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Kevin LaValle

Brookhaven Town councilman on redeveloping the Middle Country Road corridor

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), above. Photo from Brookhaven Town website
Part I

Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) has worked on several major initiatives during his time at Town Hall. In Part I of this two-part interview, LaValle discusses the recent completion of paving projects in Selden, the need for sewers on Middle Country Road, his background in government and the influence of his family on his decision-making. 

Could you discuss the recent paving projects completed in Selden and your ongoing work with the Town Highway Department?

Well, that is a major, major issue in my area. I have the smallest geographic area in the whole town. Our districts are broken up by population — about 80,000 people in each district — but my area is a very dense, compact area. What that means is that, obviously, I have a lot of roads, a lot of neighborhoods, a lot of businesses.

One of the things that we did a few years ago was that we made a commitment that we were going to spend $150 million on the town end, which is $15 million a year for the next 10 years, in paving. We made a pledge to the community that that’s what we were going to do to try to help the infrastructure in the town. We’ve been on target with that.

How have you coordinated with Suffolk County to bring sewers into downtown areas within your district?

That is absolutely crucial for the growth of the business community in Centereach and Selden along the Middle Country Road corridor. Hundreds and hundreds of businesses that run up and down this road are unsewered, and even the houses there, every one has a cesspool.

Our big issue on Middle Country Road is that if you look at these lots, they’re all half-acre and acre lots. So what can you build on it? You can’t really get the nice restaurants that other areas have, and that hinders how we can develop and how we can move forward.

We’ve had a lot of success in redeveloping a lot of these lots throughout this corridor, but bringing [sewers] here allows us to take some of these beat up lots and have developers come in and combine them and build something new, whether it’s a two-story office building or a nice restaurant. Because with that sewer capacity, you have the ability to do that.

That’s really why it will be a huge game changer for this area. It will bring good new development down the road. When I was with [the late Suffolk County Legislator] Tom Muratore [R-Ronkonkoma], we kind of started that process to get the sewers going. Now [county Legislator] Nick Caracappa [C-Selden] has jumped into office and it’s really getting supercharged right now.

The county is going to be setting this up, but it gives the town the option — because I deal with rezoning — to be able to start talking to property owners and say, “Hey listen, we have sewers coming down here. If you put this lot together and this lot together, then we could do this.” That’s when you really start getting some exciting opportunities with new businesses and various other things that we want to come into the area.

To follow up, what is your organizational philosophy toward commercial redevelopment?

I think the big key is that when you look up and down the road, we have some small lots that are a quarter-acre or a half-acre — all beat up properties. Right now, anybody coming in and buying them asks, “What can I really do with them?”

Take a look at the property values on Middle Country Road. Some 37,000 cars drive down the portion of Middle Country Road in my area every single day; 37,000 is a massive number — a lot of cars. And great property values. It’s prime real estate, but for developers to come in, you need to have the sewer capacity to be able to build a two-story building on an acre lot, and right now you can’t do that.

If you’re a developer, you have to spend money to buy the property, then money to build it, and then you have to be able to rent it to make your money back. Let’s be very honest about it. That’s what developers do. That’s what businesspeople do, they’re here to make money. So you have to be able to attract them in. By giving them sewers, you will then give them the capacity that their money will go out to redevelop, but it’s also going to come back to them because they’ll be able to bring in new businesses.

We’ve come a long way in the last nine years. The big thing for me as far as developing properties is developing that relationship with the business owners and the property owners, being a straight shooter, telling them, “Hey, this is going to work and this is not going to work.” It’s about not wasting people’s time.

A mentor of mine once asked me, “What’s the most important thing in business?” At the time, I was young — like 24 or 25 — and I said money. He said, “No, not even close.” The most important thing in business is time. If you’re a service provider, it’s the time from when your order is made to when you provide that service to your client. Or if you’re a builder, it’s the time it takes to buy the property, to get through the zoning process and to finish off building. If it takes more time, it’s going to cost you more money.

For me, I like to be a straight shooter with the developers, with the property owners, with the businesspeople, and say if it’s not a realistic concept, don’t string people along, just tell them. If it is a realistic concept, then how can we get you from point A to point B? How can we get you from when you buy the property to when you develop the property?

What is your professional background, and how did you end up at Town Hall?

I started off many years ago, after I graduated college, as chief of staff for Dan Losquadro [R] when he was a [county] legislator many years ago [and is now town highway superintendent]. I worked with Dan for about two years and then I went into the private sector — I owned a title agency for about four years. We have since sold that business and I went into the mortgage business, which I still do to this day.

During that time a bunch of years back, I was asked to come back part time to the [county] Legislature to work for Tom Muratore. He was about a year into the job and was trying to figure out his way a little bit. I decided to come back and I was with Tom for about three years. Then the opportunity to run for Town Council came up.

I never really thought that I would run for office, even though my family had been in office. I didn’t think that was what I wanted to do, but I had a lot of friends and family and people in the community come up to me — because they saw all the work that I was doing with Tom — and they said, “Listen, you do a great job and we really need you to run for the Town Board. We think you could do a great job here.”

I took that run back in 2013 and I was fortunate to get elected. I’ve been a sitting town councilman ever since. It’s been nine years of working on a lot of things within the district and it’s really something that I’ve grown to love and enjoy.

How has your family shaped your approach to public service?

My brother, John [Jay LaValle (R)], was a town councilman and a town supervisor. My cousin, Ken LaValle [R-Port Jefferson], was a state senator for over 40 years. They had very different styles when they were in office. When I was a kid, I watched how they worked.

Ken was very statesmanlike in the way he went about things. John was very aggressive and would take care of business and kind of push things and run around with a lot of energy. I kind of look at both of them and have learned from both styles.

I think there are opportunities to be aggressive when you have to push things and show excitement, like my brother John. I also think there are other opportunities when, like my cousin Ken, you have to sit back, listen, take it all in, really understand the situation, and do your homework to make sure that you know what you’re talking about. I think both of those styles kind of mesh with who I am.

Part II

For over a decade, Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) has worked on the Selden Park Complex. Now he can see the finish line. In Part II of this two-part interview, the councilman reflects upon the role of parks, open spaces and the mentorship of the late Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), under whom LaValle served as legislative aide.

What is the status of the Selden Park Complex?

Now this is something that I’ve been working on since I was aiding Tom Muratore 12 years ago. This is going to be the largest park in the Town of Brookhaven — 24 acres that we’re breaking ground on.

Heritage Park [in Mount Sinai] is a park that’s at the end of County Route 83. When we started talking about this with the community years ago, people said, “That’s something we want. Can we do that?” And now we’re right there.

Phase I was to bring back the two Little League fields near Grace Presbyterian Church. I actually grew up playing baseball on these fields. Grace used to lease them to the Little League, but then Grace was having issues with its insurance, so [the fields] went fallow. We were able to work with the county to buy this property. The deal was cut so that the county would buy the properties and the town would develop them. Veterans [Park] used to be a baseball field. We then came in, redid it, and now it’s a multipurpose field for all the kids. That was Phase II.

We just broke ground recently on the third and final phase, the biggest phase that we have going on here. We’re building two additional baseball fields, a basketball court, pickleball courts, playgrounds, a concession stand, shade shelters throughout, a storage facility for our guys and batting cages. And for the first time in the town’s history — and I always like to be the first guy — I was the first guy to pickleball and now I’m going to be the first guy to roller and deck hockey.

This really comes back to my childhood growing up in Centereach. We had two deck hockey and roller hockey rinks, and I would play deck hockey with my friends. We talked about it and said, “You know what? This is a good idea. Let’s bring this back to the community.” It will be the first time ever that we’re bringing that back.

I kind of refer to this as a generational park. This is where we hope that families that come to the area will walk their children around in strollers around the walking trails. Then when they get a little bit older, they bring the kids over to the playgrounds. Then they get a little bit older and play any kind of sport, whether it’s softball, baseball, lacrosse, soccer … whatever sport they want. Then the kids go off to college, and hopefully they come back to the community where they’re going to be doing the same thing and raising their families using this facility.

What is your office doing to protect open spaces?

Just this past year in the Centereach/Selden community, right on the corner of Old Town Road and County Route 83, there’s a parcel over there that we just made a preserve. That happened to be a town property, and we saw an opportunity to kind of protect it and consider it a nature preserve.

That’s something that I think is really important that we do and that we continue to do as a township. You have to keep in mind that our drinking water is extremely important to what we’re doing — it’s right under our feet. And protecting our lands protects that drinking water. Bringing sewers protects that drinking water, so that’s a critical issue for us.

What do you foresee as the long-term impact of bringing more public funds into the Middle Country area?

It’s one of the reasons I ran for office nine years ago. I grew up in this area, and I can tell you the sentiments of people back then. Generally, we were looking around at all these other communities and watching what they were building — money going here, they’re building a park there, preserving property over here. They said, “This guy’s getting this, they’re getting that, and what are we getting? Are we getting our fair share here?”

That’s something I focus on every day, about how we can rebuild and what money we can bring in. Bringing in new development is one thing — the town doesn’t put money into that. I have to go out and recruit people and work with businesspeople. But making sure our parks are up to par, making sure we’re getting extra money for our roads, these are things you are required to do as a town councilman.

As far as parks go, in my time here, we really have run through all of our parks. We have built a dog park since I’ve been here. We rebuilt Iroquois Avenue Park [in Selden] completely — the walking trail, everything is getting redone.

I grew up less than a mile from the Centereach Pool Complex. When I was a little kid, I would go up and play basketball. When I got elected, the backboards at Centereach Pool were rusted out and the ground was broken up on the basketball courts. It had been just horrendous. Since I’ve been in office, we’ve redone the basketball courts. We’re the first facility to have pickleball, we’ve built sun shelters, we’ve rebuilt the bathrooms and redone the walking trail.

Can you describe the mentorship of Tom Muratore and his influence on you now?

Tom was an unbelievable guy. We were a good team. He was the vice president of the [Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association] before he became a legislator. He was a soft-spoken guy, wasn’t the kind who was flashy or who would always jump to the mic. That wasn’t Tom.

Tom was a guy who liked to work with people and had the biggest heart of anybody I’ve ever known in politics. He just cared for everybody, didn’t need to get credit for things, just wanted to make the community a better place.

He hired me when I was young and aggressive, bouncing off the walls with a lot of energy. And he was a great mentor because he would look at me sometimes and just say, “Kevin, we can pass it today and just push it through, or we can pass it tomorrow with everybody’s consensus.” Or say, “Let’s take our time and get everybody on board.”

I’m an aggressive guy. I like to keep moving and get things going. Tom kind of put the brakes on me. He taught me to take a little extra time to build that extra consensus, making sure everybody’s on board. There were just so many different lessons that I learned from him.

Next year, when we open up [the Selden Park Complex], it will be weird not to have him here. But I know he’s looking down with a big smile on his face, and he’s glad we’re going to finish this out for the community. Something we started together.

Photo by Raymond Janis

On Saturday, April 23, public officials gathered to formally rename the 107-acre Farmingville Hills County Park after the late Suffolk Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma); it will be known as Thomas Muratore County Park.

The ceremony was hosted by county Legislator Nick Caracappa (C-Selden), majority leader of the Legislature. Caracappa succeeded the late legislator by special election less than two months after Muratore’s untimely death on Sept. 8, 2020. Caracappa also sponsored legislation to rename the park in Muratore’s honor. 

“Tom Muratore had a special way about him,” Caracappa said. “He knew how to touch us and mentor us and just be a good friend to us. Anyone who knew Tom knew of his passion for serving his community, his constituents and the residents of Suffolk County. Whether it was talking about politics, talking about his family or talking about the way the Yankees either won or lost, he had a passion that was unmistakable.”

The event included elected leaders from the town, county and state governments. First among these speakers was County Executive Steve Bellone (D), who emphasized Muratore’s unique ability to bring competing parties and interests together. 

“You have people from all walks of life here, people from all across the political spectrum, and I think that speaks volumes about who Tom Muratore was,” Bellone said. “He was always the utmost gentleman and would work with you. There was a way about him that I think was an example and a model for all of us to look at about how we should govern.” The county executive added, “This man was a true public servant his entire life and we need to honor public servants like that. We need more of the way that he conducted himself in public life.”

Elected officials gather at the newly named Thomas Muratore Park at Farmingville Hills on April 23. Photo by Raymond Janis

Discussing what it means to rename the county park after Muratore, Bellone said, “It’s an honor to be here today to be able to help name this park in his name so that forevermore, as we move from here, this will be a place where a man of great honor and a great public servant is remembered always in this county.”

County Legislature presiding officer, Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), acknowledged Muratore’s record of public service and his example of quality leadership throughout the county. 

“I got to know Tom when I joined the Legislature in 2014,” he said. “He was truly a mentor to me. He always had my back, never afraid to tell me when I was doing something right or wrong. No matter what role he took, whether it be in government, as a police officer or serving our county … he continued to serve.” McCaffrey added, “He didn’t just serve, he served well.”

Jason Richberg (D-West Babylon), minority leader of the county Legislature, commended Muratore for the human touch that he put on his work in county government. “Tom was always invested in you,” Richberg said. “It didn’t matter when it was, he was always walking around, talking to everyone, finding out how their family was doing, what was going on in their personal lives.” The minority leader added, “He really wanted to know how you were doing. Beyond the politics, it was always about you.”

Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) spoke of his experience serving for three years as Muratore’s chief of staff. LaValle said Muratore made little distinction between his public and private responsibilities, treating his staff as though they were family.

“You weren’t employed by Tom Muratore,” LaValle said. “You may have worked for Tom, but when you worked for Tom, you were part of his family and that’s how he always treated us.” Reflecting upon Muratore’s passing, the councilman added, “It hit us all hard because it was like losing your uncle or your dad. He always was around for us no matter what it was. It wasn’t just about government for Tom. It was about you as a person and about your family and how you were doing. It was never about Tom.”

County Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) complimented Muratore’s legislative philosophy. According to her, his leadership was defined by his love of his community.

“Tom operated and governed from a base of love,” Kennedy said. “He loved the organizations, he loved the people that he was with. He was a good human being and I know right now that he is sitting in the palms of God’s hands.”

County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) spoke of Muratore’s effectiveness as a labor leader. Kennedy believed that Muratore’s style of representation included both a sense of urgency as well as a sincere conviction and passion for the work he performed.

“Always, always he was about our workforce and about the integrity of our county. He truly embraced that concept of service,” the comptroller said. 

County Clerk Judy Pascale (R) used her memorial address to recite a quote from the late American poet, Maya Angelou. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” Pascale said, adding, “Tommy, you always made us feel very special. Rest in peace, brother.”

State Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James) suggested Muratore brought to county government a commonsense outlook and an approach guided by practical wisdom. 

“It was commonsense government, that’s what it was when you were with Tom Muratore,” Mattera said. “He cared about a decent wage, a decent health care [plan], a decent pension for all, so that we can live here on the Island.” Sharing his expectations for the park, the state senator added, “We have 107 acres here and when anybody walks these 107 acres at Tom Muratore Park, you’re always going to remember this name. This is an absolutely beautiful park and to have a name like Tom Muratore, I am just blessed to say I knew him.”

State Assemblyman Doug Smith (R-Holbrook) emphasized Muratore’s authenticity. “Every time he would talk to you, he was never texting or doing anything like that,” Smith said. “He would be in the moment. I think more of us should live in the moment and genuinely care about each other.” The assemblyman also highlighted Muratore’s creative strategies to solve problems and get work done. “And I really appreciate that kind of relentless attitude. I just loved that about Tom and about how he always wanted to go to bat for people.”

Michael Wentz, president of the Farmingville Hills Chamber of Commerce, presents a proclamation to Linda Muratore. Photo by Raymond Janis

Michael Wentz, founder and president of the Farmingville Hills Chamber of Commerce, presented Muratore’s wife Linda with a proclamation that the chamber had prepared with Sachem Public Library of Holbrook. It reads: “On behalf of the Farmingville Hills Chamber of Commerce, we present this proclamation in recognition of Thomas Muratore, whose never-ending support of his community and local businesses will forever live on, and be remembered for generations to come.”

The presentations were concluded with a short speech prepared by Linda Muratore, who used her time to honor Caracappa’s mother, the late county Legislator Rose Caracappa: “I don’t know if Legislator Caracappa knows, but Tom was very fond of his mom, Legislator Rose Caracappa. Every time he saw her name on a building, he said, ‘That must be the greatest honor.’” Linda Muratore added, “Today his dream has come true because of all of you. Thank you again for honoring my husband. I truly know that it was his honor to serve all of you.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine speaks during the Feb. 3 press conference at Town Hall. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Elected officials from local, state and the federal government recently voiced their anger and concern over Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) plans to eliminate certain single-family zoning laws across New York state. 

The comprehensive five-year housing plan would potentially invest $25 billion to create and preserve 100,000 affordable homes and tackle inequities in the housing market.

Last month, the governor announced the plan to make housing more affordable as part of the 2022 State of the State.

“In the wake of the pandemic, it’s crucial that we tackle the housing crisis and make New York a more affordable place for all,” Hochul said. “These bold steps are a major step forward in transforming our housing market, protecting affordability and increasing the housing supply.”

But on Feb. 3, local representatives in the Town of Brookhaven held a press conference blasting a major component of the proposal — changing zoning laws to allow more accessory apartments on premises, effectively eliminating single-family zoning.

Officials argued that under this plan, “the state would take zoning control away from local governments, eliminating local residents’ ability to voice objections to these apartments in their neighborhoods.”

They added that the bill would prohibit imposing parking requirements for these new apartments, which they said would result in cars clogging residential streets.

“Under Governor Hochul’s plan, every town, village and county overnight would lose the important zoning protections that keep them from looking like the crowded neighborhoods of the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn,” said town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R). “That’s not what the residents of Brookhaven Town want. This wrongheaded plan will not solve our affordable housing plan, but it will devalue the homes and quality of life in our neighborhoods.”

According to Hochul, legislation will be proposed to require municipalities to allow a minimum of one accessory dwelling unit, known as an ADU, on owner-occupied residentially zoned lots. This legislation will allow for municipalities to set size requirements and safety standards for these dwellings. 

Currently the town allows accessory apartments on premises with specific regulations, including the owner of the lot upon which the accessory apartment is located must reside within the dwelling that contains the accessory apartment, and only one accessory apartment is permitted on the premises. 

According to the town, the minimum habitable area for an accessory apartment shall be 300 square feet and a maximum of 650 square feet, and in no case should it exceed 40% of the habitable area of the dwelling building in which it is located. The law states that in no event may there be more than one bedroom per accessory apartment.

Brookhaven officials — in bipartisan agreement — said that the plan and change to the law would force apartments into every home, utilizing basements, garages, rear yard sheds and buildings.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) said that this proposal can have a significant impact on all of Long Island — not just the town.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner discusses how Hochul’s plan could impact her district of Rocky Point. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“Yes, we do need affordable housing choices, but we don’t need a broad stroke across the state to change the very character of the communities that we live in,” she said. “We need to maintain local control, and this takes away that control. If the governor really wants to help Long Islanders, she should do something about the ridiculously high property taxes.”

Bruce Sander, president of Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners, said that he and his neighbors bought their homes in single-family neighborhoods “so we could raise our children and grow out in our family community.”

“The ability for unscrupulous landlords to not be accountable to the local officials is just plain outrageous and dangerous,” he added. “We have seen basement apartments with illegal occupants catch fire and create unsafe environments throughout the community. If we lose control, we lose our communities. What is being proposed could lead to the destruction of the suburbs.”

Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) said that while he “appreciates” that the governor is trying to address the question of affordability, taking away the power of local zoning can lead to “chaotic development that may in the end undermine the very fabric of our communities and property values we’re trying to protect.”

“Zoning helps maintain the character of neighborhoods,” he added. “Zoning also provides tools to address these questions of affordability, however, and I don’t want that power to be taken away.”

In attendance with the Town Board was state Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) who said this change in legislation could result in “greater density for communities and place tremendous strains on every conceivable local service from the water we drink, to traffic and emergency services.”

“This one size fits all approach is not the answer to Long Island nor the state’s affordable housing crisis,” he added. 

While not in attendance during Thursday’s press event, local U.S. Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) and Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) both opposed Hochul’s plan.

“This blatant attack on suburban communities will end single-family housing as we know it, strip local control away from the New Yorkers who live there, tank the value of their homes, overcrowd their previously quiet streets, and on top of it all not do anything to solve our affordable housing problem,” said Zeldin, who is running on the Republican ticket for the governor’s seat. 

Suozzi, who is also campaigning for governor, said, “Governor Hochul’s radical housing proposal would ‘require’ all municipalities to allow accessory dwelling units on all residential properties and would end single-family housing as we know it.”

Hochul outlined more of her plan during her State of the State address last month, with another reason being to help municipalities rezone to foster multifamily housing near commuter rail stations in the New York City suburbs, including Long Island. 

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Bethel Hobbs Farm's Run the Farm will be going virtual this year. Funds support the farm in its community endeavors. File photo from Councilman Kevin LaValle's office

Bethel Hobbs Community Farm is taking its annual fundraiser virtual Saturday, Sept. 5 through Sunday, Sept. 13.

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) announced he will co-sponsor the sixth annual Run the Farm Four Mile Challenge with Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) and Friends of Hobbs Farm. Participants are invited to lace up their sneakers and traverse the four-mile course that includes a fast start on roughly two miles of flat terrain leading to a mile of rolling hills and two mildly challenging ascents before concluding at the historic grounds of Bethel Hobbs Community Farm in Centereach. The first 300 participants will receive a 4M Run the Farm buff and be entered in a special raffle. To register, people can visit BrookhavenNY.Gov/RunTheFarm. 

People can run or walk whenever they like. After running, they can go to www.elitefeats.com/Results and click on the Bethel Hobbs event to enter their name and time. They can also optionally upload up to five photos.

Proceeds will go toward repairing the Hobbs Community Farm barn that is critical to the farm’s functions, whose mission is devoted to providing fresh, wholesome produce to local food pantries and other programs in the community. Even if one doesn’t run, they can make a donation for any amount and be entered in the raffle to win a special prize. This year’s event is sponsored by ShopRite of Selden, owned and operated by the Gallagher family and Middle Country Automotive (MCA) of Selden and MCA II of Centereach.

“Hobbs Community Farm plays such an important role in the community and they rely on this annual event to continue their good work,” LaValle said. “I am proud to once again join Legislator Muratore to help make this year’s virtual ‘Run the Farm Four Mile Challenge’ a success and I thank the runners and our sponsors for their support.”

People can call LaValle’s office at 631-451-6647, email at [email protected] and visit BrookhavenNY.Gov/RunTheFarm for more information.

Brookhaven Councilman Daniel Panico and Supervisor Ed Romaine. File photo by Alex Petroski

Elected officials in Brookhaven Town are taking steps that could both lengthen and shorten their time in office.

The board voted to hold a public hearing Aug. 2 on the idea of instituting a three-term limit on elected positions while also extending the length of a term from two to four years at a June 26 meeting. This would limit officials to 12 years in office.

Brookhaven is currently the only town on Long Island with two-year terms for elected officials, according to Supervisor Ed Romaine (R).

“I’m supporting it because when you have the entire government turn over every two years it can provide for a lack of stability,” Romaine said on changing from two-year to four-year terms. “You don’t have the constant churning in politics that can sometimes undermine the system. It allows for long-range planning and programs. It takes the politics out of local government.”

Councilmembers Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) each expressed similar sentiments when asked if they intend to support the idea. They said having to prepare to run for office every two years hinders their ability to complete and implement projects, especially pertaining to land use, which they said can take time.

“I believe there’s merit in establishing term limits and four-year terms,” Cartright said, but said she intends to keep an open mind and let residents weigh in. “It lends itself to better government.”

Specifically on limiting officials to three terms, LaValle said it should encourage fresh ideas and new faces stepping up to run, which he viewed as a positive, calling it a good combination both for government and residents.

If these changes are approved by the board, the proposal would go to a referendum vote in November giving taxpayers the opportunity to ultimately decide the idea’s fate. It could impact the town supervisor position, each of the six council seats, superintendent of highways, town clerk and receiver of taxes starting as of 2020.

“I think it will be a very interesting referendum on the ballot to see what people want,” LaValle said.

Bonner said she has changed her mind on term limits, saying she was among those who view Election Day as the inherent way to limit the term of a politician failing to serve their constituents.

“What it will essentially do is create not just good government, but better government,” Bonner said.

In January, the Town of Huntington passed similar legislation limiting all elected positions, to three terms of four years each.

“The town is going to be much better off,” Councilman Gene Cook said upon passing the legislation. He proposed the idea to Huntington’s board in June 2017. “Elected officials have an upper hand and can be there forever. Now, we’ve sort of evened the field today. It took a long time, far too long, but I’m glad it’s done.”

The annual Run the Farm 4-mile challenge. File photo

The summer activities series in the Town of Brookhaven’s 3rd Council District have been announced.

The events, presented by Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) and the town’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Sports and Cultural Resources, start with a pickleball tournament in June and end with the fourth annual Run the Farm 4-mile challenge in August.

“Spring is here and summer is just around the corner,” LaValle said. “After the winter we had, I am pleased to join with the parks department to present these great outdoor family events and urge everyone to participate.”

Centereach Pool is located at 286 Hawkins Road in Centereach. Image from Google Maps

Upcoming summer activities:

Pickleball tournaments: A spring tournament will be held Saturday and Sunday, June 2 and 3, and a fall tournament is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 15, at the Centereach Pool Complex pickleball courts, located at 286 Hawkins Road in Centereach.

• Participants must bring their own paddle and water

• Balls provided

• Must preregister to participate 

• For more information or to register, call 631-451-6133

Hoops for military heroes: Saturday, July 21 — rain date scheduled for Saturday, July 28 — at the Centereach Pool Complex located at 286 Hawkins Road in Centereach.

• Free event (T-shirts, snacks, prizes)

• $15 suggested donation per team

• All funds raised will be donated to local veterans organizations

• Preregistration is required at www.BrookhavenNY.gov/Basketball 

• Age brackets for boys and girls are as follows: 12- and 13-year-olds sign in at 9 a.m. with a 10 a.m. start time for games; 14- and 15-year-olds sign in at 11 a.m. with a noon start time; and 16- and 17-year-olds sign in at 1 p.m. with a 1:30 p.m. start time.

The annual Run the Farm 4-mile challenge benefits Ann Pelegrino’s Bethel Hobbs Community Farm. File photo

National Night Out: Tuesday, Aug. 7, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Centereach Pool Complex located at 286 Hawkins Road in Centereach.

Co-sponsored with the Suffolk County Police Department’s 6th Precinct, the free, annual event promotes police and community partnerships to make local neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live. It’s an
evening of summer fun activities and free outdoor swimming for the entire family.

Run the Farm 4-mile challenge: The fourth annual event of this local race will be held Saturday, Aug. 18, at Bethel Hobbs Community Farm, located at 178 Oxhead Road in Centereach.

Athletes can lace up their sneakers and traverse a 4-mile course on roughly 2 miles of flat terrain followed by 1 mile of rolling hills and two mildly challenging ascents before concluding at the historic
grounds of Bethel Hobbs Community Farm. The event benefits the farm, a nonprofit that has the mission of being devoted to servicing local food pantries and food programs.

• USA Track and Field sanctioned event

• Start time is 9 a.m.

• For more information or to register, call 631-451-6647 or email [email protected]

• Or, visit the town’s website at www.brookhavenny.gov/runthefarm or www.start2finish.com

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilwoman Jane Bonner. File photo

Supervisor

Romaine an asset to town

An undeniable by-product of the heated and often circus-like 2016 presidential election is a booming pool of highly qualified and energized people throwing their names in the ring to run for political office. This phenomenon is perfectly embodied by the Town of Brookhaven supervisor race.

Incumbent Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) often begins speaking engagements with the line, “It’s a great day for Brookhaven.” It is our belief that the day he took office in 2012 was a truly great day for Brookhaven. His experience as a public servant and ability to create partnerships seamlessly with Democrats and Republicans alike make him an asset for our town. He’s willing to fight for what he feels is right for the people of the town. Period.

On the other hand, his challenger Jack Harrington, a Democrat and resident of Stony Brook, is a qualified, young candidate with obvious confidence and leadership skills. He too would be an asset to any community lucky enough to have him as a public servant. We hope this first attempt at political candidacy is just the beginning for him, and the Democratic party within the town and Suffolk County would be wise to keep tabs on him and keep him in mind in the future should he fall to Romaine Nov. 7. If candidates like Harrington continue to come forward and run for office, our local politics can only benefit.

Despite Harrington’s qualifications, he’s not quite Romaine. We proudly endorse Romaine to remain Brookhaven’s town supervisor for another term, and if he maintains his track record and values when it comes to protecting the environment and exemplary financial management, this probably won’t be the last time this publication stands behind him.

1st District

Cartright to keep things in check

Checks and balances in government are everything, on all levels. In the Town of Brookhaven, 1st District Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) since 2013 has been the watchful eye over a board that entering this cycle features four Republicans and a Conservative, as well as a Republican supervisor. This is not to say we have any reason to distrust the members of the Brookhaven board, regardless of party, but we’d like to think that can be attributed to the existence of not only an exemplary crop of dedicated and honest public servants but also due to the presence of a dissenting political voice.

This is also not to assume the town incumbents will all be successful in their respective re-election bids in 2017. However, should the status quo remain on the Republican side, we are confident that Cartright can continue on as the embodiment of a two-party system.

Beyond her mere existence as a Democrat, Cartright has been a champion for causes aimed at improving the environment and water quality in the district and townwide. Since her first term, she has been dedicated to advancing a Port Jefferson Station/Terryville revitalization project that we’d like to see come to fruition and has played a major role in the visioning project for the Route 25A corridor.

Her opponent, Republican James Canale of Port Jefferson Station, is an enthusiastic, young politician with his head and heart both firmly in the right place. We hope his first run for political office is not his last.

We have a minor criticism of Cartright going forward, which we discussed with her personally. In seeking comment from the councilwoman on stories, which are oftentimes directly related to work she is doing, she and her staff are not always able to connect, sometimes too late for deadlines, and sometimes not at all. To be a successful leader, communication with constituents is key, and constituents read newspapers.

We strongly support Cartright in her bid to remain in charge of Brookhaven’s 1st District.

2nd District

Bonner brings experience

While incumbent Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner’s (C-Rocky Point) opponent Democrat Mike Goodman has some understandable concerns with the future of life in Brookhaven, we feel Bonner is best for the job.

Her years of experience have helped propel her to her present position. Working as a legislative aid to then-Suffolk County Legislator Dan Losquadro (R) and as a councilwoman for the second council district for the last decade has given her a breadth of knowledge, experience and connections.

Bonner said she believes there will be a resurgence of downtown Rocky Point, and we hope she strives to make changes that attract quality businesses to enhance the area, modeling from Main Street in Patchogue or Port Jefferson. We also applaud her care for shoreline structures and her involvement in the Culross Beach Rocky Point-North Shore Beach Property Owners Association debacle, as well as for monitoring the dispute against a DDI Development house in Miller Place and speaking in favor of it publicly. The councilwoman cares about her constituents, about the environment and about making things better. She has also shown she has the leadership ability to get the job done.

We have no doubt her challenger also cares. We admire Goodman for throwing his hat into the ring, raising concern over key issues like the lack of jobs and affordable housing, and we encourage the town and Bonner to bring more ideas to the table, and even explore his ticketing system suggestion.

While we vote for Bonner, we also encourage the councilwoman to work with her challenger on his ideas and use him as a resource to create a better Brookhaven.

3rd District

Leave it to Kevin LaValle

As TBR News Media’s 2016 Person of the Year piece said, Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) is a councilman you can count on.

Unlike his challenger, the councilman knows more about the issues in the 3rd Council District on a local level and has worked closely with related groups to solve problems. His work helping the nonprofit Hobbes Community Farm receive funding is commendable, and his efforts securing large sums of money through grants is a smart way to get the job done without putting the burden of the bill on the town.

Democratic nominee Alfred Ianacci has no specific solutions and lacks knowledge of what the town is currently working on, pointing out in his list of concerns some things that are already being addressed by Brookhaven.

LaValle is a perfect fit for the position he’s in. Growing up in the community he serves, LaValle offers a unique perspective, knowing his constituents well and knowing the long-standing issues he needs to tackle. We have been pleased to see his growth in the position and expect that to continue should he secure another term. Confidently go with LaValle on Election Day.

Highway superintendent

All roads lead to Losquadro

The Town of Brookhaven highway superintendent has one of the largest responsibilities of any local elected official. It is the head of the department’s job to oversee literally thousands of miles of road, and incumbent Dan Losquadro (R) has done an excellent job of making that task more manageable during his first two terms.

He set out with the goal of streamlining and updating the highway department’s systems and mechanics to create greater efficiency in the way it deals with its upward of $100 million annual budget, and he has done a masterful job at achieving that goal so far. We think the town would benefit from two more years of Losquadro to allow him more time to play out his five- and 10-year plans, which he said he established shortly after taking office.

We commend his challenger, Democrat Anthony Portesy, for taking the leap into political candidacy, and his enthusiasm, drive and education make him an attractive candidate for other offices going forward.

This time around, go with Losquadro.

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle is being challenged by Democrat Alfred Ianucci to represent the 3rd District. Photos by Desirée Keegan and from Facebook

By Desirée Keegan

An architectural woodworker is challenging incumbent Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), focusing on the issues of road repair, zombie homes and government transparency as they relate to the 3rd Council District.

Alfred Ianacci, 61, of Lake Ronkonkoma, is running on the Democratic and Working Families lines. He grew up in Long Island City, Queens and has lived in Lake Ronkonkoma for 31 years.

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle was on site for the tearing down of several zombie houses this year. File photo from Town of Brookhaven

“The feedback I get is people are not happy with Brookhaven,” he said. He attributed that to a lack of trust in town officials, and called for more government transparency.

LaValle, who was grew up in Centereach, said he jumped into office four years ago wanting to bring government back to the people.

Representing what he calls the “blue collar, middle class area” of Brookhaven, the councilman said his residents have a different mindset than most.

“If we had a pothole in front of our house, we’d throw some dirt in it, throw a cone over it and we wouldn’t call anybody, because we take care of the problem ourselves,” he said during a debate at TBR News Media’s Setauket office in October. “That’s one thing I’ve been trying to broach being in office for four years — trying to bring government to the people and show them that we’re here. I’m here hosting events just to get out there so people know me and know I’m not running away from issues.”

Ianacci, said road repair is “a disaster” in the town. He also said the town needs to improve its drainage systems.

“There are places that flood with three or four inches of rain,” he said. “We have to really do a complete re-evaluation of our storm drain system throughout Brookhaven.”

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle is running for his third term. Photo by Desirée Keegan

LaValle said he knows the real issues, and said growing up in Centereach helped him to understand them.

“The big thing I know growing up in the area is that we were always traveling because we didn’t have fields, and the fields we did have weren’t very good,” said LaValle, who played on the Centereach basketball team in high school. “But now to have Selden Park in our own backyard, people can grow up and be proud of what we have.”

The councilman helped secure 24 acres behind Hawkins Path Elementary School, where four baseball fields, two multi-purpose fields, walking trails and a playground are currently being constructed. Modeling it off of Mount Sinai’s Heritage Park, he said he’d also like to incorporate a piece from Port Jefferson’s Harborfront Park — an ice rink. With Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) helping to purchase the property and state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) securing a $1 million grant, the construction is well on its way. He said he’s hoping to see it become a generational park.

“You start off as a baby, your mom is walking you in the stroller, and the kids gets a little older and they go to the playground, then they get a little bit older and they’re playing on the fields, then they get a little older they go off to college and they come back and they’re running, and then they have a family, come back and start the whole thing over again,” he said. “Any day you drive by Heritage Park there’s tons of people — something’s always going on — so where as the Centereach Pool is a condensed area, this was our last opportunity for some open space.”

Lavalle was also involved in work done at Centereach Pool, adding a $100,000 spray park, reconstructing the basketball courts, adding a sun shelter, pickleball courts and beach volleyball. The restrooms are slated for improvements next.

Owners watch their dogs play at Selden Dog Park. which Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle helped secure a grant to upgrade. File photo by Kyle Barr

“We hooked up with the Middle Country school district and the athletic director to host basketball tournaments in the middle of the summer to keep kids off the streets,” he said. “We didn’t realize the turnout. The families are happy the kids have something to do and they get to come and see how nice it is now.”

More than fixing up parkland, Ianacci said he is concerned with zombie houses. The challenger said the town is “plagued” by abandoned, dilapidated homes. He said vacant houses could be salvaged instead of torn down, saying it would help the town develop affordable housing to keep residents from leaving. Brookhaven Town announced last month a similar plan is already being put into motion, fixing the blighted properties and selling them to veterans and first-time homebuyers at lower rates.

Other efforts touted by LaValle relating specifically to his council district include securing $2 million in grants over the last four years, part of which was a $25,000 grant for upgrading the Selden Dog Park; starting the Run the Farm race to raise money for the nonprofit Hobbes Farm once it began losing government funding; and revitalizing Middle Country Road by connecting parking lots, adding more green space as businesses like McDonald’s and White Castle receive upgrades and others like Five Guys and Guitar Center move in.

Democratic challenger Alfred Ianacci is running to represent Brookhaven Town’s 3rd Council District. Photo from Facebook

“It goes from the street, to the sidewalk to a parking lot — you feel like you’re in the city,” he said. “New businesses are coming in and rezoning and we’re trying to bring that green space back while also keeping people off Middle Country Road.”

Ianacci’s focus continues to be on more townwide issues, like the expected closure of the town landfill in the next decade, and fighting against the “brain drain.”

“We have so many skilled people who work in Brookhaven,” he said. “But they can’t live in Brookhaven. Our taxes are going to go up.”

He said on many issues he had no specific recommendations for improvements, but would study each problem and seek solutions.

LaValle said he hopes to continue to keep doing what he’s doing. The councilman said he or a staff member attends every civic meeting. He said he speaks regularly to the Middle Country Chamber of Commerce, churches and townspeople to find out what the real problems are.

“I try to make myself available to help me do this job,” LaValle said. “And I’m proud to have the opportunity to do this in the area I grew up. Right away you notice issues while you’re out there talking to people about their problems, what it is that’s bothering them. Whether it’s a pothole in front of their house or business development on Middle Country Road, that’s what I need to know. And there’s nothing more rewarding than to go out into your community that you’re so entrenched in and create the change that the residents have been talking about, and it’s for my friends, my family and my neighbors.”

Dog owners like Kevin Harrigan and Taylor Gittin who are watching their dogs Cassie and Ruby play can look forward to using fresh water stations at Selden Dog Park thanks to a grant secured by Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

Dog owners in Brookhaven have something new to bark about, as the Town of Brookhaven received a grant to make improvements to the Selden Dog Park.

Last week, Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) announced the town was one of just 25 local municipalities out of 215 from across the country to receive pet supply manufacturer PetSafe’s annual Bark for Your Park grant — a $10,000 prize. Most of the funds will be used to install new water stations and water fountains inside the dog park, and the rest will go toward minor improvements.

Taylor Gittin and his dog Cassie play at Selden Dog Park. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We have a lot of dog owners that want a place where they can bring their dog who can run around with other dogs who live in the area,” LaValle said. “That’s where this all started — a lot of dog lovers out there who needed a place to go.”

Selden resident Taylor Gittin has already visited the park several times with his 1.5-year-old dog Cassie since recently moving to the area from Chicago.

“There were some parks in the neighborhood, but they were concrete, so its nice that there are trees and she can run on [the sand],” Gittin said of his old park compared to the one in Selden. “A few times coming here I forgot water bottles from home because I’m used to other dog parks having [fountains], so that’s the biggest thing for me [the town could improve on].”

Not including villages and private property, the town currently supports two off-leash dog parks — in Selden and Middle Island. The Selden Dog Park will receive sprinklers, and new plants will help beautify the entrance. Slats will be added to the entrance gate so excited dogs don’t crowd the entrance as new owners enter.

“We’re always looking to save taxpayers money, and going out and getting these grants, whether it’s for infrastructure or parks, is something we really focus in the town because it offsets our costs,” LaValle said. “It’s these little extras that the residents want and the residents need that helps keep the tax bills down. We beat out municipalities from all over the country, so this was a great thing.”

“A few times coming here I forgot water bottles from home because I’m used to other dog parks having [fountains], so that’s the biggest thing for me [the town could improve on].”

—Taylor Gittin

The Bark for Your Park grant began in 2011 as a social media contest that would earn just over 40 applicants PetSafe Brand Marketing Specialist Justin Young said in an email. In 2016, the contest was transformed into a grant-giving campaign. There are 25 grants available in different funding levels — communities building a new park can apply for a $25,000 grant, communities performing maintenance on existing parks can receive $10,000 and communities that desire new equipment can get $5,000 worth of park accessories through park furnishing company Ultrasite, a partner of PetSafe.

“The program is all about finding enthusiastic, pet-loving communities that support green spaces, with civic leaders and community organizations who want to improve their communities and encourage responsible pet ownership,” Young said in the email.

Centereach resident Kevin Harrigan is a regular to the park and takes his three dogs Ruby, Max and Jasper for a walk around Selden almost every day.

“This dog park is a God send,” Harrigan said. “From my perspective, there’s a lot of people like me — I’m in my 60s, I’ve been living in this community for 20 years and I pay my taxes every year. I have three dogs. I can’t bring them in the parks, can’t bring them in school areas. I pay the taxes to pay for all these things and I can’t enjoy any of them. [A good amount] of the population are out here without kids, so for a lot of us, dogs are our kids.”

Bethel Hobbs Farm's Run the Farm will be going virtual this year. Funds support the farm in its community endeavors. File photo from Councilman Kevin LaValle's office

By Kyle Barr

For Ann Pellegrino, the founder of Bethel Hobbs Community Farm in Centereach which donates 90 percent of its locally grown vegetables to area food pantries, the mission hits close to home.

“Years ago I was a single mother with three kids working two different jobs, and I’ve had to go to food pantries a couple times,” she said. “But when you go to the typical food pantry, you get boxed stuff, stuff that doesn’t have any nutrients, stuff that doesn’t have any vitamins in it, it’s just stuff to fill your belly.”

Bethel Hobbs Community Farm in Centereach holds an annual community race to raise money for the farm. Photo by Kyle Barr

Because the mission is so important to her, when government funds ran dry, she needed help.

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) stepped in with an idea to host a local race to bring the community together while helping to raise funds for the farm.

LaValle called for help from Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) and Hobbs Farms volunteers and the annual Run the Farm Four-Mile Challenge was born.

Now in its third year, more than 200 runners of all strengths and abilities came out on a warm, humid day Aug. 19 to support the farm. In total, more than $7,500 was raised.

“This is the last remaining farm in Centereach — It’s not only a part of our history but an active part of our history,” LaValle said. “You have kids 5, 6 years old, you have college kids, high school kids, seniors that are out there volunteering. It brings so many people together in this community for a great cause.”

The runners lined up at the start in front of the Oxhead Road Elementary School and waited for the horn. Their route took them in a loop that ended on the west side of the farm where they were greeted by cheering family members, friend and volunteers. Tall yellow sunflowers and green vegetables could be seen growing beyond the archway to the farm and a sign saying “Love Grows Here.”

“I was remarried and I was able to step back a little bit because people were there for me,” Pellegrino said. “I wanted to give back to people stuff that wasn’t just packaged.”

The Bethel Hobbs Community Farm’s founder, Ann Pellegrino, donates most of the produce to local food pantries. File photo

The volunteers at Bethel Hobbs farm are often community members, with a handful of student volunteers from Suffolk County Community College and Stony Brook University.

“I live three houses down from here, so I’m always here helping out when I’m not in college, and when I’m not busy during the semester I stop by and do some help inside the community,” said SCCC student Bershell Hall. “I think it’s really great what they do here, because they have health standards, people in the community can come here and pull for their own usage.”

Kraig Rau placed first in the race with a time of 22 minutes, 52 seconds. He strode across the finish line with a body and face streaming with sweat, and he gladly took the water bottle from a volunteer’s outstretched hand. Rau grew up in the community and graduated from Centereach High School.

“It’s my second time here; I was here last year,” he said. “I think it’s a great event, it’s the local community here. I live a mile away so I run here and then I just run home.”

The run was sponsored by several groups, including a few large-scale food chains like Whole Foods and ShopRite. A group of 21 employees from the Selden ShopRite showed up to support the event.

“The farm is vital to the infrastructure of the island and Middle Country, and we’re very fortunate to have it,” said Charles Gallagher, the owner of the Selden ShopRite. “We need to make sure we continue to support it, it’d be a real shame if it went away.”