Brookhaven Town Councilmember Kornreich convenes Pond Park planning committee

Brookhaven Town Councilmember Kornreich convenes Pond Park planning committee

East Setauket Pond Park. Photo by Mallie Jane Kim

By Mallie Jane Kim

East Setauket Pond Park is due for a facelift next year, and Brookhaven Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) is assembling a diverse set of voices to help make plans for the landmark property, which sits next to Se-Port Deli on Route 25A.

Kornreich said the people he invited to join the committee include descendants of the Setalcott Nation and parents of young children — in addition to residents who are often involved in Three Village area community service, leadership and decision-making.

The park sits on a likely landing point of the first European settlers of Brookhaven, an event commemorated by a 1955 mural housed in Town Hall. The mural depicts a busy Setalcott village with European ships approaching in the distance, and some believe the perspective of the painting is East Setauket Pond Park.

Kornreich said he wants to be sure he is considering the history as well as the future of the property.

“When you’re doing something as important as creating a park that’s going to be there for the next 100 years, I think we have to be thoughtful and include some other voices that maybe we don’t always listen to,” Kornreich explained of his effort to broaden his advisory group to include more than the usual suspects. “A diverse set of voices generally yields better decision-making.”

Some of those usual suspects include members of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, whose advocacy started the process of the park rehabilitation in the first place. The tidal pond water drains into the harbor itself, and when the task force formed in 2014, the pond was filled with sand, sediment and pollutants from Route 25A road runoff. 

Task force co-founder George Hoffman remembers working to bring the park onto Brookhaven’s radar. The town’s parks department began mowing and clearing some invasive plants, he explained, as the task force worked with former state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) to secure a $1 million clean water grant in 2016. After various delays, the money went toward dredging the pond in 2022 and building an appropriate drainage system for the highway in 2023.

Hoffman said he understands the need to include a variety of voices in developing the park, but he acknowledges it is hard to adjust after advocating for it for so long. “We’ve always seen ourselves as unofficial stewards of Setauket Pond Park,” he said. “It’s been our baby, but now it’s kind of everyone’s baby.”

He added that he hopes the environment will remain an important aspect of any development. “The pond is tied into water quality as the headwaters of the harbor,” he said. “It’s important we don’t do anything to jeopardize that.”

Hoffman and Kornreich both said they hope a redeveloped park will serve as an anchor for revitalization of downtown East Setauket as well as provide an economic boost to the area, giving residents a clear view of the harbor and providing an enjoyable outdoor space near local businesses.

One woman tapped for the new committee, East Setauket resident Stephanie Alwais, said she is excited to be a part of the process. In her five years on the board of North Shore Montessori School in Stony Brook, she has had a lot of exposure to the needs and desires of area families with young children. 

“North Shore is such an embedded school within the community, and the park is also right in the center of the community,” Alwais said. “As a mom in Setauket, I’d love for the park to be a place where families can go.”

Kornreich said his advisory committee will work with the parks department to figure out the best use of the land, which will expand to include the parcel that currently houses Setauket Automotive, next door to the current park. Brookhaven purchased that land late in 2022 with plans to tear down the auto-shop building once the business-owner tenant’s lease expires at the end of July 2025.