By Leah Chiappino
At his kickoff fundraiser, Anthony Portesy, the Democrat who is challenging incumbent Dan Losquadro (R) for Town of Brookhaven highway superintendent, held up a piece of asphalt he found while campaigning on Holbrook Road, he said, to symbolize the condition of Brookhaven’s streets. Having run in 2017 for the same position, Portesy said he looks to bring changes to what he calls “an infrastructure crisis” in Brookhaven.
“Since 2017, I’ve knocked on between 15,000 and 20,000 doors and I hear the same thing from people,” he said. “They want more information and to know when the plow and paving trucks are coming. They call seven times to get a street light fixed, and it still hasn’t gotten fixed.”
A native of Selden, later living in Centereach and now living in Port Jefferson Station, Portesy said he’s running because when he was growing up the roads were “atrocious,” and not much has changed.
“The same potholes I went over as a kid, I go over now,” he said in his acceptance speech for the nomination.
“I’ve seen my friends leave,” he said. “No one is going to want to buy a house if the streets are prone to flooding, and are pothole ridden. Brookhaven is looking more like Detroit, and less and less like a middle-class Long Island hamlet.”
Portesy, who is running on the Democratic, Working Families and Libertarian tickets, currently practices employment and commercial litigation for small-to-midsize businesses, largely in federal court. He feels this prepares him well for the position. Specifically, while studying at the New York Law School in Manhattan, he interned for city Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services.
He claims that after reviewing the contracts for projects the Losquadro has executed since he began his tenure as highway superintendent in 2013, residents deserve better.
“We can do things like potentially lowering the bonding requirements so small businesses can bid on projects and save the taxpayer money,” he said.
Portesy claims Losquadro has wasted $18 million doing “surface level mill-and-fill road resurfacing projects,” which the challenger said only work for about 30 percent of the roads that are “crumbling less than a year after the paving projects are completed.”
“I could very easily spend my free time going to Greece or Italy, but I chose to be involved because I care.”
— Anthony Portesy
“Doing 2 1/2 inches of topcoat as opposed to 1 1/2 inches may be more expensive, but it can give us 25 to 30 years, as opposed to two or three,” Portesy said.
According to the highway superintendent’s office, the current backlog for town projects sits at around $80 million, compared to a $120 million backlog when Losquadro took office. The highway budget is expected to increase to$150 million over the next 10 years.
The challenger acknowledged there are issues with funding to pave properly. His solution is to work to increase funding through the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program, a state program known as CHIPS that provides reimbursement to municipalities for highway-related capital projects, which he said will “take pressure off the local taxpayer.”
His main policy platform is his Brookhaven 2030 initiative, a series of changes he feels the township should complete within 10 years, much of which focuses on expanding information technology.
The first includes his “worst to first initiative,” a program he said would bring structural engineers in to evaluate the quality of every road, and rate them from the worst to the best. The town would then resurface them based on funding, and in order of highest priority, with rapid response to potholes near schools and main roads.
He also admitted that while day paving may be inconvenient, it is more expensive to do at night, and is not financially feasible to do neighborhood roads after dark. He added there will be a public list available online so people know exactly when their roads are being paved.
In addition, the Democratic challenger said he would post the contracts and bids publicly on an online database, so “the public can be informed of who is getting the contracts and why,” as opposed to “hiding behind a cloud of secrecy that the Highway Department has done for decades.”
In response to Losquadro’s claims that posting the contracts is illegal, Portesy said that they are unfounded.
“I am a lawyer who has done my research, and if Mr. Losquadro can point out to me a statute that says it is illegal, I would love to see it,” he said. “I haven’t found one state or town ordinance that says so.”
Another initiative, Portesy said, is known as STAR, or snow tracking and removal, includes installing GPS in snowplows that cannot be unplugged, so constituents can track the plows online, and gain an estimate of when the plows will arrive. He said he will ensure that all plows have a rubber bumper to ensure the roads are not torn up.
He pledges to do quality control inspections as well as bringing much of a work back to town employees, including hiring more workers and bringing back the “black top crews” — town workers who used to handle smaller projects.
Portesy said he was a longtime member of the UFCW Local 1500 supermarket union, and supports union labor. He called the highways workers “some of the hardest working guys in the business. They are out at 4 in the morning plowing the roads for ‘48 hours’ at a time, and don’t see their families. They earn every dime and deserve an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.”
The final initiative is the tree removal interactive management, or TRIM initiative, which would create an interactive map of all drainage and recharge basins that have overgrown shrubbery.
“The same potholes I went over as a kid, I go over now.”
— Anthony Portesy
“No one does this if they don’t care about the community. This has affected my personal relationship, and my personal life. I could very easily spend my free time going to Greece or Italy, but I chose to be involved because I care,” Portesy said.
So far, he has a war chest in excess of $16,300. Losquadro has raised almost $400,000, according to the New York State Board of Elections. Portesy acknowledges Losquadro has more campaign contributions and name recognition, but also points out that increased political involvement regarding everything that is going on nationally could work in his favor.
“Regardless of how you feel about the president, which I take no qualms about and express no opinion on, local elections that people did not pay attention to before are now on the minds of the average Joe who did not pay attention before,” Portesy said. “It’s tough to beat an incumbent, but we can’t wait for an open seat.”
The article originally printed in TBR News Media papers said Portesy had worked in the highways department as a laborer. This has been corrected online to say he was a longtime member of a union.