Government

The Brookhaven Landfill is set to close in 2024, but while the town has put aside money towards that end, a concrete plan has yet to materialize. Photo from Google maps

Brookhaven Town is planning for a potentially long-term project that could have Islandwide impact on residents’ waste.

Advocates protested in front of the landfill Oct. 31. Photo from Brookhaven Landfill Action and Remediation Group

On Thursday, Nov. 19, the town announced it has issued a request for proposal for a regional ash processing and recycling facility. The town has two alternatives on the RFP, one that includes an ashfill component and the other a standalone ash-recycling facility without the ashfill. The site would be located just east of the current landfill site at 350 Horseblock Road in Yaphank.

Such a facility would not accept solid waste or construction debris. No full decision has technically been made on constructing any new ashfill, as the town is still awaiting the word on an environmental review.

The town has planned to close and cap the current landfill in 2024 and has been raising millions of dollars in a special fund for that date when it’s finally capped. Officials and experts have said the closing of the Island’s last landfill, combined with the potential closing of twin ashfills in the Town of Babylon, could create a garbage crisis on Long Island. The only options left for solid waste could be trucking it off Long Island, a costly proposition for towns that are likely to be suffering from pandemic-related expenses for years.

Currently, the Brookhaven landfill handles over 350,000 tons of ash annually from energy-from-waste facilities, in addition to handling 720,000 tons of solid waste. Each day 2,000 trucks transport waste off the Island. 

Still, murmurs of the prospective ashfill site have led to controversy over the past year. Some residents and advocates have petitioned and publicly protested against the creation of any new place to dump ash, saying it will cause health issues for residents who live near the landfill. 

On Oct. 31, residents and advocates protested in front of the landfill against such a new ashfill. Activists for the protest organizer, Brookhaven Landfill Action and Remediation Group, said the location of this new ashfill was especially concerning with more than half the residents of the surrounding community are Black or Latino, according to census data. Those residents have complained about odor and health issues, pointing to the landfill as the culprit.

The group called for a “regional solution” to the solid waste issue. 

“We stand with the African American, Latinx, Indigenous, and working-class communities of North Bellport who refuse to continue bearing the brunt of the Town of Brookhaven’s fiscal mismanagement and lack of environmental planning,” said Monique Fitzgerald, a Bellport activist and leader of the landfill action group, in a release. 

Still, Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) has also sought such regional efforts, though there is not much in the way of any one person or group stepping up to the plate. 

At a Feb. 27 meeting of the Long Island Regional Planning Council about the impending solid waste crisis, business leaders, officials and regional leaders called for potentially finding other ways to ship trash off Long Island. Romaine suggested innovation in ways for residents to dispose of garbage rather than just burning or storing in landfills.

Sheriffs’ offices around the state have said they are not enforcing or it’s difficult to enforce a state executive order limiting gatherings to 10 people or less. File photo

Last week, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department posted to its Facebook page that it would not be participating in the enforcement of limitations of Thanksgiving gatherings.

The responsibility to enforce the executive order that took effect Nov. 13 in New York state, limiting private gatherings to 10 people or less to help curb the increase of coronavirus infections, will fall on the Suffolk County and East End police departments this holiday. While many commented on the Facebook post that they were thankful to hear of the sheriff’s decision, others felt the department has an obligation to enforce the state’s rules.

Despite nonenforcement on the sheriff’s department’s part, Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D) said in an email that it has been the department’s policy to encourage responsible behavior since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We do that here at the correctional facility in Suffolk County by enforcing mask wearing and social distancing, and advise staff to stay home if they are ill or have come in contact with someone with COVID-19,” he said. “I strongly urge our residents here to do the same. Do not put yourselves or your families at risk.”

Toulon added that law enforcement and military members, as well as other professionals, “sacrifice time with their families during holidays and our residents need to make responsible decisions.”

Several sheriffs’ offices and elected officials across the state have announced they are not enforcing the executive order or have said it’s difficult to enforce. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) addressed the problem of enforcing the 10-person rule at his Nov. 23 media briefing, saying he didn’t understand how they were choosing not to enforce the law.

“I believe that law enforcement officer violates his or her constitutional duty,” Cuomo said, adding the officers don’t have the right to choose what laws they enforce. As an example, he presented the scenario of what would happen if officers decided they didn’t think cocaine should be illegal.

Cuomo added even though many residents believe they can’t be told what to do in their own houses, laws apply both outside and inside of homes such as domestic and drug laws.

“I’m telling you that you are responsible for your actions and here are the numbers, and the numbers don’t lie and this is the increase before any other increase from Thanksgiving, and if you increase social activity then you’re going to see the number go further up,” the governor said.

According to a statement from the New York State Sheriffs’ Association, sheriffs from across the state have responded to thousands of violation complaints since the first COVID-19 orders were issued and have been doing what they can to address the complaints.

“The criminal laws have very limited applicability with respect to those complaints, and in most cases use of the criminal laws would be unwise,” the statement read.

The statement went on to say that most residents have been following the health directives regarding the coronavirus, and the executive order which limits nonessential private residential gatherings to 10 people or less “has caused great consternation among many of our citizens, who envision armed officers arriving at their doors to count the number of people around the Thanksgiving table.” The association said it would also be difficult to determine how many people in a household are guests, and whether or not a gathering is essential or nonessential without violating a citizen’s right to privacy.

“Many sheriffs and other law enforcement leaders have felt compelled to allay those concerns by assuring citizens that officers will not be randomly coming to their homes on Thanksgiving Day to count the number of people inside,” the statement read. “That would be neither practical nor constitutional.”

By Nancy Marr

While we await the BOE’s certification of our election results (required by Dec. 7) we need to plan our priorities for the incoming NYS Legislators. Of critical importance is post-census redistricting. After the mid-2021 release of the 2020 census results, states must redraw their state and congressional district lines. These districts determine how communities are represented at the local, state and federal levels, influencing how our government works for us.

Gerrymandering (the intentional manipulation of the redistricting process by the people in political power to keep or change political power) can result from partisan redistricting in a number of ways, such as by consolidating communities into one district, or packing, which gives that community only one representative in the legislature; or by dividing the community across districts, called cracking, ensuring that the community is always the minority and less likely to be adequately represented by their representatives.

Two common forms of gerrymandering are racial gerrymandering and partisan gerrymandering. In 2018, the Supreme Court had the opportunity to set federal standards when states draw their districts that could ultimately curb partisan gerrymandering. Instead, the Court ruled to allow states to make their own determinations about partisan gerrymandering practices.

The New York State Constitution was amended in 2014 to designate an Independent Redistricting Commission to replace the legislature-controlled New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) as the entity responsible for drawing the lines. The new commission is made up of four Democratic and four Republican appointees. Two additional nonaffiliated commissioners who are not members of those parties are then selected by a majority vote of the eight politically-appointed commissioners.

Members shall represent the diversity of the residents of the state with regard to race, ethnicity, gender, language and geographic reference. They cannot have been a member of the NYS legislature or U.S. Congress, or a state-wide official, or have been a state officer or employee or legislative employee, a registered lobbyist in NYS, or a political party chairman, or the spouse of any of those mentioned. Co-executives, one from each party, direct it. A chairperson, to organize the panel, is elected by majority vote.

The legislature has recently appointed its eight members, and those eight members selected two additional nonaffiliated commissioners. The commission also recently met to hire its Co-Executive Directors and begin planning its bylaws and staffing plans

To ensure that the redistricting process is fair and doesn’t lead to racial or partisan gerrymandering, districts should contain as nearly as possible an equal number of inhabitants and shall consist of contiguous territory and be as compact in form as practicable. It should consider the maintenance of cores of existing districts, or pre-existing political subdivisions, including counties, cities and towns, and communities of interest. Data showing race, income, education, employment, and age will guide the process.

Although New York State has not passed a Voter Rights Act, it should follow the guidelines set by the federal Voter Rights Act, which targeted certain New York election districts for pre-clearance before changing election lines.

Because the date for releasing the census counts was moved from April to July 31, 2021, and June 2022 is now the first NYS primary affected, there is a shortened time frame for public review of the plan, and input of community members as the plan is made. The commission must hold 12 public hearings with proposed maps available at least 30 days prior to the first public hearing. The plan must be submitted to the legislature by Jan. 1, 2022. If it is rejected by the legislature or the governor, the commission must submit a second plan no later than Feb. 28, 2022, to be approved by the legislature and implemented by March 2022. If it is not then approved, the plan will be drawn up by the legislature, or by a court master.

The Independent Redistricting Commission can curb gerrymandering through increased public input, accountability and transparent processes. We urge the legislature to ensure that the commission follows open meetings laws and allows for ample citizen input at the twelve public hearings that are required and as the plans are drafted. The success of New York’s first independent redistricting commission hinges on whether the legislature can provide adequate support and allow sufficient independence for the newly formed maps commission. 

Nancy Marr is first vice president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org or call 631-862-6860.

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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Smithtown Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim cut the ribbon at the new parking lot on Pulaski Road. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Town officials joined together to celebrate the completion of a new municipal parking lot located on Pulaski Road in downtown Kings Park.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Smithtown Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim cut the ribbon at the new parking lot on Pulaski Road. Photo by Julianne Mosher

On Monday, Nov. 23, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) was joined by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) to mark the new parking spaces and its quick completion with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“This completed project, finished just one year from the date of award, comes at a crucial time when many restaurants have used portions of their parking lots to expand outdoor dining,” Wehrheim said. “However, in the long term, the municipal lot will create a more pedestrian-friendly downtown that supports walkability, increases foot traffic to local businesses and decreases traffic congestion.”

In October last year, Bellone signed a bill awarding the Town of Smithtown $500,000 in county Jumpstart funding to build the lot in downtown Kings Park on Pulaski Road, right off of Main Street. The Jumpstart program is part of a comprehensive economic development plan designed to encourage, foster and enhance the planning and developments of Suffolk’s downtowns. Since 2013, the county has awarded almost $14.5 million in funds.

“The fact that we’re standing in this parking lot today, basically a year from when this bill was signed, is an extraordinary act of efficiency and excellence by the Town of Smithtown,” Bellone said. “My hat’s off to you and your team for getting this done.”

The new lot features 23 spaces and several electric charging stations. To celebrate the upcoming holidays, the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce decorated the lot with festive wreaths.

“You don’t often describe parking lots as beautiful,” Bellone added. “But this is a beautiful parking lot.”

The lot will help small business, as parking is a constant concern in local downtowns, especially with spots taken over by outdoor dining. Members from the chamber of commerce and the officials in attendance all agreed that shopping and dining in downtowns will help the local economy.

“The small business community has been hard hit across Long Island,” said Vision Long Island’s Eric Alexander. “A government that listened on multiple levels and funded — this is how you do good downtown projects. This is wonderful.”

According to Wehrheim, the Kings Park Downtown Market Analysis and Action Plan was completed by Larisa Ortiz Associates in 2017. The study determined that businesses along “restaurant row” were suffering due to a lack of sufficient parking. The analysis was backed up by public polling from both residents and business owners.

“We have to do everything that we can to support small businesses, not only to survive this crisis, but to get back to thriving,” Bellone said. “We will get through this and we will overcome this.”

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Conifer’s revised design plans for the Port Jefferson Crossing apartment complex were approved Sept. 17 after multiple design changes over the past several months. Photo from planning board meeting

The Village of Port Jefferson has set a number to what an upcoming apartment complex project is worth for recreational land.

Officials voted to set the recreational parkland fee for Port Jefferson Crossing at $1,500 per unit at 45 units for a total of $67,500. Village officials said they are setting aside the funds specifically for developing Upper Port even further.

Mayor Margot Garant said they would be putting those funds in a special account to be used for revitalizing the up-the-hill portions of the village, which has been a largely blighted area for several years. All trustees agreed those funds should be used to develop uptown. Vice Mayor Stan Loucks suggested it could be for new recreational space in the Highland area of the village.

The project currently has plans for three floors, with the first floor being 3,200 square feet of retail and the next two containing 37 one-bedroom apartments and eight two-bedroom apartments. The front part of the project will take up 112 lineal feet of frontage on Main Street.

Village Attorney Brian Egan said Conifer, the company behind Port Jefferson Crossing, has sent a letter to the effect of making some kind of donation to the village equivalent to the fee, but as of right now, the money is already in the village’s hands.

Alison LaPointe, special village attorney to the Building and Planning Department, previously told TBR News Media the payment in lieu of parking fee for the C-2 district, where Crossing resides, has been set at $4,000 per space via a 2018 resolution.

Parkland fees are set by the board of trustees on a case-by-case basis. The planning board has to approve the fee.

Conifer representatives have previously told the village planning board they were requesting officials consider renovated sidewalks and other amenities in place of the parkland fee. Officials have previously granted another The Shipyard, an apartment complex in downtown Port Jeff, a reduced parkland fee because of patio space and other open amenities included in the complex, though it was later confirmed the space was inaccessible to the public. The village changed its code in September of last year to excise rooftop decks, patios and other common areas not accessible to the general public from being considered for reduced or eliminated parkland fee.

Village Trustee Bruce Miller, who opposed The Shipyard’s reduced fee in 2018, said he hoped the village wasn’t going down the same road again. Garant agreed, saying “that’s why we’re here.”

Port Jefferson Crossing has already received an agreement with the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency for an estimated $5.2 million mortgage tax exemption for help in demolishing the current building and a $66,236 Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement starting in 2023-24. They join many of the other new apartment developments that have received PILOT agreements, including The Brookport and the Overbay Apartments developments. 

IDA documents also show they anticipate 1.5 employees will be needed at the new site, though that doesn’t include what businesses may take up space on the first floor facing the street.

Garant also said at the Nov. 16 meeting she was meeting with representatives of the Long Island Rail Road about, among other things, potentially making the parking lot metered. This would allow a revitalized upper port to be used during times in the evening much less trafficked by commuters for people to visit any businesses.

In addition, the village has to work with the LIRR on designing Station Street, which will be located just south of Conifer’s project. 

Another apartment development by the Gitto Group is looking to start up at the corner of Main Street and North Country Road, where the PJ Lobster House currently stands.

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PJ village meeting videos are available for 24 hours after their livestreamed. Image caputred from YouTube

Meeting videos available online from the Village of Port Jefferson are being taken down after 24 hours. Though as the village points to the lack of any law that mandates a government or agency keep recordings up for any length of time, some residents said it’s a matter of transparency as well as allowing more residents the opportunity to participate in village government.

Since the start of the pandemic, Port Jefferson has been livestreaming every board of trustee, planning, zoning and zoning board of appeals meeting live on YouTube to the village’s account. Those livestreamed videos were then left up as videos for the public to view.

Sometime within the last few months, those videos have started to be taken down after a 24-hour period. No public announcement was made that past videos would no longer be available.

Officials said the point of them using YouTube is not to set up a permanent library of meetings, adding the meeting minutes remain the official documentation of prior meetings.

The village board of trustees hosts meetings every other Monday, where one takes place in the afternoon around 3:30 p.m., which does not allow public comment, and another meeting in the later evening around 7 p.m., which does allow public comment. During the pandemic, residents were able to ask questions to the board via a chat window on the YouTube page, via email or by being invited to the board’s Zoom meeting. Currently, meeting videos from the past few months still exist on the village’s YouTube channel in several different playlists, but all are currently set to private and are inaccessible by the public.

Before the pandemic, Port Jefferson did not record any meetings either live or for viewing after the fact. 

In comparison, the Town of Brookhaven allows people to view the bimonthly Zoom meetings and offer comments via email or through Zoom chat. Those Zoom meetings are posted to YouTube where each can be
viewed indefinitely. 

New York State’s Open Meetings Law has changed due to the pandemic, eliminating the mandate that meetings need to be held in person and be available to the public. New open meeting guidelines do relay that an agency or authority “to the extent practicable and within available funds, streamed on such website in real time, and posted on such website within and for a reasonable time after the meeting.”

Village Attorney Brian Egan said neither Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) COVID-19 executive orders nor the state Public Officers Law require a village to keep a perpetual archive of meeting videos. 

“The YouTube videos were done to fulfill the requirement of the ‘real-time’ viewing requirement of the executive orders but were never intended to form a video meeting library,” Egan said via email. “Once the meeting time passed, the videos were removed shortly thereafter. The official record has been, and remains, the officially adopted meeting minutes.”

Egan added that once after the pandemic passes and the executive orders expire the village will look to return to in-person meetings and will no longer need to use YouTube.

Rebecca Kassay, the village’s most recently elected trustee, said she would like to see those videos become available again.

“While we have this temporary platform, why not utilize the benefit of increased accessibility?”  Kassay said in an email. “We’re proud of what we do for the community; I’d like for more folks to be able to tune in at their convenience and see how local government is working for them. It’s always impressive to hear just how much my fellow trustees and the mayor have to report on a very wide range of Port Jefferson community efforts, from safety issues to the [Port Jefferson] Country Club to environmental protection.” 

The owner of The Oasis club in Smithtown is in talks with town officials to negotiate a sale of the building. Photo by Donna Deedy

Smithtown landmarks have changed regularly throughout the centuries, but one town staple has basically remained the same for decades. The Town of Smithtown is hoping to do something about that — changing a topless bar to a place where families can enjoy recreational time on the water.

If the Smithtown Town Board’s proposed plans go through, The Oasis Gentlemen’s Club, across from the iconic bull statue, may become part of a town park through condemnation. The issue was discussed at an Oct. 27 special town meeting and public hearing via Zoom. The club sits on two lots of land that are the equivalent of a fifth of an acre. Smithtown hopes to acquire the property to use for a public park that will have waterfront access to the Nissequogue River that sits right behind it, joining up with what is now a county park slightly east of Oasis.

If all goes as planned, Smithtown will make a park swap with Suffolk County. The county will acquire the town’s Bill Richards Park next to Blydenburgh County Park, while Suffolk will hand over Paul T. Given County Park to Smithtown.

During the Oct. 27 special meeting, Peter Hans, Smithtown planning director, said the Oasis property is zoned for neighborhood business. The planning director said the structure predates an assessment done by the town in 1947. That year, it was listed as Cliff’s Tavern Barroom. Hans said the building is not on the historic sites inventory.

During the meeting, the planning director pointed to other county and town parks in the vicinity of the building and said Smithtown is updating its Local Waterfront Revitalization Program. He added that in 1989 the Town Board adopted the program which includes the Oasis parcel for acquisition for conservation.

“It is located in an environmentally sensitive area,” he said. “You have the river directly adjacent. There’s a sanitary system on the property, and if the property were redeveloped, there’s potential to remove or update the sanitary system. So, as it stands right now, we’re just in the concept stage, but there is potential to redevelop the whole waterfront around the whole area for park purposes.”

Thomas Murray, from Pelham Manor who has owned the business and property since 2002, spoke at the meeting. Murray said he paid for an appraisal in December 2017, and the town attorney countered with another around a year later. He said since then “no offer has been forthcoming since I started this process in 2017.” However, he is still open to negotiating with the town to avoid any litigation.

Murray said all taxes and bills have been made timely, the bar hasn’t caused many problems relative to other bars and there is a tenant upstairs who maintains the property.

“Residents of the area have and are employed at the business, depending on the employment for their livelihood,” he said. “I conduct business with other companies in the area, which helps improve the local economy.”

He added, “I would say going back to the Bull Creek, this bar has been a safe rite of passage for many in the area.”

The building has been used for adult entertainment since 1979 and was once named the Bull Creek Inn. Members of the Facebook group “You know you’re from Smithtown, New York if:” also remember the business having names such as Habitat and Rosebuds after Cliff’s Tavern Barroom was no longer in business.

Town of Smithtown spokesperson Nicole Garguilo said discussions about an acquisition began in 2018.

“In May of 2019, the Town commissioned an appraisal and presented our valuation to the property owner and his attorney in or about September 2019,” she said. “In January of 2020, the town received a counter-offer for an amount that simply could not be justified given the town’s appraisal.  Later that month the town commissioned a condemnation appraisal for the property.”
The town has 90 days after the Oct. 27 public hearing to make a decision.

The Town of Brookhaven Town Hall. File photo

Though Brookhaven Town has a structured financial path through 2021, much of it depends on where the pandemic goes in the opening months of next year. The town is also hoping for federal reimbursement of millions of dollars spent in both pandemic and storm response.

The town held a public online Zoom hearing for its $307 million budget Nov. 5. During the hearing Tamara Branson, commissioner of finance, said the biggest increases are in the form of a $2.34 million general fund property tax increase. This is being offset slightly by highway taxes, leading to an annual tax increase of a little under $9 for the average homeowner. It also remains under the 1.56% New York State tax levy cap. Refuse and garbage will remain at $1 a day for a single-family home at $365. There is also a 3% contract increase for ambulance districts as with the pandemic “we felt they needed a little extra money this year above and beyond the 1.56% property tax cap,” Branson said.  

The new budget also has to assume the government will resume normal operations starting the second quarter of next year, though that remains subject to any future surges of COVID-19.

The town did not use any 2020 fund balance to fill in the gaps of the 2021 budget, as “we have a lot of risk to the fund balance already,” she said.

Matt Miner, chief of operations, said the town has focused on not using any fund balance to balance the budget, saying they want to “live within their means.”

“We do have fund balance should there be an unexpected emergency,” he said.

The town laid out the costs to deal with the pandemic, along with other natural disasters. The town anticipates a cost of $4 million to retain certain employees at full salary during the pandemic, namely those who were unable to work because of the mandated 50% workforce reduction. Another $1.5 million was used for contractual expenses related to the pandemic, which includes mitigation efforts to reduce the spread of the virus. 

In terms of storm response, Brookhaven expects a cost of approximately $14 million to both prepare for Tropical Storm Isaias and remove debris from people’s homes on practically every residential street within the town. Another $15 million is approximated for tree stabilization after the storm had passed.

Branson said COVID contractual expenses are ineligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency aid. Miner later clarified there was still a question of what other expenses the town can expect to get reimbursed by FEMA.

There is another near-$30 million for other grant awards that the town has to advance, though those funds are expected to be reimbursed by the granting agencies.

In addition, the town is reducing its snow removal budget by $1.2 million, saying it has another $5.4 million left in the snow removal reserves for any major winter issues. 

“Preservation of fund balance from a budgetary point of view was not an option, given these risks that we have to fund balance as we move into 2021,” she said. 

Still, the 2021 budget does maintain constituent services through some reorganization. Department revenues are being reduced by $9 million compared to 2020, though some is offset by $5.5 million in spending reductions. The rest has to come from property tax increases.

Other revenues, including from the landfill and recreation fees, are down across the board. 

Brookhaven is set to vote on its 2021 budget at its Nov. 19 meeting.

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Residents were concerned to see vape and hookah merch being set up in an empty store in Chandler Square, but both the village and shop owner say the new location will focus on tobacco product. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Questions over Port Jeff’s handling of hookah and vape products has become inflamed once again, though the outcome might just be the loss of one vape shop and the opening of a new smoke store.

Locals have noticed smoke and hookah products moving into a space in Chandler Square next to where The Soap Box resides. Officials said Sanjay Bakshi, the owner of Hookah City, which was located on Main Street, had planned to move from its space there to that new spot but, upon learning of the move, village officials quickly moved in to explain current code requirements.

Village trustee Kathianne Snaden said the village was alerted after residents spotted vaping paraphernalia in the front window. Deputy village attorney, Richard Harris, spoke to owner and is working on getting the issue resolved.

Village code restricts any new vaping stores from opening up in anything but light industrial zoning. All new vape shops or hookah parlors must also be granted a special-use permit by the board of trustees. 

Snaden said Bakshi, has agreed to comply with village code and is continuing his work opening in the new space, though now as a smoke shop selling cigars, pipes, tobacco and other products. Harris said the owner understands the code and has moved about 90% of all the vape or hookah-type products from the premises. The Port Jeff fire marshal, Ryan Klimar, has also been to the location and has recommended a few minor changes to the sprinklers and fire extinguisher placements.

“He understands very clearly what he needs to do,” Harris said.

Bakshi said the owner of the previous location did not renew his Main Street lease, requiring the move. The new space, he said, is going to be part smoke shop, part “convenience store” that sells candies and soda. He is getting rid of the name Hookah City and is just going with Smoke Shop, displayed in small letters on the front window.

Bakshi confirmed he does not plan to display any smoking product in the window and that he doesn’t plan to sell any kind of electronic tobacco products like the old vapes and hookahs.

Before the move Hookah City had been able to continue despite the code change, having been grandfathered in under old requirements. In 2019, when the shop was cited by Suffolk County police for allegedly selling a vape product to a minor, village trustees openly talked about what could be done to the shop but village attorney, Brian Egan, said that officials could not impact a business in any major way unless the code was violated. 

In the past, Port Jeff constables have sent Suffolk police details of what they said were examples of the store allegedly selling to minors, according to past interviews with Fred Leute, code enforcement chief.

Though more and more smoke and vape shops have reported an incredible decline in sales since New York State officially banned the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes back in May, and that’s in addition to the wider economic impact of the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Schools in recent years have complained about the number of vape products getting into minors’ hands, despite age restrictions. Though the science is not conclusive, studies have shown the harmful and addictive nature of nicotine-based products. The U.S. Federal Drug Administration guidelines are still evolving, but the FDA considers vaping medically unsafe for young people, pregnant women and adult smokers who are not using it to quit the habit.

Still, for village officials like Snaden, seeing the last remaining vape shop go is a clear victory for the local community. 

“Anything keeping vape products out of the hands of our children is better for our schools, parents and kids,” she said.

SC Legislators join Dr. David Fiorella, fourth from right, in congratulating the Mobile Stroke Unit’s efforts after it was launched last year. Photo from William Spencer’s office

In March of last year, Dr. David Fiorella went before the Suffolk County Health Committee chaired by Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) and announced the launch of Long Island’s first Mobile Stroke Unit program aimed at reducing death of stroke victims. Fast forward 18 months and Fiorella has reported to the same committee Oct. 1 that since deployment, the MSU has been on over 1000 total calls. Findings during the first-year show Stony Brook Medicine’s units have successfully facilitated the diagnosis and rapid delivery of time-critical therapies to stroke patients at the point of care resulting in substantially improved outcomes.

“We are also very grateful to all of the members for the Suffolk County Legislature for their help in promoting the program’s success and look forward to further improving upon these outcomes and expanding this program to service even more residents of Suffolk County in the future,” said Fiorella, a neurointerventionalist and Director of the Stony Brook Cerebrovascular Center and Co-Director of the Stony Brook Cerebrovascular and Comprehensive Stroke Center.  

Fiorella also mentioned their intent to locate two more stroke units to add to the current slate located at Long Island Expressway Exits 57 and 68. Each unit is equipped with telehealth capability to communicate with physicians at Stony Brook University Hospital. When a suspected stroke call comes in, the mobile stroke unit is dispatched and the team works quickly to determine the type of stroke the patient is experiencing using the features on board including a CT scanner and CT angiogram. Once that is determined, first responders in the unit can begin administering time-sensitive stroke treatments.

Data from the program further shows stroke patients transported by the MSU had much greater rates of discharges directly from the hospital to home after treatment, higher rates of independent clinical outcomes after stroke and much lower rates of death from stroke when compared to national averages, county average, and Stony Brook’s own data preceding the MSU program.   

“The work that Dr. Fiorella and his team are doing is extraordinary,” Spencer said. “The reduced time it takes their units to reach and care for stroke victims is yielding measurable improvements to the lives they touch.”

Spencer also noted the legislature’s goal in expanding the program. 

Strokes are a major public health concern nationwide. Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States suffers a stroke and every four minutes someone dies on one, according to the American heart Association.