Tags Posts tagged with "Route 25A"

Route 25A

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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FIle photo

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.

Legislators and residents are worried about how possible development in St. James and Stony Brook will affect traffic and water quality, while others are in favor. Photo from The Northwind Group website

Elected officials and residents are weighing in on proposed and possible developments along the Route 25A corridor in St. James and Stony Brook.

While the development of Gyrodyne — which would include subdividing its 75-acre land for a hotel, assisted living facility, offices and sewage plant — has been a hot topic of conversation on both sides of the town line, many are also keeping their eyes on the sites of the International Baptist Church in Stony Brook and BB & GG Farms and Nursery in St. James.

On The Northwind Group website, under the proposed developments tab, is listed a 55-and-over community called Stony Brook Meadows that will stand on approximately 12 acres of property.

According to the website, it “will address a need for housing for a valued regional resource and at the same time, help to alleviate various housing concerns.”

On its site, Northwind said the development will result in little or no impact on local streets and, as far as the economic impact, the property is currently not taxed due it being occupied by a religious institution, and “the redevelopment will result in increased tax dollars for the Town of Brookhaven, Suffolk County and New York State.” The website also claims it will provide much-needed jobs during the construction phase, and any new community residents will support local businesses.

In the Town of Brookhaven’s Route 25A — Three Village Area: Visioning Report, the International Baptist Church was cited as an ideal spot for an assisted living facility due to residents not driving and staff members coming and going at various hours. In order for the development to go ahead, a zoning variation would be needed from the town.

As for BB & GG, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) signed legislation in October that gave the county Legislature the go ahead to appraise the land for possible county purchase under the Drinking Water Protection Program. According to the resolution, an application was made by William Borella for the property to be considered for inclusion in the Suffolk County Farmland Purchase of Development Rights Program, which was approved by the Legislature in July. County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said the farm is currently in the appraisal status.

“Kara is exactly in the right direction by putting the resolution forward, and I strongly support both the concept of protecting this part of our historic North Shore and all of the national and local treasures that are found there.”

— Steve Englebright

Resolution Proposed

At its Feb. 11 general meeting, the county Legislature tabled a resolution to study a segment of road in the vicinity of the Smithtown and Brookhaven border. The resolution, introduced by Hahn, would allow the county to analyze the Route 25A corridor in St. James and Stony Brook to determine the regional impacts associated with proposed and planned development projects in this area. It would also identify vacant and preserved parcels as well as existing zoning, amongst other criteria. The resolution will be voted on at a future Legislature general meeting. The next general meeting, March 3, will be held in Riverhead.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who has addressed the Smithtown Planning Board at past public meetings about the downfalls of development along the corridor, said in a phone interview that the stretch of road in the area was recognized by the state in the early 1970s for its historic importance and a number of structures along or right off the route are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Englebright said nearby Stony Brook Harbor is the last unspoiled harbor in the vicinity. He added it has been sheltered by the Head of the Harbor village and wise land-use policies, and the proposed county legislation is important to reconcile some of the issues in the area.

“Kara is exactly in the right direction by putting the resolution forward, and I strongly support both the concept of protecting this part of our historic North Shore and all of the national and local treasures that are found there,” Englebright said.

Hahn said there needs to be real discussions in Smithtown, because while she understands development is needed, she said there needs to be smart planning.

“There’s just a lot of availability in an area that is bucolic and historic, and it would be wonderful if there could be a check on development,” she said.

The county legislator added, regarding the sewage treatment plant that is planned for the Gyrodyne property, that other spots may be more beneficial to many areas of the town. The property is located on the northern part of Smithtown. Currently, plans are to hook up Lake Avenue businesses to the sewage plant. She said there is a lot of state money for downtown development if it is done properly, and if a sewage plant would be positioned centrally, it can not only benefit St. James, but also Nesconset, Smithtown and Jericho Turnpike to get businesses off antiquated cesspools and hooked up to sewers.

“It’s shortsighted to propose a project that would only address one downtown, when properly placed it could help several, and spur economic development, help water quality, and help out development where it should be in our downtowns and by our transportation zones,” Hahn said.

“We take our responsibility as stewards extremely seriously. This plan has been a long time in the making. We have worked closely with the Town of Smithtown to accomplish their goals.”

— Richard Smith

Gyrodyne the Catalyst for Controversy

At the Legislature meeting, residents spoke for and against the resolution. Richard Smith, a member of the Gyrodyne board of trustees and mayor of Nissequogue, asked legislators to vote “no” when it came to the resolution.

Smith said he and the Gyrodyne board have worked with the Smithtown Planning Department to fulfill the requirements of the town, which he said has done comprehensive studies of what the community needs for their downtown areas.

He said the company has worked more than three years on a “smart plan” and added that Gyrodyne would have the right to subdivide more extensively than they have, but chose now to. There will be a 200-foot setback from Route 25A, and he said he feels the sewage treatment plan will protect the groundwater and Stony Brook Harbor. He also cited the benefits of the tax revenues to the town and county as well as the St. James Fire Department.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who is more concerned with this area than myself and my colleagues on the board,” Smith said. “We take our responsibility as stewards extremely seriously. This plan has been a long time in the making. We have worked closely with the Town of Smithtown to accomplish their goals.”

Recently, the civic group We Are Nesconset changed its name to We Are Smithtown to address all development issues in the town instead of just in their hamlet. The civic group originally worked to oppose a boutique hotel near the Watermill Inn on Route 347 and the proposed Nesconset development The Preserve at Smithtown.

“Our focus currently is Gyrodyne and its effect on the environment, especially given what’s going on with Grumman Aerospace,” Phyllis Hart, vice president of the group, said, referring to the so-called Grumman plume in Bethpage.

In a recent email to members to explain the name change, the group called the Nesconset projects and Gyrodyne a “terrible trio” of projects. The group said the three, as well as other developments, were “all but dead until 2018, when the town council “decided to prioritize development at all costs.”

Hart said the civic group asked the town to place a moratorium on any new building until Smithtown’s master plan is complete.

However, Smithtown’s public information officer, Nicole Garguilo, said in an email that a moratorium on development before the master plan is completed would be a reckless decision.

“The financial ramifications that a moratorium on development would have, not just on the town’s fiscal stability but on the taxpaying residents and small business owners, would be catastrophic,” she said. “Demanding a moratorium on development makes for a great press soundbite … but there’s not a planner or engineering professional on the Island that would make a recommendation like this and for good reason.”

Garguilo said a moratorium would not only hurt developers but homeowners and small business owners. She said a moratorium could also cause a rush to the town’s building and planning departments to submit site plans before it takes effect.

“The answer here is balance and moderation, as well as removing outdated ordinances and loopholes in the town’s existing master plan, to avoid unwanted types of development,” she said. “All of which we are currently doing.”

Gerry Duff, a 30-year resident of Stony Brook who lives on Stony Brook Road, said he recently joined the Three Village Civic Association due to his concerns about the proposed development at Gyrodyne and talk of others in the area. He said the congestion at the end of Stony Brook Road around rush hour, which he said starts around 3:30 p.m., backs up to the Stony Brook University entrance. He added he and others feel that Smithtown will receive the tax benefits of developments such as Gyrodyne, while Stony Brook will inherit the headaches.

“[Smithtown has] blinders on, and they look at one project at a time,” he said. “They’re looking at Gyrodyne for example. They’re not looking at the fact that 100 feet to the left and 100 feet to the right are two more developments going on. All of this should be taken into consideration, because all of this is going to add to the traffic and the congestion and the pollution.”

Stony Brook and Smithtown residents are concerned about future traffic problems if developments like Gyrodyne's proposed plans and others are completed. File photo by Jonathan Kornreich

One county committee’s hope to analyze the impact of development along a local road has been dashed for the time being.

At its Feb. 11 general meeting, the Suffolk County Legislature tabled a resolution to study a segment of road in the vicinity of the Smithtown and Brookhaven border.

The resolution, introduced by county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), would allow the county to analyze the Route 25A corridor in St. James and Stony Brook to determine the regional impacts associated with proposed and planned development projects in this area. It would also identify vacant and preserved parcels as well as existing zoning, amongst other criteria.

The county’s Economic Development, Planning & Housing Committee recently passed the resolution, 5-1, with only county Legislator Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) voting against it.

“I don’t disagree with the bill, but I’m a realist.”

— Rob Trotta

In the vicinity, the proposed development of Gyrodyne, also known as Flowerfield, which would include a hotel, assisted living, offices and sewage treatment plant, has drawn criticism from residents and elected officials in both Smithtown and Brookhaven. While the property sits in Smithtown, many have expressed concerns that additional traffic will impact Stony Brook, and the sewage treatment plant would have a repercussions on local waterways. Other properties with proposed and rumored development have also been cited as concerns.

Trotta, before the Feb. 11 general meeting, said he voted “no” in the committee because while he would like to see preservation of open spaces in the area, he said there is not much the county can do. In the case of Gyrodyne, the property is already zoned for light industrial use.

“I don’t disagree with the bill, but I’m a realist,” he said.

Trotta, as well as opposers of the resolution who commented at the Feb. 11 meeting, said Gyrodyne will only be developing 25 acres of their 75 acres and there will be a 200-foot buffer of trees and shrubs. The property is already partially developed with rental space.

Hauppauge-based lawyer Timothy Shea criticized the resolution and said larger projects in Yaphank and Ronkonkoma have not undergone the same scrutiny from the county as the Gyrodyne project. The lawyer said when representing the developers of Stony Brook Square, which is being completed across from the train station on Route 25A, he faced similar opposition.

“The resolution here is designed to wrest control of the Gyrodyne process from the Town of Smithtown,” he said. “The catalyst is the Stony Brook community. They are a very well educated, well-organized community.”

Natalie Weinstein, president of Celebrate St. James, said the sewage plant on the property would help with the revitalization of Lake Avenue. She said there have been a number of government and private studies that have been conducted regarding the roadway, adding the proposed Route 25A analysis would be a waste of money which could be better spent on a traffic circle at Stony Brook Road or to hire experts in street light timing. 

Speaking of Gyrodyne’s plans to include a buffer, Weinstein said, “The plan is actually a beautiful use of space from a design point of view.” 

Cindy Smith, who heads up United Communities Against Gyrodyne Development, spoke in favor of the corridor study that she hopes will take a cohesive look at both sides of the road.

“If they had actually done their homework back then they would know that 25A is already over capacity and the major north-south road, which is Stony Brook Road, is over capacity by 60 percent.”

— Cindy Smith

She said in 2017 the county’s Planning Commission’s superficial review for the Gyrodyne proposal allowed the project to move forward without a traffic study.

“If they had actually done their homework back then they would know that 25A is already over capacity and the major north-south road, which is Stony Brook Road, is over capacity by 60 percent,” Smith said.

George Hoffman, 2nd vice president of the Three Village Civic Association, also spoke in favor of the bill and said there needs to be a balance between smart development and preservation.

“I think it would be helpful to planners,” he said. “It’s not to stop Gyrodyne. It’s just to get a good picture of what’s going on there, and that information will help planners in Smithtown and in Brookhaven make the right choices for the community.”

In a phone interview Feb. 12, Hahn said she was disappointed that the resolution was tabled.

She said when it comes to Gyrodyne she disagrees that the 200-foot buffer would be beneficial. She said it will not block the view of what they want to build. Hahn added that the study is not only about Gyrodyne but also proposed and rumored projects.

She added when heading east on the 25A corridor, the familiar locations around Gyrodyne and BB & GG Farm in St. James make you feel like “you’re home.”

“It’s so bucolic,” she said. “It’s beautiful. It holds a special place in my heart. Just the sense of place it establishes with those open vistas. I would just hate to lose that because it’s on both sides of 25A.”

She said she is concerned that there hasn’t been an adequate traffic study or consideration of a regional sewage plant, adding the amount of nitrogen that travels into the Long Island Sound has to be looked at carefully.

Hahn indicated she is not opposed to revitalization in St. James, but she said there needs to be a longer discussion of a sewage treatment plant and to look at a central location that would be more beneficial to other areas in Smithtown.

“I think there’s a bigger plan that should happen for that so that we’re not talking piecemeal with just one downtown getting what they want,” she said. “There could be something on a larger scale that would benefit multiple communities, multiple business districts and protect our water.”

The resolution will be on the agenda for the county Legislature’s March 3 general meeting which will be held in Riverhead.

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Work proposed for the end of this year will eliminate the access ramp from 25A onto Nicolls Road from eastbound Route 25A. Photo from Google Maps

Due to consistent resident complaints, Suffolk County is planning to start work on easing traffic concerns on the northern part of Nicolls Road sometime by the end of the year. The planning has been several years in the making.

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.

William Hillman, Suffolk County Department of Public Works chief engineer, attended the Feb. 3 Three Village Civic Association meeting to discuss changes planned for the county road.

“It’s a relatively simple project,” he said. “Vehicles traveling eastbound to go south on Nicolls Road — many of them weave across to make the left on Lower Sheep Pasture Road. Simultaneously, someone who has made a left from 25A, quite often there’s conflicts there. We’re looking to eliminate that.”

He said the slip ramp on Route 25A approaching Nicolls will be removed, bringing a right-turn lane up to the signal. The only time the right-turn lane will stop is when the left-turn lane on the westbound side has the green arrow.

“About 80 percent of the cycle is green for this movement, so it’s only 20 percent that it would be stopped,” Hillman said. “From a capacity standpoint, it will have very little effect.”

The chief engineer said while Route 25A is a state highway, the county received a permit to remove the access ramp due to it causing problems on the county road.

Daniel Dresch, assistant chief engineer, said the lane will be about 450 feet long. When asked if a study was done regarding traffic on Route 25A, he said it wasn’t undertaken due to it being a state road, and instead the county focused on remedying the problems on Nicolls.

“It’s well outside of the scope of what we can do,” Dresch said.

However, the county has conducted a study of the area at Nicolls Road, Hillman said. During the morning peak hour, between 8 and 9 a.m., about 600 cars make the right from 25A. In the same hour, approximately 130 vehicles then make a left onto Lower Sheep Pasture Road.

Civic members asked what may happen to pedestrian crossings.

Hillman said the changes will improve pedestrian safety due to the county eliminating the slip ramp. Suffolk will also construct sidewalks from the north entrance of Stony Brook University up to 25A on the west side of Nicolls and a sidewalk on the east side as well.

Members also questioned Hillman and Dresch about bicyclists. Hillman believes the removal of the slip will help cyclists heading eastbound on 25A due to not having the conflict with drivers making a right before the light.

Those in attendance also used the opportunity to ask about possible plantings in the median, and if the civic association could help. Hillman said while community members can’t legally work on medians and islands, which are considered part of the road, members can sponsor landscaping work on the spaces.

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The Town of Smithtown's Whisper the Bull statue as decorated for the 2017 holiday season shows the Happy Hanukkah sign that was destroyed. Photo from Corey Geske

By David Luces

Smithtown’s iconic Whisper the Bull, a 5-foot-tall statue located at the intersection of Route 25 and Route 25A in Smithtown, narrowly avoided damage in a single-car accident Dec. 24.

On Christmas Eve, a driver veered off road near the intersection into the green space, colliding into the base wall. The unidentified driver was transported to the hospital with critical injuries, according to town officials. 

The retaining wall around Whisper the Bull statue was damaged, lower left, in a Dec. 24 car accident. Photo from Corey Geske

The bronze statue avoided any major damage and the base wall and the area around the monument sustained minor damage, according to Smithtown spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo.

“Thankfully there was no damage to the statue or its base,” Garguilo said. “The concrete around the landscape wall, a Christmas sign as well as a wooden menorah were the only things damaged.”

The iconic statue was recently ruled eligible for landmark status on the New York State and National Register of Historic Places run by New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The monument commemorates the legend of the town’s origins that claims founder Richard Smythe rode a bull to establish the town’s boundaries.

Smithtown resident Corey Geske appealed to Smithtown town officials in December to sign off on a formal application for the registry as the official owners of the monument.

Geske said she was relieved to hear the statue and the surrounding area avoided serious damage, though suggested it would good to keep an eye on it and to get experts to look at it.

“The base [of the statue] seems to have been saved,” Geske said. “The brick landscape wall surrounding the statue looks to have kept it from any damage.”

There were already plans in place to repair the base of the statue prior to the accident, according to Garguilo. These repairs included fixing a visible crack along “Smithtown” in the inscription and can be seen running from front to back of the platform as well as additional landscaping.

This is part of the legacy of the community and the town. It would be a shame if it was lost for future generations.”

— Corey Geske

Garguilo said after the incident the town will try to speed up the planned renovations to the statue’s base.

Since 2017, Geske has been working on a three-part plan for the revitalization of downtown Smithtown, which includes preservation of the statue as part of a proposed historic corridor.

One of the criteria the state park’s department will consider when evaluating the monument for placement on the state Register of Historic Places includes its “artistic value” and current condition, according to the state’s website. Repairing the crack in the statue’s base will not have any impact on Whisper’s eligibility, according to Garguilo, but any damage to the statue itself could have negatively affected its ability to qualify for landmark status.

“This is part of the legacy of the community and the town,” Geske said. “It would be a shame if it was lost for future generations.”

A left-turn arrow will be installed at the intersection of Route 25A and County Road 21 in Rocky Point for safety reasons. Photo by Kyle Barr

The accident-prone intersection of Route 25A and County Road 21 in Rocky Point could be getting a new traffic light that local officials hope will curb injuries and fatalities.

“In response to community interest, the New York State Department of Transportation will update the traffic signal at Route 25A and County Road 21 with a protected left turn indicated by a green arrow phase for vehicles turning left from eastbound Route 25A onto northbound [Hallock Landing Road],” said Stephen Canzoneri, public information officer for the regional DOT office that covers Suffolk County. “This is being done following an extensive review of the intersection and will reflect the traffic pattern for westbound Route 25A.”

Canzoneri said that a new left-turn signal will be installed by the state DOT in September. A protected turning light allows drivers in the turning lane to strictly take a left while other drivers going straight are stopped at a red light. Westbound Route 25A already has a protected turning light.

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said the intersection has a long history of vehicular incidents over the years. The best way to avoid problems there, she said, was to avoid making left turns onto Route 25A or Hallock Landing Road.

“That’s a very busy intersection, and there’s a lot going on there,” Bonner said. “People need to drive defensively and plan their routes so they don’t have to make a left.”

Bonner has been in contact with state DOT officials and they have sent surveyors out since 2017 to analyze the dangers of the intersection, she said.

The intersection at the corner of Route 25A and Rocky Point Yaphank Road, as Route 21 is also known, is a notoriously dangerous intersection with new accidents reported every year, some of which have caused fatalities, such as the death of Rocky Point resident Carol Sardegna in September 2016. One recent crash occurred Aug. 15 at the intersection, according to the Rocky Point Watch Facebook page.

The state DOT said it would not install a left-turn arrow northbound and southbound on County Road 21 because it would reduce time for vehicles on both roads, according to a state DOT letter received by Bonner. The letter also said the state department plans to relocate the east and southbound STOP bar pavement markings and upgrade the County Road 21 crosswalks to be more visible.

Bonner said she believes the turn signal should help reduce accidents at the intersection.

“People by law will only be able to make a left when you can,” Bonner said. “It doesn’t mean people still won’t try to do it, but I feel confident more people obey turning signals than not.”

The Rocky Point site slated for a residential community for seniors. Photo by Kyle Barr

As drivers hurtle down Route 25A from either direction into the hamlet of Rocky Point they are met by a crossroads. If they keep straight, they will link up with North Country Road and head into the Rocky Point business district lined with shops, restaurants and services. If drivers take a right and continue along Route 25A, they circle around North Country Road, bypassing all those businesses.

It’s been the story since the bypass was constructed in the late 1990s, but it’s just one of the challenges facing business owners in Rocky Point’s commercial district as they wait to see much discussed revitalization.

“The bypass really put downtown on life support,” Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said. “You can’t just put a bubble around Rocky Point — you can’t just freeze it in time — but I say you have to have a healthy respect for the history of it and plan your development sensitively.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner and developer Mark Baisch stand near a Rocky Point site slated for a residential community for seniors. Photo by Kyle Barr

Revitalization has been planned for years and small steps taken, but much is left to be desired by those yearning for a vibrant downtown along North Country Road and Broadway, hoping to return back to the prosperity of the mid-20th century, when Rocky Point’s population experienced a boom and new businesses flourished. While new restaurants like the Broadway Market have created a sensation, the memory of stores that have closed down also looms, such as when in April 2017 McCarrick’s Dairy, an utter staple in the community that had been open for 71 years, closed its doors.

While Rocky Point is the only hamlet between Riverhead and Port Jefferson that has a semblance of a real downtown, its small size and limited space have led to unique revitalization issues. As also arises whenever the term revitalization gets thrown around, retaining the historical aspect of the downtown while growing it with a mind toward the future is a delicate balance.

In 2007 the Town of Brookhaven paid Vision Long Island, a nonprofit that advocates for transportation-oriented development, for a charrette about Rocky Point revitalization that was released in 2008. The plan called for a combination of retail, business and residential all in one place, much like what has been attempted in Patchogue, Farmingdale and dozens of other pockets of Long Island. That plan was rejected by the community, which felt it would destroy the small town feel of the area.

“[The Vision plan] was much too aggressive in pro-business and development,” president of the Rocky Point Civic Association Charles Bevington said. “I’m in favor of slow-growth opportunities for small businesses and restaurants. You know you can’t come in and dictate development. We have too many problems with water. We have too many problems with nitrogen in our systems.”

Eric Alexander, the director of Vision Long Island, said his organization’s plans hinged upon sewers, which the community rejected.

“They wanted goods, services and restaurants, something walkable and quaint but that was as far as they wanted it,” Alexander said. “That’s fine, but the numbers didn’t work without the sewers. Revitalization has gone in a few different directions since we left them.”

Some residents said sewers would only be a hindrance to the community’s growth.

“You can’t get the density on Broadway to support the cost of sewers,” said Linda Albo, the owner of Albo Real Estate on North Country Road. “Downtown is just not the right place for sewers.”

In 2012 and 2013 Bonner and Brookhaven secured a $1.2 million grant for road and traffic light improvements along North Country Road. It included setting up new light fixtures and fixing the curb cut along the main road’s intersection with Broadway. Yet real revitalization that would bring business flooding downtown is still a dream, even as some think its advent is just on the horizon.

Mark Baisch, the owner of development company Landmark Properties Ltd., is the latest to attempt to reinvigorate downtown Rocky Point. Its On the Common project promises 40 one-bedroom apartments for seniors inside 10 buildings located along Prince Road and King Road, just north of North Country Road. Also included are plans for a large green space along Prince Road set up for community activities such as the Sunday Rocky Point Farmers Market and a new VFW Memorial Museum right in front of the Brookhaven municipal parking lot. A quarter of the apartments will be reserved for veterans, Baisch said.

The apartments hold a distinction from other residential projects meant to stimulate downtowns. While projects in Patchogue and Ronkonkoma have tried to get young people living in space that is part residential and retail, Baisch said he hopes to do the same with the 55-and-older community.

“There is a huge need for it,” Baisch said. “There’s so many 90- to 100-year-old people living up in the hills of Rocky Point, and nobody even knows they exist. They sit in their house with the rooms closed up not knowing if they’re going to have a way to get out of the next snowstorm. It’s not a great way to live out your twilight years.”

Businesses on North Country Road have pointed to the construction of the Route 25A bypass as a detriment to growth. Image from Google Maps

Some residents are looking forward to the On the Common project with the possibility of leaving home ownership behind.

“I think it is a great idea,” Rocky Point resident Claire Manno said. “I am a senior citizen and have lived in Rocky Point for 20 years. I will have to sell my house eventually because we can’t afford it for much longer. I’d like to stay in the area if possible.”

Other community members questioned why there will only be one-bedroom apartments available.

“I became disabled two years ago,” Rocky Point resident Christine Cohn Balint said. “I have a three-story home and I cannot manage stairs. So we will be selling. But this ‘community’ will not be built for me — they won’t be ready. One bedroom only? They should offer two bedrooms also, if so I’d consider it.”

Baisch said he hopes to start construction around October.

There is hope in the community that good things are coming. The Broadway Market, which opened in March, has made a big splash. Some also looking point to plans in 2019 to start construction on the Rails to Trails project, which will create a biking and hiking path along the old rights-of-way and train rails that run parallel to the North Shore. That path will run north of North Country Road and give people walking and bike access directly into the heart of the commercial district.

“The Rails to Trails is going to have the biggest positive impact,” Bevington said. “It’s going to be along the line of walking and bicycling, and we have two bicycle shops in town that can be aided by the project. That’s really something.”

Alexander said he believes while there wasn’t community support for his organization’s plans, these upcoming projects could result in something good for the area.

“The community has to trust the change, any change that occurs,” Alexander said. “There are a lot of good people over there working in good faith — people who care deeply about the community — that’s what’s most important.”

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John Cerato stands next to an overgrown median on Route 25A in Miller Place. Photo by Alex Petroski

Growth is usually a positive thing, but growth in Miller Place has become a stick in the eye to a longtime resident and elected official alike.

John Cerato, a 20-year Miller Place resident who previously lived in Rocky Point, told TBR News Media this week he has progressively seen the condition of vegetation on many of the medians on Route 25A — a New York State highway — falling into a state of disrepair as it becomes overgrown and unkempt. He said he sees it predominantly as an aesthetic issue, but also has some safety concerns related to the increasingly out-of-control shrubbery. 

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) echoed much of Cerato’s observations about the medians in a June 18 letter to the editor in which she proposed removing the shrubs and weeds taking over the road dividers and replacing them with flower beds.

A median near where North Country Road and Route 25A merge in Rocky Point, which includes a sidewalk and crosswalk, is almost too overgrown to walk on.

“This will not only save money by reducing maintenance (which obviously is not being done as often as needed), but it will also provide a visually pleasing appearance as we travel along Route 25A in the 6th Legislative District,” she said. 

In the letter, Anker said she has facilitated a partnership between the New York State Department of Transportation and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office through the Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program to provide some maintenance on the medians recently, but even that hasn’t quite been enough.

“We recently heard back from the [NYSDOT] regional director, Joe Brown, that later this month they will begin to start replacing the 12 overgrown medians on Route 25A with a blue lyme grass similar to what has been successfully installed on Route 112,” said Anker’s Legislative Aide Robyn Fellrath-Maresca in an email July 19. “The grass is easier to maintain and minimizes weed growth. Legislator Anker appreciates the response and hopes that the change will improve the visual landscape of the community.”

Fellrath-Maresca added that Anker’s office had received numerous complaints about the medians in recent months from constituents.

Stephen Canzoneri, public information officer for the regional DOT office that covers Suffolk County, shared an update on the matter via email July 25.

“NYSDOT is improving the medians along Route 25A,” he said. “The current landscaping will be removed in the coming weeks and replaced with blue lyme grass, the same grass which is already in place along the renovated portions of Route 112. DOT will continue to work with residents and local elected officials to beautify our roadways.”

Cerato pointed to a particularly troublesome area on Route 25A in Rocky Point, where it merges with North Country Road on its north side. A walkway between the two roads is overgrown to the point that those looking to cross over Route 25A from north to south would have to step onto North Country Road or fight through the shoulder-high vegetation. Cerato said he has seen cases when parking at North Shore Little League baseball fields south of Route 25A is full, so people who park across North Country Road and walk to the fields are forced into unsafe situations.

“To have to sort of put up with this is ridiculous I think,” he said.

The Miller Place resident said he is also concerned that if an accident occurs on one side of the road and causes the cars to jump the median into oncoming traffic, those motorists would have no time to react.

“There should be some visibility,” he said. “You’re not going to have any idea they’re coming.”

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

The Suffolk County Police Department Highway Patrol Bureau, assisted by the New York State Police, arrested seven people during an overnight sobriety checkpoint in the Port Jefferson Station area June 29-30.

Police officers conducted a sobriety checkpoint at the corner of Route 25A and Hallock Avenue in Port Jefferson Station. The checkpoint was conducted as part of ongoing July 4th holiday enforcement operations for the prevention of injuries and fatalities associated with driving while ability impaired by alcohol and drugs. A total of 603 vehicles went through the checkpoint.

The following people were charged with driving while intoxicated:

  • Michele Best, 40, of East Islip
  • Roger Piacentini, 55, of Coram
  • George Gallo, 49, of Rocky Point
  • Blanca Escobar-Avalos, 32, of Washington, D.C.
  • Christian Ramos, 21, of South Setauket

The following were charged with driving while ability impaired:

  • Tariq Rana, 27, of Coram
  • David Vargas, 53, of Hauppauge

The above individuals were scheduled to be arraigned at 1st District Court in Central Islip June 30.