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Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro

The hill going down on West Broadway in Port Jefferson is well known for its potholes and ripped up pavement. Photo by Kyle Barr

A section of North Shore roadway will benefit from new state funding for the renewal of streets impacted by extreme weather events.

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Jan. 23 that $151 million in new funding to complement $743 million in direct state aid provided through the PAVE NY Initiative for local road and bridge projects. Of the new allocation, $6.6 million will be used to renew Route 25A from Nicolls Road in Stony Brook to Main Street/East Broadway in Port Jefferson, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

A portion of Route 25A in Setauket will benefit from state aid. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“New York continues to make nation-leading investments in the renewal and modernization of the state’s roads, bridges, transit systems and airports,” Cuomo said in the release. “These investments are laying the foundation to ensure sustained growth throughout the 21st century in tourism, business and workforce development, and economic opportunities.”

According to the release, the improvement will enhance highway safety and reduce the roughness of roads, which in turn will make them more fuel efficient. Work is estimated to begin this spring and be completed in the winter of 2020.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) brought the severity of local road conditions to the attention of the state Department of Transportation last year, according to a press release from his office. The designated areas have been subjected to serious degradation due to water seepage into road seams and large clusters of filled potholes creating rutted, uneven and unsafe surfaces. One of the worse sections is the roadway near the East Setauket Post Office to CVS, but other sections have deteriorated rapidly, including the hill from Poquott into Port Jefferson.

“Last summer, we noticed an acceleration in the deterioration of different sections of Route 25A,” Englebright said in the statement. “So, I met with DOT staff to communicate the urgent need for repair. After evaluation of the road confirmed the urgency, [NYSDOT] regional director, Joseph Brown, indicated that he would do his best to find funds to do repairs. We want to thank the regional director and his staff for working to include the main highway of our community in this funding program.”

Town of Brookhaven Highway Supervisor Dan Losquadro (R) said while he’s always grateful when he hears of state funding coming the town’s way, when he heard the recent news, he was disappointed as to how little aid was coming to Suffolk County. He pointed to the fact that the section of Route 25A is the only one designated in the area. He added there is a desperate need for state funding to be reinstated for work on Route 347, specifically for the Nicolls Road overpass and intersection.

Losquadro said he will continue conversations with state legislators about state roads, also the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program, otherwise known as CHIPS, allocation for local streets.

“I really hope that this is a starting point and not an endpoint when it comes to the proposal for funding for infrastructure for Long Island, because paving one road in Suffolk County really isn’t to me an adequate investment on the part of the state Legislature,” Losquadro said.

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Broadway Beach in Rocky Point still shows major storm damage. Photo by Kyle Barr

Town of Brookhaven highway officials are completing the final FEMA-funded project to shore-up Brookhaven shoreline following Hurricane Sandy, the storm that wrecked Long Island’s coastline nearly 7½ years ago.

At its Dec. 5 meeting, the Town Board voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with the North Shore Beach Property Owners Association to go in and add a new stone revetment and bulk heading to halt erosion, but also adding an interceptor unit at the end of Broadway in Rocky Point, one that town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) said will treat runoff for sediment and organic material before it outfalls into Long Island Sound. The project is expected to start early in 2020 and finish by Memorial Day. Losquadro said he doesn’t expect any major difficulties in construction.

“The storm presented an opportunity — building it stronger so it doesn’t get damaged later,” he said.

While the town only got federal approval for the project last year, the costs comes in at about $1.2 million, with 90 percent being taken up by Federal Emergency Management Agency funds secured in part, Losquadro said, by U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1). The last 10 percent, or $120,000, comes from the town’s highway budget as a capital project.

The interceptor unit is a large concrete drum that will lie somewhere under the road.

Losquadro said the town has been involved with 10 other Sandy-related projects on the North Shore since the storm hit, which not only look to repair storm damage but help prevent future injury to the shoreline. The town has spent around $12 million in FEMA and their own funds with these construction projects, he said.

Many of the roads lying nearest to the shore are named some combination of “gully” and “landing,” with many of these streets being low-lying areas where water naturally congregates. Where once they were dirt and gravel, paving them has led to drainage complications. Much of the land is privately owned, such as the case of the end of Broadway and the connected beachfront. 

“There’s been a number of homeowner associations we’ve had to work with,” the highway superintendent said. “A lot of these drainage easements go through private properties.”

A representative of the NSBPOA did not return calls for comment from their clubhouse.

Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro. Photo by Phil Corso

The responsibilities of the Brookhaven highway superintendent prove to be a daunting task, as it is the third biggest highway department in the state. The position oversees thousands of miles of roads and we feel that Dan Losquadro (R) is still the right man for the role. He has done an admirable job with the budget given to him in fixing roads throughout the town. 

While some residents may not be fond of Losquadro, they do deserve a more transparent process and more communication on when work is being done. Putting a list of expected road work on the Town’s website as his challenger Anthony Portesy (D) proposed is a good idea to qualm residents’ questions and concerns. It would probably lessen the amount of calls and letters his office receives. 

We commend his challenger, Portesy, for deciding to run again for this position, as he brought in fresh ideas and enthusiasm. We believe with enough experience down the line Portesy could make himself an attractive candidate for other offices in the town or other municipalities. We hope he continues to stay involved in the local community and politics.  

Anthony Portesy is running again for highway superintendent. Photo from Portesy’s campaign

By Leah Chiappino

At his kickoff fundraiser, Anthony Portesy, the Democrat who is challenging incumbent Dan Losquadro (R) for Town of Brookhaven highway superintendent, held up a piece of asphalt he found while campaigning on Holbrook Road, he said, to symbolize the condition of Brookhaven’s streets. Having run in 2017 for the same position, Portesy said he looks to bring changes to what he calls “an infrastructure crisis” in Brookhaven.

Anthony Portesy is running again for highway superintendent. Photo from Portesy’s campaign website

“Since 2017, I’ve knocked on between 15,000 and 20,000 doors and I hear the same thing from people,” he said. “They want more information and to know when the plow and paving trucks are coming. They call seven times to get a street light fixed, and it still hasn’t gotten fixed.”

A native of Selden, later living in Centereach and now living in Port Jefferson Station, Portesy said he’s running because when he was growing up the roads were “atrocious,” and not much has changed. 

“The same potholes I went over as a kid, I go over now,” he said in his acceptance speech for the nomination.

 “I’ve seen my friends leave,” he said. “No one is going to want to buy a house if the streets are prone to flooding, and are pothole ridden. Brookhaven is looking more like Detroit, and less and less like a middle-class Long Island hamlet.”

Portesy, who is running on the Democratic, Working Families and Libertarian tickets, currently practices employment and commercial litigation for small-to-midsize businesses, largely in federal court. He feels this prepares him well for the position. Specifically, while studying at the New York Law School in Manhattan, he interned for city Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services.

He claims that after reviewing the contracts for projects the Losquadro has executed since he began his tenure as highway superintendent in 2013, residents deserve better.

“We can do things like potentially lowering the bonding requirements so small businesses can bid on projects and save the taxpayer money,” he said.

Portesy claims Losquadro has wasted $18 million doing “surface level mill-and-fill road resurfacing projects,” which the challenger said only work for about 30 percent of the roads that are “crumbling less than a year after the paving projects are completed.”

“I could very easily spend my free time going to Greece or Italy, but I chose to be involved because I care.”

— Anthony Portesy

“Doing 2 1/2 inches of topcoat as opposed to 1 1/2 inches may be more expensive, but it can give us 25 to 30 years, as opposed to two or three,” Portesy said. 

According to the highway superintendent’s office, the current backlog for town projects sits at around $80 million, compared to a $120 million backlog when Losquadro took office. The highway budget is expected to increase to$150 million over the next 10 years.

The challenger acknowledged there are issues with funding to pave properly. His solution is to work to increase funding through the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program, a state program known as CHIPS that provides reimbursement to municipalities for highway-related capital projects, which he said will “take pressure off the local taxpayer.”

His main policy platform is his Brookhaven 2030 initiative, a series of changes he feels the township should complete within 10 years, much of which focuses on expanding information technology.

The first includes his “worst to first initiative,” a program he said would bring structural engineers in to evaluate the quality of every road, and rate them from the worst to the best. The town would then resurface them based on funding, and in order of highest priority, with rapid response to potholes near schools and main roads. 

He also admitted that while day paving may be inconvenient, it is more expensive to do at night, and is not financially feasible to do neighborhood roads after dark. He added there will be a public list available online so people know exactly when their roads are being paved.

In addition, the Democratic challenger said he would post the contracts and bids publicly on an online database, so “the public can be informed of who is getting the contracts and why,” as opposed to “hiding behind a cloud of secrecy that the Highway Department has done for decades.”

In response to Losquadro’s claims that posting the contracts is illegal, Portesy said that they are unfounded.

“I am a lawyer who has done my research, and if Mr. Losquadro can point out to me a statute that says it is illegal, I would love to see it,” he said. “I haven’t found one state or town ordinance that says so.”

Another initiative, Portesy said, is known as STAR, or snow tracking and removal, includes installing GPS in snowplows that cannot be unplugged, so constituents can track the plows online, and gain an estimate of when the plows will arrive. He said he will ensure that all plows have a rubber bumper to ensure the roads are not torn up. 

He pledges to do quality control inspections as well as bringing much of a work back to town employees, including hiring more workers and bringing back the “black top crews” — town workers who used to handle smaller projects. 

Portesy said he was a longtime member of the UFCW Local 1500 supermarket union, and supports union labor. He called the highways workers “some of the hardest working guys in the business. They are out at 4 in the morning plowing the roads for ‘48 hours’ at a time, and don’t see their families. They earn every dime and deserve an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.”

The final initiative is the tree removal interactive management, or TRIM initiative, which would create an interactive map of all drainage and recharge basins that have overgrown shrubbery. 

“The same potholes I went over as a kid, I go over now.”

— Anthony Portesy

“No one does this if they don’t care about the community. This has affected my personal relationship, and my personal life. I could very easily spend my free time going to Greece or Italy, but I chose to be involved because I care,” Portesy said. 

So far, he has a war chest in excess of $16,300. Losquadro has raised almost $400,000, according to the New York State Board of Elections. Portesy acknowledges Losquadro has more campaign contributions and name recognition, but also points out that increased political involvement regarding everything that is going on nationally could work in his favor.

“Regardless of how you feel about the president, which I take no qualms about and express no opinion on, local elections that people did not pay attention to before are now on the minds of the average Joe who did not pay attention before,” Portesy said. “It’s tough to beat an incumbent, but we can’t wait for an open seat.”

The article originally printed in TBR News Media papers said Portesy had worked in the highways department as a laborer. This has been corrected online to say he was a longtime member of a union.

Sections of roadway in Mount Sinai show heavy wear. Photos from Repave Mount Sinai Neighborhood Streets petition

“We just want our streets paved. We are not asking for much,” said Richard Colacino, who lives on Westcliff Drive in Mount Sinai. 

Sections of roadway in Mount Sinai show heavy wear. Photos from Repave Mount Sinai Neighborhood Streets petition

This past week, Colacino, along with several other Mount Sinai residents, sent a letter and petition signed by more than 160 other residents to Dan Losquadro, the Town of Brookhaven Highway Superintendent, stating that their streets are in dire need of repair and repaving and resurfacing. 

“It’s been 25+ years since our neighborhood streets have been repaved,” the letter reads. “In addition to being an embarrassing neighborhood eyesore, our streets have now deteriorated to the point of being a safety issue.” 

Two of those streets are Westcliff and Marcy Drive. Residents say many children in the neighborhood have gotten injured playing in the streets and riding down the slight hills due to uneven pothole repairs, loose asphalt pebbles, rough patch fixes and crumbling curbs. 

Residents also pointed out six other streets that have similar problems including Helen Street, Hartwell Drive, Rita Drive, Whitcomb Avenue, Walcott Court and Chestnut Street. 

Colacino said the conditions of their roads are laughable at this point. 

“The streets and the curbs are so bad,” he said. “It has gotten so bad that when it rains it just floods people’s driveways.”

Violet Baker, a fellow resident on Westcliff Drive, said within the past couple of years there have been some minor patch work and repairs down on some streets but argues the need for full resurfacing and repaving. 

“They have patched some of the potholes but that only works for a little bit,” she said. “It doesn’t last long, and it is only putting a Band-aid on this thing.”

In addition, Baker said residents have been waiting two years for the town to get rid of trees that have been troublesome and been breaking up curbs alongside their roads. During the winter months the roads have been prone to collapse and break up quicker from the adverse weather. “There are no sidewalks, so a lot of people use the streets to walk. Kids play here with their bikes and skateboards,” she said. “The [condition of] streets is devaluing the neighborhood.”

“We are not asking for much.”

— Richard Colacino

Colacino and others said they have been trying to get their streets repaved and repaired for the past four years, adding that in 2015 the highway department had sent an inspector to the neighborhood to survey the condition of the streets. After the inspection, their streets were put on Brookhaven’s 100 worst streets list. Colacino was hopeful at the time that the streets would get fixed quickly, but a year went by without any significant repairs done.

The Mount Sinai resident then sent a letter to Losquadro’s office the following year and again in 2018. On those two occasions, he was told that they weren’t on the department’s schedule for that year and that there was no need to continue to contact the office as they were already in the system. 

“They keep saying ‘next year, next year,’” the Mount Sinai resident said. “[It’s been] four years of not knowing when they are coming.”

In response, Losquadro said he appreciates the residents for the petition and it is a neighborhood they know needs to get work done.  

“We are not ignoring the community of Mount Sinai,” the highway superintendent said. 

Losquadro mentioned that they had done work this year nearby on Mount Sinai Avenue.  

Asked about the reason for the delay in long-awaited repairs in the neighborhood, the highway superintendent said he works with a finite budget each year and they do work based on the condition of the streets, not age. 

Losquadro said the work is not done arbitrarily, and some roads are worse
than others. 

“I can say this [neighborhood] will be part of our scope of work for next year,” he said. “Those streets have already been engineered and measured out.”

Sections of roadway in Mount Sinai show heavy wear. Photos from Repave Mount Sinai Neighborhood Streets petition

Besides the letter and petition sent to Losquadro’s office, residents sent packets to other local officials including Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner
(R-Rocky Point). 

Baker said it has been so long and all they want is a definite time frame of when the work on the streets will be done. 

The highway superintendent said with the town supervisor already promising to increase this budget for next year, he hopes he can get more work done. The department’s last year’s budget was $10 million, but in the previous State of the Town address by Romaine, Losquadro was told he will receive $12 million.

“It is getting through that backlog of streets, there is far more work that needs to be done,” he said. “We ask people to continue to be patient as we continue to work on that backlog.”

Baker was disappointed with the highway superintendent’s response. 

“I wish we had a more definitive answer. We have been waiting,” she said. “It’s not the best answer but not the worst [either]. I hope it is true this time and we’ll have to wait and hope for the best.”

Colacino wasn’t surprised with what Losquadro had to say.  

“I think it’s more of the same. It’s always next year,” he said. “At least we got an answer and people are going to hold him to it. We are not giving up on this fight. This is something we believe in.”

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New medians on Stony Brook Road with mulching instead of asphalt will need regular weeding unless replaced. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Determining who is responsible for the upkeep of medians on Stony Brook Road is causing some community confusion.

“There was definitely a misunderstanding about who was going to be responsible for maintaining all of the medians.”

— Lee Krauer

Earlier this year, the Town of Brookhaven replaced old street lights on the road’s five medians with decorative, energy-efficient lights, replaced asphalt with mulch and took down dead trees, according to town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R). The changes were a result of meetings with the Friends of Stony Brook Road, a committee of six residents whose goal is to beautify the street.

During the meetings, Losquadro said he talked to the residents about the upkeep of the medians, saying it would be up to them due to median maintenance not being in his budget.

“Vegetated medians are very labor intensive, and the understanding was that if we were going to do something vegetated that it would have to be done with a public-private partnership, and they would have to maintain it,” Losquadro said.

Lee Krauer, chair of Friends of Stony Brook Road, said the group didn’t agree to maintaining the whole median, only anything they would plant on the median.

“There was definitely a misunderstanding about who was going to be responsible for maintaining all of the medians,” Krauer said.

After the mulch was in place, Krauer said the Friends group enlisted the help of landscaping architects who donated their time. She said they were looking into low-maintenance plantings that would spread and wouldn’t need a lot of water or weeding. They discovered there was a roadbed from the original Stony Brook Road underneath six inches of mulch, which made it difficult to plant anything. The mulch would need to be built up or the original roadbed would have to be torn up, which would cost thousands, according to Krauer.

“We’re trying to do something to really help the community and keep our community looking pretty.”

— Lee Krauer

“Because we can’t do anything with the depth of the soil, we’re kind of between a rock and a hard place,” she said, adding the group also looked into grants.

At an Aug. 22 meeting at the Stony Brook firehouse, Losquadro said he told the group he could schedule one cleanup for the season but that’s all his budget would allow. At the same meeting, the Friends of Stony Brook talked about options for the future including covering the medians with concrete. Losquadro said it can be done but would have to go through the town’s capital projects and not the highway department.

Krauer said the group would add potted plants to the medians if concrete was used and would take care of the plants, which was part of their original beautification visioning.

“I assume that we will be able to work cooperatively with Dan, and that he’s going to do the stamped concrete,” Krauer said. “And then we can come up with some pots or some sort of design that we can get plantings there one way or another, and we will maintain the plantings.”

Losquadro said he urges the group to think it through before committing to the concrete.

The Friends of Stony Brook is also looking for someone who is knowledgeable about garden districts to speak at one of its future meetings as setting up a district is an option that they would consider.

“We’re trying to do something to really help the community and keep our community looking pretty,” Krauer said.

Maintenance of the medians was delegated to an unlikely source for the time being. Inmates from the Suffolk County Correctional Facility recently weeded the five medians on the street as part of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program, which allows qualifying nonviolent prisoners to volunteer to work
outside of the correctional facility.

Losquadro said he was familiar with the sheriff’s program from using it in the past for graffiti removal and beautification projects. He said he reached out to the office to see if they could handle a median cleanup, which would prevent him from pulling a town crew from elsewhere to weed.

“This really allows us to get two things done at the same time,” he said. “I was very grateful that the sheriff’s office was able to accommodate us.”

Mechanized mark landing craft similar to the model sought by Town of Brookhaven for highway department use. Photo from U.S. Navy website

By Kevin Redding

Town of Brookhaven Highway Department is hoping for a 68,000-pound gift this holiday season.

On Dec. 14, the town’s division of purchasing will publicly open and evaluate competitive bids from shipbuilding contractors to determine which one will replace the highway department’s outdated military-style landing craft with a more modern and enhanced version of it. The Landing Craft Mechanized Mark 6 is an ex-military steel vessel used often by the department to transport heavy equipment — such as backhoes, dump trucks and Bobcat bulldozers — and personnel to communities on Fire Island for emergency and maintenance services. The bid was issued Nov. 23.

Brookhaven’s specifications for the new vessel include up-to-date engines, electronics and new steering and propulsion systems. The outer dimensions are to be 56 feet long and 68,000 pounds, based on the current LCM-6, which has been operated by the town for several decades. The current model requires frequent repairs, and will be donated to the Brookhaven parks department, according to the highway superintendent, Dan Losquadro (R).

“For us, this is a very useful tool and from a disaster preparedness standpoint, in the event of another major storm, having a landing craft we can rely on to operate day in and day out, to move materials, is very valuable,” said Losquadro, adding that the vessel has the capability to operate in nonideal conditions and is designed to function just as well if a pier or infrastructure is damaged. “On the South Shore, in the event of a major storm, there’s a real possibility you might have flooding or roadway and coastal damage that would prevent you from getting to the shoreline. And certainly on Fire Island, you have no choice. You have to go by boat. It leaves us with very few options other than to have a piece of equipment like this. So it fills a very specific purpose for us.”

Losquadro said the landing craft has been utilized “basically every day” by the department since he was elected in 2013 to facilitate repairs on the boardwalks, concrete, sidewalks and crossovers in Fire Island towns like Ocean Beach, Cherry Grove and Davis Park. But it’s also critical in more dire situations, like evacuation assistance and repairs in the wake of nor’easters, snowstorms and fires.

“I essentially have to plan for my worst nightmare,” Losquadro said. “I’m putting in plans to have equipment ready for the scenarios I never want to have to deal with.”

Kristen D’Andrea, public relations officer within the department, said the vessel is stationed in the water so it’s ready for use 365 days a year.

“It’s ready to go at any time,” D’Andrea said. “And it’s something local fire departments can use. If there’s an emergency and the town receives a request from fire rescue and emergency services, the craft can definitely be used to shuttle fire equipment over to the island.”

Steven Brautigam, the Village of Ocean Beach clerk, said since Hurricane Sandy weather is closely monitored and extra safety precautions are taken. He considers the vessel a smart piece of machinery to have just in case.

“Anything to bring heavy equipment over here at a moment’s notice is very needed,” Brautigam said. “I think it’s a great thing for Brookhaven to have. It can help bring over supplies before or after a storm.”

The project will be funded by a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant totaling more than $5 million, which was awarded to Brookhaven in October for emergency operation upgrades. Other pieces of equipment the town plans to purchase with the grant money are a horizontal wood grinder, a knuckle boom truck and a self-loading concrete mixer.

Losquadro said there are a number of shipbuilding companies across Long Island and he’s anxious to see who bids and who ultimately gets the contract. He and the department will work closely with the contractors to ensure they build the craft exactly as the specifications outline.

“We want to get the best price we can for the best product,” he said. “It’s all driving toward enhancing our fleet of equipment to be more reliable than what we’ve had.”

An aerial view of the area designated for sidewalk replacement. Image from Google Maps

What’s old will soon be new again as U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) announced this week $1.58 million in federal funding would be designated to go towards the construction of new sidewalks and curbs on Old Town Road in Port Jefferson Station and Coram. The funding will cover 80 percent of the total cost of the project. The new sidewalks will span from Route 347 in Port Jefferson Station to Route 112 in Coram along Old Town Road, and some of the improvements included fixes to become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Congressman Lee Zeldin. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

“This is key funding to improve walkability and bicycle access in the Town of Brookhaven,” Zeldin said in a statement. He said the sidewalks in question are in desperate need of repairs. “Last Congress, I proudly helped lead the bipartisan effort to pass the highway bill, which secured funding for the Surface Transportation Block Grant. Our transportation and infrastructure are essential to the Long Island economy, way of life and safety, and I will continue working to ensure that states and local governments have the flexibility and resources necessary to strengthen our infrastructure and improve transportation safety, job creation, and our overall economy and quality of life.”

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) praised Zeldin for securing the funds because of what it could mean for the environment, as the new paths will create carbon-free transportation alternatives to driving cars, he said.

“Old Town Road connects the communities of Port Jefferson Station and Coram and both hamlets will soon become more pedestrian and bike friendly with the construction of new sidewalks as well as bicycle access along this route,” he said in a statement.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) also thanked Zeldin and stressed the importance of infrastructure improvements in the town.

“Infrastructure keeps the town moving forward and upgrading it improves our quality of life and creates jobs that drive the local economy,” he said. “Congressman Zeldin has always been a strong advocate for the people of the 1st District, and I look forward to working with him to help find more ways to make Brookhaven a better place to live and work.”

Brookhaven Town  Superintendent of Highways Dan Losquadro (R) expressed similar excitement for the impending improvements.

“As we work to improve our infrastructure, the construction of bicycle paths and ADA-compliant, accessible sidewalks is crucial in ensuring the safety of our roadways for motorists and pedestrians,” he said.

North Shore residents shouldn’t put away their sleds and snow blowers just yet, according to their furry forecaster.

On a fittingly chilly morning Feb. 2, it was announced, to a mix of groans and hollers from the 450 people in attendance, that famed Brookhaven groundhog Holtsville Hal saw his own shadow upon waking up from hibernation, which means six more weeks of winter are to come.

Hal, “the great prognosticator of prognosticators,” made his annual Groundhog Day forecast at Brookhaven Town’s Holtsville Wildlife and Ecology Center at approximately 7:25 a.m. Thursday, surrounded by a crowd of excited locals, elected officials — Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilmen Neil Foley (R-Blue Point) and Michael Loguercio (R-Ridge) — his handler Greg Drossel, and returning Master of Ceremonies Wayne Carrington.

After Hal’s prediction last year spring would hit the North Shore early, as indicated by him not seeing his shadow, residents were in for a bit of surprise with this year’s prognostication.

But as one resident said before the announcement, “I’m ready for spring but we can’t really complain; it’s been a mild winter so there’s really no pressure on Hal today.”

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R), serving as Mayor of the Day, made the big announcement by reading from a large scroll as Drossel held Hal up for the crowd.

“[Hal] looked all about and then he looked down, at that very moment a beam of light appeared between a few clouds,” Losquadro read. “So Hal whispered to me, ‘I cannot tell a lie; I saw what I saw in the blink of an eye…it was my shadow down there, so Highway department and residents beware, six more weeks of winter are coming our way.”

Despite the boos that followed, the crowd enjoyed the festivities, which included hot chocolate, a 21-party streamer-salute, and “I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher blaring through the speakers, as an homage to the classic 1993 Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day.”

Sycamore trees are a staple of Stony Brook's M-Section neighborhood. Photo by Donna Newman

Four months after Save the Stony Brook Street Trees was established to oppose a Town of Brookhaven Highway Department decision to eliminate nearly all the sycamore trees on roads slated for repaving in the M-section of Strathmore, a second victory has been won.

At its final meeting of the year, the town board unanimously passed a resolution moved by Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and co-sponsored by Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), establishing a tree advisory committee.

In announcing the resolution, Romaine indicated his satisfaction with this move to establish guidelines in Brookhaven.

“I would say it’s long overdue,” he said. “Obviously, we have some great trees in the town. We want to make sure that they are maintained and stay that way. We want to have a policy regarding the removal of any of these trees. I want to thank the councilwoman for sponsoring it and I thank my colleagues for supporting it.”

Cartright said she worked on behalf of her constituents — and all Brookhaven residents — to keep healthy trees that are so beneficial to the environment.

“I was happy to join Supervisor Romaine to put forth this resolution … to advocate for responsible townwide solutions. … I am very pleased with the resolution of this particular community concern and that we now have a comprehensive process for reviewing tree-related issues.”

In mid-August, homeowners on Mosshill Place in the Strathmore M-section were alarmed to find all the street trees marked with pink dots indicating they were to be removed. Following public outcry from fellow residents, who said they preferred to deal with bumpy roads rather than lose their tree canopy, Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) sent residents a letter in September postponing the paving so the department could reevaluate its plan.

By October an alternate solution to the tree removal had been found, but the paving season was ending, and the job rescheduled for 2017.

Save the Stony Brook Street Trees continued its lobbying of the town board to prevent other neighborhoods from finding themselves in a similar predicament in the future. The group, led by Susan Ackerman, continued to press for a town policy to prevent the removal of healthy street trees anywhere in Brookhaven Town in the future.

Ackerman said she was pleased that a resolution was on the agenda Thursday night and felt cautiously optimistic.

“My feeling is that resolution 2016-0959 is an encouraging step in the right direction for the Town of Brookhaven,” she wrote in an email. “And I appreciate all the time and effort that town officials and their staffs have devoted to this issue. I hope to see the town use this resolution as a valuable tool to move toward a consistent townwide tree preservation policy.”

In fact, the resolution created two advisory committees; one to deal with a project within the town rights-of-way and a second to evaluate a project on town parklands or other town-owned parcels. Each four-person panel will be tasked with inspecting the property and making a recommendation regarding the removal or conservation of trees.

Each committee will have a representative of the town’s division of land management, appointed by the town attorney.

The rights-of-way group will also have a representative of the highway department, appointed by the superintendent of highways; a licensed professional engineer from the highway engineering division; and a Suffolk County Civil Service titled horticultural worker from the Brookhaven Ecology Center.

The town lands group will include a representative from the supervisor’s office; a representative of the parks department; and a representative from the planning and environment department, all appointed by the respective department heads.

Exceptions to tree advisory include trees that are damaged, diseased or in any way a threat to property and/or lives, or need to be removed on an emergency basis.