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Lillian Clayman

Romaine's win continues rightward political shift in the county

Suffolk County Executive-elect Ed Romaine delivers his victory speech at Stereo Garden in Patchogue Tuesday night, Nov. 7. Photo by Raymond Janis

By Raymond Janis and Aidan Johnson

As returns came in Tuesday night, Nov. 7, electricity pulsed through Suffolk GOP headquarters. 

Republicans flipped the Suffolk County executive’s seat for the first time in two decades, with Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine cruising to victory over his Democratic opponent, businessman Dave Calone, by a 57-43% margin as of Wednesday morning.

“Thank you, Suffolk,” the county executive-elect told the audience assembled at Stereo Garden in Patchogue. “You’ve given me a large mandate tonight — you’ve crushed it.” 

“And we’re going to use that mandate to move this county forward,” he added.

Calone concedes, county executive transition commences

At the Democratic headquarters in Holtsville, Suffolk County Democratic Committee chairman and Town of Babylon supervisor, Rich Schaffer, addressed the deflated crowd as the results started to come in.

“Obviously, we would have wanted to be on the winning side tonight, but we know that what we are up against is not only the atmosphere created out of Albany, the atmosphere that’s created out of Washington, and that has hurt us here as a brand in Suffolk County,” he said.

In his concession speech, Calone thanked his family, team, running mates and outgoing county executive Steve Bellone (D), along with his supporters.

“I want to thank the people of Suffolk County for the last year, for the chance to visit with you, your families from one end of this county to the other,” he said. “And I am so proud of the ticket we put together.”

“I promise to continue working with all of you as we move and push meaningful solutions that affect the lives of the people of Suffolk County,” Calone added.

Bellone congratulated Romaine on his victory, pledging to do “everything I can to assist the new county executive-elect and his administration.”

“I am committed to ensuring a seamless transition and handover of responsibilities to the new administration beginning on Jan. 1,” he said in a statement. “To that end, I have asked Chief Deputy County Executive Lisa Black to lead our administration’s efforts to coordinate with the incoming administration.”

Republicans expand county Legislature majority

Romaine’s victory was fortified by steady gains in the county Legislature.

Chad Lennon (R-Rocky Point) flipped the county’s 6th Legislative District, besting Dorothy Cavalier (D-Mount Sinai) 61-39% in the race to succeed termed-out Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai).

“I would not be here today without you,” Lennon told the audience. “Thank you for entrusting me. I’m looking forward to a successful two years.”

Majority Leader Nick Caracappa (C-Selden) won reelection in the 4th District over Timothy Hall 64-36%. Additionally, incumbent Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) cruised to reelection with 69% of the vote in the 12th District. And Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) won his uncontested race in the 13th District with over 99% of the vote.

In Huntington, incumbent Legislator Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport) narrowly defeated her Democratic Party challenger Dr. Eve Meltzer-Krief, of Centerport, 53-47% in the 18th District.

Former state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) defeated Anthony Figliola (R-East Setauket) 53-47%, winning the 5th District seat left vacant by Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket).

“I’m looking forward to working on the environmental issues that are tied to the economy, such as tourism, and we really have a chance with the people who are being elected here tonight to make a difference going forward in the county Legislature,” Englebright said, before all of the final results had come in.

According to the unofficial results, the Republicans gained one seat in the county Legislature, giving the party a veto-proof 12-6 supermajority.

Town-level victories

The GOP racked up considerable victories across the towns of Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington.

In the race to succeed Romaine as supervisor of the county’s largest township, Brookhaven Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R) defeated SUNY Old Westbury professor Lillian Clayman (D) 62-38%.

“We know what our mandate is,” the supervisor-elect said. “We are going to govern correctly. We are going to be bold in our initiatives. This is a new day in the Town of Brookhaven, and I am proud to be the supervisor.”

Panico pledged to redirect the focus of the town government toward traditionally nonconservative areas, adding, “We are going to make major inroads throughout this entire town.”

Alongside Panico, Republicans held onto their 5-1 majority on the Town Board. Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) and Councilman Neil Manzella (R-Selden) were both reelected carrying 65% of the votes in their districts.

Incumbent Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) retained his seat with a 55-45% margin of victory over Republican challenger Gary Bodenburg.

“For the past three years, I have worked hard to represent the more than 80,000 residents of Three Village, Port Jefferson village, Port Jefferson Station and Terryville, and last night the community hired me to serve another term,” Kornreich said in a statement.

“I love this community and promise to keep showing up for them day in and day out, celebrating our successes and sharing our challenges,” he added.

Brookhaven voters also reelected incumbent Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) and Receiver of Taxes Louis Marcoccia (R) with 62% and 63%, respectively.

Republicans swept each townwide race in Smithtown. Town clerk candidate Tom McCarthy — not the incumbent town councilman — cruised to victory over Bill Holst (D) carrying 65% of the townwide vote. Incumbent Smithtown Receiver of Taxes Deanna Varricchio (R) retained her seat by a 2-1 margin of victory over challenger Amy Fortunato (D). For Town Board, incumbent town Councilman Thomas Lohmann (R) and Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo (R) each carried 33% of the vote over Democratic challengers Maria Scheuring and Sarah Tully.

In Huntington, Republicans expanded their majority on the Town Board to a sweeping 5-0, if the unofficial results hold. In an extremely close four-way contest, Republican candidates Brooke Lupinacci and Theresa Mari edged their Democratic counterparts Jen Hebert and Don McKay. Lupinacci and Mari received 25.5% and 25.4% of the vote respectively to Hebert’s and McKay’s 25% and 23.9% share respectively.

Incumbent Receiver of Taxes Jillian Guthman (D) was reelected over Pamela Velastegui (R) 53-47%, and incumbent Town Clerk Andrew Raia (R) won reelection over Linda Davis Valdez (D) 57-43%.

Brookhaven Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico, left, and Lillian Clayman debate the issues facing town residents. Photo by Raymond Janis

By Lynn Hallarman

A lively debate took place between candidates Lillian Clayman (D) and Dan Panico (R) for Town of Brookhaven supervisor at the headquarters of TBR News Media. The incumbent supervisor, Ed Romaine (R), is running for Suffolk County executive. 

Candidates had two minutes each to respond to questions from the staff, with an optional 30-second rebuttal. The debate kicked off with the rundown of their credentials.

Clayman, 70, of Port Jefferson, honed her political skills as the three-term elected mayor of Hamden, Connecticut, from 1991 to ’97. She served as a city councilwoman in Connecticut, where she was the finance committee chair and managed a budget of about $200 million. Clayman noted that she spent 10 years as a financial planner and portfolio manager.

Since moving to Long Island 20 years ago, she has worked as a union organizer for 1199 SEIU (Service Employees International Union) and was chair of the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee from 2016 to ’21. She holds a doctoral degree in American History from Rutgers in 2019.

Clayman was asked to step in when former Village of Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant withdrew from the race this June due to illness.

“As mayor of Hamden, I was in charge of the board of education budget, the sewers, the police department, the fire department, the libraries, all the roads, parks and recreation,” she said.

Panico, 45, of Center Moriches, represents the town’s 6th Council District, a position he has held since he was first elected in 2010.

Panico received his law degree from Touro Law School with an award for excellence in land use, zoning and planning. He has been deputy supervisor of the Town of Brookhaven since 2012.

“I’ve run as high as almost 79% of the vote because I know the job I do, and that is local government,” he said. “I don’t talk about national politics.”

Town supervisor’s role

When asked for their superpower, or the quality that makes them most qualified for the town’s highest post, the candidates offered varying perspectives.

Panico said, “My superpower is that my land use planning and zoning ability is unparalleled by anybody in the town. That is my superpower.”

Clayman, on the other hand, responded, “I can get people to work together. I work collaboratively.”

Land use

Panico said he believes the best land use decisions happen at the hyperlocal level in collaboration with communities and their elected district council representative.

“I’m deeply involved in all the redevelopment projects throughout the entire town,” the deputy supervisor said. “It’s without an exaggeration that I could be the councilperson for any of the six town council districts.”

He added, “I have the know-how to meet with developers and push the projects through, which are predominantly redevelopment, but also safeguard communities like Stony Brook and Setauket to make sure they are not overdeveloped.”

Clayman used her two minutes to focus on sewer infrastructure, which she believes is a critical aspect of sustainable development throughout the town.

“Without sewers, without IA [Innovative/Alternative] septic systems, we will continue to release nitrogen into our aquifers into our waterways,” she said. “Until we get new sewers and septics, we can’t even talk about development. We must be very careful because we are above our capacity.”

On the Town Board’s role in overseeing the planning and construction of new developments, both candidates agreed upon a hands-on approach from the supervisor’s office.

“I make it my business to know what’s going on across the entire town, although I represent the 6th town Council District,” Panico said. “I wrote the multifamily code with our planning department. I rewrote the [Planned Retirement Community code] and the [Commercial Redevelopment District code].”

Clayman offered a slightly varied perspective, noting the role of the town government in limiting overdevelopment. “The primary function of the Town Board is to make sure that areas are not overdeveloped,” she said. “All you have to do is look at Port Jefferson Station — there is an enormous amount of overdevelopment that is occurring in this area.”

Open space

Another critical component of the town’s land use arsenal is its open space fund. When pressed for their strategies for preserving open space, Panico highlighted the few undeveloped parcels that remain.

“I think we’re in a race to save what’s left,” the Republican said. “That’s what I believe, and I believe people in Brookhaven value open space,” adding, “We have the Joseph Macchia [Environmental Preservation] Capital Reserve Fund, open space funds that we use. I would certainly partner to preserve as much open space as we can and work with our villages.”

Clayman advocated for a grassroots, civic approach targeting parcels for preservation as open space. “Working with the civic associations and the Town Board to make sure that we have open space” would be critical, the Democratic candidate said. “We don’t need to develop every single piece of property that is available. That is something that occurred during the ’70s and ’80s, and we don’t need to do that now.”

Lawrence Aviation site

Lawrence Aviation is among the biggest Superfund sites on Long Island, and both Port Jefferson Station and the Village and Port Jefferson Station will likely bear most of the impacts from future redevelopment of that site. 

On how to accommodate residents of those areas, Panico said, “People have had to deal with that pollution for quite some time. If you are going to unveil solar in the area, give the affected population a reduced rate on their electric — you’re allowed to do that under New York State law. And give the residents of [Port Jefferson] Village a break on their tax bills. I think that would be a somewhat equitable thing to do.” 

Clayman said that the longstanding environmental impacts are not localized to Lawrence Aviation. “It’s not just Lawrence Aviation. At the town landfill, there are negative impacts from toxins that have seeped into our groundwater and our air. People swear that Lawrence Aviation has had a negative impact [on their health]. But I also think that what Dan said is a good idea for that property. I’m all for [tax breaks].”

Cost of living

For many seniors and young people throughout the region, the high standard of living is becoming untenable, prompting many to leave Long Island. To counteract these movements, Clayman advocated for increasing the amount of affordable housing units in the town. She pointed out that to live on the Island for a family of four, you need to make about $150,000 a year.

“That’s a lot of money,” she said. “The average family on Long Island is currently making about $86,000 a year. [Affordable] housing prices need to reflect that amount. That is something that can be part of any kind of development plan.”

Panico highlighted the town’s recent efforts in constructing new affordable units. “We’ve been very successful around the town in creating more units,” he said. “But if you listen to my opponent, we can’t build any more units. And to me, I live in reality, and I am pragmatic.”

He added, “I know that there needs to be redevelopment — redevelopment is the name of the game.”

Fentanyl crisis

Both candidates regarded the fentanyl crisis foremost as a mental health issue. Panico viewed the crisis as an issue that primarily needs addressing at the state and federal levels. Clayman, on the other hand, said there is an opportunity for expanded town, county and state partnerships in education and outreach.

“We can utilize the resources that we have with Channel 18 to have outreach to the communities and to the schools,” Panico said, “But ultimately, [combating the crisis] is going to come from a change in our federal government.”

Clayman outlined her more local outlook toward remediating the challenges. “I think the town has an important role to play,” she said. The town “needs to put more of our time and energy and focus not just into development projects but also look at how we can be of service to the community.”

As a follow-up, the TBR staff inquired how the candidates sought to finance an expanded role in combating the fentanyl crisis within the town.

Clayman suggested looking within the current budget as a possible source of financing a community response to the crisis: “I would look through vendor contracts, for example, and examine [the spending on] those vendor contracts.”

Panico objected to this proposal. “We’re going to look into vendor contracts and solve the fentanyl crisis?” he asked. “To me, it doesn’t make any sense. The fact of the matter is, it’s better when one level of government is focused on this issue.”

Energy costs

Both candidates agreed that the town’s Community Choice Aggregation program, launched in Brookhaven in 2022, is a well-intentioned initiative by the Town Board.

Clayman, however, questioned the rollout of the program as mired in confusing bureaucracy, putting the responsibility on town residents to figure out how to maximize cost savings.

“While maybe it was good intentioned, it doesn’t serve the residents,” she said. “And worst of all, nobody knows about it.”

Panico acknowledged that the town could do a better job of explaining the program to residents but believes it is a worthwhile endeavor nonetheless.

“Our aim is to save people money,” he indicated. “If you are a savvy consumer, you can opt out when the price is low and opt back into our program and save real money.”

“That’s unfair,” Clayman responded. “The program is based on putting the responsibility on [residents] to opt out of a program they are automatically enrolled in. As a consumer, I would much rather learn about a program beforehand and then make a decision as to whether or not I want to participate.”

Panico countered by adding, “Scores of people have used the program, and the town has an active outreach program to educate residents on their choices. The town publishes National Grid rates on their website so that people can track the rates.”

Brookhaven animal shelter

Earlier this year, residents publicly witnessed some frayed relations between volunteers and staff at the town-operated animal shelter on Horseblock Road. [See story, “Volunteers and officials express concerns over Brookhaven animal shelter,” Aug. 5, TBR News Media.]

“Just this morning, [New York] State declared the animal shelter unsatisfactory,” Clayman said. “The volunteers at the animal shelter were [the ones] that brought [the issues] to the public eye. This is one of the areas that Brookhaven needs to be more transparent.”

She added, “An attorney was hired to oversee the animal shelter — you don’t need an attorney to be in charge of an animal shelter. He directed that the volunteers had to sign non-disclosure agreements.”

Panico defended the administration for its handling of the shelter and pointed to progress at the facility since the initial dispute.

“We hired, for the first time, a full-time veterinarian at the animal shelter,” he said. “I met with some of the more prominent volunteers — they’re happy with the progress. We are making a big effort to bring up the animal shelter. But also, we hired somebody specifically for social media to get these dogs and cats adopted.”

Clayman responded, “But it is indicative of the way the town government has been run that volunteers have to meet in secret with a potential candidate for office.”

Panico countered, “Under my administration, there will be no NDAs or anything like that. We’re going to calm the waters.”

Active-use trails

Both candidates endorsed park preservation, linear park expansion and linkage of existing trails within the town.

Panico pointed to his record as councilman in park preservation, including negotiating with developers to preserve or create park spaces.

“Our parks and trails are absolutely beautiful in the Town of Brookhaven,” he stated. “I’ve made it [almost] through the Rails to Trails with myself and my 4-year-old on the back of my bike and my 9-year-old [on his bike].”

Clayman touted her record as the mayor of Hamden in building new biking and walking amenities.

“I built the Farmington Canal trail, which is a rails-to-trail linear park,” she said. “I would work very hard in linking [Brookhaven trails] up and to build more.”

Self-reflection

TBR asked each candidate on a personal level for their greatest frustration in their respective professional lives.

“I sometimes wonder if other people spend as much time [as I do] kicking themselves in the butt over something that I thought that I should do better,” Clayman said.

For Panico, “I wrestle with whether I should stick to what I know and stay in my lane in town government, or should I get more involved in other levels of government,” he said. “Professionally, I wrestle with this issue. I’ve chosen to stick predominantly with staying in my lane. I think I’ve made the right decision.”

When asked if they had a magic wand that could immediately resolve two issues within the town, the town supervisor candidates offered insightful perspectives.

“That’s easy,” Clayman said. “I would clean up the water, I would clean up the aquifer — that would be number one. I would make sure that the air was good to breathe. That would be wonderful if I could do that.”

Panico replied, “If I had a magic wand, I would help homeless people and the mental health crisis on the Island because it’s a Herculean task, but I would if I could solve that. Litter is something that is pervasive on the Island. It’s almost societal, and there’s no easy way to tackle it.”

Residents townwide will decide between these two candidates. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Democratic Party lawn signs posted along Route 25A in Setauket. Photo by Mallie Jane Kim

A Three Village Civic Association Meet the Candidates event Monday, Oct. 2, hosted nine hopefuls (with one absentee) for local government positions — namely Suffolk County executive, Brookhaven Town supervisor, Brookhaven supervisor of highways, county legislator and town council — asking them questions through moderator Herb Mones relevant to current issues in the community.

Brookhaven Town Council: 1st District

Incumbent Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) is facing special education teacher Gary Bodenburg (R) in his bid to keep the seat he won in a special election in March 2021.

Kornreich, who previously served on the Three Village school board and as civic president, said he has a deep understanding of the main issues facing Brookhaven today — land use and planning, including an undersupply of affordable housing and an oversupply of vacant retail and commercial properties.

“One of my most important goals is to help guide the redevelopment of those properties in a way that doesn’t tax our already overburdened infrastructure,” he said, referring to the current system of dealing with sewage primarily through cesspools and its impact on the town’s sole drinking water source, as well as traffic.

Bodenburg acknowledged land use is a major function of the town, but added that assuring quality of life is equally important, pointing to how the many expenses of living on Long Island are straining for families.

“Sometimes we need an outsider, somebody with a fresh set of eyes to look at the issues that we face and create solutions that are somewhat creative, but are keeping our main focus of our families and our children in mind,” he said.

Both candidates said they wanted to ensure community members have the same level of access to government as land developers, as well as increased transparency in the process of member selection for planning and zoning boards.

Kornreich expressed particular concern about overdevelopment of areas like Three Village, as well as frustration about the current notification process of proposed zoning changes to nearby residents. He called the required notification letter “arcane” and confusing, and said he sends his own letter with a map and narrative explanation to residents explaining what is proposed for their neighborhood.

He said he’s working with the town’s legal department to require more robust and transparent communication. “That type of notification and that type of process makes a big difference,” he said.

Bodenburg promised to take on long wait times for things like permits. He said he planned to ensure different departments are sharing information and working cohesively to improve the efficiency of government services.

“We can do that very easily by surveying each department and finding out from the people that are serving our community: How can we help you? What makes your job easier? How can we make your job easier, so we can get our residents to get what they need faster,” Bodenburg said.

Brookhaven superintendent of highways

Newcomer Michael Kaplan (D) is challenging current Highway Supervisor Daniel Losquadro (R), who has served in that position for a decade.

Kaplan, a veteran who spent time in the Middle East with the U.S. Army, is trying to capitalize on his 30 years of experience with highway departments, from a laborer to a road inspector to working for the superintendent of highways in Huntington.

“The highway department should be run by someone who possesses the skill, someone who actually filled potholes, ran a street sweeper, plowed in many snowstorms, cleaned up things like Hurricane Sandy,” he said, adding that he also knows well the administrative side, and what needs improvement. “I want to get rid of pay-to-play. I want to get rid of basically politics in highways — people will be promoted with their merit and not by, per se, writing a check to their political party. That needs to end.”

Losquadro highlighted his accomplishments at the department, including conversion from analog to digital since his election 10 years ago. “We were a department that was hand-writing notes on work orders,” he said. “All my foremen now have iPads with a simple graphic user interface. They’re able to take photos, they’re able to upload that information instantaneously.”

That digital revolution, he added, “not only allows me to track how those work orders are being done, but it gives me a measurable metric by which I can gauge the performance of my employees.”

Both candidates shared their desire to improve safety for bikers and pedestrians, but also acknowledged the challenge of retrofitting modern infrastructure into one of the oldest parts of Long Island.

Another area of agreement was the frustration of unfunded mandates from the state and county — particularly for road and sidewalk maintenance. “I don’t know why the Department of Transportation even bothers to call themselves the state Department of Transportation anymore, because they seem to want to abdicate the responsibility for state roads almost entirely,” Losquadro said, adding that repairing sidewalks along state roads that were installed by the state has not traditionally been part of the town’s budget, and he would like to push back and request funding from the state for this work.

Kaplan suggested a more forceful response. “You need a more fierce attitude dealing with Suffolk DOT and state DOT,” he said. “I think we need fresh eyes — someone that’s really going to go up against the state government and the county government and say, ‘No, we’re not doing this anymore, and if you want us to do it, give us some money for it.”

Suffolk County executive

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) has thrown his hat in the ring to lead Suffolk County after 11 years at the helm of the town. He said he’s proud of his accomplishments in Brookhaven and hopes to make the same kind of changes at the county level.

“When I came into Brookhaven, we had a lot of financial trouble and we had a divided board that was very argumentative — that ended within a few months,” he said. “My colleagues on the board right up to the present day will tell you, we work together. We have unity on the board. We have a focus to go forward.”

He said he also helped repair the town’s financial distress, pointing to the fact that the town currently has a AAA credit rating, and the New York State Comptroller’s Office just gave the town a perfect “0” score for fiscal and environmental stress indicators. He said he would also work to invite wind energy into the area, noting he’d like to move the county away from fossil fuels.

Challenging Romaine, businessman Dave Calone (D) is a Three Village resident and former federal prosecutor who sought accountability for international economic crimes, particularly in oil and gas, and for terrorism after the September 11 terrorist attacks. He later participated in assisting start-ups on Long Island and around the country.

He said he is passionate about protecting the environment and, while serving as chair of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, helped streamline and expedite the permitting process for residential solar panels, something that became a model for other counties and states. He said he even spoke at a conference on the topic in Chicago. 

“I think I’m the only person ever who has gone from Long Island to somewhere else to teach them how to cut red tape,” he said.

Calone also pledged to reintroduce a bill that would allow residents to vote on whether to raise sales tax by 1/8 of a cent to establish a water quality protection fund, which would help add sewers and update septic systems, in light of a summer that saw several days of beach closings due to poor water quality.

Marine scientists and other water experts have said prolific outdated cesspool systems in Suffolk are harming area waterways and the aquifer. The county Legislature blocked a referendum on the wastewater fund in July.

“For me, it’s about focusing on safety, opportunity, affordability and, obviously, environmental protection,” Calone said.

Both candidates agreed the county has significant areas to improve, especially in cybersecurity as well as in increased staffing for Child Protective Services, 911 operations and the police. Both blamed traffic fatalities on insufficient enforcement.

Calone said he would seek funding to create more “complete streets,” that is, roads friendly and safe for multiple uses: pedestrians, bikers and motorists.

Romaine called out the current county executive, Steve Bellone (D), saying there are essential positions left “deliberately” vacant, leaving police officers, 911 operators and CPS caseworkers overloaded and unable to keep up with demand for services. 

“I’m supervisor of a town,” Romaine said. “If I put a job in the budget, it gets filled. If it becomes vacant, it gets filled. That is not true in the county of Suffolk,” calling the practice dishonest. “If we fill those jobs, it’s not that you’d have to pay more because you’re already getting taxed for that.”

County legislator: 5th District

Anthony Figliola (R-East Setauket), a Three Village resident with experience in economic development and government relations, and former New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) are vying to replace the vacant seat left by Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who would have been term limited in any event.

A geologist by trade with a long association with Stony Brook University, Englebright served in the Suffolk County Legislature from 1983 to 1992, before his long term in the state Assembly until the end of 2022. He said he was particularly inspired to reenter the county’s political sphere when he heard the Legislature in July rejected the opportunity to let people vote on the clean water bill. He said the move took away a chance for public education on how aging septic infrastructure affects the county’s sole-source aquifer and local harbors.

“The reason I’m running for the county Legislature is the work that I began there to protect clean water and protect us environmentally, and in order to encourage the growth of renewable energy — those issues are still very, very much in need, I believe, of some of the attention that I can give to them,” he said. “Let the people vote for clean water.”

Figliola, who indicated he was also disappointed the Legislature did not allow the clean water referendum, said he wants to bring to Suffolk his experience helping small businesses grow and assisting municipalities seeking federal funds for infrastructure.

“I care about this community, which is why I want to bring a private-sector mindset to the county Legislature because we have fiscal problems,” Figliola said. He also said he’d like to help small businesses succeed in order to decrease the number of vacant storefronts in the area.

Both candidates agreed red-light cameras should be used in a more thoughtful and disciplined way — for public safety and not as a revenue stream. “People feel that it is a cash grab, and I want to make sure their pockets are not being picked,” Figliola said.

Brookhaven Town supervisor

In the race to replace Romaine as town supervisor, Lillian Clayman (D), a SUNY Old Westbury adjunct professor and former mayor of Hamden, Connecticut, is facing off against Brookhaven Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville).

Clayman, who also worked as an organizer for a health care union and chair of the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee, was unable to make the event, but said previously her priorities include bringing “good government” to Brookhaven, and solving issues of waste management in light of the planned closure of Brookhaven’s landfill.

At the event, Panico detailed his long service in public office, including 13 years at his current post as councilman for the 6th District. He said Brookhaven is “light-years” from the “sordid history that unfolded from decades ago,” thanks in part to anti-nepotism and ethics laws he was part of passing.

He said a key to his collaborative style is to represent all constituents and work collaboratively with others, no matter their political leaning. He also does not talk about national politics.

“I find it to be extremely divisive,” he said. “A lot of times when elected officials are so willing to jump into the fray of national politics and culture wars, it’s because they’re not necessarily spending that time that they should be doing the job they were elected to do.”

Panico pledged to do his best to protect open spaces from overdevelopment, an issue of particular interest to area residents, and something he has had success doing. “Land use zoning and planning is my expertise,” he said, adding that the area where he grew up — Mastic Beach — was a victim of “haphazard” development, which is difficult and expensive to redevelop. He said he would like to avoid that issue in places with historical properties and such a sense of place. “You have something special here in the Three Village area,” he said.

He also said he would address issues of illegal student housing in local neighborhoods by working with Stony Brook University to find solutions — especially in light of record donations to the school that could enable additional appropriate student housing. He said he has experience in cracking down on illegal housing situations and pledged to do the same in the Three Village area. “It’s like cancer,” he said. “If you, as a government representative, do not address the issue, and the people don’t believe their government is listening and doing something, what happens? The ‘for sale’ sign goes up, especially in this market, and it spreads down the block.”

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Prospective local officeholders participate in a Meet the Candidates forum hosted by the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association Tuesday, Sept. 26. From left, Jonathan Kornreich, Gary Bodenburg, Anthony Figliola, Steve Englebright, Dan Panico and Lillian Clayman. Photo courtesy Joan Nickeson

Major party candidates for three local offices went before the public Tuesday evening, Sept. 26, for a Meet the Candidates forum at the Comsewogue Public Library hosted by the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association.

Brookhaven Town Council

Vying for Brookhaven’s 1st Council District, which encompasses Port Jeff Station/Terryville, incumbent Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) is defending his seat against Republican Party challenger Gary Bodenburg, a special education teacher at South Huntington School District.

Kornreich was first elected to the Town Board in 2021 following a special election for the vacated seat of former Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station).

Kornreich served on the Three Village Central School District Board of Education and as president of the Three Village Civic Association. His professional background is in construction and real estate finance.

“I understand the economics of what drives boom and bust cycles, and how to evaluate our current stock of real estate and what can make a project viable,” he said.

Bodenburg, along with his role as an educator, has conducted local advocacy work for at-risk youth, serving on several committees within the Comsewogue School District.

“I have always been somebody that is willing to help and put my hat in the ring with anything that goes on in our community, and I’m looking forward to expressing that in this capacity as well,” he said.

On land use, Bodenburg objected to the trend of developing new apartment complexes in and around PJS/T.

“I do believe there’s a need for housing,” he said. “Once I’m able to get involved in it and I can see a little deeper, a little clearer, it makes it a lot easier.”

Kornreich said the board needs to incentivize redevelopment, citing mixed-use development as a potential means for making redevelopment economically viable.

“If it were up to me, we wouldn’t add any new residences — I think we’re already at our carrying capacity,” the councilmember said. “We all know traffic is a nightmare, but in order to revitalize these areas, we have to be able to make it work financially for the developers.”

Given some local concerns over traffic impacts from new developments along the Route 112 corridor, Kornreich supported commissioning a comprehensive traffic study to assess interactions between proposed developments.

He warned against the trend of privately commissioned impact assessments. “I think at the town, we have to stop allowing people to just hire their own experts to tell [us] what they’re being paid to say,” the incumbent said.

Bodenburg acknowledged the value of impact assessments, though he warned against studying at the expense of progress.

“I think we need to fully evaluate anything that we’re doing, but there does come a point in time where we can’t continue to just study things and we have to make actual action,” he advised.

When pressed on growing density pressures within the hamlet, Bodenburg said he has been coordinating with a real estate developer and revitalizer interested in working with the town to develop properties and expand affordable housing opportunities for residents.

“We have to be a little more creative than we have been in the past, and I think that that is something that we need to look into,” he said.

Kornreich said the region offers limited residential opportunities for young families with an “insatiable” demand for affordable housing.

“The way that we can address this at the town level is pretty straightforward,” he said. “We have control over local zoning … so we could offer incentives to developers who are going to put affordable units in their development.”

But, he added, “For these projects to work, that’s where we need the state and federal government to do things like providing low-interest loans.”

Suffolk County Legislature

Former New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and former NY-1 congressional candidate Anthony Figliola (R-East Setauket) have both stepped forward to fill the now-vacant 5th District seat of former Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket).

Figliola, whose professional background is in government relations with related advocacy work for the proposed electrification of the Port Jeff Branch line of the Long Island Rail Road, centered much of his platform around the electrification initiative.

Electrification would cause “less particulates going into the atmosphere,” he said. “Also for economic development, with the revitalization of Port Jefferson Station and all the [stations] along that from St. James all the way to Huntington.”

Englebright served in the county Legislature from 1983-92 and the state Assembly from 1992-2022. A geologist by training, he concentrated his platform around green energy and environmental protection.

“I sponsored most of the laws that set the stage for the creation of a renewable energy program for the state,” the former assemblyman said. “Green energy initiatives are critically important for our future.”

When asked about the future of the Lawrence Aviation Superfund site in Port Jeff Station, Englebright endorsed the idea of relocating the existing rail yard to the property while eliminating the grade crossing on Route 112.

“The whole idea of having a rail yard there and getting rid of the at-grade crossing on 112 is very much with the concept of having a workable and safe environment,” he added.

Figliola said the community is currently on a path toward a renaissance with the site’s eventual redevelopment. He emphasized the need for public input as these local transformations continue.

“Whatever happens, the community needs to be a part of it,” he said. “As your legislator, I will certainly take the lead in working with all the various agencies to ensure that your voice is heard.”

This year’s election comes amid a countywide debate over wastewater infrastructure. When asked about the Republican majority’s recent decision to block the advancement of the Suffolk County Water Quality Restoration Act from reaching the November ballot, Figliola advocated for more sewer infrastructure.

“I am absolutely for finding dollars where available,” he said, adding, “If the voters so choose that they want to have an extra tax, that’s something that I would be for in the Legislature — for the voters to make that decision.”

Englebright objected to the Legislature’s reversal on wastewater, saying it jeopardizes tourism and agriculture, the county’s two largest industries.

“I do not believe that at the last minute — at the 11th hour — this initiative should not have been given to the public,” he said.

Town supervisor

In a race to succeed outgoing Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) — who is running against businessman Dave Calone (D) for Suffolk County executive — Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville) is squaring off against SUNY Old Westbury adjunct professor Lillian Clayman.

Panico was a practicing attorney and served as senior deputy Suffolk County clerk before entering town government. He served on the Brookhaven Planning Board before his election in 2010 as councilman for the 6th Council District, an office he has held ever since.

Clayman is a Port Jefferson resident who served three terms as mayor of Hamden, Connecticut, before becoming an organizer for health care union 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and later as chair of the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee. She currently teaches labor and industrial relations.

Clayman indicated that effective public administration starts with proper personnel decisions. “I surround myself with people who I think are smarter than I am,” she noted.

To streamline the town’s existing administrative structure, she proposed revamping the Building Department, citing voluminous paperwork and other complications within the permitting process.

While Panico referred to himself as “very similar to Supervisor Romaine,” he suggested some differences in administrative approach.

He proposed staffing his administration with “people who want to work, people who care about their jobs, no one looking to clock time or [collect a] pension and people who are honest.”

Each candidate was questioned on how his or her administration would handle the impending closure of the Brookhaven Town Landfill, located on Horseblock Road, and the precipitating loss of public revenue for the town budget.

Panico supported a more aggressive recycling campaign with greater pressure on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for regional sustainable planning.

“What we need to do is enhance recycling and get the DEC to go forward with a comprehensive plan to promote markets for recycling,” he said.

While acknowledging that land use is the primary function of the town government, Clayman said the town has a secondary responsibility to promote environmental protection.

“Brookhaven is supposed to protect the air that we breathe,” she said. “Brookhaven is supposed to protect the people who live around the landfill, who have since 1974 been living with that garbage.”

She added that expanding composting activities within the town would reduce the waste volume entering the landfill.

Voters will decide on these candidates in just over a month: Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

From left, Town of Brookhaven Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico, Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney, Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich, Councilman Neil Manzella and Councilman Michael Loguercio. Photo by Raymond Janis

Brookhaven officials joined Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney (R) and drug prevention advocates outside Town Hall in Farmingville on Thursday, Aug. 31, to mark the beginning of Opioid Awareness Month.

Several of those present donned purple ribbons as officials called for more urgent intervention on behalf of government.

We “are here today to call attention to the overdose [deaths] that are permeating our county, our state and our country,” said Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), candidate for Suffolk County executive with Dave Calone (D). “We have to have better treatment facilities, we have to help out and reach out to those afflicted and those addicted, and we have to stop the flow of fentanyl into this country.”

Tierney said minimizing opioid deaths is a matter of effective prosecution. “We need to make fentanyl a bailable offense,” the county DA said. “We could only ask for bail if you possess eight ounces of fentanyl, which is about enough fentanyl to kill 114,000 people.”

Brookhaven Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville), a candidate for town supervisor against SUNY Old Westbury adjunct professor Lillian Clayman (D), condemned the New York State government for passing measures that, according to him, exacerbate the opioid problem.

“Our state government now tries to balance its budget on tax revenue coming from things that lead to addiction,” he said. “They’ve promulgated rules and taxes on marijuana — which is a gateway [drug] — gambling, online gambling. These also compound and lead to addiction.”

The deputy supervisor continued, “We need a shift not only in our society but our government because these are human beings.”

Drew Scott, former newscaster from News 12 who has lost a granddaughter to opioids, attended the press event, reminding policymakers and community members that “addiction is a disease” and that “one pill can kill.”

“Curiosity can kill young people,” he said. “Just one pill at a party out of curiosity has killed so many of our young people.” He also urged others to “please, join the crusade and do something about overdose awareness and fentanyl. And fight, fight, fight.”

Town Councilman Michael Loguercio (R-Ridge), who has lost two nephews to opioids, called upon the state Legislature to require insurance companies to pay for treatment.

State law “should require insurance companies to pay for treatment — not only pay for the emergency room visit when we bring them in but pay for the treatment,” the councilman said. “Please, speak to your New York State Assembly [members] and senators, and get them to legislate requirements for the insurance companies to treat these people with the treatment that they need.”

Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) recognized his Council District’s Drug Prevention Coalition. He advocated for expanding this initiative townwide.

The coalition is “a hyperlocal model of deep engagement through community organizations, local businesses, chambers of commerce, civic associations and working closely with the school districts … to raise awareness, reduce the stigma, and it’s having an impact,” he said. “These are very fine people who are working very hard today and have produced a model that can be replicated all over the town.”

The Brookhaven Animal Shelter. Photo from Facebook
By Aidan Johnson

Tensions came to a head between the Town of Brookhaven and animal shelter volunteers over the town-operated Horseblock Road animal shelter during the Town Board’s Thursday, July 20, meeting.

Dozens of volunteers and animal rights advocates spoke at the meeting to express concerns over alleged mismanagement at the shelter, with one volunteer describing the conditions inside the shelter as “deplorable.” 

One such speaker, Lillian Lennon, president of RSVP Inc. Animal Welfare & Rescue and former member of the Brookhaven advisory committee of the animal shelter, elaborated on her comments during an interview.

While Lennon is not a volunteer at the shelter, she thinks the volunteers are being penalized.

“We feel that we’re not really being paid attention to, that we’re being kind of dismissed,” she said. 

Lennon added that she also believed past animal shelter directors had been set up for failure. 

“Something’s not right with the powers that be that are not giving these directors the tools that are needed to be successful,” she said. 

In a statement, town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) considered the volunteer accounts presented during the board meeting as “very troubling for two reasons.”

“The most immediate was that I was concerned for the welfare of the animals,” he said. “After that, I realized that the conditions had obviously been existing for some time, and it was disturbing that I hadn’t heard about it.”

Kornreich indicated that senior town officials being unaware of the problems “indicates there were issues in the chain of command,” adding, “We have replaced personnel at multiple key points, and I’m confident now that we’ll be able to address these issues.”

After the public comment portion of the Town Board meeting, Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety David Moran, who is currently co-managing the shelter, spoke on the reform efforts, including reallocating already existing funds for upkeep.

Moran also said that some resources, such as vermin-proof bins, were available but hadn’t been used.

Moran claimed that “a sky is falling mentality” needed to be taken out of the shelter, citing the reaction to the flooding that took place at the animal shelter on July 16.

Lillian Clayman, the Democratic candidate for town supervisor, found the claims made by the volunteers to be concerning.

“It’s clear that when a shelter is unsanitary, it causes conditions that would lead to illness of the animals that should be cared for,” she said.

Clayman also found the response from the interim director to the claims made by the volunteers unacceptable. Her opponent for town supervisor, Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville), did not respond to requests for comment.

Despite the sensitivity of the issue, Kornreich reinforced that the well-being of the animals at the shelter was paramount.

“At the shelter, we care for animals that obviously can’t advocate for themselves,” the councilmember said, adding, “We have a higher moral obligation to ensure the conditions they live in are as good as they can be.”

Lillian Clayman, the Democratic Party nominee for Town of Brookhaven supervisor. Photo courtesy Clayman

Following former Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant’s unexpected departure from the race, the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee has tapped Lillian Clayman to stand in this year’s election for Town of Brookhaven supervisor.

Incumbent town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) is running for Suffolk County executive this November, creating an open contest for his seat. The Brookhaven Republican Committee selected Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville) to head the ticket.

Garant, opposing Panico on the Democratic line, suspended her campaign last week due to an “unforeseen health issue,” according to the BTDC. 

In an exclusive interview, Clayman opened up about her professional experiences and plans for the town. The new Democratic nominee centered her platform around the Brookhaven Town landfill while offering various administrative reforms.

A Port Jefferson resident, Clayman is an adjunct professor of labor and industrial relations at SUNY Old Westbury. She worked as a political organizer for health care union 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and spent a decade as a financial adviser/stockbroker at Manhattan-based global insurance corporation AIG.

Clayman served as mayor of Hamden, Connecticut, from 1991-97. She was chair of BTDC from 2016-20, and has run several political campaigns in Connecticut and on Long Island.

Clayman said she was approached last week by party leaders, who had asked to lead the ticket in Garant’s absence.

“Given the fact that I have government administrative experience as well as political experience, and given the truncated time frame, I said that I would be happy to do so,” she said.

The town landfill — located on Horseblock Road in Yaphank and scheduled to be closed to construction and demolition debris by December 2024 — is a centerpiece of Clayman’s campaign.

“We need to do something quickly about the Brookhaven landfill,” she said. “This is something that has been ignored while taxes have gone up [and] elected officials’ salaries have gone up.”

“The Brookhaven landfill and all of its impacts on the environment today and in the future has been ignored,” she added. “It’s been kicked down the road.”

Concerning intervention and remediation of the pending landfill closure, Clayman said, “The easy environmental fruit has been picked,” suggesting expediency has been advanced while root causes go neglected.

“It’s easy to be for open space,” she said. “It’s a lot harder to find a solution to something as complex as the Brookhaven landfill,” calling the facility “a Titanic headed for an iceberg.”

The Democratic candidate maintained that supervising the landfill closure — and the expected challenges precipitating from it — will require close collaboration with all interested parties.

“My plan and my approach is to bring in all of the players, all of the stakeholders in the community, so that we can make sure that we can protect our environment for real, not just with words,” Clayman said.

Along with the landfill, she proposed several administrative reforms, proposing to “bring good government” to Town Hall.

“Good government means putting contracts out to bid fairly, without regard to whether or not they contribute to your campaign,” she said. “It’s also an approach that [assesses] whether or not we actually need a service, so I do use a little bit of zero-based budgeting in my approach to providing services.”

In stating why she entered the race, Clayman indicated that the town government requires greater proactiveness and energy to serve its residents most effectively.

“There’s a lot of work to do,” she said. “There have been years of neglect and coasting, and I intend to get to work on day one.”