Election News

Incumbent Brookhaven Receiver of Taxes Louis Marcoccia Photo by Raymond Janis

By Aidan Johnson

As Tuesday’s elections quickly approach, Town of Brookhaven residents will mostly choose between two candidates for each race. However, in the case of the Office of Receiver of Taxes, only one candidate is running an active campaign: incumbent Louis Marcoccia (R). The name of the other candidate, Tricia Chiaramonte (D), does appear on the ballot but she has not run a campaign. 

Before he was the receiver of taxes, Marcoccia owned a computer consulting firm and taught at universities such as Hofstra.

Marcoccia sat down with TBR News Media to discuss his job, priorities, why he wanted to be the receiver of taxes and more.

Functions of the office

Marcoccia said the primary purpose of the receiver of taxes is to receive and process the payments of the taxing districts, of which the town collects about $1.8 billion and then passes on the dollars to finance for the final distribution.

The office also has to deal with bounced checks, which results in penalty fees for the persons who try to pay with them.

Marcoccia also warned about people who will pay someone else’s taxes because if they were to pay it before the person who owns the property does, he has to reject the second check. After a certain period of years, if the person has a pattern of paying taxes on a property, they could claim the property. While Marcoccia said this phenomenon doesn’t happen much anymore, he still monitors it.

Marcoccia also explained that one of the reasons the receiver of taxes is an elected position is to create a distinction between the distribution of money and the person who collects the money so that it is less likely that anyone could steal public money.

There are multiple infrastructure guardrails put into place, with Marcoccia saying that they don’t go home “until we balance” every day and that when he transfers the money, nobody can change where the destination is.

“We have the accounting function that balances, never touches the money, and the people that actually touch the [checks],” he said, explaining that the person who manages the books does not have access to the money deposited daily.

This must be done on time since the office must distribute the money to the taxing districts, such as school districts and fire departments. Marcoccia noted that villages collect their own taxes.

Accomplishments

Marcoccia said that he has automated his office, which formerly had 38 employees but, through attrition, now has 23, saving many dollars in salaries and benefits.

The office also put in an online system to allow people to pay online, with around 70% of the taxpayers using that option. While Marcoccia said that the office can still make mistakes, for the past decade there have been no deficiencies.

Marcoccia said he has a great deal of respect for his office staff, saying that he rarely has raised his voice at them. While he may be an elected official, he does not care about the politics of the job, only focusing on the work that needs to be done.

Marcoccia said he makes sure to offer inclusive options, such as special software for blind people and having a sign language interpreter for those who need one. He also said that they answer all emails within 24 hours.

He also said that he would keep files from decades ago, despite not being obligated to do so, in case a resident requires a document such as a tax bill from a bygone era.

Marcoccia has a philosophy that “if you have a discretionary call, make the error on the side of the taxpayer.” This includes putting a mailbox in front of the tax office in front of Town Hall, which allows somebody to pay their taxes without facing a dollar penalty if they try to pay it on the last day of tax day after the office is already closed.

“If you’re five minutes late, you stick it in the box that’s outside, and the next time we collect that, we assume it’s on time,” he explained.

Why run?

Marcoccia said that it is about running a department. He has no interest in running for Town Board, county Legislature or state office. Instead, he thoroughly enjoys the day-to-day functions of running a department.

“I consider myself a very good manager,” he said. “That’s what I do best.”

Voting will take place Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Gary Bodenburg, left, and and Town of Brookhaven Councilmenber Jonathan Kornreich debate the local issues facing the town’s 1st Council District. Photos by Raymond Janis

By Mallie Jane Kim

Special education teacher and school administrator Gary Bodenburg (R) is challenging incumbent Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) to represent the Town of Brookhaven’s 1st Council District. The two faced off in a debate on local issues at the TBR News Media offices.

Bodenburg works in South Huntington’s school district and said he has spent a lot of time with at-risk populations, including students with special needs and victims of domestic violence. He said he thinks it’s important for average citizens to become “activated” for the benefit of the next generation.

“I’m trying to see the world through my 9-year-old’s eyes and make sure we make this place better and better each day,” he said.

Kornreich, who won his seat in a special election in 2021, has been a fixture in the Three Village area for years. He started his civic engagement with the board of North Shore Montessori School in Stony Brook when his kids were in preschool, then served on Three Village Central School District’s Board of Education and as president of Three Village Civic Association. He sees the town job as an extension of his deep personal interest in the community.

“I love serving the community,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the election — this is my life.”

Balancing redevelopment

Kornreich suggested the way to make redevelopment financially viable for developers is to have a mixed-use component, that is, build apartments on top of retail space like a grocery store, for example. This would also allow for more affordable housing for young people starting their careers and empty nesters downsizing, he said. But he cautioned that balance is key.

“We have to balance carrying capacity — How many people can our infrastructure, our roads, our single-source aquifer, our surface waters; how many people can this fragile little island support? — versus the need to redevelop blighted properties,” he said.

Bodenburg agreed redevelopment should balance environmental and quality-of-life concerns with the need for housing and safety. “When you see those buildings looking the way they are, it does attract undesirables to that area, and that just increases the issue of crime, and then we’re at a whole other set of spiraling,” he said, suggesting grants and other incentives for fixing up buildings and easing the burden on property owners.

Bodenburg acknowledged apartments above retail space could be useful for some, but he expressed concern about mixed-use buildings. He said residents he’s spoken to are not happy with the idea. “They do not want these apartment complexes, they feel it changes the character of their neighborhoods,” he said.

He also believed the town needs to act on the years of plans and studies for redevelopment in the area by working with local, county and state officials. “We’ve seen a lot of studying things to death with not necessarily something culminating or coming out of it,” he said, pointing to traffic backups he’d like to fix. “We need to start pulling the triggers on these things.”

Kornreich rebutted that redevelopment is something that happens over generations, and the studies are there to guide town decisions as the community changes happen over time.

“There’s no trigger to pull,” he said. “The Town of Brookhaven’s job is not to come in and tear buildings down and rebuild them according to the will of the community. This is an evolutionary process, and the visioning sets the long-term vision and roadmap for the way the community would like to see it.”

Kornreich added that mixed-use buildings would best go in already-built downtown areas, rather than within neighborhoods with single-family homes. He pointed to Patchogue as an example, with its many restaurants and walkable retail. “It’s a fun place in a preexisting downtown area. It’s really good reuse and redevelopment,” he said.

Landfill closure

Both candidates addressed the scheduled closing of Brookhaven’s landfill as a looming budgetary crisis, as it has brought sizable public revenue into the town’s coffers every year. They agreed that lack of planning over the past decades means the burden for making up the difference will largely fall to taxpayers.

Bodenburg said he’d go through the town budget to see where belts can be tightened, pointing to his experience as lead negotiator for his teachers union contracts. “Any time you’re looking at a major budget deficit, you have to start looking at other areas in order to cover those losses,” he said. “Negotiating [outside] contracts, making sure we’re getting the most bang for the buck when we’re hiring and contracting services for the town.”

Kornreich pointed to a wind-farm deal that should help make up some of the difference. He added that after he came to office and learned there was not much advanced planning, he was part of a group that rezoned the land around the landfill from residential to industrial, to make way for a solar farm that would also bring in revenue.

This was not a popular act with his party, he said. “I paid a political price, but it was the right thing to do because it was part of this process — at least from where I’m sitting — of scrambling now to try to fill that hole.”

Working across the political aisle

Kornreich has been the only elected Democrat in town government, something he said he has not let become an issue for him. “I’m the minority leader on the Town Board,” he joked. Calling himself a moderate Democrat, he said he’s made a point to work well with his colleagues across the political aisle.

“I’m trying to show that Democrats are people who are interested in good government and we’re interested in supporting the economy and supporting working people, supporting families and supporting kids,” he said. “We don’t have to get involved in the partisan warfare, and we can work together.”

Bodenburg said he, too, was not interested in political squabbles, and said “fake boundary lines that exist on paper” would not hold him back from working with all community members and other elected officials.

“My intentions are community-based — our kids, our families — and whatever is best for our community,” he said, adding that he would like to see more cohesiveness in the town. “I steer clear of politics and any type of issue that will throw a wrench in what’s best for our community.”

Kornreich’s willingness to work with Republicans has landed him in tricky situations, like with a vote in favor of the controversial town redistricting map last year. He said that vote, like many others he has taken, represented a compromise, and he is not a “bomb thrower” to vote “no” on policy he was part of helping to create.

“Is it a map that I would draw or support if I were in control? Absolutely not, no way. But it’s 6-1, so when you’re negotiating 6-1, I could take a performative vote and just vote ‘no,’” he said, clarifying that previous draft maps had significantly worse gerrymandering than the final version, and that the final map kept his district together. “Sometimes you’ve got to take a bad vote. You could choose bad or you could choose worse, and sometimes you have to choose bad — and that’s one of the realities of this job.”

Council District 1 voters will choose who will represent them when they hit the polls Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta discusses his plans for the coming term. Photo by Raymond Janis

“I think I’m going to win,” Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) confidently told TBR News Media. That is because there is no other candidate on the ballot.

Without a challenger, Trotta, who has held the 13th District seat since 2013, will coast to a sixth and final term this November. The 13th District includes Smithtown, Fort Salonga, Kings Park, San Remo, Nissequogue, Head of the Harbor and St. James, as well as portions of Commack and East Northport.

During an office interview with Trotta spanning just under an hour, he painted a dreary portrait of the inner workings of county government, describing an “insane” world of hidden taxes, political diversion tactics and underhanded political games that predominate.

“It’s a broken system,” he said. “It’s all about money.”

The incumbent pledged to go out with a bang during his final term. “I’m giving one last shot to clean up this mess, this cesspool I call Suffolk County,” he said. “I want to finish cleaning up the corruption, and I want to buy some more open space. Those are my two top concerns.”

He based his open-space agenda upon a deep-seated fear of potential overdevelopment. He said protecting available parcels within his district and throughout the county would maintain the natural character, keeping it from “looking like Nassau County or Queens.”

Wastewater

Trotta’s reelection bid comes amid an intense countywide debate over wastewater infrastructure, notably the proposed 1/8-penny sales tax he and the Republican majority in the county Legislature had voted down earlier this year in connection with the Water Quality Restoration Act. 

“I would never vote for a tax increase for that,” he said in defense of his “no” vote.

Trotta pointed to the county’s roughly $1 billion budget surplus, saying that revenue pipeline is better suited for investments in wastewater infrastructure and treatment centers.

The county legislator suggested that the ongoing debate around wastewater infrastructure was little more than political subterfuge designed to stir confusion and blame the Republican caucus.

“They’re trying to make it look like the Republicans voted against giving people a choice,” he said. “No, the people of this county hired me to get inside and look at what’s going on. And when I look at what’s going on, it’s not what they’re being told.”

Outlining his vision for modernizing wastewater infrastructure, he said the county should actively work toward identifying and replacing cesspools in watershed areas or near surface waters.

‘Shams’

Along with the wastewater fight, Trotta addressed several perceived “shams” within the county government that he seeks to remediate in the coming term. He cited the county’s School Bus Safety Program as “the ultimate sham” designed to raise county revenues from unwitting victims.

“There’s a bus stop in Commack where 3,000 tickets were written on Jericho Turnpike,” he said. “No one’s crossing Jericho Turnpike, yet it raised $800,000 of taxpayers money.”

He added, “No kids are crossing that road, so this is strictly about money — make no mistake about it.”

Trotta also objected to the existing Red Light Camera Program, stating that roughly 95% of violations are for right-on-red turns.

Planning

To assist young people struggling to afford Suffolk’s high cost of living, the 13th District incumbent said he preferred promoting private ownership over renting.

“I don’t like apartments because I don’t want to see the rich get richer,” he said. “If you put something down by the railroad station and charge some young professional $3,500 a month, he’s never going to be able to buy a house.”

Trotta said the affordability problem is due to governmental mismanagement and ill-conceived tax breaks for developers.

“When you’re giving a tax break to a billionaire and making everyone else pay, it’s corrupt,” he said.

Reforms

In achieving policy victories for county residents, Trotta said legislators must conduct themselves with “integrity, honor and how about admitting that [county programs are often] nothing more than a money grab.”

Along with his reformer aspirations, Trotta touted a recent acquisition of 15 acres for open-space conservation in Head of the Harbor with plans for additional acreage in Fort Salonga, among other scattered parcels throughout his district.

Despite his efforts to reform the system, Trotta indicated that progress has been “very disappointing.” He nonetheless said he remains committed to carrying out his whistleblower role for this one last term of service.

“I shine the light in what’s going on,” he stated. “I have a view of it. You pay me to look at it, and I’m looking at it.”

But, he added, “I’m getting tired.”

The county 13th District voting will take place Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, left, and businessman Dave Calone debate the future of the Suffolk County government. Photo by Raymond Janis

This year marks the first open contest for Suffolk County’s top post since 2009 when three-term incumbent County Executive Steve Bellone (D) first won the job.

Bellone cannot seek reelection due to 12-year term limits for county offices. In his place, Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) is opposing businessman Dave Calone (D).

At the TBR News Media office, the two candidates debated for roughly an hour and a half. Their conversation covered an array of policy matters from wastewater, municipal solid waste, public safety, budgets, homelessness and transit.

Introductions

Calone is a Setauket resident who said he is running because “we need people with new backgrounds and different skill sets as county executive.”

The Democratic candidate is a former state and federal prosecutor whose private-sector experience entails assisting startup companies and working with owners to help build their businesses.

Romaine is a Center Moriches resident who said he is running because he views the county government as headed down the wrong path. He served two terms in the county Legislature before serving five terms as Suffolk County clerk. He then reentered the Legislature before assuming the position of town supervisor via special election in 2012.

In his 38th year in public office, he contended that “experience is needed now more than ever, and I think you have to be able to start a job from day one.”

Issues

Identifying the issues motivating his campaign, Romaine cited budgets, administrative vacancies, public safety concerns and outdated infrastructure. He said he supported the federal $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and New York State’s $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act, although infrastructure investments into Suffolk have lagged.

“We need someone that is going to be an advocate for Long Island to try to get that money because we need to rebuild our infrastructure,” he said. “Getting sewers, clean water — these are major issues that have to be dealt with.”

Calone said the voters he canvassed expressed great interest and concern over affordability, coupled with a lack of affordable housing options.

He proposed appointing a chief housing officer within the county government to coordinate with towns and villages, advocating for repurposing malls and strip plazas to address the county’s housing needs.

“Let’s identify housing priorities across the county, and then let’s say to developers, ‘This is the place to do it,’” Calone said, supporting streamlining of the permitting process and cutting red tape. He also emphasized public safety, affordability, well-paying jobs and the environment as other motivating factors.

Wastewater

This year’s election cycle is taking place concurrently with a countywide debate over the future of the region’s wastewater infrastructure. Over the summer, the Republican-led county Legislature blocked a 1/8-penny sales tax for wastewater investments from reaching the November ballot in the form of a referendum. If passed, the measure would have helped finance new wastewater investments.

Calone said he disagreed with the Legislature’s action. “What I would do as county executive is put that back before the Legislature,” he said. “If we need to tweak it in some way, I’m open to that.”

“The most important thing is that we have something we can put before the voters … that they can vote on because right now we are behind other places in going after” federal and state subsidies, he added.

Romaine condemned the process through which the current administration pursued instituting the sales tax, saying the correct approach would have been the county Legislature passing a Home Rule Message rather than including language through the state budget.

He also objected to the revenue split between IA, or Innovative/Alternative, septic systems and new sewer infrastructure. “To say that this bill is perfect, it’s not,” he said. “I want to see sewers because we have more densely populated areas in this county that do not have sewers and need sewers,” adding, expanding sewer access “would do more to clean our waters.”

Garbage

The planned closure of the Brookhaven Town landfill — which services the entire region — places uncertainty over the long-term future of the county’s waste management system.

Romaine said averting an islandwide garbage crisis would require a regional approach to garbage disposal.

“We need to get the 31 villages and the 10 towns on the same page, working with the county and maybe even Nassau County to create a regional approach to solid waste,” he stated.

To facilitate a regional program, he supported transporting garbage by rail. “Since it can’t be buried here, can’t be maintained here, can’t be kept here, it has to leave the Island,” Romaine added. “The best way to do that is by rail.”

Calone pointed to the Brookhaven landfill as a failure by Brookhaven Town. He said the county government must roll out a more comprehensive recycling and composting program with the goal of achieving zero waste, though this ideal is likely unattainable.

Given that the county will inevitably produce some waste in the years ahead, Calone endorsed the proposal to ship the remaining garbage by rail. “There’s going to be some waste left,” he maintained, “and it will need to be railed off of Long Island.”

Public safety

To combat crime within Suffolk County, Calone called for a fully-funded, fully-staffed Suffolk County Police Department.

“We need to make sure law enforcement has the technology and tools they need,” the Democratic candidate said. “We need to make sure that every school has a school safety plan and has school safety officers that are well trained — there’s no minimum training requirement for school safety officers.”

He also advocated for targeting drugs and drug trafficking into the county with more aggressive prosecutions while “taking guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals.”

Romaine centered his public safety priorities around vacancies within the police department, pointing to 51 unfilled detective slots.

“That’s also true for patrol officers, that’s true for superior officers, that’s definitely true corrections officers, it’s true for deputy sheriffs, and it’s true for a whole host and character of law enforcement,” the Republican candidate said.

Budgets

With long-term economic uncertainty and growing concerns over the county’s finances, Romaine said he would seek to achieve a AAA bond rating for the county government, pledging to apply the fiscal strategies from Brookhaven’s budget process.

“What we did is we began to pay off debt and reduce debt with any budget surpluses that we had,” the current town supervisor said. “We have, despite inflation, been able to put together structurally balanced budgets. We have been able to reduce our fiscal stress to nothing, our environmental stress to nothing.” He added, “I would do the same” for the county.

Calone highlighted the pending closure of the municipal landfill as deeply problematic for Romaine’s constituents, suggesting budgetary mismanagement by his opponent.

The businessman referred to the county government’s current financial state as “the best financial situation it has ever been in.”

With substantial reserves, Calone offered to return some surplus money to county taxpayers through a 10% general fund property tax cut.

“I want to look at the Suffolk County budget, one with an eye toward giving some of that money back to taxpayers, and two looking at it with a businessperson’s eye.”

Rebutting Calone, Romaine said that as revenue from the landfill gradually goes away, the town will install solar panels around the landfill complex and advance related alternative energy projects to recover the lost funds. “We have sufficient revenue for the town,” he said.

Responding, Calone noted that regardless of the recovered funds, a significant budget shortfall would likely befall the Brookhaven budget, triggering a sizable tax increase for town residents in the coming years.

Homelessness

In recent years, the county has observed a rise in homelessness, with many homeless individuals turning away from the shelter system.

Calone said the county government lacks adequate personnel within its Department of Social Services, with current staff inadequately paid.

He said addiction and mental health issues tend to be the primary drivers of homelessness and that the county is not tapping into various granting opportunities to address these problems.

“I propose having a county grants office,” he said. “We don’t have one now, and there’s no coordinated way of going after grants,” noting, “This is a way to tap into federal and state funding that we’re not getting right now when it comes to mental health, veterans issues and things like that.”

Romaine agreed that grant writing remains a deficiency within the county government and that social service workers deserve better pay.

He said the best explanation he has seen on homelessness came from a recent CBS “60 Minutes” interview by California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who is pursuing a new model for curtailing homelessness within the Golden State.

Newsom is “not of my party, but I’ve never heard somebody speak as well as he did on that issue,” Romaine said. “It impressed me. I’ve done some research on it, and I have some people working on it. If I have the good fortune to be elected, we’re going to take a look at it.”

Transit and trails

Officials have cited high costs associated with maintaining the county’s bus system as barriers to system expansion and modernization. To better serve the needs of riders, Romaine said modernizing the bus system begins with focusing on rails.

“We need to electrify our rail,” he said. But, he added, “None of our county buses meet the trains. You would think that you would want to create a synergy between trains and buses.”

Calone proposed reimagining the disparate modes of transit as “an integrated system.” He considered the current ridership within the county’s bus system as “ridiculously low,” arguing that empty buses give residents a sense that their government doesn’t work.

“We need to move away, I believe, from a fixed-route system everywhere except the far western part of the county,” he said. “As we move further east, we need to move toward more of an on-demand system” that uses smaller buses and modern technology to boost ridership and enhance the rider experience.

Along with traditional mass transit options, the county’s 2020 Hike-Bike Master Plan calls for expanding active-use recreation as an alternative form of transportation. To implement the ideas within the plan, Romaine supported connecting trails as part of an “overall transportation system.”

“I’d love to provide viable alternatives so that people don’t have to use a car-based system,” he said. He added that conserving open space would help expand nature trails.

Calone regarded the master plan as a “great plan” with many gaps to fill in.

He said the county must work with private landowners to acquire the lands to connect existing greenways and expand its linear park network.

“We need to have blueways [water trails] as well, where people can boat and kayak,” he said. “We’re going to put this sewer and septic program in place and, over these next bunch of years, are going to improve our water quality, and we’re going to make that available.”

He continued, “We pay a lot of money to live here, and we should enjoy what makes this place so special.”

Suffolk voters will pick one of these candidates to be their next county executive on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Brookhaven Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico, left, and Lillian Clayman debate the issues facing town residents. Photo by Raymond Janis

By Lynn Hallarman

A lively debate took place between candidates Lillian Clayman (D) and Dan Panico (R) for Town of Brookhaven supervisor at the headquarters of TBR News Media. The incumbent supervisor, Ed Romaine (R), is running for Suffolk County executive. 

Candidates had two minutes each to respond to questions from the staff, with an optional 30-second rebuttal. The debate kicked off with the rundown of their credentials.

Clayman, 70, of Port Jefferson, honed her political skills as the three-term elected mayor of Hamden, Connecticut, from 1991 to ’97. She served as a city councilwoman in Connecticut, where she was the finance committee chair and managed a budget of about $200 million. Clayman noted that she spent 10 years as a financial planner and portfolio manager.

Since moving to Long Island 20 years ago, she has worked as a union organizer for 1199 SEIU (Service Employees International Union) and was chair of the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee from 2016 to ’21. She holds a doctoral degree in American History from Rutgers in 2019.

Clayman was asked to step in when former Village of Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant withdrew from the race this June due to illness.

“As mayor of Hamden, I was in charge of the board of education budget, the sewers, the police department, the fire department, the libraries, all the roads, parks and recreation,” she said.

Panico, 45, of Center Moriches, represents the town’s 6th Council District, a position he has held since he was first elected in 2010.

Panico received his law degree from Touro Law School with an award for excellence in land use, zoning and planning. He has been deputy supervisor of the Town of Brookhaven since 2012.

“I’ve run as high as almost 79% of the vote because I know the job I do, and that is local government,” he said. “I don’t talk about national politics.”

Town supervisor’s role

When asked for their superpower, or the quality that makes them most qualified for the town’s highest post, the candidates offered varying perspectives.

Panico said, “My superpower is that my land use planning and zoning ability is unparalleled by anybody in the town. That is my superpower.”

Clayman, on the other hand, responded, “I can get people to work together. I work collaboratively.”

Land use

Panico said he believes the best land use decisions happen at the hyperlocal level in collaboration with communities and their elected district council representative.

“I’m deeply involved in all the redevelopment projects throughout the entire town,” the deputy supervisor said. “It’s without an exaggeration that I could be the councilperson for any of the six town council districts.”

He added, “I have the know-how to meet with developers and push the projects through, which are predominantly redevelopment, but also safeguard communities like Stony Brook and Setauket to make sure they are not overdeveloped.”

Clayman used her two minutes to focus on sewer infrastructure, which she believes is a critical aspect of sustainable development throughout the town.

“Without sewers, without IA [Innovative/Alternative] septic systems, we will continue to release nitrogen into our aquifers into our waterways,” she said. “Until we get new sewers and septics, we can’t even talk about development. We must be very careful because we are above our capacity.”

On the Town Board’s role in overseeing the planning and construction of new developments, both candidates agreed upon a hands-on approach from the supervisor’s office.

“I make it my business to know what’s going on across the entire town, although I represent the 6th town Council District,” Panico said. “I wrote the multifamily code with our planning department. I rewrote the [Planned Retirement Community code] and the [Commercial Redevelopment District code].”

Clayman offered a slightly varied perspective, noting the role of the town government in limiting overdevelopment. “The primary function of the Town Board is to make sure that areas are not overdeveloped,” she said. “All you have to do is look at Port Jefferson Station — there is an enormous amount of overdevelopment that is occurring in this area.”

Open space

Another critical component of the town’s land use arsenal is its open space fund. When pressed for their strategies for preserving open space, Panico highlighted the few undeveloped parcels that remain.

“I think we’re in a race to save what’s left,” the Republican said. “That’s what I believe, and I believe people in Brookhaven value open space,” adding, “We have the Joseph Macchia [Environmental Preservation] Capital Reserve Fund, open space funds that we use. I would certainly partner to preserve as much open space as we can and work with our villages.”

Clayman advocated for a grassroots, civic approach targeting parcels for preservation as open space. “Working with the civic associations and the Town Board to make sure that we have open space” would be critical, the Democratic candidate said. “We don’t need to develop every single piece of property that is available. That is something that occurred during the ’70s and ’80s, and we don’t need to do that now.”

Lawrence Aviation site

Lawrence Aviation is among the biggest Superfund sites on Long Island, and both Port Jefferson Station and the Village and Port Jefferson Station will likely bear most of the impacts from future redevelopment of that site. 

On how to accommodate residents of those areas, Panico said, “People have had to deal with that pollution for quite some time. If you are going to unveil solar in the area, give the affected population a reduced rate on their electric — you’re allowed to do that under New York State law. And give the residents of [Port Jefferson] Village a break on their tax bills. I think that would be a somewhat equitable thing to do.” 

Clayman said that the longstanding environmental impacts are not localized to Lawrence Aviation. “It’s not just Lawrence Aviation. At the town landfill, there are negative impacts from toxins that have seeped into our groundwater and our air. People swear that Lawrence Aviation has had a negative impact [on their health]. But I also think that what Dan said is a good idea for that property. I’m all for [tax breaks].”

Cost of living

For many seniors and young people throughout the region, the high standard of living is becoming untenable, prompting many to leave Long Island. To counteract these movements, Clayman advocated for increasing the amount of affordable housing units in the town. She pointed out that to live on the Island for a family of four, you need to make about $150,000 a year.

“That’s a lot of money,” she said. “The average family on Long Island is currently making about $86,000 a year. [Affordable] housing prices need to reflect that amount. That is something that can be part of any kind of development plan.”

Panico highlighted the town’s recent efforts in constructing new affordable units. “We’ve been very successful around the town in creating more units,” he said. “But if you listen to my opponent, we can’t build any more units. And to me, I live in reality, and I am pragmatic.”

He added, “I know that there needs to be redevelopment — redevelopment is the name of the game.”

Fentanyl crisis

Both candidates regarded the fentanyl crisis foremost as a mental health issue. Panico viewed the crisis as an issue that primarily needs addressing at the state and federal levels. Clayman, on the other hand, said there is an opportunity for expanded town, county and state partnerships in education and outreach.

“We can utilize the resources that we have with Channel 18 to have outreach to the communities and to the schools,” Panico said, “But ultimately, [combating the crisis] is going to come from a change in our federal government.”

Clayman outlined her more local outlook toward remediating the challenges. “I think the town has an important role to play,” she said. The town “needs to put more of our time and energy and focus not just into development projects but also look at how we can be of service to the community.”

As a follow-up, the TBR staff inquired how the candidates sought to finance an expanded role in combating the fentanyl crisis within the town.

Clayman suggested looking within the current budget as a possible source of financing a community response to the crisis: “I would look through vendor contracts, for example, and examine [the spending on] those vendor contracts.”

Panico objected to this proposal. “We’re going to look into vendor contracts and solve the fentanyl crisis?” he asked. “To me, it doesn’t make any sense. The fact of the matter is, it’s better when one level of government is focused on this issue.”

Energy costs

Both candidates agreed that the town’s Community Choice Aggregation program, launched in Brookhaven in 2022, is a well-intentioned initiative by the Town Board.

Clayman, however, questioned the rollout of the program as mired in confusing bureaucracy, putting the responsibility on town residents to figure out how to maximize cost savings.

“While maybe it was good intentioned, it doesn’t serve the residents,” she said. “And worst of all, nobody knows about it.”

Panico acknowledged that the town could do a better job of explaining the program to residents but believes it is a worthwhile endeavor nonetheless.

“Our aim is to save people money,” he indicated. “If you are a savvy consumer, you can opt out when the price is low and opt back into our program and save real money.”

“That’s unfair,” Clayman responded. “The program is based on putting the responsibility on [residents] to opt out of a program they are automatically enrolled in. As a consumer, I would much rather learn about a program beforehand and then make a decision as to whether or not I want to participate.”

Panico countered by adding, “Scores of people have used the program, and the town has an active outreach program to educate residents on their choices. The town publishes National Grid rates on their website so that people can track the rates.”

Brookhaven animal shelter

Earlier this year, residents publicly witnessed some frayed relations between volunteers and staff at the town-operated animal shelter on Horseblock Road. [See story, “Volunteers and officials express concerns over Brookhaven animal shelter,” Aug. 5, TBR News Media.]

“Just this morning, [New York] State declared the animal shelter unsatisfactory,” Clayman said. “The volunteers at the animal shelter were [the ones] that brought [the issues] to the public eye. This is one of the areas that Brookhaven needs to be more transparent.”

She added, “An attorney was hired to oversee the animal shelter — you don’t need an attorney to be in charge of an animal shelter. He directed that the volunteers had to sign non-disclosure agreements.”

Panico defended the administration for its handling of the shelter and pointed to progress at the facility since the initial dispute.

“We hired, for the first time, a full-time veterinarian at the animal shelter,” he said. “I met with some of the more prominent volunteers — they’re happy with the progress. We are making a big effort to bring up the animal shelter. But also, we hired somebody specifically for social media to get these dogs and cats adopted.”

Clayman responded, “But it is indicative of the way the town government has been run that volunteers have to meet in secret with a potential candidate for office.”

Panico countered, “Under my administration, there will be no NDAs or anything like that. We’re going to calm the waters.”

Active-use trails

Both candidates endorsed park preservation, linear park expansion and linkage of existing trails within the town.

Panico pointed to his record as councilman in park preservation, including negotiating with developers to preserve or create park spaces.

“Our parks and trails are absolutely beautiful in the Town of Brookhaven,” he stated. “I’ve made it [almost] through the Rails to Trails with myself and my 4-year-old on the back of my bike and my 9-year-old [on his bike].”

Clayman touted her record as the mayor of Hamden in building new biking and walking amenities.

“I built the Farmington Canal trail, which is a rails-to-trail linear park,” she said. “I would work very hard in linking [Brookhaven trails] up and to build more.”

Self-reflection

TBR asked each candidate on a personal level for their greatest frustration in their respective professional lives.

“I sometimes wonder if other people spend as much time [as I do] kicking themselves in the butt over something that I thought that I should do better,” Clayman said.

For Panico, “I wrestle with whether I should stick to what I know and stay in my lane in town government, or should I get more involved in other levels of government,” he said. “Professionally, I wrestle with this issue. I’ve chosen to stick predominantly with staying in my lane. I think I’ve made the right decision.”

When asked if they had a magic wand that could immediately resolve two issues within the town, the town supervisor candidates offered insightful perspectives.

“That’s easy,” Clayman said. “I would clean up the water, I would clean up the aquifer — that would be number one. I would make sure that the air was good to breathe. That would be wonderful if I could do that.”

Panico replied, “If I had a magic wand, I would help homeless people and the mental health crisis on the Island because it’s a Herculean task, but I would if I could solve that. Litter is something that is pervasive on the Island. It’s almost societal, and there’s no easy way to tackle it.”

Residents townwide will decide between these two candidates. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Incumbent Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro, left, debates challenger Michael Kaplan. Photos by Raymond Janis

By Aidan Johnson

As Election Day nears, residents will decide between two candidates for Town of Brookhaven highway superintendent.

Current highway superintendent, Dan Losquadro (R), and Michael Kaplan (D) took part in an exclusive debate at the TBR office Friday, Oct. 27, tackling issues such as response times, paving schedules and the impact of storms on roads.

Introductions

Losquadro has served as highway superintendent for almost 11 years but has held public office for roughly two decades.

He started out after winning a special election in 2003 for Suffolk County’s 6th Legislative District. After serving two years in the Legislature, his colleagues elected him to be the Republican Conference Leader at age 33. He gave the rebuttals to Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy’s (D) State of the County address at that time.

He moved on to serve in the New York State Assembly but preferred staying home with his family. After people started lobbying him to replace former Highway Superintendent John Rouse (D), Losquadro decided to do so, citing his past work in his father’s body shop and as a laborer with Local 66 as what trained him for the job.

Kaplan has had 30 years of experience in municipal highway departments, serving 20 years in Islip and 10 years in Huntington. During that time, he served as a laborer, road inspector and worked directly for the superintendent of highways in Huntington. Additionally, he has served as a union leader and is a U.S. Army veteran.

While Kaplan indicated he did not want to speak negatively about Losquadro, he said that he has differing opinions on how to run the department and that there have been “a lot of residents” who have told him that they wish to see the superintendent more often.

Functions of the office

Losquadro said that the “umbrella of the Highway Department is much larger than people realize.” It is not just about the care of the roads but includes areas such as the traffic safety division for the town, engineering where all highway work permits go through, stormwater management and street lighting.

Losquadro runs a budget of more than $110 million, has nearly 300 employees, oversees 3,500 lane miles of roads and believes in innovation for moving the department forward, citing his digitizing of the work order system along with the conversion of all of Brookhaven’s street lights to LEDs, with Brookhaven’s energy savings being up to $1.2 million a year. 

He has also brought in over $150 million from the state and federal grant funding to the town, including a $16 million grant to replace the Sheep Pasture Road bridge in Port Jefferson Station earlier this year.

Kaplan stated that Losquadro touched on a lot of the functions. However, he said that after knocking on thousands of doors, he has a different perspective on how the Highway Department should be run daily.

Kaplan said that the workforce needs to be built back up, both in the sense that it is not enough and because it is demoralized. While he noted Losquadro has done a good job, Kaplan also stated that there are many residents who are frustrated with a perceived lack of accessibility and poor response time within the department, along with people not receiving an answer to their concerns.

As the head of the department, Kaplan said he would be talking to the employees and residents “every single day” and explain to them the answer to their problems, “whether they like my answer or not.” Kaplan also believes that he has to have a staff with the same vision of public service and that while the employees come first, “it’s really all about the residents.”

Losquadro rebutted this, saying he is “as hands-on as it gets” for a highway superintendent and that he and his staff deal with residents “day in, day out.” However, he said that one of the problems is that some people will call other local officials if they do not like the answer the Highway Department gives them, and claim that they did not get a response. However, the electronic work order system can show that the department has been in touch. While they sometimes miss the mark, he indicated, they still strive to contact every person promptly.

Climate change

With climate change increasing the threat of environmental disasters, including major snowfall events, Kaplan believes that it is imperative to build up private contractors.

Kaplan also said that road sweeping is a vital part of conserving the environment because if the road is not swept, everything washes down into the catch and recharge basins, polluting the aquifers. 

While there hasn’t been a big snowstorm in recent years, Kaplan said one big snowfall is enough to remind everyone that what the department does is vital. He also said that there is a science to snow plowing that he would teach every individual what to do behind the wheel of a truck.

Kaplan also said that, with a larger workforce, he would want to have a snow plowing operation that encompasses all of the roads, both main and side, at the same time. 

Losquadro noted that climate change has also caused issues such as roads that were once dry at high tide to now be underwater at normal tide. Because of this, Highways has worked with the Law Department and has abandoned a number of roads.

Due to rising sea levels, Losquadro has been “seeking grants anywhere I can get them.” Currently, the department is raising the roads along Mount Sinai Harbor and doing a massive drainage project there so that the roads remain passable at high tide when water gets impounded in the harbor along the southern shore.

Since there is no capacity for drainage along the southern shore, the department has been acquiring parcels and using them as bioretention areas to make the roads passable. 

Losquadro has also increased the rate paid to snow plow vendors by 25% this year. However, the department is facing a problem that the younger generation of contractors is not getting into the snow plowing business, so is trying to incentivize outside contractors.

Response times

Losquadro elaborated on the electric work order system he put in place, describing how a variant is used during severe weather events, containing “a simple dropdown menu” with which they can put information into quickly.

Additionally, a foreman can use iPads during a work order to take pictures and type in their notes to transmit the information instantly to a customer service representative, who can then relay it back to the resident in cases such as evaluations and inspections.

The department has also added the ability to track all of the road signs in its geographical information system and have added almost 200,000 drains. Losquadro said they “continue to add functionality to the system and build on it” to be more efficient.

While Kaplan said that he respects what Losquadro had to say, if elected, he would go back to the “old school way of doing things” by being a “boots on the ground” superintendent immediately.

If someone calls with a concern, including issues of potholes, Kaplan said he would institute a 72-hour correspondence policy, meaning that the person calling would receive correspondence, such as a callback or email, explaining that their issue has been recognized, and then a time to have it repaired will be scheduled.

Additionally, Kaplan said that potholes would be filled and repaired within 48 hours, and he would reteach his employees how to fill a pothole by his standards.

Politicization claim

In response to claims that Losquadro only begins to fix roads and potholes right before an election, Losquadro considered this notion “absurd.” He further said that the paving season runs from April to November, with someone being first and someone being last during the paving season.

According to the incumbent, they schedule the work based on how much concrete or drainage work has to be performed on a given project, with the jobs that require less work being done in the spring since they can get the prep work done sooner. Anything involving schools is done over the summer so as not to disrupt access to the schools, and the projects done in the fall require more extensive concrete or drainage work.

Losquadro also said that they spend nearly the same amount of money each year, exclusive of grant funding for individual projects, and do not spend more during an election year.

While Kaplan did state that he did make a comment about allegations that Losquadro only begins to fix potholes and roads around election time, he did not mean that as a disrespectful comment toward Losquadro. He had made the comment because residents have told him that they would repeatedly ask for an issue to be addressed, and it would only happen “three months before an election.”

Paving schedules

Kaplan said that he would have a delegation involved in assessing all of the roads in Brookhaven since the highway superintendent could not feasibly do it by themself. He would have the roads rated A through F, with the roads receiving “D” and “F” ratings being placed on the high-priority list.

Losquadro said that prioritizing a roadway isn’t just “necessarily a visual assessment” since there may be cases where the top layer of a road may appear to be in disrepair while the subsurface is still very strong, and vice versa.

If reelected, Losquadro pledged to avail himself of a program offered by the Cornell Cooperative Extension that uses optical sensors to evaluate the condition of the town’s roads to get what he referred to as a “heat map.” 

Losquadro added that he feels that they have gotten through the roads that were in very poor shape that he inherited from the last highway superintendent. He is planning two-to-three years out in the paving schedule, which is why the overall optical evaluation of the roadways would be helpful in how he looks forward at a possible three-to-eight years out from this point.

Brookhaven residents townwide will decide on the Highway Department’s future on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association met Tuesday, Oct. 24, for a meeting covering public safety, land use, upcoming elections and multiculturalism.

Public safety

John Efstathiou, COPE officer for the Suffolk County Police Department’s 6th Precinct, delivered the department’s public safety report, outlining an uptick across several crime statistics.

When crime data was compared from the same period in 2022, the 6th Precinct received an increase in the calls for service throughout the hamlet from 646 to 845, “so we saw a big increase in calls,” Efstathiou stated.

While there were no reported aggravated harassments or assaults, there were two reported burglaries. A smoke shop and the Buddhist temple — both located on Terryville Road — were the two burglarized locations.

Criminal mischief went up from six to 10 reported incidents. One of those criminal mischiefs resulted in an arrest, five resulted in no pressed charges and the other four remain under investigation by the department.

Harassments spiked from seven to 11. Of those, one arrest was made, eight resulted in no press and two remain under investigation. Larcenies went up from 12 to 16.

Efstathiou reported a menacing incident at the Family Dollar located at Jefferson Plaza in which an individual brandished a knife to steal money. “He was unsuccessful,” the COPE officer indicated, adding the person was “charged for menacing on that. That is still pending and under investigation.”

A robbery had occurred at the Sunoco gas station on Old Town Road, resulting in the apprehension of the alleged suspect.

Total criminal incidents went up from 35 to 64. Disturbances went up from 135 to 167. Total noncriminal incidents increased from 611 to 821. Motor vehicle accidents jumped from 45 to 83.

Land use

Civic vice president Carolyn Sagliocca updated the body on proposed developments throughout the area. She said the Bicycle Path LLC group, owner of the parcel at 507 North Bicycle Path, contacted the civic regarding a potential redevelopment project.

“They want to present their proposal here for our civic for everyone to see, and that is going to be at our December 19 civic meeting,” she said.

Sagliocca emphasized the importance of the civic’s upcoming Nov. 28 meeting, during which the body will deliberate on the proposed redevelopment of Jefferson Plaza. “We’re going to see if we can get the community to give us input on what you want,” she said. “Because on November 30, there’s going to be a public hearing at Town Hall in Farmingville at 5:30, and we hope as many residents who want to voice their opinion on what they want could be there.”

Meet the candidates

Later in the meeting, the body met judicial candidates for Suffolk County district court and Michael Kaplan, Democratic candidate for Brookhaven highway superintendent.

Steve Weissbard is the Republican and Conservative Party candidate for the district court. He served as Suffolk County attorney in family court, later working for the Suffolk Legal Aid Society.

“I bring a very balanced experience … and I expect a very balanced judgment and open mind when I sit on the bench,” he said.

Opposing Weissbard is Cynthia Vargas, who serves as co-chair of the Suffolk County Bar Association’s membership services committee. She also served as president of the Long Island Hispanic Bar Association.

“I would bring all of my experience, common sense and integrity to ensure justice for all and ask that you vote Vargas, not politics, on November 7,” she said.

Kaplan is challenging incumbent Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R), who did not attend Tuesday evening’s civic meeting. Kaplan is a U.S. Army veteran who worked as a road inspector in the Town of Islip before working directly for the superintendent of highways in the Town of Huntington.

“This town needs different leadership when it comes to highways,” he said, advocating for a “small-town mentality” within the Brookhaven Highway Department.

Multicultural panel

The meeting concluded with a discussion among faith and ethnic leaders throughout the community. Panelists included Mufti Abdullah Sheikh, resident scholar and imam at Selden Masjid, Rabbi Aaron Benson of North Shore Jewish Center and Shaorui Li, founder and president of the Asian American Association of Greater Stony Brook.

In a phone interview after the meeting, PJSTCA president Ira Costell regarded the panel as a means of opening a dialogue and creating understanding between the religious and cultural groups that were present.

“It’s been my agenda to bring programs as often as possible that add a dimension of education or awareness or understanding about broader issues,” Costell said. “I think this really went a long way — for me personally and hopefully for other people — to realize we can have a conversation with each other.”

The civic reconvenes on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at Comsewogue Public Library at 7 p.m.

Moderator Chanteé Lans questions businessman Dave Calone, left photo, and Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, right photo, on senior issues during a candidate forum Tuesday, Oct. 10, at Stony Brook University. Photos by Raymond Janis

Candidates for Suffolk County executive went before the public Tuesday evening, Oct. 10, tackling various matters related to the county’s aging population and other topics.

Held at Stony Brook University’s Charles B. Wang Center and hosted by AARP-NY, Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and businessman Dave Calone (D) fielded questions mainly on how they would assist seniors if elected next month to the county’s highest post.

Chanteé Lans, Long Island correspondent for WABC-TV, moderated the candidate forum, asking questions posed by AARP members.

Calone is a former federal prosecutor with private-sector experience assisting start-ups on Long Island and nationwide. “I believe that we need new ideas, new vision and, quite frankly, new leaders to bring us into the next decade,” he said.

Before assuming the role of town supervisor, Romaine served as Suffolk County clerk and county legislator. He staked his platform for county executive upon his experience in public life.

“I’m coming to change county government for the better,” he said. “I’m coming to build a budget that’s honest, transparent and that deals with situations.”

Housing

Suffolk County residents are increasingly being priced out, from young adults to seniors entering retirement, with many opting to leave the region in favor of a cheaper cost of living elsewhere.

Romaine emphasized the need to construct new housing units to ameliorate these challenges. He pledged to use the county executive’s office to encourage federal subsidization for senior housing.

“Long Island has been shortchanged in so many ways,” he said. “I intend to be a very strong voice to advocate for Section 202/8 housing so we can have senior housing for those who can least afford it.”

Calone described housing scarcity in Suffolk as the number one issue among many residents, exacerbated further by a lack of affordability. He noted that the problem has compound effects on the small business sector, which often needs more workers who cannot afford to live in the county.

“I would appoint a county chief housing officer to work with our towns and villages to identify where we already have the infrastructure we need to be able to build housing immediately,” Calone said.

Cybersecurity

Calone said the county government must ensure it has the proper cybersecurity protections, such as cyber insurance. He supported having a cybersecurity officer oversee the county’s information technology systems.

“When it comes to individuals, we need to make sure that we take those learnings and use them to help individuals understand when they’re at risk,” he said.

Romaine said introducing cybersecurity insurance, placing the county’s data center in the cloud and conducting periodic penetration tests would be necessary to enhance cybersecurity within the county government.

“I’d have a better system than we have in the county now,” he noted.

Aging in place

To assist seniors with difficulties aging in place, Romaine proposed sweeping repeals to “regressive taxes” on home necessities.

“We tax your LIPA bill, we tax your heating fuel, we tax your natural gas, we tax your propane,” he said. “We are one of the few counties in the state that does that. I am making a commitment to repeal those taxes.”

Calone said that roadway safety would be a critical matter to support seniors. To allow for aging in place, he advocated for incentives for developers to promote senior accessibility at homes. “There are simple things we can do at the outset — when things are being built — to make sure that we have aging in place,” he said.

County voters will decide on these two candidates in under a month. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Democratic Party lawn signs posted along Route 25A in Setauket. Photo by Mallie Jane Kim

A Three Village Civic Association Meet the Candidates event Monday, Oct. 2, hosted nine hopefuls (with one absentee) for local government positions — namely Suffolk County executive, Brookhaven Town supervisor, Brookhaven supervisor of highways, county legislator and town council — asking them questions through moderator Herb Mones relevant to current issues in the community.

Brookhaven Town Council: 1st District

Incumbent Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) is facing special education teacher Gary Bodenburg (R) in his bid to keep the seat he won in a special election in March 2021.

Kornreich, who previously served on the Three Village school board and as civic president, said he has a deep understanding of the main issues facing Brookhaven today — land use and planning, including an undersupply of affordable housing and an oversupply of vacant retail and commercial properties.

“One of my most important goals is to help guide the redevelopment of those properties in a way that doesn’t tax our already overburdened infrastructure,” he said, referring to the current system of dealing with sewage primarily through cesspools and its impact on the town’s sole drinking water source, as well as traffic.

Bodenburg acknowledged land use is a major function of the town, but added that assuring quality of life is equally important, pointing to how the many expenses of living on Long Island are straining for families.

“Sometimes we need an outsider, somebody with a fresh set of eyes to look at the issues that we face and create solutions that are somewhat creative, but are keeping our main focus of our families and our children in mind,” he said.

Both candidates said they wanted to ensure community members have the same level of access to government as land developers, as well as increased transparency in the process of member selection for planning and zoning boards.

Kornreich expressed particular concern about overdevelopment of areas like Three Village, as well as frustration about the current notification process of proposed zoning changes to nearby residents. He called the required notification letter “arcane” and confusing, and said he sends his own letter with a map and narrative explanation to residents explaining what is proposed for their neighborhood.

He said he’s working with the town’s legal department to require more robust and transparent communication. “That type of notification and that type of process makes a big difference,” he said.

Bodenburg promised to take on long wait times for things like permits. He said he planned to ensure different departments are sharing information and working cohesively to improve the efficiency of government services.

“We can do that very easily by surveying each department and finding out from the people that are serving our community: How can we help you? What makes your job easier? How can we make your job easier, so we can get our residents to get what they need faster,” Bodenburg said.

Brookhaven superintendent of highways

Newcomer Michael Kaplan (D) is challenging current Highway Supervisor Daniel Losquadro (R), who has served in that position for a decade.

Kaplan, a veteran who spent time in the Middle East with the U.S. Army, is trying to capitalize on his 30 years of experience with highway departments, from a laborer to a road inspector to working for the superintendent of highways in Huntington.

“The highway department should be run by someone who possesses the skill, someone who actually filled potholes, ran a street sweeper, plowed in many snowstorms, cleaned up things like Hurricane Sandy,” he said, adding that he also knows well the administrative side, and what needs improvement. “I want to get rid of pay-to-play. I want to get rid of basically politics in highways — people will be promoted with their merit and not by, per se, writing a check to their political party. That needs to end.”

Losquadro highlighted his accomplishments at the department, including conversion from analog to digital since his election 10 years ago. “We were a department that was hand-writing notes on work orders,” he said. “All my foremen now have iPads with a simple graphic user interface. They’re able to take photos, they’re able to upload that information instantaneously.”

That digital revolution, he added, “not only allows me to track how those work orders are being done, but it gives me a measurable metric by which I can gauge the performance of my employees.”

Both candidates shared their desire to improve safety for bikers and pedestrians, but also acknowledged the challenge of retrofitting modern infrastructure into one of the oldest parts of Long Island.

Another area of agreement was the frustration of unfunded mandates from the state and county — particularly for road and sidewalk maintenance. “I don’t know why the Department of Transportation even bothers to call themselves the state Department of Transportation anymore, because they seem to want to abdicate the responsibility for state roads almost entirely,” Losquadro said, adding that repairing sidewalks along state roads that were installed by the state has not traditionally been part of the town’s budget, and he would like to push back and request funding from the state for this work.

Kaplan suggested a more forceful response. “You need a more fierce attitude dealing with Suffolk DOT and state DOT,” he said. “I think we need fresh eyes — someone that’s really going to go up against the state government and the county government and say, ‘No, we’re not doing this anymore, and if you want us to do it, give us some money for it.”

Suffolk County executive

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) has thrown his hat in the ring to lead Suffolk County after 11 years at the helm of the town. He said he’s proud of his accomplishments in Brookhaven and hopes to make the same kind of changes at the county level.

“When I came into Brookhaven, we had a lot of financial trouble and we had a divided board that was very argumentative — that ended within a few months,” he said. “My colleagues on the board right up to the present day will tell you, we work together. We have unity on the board. We have a focus to go forward.”

He said he also helped repair the town’s financial distress, pointing to the fact that the town currently has a AAA credit rating, and the New York State Comptroller’s Office just gave the town a perfect “0” score for fiscal and environmental stress indicators. He said he would also work to invite wind energy into the area, noting he’d like to move the county away from fossil fuels.

Challenging Romaine, businessman Dave Calone (D) is a Three Village resident and former federal prosecutor who sought accountability for international economic crimes, particularly in oil and gas, and for terrorism after the September 11 terrorist attacks. He later participated in assisting start-ups on Long Island and around the country.

He said he is passionate about protecting the environment and, while serving as chair of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, helped streamline and expedite the permitting process for residential solar panels, something that became a model for other counties and states. He said he even spoke at a conference on the topic in Chicago. 

“I think I’m the only person ever who has gone from Long Island to somewhere else to teach them how to cut red tape,” he said.

Calone also pledged to reintroduce a bill that would allow residents to vote on whether to raise sales tax by 1/8 of a cent to establish a water quality protection fund, which would help add sewers and update septic systems, in light of a summer that saw several days of beach closings due to poor water quality.

Marine scientists and other water experts have said prolific outdated cesspool systems in Suffolk are harming area waterways and the aquifer. The county Legislature blocked a referendum on the wastewater fund in July.

“For me, it’s about focusing on safety, opportunity, affordability and, obviously, environmental protection,” Calone said.

Both candidates agreed the county has significant areas to improve, especially in cybersecurity as well as in increased staffing for Child Protective Services, 911 operations and the police. Both blamed traffic fatalities on insufficient enforcement.

Calone said he would seek funding to create more “complete streets,” that is, roads friendly and safe for multiple uses: pedestrians, bikers and motorists.

Romaine called out the current county executive, Steve Bellone (D), saying there are essential positions left “deliberately” vacant, leaving police officers, 911 operators and CPS caseworkers overloaded and unable to keep up with demand for services. 

“I’m supervisor of a town,” Romaine said. “If I put a job in the budget, it gets filled. If it becomes vacant, it gets filled. That is not true in the county of Suffolk,” calling the practice dishonest. “If we fill those jobs, it’s not that you’d have to pay more because you’re already getting taxed for that.”

County legislator: 5th District

Anthony Figliola (R-East Setauket), a Three Village resident with experience in economic development and government relations, and former New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) are vying to replace the vacant seat left by Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who would have been term limited in any event.

A geologist by trade with a long association with Stony Brook University, Englebright served in the Suffolk County Legislature from 1983 to 1992, before his long term in the state Assembly until the end of 2022. He said he was particularly inspired to reenter the county’s political sphere when he heard the Legislature in July rejected the opportunity to let people vote on the clean water bill. He said the move took away a chance for public education on how aging septic infrastructure affects the county’s sole-source aquifer and local harbors.

“The reason I’m running for the county Legislature is the work that I began there to protect clean water and protect us environmentally, and in order to encourage the growth of renewable energy — those issues are still very, very much in need, I believe, of some of the attention that I can give to them,” he said. “Let the people vote for clean water.”

Figliola, who indicated he was also disappointed the Legislature did not allow the clean water referendum, said he wants to bring to Suffolk his experience helping small businesses grow and assisting municipalities seeking federal funds for infrastructure.

“I care about this community, which is why I want to bring a private-sector mindset to the county Legislature because we have fiscal problems,” Figliola said. He also said he’d like to help small businesses succeed in order to decrease the number of vacant storefronts in the area.

Both candidates agreed red-light cameras should be used in a more thoughtful and disciplined way — for public safety and not as a revenue stream. “People feel that it is a cash grab, and I want to make sure their pockets are not being picked,” Figliola said.

Brookhaven Town supervisor

In the race to replace Romaine as town supervisor, Lillian Clayman (D), a SUNY Old Westbury adjunct professor and former mayor of Hamden, Connecticut, is facing off against Brookhaven Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville).

Clayman, who also worked as an organizer for a health care union and chair of the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee, was unable to make the event, but said previously her priorities include bringing “good government” to Brookhaven, and solving issues of waste management in light of the planned closure of Brookhaven’s landfill.

At the event, Panico detailed his long service in public office, including 13 years at his current post as councilman for the 6th District. He said Brookhaven is “light-years” from the “sordid history that unfolded from decades ago,” thanks in part to anti-nepotism and ethics laws he was part of passing.

He said a key to his collaborative style is to represent all constituents and work collaboratively with others, no matter their political leaning. He also does not talk about national politics.

“I find it to be extremely divisive,” he said. “A lot of times when elected officials are so willing to jump into the fray of national politics and culture wars, it’s because they’re not necessarily spending that time that they should be doing the job they were elected to do.”

Panico pledged to do his best to protect open spaces from overdevelopment, an issue of particular interest to area residents, and something he has had success doing. “Land use zoning and planning is my expertise,” he said, adding that the area where he grew up — Mastic Beach — was a victim of “haphazard” development, which is difficult and expensive to redevelop. He said he would like to avoid that issue in places with historical properties and such a sense of place. “You have something special here in the Three Village area,” he said.

He also said he would address issues of illegal student housing in local neighborhoods by working with Stony Brook University to find solutions — especially in light of record donations to the school that could enable additional appropriate student housing. He said he has experience in cracking down on illegal housing situations and pledged to do the same in the Three Village area. “It’s like cancer,” he said. “If you, as a government representative, do not address the issue, and the people don’t believe their government is listening and doing something, what happens? The ‘for sale’ sign goes up, especially in this market, and it spreads down the block.”

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Lillian Clayman, the Democratic Party nominee for Town of Brookhaven supervisor. Photo courtesy Clayman

Following former Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant’s unexpected departure from the race, the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee has tapped Lillian Clayman to stand in this year’s election for Town of Brookhaven supervisor.

Incumbent town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) is running for Suffolk County executive this November, creating an open contest for his seat. The Brookhaven Republican Committee selected Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville) to head the ticket.

Garant, opposing Panico on the Democratic line, suspended her campaign last week due to an “unforeseen health issue,” according to the BTDC. 

In an exclusive interview, Clayman opened up about her professional experiences and plans for the town. The new Democratic nominee centered her platform around the Brookhaven Town landfill while offering various administrative reforms.

A Port Jefferson resident, Clayman is an adjunct professor of labor and industrial relations at SUNY Old Westbury. She worked as a political organizer for health care union 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and spent a decade as a financial adviser/stockbroker at Manhattan-based global insurance corporation AIG.

Clayman served as mayor of Hamden, Connecticut, from 1991-97. She was chair of BTDC from 2016-20, and has run several political campaigns in Connecticut and on Long Island.

Clayman said she was approached last week by party leaders, who had asked to lead the ticket in Garant’s absence.

“Given the fact that I have government administrative experience as well as political experience, and given the truncated time frame, I said that I would be happy to do so,” she said.

The town landfill — located on Horseblock Road in Yaphank and scheduled to be closed to construction and demolition debris by December 2024 — is a centerpiece of Clayman’s campaign.

“We need to do something quickly about the Brookhaven landfill,” she said. “This is something that has been ignored while taxes have gone up [and] elected officials’ salaries have gone up.”

“The Brookhaven landfill and all of its impacts on the environment today and in the future has been ignored,” she added. “It’s been kicked down the road.”

Concerning intervention and remediation of the pending landfill closure, Clayman said, “The easy environmental fruit has been picked,” suggesting expediency has been advanced while root causes go neglected.

“It’s easy to be for open space,” she said. “It’s a lot harder to find a solution to something as complex as the Brookhaven landfill,” calling the facility “a Titanic headed for an iceberg.”

The Democratic candidate maintained that supervising the landfill closure — and the expected challenges precipitating from it — will require close collaboration with all interested parties.

“My plan and my approach is to bring in all of the players, all of the stakeholders in the community, so that we can make sure that we can protect our environment for real, not just with words,” Clayman said.

Along with the landfill, she proposed several administrative reforms, proposing to “bring good government” to Town Hall.

“Good government means putting contracts out to bid fairly, without regard to whether or not they contribute to your campaign,” she said. “It’s also an approach that [assesses] whether or not we actually need a service, so I do use a little bit of zero-based budgeting in my approach to providing services.”

In stating why she entered the race, Clayman indicated that the town government requires greater proactiveness and energy to serve its residents most effectively.

“There’s a lot of work to do,” she said. “There have been years of neglect and coasting, and I intend to get to work on day one.”