2019 Elections

Trotta and Singer review the Ccounty's issues during a recent debate.

The Times of Smithtown circulation area includes two Suffolk County legislative districts: 12 and 13. The 12th District encompasses Nesconset and Lake Grove and extends west through portions of St. James into Commack. The 13th District extends from Fort Salonga east to St. James. 

Currently, two Republicans represent the areas, Leslie Kennedy and Robert Trotta, respectively. Overall, the Democrats with an 11-7 ratio, have a majority rule in the county, as it has for the last 13 years. Republicans held the majority for 33 years prior to that. 

Many analysts say that this year’s election could potentially see a shift in power or perhaps tie the representation. So a lot is at stake.

District 13: Parts of Smithtown and St. James, Fort Salonga, San Remo, Kings Park, Nissequogue, Head of the Harbor, Commack and East Northport 

By Leah Chiappino

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R) is running for reelection. He has represented Suffolk’s 13th District since 2013. Jan Singer (D), a retired matrimonial lawyer, is challenging him for the seat in this year’s election. 

Trotta, a former Suffolk County police officer for 25 years and FBI agent for 10 years, said his priorities include addressing high taxes, wasteful spending and weeding out county corruption. 

Serving under a corrupt police chief, he said, prompted him to run for office six years ago. “I knew how corrupt the county was and I knew if I didn’t leave, I would get arrested, get in trouble, or die,” he said. “Of the three of us that were on the FBI task force, one is dead, one got arrested and I became a legislator.”

Personally, Trotta said that he has refused any campaign contributions from any person or organization that does business with the county. He supports legislation that would prevent lawmakers from voting on union contracts, if the union has contributed to a legislator’s campaign. Overall, these practices, he expects, would save money and prevent conflicts of interest. 

“Everything comes from wasteful spending and corrupt politicians taking too much money,” he said.

 Singer said her leadership experience will help to make needed changes for Suffolk. She operated a private law practice for over 30 years before retiring in 2012.  She’s organized phone banks for Perry Gershon (D) and Hillary Clinton (D), served as president of her homeowner association, and sat on the board of the Suffolk County Girl Scouts and the Smithtown Democratic Committee. If elected, Singer’s priorities include addressing Suffolk County’s water quality issues. 

 “If we don’t have quality water, free of nitrogen, 1-4-dioxane, and chemical pollution, we can’t have anything,” she said. “We can’t have the economic development which is so necessary to making Suffolk County thrive, because businesses will not open and people will not buy homes.”

To address water quality, Trotta supports reallocating the county’s one-quarter percent (0.25) sales tax income for its Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program, so more general fund money is dedicated to protecting the county’s water. 

Singer’s position to address climate change includes support for renewable energy initiatives such as wind turbines and solar energy and an increase in public transportation.

A major concern for both candidates is the county’s budget problems. New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli (D) monitors fiscal stress for the state’s municipalities.  Suffolk County, according to the latest report, tops the list as the worst fiscal condition out of all counties. 

“I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing the debt we are putting on our children,” Trotta said.

He blames the county budget troubles on overspending. Government contracting, he said, should be more deeply scrutinized. Personnel costs and expenses, such as police overtime, large pensions and pay increases need to be reined in. As a former police officer, he says he understands the vital work the police do. 

“I’m not saying they don’t deserve their money, but they don’t deserve to bankrupt the country and make it unaffordable for people to live here,” he said. 

Singer takes a different stance.

“The police are the ones that run into danger when I run away,” she said. “They are the ones dealing with the opioid crisis and MS-13. If you go to doors, I have not heard people screaming about overtime and excess pay for the police. They want them there.”

To address the issue, Trotta prefers raising revenue through taxes, instead of hitting people with expenses such as mortgage filing fees, which recently jumped from $65 to $600. The fee is paid not only when people buy a home but also when they refinance their mortgage.

Singer is not for eliminating these fees.

“I’m not debating whether or not some of the fees such as the mortgage recording fees are too high, but I don’t disagree with the principle of having it because the alternative is to either discontinue the service, run the service at a reduced level, or raise taxes,” she said. 

Both candidates see the opioid crisis as a critical issue. Singer proposes expanding education prevention services and supports an effort to expand medically assisted therapy and rehab programs in prisons. Any settlement funds that the county receives from its lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies, Singer said, should be used for treatment and education. 

Trotta says the county “cannot arrest its way out” of the problem, noting that many people addicted to opioids also suffer from mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. He supports “treatment and a variety of different methods” to curb the issue.  

With regard to the red-light camera ticketing program, Trotta calls it a money grab that causes more accidents than it prevents. He thinks it should be eliminated. 

A study conducted by Brookhaven-based L.K. McLean Associates and released earlier this year, stated that accidents were up 60 percent since the program’s implementation, though accidents involving injuries went down by 11 percent.

“If someone runs a red light and it’s dangerous, they should get a ticket period,” Trotta said. “Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening here.”

Singer supports continuing the program.

“It is about safety,” she said. “The vehicle and traffic law says you can’t run that red light.

Singer and Trotta both support the revitalization of Kings Park, and both agree that the community should retain its small-town feel. 

Photo by Kyle Barr

In Brookhaven’s District 1, TBR News Media enthusiastically endorses incumbent Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station).

While we feel her opponent, Tracy Kosciuk, has a lot of good ideas and plans to back them up, we are concerned that her schedule may already be packed with nursing, union and family responsibilities. Despite the best time management skills, sometimes commitments are scheduled at the same time. While we know Cartright’s assistant, Jennifer Martin, will sometimes attend meetings or events for her, most of the time we have seen the councilwoman present when invited, and many residents have found her approachable when bringing issues to her attention.

While giving Kosciuk more than a month to confirm a date for a debate, she was still unable to attend our meeting of an hour or so and was not present for the Oct. 25 debate.

The councilwoman represents the lone Democratic voice on the board, and also represents diversity as a person of color. She is willing to work with her fellow members, but we often respect her for being sometimes the lone dissenting voice on a number of issues. Single party rule is never a good thing.

Cartright has been at the forefront of revitalizing Port Jefferson Station and the Route 25A corridor in the Three Village area. She has made connections with businesses, developers, civic associations and residents to create visioning plans for these areas, and we are confident she has the passion and enthusiasm to see these projects through completion if elected to serve a fourth term.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner. File Photo by Giselle Barkley

It’s been 12 years since Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) first stepped into office, and we at TBR News Media say she richly deserves another term. 

Bonner has been a steadfast representative for her district, and despite her years on board she remains tireless in representing the people of her district. The Mount Sinai Jetty repairs are finally coming to fruition, much thanks to her advocacy. She is a consistent friend to local civic groups such as Mount Sinai’s in its advocacy for refocusing the Mount Sinai Meadows project toward millennial-geared apartments. Her work helping to remediate zombie homes cannot be understated. 

Sarah Deonarine has a good breadth of knowledge relating to environmental issues but lacks detail in her plans to deal with people leaving Long Island and addressing zombie homes. The liens placed on properties after they are demolished hinders new people buying the property, but in the end, someone has to pay for that remediation. 

Last year, the town included Proposition 1 on the ballot that restricted candidates to three terms but also increased the stint of those terms to four years. Our newspapers endorsed against the proposition, which allows incumbents like Bonner to continue in office for two extra years than they had for the past decade. We do hope that will allow candidates to focus more on issues and less on campaigning, but we also wish town reps listen to dissenting voices over Proposition 1 and take those complaints into account with any future referendums.

Ed Romaine. Photo by Kyle Barr

As the Town of Brookhaven is the closest level of government to residents, the supervisor position requires a person who can look at each hamlet as its own entity, while also looking at the whole.

We at TBR News Media believe Ed Romaine (R) has done that well, and for that reason TBR News Media is choosing to endorse Ed Romaine to continue his role as supervisor.

It’s a shame Will Ferraro (D) has chosen such a candidate like Romaine to run against. We enjoyed his energy and passion and believe his head and heart are in the right place. We sincerely hope he continues to run in local elections. We see him as another one to watch in the future.

We do like some of the Democratic challenger’s plans, especially concerning a capped pay-as-you-throw system toward trash. Romaine, however, has done a good degree of due diligence in banking $12 million for when the landfill finally closes in 2024. Garbage will become Long Island’s top issue in only a few years’ time, and officials should start getting a concrete plan now, rather than later, for what Brookhaven will do with residents’ trash. 

Romaine’s track record on environment and green energy issues has been commendable, and we hope his plans for the CCA program and any other future plans to reduce residents’ tax burdens will go a long way to keeping people in the Town of Brookhaven.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. File photo by Kyle Barr

The 2019 race for Suffolk County executive could prove to be closer than in previous years. Incumbent Steve Bellone (D) looks to secure a final term and continue his vision of improving Suffolk’s water quality and getting the county’s finances in check. 

On the other side, you have County Comptroller John Kennedy (R) who knows finances and has been looking out for taxpayers’ pockets. 

Libertarian candidate Greg Fischer also has his mind on the county’s finances and as a former businessman he brought up some interesting ideas. 

The race will be a tough one, but we think reelecting Bellone is the right way to go. 

While Bellone has been criticized for the county finances, we have to remember he inherited a tough task when he came into office in 2012. While he has made some strides in better budget ingduring his tenure, including streamlining government, cutting over 1,300 jobs among other initiatives, there is still work to be done on that front. Kennedy is right to bring up the county’s finances as it remains to be a chief concern and he probably knows more about finances than Bellone, but we feel he is better fit in the county comptroller role than county executive. As comptroller, we hope he can continue to work with Bellone to keep the county spending in check. On other issues, like water quality and public safety, we feel Bellone is better suited to take on those things. Kennedy has a point in criticizing Bellone’s septic improvement system plan as the technology is still relatively new and hasn’t been proven to work. More research will need to be done to ensure these septic systems are working properly for homeowners. 

In the fight against MS-13, Bellone has continue to work with SCPD and community leaders in eliminating the gang from the Island. Kennedy is right that the federal government involvement has been vital in dealing with the gang.

Fischer is passionate about the residents of Long Island and brought up some interesting ideas. Unfortunately when it comes down to it, he just lacks experience compared to the other candidates. We encourage Fischer to continue to be involved in local issues and possibly in the future try to run for more local government positions.

Kara Hahn in 2017 Photo by Desirée Keegan

The fact that the Republican Party didn’t produce a candidate who actively campaigned against Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) speaks volumes. For the Suffolk County legislator seat in the 5th District, we strongly endorse Hahn.

The legislator has worked to defend the environment and the public’s health and safety since she first ran for office in 2011. She has spearheaded laws that have led to the protection of our water supply and the preservation of open spaces. She not only has helped to put Narcan into the hands of our first responders to help them rescue those who have overdosed on opioids, but a recent initiative has created a program to train school coaches to help prevent those tragedies in the first place.

This year due to Hahn’s initiative in an effort dubbed Operation Remember the names of those lost during the Cold War, the Gulf wars and the War on Terror were added to local veterans memorials.

Hahn has moved the county in the right direction, and she is aware of the needs of those she serves in the 5th District. She shows up and listens to her constituents which is the first step in getting things done.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker is running against Republican Gary Pollakusky to represent the 6th District. Photos by Alex Petroski

Five-term Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) is once again facing Republican challenger Gary Pollakusky, a Rocky Point business owner and head of the recently remodeled Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce. The candidates challenged each other in 2017, but while many issues remain the same, such as county finances, coastal water issues and opioids, the campaign season has been even more contentious than two years before.

Many of the Republicans running for county Legislature this year have made county finances a major part of their campaigns, and Pollakusky made it a point when he ran two years ago. 

“The $4 billion plan is unrealistic — it will come down to taxpayers, people who are leaving the Island, to take on this burden.”

— Gary Pollakusky

In a recent in-house debate at TBR News Media offices, the Republican challenger pointed to the recent report from the New York State comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli (D), which called Suffolk one of the most fiscally stressed counties in the state, Pollakusky adding the county now has junk bond status. He said small businesses have a hard time opening in Suffolk County, that it takes two to three years when it should, at most, two to three months. He said the county should have done more to bring in retail giant Amazon. 

Though the largest percentage of residents’ tax bills are due to school districts, the challenger said Suffolk should look to work with both the state and local school districts to reduce the number of administrators, even creating a “chancellor of education” to oversee that cause.

Anker, who first came to the Legislature in 2011 during a special election, argued that the county is not in as much fiscal stress as Republicans have said. She argued that the county’s Baa2 bond rating by Moody’s shows a different picture of the county’s financial shape. She said finances have improved significantly since when she was first elected.

The incumbent argued that instead of looking to bring in Amazon, the North Shore should look to become an “ecotourism hub,” with amenities like the new North Shore Rail Trail and Tesla Science Center.

“Instead of making a right to go pumpkin picking and wine tasting, take a left to downtown Rocky Point, so we can revitalize it,” she said. “So many stores have gone out recently.”

The Republican challenger criticized Anker for removing Rocky Point from the county sewer list and called Suffolk’s prototype septic system program a “toilet tax.” Though residents can get grants from New York State that pay most or all of the installation, Pollakusky argued there are fees attributed to landscaping or regular maintenance. 

“As far as runoff, the $4 billion plan is unrealistic — it will come down to taxpayers, people who are leaving the Island, to take on this burden,” he said.

Anker called Suffolk the “most proactive agencies in government that addresses this issue,” adding she supports the prototype septic systems as well as the county water authority’s multibillion dollar plans to reduce 1,4-dioxane in wells throughout the county. 

She added the reason she removed Rocky Point from the sewer list came from a request by the Rocky Point Civic Association whose members said they did not want to pay an additional sewer tax.

Anker currently chairs the Suffolk County Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel, which was created in 2017. She said the panel has already borne fruit with one recent example being Suffolk County police’s new mass spectrometer, which can identify previously undetectable substances. She said the device came from a suggestion on the 24-member panel. She added the county’s lawsuit of pharmaceutical company Purdue and the Sackler family may bring in millions of dollars of revenue to the county.

“Instead of making a right to go pumpkin picking and wine tasting, take a left to downtown Rocky Point, so we can revitalize it.”

— Sarah Anker

Pollakusky argued that while some county statistics say the opioid epidemic has plateaued, he hasn’t seen an example of that in the district, claiming there is a glut of “drug dealing homes” all across the North Shore. Like in 2017, he criticized his opponent for voting to close the Foley Center in Yaphank, saying it could have been used for bed space and as a treatment center.

Anker came back saying the county should look toward public-private partnerships in creating new treatment space.

Though the candidates talked about the ongoing issues, they were also asked how they felt about their opponents campaign tactics during this contentious season. The challenger’s voice rose during the debate as he criticized Anker for mailings published by political advocacy group People for Political Responsibility, depicting him in photoshopped, unflattering images. He claimed Anker had been disbursing campaign material at functions like the Downtown Rocky Point Summer Concert Series and advocating for herself over radio. 

Anker fired back that she had nothing to do with the mailings and had not handed out campaign material at these functions, instead handing out informational pamphlets for services provided by the county. She said her radio show was not sponsored at all by her campaign and only talked of work being done in the Legislature. 

Both have continuously blamed the other for politicizing an incident several months ago at the final summer concert series event, when chamber members were barred from entering the concert. Chamber members said they had permission from the local Veterans of Foreign War post, which participates in putting on the concerts, but Anker said she had only received word that they wanted to attend the day before, and that they did not have space for them. The chamber was allowed a single table at the concert, she added. Pollakusky said it was unfair she was able to attend and “campaign” at the concert while disallowing others.

This post has been amended from how it appeared in the Village Beacon Record to clarify Anker’s position on informational material for services provided by the county.

Incumbent Tom Muratore is being challenged for his county legislator seat in the 4th District by Holbrook resident David Bligh. Photo of Muratore from his campaign site; photo of Bligh from candidate

In Suffolk County’s 4th District, Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) is seeking his sixth term and is being challenged by Democrat David Bligh, an environmental engineer from Holbrook. We reached out to both candidates via email to allow them the opportunity to fill us in on what is on their minds as they campaign.

Incumbent Tom Muratore

We asked Muratore what he was most proud of during his tenure as a county legislator. One was working with multiple government agencies as well as community groups to purchase land for a 24-acre park. The future Selden Park Complex will include multipurpose fields, a walking trail and more.

“This allows for more field space and places for our children to play baseball, field hockey, football, lacrosse, soccer and softball right here in our district,” he said. “The state-of-the-art facility is also a great place to host children with specials needs learning new sports through challenges and inclusive sports offerings.”

The county legislator also counted securing funds for a feasibility study for sewers in his district among his accomplishments.

“The availability of sanitary sewers has the potential to increase business investment, improve water quality and provide greater environmental protection in the Selden/Centereach communities,” Muratore said.

The legislator also has secured $6.6 million for road improvements on County Road 16, Horseblock Road. He said in addition to the road being repaved, handicapped-accessible sidewalks were installed and there were improvements to several crosswalks.

Among the issues facing the county, Muratore cites Suffolk’s financial crisis as one of the biggest issues.

“We must budget responsibly, hold the line on taxes and eliminate the outrageous fees, such as the red-light camera fee,” he said. “We must also reduce our capital borrowing. In the next term, I support a 5-10 percent reduction in capital borrowing.”

Other issues he said are protecting the environment and open spaces; supporting law enforcement and first responders for tackling the opioid crisis; and growing the economy by investing in our energy and transportation infrastructure and revitalizing downtowns.

Challenger David Bligh

Bligh said he feels the biggest issues facing Suffolk County currently are affordability, government accountability and responsiveness. The county’s deteriorating water quality he views as a crisis.

Bligh, who grew up in Ronkonkoma, said he hopes his three children will be able to afford to live on the Island when they grow up.

“We have to make Long Island affordable, especially here in Suffolk County, so that our young people and elderly can afford to stay here, and this county doesn’t simply become a place for the wealthy to dwell in their summer homes,” he said.

Bligh said he considers the deteriorating water quality in the county a crisis as it recently had the highest rate of emerging contaminants in New York State, according to the New York Public Interest Research Group May 2019 report entitled “What’s in My Water?: Emerging Contaminants in New York’s Drinking Water Systems.” He said “every elected official’s number one priority must be the safety of the constituents they serve.”

“If people cannot drink water without fearing toxins such as 1,4-dioxane, PFAS [polyfluoroalkyl substances], and other carcinogens, then we have failed as a government,” he said.

When it comes to government accountability and responsiveness, he said his team knocked on more than 14,000 doors while campaigning, and they repeatedly heard about “constituents calling their local officials about concerns in the community and being largely ignored.” He said too many times elected officials will say that an issue cannot be dealt with on their level of government or it’s outside of their jurisdiction.

He said if a legislator cannot handle an issue, they should call those who can and connect the constituent with them.

“We work for the people, not the other way around,” Bligh said.

If elected, Bligh said he would introduce a comprehensive package of ethics and good government reforms, and implement legislation that allows for the development of affordable housing units.

Also, he said as an environmental engineer for the past 15 years, his job entails remediating contaminated sites, and he looks forward to passing further legislation to protect the water quality and to safeguard Long Island from the effects of climate change.

Incumbent Kevin LaValle faces challenger Talat Hamdani for the District 3 seat in the Town of Brookhaven. Photo of LaValle by Kyle Barr; photo of Hamdani from her campaign website

On Oct. 28 Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) sat down with the TBR editorial board to talk about his run for a fourth term in District 3. His opponent Talat Hamdani did not attend the debate and did not respond to voicemails and emails asking for an interview, but we summarized points posted on her campaign website at the end of this article.

Incumbent Kevin LaValle

LaValle said he has spent the last few years in office ensuring that his district, which is the smallest geographically in the county, receives its fair share of funds. He said he is out in the community regularly meeting with constituents and addressing quality of life issues such as zombie homes and illegal apartments.

“Six years ago, people were like, ‘What about us in the community?’” he said. “Now people are asking, ‘What are you going to do next?’”

The councilman said when he first took office, he drove down Middle Country Road and found more than 30 buildings had graffiti on them and over 45 had illegal signs. His staff sent notices to clean up the graffiti and get rid of the signs to owners and tenants, and most complied. With thousands of cars traveling daily along Middle Country Road, he said, the clean sites encourage others to open businesses.

LaValle prides himself on his work with the business community, citing bringing brands such as Rite Aid, Five Guys and Guitar Center to Independence Plaza in Selden, and Panera Bread to nearby College Plaza. The councilman said he will sit with owners and developers to hear their needs about zoning and has them work with the town’s Building Division and Law Department to ensure the businesses know what is required of them with codes. He said representatives from larger corporations such as Target travel to Brookhaven to discuss their needs with him.

He said it’s important to build relationships and foster trust.

“A lot of people don’t trust government,” he said. “[They say,] ‘This guy is all right. He’s going to work with us. If he gives us his word that he’s going to do something, he’ll do it.’”

He said building those business relationships has led to many of them participating in events that he organizes such as the annual National Night Out, where residents can interact with police officers and other first responders at the Centereach Pool Complex.

When it comes to water quality issues, while he said his district does not include much shoreline — just a small piece of Lake Ronkonkoma — he supports the initiatives of Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) whom he called “the most fervent advocate of the environment” that he knows. One of the programs LaValle supported was the requirement that new construction within 500 feet of water be required to install a new nitrogen-reducing septic system.

He also supports legislation spearheaded by Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) for a study to create a sewer district along Middle Country Road. He said it may take eight to 10 years for the district to be included in the sewer program, but he believes it will attract more businesses to the area.

He added a sewer district, in turn, attracts developers who want to buy a few lots together instead of one, which means one entrance for several stores, instead of one for each business, creating a better flow of traffic. 

“It’s so crucial that sewer district, on so many different levels, that we get that,” he said.

LaValle also recognizes the opioid problem in the town. He said Brookhaven has two social workers who will talk to teenagers and families for free about drug addiction problems. When the social workers came to him and said it would be beneficial to raise the age they can treat people from 18 to 24, he sponsored a bill to make it happen.

He said many young people who may have overcome addiction can relapse, especially on returning to Long Island from college while having to deal with multiple stresses.

“I can tell you that’s a great key to be able to give that education, to be able to have that outreach,” he said.

LaValle also said he believes that the state needs to push insurance carriers to provide coverage for those battling addiction and has approached both state senators, Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and John Flanagan (R-East Northport).

He said the Island currently doesn’t have enough beds for treatment in hospitals and clinics, and patients may be not covered unless they have fought addiction multiple times.

“I think it’s a fight that should be fought,” he said.

He also has worked with Muratore to purchase property behind Hawkins Path Elementary School. An agreement between the county and town allowed the county to buy the property if the town would develop. LaValle said the park, called Selden Park Complex, will have two multipurpose fields with a walking trail, playground and ice-skating rink. Flanagan recently secured $1 million to fund phase 3 of the park, which includes the construction of two baseball fields and a playground.

“It’s great because growing up here, we had the worst fields,” LaValle said.

Challenger Talat Hamdani

Hamdani grew up in Pakistan and immigrated to New York in 1979. She is a retired English teacher, who in 2018 was appointed by County Executive Steve Bellone (D) to the Suffolk County Muslim-American Advisory Board. She is also a regular commentator on CNN, MSNBC, “Democracy Now!”and other media outlets.

The challenger’s family was a victim of Islamophobia when false media accusations linked her son to the 9/11 attacks, according to the challenger’s website. Mohammad Salman Hamdani, her son, worked at Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Manhattan and went down to the World Trade Center to help victims. He, too, died in the aftermath of the attacks.

According to her website, she aims to end corruption “by stopping the endless waste, fraud and abuse in the Town of Brookhaven.” She said she will call out “pay-to-play politics and end the hold of special interests in town government and one-party rule.”

Currently, Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) is the only Democrat on the Brookhaven Town Board.

Hamdani would also like to enhance residential recycling by implementing weekly pickup of plastic, paper, cardboard and aluminum/metals, as well as expand the types of plastics that get collected. She said this would make it easier for residents and not burdensome for taxpayers.

The challenger plans to work to enhance oversight for clean water to increase environmental safety and incentivize small businesses with economic development zones. Her website says she would look to provide rebates for startups and family businesses. She also wants to curb overdevelopment with plans to put a check on big developers and advance a sustainable affordable housing agenda.

“Today, I am passionately involved in social justice,” Hamdani posted on her website. “I want to serve my local community in addressing their issues and trying to resolve them. Like Salman, we need to transcend the barriers of race, faith and ethnicity and stand united for our democracy and our freedoms guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, with liberty and justice for all.”

Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) and Democrat Sarah Deonarine are asking for residents votes Nov. 5. Photos by David Luces

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), a longtime civic leader and six-term council member since 2007 is facing a challenge from Democratic Sarah Deonarine, a marine biologist out of Coram with years of working in state and local government.

In an October debate at the TBR News Media offices, candidates went back and forth over questions of development on the North Shore, clean energy initiatives and keeping young people on Long Island.

“What I’m hearing is that people want to stay in their homes — age in place.”

— Sarah Deonarine

Deonarine said she sees Brookhaven at “full carrying capacity” in terms of development and is calling for a study on capacity to see if the town is at “full build-out.” She added that another issue which leads to the Island’s brain drain is a lack of affordable or millennial housing, compared to states like Colorado.

“What I’m hearing is that people want to stay in their homes — age in place,” she said.

Other issues for her is the lien put on a property after a derelict house is removed, making redevelopment expensive. She asked that the list of zombie homes in town be made public, as well as refocus Brookhaven Code Enforcement Division which she called aggressive in “trying to make money for the town.”

Bonner instead cited the Route 25A corridor study, and which started in the first years of her first term, which she boasted has been picked up by the Town of Riverhead and continued by Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) in the Three Village area. The study led to “massive rezonings” which limited further build-out. She said all current large-scale developments were grandfathered in before the outcome of the study. 

One of those includes the senior living facility development going up along Route 25A in Mount Sinai, which came about after the Mount Sinai Civic sued the town to stop another “Ranches style” development. The Mount Sinai Meadows project was reconfigured from retail space into majority millennial-geared rental/part commercial.

“Mount Sinai Meadows is going to change the face of Mount Sinai,” Bonner said. “It’s also going to stimulate the [Mt. Sinai] shopping center that’s right next to it.”

She disagreed with Deonarine’s statement on code enforcement, saying the division was more focused on the well-being of people in their homes. She said Suffolk County police asked the town not to publicize the list of zombie homes.

The town has boasted of its clean energy initiatives, including solar farms and wind farms at Town Hall in Farmingdale. Bonner called the solar farm developments in Shoreham a way of reducing the impact of farms and grass products on the aquifer while growing green energy in the town. She mentioned the electric car charging stations at sites like Heritage Park in Mount Sinai. 

“We’re doing our part to reduce our carbon footprint.”

— Jane Bonner

“We’re doing our part to reduce our carbon footprint,” the incumbent said.

The Democratic challenger said she thinks it’s time Long Island as a whole moves away from being hesitant on new green energy initiatives, especially with complaints over aesthetics. 

“People are afraid of their views being blocked — it’s a time we need to move past that, and it’s time to think about the environment and move away from fossil fuels,” she said.

If elected, Deonarine said she would bring a different viewpoint to the board, six of whom are Republican with one lone Democrat. She also pushed her opponent on proposition 1, the referendum given the green light by voters last November, saying it had been poorly worded, giving town council members term limits while at the same time extending terms from two to four years. She said the Republican members of the board largely supported it, and though Cartright had at first supported it, she later pulled back her support.

“The current board makeup, and current Republican Party makeup, it is very biased,” she said. “With only one Democrat on the board, that’s not a representation of the Town of Brookhaven.”

Bonner said the board has been bipartisan in getting things done, with no lack of ability or willingness to cross party lines and help each other in daily duties. In terms of proposition 1, “we all supported to go to referendum for the four-year terms,” she said. “It was overwhelmingly supported by nearly 60 percent.”