State Sen. Mario Mattera’s (R-St. James) life looks a whole lot different than it did last year.
The decision to run for senator in November 2020 was one that he had to make quickly. During a recent visit to the TBR News Media offices, he said he remembers when Jesse Garcia, chairman of the Suffolk County Republican Committee, gave him a call March 26 last year asking if he wanted to run for New York State Senate. He had to make his decision in 24 hours.
Mattera said he was surprised to be asked to run for the Senate because he thought there was a possibility he would be asked to run for a more local office. Garcia told him, “You get along with everybody, so you will work on both sides of the fence.”
Mattera, who describes himself as “an elected official and not a politician,” agreed as he has friends on both sides of the political aisle. He said he wasn’t going to stop working with those he has met along the way who care about labor and people.
“I have friends on the other side and I’m not going to ruin that relationship, because politics gets ugly,” he said. “I’m not that way. I’m the bare bones, let’s get the job done, roll your sleeves up and let’s work together and get it done.”
Mattera represents the 2nd District, which includes Smithtown and parts of Brookhaven and Huntington. He is a former Suffolk County Water Authority board member and has been a business agent with the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters with Plumbers Local #200 for more than four decades.
A Smithtown resident for more than 50 years, he moved from Nesconset to St. James in 1996 where he lives with his wife, Terry, and his two daughters Jessica and Jayme.
The state senator serves as the chief Republican on the Consumer Protection Committee, as well as the Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee. He is also a member of the Labor and Transportation standing committees.
The last few months the new senator has been researching and working on a few crucial local matters.
Like most elected officials, Mattera has been dealing with COVID-19 issues. The senator said he is proud of the work his staff has done in making sure residents found vaccination appointments.
“Our office was amazing at finding out who had [the vaccines],” he said. “They were going on social media to find out where the vaccines were being held and working with the veterans hospitals.”
Regarding schools, Mattera said he believes all children need to return to school five days a week in person in the fall. He pointed to districts such as Three Village and Hauppauge for successfully providing the option this past academic year. He added he feels it will be important to have staff on hand to provide emotional support for students, as returning after a long period of virtual or hybrid learning may be difficult for some children.
“Mental health is very serious,” he said. “You have no idea what happened during this time with certain children with what they went through being home. That’s what I’m concerned about, and we need to make sure we’re staffed properly for this and be prepared.”
Mattera said he is looking for his district to have the best sewage treatment plant. He has been working with state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) to find a good solution for Smithtown and the surrounding area. While there has been talk about Gyrodyne LLC., which owns the Flowerfield property in St. James, having a proposed sewage treatment plant and the potential for sewer lines from Lake Avenue in St. James to be hooked up to it, nothing has been promised by Gyrodyne and Mattera said he doesn’t believe this is the best solution.
The pipes that were put down at Lake Avenue can be hooked up to the north or south, and he said there are other potential locations for a sewage treatment plant that could be beneficial not only to St. James but other parts of Smithtown, especially the Route 25 corridor.
He said it’s important to avoid problems such as brown tide and negatively affecting the shellfish and wildlife. One of the concerns of residents and environmentalists in both Smithtown and Brookhaven is the effect a sewage plant on the Gyrodyne property would have on Stony Brook Harbor
“Let’s compromise,” he said. “Let’s find the right location that we’re going to replenish the aquifer, not that we’re going to keep on dumping any kind of discharge from a sewage treatment plant that’s going to be going out to the ocean 3 miles, and it’s going to be going up and dumping out into the Sound anymore.”
He pointed to Nassau County that has big sewage problems, he said, because they didn’t plan properly and discharge dumps both into the ocean and Sound and the need to avoid such problems in the area.
As for Lake Avenue, he said a revitalization project first started when former state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) was able to secure $3.9 million of state funds to put down dry sewer lines. However, the town has not received the funds yet due to procedures stalling during the pandemic.
He said he’s been working on getting Smithtown the $3.9 million as soon as possible. Mattera said despite being a freshman senator he’s not afraid to keep asking.
“I will not stop until the town receives that money,” he said, adding just a signature is needed.
He also pointed to the roadwork done on Route 25A from Nicolls to Port Jefferson being severely needed and called some local roads “a disaster.” He and his chief of staff recently checked out the road near St. Catherine of Siena Hospital in Smithtown and recorded cars avoiding the potholes. He said many constituents have called in complaining about the flat tires that they have gotten. On the day of the TBR interview, roadwork was scheduled for that area but had to be delayed due to rain.
“That shouldn’t be an emergency situation that we call DOT up,” he said. “It should be something that, in other words, guess what guys, you should be looking at all of our roads and saying this is a necessity for all of us.”
The Brookhaven landfill will be closed in 2024, and Mattera said he is concerned as many in the district are affected by this. He said one option that’s been brought up for dealing with the garbage is incinerator plants and sending the ash out, but it’s not feasible due to environmental reasons.
“We need to fix this problem now,” he said.
He’s conduct research and sat down with a waste disposal business to talk about the possibility of packaging garbage in boxed railroad cars out east. They would then go directly to a site in Pennsylvania or Ohio.
“The only solution right now, and I’ve done my research, is to have a facility like this,” he said.
He is currently looking at how it would affect the community, the jobs such a facility would create and how it would affect the area it is potentially going to in another state.
“In the meantime, we are protecting our environment in a way here,” he said. “Are we protecting it somewhere else? That’s the only thing that I’m lost about.”