Town of Smithtown

The St. James Historic Fire House on Route 25A. Photo from Ryan Davis.
The St. James Fire House on Jefferson Ave. Photo by Ryan Davis

Over the last few years, controversy erupted in the St. James Fire District when the board of commissioners floated a $12.5 million plan to build a new firehouse at the Jefferson Avenue substation site and potentially sell the historic St. James firehouse on Route 25A, which was built in the 1920s. The community at large ultimately rejected both ideas, but the issue has led to change.

Thomas Donohue and Joseph Kuethen were both elected commissioners, running largely on the bond issue controversy, and this year Kit Gabrielsen is challenging existing fire district leadership for the single open seat on the all-volunteer St. James board of commissioners. Both Donohue and Kuethen support Gabrielsen, mainly because of his public support for maintaining operations at the Route 25A fire house, according to Donohue.

“I’m in favor of low taxes, better service and two firehouses,” Gabrielsen said in a telephone interview. “I’m not happy with the fact that rolls are down that there’s lawsuits and other allegations.”

Kit Gabrielsen

A Suffolk County police officer for 33 years, Gabrielsen said he wants to keep the historic firehouse as a firehouse, so there are emergency services in that part of town. A lifetime resident of St. James, he said that current management raised taxes 19 percent.  He said that the fire district needs to keep below the 2 percent tax cap.

“We’re spending money on these lawsuits,” Gabrielsen said. 

Complaints, Gabrielsen said, can be fixed though management. Chiefs and commissioners, he said, are in charge of these things. 

According to a case reviewed online, volunteer firefighter John Tyson filed a suit Dec. 5, 2018, against the department, its chiefs and commissioners, alleging retaliation after publicly opposing a bond, which the chiefs and commissioners supported. It also alleged retaliation against publicly opposing the closure and sale of the historic firehouse and expressing views contrary to the majority of the governing body. 

Gabrielsen has been active in the St. James fire district for 40 years.

Ryan Davis currently serves as fire chief, the department’s highest ranking position. Davis also said he believes that the district needs to recruit more volunteers. He added that fire department membership is down from 125 people to 100. He wants to create a citizens advisory board comprised of elected officials and community members so the district has more local involvement. 

He’s running for the commissioner position to oversee taxes and allocate funding. 

Ryan Davis

“I want to balance the budget,” Davis said in a Nov. 19 interview. 

Davis said he was in favor of the bond issue for a new Jefferson fire station. Ninety percent of the district’s operations are currently based at the Jefferson Avenue station, he added. But Davis said he wants the public to know that he also supports keeping the historic St. James firehouse. The building’s interior, he said, needs work, but he believes the exterior should stay the same.  

Davis has worked as a FDNY fireman at Engine 88 in the Bronx for the last 13 years. He’s been active in the St. James fire district for 20 years.

Incumbent William Kearney is also running for reelection, handing in his petition midday on Nov. 20 to beat the 5 p.m. deadline.  

Kearney was elected to a four-year term in 2015.

“After 48 years as a resident of St. James and 39 years as a member of the St. James Fire Department, it is with a continued sense of pride in our community that I am asking for your support and your vote in the upcoming election for Fire Commissioner,” Kearney states. “As current chairman of the board of fire commissioners and having served as the fire department treasurer for 14 years, I have an in-depth knowledge of financial controls and fiscal management.”

William Kearney

Kearney also said that he will use his public service experience as well as his extensive project management background to represent the fiscal and operational concerns of for fire services in the St. James community.  A Navy veteran, his background also includes serving the American Legion Post 1152, the St. James Methodist Church and for 19 years has been the chaplain for the department.

Residents can vote Tuesday, Dec. 10, between 3 and 9 p.m. at St. James fire station at 221 Jefferson Ave. in St. James and at Fairfield Condo, 1 Fairfield Drive in St. James.



The Smithtown Fire Department was dispatched at 5:36 p.m. Nov. 12 for a reported car crashing into a building with one person trapped at the CVS at 111 Terry Road just north of Route 347.

3rd Assistant Chief Dongvort, and the EMS Fire Responder were first on scene and found a single vehicle had crashed through the south side wall and was fully inside of the CVS pharmacy. The driver was treated for minor injuries and was transported to Stony Brook Hospital by Smithtown Fire Dept. Ambulance.

Members secured any hazards and the Town Building Department and Fire Marshal were requested to the scene to determine the structural stability of the building. Engines 1, 5 and Rescue 9 operated on scene along with Utility 4-2-19. Chief of Department Kevin Fitzpatrick declared the scene under control at around 6 p.m. and all units returned to service by 6:30 p.m.

Steve Bellone discusses ideas about promoting the arts in St. James with Natalie Weinstein from the civic group Celebrate St. James during a recent visit to the Calderone Theater. Photo by David Luces

State and local officials gathered at the St. James General Store to commemorate the recent completion of the new pedestrian crossing that connects the store to Deepwells Farm and its parking. The project also included drainage and infrastructure repairs near the building as part of phase one of the Downtown Revitalization Project. 

The arts, experts state, is a sure-fire way to revitalize a community. Photo by David Luces

Smithtown Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) noted that the repairs were completed just in time as the community nears peak holiday season, when residents frequent the Suffolk County-owned and operated shop. 

“As you know this is the oldest general store in operation in the United States,” he said at a press conference. “Not only does this [repaved road] make for safe crossing on Moriches Road, but the beautification allows for more people to stop and encourages people to shop locally.”

Douglas Dahlgard, Head of the Harbor mayor, said the general store is a destination in the community. 

“This is a destination, it has been one since 1857,” he said. “History is very important in this community, tourists have come from as far as South Africa [to visit the store]. [The store] reminds me of my roots.”

Wehrheim expects the rest of phase one initiative, which includes renovating sidewalks, crosswalks and concrete gutters spanning from Patrick’s Way to Jericho Turnpike, will be completed in the next two weeks.

Phase two of the revitalization plan is expected to be completed by the end of winter.  It includes adding a sewer line and pump station along the main stretch of Lake Avenue, new off-street municipal parking and major pedestrian safety and traffic calming measures. 

After the press conference, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) joined town officials in a Lake Avenue walking tour and visited the Calderone Theater, which will soon open as a cultural arts center in the future.     

Wehrheim said they have looked at a number of parcels that are primed for economic development. Ideas include purchasing the vacant Irish Viking Bar to create a pavilion for live entertainment in the center of town and additional parking. 

Councilmembers Tom Lohmann and Lisa Inzerillo after the election was called Nov. 5. Photo by Leah Chiappino

By Leah Chiappino

Smithtown Republicans gathered at Napper Tandy’s on Main Street in Smithtown Tuesday to watch the town election results and subsequently celebrate their victories. Trump shirts and GOP symbols were frequently spotted in the crowd and there was talk of Donald Trump Jr.’s upcoming St James fundraiser in conversation.

Smithtown receiver of taxes Deanna Varricchio (R) won reelection against Democratic challenger Justin Smiloff 70 to 30 percent for a four-year-term. She says she is looking to update the technology of her office in her new term. “Every day you get [equipment] in and it’s obsolete, so we’re looking to budget new equipment in,”  she said. She declined to say anything to the Smiloff, citing his lack of campaigning.

Incumbent Smithtown Town Council Members, Thomas Lohmann (R) and Lisa Inzerillo (R) claimed victory over challengers, Libertarian Patricia Shirley, Democrat Richard Guttman and Democrat Richard Macellaro, for a four-year term with 32 percent of the vote each.

Lohmann looks forward to continuing his work as councilman.

“I want to get done what I started,” he said. “That includes the completion of a truly town-wide comprehensive master plan that is inclusive of every hamlet, to ensure that every hamlet is represented in what they want to see in their communities and their little area of the township.”

He said plans to work with Highway Superintendent Robert Murphy (R) to improve Smithtown’s infrastructure.

Lohmann is pushing for the completion of projects such as Lake Avenue Corridor project, the revitalization of Smithtown parks and beaches and the expansion of sewer systems in business districts like what was recently done in Kings Park.

“These are huge projects and we want to move them along,” he said. “We want to bring back a sense of pride in our community.”

He commended his challengers for running a civil campaign and congratulated them for their efforts.

“I ran because I’m a lifelong resident here and I believe in my community and wanted to do for my community what I thought wasn’t being done,” he said. “Each one of the candidates came forward because they wanted to bring something to the town and I applaud them for the simple fact that they put themselves out there, which is a very hard thing to do.

Inzerillo said she wants to continue to strengthen the vape code “to protect areas where teenagers are living and going to school.”

She cited a long list of accomplishments she wants to continue.

“I’m still maintaining the best animal shelter on Long Island,” she said. “We’re working with some developers that want to do some smart development but also keep the feeling of country in Smithtown.”

When asked if she wanted to say anything to her challengers, she replied, “unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to meet them, but I wish them best in the future.”

People go to vote at the Albert G. Prodell Middle School in Shoreham. Photo by Kyle Barr

Suffolk County Executive:

(WINNER) Steve Bellone (D) – 55.42% – 148,043 votes

John M. Kennedy Jr. (R) – 43.38% – 115,867 votes 

Gregory Fisher (L) – 1.18% – 3,147 votes 


Brookhaven Town Supervisor: 

(WINNER) Ed Romaine (R) – 61.52% – 51,155 votes 

Will Ferraro (D) – 37.42% – 31.113 votes 

Junie Legister (L) – 1.04% – 865 votes 


Brookhaven Highway Superintendent: 

(WINNER) Dan Losquadro (R) – 58.47% – 48, 624 votes 

Anthony Portesy (D) – 41.51% – 34,514 votes 


Brookhaven town council member, 1st District: 

(WINNER) Valerie Catright (D) – 57.36% – 8,647 votes 

Tracy Kosciuk (R) – 42.59% – 6,421 votes 


Brookhaven town council member, 2nd District: 

(WINNER) Jane Bonner (C) – 61.97% – 10,028 votes 

Sarah Deonarine (D) – 37.99% – 6,147 votes 


Brookhaven town council member, 3rd District:

(WINNER) Kevin LaValle (R) – 65.12% – 8,228 votes 

Talat Hamandi (D) – 34.85% – 4,404 votes 


Suffolk County Legislator, 6th District: 

(WINNER) Sarah Anker (D) – 54.32% – 9,715 votes 

Gary Pollakusky (R) – 41.05% – 7,342 votes 


Suffolk County Legislator, 5th District: 

(WINNER) Kara Hahn (D) – 63.1% – 9,763 votes 

John McCormack (R) – 36.88% – 5,706 votes 


Suffolk County Legislator, 4th District: 

(WINNER) Thomas Muratore (R) – 58.97% – 7,275 votes 

David T. Bligh (D) – 39.23% – 4,839 votes 


Suffolk County Legislator, 16th District

(WINNER) Susan Berland (D) – 53.89% – 6,501 votes 

Hector Gavilla (R) – 46.08% – 5,559 votes 


Suffolk County Legislator, 13th District: 

(WINNER) Rob Trotta (R) – 61.99% – 10,385 votes 

Janet Singer (D) – 38.01% – 6,367 votes


Suffolk County Legislator, 18th District:

(WINNER) William “Doc” Spencer (D) – 61.47% – 11,998 votes 

Garrett Chelius (R) – 33.81% – 6,599 votes 

Daniel West (C) – 4.71% – 919 votes 


Suffolk County Legislator, 15th District:

(WINNER) DuWayne Gregory (D) – 72.15% – 7,037 votes

Chrisopher G. Connors (R) – 27.68% – 2,700 votes 


Huntington town council member – two seats:

(WINNER) Joan Cergol (D) – 26% – 20,882 votes 

(WINNER) Eugene Cook (R) – 24.81%- 19,931 votes 

Andre Sorrentino Jr. (R) – 24.07% – 19,336 votes 

Kathleen Clearly (D) – 23.38% – 18,777 votes 


Huntington Town Clerk: 

(WINNER) Andrew Raia (R) – 57.71% – 23,804 votes 

Simon Saks (D) – 42.28% – 17,441 votes 


Smithtown town council member – two seats: 

(WINNER) Thomas Lohmann (R) – 32.35% – 14,076 votes

(WINNER) Lisa Inzerillo (R) – 32% – 13,925 votes 

Richard S Macellaro (D) – 17.36% – 7,556 votes

Richard Guttman (D) – 17.32% – 7,535 votes 




Trotta and Singer review the Ccounty's issues during a recent debate.

The Times of Smithtown circulation area includes two Suffolk County legislative districts: 12 and 13. The 12th District encompasses Nesconset and Lake Grove and extends west through portions of St. James into Commack. The 13th District extends from Fort Salonga east to St. James. 

Currently, two Republicans represent the areas, Leslie Kennedy and Robert Trotta, respectively. Overall, the Democrats with an 11-7 ratio, have a majority rule in the county, as it has for the last 13 years. Republicans held the majority for 33 years prior to that. 

Many analysts say that this year’s election could potentially see a shift in power or perhaps tie the representation. So a lot is at stake.

District 13: Parts of Smithtown and St. James, Fort Salonga, San Remo, Kings Park, Nissequogue, Head of the Harbor, Commack and East Northport 

By Leah Chiappino

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R) is running for reelection. He has represented Suffolk’s 13th District since 2013. Jan Singer (D), a retired matrimonial lawyer, is challenging him for the seat in this year’s election. 

Trotta, a former Suffolk County police officer for 25 years and FBI agent for 10 years, said his priorities include addressing high taxes, wasteful spending and weeding out county corruption. 

Serving under a corrupt police chief, he said, prompted him to run for office six years ago. “I knew how corrupt the county was and I knew if I didn’t leave, I would get arrested, get in trouble, or die,” he said. “Of the three of us that were on the FBI task force, one is dead, one got arrested and I became a legislator.”

Personally, Trotta said that he has refused any campaign contributions from any person or organization that does business with the county. He supports legislation that would prevent lawmakers from voting on union contracts, if the union has contributed to a legislator’s campaign. Overall, these practices, he expects, would save money and prevent conflicts of interest. 

“Everything comes from wasteful spending and corrupt politicians taking too much money,” he said.

 Singer said her leadership experience will help to make needed changes for Suffolk. She operated a private law practice for over 30 years before retiring in 2012.  She’s organized phone banks for Perry Gershon (D) and Hillary Clinton (D), served as president of her homeowner association, and sat on the board of the Suffolk County Girl Scouts and the Smithtown Democratic Committee. If elected, Singer’s priorities include addressing Suffolk County’s water quality issues. 

 “If we don’t have quality water, free of nitrogen, 1-4-dioxane, and chemical pollution, we can’t have anything,” she said. “We can’t have the economic development which is so necessary to making Suffolk County thrive, because businesses will not open and people will not buy homes.”

To address water quality, Trotta supports reallocating the county’s one-quarter percent (0.25) sales tax income for its Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program, so more general fund money is dedicated to protecting the county’s water. 

Singer’s position to address climate change includes support for renewable energy initiatives such as wind turbines and solar energy and an increase in public transportation.

A major concern for both candidates is the county’s budget problems. New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli (D) monitors fiscal stress for the state’s municipalities.  Suffolk County, according to the latest report, tops the list as the worst fiscal condition out of all counties. 

“I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing the debt we are putting on our children,” Trotta said.

He blames the county budget troubles on overspending. Government contracting, he said, should be more deeply scrutinized. Personnel costs and expenses, such as police overtime, large pensions and pay increases need to be reined in. As a former police officer, he says he understands the vital work the police do. 

“I’m not saying they don’t deserve their money, but they don’t deserve to bankrupt the country and make it unaffordable for people to live here,” he said. 

Singer takes a different stance.

“The police are the ones that run into danger when I run away,” she said. “They are the ones dealing with the opioid crisis and MS-13. If you go to doors, I have not heard people screaming about overtime and excess pay for the police. They want them there.”

To address the issue, Trotta prefers raising revenue through taxes, instead of hitting people with expenses such as mortgage filing fees, which recently jumped from $65 to $600. The fee is paid not only when people buy a home but also when they refinance their mortgage.

Singer is not for eliminating these fees.

“I’m not debating whether or not some of the fees such as the mortgage recording fees are too high, but I don’t disagree with the principle of having it because the alternative is to either discontinue the service, run the service at a reduced level, or raise taxes,” she said. 

Both candidates see the opioid crisis as a critical issue. Singer proposes expanding education prevention services and supports an effort to expand medically assisted therapy and rehab programs in prisons. Any settlement funds that the county receives from its lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies, Singer said, should be used for treatment and education. 

Trotta says the county “cannot arrest its way out” of the problem, noting that many people addicted to opioids also suffer from mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. He supports “treatment and a variety of different methods” to curb the issue.  

With regard to the red-light camera ticketing program, Trotta calls it a money grab that causes more accidents than it prevents. He thinks it should be eliminated. 

A study conducted by Brookhaven-based L.K. McLean Associates and released earlier this year, stated that accidents were up 60 percent since the program’s implementation, though accidents involving injuries went down by 11 percent.

“If someone runs a red light and it’s dangerous, they should get a ticket period,” Trotta said. “Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening here.”

Singer supports continuing the program.

“It is about safety,” she said. “The vehicle and traffic law says you can’t run that red light.

Singer and Trotta both support the revitalization of Kings Park, and both agree that the community should retain its small-town feel. 

Tales, Trails and Treats, Sweetbriar Nature Center's Halloween celebration provided families with a day outdoors with hands-on activities.

Sweetbriar Nature Center, located at 62 Eckernkamp Avenue in  Smithtown, is hosting a variety of events to bring people closer to nature and animals. On Oct. 26, young children were invited for a spooky trick or treat trail complete with animal encounters. Friday night , Nov. 1, families with children ages 7 and up are invited to hike in the darkness to meet nocturnal animals and call in maybe an owl or two. Bring a flashlight. The event costs $10 with discounts available for Scouts. For more information, call 631-979-6344.

Photos by Media Origin



Smithtown Town Hall

The Town of Smithtown is run by a four-member Town Council and a town supervisor. Two seats are open for this year’s election with five people running for office. Smithtown’s council is currently all Republicans. Two incumbents are running for reelection: Thomas Lohmann and Lisa Inzerillo. Their challengers include two Democrats, Richard Guttman and Richard Macellaro, and Libertarian candidate Patricia Shirley. 

Patricia Shirley (L)

Patricia Shirley

Kings Park resident Patricia Shirley is running a grassroots campaign to institute change. She said she would like to see the town’s system of government shift to include more transparency and citizen engagement. She’s noticed that at meetings council members tend to talk too technically without engaging residents. She said she has been going door-to-door and business-to-business mainly in Hauppauge, Smithtown and Kings Park to find out what’s on the minds of Smithtown residents. A native Long Islander, she’s noticed a declining state of the Kings Park business district over the last eight years. She wants to see the community thrive, so it offers a promising future for children.

Shirley takes pride in her entrepreneurial background. Her expertise lies in budgeting and grant writing. She expects to be able to help Smithtown improve its planning, auditing and budgeting. She’s been in the health care field for 25 years and has worked at Developmental Disabilities Institute, also known as DDI, in Smithtown over the last 11 years. The group home has grown tremendously during her tenure there, she said. She has also founded the Shirley Academy, a school that trains people on medical billing practices. 

If elected, Shirley’s priorities include promoting entrepreneurship. She promises more round table discussions with community members.

New tools are needed, she said, for a new generation. Residents, she said, need to regain control. 

“I am a woman and an African American,” she said. “I’m black and I bring diversity to the town.”

She wants to make sure that people get out and vote to bring the count up. This is her first time running for public office.

Richard Guttman (D)

 Richard Guttman

Richard Guttman is another Kings Park resident running for a seat on the Town Council in part because of the decline in the Kings Park business district.

He blames overdevelopment as the underlying cause of many of Smithtown’s issues, whether it’s water quality, traffic jams, cut throughs or the lack of sidewalks and proper street crossings. Overall, he said, it creates safety concerns. 

“Trying to go into a store in Kings Park, you put your life on the line,” he said, referring to the parallel parking situation on Main Street. 

Guttman wants quality of life to be a main consideration to improve Smithtown communities. Projects, he said, are pushed through.

“When you put up a building, there’s more to consider than tax revenue,” he said.

Guttman is local attorney with 20-years’ experience. He operates his general law practice from his home. He handles immigration, tax and some criminal cases. Lately, many of his cases pertain to foreclosure, he said. He helps people file for bankruptcy to avoid losing their homes.

People, he said, are overtaxed. “Maybe, with a different president, that will change,” he said. As a council member, Guttman promises to advocate to keep costs down. 

With regard to economic development, Guttman recognizes the need for better infrastructure, such as sewers. He’d also like to see the Kings Park Psychiatric Center, where he regularly runs, move forward with plans to preserve the grounds as parkland. 

“I know it’s in the works, but I’d like to get it moving,” he said. 

Guttman is currently taking care of his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. If elected, he hopes to help institute programs to help other people in similar situations. 

“I am honest, earnest and promise to do a good job for all the hamlets, to listen to constituents and to come up with solutions that benefit the people.” 

Richard Macellaro

Richard Macellaro

Kings Park resident Richard Macellaro is running for Town Council, but has not been actively campaigning. However, he said in a telephone interview that he wants to win. Macellaro, one of two Democrats in the field for Town Council seats, is also calling for more openness and transparency in Smithtown government. He said that the public needs to more informed about the rights of taxpayers. Agencies and departments need to meet with council members on a more regular basis, he said.

Macellaro is semi-retired and currently works part time for the county’s Traffic and Parking Violations Agency. For 30 years he worked as a director of a home health care business in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

For nearly 60 years, Macellaro said, the town has lacked a master plan to guide the town’s development. If elected, he will make sure one is implemented and reviewed every five years to make sure the town stays focused. Macellaro has previously run for Suffolk County Legislature and New York State Assembly. 

Tom Lohmann

Thomas Lohmann

Tom Lohmann is running for reelection. He was originally voted into office in 2017 and wants to continue what he said he started — reinvigorating the town. His priorities include seeing through the implementation of a master plan for the town’s development. 

“The last time we had a master plan was in the ’60s and we’re doing it, it’s underway,” he said. 

The job requires full-time service and should not be part time, Lohmann said. The retired New York City police officer will take the $75,000 a year for the Town Council position and, combined with his police pension, he said he’s committed to do the work.

“It’s not about the money,” Lohmann said. 

Since he’s been elected to office, Lohmann said he’s spearheaded projects to reinvigorate parkland and beaches, including Gaynor Park and Flynn Memorial Park. The town has three sewer projects underway in Kings Park, Smithtown and St. James. The Kings Park sewers are moving ahead, he said, he’s currently looking for a location for the wastewater treatment plant for Smithtown and expects the St. James sewer to become a combined venture with Gyrodyne, in St. James, in the very near future. 

For 62 years, Lohmann has lived in the Town of Smithtown, currently in the hamlet of Smithtown. He said he is a third generation Smithtown resident. As farmland has turned to shopping malls and highways, Lohmann said he’s seen the change. 

The key to overdevelopment, Lohmann said, is smart development. A master plan, he said, takes care of that. He notes that the town lacks affordable housing. The younger generation, he said, doesn’t want a house. They want to be near a train line to the city and travel by Uber place to place and walk the town. It’s different, he said, from when he grew up. 

The 2 percent tax cap, which state lawmakers have made permanent, Lohmann said, is restrictive. Going forward, he’d like to have more interaction with the school districts. As far as combining services with other branches of government to trim the tax burden on residents, Lohmann said the town is already doing it. 

“We’re doing more with less,” he said. 

Prior to taking office, Lohmann worked as an investigator with insurance crime bureau of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. He also worked part time as a Head of the Harbor police officer. 

Lisa Inzerillo

Lisa Inzerillo 

Kings Park resident Lisa Inzerilla has been serving as Town Council member since 2015. She said she focuses on common sense initiatives to deliver efficient services, save tax dollars and protect suburban quality of life. She’s committed to making Smithtown user-friendly and has helped the IT department launch a new website this year. Inzerillo initiated the town’s Animal Shelter reform. She serves on the Labor Management and the Risk Management committees. Inzerillo is proudest of amending town code to prohibit hookah lounges and vape stores near schools, playgrounds and day care centers. 

The Lofts at Maple and Main is the first commuter oriented aparatment complex planned for Smithtown.

Developers have broken ground across from Smithtown Town Hall at the former site of Nassau Suffolk Lumber and Supply Corp., where a new three-story, 71-unit apartment complex with 15,000 square feet of new retail space will be constructed over the next year and a half.

The private project, called The Lofts at Maple and Main, sits one block from the Smithtown commuter train platform and is one of the first transit-oriented developments in the town. The concept expects to offer affordable places to live along the NYC commuter lines to help retain and attract young people, which will also help grow the economy. The units, also an option for empty nesters looking to downsize, are modeled after similar downtown rental projects constructed in Patchogue and Port Jefferson. It’s expected to generate $250,000 in tax revenue and result in 50 new jobs. 

“This is what we need to be doing all over Long Island,” said County Executive Steve Bellone (D).

State Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Smithtown) called the project Smithtown 2.0. He explained that first shopping malls and now online retailers have drawn people away from downtown areas. The apartments, situated on 3.6 acres, are expected to help eliminate the blight to create a more vibrant downtown area.

Revitalization projects generally await the approval and state funding for new sewers. But the apartments have interim plans for handling wastewater. The town expects public sewer construction to follow the timeline of the Kings Park project, which will likely start in April 2021 with completion in Oct. 2023.

“We are going to proceed with the project even though the Smithtown sewer project is still pending,” said Anthony DiCarlo, the son of VEA 181 Realty Corp. principal, Salvatore DiCarlo. “When the sewers are ultimately installed, we will be required to hook up.”

The town supervisor’s spokesperson Nicole Garguilo has said that the project is totally private and has received no government subsidies.

Over the last 12 years, the project has been entrenched in controversy. After the East Hampton-based developer bought the site in 2008, it violated a Smithtown stop work order and in 2009 illegally demolished the building. After piles of debris and concrete were hauled away, the situation became the subject of a 2011 Suffolk County Grand Jury investigation alleging that an unnamed town official recommended demolishment to save taxes. Ultimately, no charges were filed, but board members voted in July 2014 to tear down the already demolished structure and adjacent buildings and approved the site plans for The Lofts at Maple and Main at its August 2018 meeting.

Smithtown’s planning department reports that the project has a site-work-only permit and still lacks a building permit.

Anthony and his brother Jared DiCarlo said that the one-bedroom units will rent for under $2,000 a month and the two-bedroom units will likely cost under $3,000. The 80-minute commute to Manhattan and the projects proximity to I-495, Route 347 and the Smith Haven mall, they predict, will be appealing. The retail space is expected to cost about $25 per square feet. Details, though, are still preliminary.

Suffolk County legislators approved a $3.2 billion budget for 2020 Nov. 6. TBR News Media file photo

County residents got a glimpse of the county’s budget process as the operating budget working group held its first public meeting Oct. 17 when the 2019-20 recommended operating budget was discussed.  

The county operating budget funds employee payroll costs, county departments and a variety of other expenditures. The status of the budget has been in the spotlight since the New York State comptroller, Tom DiNapoli (D), said Suffolk was under “significant fiscal stress” — with Nassau — for the second year in a row. In 2018, Suffolk had an operating deficit of about $26.5 million and a general fund balance deficit of $285 million. 

The topic has been an important issue in the county executive race. The current incumbent, Steve Bellone (D), has stated that during his tenure he has worked to bring the county spending and finances back in check. John Kennedy Jr., the county comptroller and Republican challenger for executive, has stated that the county is in a “fiscal crisis.”

Here is what legislators discussed at the meeting. The proposed operating budget for 2019-20 will be $3.2 billion, an increase from last year’s $3.1 billion budget. 

The recommended budget would look to increase property taxes by $14.66 million (2.14 percent), according to the report. The increase is comprised of a rise in police district property taxes of $16.56 million (2.8 percent). 

The police district will face an $11.3 million deficit by the end of 2019. It is the fourth year in a row that the district will have a deficit. Overtime for the police department in 2019 is estimated at $30.9 million. 

In addition, the county’s general fund, despite seeing an increase of $318 million in revenue from 2015 to 2019, is projected to experience its fifth consecutive deficit in 2019. Combined with the police district, the county may face an operating deficit of some $20 million. 

Sales tax revenue is projected to increase an additional $48.5 million from 2019-20 or about 4.5 percent.  

Another area of concern is the county payroll. It has increased by $315 million in the last seven years, despite the workforce being reduced by 1,250 positions. From the start of 2019 through Sept. 8, the number of active county employees on the payroll declined by approximately 150, according to the report. The recommended expenditures for employee health care in 2020 is projected to increase by approximately by $22.2 million. 

The Budget Review Office also raised concerns in the report that property taxes in the Southwest Sewer District, which covers parts of Babylon and Islip, would decrease by $2.14 million. This could lead to less funds available for sewer projects and potentially increase borrowing. 

In terms of other revenue, the county is projected to see an increase in funds from video lottery terminals at Jake’s 58 Casino Hotel in Islandia. The revenue brought in will increase to $25 million in 2020 compared to $2.9 million in 2018 and $3.3 million in 2019. 

For homeowners, the proposed county property tax will yield an estimated average tax bill of $1,207, an increase of $25. Average taxes per homeowners will increase by $32 in five western towns, including Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington, and decrease by $2 in the county’s five eastern towns.