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Cleanup

Volunteers clean up the Greenway Trail in Port Jefferson on April 17. Photo by Herb Mones

Volunteerism — to some degree — still exists. When it comes to Earth Day and protecting our environment, this is a wonderful thing.

Two weeks ago, on our editorial page, we mentioned the increase in roadside litter along our towns’ roads and the importance of keeping garbage off the streets. In that editorial, we made a small mention of the groups that volunteer to clean up in our areas, but they deserve more than a sentence or two.

With Earth Day celebrated April 22, residents may have seen people out this past weekend with bags, gloves and trash pickers along roads, in parks and on beaches collecting the garbage of others. 

On Saturday, the Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group hosted a cleanup in conjunction with Suffolk County at Larry’s Landing, and Three Village Community Trust members along with the Friends of the Greenway could be found along the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail.

Hometown Hope, a Port Jefferson nonprofit, gathered volunteers Sunday to clean up the beaches in the village. Dozens of people helped pick up trash along the four-and-a-half-mile shoreline. These are just a few of the cleanups that occur on our roads, trails and beaches throughout the year.

These volunteers deserve a standing ovation for helping to improve our environment and restoring a sense of pride to our communities. 

We would love to see cleanups like this happen more often throughout the year. While it’s the responsibility of individuals to treat the outdoors as they would their own living room or car, unfortunately many don’t follow this common-sense rule. 

Groups like the ones mentioned above have the ability to organize people and get things done and pick up where towns leave off — even though we would like to see highway departments out cleaning more, too.

Sadly, many organizations are in desperate need of volunteers. As more residents commute to the city or work two jobs, many civic associations, advocacy groups, nonprofits and even fire departments have seen a decrease in the number of people volunteering.

Yet so many groups just ask for a bit of time to help make our neighborhoods better places to live. One individual giving up an hour here and there to help others causes a ripple effect. It could influence many to do the same and create a wave of community engagement.

That wave is evident in these cleanups as not only a spot of land becomes cleaner but, in the long run, it helps our foliage and wildlife thrive and keeps our waterways clean.

So, thank you to all of you who took the time out of your busy weekends to make our little space on Earth a bit cleaner.

Local residents help clean up; from left to right, Donna Denner, Susan Guerin, Debbie Bush, Pete Giery, Danielle Ray, Laura Rizzo, Christina Heaney and Claudia Capie-Friszell. Photo courtesy of Audrey Asaro

For the first time, Comsewogue Public Library participated in helping to clean up Brookhaven town.

As part of the 12th Annual Great Brookhaven Cleanup, staff and patrons from the library started early May 17, on the northern section of Terryville Road, cleaning up garbage along the wooded areas. They collected over eight large bags of garbage, two hub caps and a lot of plastic and glass bottles. 

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By Alex Petroski & Kyle Barr

Those strolling through Port Jefferson Village on the morning of Sept. 26 couldn’t stride too far without hearing the distinct sound of Shop-Vacs. The area was hit with more than 4 inches of rain during the evening into the night Sept. 25, according to the National Weather Service, leading to severe flooding in Port Jefferson Village.

The intense rain storm flooded businesses, the Port Jefferson Fire Department and even forced emergency evacuations from Theatre Three. Fire department Chief Brennan Holmes said water levels on the department’s grounds on Maple Place reached about 5 feet high.

“The problem with this was it was 4 inches of rain in an hour and a half, so it rose so quickly that a chief’s car got stuck in a flash flood, we couldn’t get the trucks out,” he said Wednesday morning as cleanup efforts were already well underway. He added he had just spoken to Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R), whose department was helping out with the cleanup effort. “I think we took 10 people out of flooded cars.”

Christian Neubert, a member of the fire department, said around 8 p.m. Tuesday night people were trapped in their cars in the vicinity of Wynn Lane, as well as others on Liberty Avenue near Port Jefferson High School. Holmes said between 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. the department responded to 14 alarms related to the flooding.

In addition to damage to at least one department car, Holmes said the radio room also flooded, sustaining damage that was still being assessed Wednesday.

“We had a lot of stuff damaged,” Holmes said. “Usually [some flooding is] easily mitigated. We’re good with that. We get the trucks out and up the hill. This just came so fast and so quick and so much that it was tough.”

Theatre Three was inundated with water during the storm. The deluge left a watermark 4 feet high in the theater’s basement, high enough to nearly pour over the bar and stools used for the theater’s comedy nights.

Theatre Three president, Andrew Markowitz, said the flooding started around 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25. The water reached high enough to muddy the costumes and props the theater was to use in this upcoming Friday’s production of “The Addams Family,” many of which will have to be quickly replaced. Worse still, much of the theater’s lighting apparatus was stored downstairs, and personnel were still determining what needed to be repaired or replaced Wednesday.

“We have a lot of volunteers who are helping out, but anyone who wants to come down and clean they are welcome,” Markowitz said.

The office on a lower floor used by Jeffrey Sanzel, the theater’s executive artistic director, was nearly submerged. The small office contained innumerable books, original stage scripts and stage props, many of which Sanzel said were completely ruined by the rushing waters. He estimated several thousand dollars worth of items were destroyed. However, their loss means much more to him on a personal level.

“I spend more time in that office than I do in my own house, and everything in my desk, from my shelves down, is gone,” Sanzel said, his pants stained with mud. “The personal stuff — it’s just gone, I’ve never seen it like this. But then again, we could be in the Carolinas, you have to put things in proportion.”

At the same time the theater was hosting about 40 children and their families in auditions for its yearly portrayal of “A Christmas Carol.” Since the kids had nowhere to go with the several-foot-deep waters outside, Sanzel said they simply continued on with the auditions in order to keep the kids calm.

Holmes indicated that while the flooding was catastrophic, it occurred during low tide. When asked what this storm might have looked like had it happened during high tide, the chief responded, “We don’t want to know.”

Markowitz said Theatre Three is still waiting for the assessment on total damages, but he feared the cost could be astronomical. He said the theater would work hard over the next days to make sure the production of “The Addams Family” goes on, despite the flooding.

“The show must go on,” he said.

Donations are already pouring in, and theater operators said they have received close to $5,000 just in the morning hours after the flood.

For more information, go to the website: www.theatrethreetickets.com/donations.

File photo by Erika Karp

On April 29, volunteers are welcomed to come down to the Mount Sinai Yacht Club, at 200 Harbor Beach Road, Mount Sinai, to help give the Mount Sinai Harbor and Cedar Beach a proper spring cleaning.

The cleanup, sponsored by the Mount Sinai Harbor Advisory Committee, in conjunction with the Town of Brookhaven, Mount Sinai Yacht Club, Tuscany Gourmet Market, Ralph’s Fishing Station, Old Man’s Boatyard and the Waltz family, will begin at 9 a.m. and go until the afternoon. Refreshments and lunch will be provided at the Mount Sinai Yacht Club.

Upon arrival at the yacht club, volunteers will be provided with bags, gloves and pickers, and assigned to a specific area of the harbor/beach complex.

Students and scouts may use the cleanup for community service hours.

Roosevelt Avenue’s park is tucked away in the woods. A path leads from the road to the field, which is next to the railroad track. File photo by Elana Glowatz

What was intended to be a first step in cleaning up a Port Jefferson Village park for future repurposing, instead, served as fodder for community outrage at a March 6 board of trustees meeting. Roosevelt Park, which lies hidden in a wooded area near the southern end of Roosevelt Avenue between Dark Hollow Road and the train tracks in the village’s southwest corner, was cleared of fallen leaves and dead branches recently, though several unintended consequences were brought to the board’s attention by people who live near the park.

A corporation that built houses in the village in the 1970s, as a condition of project approval, was supposed to give three parcels on the western side of Roosevelt Avenue, opposite the ball field, to the village for recreational use. It was also supposed to contribute $5,000 to the village so it could acquire a fourth piece of land, which is pinned between the existing park, the three adjacent parcels and the Long Island Rail Road track that borders the park’s southern side. Due to a clerical mistake, the transaction wasn’t officially completed until May 2016.

The village has discussed possible projects for the site, but at the present time nothing is remotely close to being implemented. Several community members voiced issues with what was done in the wooded area without notifying the residents.

“Ninety percent of what we brainstorm we don’t do…we have no present plan to do anything there.”

—Larry Lapointe

“I was away for a week,” said Steven Metzler, who lives on Roosevelt Avenue and came to the meeting out of interest. “They came in and supposedly took down dead branches and whatnot, but if anyone took a look at it, it looked like they took a small bulldozer through and created paths and tracks for something, down to the sand.”

His concern, living in the area for 20 years, is that he’s had pheasants, turkey, grouse, red-tailed hawks, deer and red fox around his property for years, and he and his neighbors are afraid now that the lot is cleared, they’ll come to their property for shelter or have nowhere to go at all.

“Someone else suggested a community garden — that’ll last about a month,” Metzler said. “It’s like living in the Rocky Mountains almost here. And it’s beautiful, it’s a lovely thing.”

Other neighbors of the park said the dense brush used to insulate their homes from noise and light from the train tracks and questioned why the cleanup had to be done so deep in the woods.

Several village officials defended the cleanup project.

“I went with my parks supervisor and we went through all of our parks — we went to the country club, we went to Caroline [Avenue Park], we went to Rocketship [Park],” said Renee Lemmerman, superintendent of recreation and parks. “All of the dead branches, all of the leaves that have accumulated — we cleaned those up. We didn’t cut any trees down. They did some pruning of trees that were on the fence and came down. We cleaned up. That’s all we did in all of our parks.”

Lemmerman also denied the use of heavy machinery to do the job.

Trustee Stan Loucks and Deputy Mayor Larry Lapointe, who stood in for the absent Mayor Margot Garant during the meeting, both stressed the fact that ideas for the site are only in the brainstorming phase, and community forums will be held before any plan is approved to ensure all voices are heard.

“We brainstorm all of the time about every village program, about every village resource,” Lapointe said. “Ninety percent of what we brainstorm we don’t do. We asked the director of recreation to do some brainstorming about that property and about the acquisition of a parcel there that adjoins the two parcels that we already own, which by the way, were given to the village by the developer when these neighborhoods were built, to build parks. We have no present plan to do anything there.”

Some ideas discussed have included a vegetable garden, a “fit park” or a bike trail.

Centennial Park beach is located on the Port Jefferson Harbor. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Join local environmental group Coastal Steward for a beach cleanup on Saturday, May 28, and help keep the North Shore beautiful.

Volunteers are meeting from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Centennial Park in downtown Port Jefferson. Snacks, water, gloves and garbage bags will be provided, but volunteers are encouraged to bring their own sunscreen and tick protection.

It is recommended that participants wear clothes and shoes that they would not mind getting wet or dirty.

Centennial Park is located behind the Port Jefferson Village Center, off East Broadway and next to the Port Jefferson Yacht Club.

Volunteers should register at www.coastalsteward.org by clicking on the release form, under the beach cleanup program, filling it out and bringing it to the event. Community service credit is available.

For more information, contact Pat at 631-334-6824.

The Setauket Harbor Task Force is looking to inspire the North Shore to join its cause. Photo by Susan Risoli

By Susan Risoli

The Setauket Harbor Task Force will host its first Setauket Harbor Day Saturday, Sept. 12, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The free event will be held at the Shore Road dock and beach. It will include live music, food, boat tours of the harbor, kayak and paddleboard demonstrations, marine environmental education and presentations about sea captains and boat builders from bygone eras.

Task force members hope the festivities will inspire the community to join them in their efforts to clean and preserve Setauket Harbor, co-founder George Hoffman said. In a phone interview Monday, Hoffman said the group would need volunteers to help with ongoing water quality monitoring and seasonal beach cleanups. Hoffman also said Harbor Day is intended to increase recognition of how important the local coastline is to community life.

“The history of the harbor is intertwined with the history of Setauket,” he said.

Hoffman said Setauket Harbor Task Force members met this summer with Brookhaven Town officials, who said, “They will come up with a plan to dredge the pond in Setauket Harbor Park.
It is clogged with sediment.”

Hoffman also said the task force has applied for 501c3 designation as a nonprofit, and that the application will be approved in a month or two.

The task force will then apply for federal and state grants to fund harbor cleanup, he said.

Still digging out from early August wind, rain storm that rocked parts of greater Three Village community

John Morgan, above, from Impact Environmental, clears branches from the entrance of the park at Trustees Park in Poquott. Photo by Giselle Barkley

In the aftermath of the powerful early-morning storm that hit the North Shore on Aug. 4, organizations and volunteers, like Impact Environmental and Ward Melville High School ice hockey students, are battling fallen trees and branches as they cleanup areas like Trustees Park in Poquott.

The volunteers began cutting trees, picking up debris and clearing areas of the park around 9 a.m. on Friday. Few people have used the park for recreational purposes since the storm, as broken trees, branches and other debris still blocked the park’s main entrance. Nick Pisano, a Ward Melville High School student, said he “doubts that [they] could finish [cleaning] today.”

Impact environmental worker Frank DeVivo agreed with Pisano.

“There’s a lot in there and we have several people [helping clear the debris], so we’ll be able to get it done,” DeVivo said. “It’s just a matter of time and organization.”

Two weeks ago, on Aug. 13, Poquott residents voiced their concerns regarding how storm-damaged areas of the village were being cleared following the storm. But clearing those areas, including the park, was difficult. Clearing the park alone cost Impact Environmental around $8,000.

“The village has no money to do any of the prep work,” Richard Parrish, president and CEO of Impact Environmental said. “So we made a decision that Impact Environmental would pay [to clear the park].” This is something we do to help out the village,” Parrish said.

Earlier Friday, the debris extended several feet in front of the park’s entrance. According to Impact Environmental worker John Morgan, the volunteers started their day fighting to clear branches and twigs to clear the area in front of the entrance. Morgan also said he helped clear an additional path by the entrance. With the path cleared, Morgan and the other volunteers could continue picking up debris, including pieces of a 30 to 35 foot birch tree that broke off during the storm.

Morgan cut the broken tree into several pieces, making it easier to clear the main entrance area. Morgan, like Parrish and the other volunteers, was happy to help the community, saying that making others happy made him happy. DeVivo had a similar response regarding clearing the park’s entranceway.

“This is a really well-used park, and they enjoy the ability to get to their tennis courts, and they enjoy the ability to take nice walks,” DeVivo said. “So it’s good to be able to come out here and help out, and help clean it up and get it back to functionality.”

Mayor Delores Parrish also joined the volunteers, later in the day, to help clean and move trees and other debris from the park. According to Richard Parrish, the mayor was bringing a larger vehicle to help transport debris to a landfill.

Norman Samuels and Herb Mones clean up the Greenway Trail.

By Karen Jillian

“It’s not a surprise that many people are calling the Three Villages ‘Long Island’s Bicycling Capital!’” So writes Herb Mones regarding the Setauket to Port Jefferson Greenway Trail. Mones, a member of the Friends of the Greenway, says “the Greenway Trail [protected open space constructed for conservation and recreational purposes] is a great community resource. Its second phase finished, it has now become “the longest paved greenway in Suffolk County — 3 ½ miles long.”

The Greenway Trail runs between Limroy Lane in East Setauket and the New York State Department of Transportation parking lot in Port Jefferson Station, near Route 112 at Hallock Avenue.

Due to the overwhelming amount of positive results associated with the path, Mones has decided to “engage the community in a program to enhance and beautify the Greenway through monthly cleanups and having the public adopt and maintain portions of the trail.”

A biker enjoys a section of the Greenway Trail.
A biker enjoys a section of the Greenway Trail.

A cleanup was held this past Saturday morning. The 28 volunteers were ably assisted by Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) who believes that “the development of the Greenway has been nothing but a positive asset and resource.”

“When I speak to people in my district about the trail, they mention they enjoy that it connects communities. At the beginning, when a new idea like this is introduced, there is always a level of fear from some in the community until people see what an asset it can be, especially once people use it,” said Cartright.

Local resident and volunteer, Norm Samuels, echoed her sentiments. “People are generally very happy with the trail and use it in many different ways:  walking, running, biking and dog walking. During the right weather I go cross-country skiing! Only complaint some have: no port-o-potty.”

Another hardworking elected official at Saturday’s cleanup was Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket).An obvious environmental enthusiast, she said, “I was always excited about this idea of a trail. From social community, health and environmental  perspectives, we are all better for it. The good use of the trail drives out any bad use.”

The volunteers report that “bad use” consists of the occasional strewn trash, which is a light amount. As for people being worried about kids hanging out, non-usage of the trail or any negatives, the trail, has, instead, brought many positive attributes. Usage of the trail is very high. Most people have cleaned up after themselves and their dogs and traffic on Upper Sheep Pasture has slowed down dramatically because of the enhanced safety crossings and alerting of drivers to crosswalks.

But the best may be yet to come. This trail, which began as an acquired stretch of property in the 1960s and had originally been pitched as a bypass to 25A, had, in the 1990s become part of an alternative plan to become a Greenbelt Trail. Today the Friends of the Greenway are working with North Shore Rails to Trails “in an effort to extend the path from Port Jefferson Station to Wading River, which would create a 15-mile ribbon of bike paths,” according to Mones.  Not bad for something that started out over 50 years ago as a paper road for a vehicular bypass!

The trail, though, needs the community for it to survive and be maintained. The next clean up is scheduled for Sept. 26 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. If you would like more information on being a part of this growing community that uses the trail or would like to volunteer, you can call the Three Village Community Trust’s Friends of the Greenway at 631-689-0225.

The Greenway Trail runs between Port Jefferson Station and East Setauket. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

The Friends of the Greenway is hosting another cleanup event for the Setauket to Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail on Saturday, Aug. 29, from 8 to 10 a.m.

Volunteers who want to help mow, prune, clip and beautify the community hiking and biking trail should bring gloves, trash bags, clippers, mowers, brooms or shovels along with any gardening tools. The helpers can choose an area on the trail to beautify and head straight to work — but please contact Charlie McAteer from Friends of the Greenway at [email protected] to report the location — or they can report to one of the trailheads for an assigned task.

Participants can also help distribute information to trail visitors at either the Port Jefferson Station end or the Setauket end of the trail.

The Greenway Trail runs between Limroy Lane in East Setauket and the New York State Department of Transportation parking lot in Port Jefferson Station, near Route 112 at Hallock Avenue.

To take part in maintaining the trail apart from the cleanup event, contact McAteer to find out other ways to help.