Tags Posts tagged with "Brookhaven Landfill"

Brookhaven Landfill

Brookhaven landfill sign. Photo by Samantha Ruth

The Town of Brookhaven landfill, a titan of our local landscape, casts a long shadow over our future. While the initial plan promised its closure by 2024, the recent extension for incinerator ash disposal leaves us in a state of uncertainty. This reprieve begs a crucial question: What is the actual plan for the landfill, and where will our garbage go?

Residents deserve clarity. We’ve been told the landfill, nearing capacity, would soon reach its final chapter. Now, faced with a year or two extension, we’re left wondering: Is this a temporary fix or a signpost to a longer life for the landfill?

Beyond the timeline, the elephant in the room is ash disposal. Accepting Covanta’s waste may solve its immediate problem, but at what cost? Have the potential environmental impacts been thoroughly assessed? Are we simply swapping one set of concerns for another?

Perhaps most importantly, where is the long-term vision for waste management? Is this extension just a stopgap measure, or is there a concrete plan for a sustainable future beyond the landfill’s life span? We haven’t heard much about exploring alternatives like recycling, composting or waste-to-fuel technologies. Shouldn’t these be at the forefront of the conversation?

The Town Board owes it to residents to provide a comprehensive plan, not just piecemeal extensions. We need to know how the extension fits into the bigger picture, what alternatives are being explored and when  we can expect a clear roadmap for the future.

This isn’t just about the landfill’s closure date, it’s about responsible waste management for generations to come. While there has been a lot of discussion, this postponement raises doubts about a future course. Residents seek transparency, clear communication and a commitment to solutions that prioritize both environmental health and responsible waste disposal. Until then, we’ll remain in limbo, watching the shadow of the landfill grow longer – and wondering where our waste will ultimately end up.

Trucks line up outside the Brookhaven landfill. Photo courtesy Samantha Rutt

By Samantha Rutt

The Town of Brookhaven landfill, a towering 192-acre presence on Yaphank’s landscape, is set for a partial closure this year, but its complete demise might not be as imminent as planned. 

The initial plan, set in motion years ago, aimed for a complete closure of the landfill by 2024. While construction and demolition debris disposal has been earmarked to cease by the end of 2024, the facility could remain open until 2027 or 2028 to accept incinerator ash, sparking debates about environmental impact and responsible waste management. 

A 2021 Town of Brookhaven exploratory report stated, “The Brookhaven landfill is anticipated to reach the capacity limits of its DEC permit by December 2024, creating a challenge for residents and Brookhaven Town regarding the future disposal of MSW [municipal solid waste], ash and construction and demolition debris.”

However, new Town Supervisor Dan Panico (R) has thrown a wrench in that timeline, seeking a permit extension allowing the facility to accept ash from Covanta’s Westbury waste-to-energy plant until 2027 or 2028. 

“We will cease taking construction and demolition debris at the end of 2024, and we will continue taking ash, not only from the Town of Brookhaven Covanta but from Islip, Smithtown and Huntington as it is a regional ash fill,” Panico said in an interview with Newsday. “That will probably go through 2027 and cease in the first month of 2028.” 

The town would need to seek an extension of its state-issued permit when it expires in July 2026. This decision stems from the lack of alternative disposal solutions for the roughly 340,000 tons of ash generated annually by Covanta, which serves much of Suffolk County. The landfill stands as Brookhaven’s second-biggest source of income after property taxes, expected to generate $55 million in 2024, implying sizable financial implications for when the property closes.

“It is not necessarily an extension because the waste-to-energy facilities are a reality and a necessity on Long Island,” Panico said in an interview.

The news has divided the community. Proponents of the extension argue it buys valuable time for exploring alternatives. Opponents, however, express concerns about potential environmental repercussions. 

Locals have gathered together in efforts against the landfill, raising their concerns. Currently, the town is underway with a state-ordered assessment by the Department of Environmental Conservation of a toxic plume emanating from the landfill. 

In North Bellport and areas surrounding the landfill, community members have joined together to create the Brookhaven Landfill Action and Remediation Group. This group has committed itself to finding sustainable solutions for the disposal of Long Island’s waste. 

“The time is now. The time was yesterday,” Monique Fitzgerald, Brookhaven Landfill Action and Remediation Group co-founder, said on the group’s Facebook page. “The time was 50 years ago. This is not to wait. You’re talking about this, which is going to take two years. We can’t keep pushing this down the road. If we have a moment of intervention, this is the time to act.”

In densely populated areas like Long Island, with limited landfill space, communities are often left to grapple with balancing environmental concerns and the practicalities of managing massive amounts of waste.

The Town Board is currently evaluating the permit extension request, considering public input and environmental assessments. Environmental groups like the Long Island Pine Barrens Society have voiced their opposition, urging the board to explore alternatives like recycling, composting and waste-to-fuel technologies.

The Brookhaven landfill saga stands as a microcosm of Long Island’s larger waste management challenges. As the closure deadline looms, the community faces a crucial decision: Extend the landfill’s life for a temporary fix or invest in long-term, sustainable solutions. The next few years will be critical in shaping the future of waste management in the region and potentially impacting the environment and communities for years to come.

Lillian Clayman, the Democratic Party nominee for Town of Brookhaven supervisor. Photo courtesy Clayman

Following former Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant’s unexpected departure from the race, the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee has tapped Lillian Clayman to stand in this year’s election for Town of Brookhaven supervisor.

Incumbent town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) is running for Suffolk County executive this November, creating an open contest for his seat. The Brookhaven Republican Committee selected Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville) to head the ticket.

Garant, opposing Panico on the Democratic line, suspended her campaign last week due to an “unforeseen health issue,” according to the BTDC. 

In an exclusive interview, Clayman opened up about her professional experiences and plans for the town. The new Democratic nominee centered her platform around the Brookhaven Town landfill while offering various administrative reforms.

A Port Jefferson resident, Clayman is an adjunct professor of labor and industrial relations at SUNY Old Westbury. She worked as a political organizer for health care union 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and spent a decade as a financial adviser/stockbroker at Manhattan-based global insurance corporation AIG.

Clayman served as mayor of Hamden, Connecticut, from 1991-97. She was chair of BTDC from 2016-20, and has run several political campaigns in Connecticut and on Long Island.

Clayman said she was approached last week by party leaders, who had asked to lead the ticket in Garant’s absence.

“Given the fact that I have government administrative experience as well as political experience, and given the truncated time frame, I said that I would be happy to do so,” she said.

The town landfill — located on Horseblock Road in Yaphank and scheduled to be closed to construction and demolition debris by December 2024 — is a centerpiece of Clayman’s campaign.

“We need to do something quickly about the Brookhaven landfill,” she said. “This is something that has been ignored while taxes have gone up [and] elected officials’ salaries have gone up.”

“The Brookhaven landfill and all of its impacts on the environment today and in the future has been ignored,” she added. “It’s been kicked down the road.”

Concerning intervention and remediation of the pending landfill closure, Clayman said, “The easy environmental fruit has been picked,” suggesting expediency has been advanced while root causes go neglected.

“It’s easy to be for open space,” she said. “It’s a lot harder to find a solution to something as complex as the Brookhaven landfill,” calling the facility “a Titanic headed for an iceberg.”

The Democratic candidate maintained that supervising the landfill closure — and the expected challenges precipitating from it — will require close collaboration with all interested parties.

“My plan and my approach is to bring in all of the players, all of the stakeholders in the community, so that we can make sure that we can protect our environment for real, not just with words,” Clayman said.

Along with the landfill, she proposed several administrative reforms, proposing to “bring good government” to Town Hall.

“Good government means putting contracts out to bid fairly, without regard to whether or not they contribute to your campaign,” she said. “It’s also an approach that [assesses] whether or not we actually need a service, so I do use a little bit of zero-based budgeting in my approach to providing services.”

In stating why she entered the race, Clayman indicated that the town government requires greater proactiveness and energy to serve its residents most effectively.

“There’s a lot of work to do,” she said. “There have been years of neglect and coasting, and I intend to get to work on day one.”

File photo by Raymond Janis

Residents deserve better than one-party rule

In the May 4 edition, the editorial board highlights that the Brookhaven landfill is a major issue in this year’s Town of Brookhaven elections [“The landfill election”]. We need bold leadership to tackle Long Island’s decades-long solid waste crisis. This is an issue of economic, environmental and racial justice that we can no longer afford to ignore.

Carting our garbage off of Long Island to another community is not a sustainable solution. We must reduce our waste, and this cannot only rest on individual households, but also on businesses and producers. We can incentivize waste reduction with pay-as-you-throw programs. We can also utilize the knowledge of experts like Stony Brook University’s research associate professor David Tonjes, whose work on waste management provides guidance on how we can address this crisis with innovation and ingenuity. We are capable of long-term, sustainable policy, but only if we have the political and moral courage to do so.

It is clear to me that the current Town Board are not the people to meet this moment. The past decade of one-party rule in Brookhaven includes a botched rollout of the recycling program, our roads in disrepair, and gerrymandering our council districts to bolster a weak incumbent in the 4th Council District. They have left us with a solid waste crisis, used nearly $250,000 of our taxpayer dollars to pay an EPA fine for air quality violations in 2020, and ignored the voices of the directly impacted residents of North Bellport time and again. They do not deserve to be reelected in 2023.

Outgoing Supervisor Ed Romaine [R] must be held accountable for his role in the failures of the Town Board he has led. Romaine is seeking the office of Suffolk county executive, and he must be questioned about the harm he has had a hand in creating in the Town of Brookhaven. We as voters must consider if he is fit to handle higher office, given the mismanagement of our municipal government under his leadership.

We deserve better elected officials than we currently have in our town government. The communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the landfill crisis deserve to be listened to by our representatives. There is too much at stake to accept the status quo and small-minded thinking of the current Town Board. It is time for bold solutions that meet the urgency of the moment. It is time for change.

Shoshana Hershkowitz

South Setauket

Still no funding for Port Jeff Branch electrification

Funding to pay for a number of transportation projects and pay increases for transit workers were items missing from Gov. Kathy Hochul’s [D] $229 billion budget.

There is no new funding to advance Hochul’s three favorite NYC transportation projects: the $8 billion Penn Station improvements; $7.7 billion Second Avenue Subway Phase 2; and $5.5 billion Brooklyn-Queens Interborough Express light rail connection. Also missing was funding to advance the $3.6 billion Long Island Rail Road Port Jefferson Branch electrification project. All Port Jefferson LIRR riders have to date is the ongoing LIRR diesel territory electrification feasibility study.

There was no additional funding to pay for upcoming 2023 NYC Transport Workers Union Local 100 contracts for LIRR and Metro-North Railroad employees. The MTA only budgeted for a 2% increase. NYC TWU president, Richard Davis, will ask for far more so his 40,000 members can keep up with inflation. Both LIRR and MNR unions, with thousands of members, will want the same.

Larry Penner

Great Neck

Maryhaven: a breakdown of process

Our village process is broken. Let’s take the Maryhaven project as a recent example of what’s wrong.

This proposed development should have been brought to the Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees via the Planning Board, which is responsible for overseeing all building-related matters.

But during the recent public hearing, we learned from the developer that he’d been in discussions with the mayor, deputy mayor and village clerk for well over a year, despite the fact there was still no proposal before the Planning Board. The first time the rest of the trustees heard about the project was when it was announced by the deputy mayor at a public meeting on March 6 of this year.

It’s likely the village attorney was also aware of these talks. As previously reported in this paper, he was pressing the village to be “proactive” and change the code to rezone the property in order to clear the path for the developers, whenever they were ready to apply. To that end, he proposed the May 1 public hearing. The attorney also suggested that if the code modification wasn’t suitable to the residents as is, there would be an opportunity to make adjustments. That is not entirely accurate.

We know this from our experience with the Mather Hospital expansion. Before the project came to a public hearing, the village made several decisions, from seemingly irrelevant (at the time) code changes to the most crucial, allowing the hospital a variance for extra clearance. The latter resulted in 2 precious acres of forest being cleared.

The impression the village gave at the time was that residents would still have a chance to weigh in. But when that time came, despite nearly 70 letters protesting the clearing of the forest and all the objections raised at the hearing, it was too late.

The Planning Board’s position was that its hands were tied by all those prior decisions, and it did not have the tools to consider the objections. In other words, we should have been paying attention when Mather first announced the master plan.

So forgive us if we’re skeptical when the village attorney tells us that we’ll have an opportunity to comment on the project overall at a later date.

Ana Hozyainova, President

Holly Fils-Aime, Vice President

Port Jefferson Civic Association

Declining public revenue in Port Jeff

The spirit of New York’s Freedom Of Information Act is transparency and access. Its introduction states, “The people’s right to know the process of governmental decision-making and to review the documents and statistics leading to determinations is basic to our society. Access to such information should not be thwarted by shrouding it with the cloak of secrecy or confidentiality.”

The issue of the future tax revenue from the Port Jefferson Power Station is critically important to both the Village of Port Jefferson and the Port Jefferson School District. So, it is surprising to me that the LIPA settlement agreement is not made available on the village or school district websites. And when I asked the village that a link be included, I was told that the village attorney advised the village not to put it on the website. I would have to complete a FOIL application. I did so. It had no redactions, and nothing in the document contained any confidentiality clause. The Town of Huntington puts its Northport Power Plant LIPA agreement on its website. So what is the objection to making the Port Jefferson agreement accessible to all on our websites? Would they prefer to have the fewest taxpayers know its full terms and potential consequences?

While both the village and school district are quick to tell us how little our tax bills will rise when promoting 30-year bond proposals, their assumptions are highly suspect given the lack of any reasonable assurance that the LIPA benefit will survive beyond the glide path expiration just four years away. Both the Port Jeff and the Northport agreements state that any extensions under the same terms beyond the 2027 expirations are dependent on power needs of National Grid. With repowering off the table, and the state’s goal of 70% renewable energy by 2030, it would seem there is little likelihood of any significant extension beyond expiration. The Port Jefferson Village budget for 2023-24 reveals LIPA taxes covering 36% of property taxes while the school district budget includes LIPA representing 42%.

It’s time for the village and school district to face the elephant in the room and (1) make critical information available on their websites and (2) for any discussion of potential costs to taxpayers, include calculations that consider a potentially abandoned power plant and taxpayers having to face 60%-plus tax increases to make up the LIPA loss.

Robert J. Nicols

Port Jefferson

Time to put the brakes on spending

Port Jefferson and Belle Terre residents are facing a school district budget and bond vote Tuesday, May 16, at the Port Jefferson high school from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m.

It’s a rather hefty price tag being proposed: $47 million for the proposed 2023-24 budget and close to $16 million additional for a bond focused entirely on enhancements to the high school.

While district residents have been more than generous in past years in support of our schools, maybe it’s time to ask if spending over $50,000 each year to educate a student is really feasible. (That’s the amount when you divide the proposed 2023-24 budget by the 933 students in the district, as suggested by Deputy Superintendent Sean Leister as a simple approximation of the per pupil costs, at the village board meeting on May 1.)

Perhaps this is the time to put the brakes on this spending and take a hard look at the future of the high school and consider alternatives.

Charles G. Backfish

Port Jefferson

We need to say ‘no’ to the school bond

Port Jefferson School District residents will be asked May 16 to approve an almost $16 million bond entirely for the benefit of the high school building. The more crucial question to be asked is: “Why are we considering this enormous expenditure when our high school student population is still dwindling?”

According to the school district’s own numbers — found on the district website or online (Long Range Planning Study, Port Jefferson Union Free School District 2021-22) — our enrollment numbers are declining precipitously. On page 18 of the report, our high school’s total enrollment grades 9-12 by 2031 will be a mere 233 students. Divide that number by the four grades in the school and your average graduating class size by 2031 would be only 58 students.

Port Jefferson high school’s small size cannot be compared to that of a prestigious private high school. Even most of the top private schools like Choate, Phillips and Exeter keep their total high school enrollment over 800 students. Most parents want a high school atmosphere that is academically, athletically and socially rich for their children — a true preparation for college. A high school with less than 240 students can’t realistically provide that.

Our high school is presently functioning with the classroom configurations it has had for decades. Before we invest many millions to move art, tech ed and music to the main building to create team and trainer rooms, let’s first focus on what we do if the high school population keeps dwindling, as the district study projects. 

Perhaps we could maintain a strong pre-K through 8th grade school system here and investigate tuitioning out our high school students to Three Village and/or Mount Sinai. This solution has been used successfully by many small school districts. Other larger local districts are facing declining enrollments as well, undoubtedly because of the high home prices and high taxes presenting an obstacle to young families seeking to move to this area. Given that reality, neighboring school districts would welcome our high school students.

Right now, we need to say “no” to the school bond. Before we spend almost $16 million on the high school building, we must find a solution to this ongoing decline in enrollment. To keep ignoring this serious issue is unfair to our already stressed-out taxpayers — and equally unfair to our future high school students.

Gail Sternberg

Port Jefferson

Experience matters

Kathianne Snaden is running for mayor and Stan Loucks is running for reelection as a trustee for the Village of Port Jefferson. They have worked together on the village board for four years. 

Kathianne has shown to be tireless and dedicated to the betterment of every facet of our village. She has opened the doors to the internal workings of government by live streaming the board meetings, originating the Port eReport and the practice of responding to every and all questions from everyone. As the liaison to the Code Enforcement Bureau, she is totally committed to improving public safety and was responsible for increasing the presence of the Suffolk County Police Department. Kathianne is also our liaison to the Port Jefferson School District. This is an important relationship that was absent and created by Kathianne. 

Stan Loucks has been devoting his retirement years to the Village of Port Jefferson. Prior to his election to the village board in 2015, he was on the tennis board, the board of governors, the greens committee and the Port Jefferson Country Club management advisory committee for a total of 20 years, including chair. Stan has been the liaison to the parks and recreation departments, deputy mayor and liaison to the country club. 

He is a hands-on person who will always be directly involved in any issue related to his duties. He has been directly responsible for numerous projects and improvements such as renovation of the golf course; building a new maintenance facility, driving range, fitness center, membership office; upgrading village parks; initiating relationships with our schools and much more. 

Kathianne was TBR News Media Person of the Year in 2019, and Stan was Person of the Year in 2021. Seems like they would be the team that we would want to represent our village.

Experience, knowledge, integrity, dedication and hard working are qualities that we need.

Jim White

Port Jefferson

Editor’s note: The writer is a former Port Jefferson Village trustee.


We welcome your letters, especially those responding to our local coverage, replying to other letter writers’ comments and speaking mainly to local themes. Letters should be no longer than 400 words and may be edited for length, libel, style, good taste and uncivil language. They will also be published on our website. We do not publish anonymous letters. Please include an address and phone number for confirmation.

Email letters to: [email protected]

or mail them to TBR News Media, P.O. Box 707, Setauket, NY 11733

METRO photo

Long Island has an impending garbage crisis, and the Town of Brookhaven is at the center of it. As Brookhaven voters prepare to elect their next town supervisor and town council representatives, they must keep this garbage issue at the top of their minds.

Given the complexity of municipal government and the scope of its influence, a local election can never be reduced to a single issue. Still, the Brookhaven Town landfill will have an outsized role in townwide elections this year, affecting every resident in the town and citizens across Long Island.

Opened in 1974, the Brookhaven landfill is the largest on Long Island and the centerpiece of waste collection for the region. In a 2019 thesis paper, Katlin Stath wrote, “the landfill isn’t isolated from the rest of Long Island since it is an integral part of the functioning of the Island’s waste management system.”

However, the landfill is near capacity, with plans in place to close the facility to construction and demolition debris by next year, and expectations to close the site completely two years later. The impending landfill closure, therefore, represents one of the great environmental, governmental and social dilemmas of our time.

Brookhaven Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville) and Village of Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant, a Democrat, have won their respective party’s nominations for this year’s contest for town supervisor. Six months from Election Day, it is time for both candidates to begin preparing comprehensive proposals for this facility.

Though the exact figure is difficult to pinpoint, the landfill is estimated to represent two-fifths of the town’s public revenue. How do the candidates for supervisor plan to make up for the loss of income? Will the town increase taxes on residents? Are there other ways to boost revenue without raising taxes amid this inflationary period?

While the plans are imprecise, officials across levels of government seem poised to begin shipping our trash off the Island by rail. Though garbage-by-rail occurs in other places around the country, is it the optimal solution to our problem? We remind leaders that any plan for shipping trash on train lines must be environmentally and ecologically sustainable.

Our mass transit network on Long Island is dilapidated to begin with. Many residents along the North Shore commute to Manhattan via Jamaica in railcars powered by diesel, a 19th-century-era technology. Will our garbage crisis compel the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to electrify the Port Jefferson Branch once and for all?

How will moving garbage by rail affect other facets of our transportation network, such as our roadways, waterways and airways? It seems plausible that adding greater volume to our rails will incentivize riders to drive, potentially compounding our traffic congestion troubles.

Finally, we suspect the landfill may have harmed generations of residents of North Bellport and Yaphank, who have endured the possible detrimental health and environmental impacts of living in close proximity to this site.

We regret that the Brookhaven Town Board voted unanimously last year to gerrymander Council District 4 — which includes North Bellport and Yaphank — disempowering the most important voices in this landfill closure dialogue, potentially denying them a true champion on the Town Board to expedite the facility’s closure.

We nonetheless encourage both candidates for town supervisor to coordinate closely with the residents of that hamlet and members of the Brookhaven Landfill Action and Remediation Group, an advocacy organization that has fought for years to close this facility.

While decisions over the landfill closure are ongoing, Brookhaven citizens will have a stake in this effort. The November election for supervisor and Town Council represents a unique opportunity for the public to guide this process.

We encourage residents to start preparing their questions and for candidates to start preparing their answers. With six months until Election Day, let the landfill conversation get rolling. Permanent closure is just around the corner.

Pixabay photo

In the wrong township

Regarding the April 6 article, “Brookhaven officials speak out against governor’s proposed housing plan” — also an op-ed — on potential development which is, according to Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine [R], “exempt from environmental concerns … don’t have sewers … no height restrictions … and local zoning is ignored.” 

Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico [R-Manorville] in his April 6 op-ed provides four examples that lend themselves to this type of development, and rattles off Port Jefferson Station, North Bellport, East Patchogue and Mastic Beach. 

Yes, we can read between your lines. And no, Dan. If you want development that is exempt from environmental concerns and without sewers, you are in the wrong township.

Joan Nickeson


Roadway changes at 112 and 347 a mistake

The intersection of routes 112 and 347 in Port Jefferson Station is a total disgrace.

The change to the intersection was a total waste of taxpayers’ hard-earned money. It solved nothing. Now all the traffic is backed up at the light to ShopRite, instead.

In order to get to 112 coming from the east, one must make three turns instead of simply turning left. It is the most confusing and frustrating roadway change, and for what?

The whole project really should be looked at from the point of view of public safety. Once you make a turn from the new way, it is unclear where to actually go. Has the New York State Department of Transportation even driven there since it ruined the intersection?

Yes, I am angry. I’ve been here since there was a traffic circle, and that would have been better reinstalled than the horrific mess that is there now.

Jean Jackson

East Setauket

National Minority Health Month

April is National Minority Health Month, and we are urging that people of all skin tones protect themselves against skin cancer. Despite the common misconception that people of color cannot get skin cancer, it does affect people of all skin tones. Harmful ultraviolet rays can penetrate all skin types, regardless of your ethnicity, so even for people with dark skin, sun protection is necessary every day.

According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma rates have risen by 20% among Hispanics in the past two decades. The annual incidence of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is currently 1 in 167 for Hispanics and 1 in 1,000 for African Americans —compared to 1 in 38 for white people. 

Although people of color are diagnosed with skin cancer at lower rates than Caucasians, prognoses are typically poorer and survival rates are lower. Black patients with melanoma have an estimated five-year survival rate of 71 percent, versus 93 percent for white patients.

You can reduce your skin cancer risk by practicing sun safe strategies when outdoors. Applying sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher, wearing a wide-brimmed hat, UV protective sunglasses and long-sleeved clothing, and seeking shade whenever possible, can help prevent skin cancer.

The Cancer Prevention in Action program at Stony Brook Cancer Center works to increase awareness about the dangers of UV radiation and promote sun safety to reduce skin cancer rates on Long Island. To learn more about Cancer Prevention in Action, visit the website takeactionagainstcancer.com or contact us at 631-444-4263 or email [email protected].

This program is supported with funds from Health Research Inc. and New York State.

Annalea Trask

Program Coordinator,

Cancer Prevention In Action

Stony Brook Cancer Center

Opportunities squandered

Everyone deserves to live in safe, affordable housing. We are facing a housing crisis on Long Island. State and local governments must use their power to address this problem in a thoughtful and equitable way that benefits all of us.

Unfortunately, the response from too many Long Island elected officials to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s [D] “housing compact” fails to address the issue for the public good. In his perspective piece March 30, Dan Panico [R-Manorville], Town of Brookhaven deputy supervisor and current town supervisor candidate, accuses the governor of threatening “local municipalities” and her push to increase housing availability as a “political charade.” 

While I do not agree with all aspects of Hochul’s plan, I recognize that she is speaking to a need that local governments have failed to address. One example of this would be the development of the Heritage Spy Ring Golf Club senior complex in South Setauket, which is a project that Mr. Panico voted for in 2014. This project was approved despite the opposition of the community. It has not generated any affordable housing, with monthly apartment leases priced from $2,900 per month. What we desperately need in our communities is affordable housing for both young professionals and retirees, and this was an opportunity squandered.

Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich [D-Stony Brook] has also weighed in about local control, saying that “town council members are uniquely qualified to know and be accountable to the needs of our districts” in an April 6 TBR News Media op-ed.

However, the Brookhaven Town Board isn’t listening to constituents. This past week, the Town Board unanimously sent a statement in support of New York State legislation to alienate protected parkland to facilitate the siting of a waste transfer station not allowed by local zoning, in an environmental justice area and disadvantaged community. They did this over the objections of nearby communities of color and the state NAACP. 

Unfortunately, this is not the first time we’ve seen this kind of action. In 2021, the Town Board unanimously voted to rezone 130 acres of land surrounding the Brookhaven landfill from residential to light industry, again over the objections of residents. That is not how representation should work.

This year, our local government is up for election at all levels. Too many politicians have placed their self-interest and personal ambition over the voices of those they are elected to represent. 

We saw this in our town redistricting process last summer, where the Town Board unanimously approved the redistricting maps that residents spoke in opposition to at numerous public hearings. 

There is too much at stake, from affordable housing to environmental protection to the democratic process itself, to allow the status quo to continue unchecked. We deserve better, and we must demand it from our elected officials.

Shoshana Hershkowitz

South Setauket

Wind power presents significant problems

According to a March 23 TBR News Media article, Sunrise Wind will soon be providing us with a wind farm which will contribute to New York state deriving 100% of its energy requirements from renewable sources by 2040. Presumably this implies that the contribution of energy provided by all hydrocarbon fuels, including coal, oil and natural gas, will be eliminated entirely. 

While this may sound like a noble and virtuous goal, it does present a number of very significant problems, none of which were addressed in the aforementioned article. The production and distribution of electrical power began in the 1880s, as a direct result of the invention of the incandescent light bulb by Thomas Edison. Since that time, it has been generated by a combination of hydrocarbon fuels, supplemented by hydroelectric sources and, more recently, by nuclear reactors. 

All of these power sources share a common characteristic: They reliably provide huge amounts of energy satisfying all of our needs, 100% of the time, day and night, in all kinds of weather, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, year in and year out. 

If we choose to arbitrarily eliminate the vast energy contributions of hydrocarbon fuels, and if we also follow the advice of letter writer Arnold Wishnia and his friends and eliminate our nuclear power plants as well, we will thereby create a new problem. If our virtuous green power sources are only active with a very limited duty cycle, certainly much less than 50% of the time, what will provide our energy when the wind is not blowing, and the sun is not shining? Clearly, we will need some form of energy storage system, in which we will produce and store energy when it is available, i.e., when the wind blows and/or the sun shines, and recover this stored energy during the off times. 

But what form will this energy storage system take? Can it be a huge collection of lithium-ion batteries? Can we perform electrolysis of sea water to produce hydrogen, which we can store in huge tanks? Can we pump vast amounts of water into huge towers, and then use it to power hydroelectric turbines? What shall we do?

We are told in the article that the windmills to be provided by Sunrise Wind will provide enough power for about 600,000 homes. However, we are not told whether this includes only the power delivered directly to the homes when the wind is blowing, or whether it includes the extra power that must be stored, such as in a battery, to power the homes when the wind is absent.

If Sunrise Wind, or Mr. Wishnia or anyone else, can describe an energy storage system that is compatible with achieving 100% elimination of hydrocarbon fuels and nuclear power generators in New York state by 2040, at an even remotely achievable cost, it would be most interesting and enlightening.

In my humble opinion, I believe that windmills and solar arrays can be useful supplements. We see this, for example, with a homeowner who installs solar panels on a roof, or a farmer who uses a windmill to pump water from a well. But to rely on these sources 100% of the time, for a venue the size of New York state, is, as they say, a horse of a different color.

George Altemose                                                      


Supervisor Ed Romaine has announced that the Yaphank Fuel Cell Park at the Brookhaven Landfill is now fully operational, generating 7.4 megawatts of energy from three SureSource 3000 carbonate fuel cell power plants. The fuel cell facility will provide continuous reliable electricity to the growing area of the LIPA system in Yaphank and will provide sufficient power for 7,500 homes.

Supervisor Romaine said, “The Yaphank Fuel Cell Park is the Town’s first step in our transition from landfill to an energy park. The fuel cells, along with solar fields and harvested methane gas, will repurpose the landfill when it stops accepting waste after 2024 and is capped and closed. Our forward-looking plan will establish Brookhaven Town as a municipal leader in alternative energy sources.”

In its simplest form, a hydrogen fuel cell creates electricity by combining hydrogen gas and oxygen to form water. The electricity is then used to power the grid. Electricity, clean water and warm air are the only byproducts, making hydrogen fuel cells a sustainable form of energy. The Yaphank Fuel Cell Park power generation facility is located on approximately 0.93 acres in the southern portion of the landfill. FuelCell Energy, Inc. developed, installed and will operate the facility.

Fuel Cells are an electrochemical power generation technology that convert the energy in directly to electricity without combustion. There are no combustion-related pollutants such as NOx, SOx and particulates. The project will be interconnected to LIPA’s existing transmission system via a new dedicated distribution feeder from the site. The electrical connection is being provided by PSEG- LI and natural gas is being served by National Grid. Electric and gas service to the site by the utilities is complete.

The Brookhaven Landfill is set to close in 2024, but while the town has put aside money towards that end, a concrete plan has yet to materialize. Photo from Google maps

Brookhaven Town is planning for a potentially long-term project that could have Islandwide impact on residents’ waste.

Advocates protested in front of the landfill Oct. 31. Photo from Brookhaven Landfill Action and Remediation Group

On Thursday, Nov. 19, the town announced it has issued a request for proposal for a regional ash processing and recycling facility. The town has two alternatives on the RFP, one that includes an ashfill component and the other a standalone ash-recycling facility without the ashfill. The site would be located just east of the current landfill site at 350 Horseblock Road in Yaphank.

Such a facility would not accept solid waste or construction debris. No full decision has technically been made on constructing any new ashfill, as the town is still awaiting the word on an environmental review.

The town has planned to close and cap the current landfill in 2024 and has been raising millions of dollars in a special fund for that date when it’s finally capped. Officials and experts have said the closing of the Island’s last landfill, combined with the potential closing of twin ashfills in the Town of Babylon, could create a garbage crisis on Long Island. The only options left for solid waste could be trucking it off Long Island, a costly proposition for towns that are likely to be suffering from pandemic-related expenses for years.

Currently, the Brookhaven landfill handles over 350,000 tons of ash annually from energy-from-waste facilities, in addition to handling 720,000 tons of solid waste. Each day 2,000 trucks transport waste off the Island. 

Still, murmurs of the prospective ashfill site have led to controversy over the past year. Some residents and advocates have petitioned and publicly protested against the creation of any new place to dump ash, saying it will cause health issues for residents who live near the landfill. 

On Oct. 31, residents and advocates protested in front of the landfill against such a new ashfill. Activists for the protest organizer, Brookhaven Landfill Action and Remediation Group, said the location of this new ashfill was especially concerning with more than half the residents of the surrounding community are Black or Latino, according to census data. Those residents have complained about odor and health issues, pointing to the landfill as the culprit.

The group called for a “regional solution” to the solid waste issue. 

“We stand with the African American, Latinx, Indigenous, and working-class communities of North Bellport who refuse to continue bearing the brunt of the Town of Brookhaven’s fiscal mismanagement and lack of environmental planning,” said Monique Fitzgerald, a Bellport activist and leader of the landfill action group, in a release. 

Still, Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) has also sought such regional efforts, though there is not much in the way of any one person or group stepping up to the plate. 

At a Feb. 27 meeting of the Long Island Regional Planning Council about the impending solid waste crisis, business leaders, officials and regional leaders called for potentially finding other ways to ship trash off Long Island. Romaine suggested innovation in ways for residents to dispose of garbage rather than just burning or storing in landfills.

Brookhaven’s Landfill Set to Close in 2024, Romaine Says a Plan is Needed Now

The Brookhaven Landfill is set to close in 2024, but while the town has put aside money towards that end, a concrete plan has yet to materialize. Photo from Google maps

About 100 people crowded into the lower level of a Melville office building Feb. 27. All were there to talk about what ends up in the trash bin. Yet, despite the dry subject matter, all knew that garbage will be the talk of Suffolk County and beyond in just a few short years.

New York State DEC Regional Director Carrie Meek-Gallagher speaks about what it will take to impact the looming garbage crisis. Photo by David Luces

The Long Island Regional Planning Council hosted a meeting about what Long Island does with its garbage and, in particular, how the region will dispose of millions of solid waste when the Town of Brookhaven landfill closes in 2024.  

The discussion brought together local elected officials, environmentalists, waste management company representatives and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, among others.  

Michael White, vice chair of the planning council, outlined the issue to attendees in a presentation. 

Currently, the Brookhaven landfill handles over 350,000 tons of ash annually from energy-from-waste facilities, in addition to handling 720,000 tons of solid waste. 

“Solid waste management is achieved through a public and private sector partnership,” White said. “Trash is either burned or exported to four energy-from-waste facilities on the island.”

The facilities in Hempstead, Huntington-Smithtown, Babylon and Islip are all operated by Covanta Energy. The Babylon location handles about 50,000 tons of waste. 

“The remainder of the residential trash is shipped off on trucks to upstate landfills,” the vice chair of the planning council said. 

White said waste from Oyster Bay, the Town of North Hempstead, Riverhead, Southampton and East Hampton get driven off the island.  

“We have thousands of tons of waste shipped off Long Island every day, resulting in further stress on our aging and congested highway and bridge infrastructure,” he said. “And this approach is bringing us ever-increasing costs.”

In a panel following the presentation, experts and officials discussed potential solutions and ideas to what was called a “looming crisis.”   

“The amount of waste generated on Long Island is increasing,” White said. “With the current volume at the Brookhaven landfill, that means 720,000 tons a year of waste has to find a home somewhere, and another 350,000 tons of ash from the energy from waste facilities will have to find a home somewhere.” 

Will Flower, the vice president of regional trash carting company Winters Bros., said statistics show each person produces about 4 1/2 pounds of waste a day. Each day 2,000 trucks transport waste off the island. 

An option mentioned was increasing the use of rail cars to transport solid waste. About 6,000 rail cars carry 600,000 tons of waste off the island.  

Other attendees and panelists said stakeholders need to come up with more innovative ways to handle waste. Ideas included turning ash into building materials and pulverizing recyclable glass to use in road materials. 

“It’s not a looming crisis — It’s now.”

— Ed Romaine

Flower showed a piece of landfill equipment damaged by glass as a result of it being put with other waste, adding that glass can be and should be recycled. 

Since China’s 2018 decision to ban the import of most plastics and other materials used by its recycling processors, a number of municipalities have altered programs and in cases have reduced or eliminated recycling. Suffolk County has recently created a Regional Recycling Assessment Task Force in an effort to tackle the issue.

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) called for a regional effort. 

“It’s not a looming crisis — It’s now,” he said. “Either we get together as a region to resolve this and have a path forward, or this is going to be yet another thing that makes Long Island less desirable to live and work.”

The supervisor stressed that the region needs to act to find ways beyond either burning or storing waste in landfills.

“I can’t believe in 2020 that’s the only two ways to deal with waste; we need to do something now before we run out of time,” he said. 

Officials from the planning council said they plan on forming a subcommittee to look at the solid waste management crisis and asked attendees to help them develop further recommendations.