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Jefferson Plaza

President of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association Ira Costell swears the new Port Jefferson civic officers, Ana Hozyainova, Holly Fils-Aimé, Kathleen Mc Lane and Marilyn Damaskos. Photo by Samantha Rutt

By Samantha Rutt

At the Monday, June 10, Port Jefferson Civic Association meeting, new officers were sworn in, an update on the looming Staller development in Port Jefferson Station was given, and civic members took part in brainstorming ideas and solutions for the village’s most pressing issues.

The new leadership team, with terms expiring in 2026, were officially sworn in by neighboring civic president Ira Costell. The officers sworn in were Ana Hozyainova as civic president, Holly Fils-Aimé as vice president, Marilyn Damaskos as treasurer, Janice Fleischman-Eaton as recording secretary and Kathleen Mc Lane as corresponding and outreach secretary. 

Jefferson Plaza development proposal updates

Following the official business, Costell, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association shared some updates pertaining to the proposed Staller redevelopment of Jefferson Plaza, a development he feels will have a big impact on nearby communities.

“This significant development will, for better or worse, change the face and future of our community, as well as impacting Lower Port,” Costell shared. Back in March, Costell, on behalf of the PJSTCA, wrote a letter to Town of Brookhaven board and the town’s Highway Department [see “Port Jefferson Station/Terryville civic requests traffic study,” from May 3] asking for a comprehensive study to assess the influx of traffic from this proposal. 

Since then, the PJSTCA has heard back from Town of Brookhaven councilmember, Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook), who agreed with the sentiments expressed in the letter and assured that the town “shares the concern about the cumulative impact these developments may have on traffic” and “would like to stay ahead of it.” 

Others chimed into Costell’s speech and shared concerns about the potential impact on traffic, as well as quality of life and affordability, while others emphasized the need for comprehensive planning and coordination — something Costell has advocated for since the developer’s initial proposal. 

“Our community has chosen to not throw up a blockade and say no more, not in our backyard,” Costell said. “We embrace and want to engage with a future that makes sense for our community, that we can digest properly. Without comprehensive planning and coordination, it could be a nightmare that’s going to impact our communities negatively.”

In recent years, the village has seen substantial development and its impacts on the community. Both, the Overbay and The Shipyard complexes have left an impact on the community as residents feel the respective developers were not overtly transparent in their building plans.

Local architect, Heather Brin, echoed these sentiments sharing notes from her expertise, “The Shipyard, downtown, is illegal in terms of the height,” Brin alleged. “The developers raised the level of the berm that the property sits on so they could build as high as they did.” 

Civic members have since questioned the Staller project’s viability, safety concerns and the importance of finding a balance between developer and community needs. The PJSTCA will host Staller Associates on June 20 at 7 p.m. at the Comsewogue Public Library, 170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station, to continue the community conversation.

Village issues going forward

Shifting gears, Hozyainova asked civic members to bring issues, concerns and wishes for the village to the forefront of the conversation. From this, several pressing issues resurfaced and some new ones emerged. 

Residents campaigned for increased walkability of the village, sharing notes of overgrown vegetation limiting sidewalk access. To this, Fils-Aimé asked for increased volunteerism and formation of committees dedicated to their respective concerns.

“Bring a proposal forward, somebody has to lead the charge,” she said. “We can have multiple committees, maybe a couple people are interested in that [issue] or maybe you want to bring them here and have them join the civic association.” 

Others shared their respective concerns over the Port Jefferson power plant and its future, capital projects in the village and in the school district, village constable’s office hours, the future of the country club and the East Beach bluff, keeping and restoring trees and other natural vegetation, were among some of the many issues brought to the metaphorical table. 

LIRR electrification

Adding to the growing list of village concerns, Port Jefferson resident Bruce Miller brought a motion before the civic requesting that Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) makes enforcement of the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act a priority of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Long Island Rail Road in their new 20-year plan. 

Miller explained in his motion that diesel locomotion is no longer acceptable transportation under this act and that riders along the Port Jefferson Branch are “forced to use their internal combustion vehicles to drive to Ronkonkoma for a decent ride,” 

In addition to concerns with ridership and the environment, Miller also detailed that the utilization of hydrogen rail or separate-car battery transportation could allow for a large industry based in New York state — to the benefit of many. 

The motion to approve Miller’s proposal asking Hochul and LIRR President Robert Free to meet with the civic association and Suffolk County’s elected representatives was approved and will be subsequently shared with all necessary parties. 

The next Port Jefferson Civic Association meeting will be held on Aug. 12 at the Port Jefferson Free Library, 100 Thompson St., at 6:30 p.m.

Brookhaven Town Hall. File photo

By Carolyn Sackstein

The Brookhaven Town Board meeting last Thursday, Nov. 30, began at 5 p.m. and didn’t close until after 11. Many residents who attended stayed for the long haul.

The board heard public comments on the application of Hauppauge-based Staller Associates, owner of the Jefferson Plaza shopping center at the intersection of Route 112 and Terryville Road. Staller is seeking a change of zone for the 10-acre parcel from a J-2 Business District to a CRD Commercial Redevelopment District.

The CRD is a new zoning category within the town Code. Jefferson Plaza will be the first property to receive this classification if the board greenlights the application.

A town official indicated that under the conditions of the CRD code, the development would qualify for 280 residential units. The proposal includes demolishing the existing shopping center to accommodate mixed-use development.

Anthony Guardino, partner at the Hauppauge-based Farrell Fritz law firm, represents the applicant. In a presentation, he traced the property’s historical developments, contributing to “an unsustainably high vacancy rate” with today’s blighted conditions.

The CRD code “creates the planning tool which the Stallers are using to redevelop their blighted shopping center into a destination development with a dynamic mix of residential and commercial uses,” he said. “And after many years of planning and design and input from the town and the community and numerous plan revisions, the Stallers believe it is time to put pencils down. It is time to move this project forward.”

He added that the current plan accommodates 280 apartments — 224 of which will be “market rate,” with the remaining 56 units set aside as affordable housing for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The attorney projected that approximately 50,000 square feet of commercial space would be occupied by a restaurant, food hall, retail, office space and health club.

Public comments primarily revolved around building height, density, traffic and emergency services. Ira Costell, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, stressed the importance of proper planning in weighing these factors.

“There is appetite and willingness to see investment in this parcel,” he said. “While this presents an opportunity, it is incumbent on us to address and mitigate the negative impacts that could follow from the intensive use on that parcel.”

Suffolk County Legislator-elect Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), whose 5th Legislative District includes Port Jeff Station, discussed the possible environmental impact of redevelopment. 

Skyler Johnson (D-Port Jefferson Station) — currently pursuing the Democratic nomination for New York’s 4th Assembly District— placed the proposed redevelopment in the context of ongoing affordability concerns.

“If we continue on this path, we will see not only young people not be able to afford to live here, but older people not be able to retire and downsize as their kids continue to need to stay in their homes,” he said.

Some spoke in favor of the redevelopment project. “I am in favor of the zone change,” Port Jeff village resident Brian Harty said. 

Bob LoNigro, whose family-owned business, Plaza Sports, was formerly in the shopping center for decades, said, “I think it is important for the community to understand who they’re dealing with. We dealt with [the Staller family], who were honorable, honest and caring about my family. They cared about our success,” adding, “I was sitting there thinking this was going to be a war, and it’s not a war. We’ve just got to tweak it and make some concessions and get to the finish line. I would love nothing more than to see that place flourish again.”

The board made no decisions on the application. Residents can continue submitting written comments up to 30 days after the meeting.

To watch the full public hearing, please visit brookhavenny.gov/meetings.

In an exclusive conversation, Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich discusses the futures of Jefferson Plaza in Port Jeff Station and Cablevision townwide. Then, the Three Village Central School District keeps Regents exam scores in students’ grades. Plus, a light-hearted chat about a recent afternoon filled with talk of love.

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In this episode, we offer live updates from Brookhaven Town Hall as the future of Jefferson Plaza in Port Jeff Station hangs in the balance. Plus, a shocking turn as a fire engulfs the Tesla Science Center in Shoreham — we unpack the latest details and discuss restoration plans. Winter sports season previews and valuable insights on managing your investments are all in one episode.

Join us for a dive into local news on The Pressroom Afterhour: Keeping it Local with TBR.

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Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich presents a new architectural rendering for the proposed redevelopment of Jefferson Plaza during a Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association meeting Tuesday, Nov. 28. Photo by Joan Nickeson

The Brookhaven Town Board will hear public comments on the Jefferson Plaza shopping center in Port Jefferson Station, a proposed redevelopment project with the potential to reshape the face of the hamlet and reorient its long-term trajectory.

The board will hold a public hearing Thursday, Nov. 30, to consider rezoning the 10-acre parcel, owned by Hauppauge-based Staller Associates, to a Commercial Redevelopment District, a new classification within the Zoning Code crafted “to stimulate the revitalization of abandoned, vacant or underutilized commercial shopping center, bowling alley and health club properties.” [See story, “First of its kind: Brookhaven Town Board to review new zoning category for Jefferson Plaza in Port Jeff Station,” Nov. 16, TBR News Media.]

In the runup to the public hearing, the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association held its general meeting Tuesday night, Nov. 28, to establish a set of priorities for overseeing the proposed redevelopment.

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) attended the meeting, identifying four primary areas of concern based on feedback he has heard from the community: traffic, density, height and architecture.

Kornreich said several of those concerns could be addressed through a 35-foot cap on building height. “What I’m going to be looking for is not four stories but a maximum height of 35 feet, which is the same maximum height that you can get in any residential area,” he said.

Leaders and members of the civic association generally favored the 35-foot cap.

The councilmember stated his intention for the developer to adhere to the conditions outlined under the Zoning Code instead of pursuing variances and other relaxations of use.

Regarding architecture, Kornreich said he had consulted with the developer, advocating for “a little bit less of New Hyde Park and a little bit more of New England.” He then presented an architectural rendering of the new proposal that was received favorably by the civic.

Much of the meeting was opened up to members, who offered ideas and raised concerns. Among the issues deliberated were the potential relocation of the post office on-site, availability and diversity of retail options at the property, possible tax increases and related traffic and environmental impact.

Jennifer Dzvonar, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, endorsed the redevelopment initiative. “It’s very blighted,” she said. “A lot of local stores are leaving there,” adding, “We want to keep expanding and revitalizing the area.”

Charlie McAteer, corresponding secretary of PJSTCA, discussed the possible community givebacks that could be offered through such redevelopment.

“We have to work on … a purchase of some open space in our hub area that’s forever wild,” he said. He added that this form of local giveback would cushion the deal for surrounding neighbors “because they’re giving us, the community, something that we would like.”

Following discussion, the body authorized PJSTCA president Ira Costell to deliver a statement Thursday night to the Town Board representing the collective views of the organization.

The public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, at Brookhaven Town Hall, 1 Independence Hill, Farmingville.

Town Supervisor Dan Panico at a Town Board meeting. Photo from TOB

By Nasrin Zahed

The Town of Brookhaven is currently at a crossroads in its relationship with the cable and internet conglomerate Cablevision/Optimum/Altice, as officials considered the franchise agreement renewal, in the name of Suffolk Cable Corporation, during a Town Board meeting held Thursday, Nov. 16.

The agreement, granting the company sole authority to provide cable services within the town, is a multifaceted document that delineates Optimum’s rights and establishes the framework for the town’s regulatory role.

Understanding the context of the franchise agreement requires a closer look at the regulatory landscape governing cable services in the town. As revealed in recent information, a cable operator must apply for a franchise to provide cable services. Notably, it may operate outside the agreement, which is expressly limited to cable television services. The town lacks authority over internet and telephone services, even if the same cables and equipment used are shared for cable television delivery.

State and federal regulations further shape the town’s authority over cable television franchises. The town also cannot regulate programming on a cable television system and is constrained in its ability to control rates, except for the most basic level of service. Federal limitations also extend to franchise fees, capping the town’s ability to require payments from the cable operator.

During the meeting, town Supervisor-elect Dan Panico (R) expressed concerns about the internet and cable providers’ profit motives. “There’s nothing that can be said here today to lead me to believe that they are not jacking up prices and having meetings to see where the threshold pain point is to extract as much money from residents as possible,” he said.

In response to these regulatory constraints, the town has engaged the services of a special counsel, Thomas Levin, to negotiate an agreement that maximizes the town’s authority within legal bounds while ensuring the delivery of quality cable television services to the Brookhaven community. The proposed agreement spans a decade, during which the cable operator commits to providing cable television in the unincorporated areas of the town.

One essential aspect of the proposed agreement is regulating the cable system’s operation under federal and state law. The agreement allows the town to impose a franchise fee, capped at 5% of the cable system revenues, ensuring a balanced approach to funding the regulatory framework.

The proposed agreement outlines procedures for the town to verify credit payments and secure $222,100 in grants from the cable television operator. These funds are earmarked for supporting public, educational and government cable programming — a crucial step in enhancing community engagement and access to information.

As the town navigates the landscape of cable service regulation, community participation becomes integral in shaping the future of cable services within its borders. A recent public statement from town officials invites community members to share their experiences with their cable and internet providers and contribute to the decision-making process.

This call to action is noteworthy given the proposed changes to the agreement, including a senior citizen discount and the introduction of a cable subscriber bill of rights.

The Town Board will reconvene on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 5 p.m., with a highly anticipated public hearing to consider a change of zone for the Jefferson Plaza property in Port Jefferson Station. To view the full hearing, please visit brookhavenny.gov/meetings.

Embark on a journey with our reporter to Sherwood-Jayne Farm in East Setauket, capturing the intensity of protesters rallying against Preservation Long Island’s plan to remove its farm animals. Then, delve into municipal land-use policy as we dissect the Brookhaven Town Board’s consideration of a zone change for the Jefferson Plaza shopping center in Port Jefferson Station.

But that’s not all — dive into the excitement of Ward Melville and Earl L. Vandermeulen high schools’ postseason volleyball runs with our sportswriter. Then, join us in reflecting on the crucial role of local election inspectors and the urgent need for more volunteers to uphold our democratic process.

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich, right photo, speaks to a crowd of residents assembled at the Jefferson Plaza shopping center in Port Jefferson Station on Sunday, Nov. 12. Photos by Carolyn Sackstein

By Carolyn Sackstein

On the first cold day of the season on Sunday, Nov. 12, locals gathered in the parking lot of Jefferson Plaza along Route 112 in Port Jeff Station to discuss the proposed revitalization of the plaza.

In the days before the gathering, Paul Sagliocca and members of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association canvassed the neighborhoods surrounding the shopping center. This preparation brought out roughly 80 residents.

Sagliocca was joined by fellow civic members Lou Antoniello and Jerry Maxim. Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) spoke to the crowd and Suffolk County Legislator-elect Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) — both representing PJS/T in their respective districts — listened to the concerns of attendees.

The speakers called for residents to attend PJSTCA’s upcoming meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 7 p.m. at Comsewogue Library. They especially urged residents to speak up during an upcoming meeting of the Brookhaven Town Board to consider a proposed change of zone to a new Commercial Redevelopment District classification on Thursday, Nov. 30.

Questions raised

Owned by Staller Associates, Jefferson Plaza is currently zoned for commercial use. Staller must seek zoning changes from Brookhaven Town for mixed-use development of the property. The proposed revitalization calls for 263 residential units in a four-story structure.

Sagliocca suggested that residents to the west were anxious that the new apartments would have sightlines into their yards and windows. Critics also expressed concerns over increased traffic and possibly rerouting traffic with one-way streets, making accessing their homes inconvenient. 

Others raised concern over the impact of potentially many new residents on the environment, especially the aquifer. They questioned how much more stress the local environment could bear.

Another concern was the blocking of the sun by the height of the new structure. Maxim called for a “shade study” to determine how far the shade would extend into the neighborhood. Sagliocca spoke of the impact on Mather and St. Charles hospitals in Port Jefferson, which serve Coram, Selden and the greater Port Jefferson area. Kornreich emphasized the need for a traffic study to be conducted independently and objectively.

Maxim highlighted the potential impact of the proposed units on the Comsewogue School District. 

Antoniello explained, “I’m not saying we don’t need multifamily housing, but you can’t have it dictated by the people up in Albany. Right now, the development they want for this area is really land abuse, not land use. They are looking for a density that is three times the allowable density that the Town of Brookhaven allows. This will set a precedent for every multifamily project that occurs in Port Jeff Station, Terryville and Port Jefferson village.”

He added, “As per our hamlet and [commercial] hub study, over 80% of the people questioned said they didn’t want multifamily units. We’re now taking studies which cost combined over a hundred thousand dollars. We are throwing them in the trash. Those are our bibles. We have to do it right, we don’t have a choice.”

The Brookhaven Town Board will consider a proposed change of zone for the Jefferson Plaza property on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 5 p.m. File photo by Raymond Janis

Port Jefferson Station/Terryville is approaching a potentially community-defining transformation as the Brookhaven Town Board weighs the future redevelopment of the Jefferson Plaza shopping center, owned by Islandia-based Staller Associates.

Later this month, the board will consider rezoning the 10-acre parcel at the intersection of state Route 112 and Terryville Road to a Commercial Redevelopment District, or CRD, a new classification within the town’s Zoning Code. Jefferson Plaza would be the first property in town history to receive this designation if approved.

Enacted in 2020, the CRD enables mixed-use development along parcels of over 5 acres in size. According to the code, the CRD aims “to create the type of planning and zoning flexibility which is necessary to stimulate the revitalization of abandoned, vacant or underutilized commercial shopping center, bowling alley and health club properties.”

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) represents Port Jefferson Station on the Town Board. In an exclusive interview, he summarized the CRD’s purpose as “more housing, less commercial space, generally.”

“The local government has created an incentive to spur redevelopment,“ he said. “But it hasn’t been used yet, so we’re trying to use it now.”

Commercial decline

Kornreich said this new approach to commercial revitalization is guided by a sequence of “extinction events” occurring within the local retail market.

Since the establishment of these local downtowns in the previous century and even earlier, Kornreich identified the emergence of automobile culture and the growth of large box stores as the first threat to traditional mom-and-pop storefronts and downtown economies. In the wake of this first extinction event, “retail took a hit that it never really recovered from,” Kornreich said.

Retail’s downward trajectory was further exacerbated by e-commerce, which began to put even the big box stores and large retailers out of business. “And then, of course, COVID came, and that hit commercial real estate and retail,” the councilmember noted.

Confronting the many changes reshaping the commercial landscape, Kornreich said the CRD would help spur commercial redevelopment.

“This is our existential challenge: How do we help guide the redevelopment of our community so it can be healthy, so that it can thrive, and so that people can afford to live here and have a good quality of life,” he said.

Richard Murdocco is an adjunct professor in the Department of Political Science at Stony Brook University, specializing in land use, real estate markets, economic development and environmental policy. Given the current pressures upon the commercial sector, Murdocco concluded that “these antiquated shopping centers need a redo.”

While redevelopment has traditionally elicited local opposition from nearby residents, Murdocco suggests that various projects throughout the region have gained traction among locals.

“It seems to me that a lot of these redevelopment projects are starting to gain momentum because the property and the blight are so large,” he said. “These are significant pieces of property,” adding, “Government responded to the need for adaptive reuse, and now there’s a legal mechanism through the zoning district on which to do that.”

Questions raised

The push for commercial redevelopment has met with scrutiny from some.

Ira Costell, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, raised several questions about the Jefferson Plaza proposal.

The CRD “hasn’t been used previously, and this does seem to be the test case,” he said. “In my estimation, it’s the lynchpin for further development in our community, so that’s why it’s essential that we get this right and not rush to judgment.”

“To address those things, I think we need better community input,” he added. To generate such input, he has asked residents to attend the civic’s upcoming meeting at Comsewogue Public Library on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 7 p.m.

Local civic members are ringing the alarm over the CRD in the neighboring Three Village community. Herb Mones, land use chair of the Three Village Civic Association, highlighted the need to remediate commercial blight but suggested the CRD code is too developer-centric.

“On every level, the intention of redeveloping neglected or failing shopping centers is an admirable goal,” he said. “But the way that the code is written allows for really unprecedented development that has a tremendous negative effect on communities that are impacted by the density that results.”

Mones said the language of the CRD code is “so vague, so arbitrary and so capricious that it could be applied to virtually any shopping center in the Town of Brookhaven.”

Based on the statute, which incentivizes redevelopment of blighted properties through relaxed land use standards, Mones said the CRD code “encourages landowners to purposely neglect their properties in order to promote this eventual redevelopment.”

George Hoffman, also a member of TVCA, concurred with Mones, referring to the CRD code as “a very vague law that I think was done in haste.”

“It was really a code change that was done when we didn’t know what was going to happen with COVID,” Hoffman said. “I think it really has to be reevaluated, and I don’t think it works in this situation here” at Jefferson Plaza. 

Given that Jefferson Plaza would be the first parcel listed as a CRD, he added that this matter has implications for residents townwide.

“If they use this code to the maximum allowable density, I think it’s going to set the standard of a new suburban model for development,” he said.

The Town Board will consider the proposed change of zone for the Jefferson Plaza property on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 5 p.m.

Public officials celebrate the announcement of $5 million to create ‘shovel-ready’ sewer plans for Port Jefferson Station Friday, Aug 11. From left, local business leader Charlie Lefkowitz, former Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. Photos by Raymond Janis

On the road to community revitalization, Port Jefferson Station/Terryville just passed a major procedural hurdle.

Public officials gathered along the eastern trailhead of the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail on Friday, Aug. 11, announcing $5 million to create sewer plans for the Route 112 corridor. These funds, which come from the American Rescue Plan Act, will help lay the groundwork for an eventual expenditure to finance the entire sewer project.

“What we’re talking about is the objective of achieving economic revitalization, job creation, business growth and water quality protection all at the same time,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). 

Bellone said there are several potential funding sources from the federal and state governments, but those levels require “shovel-ready plans.” This $5 million, Bellone continued, would maximize the potential for a full-scale sewer investment.

“You never know when all of a sudden at the federal level or the state level funding becomes available,” he said. “It can happen like that, and you need to be ready,” adding, “This funding will help get this sewer project shovel ready.”

Introducing sewers into the Port Jefferson Station commercial hub would bring the proposed $100 million redevelopment of Jefferson Plaza, above, into focus.

Local revitalization

The sewer investment comes on the heels of a decades-long local effort to bring about a traditional downtown in PJS/T.

‘Port Jefferson Station is on the rise.’

— Jonathan Kornreich

Major development plans are currently on the drawing board, most notably the proposed $100 million redevelopment of Jefferson Plaza, located just south of the Greenway. Former Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) [See story on Hahn’s recent resignation] said the $5 million would bring community members closer to realizing their local aspirations.

“The synergy here between doing something that will drive economic prosperity as well as a cleaner environment is a win-win, and sewering will become the foundation on which the Port Jefferson Station hub will be built,” Hahn said. “This is a tremendous step forward.”

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook), who represents Port Jefferson Station/Terryville on the Town Board, cited ongoing revitalization efforts as a means to promote and enhance the quality of life for the hamlet’s residents.

“Speaking directly to the members of our community, I think you should be encouraged by the fact that from the federal government all the way down to the town level, our eyes are on you,” he said. “There are hundreds of millions of dollars of investment — both public and private money — planned, already made, on the table and in the books for this immediate surrounding area.”

The councilmember added, “Port Jefferson Station is on the rise.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, at podium, said modernizing wastewater infrastructure is necessary for achieving the hamlet’s redevelopment aspirations.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), who is running for Suffolk County executive against business leader Dave Callone, a Democrat, tied the sewer investment to plans for commercial redevelopment and water quality protection.

“We are looking to redevelop Port Jeff Station,” Romaine said. “Sewers are necessary for development.” The town supervisor added, “I look with great anticipation for this and any other sources of funding that we can put in place to make sure that we can preserve our surface and groundwater. It’s key.”

Density/traffic

The introduction of sewers into Port Jefferson Station raises several questions about potentially added building density enabled through increased sewer capacity.

New leadership within the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association has recently prioritized density, creating a land use committee to oversee new developments throughout the hamlet. 

Reached by phone, civic president Ira Costell called the sewer project “the fundamental building block to protect water quality,” though calling the initiative “a positive step that has to be done carefully.”

“While the sense of our organization is that we welcome redevelopment and positive growth, we are mindful of ensuring this occurs in a well-planned and strategic way that benefits the community and ameliorates impacts,” Costell said 

“There are still some concerns about the overall density and intensity of use in the Port Jeff Station area, and we’re just hopeful that the planning process will enable the community to have proper input,” he added.

Paul Sagliocca, a member of the civic, advocated for some money to be set aside to evaluate potential traffic impacts from new developments along 112.

“This downtown revitalization is great, but it needs to stay on the main roads,” he said. “They need to do a comprehensive traffic study.”

Kornreich noted that the commercial real estate landscape has shifted dramatically following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Downtowns … are seeing high rates of vacancy, commercial spaces that are underutilized, subprime kinds of tenants because landlords are desperate to get any kind of cash flow in there,” the Brookhaven councilmember said. “We have to take some action to rezone and repurpose some of this underutilized real estate.”

He pointed to mixed use as a possible solution, noting the simultaneous need to resolve housing shortages and repurpose commercial real estate. 

Mixed-use development “creates walkable areas that can be sewered, that are more environmentally friendly and are more economically viable,” he added.

Bellone expressed confidence in the local planning process. “There has been a lot of community-based work that has been done at the town level, the community level and in partnership with the county,” the county executive said. “That process, I know, will continue.”

Sewer debate

The announcement follows an ongoing public debate about the regional viability of sewers in Suffolk County. Just last month, the Republican-led Suffolk County Legislature rejected the administration’s proposal to put a 1/8 penny sales tax on the upcoming November ballot to finance new wastewater infrastructure. [See story, “Suffolk County Legislature recesses, blocks referendum on wastewater fund,” July 28, TBR News Media website.]

Deputy County Executive Peter Scully, who had spearheaded the sales tax initiative, attended Friday’s press event and maintained that the need for sewers remains. He commended the county Legislature for approving a long-term sewer infrastructure plan in 2020.

“This sewer project in Port Jefferson Station’s commercial hub is part of that plan,” he said.

New York State Sen. Mario Materra (R-St. James), whose 2nd District previously encompassed Port Jeff Station before last year’s redistricting process, attended the press event. 

The state senator said this $5 million would signal to higher levels of government the area’s willingness to modernize its wastewater infrastructure and support the environment.

“We have a $4.2 billion bond act” approved by New York state voters last November, Mattera noted. “Jobs like this will show [officials] up in Albany to bring us the money back and that we really are serious about sewering and we care about our clean water.”