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Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro

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evaluate competitive bids from shipbuilding contractors to determine which one will replace the highway department’s outdated military-style landing craft with a more modern and enhanced version of it.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.

Crews finish paving University Drive in East Setauket. Photo from Losquadro's office

If it feels like the morning commute or the ride to the local store is a little smoother, that’s because it is.

Many roads within the Three Village area were repaved over the summer, according to press releases from Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Daniel P. Losquadro (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), who announced the completion of the projects this month.

Two multiroad jobs addressed streets in the vicinity of Minnesauke and Nassakeag elementary schools. In addition, prior to paving, preparations were made for the installation of traffic signals to replace stop signs at the points where Lower Sheep Pasture Road meets Bennetts Road and Pond Path, according to Losquadro.

Traffic Safety Director Jon Sullivan said his office had received multiple complaints from residents, dating back ten years. A traffic study found that over a period of three years, there were a combined 26 traffic accidents at the two locations, he said, warranting the change from stop signs to traffic lights. “The installation will reduce accidents and improve traffic safety,” he concluded.

The estimated cost for the traffic signals is an additional $200,000, according to Losquadro.

In Setauket, around Minnesauke, the highway department resurfaced 11 roads. Andrea Drive, Bennetts Road, Bluetop Road, Captains Walk, Detmer Road, Doolings Path, Hilltop Lane, Michelle Court, Peace Lane, Rising Road and St. George Glen Drive were all freshly paved. The job required several weeks of concrete work, with crews replacing more than 2,700 square feet of aprons and 1,650 linear feet of curb. The total cost for the project was nearly $600,000.

“This paving provided much needed relief for residents and motorists in the vicinity of Andrea Drive and Bennetts Road,” Losquadro said in a statement.

In East Setauket near Nassakeag, 13 streets were paved. Rides on Amherst Court, Cornell Court, Cornwallis Road, Daniel Webster Drive, Hamilton Road, Jackson Drive, Jefferson Court, Montpelier Court, Nathan Hale Drive, University Drive, Washington Avenue, Yale Court and Yorktown Road are much smoother. Crews replaced more than 1,600 square feet of aprons and 1,600 linear feet of curb at a total cost of just over $500,000.

“The two signal builds on Sheep Pasture Road at Bennetts Road and Pond Path are both on hold, awaiting utility relocations,” a spokesman for Losquadro said in an email. “The signal poles are up, but it should be another three weeks before the utility work is finished and we can move forward.”

The lights will be put into a flash pattern for two weeks until residents get acclimated to their presence, and it should be about two months until they’re fully functional, he said.

“Each time we complete a paving project, we improve the quality of life for local residents and there is a positive impact for the larger community,” Cartright said in a statement. “I am glad to announce the completion of this project and we look forward to continuing to work with the Highway Department to make road improvements districtwide.”

M-section residents look for support as they battle to keep trees. Photo by Susan Ackerman

Stony Brook residents visited the Brookhaven Town Board meeting last week to register their dismay over the large scale tree removal planned for the Strathmore housing development.

A total of 11 people addressed the issue of tree removal prior to road resurfacing during the public participation portion of the meeting.

The Brookhaven Highway Department has marked trees on several M-section streets.

Several of the speakers at the meeting were residents of the M-section, but others weighing in on the topic were just concerned citizens.

As commenters took to the microphone to express their frustration with the situation, Supervisor Edward Romaine (R) interjected and said he wanted to make it clear that these actions are not the responsibility of the town board.

“I just want to point out one thing,” he said. “The actions with the trees are not the actions of this board. They are the actions of the highway superintendent, who is an independent elected official.”

Community activist MaryAnn Johnston, of Mastic, commented on the highway superintendent’s aggressive paving policy. She said he paid no mind to resident objections in Coram regarding tree removal. “He needs to give communities advance notice — and he needs to follow the state-mandated SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review Act) process,” she said.

“People would rather live with those potholed streets than lose the trees.”

—Robert de Zafra

According to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation website, the act “requires all state and local government agencies to consider environmental impacts equally with social and economic factors during discretionary decision-making.”

If there is potential for significant adverse environmental impacts, the site further explains, an environmental impact statement is required.

According to the Highway Superintendent’s office, SEQR does not apply in this situation. Based on Section 617.5 (c4), the project is part of an “in place, in kind” replacement of structures. A spokesperson for the office said this is only a repaving planned for an existing road, and no expansion is being made.

Prior to the start of public participation, Deputy Highway Superintendent Steve Tricarico was invited to make a statement. He acknowledged the presence of the M-section residents and said he was there to listen to them.

“I speak on behalf of the superintendent of highways when I state that it is by no means our intention to purposely remove trees or replace concrete that is not necessary,” he said. “In order to resurface these roadways, to mill them and to pave them, certain aspects of the root systems as well as the concrete are causing serious concerns to the department.”

After the outcry from the neighborhood, Tricarico said a letter was sent to affected M-section homeowners, stating that a re-evaluation would be made to determine which trees are absolutely necessary to remove.

Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) asked Tricarico if the superintendent is willing to participate in a community meeting once the reassessment is completed. Tricarico said Losquadro has already met with some of the concerned residents.

“I know the superintendent has been up there personally and has met with a number of residents … has spoken with them, both on and off camera, and will continue to do so moving forward,” Tricarico said.

Cartright said she will schedule a meeting and notify the community so they can be present to hear the department’s findings. The date of that meeting is not yet known.

Three Village Civic Association President Robert de Zafra, who was present to support historical status for a Stony Brook building, said he decided to add his voice to save the trees.

“People would rather live with those potholed streets than lose the trees,” he said. He also thanked Cartright for working to set up the future meeting.