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Valerie Cartright

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The MTA is currently updating the Stony Brook train station, which will lead to modern amenities and more security. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is giving the Stony Brook Long Island Rail Road train station a makeover.

The MTA began renovations on the station’s train house July 23 and will continue working on the station into the fall. In addition to being renovated, the station house will receive modern enhancements and upgrades, according to Aaron Donovan, MTA deputy communications director.

The station house was built around 1888,
according to the book “Images of America: Stony Brook,” and rebuilt in 1917, according to the MTA. The one-story structure will be completely renovated inside and out, and there will be the addition of a Wi-Fi network and charging ports, according to Donovan. Commuters will soon see improved signage and digital information displays, including electronic information columns, and bicyclists will have new bike racks.

The station platforms will be updated with new lighting and closed-circuit television security cameras, according to Donovan. Plans also include sidewalk improvements and a new sculpture in the plaza area.

The MTA has upgraded the station throughout the decades, Donovan said, including the station’s high-level platforms being installed in 1985 and targeted renovation work done to platform railings, lighting and platform shelters in 2011.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said in a statement she was pleased that work began this summer.

“The Stony Brook train station is one of the most recognizable community landmarks in the Three Village area,” Cartright said. “There have been requests for upgrades over the years. I am pleased that the MTA saw the importance of meeting with community members including civic leaders, town Historic District Advisory Committee members and government officials to collaborate and develop a renovation plan. It is important that renovations to the station are in keeping with the historical character of the area while meeting the needs of modern travelers.”

Robert Reuter, a member of Brookhaven’s Historic District Advisory Committee, said he provided input but not officially on behalf of HDAC. 

“We encouraged them to preserve the existing and familiar green and beige color scheme, locate planned new ticketing machines away from the bay window, improve handicap accessibility both at the station and crossing the tracks, and minimize signage,” Reuter said.

In 2017, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) introduced a proposal to invest $120 million to provide state-of-the-art enhancements to 16 LIRR stations, including Stony Brook — and also at Port Jefferson. The MTA covered $35 million of the investment to the railroad stations, according to its website. It is estimated by the LIRR that 2,330 customers use the Stony Brook train station daily.

Brookhaven Councilman Daniel Panico and Supervisor Ed Romaine. File photo by Alex Petroski

Elected officials in Brookhaven Town are taking steps that could both lengthen and shorten their time in office.

The board voted to hold a public hearing Aug. 2 on the idea of instituting a three-term limit on elected positions while also extending the length of a term from two to four years at a June 26 meeting. This would limit officials to 12 years in office.

Brookhaven is currently the only town on Long Island with two-year terms for elected officials, according to Supervisor Ed Romaine (R).

“I’m supporting it because when you have the entire government turn over every two years it can provide for a lack of stability,” Romaine said on changing from two-year to four-year terms. “You don’t have the constant churning in politics that can sometimes undermine the system. It allows for long-range planning and programs. It takes the politics out of local government.”

Councilmembers Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) each expressed similar sentiments when asked if they intend to support the idea. They said having to prepare to run for office every two years hinders their ability to complete and implement projects, especially pertaining to land use, which they said can take time.

“I believe there’s merit in establishing term limits and four-year terms,” Cartright said, but said she intends to keep an open mind and let residents weigh in. “It lends itself to better government.”

Specifically on limiting officials to three terms, LaValle said it should encourage fresh ideas and new faces stepping up to run, which he viewed as a positive, calling it a good combination both for government and residents.

If these changes are approved by the board, the proposal would go to a referendum vote in November giving taxpayers the opportunity to ultimately decide the idea’s fate. It could impact the town supervisor position, each of the six council seats, superintendent of highways, town clerk and receiver of taxes starting as of 2020.

“I think it will be a very interesting referendum on the ballot to see what people want,” LaValle said.

Bonner said she has changed her mind on term limits, saying she was among those who view Election Day as the inherent way to limit the term of a politician failing to serve their constituents.

“What it will essentially do is create not just good government, but better government,” Bonner said.

In January, the Town of Huntington passed similar legislation limiting all elected positions, to three terms of four years each.

“The town is going to be much better off,” Councilman Gene Cook said upon passing the legislation. He proposed the idea to Huntington’s board in June 2017. “Elected officials have an upper hand and can be there forever. Now, we’ve sort of evened the field today. It took a long time, far too long, but I’m glad it’s done.”

Comsewogue High School students clean headstones at Calverton National Cemetery May 30 as part of Joe's Day of Service. Photo from CSD

Stories of Comsewogue School District students and staff engaging in acts of kindness are hardly rare, but an event conceived by a teacher and several students carried out May 30 somehow raised the bar.

High school teacher Andrew Harris said he thought of the idea of a full day of community service projects last school year, and in talking with some of his colleagues, a larger idea was born. By this school year, the event had a name — Joe’s Day of Service, after Superintendent Joe Rella — and students were making pitches in Harris’ class for how the student body should spend the day.

“There are major problems everywhere — addiction, depression — and the thing is, they say one of the best things to do is to help other people,” Harris said in an interview at Brookhaven Town Hall, where the students were recognized for their efforts by the town board June 14. “I wanted the students to understand that, because they don’t always have the opportunity. I wanted them to get a taste of that just in one day and understand that when you give to others you feel rich.”

Comsewogue Superintendent Joe Rella with students who participated in Joe’s Day of Service. Photo from CSD

Ninth-grade students Julia Ratkiewicz and Rachel Plunkett proposed the idea of visiting Calverton National Cemetery, where members of the United States armed forces are laid to rest, to spend the day cleaning gravestones. By May 30, nearly 200 Comsewogue High School students headed to the Calverton cemetery — on seven buses donated for use that day by Suffolk Transportation Service.

“I was in such a good mood, my mom asked, ‘Are you sure you were out cleaning gravestones?’” Julia said.

Rachel, who said she and Julia thought of the idea because they both have veterans in their family and wanted to show their appreciation, said she never imagined their small idea presented in class as a way to give back would turn into a districtwide day of service.

“It’s just the least we could do for them since they did so much for us,” she said.

Eleventh-grader John Quartararo, who also helped organize the trip, called his experience at the cemetery a beautiful day, and marveled at the mood and response from his classmates who participated on the trip.

While the high school students were at Calverton, other Comsewogue kids were at Save-A-Pet animal shelter in Port Jefferson Station, cleaning cages and spending time with the rescued animals. John F. Kennedy Middle School students visited Stony Brook University Hospital to sing in the lobby, then went over to the Long Island State Veterans Home on SBU’s campus to sing patriotic songs and spend time with the veterans living at the facility. Others collected toiletries to donate to the homeless. Some painted rocks as part of The Kindness Rocks Project, an initiative which calls on people to paint inspiring messages on rocks and leave them in places where they will be found by someone in need of a boost.

Comsewogue students are recognized during the June 14 Brookhaven Town board meeting. Photo by Alex Petroski

Local businesses even got wind of Joe’s Day of Service and contributed to the cause. Chick-fil-A, Wahlburgers, Bagelicious Café, Walmart, McDonald’s and Applebee’s Grill and Bar in Miller Place all offered support in one way or another.

Harris and the students involved each credited Rella for setting the tone at Comsewogue and in the community.

“All I did was go to the events and just get blown away at every single one,” Rella said. “It was an unbelievable show on the part of our students. I’m better for having been here. I’m a better person for just having been at Comsewogue. And that’s the way it is.”

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) commended Harris and the students involved for their efforts.

“I think it’s important that we highlight all of these [acts] because on one day, they provided all of this service to our community, to those in need,” she said. “I just want to say thank you so much for all that you do, Comsewogue, and keep up the great work.”

Suffolk County Department of Social Services Commissioner John O’Neill and PJS/TCA Vice President Sal Pitti field resident questions at Comsewogue Public Library May 22. Photo by Alex Petroski

A viral video of a lewd act in public and rumors about a large-scale new development project are probably why most attended the meeting, but emotions set the tone.

Anger, passion, fear and compassion flowed like a river during a nearly three-hour meeting of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association at the Comsewogue Public Library May 22. It was the civic’s scheduled meeting for May, but the regular members acknowledged this was an out-of-the-ordinary community gathering.

Earlier this month, a cellphone video of two people, believed to be homeless, having sex at a Suffolk County bus stop in Port Jefferson Station spread not only across the community, but the country. As a result of that incident, and in an effort to ascertain the facts about an announcement made by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) office May 10 that he was allocating about $8 million in funding for a large-scale affordable housing apartment complex for the homeless in Port Jeff Station, the civic association invited leaders from across local government to attend and field resident questions and concerns.

“This is how it starts,” civic association President Edward Garboski said at one point during the meeting, as tensions rose among the approximately 200 people who crammed into The Richard Lusak Community Room at the library. “None of these people are going to give you a solution to this problem tonight. Most of the people in this room have never been to a civic meeting. This is how it starts. We invited all these people here. They’re going to hear us speak. We continue to fight — together.”

“None of these people are going to give you a solution to this problem tonight. Most of the people in this room have never been to a civic meeting. This is how it starts.

— Edward Garboski

The discussion began with Suffolk County Department of Social Services Commissioner John O’Neill answering questions for about an hour. O’Neill was pressed with questions about the concentration of shelters for the homeless in the Port Jefferson Station area, oversight of the locations and curfew rules, and how the locations are selected. He said it was against the law to publicize the location of homeless shelters, though he said if he were legally allowed he would compile a list by zip code. He said the shelters in most cases are privately owned, and if they are compliant with state and federal regulations, they are approved with no consideration taken regarding volume of like facilities in the area. O’Neill also said checks are done regularly at all county shelters to ensure they are in compliance with regulations.

“The argument with the homeless is they need help, we know this,” PJS/TCA Vice President Sal Pitti said. “Everybody here in one way, shape or form has collected food, done something for a homeless individual. I think our biggest issue is the lack of supervision at these locations.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Suffolk County Police Department 6th Precinct Inspector Patrick Reilly also attended the meeting and fielded questions from the attendees.

“I live in Port Jefferson Station as well, so I’m not coming from another community saying ‘Oh, it’s not that bad,’” Cartright said. “I love where I live, but there are issues and we need to deal with them. It’s a complex
issue and it doesn’t happen overnight. We are committed — I can say that for each of us that are sitting here today — to trying to make a difference and coming up with solutions.”

One suggestion that emerged from the meeting is the necessity for a 24-hour hotline to contact the county DSS when issues occur in the community. Currently the hotline only operates during business hours. Reilly said he believes a viable answer to reduce crime in the area, especially in the vicinity of Jefferson Shopping Plaza, would be the installation of more police surveillance cameras. Residents were also repeatedly urged to call the police when observing illegal activities, and to stay engaged with civic association efforts to foster a strength-in-numbers approach.

Many of the elected officials said they plan to be back at the association’s next meeting July 24 to unveil plans for revitalization in the area near the Port Jefferson Long Island Rail Road station.

Developer to get financial assistance from Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency

The location of the future senior residential community The Vistas of Port Jefferson off North Bicycle Path in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Alex Petroski

What is currently an open field on North Bicycle Path in Port Jefferson Station will soon be home for some.

A new 244-unit residential rental complex for senior citizens proposed

27 acres of vacant land on the west side of North Bicycle Path, north of Comsewogue High School, has been greenlit. The Brookhaven Town Industrial Development Agency announced in an April 26 press release it had approved an application for economic incentives with Benjamin Development Co., operating as The Vistas of Port Jefferson LLC, which will also be the name of the new community. The IDA is tasked with selecting projects that “promote the economic welfare and prosperity of the Town of Brookhaven by assisting in the acquisition, construction, reconstruction, and equipping of commercial and industrial facilities.”

As part of the financial assistance agreement between the agency and developer, The Vistas of Port Jefferson will make payments in lieu of property taxes for 13 years, starting with a $52,000 installment in year one, jumping to about $90,000 in year four, and concluding with a $1,516,043 payment in the final year of the agreement. In total, the company will pay about $8 million in lieu of higher town property taxes during the 13-year agreement. The total cost of the project is expected to be about $65 million.

The area boxed in red represents the location of the future senior residential community The Vistas of Port Jefferson off North Bicycle Path in Port Jefferson Station. Image from Google Maps

Lisa Mulligan, chief executive officer of the IDA, declined to comment on the agreement in a phone interview beyond what the agency offered in a press release, though she said the ball is in the court of attorneys on both sides to officially close the deal, which she said she fully expects to take place.

A request for comment to Benjamin Development Co. was not returned.

“As a result of IDA assistance for the development of this project, hundreds of new construction jobs will be added to the region,” the company’s application to the IDA stated. “The project development will also benefit local/regional firms through purchases from suppliers, subcontractors, etc. Finally, the project will create new full-time jobs and 245-plus new residents that will assist in the stimulation of the local economy through daily household spending.”

The project is expected to create more than 400 new construction jobs as well as 24 new permanent positions, according to the IDA press release. The Vistas of Port Jefferson will offer 64 two-bedroom townhouses, 36 one-bedroom units, 144 two-bedroom apartments with a clubhouse and a sewage-pumping facility. Construction is expected to take about two years. The facility is billed as a community for tenants age 55 and up. Fifteen percent of the units will be designated as affordable housing, available to prospective tenants earning less than 80 percent of the area’s median income, which was about $90,000 per household from 2012 to 2016, according to the United States Census Bureau.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said in an emailed statement through Legislative Secretary Carolyn Fellrath the town IDA is a separate entity from the board and does not seek input from councilmembers in making decisions.

“This proposed project has generated concern in the community,” Cartright said. “The re-zoning of this parcel in 2010 pre-dates my tenure. However, based on the community concerns raised to my office, I am not sure the decision to re-zone this parcel to Planned Retirement Community would be granted if this application were before this town board today.”

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilwoman Jane Bonner. File photo

Supervisor

Romaine an asset to town

An undeniable by-product of the heated and often circus-like 2016 presidential election is a booming pool of highly qualified and energized people throwing their names in the ring to run for political office. This phenomenon is perfectly embodied by the Town of Brookhaven supervisor race.

Incumbent Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) often begins speaking engagements with the line, “It’s a great day for Brookhaven.” It is our belief that the day he took office in 2012 was a truly great day for Brookhaven. His experience as a public servant and ability to create partnerships seamlessly with Democrats and Republicans alike make him an asset for our town. He’s willing to fight for what he feels is right for the people of the town. Period.

On the other hand, his challenger Jack Harrington, a Democrat and resident of Stony Brook, is a qualified, young candidate with obvious confidence and leadership skills. He too would be an asset to any community lucky enough to have him as a public servant. We hope this first attempt at political candidacy is just the beginning for him, and the Democratic party within the town and Suffolk County would be wise to keep tabs on him and keep him in mind in the future should he fall to Romaine Nov. 7. If candidates like Harrington continue to come forward and run for office, our local politics can only benefit.

Despite Harrington’s qualifications, he’s not quite Romaine. We proudly endorse Romaine to remain Brookhaven’s town supervisor for another term, and if he maintains his track record and values when it comes to protecting the environment and exemplary financial management, this probably won’t be the last time this publication stands behind him.

1st District

Cartright to keep things in check

Checks and balances in government are everything, on all levels. In the Town of Brookhaven, 1st District Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) since 2013 has been the watchful eye over a board that entering this cycle features four Republicans and a Conservative, as well as a Republican supervisor. This is not to say we have any reason to distrust the members of the Brookhaven board, regardless of party, but we’d like to think that can be attributed to the existence of not only an exemplary crop of dedicated and honest public servants but also due to the presence of a dissenting political voice.

This is also not to assume the town incumbents will all be successful in their respective re-election bids in 2017. However, should the status quo remain on the Republican side, we are confident that Cartright can continue on as the embodiment of a two-party system.

Beyond her mere existence as a Democrat, Cartright has been a champion for causes aimed at improving the environment and water quality in the district and townwide. Since her first term, she has been dedicated to advancing a Port Jefferson Station/Terryville revitalization project that we’d like to see come to fruition and has played a major role in the visioning project for the Route 25A corridor.

Her opponent, Republican James Canale of Port Jefferson Station, is an enthusiastic, young politician with his head and heart both firmly in the right place. We hope his first run for political office is not his last.

We have a minor criticism of Cartright going forward, which we discussed with her personally. In seeking comment from the councilwoman on stories, which are oftentimes directly related to work she is doing, she and her staff are not always able to connect, sometimes too late for deadlines, and sometimes not at all. To be a successful leader, communication with constituents is key, and constituents read newspapers.

We strongly support Cartright in her bid to remain in charge of Brookhaven’s 1st District.

2nd District

Bonner brings experience

While incumbent Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner’s (C-Rocky Point) opponent Democrat Mike Goodman has some understandable concerns with the future of life in Brookhaven, we feel Bonner is best for the job.

Her years of experience have helped propel her to her present position. Working as a legislative aid to then-Suffolk County Legislator Dan Losquadro (R) and as a councilwoman for the second council district for the last decade has given her a breadth of knowledge, experience and connections.

Bonner said she believes there will be a resurgence of downtown Rocky Point, and we hope she strives to make changes that attract quality businesses to enhance the area, modeling from Main Street in Patchogue or Port Jefferson. We also applaud her care for shoreline structures and her involvement in the Culross Beach Rocky Point-North Shore Beach Property Owners Association debacle, as well as for monitoring the dispute against a DDI Development house in Miller Place and speaking in favor of it publicly. The councilwoman cares about her constituents, about the environment and about making things better. She has also shown she has the leadership ability to get the job done.

We have no doubt her challenger also cares. We admire Goodman for throwing his hat into the ring, raising concern over key issues like the lack of jobs and affordable housing, and we encourage the town and Bonner to bring more ideas to the table, and even explore his ticketing system suggestion.

While we vote for Bonner, we also encourage the councilwoman to work with her challenger on his ideas and use him as a resource to create a better Brookhaven.

3rd District

Leave it to Kevin LaValle

As TBR News Media’s 2016 Person of the Year piece said, Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) is a councilman you can count on.

Unlike his challenger, the councilman knows more about the issues in the 3rd Council District on a local level and has worked closely with related groups to solve problems. His work helping the nonprofit Hobbes Community Farm receive funding is commendable, and his efforts securing large sums of money through grants is a smart way to get the job done without putting the burden of the bill on the town.

Democratic nominee Alfred Ianacci has no specific solutions and lacks knowledge of what the town is currently working on, pointing out in his list of concerns some things that are already being addressed by Brookhaven.

LaValle is a perfect fit for the position he’s in. Growing up in the community he serves, LaValle offers a unique perspective, knowing his constituents well and knowing the long-standing issues he needs to tackle. We have been pleased to see his growth in the position and expect that to continue should he secure another term. Confidently go with LaValle on Election Day.

Highway superintendent

All roads lead to Losquadro

The Town of Brookhaven highway superintendent has one of the largest responsibilities of any local elected official. It is the head of the department’s job to oversee literally thousands of miles of road, and incumbent Dan Losquadro (R) has done an excellent job of making that task more manageable during his first two terms.

He set out with the goal of streamlining and updating the highway department’s systems and mechanics to create greater efficiency in the way it deals with its upward of $100 million annual budget, and he has done a masterful job at achieving that goal so far. We think the town would benefit from two more years of Losquadro to allow him more time to play out his five- and 10-year plans, which he said he established shortly after taking office.

We commend his challenger, Democrat Anthony Portesy, for taking the leap into political candidacy, and his enthusiasm, drive and education make him an attractive candidate for other offices going forward.

This time around, go with Losquadro.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright and challenger James Canale discussed issues pertaining to Brookhaven’s 1st Council District at Times Beacon Record News Media Setauket office. Photos by Kevin Redding

The race to represent Town of Brookhaven’s 1st District features a two-term incumbent Democrat against a “progressive Republican” in his first campaign seeking political office.

Entering the 2017 election, Brookhaven’s lone Democratic voice on the board is attorney and 1st District Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station). The town’s wing of the Republican Party endorsed her challenger, 25-year-old town employee and Port Jefferson Station resident James Canale, though he insists he is not beholden to party politics, with this being his first run for office.

“I think it’s only a letter next to the name — I will not and do not toe the party line,” Canale said during a discussion at the Times Beacon Record News Media office with Cartright and the editorial staff in October. “I think that it is time that we have an outside candidate come into the party to try to shake things up a little bit. I consider myself a grassroots, bipartisan, progressive Republican.”

“I think it’s only a letter next to the name — I will not and do not toe the party line.”

— James Canale

Cartright, who was first elected in 2013, said her primary objective as an elected official has always been to bridge the gap between government and community.

“Accountability, transparency and integrity have always been my platform,” she said. “I have been the one bucking the system — the only Democrat on the town board — making sure that when the community’s voices come to the table during town board meetings and say ‘things are not transparent enough, things are not the way that they should be, why didn’t I know about this?’ I’m the one making sure that my colleagues are listening, not only hearing, but listening and acting in response to what the community is saying.”

Both candidates acknowledged drug addiction, especially to heroin and other opiates, as one of the major issues facing the district and town as a whole. Cartright reiterated the motif of her campaign platform in discussing the issue. She said resources exist within the town and county to help those afflicted by addiction, but there is often a breakdown in communication between the government and the community, so not all addicts are aware of their options.

“I’ve been working with the Long Island Prevention Resource Center looking to become what’s called a drug free community,” she said. Her plan is to continue a process, which she began in January, of bringing together representatives from the police department, schools, clergy members and various other community groups to share resources and ideas. “We’re trying to create a collaboration, a task force of people to come together to talk about what type of resources are there for drug prevention.”

“Accountability, transparency and integrity have always been my platform.”

— Valerie Cartright

Canale pointed to the town’s “complicated” zoning codes as a major deterrent in allowing people, especially millennials, the opportunity to establish roots and begin a life in the town, and cited it as an issue he plans to focus on if elected.

“There’s just not enough affordable housing here,” he said. “One of the reasons I got involved in politics in the first place is because I see millennials and young adults graduating from college saddled with student debt either forced to move back home with their parents and work minimum wage jobs to barely make ends meet, or, we see this all the time, folks are moving off Long Island in droves.”

Cartright pointed to her revitalization and visioning plan for the Port Jeff Station and Terryville areas, an initiative that has been ongoing since her first term, as a driver toward alleviating that same issue. She also agreed with Canale that the town needs more affordable housing.

The candidates stood on common ground on the topic of preserving the environment and water quality in Brookhaven. Cartright and the town joined a lawsuit by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in August against the U.S Environmental Protection Agency to oppose ongoing dumping of dredged spoils in the Long Island Sound, and Canale said he was in full support of the decision.

By Desirée Keegan

The North Shore is losing one of its most powerful lobbyists.

The North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce announced its dismantling this month, as the result of president Jennifer Dzvonar stepping down. Currently no members or outside businesses leaders have stepped up to take her place.

North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Dzvonar, also owner of Bass Electric in Port Jefferson Station, with her husband William. File photo

Dzvonar did not return requests for comment, but Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), who represents the territory that’s home to most of the area businesses involved in the chamber, said she was shocked, but not surprised, knowing the Port Jefferson Station’s Bass Electric owner has a family of young children.

“It’s very time consuming,” Bonner said of being a chamber leader. “I’m surprised no one else stepped up to the plate, but I understand the quandary they’re in. Volunteerism on any level really, really does cut into your personal life. It’s a lot of balls to juggle and I know, because I’m a serial volunteer. I have a lot of respect for people who put their family first.”

Losing the 17-year-old business network, a local organization of businesses whose goal is to further the interests of businesses, means losing a go-to organization for new small businesses owners seeking help. The towns it covers also lose a local advocate fighting on behalf of the business community in the community it serves. It is not only a welcoming committee but it also helps promote business in the area. The dismembering of the chamber will result in less funding and support for tourism and trade, and the loss of a large scholarship program for local high school seniors — including those who reside in Wading River, Shoreham, Rocky Point, Sound Beach, Miller Place, Mount Sinai, Port Jefferson Station and Terryville.

“People will miss new business owners wanting to get involved with the chamber, not having a go-to person,” said Bonner, whose comments were also echoed by Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station). “But as council people we will, as we always do, make our doors open to help with the process.”

The future of the train car

The breaking down of the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce leaves the future of the historic train car at Memorial American Flag Park on the corner of Route 112 and Route 347 in Port Jefferson Station in question, but executive director Mike Poveromo said residents needn’t worry.

Despite the dismantling of the chamber, Poveromo, although he refrained from providing specific details just yet, said a Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Chamber of Commerce will be emerging, and taking with it, the responsibility of using dues to pay for what was once the chamber of commerce’s office.

“The train is one of the first electric trains and one of the two remaining of its model on Long Island,” Poveromo said. “The train car is a 1914 baggage/passenger car, that was in use from Jamaica Station to Grand Central Station. In my opinion, it is not only a chamber office, it is a community landmark.”

At the park is also a 20-feet wide, by 30-feet long American flag. A remembrance piece from the World Trade Center is also encompassed into the foundation circle.

“The picnic tables provide visitors and residents the opportunity to enjoy the area when taking a break when shopping, driving and visiting our area,” he said. “I am not concerned when the north Brookhaven chamber closes, since a new chamber is being formed, and will continue its ongoing effort in this respect.”

Mike Poveromo, general manager of Family Times Event Rentals in Mount Sinai and executive director of the chamber, said he knows a thing or two about how demanding the position can be. He joined the then-Miller Place-Mount Sinai Chamber, a small group of 30 local merchants, and eventually moved from membership director to president in 1997. He then served as president of the Council of Dedicated Merchants Chamber of Commerce from 1998 to 2004, which is when the chamber grew to include Sound Beach and Rocky Point. His business was also active in the Port Jefferson Station and Shoreham/Wading River chambers.

“Some of the first local merchants who welcomed me, like Mike Allen of Janitorial Plus and Paul Houghton of Miller Place Sea Food made a lasting impression,” Poveromo said. “They convinced me to become the volunteer membership director. But being a volunteer officer or director of any chamber of commerce is a demanding undertaking, especially in this time in history when both residents and business owners feel they do not have enough time in their day for personal, meaningful and beneficial relationships.”

The executive director recalled what to him was the first significant program established to connect business owners with the community — the Music and Arts Festival at Mount Sinai’s Cedar Beach. It was also the place to raise funds to support the scholarship.

“The chamber membership grew quickly, the business and residential community grew rapidly once the four-lane highway was in place [on 25A],” Poveromo said.

Poveromo said he is worried about the future of the area businesses.

“The days of when your doctor knew you, your whole family, your pharmacist helped you personally, your local butcher, baker and dentist that had your family covered is gone,” he said. “Today it is all about fast food, cheap service and instant gratification.”

He said he feels the dismantling of the chamber is a huge mistake.

“I cannot answer the question of why no member business owner or director hasn’t stepped up to the plate to bring the NBCOC into the future, but it could be they feel they could not afford to volunteer their personal time and expertise away from their business and family,” he said. “With no serious candidate willing to take over, I understand and support the chamber’s decision to dismantle, and this will open up new opportunities for individual town business leaders to open a chamber of commerce and promote their community as a great place to live, work, raise a family and open a business.”

Currently, a Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Chamber of Commerce is in the works, but no merchants have stepped up to fill the void in the other hamlets.

“It is a loss to hometown recognition for small businesses embedded for years in the fabric of the community they serve,” Poveromo said. “Today’s new small business start-ups must find innovative ways and the means to become part of the community fabric. They are choosing to open and invest their time, money and talents in the American dream, and the chamber of commerce is a great resource. New chamber leaders must find solutions to show and prove to residents the value of shopping locally at small business locations where owners are making a direct investment in the towns they chose to open a business.”

Vice President of the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce Donna Boeckel, on left, and Councilwoman Valerie Cartwright, on right, with the scholarship recipients. Photo by Kevin Redding

The North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce last week awarded $1,000 scholarships to local high school graduates heading to college to pursue their dreams this fall.

Each of the seven students, Benjamin May, Kira Gresser and Mathew Yonks from Mount Sinai; Alexa Tammone from Comsewogue; Angela Bonafede from Rocky Point; Emma Dell’Aquilla from Miller Place; and John McCarrick from Shoreham-Wading River were winners of the chamber’s highly competitive, districts-wide essay contest. Each was recognized for his or her academic achievements and community service.

“I think sometimes we as a community — the parents and the chambers — need to sit down and stop for a moment to let each and every one of you know that you’re doing a great job,” Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said during an awards ceremony at Don Quijote restaurant in Miller Place June 19. “While you’re in college, know that you have the entire community supporting you as you move forward. You guys soared — you’re shining stars and we look forward to having you as a continued part of the Town of Brookhaven.”

May, who will be attending the University of Pennsylvania to study economics and international relations, wrote in his essay about his experience as an environmental advocate at Mount Sinai High School — where he founded the Environmental Outreach Club. He said he was thrilled to accept the scholarship.

“I knew the competition was really strong for this one, so when I heard back about it, I was very humbled and honored,” May said. “I know the money is going to help me get a college education, so I’m very happy.”

Tammone, who has led several variety shows and programs at Comsewogue to benefit charities, will pursue a degree in music education at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

“[Music] is something I’m very passionate about and I want to share my passion with others — I’m very honored to be recognized,” she said.

Rocky Point’s Bonafede, who will be studying baking and pastry arts at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island after years in the BOCES culinary arts program, said it was a big relief to hear she’d been chosen.

“Everything I’ve been working toward is finally paying off,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of community service events, like giving food to people in need, car washes, fundraising — I’m excited to be making my big dream come true.”

Dell’Aquilla, a volunteer at Mather Hospital, said, in her essay, taking care of her epileptic brother growing up helped her realize she wanted to study nursing at the College of Mount Saint Vincent.

McCarrick, an honors student, athlete, Eagle Scout member, and junior firefighter in the Shoreham-Wading River district, said he will be using his scholarship money to pay for school supplies at SUNY New Paltz, where he will major in mechanical engineering.

While a senior at Mount Sinai, Gresser, who will study human-based law at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, held several fundraisers to help build a water well in Africa for the organization Strides for Africa.

“It’s really nice that there’s something like this because a lot of people do a lot of good and hard work and don’t really get much for it,” Gresser said of the scholarship.

Yonks, who plans to pursue nursing at the University of Buffalo, has been a member of the Future Business Leaders of America and the Eagle Scouts. As a senior, he built garden boxes and planted vegetables that were donated to needy families in local areas.

“I’m just proud to be a member of the community, and I always like to help whenever and wherever needed,” he said.

Donna Boeckel, vice president of the chamber, along with chamber corresponding secretary Carol Genua, sifted through the dozens of essays that poured in from each district. Boeckel said the chamber has spearheaded this contest every year for the last 20 years and raises the money through town fundraisers.

“These recipients had submissions that outshined all the others,” Boeckel said. “We’re very proud of them — they really took it to the next level.”

A solar farm is still being proposed near the Shoreham nuclear power plant. Currently, there are plans near the Pine Barrens in Mastic for a solar installation. Photo by Kevin Redding

In response to a proposed solar farm in Shoreham, members of the Brookhaven Town Board urge state legislators to not only stand with them in opposition, but grant them “a seat at the table” to have their voices heard and taken seriously.

Since it was first submitted last June, National Grid and NextEra Energy Resources’ proposal to build a large-scale solar energy facility on the wooded property that surrounds the abandoned Shoreham nuclear power plant, and clear 350 acres of the 800-acre land made up of cliffs, rolling hills and a variety of wildlife species, has sparked an outpouring of local opposition, from elected officials to environmentalists, civic associations, teachers and parents in the community.

The proposed solar farm in Shoreham could look like the one seen here at Brookhaven National Lab. File photo

Those against it share the belief that “renewable energy is important but not at the expense of another section of the environment.” As recently as Feb. 27, the Shoreham-Wading River school board voted unanimously against endorsing the project, despite a considerable financial offer from National Grid, which owns the Shoreham site, and NextEra.

According to the companies, the proposal, developed in response to a PSEG Long Island request to help New York meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) renewable energy goals, would generate upwards of 72 megawatts of solar energy, provide power for more than 13,000 homes, and create between 125 and 175 construction jobs and millions of dollars in tax benefits.

It’s currently being considered by LIPA, which would purchase the electricity generated by the joint companies for a period of 20 years under the contract, and New York State.

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), a leader in the charge against the solar farm, said he thinks the companies involved are making a mistake, and wants it to be known that Brookhaven is going to do everything it can to prevent it from happening and protect the environment.

In addition to the proposed site falling within Shoreham’s A-10 residential zoning code — the most restrictive in Brookhaven — which was put in place more than 25 years ago to specifically protect the “coastal forest preserve,” he said, the proposal directly violates Brookhaven’s solar code adopted last year that opposes cutting down trees or removing native forests to build solar farms or facilities.

“You can build [solar arrays] on clear land, on rooftops, and in parking lots, but you’re not cutting down trees,” Romaine said. “Brookhaven needs to stay green and we do not need to deforest the few uncut forests we have in this town.”

The proposal by National Grid could clear 350 acres along the Long Island Sound. Photo by Kevin Redding

When Romaine and the rest of the town board first heard rumors of the solar farm plan more than a year ago, they dismissed it, confident local opposition and town zoning would be enough to prevent it from going anywhere.

However, the supervisor got word that National Grid and NextEra could get around the zoning restrictions and potentially strip away any of Brookhaven’s say in the matter under Article X of the Public Service Law — a provision allowing “an applicant seeking approval to site a major electric generating facility to obtain a final decision from the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment, waiving all local zoning requirements, if the Siting Board finds them to be burdensome in terms of technology and costs.”

The Siting Board is composed of five members appointed by the governor.

The town board sprang into action, writing and submitting a letter to nine state senators and assemblymen requesting that the law be amended to allow local municipalities to serve as mandatory parties to the proposed facility “application proceeding.”

“To allow the overriding of local zoning without allowing the local community a significant voice in these proceedings is wrong,” reads the end of the letter, which was signed by Romaine, Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), Councilman Michael Loguercio (R-Ridge), Councilman Neil Foley (R-Blue Point) and Councilman Daniel Panico (R-Center Moriches).

“We understand there’s a need for Article X and we’re not saying you can’t decide against us, but we just feel the locality should have a seat at the table, which would give us a voice,” Romaine said, admitting he decided to write to the legislature to be on the safe side, not knowing if the proposal will get that far. “Right now, we have no voice.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, has previously spoken out against a solar farm in Shoreham. File photo

According to a fact sheet provided by National Grid and NextEra, a poll to determine the attitudes of the residents of the Town of Brookhaven was commissioned, asking what they would like to see developed on the Shoreham property — “they chose ‘solar energy project’ above any other use,” it said. When residents were given information about the solar farm project, the sheet stated “level of support grew to 75 percent.”

Conversely, the proposal is an environmental nightmare as far as Sid Bail, president of the Wading River Civic Association, is concerned.

“This is just a horrible use of the land,” he said. “It’s not just cutting the trees with the thought that ‘They’ll grow back in 50 years,’ it’s the hills, the gullies, the wildlife, the plants and the fauna that would have to be destroyed. I can see why the owners of the property, National Grid, would like to do this, they can make a bundle of money from it … however the idea of deforesting several hundred acres of very special forest land in order to achieve a worthwhile goal isn’t a good trade-off.”

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), chairman of the Committee on Environmental Conservation, deemed the proposal a bad idea, stating the Shoreham site is worthy of being preserved as part of our natural history.

“This is a native forest in essentially pristine condition … it’s a museum piece of natural land,” Englebright said. “I am the original New York State legislator who sponsored what are now the laws that enabled solar energy to begin to take off. I’m a pro-solar, pro-renewable energy person … [but] it was never my intent to see environmental atrocities committed in the name of renewable energy. I’m offended, as the father of solar energy in this state, that they are attempting to so thoroughly abuse the premise of what solar is meant to be.”

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