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Route 25A

Photos by Raymond Janis

After a roadway closure spanning nine months, construction resumed last week at the intersection of Arlington Avenue and State Route 25A.

The construction project signals progress and a cooling of tensions between the Village of Port Jefferson and the New York State Department of Transportation. The initial roadway obstruction was created in September 2021 as part of the DOT’s sidewalk initiative along 25A. Under the original design, a sidewalk was added through the intersection along the pavement and changes were made to the grade, causing vehicles to get stuck at the bottom of the slope.

Seeing this as a public safety hazard, village officials closed down the intersection to traffic, igniting an intergovernmental dispute between the village and DOT.

Recently, travelers along the 25A corridor noticed significant digging, uprooting of pavement and movement of dirt. Stephen Canzoneri, public information officer for DOT Region 10, detailed the progress of the reconstruction efforts.

“The New York State Department of Transportation is working to address longstanding terrain issues at the intersection of Arlington Avenue and State Route 25A in the Village of Port Jefferson and expects work to be completed by the end of the summer,” he said in an emailed statement.

Responding to the ongoing construction, Joe Palumbo, the village administrator, offered thanks to DOT and to state Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) for expediting the reconstruction efforts. The Palumbos are not related.

“The Village of Port Jefferson is delighted to see active construction taking place to redesign the intersection of Arlington and West Broadway,” Joe Palumbo said in an email. “The village would like to thank Senator Palumbo for his help in getting this project started and NYSDOT for seeing the need for the redesign and executing the new plan.”

To read more about the background to this dispute, see The Port Times Record’s March 24 story, “PJ Village clashes with DOT over Arlington Avenue obstruction,” available on the TBR News Media website.

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A sketch from Suffolk County depicts the Route 25A and Nicolls Road intersection and surrounding area.

Early in 2020, Suffolk County was ready to ease residents’ concerns about the northwestern section of Nicolls Road.

Then, the pandemic hit. Roadwork that county officials had been planning for several years and projected would be completed by the end of 2020 was put on hold due to COVID-19. A recurrent issue for travelers on Nicolls Road has been drivers weaving quickly to the left lane when coming from eastbound Route 25A to make a left onto Lower Sheep Pasture Road while others are making a left onto Nicolls from Route 25A driving south.

Now the work is beginning.

At a February 2020 Three Village Civic Association meeting, William Hillman, Suffolk County Department of Public Works chief engineer, said it would be “a relatively simple project.” The road work will include removing the slip ramp on Route 25A approaching Nicolls and bringing a right-turn lane up to the signal. The only time drivers in the right-turn lane will stop is when those making a left from the westbound side of Route 25A have the green arrow.

According to a recent letter to residents from the county Department of Public Works, the project will also consist of installation of drainage, curb, sidewalk, guide rail, milling, asphalt resurfacing, traffic signal work, pavement striping and grass seeding. 

County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said, in a recent phone interview, it was good to hear that the work will begin as it will make the roadway safer for drivers and pedestrians.

“It’s always hard to live through infrastructure improvements, but ultimately it’ll make it safer there,” she said.

Hahn said the county doesn’t anticipate any problems with the new light at the turning lane as those approaching from the west and turning right will have the green most of the time.

“Every other moment in that lane you should be able to turn right without a problem,” she said.

Hahn said the sidewalk to be added on the west side of the road, combined with pedestrians no longer having to cross the wide slip ramp, will diminish dangerous conditions. The sidewalk on the west side of Nicolls will run from the North entrance of Stony Brook University to Route 25A. Hahn added currently it is safer to cross at Lower Sheep Pasture than at the northwest corner of the intersection.

According to county officials, crews have begun preliminary work, and the project should be completed by the end of the summer. Hahn added the estimated project cost is $1.2 million.

For six months, roadway barriers, shown above, have blocked the intersection of Arlington Avenue and State Route 25A. Photo by Jim Hastings.

Public officials are addressing an ongoing dispute between the Village of Port Jefferson and the New York State Department of Transportation involving a roadway obstruction at the intersection of Arlington Avenue and Route 25A on the long hill leading into Port Jeff.

Due to its steep slope, Arlington Avenue requires a specific grade to allow vehicles to safely traverse the intersection without bottoming out. Under the current design, instituted in September 2021 as part of DOT’s sidewalk initiative throughout the village, the roadway remains impassable.

Stephen Canzoneri, public information officer for DOT Region 10, addressed the issue in an email statement: “The New York State Department of Transportation is working with the Village of Port Jefferson to address longstanding terrain issues at the intersection of Arlington Avenue and state Route 25A and hopes to reopen Arlington Avenue as expeditiously as possible.”

“Prior to them doing the work, there was no issue there.”

— Kathianne Snaden, deputy mayor of Port Jefferson Village

Joe Palumbo, Port Jeff village administrator, shared that the DOT has not yet put together a workable plan to resolve the matter.

“Their design there is not acceptable in terms of navigating the road from 25A onto Arlington,” he said. “The grade there is not sufficient for vehicles to go up and down that road.”

According to Palumbo, the grade issue remains the primary point of contention between the two parties.

“DOT is in the process of putting a design together,” he said. “Their most recent design that they had sent over to us is not acceptable. The village would prefer to have something that was similar to the grade that was there prior to the paving, or better.”

According to Palumbo, under DOT’s present plan, vehicles can still get stuck at the bottom of the slope. Kathianne Snaden, deputy mayor and commissioner of public safety, said there had been no problem with the grade before DOT’s changes.

“Prior to them doing the work, there was no issue there,” she said. “It is a steep hill, but cars could easily get up and down, emergency vehicles could get up and down, school buses could get up and down.”

Snaden objects to the addition of a sidewalk along the pavement. She said that by adding the sidewalk, DOT had created a grade that is different from that of the pavement. According to her, this presented a safety hazard requiring the intersection to be closed to traffic.

“They paved 25A and additionally, with the paving, they added a sidewalk,” she said. “The sidewalk, for some reason, they put straight across the roadway, which we’ve never seen before. In doing so, it changed the grade from a slant to more of an angle because the sidewalk, obviously, is low.”

Snaden said that the roadway closure, put in place by DOT six months ago, is a significant risk to public safety. “My concern, of course, is the safety of the residents,” she said. “We had a house fire on Arlington almost two years ago. The roadway was impassable, but that time it was because of a downed tree. When that house caught fire, they couldn’t get all of the firetrucks to that house.”

According to Snaden, as long as the intersection remains blocked, this scenario may repeat itself in the future.

Community leaders still await land use codes for Route 25A in Setauket after a visioning report was approved by the town in 2017. File photo by Rita J. Egan

In 2016, the Route 25A Citizen Advisory Committee, consisting of community leaders and elected officials, was formed to envision a better Route 25A in the Three Village area.

At the end of 2017, the Brookhaven Town Board adopted the visioning report, resulting from those meetings. The report included recommendations to create a safer roadway with quality buildings, improve pedestrian and bicycle-friendly activities and preserve historic and natural open spaces along the corridor. The next step was for the town to begin developing land use codes based on the findings in the report. The land use planning phase would be the most significant as the new zoning codes developed would help guide the future development of businesses and affect the community for years to come.

George Hoffman, president of the Three Village Civic Association who co-chaired the advisory committee, said there have been hurdles along the way. These obstacles have included the pandemic shutdowns, members of the town Planning Board retiring and former town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) running for and winning her bid as New York State Supreme Court justice. Cartright also had difficulties securing funds for a planning consultant to help write the codes, which would have cost $200,000, according to Hoffman, while she was in office.

Hoffman said there is new hope that the land use planning process will begin as he and Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) will meet with the new planning commissioner at the beginning of March.

Hoffman said the earlier community meetings included the town hiring a planning company to help organize the focus groups and to write the report that was a result of the meetings. The members discussed a variety of subjects, including whether to allow mixed-use development, which many felt wouldn’t be the right  fit for the area.

The civic president said it has been a frustrating journey, especially as a similar process has been conducted in Councilman Dan Panico’s (R-Manorville) district and has been completed.

Hoffman said community leaders and elected officials had a consensus over what was needed. 

“I don’t think it was a radical change, but there were areas we were concerned about, “ he said.

Among those areas are the southeast corner of Nicolls Road and Route 25A where buildings have different architecture and signage and the area around East Setauket Pond Park, which lies on the western side of Se-Port Delicatessen on Route 25A. Many also expressed concern regarding the former Baptist church in Stony Brook, west of Stony Brook Road.

“Right now developers are driving what the development will be on 25A and not the community and the town,” he said. “That’s why you want the land use plan.”

Kornreich said he believes there are opportunities “to add amenities that are of the quality that people would expect in a community like this.”

He added in addition to taking the recommendations made by the visioning committee and adapting to land use codes, there are other strategies, too.

He said one opportunity is talking to property owners along 25A in the Three Village area.

“I started sitting down with the property owners in that corridor to see if we can find ways to bring them together to see if we can work together, maybe by them combining their properties and looking at things in a more imaginative way,” he said, adding it may lead to more dramatic and impactful solutions.

“Part of it is just simply using the existing rules that we have now to try to encourage people to redevelop their properties,” the councilmember said.

Route 25A in Setauket and Port Jefferson, pictured above in 2020, included numerous potholes and was in severe disrepair. File photo by Rita J. Egan

After a summer of slowdowns due to roadwork, it’s finally smooth sailing down Route 25A from Nicolls Road to Main Street/East Broadway in Port Jefferson.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said he’s delighted the work is completed.

“It’s been something we’ve been advocating for a number of years, and it’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally here, and it’s a beautiful job that they’ve done,” he said.

Before roadwork could be carried out by the New York State Department of Transportation, National Grid had to perform gas main replacement work, which involved maintenance of the underground distribution system. Work in East Setauket was scheduled to be completed by Memorial Day and in Port Jefferson by the end of June, according to a National Grid spokesperson. In August, National Grid returned because work took longer than expected in some spots.

The utility company’s work was necessary before milling and repaving of Route 25A by the DOT could begin. The project restored the road’s pavement by removing the existing asphalt overlay, repairing any damage to the underlying base and resurfacing with new asphalt.

Englebright said last week there were still small spots here and there that still needed residual work done by the DOT, and crews were at the locations.

“There were a number of holdups and glitches and delays,” Englebright said. “Quite frankly, the DOT did its best to overcome them, but there were some things that they didn’t really anticipate and found to be more complicated than they thought.”

The assemblyman said even though the work took a little longer than anticipated it was still done in the fall time frame that the DOT originally hoped for with the job.

In January 2020, former  Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced $151 million in new funding to complement $743 million in direct state aid provided through the PAVE NY Initiative for local road and bridge projects. Of the allocation, $6.6 million was planned to help renew the Route 25A stretch, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

Englebright brought the severity of local road conditions to the attention of the state DOT. The designated areas have been subjected to serious degradation due to water seepage into road seams and large clusters of filled potholes creating rutted, uneven and unsafe surfaces. One of the worst sections was the roadway near the East Setauket Post Office to CVS, but other sections had deteriorated rapidly, including the hill from Poquott into Port Jefferson.

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The New York State Department of Transportation advised motorists today that beginning the week of Sept. 13, travel lanes will be shifted on State Route 25A (West Broadway) between Nicolls Road (Suffolk County Route 97) and Main Street in the Town of Brookhaven and Village of Port Jefferson, weeknights between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. for approximately three weeks, weather permitting, to accommodate road resurfacing operations.

Motorists should follow the instructions of the flaggers for their safety and the safety of the highway work crew.

Electronic variable message signs have been posted near the work zone and will provide updated information.

Motorists are urged to plan accordingly and drive responsibly in work zones. Fines are doubled for speeding in a work zone.  Convictions of two or more speeding violations in a work zone could result in the suspension of an individual’s driver license.

For up-to-date travel information, call 511, visit www.511NY.org or download the free 511NY mobile app.

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Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating a crash that killed a man in Miller Place Saturday morning. 

Raoul Rasch was driving a 1934 Ford eastbound on Route 25A, near Panther Path, when the vehicle crossed into the westbound lane and struck westbound 2004 Ford pickup at 11:34 a.m., on July 31. 

Rasch, 79, of Rocky Point, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Jose Herrera, 54, of Centereach, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital with minor injuries.

Benten’s Kenneth Lee was surprised and grateful when he heard his friends and community members wanted to start a GoFundMe page for him that will help pay his overhead. Photo by Julianne Mosher

A Miller Place woman is asking sushi connoisseurs to help support a local business who was hit hard thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Benten Sushi and Fine Japanese Cuisine on Route 25A has been struggling to keep their doors open, like many restaurants and small businesses, over the course of the last year. 

Marlene DuBois, a friend of Kenneth Lee — who has owned the spot for nearly two decades — decided to start up a GoFundMe online, to help support him as he adjusts to this new normal. 

“He’ll never ask for help,” she said. “But he was mentioning there were some problems and I knew this was a serious thing.”

DuBois said she and Lee have been friends for about 30 years, since his family opened up their first location in Mount Sinai, but she’s also a good customer — noting that the sushi at Benten is different than all the rest. 

“He is a real stickler for authenticity,” she said. “It’s super fresh, he’s the only person who gets fish from local Long Island fishermen.”

Compared to other local sushi joints, he offers pure authenticity. A quiet business owner, when Lee mentioned his stress maintaining his shop throughout the pandemic, DuBois said something had to be done. 

“If we go on for another six months to a year in the pandemic, all our local eateries are going to be gone,” she said. “Any mom and pop shop that we can help, and support is important.”

DuBois created the online fundraiser in early February and to date it has over $2,500 of generous donations that will go to Lee’s location.

And he was shocked when he found out his friend was doing this. 

“I am so grateful,” he said, modestly. “It’s been very tough.”

Lee said the funds his friend raised will go to upkeep of the restaurant, which has been too expensive to fix in COVID times. 

DuBois said that supporting a restaurant, like Benten, is crucial as Long Island nears the one-year mark of quarantine. 

“If people don’t want to donate to the GoFundMe, I’m just trying to encourage them to order from him,” she said. “Support your favorite restaurants… It’s important.”

Visit gofundme.com for more information

Local residents cheered on Chris Pendergast as an old pickup truck brought him to his final resting place on his last ride. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Chris Pendergast, a Miller Place resident and founder of ALS Ride for Life, died Oct. 14. He survived 28 years with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis when most only live for five. In that time, he created an organization that has raised millions for ALS research and awareness.

He was renowned in the community for his annual rides, originally from Yankee Stadium to Washington D.C. and later from Riverhead to the Bronx to help fundraise for his organization.

Local residents say Chris touched the lives of everyone he met. Photo by Julianne Mosher

When Pendergast’s funeral Mass ended around 11:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 19, police escorted a line of Pendergast’s loved ones and his casket down Route 25A to Washington Memorial Park Cemetery in Mount Sinai, something friends and family designated “his last ride.”

People who had been touched by the late ALS activist lined the street cheering him on and saying their last goodbye. 

Some people knew Pendergast for decades, some knew him for only a year. But nonetheless, even in a short amount of time he made his mark. Several lined up on Route 25A in Miller Place to pay their respects.

“He’d be touched to see everyone here,” Miller Place local Patricia Poggio said. “He was also humble, but he would be really touched.”

Nancy Murray, another Miller Place resident, agreed, saying Pendergast was “a warrior” for ALS and for her friend who was also diagnosed with the disease. 

“What a wonderful man,” Murray said. “What an amazing, wonderful man.”

Jack Soldano, a 16-year-old Miller Place student, holds his own fundraiser, Comics for a Cause, to also help raise funds for ALS Ride for Life after being moved by Chris’ story. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Jack Soldano, a 16-year-old Miller Place student, said he met Pendergast in one of the Ride for Life founder’s visits to his school. Soldano had created a fundraiser, Comics for a Cause, in 2017 to help support ALS Ride for Life after being moved by Pendergast’s story. His fundraiser also supported the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society.

“I’ve had my nose in a comic book since I was little,” he said. “So I know a superhero when I see one.”

Kathy Sweeney, who knew Pendergast through St. Louis De Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach, agreed that he made his mark. 

“He encouraged people all over the world,” she said. “God left him on this Earth for all these years to help people. He was such a role model.”

 

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Suffolk County Police 4th Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a motorcyclist in Smithtown Aug. 12.

A 17-year-old was driving a 2000 Nissan Pathfinder westbound on Carriage House Road when he made a left turn onto Route 25A and struck a northbound 2007 Honda motorcycle operated by James Shellock at approximately 11:20 p.m.

Shellock, 22, of Smithtown, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The driver of the Nissan, of Nesconset, was not injured. Both vehicles were impounded for safety checks.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on the crash to contact the 4th Squad 631-854-8452.