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Supervisor Ed Romaine listens to resident concerns at the town meeting. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Civic leaders in Three Village are calling on Brookhaven to put the brakes on a local law that could potentially limit the number of vehicles parked on town roads.

In an attempt to crack down on illegal rental housing in Brookhaven, elected officials mulled over a proposal at a work session late last month that would restrict the number of permitted vehicles at a rental house to one car per legal bedroom, plus one additional car. But Shawn Nuzzo, president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook, said imposing “separate and unequal” laws would infringe on residents’ most basic rights as Americans by determining which Brookhaven natives would be allowed to park their vehicles on the street.

The civic president wrote a letter in opposition of the town’s proposal.

“While it is certainly in the town’s purview to determine how our roadways should be used, our laws should apply equally to all,” Nuzzo wrote in the letter. “It is unwise to create restrictive laws meant to apply only to certain members of our society — in this instance, based on their homeownership status.”

Nuzzo said he submitted his remarks on the law for the board to consider at its Sept. 17 meeting, when the town will look to add an amendment to Local Law 82 in the Brookhaven Town Code, which oversees rental registration requirements. The proposed vehicle restriction was only the latest in a string of initiatives the town put forward to prevent illegal housing rentals, including one measure that outlawed paving over front yards to make way for parking spaces.

The measures were borne out of an issue Bruce Sander, president of the Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners, helped bring to the forefront after communities in and around Three Village became hotspots for illegal or otherwise overcrowded rental homes filled with Stony Brook University students. Sander was only one of many Three Village natives to come out against the overcrowded housing debacle, citing quality of life issues such as noise and overflowing trash.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said at the Aug. 27 Town Board work session that he believed restricting the number of vehicles parked in front of rental homes could be a helpful tool in fighting illegal rooming houses.

“Normally, what we have to do is try to get inside to cite them, but to do that requires a search warrant, which judges are reluctant to give without probable cause,” Romaine said. “However, one of the other factors that these illegal rooming houses generate is the fact that there’s a lot of cars around. If we could control the number of cars, we would be better able to cite people.”

Looking ahead, Nuzzo said he planned on forwarding the proposal to the state attorney general’s office as well as the Southern Poverty Law Center to delve into the legality of a township restricting the number of vehicles parked in front of any given home, and whether or not the town can selectively enforce such a measure.

“If the Town Board feels street parking regulations are necessary, then those regulations should be implemented town wide,” Nuzzo said. “To target only certain residents for selective enforcement is un-American, and quite possibly illegal.”

Move is part of Stern’s Housing our Homeless Heroes initiative

Suffolk County seeks to help house veterans. File photo
Suffolk County seeks to help house veterans. File photo
Suffolk County seeks to help house veterans. File photo

Suffolk County lawmakers have taken another step toward putting roofs over homeless veterans’ heads.

On Sept. 9, the Suffolk County Legislature unanimously approved the transfer of eight tax-defaulted properties to nonprofit agencies that will in turn convert them into affordable rental housing for veterans who are homeless or seriously at risk of becoming homeless.

The move is a significant component of Legislator Steve Stern’s (D) Housing our Homeless Heroes initiative, a multi-pronged legislative package aimed at battling the war against veteran homelessness in Suffolk. Officials have said there are about 750 Long Island veterans who are either homeless or who are expected to be homeless by the end of 2015.

Stern, who is the chairman of the county’s Veterans and Seniors Committee, said the law is a worthy initiative and way to truly give back to those who have served.

“I’ve always said that we all need to do our part in serving those that have served us,” Stern said in a phone interview Friday. “But it can’t just be marching a parade. It can’t just be waving a flag.”

The nonprofits involved would foot the construction bill through possibly more than $10 million in state and federal grant funding available for such projects, Stern said. Funding for the construction will be provided in part from the New York State Homeless Housing Assistance Program and United States Department of Housing and Urban Development HOME Investment Partnerships Program.

A total of 14 units of housing would be created among the eight properties that have been transferred, Stern said.

Two parcels in Central Islip will be transferred to the Concern for Independent Living for the construction of three single-family homes. Bay Shore-based United Veterans Beacon House has proposed to rehabilitate an existing home on a Copiague parcel, and build a single-family unit on a Yaphank parcel.

In addition, the Association for Mental Health and Wellness is proposing to build a new four-bedroom house for three senior disabled veterans and a live-in house manager on two parcels in Mastic; rehabilitate a house in Riverhead for one veteran family; and build a new set of four, single room occupancies for veterans on a parcel in Medford.

“As an agency committed to ensuring empowering people to overcome the impact of health and mental health disabilities, it is our intent to devote these houses to assist male and female veterans who have been affected by service-connected and post-service transition mental health challenges,” said Michael Stoltz, Chief Executive Officer of the Association for Mental Health and Wellness said in a previous statement. “I thank Suffolk County for partnering with our organization to further assist us in supporting our veterans.”

Stern’s hoping the first unit to be completed — the Copiague parcel — will be built within a year. “The timing is going to be very varied depending on the particular locations,” he said.

Housing our Homeless Heroes doesn’t stop at just housing. At the same meeting, the Legislature approved Helping Our Veterans lane (HOV lane) legislation, sponsored by Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-East Islip) and Stern. The legislation’s goal is to expedite veteran services within the county’s Department of Social Services.

Stern said many times, veterans walk into the county’s DSS for services they may typically need from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and they are “turned away.” He said it becomes challenge to get them to come back to a government assistance office. The HOV lane legislation would make it so that veterans who are seeking services at DSS would get paired with a veteran services officer. Their requests would be fast-tracked when the walk into the department — regardless of whether they’re at the right office.

“That’s very important here because veterans, too many of them, face too many challenges and time becomes very important,”
Stern said.

Stern said he’s proud of the enactment of Housing our Homeless Heroes.

“I have every reason to believe that it’s going to serve as model for the rest of the country,” he said.

The Overbay apartments are planned for the former Islander Boat Center on West Broadway, above. File photo

The developer of a controversial apartment complex planned for Port Jefferson’s West Broadway may get financial assistance to help build it.

The Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency announced last week that it had accepted an application for consideration from Hauppauge-based Overbay LLC, which has approval from the Port Jefferson Village Planning Board to construct two 35-foot buildings containing 52 rental apartments.

Overbay is owned by North Shore developer Jim Tsunis.

Some residents have spoken against the project, slated for the corner of Brook Road at the former Islander Boat Center property, with concerns about increased traffic and density. Part of their resistance is linked to the fact that another apartment complex called the Residences at Port Jefferson — a 112-unit building — is due to go up next door at the corner of West Broadway and Barnum Avenue, in the place of the former Heritage Inn. TRITEC Real Estate Company in East Setauket is leading that development.

“We don’t want to be urbanized,” resident Phil Griffith said at a public hearing earlier this year. “It is just too much.”

In both projects, neither of which required variances for approval, parking will be contained underneath the apartments and the housing will replace longtime community eyesores at village’s western entry point.

According to the IDA, which aims to boost the economy within Brookhaven Town by assisting businesses in locating or expanding in the area, it will consider Overbay’s application for financial assistance over the coming few months and will hold a public hearing on the matter.

“We’re pleased to consider this application for this project, which will grow the much-needed supply of rental housing near to Stony Brook University and Port Jefferson’s Mather and St. Charles hospitals,” IDA Chairman Fred Braun said in a press release.

The three-story apartment buildings are expected to create two permanent jobs and 150 construction jobs over a two-year period, the IDA said. Rents could range from $1,800 to $2,200.

There is no commercial component to the Overbay project, though there had been commercial space included in previous proposals for the site.

The IDA has already assisted another apartment project in the area this year, the Rail Realty complex along Texaco Avenue in upper Port. That project, dubbed the Hills at Port Jefferson, will include two three-story buildings for a total of 74 rentals — a mixture of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments — and underground parking.