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George Hoffman

James Bouklas, president of We Are Smithtown, leads a protest against Gyrodyne March 2. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Civic groups from two neighboring townships joined forces March 2 to advocate for additional studies of a development along Route 25A.

George Hoffman, 1st vice president of the Three Village Civic Association, and others call for an independent environmental study of the property. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Members of the civic group We Are Smithtown organized a rally on the corner of Mills Pond Road and Route 25A in St. James to protest the proposed Gyrodyne property development at the site. The group was joined by representatives from the Greater Stony Brook Action Coalition, Three Village Civic Association, Town of Brookhaven Citizens Advisory Committee for Route 25A, Setauket Harbor Task Force and Smithtown activist Amy Fortunato.

The company is hoping to build an assisted living home, hotel, medical offices and sewage treatment plant on the property. 

James Bouklas, president of We Are Smithtown, said all in attendance opposed the development and were concerned about possible toxins in the soil of the former helicopter manufacturer’s land, along with a list of other concerns.

He and other protesters called on the Town of Smithtown and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to take action and conduct an independent and rigorous forensic environmental study.

He described the potential development as “akin to building a new Smith Haven Mall on this rural, country stretch of Route 25A.”

The civic group president gave examples of former aviation manufacturers such as Lawrence Aviation and Grumman that he said, “operated behind a huge wall, often in secrecy, and in the end, they all left a legacy of pollution and toxic plumes.”

“Here is what we do know,” he added. “Gyrodyne was a defense manufacturer in those pre-Earth Day years of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when America wasn’t exactly careful about what went in the ground.”

The civic president also expressed concern that through the decades auto repair and photography businesses have operated on the Gyrodyne grounds as well as above-ground vehicle storage among others that may have released chemicals into the soil. The property is a short distance from Stony Brook Harbor.

“What goes into our groundwater quickly winds up as our drinking water,” he said. “There is no margin for error.”

In addition to environmental concerns, Bouklas cited traffic congestion on both 25A and Stony Brook Road.

Justin Bryant, who grew up in Smithtown and now lives in Stony Brook, said he too is concerned about chemicals in the ground at Gyrodyne, saying it’s been too long since a forensic environmental analysis was done.

“It’s important to remember where about 2,000 feet behind you a Superfund site, regulated by the [Environmental Protection Agency],” he said. “This site is on the national priorities list, which means it’s a site most at risk to the people who live in the area.”

“What goes into our groundwater quickly winds up as our drinking water. There is no margin for error.”

— James Bouklas

According to the EPA, there is a groundwater contamination site in the villages of Nissequogue and Head of the Harbor. Since the pollution was discovered in 1997, the agency has been monitoring the area’s ground and surface water. 

Herb Mones, chair of the Three Village Civic Association land use committee and a 30-year resident of Stony Brook, said the historic corridor should be protected and preserved and any development should be done in a reasonable and sensible way to protect the surrounding communities.

George Hoffman, 1st vice president of the Three Village Civic Association, was co-chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee for Route 25A, where the Town of Brookhaven met with residents to gather their thoughts about what needed improvement on the corridor.

“You can’t save one part of the highway without saving the entire highway,” he said. “This is a really historic corridor.”

He pointed to an environmental study done more than 10 years ago, when the State University of New York bought 250 acres of Gyrodyne property, that found several chemicals in the soil. However, both Hoffman and others at the rally said the chemicals did not show up in the recent environmental study Gyrodyne paid for in the location of the potential subdivision.

“We’re really suspicious of how one part of the property could have had a lot of chemicals in it, where this part of the property now has apparently been given a clean bill of health,” he said.

Cindy Smith, chair of the Greater Stony Brook Action Coalition/United Communities Against Gyrodyne, held the first protest against the Gyrodyne development on the steps of Smithtown’s Town Hall Nov. 2017. After the March 2 press conference, she said she is pleased with the bond that has been formed with “like-minded civic groups in Smithtown and Brookhaven.”

As a member of Friends of Stony Brook Road, she has helped addressed the impact of the overcapacity street. 

“We knew that the additional traffic from the proposed Gyrodyne development would cause even more quality-of-life and safety issues on our road, not to mention the increased financial burden to Brookhaven residents,” she said, adding she is also concerned about water quality, historical impact, increased taxes and more.

Smith said the organizations have given both town residents voice, and Greater Stony Brook Action Coalition/United Communities Against Gyrodyne has worked with environmentalists, including Carl Safina, Dick Amper of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society and John Turner conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society.

Smithtown spokesperson Nicole Garguilo said in a statement that the Town has been vigilant in following New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act requirement and law,

“It would be negligent, not to mention a dangerous, unethical precedent to ask the hard-working taxpayers of our community to foot a $500,000 (minimum) bill for a private property owners’ Environmental Impact Statement. Especially, when the EIS process requires the Town’s planning, engineering and environmental professionals to thoroughly review and verify the analysis,” Gargulio said.

A representative from Gyrodyne could not be reached for a comment about the protest or environmental study. 

At the Suffolk County Legislature’s March 3 general meeting, a vote for a comprehensive planning study for the corridor was tabled until March 17.

Northville Industries is located on Beach Street in Port Jefferson, where barges full of oil come to dock and unload the fuel, which is pumped through pipelines to a location in East Setauket and then to Holtsville. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Town of Brookhaven has renewed leases on two entities in Port Jefferson Harbor, but one of those operations has local environmentalists a little concerned.

The Town voted unanimously Jan. 30 to renew the lease for the Port Jefferson/Setauket Yacht Club (which is more known as simply the Port Jefferson Yacht Club) as well as the Melville-headquartered Northville Industries for use in its underwater and uplands properties on the eastern end of the harbor. The licensee has operated in that location since 1975, according to Town attorney Annette Eaderesto.

The yacht club’s lease has gone up to $35,100 for 20 years with a 3 percent annual increase. The club’s land includes around .892 acre underwater and 2.723 acres upland, including the club facilities.

“Oil transport is inherently a dirty operation.”

— George Hoffman

Northville’s operation has oil being brought in on ship or barge to the Port Jeff terminal, where it is shipped via either of two 16-inch pipelines up to its storage farm in East Setauket before moving on to a Holtsville terminal via a 12-inch pipeline, according to the company’s website. 

The oil transport company’s lease now increases to $77,322 based on a new appraisal, which includes around $40K for the underwater portion and around $37K for the upland portion. The company has agreed to pay slightly more than what the upland portion was appraised for. The 20-year term is set to increase annually by 3 percent. The company has had the lease since 1975, and the Town attorney said the company has not had any claims against the town.

George Hoffman, the co-founder of Setauket Harbor Task Force, said he had several concerns over the company’s continued engagement with the harbor. His group has been doing more and more testing of the Port Jefferson harbor in the past two years, having just finished the second season of testing. He asked for strict liability regarding the oil transport company.

“Oil transport is inherently a dirty operation,” he said. “There’s always tiny spills, no matter how hard they work there is always going to be problems.”

Eaderesto said Northville does not post a bond in case of any ruptures, and any spills are handled by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Miller Marine Services, a regional company with a site right next to the oil transport company, is there for immediate response. 

Steven Ripp, the chief operating officer of NIC Holding Corp., the parent company of Northville, denied there has been any leaking or spills into the harbor from their operations, further arguing the company would be able to contain any major spills into the immediate area of their operations on the harbor’s east end.

“There are never any minor spills, not even a gallon,” he said. “If there is a spillage whatsoever, we have to immediately report it to DEC and take swift action.”

Northville has been previously cited by the DEC. In 1987, Northville notified the DEC of a gasoline leak at its East Setauket site of approximately 1.2 million gallons that had leaked into the ground over a 10-year period. That gasoline had penetrated into the ground and reached the water table 100 feet below the surface. 

The company had settled with the DEC for a $25 million cleanup plan after the spill. In 2006, after a long and complicated cleanup process, the DEC reported Northville had completed all remediation.

In a later interview, Hoffman said he came away from the public hearing with more concerns, not less, especially concerning the overall health of the Port Jefferson Harbor and the age of the pipelines running over into East Setauket.

“This is going to be potentially 30 years — I didn’t feel comfortable about that,” he said.

When asked, the general manager at Northville, Peter St. Germaine, did not relate anything about the age of the pipe, instead saying it is frequently inspected by the state. 

“There are never any minor spills, not even a gallon.”

— Steven Ripp

A spokesperson for the state DEC said the agency inspects the facilities for petroleum bulk storage and major oil storage facility regulations. Recent inspections were performed in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2018. The DEC also conducts a review of the facility license renewal application, testing of certain tanks and secondary containment areas, and groundwater results from 12 monitoring wells at the East Setauket location, as well as two monitoring wells at the Beach Street site. The wells are sampled every six months.

Eaderesto said the town is able to back out of any lease at any time should the need arise. 

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said he is aware of the need for attention paid to Port Jefferson Harbor, especially considering the effluent from both Stony Brook University and Port Jeff treatment plants flows into the harbor as well.

Ripp said the location received hundreds of barges of oil a year, and through their pipelines run hundreds of millions of gallons, “safely” every year. 

“It is a critical facility for the Town of Brookhaven,” he added.

Northville isn’t the only industrial company to work close to the harbor. Along Beach Street in Port Jeff the Tilcon quarry is constantly operating with heavy moving equipment. The area also includes the LIPA power station to the north of both operations.   

Romaine said his concern was the location and that the lease would conflict with plans of a joint venture of Ørsted and Eversource to make Port Jeff a hub for planned wind turbines off the coast of Montauk. However, the town attorney said the lease is just an extension of a lease that has been in effect for several years.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said she had initial concerns regarding community comments and ensuring proper liability coverage, but those concerns had been assuaged by the town law department, and she thanked the company for, “being a good licensee over the years.”

Both leases for upland and underwater land were set to expire April 30, 2020. The new license terms go 20 years with the availability of two 5-year extension options for the town.

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Residents can now use a boardwalk from East Setauket Pond Park to the harbor. Photo by Maria Hoffman

Three Village residents have a new way to enjoy and connect with nature.

The Town of Brookhaven recently constructed a 180-foot boardwalk that starts at East Setauket Pond Park, next to Se-Port Delicatessen, and ends with a viewing platform at Setauket Harbor. Laurie Vetere and George Hoffman, co-founders of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said the boardwalk complements the group’s vision for the site.

“We always had a plan for the park,” Hoffman said. “We really think it’s a unique park that’s been neglected over the years.”

Vetere called the park its pet project.

“We can see the vision of it becoming a beautiful waterfront park right in the heart of downtown Setauket,” she said.

Hoffman and Vetere said the town plans to add benches to the viewing platform and switch out the current light posts to match the historic fixtures along Route 25A. The town is also currently waiting for a permit from the New York State Department of Conservation to cut down the phragmites that are currently slightly blocking the view at the platform.

The task force co-founders said a couple of months ago the town’s Parks & Recreation Department had a surplus of funds for park improvements around town, and Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) were able to secure $75,000 to be used for the Three Village park.

Vetere, said the Three Village Civic Association, of which she is 2nd vice president, is currently forming a committee to be chaired by Herb Mones and Robert Reuter. She said the hope is to further the vision of the park including aspects such as adding plantings, play equipment for children and possibly moving the gazebo that is currently there to another spot in the park.

“The hope is just to make it more useful and get people invested in Setauket Harbor and the beauty of the harbor,” Vetere said.

Cartright said she was happy with the improvements.

“This is an important place in our community, and we want to increase and promote public access and use of the park,” she said. “We received community feedback about improvements that residents wanted to see at this location. Working off of that community input, I was able to secure $75,000 funding for this project that started about two-and-a-half weeks ago and was completed [Oct. 15].”

In addition to the current work being done by the Town of Brookhaven, in 2016 state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) secured a $1 million grant for the town for East Setauket Pond Park. The funds, which became available at the end of 2018, will go toward removing sediment from the retention pond at the park and implementing improvements to mitigate stormwater inputs into the harbor. The grant will also go toward repairing the dock at the Shore Road park along the harbor.

“We look forward to the completion of this project as it fits into the larger picture of preserving and protecting the area,” Cartright said.

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Cadets in the Naval Academy’s Summer Navigation and Seamanship Training Block toss a line as they prepare to dock in Port Jeff Harbor Aug. 8. Photo by Kyle Barr

From the west, a storm came in. Five U.S. Navy boats watched the clouds sweep in from the opposite direction they sailed, with lightning flicking out of dark skies. 

With the direction of the officers on the small 44-foot crafts, they knew what to do.

Two made it into Port Jefferson Harbor through the night of Aug. 7, while the other three stayed out in the Sound beyond the harbor. People on the vessel Valiant said they saw gusts of wind driving them at 38 knots, then staying in the mid 20s for a time after that. With two reefs in the mainsail and no jib, the boat, carrying eight midshipmen and two other officers, was as light and fast as a bird over a rough swell.

The Intrepid sailing into Port Jeff Harbor on Aug. 8. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We did hit that storm for a little while; for an hour and a half it was pretty rough,” said senior officer first class Joe Llewellyn, laughing, “It was a bit of a thrill … these guys,” he looked to the other young midshipmen, “handled the boat great though.”

The rapid entry into Port Jefferson Harbor was part of the U.S. Naval Academy’s Summer Navigation and Seamanship Training Block, where Lt. Matt Vernam, a commanding officer on one of the vessels, took around 40 young midshipmen (despite the name, it consists of both men and women) from Annapolis, Maryland, to Delaware Bay into New York City Harbor, where the cadets watched the Statue of Liberty and Freedom Tower roll by, before climbing up the Hudson and visiting the USS Intrepid. The boats then sailed down the East River and made good sail until they came outside Port Jefferson during the storm. 

The program that Vernam helps run, called the Offshore Sail Training Squadron, is meant to give cadets a leadership experience. Four midshipmen are up on deck at a time and are instructed to listen to advice as they carry out operations of the vessel, even getting the vessel safely into dock through their own muscle and sweat.

“We try to let these guys run the boat and exercise leadership,” Vernam said. 

George Hoffman, cofounder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, had helped suggest Port Jeff as a place the sailors could visit on their tour. When the boats came in the Thursday morning, they did so with a police boat escort.

Vernam, a graduate of Shoreham-Wading River High School and a Wading River native, said it was nice to be back to his home on the North Shore. His father, Don Vernam, was acting on the Valiant as a civilian volunteer, and his family reunion would include his mother who came up to greet them both on the harbor.

“It’s nice having two local bodies to plan this,” he said.

Rob LoScalzo, a Wading River resident, helped contact the Navy to have the midshipman take their boats into Port Jefferson. His son Mike, a fellow SWR graduate, had just graduated from the Navy academy in May. 

LoScalzo said he has been trying to get the Navy to Long Island for years, originally trying with the Village of Patchogue but the keel was too long for the harbor. 

“With all the naval history that’s around here, with the Culper Spy Ring, to the Taylor Brewster, to the shipbuilding — its rich history — we’re just so excited that we could piece it together.”

The Town of Brookhaven allowed the visitors to use the dock space, and the public was able to visit for tours on the vessels.  

People on the Port Jefferson Tall Ship Committee, who have been working to bring tall, masted sailing ships into Port Jefferson Harbor, watched the tall ship Lady Maryland sail away on the morning’s tide, listening for the cannon shot to announce its departure. Chris Ryon, village historian, said he expects the historical schooner Amistad to make its appearance once again in PJ Harbor some time in the near future.

 

Among the suggested improvements for Route 25A is making signs more consistent, especially at Woods Corner east of Nicolls Road. File photo by Rita J. Egan

The next phase of the 25A corridor study is set to begin. Late last month, the Route 25A Citizen Advisory Committee, town officials and community leaders met to begin discussing a land use code for the corridor. This code would regulate future development and architecture styles among other things in the area.

“This is where we can take a vision and be able to actually make an impact.”

— George Hoffman

The land use phase is one of the most significant land use initiatives affecting the community in years.

George Hoffman, co-chair of the CAC, said he is excited for this next phase and to be working with this group of individuals.

“This is where we can take a vision and be able to actually make an impact,” he said.

The corridor study dates back to 2016 when the town appointed the CAC to assist them in the study and land use plan in the future development of the area. In 2017, the town came out with its Route 25A /Three Village Area Visioning Report.

The report covered the hamlets of Stony Brook, Setauket and East Setauket. Its goal was to use the report as a tool to help achieve a corridor that has a well-functioning road, quality building, site design, improved pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly facilities and preserve historic and natural open spaces.

Hoffman said 25A is an important and historical road that he believes should
be protected.

“The community has seen what has happened to Route 25 after it was turned into a highway,” he said. “They don’t want 25A to turn into Jericho Turnpike.”

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said the 25A corridor study is an important tool for land use planning in the community.

“We have just entered into the second phase of this project and I look forward to working with the Citizens Advisory Committee and the community toward implementation of the community vision,” she said in a statement. “I am proactively advocating for this project to proceed as quickly as the process allows, and I will continue to look for public input and participation as we move forward.”

“I am proactively advocating for this project to proceed as quickly as the process allows, and I will continue to look for public input and participation as we move forward.”

— Valerie Cartright

Hoffman said with the land use phase they can apply what they learned in the vision report and decide if there needs to be any changes in zone codes.

One option they are considering is a design manual for future development in the corridor.

“We want to slowly over time make the architecture more consistent,” Hoffman said.

He said residents have expressed they would like the historical nature of the area to be preserved and be a kind of colonial rural community.

The committee will look at all the available parcels in the corridor that could be developed to make sure they are appropriately zoned.

Hoffman also mentioned areas of opportunity the committee and others will look at. One of them is Woods Corner, which is a commercial area east of Nicolls Road. He said he has gotten a sense from the community that there could be improvements to the signage of the commercial buildings.

Another area is the East Setauket commercial corridor near Gnarled Hollow Road and East Setauket Pond Park.

“The boarded-up building on the corner has been an eyesore for quite some time,” Hoffman said. “The county is attempting to purchasing it.”

The first step is to get an appraisal on the land and then the owner of the property will be made an offer. Hoffman said the area is environmentally sensitive due to a stream flowing under the property into nearby waterways. The building’s basement was known to flood because of the running water.

“Because there are no sewers in the area there are limitations on how large a building can be,” he said.

The co-chair of the committee said they hope to take about six months on the land use plan process, and when completed, they will look to write an updated town zone code. If approved, it will be adopted by the town board.

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Jane and Rob Taylor: Maria and George Hoffman; and Gretchen and Herb Mones are familiar to many in the Three Village community. Photos from Jane Taylor, Maria Hoffman and Herb Mones.

The Three Village area is filled with movers and shakers, so it’s no surprise that many of them are married to each other. Recently, three of the area’s community-minded couples took time out of their busy schedules to talk about their relationships and balancing their active lifestyles.

George and Maria Hoffman

“We make time to balance all the busyness. So, I think that is part of keeping things alive.”

— Maria Hoffman

George Hoffman, of East Setauket, is a familiar face in the Three Village area. He is first vice president of the Three Village Civic Association and co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force. Maria Hoffman is chief of staff for state Assemblyman Steven Englebright (D-Setauket), a local beekeeper and a volunteer with the harbor task force.

The Hoffmans married in 2009 in Frank Melville Memorial Park, and they said it’s the second time around for both of them. A couple of years before they tied the knot, the two met through Englebright’s office. George Hoffman, who has worked in the political field for 35 years, was living on the South Shore working with a former county legislator, Wayne Prospect, when he first met Englebright. One day when he saw Maria at the office, she asked him to take a walk in the park and soon after they started dating.

The husband said with both being community activists they understand each other’s schedule, like when she’s under deadline or he has a night meeting, and they don’t get as stressed as some couples might. George Hoffman said it also helps that their interests overlap, and they have easygoing temperaments.

“I think we are respectful of each other’s responsibilities,” he said. “We have separate spheres that overlap a little bit in terms of the environment and community. She’s involved more in government, and then it overlaps into environment and community.”

The husband, who said his wife is the first one he goes to for editing his work, added the two are good for each other especially making sure the other doesn’t procrastinate. Maria Hoffman said they also work on ideas together.

The wife said it’s important for busy couples to spend time alone with each other too, calling the time “regeneration periods.”

“We also make time for things that are important, whether it’s walking or in the summertime boating — being on a sailboat,” Maria Hoffman said. “We make time to balance all the busyness. So, I think that is part of keeping things alive.”

Herb and Gretchen Mones

Herb and Gretchen Mones, from Stony Brook, have been married for 28 years and have three grown sons. The two met while teaching at Centereach High School where she was an English teacher and he was a social studies teacher.

“Gretchen has such an integrity to do the work she does correctly and immaculately, and with a degree of professionalism, that it becomes a model to attain to.”

— Herb Mones

Gretchen Mones is the first vice president at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium, an organization where she has been an active board member for 15 years, and has chaired the education and exhibits committee for more than a dozen years.

Herb Mones has been a board member of the Three Village Civic Association for almost 30 years. A past president of the civic, he currently serves as the organization’s land use chair. In addition to his work with the civic association, he is a board member of the Three Village Community Trust, which works to preserve and protect buildings and properties in the community. He co-chaired the civic’s task force for more than a decade which eventually resulted in the construction of the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail. Herb is a past chair of the Greening of 25A and was active in the movement to restore the West Meadow peninsula. He currently serves on a Town of Brookhaven West Meadow Beach steering committee.

Herb Mones said his wife’s commitment to everything she does inspires him to do things to the best of his ability. It’s something he noticed when they both taught at Centereach High School.

“Gretchen has such an integrity to do the work she does correctly and immaculately, and with a degree of professionalism, that it becomes a model to attain to,” Herb Mones said.

Gretchen Mones said her husband has never met a project he couldn’t conquer and has the energy of four of five people. He is up early every morning and walks the Greenway trail, where he cleans up any graffiti he sees.

“He’s just so capable and optimistic — dedicated,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a short term or long term. Once he starts, he’s in it until he finishes it. It’s really incredible. I don’t know how he does it. All my friends tell me how lucky I am and how lucky the community is, and I have to agree with them. He’s an incredible person.”

Gretchen Mones said sharing calendars helps them manage their schedules and attending each other’s social functions, especially fundraisers and annual events, is important.

Herb Mones said volunteer work helps with one’s personal growth as well as a relationship, even when a husband and wife may be involved in different community activities.

“You have a greater understanding not only of what you’re doing but what the other person is doing,” he said.

Jane and Rob Taylor

Jane and Rob Taylor, who have been married for 47 years, were introduced by a friend at a Doors concert. Three Village residents know Jane Taylor from her various roles with The Stony Brook School during her 44-year career. Her husband graduated from the private school in 1967 and worked in the school’s business office for a time after college.

“Blending all the parts of your life together is never easy and it’s never going to go smoothly, and there are going to be bumps. And you have to accept that fact that it’s going to be bumpy. Some seasons are going to be a little harder than others.”

— Jane Taylor

Last summer Jane Taylor stepped down from her role as assistant head of school and is currently the executive director of The Three Village Chamber of Commerce. Rob Taylor, a CPA and a former partner in the Manhattan office of CapinCrouse, still provides virtual chief financial officer services for local organizations.

Successful careers haven’t kept the couple from being involved in the community. Jane Taylor serves on a West Meadow advisory committee, co-chaired the Route 25A Corridor Citizens Advisory Committee, is a long-term member of the Walk for Beauty Committee, among others. Over the years, Rob Taylor has served as an elder of a local church, is a founding president of Leadership Huntington, and is on the boards of The Jazz Loft and Citygate, which works with the homeless. He is also a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

The couple said a wife and husband don’t have to be involved in similar activities, and sometimes one’s community work not only helps them each to become a better person but improves relationships. The two have also learned from each other.

While Jane Taylor admires her husband’s knack for writing, she also appreciates his energy. Rob Taylor said he takes joy in seeing how his wife works with people from many different perspectives. He also credits her for bringing order to his life.

Jane Taylor said a shared calendar is helpful to keep their schedules in sync, even though she admitted sometimes they forget to tell one another about an activity here and there.

“Blending all the parts of your life together is never easy and it’s never going to go smoothly, and there are going to be bumps,” she said. “And you have to accept that fact that it’s going to be bumpy. Some seasons are going to be a little harder than others.”

Rob Taylor, who together with Jane has two grown children, said commitment helps with balancing, too.

“I think some of it is a matter of just, from a philosophical and practical standpoint, knowing that you want to be involved in community and to make a commitment to business and family at the same time and just working together to make it work,” he said.

Know someone in the Three Village area who is mover and shaker? If so, send an email to [email protected], and you may see his or her story in a future edition of The Village Times Herald.

A stormwater retention pond on Route 25A created by the state continues to cause problems for residents, including those living in the Village of Poquott. Photo by Maria Hoffman

Village of Poquott officials are keeping a close eye on a Route 25A stormwater retention pond directly outside of the hamlet.

Richard Parrish, Poquott’s stormwater management officer, sent a letter last month to New York State Department of Transportation calling for the state to fix persistent problems with the stormwater retention pond slightly east of Route 25A and Van Brunt Manor Road on the south side of the roadway.

Poquott residents complained that the retention pond creates unsafe and unsanitary conditions, according to Parrish’s letter. The unfenced structure is constructed of earthen walls and an earthen base, and residents are concerned about stabilization issues, where the sidewalls can collapse and cause a person or animal to fall or become trapped. Parrish said after a heavy rainfall the structure can fill with up to 4 feet of water.

It is the second letter in a year that Parrish, president and CEO of environmental consulting company Impact Environmental, has sent to Margaret Conklin, DOT’s acting transportation maintenance engineer.

“It’s not working because it’s always full of water, and it’s supposed to drain.”

— George Hoffman

After the first letter Parrish wrote in June 2018, the state sent DOT workers to the site July 10 to investigate the reported issues, but village residents still see it as a nuisance and have not seen any improvements.

Residents are worried that the standing water has attracted rats and mosquitoes; the structure has no controls when it overflows for capturing sediment and preventing the distribution of sediments; contaminants such as nitrates, chlorides and pathogens can possibly run into the road and village; and runoff might go directly to the water table and cause possible contamination.

“While we are aware that the department is exempt from certain environmental regulations with respect to road maintenance, we believe it is your requirement to operate within the intent of these regulations,” Parrish said in the December letter.

George Hoffman, co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said placing a filter system at the location was an opportunity for the state to create a rain garden that usually has vegetation that thrives on the nitrogen in the water, with rocks and stones to improve drainage.

By comparison, he said the current structure looks like a big pit with an asphalt strip to drain water.

“It’s not working because it’s always full of water, and it’s supposed to drain,” he said, adding he’s heard stories of animals getting trapped in it.

Maria Hoffman, a volunteer with the task force, said the particular stretch of Route 25A on the south side is known for clay under the surface, which causes poor drainage.

Stephen Canzoneri, a DOT spokesman, said the agency is aware of the situation and continues to investigate options for a more permanent solution.

During the Jan. 10 Village of Poquott work session, the board of trustees decided to table a decision as to how to proceed about the matter until its next meeting Feb. 11 and allow the state additional time to respond to Parrish’s December letter.

The pond near Se-Port Delicatessen, in a photo from last year, will benefit from a $1 million state grant. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Setauket Harbor and its surrounding area will be a bit cleaner due to a grant secured by a state senator.

“Long Islanders are fortunate to have access to natural resources like the Setauket Harbor and we must continually fight to preserve them.”

— Sen. John Flanagan

Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) secured a $1 million grant from the state for the Town of Brookhaven in 2016 to be used to improve water quality in Setauket Harbor, which will also help clean out the pond slightly west of Se-Port Delicatessen on Route 25A and fix the dock on Shore Road. While the grant was secured two years ago, the contract period began Oct. 1.

“Long Islanders are fortunate to have access to natural resources like the Setauket Harbor and we must continually fight to preserve them,” Flanagan said in a statement. “That is why projects like this are so important, and it is my pleasure to work with the Setauket Harbor Task Force as well as the Town of Brookhaven to ensure that this beautiful natural resource is protected.  These fragile ecosystems are so critical to every facet of life for the people who live, work and play in our region, and it is imperative that we continually join together to make sure they are available to future generations of Long Islanders.”

Veronica King, the town’s stormwater manager, explained how the money would be put to use.

“The project has three distinct components — repair the failing bulkhead at the Shore Road park, remove sediment from the retention pond at [East] Setauket Pond Park, and implement stormwater improvements to mitigate stormwater inputs into the harbor,” she said.

King said the work will take approximately three years to complete and a professional engineering firm will be hired to assist with design, permitting and construction.

“If we don’t fix the pond, we’re just kind of spitting into the wind in terms of all the other stuff we do.”

— George Hoffman

Members of Setauket Harbor Task Force, an organization created with the goal to improve water quality in the harbor, have been consulting with the town about the project, according to task force co-founder George Hoffman.

He said the largest source of pathogens in the harbor are most likely from stormwater from the pond.

“If we don’t fix the pond, we’re just kind of spitting into the wind in terms of all the other stuff we do,” he said.

Hoffman said the pond near the delicatessen serves as an inlet to Setauket Harbor, and stormwater from Route 25A — from around the fire station northeast to the water — washes into it. Hoffman said the pond’s old, faulty water treatment structure is allowing sediment to build up and currently stormwater is going straight into the harbor. He said sediment can include sand that’s been put down on the roads in the winter, items that fall off trucks and cars and pet waste.

“The town has a strong commitment to protecting our natural environment.”

— Veronica King

Hoffman said the goal is to dredge the pond and remove 10 feet of sediment. He said the reconstruction of the stormwater inputs would enable the sediment to go into a catch basin that’s specifically designed to capture it. The sediment will settle and then only water would go into the harbor.

King said the town will contribute $500,000 worth of capital funds, bringing the total allocation to the project to $1.5 million.

“The town has a strong commitment to protecting our natural environment,” she said. “It makes it so much easier when we have the community’s support for projects such as the Setauket Harbor project.”

The town will also need to get approval from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation before removing the sediment, which is standard DEC procedure as at times it may contain toxins. King said it shouldn’t be a problem as the town recently did a grain size analysis and found a high percentage of coarse sand material, and she doesn’t expect any surprises as far as chemical compounds.

Hoffman said he looks forward to the improvements as many people attending the Route 25A Visioning meetings in 2017 pointed to the area around the harbor as having potential.

“We see it as the first phase,” he said. “I think we have some plans to make it the centerpiece of downtown East Setauket.”

A stormwater retention pond on Route 25A east of Old Coach Road. Photo by Steve Antos

Sometimes what seems like a simple solution to an issue can lead to pesky problems.

New York State Department of Transportation workers were on the site of a stormwater retention pond, also known as a rain garden, on Route 25A in Setauket July 10 investigating reported problems. Richard Parrish, stormwater management officer for the Village of Poquott, sent a letter June 18 to follow up with a conversation he had with NYSDOT Regional Director Margaret Conklin, on issues with the newly installed rain garden that is causing problems for Poquott residents.

“The structure always contains standing water and attracts vectors such as rats and mosquitoes.”

— Richard Parrish

Among the issues Parrish cited is that after it rains the pond is filled up to 4 feet deep with standing water. He also said the structure is made of earthen walls and an earthen base and is not fenced in, which can present a danger to people and wildlife. In the letter, he provided the example of a deer stuck in the rain garden a few weeks ago, and residents needed to enter it to release the animal.

He also stated in his letter that he believed the retention pond is not compliant with stormwater regulations under the federal Clean Water Act as it has no controls for capturing sediment or preventing the distribution of sediment and contaminants such as nitrates, chlorides and pathogens.

“The structure always contains standing water and attracts vectors such as rats and mosquitoes,” Parrish wrote, adding this was the cause of most of the complaints village officials receive.

Parrish said Conklin was immediately responsive to the issue of mosquito control as a Suffolk County Department of Health Services vector control unit came the day he spoke with her. He said road and safety issues still remain.

George Hoffman, co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said the organization advocates the use of small rain gardens at the ends of streets leading into the harbor to contain road runoff. It is one of the biggest challenges impacting water quality. However, he agreed the Setauket one is poorly designed, a safety hazard and is not compliant with the federal Clean Water Act.

“Right now, it seems to be a small basin to collect water and doesn’t have any aspects of a rain garden.”

— George Hoffman

The Route 25A rain garden had recently been installed as a temporary solution to deal with roadway flooding.

Hoffman said rain gardens are an environmentally friendly way of handling stormwater, replacing traditional recharge basins like sumps and storm drains. The retention ponds are more beneficial as they are built differently.

“They are generally constructed in a small depression composed of porous soils and planted with native shrubs, perennials and flowers and work by slowly filtering rainwater through the soils and plants and filtering out nitrogen and other pollutants,” he said.

Hoffman said the spot, off Route 25A east of Old Coach Road, is not ideal for a rain garden. The site directs water runoff onto the side of the roadway and is not conducive to natural drainage.

“Right now, it seems to be a small basin to collect water and doesn’t have any aspects of a rain garden,” Hoffman said.

Stephen Canzoneri, public information officer for NYSDOT, said workers were at the site in early May to remove invasive Japanese knotweed and other debris to improve the drainage.

“NYSDOT has cleaned invasive vegetation and other waste out of storm drains as well as diverted water off the road to the shoulder as part of a short-term plan to curb flooding along Route 25A,” Canzoneri said. “We continue to investigate options for a more permanent solution.”

Owners of the Shell gas station on the northwest corner of Route 25A and Jones Street have submitted variances to the Town of Brookhaven's board of zoning appeals to construct a gas canopy and install a 72-square-foot lighted sign. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The Three Village Civic Association is taking action to prevent a gas station from “changing the scenery” in the area.

Magid Setauket Associates LLC, owner of Shell gas station on Route 25A and Jones Street, applied for variances to the Town of Brookhaven Board of Zoning Appeals in the beginning of March. The company submitted proposed plans to construct a large canopy and a lighted electric sign at the gas station.

Members of the civic association have expressed concerns over the proposed plans to build the fuel canopy, which would measure 79 feet in length, 26 feet in width and approximately 25 feet in height, setback 14 1/2 feet from 25A, which is less than the distance required by the town. The company has proposed plans to install a 72-square-foot freestanding ground sign that exceeds the 24 square feet permitted by Brookhaven, with a maximum illuminance that also surpasses the town’s requirements.

“The large canopy proposed by the Shell station is unusual and out of place in our historic downtown Setauket.”

— Herb Mones

After receiving news of the proposed variances, the civic association informed its members via email and stated that between a seven-mile stretch along 25A, from St. James to Port Jefferson, there are no gas station canopies.

“This canopy and the associated digital sign would make this a precedent-setting project which would open the door for all the other stations along 25A to do the same,” the email read.

Representatives from Magid Setauket Associates were originally scheduled to
appear before the board March 21, but due to inclement weather, the meeting was postponed until March 28. The company’s
petition was then scheduled as a holdover for the board’s April 18 meeting.

Herb Mones, chair of the civic’s land use committee, said he is hopeful the postponement may mean the applicant is rethinking their proposals. He said state Assemblyman Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) and town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) wrote letters to the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals to oppose the station’s request for variances.

“The large canopy proposed by the Shell station is unusual and out of place in our historic downtown Setauket,” Mones said. “Simply put — it overwhelms the sense of place we have worked so hard to preserve and protect in the Three Villages. The electronic sign, positioned close to the roadway, may be well suited for a four-lane highway, not for our historic Main Street.”

The civic association was one of the key organizations involved in the Route 25A resident visioning meetings that were spearheaded by Cartright in 2017, and its officers have discussed changes at the Shell station with Magid Setauket Associates in the past, including the addition of a convenience store, according to George Hoffman, the civic’s first vice president.

“As far as our position on this, we’re basically about how it affects our community, how it affects our children, how it affects the traffic.”

— Omar Ishtiaque

“We opposed the plan, citing the location and limited parking space on the property,” Hoffman said. “The civic association hopes the current plan is not a way to gain approval by seeking several variances from the ZBA and, once in hand, seeking the final approval for the convenience store.”

Omar Ishtiaque, who owns Cupeez Drive-Thru less than a quarter of a mile west from the Shell station, said he and a few of his customers also have concerns. The business owner said he has seen many changes along the roadways since his family opened the store 35 years ago. He said he feels the historical aspect of the village is something that draws people in and makes residents appreciate their surroundings.

“As far as our position on this, we’re basically about how it affects our community, how it affects our children, how it affects the traffic,” he said.

Ishtiaque said while he’s not against development, a sense of place is important to him, and with his own business, he has taken down signage that was near the roadway and has tried to keep the store as traditional looking as possible.

“When a lot of the newer changes come in with corporations funding these type of businesses, yes, it’s great in a lot of ways, but at the same time I think it takes away a piece of our community,” he said.

A representative for Magid Setauket Associates did not respond to inquiries for comments.