Bros. and Trinity Transportation, propose rates the companies would be willing to pay for each specific product. For example, Trinity would pay the town $68 a ton for its newspaper and cardboard.

Joseph Kostecki, the town’s purchasing director, unseals bids received for the town’s recycling contract Nov. 8. Photo by Kyle Barr

The town calculated it would collect approximately 6,500 tons of paper and 1,900 tons of metal, plastic and glass combined from residents if households were required to sort their own recycling.

Russell Barnett, the town’s recycling coordinator, said one of the options Smithtown is considering is taking glass off the list of curbside materials and setting up a specialized locations where residents can drop off their glass products.

Recycled glass is a major bane for Patricia DiMatteo, owner of Trinity Transportation. She said that recyclable products can easily become contaminated, especially with glass, when collected in a single can. In particular paper, her company’s specialty, becomes easily contaminated by fine pieces of glass crushed so small they’re barely visible to the naked eye, making the product unsellable.

Wehrheim said he doesn’t expect residents to continue recycling at the rate they have under the single-stream process if the town reverts to dual stream.

“You’re going to be hard pressed after years of single stream to go back to dual stream and tell people, ‘Now, you’re going to have go back to the two pails, sort your metal and sort your paper,’” he said. “I think what you’ll see is you’ll lose a large percentage of your recycling.”

While Barnett agreed losing single-stream recycling could result in less participation, he added that changing back to dual stream could improve the overall quality of the product collected, raising its market desirability.

“There are other markets, and you can achieve a China market quality product if you process it well.”

—Patricia DiMatteo

Smithtown began its single-stream process in 2014 when it signed a contract with Brookhaven and the Green Stream facility. Previously, the town had used its own dual-stream recycling processing facility. Barnett said the town is internally discussing bringing that facility back online, but that site was mothballed in 2014. Since then, the facility has aged without use and would require revitalization. In addition, all the town employees who once worked at the facility — 12 in total — have been reassigned to other departments or no longer work for the town.

To make the facility operational would require hiring multiple new employees, which means weighing the costs of salaries and benefits into the price of reopening, according to Wehrheim. Barnett said the town is still calculating the total cost of restarting the plant.

Recycling has been an ongoing issue for Long Island municipalities since the China market, one of the world’s largest importers of recyclables, severely restricted the quality of material it would import. This policy, named National Sword, started in January and its effects have stung local townships hard as of late, but DiMatteo said there are other markets if one knows where to look.

“There is definitely an issue with the China market, no doubt, you have to make a pristine product for them now,” she said. “There are other markets, and you can achieve a China market quality product if you process it well.”

Smithtown Councilman Tom Lohmann. Photo by Kyle Barr

While we at TBR News Media do not believe that having a one-party rule is conducive to a truly transparent government, we do believe that Tom Lohmann (R) should retake the council seat he has occupied for the past 10 months.

Since he’s been in office, Lohmann has shown himself to be an efficient and dedicated public servant. The council member has proven to have engaged himself into the minutia of governmental activity, taking his role as liaison to several departments seriously. He has also been on the front lines of a number of issues, including town consolidation and revitalization. As a former member of the NYPD, Lohmann has also helped bridge the gap between the Suffolk County Police Department and the town by bringing in a representative from the department to speak about local crime issues.

We appreciate Amy Fortunato’s running, especially with her constant push for town revitalization, but Lohmann has proven to be much more knowledgeable of local issues.

We still admire Fortunato for her constant and fiery dedication to the town and its residents. She attends most, if not all, town board meetings where she is always willing to speak up and ask the tough questions, especially those concerning the town’s revitalization and budgetary efforts — two things that will be very important to keep an eye on going into next year. We ask that she remains a firebrand and watchdog in Smithtown for a long time.

Smithtown Councilman Tom Lohmann will compete with Democratic challenger Amy Fortunato for a seat on Smithtown Town Board. Photos by Kyle Barr

Town of Smithtown voters can choose between incumbent Tom Lohmann (R) and Democratic challenger Amy Fortunato for town council seat where both want to continue efforts toward downtown revitalization.

Fortunato and Lohmann stepped into the TBR News Media offices to debate about the problems and efforts circulating throughout the town’s eight hamlets.

After being in office 10 months, Lohmann said he has an appreciation for the inner workings of Smithtown’s government. While the councilman said he has worked hard with the town’s Highway Department to fix roads, he wants to see the local business districts built up to incentivize young people to remain in town.

“People I speak to don’t mind paying a little bit more if they have good roads,” Lohmann said. “These are things we use. You want to have businesses we can patronize. We don’t have businesses there because we let it deteriorate to something unsustainable.”

Democratic challenger Amy Fortunato is looking to break the Republican stranglehold on the town council, one that has been in place for more than two decades. She said the town needs to improve its communication and transparency with the community.

“Our towns look shabby, but we’ve got plenty of money, and our budget needs to move there,” Fortunato said. “What is so important is a comprehensive master plan — we’ve been talking about that for a long time, and I’m just concerned that the community has heard what we want to see in Smithtown.”

2019 Budget

On Oct. 5, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) released his draft 2019 budget that increases $4 million from this year, and includes a raise for all board members from $65,818 to $75,000. Fortunato said she
disagreed with the pay increase, especially when comparing the council members’ salaries to either Huntington or Brookhaven, two larger townships than Smithtown.

“I would not take that salary,” the Democratic challenger said. “[Supervisor Ed Wehrheim] should be longer in government before taking a raise.”

Lohmann said that, compared to previous boards, he and other council members are working full time on town matters. He says he is in his office full time, not including other night or weekend events. The councilman said the largest increase to the town’s budget is due the town’s employee health care costs, which he hopes to address if he gets another term.

“I think I’m worth $75,000,” the incumbent said. “One of the biggest increases is $1.1 million
to support health care costs. We’re on an unsustainable course of action. We have to look to
employees to subsidize their own costs.”

Lohmann was appointed to the board in January 2018 after the seat was vacated by Wehrheim.  Some, including Fortunato, originally protested the decision, saying that the move was unilaterally made without input from the community.

Infrastructure

The Town of Smithtown is involved in several sewer projects at various stages of development in Kings Park, Smithtown and St. James. Lohmann said that while New York State politics has put the project on hold by keeping an alienation bill required for the Kings Park pump station from being voted on in the state Assembly, he and the rest of the board are still wholly committed to these projects.

“We’re not going anywhere without sewers,” the incumbent said. “In Kings Park, it’s ready, but unfortunately what’s going on in Albany that died on the vine … A true comprehensive master plan has to involve community input and town hall meetings to drive the picture of what we want to see which is a living breathing document updated every 5 to 10 years.”

Fortunato said she is in full support of sewering, but that she wants the town to be open in relaying to the community what environmental impacts the new sewers could have.

“We got to be careful, and we want transparency,” she said. “We should have a public forum to present these options [for sewer treatment plants] and what we are looking at.”

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New York State Sen. John Flanagan, far left, and Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, third from left, announce the $3.9M in state funding for infrastructural improvements. Photo by Kyle Barr

With funds finally in place for St. James sewers, Smithtown’s capital projects might finally be getting off (or under) the ground.

New York State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) announced Oct. 29 that the Town of Smithtown would be receiving $3.9 million from the State and Municipal Facilities Program, a non-specific discretionary pot of funding for municipal assistance. The funds will be added to the town’s available money to create a sewer
district along Lake Avenue.

This is how I see it, [the town] come up with the plans, and we do whatever we can to help them out, especially when it comes to the actual cost of the project.”

—John Flanagan

“This is how I see it, [the town] come up with the plans, and we do whatever we can to help them out, especially when it comes to the actual cost of the project” Flanagan said. “This is a great indication of cooperation: town cooperation, local cooperation and intermunicipal cooperation.”

In June, the town released a report provided by Melville-based H2M architects + engineers that calculated the projected costs of installing dry sewer mains and pump stations needed to build a sewer district for the Lake Avenue business district. The architectural firm came up with two methods to install the sewers: the first would cost approximately $3.8 million to install gravity sewers, a force main and pump station needed to reach a sewage treatment plant but would not provide for full road restoration; the second design would cost the town roughly $6.2 million with road restoration costs included.

The estimated costs for the proposed St. James Sewer District were calculated on the premise that Gyrodyne, LLC will build a sewage treatment plan with the capacity to accommodate its neighboring Lake Avenue businesses. Gyrodyne has continued to say it will work with the town, according to Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R).

“The main component to revitalize any business district is you have to reach the [Suffolk County] Board of Health requirements, and because of the present-day septic systems it’s just not possible to do,” he said. “The new sewer mains are what will make this project successful.” 

The town is currently sitting on $4.6 million for St. James business district improvements, including $2.4 million to replace the area’s 54-year-old water mains. The supervisor added he expects the town will sit down with engineers either in January or February 2019 to discuss the logistics of the project, and that construction could begin by fall 2019.

A number of local business people and civicleaders attended the Oct. 29 press conference where Flanagan and town officials announced the funding. Though many said they were excited by the prospect of sewers, they were also aware that construction, both the tearing and replacing of sidewalks and asphalt, could disrupt existing businesses. Wehrheim said there could be plans for doing the work in sections, separated by the connecting streets all the way down Lake Avenue.

“Everyone on this street is nervous about what’s happening. But I’m certain in the long run it will do amazing things for our town, community and business life.”

— Natalie Weinstein

“It’s going to be a huge disturbance, but we’re prepared for that,” the supervisor said.

Kerry Maher-Weisse, president of the Community Association of Greater St. James, said they will take the long-term view that the community will benefit more from construction.

“We’re going to help them, whatever the time frame,” Maher-Weisse said. “Our organization represents the businesses and we’ll be there to get people in to patronize.”

Natalie Weinstein, a Lake Avenue business owner and president of the nonprofit Celebrate St. James, an organization that hosts artistic events in the community, said the best way to revitalize the area is to make it focused on the arts.

“We have a wonderful challenge,” she said. “Everyone on this street is nervous about what’s happening. But I’m certain in the long run it will do amazing things for our town, community and business life.”

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Photo from Metro

Though it goes hardly noticed, the Town of Smithtown’s curb cut program has made more than a dent in the last 20 years.

Kelly Brown, the housing rehabilitation administrator in the town’s planning department, has been supervising the creation of several hundred curb cuts throughout the town for the purposes of increasing accessibility for people who are disabled. Though she said she did not have a way to give a precise number as to how many have been created around Smithtown, she estimated the town has made more than 700 cuts in the two decades the program has been around.

“We’ve been doing the handicapped curb cuts in neighborhoods where there are sidewalks, and if the handicap ramps in an area are not up to code we redid them or where there weren’t any we put them in,” Brown said. “Some of these developments go back 40, 50, 60 years, and handicap accessibility wasn’t on the forefront like it is now.”

You need to do it, and there are handicapped people that under the Americans with Disabilities Act need to access the sidewalks properly. “

— Tom McCarthy

Current plans for curb cuts will address sidewalks between Gibbs Pond Road and Andreoli Park as well as Woodview Drive and Nichols Road. Those spaces are priorities, Brown said, so that people who use a wheelchair or are otherwise disabled can more easily access the Nesconset public park.

Town Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) is the liaison to the planning department and has overseen a lot of the cuts.

“You need to do it, and there are handicapped people that under the Americans with Disabilities Act need to access the sidewalks properly,” McCarthy said. “[Brown] does a fantastic job with it. She gets it down without any fanfare, and that’s just how [she] is.”

Though the program goes often unremarked, advocates for those with disabilities say it makes a huge difference for people who simply do not have the ability to take the step off a sidewalk. While the ADA requires all new sidewalks to be installed with disability accessible curb cuts, on older streets without them many people see their independence severely limited.

“They’re critical, they’re absolutely critical,” said Frank Krotschinsky, the director for Suffolk County’s Office for People with Disabilities. He speaks from experience, as he has used a wheelchair since he was a kid growing up in Queens. “I get annoyed if there’s no curb cut, I got to try to find a driveway to go up or risk falling out of my chair if I try to jump the curb.”

While it is a simple change to existing streets, the disabilities office director said these slopes in sidewalks do more than just help the disabled. It’s something called the “curb cut effect,” where changing things to benefit people with disabilities also helps society at large.

It’s good for not just people in wheelchairs — it’s good for people pushing baby carriages or shopping carts.” 

—  Frank Krotschinsky

“It’s good for not just people in wheelchairs — it’s good for people pushing baby carriages or shopping carts,” Krotschinsky said. “It’s all part of universal design, it’s just a good thing.”

Other curb cuts being considered for this year include Meadow Court and Whitecliff Lane; Plymouth Boulevard and Central Road; and River Road and Long Hill Drive in Smithtown. In Commack, Brown said they are considering intersections with Parnell Drive including Hollywood Drive, Concord Land and Roosevelt Drive. Whether cuts get installed depends on how much funds the planning department has before the start of the new year.

The curb cuts are funded through a Suffolk County Community Development Block Grant, the 43rd year of the program, which provides federal assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Though Brown said once the planning office received $300,000 in total block grant funds, it got just $130,000 for the current year. More than half of this year’s grant money is slated to create curb cuts.

“I don’t know how long I can continue this program,” Brown said. “I know we will have funding into next year, but we go year by year.”

Krotschinsky said the number of curb cuts have increased drastically in only a few decades in Suffolk County, and local governments should continue to fund programs that install them.

“Things have improved a lot, and are they perfect yet, no, but they have improved,” Krotschinsky said.

Smithtown Town Hall. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A change of leadership at Smithtown Town Hall has resulted in a proposed 2019 budget that could increase homeowners town taxes for the first time in three years.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) presented his $109 million tentative budget for 2019 to the town council in a short meeting Oct. 5, on deadline under New York State Law. The proposed budget represents an increase of $4 million more than this year’s budget, with $1.5 million additional in the taxes levied among Smithtown’s homeowners. The supervisor promised it will be used to the benefit of its residents.

“We’ve committed in this administration to invest in Smithtown,” Wehrheim said. “We are going to do just that. I looked at the operating budget and we’ve stayed within the 2 percent mandated state tax cap.”

If approved, the 2019 tentative operating budget will be a total $66.60 annual increase for the average Smithtown homeowner, according to Wehrheim, with $28 of that increase attributable to a rise in solid waste district fees.

This graph shows the Town of Smithtown’s 2018 salaries for three positions — town supervisor, town council member and supervisor of highways — with their proposed 2019 salary increases and how that relates to similar positions’ pay in the neighboring townships of Brookhaven and Huntington. Graphic by David Ackerman

The town’s singular largest driving cost behind the proposed budget was a $1.1 million increase to health care insurance contributions for its full-time union employees, according to the supervisor. He also expects operational expenses such as fuel and utility costs to continue to grow over the year ahead.

The tentative budget sets aside $5.5 million for road, curb and sidewalk improvements, which Wehrheim said he decided in conjunction with Superintendent of Highways Robert Murphy (R).

The town supervisor has also proposed an approximately 40 percent increase to the Community Development Fund, which he said is used to help fund a list of neighborhood projects to improve local look and character of the neighborhoods. Most of the town’s funds will be used to kick-start projects, according to the supervisor, before hopefully being reimbursed through a combination of state aid or other grants.

Wehrheim is looking to increase the salary of each town council member by more than $9,000; from $65,818 up to $75,000. This represents a year-to-year increase of about 14 percent.

“I feel that it is in line with surrounding neighboring municipalities,” he said. “I feel the council position deserves that salary. It’s a different administration and they have far more responsibilities than they did previously.”

By comparison, each Town of Brookhaven council member is poised to make $72,316 in 2019 while to the west, the proposed annual salary for Huntington town council members is $76,841 next year.

In Smithtown, Wehrheim has proposed $30,000 for a new government liaison position, which if approved, will become an additional title and responsibilities for one of the town board members. The supervisor said the individual appointed will take on responsibilities similar to a deputy supervisor or chief of staff.

“It’s a more economical way as opposed to additional full-time staff in the supervisor’s office,” he said.

Murphy also stands to get an additional $20,000 a year, increasing the highway supervisor’s salary from $110,000 up to $130,000 per year, if the proposed budget is approved. Wehrheim said the 18 percent hike is warranted and has been talked about for several years.

“[Highway] is the town’s largest department,” Wehrheim said.

In perspective, Murphy’s new salary would be more than Brookhaven’s highway superintendent, poised to earn $119,132 in 2019 but less than Huntington’s $140,000 salary per year.

Wehrheim said that while he has added a few new positions to his administration in 2018, including a public information officer, he is hoping to hire two additional laborers each for the Highway Department and Parks, Buildings & Grounds Department next year. The exact salary for these positions has yet to be determined, according to the supervisor, as the town is in the midst of negotiating new contracts with both the Civil Service Employees Union, representing the municipality’s employees, and the Smithtown Administrators Guild, which represents its departmental directors. The previous contracts expired Dec. 31, 2017.

“Any increase would be result of union negotiations,” Wehrheim said.

The supervisor has also put forth a proposed $10 million capital budget for 2019, presented at the same time as the operating budget. He said $8 million of that budget will be borrowed by the town, and allocated toward large projects such as $2.3 million for new water mains along St. James Lake Avenue business district and $2 million in 2019 toward renovation of Flynn Memorial Park.

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Browns Road homeowner Linda Costa speaks out at the Sept. 20 Smithtown Town Board meeting. Photo by Kyle Barr

Nesconset residents fear construction of a proposed Dunkin’ Donuts on Route 347 could disrupt their neighborhood.

A small group of Nesconset residents spoke out against developer Browns & 347, LLC who has requested a change of zone to the 2.5-acre property on the corner of Route 347 and Browns Road from R-15 Residential Single Family to Whole Sale Service Industry at a Smithtown Town board meeting Sept. 20.

The developer has proposed plans to construct a 12,450-square-foot, two-story office building and a Dunkin’ Donuts on the wooded lot, according to attorney Vincent Trimarco Sr.

The official notice posted regarding the rezoning on the corner of Route 347 and Browns Road in Nesconset. Photo by Kyle Barr

Nesconset residents are decrying the plans saying it will negatively affect property values and increase traffic near Sprofera Park. For Browns Road resident Linda Costa, whose home is adjacent to the proposed project, the developer’s plans are particularly alarming.

The plans for the proposed project will create additional parking spaces on two sides of
her property.

“Now your adding more parking behind my house — I have parking next to my house and across the street from my house,” Costa said. “I feel like I’m living in a parking lot.”

Costa and other residents fear a zone change would hurt their ability to sell their homes in the future, especially if they wished to break away from this new commercial development.

“I would probably try to sell my home before the development goes through, but I would have to be completely honest with that person beforehand that the zoning changed,” Costa said. “It would be much harder to sell.”

The proposed development was previously denied by the town’s planning board in May 2017, due to traffic complaints caused by an entranceway off Browns Road, according to Trimarco. The new site plan would limit access to two driveways on Route 347, and include a 30-foot barrier of greenery along Browns Road to disguise the property from the residential street.

In addition, the applicants have agreed to provide 22 parking spaces along the eastern end of the property to the town for municipal purposes and access to Sprofera Park.

Maureen O’Connor, who lives across from the proposed project, said she feared traffic would increase if cars wanted to come down Browns Road to get to the new Dunkin’ Donuts. The problem is exacerbated with kids crossing the street to get to Sprofera Park and a school bus stop that is situated along Browns Road.

Attorney Vincent Trimarco explains the developers plans for a Dunkin Donuts and office building in Nesconset. Photo by Kyle Barr

“The traffic pattern already around this busy intersection would not only increase, but would increase the disruption in the flow of traffic as cars attempt to enter or exit onto this business on [Route] 347,” O’Connor said.

When residents questioned why developers wouldn’t create more single-family homes on the site, Trimarco said having more homes connected to Browns Road would result in more traffic. He also said that since the development will be shielded from view by that greenery it shouldn’t affect property values.

“We would have to have access through Browns Road, and you would have the same problem the neighbors are concerned about,” Trimarco said.

Nesconset resident Salvatore Vitale, a homeowner on Michael Place overlooking the park, said he fears a new parking lot and a Dunkin’ Donuts could lead to more loitering and vagrancy.

“Every few nights there’s a police car parked [in the Sprofera Park parking lot] to make sure there’s no transients or loitering,” Vitale said. “Now you put a building there, and those parking areas will need three police cars every night.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) did not give a date as to when the town will make a decision.

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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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