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Development

Conceptual drawing of the proposed new marina at Nissequogue River State Park. Image from NYS DEC

New York State officials have revealed a $40 million proposal for the next phase of Nissequogue River State Park development.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation, in partnership with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, held two public presentations Nov. 2 at the Kings Park Fire Department for Phase 3 of rehabilitation and restoration of  Nissequogue River State Park, built on the former grounds of the Kings Park Psychiatric Center. Wayne Horsley, regional director for the state office of parks, said that with Phase 3 residents will start to see a substantial improvement in the park.

“This is a community effort; Nissequogue River State Park is worth the effort,” he said. “The park is going to come to life. This will be a positive thing for everybody concerned.”

A state official and resident discuss plans for Phase 3 of the Nissequogue River State Park rehabilitation revealed Nov. 2. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

At the center of the preliminary plan is the construction of a new 25,000 square-foot headquarters for the DEC’s Division of Marine Resources in the existing footprint of Building 40, the former child care center, which would be demolished. The move would bring more than 100 DEC employees in the marine fisheries, marine habitat, shellfisheries and oceans program bureaus to Kings Park. It would also house the DEC’s Marine Enforcement unit and bring year-round law enforcement into the park.

“This is a much more ideal place for us,” said James Gilmore, director of the DEC’s Marine Resources Division. “Having a marine program next to the water makes so much more sense than where we are right now, in a medical park that’s six miles from the water.”

The $26 million building would also be equipped with the state’s only FDA-certified shellfish laboratory, for testing and maintaining the health and safety of harvested shellfish, in addition to a marine permit office. Construction of the new facility is expected to begin in the winter of 2018 with a targeted completion date of winter of 2020.

The DEC would also partner with the state parks’ office to design and construct a brand new marina. With a proposed $8 million budget, a new Nissequogue State Park Marina would be built to the south of the existing marina with a 151-boat capacity, new year-round floating docks, boat pump-out facility,  comfort station including restrooms and improved parking area for boaters.

“The advantages I think are pretty clear,” said Craig Green, with the consulting firm D&B Engineers and Architects that has been hired to oversee engineering and design of Phase 3. “It would provide new facilities. It has capacity for existing boats plus DEC’s boats, greater security, better lighting and better access to the boats.”

The parks’ existing north and south marinas would be largely demolished and restoration efforts would be made to return them to wetlands. The existing boat ramp may be retrofitted to be used as a launch for nonmotorized boats, kayaks and paddle boards, according to Horsley. Construction of the new marina would be tentatively slated to begin in 2019.

“The park is going to come to life.”

— Wayne Horsley

The proposed Phase 3 sets aside $1.5 million to bring new water mains and fire hydrants to the park. The announcement was answered with loud applause by approximately 85 attendees at the Nov. 2 meeting.

“If we ever had a fire, [the firefighters] would have adequate water supply to put out the fire,” Horsley said. “It will bring potable water to the DEC building, the administrative building and the park.”

The parks regional director called it a “win-win” as he said new lines would be water to the soccer fields frequently used by local teams.

Other improvements under the proposed Phase 3 include demolition of three fire-damaged buildings and several upgrades to the park’s administrative headquarters including a new roof, window restoration, new heating and cooling systems and improved handicapped access to the building in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Detailed conceptual renderings of the proposed DEC building can be found on the agency’s website at www.dec.ny.gov/about/796.html.

Individuals who were unable to attend the two public meetings can comment on the plan until Nov. 30. Feedback may be submitted via email to [email protected] or via mail to: Stephanie Rekemeyer, NYSDEC, 205 Belle Mead Road, Suite 1, East Setauket, New York 11733.

A rendering of the proposed Country Pointe Woods development, if state approval is given to build in Smithtown. Photo from Beechwood Organization

By Kevin Redding

The remains of a demolished hospital on the northwest corner of Routes 347 and 111 could soon become the site of Smithtown’s newest residential community for all ages.

A Jericho-based residential developer, the Beechwood Organization, has proposed plans to build Country Pointe Woods, a 69-unit condominium community on the property of the former Smithtown General Hospital. The hospital was shut down in 1999 and the land has been vacant since then. For more than a decade, various developers have eyed the abandoned lot — seen by some residents as an eyesore — as the potential site of their projects, but all plans up until Beechwood’s have fallen through.

The award-winning home builder’s proposal was approved by Smithtown Town Board at its July 12 meeting and is currently under review by the New York State Attorney General’s Office. If approved, the developer would construct villas and townhomes with a starting price tag of $600,000. The units within the community range in living space sizes from 1,395 square feet to more than 2,400 square feet. The site plan  also includes  a 1,500-square-foot clubhouse with a fitness center, lounge, outdoor pool, sun deck and gated entrance, as well as lawn maintenance and snow removal.

Of the 69 homes proposed, the plans call for 56 units,  or approximately 80 percent, to be age-restricted to buyers 55 and older. The remaining 13 units, or 20 percent, will be open to all ages, according to the developer.

If approved by the state, pre-construction sales will begin offsite at Country Pointe Huntington sales center in November with first occupancy slated for summer 2018.

“Country Pointe Woods in Smithtown gives those who are just starting, downsizing or working nearby the benefits of condominium living in a central North Shore location,” said Michael Dubb, CEO and founder of the Beechwood Organization, in a press release. “They will have brand new energy-efficient homes built to our signature quality construction with the amenities our buyers tell us they value the most.”

Smithtown Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R), who voted to approve Country Pointe Woods’ site plan application in July, said condominiums are needed in the town.

“Frankly, we have a fair number of homeowners that are emptynesters, whose
children have all grown up or gone to college [or are ] in the workforce,” Wehrheim said. “I get at least a couple calls a month asking me where they’re developing nice condos because they all want to sell their single-family home and move into them.”

During the town board’s meeting over the summer, it was discussed that the abandoned sewage treatment plant on the grounds of the former hospital had been removed and most of the site was cleared for development.

The application was approved under several standard conditions and requirements, such as building permits from the town and the installation of a fence along tree-clearing limits.

Residents on a closed Smithtown-oriented Facebook group were mixed on the proposal. While some applauded the development’s proposed location, others voiced concerns over it.

“Traffic was always an issue with either entrance to the hospital and I don’t see how it could be any better with condos,” said Lee Buxton Brooks, a former Smithtown General employee. “The intersection doesn’t need any more traffic because it can’t handle what it has now.”

But James Brako-McComb spoke in favor of the proposal.

“Higher density developments like these are the types of developments we need to keep millennials on the island,” Brako-McComb wrote.

Steve Gardella, too, spoke up for young adults who might occupy some of the condominiums.

“If you don’t want traffic — people who stimulate the economy and help make the town what it is — then continue to allow Smithtown to die and lose its citizens to towns that aren’t stuck in the 1950s,” Gardella said.

Susan Mahoney said the development’s demographic is crucial to the town’s survival.

“The older generation are people that you want to keep here since most of them will spend their money in restaurants, theaters, etc.” Mahoney said. “And it is better than that ugly lot.”

A satellite view of the Steck-Philbin Landfill site that the County plans to repurpose in cooperation with the Suffolk County Landbank. Image from Suffolk County Landbank Corp.

The site of the former Steck-Philbin Landfill on Old Northport Road in Kings Park will finally receive an overdue facelift after 30 years of tax delinquency. The Suffolk County Landbank Corp., which is a not-for-profit entity that works with the county to redevelop tax-delinquent properties, issued a request for proposals to revitalize eight brownfields, including the one in Kings Park, in a press release from Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) in late January.

“We are working to partner with the private sector to revitalize brownfields sites which have been blights on communities for nearly two decades,” Bellone said in the release.

A property is classified as a brownfield if there are complications in expansion or redevelopment based on the possible presence of pollutants or hazardous materials, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The site on Old Northport Road is still owned by Richard and Roslyn Steck of Steck & Philbin Development Co., though penalties and interest bring the total owed in property tax on the roughly 25 acres of land to nearly $1.5 million. The property has been tax delinquent since Steck-Philbin Development Co. was found to be using the site to dispose of waste that they did not have a permit for in 1986. It is located less than a half mile east of the Sunken Meadow Parkway and about a half mile west of Indian Head Road.

The former Steck-Philbin Landfill on Old Northport Road in Kings Park is one of the eight blighted brownfields that the Suffolk County Landbank requested proposals for repurposing. Image from Suffolk County Landbank Corp.
The former Steck-Philbin Landfill on Old Northport Road in Kings Park is one of the eight blighted brownfields that the Suffolk County Landbank requested proposals for repurposing. Image from Suffolk County Landbank Corp.

“This has been a long time coming and creating policies and procedures for the Landbank has been an arduous task, but I’m beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Suffolk County Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) said in the release. Cilmi is a member of the board of the Landbank. “Hopefully, soon we’ll see the remediation of this and other properties, which benefits our environment. We’ll put the properties back on the tax rolls, which means millions of dollars of savings for taxpayers.”

The Suffolk County Landbank was established in 2013 after their application was approved by the New York State Empire State Development Corporation, according to the release.

“This program represents a tremendous opportunity that will help remediate these contaminated and blighted properties, transforming community burdens into community assets,” Acting Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Basil Seggos said.

The property in Kings Park is next to the future location of a multisport complex being developed by Prospect Sports Partners LLC. The $33 million plan for the 44-acre site was approved in July 2015.

Some of the other brownfields included in the request for proposals include Hubbard Power and Light and a gas station on Brentwood Road in Bay Shore, Lawrence Junkyard in Islip and Liberty Industrial Finishing in Brentwood, among others. Cumulatively, the eight properties owe more than $11 million in delinquent taxes.

Proposals for the eight sites are due by March 18 and should be sent to the Suffolk County Landbank office on Veterans Memorial Highway in Hauppauge.

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Three Village civic members are in discussions with developers and elected officials regarding a potential Chick-fil-A restaurant opening at the Friendly’s location in Stony Brook. Photo by Giselle Barkley

The new year brought new ideas to the Three Village area, starting with the new name of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook. But there were more pressing issues facing the civic at its first meeting this year.

The civic officially changed its name to the Three Village Civic Association on Jan. 1 with support from its membership. Shawn Nuzzo, president of the civic association, said the name was a mouthful, but a different kind of mouthful had its eyes set on Stony Brook as well.

Toward the end of last year, the civic met with developers representing the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain, which has proposed building a new location on Hallock Road in Stony Brook where the Friendly’s currently stands. Nuzzo said the company is seeking a zoning change for the area to add a drive-thru to the prospective restaurant.

According to Nuzzo, the 1.3-acre property is too small to accommodate a drive-thru and extra parking — a two-acre property is required for such development.

Despite Chick-fil-A’s popularity, the civic found that residents want less drive-thru style fast-food establishments after conducting a poll regarding commercial development in the area, Nuzzo said.

“You really have to show that there’s a need. … Everybody likes Chick-fil-A. … How necessary is one more Chick-fil-A on the wrong side of the street,” said Robert de Zafra, former president of the civic and Three Village Community Trust secretary.

De Zafra, added that there are more appropriate properties past the Smithtown line for Chick-fil-A’s vision, in his opinion.

Representatives from Chick-fil-A did not respond to requests seeking comment.

The proposal is one of three that sparked concerns among civic members. On Jan. 11, developers Enrico and Danny Scarda from The Crest Group proposed building condominiums near Setauket Meadows. The Scardas said they want to establish a condominium community for residents 55-years-old and older to cater to aging Long Islanders. The woodland area must be rezoned to accommodate the prospective 100-unit plan, however.

The property’s current sewage treatment plant is also an issue, civic members said. The two developers proposed using the property’s current wastewater treatment plant that was established 10 years ago, according to Nuzzo.

“If that treatment plant can’t accommodate expansion or if it’s not performing up to [the] Suffolk County Health code. … There’s no way,” Nuzzo said.

While the town is in charge of zoning changes, Suffolk County is responsible for enforcing a property’s health code. In a letter to the developers, the civic pointed out that there are no shops in walking distance of the property.

Their concerns also included the number of units proposed and plans for affordable housing units on the property. The town requires developers to devote 10 percent of residential units to affordable housing.

Although age-restricted establishments are necessary for Long Island’s increasing elderly community, the civic is one of many organizations that pushed for the revitalization of Route 25A near the Stony Brook train station.

Before the Town of Brookhaven passed a resolution to conduct a study of Main Street from the Smithtown line to Nicolls Road, Parviz Farahzad introduced the idea of a small strip mall called Stony Brook Square on the property across from the train station. The proposal was a work-in-progress as the civic voiced concerns about the mall’s appearance, among other issues. Nuzzo said the corridor study would help “give an idea about the big picture,” for revitalizing the area.

While the proposals are in their infancy stages, de Zafra said the civic would have negative input regarding the Chick-fil-A proposal once it reaches the town. Nuzzo added that looking out for the community is part of the civic’s job.

“A good civic association is meant to counteract and balance [if] a developer has an idea,” Nuzzo said. “It depends if it’s really in the best interest of the community as a whole.”

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Developer Parviz Farahzad proposes constructing a shopping center near Stony Brook University after a year of planning. Rendering from Stony Brook Square plan

By Giselle Barkley

Residents and members of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook want more walking and less driving, at least when it comes to the new Stony Brook Shopping Center proposal.

On Monday, Nov. 2, the association met with residents to discuss developer Parviz Farahzad’s proposal of the Stony Brook Square shopping center. His proposal aims to improve the Route 25A corridor across from Stony Brook’s Long Island Rail Road station, which was once known as the old Gustafson property. Farahzad’s Stony Brook Square will include restaurants, a bank and a coffee shop, among other small businesses.

Shawn Nuzzo, president of The Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook, voiced concerns of residents and civic members, saying the civic had met and discussed the proposal and were contemplating long-term impacts with help from the Three Village Chamber of Commerce and Stony Brook Fire Department.

“For years, the Three Village community has been advocating for a Route 25A corridor study, with hopes of improving the area near the train station,” he said. “Without a comprehensive plan, which examines how an area functions as a whole, we end up with ad hoc planning and dysfunctional neighborhoods.”

Nuzzo said that after meeting with various neighborhood stakeholders over next few weeks, he and the civic plan on submitting comments to the town and developer.

According to Farahzad, creating the plan was a yearlong process. As a Three Village resident he said the center is something that’s “needed for [Stony Brook University … and the community]. He added that he wanted to do something that was attractive for the area.

The proposal falls under the J Business district zone, which means that the developer is allowed to build his desired plan as per a zoning change that took place in the 1990s.

Although he did not attend the meeting and is not fully aware of residents’ concerns regarding the proposal, Farahzad said he might alter the proposal to accommodate various suggestions if necessary. He also admitted that the proposal doesn’t meet the required number of 197 parking stalls. Currently the proposal caters for 139 parking spaces.

According to Nuzzo, no one did anything with the property for years until Farahzad purchased the land. The association was pushing for a plan for several years to get a sense of what that area could look like in the future.

Tullio Bertoli, commissioner of Planning, Environment and Land Management for the Town of Brookhaven didn’t respond to messages when asked to comment on Farahzad’s shopping center plan.

The 15,100-square-foot facility is considered a landmark project of Whitetop Mountain, the Long Island-based commercial real estate firm behind the project. Rendering from Peter Wilk

By Phil Corso

Development has begun in the Village of The Branch community of Smithtown, paving the way for a new medical facility unlike any other in the township.

Long Island-based developer Whitetop Mountain Professional Properties and Islandia-based contractor Stalco Construction announced they had broken ground earlier this week on a new 15,100-square-foot medical and research building at 226 Middle Country Road worth roughly $5 million. The new facility will soon be home to two tenants, North Shore-LIJ Health System’s diagnostic imaging center and the headquarters and product research and development facilities of MIDI, a medical, life sciences and home health care product development consulting firm.

“We are excited to begin the development of the new building, which will complement other medical services facilities already established in the area,” said Christopher Montalbano, Whitetop principal.

Fellow Whitetop principal Gregory Montalbano said the building was a key move for his group that should usher in state-of-the-art services in Smithtown.

“226 Middle Country Rd. is the cornerstone of Whitetop Mountain’s strategy of developing properties for the medical services and product research and development industries,” Gregory Montalbano said. “Our firm focuses on building a portfolio of real estate facilities designed specifically for health care, research and professional services tenants in the greater New York region.”

The structure will house state-of-the-art medical services and research and development facilities. The foundation will feature reinforced-concrete footings and foundation walls. The building will have a steel structural system and six-inch metal frame exterior walls with brick veneer as well as colonial-looking trim to reflect the heritage of the neighborhood, the developer behind the project said.

“The architecture of the new one-story building will reflect the colonial feel of the historic Village of The Branch neighborhood, which dates back to the late 1600s,” said Alan Nahmias, president of Stalco. “The building’s façade will feature brick face, columns and other ornamental architectural elements prevalent in the landmark structures neighboring the new development.”

 

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Trustee Bruce Miller says despite a vote in favor of the document on Monday, he opposes the village’s comprehensive plan. Photo by Elana Glowatz

After years of work and arguments, Port Jefferson’s controversial village development plan has become final.

The board of trustees unanimously adopted the comprehensive plan at a meeting on Monday, but Trustee Bruce Miller said in an interview the following morning that he plans to retroactively change his vote at the next board meeting.

Miller said he got “bogged down” during the board’s discussion about its agenda items, and didn’t mean to vote in favor of adopting the plan.

The comprehensive plan is a guideline for future development in Port Jefferson Village, largely focusing on the waterfront commercial area downtown and the short but troubled uptown corridor that runs between North Country Road and the Long Island Rail Road tracks. It aims, for instance, to revitalize upper Port by making it more pedestrian-friendly and bringing in more apartments. Downtown, the plan includes adding recreational and green space near the water and widening Main Street.

Residents and former members of the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee, with the support of Miller, have long sparred with the administration over the plan, citing fears that it would add too much density to what they want to be a quaint village, snarl traffic even further on busy roads and bring in more cars than there is space to park them.

Miller echoed those concerns on Tuesday, and said he also opposes adopting the plan for procedural reasons — he said he hasn’t yet seen a findings statement, which is a document certifying that the village met the requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act in its study of the plan’s environmental impact.

The village board approved that findings statement at Monday’s meeting.

Still, there have been voices of support for the plan, including from the other four board members and from other residents. And recent approval from the Suffolk County Planning Commission was the final stamp the village needed before adopting it.

While the commission issued a list of recommendations relating to the plan’s impact on traffic, density, taxes and parking, the village sent a response letter in which it disagreed that more study was required on most of those items. To the Planning Commission’s suggestion, for example, that the village conduct “an analysis of the impacts of increased rental housing” in Port Jefferson, the village responded in May that “it is unclear how the type of ownership status of housing units alone would impact community character, and the suggestion that because a property is a rental property that it would then have a negative impact on the community is unfounded.”

The village’s response also noted that the apartments would likely serve single adults and couples without children, which is “the same demographic that … Long Island is seeking to retain, as the young contribute to our workforce and the [retirement-aged residents] continue to enjoy recreation and spend using their discretionary income.”

Suffolk County Planning Director Sarah Lansdale wrote in an email later last month that the village gave the issues “proper procedural review” and took “a hard look at the issues raised by the commission.”

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the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will create a task force to combat the ongoing issue of homelessness in New York City subway system with similar plans underway for the Long Island Rail Road. File photo

By Dave Kapell

One of the strategies being widely discussed as a means of revitalizing the Long Island economy is the creation of transit-oriented developments, especially in downtowns served by the Long Island Rail Road. These developments are much needed and would serve multiple purposes — increasing housing options, enhancing downtown areas and providing places to live and work with easy access to and from New York City. But they are not new to Long Island. Greenport on the North Fork was a transit-oriented development in the mid-19th century and thus underscores the potential that this long-standing tradition still offers Long Island, if we can focus on mobility.

Ironically, when the LIRR’s track to Greenport was laid in 1844, it was not to provide transit access to New York City but to connect New York with Boston, because the technology did not yet exist to bridge Connecticut’s rivers. Greenport was, and still is, the terminus for the LIRR Main Line —aka the Ronkonkoma Branch — but its fundamental role at the time was to provide a transit connection to Boston by ferry. It was a two-way street for people and for commerce.

In the mid-19th century the only way to travel by train from New York City to Boston was by taking the LIRR from Brooklyn to Greenport, transferring there to a ferry to cross the Long Island Sound to Connecticut and then resuming train travel to Boston. Greenport, therefore, evolved naturally as a transit-oriented development with a thriving downtown that was created during this period with housing as well as jobs, commerce and robust population growth. That’s still a central appeal for the concept today, and it’s especially timely.

New York City is both the financial capital of the world and a powerful magnet for youth and talent. That makes it all the more important that Long Island build upon its proximity to the city by expanding transit access to its dynamic economy and the jobs it offers to Long Island residents and, as importantly, the talent pool it offers to support Long Island businesses. It’s also important to recognize that young people are much less inclined to drive cars than previous generations.

But there are two keys to maximizing that access. First, we need to make it easier to live and work near LIRR stations. The good news there is that the Long Island Index and the Regional Plan Association determined in 2010 that a total of 8,300 acres are available for infill development within a half-mile of LIRR stations and downtowns. That means that transit-oriented developments can enhance downtown areas while reducing pressure for development on Long Island’s iconic and treasured rural landscape.

Second, we must enhance the LIRR infrastructure to make reverse commuting — from New York City to Long Island — more available. On the 9.8-mile stretch of the LIRR Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville, we’re still using the same system of two tracks that were laid in 1844 when the Island population was 50,000. Today, 171 years later, we have the same two tracks and a population of 3 million. Six LIRR branches now converge on this bottleneck, turning it into a one-way street during the peak morning rush, making reverse commuting impossible.

At present, we cannot compete successfully with other suburban areas in the metropolitan region where reverse commuting by transit is readily available. The jobs and young people that we want are, therefore, going elsewhere. It defies common sense to think that Long Island can thrive in the 21st century with this critical defect in our transit system left in place.

The solution is to expand the current LIRR system of tracks to support Long Island’s economy, just as we did in 1844 when the track to Greenport was laid. Only now, we need to add a third track — or, as some call it, a Fast Track — to relieve the bottleneck between Floral Park and Hicksville. It is strangling the Long Island economy and, according to a recent report by the Long Island Index, building the Fast Track would relieve the problem and generate 14,000 new jobs, $5.6 billion in additional gross regional product, and $3 billion in additional personal income by 2035, 10 years after its completion.

The Long Island Rail Road remains an extraordinary resource, but it needs to be thought of again as a two-way street. We also need to think beyond the auto-dependent suburban model to a future where young people, who are the workforce of that future, have the option to live on Long Island or in the city and have easy transit access to jobs in either place.

Greenport knows the value of transit-oriented development arguably as well as any community on Long Island, because ferry, bus and rail facilities continue to power its reputation as a walkable village where people can live, shop, be entertained and get to work without driving. If Long Island now seizes on this time-honored track to success, the concept may well become fundamental to the revitalization of the region’s economy as well.

Dave Kapell, a resident of Greenport, served as mayor from 1994 to 2007. He is now a consultant to the Rauch Foundation, which publishes the Long Island Index.