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Brookhaven Councilman Dan Panico

Local officials blast MTA over 'shocking neglect' of Long Island

Village of Port Jefferson Mayor Lauren Sheprow speaks at a July 25 press conference as Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine looks on. Photo by Raymond Janis

A dilapidated bridge and longtime public safety hazard on Sheep Pasture Road in Port Jeff will come down.

“I’m concerned that the MTA has forgotten about this section of Long Island.”

—Ed Romaine

Local and state officials held a press conference Tuesday, July 25, at Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville, celebrating a $15.8 million grant through the state Department of Transportation’s BridgeNY Program to replace the bridge. 

The new bridge will be owned and maintained by the town.

The Sheep Pasture Road railroad bridge has facilitated vehicle traffic since 1906. The Town of Brookhaven and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had split the tasks for maintaining the structure — the town supervising the vehicle roadbed and the MTA responsible for the physical structure and its replacement.

“The bridge that’s there did belong to the MTA,” said Brookhaven Superintendent of Highways Dan Losquadro (R). NYSDOT “still gave the Town of Brookhaven $15.8 million to build our own bridge. That tells you how serious the concern with the existing structure was and the unwillingness on the part of the MTA to address the concern.”

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) underscored the troubles surrounding the bridge’s structural integrity. “Our fear was that this bridge would collapse,” he said.

The supervisor noted that none of the town’s three train lines are fully electrified, suggesting a lack of public attention or investment.

“I’m concerned that the MTA has forgotten about this section of Long Island,” he added.

Village of Port Jefferson Mayor Lauren Sheprow attended the press event, expressing her support for the project under town supervision.

“On the north side of Sheep Pasture Road, those folks have been anxious for this development for a very long time, as have most of the residents utilizing that bridge,” she said. “The Village of Port Jefferson could not be more excited by the development that there will be a new bridge.”

“I’ll quote a congressman from New Jersey, who said the best way to understand the MTA is looking at the MTA backward. MTA spelled backward stands for ATM.”

— Dan Panico

Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook), whose 1st Council District includes Port Jefferson and Port Jefferson Station, thanked Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) office for “answering the call” of the state delegation. 

Kornreich nonetheless acknowledged the need for greater attention by the MTA.

“I’ll echo my colleagues who have pointed out the seeming disregard the MTA has had for our plight and the safety of our residents,” he said. “It’s really been a case of shocking neglect.”

Continuing this theme, Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville) condemned MTA’s position toward Long Island.

“I’ll quote a congressman from New Jersey, who said the best way to understand the MTA is looking at the MTA backward,” Panico said. “MTA spelled backward stands for ATM.”

New York State Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) referred to MTA’s inaction on the public safety hazard as “egregious,” decrying the perceived lack of investment by the public railroad into the local area.

“The MTA has no problem increasing taxes on us, our payroll taxes,” the assemblyman said. “Every time they seem to need to go to the well, it’s communities like ours that seem to foot the bill, and we don’t get the proper services.”

Referring to the bridge replacement, he added, “This is just a win for the citizens up here.”

With funding secured, Losquadro said his office is moving toward the planning phase for the project. He maintained that coordinating with emergency services is already underway.

“We will make sure that this process moves as expeditiously as it possibly can,” he said. “We have already spoken with emergency services and first responders to make sure that we have a plan that when this bridge does come down, it will be for the minimum amount of time before the new structure is in place.”

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Photo from TOB Dan Panico Facebook

Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney announced on May 24 that Fabio Monasterolo, 51, and his wife, Judith Monasterolo, 55, of Holbrook, are accused of unlawfully disposing of broken cinderblocks and concrete in the Town of Brookhaven near tidal wetlands.

“Using our precious wetlands as a personal junkyard is as selfish as it is destructive,” said District Attorney Tierney. “This flagrant abuse of our delicate ecosystem is a crime against our wildlife and every law-abiding taxpayer who supports these public lands.”

“Illegal dumping in our wetlands is a crime in the Town of Brookhaven that we take very seriously. Those who commit these crimes will be caught, charged and prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Edward Romaine. “I commend the brave actions of the resident who took it upon themselves to photograph and report this activity to the Suffolk County Police. Together, we are committed to protecting our environment and we will not tolerate illegal dumping happening anywhere in the Town.”

“DEC does not tolerate illegal dumping of any kind particularly in Long Island’s ecologically important wetland areas,” said New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos. “This joint effort by DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers and Investigators, the town of Brookhaven, and detectives from the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Biological, Environmental, and Animal Safety Team is a prime example of how joint cooperation between state and local law enforcement agencies can hold polluters accountable.”

According to the investigation, on April 23, 2023, at approximately 2:03 p.m., the Monasterolos were observed allegedly illegally dumping solid waste, which included broken chunks of concrete and cinderblocks, from their black Dodge Ram pick-up truck, into the wetlands adjacent to the intersection of Jefferson Drive and Grove Road in Mastic Beach. That intersection and the surrounding areas are owned by the Town of Brookhaven and abut a tidal wetland. When a witness saw what the defendants were doing, she began taking several photographs of the couple and the waste that they had dumped. Defendant Judith Monasterolo, who was in the passenger seat of the Dodge Ram, allegedly then gave this witness two middle fingers as Fabio Monasterolo drove them away from the scene.

Pursuant to the District Attorney’s Quality-of-Life Town Coalition initiative, Brookhaven Town Officials contacted the District Attorney’s Office and provided the photographic evidence and information regarding the dumping crime. Detectives from the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Biological, Environmental, and Animal Safety Team (BEAST) immediately began an investigation. The defendants were subsequently arrested on May 1, 2023. The Town of Brookhaven initiated the remediation of the protected site.

On May 23, 2023, both defendants were arraigned on the charges by the Honorable Mary Mullen for the crimes of Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree, a Class E felony, and multiple related Environmental Conservation violations. Under current New York State law, the offenses charged are not considered bail eligible, so the defendants were released on their own recognizance. The defendants are due back in court on June 13, 2023. Fabio Monasterolo and Judith Monasterolo are being represented by Jorge Macias, Esq.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney John Sciandra of the Biological, Environmental, and Animal Safety Team (BEAST), with investigative assistance from Suffolk County BEAST Detective Walter Justinic, DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Timothy Day, and DEC Environmental Conservation Investigator Jeremy Eastwood.

 

Photo from Town of Brookhaven

On May 5, Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, Councilman Dan Panico and Councilman Kevin LaValle were on-hand at the Brookhaven Landfill’s Residential Drop Off to launch the Habitat for Humanity Donation Program. Habitat for Humanity of Long Island has partnered with the Town to collect new or slightly used furniture, appliances, kitchen cabinets and building materials from Brookhaven residents.

The items collected will be sold at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore to help build affordable housing for low-mid income families on Long Island. The ReStore is a nonprofit home improvement store and donation center whose proceeds contribute to the work of Habitat Long Island. Habitat partners with families to build strength and stability through safe and affordable housing. Items donated to ReStore are sold to the public to support Habitat’s vision – a world where everyone has a decent place to live.

Pictured left to right at the Habitat for Humanity (HFH) Drop Off are HFH Director of Marketing, Maggie Luna; HFH Donations Coordinator, Veronica Golio-Astarita; HFH Donor Relations Manager, Courtney Collins; Town of Brookhaven Department of Recycling and Sustainable Materials Management (RSMM) Commissioner Christine Fetten; CEO & Executive Director of HFH of Long Island, Lee Silberman; Supervisor Ed Romaine; Councilman Dan Panico; Councilman Kevin LaValle and RSMM Chief Deputy Commissioner, Daniel Johnson.

Habitat for Humanity of Long Island, Inc. is an independently operated affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International. Since 1988, Habitat Suffolk has empowered hundreds of families to achieve their homeownership dreams through its affordable home ownership program, building 5-8 houses annually. Recognized as a four-star charity by Charity Navigator, Habitat Long Island works in partnership with thousands of Long Island volunteers and responsible, lower-income families of all races, religions, and creeds, to build and renovate homes for those in need.

Starting on May 5, residents can drop-off items at the Town of Brookhaven landfill to donate to Habitat Long Island at no charge. Donations must be dropped-off at the Habitat container on-site. Residents can request an e-receipt for tax-deductible donation by texting DONATE to 631-525-5447. The Brookhaven Town Landfill is located at 350 Horseblock Road, Brookhaven, NY 11719. Drop off hours are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Monday – Friday) and 7 a.m. to noon (Saturday).

Drop off items accepted Appliances (within 10 years old and in working condition); building materials (uncut and unused); doors and windows (within 5 years old); flooring/tile; furniture; kitchen cabinets; tools/hardware. For more information, please email [email protected].