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Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich

Town of Brookhaven employees remove illegal signs from public right-of-ways. Photo courtesy Town of Brookhaven

By Sabrina Artusa

The Town of Brookhaven is making a revitalized effort to remove illegal signs and enforce commercial sign restrictions. 

Unclear diction in the existing code made enforcement difficult, but now, as the town revises the code, officials are reviewing and discarding prohibited signs throughout Brookhaven. 

Signs in the right of way along state-owned highways were simplest to extricate, as anything in that zone is considered litter according to New York State. However, restrictions unique to the town in regards to size, location and lighting were more challenging to enforce. 

Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) said, “The new sign code will be a little more detailed and enforceable in regards to size, location and lighting.” According to him, unclear language and years of making exceptions make the current code insufficient. 

The proposed new code includes a more extensive list of purposes and 30 more definitions for terms and signs named in the code.

While zoning districts have different restrictions in terms of size, placement, lighting and materials, there are certain signs prohibited in all areas, such as revolving signs, reflective signs, billboards, roof signs, signs for off-premises businesses and signs attached to a tree, fence or utility pole, among others.

“The public interest has to be taken into consideration and allowing the proliferation of signs makes the streetscape look terrible,” Kornreich added. 

Improving the aesthetic of the community and preventing dangerous distractions to drivers were listed as considerations in the code revision.

While some business owners may feel these restrictions hinder their ability to attract customers, Kornreich, a small-business owner, is confident that by improving the atmosphere, more people will want to visit the area. 

Instead of signs, businesses can buy ads in newspapers or utilize websites and social media, he said. “Ultimately, making the community beautiful and a more desirable place to live is good for everybody. Our goal is not to harm small businesses — our goal is to make our downtown community better and more inviting.” 

This sentiment is echoed in the revised code. Most signs, including personal expression signs and temporary signs, require a permit from the Building Division. 

The town has sent the proposed revised code to the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association and chamber of commerce, also the Three Village Civic Association and chamber of commerce for review. After a period of feedback from these organizations, there will be a public hearing. 

PJV Arbor Day 2024 Flyer. Photo courtesy Rebecca Kassay

The Village of Port Jefferson’s Tree Committee – freshly sprouted in 2023 – invites one and all to the village’s first annual Arbor Day Celebration this coming Wednesday, April 24, from 5-6 p.m.

Held in the Maple Parking Lot, behind Old Fields and Billie’s restaurants, attendees will hear from Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine, Suffolk County Legislator Steve Englebright, Port Jefferson Village Mayor Lauren Sheprow and the Village’s Deputy Mayor and Commissioner of Environmental Sustainability, Rebecca Kassay. 

A local student from Port Jefferson will delight the crowd with a topical reading before the group ceremoniously plants two new native trees. Finally, all attendees will all be given a native tree or shrub sapling to plant in their own yards. 

By hosting this event, which is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation, the village will be one step closer to their Tree City USA designation.

Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville

By Aramis Khosronejad

The Town of Brookhaven meeting on Feb. 1 was a two-hour stint. As is traditional during these meetings, an award was presented. Zariel Macchia, a 17-year-old junior at William Floyd High School, was presented with an award for her plethora of athletic accomplishments as a runner on the school’s cross-country team. 

Following the brief ceremony, Supervisor Dan Panico (R) opened the meeting with a few words of reflection. The supervisor began by saying how “change is difficult”’ and concluded with the empathetic sentiment, “before criticizing a man, you should walk a mile in his shoes.” 

There were no reports for the board, and with that a brief period passed in which several agenda items were considered. 

For general public comments, there were two speakers, both of whom talked about environmental issues further commenting on the cleanliness of Brookhaven in regard to the environment. 

To begin the public comments was Joshua Schultzer, a senior from William Floyd High School, and he was followed was John McNamara. Panico responded to the public comment presentations, “It’s nice to see two people from clearly two different generations who want to do good for the place in which we live and the planet on which we live.”

After the public comments, some of the resolutions discussed were:

  • Councilman Neil Manzella (R-Selden) presented the first resolution of 2024, which is the implementation of a street name change in place of Smith Road in Ronkonkoma in honor of Matthew “Dezy” DiStefano. He was a much loved figure who was a teacher at Sachem High School, and passed away due to cancer. 
  • Resolution authorizing accepting a donation of $550 from Centereach Civic Association. 
  • Resolution authorizing the issuance of bonds to improve Port Jefferson Marina for $864,103. 
  • A series of 10 resolutions were discussed, all of which authorized the purchase of different properties to deal with the problem of runoff and rainwater. Panico explained that this is an ongoing problem across many districts within the town. 
  • Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) declared the month of February to be American Heart Awareness Month in Brookhaven.  
  • Resolution seeking to provide sand to Davis Park on Fire Island as well as other parks. Councilwoman Karen Dunne Kesnig (R-Manorville) was concerned about the large storms being experienced and the dunes that have been erased. Brookhaven has to take measures to protect Fire Island because if not, “we might not have a Fire Island.” 

For more information on this meeting, the live stream is available at: brookhavenny.portal.civicclerk.com/event/2631/media.

 

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony for Harmony & Light Wellness in Port Jefferson on Sept. 30. The event celebrated Harmony’s one-year anniversary and becoming a new chamber partner.

Located at  646 Main Street, Lower Level, the business specializes in helping you relax, recharge, reset and rebalance with holistic and sound therapy including the Harmonic Egg.®

Pictured in photo, from left, Nicole Martinsen, Melissa Fesmire, Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich, owner Megan Fesmire (holding scissor), husband Beau and daughter Cassidy. 

Operating hours are Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Wednesday, Friday and Monday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, call 631-828-5055.

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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Work by East Setauket Pond Park is expected to be completed by the end of June, according to Brookhaven’s Highway Department.. Photo by Emma Gutmann

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.”

Workers install a water quality unit at East Setauket Pond Park. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Residents passing by East Setauket Pond Park have noticed the area has been fenced off recently.

At the March Three Village Civic Association meeting, Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) updated members on the work being done on the pond. Two water quality units are being installed to capture road runoff, such as sediment and floatables, from Route 25A and interconnected town roads before the debris goes into Setauket Harbor.

In an email, Veronica King, Brookhaven’s stormwater manager, said the project is expected to take approximately two months.

The current and past work at the park has been a result of a $1 million clean water grant for the Town of Brookhaven that former state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) secured in 2016.

George Hoffman, one of the founders of Setauket Harbor Task Force, said in a phone interview that he was pleased that the units would be finally installed.

“It’s critical to improving water quality in Setauket Harbor,” he said. “The harbor is struggling. We haven’t been able to clam there for 22 years. It’s unsafe to take clams from that harbor, and that’s based on bacteria in the area and a lot of the bacteria comes in through the stormwater.”

He added the filtering of road runoff would also lessen how often the pond has to be dredged.

At the civic meeting, Kornreich also told the attendees that the town recently purchased the property where East Setauket Automotive stands today with the hopes of building a larger park in the future. In a phone interview, Kornreich said the auto and truck repair shop will remain until 2025, and he said the town plans to be sensitive to the needs of businesses surrounding the park. 

Brookhaven Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright and county Legislator Kara Hahn unveil the new sign. Photo by Robert Pellegrino

A sign featuring photos and a historical narrative now marks the spot of a local landmark.

Three Village Community Trust members celebrate the unveiling of the new sign at Patriots Rock. Phot by Rita J. Egan

Elected officials, members of the Three Village Historical Society and a handful of residents joined the Three Village Community Trust in the unveiling of its new interpretive sign at Patriots Rock. The trust has been working to install signs at its properties throughout the Three Village area.

The 18-inch-by-24-inch sign at Patriots Rock, across from the Setauket Post Office on Main Street, sits atop a small metal pedestal and provides information about the area’s local importance, including the spot being a Native American meeting place and the grounds of the Battle of Setauket. During the Revolutionary War, American Patriots used the rock as a base to launch an attack against British soldiers occupying Setauket Presbyterian Church.

Signs also are situated at the Smith/de Zafra House, Brookhaven’s original town hall, and the Factory Worker Houses. TVCT began the project a few years ago, and the trust’s president, Herb Mones, said the project was based on three ideas.

“One was our hope to educate and inform residents about the history, the architecture, the economy and the culture that existed in our ever-evolving community,” he said.

The president added the hope was also to show how unique the area was, and the signs demonstrated TVCT was an active organization.

At the unveiling, Mones thanked those who worked on the project, including Robert Reuter, Greg de Bruin, Norma Watson, Paul D’Amico, Peter Legakis and Gretchen Oldrin Mones. He added Three Village Historical Society historian Beverly C. Tyler and Town of Brookhaven historian Barbara Russell assisted in verifying the information, and Tammy Burkle of Studio 631 finalized the design of the plaques.

A county cultural grant obtained by Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and a matching-challenge state grant from Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) funded the project, according to Mones. He added Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) provided guidance during the process. All three were on hand for the unveiling.

Mones said the property once belonged to Tyler’s family, and when TVCT acquired the property the trust was able to do so with a grant through Englebright’s office.

Community members joined the Three Village Community Trust in the unveiling of a new sign at Patriots Rock. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Hahn said she often wonders what was going through the minds of the soldiers who hid behind Patriots Rock during the Battle of Setauket.

“[That kind of history] is why this community is so special — it’s that strong sense of place tied to the birth of this great nation. Helping to remind folks of the significance of this spot, and every other spot that we were able to place signs at, is important to educate about and honor the tradition and history here.” Hahn said.

Englebright, who is a geologist, said in addition to remembering the history of the site, he said, “I can’t help but get excited about it because it’s very geological.”

He said Patriots Rock is only one or two main rocks in the community, and “this is the one with the greatest significance.”

“The first thing we had to do was save it,” Englebright said. “The next thing we have to do is what we’re doing today, which is to make sure that it’s properly interpreted, and that it is accessing the public’s excitement about our history because the history of our community helps you find a sense of place — and our sense of place is integral to our quality of life and a sense of community pride.”

Image of proposed development, right, from the Planning Board’s webpage.

By Jonathan Kornreich

Numerous residents and organizations within my council district have expressed concerns to my office regarding the Winmar Homes application to develop the southeast corner of Pond Path and Upper Sheep Pasture Road in East Setauket. The current proposal is for an eight-lot residential subdivision on 6.63 acres, along with a recharge basin and the construction of a cul-de-sac into the development from Upper Sheep Pasture Road.

Setauket is one of the oldest areas in the Town of Brookhaven with historic sites from the American Revolutionary War time period and older. Directly across the street from the Selleck property is the Merritt-Hawkins House — at 512 Pond Path, East Setauket — a town-owned property and one of the earliest homes in Setauket, originally belonging to the Hawkins family. The property was designated a Brookhaven landmark in April 2005 and was added to the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places in August 2007. Immediately adjacent to the Merritt-Hawkins House is Nassakeag Elementary School. The Selleck property is one of the oldest farms in the area and, together with Merritt-Hawkins House, formed the Merritt-Hawkins Homestead, a significant part of our local history. 

The community and my office have made several requests relating to this property, including an appeal to save the old Selleck farmhouse or clustering the houses to make room for open space preservation. The most urgent of these requests, however, and the one which has spurred the greatest alarm within the community, is the proposed siting of a recharge basin, or sump, on the highly visible corner of Upper Sheep Pasture Road and Pond Path.

Historically, the creation of sumps like this has been a common approach, resulting in over 1,300 sumps throughout the Town of Brookhaven. In addition to being a maintenance burden on the Highway Department and a consistent source of complaints from residents, these recharge basins do little to remediate the water being funneled back into our aquifers, especially with respect to the removal of nitrogen and other substances.

Other solutions to stormwater management are available. The practice of Low Impact Development incorporates an “all of the above” strategy which includes rain gardens, bioswales, permeable surfaces and dry wells, elements which are meant to recreate and enhance natural processes. By reducing the movement of water across paved surfaces, these elements assist in the prevention and capture of surface contaminants before they flow back into a sump, whose sole function is to get water back underground as quickly as possible.

Clearly, practices such as LID require a nuanced approach which is sensitive to each site’s specific topography, soil composition and other factors. I will continue to advocate for the adoption of this more thoughtful approach, both on the Selleck site and as a part of the town’s planning process going forward.

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine [R] has been highly supportive of this approach and has facilitated discussions with professionals in Town Hall to explore other options. There is no question that a sump is only one of several modalities for managing stormwater runoff, and we are hoping that more time is set aside to study this issue and develop a strategy that all stakeholders will be comfortable with. 

The town Planning Board is an independent body, and members of the Town Council cannot exert undue influence over their deliberations, but I cannot remain silent while the wishes of the community I represent are overlooked. My hope is that the developer and the Planning Board will come together to create a site plan which is mutually acceptable to all stakeholders, including the residents.

Jonathan Kornreich [D] is town councilmember for Brookhaven’s District 1 and has experience in the home construction industry.

State and local elected officials joined Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine at the Stony Brook Train Station June 7. Photo by Rita J. Egan

During the late morning hours of June 7, people gathered at the Stony Brook train station but not to board a train. They were there to call out the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Long Island Rail Road for not getting on board with modernizing the Port Jefferson Branch line.

Steve Englebright at podium. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) asked state and local officials to join him at a press conference at the station to urge the MTA and the LIRR to extend electrification on the Port Jefferson Branch. In addition to the elected officials in attendance, civic, chamber, business and environmental leaders were also on hand to show their support.

Many in attendance have vocalized the need for years, including during a December 2019 press conference at the train station. However, plans were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

East of Huntington the 24 miles or so of railroad tracks are not electrified, and the LIRR uses dual-mode trains that can switch from electric to diesel.

Those in attendance addressed concerns such as air pollution from the diesel trains and traffic congestion from residents driving south to take trains on the Ronkonkoma Branch. They also said electrification would benefit the area, including efficient experiences for passengers, more business drawn to the area, increased enrollment at Stony Brook University and real estate values increasing. 

Romaine said the Port Jeff Branch was the busiest line of the LIRR. He called diesel fuel “some of the most polluting fuel that we have.” He added that Suffolk County and Brookhaven “have been shortchanged by the MTA.”

He said that with the passage of President Joe Biden’s (D) $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill and more than $10 billion estimated to go to the MTA, it was time for Suffolk County residents to see improvements on the railroad

“That is supposed to help rebuild our infrastructure,” the supervisor said. “We’re asking for a 20th-century technology — electrification. Diesel is a 19th-century technology. We haven’t even asked for 21st-century technology.”

State Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James) also called for infrastructure money to be spent in the area. Regarding North Shore residents traveling to stations along the Ronkonkoma Branch, he said everyone needed to come together to ensure that those in the area could drive to a nearby station without changing trains to get to New York City. He added with a feasibility study that was started in the 1980s, the time had come for change.

“We need to make sure that we’re here for the commuters,” Mattera said. “Mass transit is so important for our future, and MTA shortchanges us all the time.”

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said when the Climate Leadership and Community Protection legislation was passed on the state level in 2019, it included the call for electrification across all sectors — transportation, residential, commercial and more. He said the same year the legislation passed, the MTA purchased 55 diesel engines.

“Maybe they haven’t figured it out yet but diesels are, as the supervisor indicated, antique technology, and we need to move toward technology that doesn’t pollute the air,” Englebright said.

State Sen. Mario Mattera. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) said that the diesel engines not only are harmful to air quality, but also when they arrive at a station the vibration can be felt in nearby neighborhoods. Kornreich said there are people in Port Jefferson Station who “have to listen to the sound of diesel throbbing all night.”

Mitch Pally, CEO of the Long Island Builders Institute and a former MTA board member, called on the state Climate Action Council to mandate the MTA to have responsibility in electrifying train lines across Long Island.

“Only in that way will the mass transit system that we have not only transport our people, but do it in an environmentally sensitive manner,” Pally said.

Anthony Figliola, who is running in the Republican primary for Congressional District 1, said after the press conference he was encouraged by the bipartisan support. He added that Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) is also supportive of electrification.

Figliola and Charlie Lefkowitz, president of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, were part of the North Shore Business Alliance formed in 2017 that worked on a feasibility study for electrification of the branch.  The MTA included $4 million in their five-year 2015-19 capital plan to pay for a feasibility study on electrification of the Port Jefferson Branch

Figliola said if elected to Congress he will be committed “to helping fund this critical economic development and environmental project.”

“The next step is for the MTA to complete the study,” he said. “My hope is the MTA will think twice before spending any additional dollars on more diesel trains.”