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Fort Salonga

Photo courtesy PSEG Long Island

PSEG Long Island is working toward improving the reliability of the energy grid in Fort Salonga. The storm hardening work on this distribution circuit is part of many system improvements included in the “Power On” program.

“We are working hard to reduce the number of outages that occur during severe weather by strengthening the electric lines that directly power homes and businesses,” said Peggy Keane, PSEG Long Island’s vice president of construction and operations services. “This Power On infrastructure improvement project in Fort Salonga is part of PSEG Long Island’s ongoing, multiyear effort to continue to improve electric reliability for customers.”

The work began at the end of October and will last for approximately two months. PSEG Long Island’s licensed and approved contractors will work along distribution lines in Fort Salonga. To ensure traffic moves safely, PSEG Long Island will provide cones, flaggers and signage at the worksites, as needed. Local officials will also be notified in advance regarding any potential traffic concerns.

The storm-hardening improvements include:

Stronger poles: PSEG Long Island will replace some existing utility poles with stronger, more durable poles that are capable of withstanding winds up to 135 mph. The new poles will be approximately the same height as the existing poles, have a stronger base and will be placed no more than 5 feet from the current pole locations. PSEG Long Island will actively coordinate the removal of old poles with other utilities and municipalities.

Narrow profiles: To help wires deflect falling limbs instead of catching them, PSEG Long Island will be installing shorter cross arms atop some poles.

Stronger wire: Current wire will be replaced with more resilient and durable wire.

Upgrading: PSEG Long Island will upgrade or replace worn equipment as necessary.

Crews will be working on the following streets in Fort Salonga

• Fresh Pond Road between Fort Salonga Road and Claymore Road

• Breeze Hill Road between Fresh Pond Road and the intersection at Brookfield Road and Woodmere Drive

• Woodmere Drive between Brookfield Road and Fort Salonga Road 

PSEG Long Island prepares year round for extreme weather to maintain reliable service for its 1.2 million customers. Since 2014, the company has made investments in strengthening the electric infrastructure. Using funding from both FEMA and LIPA, PSEG Long Island has completed storm hardening and reliability work on more than 1,000 miles of distribution mainline circuits.

Power On, a program initiated in the spring of 2020, continues the work now that the FEMA program has concluded. Since the program’s launch, over 318 miles of the most vulnerable distribution mainline and branch line circuits on Long Island and in the Rockaways have been storm hardened with stronger poles, thicker wire and other modern equipment.

According to PSEG Long Island, these investments have strengthened the system so that fewer customers experience outages and, when they do occur, the duration is shorter, especially during extreme weather events. 

From the third quarter of 2022 through the third quarter of 2023, the sections of circuits that are storm hardened saw a 44% reduction in damage leading to outages compared to the rest of the distribution system.

For more project details, visit www.psegliny.com/inthecommunity/currentinitiatives/stormhardeningprojects.

The Huntington Planning Board approved development on the property of the Indian Hills Country Club. File photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

On the evening of Wednesday, April 12, the Huntington Town Planning Board approved The Northwind Group’s development proposal at Indian Hills Country Club in Fort Salonga.

Throughout the meeting, a recording of which can be viewed at huntingtonny.gov/meetings, residents can be seen in the background holding up “Vote No” signs in a show of disapproval of the proposal. Signs also read, “Let Us Speak on Indian Hills,” since members of the public were not permitted to speak openly at this meeting.

At the outset, Anthony Aloisio, the town’s director of Planning & Environment, said,      “What I would want to do is just point out some of the improvements that we’ve made in the plan since the last plan that you approved was the preliminary plan.” 

“In the revised plan we’ve asked for some depressions to be built on the property,” he added. “This was to capture stormwater runoff from the proposed development areas as well as from the golf course.”

Board chairman Paul Ehrlich defended      the plan. “We’ve taken a long hard look at every aspect of this plan,” he said. “We’ve allowed the maximum amount of public input by having multiple public hearings, and even extending the comment period for months, well beyond those public hearings.” At this point  rumblings could be heard from the crowd.

Ehrlich said in the beginning of the process, the Planning Board passed a resolution directing The Northwind Group      and the planning staff to perform “a  broad and comprehensive environmental review. ”     

According to Ehrlich, at Northwind’s expense the town also brought in outside consultants to review their engineering study.

 “As a result of all of this, important aspects of the environmental conditions that currently exist are being significantly improved,” he said. “This application could have easily moved forward without any of these actions.” He also said that the “proposed resolution will ensure that the land of the golf course remains open space in perpetuity.”

Planning Board member Joseph Tantillo said that he has done extensive research on this project. “I would like the record
to note that I feel confident that I can make an objective decision on this plan,”
Tantillo said.

Judge Robert Lifson also said  he had done research into this project. “I feel no reason not to participate and vote, and I would vote to approve the project,” he said.

Judge Mara Manin Amendola addressed some of the residents present at the meeting.      “I see your signs,” Amendola said. “I understand how the neighbors feel.” She went on to say that “you have to agree it is an improvement” from the original proposal, adding, “Yes, we see you’re not happy, and we’re sorry for that.”

The proposal passed 4-0. The building then erupted in a chorus of boos. Chants of “shame on you” echoed throughout the room for several minutes. This then led to Ehrlich banging the gavel several times with requests for everyone to “clear the room” since the board still had more business to attend to.     

As the disturbances continued, Amendola said to a uniformed individual, “Can you make them leave? This is unacceptable.” While the yelling gradually quieted as the room was cleared, Amendola said to other members of the Planning Board: “I do feel bad for them, I do,” and then said, “This is bugging me,” in response to one individual shouting, “Corruption!”

Don McKay, who is running for a Town Board seat, attended the meeting and was not pleased with the way the approval was handled. In a phone interview, he said, “My primary objection is I think the entire application should have been a change of zone application.”

“Why this application did not go to the Town Board for full review and instead went to the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board, I believe was inappropriate. It should have gone to the Town Board as a change of zone application.”

“The way that this community was treated by the town was reprehensible,” McKay said. “They should have been given a lot more respect, courtesy, and they weren’t. That needs to change.”     

“I understand the fact that the developer does have a right to build some residential units on the property if he wants to,” McKay said. “But what he has proposed is too intense, too high of a density for this property.”

John Hayes, president of the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association, which was founded specifically for the project, was      also not pleased with how the Planning Board handled the situation.

“It was a so-called public hearing at which the public could not be heard,” Hayes said of the meeting in a phone interview.

“This hearing originally took place in February of 2022, and it was adjourned,” Hayes explained.      

“In the meantime, three new plans had been filed by the developer, considerably different in grading, drainage, tree preservation. And we were not allowed to speak on any of this. No public input allowed on it.”

Hayes also said that they are not completely opposed to development at this location, only that the proposed plans go “way too far” and that there have not been any concessions made that he would consider reasonable. “We’ve never ever said no development,” Hayes said. “But we are very passionate about the fact that it should be minimal, and the houses should be placed away from existing residents.”

Hayes went on to explain that some residents that own homes by the golf course would now have several more houses adjacent to their properties. Some of these residents obtained professional appraisals to investigate what the potential effects of these new houses would be, and they were told their property values could decrease by as much as 10%. 

In a phone interview, Jim Tsunis, CEO of The Northwind Group, disagreed with this claim. “The homes in the area will actually go up [in value] as a result of this community being built,” he said.

Tsunis, who has been in the real estate business for over 30 years, explained that “being in real estate for as long as I have and building communities in other areas, the homes in the area will benefit from this community being built.”

Tsunis said The Northwind Group has “met every single condition imposed by the Town of Huntington” and has “spent years studying and analyzing the site.” He also said that he has met multiple times with a different group, the Fort Salonga Association, a Fort Salonga-based civic association. “They helped me shape the community and they were able to endorse the community when the plans were completed,” he said.     

“The Fort Salonga Association has approved every iteration of the plan since it came into being,” Hayes countered. “We can understand why the Fort Salonga Association was not opposed to the principle of developing on the golf course. What we do not understand is how they could endorse the fact that these houses were right next door to existing properties rather than in the interior of the course.”

Additionally, when asked about the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association, Tsunis said that members have not been in contact for over four years to discuss the proposal to come to some sort of compromise. He indicated he would be more than willing to meet with the organization to discuss the situation.

Hayes said the association had negotiated with Tsunis years ago, adding, “We mutually agreed that we were too far apart. Since then, we haven’t had any contact, but he hasn’t had any contact with us either.” Hayes said that when they talked “there was really no attempt to reduce the number [of houses] that had already agreed on with the town.”

The Fort Salonga Property Owners Association is undergoing the process of filing lawsuits against both the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board. “This is not a frivolous filing by any means,” Hayes said. “We would not be doing that if we didn’t think we had a very good chance of winning.”

Owl Hill estate is located south of Sunken Meadow State Park in Fort Salonga. Photo from Douglas Elliman Real Estate

A county legislator continues his commitment to saving a historic property in Fort Salonga from developers.

Suffolk Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said the county earlier this month made an offer to the owners of Owl Hill Estates & Preserve to acquire its Fort Salonga property for $6.3 million. The owners have yet to accept the offer.

Trotta said the goal is to keep the property as open space for walking and hiking trails and “making Long Island stay Long Island and not making it look like Queens.”

“We really don’t need to tear down every forest and build,” he added.

Owl Hill is located at 99 Sunken Meadow Road, bordering Sunken Meadow Park and wetlands. The property spans nearly 27.7 acres. In 2017, the property was up for sale for the first time in more than six decades at a price tag of $6.45 million. The current owners bought the property with plans to subdivide and build up to 17 homes.

According to Trotta, the property is a critical watershed and conservation area with mature woodlands and wildlife habitat. One of the largest continuous tracts of open space in the Town of Smithtown, it may have significant archaeological resources.

Trotta said that a nonprofit or possibly the state would maintain the 6,500-square-foot mansion that sits on the property if the county acquires the land. The developers have also presented a plan to the Town of Smithtown where the home would remain untouched.

Earlier this year, Suffolk County Legislature passed a resolution to authorize an appraisal of the land under the county’s Drinking Water Protection Program.

Keith Macartney, president of the Fort Salonga Association, said civic members are concerned about the possibility of development on the property and hope the owners will accept the county’s offer.

“It’s a beautiful piece of property, and it’s among properties that have been left alone that people can enjoy and the wildlife can enjoy,” Macartney said.

Among the civic members’ concerns is increased traffic in the area, especially with the future development of the Preserves at Indian Hills, which falls in the Huntington portion of Fort Salonga. Macartney said building more homes would be “a travesty.”

In a 2020 The Times of Smithtown article, Corey Geske, Smithtown resident and scholar, said the property’s historical importance is on par with Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay. The first patent lawyer in the U.S., Edmund Wetmore, commissioned architect Henry Killam Murphy to design the estate home. One of Murphy’s notable works includes designing the campus of the University of Shanghai.

Attorney Vincent Trimarco Sr., who represents Owl Hill Estates & Preserve, confirmed the owners received the county offer but he said he didn’t have knowledge as far as whether they were considering it. The owners still need to appear before the Town of Smithtown Town Board regarding final approval of the subdivision. The attorney said that if the owners are approved, the houses will be part of a clustered development and several acres of the property would be left as open space. 

Indian Hills Country Club. File photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Neil Mehta

The Hauppauge-based Northwind Group is hoping to break ground by March on developing a 55-and-over townhouse community in Fort Salonga named The Preserve at Indian Hills.

After a 4-3 vote by the Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals that allowed for the issue of a special-use permit modification, the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association announced plans to challenge the outcome in court according to FSPOA president John Hayes.

The ZBA Dec. 15 vote permitted the construction of 74 housing units and reconstruction of the clubhouse at Indian Hills Country Club. At the ZBA meeting, members of the FSPOA packed the boardroom with signs reading “Vote No.” Despite members’ objections, the vote ruled in favor of the development.A Dec. 19 letter from FSPOA attorney Karl Huth to the ZBA, posted on the organization’s Facebook page, argued that because the tiebreaking vote was cast by an alternate member of the board, the vote was invalid and requires an additional public hearing.

In a phone interview, Hayes described the decision as an “illegal vote,” adding that the FSPOA “will be filing a lawsuit.” Hayes said that if the ZBA vote is invalid, further approval for the development by the Huntington Planning Board based on the current ZBA vote will also be invalid.

ZBA attorney John Bennett disputed Hayes’ stance in a phone interview. Bennett cited a town code stating that alternate members of the ZBA “shall possess all of the powers and responsibilities” of an unavailable member.

The validity of the vote apart, residents are concerned that the new development will have detrimental environmental and property value consequences.

Hayes said that the northwest portion of the planned development sits on a recognized landslide zone losing several feet of land per year due to erosion. Additionally, the development may worsen water quality in the area.

“The community is vehemently opposed to the current plan,” Hayes said.

Northwind managing member Jim Tsunis highlighted several benefits of the new development in a phone interview. When asked about residents’ worries regarding the development’s environmental impact, Tsunis said his group performed “an environmental impact study that covers all of the concerns” residents have.

The housing development, Tsunis explained, has three major benefits: the preservation of the golf course, the introduction of natural gas to the entire neighborhood and additional tax revenue to the school district.

According to Tsunis, the group has already started sales for the new development, with 19 achieved to date. The suggested starting price for a three-bedroom townhouse in the new community is $1.4 million, according to the Northwind website.

“We’ve sold 50% available for sale already in a very short period of time,” he said.

Tsunis emphasized that all of the existing buyers are from within 10 miles of the new development. “What we’ve done is created a product that’s being bought by residents of the area,” he said. “I believe that’s significant.”

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File photo

Suffolk County Police Fourth Squad detectives are investigating the death of a construction worker who died from apparent carbon monoxide poisoning while at a residential job site this afternoon in Fort Salonga.

Victor Irizarry, an employee of Suffolk Excavating, was working for approximately 15 minutes to remove silt from the bottom of a drainage pipe approximately 10 feet into the ground at 92 Fort Salonga Road when he stopped responding to co-workers at approximately 2:35 p.m. A co-worker attempted to go down the pipe to rescue Irizarry, but felt burning in his nose and throat, forcing him to exit the pipe.

The Kings Park Fire Department responded to the location and found carbon monoxide levels to be dangerously high. Firefighters were able to pull Irizarry from the pipe.

Irizarry, 30, of Flanders, was transported to St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown where he was pronounced dead. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was notified and is investigating.

Marine Bravo tows a capsized boat to a ramp in Northport. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

Suffolk County Police Department Marine Bureau officers rescued five people from the Long Island Sound after their boat overturned the afternoon of July 7.

Marine Bureau officers, Dave Froehlich and Patrick Ennis, aboard Marine Bravo, responded to a 911 call for a capsized boat in the Long Island Sound just off the coast of Crab Meadow Beach at about 4:40 p.m. Upon arriving, the officers found five men standing on the underside of a recreational 21-foot Pro-Line vessel that overturned after being struck by a wave some 20 minutes earlier.

Three of the passengers, who were wearing life vests, were able to swim to Marine Bravo. Froehlich and Ennis threw a flotation device to the remaining two men, who were not wearing life jackets.

All five men were evaluated on the scene and were determined not to be injured, police said. The capsized vessel was towed to a boat ramp in Northport.

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Suffolk County police car. File photo

Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad detectives are investigating the drowning death of a woman in Fort Salonga.

Fourth Precinct officers responded to a Fort Salonga home June 24 at approximately 6:10 p.m. after a resident called 911 reporting a woman floating in his backyard pool. When officers arrived, they found Carol-Jean Werkstell unresponsive in the water.

Werkstell, 76, was transported to St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown where she was pronounced dead.

Owl Hill estate is located south of Sunken Meadow State Park in Fort Salonga. Photo from Douglas Elliman Real Estate

A historic estate nestled in Fort Salonga for years has been drawing renewed interest from developers who want to build homes on the property.

The Owl Hill estate, located at 99 Sunken Meadow Road, spans 27.63 acres and is the largest parcel of 1-acre residential-zoned land in Suffolk County. In 2017, the property was up for sale for the first time in more than six decades at the price tag of $6.45 million. 

The estate, which is the most expensive property in the hamlet, is owned by Manhattan resident Maya Ryan. Her family has occupied and maintained the house for more than half a century and currently uses it as a summer and weekend residence. 

Peter Hans, planning board director for the Town of Smithtown, said in an email the Town currently does not have any type of application for the property but detailed that they have met with several different prospective developers in the past year about how the estate is permitted to be developed. 

“The property is zoned R-43 (single-family residential, 1 acre min. lot size),” Hans said in the email. “There are steep slopes on the property which would limit yield on future development. Additionally any developer that would like to subdivide the property would be required to cluster a large portion of the property, meaning that lot sizes would be made smaller than 1 acre so that the difference could be preserved as open space.” 

In 2017, the Town and the county raised a $1 million grant to be used to preserve a portion of the Owl Hill property for open space. 

Similarly, in an Oct. 2017 TBR News Media article, Owl Hill’s listing agent Kelley Taylor, of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, said she had seen a majority of interest from developers, including one evaluating the property as the site of a 55-and-older community.

Corey Geske, Smithtown resident and scholar, said Owl Hill is a great example of beautiful architecture in the town. 

“In my opinion the estate in terms of historical importance is on par with Sagamore Hill,” she said. 

Geske said Edmund Wetmore, the first patent lawyer in the U.S., commissioned architect Henry Killam Murphy to design the estate home in 1907. Murphy was renowned overseas for his work in China, Korea and Japan. Some notable work includes designing the campus of the University of Shanghai.

“Owl Hill is one of the finest rare examples of Henry Killam Murphy’s early work in the United States and has been a cornerstone of the community,” she said.

The Smithtown scholar said the estate’s history merits recognition to be established as a national historic landmark, as it’s linked to internationally and nationally known figures.

Residents are concerned about increased development in the area as 2 miles to the west sits Indian Hills Country Club, the site of a potential 55-and-over housing development. The proposed project would call for the construction of 98 town houses, a new fitness center and an expanded clubhouse alongside the existing golf course.

John Hayes, president of the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association, said he is worried about what the potential addition of close to 100 homes at Indian Hills and further loss of green space could do to the character of the area.

“[Indian Hills] would no doubt be the largest development in Fort Salonga history,” he said. “I feel like the rural feel of the hamlet won’t be around for much longer. Who knows what will happen but it would be a terrible shame.”

Indian Hills Country Club. File photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Officials in the Town of Huntington have scheduled a special cluster development hearing for Nov. 20 on The Preserve at Indian Hills. The draft environmental impact statement hearing ended Nov. 5, but concerns continue.

The 55-and-over housing development is proposed to be built on the Indian Hills Golf Course in Northport and have 98 town houses, a new fitness center and an expanded clubhouse alongside the existing golf course. 

The special subdivision hearing was scheduled due to the public’s high level of interest in the project. The draft environmental impact hearing was held in September, and typically that would have been the only hearing for the environmental impact report and its subdivision application. The planning board scheduled a separate public hearing in an effort to provide transparency and extend more time for the public to submit comments, according to town officials. 

Other project updates include the town voting to hire an outside consultant for the environmental review process on Oct. 10. Melville-based engineering firm AECOM will be tasked in assisting the planning board in evaluating the environmental impact statement. 

John Hayes, president of the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association, said they are anxious for the next stage in Preserve’s development process. 

“We were glad the town extended the public comment period, the more input we can put in the better,” he said.

The association sent in 180 pages of input to the town planning board.

Critics of the development have pointed to environmental impacts and negative effects on property values, as well as concerns on watershed quality and the surrounding wetlands. 

“Not much has changed [since the last hearing]. It is still overwhelmingly opposed by residents,” Hayes said. “There are pollution and environmental issues from the DEIS [Draft Environmental Impact Statement] that the developers need to understand.”

The president of the association also was concerned about the eroding bluffs near the proposed development. 

Previously, the group asked town officials to place a moratorium on new developments in the Crab Meadow Watershed area, which includes Indian Hills. Others have urged the planning board to complete the Crab Meadow Watershed study before making any conclusions on the project.

“We’re hopeful that the planning board will listen to our concerns,” Hayes said. 

After the preliminary subdivision hearing, there will be a final environmental impact statement hearing and then a final subdivision hearing. The planning board cannot vote on the development until the environmental statement process is complete. The application review period will extend into 2020, according to town officials. 

Indian Hills Country Club. File photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

More than 60 residents voiced their opinions on the proposed Preserve at Indian Hills development in Fort Salonga at a Town of Huntington Planning Board public hearing Sept. 18 to discuss the draft environmental impact statement on the project. Critics pointed to environmental concerns and negative effects on property values, while supporters viewed the project as beneficial to the community.   

Tony Izzo of Fort Salonga, said the development would have lasting negative impacts on the community. 

“Mr. [Jim] Tsunis [of The Northwind Group] wants to increase the size of the clubhouse by 30 percent and staff by 40 percent to accommodate a large catering restaurant,” he said. “The condos would be incompatible with the character of the neighborhood, it would double the size of the neighborhood.”

Izzo said he bought his house with his wife in 1987 with the assurance that the zoning would be R-40, which allows for the building of 1-acre single family homes. 

“We expected to be living in suburbia, instead we are told to accept a certain lifestyle — I’m not going to accept that,” he said. “These condos will negatively affect property values. Protect the citizens of Fort Salonga, not the builder. This must be rejected.”

“We expected to be living in suburbia.”

—Tony Izzo

The Preserve at Indian Hills would be a 55-and-over clustered housing development. In addition to the 98 town houses, the project also would include a new fitness center with an expanded clubhouse alongside the existing golf course.  

William Berg of the Crab Meadow Watershed Advisory Committee brought up concerns about the impact the development could have on the watershed quality and surrounding wetlands. 

“This study [the Crab Meadow Watershed plan] has not been completed or adopted by the Town Board,” he said. “Under land use the report states that the watershed is built out of its own density. I urge the Planning Board to call for the completion of the Crab Meadow Watershed study and thorough analysis of the information before making any conclusions on the project.”

Similarly, the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association asked town officials to place a moratorium on new developments in the Crab Meadow Watershed area, which includes the Indian Hills property. While most of the speakers opposed the development, a few residents were in favor of the project. William Muller, who is a member of the Indian Hills Country Club, said he was supportive of the Northwind project and pointed to the need for more senior living.  

“I have the belief that this plan will have less of an impact to the local community than the single-family alternative,” he said. “There is always a need for the 55-and-older community and this would provide a wonderful setting for that population.”

Other supporters mentioned the tax revenue school districts would be poised to receive from potential development and said the golf course and condos should be considered assets for the community.   

Barbara Duffy of Northport, had similar sentiments, stating she was supportive of the building of town houses. 

“Having lived near the 17th fairway for 40 years, I find it very exciting to see the possibility of protecting the golf course and making good use of the available open space,” she said. “As you all know condominiums are a dire need for the 55-and-over community.”

John Hayes, president of the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association, said in an interview that he thought the hearing went well and hopes the Planning Board will listen to their concerns. 

“This development has been overwhelmingly opposed by residents,” Hayes said. “We continue to challenge them on the density issues … being too close to residents homes. There are still problematic environmental issues that were not really tackled by the developers [in the study].”

The town will be accepting public comments through Oct. 18 either online or letters can be mailed to Huntington Town Hall, Department of Planning & Environment (Room 212), 100 Main St., Huntington, NY 11743.

Following public comments, the next steps for the development would be a final environmental impact statement and a possible preliminary subdivision hearing that has yet to be scheduled.