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Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association

Pictured above, the PJSTCA executive board. File photo by Raymond Janis

By Samantha Rutt

Nearly 60 community members gathered at Comsewogue Public Library Jan. 23 for the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association meeting. The crowded gathering touched on a wide range of topics from amending and establishing new organizational bylaws, to local fire station renovations and closing with a presentation from developer group, R&M Engineering, of Huntington. 

A few noteworthy officials were in attendance, county Legislator Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), former Port Jefferson deputy mayor and state Assembly District 4 candidate Rebecca Kassay (D-Port Jefferson), and Skyler Johnson (D-Port Jefferson Station), also an Assembly D4 candidate. 

The meeting began with a brief announcement with regard to the updated bylaws of the association to be reviewed and eventually voted upon. Before the Jan. 23 meeting, the updated bylaws were posted to an online forum where members were able to voice any concerns or objections. The presentation of the amended bylaws was met with a handful of responses from attendees with concerns mainly centered around voting status. It was noted that all members in good standing, having paid dues, attended three or more meetings per year and reside in 11776 ZIP code would be eligible to vote. Additionally, comments or concerns can be placed via the online forum before the official vote sometime in March.

Following the brief presentation, civic president, Ira Costell, acknowledged the community’s representation at a recent Town of Brookhaven board meeting addressing the upcoming Staller development. 

“I want to compliment us as a community, whether we were for it or against it. I believe we held ourselves in good regard in front of the Town Board with decorum, decency and cooperation, which is the hallmark of our community,” Costell said.

The development has been a significant topic of concern for the civic in recent months. Civic member Paul Sagliocca recently filed a FOIL request and learned that 60 people sent emails with regard to the upcoming development, eight in favor and 52 with concerns or objections. 

“The town clerk gave me 60 letters, eight of them were in favor as it stands right now, 52 had concerns whether it was an objection, or they were afraid that it might be [built] too high or an influx of traffic.” Sagliocca said, “We broke down to 12% in total favor of what’s going on there, as opposed to 88% wanting some more input to get to the final product.” 

The meeting continued with another presentation from the civic association president noting the ongoing vote at the Terryville Fire Station for renovations. At the time of the meeting, the station had received nearly 200 votes. The station, originally built in 1974, is in need of repairs and updates. A plan including several updates, will be decided from the Jan. 23 vote.

“The substation on Old Town Road was originally built in 1974, now 50 years old, with the ethic and the culture of what existed 50 years ago, not what exists today,” Costell said. “Volunteers are crammed into every single inch, to the point where it could be unsafe in terms of the ability to respond and maneuver around the facility.”

Costell urged members of the community to get out and vote regardless of their chosen stance on the issue. 

“I think it would be great if we can help support them. That’s just my pitch. Feel free to take a look at the numbers and decide whether or not it’s not your cup of tea. But either way, please just let’s go out as a community and vote,” Costell urged. 

Up next on the docket, developers from R&M Engineering stood before the civic to deliver a presentation listing their proposed 45-unit development, Cordwood Estates. The development property spans 5.5 acres and will be utilized as a retirement community at the corner of Terryville Road and Old Town Road. The proposal includes a plethora of ranch-style homes, each with two bedrooms and two bathrooms and a single car garage. Residents will have access to outdoor space and recreational facilities including sport courts and a pool. 

The audience took turns asking questions and listing concerns throughout the presentation addressing several topics. Among the most pressing concerns were that of traffic increase and poor location of ingress and egress points. A concerned resident took note of the proposed development’s exit points as they neighbored an already dangerous intersection. Additionally, comments were made with concerns for the existing vegetation, sewage and wastewater infrastructure as well as the affordability of the site. The proposal still has to go before the Town Board for approval. 

The next civic association meeting will be held Feb. 27. All other dates and meeting minutes information can be accessed via www.pjstca.org.

Brookhaven Town Hall. File photo

By Carolyn Sackstein

The Brookhaven Town Board meeting last Thursday, Nov. 30, began at 5 p.m. and didn’t close until after 11. Many residents who attended stayed for the long haul.

The board heard public comments on the application of Hauppauge-based Staller Associates, owner of the Jefferson Plaza shopping center at the intersection of Route 112 and Terryville Road. Staller is seeking a change of zone for the 10-acre parcel from a J-2 Business District to a CRD Commercial Redevelopment District.

The CRD is a new zoning category within the town Code. Jefferson Plaza will be the first property to receive this classification if the board greenlights the application.

A town official indicated that under the conditions of the CRD code, the development would qualify for 280 residential units. The proposal includes demolishing the existing shopping center to accommodate mixed-use development.

Anthony Guardino, partner at the Hauppauge-based Farrell Fritz law firm, represents the applicant. In a presentation, he traced the property’s historical developments, contributing to “an unsustainably high vacancy rate” with today’s blighted conditions.

The CRD code “creates the planning tool which the Stallers are using to redevelop their blighted shopping center into a destination development with a dynamic mix of residential and commercial uses,” he said. “And after many years of planning and design and input from the town and the community and numerous plan revisions, the Stallers believe it is time to put pencils down. It is time to move this project forward.”

He added that the current plan accommodates 280 apartments — 224 of which will be “market rate,” with the remaining 56 units set aside as affordable housing for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The attorney projected that approximately 50,000 square feet of commercial space would be occupied by a restaurant, food hall, retail, office space and health club.

Public comments primarily revolved around building height, density, traffic and emergency services. Ira Costell, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, stressed the importance of proper planning in weighing these factors.

“There is appetite and willingness to see investment in this parcel,” he said. “While this presents an opportunity, it is incumbent on us to address and mitigate the negative impacts that could follow from the intensive use on that parcel.”

Suffolk County Legislator-elect Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), whose 5th Legislative District includes Port Jeff Station, discussed the possible environmental impact of redevelopment. 

Skyler Johnson (D-Port Jefferson Station) — currently pursuing the Democratic nomination for New York’s 4th Assembly District— placed the proposed redevelopment in the context of ongoing affordability concerns.

“If we continue on this path, we will see not only young people not be able to afford to live here, but older people not be able to retire and downsize as their kids continue to need to stay in their homes,” he said.

Some spoke in favor of the redevelopment project. “I am in favor of the zone change,” Port Jeff village resident Brian Harty said. 

Bob LoNigro, whose family-owned business, Plaza Sports, was formerly in the shopping center for decades, said, “I think it is important for the community to understand who they’re dealing with. We dealt with [the Staller family], who were honorable, honest and caring about my family. They cared about our success,” adding, “I was sitting there thinking this was going to be a war, and it’s not a war. We’ve just got to tweak it and make some concessions and get to the finish line. I would love nothing more than to see that place flourish again.”

The board made no decisions on the application. Residents can continue submitting written comments up to 30 days after the meeting.

To watch the full public hearing, please visit brookhavenny.gov/meetings.

In this episode, we offer live updates from Brookhaven Town Hall as the future of Jefferson Plaza in Port Jeff Station hangs in the balance. Plus, a shocking turn as a fire engulfs the Tesla Science Center in Shoreham — we unpack the latest details and discuss restoration plans. Winter sports season previews and valuable insights on managing your investments are all in one episode.

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Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich presents a new architectural rendering for the proposed redevelopment of Jefferson Plaza during a Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association meeting Tuesday, Nov. 28. Photo by Joan Nickeson

The Brookhaven Town Board will hear public comments on the Jefferson Plaza shopping center in Port Jefferson Station, a proposed redevelopment project with the potential to reshape the face of the hamlet and reorient its long-term trajectory.

The board will hold a public hearing Thursday, Nov. 30, to consider rezoning the 10-acre parcel, owned by Hauppauge-based Staller Associates, to a Commercial Redevelopment District, a new classification within the Zoning Code crafted “to stimulate the revitalization of abandoned, vacant or underutilized commercial shopping center, bowling alley and health club properties.” [See story, “First of its kind: Brookhaven Town Board to review new zoning category for Jefferson Plaza in Port Jeff Station,” Nov. 16, TBR News Media.]

In the runup to the public hearing, the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association held its general meeting Tuesday night, Nov. 28, to establish a set of priorities for overseeing the proposed redevelopment.

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) attended the meeting, identifying four primary areas of concern based on feedback he has heard from the community: traffic, density, height and architecture.

Kornreich said several of those concerns could be addressed through a 35-foot cap on building height. “What I’m going to be looking for is not four stories but a maximum height of 35 feet, which is the same maximum height that you can get in any residential area,” he said.

Leaders and members of the civic association generally favored the 35-foot cap.

The councilmember stated his intention for the developer to adhere to the conditions outlined under the Zoning Code instead of pursuing variances and other relaxations of use.

Regarding architecture, Kornreich said he had consulted with the developer, advocating for “a little bit less of New Hyde Park and a little bit more of New England.” He then presented an architectural rendering of the new proposal that was received favorably by the civic.

Much of the meeting was opened up to members, who offered ideas and raised concerns. Among the issues deliberated were the potential relocation of the post office on-site, availability and diversity of retail options at the property, possible tax increases and related traffic and environmental impact.

Jennifer Dzvonar, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, endorsed the redevelopment initiative. “It’s very blighted,” she said. “A lot of local stores are leaving there,” adding, “We want to keep expanding and revitalizing the area.”

Charlie McAteer, corresponding secretary of PJSTCA, discussed the possible community givebacks that could be offered through such redevelopment.

“We have to work on … a purchase of some open space in our hub area that’s forever wild,” he said. He added that this form of local giveback would cushion the deal for surrounding neighbors “because they’re giving us, the community, something that we would like.”

Following discussion, the body authorized PJSTCA president Ira Costell to deliver a statement Thursday night to the Town Board representing the collective views of the organization.

The public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, at Brookhaven Town Hall, 1 Independence Hill, Farmingville.

The Brookhaven Town Board will consider a proposed change of zone for the Jefferson Plaza property on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 5 p.m. File photo by Raymond Janis

Port Jefferson Station/Terryville is approaching a potentially community-defining transformation as the Brookhaven Town Board weighs the future redevelopment of the Jefferson Plaza shopping center, owned by Islandia-based Staller Associates.

Later this month, the board will consider rezoning the 10-acre parcel at the intersection of state Route 112 and Terryville Road to a Commercial Redevelopment District, or CRD, a new classification within the town’s Zoning Code. Jefferson Plaza would be the first property in town history to receive this designation if approved.

Enacted in 2020, the CRD enables mixed-use development along parcels of over 5 acres in size. According to the code, the CRD aims “to create the type of planning and zoning flexibility which is necessary to stimulate the revitalization of abandoned, vacant or underutilized commercial shopping center, bowling alley and health club properties.”

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) represents Port Jefferson Station on the Town Board. In an exclusive interview, he summarized the CRD’s purpose as “more housing, less commercial space, generally.”

“The local government has created an incentive to spur redevelopment,“ he said. “But it hasn’t been used yet, so we’re trying to use it now.”

Commercial decline

Kornreich said this new approach to commercial revitalization is guided by a sequence of “extinction events” occurring within the local retail market.

Since the establishment of these local downtowns in the previous century and even earlier, Kornreich identified the emergence of automobile culture and the growth of large box stores as the first threat to traditional mom-and-pop storefronts and downtown economies. In the wake of this first extinction event, “retail took a hit that it never really recovered from,” Kornreich said.

Retail’s downward trajectory was further exacerbated by e-commerce, which began to put even the big box stores and large retailers out of business. “And then, of course, COVID came, and that hit commercial real estate and retail,” the councilmember noted.

Confronting the many changes reshaping the commercial landscape, Kornreich said the CRD would help spur commercial redevelopment.

“This is our existential challenge: How do we help guide the redevelopment of our community so it can be healthy, so that it can thrive, and so that people can afford to live here and have a good quality of life,” he said.

Richard Murdocco is an adjunct professor in the Department of Political Science at Stony Brook University, specializing in land use, real estate markets, economic development and environmental policy. Given the current pressures upon the commercial sector, Murdocco concluded that “these antiquated shopping centers need a redo.”

While redevelopment has traditionally elicited local opposition from nearby residents, Murdocco suggests that various projects throughout the region have gained traction among locals.

“It seems to me that a lot of these redevelopment projects are starting to gain momentum because the property and the blight are so large,” he said. “These are significant pieces of property,” adding, “Government responded to the need for adaptive reuse, and now there’s a legal mechanism through the zoning district on which to do that.”

Questions raised

The push for commercial redevelopment has met with scrutiny from some.

Ira Costell, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, raised several questions about the Jefferson Plaza proposal.

The CRD “hasn’t been used previously, and this does seem to be the test case,” he said. “In my estimation, it’s the lynchpin for further development in our community, so that’s why it’s essential that we get this right and not rush to judgment.”

“To address those things, I think we need better community input,” he added. To generate such input, he has asked residents to attend the civic’s upcoming meeting at Comsewogue Public Library on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 7 p.m.

Local civic members are ringing the alarm over the CRD in the neighboring Three Village community. Herb Mones, land use chair of the Three Village Civic Association, highlighted the need to remediate commercial blight but suggested the CRD code is too developer-centric.

“On every level, the intention of redeveloping neglected or failing shopping centers is an admirable goal,” he said. “But the way that the code is written allows for really unprecedented development that has a tremendous negative effect on communities that are impacted by the density that results.”

Mones said the language of the CRD code is “so vague, so arbitrary and so capricious that it could be applied to virtually any shopping center in the Town of Brookhaven.”

Based on the statute, which incentivizes redevelopment of blighted properties through relaxed land use standards, Mones said the CRD code “encourages landowners to purposely neglect their properties in order to promote this eventual redevelopment.”

George Hoffman, also a member of TVCA, concurred with Mones, referring to the CRD code as “a very vague law that I think was done in haste.”

“It was really a code change that was done when we didn’t know what was going to happen with COVID,” Hoffman said. “I think it really has to be reevaluated, and I don’t think it works in this situation here” at Jefferson Plaza. 

Given that Jefferson Plaza would be the first parcel listed as a CRD, he added that this matter has implications for residents townwide.

“If they use this code to the maximum allowable density, I think it’s going to set the standard of a new suburban model for development,” he said.

The Town Board will consider the proposed change of zone for the Jefferson Plaza property on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 5 p.m.

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association met Tuesday, Oct. 24, for a meeting covering public safety, land use, upcoming elections and multiculturalism.

Public safety

John Efstathiou, COPE officer for the Suffolk County Police Department’s 6th Precinct, delivered the department’s public safety report, outlining an uptick across several crime statistics.

When crime data was compared from the same period in 2022, the 6th Precinct received an increase in the calls for service throughout the hamlet from 646 to 845, “so we saw a big increase in calls,” Efstathiou stated.

While there were no reported aggravated harassments or assaults, there were two reported burglaries. A smoke shop and the Buddhist temple — both located on Terryville Road — were the two burglarized locations.

Criminal mischief went up from six to 10 reported incidents. One of those criminal mischiefs resulted in an arrest, five resulted in no pressed charges and the other four remain under investigation by the department.

Harassments spiked from seven to 11. Of those, one arrest was made, eight resulted in no press and two remain under investigation. Larcenies went up from 12 to 16.

Efstathiou reported a menacing incident at the Family Dollar located at Jefferson Plaza in which an individual brandished a knife to steal money. “He was unsuccessful,” the COPE officer indicated, adding the person was “charged for menacing on that. That is still pending and under investigation.”

A robbery had occurred at the Sunoco gas station on Old Town Road, resulting in the apprehension of the alleged suspect.

Total criminal incidents went up from 35 to 64. Disturbances went up from 135 to 167. Total noncriminal incidents increased from 611 to 821. Motor vehicle accidents jumped from 45 to 83.

Land use

Civic vice president Carolyn Sagliocca updated the body on proposed developments throughout the area. She said the Bicycle Path LLC group, owner of the parcel at 507 North Bicycle Path, contacted the civic regarding a potential redevelopment project.

“They want to present their proposal here for our civic for everyone to see, and that is going to be at our December 19 civic meeting,” she said.

Sagliocca emphasized the importance of the civic’s upcoming Nov. 28 meeting, during which the body will deliberate on the proposed redevelopment of Jefferson Plaza. “We’re going to see if we can get the community to give us input on what you want,” she said. “Because on November 30, there’s going to be a public hearing at Town Hall in Farmingville at 5:30, and we hope as many residents who want to voice their opinion on what they want could be there.”

Meet the candidates

Later in the meeting, the body met judicial candidates for Suffolk County district court and Michael Kaplan, Democratic candidate for Brookhaven highway superintendent.

Steve Weissbard is the Republican and Conservative Party candidate for the district court. He served as Suffolk County attorney in family court, later working for the Suffolk Legal Aid Society.

“I bring a very balanced experience … and I expect a very balanced judgment and open mind when I sit on the bench,” he said.

Opposing Weissbard is Cynthia Vargas, who serves as co-chair of the Suffolk County Bar Association’s membership services committee. She also served as president of the Long Island Hispanic Bar Association.

“I would bring all of my experience, common sense and integrity to ensure justice for all and ask that you vote Vargas, not politics, on November 7,” she said.

Kaplan is challenging incumbent Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R), who did not attend Tuesday evening’s civic meeting. Kaplan is a U.S. Army veteran who worked as a road inspector in the Town of Islip before working directly for the superintendent of highways in the Town of Huntington.

“This town needs different leadership when it comes to highways,” he said, advocating for a “small-town mentality” within the Brookhaven Highway Department.

Multicultural panel

The meeting concluded with a discussion among faith and ethnic leaders throughout the community. Panelists included Mufti Abdullah Sheikh, resident scholar and imam at Selden Masjid, Rabbi Aaron Benson of North Shore Jewish Center and Shaorui Li, founder and president of the Asian American Association of Greater Stony Brook.

In a phone interview after the meeting, PJSTCA president Ira Costell regarded the panel as a means of opening a dialogue and creating understanding between the religious and cultural groups that were present.

“It’s been my agenda to bring programs as often as possible that add a dimension of education or awareness or understanding about broader issues,” Costell said. “I think this really went a long way — for me personally and hopefully for other people — to realize we can have a conversation with each other.”

The civic reconvenes on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at Comsewogue Public Library at 7 p.m.

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.

Photo courtesy Ira Costell
By Ira Costell

As September heralds the approaching changes brought on during Earth’s annual autumnal shift, so too does it offer a pathway to a new life for many as it also marks National Recovery Month. 

This comes on the heels of International Overdose Awareness Day which occurred on Aug. 31. This day, for too many families like mine, is a yearly reminder of the awful price exacted by the disease of addiction. 

The lives lost during the ongoing opioid crisis in this country has impacted every community across this country as over 107,000 deaths of our fellow citizens occurred in 2022. Let that sink in. That is the equivalent of almost 300 people a day, or one person every four minutes or so who has died from a treatable and preventable disease.

Can you imagine the resources we would commit to deal with a crisis if every single day a jet plane with 300 people crashed? I dare say everything in the U. S. would come to a screeching halt until we determined how to deal with such a monumental tragedy. 

Yet, the most pressing public health crisis in our country equal to or, at the moment, worse than COVID-19 typically gets short shrift but once a year from many public officials.

This year, many municipalities across Long Island, including Brookhaven Town “went purple” to honor and acknowledge Overdose Awareness day Thursday, Aug. 31 [See story, “Brookhaven goes purple, marks Opioid Awareness Month with calls for intervention,” Sept. 7, TBR News Media]. Many of my fellow warriors in this battle gathered that day to remember and to raise our voices for those no longer here to speak for themselves. 

I added my voice to this fight nearly 15 years ago to honor my nephew David Aaron Costell who, just shy of his 23rd birthday, succumbed to a heroin overdose on Feb. 12, 2007. 

He was a sweet, loving if troubled young man who found recovery for a short time but sadly relapsed due to limited resources of support our society afforded him at the time. But, as the heroin crisis on Long Island became more prominent with Newsday reports of the death of Natalie Chiappa, an 18-year-old honors student, I knew it was time for action.

So, I ultimately became a family advocate involved with educating the press and running to Albany over many legislative sessions. It was poignantly sad but rewarding to work with many families across New York state to change public policy in order to save lives which otherwise would be lost to addiction. 

We accomplished a lot over several years by the passage of better access to treatment to make it harder for insurance companies to refuse treatment so easily to those seeking help. Also, we passed the NYS 911 Good Samaritan Law, which encourages young people to seek help for anyone in overdose without fear of legal consequences. 

We also advocated for the state I-STOP Law, which has nearly eliminated “doctor shopping” by addicts, and changed to an e-prescribing process, thereby enabling a real-time database when prescribing narcotics like opioids.

Along the way, I met many amazing individuals I came to know and love who turned their grief into helping others. Not only did we help change laws, many I have come to know help change lives. 

There is Avi Israel with Save the Michaels of the World in Buffalo and here on Long Island, Gabriel’s Giving Tree and Thomas’ Hope Foundation by my friends Paulette Phillipe and Linda Ventura with help from Teri Kroll, who lovingly offer services to families and individuals impacted by addiction. These are angels in action.

So I am grateful to Brookhaven Town, where I live, and other municipalities which scheduled similar activities on Aug. 31. It was one way to reduce the stigma of drug overdoses and to honor those souls around our area who no longer will share Thanksgiving dinners with us later this year. 

It is not the first time nor the last time families will be at the steps of Town Hall and shed tears for the loved ones as they recall their sons and daughters, husbands and wives, nieces and nephews or fathers and mothers whose lives were cut short by the scourge of opioids and fentanyl. It brings public attention to this crucial issue and hopefully can build support for more action in the future. 

And, while this is a laudable goal, it is not nearly enough to hold hands, hug each other in grief and move on again until next August when Town Hall is lit up purple, the color for Overdose Awareness.

According to an annual report issued last year by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli (D), Suffolk County experienced more cumulative deaths due to overdose than any other county in the state. And, it is easy to extrapolate that Brookhaven Town has more deaths than any other township in Suffolk County. 

I submit it is incumbent on Brookhaven, as well as other towns and the county, to invest more resources at the municipal level to address this absolute horror visited upon our families. It is not only essential to reduce the suffering from the loss of a loved one, but we lose untold hours of productivity in our workplaces due to the toxic stress of families with members still in active addiction. 

Thankfully, Suffolk County just announced another round of nearly $20 million from funds realized by the lawsuit against drug companies and Big Pharma in the opioid settlement case initiated by former Presiding Officer Rob Calarco [D-Patchogue].

I urge Brookhaven Town to promptly put together a proposal to obtain some of these funds to undertake initiatives which could provide better mental health and addiction services to our communities. Babylon Town, with less than half the population of Brookhaven, presently runs a facility called the Beacon Family Wellness Center, which provides drug and alcohol services as well as other important supports. 

This could and should be a priority for the largest town in Suffolk, which is essentially Ground Zero for the addiction and overdose crisis on Long Island. 

With Overdose Awareness Day past, it is important to remember. But it is more important to act substantially throughout the year with tangible programs which can assist people along the path to a healthy life. That is the true way to show support for National Recovery Month.

Ira Costell is the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association.

Public officials celebrate the announcement of $5 million to create ‘shovel-ready’ sewer plans for Port Jefferson Station Friday, Aug 11. From left, local business leader Charlie Lefkowitz, former Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. Photos by Raymond Janis

On the road to community revitalization, Port Jefferson Station/Terryville just passed a major procedural hurdle.

Public officials gathered along the eastern trailhead of the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail on Friday, Aug. 11, announcing $5 million to create sewer plans for the Route 112 corridor. These funds, which come from the American Rescue Plan Act, will help lay the groundwork for an eventual expenditure to finance the entire sewer project.

“What we’re talking about is the objective of achieving economic revitalization, job creation, business growth and water quality protection all at the same time,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). 

Bellone said there are several potential funding sources from the federal and state governments, but those levels require “shovel-ready plans.” This $5 million, Bellone continued, would maximize the potential for a full-scale sewer investment.

“You never know when all of a sudden at the federal level or the state level funding becomes available,” he said. “It can happen like that, and you need to be ready,” adding, “This funding will help get this sewer project shovel ready.”

Introducing sewers into the Port Jefferson Station commercial hub would bring the proposed $100 million redevelopment of Jefferson Plaza, above, into focus.

Local revitalization

The sewer investment comes on the heels of a decades-long local effort to bring about a traditional downtown in PJS/T.

‘Port Jefferson Station is on the rise.’

— Jonathan Kornreich

Major development plans are currently on the drawing board, most notably the proposed $100 million redevelopment of Jefferson Plaza, located just south of the Greenway. Former Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) [See story on Hahn’s recent resignation] said the $5 million would bring community members closer to realizing their local aspirations.

“The synergy here between doing something that will drive economic prosperity as well as a cleaner environment is a win-win, and sewering will become the foundation on which the Port Jefferson Station hub will be built,” Hahn said. “This is a tremendous step forward.”

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook), who represents Port Jefferson Station/Terryville on the Town Board, cited ongoing revitalization efforts as a means to promote and enhance the quality of life for the hamlet’s residents.

“Speaking directly to the members of our community, I think you should be encouraged by the fact that from the federal government all the way down to the town level, our eyes are on you,” he said. “There are hundreds of millions of dollars of investment — both public and private money — planned, already made, on the table and in the books for this immediate surrounding area.”

The councilmember added, “Port Jefferson Station is on the rise.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, at podium, said modernizing wastewater infrastructure is necessary for achieving the hamlet’s redevelopment aspirations.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), who is running for Suffolk County executive against business leader Dave Callone, a Democrat, tied the sewer investment to plans for commercial redevelopment and water quality protection.

“We are looking to redevelop Port Jeff Station,” Romaine said. “Sewers are necessary for development.” The town supervisor added, “I look with great anticipation for this and any other sources of funding that we can put in place to make sure that we can preserve our surface and groundwater. It’s key.”

Density/traffic

The introduction of sewers into Port Jefferson Station raises several questions about potentially added building density enabled through increased sewer capacity.

New leadership within the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association has recently prioritized density, creating a land use committee to oversee new developments throughout the hamlet. 

Reached by phone, civic president Ira Costell called the sewer project “the fundamental building block to protect water quality,” though calling the initiative “a positive step that has to be done carefully.”

“While the sense of our organization is that we welcome redevelopment and positive growth, we are mindful of ensuring this occurs in a well-planned and strategic way that benefits the community and ameliorates impacts,” Costell said 

“There are still some concerns about the overall density and intensity of use in the Port Jeff Station area, and we’re just hopeful that the planning process will enable the community to have proper input,” he added.

Paul Sagliocca, a member of the civic, advocated for some money to be set aside to evaluate potential traffic impacts from new developments along 112.

“This downtown revitalization is great, but it needs to stay on the main roads,” he said. “They need to do a comprehensive traffic study.”

Kornreich noted that the commercial real estate landscape has shifted dramatically following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Downtowns … are seeing high rates of vacancy, commercial spaces that are underutilized, subprime kinds of tenants because landlords are desperate to get any kind of cash flow in there,” the Brookhaven councilmember said. “We have to take some action to rezone and repurpose some of this underutilized real estate.”

He pointed to mixed use as a possible solution, noting the simultaneous need to resolve housing shortages and repurpose commercial real estate. 

Mixed-use development “creates walkable areas that can be sewered, that are more environmentally friendly and are more economically viable,” he added.

Bellone expressed confidence in the local planning process. “There has been a lot of community-based work that has been done at the town level, the community level and in partnership with the county,” the county executive said. “That process, I know, will continue.”

Sewer debate

The announcement follows an ongoing public debate about the regional viability of sewers in Suffolk County. Just last month, the Republican-led Suffolk County Legislature rejected the administration’s proposal to put a 1/8 penny sales tax on the upcoming November ballot to finance new wastewater infrastructure. [See story, “Suffolk County Legislature recesses, blocks referendum on wastewater fund,” July 28, TBR News Media website.]

Deputy County Executive Peter Scully, who had spearheaded the sales tax initiative, attended Friday’s press event and maintained that the need for sewers remains. He commended the county Legislature for approving a long-term sewer infrastructure plan in 2020.

“This sewer project in Port Jefferson Station’s commercial hub is part of that plan,” he said.

New York State Sen. Mario Materra (R-St. James), whose 2nd District previously encompassed Port Jeff Station before last year’s redistricting process, attended the press event. 

The state senator said this $5 million would signal to higher levels of government the area’s willingness to modernize its wastewater infrastructure and support the environment.

“We have a $4.2 billion bond act” approved by New York state voters last November, Mattera noted. “Jobs like this will show [officials] up in Albany to bring us the money back and that we really are serious about sewering and we care about our clean water.”

From left, PJSTCA President Ira Costell with Jessica Labia and Dwayne Brown of the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless. Photo by Aidan Johnson
By Aidan Johnson

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association addressed issues regarding the unhoused at its general meeting Tuesday, July 25.

The civic meeting was joined by Father Francis Pizzarelli, founder and executive director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson, as well as officers from the Suffolk County Police Department and members of an organization that helps the homeless 

During the meeting, Pizzarelli shared his experience assisting the homeless, including his meeting of a homeless Vietnam war veteran 35 years ago who was sleeping in a box village in the middle of winter.

The distraught veteran, who was most likely struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, came to Pizzarelli after one of his friends who was also living in the box village froze to death.

After finding there was little help offered for homeless veterans, Pizzarelli started Pax Christi Hospitality Center, an emergency shelter for men in Port Jefferson.

Pizzarelli expressed that a stronger partnership is needed between social services, the community and law enforcement. However, Pizzarelli also noted that law enforcement’s hands are tied in many situations, though they have always “been willing to be a part of the conversation.”

Pizzarelli highlighted the lack of treatment facilities and steps in place to help people in the homeless community.

“The social networking that was in place 35 years ago is nonexistent,” Pizzarelli said. “It’s just a repetitive cycle of setting people up for failure.”

For example, there is a lack of transitional housing for people once they leave a shelter such as Pax Christi, and the ones that are there, “you wouldn’t want a rat to live in,” he said.

A Suffolk County police officer spoke about what is and is not considered a crime when it comes to homelessness, and the role that the police can play.

“We’re not allowed to arrest people for being homeless, we’re not allowed to arrest people for begging,” the officer clarified.

“It used to be against the New York State Penal Law to stand in front of a business and beg. That was taken off the books, so what we’re left with is a [state] Vehicle and Traffic Law, because realistically, it’s not going to solve the problem, us arresting them at that specific moment,” the officer continued.

The officer said police can write a person a traffic ticket if they are on a road begging, which could possibly lead to a warrant and then an arrest, but reiterated the police cannot simply make an arrest for begging.

There are also laws in place that allow police to take a person into custody if they are deemed to be either a danger to themselves or others. However, the officer explained that the law’s threshold criteria is very high.

The police department has also put the Behavioral Health Unit to effect.

“We have these officers; they go out to these specific locations where the homeless people … are, and we try to attack it [by] offering them social services such as housing and drug counseling, and we hope that they will voluntarily take it,” the officer said.

Jessica Labia and Dwayne Brown of the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless were also in attendance to speak on issues. Labia furthered the point of the lack of resources, saying, “The more resources that are put into folks that are experiencing homelessness or low income on Long Island, the more we’re able to help them get into housing.”

She also suggested that arresting homeless people wasn’t helpful, as it can make it more difficult to house people when they have a criminal history.

Labia and Brown reminded everyone that homelessness was not just in the Port Jefferson Station area, but rather Long Island as a whole has between 3,000 and 4,000 homeless people on any given night.