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Ed Romaine

Mount Sinai Harbor. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Councilwoman Jane Bonner is getting by with a little help from a friend.

Bonner (C-Rocky Point) has aided the Town of Brookhaven to begin a long overdue jetty reconstruction project in Mount Sinai Harbor. She, along with Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and others on the town board, helped secure $5.6 million in town funding to go toward rebuilding the east and west jetties at the mouth of the harbor. The project will increase boater safety making navigation easier and could allow dredging that will bring back the winter shell-fishing season.

The issue has been a top priority for Bonner since 2010, when her office commissioned a study along with the Army Corps of Engineers to assess the need for improvements to the jetties, she said during a press conference Sept. 19 at Mount Sinai Yacht Club.

At the time, rocks had collapsed, submerging the seaward ends of the jetties at high tide, and the elevation of the jetty stones above the water at high tide was less than four feet in some places. Bonner and Romaine saw a more pressing need to address the problem after Hurricane Irene, Superstorm Sandy and other storms caused further damage, though they weren’t able to secure enough funding to complete the project until this year.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner thanks state Sen. Ken LaValle for helping to secure $3 million in funding to rebuild jetties in Mount Sinai Harbor. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Councilwoman Jane Bonner thanks state Sen. Ken LaValle for helping to secure $3 million in funding to rebuild jetties in Mount Sinai Harbor. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Bonner reached out to state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) to see if his department could kick in some additional funds to help the town reach the $10 million budget needed to complete the project.

Initially, LaValle offered Bonner $1 million.

“I was not shy, I was not embarrassed to tell him it wasn’t good enough and that we needed more money,” she said. “He actually called me at home to let me know. His first words were, ‘How’s $3 million, is that enough?’ And I said, ‘It’ll have to do Senator,’ so thank you from the bottom of my heart.’”

LaValle helped secure an extra $2 million with the help of senate majority leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport).

“From day one I’ve always had as my mantra that local control was very, very important,” LaValle said. “It is nothing but a pleasure working with Supervisor Romaine and [Councilwoman Bonner], who is always looking out for her council district, and always says, ‘Senator, I could use your help.’ It’s working with the localities to identify the problems, and make it a priority. That’s how we started with $1 million and ended up with $3 million to get this done.”

Reconstructing the jetties, according to Bonner, is critical for thousands of residents who utilize Mount Sinai Harbor for recreational and commercial reasons.

“This peninsula is not just a yacht club — we have working boatyards, we have recreational fisherman, we have fishermen and women that derive their income from this harbor,” Bonner said standing on the porch of the club. “This is truly a hub — it’s a working harbor and we are very fortunate and very blessed to be surrounded by so many people that will benefit from this project being done.”

John Howell, commodore for the Mount Sinai Yacht Club, said he has witnessed how dangerous the waters have been first hand.

“This is truly a hub — it’s a working harbor and we are very fortunate and very blessed to be surrounded by so many people that will benefit from this project being done.”

—Jane Bonner

He said he’s boated through Hell Gate, a narrow tidal straight in the East River that has the reputation of being unsafe, and said even that doesn’t compare to his harbor.

“I’ve been through Hell Gate many times through many conditions, and I can attest that our little entrance here is worse than Hell Gate,” he said.

The undertaking will help improve boater safety, as there is a large sand bar that extends deep through the middle of the channel that boats get stuck on, but according to Romaine, as part of replacing the jetties, Suffolk County has agreed to also do interface dredging at the mouth of the harbor once the jetty has been rebuilt and stabilized. As a result, winter shell fishing could resume. The harbor was closed for shell fishing for the first time last winter.

The Town of Brookhaven is hoping for added assistance from the neighboring Village of Port Jefferson, which will directly benefit from the project.

According to Romaine, the east jetty is collapsing and creating an erosion problem at Port Jefferson Village Beach. Brookhaven Town is the only municipality in charge of a jetty. The Army Corps of Engineers maintains all other jetties on Long Island but the Mount Sinai Harbor’s. While the town has always budgeted the $5.6 million, it could never get the rest of the funding needed, so now with LaValle’s contribution, Bonner said she hopes Port Jefferson Village will “step up to the plate with the difference” because the area would “benefit greatly from these two jetties.”

Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant did not respond to requests for comment.

Ralph Davenport, from Ralph’s Fishing Station & Marina in Mount Sinai, said he is excited to hear the harbor will be a safer place for recreational and commercial boaters.

“If you were a person who didn’t know this harbor and were looking for a safe place to come in, odds are that you would crash on the way in,” he said. “Big boats used to be able to come in and out of this harbor years ago, with no problem at all, and now it’s a hazard. It used to be the easiest harbor on the North Shore to navigate in, and now it’s one of the worst. So hopefully next year’s time we’ll dig the sandbar out of the way enough where the people can navigate safely again.”

Algae built up on a lake where birds and other marina life inhabit. File photo

By Rebecca Anzel

Long Island’s economic prosperity and quality of life are at risk from an unlikely source, but both the Suffolk County and Town of Brookhaven governments are taking steps to combat the issue.

Bodies of water in the county face nitrogen pollution, which leads to harmful algae blooms and a decrease in shellfish population, among other environmental defects. Critically, nitrogen seeps into the Island’s groundwater, which is the region’s only source of drinking water.

Fishing, tourism and boating are billion-dollar industries in Suffolk County — approximately 60 percent of the Island’s economy is reliant on clean water. County property values are also tied to water clarity, according to a Stony Brook University report.

Nitrogen enters ground and surface water from various sources of runoff, such as landscaping, agriculture and pet waste. But the largest contributor of nitrogen pollution is failing septic systems, which County Executive Steve Bellone (D) designated as “public water enemy No. 1.”

Elected officials and environmental advocates gathered at the home of Jim and Donna Minei, recipients of a Innovative and Alternative Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems through the Suffolk County Septic Demonstration Pilot Program. Photo from Steve Bellone's office
Elected officials and environmental advocates gathered at the home of Jim and Donna Minei, recipients of a Innovative and Alternative Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems through the Suffolk County Septic Demonstration Pilot Program. Photo from Steve Bellone’s office

Which is why Bellone signed into law last month a resolution that amended Suffolk County’s sanitary code to help protect the county’s aquifer and surface water by improving wastewater treatment technologies to combat nitrogen pollution as part of the county’s Reclaim Our Water initiative.

“It doesn’t help our tourism industry, our quality of life or our ecosystems,” county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said of issues with the Island’s water. “Tackling the nitrogen problem, while not a sexy issue, is a very important one.” Hahn is chairwoman of the county’s Environment, Planning & Agriculture Committee.

Town and county officials are tackling the problem by utilizing what Hahn called a “multipronged approach.” Brookhaven is working to track any issues with outfalls, where drains and sewers empty into local waters, and Suffolk County is employing alternative septic systems.

Municipalities like Brookhaven are required by New York State to inspect each point where waste systems empty into a body of water and create a map of their location. It is part of a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit because, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, storm sewers collect pollutants like bacteria, motor oil, fertilizer, heavy metals and litter, and deposit them directly into bodies of water.

In addition to conducting the inspections of outfalls necessary to comply with the MS4 permit, the Town of Brookhaven conducts a DNA analysis of any outfall that has indications of impacting water quality. Since 2007, Brookhaven has spent more than $880,000 on this state requirement, Veronica King, the town’s stormwater manager, said.

“You want to put your resources where it makes the most sense,” she said. “Instead of dumping millions of dollars into structural retrofits that don’t address the true problem, the DNA analysis helps us to prioritize and make educated and cost-effective decisions.”

Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said Brookhaven contracts with Cornell Cooperative Extension because it maintains a DNA “library” of Long Island wildlife, which it uses to identify the source of any pathogens in collected stormwater. For instance, if the DNA tests conclude they came from pets, Brookhaven might conduct an educational campaign to remind residents to clean up after their furry friends. If the pathogens come from a human source, there might be an issue with a septic system.

“This type of analysis could prove of great importance because any patterns identified as a result of this study can help determine what next steps can be taken to improve water quality where necessary,” Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said.

Brookhaven has applied for a state grant to help pay for these DNA tests and outfall inspections for the first time this year, because, King said, this is the first time New York State has offered a grant to cover the work.

The DNA tests are important, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said, because they help to identify ways to decrease the amount of nitrogen seeping into groundwater.

“The amount of nitrogen in the Magothy aquifer layer has increased over 200 percent in 13 years,” he said of one of the sub-layers that is most commonly tapped into in Suffolk, although not the deepest in the aquifer. “Cleaning up our waterways is not going to be done overnight — this is going to take a long time — but the waterways did not become polluted overnight.”

Suffolk County launched its Septic Demonstration Program to install cesspool alternative systems in 2014, called Innovative and Alternative Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (known as I/A OWTS), on the property of participants. Manufacturers of the technology donated the systems and installed them at no cost to the homeowner.

The county’s goal in testing these alternative systems is to lower the levels of nitrogen seeping into groundwater. According to a June 2016 Stony Brook University report, “the approximately 360,000 septic tank/leaching systems and cesspools that serve 74 percent of homes across Suffolk County have caused the concentrations of nitrogen in groundwater to rise by 50 percent since 1985.”

More than 10,000 of the nitrogen-reducing systems are installed in New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts and Rhode Island — all areas with similar environmental concerns to Suffolk County — according to the county executive’s office. County employees met with officials from these states to help shape its program.

“Tackling the nitrogen problem, while not a sexy issue, is a very important one.”

—Kara Hahn

The I/A OWTS installations worked out so well during a demonstration program that on July 26, the county passed a resolution to allow the Department of Health Services to regulate their use.

Typical cesspools are estimated to cost between $5,000 and $7,000 to install. The low nitrogen systems cost between $12,000 and $20,000, Hahn said. She added that as more areas facing similar environmental concerns require lower nitrogen standards and, as the technology improves, the cost of cesspool alternatives will go down.

Until then, Hahn said county officials have been discussing the possibility of subsidizing the cost of installing the I/A OWTS. It might begin requiring new homes to install low-nitrogen systems instead of traditional cesspools. Or, upon an old system’s failure, it might require an I/A OWTS be installed.

“We hope to eventually be able to help in some way,” she said.

County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said she hopes local businesses begin producing the alternative systems that the county determines best work for the area since it would “keep the economic dollar here” and provide jobs.

In January, Brookhaven will be the first town, Romaine said, that will begin mandating new constructions within 500 feet of any waterway to install an alternative wastewater treatment system.

“I think alternative systems work,” he said. “In many ways, even though we’re a local government, we are on the cutting edge of clean water technologies.”

Both the initiatives by Brookhaven and Suffolk County “go hand and glove,” George Hoffman, of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said. Many of Suffolk’s harbors and bays are struggling due to stormwater and nitrogen pollution, including Great South Bay, Lake Ronkonkoma, Northport Harbor, Forge River, Port Jefferson Harbor, Mount Sinai Harbor and Peconic River/Peconic Bay.

“Living on an island on top of our water supply and with thousands of homes along the shores of our harbors and bays, it never made sense to allow cesspools to proliferate,” he said.

The success of the initiatives, though, depends on residents.

“The public needs to be always recognizing that whatever we do on land here on Long Island and in Suffolk County affects not only the drinking water beneath us but the quality of our bays and waterways, streams and rivers all around us,” Hahn said. “It’s critically important that folks have that understanding. Everything we do on land affects our water here on the Island.”

Incident raises questions about high occupancy and code enforcement

A deck collapses at a home on Old Field Road, injuring at least two. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

By Rebecca Anzel

A party at an East Setauket home Aug. 26, attended by about 400 people was interrupted around 11 p.m. when an elevated deck holding 50 to 100 attendees collapsed. Two people were injured and taken to Stony Brook University Hospital, Brookhaven Town officials said.

The 10-foot high, 43-year-old deck did not violate any town codes, according to a town building inspector, but it was unclear if the structure had been inspected since it was built.

The home was illegally converted into living quarters for eight people. An investigation found it did not have carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, and had illegal key locks on interior doors and a broken basement window.

These types of changes, officials said, make it difficult for emergency personnel.

“The deck collapse that occurred this past weekend is a prime example of the serious safety hazards that exist when our governmental codes and laws are violated,” Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said. “The numerous violations at this location jeopardize the health, the safety and the wellness of the home occupants as well as the visitors to the home on that evening.”

The homeowner, identified by officials as Zeyit Aydinli, will appear in Sixth District court Oct. 27 in Patchogue. He paid fines of an undisclosed amount in May for code violations on the same property.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said the town plans to pursue legal action against Zeyit.

“We are not settling this case.his case is going to go the distance unless the homeowner wishes to enter a guilty plea.”

—Ed Romaine

“We are not settling this case,” Romaine said. “This case is going to go the distance unless the homeowner wishes to enter a guilty plea.”

He added that no one has been arrested for underage drinking, though three people have been ticketed for violating the county’s social host law, which holds homeowners responsible for underage drinking on their property. Those names were not released, but have been shared with Stony Brook University.

Timothy Ecklund, dean of students at the university, said many of those who attended the party were most likely university students, but there is no way to determine an exact number.

The university is working with town officials to learn as much as possible about the incident, and “appropriate action” will be taken in accordance with university student policy.

Nearby neighbor Lauren Krupp called the police the night of the party to complain about the noise. She said police told her there was already a patrol car in the area. Soon after, Krupp said she heard a loud noise and speculated later it was the sound of the deck collapsing.

Krupp spoke about her interactions with the first group of students to inhabit the house, last year at this time.

“They were very polite young men who introduced themselves,” she said. “We visited the house once and there was a big banner with Greek letters. It appeared that they were a fraternity.”

Krupp said she hopes the incident can be a learning experience.

“I hope this leads to some reform,” Krupp said. “It’s just not appropriate for the neighborhood. It’s lucky there was not a more serious outcome.”

Donna Newman contributed reporting.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilwoman Jane Bonner were on-site in Rocky Point for the knocking down of a zombie home on Monroe Street earlier this year. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

By Wenhao Ma

Brookhaven Town is doing everything it can to clean up neighborhoods in their area.

The town board unanimously passed a resolution to submit a grant application to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services to request funding for the Town Fire Marshals’ Anti-Blight Housing Code Enforcement Project July 21.

The town hopes to receive $25,000 from the state government to help with the cost of assessing neglected homes.

The Anti-Blight Housing Code Enforcement Project, according to town spokesman Kevin Molloy, has been going on for three-and-a-half years. It was designed to assess the abandoned properties that have harmful conditions and come up with resolutions to either repair or remove them. All the grant money, if approved, will be spent on the assessments of the homes. A mobile app is being developed for residents to report blighted buildings.

Molloy said the town’s law department and the fire marshal are responsible for the assessments. If the town attorney or fire marshal determines a house to be a threat to the neighborhood, the town may contact the owner, or when necessary, demolish the house, according to Brookhaven Town Code. The owner will be charged with the cost of tearing down the building.

“With every demolition, every property cleanup and every court case we pursue, we are turning communities around and giving people the quality of life that they deserve.”

— Dan Panico

Molloy said blighted properties can be a real danger to residents. People who enter a house that is unsafe may hurt themselves and, if the condition of the property constitutes a fire hazard, it could endanger the surrounding buildings and residents.

Safety is not the only reason for the town to establish such a project. Property values of homes suffer when an unkempt house is nearby.

One abandoned house in the neighborhood, Molloy said, could decrease the value of all the houses in the vicinity. By demolishing it, the project helps boost the value of other properties.

Eliminating “zombie homes” has long been a battle taken up by current board members.

“With every demolition, every property cleanup and every court case we pursue,” said Councilman Dan Panico (R-Manorville) July 15 in a statement after the demolition of an abandoned house in Mastic, “we are turning communities around and giving people the quality of life that they deserve.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) was on site for a demolition on Monroe Street in Rocky Point in June.

“Nearly every community in Brookhaven Town has been hit by the increase of vacant, neglected houses,” Romaine said. “Unfortunately, many of them are run-down and not secure from animals and squatters. We will continue to clean up properties.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) also attended the Rocky Point demolition.

“I am very happy for the residents that live on the street,” she said following the demolition. “Some stopped by during the demolition just to say how very thankful they were that it was coming down.”

With the help of the grant money, more homes could be demolished in an effort to clean up the neighborhoods of the North Shore.

U.S. Rep urges to cease dumping waste into Long Island Sound

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin calls on EPA to keep commitment to permanently close Long Island Sound disposal sites. Photo from Lee Zeldin

The Long Island Sound shouldn’t be used as a “dumping ground.”

That’s what U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Long Island Sound Caucus, had to say while overlooking the Long Island Sound at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai on July 29. While there, he called on the Environmental Protection Agency to keep its commitment to permanently close the Eastern Long Island Sound disposal sites. The congressman also called on the EPA to expedite the process to phase out the Western and Central Long Island Sound disposal sites.

“The Long Island Sound shouldn’t be a dumping ground, especially when there are many viable alternatives to open-water dumping, including recycling and safe disposal on land,” he said.

On April 27, the EPA issued a proposed rule, the “Ocean Disposal; Designation of a Dredged Material Disposal Site in Eastern Region of Long Island Sound; Connecticut (81 FR 24748),” which would continue open water dumping of dredge waste in the Eastern Long Island Sound for up to 30 years, despite the agency previously committing to close both disposal sites, Cornfield Shoals and New London, by Dec. 23 of this year. Last month, on June 30, Zeldin sent a letter to the administrator of the EPA opposing the proposed rule. On July 7, the EPA announced a final rule that continues open water dumping at the Central and Western Long Island Sound dump sites, while phasing these sites out over the next 30 years.

“The EPA should immediately reverse this proposal and honor their previous commitment to permanently close the Eastern Long Island Sound disposal sites by the end of this year.”

—Lee Zeldin

“This proposal is unacceptable,” Zeldin said. “The EPA should immediately reverse this proposal and honor their previous commitment to permanently close the Eastern Long Island Sound disposal sites by the end of this year. We need a much more aggressive path to phasing out open water dumping at these sites in the Long Island Sound.”

When the Eastern Long Island Sound disposal sites were created by the EPA in 2012, it was explicitly for “short-term, limited use,” but now the agency is moving to keep one or more of these sites open for up to 30 years. Zeldin expressed his support for phasing out open water dumping at these sites in the Long Island Sound over a period of five to 10 years, and expressed major concerns with ecological impacts on the Long Island Sound.

“The Long Island Sound, an EPA designated Estuary of National Significance and one of the nation’s most populated watersheds, is a cultural and natural treasure that provides a diverse ecosystem with more than 170 species of fish, over 1,200 invertebrates and many different species of migratory birds,” he said. “The Sound is also essential to the everyday economy and livelihood of millions of Long Islanders. Over the years, water quality on Long Island has suffered severely from issues such as pollution and overdevelopment.”

Congressman Zeldin was joined by local elected officials and environmental groups who backed up his argument and supported his proposals.

“I stand with New York’s state and federal elected officials and administrators in condemning this poor excuse of a document in the strongest terms,” said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. “Just in the last few years we have started to enjoy the benefits of a cleaner Long Island Sound. I cannot understand why the EPA would or should allow this plan to undo the hard and expensive work that has been done over the last two decades to restore the Long Island Sound. We simply must do better.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) agreed.

“The Town of Brookhaven is doing so much to keep the Long Island Sound and our other waterways clean, and this disposal site expansion plan is a real threat to our progress,” she said.

Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Adrienne Esposito, said the Eastern Long Island Sound is the most biologically diverse portion of the nationally important estuary.

“Continuing the use of our Sound as a dump site stymies restoration efforts,” she said. “It prevents the advancement of a long-term program for beneficial reuse of dredged materials.”

New Mobi-Mats make sand easier to navigate for those with wheelchairs, other mobility devices

Deputy Parks Commissioner Rob Maag, Councilwoman Jane Bonner, Aisha Grundmann, Supervisor Ed Romaine Jason Soricelli, Program Supervisor for Wheelchair Programs, and Alex Grundmann, stand on a new Mobi-Mat at Cedar Beach West in Mount Sinai. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

By Rebecca Anzel

Brookhaven is laying the groundwork to make its beaches more accessible to residents.

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) announced new sand surfacing mats, called Mobi-Mats, at Cedar Beach West in Mount Sinai and West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook.

“The mats open up opportunities that didn’t exist before for people that, whatever the reason, the sand was not easy to navigate,” Bonner said. “So often times they wouldn’t go to the beach.”

The nonslip, semi-rigid roll-up beach access mats, completely made from recycled polyester roll by New Jersey company Deschamps Mats Systems Inc., enable residents who are elderly or using wheelchairs, crutches, strollers or other mobility devices to more easily traverse sandy beaches. They are low maintenance — the tear-resistant, permeable structure allows sand to filter through — and are easily maintained by removing any excess sand buildup with a broom or leaf blower. Mobi-Mats have already been used at beaches in Nassau County, including Jones Beach, and by the Marine Corps for the past 20 years in vehicular beach landing operations.

Accomplishing this project was easy, Bonner said. She saw a picture of the Mobi-Mats online over the winter and showed it to Parks Commissioner Ed Morris, who ordered them. “Everything in government should be that simple,” she said.

Rocky Point resident Aisha Grundmann said the mats are “wonderful” and installing them was “a great idea.” Her son Alex, 11, uses a wheelchair and asks to go to Cedar Beach more frequently now that he knows the mats make it easier for him to navigate across the sand.

“Multiple people have asked Alex for a beach playdate now, where they otherwise maybe wouldn’t have,” she said. “I can’t think of a more accepting community.”

Alex, who is going into fifth grade, is a local advocate for greater mobility not just for wheelchairs, but for everyone. He influenced improvements to the playgrounds and restrooms at his school to make them more handicap-accessible.

“The feedback for this project has been some of the most positive feedback I’ve ever received since I’ve been in office,” Bonner said.

Cedar Beach West and West Meadow Beach are just the first of Brookhaven’s beaches to get the mats. According to a town spokesman, Brookhaven purchased three — and there are plans to expand the program.

“They will be placed at some point at all of our beaches to allow people with disabilities or physical limitations to also enjoy the beach — one of the great pastimes on Long Island,” Romaine said. “We think this has a large impact on people’s lives.”

He added that for wheelchair-bound Brookhaven residents, beaches also have “beach-ready” chairs with larger wheels available upon request from the lifeguards.

Mobi-Mats are available for use between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

DEC officials help return nearly 2,000 illegally harvested oysters to local waters this week. Photo from Brookhaven Town.

The world is not your oyster.

Brookhaven Town and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation thwarted offenders on Friday who they said, in two unrelated incidents on June 30 and July 3, illegally harvested oysters from the Long Island Sound near Flax Pond in Old Field and Mount Sinai Harbor respectively. Between the two incidents nearly 2,000 oysters were seized and returned to their habitats.

On June 30 Brookhaven Harbormaster stationed in Port Jefferson Harbor received a tip that oysters smaller in size than three inches — which is below the allowable size for harvest — were being taken from the Sound. Following an inspection by DEC officials, violations were issued to the oystermen and the animals were returned to the water.

DEC officials help return nearly 2,000 illegally harvested oysters to local waters this week. Photo from Brookhaven Town.
DEC officials help return nearly 2,000 illegally harvested oysters to local waters this week. Photo from Brookhaven Town.

“I applaud the actions of our Harbormasters and the DEC,” Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), whose district includes Port Jefferson Harbor said in a statement Friday. “Shellfish are vital to our harbor, providing a natural means of removing harmful nitrogen from our waters. I urge residents to both respect harvesting laws and to get involved in our local mariculture programs that help cultivate the shellfish populations in our harbors and bays.”

On July 3 four people harvested oysters from illegal areas of Mount Sinai Harbor, according to the town. Brookhaven Town Bay constables witnessed the violation, seized the oysters and returned them to the harbor.

Mount Sinai Harbor falls within Councilwoman Jane Bonner’s (C-Rocky Point) district.

“It is very disappointing when people break the law without any concern for its effect on the environment,” Bonner said in a statement. “For many years, shellfish were over harvested and we are now working hard to increase their population. I urge anyone who knows of illegal shell fishing to report it to the Town or DEC.”

The statement from the town stressed the importance of protecting shellfish in Long Island waters.

“Increasing the number of oysters and other shellfish in our waterways helps to reduce the abundance of algae that can lead to fish kills and diminished oxygen concentration and thus improve water quality,” town officials said. “Oysters feed on floating microscopic algae by filtering them out of the overlying water. One adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day.”

Former Brookhaven Town councilwoman and environmental activist Regina “Reggie” Seltzer “died overlooking the gardens she ardently tended and the Great South Bay, two of her favorite places,” read a death notice in the New York Times July 1.

She died at her Bellport home June 29 at the age of 86.

Seltzer is survived by her son Eric, his wife Nealle and three granddaughters: Veronica, Jean and Bryn.

Reggie Seltzer left behind a legacy of good works.

In 1979, Seltzer was named Woman of the Year in Environment by this newspaper.

At that time, she was recognized by Cathy McKeen, who wrote: “Since she won a seat on Brookhaven’s Town Board four years ago Regina Seltzer has been an advocate of protecting the environment.”

Village Times honoree Regina Seltzer. Photo from Sherry Binnington
Village Times honoree Regina Seltzer. Photo from Sherry Binnington

McKeen went on to list her many accomplishments, among them the creation of the town’s Department of Environmental Protection, advocating zoning reform to address haphazard planning and growth and a new sanitary code.

Seltzer was born to Jewish parents in Poland in 1929. Three years later, seeing the injustice and brutality inflicted upon Jews in their town — and fearing what would follow — her parents left Poland, bound for Palestine. In 1937, they followed family and immigrated to New York.

As an adult, Seltzer first worked as a school teacher and librarian, according to Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine (R), who eulogized her at the start of the June 30 town board meeting.

She was a councilwoman and member of the town’s planning board. She had returned to school to earn a law degree in her 50s and worked on many environmental issues, often pro bono. She was a true civic leader, Romaine said.

“[Reggie] made a huge difference in the Town of Brookhaven,” said Romaine. “She was brighter than light, easy to work with, principled, honest, straightforward — someone that we’ll all miss in this town government. … I’ve ordered flags at Town Hall to fly at half mast in her honor.”

Friends and colleagues also expressed their grief at the board meeting. Sherry Binnington, of Bellport, met Seltzer in the 1960s, when they became neighbors.

“Reggie Seltzer was a genuine person who had a conscience and was concerned about other people,” Binnington said during the public participation part of the meeting. “She believed that you should try to do everything you can when you see things that are not right.”

Another activist and friend, MaryAnn Johnston, had this to say, “When I first started working as an activist, Reggie was a source of constant encouragement and inspiration.

“She taught me how to do this work … with an uplifted heart. And to celebrate the victories — that they’d be few and far between, but that when you did the job well, they would matter and they would last. It would be what you left behind.”

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilwoman Jane Bonner. File photo

Long Island residents who go to National Grid for their gas may be paying more come January 2017, but not if the Town of Brookhaven has anything to say about it.

The Brookhaven town board passed a resolution, with a unanimous vote June 30, opposing the company’s proposed rate increase that was announced in January. Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) sponsored the resolution, though all six board members asked to be added as co-sponsors prior to voting.

“This is an outrageous rate hike — it will impose a burden,” Romaine said in a phone interview last week. “We think it’s far too great.”

The increase would cost National Grid’s approximately 570,000 Long Island customers about $160 annually on top of what they already pay, according to a statement from the company in January. The increase would be about 12 percent.

Wendy Ladd, a spokeswoman for the company, responded to the resolution in an email Tuesday.

“We feel our proposals and the costs associated with them are essential to provide customers with safe and reliable gas service, enhance storm resiliency, expand the availability of gas service, help reduce methane, support our neediest customers, and to make the investments required to upgrade and modernize aging infrastructure and grow the system to meet the needs of a 21st century clean energy economy for years to come,” Ladd said.

Romaine said there is a precedent for the town intervening in battles over costs with utility companies. Last year, Brookhaven took on Long Island Power Authority in a similar case.

“LIPA now knows that we, if nothing else, will be watchdogs for the citizens of Brookhaven,” Romaine said.

National Grid New York’s President Ken Daly commented on the matter in January.

“National Grid has invested more than $4.5 billion over the past decade to modernize and build a safer and more reliable natural gas system for our customers. During this period of time, we have also maintained stable delivery rates for our customers,” he said in a statement. “Now, as we respond to the need to invest even more into our aging gas networks and prepare for the future needs of our customers, the investments required to provide this service have increased. The proposals will allow us to accelerate our gas main replacement program, improve critical customer service, and ensure that we have a modernized and technologically advanced natural gas system for our customers and the communities we serve, now and in the future.”

The Brookhaven town board is not against a rate hike altogether, though members said they would like to see it greatly reduced.

The resolution read in part: “the cost of living on Long Island is already astronomical partly due to high utility costs, placing a heavy burden on the residents of Long Island … residents are leaving Long Island in search of better opportunity and a lower cost of living.”

The resolution concluded with the board’s intention to “send a letter in opposition to the proposed rate hikes by National Grid and the Department of Public Service.”

National Grid’s January statement said the rate increases would allow them to significantly increase the gas main replacement program and improve technology in flood-prone areas, among other benefits.

The proposal will be reviewed by the New York State Department of Public Service before it is approved.

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Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, Brookhaven Historian Barbara Russell, Kerri Glynn, Old Field Farms President Sally Lynch, Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn pose for a photo in front the clubhouse. Photo by Giselle Barkley

In the early 1930s, Setauket’s Old Field Club was a recreational hotspot that brought community members together for various events or programs. Now 87 years later, the club is still a reminder of Three Village’s past — especially now that it’s on the National Register of Historic Places.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) designated Wednesday, March 9, as Old Field Club and Farm Day in the town in honor of that club’s newfound status. He joined Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Brookhaven Historian Barbara Russell, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), club member Kerri Glynn and Old Field Farm President Sally Lynch this week to pay tribute to the site and look ahead.

While some clubs have had its setbacks with fires, the Old Field Club’s clubhouse is still the original structure designed by architect Richard Haviland Smythe. Smythe didn’t only design the clubhouse but also the beach cabanas — his original court layout included a plan for the cabanas, which was modified due to storm damage and increased demand for cabanas.

Glynn helped to start the effort to register the club, its farm and the nearby beach and cabanas around three years ago. She said she saw other historically designated buildings and clubs throughout the county with similar stories, making the Old Field Club on West Meadow Road an obvious choice.

“I looked around at various other clubs like [Old Field Club] in the area, like the St. George club and Nissequogue club, and they had both had fires that destroyed their buildings,” Glynn said. “It occurred to me that [Old Field Club] was a very special building.”

Cartright, who represents the town’s historic 1st District, said the designation was not only appropriate, but also necessary for preserving the North Shore’s character.

“The Old Field Club, farm and out buildings reflect the past of the Three Village area all the way back to the 1930s,” Cartright said in an email. “The club continues to serve as a location for community gatherings nearly a century later.  It is a staple in our community.”

Glynn, who has been a member since 1977, added, “the preservation of the beach and cabanas is especially important in light of the loss of the West Meadow cottages.”

The cottages were also added to the register after they were destroyed in the early 2000s. Romaine said that members of the community felt the property should be a natural beach at the time.

The cottages as well as the club were part of the Old Field South, a property subdivision that was being established at the time.

“Having a beach, swimming, tennis club to augment the sale was very much apart of the social life in the 1920s and 1930s,” Russell said.

Members paid $50 per visit at the time to use the club and attend programs and events. Various events were open to all community members, including the North Shore ball. The ball, one of the most important social events at the time, was held at the Old Field Club. The club also organized a number of dances for teenagers, which attracted countless teens.

The Old Field farm grounds were also used for horse shows. The 13.2-acre parcel is divided into the main barn complex and the horse show grounds.

A schoolhouse was also built on the property but was not included in the National Register of Historic Places alongside the clubhouse, farm and beach and cabanas because the building is privately owned.

Although Long Island is bustling with historic sites like the club, Russell said sites must be at least 50-years-old and must have a clear important historic significance, which Old Field certainly satisfied.

Some sites like the Old Field Club have more than one qualification — the club was placed on the register for its social and agricultural significance. The clubhouse includes a large ballroom with four sets of French doors among other characteristics.

Romaine commended those involved, for helping preserve this historic landmark.

“The work done by our historian [and] by these individuals involved, has ensured that these structures [the clubhouse and farm] will forever remain as they are,” Romaine said. “They can be improved upon but they can’t be changed and this piece of history…will forever be with us and remind us of our past.”