First phase of East Setauket Pond Park project nears completion
By Emma Gutmann
Construction on East Setauket Pond Park has spilled out onto Route 25A and into the town parking lot beside Se-Port Delicatessen.
On weekday mornings and afternoons, one lane at the intersection of Main Street and Gnarled Hollow Road is coned off to accommodate the first phase in the pond park project.
The work has its roots in the Setauket Harbor Task Force, an environmental not-for-profit organization founded by George Hoffman and Laurie Vetere in 2014. The group’s board shared concern over the contaminated appearance of Setauket Harbor and gathered any information they could find on the historical body of water.
Since other governmental entities handled the greater Port Jefferson Harbor complex, tackled nonenvironmental issues and often worked independently, the task force narrowed its focus on environmental work to ensure Setauket Harbor received the attention it needed.
As a result, former New York State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) secured a $1 million NYS grant for the Town of Brookhaven “to fund projects aimed to improve water quality in Setauket Harbor and the surrounding watershed,” according to a town press release in 2016. Additional funds have since been acquired with the help of town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook).
In a phone interview, Hoffman said the two town elected officials are very supportive of the task force and have been instrumental in advancing the pond park project. “Whatever we ask for, they find a way to help us,” he said.
Kornreich reported by email that the following components were recently installed: both water quality units, pipe connections to the units and culvert crossing under the road, the outfall that empties into the pond and three catch basins on Route 25A. Suffolk County Water Authority completed the water main offset necessary to the project’s new installations a month ago.
In an email, town Highway Department PR assistant, Kristen D’Andrea, said she expected an early conclusion to this stage of the work. “The water quality improvement project at East Setauket Pond Park is about 90 percent complete,” she said. “Crews hope to finish by the end of June.”
In addition to Romaine and Kornreich, Hoffman also credited the project’s success to the support of town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R).
The town’s plans do not stop at clean water conducive to clamming. With each hurdle overcome, the park is a step closer to eventually becoming a centerpiece of the downtown area.
As for the work directly in the road, Kornreich said the team still needs to install the last catch basin and restore the sidewalk and road. Conversations with the state Department of Transportation are ongoing to coordinate night work and lane closures. The construction will pause from Friday, May 26, through Monday, May 29, for Memorial Day weekend and the local parade.
In response to drivers inconvenienced by the temporary traffic flow, Hoffman said, “Keep the faith. You’re going to see great improvement in the Setauket Harbor in terms of water quality and it will also help us move forward on a beautiful park that could be there in the next couple of years. If clamming comes back, we’ll have accomplished what we set out to do.”