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Will Ferraro

Ed Romaine (R) and Will Ferraro (D) are looking for town residents’ votes come Nov. 5. Photos by Rita J. Egan

The race for Town of Brookhaven supervisor sees one candidate with years of electoral experience facing a young newcomer who says he’s representing those in town who have been ignored by government the past several years.

Seven-year town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) is facing Democratic challenger, first-time candidate and Selden political activist Will Ferraro. While the incumbent cites his efforts over the past seven years, including his work on getting control of Brookhaven’s budget and the push toward clean energy, Ferraro is pushing hard on recycling and trash issues, as well as keeping young people on Long Island.

Romaine said the town has made huge strides toward clean energy in the past several years, including incorporating wind and solar technology at Town Hall in Farmingville. 

“You had a year, a year and a half, where that market had been collapsing and the town just waited.”

— Will Ferraro

Recently, a new offshore wind project, Sunrise Wind, has plans to create an offshore wind farm off Montauk, and plans to have a home base in Port Jefferson Harbor. Romaine claimed he had been a big proponent of that project and will have a large impact on it going forward.

“I’m not a proponent of fossil fuel,” Romaine said.

Ferraro criticized the town’s movement on the Caithness II plant, which has since stalled, though Romaine said he had voted against the plant.

More eyes have turned toward Brookhaven’s waste management and recycling since the market crashed in 2018, leading the town’s recycling contractor, Green Stream Recycling, to void its contract. Brookhaven has switched from single-stream to dual-stream recycling and has asked residents to drop glass off at 21 points in the town instead of picking it up at curbside.

The Democratic challenger criticized the supervisor for not seeing the writing on the wall when it came to the recycling market and single-stream recycling.

“Where I find problem is that [the Town] waited and tried running out 20-plus year contract with Green Stream,” Ferraro said. “You had a year, a year and a half, where that market had been collapsing and the town just waited.”

He advised the town should look into a pay-as-you-throw program, which would lessen the cost of people’s trash bill for those who turn out less trash. He said he would cap the cost of people’s bills to where it currently sits at $350, enticing people to throw out less. He added he would want to return to glass pickup once every two weeks or once a month.

Romaine said such a program might work in the long term, but believed it would lead to illegal dumping, which he added was already a huge problem in Brookhaven. 

The town’s landfill has long been a hot spot for controversy. The landfill currently only accepts ash and construction debris. All garbage is taken to a plant outside of town, while the ash is returned to the landfill. Current plans see Brookhaven capping the landfill by 2024. Romaine said closing the location will be a net loss for the town but suspects they will not take a large hit. Otherwise, Brookhaven, along with other townships that dump their ash at the Brookhaven landfill, still needs to decide where that trash will go once the last landfill on Long Island is closed.

“This is not a Brookhaven problem, this is a regional problem,” Romaine said.

People around the landfill have long complained about the odor from it, and many claim they have experienced negative health effects from living close to it. Ferraro criticized the town for not doing more to research what could be causing such effects or doing air testing during an odor event and called for an air quality task force for the area.

Romaine said a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation does testing every day, and they have no research that qualitates the landfill has resulted in these negative health effects at the nearby school district.

“Health to me is the most important thing,” Romaine said. “If we knew there was something, we would have stopped.”

Recent years have shown people, both young and old, moving off the Island due to high property taxes. While both candidates agreed the majority of taxes come from the local school districts, Ferraro said the most important thing is to attract industries that provide jobs, while working on town infrastructure to get people to those jobs. He suggested that Brookhaven should look into some sort of limited public transportation system, similar to Huntington’s Area Rapid Transit system.

“Health to me is the most important thing.”

— Ed Romaine

He agreed with Romaine on a lack of multifamily housing but said some residents are being heard more than others. 

“A lot of NIMBY [not in my backyard] is being pandered to,” the challenger said. “A lot of their concerns are valid, some are not … We need a comprehensive approach. It’s one thing to have $1,800 rent, but when you talk about transportation costs, other factors than just rent that play into that.”

Romaine said he and fellow council members have done a good job in securing large industries to the town, such as Amneal Pharmaceuticals, which brought a facility to Yaphank with several hundred jobs earlier this year. He added the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency has been key in bringing jobs like these to the area. He also cited intent to lessen the cost of gas and electricity by allowing the town to purchase those resources on behalf of its residents through a Community Choice Aggregation program.

Ferraro said many of those jobs created through the IDA were temporary construction jobs. Though some residents have complained about some of the tax breaks some of these developments have received, such as the Engel Burman-owned senior facility currently going up in Mount Sinai for only providing around 50 full-time employees after the facilities finally open. Romaine agreed that the IDA should avoid multifamily housing unless its “affordable.” He said he was opposed to the IDA giving tax breaks to the Heatherwood apartment complex in Port Jefferson Station and South Setauket, which were ultimately rejected. 

Challenger Will Ferraro and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine during a debate hosted by the Sound Beach Civic Association at the Sound Beach Firehouse Oct. 8. Photo by Kyle Barr

Road issues and health/odor complaints from the town landfill have become a major bane for residents in the Town of Brookhaven, and local incumbents and challengers have made it a major point of their election campaigns.

The Sound Beach Civic Association hosted debates Oct. 8 for Brookhaven town candidates in The Village Beacon Record area as Long Island quickly slides toward Election Day Nov. 5.

The room was flanked with both Republican, Democratic and a few third-party candidates.

Perhaps the most contentious town race is for supervisor, with young Democratic challenger Will Ferraro facing the well-established town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R).

Romaine lauded his and the town’s accomplishments in the seven years since he was first put in office during a special election in 2012. He talked about recent intermunicipal agreements combining districts to save residents money, including ending the Sound Beach and Setauket water districts that gave a small check to residents of those defunct districts.

In terms of roads, Romaine cited the proposed town budget that includes a $150 million pot of funds for the Highway Department from both bonds and reserves from the tentative capital budget.

“I believe in fighting for each and every one of the communities of this town”

– Ed Romaine

Ferraro, who has worked as a legislative analyst for the New York State Assembly and a political activist, spoke of the three main issues of his campaign: the quality of Brookhaven’s roads, a plan to reconfigure the town’s recycling to bring back monthly glass pickup, and a public plan for air quality issues around the town landfill.

“This election is not going to be about credentials, it’s about credibility,” he said.

When an audience member’s question was brought up about the town’s website, saying that it was purposefully convoluted, the supervisor said the town has worked hard to make everything easily available and to make town matters transparent. Ferraro retorted, “I agree with [Romaine] I don’t think it’s intentional, they really think that’s what a website is supposed to look like in 2019.”

The landfill was recently cited by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation over odor complaints and was ordered to spend $150,000 on the landfill or face a fine of $178,000. Romaine said the odor complaints were from last December and occurred because of the process of currently capping portions of the site in the Brookhaven hamlet. The town is looking to set aside $20 million to deal with the impact of the landfill closing in 2024.

“We are definitely going to look at how we are going to handle solid waste — that is something we will be working with all the communities in Brookhaven,” he said.

Ferraro responded that Romaine was diluting the complaints that residents living close to the landfill have had, both in terms of odor and health issues they claim have come from the dump. He criticized Romaine for leaving his state appointment to the Long Island Regional Planning Council in 2018 and said more needs to be done to test the air quality in the area surrounding the landfill.

The day of the debate, Newsday had published its endorsement for Romaine, who held up a printout to show to the audience. Ferraro said, “that endorsement will be in Newsday tomorrow, it will also be in my cat’s litter box tomorrow,” to the moans of several audience members.

Though he had planned to attend the debate, town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) had to cancel at the last minute, and his second-time Democratic challenger Anthony Portesy spoke up instead about his plans to remedy town road issues.

He advocated for his six-point plan, complaining about the town’s practices of “mill and fill” for fixing roads with topcoats that crumble in a short time and for not fixing drainage issues. He also talked about creating a priority list by working with the town council, and then posting that publicly online to see which roads are getting done based on the level of funding. He also called for the need to advocate for more state and federal funding for road repairs.

“We need to get out of this duct tape and Band-Aid operation,” he said. “I want to make sure we’re creating a long-term mission for the Town of Brookhaven.”

Democrat Sarah Deonarine is challenging Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) for the District 2 seat.

Bonner said the issue with recycling was the market has collapsed, a problem not just for Brookhaven but for every municipality across the U.S. Since the market for glass has fallen through the floor, the town has been taking glass at drop-off sites and using them for lining the landfill.

“What is better recycling than that?,” she said.

Regarding the landfill, she said the town has steadily increased its landfill closure account to deal with the impacts of when there will be nowhere on the island left to dump ash or debris, though they have taken the odor complaints “very seriously.” She said the best plan is to turn the landfill into an “energy park.” 

On the issue of recycling the Democratic challenger cited other towns that currently accept other materials, promising to model their collection system after them. She also called out the town’s response to the DEC’s order regarding the landfill. She said she has “connections” around the island, and with those they could start a work group that could look at the health impacts of the landfill.

“The town should recognize that people are getting sick there, set up our own [odor] hotline, and invest in the people in the area to get better,” she said.

On Monday, Oct. 14, the Sound Beach Civic Association will host a second debate moderated by the Suffolk County League of Women Voters between Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and her Republican challenger Gary Pollakusky at the Sound Beach Firehouse located at 152 Sound Beach Blvd. People can come at 6:30 p.m. to write out questions for the debate starting at 7:30 p.m.

Early voting starts Oct. 26, with election day set for Tuesday, Nov. 5. Check back here at The Village Beacon Record Oct. 31 for our annual election issue, featuring debates with all local candidates in our coverage area.

 

Will Ferraro, a Selden resident, is running against Ed Romaine for town supervisor. Photo from Ferraro’s campaign

For Will Ferraro, a Selden resident running for Town of Brookhaven supervisor in elections this fall, his campaign is about making solutions. 

“I’m running for working class and working poor people who feel like this current administration isn’t listening to them,” he said.    

Ferraro said he is campaigning on a platform of fixing and repairing town roads as well as addressing issues with the town’s recycling system and the Brookhaven landfill. 

“There have been roads that haven’t been paved in years. People are sick of a supervisor who just points the finger to the highway superintendent,” he said. “On the recycling issue, he points to China and says there is nothing wrong with the landfill. My campaign is about solutions.”

“People are sick of a supervisor who just points the finger to the highway superintendent.”

— Will Ferraro

Ferraro and Ed Romaine (R), who is finishing his third term as supervisor, will look to secure a four-year term in the upcoming elections, a result of Brookhaven residents voting last year to add term limits to three per seat, but also double the term length for the town supervisor and other positions like the highway superintendent. 

The challenger was against the increase in term length and co-funded Brookhaven Action Network, which helped organize and lead the “Vote No on Prop 1” campaign against the terms extensions. Despite being ultimately unsuccessful, it proved to be a motivating factor for Ferraro’s decision to run. 

This will be Ferraro’s first time running for elected office, though he says his experience working in Albany as a legislative analyst for the New York State Assembly has helped in the transition.  

“You don’t really know what to expect until you’ve actually done it,” he said. “You’re out there on your own.”

If elected, Ferraro said he would restore curbside pickup of recyclable glass on a monthly basis, make road infrastructure the top budget priority and create a task force that would expand air quality and toxicology tests in areas surrounding the landfill. 

“People feel like their concerns are not being heard,” he said. “This town and administration is run by one party.”

Ferraro, who grew up in Port Jefferson Station, works for the New York City administration for children’s services, has a bachelor’s degree in government and politics from St. John’s University and a master’s degree in public policy from Stony Brook University.   

So far, the Selden resident acknowledged he has raised far less than Romaine in political donations, but said he hopes to raise more than  $100,000 for his campaign. Ferraro acknowledges that Romaine has more campaign contributions but hopes that residents will take to his message. 

“You have to go out there and connect with them. I want to show them how passionate I am about this community,” the Selden resident said. “This administration has not been challenged — I’m not afraid to go after his [Romaine’s] record.”  

Ferraro said the feedback and responses he and staffers have gotten from residents have been positive. 

“Knocking on doors in neighborhoods you see the level of frustration residents have toward the current administration,” he said. “We have people that really believe in our message and want to see change and believe that time is now.”

Ferraro believes Romaine can be beaten. 

“I will provide leadership and a new beginning for the town — I want people to understand that I will be a candidate that answers to residents,” he said. “And I will call out what needs to be called out.”