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Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. File photo by Erika Karp

Fund reallocation would help up to 100 more households

In a letter to the Commissioner of the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (NYS OTDA), Supervisor Ed Romaine advised that the Town of Brookhaven return and reallocate $1.5 million in administrative funds received from the United States Department of Treasury as part of a second round of Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERA-2) funding to address the unmet needs of eligible Town of Brookhaven tenants and landlords. 

In the letter, the Supervisor requested to have the NYS OTDA return the money to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program application portal, which is controlled by NYS OTDA for the benefit of Brookhaven residents. It is estimated that the reallocated funds can help an additional 80 to 100 eligible households that need assistance to pay for rental arrears and prospective rent. 

“Although it appears that the pandemic is nearly behind us, there are still many Brookhaven Town residents who are experiencing economic hardship. The funds are available, and we should do whatever we can to provide assistance so they can stay in their homes,” said Supervisor Romaine. 

“Because the Town worked well with our partnering non-profits and community-based organizations to perform outreach and get the word out, the response from residents was overwhelming. Now, we want to help even more people,” he added.   

In his letter, Supervisor Romaine stressed the urgency of his request since the moratorium on evictions in New York State expired on January 15, 2022. To date, more than 3,700 applications have been submitted to the NYS OTDA and $21,837,851.00 in ERAP funding has been administered to 1,257 households through the Town of Brookhaven’s Department of Housing and Community Development. 

 

Courtesy photo

Concern Housing, Inc. — a Medford-based nonprofit agency committed to helping individuals live with dignity and enhanced opportunities —celebrated the grand opening of Liberty Station in Port Jefferson Station last week. 

Liberty Station, a 77-unit rental community, provides workforce and accommodating housing options to persons in the community, including veterans 

“We are thrilled to join the Port Jefferson community and provide a housing option that is in desperate need for so many in our region,” said Ralph Fasano, Executive Director of Concern Housing. “Liberty Station offers veterans who have fought for our country quality, affordable housing as everyone deserves to live with dignity and respect.”

Courtesy photo

Standing beside its various partners and elected officials, Concern cut the celebratory ribbon welcoming six, two-story apartment buildings comprising 77 affordable homes. Seventy-five of the 77 apartment homes are one-bedroom units and the remaining are two-bedroom units. Twenty-five of the apartments are reserved for veterans, 20 additional units are given preference for veterans and the remaining units are for individuals making less than 50% of the Area Median Income. 

To ensure the quality living of residents, the community also provides residents with access to private parking lots and amenities such as a fitness center, a library and a computer room. 

Additionally, staff offices are on-site so that staff members can be available to help resolve any issues or needs. Residents also benefit by being in close proximity to major bus routes as well as the Port Jefferson LIRR station. 

“I am in an apartment on my own at a great location,” said U.S. Army Sergeant Harold Mains. “I could never afford an apartment like this on my income and also, live on my own. I am living 150% better than I was. I love my own space, the sense of community and appreciate all that Concern does for housing Vets, like me.”

According to New York State Governor Kathy Hochul, the $28 million affordable and supportive housing development will be an entity to the Town of Brookhaven. 

“With its affordable homes, health services and gorgeous grounds, Liberty Station is now a permanent piece of the Port Jefferson Station community — and the residents of Brookhaven will benefit as a result,”  Hochul said. “Making it possible for people to access stable, supportive homes that they can afford is one of the principal missions of my administration, and it is one that we will continue to fulfill.”

State funding for Liberty Station includes more than $18 million in equity from Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and more than $6.3 million in subsidy from New York State Homes and Community Renewal. 

The Community Preservation Corporation is providing a $1.45 million permanent loan funded through their partnership with the New York City Employees’ Retirement Systems, Suffolk County provided $900,000 and the Home Depot Foundation donated $300,000. OMH has provided $382,000 in start-up funding through a program development grant, and $1.1 million in annual support service funding through ESSHI. 

Liberty Station is part of the state’s $20 billion, five-year effort to provide New Yorkers with access to safe, affordable housing. The plan, now in its final year, makes housing accessible and combats homelessness by building and preserving more than 100,000 units of affordable housing and 6,000 units of supportive housing.    

Over the last decade on Long Island, HCR has invested $366 million to finance nearly 2,900 affordable apartments in multifamily developments, an investment that leveraged more than $272 million in funding from other sources.

c“An essential part of moving our region forward and remaining competitive is making investments in affordable and diverse housing options. Liberty Station will provide permanent, supportive housing for adults with disabilities, working-class individuals and families, and veterans,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “Our goal is to ensure that all of our residents have a safe place to call home.”

Leah Jefferson, director of the Huntington Community Development Agency and Economic Development Corporation, speaks at the Aug. 20 press conference. Photo by Kimberly Brown

The Town of Huntington has been awarded $5.9 million from the U.S. Department of Treasury to go toward a new outreach program called the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

The grand opening of the new center took place Aug. 20 in Greenlawn. The program’s purpose is to provide economic relief to help low and moderate-income households who are at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability. 

“The funds can pay for 12 months of past-due residential rent for some households, up to three months in future rent and up to 12 months of overdue electric or gas utility bills,” said town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R). 

All payments would go directly to the landlord or the utility provider. By partnering with Housing Help, trained specialists will be available to answer questions about the program and assist anyone who needs help filling out an application form.

“Help is available even if you have no lease, no pay stubs and regardless of immigration status,” Lupinacci said. 

With evictions on the rise and rent going up in price, housing instability for tenants and landlords has become an extensive issue. Landlords are encouraged to fill out an online application form or visit the new ERAP center in person to work out a solution for their tenants’ overdue rent.

“This program has been a blessing to the residents,” said Leah Jefferson, director of the Huntington Community Development Agency and Economic Development Corporation. “We have received over 300 applications to date. However, we do anticipate receiving a much larger number of applications in the coming few weeks.”

The center is located at 95 Broadway in Greenlawn. Even so, James Calero, director of St. Hugh of Lincoln Outreach, has worked with Housing Help to provide a satellite office in Huntington Station for ERAP appointments as well.

This closer location will make it easier for local residents to travel to, or meetings can also be set up as a video conference. 

“For those people who might not have transportation and are not able to get to the Greenlawn center, please give us a call, we’ll be happy to set up an appointment and we will meet with you,” said Pilar Moya-Mancera, executive director of Housing Help. 

The Housing Help board members expressed their gratitude for the creation of this new program and for Moya-Mancera, who has a passion for community activism and has aided town residents.

“I like to say this is like Christmas in August for our community, and it’s something that we needed for a while,” said Guillermo Perez, a Housing Help board member. “It’s an honor to be a part of this, and I want to thank Pilar. She is like an octopus; her hands are everywhere — she covers all of Long Island and is a blessing to us.”

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A rendering of the proposed development in Mount Sinai. Image from Steven Losquadro

With the sounds of senior living facilities construction echoing up and down Route 25A, another developer has one more project coming down the pipeline for Mount Sinai, this time for a facility geared toward millennials.

The proposed development, Mount Sinai Meadows, will be a 30-acre mixed-use majority rental and part commercial facility geared toward creating a living space for young adults and young professionals.

“For people in the ages of 20 to 34, an increasing subset of the population here on Long Island, there is not appropriate housing or opportunities for such individuals who wish to stay here,” said Rocky Point-based attorney Steven Losquadro, who is representing the developer. 

Representatives of the site’s developer Mount Sinai Meadows LLC, headed by Woodmere-based real estate developer Basser-Kaufman, attended a Town of Brookhaven board meeting March 14 seeking a change of zoning from J-Business 2 to Planned Development District along with approval of the draft environmental impact study. No final decision was made on the property, and the board confirmed it would leave the proposal open for another 30 days to allow for additional comments.

“We felt it was very important for us to broaden our offerings of housing.”

— Ann Becker

In terms of amenities, the site plans to have bike racks, walkable grounds, communal barbecue areas, electric car charging stations, a large open lawn for the use of residents and four spaces toward the northern end of the property that will be used for large retail spaces. There will be 21.78 acres used for residential housing, while 8.3 acres will be retail. 

The project looks to include 140 housing units, including 106 two-bedroom apartments and 34 one-bedroom apartments. Losquadro said none of the apartments will be subsidized housing.

Engineer Charles Voorhis, a partner of the Melville-based firm Nelson, Pope & Voorhis LLC, said the project includes a 170-foot buffer, incorporating a 40-foot natural buffer between the site and the surrounding woods and residential communities to the south and west of the planned development.

The Mount Sinai Civic Association president Ann Becker said approximately 20 percent of the housing stock in the hamlet is for those 55 and older. She said the developer has offered assurances that the development is not expected to bring in an overwhelming number of children into the Mount Sinai School District.

“We have worked with the developers and have been provided with assurances that the number of children … will not burden our community,” Becker said. “We felt it was very important for us to broaden our offerings of housing.”

A number of residents on Mount Sinai Facebook groups were concerned about the traffic impact these new developments could have. The developer’s representatives did not rule out a potential increase in traffic.

Maureen Bond, the communications director of the Mount Sinai-Miller Place Chamber Alliance, said she also supports the project.

“In my opinion, this is the best plan so far,” she said. “There are traffic issues that need to be addressed; however, I believe having traffic is better than having no traffic.”

The civic has been supportive of the development for years, helping to shape its identity into the millennial housing proposal. One of its most recent requests for the development was to ensure the developer would not seek and would not be given any financial assistance or tax aid from the town, especially any help from the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency. Two senior developments at the corner of Echo Avenue and Route 25A, one an assisted living facility, had recently been given a generous 13-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement, and though the civic had been supportive of that project, it was heavily against the loss of taxes from the PILOT.

“For people in the ages of 20 to 34, an increasing subset of the population here on Long Island, there is not appropriate housing or opportunities for such individuals who wish to stay here.”

— Steve Losquadro

The Mount Sinai Meadows project has been in the works for several years. Anthony Graves, Brookhaven town’s chief environmental analyst, said he had talked to Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) in 2012 about creating a “true town center” for each of the communities in Council District 2 along Route 25A. A prior project for the site was originally proposed by a different developer specifically for J-2 business zoning, Voorhis said. That project included 805 square feet of retail, 37,000 square feet of office and a 2,000-square-foot bank.

Representatives of the developer said there was no final decision on the expected price on the rentals, but Losqaudro said they have promised the civic it will be at market rate.

Voorhis added the developer is currently in talks with the owner of the neighboring strip mall to allow access between the two retail centers. The developer is also in talks about acquiring the neighboring music store property and incorporating it.

Graves said the town was interested in the PDD zoning because it could more accurately reflect the mixed-use nature of the proposed development.

“[We] believe this development is in the spirit of that original efforts we made in Mount Sinai,” the environmental analyst said. “We look at it as a true town center for Mount Sinai.”

From left: ERASE Racism President Elaine Gross, Duke University professor Kim Manturuk, John Hopkins University professor Nathan Connolly, SBU professor Christopher Sellers. Photo by David Luces

By David Luces

While de facto segregation among Long Island’s school districts and housing has been entrenched for decades, there is a growing academic movement to bring people closer together.

As part of the forum, “Housing and Racio-economic Equality” Elaine Gross, president of the Syosset-based advocacy group ERASE Racism, which co-sponsored the event, along with professors from Duke and Johns Hopkins Universitys discussed the history of racism and segregation in the U.S. and how it has affected public housing and education. Gross argued that there is racial segregation and inequality crisis in housing and public education on Long Island. 

“There are folks that think that things are fine how they are,” she said. 

At the forum hosted at the Hilton Garden Inn at Stony Brook Univesrity, Gross argued that there is severe government fragmentation on Long Island, which in turn makes it easier for racial discrimination in housing and public education. 

“Segregation is profitable, and it didn’t end — it is still ongoing.”

— Nathan Connolly

Nathan Connolly, a history professor at Johns Hopkins University, said we have to rethink what we know about segregation. 

“We are under the impression that segregation ended due to a combination of moral arguments, like [Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s] I Have a Dream Speech, and that segregation was too expensive to maintain,” he said. “Segregation is profitable, and it didn’t end — it is still ongoing.”

Connolly added due to many Jim Crow era policies, white supremacy has been baked into our political and governing structure.  

“In the 1920s people began to institutionalize groups like the Ku Klux Klan,” Connolly said. “They had chapters in cities like Detroit, Chicago and Washington, D.C.— it was a dominant force of political organization.” 

In many ways, the experts argued Long Island, in terms of its development of housing, is the perfect picture of what structural racism looks like. 

Gross stated some towns and school districts on Long Island are more segregated than others, showing areas like Levittown, whose black population has only risen 1.2 percent since 1947. At an ERASE Racism forum in December, Gross provided data from New York State Department of Education that shows a school district like Port Jefferson is made up of 80 percent white students, while in a district like Brentwood close to 80 percent of students are Latino while 12 percent are black. 

The panelists argued this racial steering of populations dates back to the time of the Great Depression.

“[There was] a notion that anything that allowed unregulated movement of people would lead to economic instability,” Connolly said. “You had to generate a way to keep everyone in place, while at the same time ensuring broad economic growth.” 

One way this was done was through redlining, or the denial of services to different races through raising the prices on services, or in this case, homes.

Connolly said by removing these people’s options in moving around or getting a loan with a low interest rate it meant they couldn’t own homes and couldn’t accumulate equity, which in turn generated a racial wealth gap.  

Gross mentioned examples of this racial steering on Long Island. Three years ago in Commack, African American renters asked about vacancies at an apartment complex. They were told there were none. When white individuals asked, they were shown the vacancy, given applications and were encouraged to apply.  

ERASE Racism, along with the nonprofit Fair Housing Justice Center, took property owners Empire Management America Corp. to court, arguing it had violated the Federal Fair Housing Act and the Suffolk County Human Rights Law. The duo reached a successful settlement of $230,000 and required changes to the rental operations at the apartment complex. 

Kim Manturuk, associate director of research, evaluation, and development at Duke University provided possible solutions to segregation on Long Island. 

“Adapt a metropolitan approach, that has these cross district governing bodies that try to simplify, organize together things like education, infrastructure development among other things,” she said. 

Though she cautioned that even when you have these procedures in place, it’s no guarantee that you get the desired results, and they need to find ways to make desegregation profitable. 

“We need educators that buy into this change.”

— Elaine Gross

She mentioned in her own community of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, they have something called the Penny for Housing Fund. 

“One penny of every property tax dollar collected in the entire county goes into a housing fund. We use that money to incentivize developers to build housing that has an affordable housing component that cuts races and ethnic lines,” she said. 

If developers want to build a housing complex in the North Carolina county, they would have to set aside 10 percent of the apartment to families that are making 80 percent below the median income in the area. 

Gross said the change needs to begin on the local level. She stressed the importance of building diverse communities. 

“We need educators that buy into this change,” she said. “Also students — educating them about our history, one that is not heard about in schools.”

Gross said it will take a collaborative effort to show that something like this can work.  

“People don’t believe — it is hard to dispel myths to them in the face of facts,” she said. “Unless they can see it and see the students and the community thriving, they won’t buy into it.”

Brightview Senior Living is looking to construct a 170-unit facility on about nine acres of land off Route 112 in Port Jeff Station, illustrated above within the red box. Image from Google Maps

Another large-scale development project is in the works for the Port Jefferson Station area.

Brookhaven Town approved a zone change at its July 12 meeting paving the way for the construction of a 170-unit assisted living facility on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station on a parcel near The Meadow Club banquet hall. With plans already progressing in recent months to construct a 244-unit residential complex for senior citizens on North Bicycle Path just off of Route 112 and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s allocating of $8 million in funds for a roughly 100-unit project for affordable and homeless housing on Route 112 near East Grove Street, this will be the third property set for massive development in a roughly mile and a half stretch of the state highway.

Baltimore-based developer Brightview Senior Living will be building and operating the assisted living facility, as it does with each of its 35 properties, according to Vice President of Development David Holland, who spoke during a town public hearing on the zone change July 12.

“We intend to be long-term citizens of Brookhaven and strive to be good neighbors to all who are around us,” Holland said.

The VP said the company expects the majority of its tenants to be in their 80s and 90s and in need of regular, daily care. Brightview’s current site plan for the approximately nine-acre plot of land includes a three-story building with dining venues, a theater, a pub, a library, indoor and outdoor lounges, as well as its own sewage treatment facility for the site.

The property was previously owned by area resident Jeff Kito and his family dating back to the 1950s, he said during the hearing. Kito is the former president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association and lives on the nearby Canal Road currently. He said he and his brother decided to sell the property about three years ago and sought to find a developer interested in building something along the lines of what Brightview proposed. He said he has met with neighbors in the vicinity to discuss the plans.

“I think we’ll have a great facility for the community,” he said.

Kito’s former colleagues in the civic association submitted a letter to Brightview dated Jan. 25, 2017, stating the members had no objections to the project.

“We look forward to working with your firm as this assisted living facility proposal is further developed in our Port Jefferson Station Terryville Hamlet,” said the letter, signed by then-President Ed Garboski, who is now the vice president.

Current President Sal Pitti said in an email the civic association still has no objections related to the project. Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Anthony Guardino, an attorney representing the applicant at the July 12 hearing, each said they had received a single letter from a community member in opposition of the development in addition to several in favor, including one signed by all homeowners on Patty Ann Court, which is also nearby the boundaries of the parcel. The property is expected to have a significant buffer from other residential properties that will include sizable evergreen trees.

Holland indicated a demand for such a facility exists in the area, as Brightview determined about 1,500 assisted living beds are currently available in the town.

About 16 percent of Suffolk County’s population is 65 or older, according to the website www.censusreporter.org, which is slightly higher than the New York state and United States rates. Port Jefferson Station’s 80-plus population is substantially larger — about 20 percent — than that of the state and surrounding region, according to the site.

File photo by Erika Karp

Homeless people living in Suffolk County might soon find a roof over their heads in Port Jefferson Station.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced May 10 that $25.6 million has been awarded to four housing developments on Long Island to create 239 affordable homes.

There is $8.1 million set aside for construction of six two-story buildings on vacant land off Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station, north of East Grove Street and south of Washington Avenue. Phase One of the project would create 77 units, while a potential second phase would add an additional 31 apartments, according to Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) speaking during a May 22 Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association meeting. The site plan application for the project was listed as
“in-review” in Brookhaven documents as of April 30, though the property is already properly zoned for the requested use and it doesn’t require any variances, according to town spokesperson Kevin Molloy. The Port Jeff Station project would include 45 units for homeless individuals, half of which would be reserved for veterans, Cartright said.

“Our biggest concern, besides the tax part that they’re not bringing any kind of revenue to our community, is also the amount of kids that may come out of this facility.”

— Sal Pitti

The May 10 announcement ignited a strong reaction from the Port Jefferson Station community both on social media and at the May 22 meeting. Civic association President Sal Pitti said he, Cartright and representatives from Concern for Independent Living Inc., the nonprofit agency seeking to construct the facility, met in March to discuss the potential project, concerns of the community and the agency’s efforts to gain tax exempt status for the project from the state. Cartright and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) both said May 22 they were caught off guard by the governor’s announcement about the funding.

“As soon as I found out anything about it, I ran into the supervisor’s office asking him what he knew about it and wanted to make sure that I had all the information necessary,” Cartright said. “Immediately afterwards we contacted the civic association … it was news to us as well.”

Pitti said he thought the organization had been less than forthcoming about its plans, suggesting Concern for Independent Living initially didn’t mention the potential second phase, which is also not referenced in Cuomo’s announcement.

“Our biggest concern, besides the tax part that they’re not bringing any kind of revenue to our community, is also the amount of kids that may come out of this facility, because more kids in our school district means more taxes on top of the taxes we’re already paying for that location,” he said.

Elizabeth Lunde, Senior Associate Executive Director for Concern for Independent Living said leadership of the civic association had been invited to visit one of the organizations other facilities, and the invitation remains on the table.

“Concern for Independent Living is a local organization that has been providing quality housing in Suffolk County for decades,” she said in an email. “We were founded in 1972 and our first office was located in Port Jefferson Station. We currently operate over 1,000 units of affordable rental housing that has made a very positive impact in Suffolk and Nassau Counties as well as Brooklyn and the Bronx.”

Several attendees of the May 22 civic meeting expressed displeasure about the project, suggesting Port Jeff Station already has its fair share of facilities for homeless people.

“Homeless families need a place to live — our community is a very giving community.”

— Edward Garboski

“Homeless families need a place to live — our community is a very giving community,” civic association Vice President Edward Garboski said May 22. A resident at the meeting responded, summing up a sentiment seemingly shared by most of the attendees: “We don’t want to be the only community giving.”

The Port Jefferson project is receiving only a small part of more than $200 million the state is awarding to build or preserve more than 2,800 affordable apartments across New York, according to a press
release from Cuomo’s office. The governor called the $200 million investment a “giant step forward to increase access to homes for families, seniors and our most vulnerable men and women across the state.”

RuthAnne Visnauskas, commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal program, said the investment would address the crisis of homelessness among other benefits.

“By delivering affordable homes to Long Island, we continue to grow its economy,” she said in a statement.

Romaine said the town is concerned about the governor’s announcement and suggested other ways he thought the money could be better used. He also instructed concerned residents to start a petition and direct it to Cuomo’s office.

“We’ve been begging the state of New York to give us some money to fix up zombie homes, and to make them available to first time home buyers and veterans,” he said. “We’d like that money going toward that housing, instead of building something new, how about we rebuild some of the neighborhoods that we lost during the Great Recession to foreclosures and zombie houses. How about giving homes to our veterans and first-time home buyers who are leaving the area.”

Siena Village in Smithtown. Photo from Facebook.

A Suffolk County legislator is calling for the revocation of tax benefits given to a Smithtown housing complex
after managers allegedly threatened dozens of senior citizens with eviction.

Suffolk Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) submitted a formal request to the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency Feb. 22 asking it rescind tax breaks granted to Siena Village as he called into question the management practices of the complex’s management company, PK Management.

Valencia Burney, property manager for Siena Village, said that PK Management sent out approximately 70 notices dated Dec. 29 to residents notifying them of  outstanding balances for their apartment rents.

A copy of one such letter shared with TBR News Media reads, “Please be advised that PK Management, LLC., the managing agent of the property at 2000 Bishops Road, Smithtown, NY 11787, does hereby terminate your tenancy at this property.” It then cites that “in accordance with HUD guidelines” the resident’s lease would end Jan. 8, only 10 days after the date of the letter.

There is little evidence to believe that the residents of Siena Village are going to be treated with the decency and respect to which they are entitled.”
— Rob Trotta

One Siena Village resident, who spoke with TBR News Media on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, and was very scared and disturbed to receive the letter.

“You don’t do this to seniors,” the resident said. “I’ve worked all my life. I’ve paid my dues. Now, I need help. I don’t think anyone thought they would go this far.”

Trotta said his office received “numerous complaints” from Siena Village residents in January who said they received letters like the one cited above, being unfairly threatened with eviction.

“PK Management’s threatening tactics have thrown this community into turmoil, driving many elderly residents into a frantic state with some even being hospitalized as a result,” reads his letter to Suffolk IDA.

Trotta said Feb. 15 a community meeting was held with PK Management representatives, who apologized for the letters claiming they were sent in error. Yet, the legislator alleges PK Management informed the citizens in attendance that New York State law allows them “two days to evict,” and the company provides 10. Trotta said this is not in accordance with state law, in which the eviction process can take several months to process through the courts — a fact he claims the complex has hidden from its residents.

“There is little evidence to believe that the residents of Siena Village are going to be treated with the decency and respect to which they are entitled,” Trotta wrote in his statement.

According to the legislator, PK Management was provided with tax abatements in excess of $600,000 by the Suffolk IDA. Now, he is calling for the IDA to revoke those benefits immediately given their treatment of the Smithtown residents.

PK Management did not respond to requests for comment on Trotta’s demand.

“The Suffolk IDA has received Legislator Trotta’s letter and is looking into the matter,” said Tony Catapano, director of Suffolk IDA, in a statement.

The second phase of construction is underway at the Texaco Avenue apartments. Photo by Elana Glowatz

If you build it, they will come.

Port Jefferson developer Rail Realty LLC proved that old adage when Rob Gitto, from its parent company The Gitto Group, confirmed its uptown apartment project is already at full rental capacity — a month before it is even slated to open.

Gitto said the 38 units in the first completed apartment building has been completely pre-leased and there is a waiting list for the second building, which will add another approximately 36 units when completed next year.

Most of those future tenants are affiliated with Stony Brook University in some way, Gitto said, whether they are graduate students, medical residents, professors, nurses, doctors or other staff. There are also a few people from John T. Mather Memorial Hospital’s new residency program.

The first phase of the Texaco Avenue apartments is complete. Photo by Elana Glowatz
The first phase of the Texaco Avenue apartments is complete. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Officials broke ground on the much-anticipated project, dubbed The Hills at Port Jefferson, in May 2015, expressing hope that the first new development in upper Port would spur revitalization efforts in the troubled area.

Village leaders have been trying to enhance the uptown’s Main Street corridor, between North Country/Sheep Pasture Road and the Long Island Rail Road tracks, with the goal of improving quality of life, making it more pedestrian-friendly and attracting developers and visitors.

At the groundbreaking last year, Mayor Margot Garant said the 74 Texaco Avenue apartments would be “so important” to the revitalization.

Gitto thinks it’s already propelled other improvements. He said Monday that he has seen one nearby business making improvements to an existing establishment and two others sign leases to bring in new ones.

“We wanted to see the area revitalized and we’re seeing it,” he said, adding about the rest of the uptown area, “We definitely hope they follow suit.”

There are other community benefits attached: Under the conditions of the project’s approval, Rail Realty has to make improvements to a pocket park on the west side of Texaco that currently has a jungle gym, swings and a basketball hoop, and improve traffic flow in the area by redesigning the intersection of Main Street and Sheep Pasture Road.

Construction has gone in phases. Last year, Rail Realty knocked down vacant homes and buildings along the east side of Texaco Avenue between Sheep Pasture Road and Linden Place to make way for the two three-story buildings — which will have a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments — and began working on the northern building. That was completed recently, with the new apartments visible from some angles on Main Street, a block over. The developer got started right on the foundation of the second building, to the south.

The first phase of the Texaco Avenue apartments is complete. Photo by Elana Glowatz
The first phase of the Texaco Avenue apartments is complete. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Garant announced the milestone at a village board of trustees meeting on June 6, saying people would start moving into the first apartment building in mid-July.

Resident parking is underground, a noteworthy element for a small village in which having more cars than parking spaces has long been an issue. And toward the end of the second ongoing apartment construction phase, the developers will bring down a building on the south side of the Texaco Avenue and Linden Place intersection, the Stony Brook Electric Inc. building, to make room for additional above-ground parking.

That’s also when the park improvements will take place, Gitto said. Plans are still developing, but they might include landscaping, such as flowers and necessary irrigation, and taking down an unused shed there.

For The Gitto Group — which has built up other parts of Port Jefferson, including an office building, the CVS and the Barnum House apartments on Main Street — things are falling into place faster than anticipated. Rob Gitto said the project was done in phases because the developers weren’t sure how well the first set of apartments would be received and how quickly they would be leased.

“We knew it would be successful but we didn’t know it would sell that quickly.”

What apartments would look like at the proposed On the Common site, where Thurber Lumber Co. previously resided, on Broadway in Rocky Point. Photo from Mark Baisch

Senior citizens in Rocky Point may soon have a new living option. The Rocky Point-based development company Landmark Properties Ltd. presented plans to the Rocky Point Civic Association, Historical Society and about 100 members of the community at a meeting on the grounds of the would-be homes.

Mark Baisch, owner of Landmark Properties, constructed a plan called On the Common at Rocky Point, which calls for 40 600-square-foot, one-bedroom senior citizen apartments that would be constructed on the site of the old Thurber Lumber Co. Inc., which closed its doors in February. The plan for the 1.8-acre space near Broadway was met with hesitancy in March from some community members, though reactions from the recent meeting were overwhelmingly positive.

“I’m favorably impressed,” said Rocky Point Civic Association President Charles Bevington, who attended the presentation. “I liked everything, essentially. It’s forward thinking.”

Bevington said he was also pleased with the importance Baisch placed on environmental concerns associated with new development. The buildings would have solar energy, storm-water runoff irrigation systems, energy efficient appliances and safeguards against nitrogen pollution.

“It’s right for a lot of reasons,” said Baisch, a developer. “It brings a residential component to the Broadway-Rocky Point area.”

Baisch made the case for why the project would be an appealing option for senior citizens in the Rocky Point community in March.

“They have to pay taxes, they have to pay their oil bill, they have to pay for repairs [for their home],” he said. In the On the Common homes, senior citizens would not have to worry about upkeep and maintenance around their yard and home. Also, they would be living within a community of their peers and would have more freedom in their daily lives, according to Baisch.

He was encouraged by the positive response he received. He said he had a handful of people sign up to reserve apartments in the event that the plan becomes a reality.

“I think they realize it’s a major step in the redevelopment of Rocky Point,” Baisch said, adding that he’s noticed more commercial development in the Rocky Point area.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said in March she would prefer to see a community center on the centrally located property in downtown Rocky Point, because it is a high-density area already, but recently said she is coming around on Landmark Property’s plan.

“It’s a drastic change from the original rendering,” Anker said. “It looks very much improved from the original conception. I’m listening to the community. If the community supports it, I will support it. … Community input is always incredibly important when significant change is happening in the community.”

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said there’s a large number of seniors who live in North Shore Beach who are interested.

“Many have reached out to me excited about this,” she said.

Baisch’s plan also guarantees 25 percent of the 40 homes will be reserved for senior citizens who are veterans of the United States military, a point which was appealing to Bevington.

The plan still needs to be approved by the Town of Brookhaven though, before ground is broken and development can begin.