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Mike Siderakis

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Mike Siderakis discussed concerns about revised plans for The Lofts at Maple & Main. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Suffolk County legislator Democratic candidate, Mike Siderakis, is keeping his eye on development in Smithtown.

On April 27, Siderakis held a press conference in front of the site for The Lofts at Maple & Main along Main Street. Currently, the property features a variance and special exceptions sign that lists a Town of Smithtown Board of Zoning Appeals meeting April 13. The virtual meeting before the BZA was adjourned to July 13, even though the original variance sign remains on the property.

The candidate said developers, VEA 181st Realty Corp., are now asking for the proposed building to be all apartments instead of mixed use. The developer could not be reached by phone for comment.

Siderakis said after fanfare about the groundbreaking a year and a half ago, there hasn’t been much information about modifications.

“Seventy-one units wasn’t enough for them,” Siderakis said. “They want more, and they intend to get more by going to the Board of Zoning Appeals, in the dead of night. They intend to use the cover of a pandemic, with meetings on Zoom, and with the link only available to those who know how to request it, to make this major change without public input.”

Ground was broken on the former site of Nassau Suffolk Lumber & Supply Corp. in October 2019. The initial plan was to build a three-story 71-unit one- and two-bedroom apartment complex with 15,000 square feet of retail space on the lower level.

The goal of the developers was to create a transit-oriented development in Smithtown, with the building one block away from the train station. The apartments would be geared toward young people starting out or seniors looking to downsize. According to an October 2019 The Times of Smithtown article, the apartments are expected to generate $250,000 in tax revenue and result in 50 new jobs.

Siderakis said the developers, consultants and local leaders said Smithtown needed projects such as the proposed building.

“They brushed aside concerns about traffic, about who is going to pay for the influx of kids into our schools, about the costs of roads, maintenance or public safety,” he said. “They make glossy renderings of pristine buildings and tell us that these projects reduce our tax burden — our taxes, apparently, have been going up year after year after year because we haven’t built enough? And so, we swallow this tough pill. And we deal with the new construction. We tell ourselves that we need more housing for our kids, affordable housing, even though at thousands of dollars per month — $1,900 for a one-bedroom and $$2,900 for a two-bedroom — it’s anything but affordable.”

After the developer bought the site in 2008, according to an October 2019 The Times of Smithtown article, it violated a Smithtown stop-work order and in 2009 illegally demolished the building. After piles of debris and concrete were hauled away, the situation became the subject of a 2011 Suffolk County grand jury investigation alleging that an unnamed town official recommended demolishment to save taxes. No charges were filed, but Smithtown Town Board members voted in July 2014 to tear down the already demolished structure and adjacent buildings and approved the site plans for The Lofts at Maple & Main at its August 2018 meeting.

Siderakis said county Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) should be making noise about the project instead of brushing it off as a town problem.

“She should have gotten on her soapbox, like I am here today, and warned the community about this bait and switch,” he said. “But where is Leslie Kennedy? She’s not part of this fight. Actually, she isn’t part of any fight that involves sticking up for the residents — not the 200-units on Smithtown Boulevard in Nesconset, not the four-story hotel in Smithtown and certainly not the millions in county tax giveaways for unpopular projects throughout the district.”

After the press conference, TBR Newsmedia reached out to Kennedy’s office for comment. The county legislator said in an email Smithtown’s agendas are available on the Town of Smithtown’s website.

“The town chose this project for two reasons — to make temporary housing available and to add strategically located business space, contributing to a walkable downtown,” Kennedy said.

The legislator added the last she heard was the requested variance asked for an increase to 76 apartments and decrease of 800 square feet of commercial space, which she said, “may be too intense on this heavily trafficked dangerous roadway and defeats the original purpose of mixed-use development and a walkable community.”

“I am fairly certain that this is how the Zoning Board of Appeals will view this, but I always encourage community involvement in any level of governmental permitting decisions,” Kennedy added.

Mike Siderakis answers questions from a resident after the press conference. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Former state senator candidate Mike Siderakis is looking to take on Suffolk County Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) in November.

Siderakis announced his run for legislator in the county’s 12th District at an April 5 press conference in Lake Ronkonkoma. The event took place on the site of the former Bavarian Inn on Smithtown Boulevard. Last year the Democrat ran for state senator to fill the seat left vacant by former Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport). Siderakis lost to Mario Mattera (R-St. James).

During the press conference, Siderakis touched on the importance of quality of life in the district. A New York State Police trooper for nearly 30 years, who is now retired, and a former second vice president of the troopers’ police benevolent association, Siderakis said he and his wife, Sandra, moved from the city to Nesconset to raise a family more than two decades ago. The hope was to live in a neighborhood free of pollution, traffic problems and high taxes.

“I’m sure you’ve noticed over the last two decades our unrushed way of life began to give way to the familiar hustle and bustle we left behind in New York City,” he said. “How many of you live on a block that started as a quiet street only for it to become a cut through due to poor planning, as commuters parade their cars through our neighborhoods, and now we need stop signs and traffic lights to manage traffic in front of our homes. We can’t even make left-hand turns anymore in half of our communities.”

The Democrat added that while residents witness new stores popping up on every corner, they also see empty shopping centers with no businesses moving into the empty storefronts.

“We’ve seen the landscape of our communities change quickly before our eyes,” he said. “As our quality of life has eroded over the past 20 years, one thing has remained constant: A Kennedy has been representing us in the Legislature.”

Leslie Kennedy was elected to the seat in 2015, while County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset), her husband, held the position for 10 years prior.

Siderakis called out Leslie Kennedy for not being involved in the public information meetings that the Town of Smithtown held regarding its proposed master plans for the downtown areas and open spaces or holding community outreach meetings of her own.

“Huge changes are afoot in our district, and she’s not even at the table,” he said. “Today we kick off this campaign on a symbol of the neglect in our community. This barren lot at one time held the Bavarian Inn, prime waterfront property on Lake Ronkonkoma. The inn was derelict from 2007 and was finally demolished in 2013 after strong community opposition and demand for it to be demolished.”

He said Leslie Kennedy “proudly says” that she secured funding to buy trees for the now-vacant land.

“Look around at the trees, the dirt, the dying saplings planted without care,” he said. “Is this an accomplishment? And now look behind me on the lake — Islip and Brookhaven, look at their sections, they have some well-maintained beaches, benches. We are standing on what should be a jewel of this district and instead it’s a continuing reminder of how there’s nobody fighting for us.”

The former state trooper said the district needs a fierce advocate. He added he wants to deliver results, including creating public parks in the district such as by the lake.

“I’m running to fix our roads, create safe intersections … preserve our way of life, to keep our water clean, and to preserve our green spaces,” he said. “To create opportunity and bring back common sense, to say ‘no’ to IDA tax giveaways to developers — and to protect the residential character of our communities.”

The 12th District includes Smithtown, Nesconset, Hauppauge, the Village of the Branch, Lake Grove and parts of St. James, Commack, Lake Ronkonkoma and Centereach. The remaining areas in  the Town of Smithtown fall under the 13th District of the Suffolk County Legislature which is represented by Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga.)

Mario Mattera, left, and Mike Siderakis, right, are both political newcomers running for State Senate District 2. Photos from campaigns

After former state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) decided to end his political career this summer, leaving his seat in the 2nd District empty for a job with Northwell Health, two contenders emerged for Election Day 2020.

Former state trooper Michael Siderakis, of Nesconset, is running on the Democratic ticket and plumber union official Mario Mattera, of St. James, received the Republican nomination. Siderakis spent nearly 30 years as a New York State Police trooper and was a second vice president for the New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association. Mattera is the business agent for Plumbers Local 200 and a board member of the Suffolk County Water Authority. He also sits on Smithtown’s advisory board for new construction projects where he has been active with the Lake Avenue Revitalization project. Both candidates are longtime residents and have raised their families in Smithtown hamlets, where their children have attended schools in the Smithtown Central School District.

In a Sept. 28 Zoom debate with TBR News Media, the two candidates discussed the state’s response to COVID-19, school budgets and more. While the two agreed on ways to resolve most issues, they differed regarding bail reform.

Bail Reform

While Siderakis feels the 2019 bail reform bill that limited the number of crimes judges could set bail for needs to be looked at again and revised, Mattera said it should be repealed. 

“Our bail system is not a fair system, where somebody who has $500 available to them for the same crime can go home, while somebody who may not have $500 in the bank for no other reason than the fact that he doesn’t have $500 has to go to jail,” Siderakis said.

‘We need to be safe and businesses need to enforce their own business.’

—Mario Mattera

The Democrat added bail reform should have been put in as a stand-alone bill and not included in the state budget vote. He said he also feels that legislators shouldn’t decide on what crimes require bail, and judges should be able to decide on a case-by-case basis.

Mattera said the bail system needs to go back to the way it was, especially with cases where people have been arrested for looting, robbing, selling drugs and then released only to commit the same crime again.

“It needs to go back to the way it was,” he said. “It’s not working now. I’m very frightened. We need to give the tools back to our law enforcement.”

Education

With talks of a projected 20 to 30 percent cut to state aid for schools, both candidates said they would fight to send money back to schools in the 2nd state Senate District. 

“We have to make sure we have someone up there fighting for our education system down here on Long Island,” Siderakis said, adding it’s important to keep good teachers on Long Island.

Mattera said with 70 percent of residents’ taxes going to education, it was important to make sure local school districts receive their fair share.

“Our children are our futures for all of us,” he said. “For Long Island, we need to make sure they’re part of the workforce and stay here.”

Mattera added that many local schools need updating and the state aid is desperately needed.

Siderakis said the state also needs to stop relying on local property taxes and receive more aid from the state to ensure everyone across New York has a fair and equal education. He said several districts don’t have the same income base, and the state should step up to provide the help needed for equal education.

Mattera said if elected he would take a good look at the budget to see why cutting state aid to education is on the table.

“It shouldn’t even be part of the conversation,” he said.

COVID Response

Both candidates said New York’s response was appropriate at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis but agreed that business needed to be opened up sooner. They said wearing masks, social distancing and handwashing are important to keep the virus at bay and businesses alive.

Mattera said that unused beds in field hospitals such as the ones at Stony Brook University, the Javits Center and the USNS Comfort should have been considered to decide when a region was reopened. He noted the beds were barely used. Adhering to the public health guidelines are key, he said, as he pointed to the 1,300 members of the plumbers union where only one person contracted the virus. He said he feels people have been educated about the virus and businesses can enforce the public health guidelines. He added that the State Liquor Authority has done a good job where it follows up a complaint with an inspection visit to a restaurant.

“We need to open up,” Mattera said. “We need to be safe and the businesses need to enforce their own business.”

Siderakis said in addition to the state’s response he thought the federal government overall did well with providing businesses with loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, but he feels small businesses need even more help.

‘There are people here who have been here for generations who won’t be able to weather the pandemic.’

—Mike Siderakis

“We have to make sure local stores are treated equally, not just the big box stores,” he said. “People have felt the pain and lost their livelihoods. There are people here that have been here for generations that won’t be able to weather the pandemic.”

Mattera also said he feels it’s important for all students to return to school five days a week for in-person education.

“These kids need their educators,” he said. “They need the interaction with their fellow students.”

Economy

Siderakis said he’s familiar with the problems young people on Long Island face economically with his oldest daughter trying to make it on her own with having an apartment in Port Jefferson.

“I think our small communities have a great advantage to attract businesses here where we can offer the distancing and the safety for workers,” he said.

He added we need to look at traffic patterns to avoid congestions on the roadways.

“We’re going to have to look for alternatives, and businesses are going to have to look outside of the box,” he said.

Mattera said in addition to young people, he’s also concerned about keeping people of all ages in the area. He said the Long Island Innovation Park at Hauppauge is something he worked on with Smithtown officials to make sure it becomes the premier pharmaceutical area not only of the state but in the country providing good jobs, health care and pensions for the future. He said he also sees the potential of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center and said its future use should be planned carefully.

“We have such great talent that can work right here in the Second District,” Mattera said.

The Republican candidate pointed to the Amazon facility project that was lost to New York City. He said it would have been ideal on the grounds of the former Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in Brentwood due to its proximity to parkways and the Long Island Rail Road.

“It’s a shame that politics lost a project that would have had 25,000 people working there,” Mattera said. “I just can’t understand how politics lost that.” 

Siderakis said he feels the governor has done a great job in attracting businesses to the state and believes the wave of the future is going to be green energy jobs.

“We have to make sure that we make Suffolk County known as the technology center, or Silicon Valley here, of New York state, and make sure we have enough incentives for companies to come here and start up small businesses and have the jobs for the future,” he said.

Mike Siderakis and his wife, Sandra, have raised their three children in Nesconset. Photo from Mike Siderakis website

The 2020 race for the New York State Senate 2nd District seat will pit two political newcomers against each other. Mike Siderakis, a retired state trooper from Nesconset, has been tapped by Suffolk County Democrats to run for the vacant seat previously held by former Minority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport). Republicans have chosen Mario Mattera, a St. James resident, local union official and Suffolk County Water Authority board member.

Mike Siderakis

Republicans aim to keep control of a district they’ve had for the last 16 years, while Democrats see a real opportunity to retake the seat and further expand their majority in the state Senate.

Democratic candidate Mike Siderakis believes he is the right man for the job.

“We need someone that will be able to fight for the people of Senate District 2, I believe I am the right candidate,” he said. “I want to continue to serve the community and protect suburban interest [in the district].”

Siderakis said his time spent in Albany meeting elected officials as vice president and legislative director of the Police Benevolent Association of the New York State Troopers inspired him to run for office.

“I saw the job, and I thought some of these politicians didn’t have the best interests in mind for their constituents,” he said. “I knew I could do a better job than them. I care about this community.”

Siderakis said one of his main concerns is dealing with the impact of COVID-19 on the state and on local businesses.

“We’re going to have to make some tough decisions on future state and local budgets,” the Democratic candidate said. “We’re going to figure out how we are going to raise revenues.”

Assisting local businesses and attracting jobs to the area is another priority.

“Small businesses play a big part in keeping people in the district,” Siderakis said. “They have faced hardships during this pandemic, some have been forced to close down. We have to support them.”

The Nesconset resident added that he wants to attract industries and other businesses to Long Island to make sure the district is not losing young professionals by providing better-paying jobs as well as affordable housing.

“We need someone that will be able to fight for the people of Senate District 2, I believe I am the right candidate.”

— Mike Siderakis

“I’ve lived in the area for the past 25 years, my daughter also lives on the Island — it’s expensive to live here,” Siderakis said. “I want to make this a great place for people to raise their families and for future generations.”

The Democratic candidate said he also wants to address rising property taxes. He hopes with the influx of new businesses and highly skilled workers they would be able to increase the tax base.

Other issues include continuing to support doctors, nurses and other essential workers. Also, making sure all individuals have access to health care and that frontline workers have the proper equipment and medical coverage to fight coronavirus. Siderakis wants to ensure students and teachers are in a safe environment when schools reopen.

The Democratic challenger said he is someone who can work on both sides of the aisle to get things done for the 2nd District.

“Partisanship is dividing us, there is a need for compromise,” he said. “If we listen to each other and come to a common ground we can get better results. [The district] needs someone who on day one can advocate for the people of SD2 and I feel I can do that.”