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Flowerfield Fairgrounds

The Flowerfield Fairgrounds in St. James. File photo by Heidi Sutton

By Sabrina Artusa

The eventual fate of Flowerfield Fairgrounds continues to be uncertain, but New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is moving to acquire the property. In November, the DEC ordered an appraisal of the 63-acre Flowerfield site.

Since Gyrodyne, a property management company, started moving forward with a subdivision proposal to turn the fairgrounds into an updated layout suitable for development, St. James residents protested its advancement, stressing concerns over traffic, overdevelopment and the effects on Stony Brook Harbor. 

The DEC is expected to complete the evaluation of the property this year, according to Judith Ogden, board member of the Saint James-Head of the Harbor Neighborhood Preservation Coalition. She said, “Everything is moving along the way we would hope.”

Gyrodyne applied to create industrial lots and a new sewage treatment lot in 2022. 

Ogden and Joseph Bollhofer, also a board member of the coalition, wrote on the fairgrouds website, “We believe that we are well on our way to preserving the character of our community by preventing these massive development projects that would forever change our way of life. This includes some extremely negative consequences, among them intolerable traffic increases, groundwater and harbor contamination and the destruction of the North Country Road historic and scenic corridor.”

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said that he had no objection to the DEC acquiring the property from Gyrodyne, thus allowing the DEC to move forward. The DEC may use some of the state’s Environmental Protection Fund to pay for the acquisition. 

The coalition created a recommended plan for the property, which includes allotted area for commercial development and around 45 acres for open space.

“The first step is to save the undeveloped land, but we also have dreams and hopes for the developed land,” Ogden said. The coalition represents people who want to defend the fairgrounds from overdevelopment, although part of the property is already developed.

In April 2022, the coalition, the Village of the Head of the Harbor and 23 homeowners filed a lawsuit against Gyrodyne, the Town of Smithtown and the Smithtown Planning Board. The lawsuit has stalled the progression of Gyrodyne’s applications. 

Ogden said that many of the petitioners were removed by the judge, but that the lawsuit is advancing: 

“The ball is in [Gyrodyne’s] lap now … there is going to be some movement going forward.” 

The mansion at Thatch Meadow Farm. Photo by Raymond Janis

The global pandemic has cast a long shadow, obscuring the charm and dimming the collective spirit of our communities. Yet, within the confines lies a treasure trove of stories, traditions and a unique character that deserves not just protection but revival. Investing in community revitalization isn’t merely a budgetary line item but a strategic investment in the soul of the community.

The Suffolk County JumpSMART program is not a charity but a catalyst. The grants provided through the American Rescue Plan Act will inject much-needed resources into neighborhoods that may have been overlooked or bypassed by progress. This translates into restored facades, rejuvenated public spaces and the return of thriving businesses, but the true transformation lies deeper. It’s the rekindled pride in local heritage, the buzz of opportunity replacing the din of despair and the emergence of resilient communities.

We often see deterioration and neglect of history and community within our coverage area such as across Thatch Meadow Farm in St. James, according to Preservation Long Island’s recent declaration of several of the island’s historical landmarks to be endangered and in need of careful and conscientious TLC. Once again, Flowerfield Fairgrounds — also in St. James — is another community staple faced with the danger of being lost to development. 

Preserving historic sites and buildings isn’t about mere nostalgia but reclaiming a collective narrative, each restored landmark inspires tales of resilience and the paths of those who came before us. In revitalized communities, stories aren’t confined to dusty archives but instead sung in bustling marketplaces and etched in the smiles of returning residents. These revitalized landscapes will aid in the preservation of our cultural tapestry for future generations to explore and embrace.

Beyond the historical benefits, revitalization ignites economic engines, with improved infrastructure and a flourishing atmosphere, businesses return, drawing investment and creating jobs. Local talents find fertile ground for innovation, generating entrepreneurship and injecting newfound vitality into the economy. 

History isn’t something inherited, it’s something actively cultivated. Investing in community revitalization isn’t just about bricks and mortar but investing in a brighter future. It’s about revitalizing fading facades, restoring historic buildings and artifacts — and cultivating communities. We urge our readers to write us letters in support of the movement, as these actions are worthy goals in the coming year.

The Flowerfield Fairgrounds in St. James. File photo by Heidi Sutton
By Samantha Rutt

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recently advised the Town of Smithtown of its consideration to acquire Flowerfield Fairgrounds, a St. James community staple. Town Supervisor Edward Wehrheim (R) has stated no objection to NYSDEC acquiring the property.

Community residents strongly feel the importance of protecting this rural area from overdevelopment. The potential state acquisition signifies a breakthrough in the longstanding controversy over a proposal for sprawling commercial development on-site.

“This is a huge step forward in the fight to preserve Flowerfield Fairgrounds for future generations,” Judith Ogden, a Village of Head of the Harbor trustee and spokesperson for the Saint James-Head of the Harbor Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, said in a statement.

NYSDEC proposed using the Environmental Protection Fund to obtain the property. 

“New York State is committed to the conservation and protection of the state’s natural resources and recognizes the significant conservation values of the Gyrodyne property,” a NYSDEC official said. “The Environmental Protection Fund is one of the sources used to acquire lands identified as conservation priorities in the New York State Open Space Plan.” 

The Flowerfield property would then be used for open space preservation and conservation, potentially including active-use recreation amenities such as biking and walking trails.

“I am certainly happy about this development,” said Joe Bollhofer, also a member of the coalition. “We’ve been working on this for almost three years now.”

If not acquired by NYSDEC, the property has been proposed to facilitate a multistory, 125-room hotel, 175,000 square feet of office space, 250 assisted living housing units, a 7-acre sewage treatment plant and parking for more than 2,000 vehicles. 

The development plan was initially proposed by St. James-based Gyrodyne, a real estate investment trust firm that owns, leases and manages commercial properties along the Eastern Seaboard.

The state’s interest in preserving the land comes from discussions between NYSDEC, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), former New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and the Peconic Land Trust.

“The state has a tremendous interest in what happens to Stony Brook Harbor,” Englebright said. “The state owns 90% of the bottom” of Stony Brook Harbor.

“The water chemistry of the harbor is pristine right now, or nearly, so it will not be if they build what they have proposed for the Flowerfield property,” Englebright added. “It’s really a matter of protecting the state’s interest and the community’s interest.”

Interactions between the state and town regarding state efforts to preserve the open space portion of the site occurred several months after the Town of Smithtown rejected a controversial proposal to develop a congregate-care facility on nearby Bull Run Farm, citing the desire to protect the area’s rural character.

“Part of comprehensive planning in a community is thinking about how you’re going to develop space so that it works and you protect the integrity of the community,” Ogden said. “So if we look at that area, we don’t need to add more traffic volumes.”

The agreement between the state and town comes as the legal challenge brought upon by the Village of Head of the Harbor and nearby property owners opposing preliminary approval of the controversial plan remains tied up in the state Supreme Court. “Unfortunately, there are other issues involved here — environmental, et cetera,” Bollhofer noted.

Local residents have contributed generously to fund the coalition’s lawsuit to block Gyrodyne’s development plans from moving forward. In a press release in April 2021, Gyrodyne announced that it planned to sell the property and would consider offers for portions of the property or the entire site.

“There’s a lot of water under the bridge here,” Bollhofer said. “And we’re finally having some kind of movement from the state,” adding, “We don’t know if there’ll be other organizations that are going to be involved in helping to manage the property if it is purchased. But there are 48 acres, there’s still open space. … That’s really what we’re concentrating on right now.”

According to a recent statement by a NYSDEC representative, “The DEC has been involved in preliminary discussions with stakeholders regarding the property’s future conservation.”

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Debbie Moro and John Brown stand alongside their 2019 Polaris Slingshot. Photo by Sabrina Artusa

By Sabrina Artusa

Flowerfield Fairgrounds in St. James was transformed Sunday, Aug. 20, into a parking lot for some of the most unique cars on Long Island during the Long Island Cars Car Show and Swap Meet.

Visitors walked through lines of gleaming muscle cars, rusted antiques, military vehicles and cars of the rarest variety. Circling cars that piqued their interest, perhaps stopping to ask about a modified engine or to compliment the paint job, visitors learned about and admired vehicles from the past century. 

Tom Friday, the original owner of a 1974 Dodge Charger, has been bringing his car to shows for years. “Whenever you go, you see something different,” he said. “It’s a good day,” adding that his car is a special edition, with only eight others known to exist. 

Ted Broutzas with his 1987 Buick

Many owners became interested in cars early in their lives. Some were drawn to building up broken-down vehicles, while others preferred to “cruise and coast,” as veteran of the car industry John Stuaek put it. Others gravitate toward collecting and searching for rare cars to add to their store.

Bill Douglas is one of the former. Surrounded by pristine hot rods and muscle cars, Douglas showcased his “rat rod,” a custom car made from a motley of different parts. He bought the stripped-down 1929 Ford through Facebook Marketplace and worked on making it his own.

“I buy project cars, spend a year [and] a lot of money,” he said of the process of building a car. “I like building more than driving.”

Visitors weren’t the only ones examining the cars, however. Judges were also visiting each vehicle, analyzing its cleanliness and workmanship. The judges evaluated the wheels, engine, manuals and body exterior, among other factors. 

Douglas said he likes how “tight, helpful and nice” the community is. “Everyone’s got a story,” he said. Owners are often eager to share their car’s background.

Multitime competition winner Ted Broutzas, who owns a 1987 Buick, said the film “Star Wars” heavily inspired his all-black car. He underscored this by putting toys and mementos from the franchise in his trunk. 

The car was discontinued soon after its release, making it valuable to collectors. Broutzas said his car is like “the left side of his body,” and he doesn’t have plans to sell.

Several people complained about the negative image the community can have among those who are unfamiliar with it. “They think we are just a bunch of hot-rodders racing down the street,” said Frank Coppola, one of the show’s organizers. “But we get guys who have cars that are like part of their family.”

“Long Island Cars has done a lot” to “change the way people think about older cars,” he added.

The car community may be expensive and competitive, but the community is also a resource to its members. Coppola said he frequently connects people with others who may be selling what the other is buying. 

Parts can sometimes cost thousands of dollars. Coppola recalled an instance when a friend of his, having wrecked the fender of his 1927 Chevy convertible, bought a car just for the part necessary to fix his convertible.

“Sometimes the part is worth more than the car,” he noted.

As shown by the turnout at the show, the price is worth it for these hobbyists. “I don’t make a heck of a lot of money but have a heck of a lot of fun,” Stuaek said.

"Long Island Cars" Car Show & Swap Meet returns to Flowerfield Fairground in Saint James this Sunday, bringing together hot rods, muscle cars, antiques and custom automobiles like this 1956 Oldsmobile.  Photo by Phyllis Aquino / Courtesy of Long Island Cars

Update: DUE TO THE THREAT OF SEVERE WEATHER ON SUN AUG 22, LONG ISLAND CARS HAS RESCHEDULED THEIR CAR SHOW FOR SUNDAY AUGUST 29TH.

Long Island Cars will present their “Super Swap Sunday” Car Show and Swap Meet on Sunday, August 22 at Flowerfield Fairgrounds on Route 25A in Saint James from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a rain date of Aug. 29.

Once a turn of the century flower farm, the Fairgrounds will be filled with classic and collectible automobiles including show cars from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, one-of-a-kind custom cars, antiques, exotics, street rods, muscle cars and imports. Show cars will be competing in 50 classes for coveted “Long Island Cars” impressive trophies.

The event will also include a signature swap meet with well stocked vendors offering older parts, literature and accessories for swap and sale.  If you are looking for those rare car parts to complete your custom or collectible car, this is the event you’ll find them. If you are looking to buy a dream car, check out the car for sale section where owners will be selling cars directly to the public. You’ll experience live music by “The Fugitives”, fun fair food and more.

Flowerfield Fairgrounds is located on Route 25A in St. James.  L.I.E. 62 North, take Nicolls Rd (Rte 97) North to the end, make a left /west on Route 25A for 2 miles (GPS coordinates: Ashleigh Dr & North Country Rd, 11780).

Admission is $10 adults, 12 years and under are free; free parking. Follow CDC mask and soclal distance guidance for entry. Show or sell your collectible car with admission. Judged cars and vendors register at the gate between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. For more information, call 631-567-5898 or visit www.LongIslandCars.com.