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Greenway Trail

Pixabay photo

Port Jefferson-based Hope Children’s Fund is holding it’s 17th Annual 5K Kenya/ USA Bi-Continental Walk/Run on Oct. 16, starting at 10 a.m.

This fundraising event is being held on the Port Jefferson end of the Port Jefferson Station/Setauket Greenway Trail. 

People in Kenya will be starting at the same time — only seven time zones away. 

Founded by Port Jefferson resident Larry Hohler and his Kenyan former student Joe Kirima, HCF was incorporated in 2005, in response to the AIDS-pandemic then raging in Kenya. 

Eighteen AIDS-affected preteens were taken off the streets in Meru when the orphanage first opened  in February  2005.  

Most of the original residents are now free- standing young adults, and 87 youngsters are coming up behind them. The money generated by this fundraiser helps to pay for their food, clothing, shelter and school fees.

Until now, the Kenyans won 16 of the 17 times that the competition has been held.

The entree fee is $30, but  larger donations are welcome. Participants can also compete virtually,  at a time and place of one’s choosing, between Oct. 16 and Oct. 23. 

For more information, call Larry Hohler at 631-473-1662, or check out their website hopechildrensfund.org.

Photo from PJST civic

Following the June 17 stabbing of 39-year-old Benjamin Flores-Mendez — who was found dead in Port Jefferson Station on the Greenway Trail — the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association called an emergency meeting this week to demand answers on a variety of issues from local representatives.

On Tuesday, July 6, nearly 150 people attended the meeting at Comsewogue High School. Suffolk County Police Department 6th Precinct officers joined elected officials from town, county and state offices to listen to topics such as the Lawrence Aviation space, homelessness, gangs and drug abuse which were brought up by concerned residents.

While the stabbing sparked the meeting, SCPD officials were unable to give details or answer questions surrounding the death, as it’s still an ongoing investigation. 

But that didn’t stop Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), and town Councilman Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) from joining the panel. State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) could not attend, but a representative joined in his place. 

“I’m going to tell you that myself and my colleagues from the Town Board are upset, disturbed by what we see is a growing problem in various communities in the Town of Brookhaven,” Romaine said. “And that is homelessness.”

According to residents, they have seen homeless people set up tents near the vacant and decrepit Lawrence Aviation buildings located adjacent to the Greenway on the Port Jefferson Station section. 

Kornreich added that those who are homeless aren’t necessarily in that plight because of a financial issue — oftentimes it revolves around mental health problems or drug abuse. 

“I think that what we need to try to do is to find a way, a compassionate way, to get these people the services that they need, that maybe they’re reluctant to take,” he said, adding it might require a greater investment in services from county agencies. 

Englebright, who spearheaded the creation of the trail years ago, said the Lawrence Aviation project has been an issue for years and requires coordination from all levels of government. 

“We’re in a moment of turmoil, not only locally but nationally,” he said. “We’re coming off of one of the worst years in the last 100 years because of the COVID infection that has ravaged our communities, and everybody is on edge — that includes disadvantaged individuals, and those who have ill intent. So, we have our work cut out for us.”

During the community forum, questions of hiking trails being linked to crime came up.

“The simple answer is no, there is no correlation, no cause and effect,” Englebright said. “Trails such as this are open space, and so they become targets to the opportunists.”

On the town level, Kornreich assured that meetings like this — between residents and local government — are what allows things to change. 

“We’re all here because we have to renew our commitment to work together at all levels of government to face challenges like the ones we have in Port Jefferson Station,” he said. 

The 6th Precinct commanding officer, Inspector Patrick Reilly, gave an update on crime statistics. In wake of the stabbing, new cameras were placed at the entrances and along the Greenway Trail. Reilly said more patrol officers have been out during the daytime and evening, as well as overnight. Plainclothes officers and the SCPD gang unit are on-site, as well. 

The stabbing that happened last month was the only one in 2021 and 2020, Reilly said. Robberies are down this year, as well as a 100% decrease in aggravated assault. 

“Overall, total violent crime is down 11.1%, total property crime is down 4.8%,” he said. “So, obviously, there are problems that still need to be addressed, and we will continue to do that.”

The next normally scheduled civic meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 20, at 7 p.m. at the Comsewogue Public Library. 

File photo

In the wake of the June 17 stabbing of 39-year-old Benjamin Flores-Mendez, who was found dead in Port Jefferson Station on the Greenway Trail, new precautions are being taken to help make residents feel safer when exercising alone.

To make the Greenway Trail safer, Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) requested cameras on the trail, bike patrols during the day and sector car patrols at night. As a result of Hahn’s push for better safety, cameras and new patrols are already in place

“As a Suffolk County resident, parent and legislator, public safety is always top of mind, and if I’m sent to Congress, that will continue,” Hahn said. “I’m proud of my work to keep our communities safe, like investing in security cameras and additional patrols in crime-prone areas and would welcome any new opportunities to expand on those efforts.”

As part of a women’s running group herself, Hahn advocates running with a partner and recommends using trails during daylight hours. 

According to Herb Mones, chair of the Three Village Civic Association land use committee, the Greenway Trail is the most used recreational area in the community.

Although this is the first reported incident of this type, Mones was still disheartened to learn the news. 

“Being part of the trail’s initial planning, and still active in its stewardship, I was shocked to see violence occur on the trail,” Mones said. “This corridor is a place for people to enjoy, and it is sad to see a loss of life on this path.”

Suffolk County police have stepped up their patrols on the trail and, with Hahn’s support, the implementation of security cameras will help deter any suspicious activity. 

“It is important for trail users to report any suspicious behavior, and refrain from being out on the trail at nighttime when there is less likelihood to observe your surroundings,” Hahn said, adding that it is illegal to be on the trail between dusk and dawn. 

Suffolk County police car. File photo

On Thursday,  June 17,  a man was found dead in Port Jefferson Station at the Greenway Trail, near Clifton Place at approximately 1 a.m.

Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad detectives are investigating the stabbing death of a man that occurred on the trail. The body of the man was pronounced dead at the scene.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on the case to call the Homicide Squad at 631-852-6392.

 

 

Community members came out for the 2021 Great Brookhaven Clean Up on May 15. Co-sponsored by the Town of Brookhaven’s Department of Recycling and Sustainable Materials Management and Keep America Beautiful, Inc., the event is part of a national effort that draws over 5 million volunteers in more than 20,000 communities across America who come together to pick up litter and clean miles of roadway, rivers, lakes, and more. 

Courtesy photo

The Suffolk County Legislature has approved the purchase of 17.29 acres of open space within the Terryville Greenbelt — its vote providing county officials with authorization to complete the remaining steps of the acquisition process for these properties. 

Through a partnership, the cost of purchasing these parcels will be divided between Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven at a 75% and 25% split, respectively. Additionally, the County and Town are expected to enter into an agreement for management and oversight of this open space by Brookhaven. 

As part of the Central Suffolk Special Groundwater Protection Area and located within the heavily developed Port Jefferson Station community, the Terryville Greenbelt is situated south of Route 112, adjacent to the rear of Comsewogue High School, and is approximately 75 total acres. 

The Town of Brookhaven has already preserved approximately 40 of the greenbelt’s acres through open space acquisitions and these 60 individual parcels will add to those existing municipal open space holdings to form continuous greenery.

“Preserving the Terryville Greenbelt parcels, located within a Special Groundwater Protection Area, in perpetuity highlights the continued commitment of Suffolk County to being a strong community partner to ensure protection of the local environment and our quality of life,” said Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket).

Suffolk’s efforts to preserve the greenbelt began in 2017, when Hahn gained approval for the appraisals of the parcels, the first step in a multi-phased county acquisition process. 

That initial step commenced a complex process of contacting the 60 parcels’ owners, gauging the owners’ interest in selling to the county and appraising the sites.

According to a letter of support provided to legislators from the Port Jefferson Station Terryville Civic Association, “Given the past and present development in this hamlet this proposed acquisition is needed for both quality of life and of our drinking water. The community supports the need for this type of quality and amount of open space in our Suffolk hamlet.”

Councilman Jonathan Kornreich was also grateful for Hahn’s help.

“This is a monumental achievement for our community and I’m grateful for your passionate dedication to getting it done,” he said. “This latest addition to the 40 acres preserved by the Town of Brookhaven will further strengthen our shared efforts to protect our groundwater and provide more public access to precious green spaces.”

Volunteers clean up the Greenway Trail in Port Jefferson on April 17. Photo by Herb Mones

Volunteerism — to some degree — still exists. When it comes to Earth Day and protecting our environment, this is a wonderful thing.

Two weeks ago, on our editorial page, we mentioned the increase in roadside litter along our towns’ roads and the importance of keeping garbage off the streets. In that editorial, we made a small mention of the groups that volunteer to clean up in our areas, but they deserve more than a sentence or two.

With Earth Day celebrated April 22, residents may have seen people out this past weekend with bags, gloves and trash pickers along roads, in parks and on beaches collecting the garbage of others. 

On Saturday, the Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group hosted a cleanup in conjunction with Suffolk County at Larry’s Landing, and Three Village Community Trust members along with the Friends of the Greenway could be found along the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail.

Hometown Hope, a Port Jefferson nonprofit, gathered volunteers Sunday to clean up the beaches in the village. Dozens of people helped pick up trash along the four-and-a-half-mile shoreline. These are just a few of the cleanups that occur on our roads, trails and beaches throughout the year.

These volunteers deserve a standing ovation for helping to improve our environment and restoring a sense of pride to our communities. 

We would love to see cleanups like this happen more often throughout the year. While it’s the responsibility of individuals to treat the outdoors as they would their own living room or car, unfortunately many don’t follow this common-sense rule. 

Groups like the ones mentioned above have the ability to organize people and get things done and pick up where towns leave off — even though we would like to see highway departments out cleaning more, too.

Sadly, many organizations are in desperate need of volunteers. As more residents commute to the city or work two jobs, many civic associations, advocacy groups, nonprofits and even fire departments have seen a decrease in the number of people volunteering.

Yet so many groups just ask for a bit of time to help make our neighborhoods better places to live. One individual giving up an hour here and there to help others causes a ripple effect. It could influence many to do the same and create a wave of community engagement.

That wave is evident in these cleanups as not only a spot of land becomes cleaner but, in the long run, it helps our foliage and wildlife thrive and keeps our waterways clean.

So, thank you to all of you who took the time out of your busy weekends to make our little space on Earth a bit cleaner.

TREASURING OUR TRAILS

The Port Jefferson Station trailhead of the Greenway Trail was the recipient of some much needed love on Saturday, April 17, just in time for Earth Day. Led by the Three Village Community Trust’s Friends of the Greenway Trail Stewards Charlie McAteer and Herb Mones, volunteers spent the morning picking up litter and dead branches and painting over graffiti. Join the group on their next cleanup on Saturday, May 15 at 9 a.m. For more information, email [email protected]

A biker enjoys a section of the Greenway Trail.

The Three Village Community Trust will host a cleanup of the Setauket and Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail on Saturday, April 17 at 9 a.m. Meet up with Friends of the Greenway volunteers at trailheads at Limroy Lane in Setauket or Hallock Ave. and Main St. in Port Jefferson Station. For more information, please email [email protected].

The 10-mile route that the Port Jefferson Station to Wading River Rails to Trails project will take. Image from Legislator Anker's office

As hundreds packed the auditoriums of Shoreham-Wading River and Miller Place high schools the same sentiment reverberated off the walls — there’s not only a want, but a need for a safe place for children to ride their bikes.

After the deaths of two local children, the desire for the Rails to Trails project to push forward was prevalent among the Port Jefferson Station, Mount Sinai, Miller Place, Sound Beach, Rocky Point, Shoreham and Wading River residents who live along the proposed 10-mile trail.

“I don’t know if this trail is going to move forward 100 percent, but so far it’s picking up momentum,” Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said to the March 29 group in Shoreham. “We need the ability to ride bikes in a safe place, the ability to take a walk or push a baby carriage in a safe place.”

Residents listen to questions and answers during the meeting at Shorheam-Wading River High School. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The legislator, who is propelling the project, brought members the Suffolk County Department of Works and engineering company NV5 to her first general meeting to gather public input and answer questions.

“I need to hear what you want, because I’m here to make it happen,” Anker said.

Steve Normandy, project manager with NV5, discussed the flat surface and location being conducive to a trail.

“There’s over 1,600 rail trails nationwide over 20,000 miles,” he said. “They’re good for biking, hiking, walking, safe travel to school, and studies have shown businesses thrive and home values increase, it improves air quality and enhances sense of community.”

On March 28, the county Legislature unanimously approved a negative New York State Environmental Quality Review Act determination for the proposed 10-foot-wide trail, which would be opened from dawn to dusk. The adoption of negative SEQRA determination means that there is no anticipated environmental impact for the project.

The path will have paver markings and mile-markers for county miles, as well as emergency services to locate those in need. It will also meet Americans with Disabilities Act slope requirements. The design report was submitted to the state Department of Transportation in February. If design approval is received this summer, final design plans will be prepared in the next year in the hopes of received final design plan approval from the NYSDOT in winter 2018.

Currently, the plan is that construction will begin in spring 2019, for a fall 2020 finish.

“We’ve met with quite a few partners and discussed a bunch of different aspects of maintenance, but the biggest issue we anticipate is really going to be cutting the grass,” said county Department of Public Works chief engineer, Bill Hillman. “We’ll be asking the community for help, to pitch in with a lot of the different maintenance aspects.”

The hope is that a not-for-profit like the Friends of Greenway, which maintains the Setauket to Port Jefferson Greenway Trail, will form to beautify and preserve the attraction.

Kaitlin Brown, who moved to Wading River five years ago, said she entered the area because she loved the trees.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker responds to questions from the audience. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I want to pledge my support because I think it’s a wonderful component that our community doesn’t have, and it needs,” she said, adding she is willing to help mow and maintain the piece of property, which is owned by LIPA. “I found my house on the map, and it looks like one day when I have kids, they’ll be able to get from our house through back roads to the trail, and then take the trail to the high school.”

Judy Black, who has lived in the area for 47 years, said she’s been hoping the trail would become a reality from day one, back in 2001 before plans derailed, and again in 2011 when Anker tried to revive the idea.

“I so hope we can come together and make this happen,” she said. “With a son that rode his bicycle all over the place I was always worried about him.”

She explained how she once saw a cyclist fall on North Country Road trying to maneuver around a construction sign. She was in need of medical attention, and when examiners arrived, they asked her why she was riding along a major road.

“But where else do you ride your bike?” Black said. “We need a safe place to ride, to walk with friends, to expand our community connection, and I’m so for it.”

The ideas weren’t without opposition.

There were some like 10-year Rocky Point resident Mary Anne Gladysz, who said she’s felt like she’s been kept in the dark.

“I’m not in favor of this at all,” she said, although adding she would probably be in favor of Rails to Trials if she didn’t live near it.“This is in my backyard 24/7; you come for an hour-and-a-half walk and then you leave. I’m here all the time.”

Some of her concerns included if the trail will take property from homeowners, if cesspools will be affected and what issues her dogs barking toward the trail could bring.

Hillman and Anker reassured her that she will not be losing property, and cesspools will not be affected. As for dogs barking and noise ordinances, Hillman said it’s an issue Gladysz would have to take up with Brookhaven Town.

The trial currently doesn’t have any guardrails, fences, beautification elements, toilets or lights budgeted into the $8 million plan.

Those who would like to see where the trail will be located in relation to their homes could view individual hamlet maps during the meeting. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Anker said she is working on a plan to protect privacy along the path, and said Eagle and Girl Scouts typically do beautification projects, which could include adding benches and other useful things along the trail.

Others still worried about safety and other crime-related issues, were soothed by Sgt. Walter Langdon of the Suffolk County Police Department, and 7th Precinct COPE officer Mike Casper, who said there has been “little to no crime” at Setauket-Port Jefferson Greenway Trail, but added that there will still be a police presence along the path.

By the end of the first meeting, those like Rocky Point resident Cory Fitzgerald were heard loudest, and supported by other community members for their opinion of the trail.

Fitzgerald has daughters aged 8 and 6, and both love riding their bikes.

“We take trips to Cape Cod every summer and the rail trail up in Cape Cod is phenomenal,” he said. “My girls ride their bikes more in that one week than during the entire year in Rocky Point. The roads in Rocky Point are very narrow and hilly, so I want to give my girls that opportunity to ride whenever they want. We’ve been waiting for so long — I’ve been told this was coming and I’ve been so excited and the girls really want this to happen. It’s going to be great for our community.”

Residents in favor of the trail, which some like Wading River resident Bruce Kagan are naming the “Tesla Trail,” because it will lead to the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham, were unanimous on the biggest topic of discussion: kids.

“This is the most deadly county for injuries and deaths for pedestrians and cyclists,” Kagan said. “There’s no place for our kids. Let us do this for our children and our children’s children.”