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Mount Sinai

Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai. Wikimedia Commons photo

By Peter Sloniewsky

On Thursday, June 11, Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine (R) was joined by Brookhaven Town Supervisor Dan Panico (R) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) to promote a new I/A water filtration system, soon to be installed at Cedar Beach.

Innovative and Alternative On-Site Wastewater Treatment Systems use advanced treatment methods to remove nitrogen and other pollutants from wastewater before it is released into the environment.

As of July 2021, Suffolk County requires installment of I/A systems for most new residential construction projects. However, much of Long Island, especially Suffolk, uses septic systems instead of sewers due to the area’s historic low population density. While septic systems are cost-effective and efficient, increases in population have led to nitrogen pollution in both surface-level and underground bodies of water. This nitrogen pollution causes harmful algal blooms, which can destroy ecosystems by consuming excess oxygen in water and cause a variety of conditions in exposed humans.

The more-than 1.5 million people of Suffolk County rely on more than 380,000 cesspools and wastewater systems, including over 209,000 systems located in areas that already have environmental risks. Bonner, who represents the town’s District 2, told TBR News Media that “we have a water problem, with a direct correspondence to cesspools.”

Additionally, the sewer systems already in place on Long Island have a tendency to contribute to road runoff, with a similar effect of nitrogen pollution. When there is more water than sewer pipe systems can handle, partially treated wastewater can flow directly into nearby bodies of water, which can include waste, pesticides, oil and litter. Bonner clarified that “the topography [of the North Shore] lends itself to road runoff … I/A systems and sewers will certainly help that.”

In Suffolk County, there are two types of I/A systems which have been approved by the Department of Health Services — FujiClean and HydroAction. Both technologies have been proven to reduce total nitrogen levels far below the county standard, and to reduce those levels more than 80% from conventional septic systems (which do not typically meet the standard).

The Cedar Beach filtration system will be paid for by a $100,000 grant funded by the Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program. This program was revised and extended in late June, and was sponsored by Romaine.

Revisions to the program include the establishment of a referendum for this November’s general election ballot, which, if approved, would establish an additional sales tax of one-eighth of 1 percent to fund a new Water Quality Restoration Fund. Romaine claimed he “cannot emphasize enough the importance of this referendum” to address water contaminants, and the language of the referendum itself claims that its passage will ensure “county funding to 2060 for clean water projects, improvements in drinking water, bays and harbors” — such as the I/A system to be installed at Cedar Beach.

Bonner told TBR News Media that this new fund would be “split between I/A systems and sewers,” and Romaine described the fund as vital to fund sewer construction especially in less developed areas of the county.

Miller Place wins their summer league season opener against Mattituck. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Twelve teams comprise the Town of Brookhaven boys soccer summer league in the small school varsity division which kicked off its season Monday, July 1. There will be nine games through July 29. 

The Panthers of Miller Place faced Mattituck at Diamond in The Pines Park in Coram where the Tuckers struggled to gain traction and trailed 2-0 at the halftime break. Miller Place put the game out of reach by rattling off five more unanswered goals in the second half to win the game 7-0.

Miller Place retook the field when the Panthers faced crosstown rival Mount Sinai July 3 at The Wedge in Mount Sinai, but the result was not available by press time.  

Civic association swears in at the June 3 meeting. Photo by Aidan Johnson

By Aidan Johnson

Dozens of residents attended the Mount Sinai Civic Association meeting June 3 to voice their safety concerns over a potential new battery energy storage system facility locally.

The facility, proposed by New Leaf Energy, would have a 20-year lifespan, after which the site would need to be restored to its pre-project condition.

The proposed area is adjacent to Mount Sinai-Coram Road and Route 25A on property owned by real estate agent Ray Manzoni. However, because this property is zoned as transitional business, New Leaf Energy’s application proposes the zone be changed to light industrial.

Former county Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who has been a vocal critic of the proposal, and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Dan Panico (R) also attended. While speaking, Panico addressed misinformation on social media that incorrectly told Mount Sinai residents that “the people in either Holbrook or Holtsville fought the battery storage there, and what they’re not getting is coming to Mount Sinai.”

Anker voiced common worries that residents had about the storage system facility.

“We just want to understand that what is going to happen is safe,” Anker said. “I don’t have a problem with renewable energy. We need the battery storage, we’re going to need that, but it’s the location,” she added, calling the proposed site the “worst intersection probably in Suffolk County.”

“Multiple accidents have happened there, the school district is close by, the water authority has a well right there, there’s a recreational path. There’s so many reasons we don’t need to change commercial to industrial,” she said.

Civic President Brad Arrington also discussed how LIPA, which owns an empty parcel of land next to the substation, could theoretically put a battery facility there without any input from the town government due to being immune from the local zoning authority.

“They could put a battery facility there which would carry the same risk that people are concerned about today, the difference being that when LIPA puts that in, they do not have to provide any community benefit, which is what has been proposed with this property,” Arrington said.

New Leaf is proposing an initial upfront payment of $340,000 — $85,000 per battery installation — with the allocation of this money to the school district, fire department and more not yet determined. The company also originally reserved $500 per megawatt, for a total of $10,000 annually, but raised it to $12,000 with a 2% annual increase to cover the current property taxes going to the school district.

Residents expressed concerns about what would happen if there was a fire at the facility, inquiring about the chemicals that would be emitted into the air and ground and how it would affect the surrounding area, including the school district and homes.

However, Arrington said the proposed facility would have lithium iron phosphate batteries, which “have a lower energy density, but have a far reduced rate of thermal runaway,” as opposed to the lithium NMC batteries that, while much more energy dense, are more prone to spontaneously catch on fire.

He also explained that a chain reaction would not take place, meaning that if thermal runaway does happen, it would be isolated in its own compartmentalized container.

Additionally, since the battery would have to burn itself out instead of being put out with water by the fire department, Arrington said that according to New Leaf, there wouldn’t be runoff into the ground. Also contamination with the soil and the off-gassing would be extremely limited.

Panico did not answer whether or not he supported the project, instead saying that he would review the application and talk to his colleagues, including Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), who represents the area.

Arrington said the town board would not take a vote to approve the project without input from the civic, which will hold a meeting for the civic members to vote in October.

Early learning educators and faculty at the Day Without Childcare Rally in Mt Sinai. Photo by Aidan Johnson

By Aidan Johnson 

Early learning educators on Long Island took part May 13 in a rally for a Day Without Child Care, a movement centered around affordable child care and fair wages for teachers who work in child care.

The demonstration took place near the Paper Planes Early Learning Center in Mount Sinai, and was attended by staff along with teachers from other early learning facilities in Suffolk County.

“Child care is paid solely out of the pockets of the parents — there’s no funding for child care unless you’re getting a subsidy,” explained Maria Ahrens, owner of PPELC. She further described how everything, including the teachers payroll, supplies and the building itself, is paid for by the parents out of pocket.

“And so when you have ratios to follow, such as one-to-four infants [per teacher], there’s almost no profit margin,” Ahrens said.

She stressed the importance of early learning education, as 90% of a child’s brain develops during their first five years.

This lack of funding does not leave room for high wages, benefits or health care for the teachers, helping contribute to the turnover rate of teachers in private pay age 0-5 learning centers.

Some teachers in the Day Without Child Care rallies are fighting for universal child care, which would be supported by taxes in the same fashion as public K-12 education. However, Ahrens also saw a voucher program that isn’t reliant on one’s income and can help families choose a quality child care facility as a starting point.

Ahrens said that support has been received from state legislators from both sides of the aisle, including Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) and Sen. Jabari Brisport (D-Brooklyn). 

A bill was introduced by Brisport and Sen. Julia Salazar (D-Brooklyn) that would have allowed social service districts to provide child care assistance to parents during more than just the hours they spend in work or education. This was aimed to help parents and caretakers who have uncertain work hours or other big responsibilities outside of work and school. 

While Bill S5327A passed both the Assembly and Senate, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) vetoed it last December.

In a statement Brisport said, “Governor Hochul knows exactly how bad tying child care to employment is for families, for child care providers and for the economy as a whole. It’s remarkable to see how consistently this governor will publicly claim to support universal child care while quietly moving New York in the opposite direction.”

“She’s a governor who chooses her words based on the needs of voters, but her actions based almost exclusively on the interests of her ultra-rich campaign donors,” he added.

Despite Hochul’s veto of Bill S5327A, Brisport is pushing again for improved child care services by sponsoring Bill S8152A, which is currently being reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee.  

“All of us love [teaching] because it’s our passion,” Ahrens said. “We love children. We want to educate them, but the pay isn’t enough to survive on.”

File photo

By Sabrina Artusa

New Leaf Energy has proposed a new battery energy storage system facility in Mount Sinai — a proposal that necessitates a rezoning of the current property.

The increase in development of battery energy storage systems in the state is part of the effort to achieve the goal of the 2019 New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which states that by 2030, 70% of electricity should be derived from renewable energy. 

The battery energy storage system will work to offset the lack of wind and solar power during off seasons by storing excess electricity throughout the year, then release electricity when demand dictates. 

The facility will be approximately 40,000 square feet and will consist of 24 Tesla Megapack 2XL containers, and will generate around 80 megawatt-hours, which could power 16,000 homes. The proposed site is adjacent to Mount Sinai‒Coram Road and Route 25A.

The proposal was met with opposition from the community, many of whom were concerned that the facility, which consists of four battery installations, would provide a safety risk to the nearby school. 

In March, the developer approached the Mount Sinai Civic Association with their plans. At the civic’s May 6 meeting, New Leaf Energy prepared a presentation and answered questions. The meeting, according to the association’s president Brad Arrington, lasted two-and-a-half hours. 

Arrington estimated that of those who attended, 70-80% were opposed. 

“I think most people are concerned about the safety around BESS. They are worried about proximity to lithium and they are worried about fires,” Arrington said. “People are rightly concerned about that.”

A petition against the development listed safety concerns as a major reason why the facility should not be approved. While fires are a reasonable concern, New Leaf Energy’s systems have several safety measures to ensure any fires stay contained. 

However, the property is not zoned as a residential area, but as transitional business. The application from New Leaf Energy proposes a change to light industrial. 

According to their presentation, toxic gases are not a risk and precautions have been taken to limit the likelihood of fires. The units are spread out, have a thermal management system and on-site and remote monitoring systems. 

The civic expanded the conversation to include Mount Sinai School District and Mount Sinai Fire Department. Arrington said that the fire department seems “satisfied with the information they were provided” and have not “expressed significant concerns around safety.”

New Leaf Energy, in a PowerPoint presentation available on the civic website, has indicated there will be a community benefit agreement “in place of school district PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes),” which is estimated at “approx. $10,000 per year per project.”

The civic association is still gathering information and has not yet formed an opinion on the proposal. Arrington said the vote will likely take place in the fall. 

“We really try to represent the interests of our community to our elected officials and provide meaningful and balanced opinions to our officials,” he said.

Operation of the facility is estimated for summer 2027 if approved. 

Residents gather at the Heritage Center for a Mount Sinai Civic Association meeting. Photo courtesy Sarah Anker

By Sarah S. Anker

Over 100 residents gathered at the Heritage Center during a May 6 Mount Sinai Civic Association meeting to hear from New Leaf Energy, a battery storage company, about a proposed lithium-ion battery storage facility. 

According to the civic president, Brad Arrington, the plan to site the 20-megawatt battery storage system facility on a 1-acre parcel, located at the corner of Mount Sinai-Coram Road and Route 25A in Mount Sinai, has been in the works for seven years. Surprisingly, despite representing the area as a former Suffolk County legislator for the past 13 years, I only recently learned about this project.

Having facilitated the Green Homes and the Go Solar programs as the former director of Town of Brookhaven’s Office of Energy & Sustainability, I strongly support clean energy initiatives. However, I have concerns about the proposed location of this facility. Placing it on a 1-acre parcel with no buffers, near one of the county’s most accident-prone intersections, raises red flags. Additionally, the site is close to residential neighborhoods, a public walking path, an SCWA drinking water well and Mount Sinai schools.

I would have no problem if the siting were in an area that, if the units were to catch on fire, there would be less exposure to the highly toxic fumes emitted. After the East Hampton battery storage facility caught on fire, several towns — including Southampton, Southold and Huntington — moved forward with moratoriums. It is only common sense that more scrutiny be done to address the safety of these facilities and where they are placed. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has created the Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group to review the issue of battery storage systems safety. As the working group investigates the fires that have occurred at three New York locations, a moratorium is needed in Brookhaven to ensure the safety of its residents. 

Over 20 years ago, a Home Depot was proposed to be built on the site that is now Mount Sinai’s centerpiece, the North Shore Heritage Park. We fought hard to create the park by collecting petitions, writing letters to our elected officials, wrapping green ribbons around our mailboxes and rallying our community together. Can you image if no one cared back then, and a Home Depot was built? Eighteen-wheeler trucks would snarl traffic, the green rolling hills would be black pavement and the memories of community concerts, holiday events, sports games and the springtime daffodil smiling face on the hill would be lost. 

Just as location, location, location is what the realtors say when emphasizing the value of real estate, let’s also consider the location of this project and the value we place on public safety and quality of life. Do we really want an industrial parcel located in the heart of our hometown? The project cannot move forward until the Town Board votes to change the zoning to light industrial. I encourage residents to attend upcoming Town Board meetings and provide input before a decision is made. Government is here for you when they hear from you. 

Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) is a District 1 candidate for the New York State Senate and was formerly a Suffolk County legislator.  

By Gavin Scarlatos

After 12 years of service, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) is stepping down due to term limits. Anker entered office in 2012 with an objective to improve the lives of Suffolk County residents. Throughout her tenure, she tackled a wide range of issues, focusing on public safety, infrastructure, protecting the environment and community well-being. 

Suffolk County 6th District Legislator Sarah Anker with her children Josh, Erica and Rachel with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo courtesy Office of Leg. Sarah Anker

Anker represented the 6th Legislative District spanning over much of the northeast portion of the Town of Brookhaven, including the hamlets of Miller Place, Sound Beach, Shoreham, Rocky Point and parts of Mount Sinai, Ridge, Middle Island, Coram and Wading River. Her work within her district exemplifies how she prided herself on providing a voice for her constituents to be heard. 

“I hope that folks appreciate not so much what I’ve been able to accomplish, but what they have been able to accomplish working with me and working with my colleagues,” Anker said. 

Throughout her career in public service Anker has tackled issues from environmental preservation to fighting the opioid epidemic, all the while looking to decrease government spending and placing emphasis on the overall quality of life for Suffolk County residents. 

“Many of my legislative initiatives have focused on public safety, from addressing our dangerous roads to going after drug dealers who have contributed to the opioid epidemic,” Anker said. 

One of her most notable achievements in tackling public safety concerns was developing the North Shore Rail Trail, providing pedestrians and bicyclists a safer outlet where they can avoid traffic while also giving the community a place to connect to the environment. 

“I spearheaded the North Shore Rail Trail, a 10-mile recreation path from Mount Sinai to Wading River, that provides a safer alternative for walking, jogging, running and biking,” she said. “The path links the communities together and provides economic support for local businesses.” 

Much of Anker’s work centered around the quality of life for her district’s residents and throughout her career she has proved to be a proponent for improving road safety.

 “Road safety has always been one of my top priorities,” Anker said. “The number one complaint in my office throughout the years has been potholes, not surprisingly. With both NYS Route 25 and NYS Route 25A going through my district, I continued to advocate to all levels of government to fix and repair our dangerous roads.” 

In her mission to enhance local roads and address traffic incidents, Anker worked with authorities to increase the number of patrolling traffic safety officials and to implement and improve existing traffic signage.

Legislator Sarah Anker alongside Neighborhood Watch committee. Photo courtesy Office of Legislator Sarah Anker

“I’ve been successful with adding additional lights and signage including a red light at Ridge Road, increasing the number of crossing guards near schools and producing the School Traffic Zone Safety Report to identify problem traffic areas,” she added.

Before serving in the Legislature, Anker had been energy director for the Town of Brookhaven, where she developed solar programs and promoted clean energy and green homes technologies. She had also served on the Mount Sinai school board, raising three children in the district.  Anker took it upon herself to find solutions to the problems afflicting her community, utilizing the care and problem-solving skills that come with being a working mother. 

“I became involved in the political space — this is going back to the 1980s — because I noticed that there were some water quality issues,” Anker said. “I became aware of environmental issues within the area and while raising my three children, I was concerned about their exposure to environmental contaminants.” 

After Anker’s grandmother lost her battle to breast cancer, the granddaughter founded the not-for-profit Community Health and Environment Coalition and led the organization to raise awareness about how our environment directly impacts our health. 

After years of being a community leader and getting results, Anker decided to run for Suffolk County legislator in 2011 with the goal in mind to better help people and lead important initiatives. As a legislator, Anker often prioritized people over politics. 

“It’s something to be proud of — Heritage Park [in Mount Sinai], the North Shore Rail Trail, traffic improvement and public safety,” she said. “Makes me think of all the neighborhood watches that we created in Rocky Point, Miller Place and Sound Beach. And the acquisition of open space, the cleaning up of the water, the farmland preservation. We did a lot.” 

Looking ahead while out of office, Anker hopes to continue helping people and working with the community to resolve problems. She has taken a position at the Board of Elections where she will use the skills she acquired running successful campaigns to ensure a fair and just voting process. 

Anker will also be completing projects outside the realm of politics. She plans to follow up her previous award-winning publications with her third children’s book, this one, focused around overcoming adversity and appreciating the environment. 

Though Anker’s years of public service as a legislator have come to an end, she has left an indelible mark on the community and plans to continue finding solutions to the issues affecting those around her by bringing people together. 

After 12 years of serving the community as county legislator, Anker advocates for more residents to get involved in their local government. 

“When you help people, you really feel the good that you’re doing,” Anker said. “This type of feeling just passes on to the next person and hopefully it continues. If everybody could do this, the world would be a much better place.”

Alan Ghidaleson, left, with his wife Diane. Photo from Alan Ghidaleson

By Aidan Johnson

Mount Sinai is saying goodbye to the beloved pet store Feasts For Beasts, as owner Alan Ghidaleson moves onto the next chapter of his life with his wife, Diane.

Ghidaleson, who has owned and operated his shop since 1977, originally started working in building maintenance in Manhattan. “It was fun in the beginning because it was new, but then it just wasn’t my passion,” he told TBR News Media in an exclusive interview. “What I always had a passion for was pets, especially dogs.”

‘I really had a great time doing what I love.’

— Alan Ghidaleson

The industry was suggested to him by a friend who managed a few pet stores in Atlanta. “He said, ‘This is an industry you would absolutely love,’ and I went for a visit,” Ghidaleson shared. “I did like what he was doing, but said, ‘You know what, I’m a New York boy, so I’m going to do it in New York.’ And that’s what I did.”

Ghidaleson found success in his new business, going from operating a single store to, at one point, running 10 locations including a pet hotel by the mid-1980s. “I really had a great time doing what I love,” he said. 

Among its other professional services, Feasts For Beasts handled dog grooming and dog training.

Ghidaleson described his staff as being “the best staff of employees of anybody in any industry,” taking pride from working with some of them from their teenage years to their 30s. 

He also detailed watching his customers progress through the different stages of life, going from teenagers to parents to even grandparents. 

Over the course of nearly a half-century, Ghidaleson had many fond memories, including participating in the annual Miller Place-Rocky Point St. Patrick’s Day Parade. People from across Long Island would come to watch him and his Rottweiler pet riding on his motorcycle.

Ghidaleson also used to raffle off a new car and loved calling people to tell them they had won. “I’d buy a car from Ram, Chevrolet and raffle it off,” he said. “Calling people to say that you won an automobile, I have to say that was very exciting.”

Being in business for as long as he had meant witnessing several tragedies. After Hurricane Katrina, which resulted in over a thousand deaths in Louisiana in 2005, Ghidaleson and a few friends traveled to New Orleans to help out. They managed to save hundreds of dogs over the course of 10 days. 

Ghidaleson’s service to the community did not end at the pet shop. He completed a 68-mile walk from Mount Sinai to Chinatown in 2019 in order to raise money for the New York Warriors, a Long Island-based quadriplegic rugby team. It took him 28 hours to complete straight through, though it may have been shorter if the torrential rain hadn’t forced him to dry his clothes in the bathrooms of multiple Starbucks locations.

Despite his contributions to the community, Ghidaleson only recently realized the effect his business has had through the years. “It’s a feeling that’s hard to put into words,” he said. “It’s magnificent.”

He added, “I didn’t realize what an impact that Feasts For Beasts has had on the community until the past month or so, because I get an abundance of people calling and coming in, and crying on the phone and crying in the store.”

Ghidaleson said he will still be around as he and his manager, Nick Kucharski, transition into the real estate business. While the pet store may be closing, Ghidaleson maintained he will still be there for anybody needing pet advice and information.

Photo courtesy Elliot Perry/MSFD

The Mount Sinai Fire Department held a memorial service on Sunday, Sept 11, in honor of the lives lost on 9/11.

Community members gathered at the fire department’s memorial. There, various members of MSFD delivered speeches commemorating the fallen. Following these statements, the department performed a ceremonial bell ringing, recognizing those who died in the line of duty. 

In an interview, Chief Randy Nelson discussed the ceremony’s purpose. For him, this annual custom preserves the memory of first responders who risked it all in the name of duty. It also recognizes the many civilians who died during the attacks.

“It’s a way to honor those who were lost on that day and, unfortunately, those that were lost since then battling diseases that stemmed from their work at Ground Zero in the months after,” he said. “It’s a way to honor, remember and — like it’s always said — to never forget. It is important to always have their memory at the top of our minds, especially on this day, but every day.”

— Photos courtesy Elliot Perry/MSFD

Developing Story:

TBR News Media has learned of a remarkable rescue mission of four Mount Sinai-based sailors earlier this month.

Reports indicate that on Sunday, May 8, the sailors aboard the 40-foot C&C  sailboat “Calypso,” owned by local resident and member of the Mount Sinai Sailing Association Bob Ellinger, were approximately 80 miles offshore battling against 16-17 foot waves when the boat was hit by a rogue wave estimated at 30 feet in height.

This blow had destroyed the mast, rendering the ship inoperable. While much of the equipment onboard was beyond disrepair, the crew managed to send out an emergency distress signal.

The U.S. Coast Guard responded to the mayday and members of the Air Station Cape Cod MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew located the shipwreck. In a daring effort, battling high seas and strong winds, the helicopter crew successfully rescued all four sailors.

The sailors were later hospitalized and treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

If you have any information regarding this rescue mission, please email [email protected]. Tune into tbrnewsmedia.com for more updates to this developing story.