Tags Posts tagged with "Cindy Smith"

Cindy Smith

James Bouklas, president of We Are Smithtown, leads a protest against Gyrodyne March 2. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Civic groups from two neighboring townships joined forces March 2 to advocate for additional studies of a development along Route 25A.

George Hoffman, 1st vice president of the Three Village Civic Association, and others call for an independent environmental study of the property. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Members of the civic group We Are Smithtown organized a rally on the corner of Mills Pond Road and Route 25A in St. James to protest the proposed Gyrodyne property development at the site. The group was joined by representatives from the Greater Stony Brook Action Coalition, Three Village Civic Association, Town of Brookhaven Citizens Advisory Committee for Route 25A, Setauket Harbor Task Force and Smithtown activist Amy Fortunato.

The company is hoping to build an assisted living home, hotel, medical offices and sewage treatment plant on the property. 

James Bouklas, president of We Are Smithtown, said all in attendance opposed the development and were concerned about possible toxins in the soil of the former helicopter manufacturer’s land, along with a list of other concerns.

He and other protesters called on the Town of Smithtown and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to take action and conduct an independent and rigorous forensic environmental study.

He described the potential development as “akin to building a new Smith Haven Mall on this rural, country stretch of Route 25A.”

The civic group president gave examples of former aviation manufacturers such as Lawrence Aviation and Grumman that he said, “operated behind a huge wall, often in secrecy, and in the end, they all left a legacy of pollution and toxic plumes.”

“Here is what we do know,” he added. “Gyrodyne was a defense manufacturer in those pre-Earth Day years of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when America wasn’t exactly careful about what went in the ground.”

The civic president also expressed concern that through the decades auto repair and photography businesses have operated on the Gyrodyne grounds as well as above-ground vehicle storage among others that may have released chemicals into the soil. The property is a short distance from Stony Brook Harbor.

“What goes into our groundwater quickly winds up as our drinking water,” he said. “There is no margin for error.”

In addition to environmental concerns, Bouklas cited traffic congestion on both 25A and Stony Brook Road.

Justin Bryant, who grew up in Smithtown and now lives in Stony Brook, said he too is concerned about chemicals in the ground at Gyrodyne, saying it’s been too long since a forensic environmental analysis was done.

“It’s important to remember where about 2,000 feet behind you a Superfund site, regulated by the [Environmental Protection Agency],” he said. “This site is on the national priorities list, which means it’s a site most at risk to the people who live in the area.”

“What goes into our groundwater quickly winds up as our drinking water. There is no margin for error.”

— James Bouklas

According to the EPA, there is a groundwater contamination site in the villages of Nissequogue and Head of the Harbor. Since the pollution was discovered in 1997, the agency has been monitoring the area’s ground and surface water. 

Herb Mones, chair of the Three Village Civic Association land use committee and a 30-year resident of Stony Brook, said the historic corridor should be protected and preserved and any development should be done in a reasonable and sensible way to protect the surrounding communities.

George Hoffman, 1st vice president of the Three Village Civic Association, was co-chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee for Route 25A, where the Town of Brookhaven met with residents to gather their thoughts about what needed improvement on the corridor.

“You can’t save one part of the highway without saving the entire highway,” he said. “This is a really historic corridor.”

He pointed to an environmental study done more than 10 years ago, when the State University of New York bought 250 acres of Gyrodyne property, that found several chemicals in the soil. However, both Hoffman and others at the rally said the chemicals did not show up in the recent environmental study Gyrodyne paid for in the location of the potential subdivision.

“We’re really suspicious of how one part of the property could have had a lot of chemicals in it, where this part of the property now has apparently been given a clean bill of health,” he said.

Cindy Smith, chair of the Greater Stony Brook Action Coalition/United Communities Against Gyrodyne, held the first protest against the Gyrodyne development on the steps of Smithtown’s Town Hall Nov. 2017. After the March 2 press conference, she said she is pleased with the bond that has been formed with “like-minded civic groups in Smithtown and Brookhaven.”

As a member of Friends of Stony Brook Road, she has helped addressed the impact of the overcapacity street. 

“We knew that the additional traffic from the proposed Gyrodyne development would cause even more quality-of-life and safety issues on our road, not to mention the increased financial burden to Brookhaven residents,” she said, adding she is also concerned about water quality, historical impact, increased taxes and more.

Smith said the organizations have given both town residents voice, and Greater Stony Brook Action Coalition/United Communities Against Gyrodyne has worked with environmentalists, including Carl Safina, Dick Amper of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society and John Turner conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society.

Smithtown spokesperson Nicole Garguilo said in a statement that the Town has been vigilant in following New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act requirement and law,

“It would be negligent, not to mention a dangerous, unethical precedent to ask the hard-working taxpayers of our community to foot a $500,000 (minimum) bill for a private property owners’ Environmental Impact Statement. Especially, when the EIS process requires the Town’s planning, engineering and environmental professionals to thoroughly review and verify the analysis,” Gargulio said.

A representative from Gyrodyne could not be reached for a comment about the protest or environmental study. 

At the Suffolk County Legislature’s March 3 general meeting, a vote for a comprehensive planning study for the corridor was tabled until March 17.

by -
0 996
Sidewalks being installed on Stony Brook Road near the university and the Research and Development Park. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Residents, community groups and elected officials gathered at William Sidney Mount Elementary School auditorium Sept. 16  to discuss pertinent issues in the Town of Brookhaven at an event hosted by the Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners Ltd and Friends of Stony Brook Road.

Topics discussed at the meeting were the progress on Stony Brook Road, the latest on the Gyrodyne Property and student rentals.

The latest on Stony Brook Road

Lee Krauer, president of the Friends of Stony Brook Road, said the group is frustrated with Town of Brookhaven highway superintendent, Dan Losquadro (R), and the work being done on the road.

“We have requested so many meetings with him [Losquadro] to discuss the issues that we need to discuss,” she said. “He came to the meeting last year and told everyone there that we would have sand and concrete on the medians. Does anybody see it?”

Krauer said according to Losquadro the reason behind not having the concrete medians is because the Highway Department doesn’t have enough money in the budget for them.

She also expressed frustration with Stony Brook University.

“The university involvement is nil, they don’t care about Stony Brook Road,” Krauer said.

Currently, Stony Brook Road is undergoing a $1.9 million makeover that will see repairs and work done on sidewalks, drainage systems, turning lanes and traffic signals among others. Work is scheduled to be completed by the middle of October.

The Gyrodyne property situation 

The fate of the Gyrodyne property has been a concern for many residents, since the developers announced plans in 2017 to subdivide the 62 acres of land in St. James, also known as Flowerfields, to construct a 150-room hotel with a restaurant and day spa, two medical office buildings and a 220-unit assisted living complex with its own sewage treatment facility.

Many in the area have raised concerns about the amount of traffic that would empty out onto Route 25A and Stony Brook Road if an additional exit was made accessible on the east side.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim said he would consider legal action if site plans are approved for the Gyrodyne development. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Cindy Smith, of the Greater Stony Brook Action Coalition, spoke on the status of the Gyrodyne development.

“There will be tremendous traffic on 25A and development has the potential to dump traffic on Stony Brook Road,” she said.

Smith said despite the parcel being on Town of Smithtown property the traffic burden will be felt by Brookhaven residents.

Smithtown “would reap the tax property revenue while Brookhaven foots the bill, and we have to deal with the quality of issues like traffic, noise, dust and safety issues,” she said. 

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said he opposes additional development on that parcel.

“We are doing all we can to see if the county would be willing to purchase some of that land,” he said. “This could have a tremendous impact on the community, I am opposed to opening up the roads between Gyrodyne and the university.”

Romaine said it would have dire consequences on Stony Brook Road.

“I am prepared to seek legal action as town supervisor to prevent roads from being opened,” he said. 

Student boarding houses/rentals

Off-campus student boarding houses have been an issue for Three Village residents, though in recent years with help from the town and SBU the amount of these houses that pop up in the community has been curbed.

A home on Stony Brook Road was condemned after the Town of Brookhaven found the homeowner had the garage and basement illegally converted into apartments that housed Stony Brook University students. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Bruce Sander, of Stony Brook Concerned Citizens, said the organization is glad at seeing this success but reiterated more can be done.

He said some of the blame still falls on the university for not adequately providing enough student housing on campus, especially for first-year students.

Sander also mentioned that international students and others don’t want to pay for the school’s meal plan, which is considered too expensive, and have found a way around living on campus.

“The university needs to increase housing on campus,” he said.

An idea previously brought by Romaine would have SBU require all non-commuter students who are freshmen to be mandated to live on campus.

For more information about the Stony Brook residents organizations, visit:

  • www.stonybrookconcernedhomeowners.com
  • www.friendsofstonybrookroad.com
  • greaterstonybrookactioncoalition.weebly.com.

 

County Legislator Kara Hahn and Stony Brook resident Cindy Smith at a Nov. 10 press conference to propose a county initiative for Flowerfield in St. James. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Local legislators are paying attention when it comes to the concerns of Stony Brook residents regarding the proposed development of a land parcel in St. James.

At a Nov. 10 press conference held on the steps of Smithtown Town Hall, it was announced that Suffolk County Legislators Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) introduced a bill in the Legislature asking the county to begin the process of purchasing more than 40 acres of property currently owned by Gyrodyne LLC. The first step is an appraisal of the land, which runs along Route 25A and borders Stony Brook Road and Mill Pond Road. The goal is to preserve the open space, known locally as Flowerfield, while continuing to lease the few older buildings to small businesses and artists currently renting.

The announcement was made a few days before a public hearing regarding the Gyrodyne subdivision proposal at the Smithtown Town Planning Board’s Nov. 15 meeting. On Nov. 13, the bill was approved during the county Legislature’s Environment, Planning & Agriculture committee meeting and will be voted on in the general meeting Nov. 21.

“We are for smart, sustainable development, and this isn’t sustainable in the area it happens to be in.”

— Cindy Smith

Cindy Smith, founder of the Greater Stony Brook Action Coalition, thanked Hahn, Trotta, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) for their support. Smith founded the coalition after the Suffolk County Planning Commission approved the conceptual subdivision of the 62 acres of land owned by Gyrodyne at an Aug. 2 meeting. The proposed plan includes a 150-room hotel, two medical office buildings and two assisted living facilities. There is also the possibility of opening a street behind University Heights Drive that would lead to Stony Brook Road.

“We know already what it’s like when development is done and things happen in your backyard,” Smith said of why she was hosting the press conference. “All of a sudden there’s a tremendous amount of traffic.”

The Stony Brook resident said she doesn’t want to see the same thing  occur in Smithtown, or see things get worse in her area. Due to increased traffic over the years from Stony Brook University and the Wireless Center, which borders the Gyrodyne property, she said residents along Stony Brook Road, where she lives, have witnessed 18-wheelers using the street, drivers littering and historical characteristics in the area disappearing. During rush hour, Smith said emergency vehicles have difficulty traveling down the street.

The coalition founder said no traffic studies or environmental assessments have been conducted by the county and there has been no estimate of the impact on the local infrastructure.

“We’re not against development,” Smith said. “We are for smart, sustainable development, and this isn’t sustainable in the area it happens to be in.”

“This is not the proper use of this parcel, and we would like to see it preserved.”

— Kara Hahn

Hahn, chairwoman of the Environment, Planning & Agriculture Committee, said if the land is developed it could harm local bays and waterways, and agreed it would overburden roads and increase the dangers of traveling in the area. The hazards of 25A and Stony Brook Road are something she is acutely aware of after being involved in a head-on collision at the intersection in April 2001.

“This is not the proper use of this parcel, and we would like to see it preserved,” Hahn said, adding that she asked Trotta if she could take the lead on the bill because she felt it was critical to her district.

Cartright, who was in attendance to represent the Town of Brookhaven and spearheaded 25A-visioning meetings in the Three Village area during the last year and a half, said the main concern of Stony Brook residents was traffic congestion in the area, especially at the juncture of 25A and Stony Brook Road.

“Today there is an alternative that is being presented by our county Legislature and that is to preserve this vital open space,” she said. “And we stand in support of the preservation of this land.”

Englebright said he wrote a letter to the New York State Department of Transportation asking it to deny any application for curb cuts on 25A. He said the town needs to change the zoning in Smithtown. While it made sense for the property to be zoned for business when Gyrodyne tested helicopter blades, the assemblyman said it should no longer apply to the residential area.

“If this proposal is allowed to go forward it will paralyze the communities of Stony Brook and St. James,” Englebright said, adding it would bring mid-Manhattan-style traffic to the area. “It will be like driving a stake into the heart of St. James.”

Gyrodyne could not be reached for comments by press time.

Map shows the conceptual plans of developing the Gyrodyne /Flowerfield property in St. James. Image from Suffolk County

Some Brookhaven residents and Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) are concerned about the potential negative impact development of a St. James property might have on Stony Brook Road.

On Aug. 2, the Suffolk County Planning Committee approved the conceptual subdivision of a 62-acre parcel of land in St. James owned by Gyrodyne, LLC. The property, known locally as Flowerfield, borders Route 25A and Stony Brook Road, and the plan includes approval for a 150-room hotel, two medical office buildings and two assisted living facilities.

One of the suggestions given at the August meeting to relieve possible traffic issues on Route 25A was to use a road that crosses over train tracks on the land parcel, passes through private property and utilizes a road owned by Stony Brook University where drivers would then be led to Stony Brook Road.

After Gyrodyne received approval from the county, resident Cindy Smith founded the Coalition of Greater Stony Brook Action Committee in the hopes of mobilizing local civic groups and providing a voice for the thousands of permanent residents in the village. Smith, along with local residents and Romaine, attended the planning committee’s Oct. 4 meeting to express their concerns to the members.

During an August meeting of the Suffolk County Planning Committee, it was suggested to use a currently closed street which leads to Stony Brook Road if development in St. James leads to increase traffic on Route 25A. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Smith said she took exception to the planning committee not seeking input from the surrounding communities. While a  developer has not been named and the Gyrodyne property is not yet on the Smithtown planning board’s agenda, she said she is concerned that no traffic studies or environmental assessments have been conducted and there has been no estimate of the impact on the local infrastructure. In regards to traffic, the commission in their resolution suggested the future applicant consider a bike share program to help reduce short distance motor traffic.

Romaine said he attended the Oct. 4 county planning committee meeting after receiving inadequate notification of the August meeting. He said the town only received 48 hours notice, and it lacked an environmental assessment form, a project description and usage of the property.

The supervisor said with Nicolls and Stony Brook roads being the only two ways to access Stony Brook University, quality of life has been impacted negatively in the area, especially on Stony Brook and Oxhead roads, due to traffic. He added the university also owns property that borders the Gyrodyne land on the east. On the grounds is the Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology where new buildings are being erected, which could cause even more traffic in the area from the center’s employees.

“We don’t need additional traffic from the Gyrodyne development pouring onto Stony Brook Road,” Romaine said. “We will strongly oppose that and we will explore all of our legal options to do exactly that.”

Smith, who is a member of Friends of Stony Brook Road, which works to address traffic and speeding issues on the street, said due to the university being state property, they do not need to follow local planning procedures or receive approval. She said she believes the lack of a master plan has created a problem and said she feels the Gyrodyne project lacks the same foresight.

“It’s really a quality of life issue — it’s safety,” she said. “It’s another town’s economic boom and Brookhaven’s financial demise because all the traffic will be on Brookhaven roads.”

Stony Brook Road residents deal with cars backed up on the street during rushed hour traffic and are concerned about the Gyrodyne project increasing the problem. Photo by Jonathan Kornreich

Smith, who lives on Stony Brook Road and works from home as a business consultant, said another issue is that the property borders 25A, which is a historic corridor, and she is concerned its value as such will be jeopardized. She said the goal of the coalition is not to impede development but to demand a better master plan when it comes to properties such as Gyrodyne’s and the areas that surround it.

“If we are going to develop it, and it’s certainly the right of that landowner to do that, let’s do it smartly,” she said. “Let’s do it with sustainability, and let’s do it with community input and let the other local officials from the Town of Brookhaven understand what’s going on and let them have a say in it, too. Because it’s going to affect the Town of Brookhaven, even though it’s in the township of Smithtown.”

Romaine said he is also concerned with added traffic on Route 25A, pointing to the intersection of the state thoroughfare with Stony Brook Road where bends in the road cause limited sight issues. He said both are beyond their capacity.

“In my view we have too much traffic and congestion now, and I want to make sure we don’t have any additional,” Romaine said.

George Hoffman, co-chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee for Route 25A, which conducted visioning meetings for residents in the Three Village area earlier this year, was also in attendance at the Oct. 4 meeting. He echoed Smith’s sentiments that there should have been more input from the community. He said he hopes Smith is successful in getting others involved in the coalition.

“Maybe this is the issue that gets us all at the same table to start working in a uniformed way where we start to talk,” Hoffman said. “I really think we need that.”

Romaine also sent a letter Sept. 20 to Smithtown Planning Board Chairman Conrad Chayes expressing his concerns and recommendations. He said while the county did not require a traffic study and only recommended one, he has faith that Smithtown will mandate it. When it comes to developments such as Gyrodyne, the supervisor said he is willing to work with the state, county and other towns.

“To think that people can blindly put traffic out on Stony Brook Road without us putting up a fight, they are going to be sadly mistaken,” he said. “Brookhaven is definitely going to fight this.”

Requests for comments from representatives of Gyrodyne were not returned by press time.