Business

Slurp Ramen in Port Jefferson has set up a unique means of serving customers, with a large screen in between workers and patrons. Photo by Kyle Barr

Local business owners are looking at an uncertain future due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis here on Long Island.

Due to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) executive order that shut down nonessential businesses last Saturday in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus, entrepreneurs and others are worried if they will be able to survive the financial blow. With bills due at the beginning of the month and with no new income coming in, many are calling on the state and the federal government for help.

Indu Kaur, the director of operations of The Meadow Club, looks at blueprints of new the building in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Kyle Barr

On Tuesday, Congress and the President Donald Trump (R) administration finally reached a $2 trillion agreement to assist people during the ongoing crisis. The new bill includes one-time direct payments to residents of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year or $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child. It also includes a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home. Meanwhile, for larger industries the bill includes $500 billion for guaranteed, subsidized loans to bail them out as revenue has severely dropped.

Still, the question remains of how small local businesses will remain intact or even be able to open their doors again as the crisis ebbs.

Indu Kaur, director of operations of The Meadow Club in Port Jefferson Station, said, “This is a burden my father and I are trying to figure out, just like everyone else,”

A family of restaurateurs who recently took over The Harbor Grill had plans to open their third restaurant this month. In addition, The Meadow Club was set to reopen after being closed due to a fire in 2018. Kaur said the ongoing health crisis has put both openings on hold.

In the meantime, she said, The Curry Club in East Setauket is taking take-out and delivery orders.

“We had to lay off our staff,” she said. “There are still things like rent, insurance and utility bills that we have to worry about.”

When asked about the recent virus rescue bil from the federal government, Kaur said “it was great news and a good first step. “Many of us are suffering financially right now.”

She also said she is hopefully that Suffolk County can eventually do something similar to help business owners.

Currently, the U.S. Small Business Administration is offering economic injury disaster loans to affected businesses. Funds come directly from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the maximum unsecured loan amount is $25,000.

Kaur said she doesn’t think that is a viable option for her and other business owners.

“I’m not sure we can take out one more loan on what we already have,” she said. “For others there might be no other option.”

Last week, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced the launch of the Business Recovery Unit, a component of the county’s Business Response Plan, to address concerns and questions that businesses have amid the coronavirus outbreak. Businesses are asked to complete a comprehensive survey on the county’s website (www.suffolkcountyny.gov).

In a conference call March 23, Bellone said that, with several hundred surveys completed, over 4,000 workers were indicated as laid off or furloughed.

“We keep getting calls and the numbers are going up; we are getting calls from workers who are self-employed who are in the same boat,” Bellone said.

In the new federal relief package, furloughed workers will have their salaries replaced for four months, getting whatever amount the state provides in unemployment plus a $600 add-on per week. Gig workers such as Uber drivers are included in that as well.

“There are still things like rent, insurance and utility bills that we have to worry about.”

Indu Kaur

In an effort to help business owners, New York State Republicans sent Cuomo a COVID-19 action plan that includes extending the payments of monthly sales tax by 90 days, making available no-interest loans immediately to entities that face a dramatic decrease in business and eliminating penalties for late payments of business and property taxes, among other things.

Similarly, over 17,600  people signed a Change.org petition titled Save Small Business Before It’s Too Late. It also called on the city, state and federal governments to take the necessary steps to save local businesses.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our communities, creating jobs, generating tax revenue and providing valuable services,” said New York City Councilman Mark Gjonaj (D), who started the petition.

Lenore Paprocky, president of the Greater Middle Country Chamber of Commerce, said, while a lot of businesses are hurting, she is grateful how everyone is willing to come together and help fellow entrepreneurs.

“It’s difficult right now but we want to keep these businesses afloat,” she said.

The chamber has come up with a list of local businesses that are offering catering/takeout and automotive services.

Paprocky said they are trying to stay optimistic amid the ongoing shutdown, and she hopes elected officials can hash something out to help them.

“The future is uncertain, but we need to stay positive and work together to get through this,” the president of the chamber said.

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Party City at 610 Broadhollow Road in Melville is closing in May. The announcement was made on March 12. “Party City routinely evaluates our portfolio of stores in response to ongoing consumer, market and economic changes that naturally arise in the business. After careful consideration, the Melville store location will close on May 2, 2020,” the Elmsford, New York-based party supply chain said in a statement.

The store, which shares a shopping center with a Fortunoff Backyard Store, Suburban Eats and Moe’s Southwest Grill, joins over 55 other Party City locations to shutter over the past two years. After the closing, 13 stores remain on Long Island including Centereach, Commack and Stony Brook.

The Centereach store on Middle Country Road promotes clearance sales on March 13. Photo by Heidi Sutton
All stores on Long Island to close

Modell’s Sporting Goods, the nation’s  oldest, family-owned and operated retailer of sporting goods, athletic footwear and active apparel is going out of business.

Fourth-generation owner Mitchell Modell made the announcement last Wednesday after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and allowing for the liquidation of all of its 153 stores located in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC. beginning March 13. 

Founded in 1889 by Morris A. Modell, the first Modell’s store was located on Cortlandt Street in lower Manhattan  according to the company’s website.

The retailer known for its “Gotta Go to Mo’s” ad slogan joins several other sporting goods giants including Sports Authority to shutter in recent years as online retail hurt brick-and -mortar sales.

The decision will affect 14 stores on Long Island including Rocky Point, Shirley, Centereach, Bohemia, Commack, Bay Shore and Huntington Station. The Riverhead and Farmingdale locations were closed last year.

“While we achieved some success, in partnership with our landlords and vendors, it was not enough to avoid a bankruptcy filing amid an extremely challenging environment for retailers,” Modell said in a statement on March 11. 

“This is certainly not the outcome I wanted, and it is one of the most difficult days of my life … but I believe liquidation provides the greatest recovery for our creditors,” he added. The stores began liquidation sales on March 13. 

Although the retailer did not announce it’s last day, Modell’s website states that online sales will continue during the process; Modell’s gift cards, MVP awards and returns with a receipt will be accepted through April 15; the Modell’s credit card and the Modell’s Visa card will no longer be accepted; and competitor’s coupons will no longer be honored.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has declared a shutdown of all businesses in New York. File photo by Sara Meghan Walsh

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (D) announced earlier today that he is shutting down all businesses that are not considered essential starting this Sunday evening.

Businesses that will remain open include grocery stores and pharmacies, among others.

At a press conference, Cuomo said, “this is the most drastic action we can take,” adding these provisions will be enforced.

“These are not helpful hints,” he said. “These are legal provisions. They will be enforced. There will be a civil fine and mandatory closure for any business that is not in compliance. Your actions can affect my health. That’s where we are.”

He tackled misconceptions among younger people. He said bad information includes the perception that young people can’t get it or that young people can’t transmit it if they’re not symptomatic. Those are both “factually wrong,” Cuomo said. He cited that 20 percent of coronavirus cases are from people ages 20 to 44, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The 56th Governor of the Empire State said non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason are canceled at this time.

To protect those most at risk, Cuomo is also announcing Matilda’s Law to protect New Yorkers who are over 70 years old with compromised immune systems. He urges them to remain indoors, pre-screen visitors by taking their temperature, and require visitors to wear masks and remain six feet away from others. He strongly discouraged people in this group from taking public transportation, “unless urgent and absolutely necessary.”

He is also implementing a 90-day moratorium on evictions for residential and commercial tenants.

“I understand that may affect businesses negatively and I’ve spoken to a number of them,” Cuomo said. “I know that we’re going to put people out of work with what I did. I want to make sure I don’t put them out of their house.”

Cuomo said the order was definitely not a “shelter-in-place” order, but rather was a way to “tighten the valve” on the density of the population, reducing the risk of exposure and contagion.

Suffolk Legislator Susan Berland was at the head of changing ban the box legislation. File photo

The Suffolk County Legislature voted overwhelmingly March 17 to pass a piece of legislation that “bans the box” and restricts employers from asking about criminal histories in job applications.

The new law aims to allow those with criminal convictions to have more employment opportunities without the stigma of past criminal history. In addition, supporters of the bill have said that it would help those individuals rehabilitate and reacclimate into society. 

“There were a lot of hoops that were unnecessary, though we all agreed that we wanted to take the question off the application.”

— Susan Berland

County legislators have been trying to pass ban-the-box legislation since last year, but the latest breakthrough came late last month when lawmakers announced they had reached a bipartisan agreement on a new amended piece of legislation. Legislator Susan Berland (D-Dix Hills) sponsored the bill, while Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) and Samuel Gonzalez (D-Brentwood) were co-sponsors. 

“This law allows applicants with criminal records to have the opportunity to get their foot in the door, have that face-to-face with an employer and get that interview,” Berland said. 

In addition, the law gives the applicant the chance to address their criminal history with a prospective employer earlier if they choose to and protects the employer’s right to investigate the backgrounds of its applicants after an initial interview.

Berland said the new amended legislation protects both sides. She believed previous versions of the bill placed too much onus on employers, requiring them to wait an extended period of time until they could inquire about an applicant’s arrest or conviction record, and disclose to applicants the reason why they were not hired. 

“There were a lot of hoops that were unnecessary, though we all agreed that we wanted to take the question off the application,” the legislator said. 

Advocates have said Suffolk County has one of the largest parole populations in the state and that one in three adults have a criminal record in the U.S. According to PolitiFact, a fact-checking website, the FBI considers anyone who has been arrested on a felony to have a criminal record, even without a conviction. Effectively, one in three adults in the U.S. have a criminal record, but far less have actually been convicted. 

Supporters of the bill have said the ban would afford people a second chance, instead of having their applications discarded on the basis of one answer. Also, it would reduce the stigma and bias associated with individuals with a criminal background. Suffolk County will join more than 150 municipalities and 35 states in the U.S. which have implemented ban-the-box laws. 

“You can’t help but be affected by their stories,” Berland said. “These people have made mistakes, but they want to turn their lives around.”

Co-sponsor McCaffrey said in a statement that individuals deserve an opportunity to put their best foot forward in a job interview without being automatically disqualified. He said the legislation “strikes a fair balance.”

Gonzalez, the other co-sponsor, said he believes access to gainful employment will improve the quality of life for people with criminal records and the communities in which they live, ultimately reducing recidivism and increasing public safety. 

“We have been working on this legislation for quite some time — it’s a good day,” Berland said. “These are people that want to better themselves as well as families. This will get them in the door based on their application.”

The Huntington-based Main St. Board Game Cafe has had to let staff go in the hopes of surviving. They are still selling board games to-go. Photo from Board Game Cafe Facebook

By Kyle Barr and Leah Chiappino

As Monday rolled around this week, and as local businesses were looking to find ways to attract customers during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, a new order handed down by New York State put most of those considerations on hold.

On Monday, March 16, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) ordered many nonessential businesses to shut down, or in the case of restaurants, to lessen foot traffic and only allow takeout orders and deliveries.

PJ Cinemas has closed due to the state’s coronavirus mandates. Photo from Google Maps

“Our primary goal right now is to slow the spread of this virus so that the wave of new infections doesn’t crash our health care system, and everyone agrees social distancing is the best way to do that,” Cuomo said. “I have called on the federal government to implement nationwide protocols, but in their absence, we are taking this on ourselves.”

New York State, Connecticut and New Jersey will all be limiting social meetings of any sort to 50 people. Movie theaters, gyms and casinos were closed starting at 8 p.m. Monday.

The governor also announced restaurants and bars will be closed to sit down service and would need to refocus on takeout.

PJ Cinemas already announced closure until they, “receive further guidance from state, local and federal authorities.” All ticket sales will stay valid until they reopen.

Local elected officials said the restrictions were due to people’s reports that numerous bars had high activity over the weekend, despite warnings.

“We are discussing ways to make sure that it is enforced,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). “We expect bars and restaurants will comply … by and large we’ve had great compliance from people.”

Businesses and local business groups took the news with a mix of understanding and worry. Most understood the reason why the state has taken such drastic measures but could hardly fathom how this might impact them long term. The change could not just mean shuttered businesses for the next few weeks, but permanent closures.

Jennifer Dzvonar, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, said local businesses are the “lifeblood of the community,” and times such as these require the community to come out in support, whether it’s ordering takeout from restaurants or buying vouchers or gift certificates.

The difficulties will be severe. As people are asked to stay home, some away from work, less will have money to spend. She said service businesses, including plumbers, carpenters and the like, will be hard hit since less have the money to spend.

Jennifer Dzvonar, the PJS/T Chamber president, said local businesses will be hit hard by the state mandates. File Photo

“Businesses need as much positive reinforcement as possible,” Dzvonar said.

She added businesses also often sponsor Little Leagues or other community events, so while the governor’s order is in effect such groups may have to go without for the time being.

Other chamber leaders in the area wrote quickly to members to try and offer assistance. 

Gary Pollakusky, the president of the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce, said he is especially worried about businesses shutting down permanently. 

“When we look at our small businesses as the lifeblood of our communities, we should be focused on our mom and pop shops, more than ever in this time of need,” he said.

Jane Taylor, the executive director of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, said restaurants providing takeout meals is a good bridge until business returns to normal, but, “There is no question that our local businesses and restaurants are going to face challenges.” 

Northport Chamber of Commerce President James Izzo says the impact of the restrictions on the village could be devastating.

“Small businesses especially are trying to keep their [employees] paid, and it’s difficult to do that with no money coming in,” he said.

He added most village restaurants are trying to focus on takeout, removing or making their seating inaccessible. Most are trying to deliver food, which can be expensive.

“There’s two sides to this,” Izzo said. “You have some people who are afraid to come out who need food, need to eat and need supplies, and you have other people that want to come down, but everything is so limited. We have bars, but they don’t serve food, and you can’t have more than 10 people in a space, so that’s a done deal.”

Some boutique stores are open, but most are trying to supplement the lack of foot traffic with online shopping.

Izzo said that the village was quiet with minimal traffic Tuesday afternoon, while Sunday was busy with foot traffic.

“You can’t make a living one day a week,” he said. “We are a seasonal community and businesses depend on this time of the year after a long cold dark winter.”

He said the mood in the village is still hopeful, though uncertain.

“This is uncharted territory and everyone is trying to figure it out day by day,” he said.

Merchants are talking about using vehicles owned by the village to deliver meals to those in need. The chamber is working on providing advertising to businesses for free, to promote their delivery services or online products.

Izzo, a real estate broker, says the impact to his business has been minimal, stating most of his work is done online. Open houses have been slower than usual at this time of year, but not completely dead. However, he is anxious to see what this upcoming weekend will bring, in the wake of the new restrictions.

“This is uncharted territory and everyone is trying to figure it out day by day.”

— James Izzo

“A lot can change in six days, we will have to see what happens,” he said.

Copenhagen Bakery and Cafe has had to close its seating but is still open for takeout. The owner,  Flemming Hansen, says that most of the business is in takeout baked goods, and while the number of customers is down, there has been a steady flow of people purchasing breads and soups.

“So far we’re doing alright,” he said. “We’re taking it day by day.”

He added that cake sales have dropped, as people are not having gatherings.

Neil Goldberg, the owner of Main Street Board Game Café in Huntington, said the restrictions have forced him to lay off the entire staff in hopes of buying time.

“Nobody is going to make any money, it’s just about keeping the doors open,” he said.

The cafe’s purpose normally is to be a place where people can come in, socialize and play board games; however, they have had to eliminate all food services, besides prepackaged drinks and are only selling games.

“It’s not worth it for us to turn the ovens on,” he said.

He added the store had some purchases “from people who realize that they’re going to need more entertainment than just watching TV and watching the news.”

The cafe will offer curbside delivery of games and are looking to offer delivery services within a 15-mile radius in the coming days.

Goldberg said the local village businesses are checking in on each other and sharing advice and ideas.

“There’s no plan for this,” he said. “Nobody has insurance for this, because it doesn’t exist, and all you can do is lean on each other and hope things will improve.”

Despite all of this, Goldberg has seen moments of humanity. On Tuesday, former employees came in and bought games to help the shop stay afloat. Then, a mother, who has a son that plays in a game tournament at the shop, bought $1,000 worth of gift cards.

“That was really moving,” he said. 

Goldberg added the best way to support small businesses during this time is to patronize them as much as possible.

“Gift cards are good because, you will eventually use them and you are essentially providing a no-interest loan to the business that you like,” he said. “Honestly, the best thing that you can do is to stay socially distant so we can get through this quicker. Everything that everybody is doing is just Band-Aids at this point to a large problem, and the best thing for businesses is for things to go back to the way they were.”

Meanwhile, federal officials in the House and Senate are considering an aid bill to help workers. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would provide free testing, extend the unemployment payment period and offer paid sick leave and emergency leave for workers in companies with 500 or less employees. The latter could exempt companies with 50 or fewer employees if that measure would bankrupt the company.

President Donald Trump (R) has called for a $850 billion aid stimulus to major companies such as airlines impacted by the spread of the virus. The White House has also suggested deferring tax payments and even sending home checks to every American to cushion the blow of being out of work. As of press time, details have been sporadic, and the president’s office has flip-flopped on several initiatives already.

The Village of Port Jefferson declared a state of emergency March 16, after both the state and Suffolk County declared theirs. As of Tuesday, March 17, Village Hall and all village-owned facilities are closed to the public. Further board of trustee meetings will be held remotely, along with the budget presentation that was planned for March 30. The executive order only ends after a further order from the village mayor.

“The only thing we can do is ask residents to continue to support the local businesses.”

— Margot Garant

According to Mayor Margot Garant, the executive order allows code enforcement to enforce the new restrictions on businesses. 

“The only thing we can do is ask residents to continue to support the local businesses,” she said, adding those stores are “going to adapt, they will find means to keep those businesses viable.”

Barbara Ransome, the executive director of the PJ village chamber, said the chamber is working on a social media campaign encouraging takeout pickups and deliveries.

With nobody really able to say how long life will be disrupted because of COVID-19, the true consequences of this loss of business are still unknown. 

“My mother always used to say you can live with anything bad as long as you know it’s not long term, or you see it ending,” Ransome said.

Businesses, she said, are all hedging on when that end finally arrives.

Colleen Merlo, left, is presented with a check for $9,000 from United Way of Long Island. Photo courtesy of LIADV

L.I. Against Domestic Violence recently received a $9,000 Community Partner grant from United Way of Long Island.

The funding will support education and prevention programs for at-risk youth and community members of Suffolk County, as well as provide self-sufficiency and health resources for the survivors the agency serves.

“LIADV is very grateful to be a community partner with the United Way and to benefit from the generosity of donors. This funding allows us to reach youth, giving them tools to make healthy relationship choices. The program is vital to ending relationship violence,” said Colleen Merlo, executive director of L.I. Against Domestic Violence.

“We couldn’t do the work that we do without our community partner agencies and the contributions they make to the residents of Long Island,” said Theresa A. Regnante, president and CEO of United Way of Long Island. “By providing funding to these organizations, it shows that they meet the highest standards of excellence in the not-for-profit sector.”

To learn more about L.I. Against Domestic Violence, visit www.liadv.org.

Croxley’s Ale House, 155 W. Main St. in Smithtown has closed  its doors. The announcement was made on the restaurant’s Facebook page on Feb. 20. “Regretfully, after ten wonderful years, Croxley’s Smithtown has closed its doors. We are very grateful to our amazing staff and our loyal customers. We hope to one day return to this great town but until then we look forward to serving you at our other locations.” The restaurant, which opened in 2012, featured a beer garden and specialized in German beers and dishes. Remaining locations include Farmingdale, Rockville Centre, Franklin Square and Brooklyn.

The Three Village Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon-cutting and grand-opening celebration for Gypsy Hair Lounge on Feb. 27. Established in 2015, the salon recently moved from its Port Jefferson Station location on Nesconset Highway to the Three Village Shopping Center at 1389 Route 25A in East Setauket. The salon specializes in creative coloring, highlights, blowouts, extensions and event styling. 

Chamber members Michael Ardolino, Jane Taylor and Charlie Lefkowitz presented a Certificate of Congratulations to owner Nicole Digilio and welcomed her and her staff to the community. 

Hours of operation are noon to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, call 631-374-6397.

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Local residents at the February PJS/T Civic meeting contest with developers over a planned addition to the Nesconset Shopping Center. Photo by Kyle Barr

A potential pad building in the middle of the Nesconset Shopping Center parking lot has some PJS community members agitated, but property owners say such an addition will help keep the shops viable long-term.

Design plans for the new proposed pad building at the Nesconset Shopping Center. Photo by Kyle Barr

The shopping center, located along Route 347 slightly west of Terryville Road, is owned by Brixmor Property Group, a national retail property corporation. The proposed pad would include a 7,000-square-foot, single-story island that would house two separate storefronts. 

Brixmor representatives said the two fronts would house a dentist office and a bank, respectively. Plans say the Bethpage Federal Credit Union, currently located at the far western end of the shopping center, would move to the building that would include a drive-through. Reps added they are in talks with Aspen Dental, which has offices in upstate New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, for the other space. Town of Brookhaven zoning for the property would remain the same, retail J-2.

Nicholas Andreadis, the regional vice president of leasing for Brixmor’s north region, said Bethpage Federal Credit Union would likely vacate the shopping center if it isn’t able to secure a drive-through.

At a Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic meeting Feb. 25, representatives of Brixmor and its hired architects came to speak on the proposed addition. 

Some residents had concerns with the location of the pad, especially in how it effectively bisects the parking lot. The lot has three entrances from Nesonset Highway, and the middlemost one would be directly in front of the proposed storefront. A central lane running through the parking lot currently allows drivers to go back and forth parallel to the highway, but plans show the lane would be cut off just before the middle entrance. Cars would have to stop and either go around the pad or stop at several stop signs. Company representatives said this was at the request of the town to slow down traffic through that area.

The changes would reduce the total number of stalls by 25 from 599 to 574.

The shopping center is currently full of stores including a Dollar Tree, Five Guys burgers and fries and Carnival Restaurant & Pizzeria. There is only one vacant location. On Saturday, a new art studio One River  School of Art & Design opened its doors at the shopping center.

Some residents complained they have used the central lane to bypass having to go onto Route 347 and skip the confusing and often dangerous intersection between the highway and Norwood Avenue. Sal Pitti, the civic president, said taking such shortcuts is, in itself, unsafe. 

Site plans for the pad building show a 7,000-square-foot addition in the center of the parking lot, mandating a reconfiguration of traffic patterns. Photos by Kyle Barr

“That’s where a lot of the problems start when people try to come in and out of the parking lot,” Pitti said. 

Will Zieman, 6th Precinct COPE officer, also spoke to the problems of using that parking lot as a cut through.

“Is it reasonable to predict what people are going to do off 347?” he said. “It’s very hard for you, as a driver, to predict what another vehicle will do coming out of that shopping center.”

Though, as Port Jeff Station resident Jennifer Simoes put it, even being forced to drive in front of the storefronts because of the new pad is itself dangerous for pedestrians.

“I don’t want to go in front of the storefronts either, because I don’t want to hit anyone who’s coming out with their pizza,” she said. “I’m not going to want to go in there, and there’s another Dollar Tree and Marshalls in the
other direction.”

Pitti agreed the larger issue comes from increased pedestrian traffic in an often busy parking lot.

Charlie McAteer, the civic’s recording secretary, also suggested the company look at how pedestrians were to get from the pad building to the main shopping center.

“What I’m seeing where you’re walking right now, you’re going to end at a walkway and you’re into striped parking, and you will have to walk between parked cars,” he said. “There will be people who want to go to the bank and then go eat.”

Reuben Twersky, a project director for Brixmor, said people will often ignore walkways and crosswalks and routes even if they were created.

“We would like to do it in as safe a manner as possible,” he said.

The area along Route 347 has been a particular hotbed of issues with both vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Last year, 17-year-old Jenna Perez, an employee at Five Guys, was killed in a hit-and-run while crossing Nesconset Highway outside a crosswalk.

In addition to the changes in parking lot design, Brixmor plans to reduce the height of lights to 20 feet and add 19,000 square feet of landscaping to the front of the property bordering Nesconset Highway. 

The company is also looking to redo and move the sign displaying the names stores within. Designs show the proposed sign going 26 1/2 feet up from the ground on new brick pylons. 

Philip Butler, an attorney from Hauppauge-based Farrell Fritz, said the company’s next steps are to submit final comments to the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals by March 11. After the zoning board of appeals gives approval for variances, then the company will be back in front of the Planning Board to look at traffic and parking. The company is also awaiting on New York State Department of Transportation on a traffic study before it can move fully ahead.