Town of Smithtown

Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer points to a chart showing the impact discovery law changes have had on small municipalities. Photo by David Luces

Town supervisors in Suffolk County say recent criminal justice reform has caused “unintended consequences” to municipalities and local code enforcement. They are asking the state to exempt small municipalities from new guidelines, among other things. 

The issue they have is with the state’s new discovery provisions, which require names and contact information for complaints to be turned over within 15 days of arraignment. In turn, it has eliminated anonymity, which many municipalities rely on when it comes to handling code violations. 

“You’re not going to call, you’re not going to complain, what does that do for the quality of life?”

— Ed Romaine

Rich Schaffer (D), Town of Babylon supervisor and chair of the county Democratic committee, said at a March 5 press conference they usually receive a lot of anonymous tips from concerned residents but have noticed many are not willing to come forward with the new changes. 

“They don’t want to put their names down, and quite frankly we don’t want to [either],” he said. “We want to be able to go after the offenders and educate them on how to clean up their act and be a good neighbor.”

A letter signed by all of the county’s town supervisors was sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in January. The group said with the new standards in how case information is turned over to the courts, it means there are currently no distinctions between a homicide case and a “municipal code violation for high grass.” 

The supervisors said the reform was rushed through the legislature and didn’t give municipalities enough time to formulate a public education campaign. In addition, the changes hurt them on a local level because the state “got involved in things that we didn’t need their involvement in,” Schaffer said.

Supervisors also complained the requirement for after issuing a summons, a court date must be set within 20 days. Officials said it used to take a month to process cases, but now there are four additional “hoops to jump through” to process a complaint. A case could take up to two years to be resolved.

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said the criminal justice reform has had a “chilling effect on code enforcement.” 

“So now, if you live next to a guy that has a house with two illegal apartments and four or five unregistered vehicles and trash on the property, if you call, we are obligated by state law to tell the guy next door that you called,” he said. “You’re not going to call, you’re not going to complain, what does that do for the quality of life?”

The four supervisors called on the state Legislature to pass a bill that would allow townships to handle their own code enforcement cases and reinstate anonymity.  

State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) and state Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) are proposing bills that would allow anonymity for those reporting local code violations, let municipalities take these cases out of district court and allow them to create their own administrative bureau. 

Chad Lupinacci (R), Town of Huntington supervisor, said many of the problems discussed can be eliminated if municipalities had their own administrative bureau. Huntington is one of three municipalities in the state to have one. 

“The bureau should be up and running sometime in May,” he said. “Code enforcement officers, instead of having to comply with these changes, will be able to just enforce the code and ensure that neighborhoods are safer.”

Brookhaven assistant attorney David Moran said they will work in compliance with the law but called it an “unfunded mandate” with no real direction given how to be in compliance. 

Schaffer said he’s volunteering Babylon to be the guinea pig regarding not following the new law and seeing what comes out of it. 

“I’d like to be the test case to challenge the system,” he said.

Brookhaven’s Landfill Set to Close in 2024, Romaine Says a Plan is Needed Now

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

About 100 people crowded into the lower level of a Melville office building Feb. 27. All were there to talk about what ends up in the trash bin. Yet, despite the dry subject matter, all knew that garbage will be the talk of Suffolk County and beyond in just a few short years.

New York State DEC Regional Director Carrie Meek-Gallagher speaks about what it will take to impact the looming garbage crisis. Photo by David Luces

The Long Island Regional Planning Council hosted a meeting about what Long Island does with its garbage and, in particular, how the region will dispose of millions of solid waste when the Town of Brookhaven landfill closes in 2024.  

The discussion brought together local elected officials, environmentalists, waste management company representatives and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, among others.  

Michael White, vice chair of the planning council, outlined the issue to attendees in a presentation. 

Currently, the Brookhaven landfill handles over 350,000 tons of ash annually from energy-from-waste facilities, in addition to handling 720,000 tons of solid waste. 

“Solid waste management is achieved through a public and private sector partnership,” White said. “Trash is either burned or exported to four energy-from-waste facilities on the island.”

The facilities in Hempstead, Huntington-Smithtown, Babylon and Islip are all operated by Covanta Energy. The Babylon location handles about 50,000 tons of waste. 

“The remainder of the residential trash is shipped off on trucks to upstate landfills,” the vice chair of the planning council said. 

White said waste from Oyster Bay, the Town of North Hempstead, Riverhead, Southampton and East Hampton get driven off the island.  

“We have thousands of tons of waste shipped off Long Island every day, resulting in further stress on our aging and congested highway and bridge infrastructure,” he said. “And this approach is bringing us ever-increasing costs.”

In a panel following the presentation, experts and officials discussed potential solutions and ideas to what was called a “looming crisis.”   

“The amount of waste generated on Long Island is increasing,” White said. “With the current volume at the Brookhaven landfill, that means 720,000 tons a year of waste has to find a home somewhere, and another 350,000 tons of ash from the energy from waste facilities will have to find a home somewhere.” 

Will Flower, the vice president of regional trash carting company Winters Bros., said statistics show each person produces about 4 1/2 pounds of waste a day. Each day 2,000 trucks transport waste off the island. 

An option mentioned was increasing the use of rail cars to transport solid waste. About 6,000 rail cars carry 600,000 tons of waste off the island.  

Other attendees and panelists said stakeholders need to come up with more innovative ways to handle waste. Ideas included turning ash into building materials and pulverizing recyclable glass to use in road materials. 

“It’s not a looming crisis — It’s now.”

— Ed Romaine

Flower showed a piece of landfill equipment damaged by glass as a result of it being put with other waste, adding that glass can be and should be recycled. 

Since China’s 2018 decision to ban the import of most plastics and other materials used by its recycling processors, a number of municipalities have altered programs and in cases have reduced or eliminated recycling. Suffolk County has recently created a Regional Recycling Assessment Task Force in an effort to tackle the issue.

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) called for a regional effort. 

“It’s not a looming crisis — It’s now,” he said. “Either we get together as a region to resolve this and have a path forward, or this is going to be yet another thing that makes Long Island less desirable to live and work.”

The supervisor stressed that the region needs to act to find ways beyond either burning or storing waste in landfills.

“I can’t believe in 2020 that’s the only two ways to deal with waste; we need to do something now before we run out of time,” he said. 

Officials from the planning council said they plan on forming a subcommittee to look at the solid waste management crisis and asked attendees to help them develop further recommendations.

Girl Scout Hailey Van Cott works on the prey pen at Sweetbriar Nature Center. Photo from Hailey Van Cott

When choosing a project for her Gold Award, one Stony Brook Girl Scout drew on her love for animals.

Hailey Van Cott, a junior at Ward Melville High School and a Girl Scout since kindergarten, recently began repairing the prey pen within the flight aviary at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown as part of her Gold Award project. A visitor to the center for years, she knew the location was the right choice.

“I really love what Sweetbriar stands for and I knew I wanted to help them out for my Gold Award,” she said.

To help with her project, PSEG Long Island awarded the Girl Scout $200. She said she plans to use the money to put down Astroturf around the sides of the prey enclosure, which helps the birds grip as it’s a softer texture than a piece of wood and in turn prevents foot problems.

PSEG representatives said the project is in line with their goal to relocate osprey and other raptor nests from electrical facilities to safe nesting locations.

“I really love what Sweetbriar stands for and I knew I wanted to help them out for my Gold Award.”

– Hailey Van Cott

“We want to help ensure these wonderful birds continue to return to the area year after year while, at the same time, protecting the reliability of the energy grid,” said John O’Connell, PSEG Long Island’s vice president of transmission and distribution. “Hailey’s project aligns with our commitment to protecting the local raptor population.”

Her mother, Deb, said she wasn’t surprised when her daughter chose to help out at Sweetbriar.

“She’s always liked to help animals,” the mother said. “She’s definitely a big animal person. She’s also always liked to do community service.”

Her mother said with Girl Scout Troop 2867, her daughter has helped Smithtown Animal Shelter by making dog toys and conducting supply drives for them. Outside of Girl Scouts, Van Cott has made memory wire bracelets and sold them at her father’s office and donated the money to Save-A-Pet Animal Shelter in Port Jeff Station.

Isabel Fernandes, a wildlife care coordinator at Sweetbriar, said Van Cott has done an amazing job repairing the prey bin, and Sweetbriar is always appreciative for the help they get from Scouts.

“We are a small staff so it’s important that we have people who can help us and get projects and other things done here,” Fernandes said.

The coordinator explained that the pen is enclosed in the 80-foot flight conditioning enclosure aviary, which is used for wildlife rehabilitation to help injured birds fly again and exercise their muscles before they can be released. The center prey pen ensures the birds maintain their hunting skills.

Fernandes said there is currently a great horned owl in the aviary that was removed when Van Cott was working on the enclosure, as it’s important to keep human contact as limited as possible — something she has now learned through experience.

“The more interaction with humans they have, the more adjusted they will become,” the Girl Scout said. “They need to learn how to capture the prey themselves and how to survive on their own.”

As part of her Gold Award project, in addition to working with her family on the enclosure, she will talk to younger Girl Scouts about the project, Van Cott said, as well as educate them about the importance of animal rehabilitation and how birds of prey control the rodent population.

“Every animal has its part in the ecosystem,” she said. “I’ve always loved big birds. I’ve always loved seeing them out in the wild just looking up and seeing a hawk every now and then.”

Aerial shot of Mercer propery. Photo from Google Maps

By David Luces and Donna Deedy

What is going on with the Mercer project?  

Since the Dec. 12 planning board meeting in Head of the Harbor, when Robert Mercer’s site plan application for a 8,633-square-foot tool shed was considered, a string of people have quit village government. 

Richard Warren of Inter-Science Research Association, an environmental consultant hired by the village to review the plan, resigned unexpectedly. During the Dec. 12 hearing, he concluded that the Mercer application was incomplete.  

Village attorney, Anthony Tohill, also resigned Jan. 15. 

Meanwhile, Christopher Modelewski, Mercer’s attorney for the project, has requested that the upcoming public hearing, schedule for Jan. 28 be postponed. 

“No, we haven’t heard back from village officials,” the attorney said in a phone call.  

Harlan Fisher, chair of the village planning board, was traveling and could not be reached for comment. An employee from village hall confirmed that they had received a letter from Modelewski requesting a postponement. The employee disclosed that at this point they have not been told to cancel the hearing as Fisher is currently away. They declined to speak on the two resignations. 

Meanwhile, Anthony Coates, who is leading a coalition of neighbors opposed to the project, has requested from the Attorney General’s office a review of the project’s proceedings, which Coates said violates laws governing procedures.  

“At a public hearing in December, it became clear that Village residents overwhelmingly oppose this plan to commercialize and forever alter the rural Harbor Road corridor,” he said in a letter. “What was not clear at the time is that Village government had apparently known about the project for months before Village residents were informed, and has engaged in a non-transparent, secretive and potentially unlawful process, engineered by people inside Village government, to approve the project before residents had any idea what was going on.”

Coates said the group’s concerns center around a meeting of the Village Planning Board on Sept. 10. Meeting minutes, he said, show that the board voted to accept a partial abandonment of subdivision, a required first step toward approval of the project. The coalition argues that the action, taken without notice to village residents, was an illegal segmentation of the environmental review for the project under state law. 

“Neither the chairman of the planning board, nor any members of the public, attended the meeting,” Coates said. “Members of the planning board who did attend the meeting were provided no notice that the Mercer matter would be discussed. Planning board members who asked questions about the project were advised that the questions were not relevant. This was for all intents and purposes a ‘secret meeting’ of the planning board under New York State open meetings law and held exclusively for the benefit of the applicant.”

The coalition also sent a letter to Attorney General Letitia James (D), citing potential violations of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), the State’s Open Meetings Law, as well as the Public Officers Law and requested a review by her office. 

File photo
Paige Relyea was reported missing Monday, Jan. 20. Photo from SCPD

Police have reported that Paige Relyea, who had been reported missing Jan. 20 after she was last seen leaving her home in a 2009 gray Toyota Corolla was found dead in Syosset Jan. 23.

Nassau county Police Department detectives are currently investigating.

*Original story*

Suffolk County Police reported a Nesconset woman has been reported missing.

Paige Relyea, 19, was reported missing by a family member Jan. 20 at approximately 12:45 p.m. Relyea lived at 3 Premier Court, and was last seen leaving her home Jan. 19 at around 12:30 p.m. in a 2009 gray Toyota Corolla with New York plate HSA 5877.

Relyea is white, 5 feet 3 inches tall and approximately 160 pounds. She has brown hair, brown eyes, wears glasses and has multiple ear piercings. She was last seen wearing jeans, a green sweater and brown boots.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on Relyea’s location to call 911 or the 4th Squad at 631-854-8452.

Community members and public officials gather in Smithtown for a public hearing on the development of the Flowerfield/Gyrodyne property in St. James. Photo by David Luces

Residents of both Brookhaven and Smithtown spoke during a Jan. 8 public hearing about the impact of the proposed development of the 75-acre Flowerfield/Gyrodyne site on Route 25A in St. James. While opinions varied, one thing was certain: The project will be the largest development the area has seen in quite some time. 

The proposal seeks to subdivide the land into nine lots, keeping existing businesses and a catering hall while adding a 150-room hotel with a restaurant, two assisted living centers, two medical office parks and a 7-acre sewage treatment plant.

During the hearing, Gyrodyne representatives said they are taking a sustainable approach and have come up with multiple alternatives to the original plan that balance out potential impacts to the surrounding communities. 

Kevin McAndrew, a partner at Cameron Engineering, a Woodbury-based firm hired by Gyrodyne, discussed the potential benefits of the project. 

“The project would bring in significant economic benefits — generate over $3.5 million dollars, bring in high quality jobs and no increase to [area] school enrollment,” he said. 

McAndrew said the firm has acknowledged traffic concerns in the area. The proposed plans, he said, such as the assisted living center, would contribute minimal traffic congestion during peak commute hours. The developer pointed out the inclusion of walking trails, bike lanes, green infrastructure and a potential sewage treatment plant at the site, which representatives said could be used for sewering for downtown St. James. 

Despite what they heard from the presentation, many speakers and civic leaders said they were not convinced, including officials from Brookhaven, Suffolk County and New York State. 

“This 75-arce project will undoubtedly be the largest development in the Smithtown/Brookhaven area for the next generation.”

– Ed Romaine  

Ed Romaine (R), Brookhaven supervisor, said the project would impact the communities of Brookhaven in a devastating way. 

“This 75-arce project will undoubtedly be the largest development in the Smithtown/Brookhaven area for the next generation,” Romaine said. 

Romaine and others complained that Brookhaven is being left out of the planning process and their concerns are not being addressed. As the site is just outside their borders, it would impact their roads, particularly Stony Brook Road. 

“I submitted extensive comments on the scope of the project, to this date I haven’t been contacted about any of these concerns,” the supervisor said. “25A is over carry capacity and we are going to add more? I have concerns about Setauket Harbor and water quality as well as this sewage treatment plant.” 

Maria Hoffman, press secretary read a statement from Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket):

“Shortcomings of this DEIS include the project’s impact on Stony Brook Harbor, will the onsite [treatment] plant become a regional sewer district? What type of sewer system will be purchased and installed, and will it remove nitrate? These meaningful unanswered questions need to be answered and resolved before the project is allowed [to move forward].”

Stony Brook resident Curt Croley said he’s worried about the project’s impact on property values. 

“There is no doubt in my mind that this proposal is opportunistic based on available land,” he said. “I can’t help but wonder if there’s been enough diligence about the sewage treatment plant, the runoff and all the potential impacts that are so close to all these municipalities.”

Joy Cirigliano, chapter president of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, expressed concerns about the nearby harbor and other waterways.

“We already have water quality issues in Stony Brook Harbor and Smithtown Bay with Ecoli and hypoxia, adding more nitrogen to the harbor is significant,” she said. The applicant must analyze these impacts and the repercussions before proceeding with the plan.”

Artists, such as Kevin McEvoy, who had a thriving studio on the Flowerfield site, have already left. The atelier now has limited operations at Gyrodyne. 

 “The development of that property will only enhance us and allow us to grow,” she said. “[St. James] will become the microcosm of small-town life we yearn to be again.” 

– Natalie Weinstein

Some Smithtown residents welcomed the project, because the St. James business district on Lake Avenue could tap into the project’s proposed sewage treatment plant. 

Natalie Weinstein of Celebrate St. James stressed the importance of the potential project and how it would finally allow for the revitalization of Lake Avenue as a cultural art district. 

“The development of that property will only enhance us and allow us to grow,” she said. “[St. James] will become the microcosm of small-town life we yearn to be again.” 

Following the public hearing and end of the public comment input later this month, the Smithtown Planning Board will await submission of a final environmental impact statement in preparation for a vote on the Gyrodyne applications. 

TBR News Media has previously reported that Smithtown has already received $3.9 million from Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), so it can connect the Lake Avenue business district in St. James to the Gyrodyne sewage treatment plant. 

 

Kevin McEvoy's free art history lectures draw a crowd.

On the evening of Jan. 8, the Town of Smithtown held its first public hearing about the subdivision and development for the Flowerfield/Gyrodyne property on Route 25A in St. James. The plan, however, has already had a notable impact on the community.  

Prior to Wednesday night’s meeting, members of a vibrant local art community with studio space at Gyrodyne disbanded, leaving some artists searching for a new home.  

Kevin McEvoy, president and art director for The Atelier at Flowerfield, resigned Jan. 2. The studio’s operations director, youth program coordinator, two administrators and four teachers also resigned, he said, walking out along with more than 93 students. McEvoy is seeking new space in other towns. He was unable to respond to request for comments for legal reasons but did not deny that the subdivision and development situation was a factor. 

The Atelier trustee Barbara Beltrami, one of six trustees, said Monday’s classes were canceled, but the studio is still open for business. She expects operations to resume under a new director, when they find one.   

“Some classes are still functioning,” she said. “People should check with The Atelier for further information by calling 631-250-9009.” 

The Atelier website lacked information about the resignations. Its class schedule still lists McEvoy as instructor for 10 out of 21 classes in the winter schedule. Sources said that all but two teachers are gone.

Kevin McEvoy paints a portrait. The classically trained artist resigned Jan. 2 as president and art director of the Flowerfield Atelier.

 Paul Lamb serves as chairman for The Atelier at Flowerfield. He also has been Gyrodyne’s chairman of the board since 1999. Lamb, a lawyer with an office in Melville, was traveling and did not respond to messages left with requests for comment about the subdivision plans impact on the art community.  

Gary Fitlin, Gyrodyne’s CEO, president, CFO and treasurer, said in a phone interview the company is laying low until after the public hearings. He explained that the existing facilities will remain intact, when and if the project is ultimately approved by the town. Gyrodyne tenants, he said, will not be impacted by the subdivision development. The proposed 150-room hotel, two assisted living centers, two separate medical office parks and a new sewage treatment system, he said, will be located on the site’s undeveloped land.

“It is all very positive for our tenants,” he said. “The subdivision doesn’t impact them, its beneficial to our current tenants because it increases their opportunities.”

Sama Millwork, a fine quality handmade cabinet maker has been located at Gyrodyne for 28 years. John Sama said that he doesn’t expect any impact from the subdivision/development plans. 

“I’ve been hearing about this for a decade,” he said. “I’ll likely be retired by the time it happens.”

Vinny Galanti owns Picante Tex Mex, a Mexican deli and food truck kitchen that’s been located on the site for the last year. He said more development could be good for his operation. 

But for McEvoy and his following, doors have closed.

McEvoy and musicians perform in the atelier’s fine art library and cafe to celebrate its opening.

A native Long Islander, McEvoy was classically trained as an artist in the Charles Cecil studios in Florence, Italy. He opened the studio in the spring of 2016 with a vision to revive the classical drawing and painting techniques and traditions taught for centuries in Europe. In addition to offering instruction and hosting exhibitions of local, national and internationally renowned artists, he incorporated free art history lectures open to the community. The events typically drew large crowds. The studio recently renovated a portion of its space to create a library and café comprised of special collection of thousands of fine art books. McEvoy feverishly sketched in charcoal on the building’s cinder block walls the design he envisioned for the library space. Once the studio was gifted a collection of art books, construction was completed.

In previous interviews, McEvoy said that his hope for the library was to offer artists a space where they could share ideas and offer inspiration to each other. McEvoy also had architectural renderings created to convert the outdoor space surrounding the studio into a less industrial, more inviting garden space.

McEvoy paints with fellow artists while musicians perform at the Jazz Loft in Stony Brook.

It’s unclear how The Atelier’s unique original mission and vision will change with new leadership.  

The Atelier news comes at a time when the St. James community and its Celebrate St. James campaign is gearing up for revitalization by emphasizing the arts. Ironically, those plans hinge upon Gyrodyne’s development.  

Since the project would require the construction of a new wastewater treatment facility, town officials have been expecting to use the new plant to serve the Lake Avenue business district. 

“The town has had talks with the folks at Gyrodyne regarding their sewer treatment plant and the Lake Avenue business district, and they verbally indicated they would be willing to build their facility to accommodate Lake Avenue,” said Smithtown council member Tom Lohmann (R). “Additionally, the town received funding from Sen. [John] Flanagan [(R-East Northport)], $3.9 million, so we could install a sewer line when we start the Lake Avenue project, with the expectation we would be connecting to their plant.”

Representatives from Celebrate St. James, a group focused on the revival of the community’s art district, is also depending upon the Gyrodyne sewage treatment plant. 

“If we don’t connect, the town has to find a new location and get approvals from local, state agencies and health departments, which would take not months or years, it could take decades,” said its president, Natalie Weinstein.

Residents remain skeptical about a maintenance shed project proposal by Head of the Harbor resident and Robert Mercer, a hedge fund billionaire. Photo from Anthony Coates

Scores of Head of Harbor residents voiced their opposition and called on the village Planning Board to reject proposed plans for a 8,633-square-foot maintenance shed on property owned by hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer.

Many who spoke at a Dec. 10 public hearing stated that the rural character of the village would change, and that the maintenance shed was too big for the neighborhood. Others expressed concerns that the Mercers have additional projects in the works such as adding a guest house on their close to 70-arce Owl’s Nest property.

Christopher Modelewski, Huntington-based lawyer representing Mercer, said the shed would only take up less than 2 percent of a two-lot section of the property and the architects would make it into a “beautiful barnlike structure.”

Mercer representatives said the structure, called a “tool shed,” would house equipment used to maintain the Owl’s Nest property, including lawn mowers, golf carts, trailers and other vehicles.

Neighbor Michael Folan, who lives on Thatch Meadow Farm with his wife and two other friends, said the proposed development would impact their day-to-day life.

“Nobody stands to be impacted like we do, the northern end of this project will start 70 yards from my kitchen window, we’re the closest residents to this proposed project,” he said. “Mr. Mercer worked very hard for his money, he can spend it however he wants to. For him this would be an occasional diversion. It would be a daily hindrance and a nightmare for us.”

“For him this would be an occasional diversion. It would be a daily hindrance and a nightmare for us.”

– Michael Folan

Other neighbors said the shed would block scenic views of Thatch Meadow Farm and Stony Brook Harbor and were concerned about the increase of noise and light pollution construction would bring.

Constance “Conky” Nostrand, owner of Thatch Meadow Farm, whose estate is adjacent to the Mercer property, said the shed would threaten the location of her water supply and asked for a 30-feet buffer to be reinstated.

According to Nostrand, she reached out to the village a few times regarding the buffer with no responses. She said village officials have left her in the dark on the situation.

“You act like I don’t exist,” she said. “Thatch Meadow Farm is one of the last Smith estates that has not been split up and developed.”

Anthony Coates, village resident, said he is not convinced they have seen the last of the guest home plans and opposes the construction of the tool shed.

“We still maintain this is the wrong structure in the wrong place,” he said. “It needs a full SEQRA review.”

Coates added due to the application being incomplete, the planning board should make the developers go back to the drawing board on any proposed plans.

Harlan Fischer, planning board chairman, said the board would not vote on the proposal until it was revised by Mercer’s representatives. The application, he said, was incomplete and inaccurate because of the inclusion of proposed plans for a guest home.

In response, Modelewski said those additional plans were meant to not “see the light of day” and was never the subject of a site plan review. He admitted that submission was a mistake and that they would withdraw it.

Fischer said it would be better for the board to have a thorough review of the application before moving forward. The public hearing could continue on Jan. 28 at 5:30 p.m. if revised site plans are resubmitted in time.

Developers of the Gyrodyne complex in St. James are moving forward with plans to subdivide and potentially develop the 75-acre site known as Flowerfield. The Town of Smithtown Planning Board will consider a nine-lot subdivision for the complex at its Dec. 11 meeting.

“The Town Environmental has found the Draft Environmental Impact Statement to be complete and is preparing a resolution for the Planning Board to accept the DEIS as complete at their next meeting on Dec. 11,” said Peter Hans, director of the town planning department. 

The 2,900 page statement is not yet publicly available. Once the Planning Board accepts the report as complete, likely at the Dec. 11 meeting, the document will be posted online and the public comment period will begin. 

Subdivision plans obtained from the Town  indicate that the proposed development is extensive. The 75-acre complex currently includes a catering hall, existing light industrial buildings and open space. The proposal subdivides the lot into nine parcels that include one for the existing catering hall, one for the industrial building and a third for open space.  Six of the nine proposed sublots would be for new development. Development plans include a 150-room hotel with a restaurant and conference hall, two large-scale medical office parks, one at 75,000 square feet and another at 55,000 square feet, plus two separate 110-unit assisted living centers and a 7-acre sewer treatment facility.

If approved, the project will become one of the largest commercial transformations in an otherwise residential and agricultural setting along Route 25A in the St. James hamlet.

New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said the project, if approved, is a real threat to the quality of life in this area of the North Shore, with traffic being the more immediate concern and water quality threatened over time.

“This project is a real threat to the water chemistry of Stony Brook Harbor,” he said.  

He estimates that the treated sewage from the site would upwell into the harbor within two to five years. Aside from the environmental and water quality concerns, Englebright said that the project is a classic case of proposed overdevelopment. 

“The whole thing is a complete traffic nightmare,” he said. “Roadways are oversubscribed. Route 25A is already crowded and by extension, we find that Stony Brook Road just can’t handle any more traffic.”

The area, the assemblyman said, is not really a heavy development zone. 

The property is zoned light industrial, or LI. It does not require a zone change, town officials said, since the identified uses are conceptual at this time. If the developers decide to move forward with a hotel or assisted living facility, those uses would require Special Exception approvals from the Town Board and site plan approval. Office buildings would require only site plan approval. 

Englebright encourages people to express their concerns and appeal to the decision-makers in Smithtown.

The subdivision process began when the Smithtown Planning Board adopted May 9, 2018, a State Environmental Quality Review Act Positive Declaration. The declaration, which is simply a determination that the project has the potential to result in a significant environmental impact, establishes that an Environmental Impact Statement would be required. The applicant has now completed a Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The Planning Board is expected to accept the report as complete at its next meeting. The Town will then file with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation a Notice of Completion of a DEIS. The filing of the Notice of Completion opens the public comment period, which has to run at least 30 days. The Town anticipates that the Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the Gyrodyne DEIS in January.  

Following the close of the public comment period, a final DEIS will have to be prepared that responds to the comments received, and then the Planning Board would have to adopt a findings statement. The Planning Board will not be able to act on the pending subdivision until the FEIS and Findings Statement have been adopted. The process, though, is months away.

Representatives from Gyrodyne did not respond to telephone messages before going to print.

Photo by Heidi Sutton

Residents regularly encounter roadway flooding on Long Beach Road. Storms, full moons, tides and wind all factor into the commute to and from the area.

The Town of Smithtown is hoping to mitigate flooding, amid rising sea levels, on a road that stretches out into Long Island’s waters to reach the Long Beach peninsula.  

Long Beach Road is subject to flooding more than 36 times each year, according to town officials. The proposed project would reduce the rate of flooding to one or two incidents per year. It is expected to cost up to $854,000 for less than a third of a mile of Long Beach Road. 

The project would raise 1,500 feet of Long Beach Road by an average of 1.7 feet, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency grant documents. The work done would stabilize the slope on the seaward side of the road, using a combination of rock, vegetation, erosion control mats and other natural stabilization methods. Stormwater improvements would be incorporated into the project design as well.

The town would receive up $717,375 in FEMA funds that would be distributed by the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. 

“Long Beach Road is a place that has historically flooded,” Nicole Garguilo, town spokeswoman said. 

Carol and Drew Wendelken live out on the Long Beach peninsula and own a restaurant in Wading River. Getting to and from work is sometimes problematic.

“We have lost our brakes driving through the flooding,” she said. “But we’ve learned how to deal with it.”

This past Saturday, she said, they had to wait for more than an hour for the tide to recede. But they are used to timing it.

“It’s always a case of high tide, a full moon and a storm system,” Wendelken said. “Those three ingredients create the flooding. The winds, too, impact it. There are times when you cannot get out at all.”

Town officials say higher sea levels and worsening weather over the years have shown the need for such a project as constant flooding could strand residents and vehicles who are on the peninsula.   

Since 1900, New York has experienced at least a foot of sea level rise, mostly due to expansion of warming ocean water, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC projects sea levels will rise an additional 2 to 10 inches in the 2020s.

The Long Beach Road accesses the Long Beach Town Park, the Smithtown Bay Yacht Club and Otto Schubert Beach. The peninsula is also home to scores of residential properties that have been adversely impacted by the flooding.  

In September, the Suffolk County Legislature approved a measure requiring the county’s Department of Public Works to take rises in sea level into consideration when planning major roadwork in an effort to curb flooding and potential future damage.

FEMA does not establish completion frames for its subgrants, but the performance period ends on Nov. 14, 2020. 

Photo from Carol Wendelken