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Main Street

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Smithtown was swarming with history on Saturday in honor of the town’s 350th anniversary.

The Sesquarcentennial Parade marched down Main Street, starting at 11:30 a.m. and continuing into the afternoon. Residents new and old came together in tribute of the town’s founding 350 years ago and groups from throughout Smithtown marched down the parade route. Town officials and community leaders also participated in the festivities by donning colonial garb more commonly found 350 years ago.

Incident shut down part of Main Street on Friday afternoon

Firefighters exit Renarts, where there was a heavy smoke condition on the second floor on Friday afternoon. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The Huntington Fire Department responded to a call of heavy smoke at Renarts that shut down a part of Main Street on Friday afternoon.

An employee of the shoe store near Wall Street called the fire department at about 12:45 p.m. after going upstairs to grab a pair of shoes for a customer and discovering smoke on the second floor. There was a little bit of smoke in the first room and a lot of smoke in the second room, he recalled at the scene on Friday.

“I was coughing a lot,” Paul Rodriguez said. “I couldn’t even stand up for a minute.”

He ran down to place the call to the fire department, which responded in five minutes, he said. The chief got to the scene in less than two minutes.

Rodriguez said fire officials told him there was an “electrical problem” that was being handled.

Chief Robert Berry told reporters at the scene there was no fire, but a “heavy smoke condition” on the second floor. Officials are still investigating what caused the smoke condition but by about 2 p.m., it was safe to go back into the store.

There were no injuries.

A scene from this month’s annual Smithtown Festival Day, where residents enjoyed the sunshine and perused the various activities across Main Street, which was shut down to make room for the event. Photo by Greg Catalano

On your mark, get set — no.

Smithtown officials are taking another look at the way the town approves festivals, parades and similar events that close major roadways in different parts of the town. Before Tuesday’s special Smithtown Town Board meeting, Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) and Town Clerk Vincent Puleo discussed complaints both of their offices have received after recent events closed portions of Smithtown, citing negative effects on business and residential life.

“It discombobulates people,” Vecchio said, citing one recent grievance to his office about a town event putting a damper on business. “This is a beautiful town, but this is not the first complaint we have received. I think we need to revisit the process.”

St. James resident Scott Flugman prompted the discussion via a letter he penned to Vecchio’s office, citing traffic issues barring his ability to get around town during an outdoor race event in his town on May 31. He said it took him nearly an hour to drive his son home from a friend’s house, who lives roughly 10 minutes away.

“This is a dangerous and grave inconvenience and should not be allowed to happen again,” the letter said. “We could not pick up our children, we were late to their sports and other activities and we were put at risk for a potentially serious traffic accident. Please have more consideration for the impact on the community when planning these races in the future.”

Currently, the town lists a parade, a run or a similar event in the correspondence section of its Town Board meeting agenda. The events are read aloud at two consecutive meetings, and the public can weigh in. But Vecchio said that process only targets residents who actually tune in to each agenda item at any given meeting.

“We have two readings. But there is no time in between for anyone to say, ‘Wait a minute,’” Vecchio said.

Puleo echoed the supervisor’s sentiments on the limited avenue for residents to become aware of a given event being approved.

“If they’re not looking at the meeting, they’re not going to know there is an event,” Puleo said. “My office gets complaints all the time. If you’re the affected person, and that’s not your thing to look at what’s going on in town, you could be blindsided.”

In the last six Town Board meetings, there have been first or second readings for 12 separate events labeled as parades, runs, walks or festivals, according to agendas from those respective meetings.

Puleo said it was suggested that his office help install signs throughout town to alert business owners and residents of upcoming events, but he said it would be difficult to figure out where to put a sign and when.

A potential solution, Puleo said, could be to more frequently utilize areas of the town typically closed on the days these events often fall, like Saturdays and Sundays. The clerk recommended to the Town Board that future events be moved to spots like the Hauppauge Industrial Park, or the Kings Park Psychiatric Center.

But Tony Tanzi, president of the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, said he disagreed with such a strategy, as various events are planned with the intent to bring more people to Smithtown’s downtown areas. He acknowledged that events in his neck of the woods, like Kings Park Day, might have a negative impact on business temporarily, but the purpose was greater than that day’s cash flow.

“I can see the point with some people that sometimes events can be disruptive. As a business owner, it really does have a big impact on sales,” Tanzi said. “But if the goal is to entice people to visit your downtown, I don’t see how [relocating] helps.”

As a possible solution, Vecchio said the town might want to consider limiting the kinds of events it approves to allow solely Smithtown-based organizations or town residents as hosts. He argued there would be a lesser impact if the events excluded non-residents.

“The squeaky wheel is getting the grease,” Puleo said at the meeting. “Whether it’s Smithtown or not, the impact on the residents is still the same.”

Residents across Three Village in East Setauket, Stony Brook and beyond stopped on Monday to honor the memories of our nation’s heroes as their respective Memorial Day parades stepped off.

Groups representing various facets of the community came out in full force to march in the parade before somber ceremonies stopped to say thanks to those who dedicated their lives to military service.

Stony Brook students field questions at their final project presentation. Photo by Phil Corso

Nick Fusco is still in college, but he already has a vision for the Three Village community’s de facto Main Street known as Route 25A. He and his classmates brought that vision to his neighbors Monday night to show what a little dreaming can do for the North Shore’s future.

“Our community could look like this,” Fusco said in front of a projected rendering of a reinvented Route 25A complete with greenhouse spaces, apartment housing, environmentally friendly landscaping and more. “We’ve come up with ways to improve safety, aesthetics and, most importantly, functionality.”

Fusco and about a dozen other Stony Brook University students presented at the Setauket Neighborhood House on Monday evening as part of a final project for Professor Marc Fasanella’s ecological art, architecture and design class under the college’s sustainability studies program. The conversation, “Keeping a sense of place in the Three Villages,” involved four students presenting PowerPoint slides showing off their reimaged Setauket and Stony Brook communities, utilizing existing infrastructure to help employ ecologically-friendly additions and make Three Village a community that retains young people.

A student rendering shows what could be of a vacant field near Stony Brook University. Photo by Phil Corso
A student rendering shows what could be of a vacant field near Stony Brook University. Photo by Phil Corso

“We looked at this as a tremendous opportunity for our students and for the community moving forward,” Fasanella said. “Are we dreaming? Of course we’re dreaming.”

The class built off the work of last year’s students, who brainstormed ways to bridge the gap created by the railroad tracks that separate the university from the greater Three Village community. Their proposals were met with great praise from residents, civic leaders and officials in attendance Monday. The ideas were bold, including anything from pulling buildings closer to the 25A curbside to make way for a greater “Main Street” feel to constructing a “green” multi-tiered parking garage near the train station for both retail space and commuter parking.

Shawn Nuzzo, president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook, applauded the students for daring the community to take a different look at the future of Three Village. His group helped to sponsor the event alongside the Three Village Community Trust.

In an interview, Nuzzo said the Route 25A corridor, especially near the Stony Brook Long Island Rail Road station, has a long and troubled history and could use a facelift to enhance safety for pedestrians, motorists and anyone living in the area.

Nuzzo, who also studied environmental design, policy and planning at Stony Brook University, was also once a student in Fasanella’s ecological urbanism course and underwent a similar exercise in which he dreamt up projects to connect the campus to the nearby community.

“We need to have this discussion over what we want for our de facto Main Street. If we don’t decide, the developers are going to decide for us,” he said. “What do we want as a community? It starts with stuff like this.”

And the students’ visions did not fall on deaf ears, either. Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) sat attentively throughout four students’ presentations and ended the meeting with encouraging words.

She said she was working alongside Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) to enact a comprehensive Route 25A study, which should be discussed in a community forum on June 30 in East Setauket.

“It’s our responsibility to engage and continue the visioning process,” she said, on behalf of civic leaders and lawmakers in the community. “We want to work on our ‘Main Street’ and put the community’s visions into planning.”