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Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine

Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney today announced that Fabio Monasterolo, 51, and his wife, Judith Monasterolo, 55, of Holbrook, pleaded guilty to Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree for unlawfully disposing broken cinderblocks and concrete near tidal wetlands in the Town of Brookhaven.

“These defendants would have escaped responsibility for dumping in our wetlands had it not been for a concerned citizen who reported them to the Town of Brookhaven after capturing them on camera during their illegal acts,” said District Attorney Tierney. “Thanks to our partnership with the Town through our Quality-of-Life Town Coalition initiative, this couple is now an example of what will happen to those who think they can turn Suffolk County’s vibrant ecosystem into their personal junkyard.”

“This couple decided to make our wetlands their personal dumping ground. As I said when they were caught on camera: we have no tolerance for illegal dumpers, and when we catch you, we will prosecute you. I want to thank District Attorney Tierney for pursuing this case and prosecuting the Monasterolos and for helping us protect our environment,” said Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine. “Environmental crimes are not victimless – they are crimes against our entire community, and future generations that are harmed by polluters and illegal dumpers. We are committed to protecting the environment and will not tolerate dumping anywhere.”

According to court documents and the defendants’ admission during their guilty plea allocutions, on April 23, 2023, at approximately 2:03 p.m., the Monasterolos illegally dumped solid waste, which included broken chunks of concrete and cinderblocks, from their black Dodge Ram pick-up truck into the wetlands adjacent to the intersection of Jefferson Drive and Grove Road in Mastic Beach. That intersection and the surrounding areas are owned by the Town of Brookhaven and abut a tidal wetland. When a witness saw what the defendants were doing, she began taking several photographs of the couple and the waste that they had dumped. Judith Monasterolo, who was in the passenger seat of the Dodge Ram, allegedly then gave the witness two middle fingers as Fabio Monasterolo drove them away from the scene.

Brookhaven Town Officials contacted the District Attorney’s Office and provided the photographic evidence and information regarding the dumping crime. Detectives from the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Biological, Environmental, and Animal Safety Team (BEAST) immediately began an investigation. The defendants were subsequently arrested a week later, on May 1, 2023.

On October 16, 2023, Fabio and Judith Monasterolo each pleaded guilty to Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree, a Class A Misdemeanor, before Acting County Court Judge, the Honorable James McDonaugh.

As a condition of their plea agreements, prosecutors mandated that the Monasterolos pay the Town of Brookhaven $2,602.75 in restitution for the initial cost of clean-up for their illegal actions, fully finance a day-long clean-up of other pollution in the tidal wetlands by a Town of Brookhaven work crew, participate in a Pine Barrens reforesting initiative by personally planting over 50 trees, and issue a written apology to the citizen who captured them on camera during the commission of their crime. The Monasterolos were represented by Jorge Macias, Esq.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney John Sciandra of the Biological, Environmental, and Animal Safety Team (BEAST), with investigative assistance from Suffolk County BEAST Detective Walter Justinic, DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Timothy Day, and DEC Environmental Conservation Investigator Jeremy Eastwood.

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Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, left, and town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich attend a vigil at the Village Chabad Center for Jewish Life & Learning in East Setauket Monday evening. Photo courtesy of Rabbi Motti Grossbaum

Over 150 people gathered Monday night, Oct. 9, at the Village Chabad Center for Jewish Life & Learning in East Setauket for a gathering of prayer and solidarity for the Israeli people. Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) were among the many in attendance.

Rabbi Chaim Grossbaum shared words of inspiration and encouragement with all assembled. “Many are asking me what they can do to help,” said the rabbi. “My response is loud and clear. Aside from donating with your financial support for Israel, I encourage everyone to increase in deeds of goodness and kindness. We must add light to the world, and that is how we fight the darkness and the evil. It just takes one flame of light to chase away an entire room of darkness. Every good deed we do brings tremendous light to the world. And good always wins.”

The Village Chabad also organized a collection of urgent humanitarian equipment led by Three Village resident Ari Nezaria that was sent Tuesday night on a chartered cargo flight to Israel.

Catholic Health celebrated the opening of its latest Catholic Health Ambulatory & Urgent Care with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Aug. 2. Located at 2112 Middle Country Road in Centereach, the newly constructed 63,000 square foot multispecialty care center will feature a number of primary and specialty care services, as well as a walk-in urgent care for patients with more immediate care needs. 

The new center is part of Catholic Health’s growing network of multispecialty care centers, complete with diagnostic imaging, an on-site pharmacy, and a dedicated suite where Catholic Health’s gastroenterologists can perform endoscopy procedures in a safe, comfortable and convenient environment outside the hospital setting. 

“Today marks an important day not only for Catholic Health but also for the residents in and near Centereach, who now have access to exceptional primary care, urgent care, and specialized care across a wide variety of medical specialties,” said Catholic Health President & CEO Patrick O’Shaughnessy, DO, MBA. 

“We’ve launched a number of Ambulatory Care sites across Long Island, however, today we open our largest and most expansive. This state-of-the-art facility reflects our continuing commitment to placing more health care services outside of the hospital setting, serving our communities with highly accessible, community-based sites where patients can get the care they need, when they need it, as conveniently as possible,” he added.

The new facility is part of a $17 million development project that further strengthens Catholic Health’s goal of making quality health care more convenient for Long Islanders and to support many of the unmet health care needs of the community. Designed and constructed from the ground up, 43,000 square-feet of space will immediately be used for primary and specialty care services, eventually building out an additional 20,000 square-feet for future health care services.

The ribbon cutting ceremony featured members of Catholic Health leadership, elected officials and community leaders and Simone Healthcare Development, owner and developer of the facility. 

“We are delighted to celebrate this incredible transformation of a former retail site into a state-of-the-art multispecialty ambulatory and urgent care center for Catholic Health,” said Joseph Simone, President of Simone Development Companies. “It was a true collaboration between our teams to be able to deliver this first-rate facility in just one year from start of construction. Numerous planning approvals were required and we thank the Town of Brookhaven and Suffolk County for their support and cooperation throughout the process.”

“I am happy to welcome Catholic Health Ambulatory & Urgent Care to the new Centereach location. As their largest facility, they can offer a wide variety of health services to the residents of Brookhaven Town. This is a great example of how redevelopment of a former retail property is a much better alternative to new development and it makes healthcare more easily accessible for our residents while creating jobs for local healthcare workers,” said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine.

Local officials blast MTA over 'shocking neglect' of Long Island

Village of Port Jefferson Mayor Lauren Sheprow speaks at a July 25 press conference as Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine looks on. Photo by Raymond Janis

A dilapidated bridge and longtime public safety hazard on Sheep Pasture Road in Port Jeff will come down.

“I’m concerned that the MTA has forgotten about this section of Long Island.”

—Ed Romaine

Local and state officials held a press conference Tuesday, July 25, at Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville, celebrating a $15.8 million grant through the state Department of Transportation’s BridgeNY Program to replace the bridge. 

The new bridge will be owned and maintained by the town.

The Sheep Pasture Road railroad bridge has facilitated vehicle traffic since 1906. The Town of Brookhaven and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had split the tasks for maintaining the structure — the town supervising the vehicle roadbed and the MTA responsible for the physical structure and its replacement.

“The bridge that’s there did belong to the MTA,” said Brookhaven Superintendent of Highways Dan Losquadro (R). NYSDOT “still gave the Town of Brookhaven $15.8 million to build our own bridge. That tells you how serious the concern with the existing structure was and the unwillingness on the part of the MTA to address the concern.”

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) underscored the troubles surrounding the bridge’s structural integrity. “Our fear was that this bridge would collapse,” he said.

The supervisor noted that none of the town’s three train lines are fully electrified, suggesting a lack of public attention or investment.

“I’m concerned that the MTA has forgotten about this section of Long Island,” he added.

Village of Port Jefferson Mayor Lauren Sheprow attended the press event, expressing her support for the project under town supervision.

“On the north side of Sheep Pasture Road, those folks have been anxious for this development for a very long time, as have most of the residents utilizing that bridge,” she said. “The Village of Port Jefferson could not be more excited by the development that there will be a new bridge.”

“I’ll quote a congressman from New Jersey, who said the best way to understand the MTA is looking at the MTA backward. MTA spelled backward stands for ATM.”

— Dan Panico

Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook), whose 1st Council District includes Port Jefferson and Port Jefferson Station, thanked Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) office for “answering the call” of the state delegation. 

Kornreich nonetheless acknowledged the need for greater attention by the MTA.

“I’ll echo my colleagues who have pointed out the seeming disregard the MTA has had for our plight and the safety of our residents,” he said. “It’s really been a case of shocking neglect.”

Continuing this theme, Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville) condemned MTA’s position toward Long Island.

“I’ll quote a congressman from New Jersey, who said the best way to understand the MTA is looking at the MTA backward,” Panico said. “MTA spelled backward stands for ATM.”

New York State Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) referred to MTA’s inaction on the public safety hazard as “egregious,” decrying the perceived lack of investment by the public railroad into the local area.

“The MTA has no problem increasing taxes on us, our payroll taxes,” the assemblyman said. “Every time they seem to need to go to the well, it’s communities like ours that seem to foot the bill, and we don’t get the proper services.”

Referring to the bridge replacement, he added, “This is just a win for the citizens up here.”

With funding secured, Losquadro said his office is moving toward the planning phase for the project. He maintained that coordinating with emergency services is already underway.

“We will make sure that this process moves as expeditiously as it possibly can,” he said. “We have already spoken with emergency services and first responders to make sure that we have a plan that when this bridge does come down, it will be for the minimum amount of time before the new structure is in place.”

Pictured from left, Brookhaven Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich; Dr. Nikhil Palekar; Brad Straub, Executive Vice President at Greystone; Jefferson’s Ferry President and CEO Bob Caulfield; and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. Photo from Jefferson's Ferry

The Jefferson’s Ferry’s Foundation’s annual gala this spring marked 18 years of generous support for the Foundation. Jefferson’s Ferry residents and their families, supporters and vendors joined Jefferson’s Ferry management, staff and board members for “Springtime in Paris” to salute the singular lifestyle, vibrant community and peace of mind that are the hallmarks of Jefferson’s Ferry. 

The proceeds from the evening will benefit the Foundation’s “Making Memories Fund,” which will provide supplemental programming for residents of Jefferson’s Ferry’s new Memory Care Wing to include exercise classes, massage therapy, day trips, entertainment and more. The programs will be geared to participants’ interests and capabilities rather than their limitations. The Fund will also support continuing education for staff of the Memory Care Wing, which is set to open later this year.

This year Jefferson’s Ferry honored Greystone, which has served as the chief consultant for Jefferson’s Ferry’s ambitious expansion project. To accept the award on behalf of Greystone, Brad Straub, Executive Vice President at Greystone, joined the party from Texas.

“Brad has been an invaluable resource and played a leading role in defining how Jefferson’s Ferry can best develop its physical plant, programs and resources to fulfill the current and future needs and desires of our residents,” said Jefferson’s Ferry President and CEO Bob Caulfield. 

“Brad’s expertise and oversight has enabled us to conceptualize and execute a significant expansion and renovation within a reasonable time frame and with the least disruption to our community.”

This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Nikhil Palekar, Director of the Stony Brook University Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease. Dr. Palekar, an expert in the treatment and research of cognitive and mood disorders in older adults, spoke of promising medical advances in the study of cognitive impairment and mood disorders. For more information visit www.jeffersonsferry.org.

Photo by Rob Pellegrino

PITCHING IN

Members of the Three Village Community Trust’s Friends of the Greenway took part in the Great Brookhaven Clean-Up on May 13. 

The group tidied up the popular Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail with the help of Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine and CURBY by collecting seven bags of litter along the trail and trail head, cutting back dead tree limbs and pruning and devining the trees.  

Pictured from right, Aaron Hoffman, Paul Sagliocca, Dennis Brennan, Susan Colatosti, CURBY, TOB Supervisor Ed Romaine, Dave Wang and Charlie McAteer. 

Brookhaven Town Historian Barbara Russell and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine with a copy of a topographical map from 1778 showing Setauket Harbor, encampment of British troops and General William Tryon's headquarters.. Photo courtesy of TOB, Map courtesy of Port Jefferson Arts Conservancy

Brookaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine recently announced that Brookhaven Town Historian Barbara Russell is the first appointee named to the New York State 250th Commemoration Commission. 

Mrs. Russell’s appointment by New York State Senator Robert Ortt II was at the request of State Senator Alexis Weik. 

In January 2022, the New York State Legislature passed the New York State 250th Commemoration Act (S7700 and A8689) and Governor Hochul signed the legislation into law on February 24, 2022. The legislation establishes a 21-member commission to support and facilitate local efforts by heritage organizations, municipalities, and others in commemoration planning and programs.  

The commission is co-chaired by the Commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Commissioner of the Department of Education, or their designees, and includes the New York State Historian. 

In her role as Brookhaven Town Historian since 2005, Mrs. Russell, researches, interprets, and advocates local history for the Town. For more information about the New York State 250th Commemoration Commission, visit www.NYSenate.gov.

Pixabay phoro

Community choice aggregation is a nationwide revolution in energy procurement with transformational implications for Long Island.

The benefits of CCA are threefold. It offers ratepayers an avenue for lower energy costs. It introduces competition into the energy marketplace, incentivizing public utilities to deliver a better product. And it places entire communities down a path toward 100% renewable energy.

The popular fiction is that fossil fuels are cheaper and more efficient than their expensive and immature renewable counterparts. CCA proponents challenge this thinking, stipulating that renewables can outperform fossil fuels with the proper economic structure, a structure supporting energy consumers instead of suppliers.

Classical economics indicates that one company controlling the entire supply of a given commodity constitutes a monopoly. Since the Industrial Revolution, vertically integrated utilities have exercised exclusive control over the supply of energy, setting prices arbitrarily and controlling the market at will.

CCA seeks to flip this dynamic on its head, introducing competition into the energy market using the bulk-buying power of a community of people. Though they are opted in automatically, ratepayers can opt out at any time at no expense. More importantly, CCA gives municipalities a choice over the energy source, with the option to select renewables over fossil fuels.

Competitors’ cheaper, greener power may incentivize utility companies to deliver a better product. If consumers want affordable and renewable energy, the utility’s rational choice would be to invest heavily in renewables and reduce rates. Competition spurs innovation and growth, benefiting all parties.

Here at TBR News Media, we hold that local governments must be highly active and potent and challenge the centralized bureaucracies in Albany and Washington when those fail to deliver meaningful results for our communities. For too long, state-regulated utilities have not done enough to counteract the effects of climate change.

A U.S. Energy Information Administration report notes, “In 2021, renewable sources and nuclear power, together, supplied 54% of New York’s total in-state generation from utility-scale and small-scale facilities.” For New York state to reach its energy goals under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, the report indicates that figure must climb to 70% by 2030.

To meet this task, local governments must do their part, negotiating on behalf of their residents for 100% renewable energy. CCA offers our local officials the means to fulfill this end.

The Town of Brookhaven recently instituted a CCA program for a two-year fixed rate on natural gas prices. Given the volatility of today’s international gas markets, Brookhaven’s program has potential cost benefits.

However, the town has only dipped its toe into the greater CCA dialogue. A gas-exclusive program offers merely the financial rewards of the CCA model without the reduced greenhouse gas emissions. We encourage Brookhaven leaders to study the Town of Southampton’s model, where electricity may soon be procured from 100% renewable sources.

In the meantime, other municipalities should take a close look at CCA. The portside Village of Port Jefferson — already grappling with the hazardous effects of coastal erosion and worsening flooding — could send a strong message by joining this effort. Other municipalities, such as the towns of Smithtown and Huntington, could do so as well.

CCA is a cost-effective, market-friendly and environmentally sustainable policy. For residents and the natural environment, it is time for all our local leaders to take it seriously.

Lunar New Year 2023. Photo from TOB

On January 29, the Asian American Association of Greater Stony Brook (AAAGSB), in collaboration with the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander Advisory Board (AANHPI), hosted an event to celebrate the Lunar New Year at Brookhaven Town Hall which included a Lunar New Year and the Year of the Rabbit-themed art show. During the event, the artists were presented with Certificates of Congratulations those whose artwork received special recognition.

The event was attended by Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich, Councilman Neil Foley and Town Clerk Kevin LaValle.

“The Town of Brookhaven was happy to host a Lunar New Year Celebration for the year of the rabbit. I want to thank the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander Advisory Board (AANHPI) for their hard work in putting this celebration together. Brookhaven Town is a mosaic of many ethnic and cultural groups and the AANHPI is one of the fastest growing in Brookhaven Town that adds to our diversity. We look forward to having this celebration every year,” said Supervisor Ed Romaine.

“It was very meaningful to host this exciting event at Town Hall. The rabbit is often associated with growth and creativity, and it reminds me of how our local Asian community has grown in size and in creative confidence along with this event. We started the Lunar New Year event two years ago online, and it has grown and moved each year since then into bigger and better venues. I especially want to encourage our artists to keep up their important work in moving people’s hearts and minds in ways that the printed or spoken words cannot do. I would also like to thank the Asian American Association of Greater Stony Brook (AAAGSB,) the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander Advisory Board (AANHPI) as well as my staff for working so hard to pull this event together,” said Councilmember Kornreich.

Councilmember Foley said, “The Asian-American and Pacific Islander community is one of the fastest growing in the region and the Lunar New Year exhibit at Town Hall was a great example of their contribution to our local art and culture. Brookhaven Town is a great melting pot, and everybody plays a role in making it a better place to live. I congratulate and thank the Asian American Association of Greater Stony Brook, and the Asian American, Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Advisory Board for bringing this exhibit to Town Hall.

“This Lunar New Year celebration was one of the first events I had the opportunity to attend as the Brookhaven Town Clerk. I was impressed by the creativity and passion that the artists showed through their artwork, and I was glad to see it displayed here in Brookhaven Town Hall. Congratulations to all of the award recipients and thank you to the Asian American Association of Greater Stony Brook, the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander Advisory Board, and my colleague, Councilmember Kornreich, for hosting this event,” added Town Clerk Kevin LaValle.

Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, at podium, joined elected officials at the Jan. 20 press conference. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Local elected officials held a press conference Friday, Jan. 20, to make it clear that they don’t agree with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) New York Housing Compact proposal.

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, at podium, joined elected officials at the Jan. 20 press conference. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Republican state senators and assemblymembers, county legislators and town supervisors from Suffolk County gathered at the Perry B. Duryea State Office Building in Hauppauge with a message for Hochul. The elected members speaking at the press conference said zoning, land use and development matters are best left to local elected officials.

In her State of the State message earlier this month, Hochul proposed a housing strategy calling for 800,000 new homes to be built in the state over the course of a decade to address the lack of affordable housing. Among the plan’s requirements would be municipalities with Metropolitan Transportation Authority railroad stations to rezone to make way for higher-density residential development. All downstate cities, towns and villages served by the MTA would have a new home creation target over three years of 3%, compared to upstate counties that would need to build 1% more new homes over the same period.

But speakers on Jan. 20 called her proposed initiative “government overreach” and “misguided,” and they said municipalities should create zoning laws, grant building permits and urban plans based on the individual needs of their communities. Many added that a blanket state housing proposal wouldn’t work on Long Island due to lack of sewer systems, also infrastructure and environmental concerns.

The press conference was led by state Sen. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue).

“We all agree that we have an affordable housing problem,” he said. “What we don’t agree on is how to fix it.”

He added, “The governor apparently believes that one size fits all is the way to go, that heavy-handed mandates are the way to go.”

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, at podium, joined elected officials at the Jan. 20 press conference. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Murray said the Village of Patchogue is the model of revitalizing villages and downtowns across the state. He added local issues must be considered, such as environmental concerns, traffic issues and parking options. He said Patchogue officials worked to rebuild the village’s infrastructure, invested in and expanded sewer plants, repaved 85% of its streets, invested into pools, parks and the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts. Murray added 700 new residential homes were built since 2003, 575 of them are within walking distance from the train station and village.

Town supervisors speak up 

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said they were all concerned about what Long Island will look like in the future. He added there is a need for sewer systems in most towns, and local infrastructure needs improvement. He said the three rail lines that cross the town depend on diesel fuel, and he added overgrowth has also contaminated the waters.

“Governor, before you start talking about more housing, how about the infrastructure to support it?” Romaine said. “How about electrifying the rail? How about making sure the roads work? How about making sure that there are sewers?”

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said the town is manufacturing affordable housing “to the extent it’s possible” based on its infrastructure.

In the last five years, he said the town has approved the construction of 450 rental units, 10% of which are classified as affordable per state law.

Town of Huntington Supervisor Ed Smyth, at podium, joined elected officials at the Jan. 20 press conference. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“The only elected officials that know how to do that on Long Island are your local elected officials with the help of our county, state and federal officials as well,” Wehrheim said. “So, we are doing what the governor wants, but we’re doing it the right way.”

Town of Huntington Supervisor Ed Smyth (R) said New York politics “is not Republican vs. Democrat. It’s New York City versus New York state.” He said the governor is affected by New York City extremists. 

“I implore the governor to form a working coalition of centrist Democrats and centrist Republicans in the state Legislature to govern from the center as the vast majority of New Yorkers expect of you,” Smyth said.

Additional perspectives

State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said when he hears the governor talk about local control, he feels she is aligning with the progressive left. He added “everything they touch they destroy,” listing the economy, energy independence and the southern border.

“They want to destroy our local zoning, and they will destroy what makes Long Island and New York state the wonderful place to live that it is,” Fitzpatrick said. “Local control works, and we seek a cooperative relationship, a carrot approach rather than the stick approach that she is putting before us.”

Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, also spoke at the press conference. He acknowledged there is a housing problem on the Island and said the town supervisors have provided hope with past projects.

“They have been behind getting affordable housing in their communities,” Alexander said, adding 20,000 units of multihousing have been approved on Long Island over the past 17 years.

According to Alexander, 10,000 more units are coming down the pike, and 50 communities have had buildings built near transit stations.

State Assemblyman Keith Brown (R-Northport), who has been a zoning attorney for more than 20 years, in an interview after the press conference said incentives and funding are needed.

He said Brookhaven’s Commercial Redevelopment Districts are excellent zoning examples of redevelopment and multifamily houses where there are incentives such as being near transportation and connecting to sewers.

State Assemblyman Jonathan Kornreich, at podium, joined elected officials at the Jan. 20 press conference. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“Those are the incentives that we should be talking about, not creating super zoning boards, and more bureaucracy,” Brown said.

In a statement to TBR News Media, Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook), who was a former president of the Three Village Civic Association, said, “We have to be wise enough to recognize that the land under which our aquifers sit can only bear so much development.”

He gave the example of a parcel of land in Port Jefferson Station on Route 112 and near the train station. The large, vegetated parcel has restrictive covenants to limit the type of development on the site.

“This place is a vital area of green space, where trees can grow, where oxygen is produced and where rainwater is filtered before it goes down to the aquifers we drink from,” he said. “The governor’s proposal would throw all that planning out the window and turn this into a potential development site for hundreds of new units.”

Former state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who was chair of the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee between 2015 and 2022, attended the press conference and in a phone interview said, “This is a proposal that attempts to meet one need, but has a likely outcome, if advanced, of completely overriding environmental concerns. Our first limiting factor for sustainable communities is the environment, in particular water — drinking water.”

He added the proposal to increase the density of housing not only overrides local planning but threatens communities’ quality of life.

He added, for example, a village such as Poquott wouldn’t be able to build more housing as it’s “essentially a completely built-out community.” Or, a hamlet such as St. James wouldn’t be able to add more housing near the train station.

“If you impose from above a mandate to change the land use, you’re basically impacting the environment immediately and, for the long term, the quality of life of a community,” he said.

Englebright and current elected officials are concerned that the housing legislation would be included in the state budget similar to bail reform.

Hochul’s administration has said more information on the housing proposal will be released in the near future.