Times of Smithtown

The U.N.’s High Seas Treaty aims to reduce pollution, protect biodiversity and share ocean resources. Stock photo

Determined, passionate and committed representatives to the United Nations, including the United States, spent over 20 years trying to hammer out an agreement to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.

This past Saturday, after extending a deadline, representatives of 193 countries in New York verbally agreed to terms of a High Seas Treaty designed to reduce pollution, protect biodiversity and share ocean resources.

While individual countries still have to ratify the treaty, scientists like Ellen Pikitch, endowed professor of Ocean Conservation Science and executive director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, praised the agreement.

“It’s fantastic,” Pikitch said. “It’s been needed for so long.”

Lisa Speer, a marine scientist and the director of the International Oceans Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, has been working to educate and encourage government leaders to understand what’s at stake and how to protect the oceans.

“This is a big step forward for biodiversity conservation on a global level,” said Speer. “This provides me with a lot of encouragement.”

In addition to the educational and advocacy work she did over the years, Speer spent much of the last 36 hours at the U.N. surrounded by others who had slept on the floor or in various rooms and hallways amid the effort to get this treaty across the finish line.

“Everybody was really emotional,” she said, with spontaneous applause and cheers continuing for a long period of time. “A lot of us have been here since the beginning. There were celebratory hugs and thanks and tears of joy for the efforts of so many people” including some who were not in the room but had worked for decades on this treaty.

The view of the importance of biodiversity in the oceans has changed considerably over the last few decades.

“For most of human history, the high seas have been viewed as an empty wasteland,” Speer said. Now, however, people recognize that it’s “probably the largest reserve of biodiversity left on the planet.”

This treaty, Pikitch and Speer added, can and should help ensure that humans can explore and discover some of that biodiversity before it might otherwise disappear.

Speer is hopeful that United States senators, who will have a chance to vote on the treaty, recognize that the country has “a very strong interest in making sure it has a voice in decisions affecting half the planet. It’s in our interest to be full participants in that process.”

Pikitch, who is an expert in the field of Marine Protected Areas, suggested that the process of coming up with a framework to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by the end of the decade involved considerable back and forth with various interest groups within each country.

“It’s not that easy to determine how this area would be managed,” Pikitch said. Various groups have “concerns that differ among different parts of the global community.”

Pikitch pointed out that a Convention on Biological Diversity late last year agreed that the world would protect 30% of the lands and waters by 2030.

Pikitch said such a goal was unattainable without this High Seas Treaty, which addressed the parts of the ocean that had previously been off limits to such protections.

The treaty and the establishment of marine protected areas will be “huge for biodiversity,” Pikitch said.

Piktich suggested that the commitment over two decades and the increasing public awareness of the importance of ocean resources offers her hope that this treaty, for which numerous details are still in the works, will offer effective protection.

“There’s a huge amount of passion and commitment by countries of the world to work this out,” she said. “They did not give up.”

Pixabay photo

Community choice aggregation, a revolution in energy procurement, is making a splash throughout Long Island.

Starting in May, the Town of Brookhaven will launch a CCA program, contracting with Manhattan-based Good Energy LLC for a fixed rate for natural gas consumers over the next two years.

In an interview, Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) explained how the program would operate. Under the longstanding method of natural gas delivery in the town, National Grid — based in the U.K. and northeastern U.S. — purchases the supply and delivers the gas. CCA alters this dynamic.

“CCA is just a method of purchasing a commodity on a communitywide basis,” he said. Under the program, “all of the customers of National Grid in a certain area are getting together to say, ‘We’re going to jointly purchase fuel cooperatively from a different source.’”

That source, Good Energy, has agreed to supply gas at a fixed price of 69.5 cents per therm. “That locks in the price for all customers” for two years, the councilmember said. 

National Grid, which still operates the delivery systems, will continue to bill customers for those services. The only section of the bill affected by the changes will be for energy supply.

An August report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration states that the natural gas market saw record volatility last year due to demand changes, storms and geopolitical unrest. 

Given the many variables that contribute to fluctuations in gas prices, Kornreich suggested Brookhaven homeowners and businesses would be less beholden to the volatility of the market under CCA. “We’re going to pay just one price for the next two years,” he said. 

The town is also hedging that the market price of natural gas will rise over the next two years. If that happens, CCA will deliver discounted gas to Brookhaven ratepayers throughout the contracted period.

“The expectation that I have, as given to me by the corporate representatives with whom I met, is that there’s going to be a savings to the customers,” Kornreich said. “My hope is that this price is competitive over a two-year period.” 

He added, “Based on the models that they’ve shown me, this price will — over the long term — on average be lower than what they would have paid if they had just rode that market price.”

CCA: An energy revolution

‘A CCA can play a role in helping the residents to have more negotiation power.’ ­

— Gang He

Community choice aggregation first came about in the 1990s as a model of procuring energy whereby a municipality can pool the buying power of its residents to negotiate favorable energy contracts.

Gang He is an assistant professor in the Department of Technology and Society at Stony Brook University, whose research focuses on energy and climate policy. 

The assistant professor regarded the traditional relationship between energy consumers and suppliers as heavily skewed in favor of suppliers, referring to consumer protections under CCA as correcting the power imbalance.

“When utilities deal with residents, residents have no power,” Gang He said. “It’s a monopoly, and it’s heavily regulated by regulators. A CCA can play a role in helping the residents to have more negotiation power.”

Paul Fenn, founder and president of the Massachusetts-based CCA firm Local Power, drafted some of the original enabling legislation for CCA in Massachusetts, California and throughout the U.S. In an interview, he traced the history of CCA.

Fenn said vertically integrated investor-owned utilities have historically operated as monopolies and cartels, given their guaranteed rates of return by state regulators and energy market deregulation. CCA, he said, seeks to rectify this.

“The basic definition is that CCA is a model of energy supply that is neither a monopoly nor a cartel,” he said.

He likened the energy model to Costco. “The reason that large users achieve cheaper services is like going to Costco,” he said. “If you’re buying 200 rolls of toilet paper instead of 20, you pay a lower price.”

CCA applies this framework to the energy supply, giving the small consumer the perks of a bulk purchaser by pooling the buying power of entire communities. 

“It’s a way for small users … to gain the economic buying power enjoyed by the largest corporations,” he said, adding, “The aggregations are designed to deliver the benefits to the user and not to the supplier.”

Two factors, according to Fenn, have contributed to the rise of CCA nationwide. On the one hand, the economic model has been tailored and perfected to benefit individual users over large suppliers. On the other hand, renewable technologies have progressed to the point where they are now competitive with fossil fuels. 

Fenn characterized CCA as a revolution for capitalizing on the convergence of cheap renewable energy and consumer protections for utility power.

‘Community choice aggregation programs can be a great tool for getting community solar built, paid for and delivered to people.’ ­

— Anne Reynolds

Promoting renewables

Anne Reynolds is executive director of Alliance for Clean Energy New York, a group of private companies and nonprofits partnering to expand green energy opportunities throughout New York state. Reynolds indicated that CCA could be interpreted in two ways — as an economic model or as a way to promote green energy.

CCA “can be purely an economics choice,” she said. “You can think of it as a collective buying co-op,” but “most of the examples in New York state are when the community also wants to get a renewable energy product.”

Reynolds stated that CCA is not the main objective of ACE NY as CCA “hasn’t been the primary way that renewable energy products are getting built in New York, which is what we focus on,” she said.

Her organization instead emphasizes the construction of large-scale, grid-connected renewable energy projects through long-term contracts with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, the state must procure 70% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 and 100% by 2050. When asked whether CCAs offer a pathway toward a greener future in New York, Reynolds responded that there must be a mix of large-scale and small-scale projects.

“To get there, we’re going to need an unprecedented construction of renewable energy projects — offshore wind, wind, solar, batteries,” she said. “To get that done, these projects need to have a guaranteed market for their power, what they refer to as offtake agreements.”

She added, “Having those offtake agreements with the State of New York is one way to do it. Having the offtake agreements with communities in New York is another.”

One way CCA can promote new development in renewables, Reynolds said, is through community distributed generation, often referred to as community solar. 

“Community choice aggregation programs can be a great tool for getting community solar built, paid for and delivered to people,” she said. “For the state to meet its goals, and for Long Island especially, it’s going to require a little bit of everything.”

The Southampton model

Brookhaven is not the only municipality in Suffolk County implementing CCA. In the neighboring Town of Southampton, local officials are exploring a different posture, with an energy plan geared toward electricity instead of natural gas.

Lynn Arthur is the energy chair of Southampton’s volunteer sustainability committee and the founder of the nonprofit Peak Power Long Island, a consultancy group that services municipalities and their constituents on renewable energy technologies.

Arthur said there are currently two CCA administrators operating on Long Island, Good Energy and Bedford Hills-based Joule Community Power, Southampton’s CCA administrator. She notes that the difference in administrators has placed the two municipalities on separate trajectories.

In Southampton, the Town Board is working toward obtaining electricity from 100% renewable energy sources by 2025. Arthur said that goal is coming into focus.

“It’s only natural that we would try to get a power supply contract for 100% renewables for electricity,” she said.

To meet this task, Arthur suggested CCA would play a pivotal role. She is now advocating for the Southampton Town Board to submit a request for proposal to supply electricity from 100% renewable sources.

Brookhaven vs. Southampton

Weighing Brookhaven’s CCA against Southampton’s, former New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) suggested that Southampton has the upper hand.

“I think Southampton’s model is the better one,” he said. “Electricity is the future. We should be moving away from natural gas.”

But, he added, “to the extent that the Town of Brookhaven can get started with [CCA] is promising. I think the inevitable success of what Southampton is doing will compel their next-door neighbor, Brookhaven,” to follow suit.

Despite Brookhaven’s gas-exclusive CCA, Fenn did not say that gas aggregation was inherently brown and electricity aggregation green. Rather, he said promoting renewables through CCA is a matter of how a program is implemented.

He objected, however, to the limited scope of Brookhaven’s CCA initiative. “This program is defined narrowly as a discount-only program, and I think that’s not a particularly good idea,” he said. “It’s hard to argue against stabilizing people’s rates, but it won’t help the environment if that’s all they’re doing, and it may hurt it.”

Creating competition

‘I like the idea of moving away from monolithic energy sourcing.’ ­

— Steve Englebright

Fenn regarded municipalities as sometimes prone to short-term thinking. While gas aggregation is a step toward unshackling ratepayers from the market’s volatility, he said it is incomplete.

Instead, he advised Brookhaven leaders to explore fuel switching, that is, transitioning residents from natural gas to electricity. The heat pump, for example, constitutes one way in which a home’s heating can be fulfilled by electric power instead of gas.

“Apart from the climate crisis, which says stop burning this stuff, there are so many reasons” to transition off fossil fuels, Fenn said. By fuel switching, “you’re adding electrical load when you do that, but you’re deleting gas demand.”

By creating a separate program for electrical aggregation, Fenn said Brookhaven could correct course, providing gas customers with greener options for heating. 

Asked whether the Brookhaven Town Board could add a second CCA administrator for electricity, he responded affirmatively. “Just deliver both, and you can,” he said.

Arthur emphasized that municipalities can have separate CCA administrators for gas and electricity. She suggested Brookhaven add a second administrator for electricity to further competition.

“Fundamentally, if competition is good, and if you want everybody to go to electricity and get away from gas, then you should have [CCA administrators] compete with each other,” she said.

Local vs. centralized intervention

Fenn noted the decline of municipal power since the Civil War, which he said had rendered local governments impotent compared to their state and federal counterparts. He criticized the tendency of local officials to outsource services to third-party vendors.

“Part of the problem is the dependence on third parties cripples the governments by making them intellectually captive to those service providers,” he said. “We believe municipalities should have skin in the game and should use the power that they have.”

Fenn attributed the climate and garbage crises in the United States to the decline of municipal powers and the failures of centralized government. He encouraged local policymakers to embrace programs like CCA to counteract these downward movements.

“There has to be knowledge, responsibility and therefore control” vested in municipal government, he said. “CCA uses contractors to provide services, but they’re firmly under the control of the municipality.”

While CCA proposes a local solution to a global climate phenomenon, questions remain about the best forms of intervention. 

For Reynolds, tackling the climate crisis requires a centralized intervention from the higher levels of government, with local governments doing their part as well. “We absolutely need both,” the ACE NY executive director said. 

For the state to reach its aggressive emission mandates, “you’re going to need larger power projects, too, like offshore,” she said. “But it shouldn’t be an either or question.”

‘It’s so clear that this is such a great opportunity to move the needle on renewables and, at the same time, lower costs for their constituents.’ ­

— Lynn Arthur

A sustainable future

Gang He viewed the growth in renewable energy, evidenced by over $1 trillion in worldwide investment last year, as a turning point in energy history. 

“Renewables have gained momentum,” the SBU assistant professor said. “The challenge is how do we maintain the momentum to deliver the outcome that we desire?”

Arthur recommends CCA to local officials as a way to do so. “It’s so clear that this is such a great opportunity to move the needle on renewables and, at the same time, lower costs for their constituents,” she said.

Asked whether Brookhaven’s CCA could spur interest in a similar program for electricity, Kornreich expressed optimism that the town’s program would foster better energy stewardship.

“I hope that it does open people’s eyes to the possibility and to get people more comfortable with the concept of being a more conscious consumer of utility power,” he said. “Whether it’s gas or electric, people can understand they can choose and that their choices will have an impact on the environment.”

Though acknowledging some of the drawbacks to the Brookhaven program, Englebright expressed encouragement about moving away from the preexisting procurement structure.

“Great journeys are made a step at a time,” the former assemblyman said. “I like the idea of moving away from monolithic energy sourcing.” He added, “A more distributed power system is to our advantage, ultimately — more competitive, less monolithic and more responsive to the public.”

For more details on the Town of Brookhaven’s Community Choice Aggregation Program, visit the website brookhavencommunityenergy.com. 

According to the website, “Eligible customers will soon receive additional information in the mail regarding product features, including information about the renewable energy option.”

Correction: In the print version of this article published on March 9, the town’s community choice aggregation administrator, Good Energy LLC, was misidentified as a London-based firm. In fact, Good Energy is headquartered in Manhattan. We apologize for the error.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, front, in the 2022 St. James parade along with Vincent Puleo, former town clerk. Photo by Rita J. Egan

After leading the town for five years, Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) will head up the St. James St. Patrick’s Day Parade Saturday, March 11.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim was announced the St. James parade grand marshal at the chamber’s Winter Gala. Photo by Rich Balter

Wehrheim, a native of Kings Park, said when he heard the news, he was humbled and honored. The town supervisor added he is mostly of German and English descent.

“As I told the chamber for that particular day, I will be all Irish,” he said.

The honor will be his first time serving as a parade grand marshal.

“I’m pretty excited,” he said. “It’s great for the community when the chambers put the parades and events on. I’m looking forward to it.

Kathy Weber, president of the St. James Chamber of Commerce, said the board chose Wehrheim as grand marshal for all his work for the hamlet, including being instrumental in making possible Celebrate Park, which opened in 2022.

“From the roads to the park and all the revitalization, he’s really there for St. James,” Weber said. “We’re so grateful.”

She added it’s apparent how Wehrheim cares about the St. James community.

“It wasn’t even a question as to who should be this year’s grand marshal,” Weber said.

Wehrheim said the town is proud of what has been done in St. James.

“It has resulted in a huge success for the community and the business community,” he said. “To be the grand marshal and go down the newly renovated Lake Avenue will be a great honor.”

The supervisor said after COVID-19 protocols prevented or limited community gatherings for a couple of years, returning to parades, festivals, concerts and more was welcomed. 

The St. James St. Patrick’s Day Parade was canceled in 2020 a few days before it was due to take place. In 2021 a car parade was held, and the 2022 parade was postponed until a few weeks later due to inclement weather on its original scheduled date. According to Weber, it was the first time there was a rain date.

She said this year planning and participation have returned to pre-COVID conditions.

“There are a lot of people and a lot of excitement,” she said, adding that several children will be participating as princes and princesses this year. A resident turning Sweet 16 will also be in the parade handing out candy after her grandmother arranged to make her wish to participate come true.

“It’s a great day to celebrate the supervisor and celebrate St. James,” Weber said. “The feeling in St. James, it’s such a close community feeling.”

The St. James St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be held on Saturday, March 11. The event kicks off on the corner of Woodlawn and Lake avenues at 1 p.m. and continues to the train station.

Pixabay phoro

Community choice aggregation is a nationwide revolution in energy procurement with transformational implications for Long Island.

The benefits of CCA are threefold. It offers ratepayers an avenue for lower energy costs. It introduces competition into the energy marketplace, incentivizing public utilities to deliver a better product. And it places entire communities down a path toward 100% renewable energy.

The popular fiction is that fossil fuels are cheaper and more efficient than their expensive and immature renewable counterparts. CCA proponents challenge this thinking, stipulating that renewables can outperform fossil fuels with the proper economic structure, a structure supporting energy consumers instead of suppliers.

Classical economics indicates that one company controlling the entire supply of a given commodity constitutes a monopoly. Since the Industrial Revolution, vertically integrated utilities have exercised exclusive control over the supply of energy, setting prices arbitrarily and controlling the market at will.

CCA seeks to flip this dynamic on its head, introducing competition into the energy market using the bulk-buying power of a community of people. Though they are opted in automatically, ratepayers can opt out at any time at no expense. More importantly, CCA gives municipalities a choice over the energy source, with the option to select renewables over fossil fuels.

Competitors’ cheaper, greener power may incentivize utility companies to deliver a better product. If consumers want affordable and renewable energy, the utility’s rational choice would be to invest heavily in renewables and reduce rates. Competition spurs innovation and growth, benefiting all parties.

Here at TBR News Media, we hold that local governments must be highly active and potent and challenge the centralized bureaucracies in Albany and Washington when those fail to deliver meaningful results for our communities. For too long, state-regulated utilities have not done enough to counteract the effects of climate change.

A U.S. Energy Information Administration report notes, “In 2021, renewable sources and nuclear power, together, supplied 54% of New York’s total in-state generation from utility-scale and small-scale facilities.” For New York state to reach its energy goals under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, the report indicates that figure must climb to 70% by 2030.

To meet this task, local governments must do their part, negotiating on behalf of their residents for 100% renewable energy. CCA offers our local officials the means to fulfill this end.

The Town of Brookhaven recently instituted a CCA program for a two-year fixed rate on natural gas prices. Given the volatility of today’s international gas markets, Brookhaven’s program has potential cost benefits.

However, the town has only dipped its toe into the greater CCA dialogue. A gas-exclusive program offers merely the financial rewards of the CCA model without the reduced greenhouse gas emissions. We encourage Brookhaven leaders to study the Town of Southampton’s model, where electricity may soon be procured from 100% renewable sources.

In the meantime, other municipalities should take a close look at CCA. The portside Village of Port Jefferson — already grappling with the hazardous effects of coastal erosion and worsening flooding — could send a strong message by joining this effort. Other municipalities, such as the towns of Smithtown and Huntington, could do so as well.

CCA is a cost-effective, market-friendly and environmentally sustainable policy. For residents and the natural environment, it is time for all our local leaders to take it seriously.

METRO image

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I’m really writing this. Or am I?

Now that I’ve seen artificial intelligence in action, I know that the system, such as it is, can write impressive pieces in much shorter time than it takes me to write a column or even this sentence.

And yet, I don’t want a machine to write for me or to reach out to you. I prefer the letter by letter, word by word approach I take and would like to think I earn the smile, frown or anything in between I put on your face as a result of the thinking and living I’ve done.

However, I do see opportunities for AI to become the equivalent of a personal assistant, taking care of needed conveniences and reducing inconveniences. For conveniences, how about if AI did the following:

Grocery shopping: I’m sure I get similar foods each week. Maybe my AI system could not only buy the necessary and desired food items, but perhaps it could reduce the ones that are unhealthy or offer new recipes that satisfy my food preferences.

Dishes: I’m not looking for a robot akin to “The Jetsons,” but would love to have a system that removed the dirt and food from my dishes, put them in the dishwasher, washed them and then put them away. An enhanced system also might notice when a dish wasn’t clean and would give that dish another wash.

Laundry: Okay, I’ll admit it. I enjoy folding warm laundry, particularly in the winter, when my cold hands are starting to crack from being dry. Still, it would save time and energy to have a laundry system that washed my clothes, folded them and put them away, preferably so that I could see and access my preferred clothing.

Pharmacy: I know this is kind of dangerous when it comes to prescriptions, but it’d be helpful to have a system that replenished basic, over-the-counter supplies, such as band-aids. Perhaps it could also pick out new birthday and greeting cards that expressed particular sentiments in funny yet tasteful ways for friends and family who are celebrating milestone birthdays or are living through other joyful or challenging times.

For the inconveniences, an AI system would help by:

Staying on hold: At some point, we’ve all waited endlessly on hold for some company to pick up the phone to speak to us about changing our flights, scheduling a special dinner reservation or speaking with someone about the unusual noise our car makes. Those “on hold” calls, with their incessant chatter or their nonstop hold music, can be exasperating. An AI system that waited patiently, without complaint or frustration and that handed me the phone the moment a person picked up the call, would be a huge plus.

Optimize necessary updates: Car inspections, annual physicals, oil changes, and trips to the vet can and do go on a calendar. Still, it’d be helpful to have an AI system that recognizes these regular needs and coordinates an optimal time (given my schedule and the time it’ll take to travel to and from these events) to ensure I don’t miss an appointment and to minimize the effort necessary.

Send reminders to our children: Life is full of balances, right? Too much or too little of something is unhealthy. These days, we sometimes have to write or text our kids several times before we get to speak with them live. An AI system might send them a casual, but loving, reminder that their not-so-casual but loving parents would like to speak with them live.

Provide a test audience: In our heads, we have the impulse to share something funny, daring or challenging, like, “hey, did you get dressed in the dark” or “wow, it must be laundry day.” Sure, that might be funny, but an AI system designed to appreciate humor in the moment — and to have an awareness of our audience — might protect us from ourselves. Funny can be good and endearing, but can also annoy.

A scene from the new Elegant Eating video by Daniel Febrizio/ TBR News Media

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

There is something new, and I hope you will find exciting, in this issue of the newspaper. If you will look at the advertisement for Elegant Eating on page 9 for those of you that get The Times of Smithtown or the back cover for The Village Times Herald, you will see a QR code within the border of the ad. Run your mobile phone camera over the code, and it will open up to a 30-second video.

The new addition, in effect, turns the flat, two-dimensional print ad into a talking motion picture, however briefly. This gives significantly extra punch to the ad. It’s also fun for the reader.

We will repeat this for the other four newspapers, The Times of Huntington & Northport, The Village Beacon Record, The Times of Middle Country and The Port Times Record next week. 

We can, of course, offer the same process for news stories. An article about someone newsworthy can carry a QR code that then permits a live viewing of that person speaking to the viewer.

For now, we will concentrate on providing this service to advertisers, refining the process as we go along. And we have priced this offering accordingly to allow many business people to afford coming aboard.

In addition to viewing the short on a mobile phone, the video will also run on the home page of our TBRnewsmedia website under the banner, “Video spotlight on business.” Our website has approximately 150,000 viewers per month. Further, the advertisers can add the video to their own web page if they would like. Advertisers should check with their sales reps for more information and to get started.

In adding this new feature, we hope to have a meaningful interaction between print and the web. Print, of course, is being challenged as digital news and advertising have lessened to some extent the dominance of print. With this new service, it is our intention to bring the best of both worlds to the advertising side and also the news side of our media output.

The value of print, with its responsibility for vetting and fact checking both stories and ads, cannot be overstated in this present climate of enormous misinformation on the web. In bringing print to the web, and the benefits of the web to print, we hope to engage our readers further and serve our local communities. We also hope, by being innovative, to help our bottom line. 

We know communities need local news outlets to inform and protect them, as well as to hold a mirror up to record their daily lives and achievements. Towns where newspapers have failed in the last decade are now referred to as news deserts and have suffered for their loss. Ill-considered developments, poorly sited landfills and unfortunate actions by unworthy local government officials have been only some of the consequences, with no strong voice to give outcry on behalf of the people. Many energetic journalists have been thrown out of work. We believe the key to survival in this age is to embrace change and join with its best aspects. 

Hence our latest enhancement for you.

Concerned residents filled the second floor of the St. James firehouse on North Country Road to air their concerns about a proposed assisted living facility on Mills Pond Road. Photo by Rita J. Egan

St. James residents are joining together to fight a proposed assisted living facility on the former Bull Run Farm, which takes up slightly more than 9 acres along Mills Pond Road.

Concerned residents filled the second floor of the St. James firehouse on North Country Road to air their concerns about a proposed assisted living facility on Mills Pond Road. Photo by Rita J. Egan

An informational meeting was held Thursday, March 2, at the St. James firehouse on Route 25A to provide residents updates on the proposed two-story, 97-bed facility that will be called Whisper Mills. Approximately 150 people, many living on the road and right next to the property, filled the room, half of them standing, to air their concerns.

Attorneys David Moran and Deirdre Cicciaro represented Mills Pond Group, owned by Fort Salonga developer Frank Amicizia, to moderate the event and field questions. Moran said the March 2 meeting was just the first step of the process. The assisted living facility proposal is contingent on receipt of all properties that make up the total parcel of land. Currently, the developer owns one lot and members of the Elderkin family, who once ran the farm, own the other two.

Cicciaro said the entire parcel was 9.02 acres and zoned as residential. The facility would need a special exception from the Town of Smithtown to be permitted. She said the client “shares the concerns about the preservation and the bucolic nature of the neighborhood.”

She added nearly 20% of the premises would be developed, leaving a little more than 80% of the total parcel landscaped, undisturbed, natural or vegetative. The attorney went over the development plans, including that there would be more than 800 feet of road frontage, and all setbacks will be more than required by town code. The facility would have 74 parking spaces.

Cicciaro said the plan was an attempt to “provide a necessary housing option for the community of St. James that does not currently exist while keeping with the character of the area and neighborhood.”

Residents took turns airing concerns at the meeting, including the proximity to the Gyrodyne property on Route 25A which also faces potential development; 24-hour lighting on the property; increased traffic; and the building not fitting the community aesthetics. Others were concerned about a sewage treatment plant that is proposed for the property. Concerns about the STP ranged from how it would affect local waterways due to the disposal of pharmaceuticals in the facility to the noise it would make. One attendee said the STP at Whisper Woods on Route 25A across from St. Catherine of Siena Hospital makes noise 24 hours a day.

Moran said the facility would be 100% code compliant, including proper maintenance of medication on the site and a traffic study is being worked on.

One woman said that residents “would rather see broken down tractors” than the proposed building.

“This is by no means compliant visually and otherwise with any of these beautiful homes,” she added. “This is our paradise. We have worked to preserve this all these years.”

A few of the residents, as well as the Facebook group Save Bull Run Farm, St. James and Saint James-Head of the Harbor Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, have encouraged people to attend upcoming Town Board meetings to let Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) and council members know their concerns.

“You are the ones who are responsible for putting the pressure on your elected officials whether you voted for them or not,” one woman said at the meeting. “You must reach out to them and tell them how you feel.”

As of March 8, a town public hearing was not scheduled. According to Nicole Garguilo, Smithtown public information officer, when a meeting regarding the development is scheduled, it will be held in the evening and at the town’s senior center.

Despite cloudy skies and a short period of misty rain, hundreds lined Pulaski Road, Main and Church streets in Kings Park to witness the hamlet’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  This year’s event featured marching bands, Scouts, local officials, firefighters, business representatives and more.

A tradition since 2011,  this year’s parade was led by grand marshal Michael Lacey, a decades-long resident of Kings Park who grew up in Ireland.


Mobile Mammography Van

Senator Mario R. Mattera (2nd Senate District), in conjunction with The Salvation Army, is hosting the Stony Brook Cancer Center’s Mobile Mammography Van in East Northport. The free breast cancer-screening event will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, March 10, at 319 Clay Pitts Road in East Northport.

Stony Brook University Cancer Center operates and staffs the mobile van, which was made possible through more than $3 million from the New York State Department of Health. The van provides convenient access to all women in our area to ensure that women on Long Island get the information they need to protect themselves from breast cancer.

This event is for women forty and older who have not had a mammogram in the past year. An appointment is necessary so all who are interested should call 631-638-4135 to schedule an appointment. For more information on the Stony Brook Cancer Center’s Mobile Mammography Van, residents can visit cancer.stonybrookmedicine.edu/Patients/MammoVan.

According to information provided by Stony Brook Cancer Center, most screenings are no cost since the cost of mammograms are covered by Medicare, Medicaid and almost all insurance companies. Any resident who has no insurance will be referred to the New York State Cancer Services Program, which may cover the cost of an exam.

In New York State, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death among women. Mammograms and breast cancer screenings can detect cancer at early stages, when it is often the most treatable.

“Early detection is the best way to combat and beat breast cancer and that makes access to no-cost screenings so critical. I thank Stony Brook University and the Salvation Army for partnering with us to provide this helpful preventive care and urge all in our community who can benefit to attend this event,” said Senator Mattera.

For more information on this important event, including eligibility requirements, information for day of visit and directions to the event, please visit Senator Mattera’s website at mattera.nysenate.gov.

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Bad weather, cold and flu season and more are causing a drop in blood donations.


New York Blood Center (NYBC) declared the first blood emergency of 2023 on March 6. The blood emergency is due to several evolving factors, including recent poor weather, school breaks and cold and flu season. Last month, NYBC and its divisions across the nation received 6,000 fewer blood donations than the year prior and blood donations are 12% below hospital and patient needs.

The number of blood donations still are not back to pre-pandemic levels. Compounding the problem is a continued lag in first-time and youth donors, which remain about half of pre-pandemic levels.  And while New Yorkers are returning to in-person work, office and community blood drives and visits to NYBC Donor Centers are significantly down.  People working from home had an easier time donating in our donor centers, but we’re seeing a dramatic decrease at our centers.

“Each winter, we struggle to get folks to donate blood and this year is no exception. We need more New Yorkers to make blood donations, host blood drives and spread the word about the need for donations,” said Andrea Cefarelli, Senior Vice President at New York Blood Center.“Last year, we expanded our reach with a new donor center, and we recently announced new donor guidelines from the FDA; we are expanding in every way we can in order to reach new donors. This March, make a blood donation and tell a friend!”

In addition to whole blood donors, platelet donors are urgently needed. With a shelf life of just 7 days, NYBC relies on dedicated platelet donors to help patients undergoing chemotherapy, those with bleeding disorders, new mothers, and more.