Tags Posts tagged with "Brookhaven Town Council"

Brookhaven Town Council

Alyson Bass, left, candidate for the Town of Brookhaven’s 3rd Council District, and Brookhaven Councilman-elect Neil Manzella. Left from Bass’ LinkedIn page; right courtesy Manzella

In the race to fill Brookhaven Town Clerk Kevin LaValle’s (R) seat on the Town Board, Neil Manzella (R-Selden) handily secured victory on Tuesday, April 25.

LaValle took over as town clerk in February, vacating the 3rd District and triggering a special election to complete his term, which ends in December. An unofficial tally from the Suffolk County Board of Elections indicates Manzella comfortably defeated his Democratic opponent, Alyson Bass, of Centereach, holding a 57-43% margin of victory.

The councilman-elect explained that there was little time to celebrate. The true test will be this November when he and Bass will be back on the ballot to compete again for a four-year term.

In exclusive post-election interviews with Manzella and Bass, the two CD3 candidates set the table for round two. Following resident feedback heard throughout the special election cycle, repaving the district’s roadways will be a primary focus.

“One of the biggest topics that I heard from the district [residents] themselves is the condition of the roads,” Manzella said. “One of my plans is to go and sit down with the Highway Department — the Superintendent of Highways [Dan Losquadro (R)] — and try to see if we get that taken care of during the summer months.”

Bass, too, heard from district residents about the disrepair of the roadways. To mitigate those concerns, she proposed enacting measures to promote transparency within the road prioritization process.

“You hear of roads being paved multiple times while other roads haven’t been paved in six or seven years,” she said. “How does that happen? There are definitely areas in our district that are neglected, and there are other districts that are not neglected at all.”

The two candidates also narrowed in on the other major overhanging issue for the area, commercial redevelopment. CD3 contains two prominent commercial corridors along Middle Country and Portion roads. The candidates departed in their approach to building up the many undeveloped parcels.

Bass approached the redevelopment issue with caution, noting the need to protect open spaces and restrain sprawl. 

“We’re looking at every piece of green land being sold with no inhibition,” the Democrat said. “You have shopping centers with less than 50 percent capacity, parking lots that are barely used, yet all of our green spaces are being sold.”

Manzella offered a different perspective on redevelopment, viewing the undeveloped lots as a potential tax base for the town while building upon the aesthetic character of the area.

“I see our district trying to thrive in the commercial region,” the councilman-elect said. “I want to push redevelopment of areas along our Middle Country and Portion roads. I want to push redevelopment that can help fill vacancies, empty lots, to make it a more aesthetic and more business-friendly [area].”

Ahead of this November, the closure of the Brookhaven Town landfill looms as one of the most pressing issues facing residents townwide, with regional implications as well. 

Manzella said his campaign has yet to focus on the landfill closure but expressed optimism toward working with his colleagues to remediate the issue.

“The plans for what happens when the landfill closes is not something that I would have even been a part of before now,” he said. “But now that I am in a role where I can contribute to it, I can’t wait to have that conversation.”

Bass said the Town Board staying proactive in the landfill closure would serve the best interest of the residents townwide. “I think pushing to have a plan in place so that we aren’t so affected by the closure of the town dump is huge,” she said in an earlier interview.

Residents of the 3rd Council District will decide upon these two candidates again in just over six months. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

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                                                      


Local offices are on the ballot this November, with legislative positions at the county and town levels up for grabs.

Suffolk County’s 6th District

Dorothy Cavalier, left, and Chad Lennon are the Democratic and Republican nominees, respectively, for Suffolk County’s 6th District. Left from Cavalier’s campaign; right courtesy Lennon

Six-term incumbent Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker is termed out, setting up an open contest to fill her seat. In Anker’s absence, two major party candidates — both attorneys — have emerged.

Dorothy Cavalier, Anker’s chief of staff, has received her party’s nod. Cavalier began her legal career with AIG and Dime Savings Bank of New York, later transitioning to a small family practice in Ronkonkoma.

She joined Anker’s staff in February 2019. Asked why she entered the 6th District race, she told TBR News Media that her four years in Anker’s office had opened her to the possibilities of government.

“I started to see all of the good things that can be done in government,” she said. “I would like to stay in office, hopefully taking her seat, so I can continue those good works and the good things that we started.”

She added, “There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done, and I think I’m the one who needs to be in the office to do it.”

If elected, Cavalier offered to prioritize environmental issues, focusing on measures promoting water quality and preserving open space.

“We need to protect our sole-source aquifer,” she said. “We need to continue to work on getting our water, keeping it clean and making it safe for everybody.”

The Democratic candidate cited coastal erosion along the North Shore as a critical situation for the 6th District. She also noted affordable housing and expanding mental health programs for veterans are priorities.

Representing the Republican Party in this race is Chad Lennon, an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps and an attorney focusing on military and veterans law. 

He has worked part-time for state Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) as a special assistant for veterans affairs and U.S. Congressman Nick LaLota (R-NY1) as a congressional aide.

“I have been someone who’s served my country, and I wanted to continue to do that at the local level,” he said. “I believe my experience with being an officer in the military, being an attorney, as well as the other positions I have held bring a level of leadership that no one else is bringing.”

He added, “I think I have an ability to lead from the front, put myself at the point of friction and make myself available to the constituents of the district.”

Lennon committed to tackling issues associated with public safety, stabilizing the county’s budget and finances and thoroughly investigating the September ransomware attack against the county’s information technology network.

He pledged to “work with the county to make sure we find out what happened with the cybersecurity breach and make sure that we have accountability, policies and training put in place to make sure that this kind of breach does not happen at our county in the future,” he said.

The Republican also cited the need for “standing with local officials to stop the ‘Queensification’ of Suffolk County that Gov. [Kathy] Hochul [D] is seeking.”

Brookhaven’s 2nd Council District

Carol Russell, left, and Jane Bonner are the Democratic and Republican nominees, respectively, for the Town of Brookhaven’s 2nd Council District. Left courtesy Russell; right from the Brookhaven Town website

The boundaries of Brookhaven’s 2nd Council District underwent a considerable transformation during last year’s redistricting process. Most notably, the district stretched southward, now encompassing a sizable swath of Coram.

Incumbent Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) is up for reelection this year, along with the other six members of the Town Board. Before entering office in 2007, Bonner served as a legislative aide to Dan Losquadro (R), then-Suffolk County legislator and now incumbent Brookhaven highway superintendent. 

Bonner also served as a trustee on the Rocky Point board of education and president of the Rocky Point Civic Association. In an interview, Bonner said she is running for reelection to continue working on various long-term projects.

“Every year you serve is like peeling another layer on the onion to tackle long-term issues,” she said. “In my years in office, we’ve done major stormwater remediation projects all along the North Shore, upgrades to our parks,” adding, “I would say, succinctly — to continue to do the good work on behalf of the residents.”

If reelected, Bonner said she would focus on the environment, noting, “We continue to battle and deal with climate change. The North Shore is always under attack, and there are more projects that I’d like to see come to fruition.”

Referencing examples of initiatives she has worked on with the Town Board, she cited cybersecurity, tax and spending caps and anti-nepotism legislation. The incumbent added that she would “continue fighting for Long Island to be a suburb and not a city.”

Challenging Bonner is Carol Russell, a resident of Coram. A retired nurse and trial attorney, she spent nearly 30 years defending doctors, nurses and other health care providers in litigation. Russell has also served as a mentor for the Dress for Success Brookhaven initiative and has volunteered to coach the mock trial team at Longwood High School.

“I look at our society, nationally and locally, and I see it is so divided and so broken,” she said. “I think people want to be listened to and included. I think our Town Board can do a better job at that, and I want to be a part of that.”

She referred to existing dynamics within the town government as “sort of a one-party rule for a good number of years now, and I’m not really sure the Town Board understands its residents or at least part of its residents.”

She regarded the two central issues within the town as the affordability crisis and the looming Brookhaven landfill closure.

“I’d like to see what can be done to alleviate some of the tax burdens on our residents,” she said, adding, “And I’m particularly concerned about the closing of the landfill, which is going to leave a huge gap in our budget.”

She further cited homelessness as an area of concern, particularly in Coram. “Homelessness is not exclusively but predominantly a mental health issue,” she said. “I think that there are ways that we as a town, in partnership with the county and the state, can do better.”

A special election for Brookhaven Town Clerk will take place Tuesday, Jan. 17. Above, Kevin LaValle (left) and Lisa Di Santo, respective nominees for the Republican and Democratic parties. Photos by Raymond Janis

Early voting is underway for the next Brookhaven town clerk, and the two major party candidates are making their pitch to the voters.

Former Town Clerk Donna Lent (I) retired in November, triggering a special election for her unexpired term ending in 2025. Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) and community advocate Lisa Di Santo, the Democratic Party nominee, will square off at the polls Tuesday, Jan. 17.

During a joint meeting of the Selden and Centereach civic associations Thursday, Jan. 5, the two candidates were questioned on a range of topics related to the operations of the Town Clerk’s Office. Civic members generated some of the questions with others fielded from the audience.


Di Santo is a former social studies teacher who taught students about participation in government. She also served as a trustee of the South Country school board in East Patchogue, where she lives. 

“I have always participated in government, and I feel that I can be an independent voice of reason in the Town Clerk’s Office,” she said. “We have many of the same people filling many of the same positions over and over again. … That leads to a bit of stagnation, and I think it’s time for a fresh set of ideas, a fresh set of eyes, on what’s happening in the Town Clerk’s Office.”

Before entering government, LaValle owned a title agency. He then received a loan mortgage originator’s license and has worked in mortgage banking ever since. The councilman worked on the staff of former Suffolk County Legislators Dan Losquadro (R) and Tom Muratore (R). He was elected to serve Brookhaven’s 3rd Council District in 2013 in an area which includes Lake Grove, Centereach, Selden and parts of Lake Ronkonkoma, Farmingville, Port Jeff Station and a piece of Holbrook. 

 “I think I’ve accomplished a great deal as councilman, but I come before you now, again, to say that as town clerk, I am going to bring a new energy,” he said. “I am going to bring a new work ethic to the Town Clerk’s Office that has not been seen before.”

Duties of town clerk

Both candidates were asked about the function of the town clerk. For Di Santo, the clerk must ensure the accurate recording of Town Board meetings and the efficient filing of legal records, among other tasks. She emphasized the significance of the Freedom of Information Law request process.

“One of the most important things has to do with [being] the appeals officer for FOIL requests that come to the town,” she said. “People who live here and pay taxes should be able to access that information.”

The Democratic candidate also said the incoming clerk must assess and modernize the existing technology in the office. “I have spoken with some people who work in the Town Clerk’s Office and told me that their technology is at least 10 years out of date,” she said. “That is something that is certainly personally scary to me.”

LaValle viewed the clerk’s role as threefold, that is to “secure, maintain and distribute vital records of the residents of the Town of Brookhaven.” He referred to the office as a “vital hub,” servicing residents in the best and worst times.

“I believe the efficiency could be improved in the Town Clerk’s Office,” he said. “Cybersecurity, I think that’s something we can take to another level.”

He viewed the clerk as a service provider rather than a policymaker or revenue generator, noting that empowering and providing the staff with the necessary resources will be critical. “As the clerk, the focus will be about making sure the staff has the tools to be able to do their job,” he said.


Addressing the September ransomware attack against the Suffolk County government, LaValle assessed shortcomings within the county’s IT network. He described the need for coordination between departments, recommending the town continues its transition to cloud technologies to avert a similar scenario.

“The cloud is probably the best security that you can have, but we have to stay vigilant and make sure we’re looking at new technologies as we move along to make sure our information stays secure,” the councilman said.

Di Santo concurred that replacing outdated technology will be a priority. She stressed the need to properly oversee the transition to new platforms and work out any technical or logistic challenges that may arise.

“When you have new technology, one of the things that is crucial is to make certain that the staff is comfortable with that technology, that they’re fully trained so that they are able to use that to the best of their ability,” she said.


After conversations with staff members, Di Santo painted a bleak picture of the current situation within the Town Clerk’s Office. “The office is actually understaffed,” she said. “Morale is really not very good in the office. You have a lot of turnover, so it’s very difficult to have the best customer service when you have staff changing and needing to be retrained.”

She reiterated that “a fresh set of eyes” from somebody outside government will help identify areas for improvement and generate potential solutions.

LaValle said he would prefer close collaboration with the Town Board, analyzing any barriers to efficient staff operations. He then stated a desire to fund personnel better.

“I want to be able to go in, take a real good look at what is going on in the office,” he said. “Do we need more employees? Should we pay our employees more?”

He also advanced the need to offer a vision the staff can get behind. “We have to work with the employees and build a team concept,” he said. “I want to make this the best clerk’s office in New York state. Without our employees buying into my leadership and what I want to do, that’s not going to happen.”

Resident access

Both candidates addressed the need to decentralize the office, to move services out of Town Hall and into the various hamlets and villages throughout the township. LaValle introduced a multipronged approach, including attending community meetings and building a more prominent multimedia presence.

“I want to be a town clerk going out to various functions,” he said. “A lot of people here see me in a lot of different events. That’s something I’m going to continue to do because I think the outreach of going out to the public and showing them what the clerk’s office does … is fundamentally important.”

He added, “I want to be able to go out and bring back some transparency — new social media platforms, doing videos on Channel 18 talking about what we can do to help residents.”

Di Santo said she has heard from multiple residents that resident access to public records can be slow. She again centered on requests for public information.

“The town clerk is the final appeals officer for the FOIL law,” she said. “In some cases, those requests get bounced from one department to another and the clock seems to run out.”

She added, “People who are residents, our taxpayers, are asking for information from their town, and in many cases it seems that it is being stonewalled. The town clerk has a responsibility to provide that information.”

Open government

Candidates were asked what the term “open government” means and how they would bring town government closer to the people.

“Open government means giving everyone the opportunity to participate at their fullest,” Di Santo said. “I would, as town clerk, try to appeal to the Town Board members to make many of the meetings much more accessible to the many people in the town who work.”

She also proposed bringing the operations of the Town Clerk’s Office to local libraries and other community forums. “The town clerk [could] go into each and every one of those council districts several times a year, appear at the senior centers and the local libraries to have discussions with people,” she said.

Like Di Santo, LaValle stressed he would maintain an active community presence if elected. “I want to go out, I want to be at senior centers, I want to be at civic meetings, I want to be in chambers of commerce, talking about what the clerk’s office does,” he said. “You have to get out there. You have to be a part of the community.”

Brookhaven residents will decide on these two candidates this Tuesday, Jan. 17. Polls open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and residents can report to their regular polling place on Election Day.

Hundreds of courageous community members plunged into the icy waters of Cedar Beach on Saturday, Nov. 19, during this year’s rendition of the Freezin’ for a Reason Polar Plunge.

The Town of Brookhaven puts this annual event together to raise money for the Special Olympics New York organization. Proceeds from the event support training for athletes, equipment, health supplies and attire. 

Saturday’s event has raised over $128,000, according to the nonprofit’s website which proclaims that it “provides inclusive opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to discover and unleash the champion within.” 

Hundreds of plungers from across the region participated in the plunge, with many more spectating warmly from afar. Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), a perennial “plunger,” made the daring plunge again.

In an interview with Bonner, she was asked what motivates her to take the cold water dip year after year. Her response, jokingly: “We ask ourselves that every year,” she said.

Bonner, who took the plunge this year with Special Olympians Daniel and Joey, said she finds renewed joy and optimism through her involvement in the activities. 

“When you meet all those Special Olympians and interview them … it’s impossible not to get caught up in the adrenaline and momentum of supporting them and other athletes,” she said. “It’s about $400 to $500 per athlete per sport, and no family is ever charged,” adding, “These plunges … help out so many athletes and families.”

Plunging with Bonner was Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney (R). Before making his plunge, the district attorney expressed some apprehensions, joking, “Unlike Jane and the rest, I am a coward so I’m trying to figure out what brought me to this stage.”

Despite his self-professed reluctance, Tierney did take the plunge. Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), on the other hand, also made an appearance though avoiding the frigid waters. 

During a speech, the town supervisor described the plunge as a meaningful sacrifice in serving the greater good. “At the end of the day, you may be a little cold, but this world is going to be a lot happier for what the people are going to do plunging today,” he said.

This year’s polar plunge brought together hundreds of athletes, students and community members who suffered in unity. Bonner said an event such as this makes the community a better place.

“Regardless of political affiliation, color, economic status — there’s no barrier,” the town councilwoman said. “We’re all doing this same thing for the same cause, and it’s hard not to feel good about it at the end of the day.”

— Photos by Raymond Janis 

Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) questions the town’s mapmaker during a public hearing on Thursday, Sept. 29. Screenshot from the town website

The Town of Brookhaven’s controversial redistricting process concluded on Thursday, Sept. 29, after the Town Board voted unanimously to approve the latest proposed map.

The Town Board, which has a 6-1 Republican majority, took over the redistricting process after an appointed redistricting committee failed to find agreement on a draft proposal. Days after the committee formally disbanded, Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) presented his own map. For more on this story, see “Brookhaven officials react to latest redistricting proposal” (TBR News Media website). 

Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) kicked off the public hearing with a forceful line of questioning of the town’s designated mapmaker, David Schaefer of Schenectady-based firm Skyline Consulting. 

Kornreich pressed Schaefer on a range of subjects, such as his familiarity with the hamlets throughout the town. He also inquired about how Schaefer arrived at an original determination to split Port Jefferson Station and Terryville between Council Districts 1 and 2, and why he decided to move most of Ridge into CD4.

Responding, Schaefer said that he created the initial maps solely to bring the six council districts into roughly equal populations. “The first draft that I submitted is all population driven,” he said.

Following Kornreich’s line of questioning, residents pressed their representatives on the Town Board repeatedly over concerns that arose throughout the redistricting process and the alleged inequities in drawing the district lines. 

Ira Costell, a resident of Port Jefferson Station, argued Schaefer’s approach was unproductive, reducing redistricting to an analytic method while ignoring its impact on communities of interest.

“There’s more than just standard deviations and numbers at play here,” Costell said. “There’s people, there’s communities, there’s interests, and there’s fairness at stake here, and I don’t see a lot of it in what the mapmaker initially did.”

‘Despite the hideously flawed process that led here, I think in the end we’ve created a map that’s got some compromises, and it’s got a little something for everyone to be unhappy about.’

— Jonathan Kornreich

Costell further railed against the committee process, saying, “The hearings were poorly advertised, they were chaotic, they were confusing, they were marked by a lack of support information from the town, which resulted in maps that just appeared out of thin air.” He continued, “What does seem transparent, however, is the majority on this board seems poised to ignore the clear will and desires of the voters who did speak out.”

Terryville resident Lou Antoniello suggested Schaefer was not being truthful during his remarks. He added that tampering with district boundaries may affect future redistricting procedures.

“While the map that this board put together is light-years better than the original map, which cut out a huge chunk [of Terryville from CD1], it’s still cutting — cracking — Council District 1,” he said. “That sets a dangerous precedent for the future.”

Members of the redistricting committee also attended the public hearing. Among them was Gail Lynch-Bailey, who had served this year and in 2012. She referred to the two initial maps which split Port Jefferson Station and Terryville as a ploy to divert the public’s attention away from alleged gerrymandering in Council District 4. This district includes the racially and ethnically diverse communities of Coram, Gordon Heights and North Bellport.

“Once the public realized the commission had had no input into them, the maps were readily recognized by many for what they were: diversions, bait-and-switch tactics, ‘pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain’ maps intended to focus attention on the northern CDs instead of what was going on for CD4,” she said. “This ruse was, and still is, unconscionable.”

Also making an appearance was Ali Nazir, the Republican co-chair on the redistricting committee. He defended the movement of mostly white Ridge into CD4, citing the hamlet’s longstanding ties to the Longwood community.

“Despite rhetoric of the contrary, Ridge has always been in Council District 4,” Nazir said. “Ridge has a long history with the Longwood community, and to arbitrarily excommunicate them from the Longwood community is quite frankly wrong.”

Port Jefferson Station and Terryville, however, remain mostly united within the boundaries of Council District 1. Kornreich, who voted with the majority, justified his vote, saying this map would not split minority communities or dilute their votes.

“We negotiated in good faith, and the supervisor fulfilled his promise to keep Gordon Heights and North Bellport together, not to dilute the minority vote, and in good faith, I will support the agreement we made,” Kornreich said. “Is it an ideal map? No. Is it a map that I were to draw? Of course not. But when you’ve got one Democrat and a row of Republicans, you tell me what level of political power you have.”

In concluding his remarks, the CD1 councilmember said the final map reflects a series of compromises. “Despite the hideously flawed process that led here, I think in the end we’ve created a map that’s got some compromises, and it’s got a little something for everyone to be unhappy about,” he said, adding, “I hope that we can get to work and solve the real problems that face our town.”

No other board member spoke during the hearing. Following the vote, a droning cry rained from some in the audience, the dissidents shouting, “Shame on you, shame on you.” 

It remains unclear whether the map will face challenges in court or whether those challenges could hold up given the bipartisan outcome.

Graphic from the town website: https://www.brookhavenny.gov/DocumentCenter/View/29593/Brookhaven-Proposed-Districts-2022

The Town of Brookhaven has released its first proposed map to reapportion the Brookhaven Town Council. 

Last week, the town’s appointed bipartisan redistricting committee disbanded after failing to adopt an official map for the six council districts. Without a recommendation from the committee, the Town Board is now responsible for redrawing the district lines.

Following the dissolution of the redistricting committee, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) met with the six representatives on the Town Council to discuss their priorities for the new map. 

Jack Krieger, the town’s communications director, offered a statement outlining the methodology used to arrive at this new proposal. The supervisor could not be reached for comment.

“Over the course of the last several months, more than a dozen public hearings were held across the town by the Brookhaven Redistricting [Committee] in an open, transparent and public process,” Krieger said. “At these meetings, in emails to the [committee], and in local media, numerous residents, civic associations and community leaders voiced their concerns and opinions as to what newly created districts should include, and what they should not.” The communications director added, “The map that will be voted on includes numerous elements from these suggestions.”

In an exclusive interview, Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) offered some points he raised during his conversation with the supervisor. 

“The supervisor outlined a couple of his priorities, like keeping communities together and making as few changes as possible,” Kornreich said. “Another one that he expressed, which I didn’t happen to agree with, was getting as close to zero [percent deviation] as possible.” The councilmember added, “As long as it’s legal, as long as it’s within the tolerance, that [zero deviation] is just not as important to me. The other criteria are more important.”

One of the reasons for the outpouring of public resistance throughout the committee hearings was a general fear of dividing communities of interest across political boundaries and consequently diluting their voting power, leading to possible gerrymandering.

Krieger defended the new map in his statement, arguing that it “reduces the number of hamlets that are split between districts of multiple council members, has substantially equal populations with the least possible deviation, and contains clear and readily identifiable boundaries.” He added, “The map makes only minimal changes to accomplish this, with 90 percent of residents seeing no change in the district in which they live.”

Kornreich also addressed the public’s concerns. He said the debate surrounding his district, Council District 1, has been about defending the integrity of communities rather than advancing the interest of a particular party.

“This whole thing of me trying to defend the integrity of my council district was never a political effort,” he said. “It was a bipartisan civic effort. The people who had my back in this were as Republican as they are Democrat.”

Residents will again have an opportunity to weigh the redistricting plans during a public hearing on Thursday, Sept. 29, at Brookhaven Town Hall. The hearing will begin at 5 p.m.

The Town of Brookhaven seal. Photo from the town website

Following a contentious virtual meeting on Monday, Sept. 12, the Brookhaven Redistricting Committee failed to reach a compromise on a proposed map, sending the redistricting process to the Brookhaven Town Council.

The committee voted on three maps during the meeting, none of which received the six votes necessary to adopt an official proposal. There was significant controversy leading up to this meeting. Despite this, all eight members and the committee’s mapmaker, David Schaefer, were present.

However, members calling attendance seemed to be the only unanimous outcome of the night, as the three Democratic appointees clashed with their Republican and Conservative Party counterparts throughout the evening.

The meeting got out to a rocky start after an unsuccessful motion to adopt an agenda. Schaefer then presented three maps that the committee requested during the previous session.

Schaefer first presented a “map of least change.” This map addressed only Council Districts 2 and 6, the two districts whose populations fall outside the 5% deviation allowable under the Town Code. After a vote, this map failed 3-5, with Democratic appointees Rabia Aziz, George Hoffman and Gail Lynch-Bailey voting “yes” and all others voting “no.”

Schaefer also presented a map that loosely follows the proposal of Coram resident Logan Mazer. On the whole, the Mazer map was viewed favorably during the public hearings. However, this proposal was ultimately shot down by another 3-5 vote, with the same committee members voting for and against it.

Schaefer’s final presentation was a map that followed the boundaries of Proposal 2, one of the two original draft proposals which met fierce opposition during the public hearings. With some adjustments to the boundaries of CD1 and CD2, this new map kept much of Proposal 2 intact.

In the face of this public opposition, the map was the highest vote-getter, with a 5-3 vote count — one vote shy of formal adoption by the committee. Ali Nazir, Edward McCarthy, Delilah Bustamante, Krystina Sconzo and Chad Lennon voted “yes,” with the entire Democratic caucus voting it down. 

In a phone interview, Lynch-Bailey confirmed that the redistricting committee officially disbanded the following day around noon after Nazir and Aziz, the co-chairs, could not reach a compromise. Failing to adopt a proposal, the committee sends the process to the Town Council. 

During a Town Board meeting Tuesday, Sept. 13, Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) discussed some of the criteria he will be looking for in the new map. He said he hopes to achieve an equal population distribution across council districts, keep minority communities together within district boundaries and reduce the number of split communities. The Town Board must adopt new council district outlines by Dec. 15. 

The supervisor expects a new map to be available on the town website by next week. A public hearing on the matter will be held at Town Hall on Thursday, Sept. 29, at 5 p.m. 

Visit our website to follow features on this important issue:

Above: The three Democratic appointees to the Brookhaven Redistricting Committee during an unofficial public hearing on Friday, Aug. 5. (Left to right) George Hoffman, Rabia Aziz and Gail Lynch-Bailey. File photo

The Brookhaven Redistricting Committee is nearing its Sept. 15 deadline, and the eight-member commission is in shambles. With less than a week to go, it seems probable that the committee will not meet the six-vote threshold necessary to adopt an official map for the Town Council. The following is an open letter sent on behalf of the three Democratic appointees on the committee, addressed to their fellow commissioners: 

Dear Co-Chairman Ali Nazir and Commissioners,

We, the members of the Democratic caucus of the Town of Brookhaven Redistricting Commission, renew our request for our next meeting to take the form of an in-person public hearing, to be held at Town Hall on Monday, Sept. 12, at 6 p.m. 

We also request that our co-chairs work out in advance of the meeting an agreed-upon agenda that indicates the issues to be discussed at the meeting, which includes a discussion on both maps that are currently before the commission: Prop2A13 and TMOLC. 

If there is a possibility that maps may be voted on at that meeting, it should also be included on the agenda.

We ask that the mapmaker [David Schaefer] join us, virtually if that is his only recourse, to review the maps and add data similar to that which accompanied the initial two proposals. 

The Town Code establishing reapportionment criteria sets no number of public hearings. Thus far, we have held six hearings on zero maps and six hearings on two unrequested maps. 

The concept of having zero public hearings on the three maps we actually requested is anathema to us. 



Rabia Aziz, Co-Chair

George Hoffman

Gail Lynch-Bailey

Brookhaven Redistricting Committee member on the public’s distrust of government

Gail Lynch-Bailey, a member of the Brookhaven Redistricting Committee in 2012 and 2022, above. Photo courtesy Lynch-Bailey

Gail Lynch-Bailey, president of the Middle Island Civic Association, has the unique distinction of serving on the Brookhaven Redistricting Committee both in 2012 and this year. In an exclusive interview, she discusses the breakdown of norms, procedures and public confidence as the committee works to meet its Sept. 15 deadline.

What is your background, and how did you get involved in the redistricting process?

I am the president of the Middle Island Civic Association. As such, I qualify to be a civic representative on the redistricting committee. I did it 10 years ago in the same vein: I was a Democratic appointee then and am one now.

What are your thoughts on how this year’s redistricting process has developed?

This 2022 redistricting process has been contentious and frustrating. It has caused me to rethink a lot of recommendations for the next time the town undergoes this process. I don’t think that we had enough time with the professional mapmaker. As commissioners, we needed a session early on in the process. Instead, we had six meetings with no maps, then two maps appeared, and then we had six hearings based on those maps — which were false maps because we had no input into them.

Now, we’re struggling to see if we get some public hearings on the mapmaker’s three maps we have legitimately requested. I sincerely hope we can do that because I think that’s part of our obligation to the public.

What are some key differences between the redistricting process this year and the one from 2012?

Ten years ago, we met in person as a commission and introduced ourselves. We learned a lot about each other and then had an informational and educational session with the counsel, Jeff Wice.

Then, we had a series of public hearings that were not scheduled during the week of the Fourth of July — when people are on vacation. We had two sessions per week running across three weeks in July. Then, we had a nice work session where we talked about what kind of maps we would like to get from the mapmaker. We had a very good understanding of the three maps we wanted. One was a map of least change. Another was along school district boundaries because that was one of the things we heard about from the public during the public hearings. The last map added more changes involving election districts and things like that.

We went from very little change to much more in those three maps. Then we had time to look at those maps before we went out to the public again. And that was what was missing this time: We got maps on a Friday, and then we were back in front of the public the following Monday. The public thought these were our maps, but we hadn’t even begun understanding what they were. They weren’t based on anything we or the public requested.

That meeting with the mapmaker and understanding of what we would get was missing. And I don’t know who made the schedule of the hearings, but it was unnecessarily daunting. 

What do you think accounts for the committee’s problems this year?

Perhaps it was going to be contentious from the start only because of the nature of the political arena right now. People distrust government at higher levels than I have ever experienced. One side may think that people will be mad no matter what we do. The other side will think that we’re not being transparent. The people are mad, and understandably so.

There have been a lot of complaints about a lack of publicity. Many things have changed at the last minute: We have had several cancellations, which only added to the lack of credibility in my opinion. 

These issues only compounded the already-high level of distrust in government from both sides. We have heard from people who identify as Republicans and Democrats about the attempt to change the Mount Sinai, Port Jefferson Station and Terryville areas. People from both sides of the aisle came out and said, “Why are you doing this? It’s completely unnecessary and we don’t understand it.” And they were absolutely right to ask that kind of a question. 

We’re supposed to be talking about the population disparities between [Council Districts] 2 and 6. Those are the two that are out of alignment, according to the 5% rule [in the town code]. Those first two maps made some strange changes that nobody could understand why they were there.

After you left the committee’s Aug. 18 virtual meeting, a resolution was approved 5-2 that preserves one of the initial drafts maps while reverting the boundaries of CD1 and CD2 to their current form. If you had been in the meeting, how would you have voted?

I probably would have voted “no” because it is not addressing what I have requested, which is the 2-6 boundary. 

With the proposed movement of Ridge into Council District 4, do you believe that district is at risk of partisan gerrymandering?

Yes, I am very worried about that. I live in CD4, and as a civic leader I work with Councilman [Michael] Loguercio [R-Ridge] all the time. We have an excellent relationship. 

I also understand that some of the people from the Ridge Civic [Association] would love to have fewer council representatives — they have three. 

Any number of the maps that we [the Democratic appointees] have proposed gets it down to two, eliminating Ridge from Council District 6. But we’re looking to do it equitably and fairly by not diluting the minority vote. It’s important.

How has public participation during this redistricting cycle differed from that of 2012?

The public has been very engaged, very vocal and very passionate. Again, this goes back to that distrust issue. And also, the ability of people to record themselves, get their message out, and share messages among people is different than it was 10 years ago. People have been able to share information — good information — about what’s going on, regardless of party, when they think that something is awry. 

Last time across all six public hearings, I think we may have had 25 to 29 separate speakers. We had more than 30 at the last public hearing alone … and that was just one hearing. It has been supercharged and contentious at times. I used the term “frustrating” earlier because our job is to listen during these sessions and not respond, and that has been hard for many of us to do. 

We know a lot of these people through different organizations and dealings over the years, so to be unable to sympathize with them or reassure them has been really challenging. 

What steps can the committee take in the next two weeks to meet its deadline and produce maps that reflect the will of the people?

I think the three maps we have requested should be posted on the town’s website immediately as soon as they are ready. I believe that the committee should meet to discuss the maps and then have a public hearing on those maps. We still have time. We have [the rest of] this week, all of next week and part of the following week. That’s plenty of time to get things done. 

The public has asked for two things: a map of least change, and respect for the possibility of a majority-minority district. There are three tenets that school districts, businesses and all levels of government have adopted: diversity, equity and inclusion. Those aren’t just trendy buzzwords. They are the hallmarks of creating a better society, and the maps that the committee and the town adopt need to embody those three tenets. 

Ten years. That’s a long time in local government. It’s a long time for all levels of government. But at the local level, 10 years can be an eternity.