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Route 347

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In an email to the Three Village Central School District community, Kevin Scanlon, superintendent, announced the passing  of eighth-grader Qamat Shah.

“It is with a heavy heart that I share that earlier this morning the district was informed that a Murphy Junior High School eighth-grader, Qamat Shah, tragically passed away after an accident on an area roadway,” Scanlon wrote. “We are extremely saddened to hear of this heartbreaking news and know that a sudden loss like this can have a profound effect on the entire school community.”

Scanlon continued that a crisis intervention plan was implemented in the school district. Grief counselors would be on hand for students and staff at all schools as needed. Scanlon also instructed parents with “questions or concerns about how to navigate discussing this news with their child” to contact the main office of their child’s school. Secondary-level schools will also provide support through the guidance office or the high school counseling center.

According to Suffolk County Police, David Zerella, of Port Jefferson, was driving westbound on Route 347 at Wireless Road in Setauket on March 2 when his 2015 Dodge Charger struck bicyclist Qamat Shah at 6:30 p.m. as the 14-year-old was crossing Route 347. Qamat was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Zerella and his passenger were not injured. The vehicle was impounded for a safety check. Suffolk County Police Sixth Squad detectives are investigating and asking anyone with information to call 631-854-8652.

 

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Work will begin once again on New York State Route 347, and North Shore residents couldn’t be happier.

Drivers navigating the roadway from Gibbs Pond Road in Nesconset to Hallock Road in Stony Brook have noticed construction cones beginning to appear. The upcoming work is part of a $71 million state Department of Transportation project, which continues the roadway improvements made to Route 347 years ago in the Smithtown area. Future plans include changes on the state road as far east as Port Jefferson Station.

Through the years, it has become more and more apparent that the road built decades ago is over capacity. Called the Smithtown Bypass in its western portion, the roadway initially served as a way to avoid the heavy traffic of downtown Smithtown. Today, drivers use side roads in the town to avoid Route 347.

Rerouting presents various problems. As drivers speed through residential neighborhoods, congestion appears in spots previously unanticipated. Residents who once lived on quiet streets now have trouble just backing out of their driveways or are hesitant to let their children play anywhere near the roadway.

Adding new travel lanes, traffic signals, raised planted medians and crosswalks to 347 will help ease congestion and keep cars on the main thoroughfare instead of traveling through residential areas.

According to NYSDOT, the road work between Gibbs Pond and Hallock roads will be completed by 2024. While that is a two-year span, the benefits will be well worth the wait.

Suffolk County residents are reminded regularly of the importance of building affordable housing and independent living units to keep our young people and retired residents here on the Island.

Accelerated by the pandemic, which prompted rapid urban flight from New York City, we are also facing an increase in population with more people attracted to the North Shore.

As our area experiences population growth, our infrastructure needs to be modernized and expanded. While there is some hesitancy to widen roads, add overpasses and traffic circles — since these changes might attract more development in the area — traffic is here now. With smart planning, our elected officials on town, county and state levels can work together to determine which roadways in our towns and villages could benefit from widening and other improvements. Continuing the roadwork on Route 347 is a step in the right direction. There is also the prospect of federal infrastructure bill monies.

While many don’t want Long Island to become life in the fast lane, it’s time to accept that it’s no longer country roads taking us home. A proper balance needs to be found to make life a little easier for those who live here as they navigate their day on North Shore roadways.

Photo by Colleen Kelly

By Jennifer Corr 

Chants like “My body, my choice” echoed through big cities like Washington, D.C., and Manhattan Saturday as part of the Rally for Abortion Justice, and that same passion made it to what is known as Resistance Corner at the junction of Route 347 and Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station. 

The national Rally for Abortion Justice movement, according to the Women’s March Network, comes after comes after the Supreme Court’s rejection of an emergency request to block the Texas Heartbeat Act. 

Coming into effect Sept. 1, the bill bans abortion at the point of the “first detectable heartbeat,” which could occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy — a point that many are just finding out they’re pregnant. At least 13 other states failed to attempt enacting similar bans after being blocked by courts. 

“I believe in a women’s right to choose,” said protester Bryan Campbell, who was pushing a stroller occupied by his infant. “I think it’s ridiculous what’s going on in Texas and I’m here to support the women in my life: my partner, my friends, my daughter. This is for their future and for everyone’s future.” 

Campbell was one of hundreds of men, women and children who gathered on the busy corner, holding signs in protest of such laws. Some even took to dressing up as characters from the “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a best-selling novel and TV series that depicts a totalitarian society that treats women as property. 

Donna Reggio was among those dressed in red robes and white bonnet. 

“It’s a dystopian fantasy that’s no longer a fantasy,” she said. “We’re going backward with women’s rights and we’re here to show that we don’t want to go there anymore.” 

Before Roe v. Wade — a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 that protected a women’s right to have an abortion without excessive government restriction — only more affluent women had access to safe and legal abortions. However, it is estimated that between the 1950s and ’60s, the number of illegal abortions, either self-induced or done through often dangerous or even deadly procedures, ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million a year.

Rally organizer Shoshana Hershkowitz, of Long Island Social Justice Action Network and Suffolk Progressives, was on Resistance Corner Saturday to make sure her daughter did not grow up with fewer rights than she was able to enjoy throughout her lifetime. 

“Our own congressman [Lee Zeldin (R-NY1)] tried to overturn Roe in the past year,” she said. “We can’t just think of this as a somewhere-else situation. It was happening right here.” 

That’s why the LISJAN and Suffolk Progressives joined with grassroot organizations like Long Island Progressive Coalition, Long Island Activists, New HOUR for Women & Children – LI, Show Up Long Island, NY02 Indivisible, Planned Parenthood, among others, to prevent impediments in a woman’s reproductive rights from happening anywhere — including here in New York. 

“We just put out the word to the different Facebook groups and [other various groups] who are invested in keeping our rights and getting women in office,” said Kat Lahey of Long Island Rising, adding that several speakers including Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) were also in attendance. “You can see that there’s a high demand to keep women’s reproductive rights.” 

But not all were in support of the movement. Along with some disapproving remarks made by drivers who were passing by, one woman stood on the other side of the highway holding a sign, with photos of babies, that read “Please love me, I love you.” 

The woman would not disclose her name, however she did share that she goes to her local Planned Parenthood every Saturday morning to pray. She said she was especially upset about New York State’s allowance of late-term abortions. 

Yet the 2019 law, passed on the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, only allows late-term abortions when the mother’s health is in danger. 

When asked about the counterprotester, Hershkowitz said that she was more than welcome to cross the road and speak with herself and other organizers. “But I’m not changing my mind,” she said. 

It was not the first time that groups like New HOUR and LISJAN gathered on the corner, as they also showed up for issues ranging from gun safety to the Trump-era ban on refugees from majority-Muslim countries. 

“Our community has come quite accustomed to gathering in this space and standing up for what we believe in,” Hershkowitz said. “So really, it’s like we almost have muscle memory because of having to gather here for so many years.”

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Local residents at the February PJS/T Civic meeting contest with developers over a planned addition to the Nesconset Shopping Center. Photo by Kyle Barr

A potential pad building in the middle of the Nesconset Shopping Center parking lot has some PJS community members agitated, but property owners say such an addition will help keep the shops viable long-term.

Design plans for the new proposed pad building at the Nesconset Shopping Center. Photo by Kyle Barr

The shopping center, located along Route 347 slightly west of Terryville Road, is owned by Brixmor Property Group, a national retail property corporation. The proposed pad would include a 7,000-square-foot, single-story island that would house two separate storefronts. 

Brixmor representatives said the two fronts would house a dentist office and a bank, respectively. Plans say the Bethpage Federal Credit Union, currently located at the far western end of the shopping center, would move to the building that would include a drive-through. Reps added they are in talks with Aspen Dental, which has offices in upstate New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, for the other space. Town of Brookhaven zoning for the property would remain the same, retail J-2.

Nicholas Andreadis, the regional vice president of leasing for Brixmor’s north region, said Bethpage Federal Credit Union would likely vacate the shopping center if it isn’t able to secure a drive-through.

At a Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic meeting Feb. 25, representatives of Brixmor and its hired architects came to speak on the proposed addition. 

Some residents had concerns with the location of the pad, especially in how it effectively bisects the parking lot. The lot has three entrances from Nesonset Highway, and the middlemost one would be directly in front of the proposed storefront. A central lane running through the parking lot currently allows drivers to go back and forth parallel to the highway, but plans show the lane would be cut off just before the middle entrance. Cars would have to stop and either go around the pad or stop at several stop signs. Company representatives said this was at the request of the town to slow down traffic through that area.

The changes would reduce the total number of stalls by 25 from 599 to 574.

The shopping center is currently full of stores including a Dollar Tree, Five Guys burgers and fries and Carnival Restaurant & Pizzeria. There is only one vacant location. On Saturday, a new art studio One River  School of Art & Design opened its doors at the shopping center.

Some residents complained they have used the central lane to bypass having to go onto Route 347 and skip the confusing and often dangerous intersection between the highway and Norwood Avenue. Sal Pitti, the civic president, said taking such shortcuts is, in itself, unsafe. 

Site plans for the pad building show a 7,000-square-foot addition in the center of the parking lot, mandating a reconfiguration of traffic patterns. Photos by Kyle Barr

“That’s where a lot of the problems start when people try to come in and out of the parking lot,” Pitti said. 

Will Zieman, 6th Precinct COPE officer, also spoke to the problems of using that parking lot as a cut through.

“Is it reasonable to predict what people are going to do off 347?” he said. “It’s very hard for you, as a driver, to predict what another vehicle will do coming out of that shopping center.”

Though, as Port Jeff Station resident Jennifer Simoes put it, even being forced to drive in front of the storefronts because of the new pad is itself dangerous for pedestrians.

“I don’t want to go in front of the storefronts either, because I don’t want to hit anyone who’s coming out with their pizza,” she said. “I’m not going to want to go in there, and there’s another Dollar Tree and Marshalls in the
other direction.”

Pitti agreed the larger issue comes from increased pedestrian traffic in an often busy parking lot.

Charlie McAteer, the civic’s recording secretary, also suggested the company look at how pedestrians were to get from the pad building to the main shopping center.

“What I’m seeing where you’re walking right now, you’re going to end at a walkway and you’re into striped parking, and you will have to walk between parked cars,” he said. “There will be people who want to go to the bank and then go eat.”

Reuben Twersky, a project director for Brixmor, said people will often ignore walkways and crosswalks and routes even if they were created.

“We would like to do it in as safe a manner as possible,” he said.

The area along Route 347 has been a particular hotbed of issues with both vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Last year, 17-year-old Jenna Perez, an employee at Five Guys, was killed in a hit-and-run while crossing Nesconset Highway outside a crosswalk.

In addition to the changes in parking lot design, Brixmor plans to reduce the height of lights to 20 feet and add 19,000 square feet of landscaping to the front of the property bordering Nesconset Highway. 

The company is also looking to redo and move the sign displaying the names stores within. Designs show the proposed sign going 26 1/2 feet up from the ground on new brick pylons. 

Philip Butler, an attorney from Hauppauge-based Farrell Fritz, said the company’s next steps are to submit final comments to the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals by March 11. After the zoning board of appeals gives approval for variances, then the company will be back in front of the Planning Board to look at traffic and parking. The company is also awaiting on New York State Department of Transportation on a traffic study before it can move fully ahead.

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Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating a three-vehicle crash that seriously injured a woman in Stony Brook Nov. 20.

Mariana Debbe was driving a 2003 Honda Civic westbound on Route 347 when she attempted to make a left-hand turn onto southbound Nicolls Road at approximately 1:30 p.m. The Honda was struck by a 2005 Mercury Mountaineer being driven northbound on Nicolls Road by Deanna Lee Hermida. The Honda then struck a 2015 Toyota being driven by Jose Salas that was heading eastbound on Route 347 and making a left-turn to head northbound on Nicolls Road.

Debbe, 26, of Miller Place, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of serious injuries. Hermida, 23, of Ridge, was transported to the same hospital with minor injuries. Salas, 63, of Brentwood, was not injured.

All three vehicles were impounded for safety checks. Detectives are asking anyone with information on the crash to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

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The space in Smithtown where Chick-fil-A wants to establish a new branch. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Chick-fil-A is finally coming to Hauppauge, though the last store operating where the corporate company intends to build doesn’t see much of a reason to celebrate.

“We knew it was going to happen, but of course it’s very sad because we’ve been there for over 30 years,” said Donna Ahr, matriarch of the family-run Bagel Gallery Inc., locally known as Hot Bagels in Hauppauge and Smithtown.

The bagel shop is the last store that remains open in the doomed shopping plaza.

We knew it was going to happen, but of course it’s very sad because we’ve been there for over 30 years.”

— Donna Ahr

The Town of Smithtown town council conditionally approved the site plan for the restaurant chain to demolish the existing 15,743-square-foot  shopping center at the corner of Route 347 and Route 111 in Hauppauge to make room for a 4,650-square-foot counter-service restaurant.

The round-the-clock open bagel shop has endured in that location since 1980, owned and operated by the Ahr family since 1985. In 2016, local residents got wind that Chick-fil-A was intending to tear down the shopping center where Hot Bagels was located to put in one of its restaurants. In the months that followed, close to 5,000 people signed a Change.org petition to try and keep Hot Bagels around. Though the fast-food chain won its petition for a zoning change two years ago to create a drive-thru, the restaurant’s site plans were only approved this month.

“I got a year and half more out of it than I originally thought I would, so God is good,” Ahr said.

The location houses two shopping centers, both of which are independently owned. Those stores in the building directly opposite the impending Chick-fil-A fear what could happen once construction begins.

It’s going to kill my business, or at least hurt my business with all the construction going on.”

— Tony Barbato

“It’s going to kill my business, or at least hurt my business with all the construction going on,” said Tony Barbato, the owner of Ciro’s Pizza located at 550 Route 347. “I think the chicken shop coming in is the stupidest thing ever. Everybody in that shopping center was pretty successful, but then they threw everybody out so they could send more money to [a national corporation] instead of keeping it local.”

In February 2018, the Ahr family opened up a second location along Hauppauge Road in Smithtown, a little less than two miles from their  original storefront. Even though Ahr and her family appreciate that many of their loyal customers will still be sticking around, their old location is where the family holds many of their fondest memories.

“It will be a very sad thing when the store goes because as much as people love the new location its still not the store that we all grew up in; my customers, me, my kids, my customers kids,” she said.

The approved Chick-fil-A site plans call for a reconfiguration of the parking lot surrounding both current shopping centers to allow for drive- thru access and additional spaces.

“It will be a very sad thing when the store goes because as much as people love the new location its still not the store that we all grew up in.” 

— Donna Ahr

Al Amato, founder of the Garden City-based Amato Law Group, PLLC, who is representing Chick-fil-A, attended the Sept. 20 meeting and said both locations would provide an adequate amount of parking individually, and that the new property would not block access to the other shopping center. Neither Amato nor a representative of Chick-fil-A were available to say when demolition on the old structure and construction of the new restaurant will begin.

In the meantime, Bagel Gallery is the last store in that shopping center that remains open. Ahr said she has been notified a tentative date to move out is Nov.10. She said she hopes to host a going away party for their old shop before they have to close for good.

“When I do have the exact date I want to do [something] special,” Ahr said. “They will tear it down in front of our eyes, and we’re all going to cry.”

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Browns Road homeowner Linda Costa speaks out at the Sept. 20 Smithtown Town Board meeting. Photo by Kyle Barr

Nesconset residents fear construction of a proposed Dunkin’ Donuts on Route 347 could disrupt their neighborhood.

A small group of Nesconset residents spoke out against developer Browns & 347, LLC who has requested a change of zone to the 2.5-acre property on the corner of Route 347 and Browns Road from R-15 Residential Single Family to Whole Sale Service Industry at a Smithtown Town board meeting Sept. 20.

The developer has proposed plans to construct a 12,450-square-foot, two-story office building and a Dunkin’ Donuts on the wooded lot, according to attorney Vincent Trimarco Sr.

The official notice posted regarding the rezoning on the corner of Route 347 and Browns Road in Nesconset. Photo by Kyle Barr

Nesconset residents are decrying the plans saying it will negatively affect property values and increase traffic near Sprofera Park. For Browns Road resident Linda Costa, whose home is adjacent to the proposed project, the developer’s plans are particularly alarming.

The plans for the proposed project will create additional parking spaces on two sides of
her property.

“Now your adding more parking behind my house — I have parking next to my house and across the street from my house,” Costa said. “I feel like I’m living in a parking lot.”

Costa and other residents fear a zone change would hurt their ability to sell their homes in the future, especially if they wished to break away from this new commercial development.

“I would probably try to sell my home before the development goes through, but I would have to be completely honest with that person beforehand that the zoning changed,” Costa said. “It would be much harder to sell.”

The proposed development was previously denied by the town’s planning board in May 2017, due to traffic complaints caused by an entranceway off Browns Road, according to Trimarco. The new site plan would limit access to two driveways on Route 347, and include a 30-foot barrier of greenery along Browns Road to disguise the property from the residential street.

In addition, the applicants have agreed to provide 22 parking spaces along the eastern end of the property to the town for municipal purposes and access to Sprofera Park.

Maureen O’Connor, who lives across from the proposed project, said she feared traffic would increase if cars wanted to come down Browns Road to get to the new Dunkin’ Donuts. The problem is exacerbated with kids crossing the street to get to Sprofera Park and a school bus stop that is situated along Browns Road.

Attorney Vincent Trimarco explains the developers plans for a Dunkin Donuts and office building in Nesconset. Photo by Kyle Barr

“The traffic pattern already around this busy intersection would not only increase, but would increase the disruption in the flow of traffic as cars attempt to enter or exit onto this business on [Route] 347,” O’Connor said.

When residents questioned why developers wouldn’t create more single-family homes on the site, Trimarco said having more homes connected to Browns Road would result in more traffic. He also said that since the development will be shielded from view by that greenery it shouldn’t affect property values.

“We would have to have access through Browns Road, and you would have the same problem the neighbors are concerned about,” Trimarco said.

Nesconset resident Salvatore Vitale, a homeowner on Michael Place overlooking the park, said he fears a new parking lot and a Dunkin’ Donuts could lead to more loitering and vagrancy.

“Every few nights there’s a police car parked [in the Sprofera Park parking lot] to make sure there’s no transients or loitering,” Vitale said. “Now you put a building there, and those parking areas will need three police cars every night.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) did not give a date as to when the town will make a decision.

A rendering of the approved plan for a Tesla showroom on Route 347 in Nesconset. Image from Smithtown Planning Department

The Tesla Inc. showroom on Route 347 in Nesconset will offer students a chance to delve into the nuts and bolts of how the luxury electric cars work.

The planned $700,000 renovation to the former Sixth Avenue Electronics shopping center at the corner of Route 347 and Hillside Avenue for a new Tesla dealership will initially work as a showroom, a service center as well as an educational and experimental center in an ongoing partnership with Farmingdale State College, according to Mohamad Zoghi, the acting chair of the automotive technology department at Farmingdale State College.

“We are working with Tesla recruiters,” Zoghi said. “They recruit based on the demand of technicians at their locations. So, once there is availability at Nesconset location, [we will have interns there.]’’

“We are working with Tesla recruiters… They recruit based on the demand of technicians at their locations.”

–Mohamad Zoghi

The showroom would be the eighth Tesla-owned facility to open in New York. Normally, New York State law requires all car manufacturers to sell their vehicles through franchises. However, Tesla struck a deal with the state to permit it to operate up to five of its own dealerships.

There is pending legislation in both the state Senate and Assembly that would allow Tesla to open an additional 15 dealerships within the state as long as five of the new locations are in upstate New York. Both bills are currently stuck in committee.

In the meantime, Tesla will use this space for its continued educational partnership with Farmingdale students that was first announced in August 2017. Based on the needs set by Tesla, students in the two-year and four-year automotive management programs can potentially obtain an internship working on Tesla’s electric vehicles and other products.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said the renovations will give life to a long blighted area off of Route 347.

“They were given permission to go inside and clean up that building, and now that they have their site plan they can go in and start the interior renovation and the exterior facade renovation,” Wehrheim said. “It’s cleaning up a real blighted section of that area.”

It’s cleaning up a real blighted section of that area.”

– Ed Wehrheim

The plans call for a more than 40,500-square-foot showroom with an attached service center in the renovated footprint of the old electronics store. The exterior lot would be relined to provide parking space for more than 300 cars in Tesla’s inventory as well as spots for potential customer use.

The company behind the Tesla property development 1000 Nesconset LLC had its site plan finally approved at the July 17 Smithtown town board meeting. The company filed for a change of zone application for the property to transition from commercial business and neighborhood business to wholesale industrial in order to accommodate the outdoor storage a car dealership needs. Attorney Vincent Trimarco Sr., who is representing the development company, said that zoning on the property has already been changed and construction is close to beginning.

“It’s imminent now that they’re going to start,” Trimarco said.

Other Tesla-owned locations on Long Island include a display gallery inside Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station and a dealership in East Hampton.

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John Scrofani Jr. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County police arrested a Bohemia man Jan. 21 for allegedly robbing TD Bank in Smithtown.

John Scrofani Jr. entered TD Bank at 714 Route 347 at 10:57 a.m. Sunday and presented a note to a teller demanding cash. The teller complied and Scrofani Jr. fled. Fourth Precinct officers responded and located him in a vehicle on Route 347 at Brooksite Drive in Smithtown a short time later.

Major Case Unit detectives charged Scrofani Jr., 31, with third-degree robbery. He was  held overnight at the 4th Precinct and arraigned on Jan. 22 at First District Court in Central Islip.

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A Rocky Point man was ejected from his vehicle as a result of a crash in Port Jefferson Station Feb. 22 and transported to Stony Brook Hospital for treatment of serious injuries, according to Suffolk County Police. Sixth Squad detectives are investigating the two-vehicle crash.

Brian Carter was driving a 1975 Jeep westbound on Route 347 when he attempted to make a left turn onto Crystal Brook Hollow Road and his vehicle was struck by an eastbound 2009 Chevrolet at about 8:20 p.m.

Carter, 25, of Rocky Point, was ejected from the vehicle and was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of serious injuries. The driver of the Chevrolet, Zachary Pisoni, 24, of Medford, was not injured.

Both vehicles were impounded for safety checks and the investigation is continuing. Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.