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Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine

On June 26, Councilwoman Jane Bonner held her first E-Waste Collection, Paper Shredding and Drug Take Back event of 2021 at the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai. The event provided the opportunity for residents to safely dispose of unused electronic devices, have their old paper documents securely shredded, and to safely dispose of old prescription drugs.

This special recycling event was co-sponsored by DIME Community Bank. Members of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department were also on-hand to accept the prescription drugs for disposal. Over 500 cars stopped by to recycle 21,780 lbs. of paper, 11,600 lbs. of e-waste and 15 boxes of unwanted prescription drugs for proper disposal.

“My first 2021 recycling event of the year was an overwhelming success. It’s great to know that we can provide a helpful alternative that allows the public to recycle right and dispose of unused or expired drugs in a safe manner. I thank the Sheriff’s Department for their participation and all the people who came out to help keep Brookhaven clean and green,” said Councilwoman Bonner.

Photo from Town of Brookhaven

On April 30, the Town of Brookhaven celebrated Arbor Day by planting a Red Maple tree in front of Town Hall, following a longstanding tradition. Since 2016, the Town has been designated as a “Tree City USA” by the National Arbor Day Foundation.

The annual planting at Town Hall is part of Supervisor Romaine’s Green Energy & Sustainability initiative for Town facilities announced in his 2015 State of the Town Address. The plan focuses on Town-owned Buildings and Facilities, Traffic Controls, Street Lights and Town Vehicles. Pictured left to right are the Town’s Environmental Analyst Alan Duckworth; Councilman Kevin LaValle; Supervisor Ed Romaine; Councilman Dan Panico; Councilwoman Jane Bonner; Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich and Councilman Neill Foley.

Arbor Day has been celebrated around the world since originating in Spain in 1805. The first American Arbor Day was on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska. In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt brought the event to national attention when he issued an “Arbor Day Proclamation to the School Children of the United States.”

Pictured from left, Councilman Neil Foley, Councilman Kevin LaValle, Councilman Dan Panico, Councilwoman Jane Bonner and Supervisor Ed Romaine.

Supervisor Ed Romaine has announced that the free mulch and compost is available at seven, conveniently located Town facilities. The free mulch and compost are part of the Supervisor’s “Greening Brookhaven” initiative. Mulch and compost are available in bulk, so residents must bring shovels and containers to load it into their vehicles. All will be distributed on a first come, first served basis while supplies last.

Residents of Brookhaven Town may pick up free mulch and compost at the following Town facilities:

• Brookhaven Town Hall, South Parking Lot, One Independence Hill in Farmingville (residents only)

            Monday – Friday from 9:00 am to 7:30 pm and Saturday-Sunday 8:00 am to 8:00 pm

• Percy Raynor Park, Route 347 and Belle Mead Road in South Setauket (residents only)

           Monday – Friday from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm

• Rose Caracappa Center, 739 Route 25A in Mt. Sinai (residents only)

           Monday – Friday from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm

• Brookhaven Landfill, 350 Horseblock Road in Brookhaven Hamlet (residents and commercial)

            Monday – Friday from 7:00 am to 2:45 pm and Saturday from 7:00 am to 12:00 noon.

• Manorville Compost Facility, Papermill Road in Manorville (residents only)

           Monday – Friday from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm (Closed for lunch 11:50 am – 12:30 pm)

• Holtsville Ecology Site, 249 Buckley Road in Holtsville (residents only)

          Monday – Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm

• Robert E. Reid, Sr. Recreation Center, Rte. 25A and Defense Hill Road in Shoreham (residents only)

           Monday – Friday from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm and Saturday and Sunday 8:00 am to 8:00 pm

Commercial vehicles are permitted only at the Brookhaven Landfill, where a fee of $12 per yard will be charged.

For more information, call 631-451-TOWN or visit the Town website.

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Town of Brookhaven officials have made renewing existing Senior/Disability income property tax exemptions easier for residents.

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and members of the Town Board announced Dec. 28 that residents who have existing Senior/Disability Low Income property tax exemptions will be automatically renewed and will not have to reapply in person at Town Hall or by mail.

The change in New York State requirements for in-person renewal was made after Romaine and supervisors from Suffolk County’s other nine towns appealed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to issue an executive order allowing this renewal.

“The last thing our seniors and disabled residents need to worry about is the red tape associated with renewing their Senior/Disability Low Income Exemptions,” Romaine said. “This change allows our town to dispense with the traditional renewal process and create an automatic renewal that will bring much needed relief for these residents.”

Under state law, eligible property owners are required to file an annual application for Senior/Disability Low Income exemptions with the assessor’s office to by March 1 to continue the exemption. To protect these residents that are most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, the Town Board will pass a resolution at their reorganizational meeting on Jan. 4 allowing for the automatic renewal this year.

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A student shakes hands with Valerie Cartright after receiving an award for a video created to highlight health and safety benefits of sidewalks. Photo by Andrea Paldy

By Andrea Paldy

The Three Village school board welcomed Town of Brookhaven and Suffolk County officials Feb. 12 for a special presentation. 

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) presented awards to four Ward Melville High School students for their public service announcements advocating for sidewalks to ensure safety in the community. 

Sidewalks for Safety, a local grassroots organization, sponsored a video contest to encourage high school students to highlight the health and safety benefits of sidewalks in neighborhoods and around schools. Student projects were sponsored by the Ward Melville art department.

Contest winners were Benjamin Dombroff and Nicole DeLucia, who tied for first place and received $500 each. Mia Schoolman was awarded second place and Elyas Masrour placed third. 

Three Village resident Annemarie Waugh, founder of Sidewalks for Safety, addressed those gathered for last week’s meeting and presentation. The organization’s vision for the community is to have “a minimal number of strategically placed sidewalks on only a few connector roads to enable students and residents to walk safely,” she said. 

Ward Melville Principal Bill Bernhard also spoke. He recalled an appointment with Waugh six years ago, when he was principal at Paul J. Gelinas Junior High School. 

“We had a rather unorthodox meeting,” Bernhard said. “We took a walk around the neighborhood. It was a picturesque, beautiful day … and what we saw, besides the beautiful nature, was something rather disconcerting, which was the lack of available places for our students to walk — our lack of sidewalks.”

The Town installed sidewalks in front of the junior high school in 2016. The $300,000 project also included a pole with flashing LED lights that could be activated by pedestrians with the push of a button. 

Waugh indicated that there is still more to be done.

“Our roads are not comfortable for pedestrians and cyclists,” she said. “They are full of dangerous blind corners and speeding, distracted drivers.”

The student videos, which were screened during the meeting, echoed those concerns.

“Walkable communities are associated with higher home values,” Waugh said. “Imagine your kids being able to walk safely to school, to walk safely to their friends’ houses. Imagine being able to jog safely to West Meadow Beach. Imagine being able to walk for a coffee and to walk to local shops.” 

Romaine commended the students.

“Your students really know how to advocate and make a point,” he told school board members.

Also honored last week were members of the Setauket Elementary School student council, who raised more than $700 for Australian Wildlife Rescue, and varsity athletes who competed in fall sports. 

The school board also finalized the 2020-2021 school calendar. The first day of school will be Sept. 8, 2020.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine and Port Jefferson Village trustee Bruce Miller speak at a Dec. 9 press conference calling for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the electrification of public transportation, including the Long Island Rail Road. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Representatives from the national environmental advocacy group Sierra Club along with local representatives are calling for the electrification of Long Island’s transportation, especially its trains.

“This is a challenge, but we need to accept it.” —Charles Bevington

On Dec. 9, the Sierra Club was joined by local representatives at a press conference at the Long Island Rail Road’s Stony Brook train station. The event was part of the Get Set, Go Green! relay, where people from across the state, including Buffalo, Rochester, Lower Hudson Valley, New York City and Plattsburgh, are traveling to Albany on multiple modes of low-carbon transportation. The goal is to deliver a petition signed by thousands of New Yorkers to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) by Dec. 12.

The Dec. 9 event included a send-off for relayer Edgar Cid, 25, of Lindenhurst, who was set to take the 1:19 p.m. train from Stony Brook to Penn Station to deliver petitions to the next relayer in New York City. Cid said he was happy to participate as he realizes the importance of moving toward more electric-based transportation on the Island, including trains.

Charles Bevington, chair of Sierra Club Long Island Group, said so far more than 7,500 signatures have been collected and the hope is to get to 10,000.

“This is a challenge, but we need to accept it,” Bevington said. “We need to move forward on it.”

Mothers Out Front volunteer leader, Billii Roberti, talks about the benefits of electrifying school buses. Photo by Rita J. Egan

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Port Jefferson Village trustee Bruce Miller and Mothers Out Front volunteer leader Billii Roberti, of Huntington, joined Bevington and other environmental activists to support the relay.

The petition urges Cuomo to adopt a statewide target to reduce emissions 55 percent from transportation by 2035 in his 2020 State of the State address. According to Englebright, the largest amount of state greenhouse gas emissions, 36 percent, comes from transportation. He said the governor recently signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which sets a statewide goal to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. He added that for the state to reach the climate goals detailed in the act, a reduction of emissions must begin now.

The assemblyman said the frequency of hurricanes, invasion of species harmful to our ecosystems and warming waters that have destroyed lobsters point to being “in the midst already of a climate crisis.”

The act sets a goal for 70 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable energy within 11 years and 100 percent of the state’s electricity supply must be emissions free by 2040. Englebright said he is concerned that the LIRR is in the process of replacing its old diesel fleet with new diesel engines.

“That’s not only inconsistent with the new law, it is incoherent,” he said. “We have talked for years about electrifying the north line of the rail road, making it more efficient, making it possible to pull more cars off the roads and to use mass transit. This is an investment that we need to make into electrification, not into [20th]-century diesel locomotives.”

Three train branches transverse Brookhaven — Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma (including Greenport) and Montauk. Romaine said each of the branches depends on diesel at some point, and he and the Town Board have advocated converting to electrification since he entered office.

“The MTA is not spending the money that it should be spending on electrifying these lines,” he said. “Imagine less diesel flowing into our atmosphere because our lines are electrified.”

“It’s long overdue. We’ve relied on diesel since forever it seems like, except for the first [steam] locomotive, but it’s a hundred year old technology.” — Ed Romaine

Miller said he knows many from Calverton to Greenlawn commute by car to the Ronkonkoma line.

“This is completely environmentally inappropriate and unsustainable,” he said.

In addition to the electrification of trains, Roberti called for school districts and bus companies to transition to all-electric fleets by 2030 and asked the governor and state legislators to assist them with funding.

The activist cited health concerns from diesel fuel emissions including increased cancer-causing soot and incidences of pneumonia and asthma attacks.

For years, officials have pleaded for the electrification of the LIRR branches that require diesel. State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) said in an email that he hears complaints about poor and insufficient service and realizes the environmental benefits of electrification.

“Electrification, including of the Oyster Bay and Port Jefferson lines, would greatly improve service and provide riders desperately needed relief,” Gaughran said. “It is also tremendously beneficial for our environment. I am not optimistic the MTA is taking the urgency of electrification seriously and I urge them to seriously consider electrification.”

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory officials recognize the environmental as well as other benefits of electrification of the LIRR.

“The proposed improvements to the LIRR, including purchases of new trains, electrification of the Port Jefferson tracks and the addition of a third track between Floral Park and Hicksville will all serve to increase the frequency of trains and the efficient use of clean energy for transportation,” said Bruce Stillman, CSHL president and CEO. “Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has a close relationship with Stony Brook University and improving rail transportation between our two institutions will help to advance science and education.”

Romaine said the rough estimate for electrification of the railroad was about $18 million a mile. There will be a need for a new rail yard, which the town already has plans in place, and electrification stations along the branches to ensure the rails are electrified along with other signal and communications upgrades.

“It’s an expensive project,” he said. “It’s long overdue. We’ve relied on diesel since forever it seems like, except for the first [steam] locomotive, but it’s a hundred year old technology.”

Jane Fasullo, former chair of the local Sierra Club, said the offset of the costs will be improved health, and in the long term as the cost of the infrastructure of wind and solar goes down, the cost of electrifying vehicles will go down.

“It’s one of those things where you put money into it today to save a lot of money later on,” Fasullo said.

In an email statement, LIRR spokesman Aaron Donovan said the railroad shares the Sierra Club’s concern.

“We recognize our service is one of the most significant ways that Long Islanders can lower their carbon footprint, and we strive to continuously improve our service delivery,” Donovan said. “Public transportation, even when powered by diesel, is greener per passenger mile than private, single-occupancy electric vehicles.”

A copy of the petition can be found at sc.org/55×35.

Photo from Town of Brookhaven

On Oct. 29, 70 residents attended the Town of Brookhaven Youth Board’s first Brookhaven’s Got Talent student art show. 

Students enrolled in seventh through 12th grade were asked to submit summer-themed photos, paintings and/or drawings through the town’s website, and entries were accepted from late June through Sept. 27.

 In total, 19 submissions were received from 15 students. The event took place in the second-floor lobby at Town Hall, 1 Independence Hill, Farmingville where prints of the students’ artwork are currently displayed for residents to view. 

“The goal behind this initiative was to recognize and encourage young, talented artists in Brookhaven Town. We ended up having an intergenerational event where students were engaging with their peers, adults and seniors, sharing details about their art. It is gratifying to see so many residents coming out on a cold, rainy October night to view the students’ exceptional work and encourage their artistic talents,” said Supervisor Ed Romaine.

Councilman Michael Loguercio, Town Board liaison to the Brookhaven Youth Bureau agreed. “The Youth Board did a great job of bringing the Brookhaven community together to celebrate the students’ artwork. It is encouraging to see students from school districts throughout Brookhaven Town participate. The large turnout and positive feedback we received will certainly encourage these students to continue to pursue their artistic goals,” he said.

For more information about the Town of Brookhaven Youth Board and programs offered by the Youth Bureau, please call 631-451-8011 or visit www.brookhavenny.gov.

The Town of Brookhaven Town Hall. File photo

The Town of Brookhaven is looking into creating a program that could lower gas and electric rates for homeowners.

Town officials are planning an Oct. 3 public hearing that would be the first steps in creating a Community Choice Aggregation or CCA, which is an energy program that allows local governments to buy electricity and gas on behalf of its residents.

It would allow the town to take advantage of more competitive rates from energy suppliers for those in the CCA. The program, similar to a bulk purchasing agreement, would let the town purchase large amounts of electricity for a large pool of residents and small commercial businesses.

“The high cost of energy on Long Island continues to rise, making it difficult for many families and businesses to keep up,” said Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) in a release. “By creating a Community Choice Aggregation, the town will be able to help cut their energy costs and keep more money in their pockets.”

The program was created by the New York Public Service Commission in April of 2016. Westchester, in 2014, was the first town in New York State to launch the CCA program under Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

Following the public hearing, the town would have to adopt a local law authorizing the creation of a CCA, designate a CCA administrator and gain approval from the New York State Public Service Commission.

Once the town gets approval, residents will be able to join the program to take advantage of the lower energy rates. Residents are not required to be part of the CCA, do not have to sign a contract to join and can leave the program at any time without early termination or exit fees.

The public hearing will be held at 5 p.m. at Brookhaven Town Hall, located at 1 Independence Hill in Farmingville.

Compiled by David Luces

 

 

Ed Romaine. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Town of Brookhaven is proposing a $312.9 million budget that Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) called “a taxpayer’s budget.” The proposed budget is a near $10 million increase from last year’s $302 million, but officials say there will only be a minor increase in taxes.

In a budget media briefing meeting Sept. 30, officials said there will be a small increase to property taxes, but are looking to end deficit spending, reduce debt and restore surpluses. The 2020 tentative operating budget of $312,868,413 is not set to dip into the town’s fund balance, essentially its rainy day bank, for the second year in a row. The new budget stays at the 2 percent state tax levy cap.

In 2019, the town did not appropriate any use of its fund balances, effectively the rainy day funds in case of need for emergency spending. This is compared to nearly 10 years ago during the Great Recession where the town was using approximately $28.5 million in fund balance to balance the budget.

The town is also looking to decrease debt, with new capital projects coming in at $43.9 million, which is $14.6 million less than 2019. With the budget, the town is looking to eliminate the current $15.8 million pension debt and eliminate the $30.1 million in “pipeline“ debt, or the extra money left over from the close of bonded projects, either unused or unappropriated.

“It’s move it or lose it for pipeline debt,”

– Ed Romaine

The new operating budget also sets aside $1.6 million additional funds in the post-closure landfill reserve. The town’s landfill is set to close by 2024.

The 2020 tentative capital budget sets up public improvement projects established via bonds and reserves. This includes $26.4 million for the Highway Department comprising road repairs, drainage, traffic safety, facilities and machinery/equipment. This is in addition to a $5 million increase for road resurfacing in the operating budget from $10 to $d15 million.

“That’s part of the supervisor’s commitment to spend $15 million a year in road resurfacing,” said Matt Miner, town chief of operations. “This is the first year that will be going into effect.”

Those funds do not include funding from New York State, especially the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program — known as CHIPS — from the state Department of Transportation, worth on average about $4.5 million to the town, according to officials.

“The Highway Department will have sufficient funding, far in excess of what they’ve had in the past years,” Romaine said.

In attempts to reduce debt in a faster manner, the town has looked toward 12-year loans instead of 20-year loans. Brookhaven officials hope to reduce overall debt to $20 million by 2021 from $600 million at the end of 2018.

Despite a complete restructuring of the town’s garbage and recycling apparatus, the annual cost for garbage pickup will remain flat at $350 for a single home, with each home on average getting around 171 pickups per year.

Romaine said the town has looked to reduce the amount of revenues gained through property taxes. Currently property tax makes up 53.3 percent of the 2020 tentative budget.

Commissioner of Finance Tamara Branson said the town has looked to focus on getting grants instead of spending through capital expenditure involving tax-raising initiatives.

“We have 50 grant projects that are public improvement projects,” she said, adding that the town has received grant funds of $63.2 million. 

Elected officials will also see a small raise in annual pay. Council members will receive a $1,446 increase to $73,762, while the supervisor will be bumped by $2,398 to $122,273. The highway superintendent at $121,515, town clerk and tax receiver will each receive around $2,000 in increases. Elected officials have been seeing an approximate $2,000 increase in pay for the past few years.

The new budget went before the Town Board for preliminary adoption Oct. 3. A public hearing on the budget will take place Nov. 7, but town finance officials said they don’t expect the budget to change much between then and now. The full budget must be adopted by Nov. 20.

 

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It was a beautiful day for a homecoming June 23.

Village Chabad, formerly known as Chabad at Stony Brook, opened the doors to its new center at 360 Nicolls Road in East Setauket Sunday. More than 500 were on hand for the grand opening ceremony and ribbon cutting to help Rabbi Chaim Grossbaum and Rivkie Grossbaum, co-directors, the Chabad’s other rabbis and family members celebrate a new beginning.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) presented Chaim Grossbaum with a proclamation naming June 23 Village Chabad Day.

“This is a great day for people of faith,” Romaine said. “Faith is the most important thing that we have — a strong belief in God, a strong ethics system. And this facility is a blessing and a beacon in this town, and we are so proud of this grand opening this day.”

Grossbaum thanked everyone for attending the Chabad’s ribbon cutting, calling the new center everyone’s home.

“Here at the Village you’ll spend time with your expanded community family,” Grossbaum said. “You’ll come to be inspired. You’ll come to relax. You’ll come to study or meet up with a friend over a cup of coffee.”

The grand opening event included a singing performance from a number of the Hebrew school’s children and a tour of the new facility. After the ribbon cutting, many broke into a traditional circle dance to celebrate.

The Chabad had outgrown its former location in Lake Grove, and the rabbis would rent out local venues such as The Neighborhood House and the Holiday Inn Express at Stony Brook to hold events. Grossbaum said many celebrations such as bar and bat mitzvahs were celebrated in tents at his house.

The 13,000-square-foot Village Chabad, which cost nearly $5 million, sits on 8.8 acres of property, 2.8 acres of it having been developed. There are classrooms, study rooms, a sanctuary, a conference room, backyard, patio and a room that can hold 200 for events and holiday dinners.