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Shawn Nuzzo

A satellite view of the Steck-Philbin Landfill site that the County plans to repurpose in cooperation with the Suffolk County Landbank. Image from Suffolk County Landbank Corp.

A North Shore-based group has answered the county’s calls to revitalize the site of a former landfill in Kings Park.

The Suffolk County Landbank Corp., which is a not-for-profit entity that works with the county to redevelop tax-delinquent properties, put out a request for proposals to completely rejuvenate eight brownfield spots across Suffolk, including the former Steck-Philbin Landfill on Old Northport Road in Kings Park. This week, Stony Brook’s Ecological Engineering of Long Island answered with a proposal to build Long Island’s first community-owned solar farm.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said the county wanted to team up with the private sector to revitalize the various brownfield sites and described them as blights on their respective communities. Shawn Nuzzo, president of Ecological Engineering of Long Island, said his group’s plan had the potential to pump renewable energy into the Island’s power grid almost immediately.

In a statement, Nuzzo described the 6-megawatt solar farm proposal as the largest landfill-to-solar project in New York state that could generate nearly 8 million kilowatt hours of solar electricity in its first year.

“Unlike other recent utility solar projects on Long Island – where large developers have proposed to clear-cut forests, raze golf courses and blanket farmable lands – our proposal takes a dangerous, long-blighted and otherwise useless parcel and revives it as a community-owned solar farm,” Nuzzo said. “The Kings Park Community Solar Farm will be a quiet, low-intensity land use generating nearly no automobile traffic after installation. As equally important, we will return proper ecosystem services to the site through the ecological restoration technique of phytoremediation — using native, low-light, low-lying and drought tolerant plants known for their long-term soil restorative properties.”

Related: Former landfill in Kings Park to be repurposed

A property is classified as a brownfield if there are complications in expansion or redevelopment based on the possible presence of pollutants or hazardous materials, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The site on Old Northport Road is still owned by Richard and Roslyn Steck, according to the Suffolk County Landbank Corporation Request for Proposals, though penalties and interest bring the total owed in property tax on the roughly 25 acres of land to nearly $1.5 million. The property has been tax delinquent since the Richard Steck, Gerald Philbin Development Co. was found to be using the site to dispose of waste that it did not have a permit for in 1986. It is located less than a half mile east of the Sunken Meadow Parkway and about a half mile west of Indian Head Road.

The former Steck-Philbin Landfill on Old Northport Road in Kings Park is one of the eight blighted brownfields that the Suffolk County Landbank requested proposals for repurposing. Image from Suffolk County Landbank Corp.
The former Steck-Philbin Landfill on Old Northport Road in Kings Park is one of the eight blighted brownfields that the Suffolk County Landbank requested proposals for repurposing. Image from Suffolk County Landbank Corp.

The property is next to the future location of a multisport complex being developed by Prospect Sports Partners LLC. The $33 million plan for the 44-acre site was approved in July 2015.

“This has been a long time coming and creating policies and procedures for the Landbank has been an arduous task, but I’m beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Suffolk County Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) said earlier this year when the county sought private sector support to revitalize the site. Cilmi is a member of the board of the Landbank. “Hopefully, soon we’ll see the remediation of this and other properties, which benefits our environment. We’ll put the properties back on the tax rolls, which means millions of dollars of savings for taxpayers.”

Nuzzo said Ecological Engineering of Long Island would finance, build and operate the solar farm through a crowdfunding campaign seeking small investments from everyday Suffolk County residents. The plan, he said, would be to sell 25,000 “solar shares” in the farm at $500 a piece.

“We calculate that the Kings Park Community Solar Farm will generate more than $24 million in gross revenue over a typical 20-year power purchase agreement. We will offer our investors a guaranteed 150 percent return on investment with annual payments deposited over the 20-year lifetime of the agreement,” he said. “Through design efficiencies we will maximize photovoltaic energy output to not only increase profit for our investors but also to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels, which today — despite many residential and commercial PV installs — still represents the majority of Long Island’s energy production.”

The plan has already received support from various North Shore elected officials, including state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who threw support behind Nuzzo in a letter to the Suffolk County Landbank Corp.

“I am always happy to see younger members of our community active in civics, so it was especially heartening to this vibrant young man at the helm of my local civic association,” he said. “Mr. Nuzzo has also worked with the Setauket Harbor Task Force and was responsible for securing the donation of the use of a ‘solar trailer’ from a local solar installer to power our Setauket Harbor Day Festival last September with renewable solar energy.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) described Nuzzo as a “knowledgeable leader on environmental issues” who was “well versed in many modern environmental technologies and practices, including solar projects, LEED process and green technology.”

The Suffolk County Landbank was established in 2013 after its application was approved by the New York State Empire State Development Corporation. Some of the other brownfields included in the request for proposals include Hubbard Power and Light and a gas station on Brentwood Road in Bay Shore, Lawrence Junkyard in Islip and Liberty Industrial Finishing in Brentwood, among others. Cumulatively, the eight properties owe more than $11 million in delinquent taxes as of August 2015.

Residents and Brookhaven officials will address ways to improve Route 25A near the Stony Brook train station, above, in the first phase of the study. Photo by Giselle Barkley

After decades of waiting, Brookhaven officials said they were taking legitimate steps toward giving Route 25A a face-lift — starting with Stony Brook.

The town board approved a resolution on Thursday, Jan. 14, to conduct land use studies for Route 25A in Three Village and Port Jefferson Station. The town said it would be holding several meetings over the coming months at which residents can suggest ways to improve the de facto Main Street, especially near the Stony Brook Long Island Rail Road station and where Route 25A meets Nicolls Road.

This three-phase study will start with the Smithtown line to Nicolls Road. The two other phases, including the Port Jefferson Station study, will follow. Route 25A near the Stony Brook train station is part of the first phase.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said the town will use money from a contingency fund in its operating and capital budgets to fund the study. The town hasn’t established dates, times and location, but Romaine said meetings will begin once the weather gets warmer in March or April.

“It’s long overdue,” Romaine said about the study. “We will be sending letters to [the Department of Transportation]  and ask them to participate because a lot of the work we’re going to comment on are things [DOT has] to do, like additional sidewalks.”

Several civic leaders across the Three Village and greater North Shore community came out in full support of the land use study on Thursday with hopes of spurring the town board to expedite progress along 25A.

“The intersection of Nicolls Road and Route 25A is really the gateway to the communities of the Three Village community, and quite frankly it’s sort of a hodge-podge of commercial and retail buildings,” said George Hoffman, vice president of the Three Village Civic Association. “We also have a real problem with safety … because the corridor is really lacking crosswalks and sidewalks.”

The town also asked Stony Brook University to participate in this study. Similar land use studies and plans for Route 25A were conducted in 1963 and 1975 according to Robert de Zafra, former president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook. A third study was conducted around 20 years ago.

Current civic leaders like Shawn Nuzzo, president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook, have tried kick-starting revitalization efforts for Route 25A near the Stony Brook train station for several years. Nuzzo has often been at the forefront of all discussions relating to upgrading 25A and ushering in a new era of commercial and residential prosperity across the main road.

At Thursday’s town board meeting, Nuzzo said the town was finally taking a different approach when working with civic groups.

“There’s been a lot of false starts with this area because it was based in the past on this old top-down model, where the people at the top were going to tell the people at the bottom what they’re going to live with for the next 50 years,” Nuzzo said at Town Hall before Brookhaven passed the resolution. “But this model now with this corridor study and community visioning, this is a bottom-up model.”

Over the last several years, Stony Brook University students have worked with their professors to propose idealistic and practical ways to improve the area by the train station. The groups have been hosting events with residents at the Bates House in Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket and other locations, where they have pitched their plans based on various land studies of the 25A corridor.

Professor Marc Fasanella from Stony Brook University has been leading entire classes on the revisioning of Route 25A and challenging his students with finding realistic ways to make the corridor more appealing visually and logistically.

In a previous interview with Times Beacon Record Newspapers, he said the crux of the challenge was to think outside the box, no matter how outlandish the plans might seem.

“We looked at this as a tremendous opportunity for our students and for the community moving forward,” Fasanella said. “Are we dreaming? Of course we’re dreaming.”

Nuzzo said the area by the train station has united people throughout the community, but the entire corridor, especially near the LIRR, can not only be safer but also more visually appealing to the community.

“This is an issue that transcends political lines,” he said. “This is an issue that has unified both the civic association and the Chamber of Commerce who have historically been at odds with one another. We’re in that redevelopment phase of this corridor and this is really a once in a lifetime opportunity to have a community vision to have something nice for 75 to 100 years.”

Phil Corso contributed to this report.

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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.”

This state Department of Environmental Conservation map hilights special groundwater protection property in yellow, which includes a lot in the center on which a North Shore developer hopes to build.

A Setauket-based civic group is drawing a line in the sand as a North Shore developer looks to build three houses on an environmentally sensitive area.

Brookhaven is home to two of Long Island’s nine special groundwater protection areas, designated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and Charles Krohn of Windwood Homes, Inc. has applied for variances to divide his land within one of them — in East Setauket near Franklin Avenue and John Adams Street —  into three separate plots. But Shawn Nuzzo, president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook, argued the town should adhere to existing zoning laws there to protect the area’s aquifer.

The DEC’s special groundwater protection area in question is a large, oddly shaped chunk of land on the North Shore that includes Stony Brook University, St. Georges Golf and Country Club, Ward Melville High School, wooded properties on the southern part of Setauket, pieces of Lake Grove and more.

“[This area] is critical to ensuring the future potability of our underground water supply,” Nuzzo said in a statement read aloud at the April 22 Brookhaven Town Board of Zoning Appeals meeting. “Granting variances to allow for these substandard lots would serve to undermine not only the state environmental conservation law, but also … Brookhaven’s own adopted comprehensive land use plan.”

The civic president said the town granted the area special protection in its 1996 land use plan — the most recently adopted plan to date — because of its environmental significance. In his testimony, Nuzzo asked the town to deny the requested variances solely to protect the environmental standards already in place, adding he was not opposed to development all together.

“If the applicant wishes to develop this property, we recommend they adhere to the town’s existing zoning ordinances,” he said.

Krohn, who lives in East Setauket, purchased the land from the town in September 2014 and said he was looking to build three homes between 3,000 and 3,500 square feet in the same community where Windwood Homes has already been developing for years.

“The houses might, in fact, be smaller than this footprint,” he said at last month’s Board of Zoning Appeals meeting. “These are not sold right now.”

Diane Moje of D&I Expediting Services in Farmingville represented Krohn at the hearing and said the goal was to make three equal lots for development.

East Setauket resident Thomas Cardno has lived near Franklin Avenue for nearly a decade and said he worries that overdevelopment would create a safety risk for young children, referring to the variance proposals as “jamming three homes on there” as a means to maximize profits at the expense of the families in the area.

The cul-de-sacs in the area are too crammed already, he said. “Just put two homes in there and call it a day, at this point.”

Moje, however, said the town has already granted similar variances for other homes in the surrounding area, making the current proposal nothing out of the ordinary.

“This is not out of character and not something this board hasn’t addressed previously, and granted,” she said.

Christopher Wrede of the Brookhaven Town Planning Department reviewed the proposal and said the variances posed no significant environmental impact. The Board of Zoning Appeals held the public hearing open, to get additional information in the coming months.

The Greening of 25A Committee wraps up another successful cleanup event at the Stony Brook Railroad Station last week. Photo from Kara Hahn

By Kara Hahn and Shawn Nuzzo

The Greening of 25A Committee had an absolutely beautiful day for our 2015 spring cleanup at the Stony Brook Railroad Station. The sun was shining and volunteers worked hard to spruce up this important and extremely visible gateway to our community.

Our appreciation goes out to all the civic and community volunteers: Councilwoman Cartright, Jennifer Martin, Gretchen Oldrin-Mones, Herb Mones, Paul Willoughby, Jesse Davenport, Makenzie Gazura, Graham Ball, Alyssa Turano, Zach Baum, Charles Tramontana, Donald Amodeo and Elizabeth Zamarelli. Special thanks to the Long Island Rail Road, Frank Turano and Ron Gerry for lending us garden tools, along with other supplies and equipment that made the event possible.

Special thanks to the Three Village Chamber of Commerce and their volunteers David Woods and Bruce Reisman for opening up their office in the beautiful station house and to chamber member David Prestia of Bagel Express for the tasty bagels and coffee.

This year, we had an extremely large, contingent of undergraduate volunteers from Stony Brook University — more than 50 students participated, and thank you to Emily Resnick and Joy Pawirosetiko of Commuter Student Services and Off-Campus Living for help with recruiting the student participants.

Once again, we also had volunteers from Ward Melville High School Key Club — thank you to Kyra Durko, Ashley Donovan, Gianna Forni, Ben Sullivan, Jack Kiessel, Shannon Dalton, Josie Wiltse, Alyssa Abesamis and Dylan Buzzanca.

Thank you to the Town of Brookhaven Wildlife and Ecology Center for donating flowers.

As always we could not hold the clean up without the support of Town of Brookhaven Superintendent of Highways Dan Losquadro and his highway crew, who truly make our event possible.

Thank you to everyone involved, we could not have done it without you.

Legislator Kara Hahn represents the 5th District in the Suffolk County Legislature and Shawn Nuzzo is president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook.

Stony Brook University runs a lab on the waterfront at Flax Pond and researchers there say they worry about the deteriorating water quality there and its impact on the wildlife. Photo by Phil Corso

The Village of Old Field is looking to do some ecological spring cleaning.

Flax Pond, a 146-acre tidal wetland on the North Shore, is in dire need of dredging before it deteriorates into an environmental disaster, nearby residents and advocates have contested. The pond’s last dredge was in 1947.

Residents’ names have been flooding a petition touting more than 210 signatures to date calling for action at the inlet there.

John Robinson, who lives near the water with his wife Fredelle and is at the mercy of the declining water quality there, has been helping circulate that petition and said the buildup of sand within the inlet has prevented the pond from properly emptying at low tide. He said he fears the region is just one major storm away from forcing the inlet to close off completely, which would have devastating effects on the ecosystem there, as the inlet acts as a marine nursery for the Long Island Sound.

“We have been watching the pond deteriorate over the last quarter of a century,” he said. “I’ve seen really major changes in the vegetation, the depth and the sea life. There are a lot of things going on, but one key aspect of this is the loss of adequate outflow.”

Fredelle Robinson, an avid fisher and nature lover, said the negative impacts were both aesthetic and environmental. Not only is the wildlife changing, but her waterfront home could be at risk if the water does not drain, she said.

“I used to stand in the inlet at night and fish. We could hear the striped bass and their tails flopping in the water,” she said. “You just don’t hear that anymore. Saltwater marshes all over are under stress and this is just another example.”

Old Field Mayor Michael Levine and the board of trustees also called on legislators from the county, state and town levels to join with Stony Brook University and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to see the pond dredged and protect the fin and shellfish populations known to once thrive there.

A throng of concerned citizens, elected officials and Stony Brook University researchers gathered at the Childs Mansion near the inlet Sunday for a lecture sponsored by the Friends of Flax Pond to explore ways to address the clogging.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) has been at the forefront of the Friends of Flax Pond’s efforts to address the deterioration on the water and spoke at the group’s Sunday panel. He said there were many factors that went into the best course of action for both the inlet and the surrounding community, all of which needed to be ironed out before taxpayer dollars get thrown into the mix.

“While we’re searching for money to do something to make sure the inlet doesn’t close, we’re also searching for answers to the questions of how to actually write a description of what we’d like to have done,” Englebright said. “We don’t have a scope of work yet that is well defined.”

Nancy Grant, program director with the 12-year-old grassroots Friends of Flax Pond group, said the large mound of sand in the middle of the inlet has gotten worse with each passing year. And if not addressed, the saltwater pond could potentially revert back to a freshwater body, which it has not been for nearly 200 years, she said.

“Flax Pond serves as a buffer to that whole area as far as flooding is concerned. It has also been supporting a lot of the health of the Long Island Sound,” Grant said. “It absorbs the crashing of the waves. There are homes at risk. There are species at risk.”

Grant’s group hosts a lecture series each winter and also sponsors various environmental workshops in conjunction with Stony Brook University, which works out of a lab directly on the inlet. Steve Abrams, manager of the lab, described Flax Pond as one of the most pristine marshes on all of Long Island. He said a dredging was necessary in order to sustain marine life at the inlet.

“It has been really important for studying plants and animals in a relatively natural state. But over the last number of years, serious storms have changed things,” he said. “Tides don’t drain the way they should. It would be unfortunate if species there lost their place to live and it would be less than desirable for research.”

Shawn Nuzzo, president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook, said Flax Pond was an example of what the Long Island Sound faces as a whole and includes factors beyond the small Village of Old Field. He said old-fashioned power plants, like one in nearby Port Jefferson, dump warm water into the sound, which translates directly into the Flax inlet. He cited recent legislation out of the Town of Brookhaven requiring improved wastewater standards in the Carmans River on the South Shore and said similar action was needed on the north end.

“We must take a hard look at how we are going to stop this loop if we intend on preserving our waterways for future generations,” Nuzzo said.

Board approves zone change for Heatherwood housing community

Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association President Ed Garboski speaks against the housing proposal on Tuesday, as Shawn Nuzzo, Three Village’s civic leader, looks on. Photo by Erika Karp

Despite numerous objections from residents, local civic associations and the community’s own councilwoman, the Town of Brookhaven has paved the way for a 200-unit retirement community at the Heatherwood Golf Club in Terryville.

Councilman Dan Panico (R-Manorville) sponsored the resolution for a zone change from A Residence 5 to Planned Retirement Community for the property, which is located at Arrowhead Lane and Route 347 and falls in both the Comsewogue and Three Village school districts. The town board approved it in a 4-3 vote, with Councilwomen Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Connie Kepert (D-Middle Island) and Supervisor Ed Romaine dissenting.

The planning board still must approve the project’s site plan before the project can move forward.

According to the site plan application, about 25 acres of the property would be developed into the 55-and-over community, while about 45 acres would remain open, leaving a nine-hole golf course.

Since the property would be developed at an increased density, owner Doug Partrick in exchange would donate a 40-acre lot he owns in the Manorville Farm Protection Area — in Panico’s district — for open space.

While the zone change public hearing was held on Tuesday, the project had been discussed for months at Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association meetings, and that group, along with the neighboring Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook, came out strongly against it.

However, the Town of Brookhaven Planning Department supported the project — Planning Commissioner Tullio Bertoli said the proposal is compatible with existing development in the area and fits in with the town’s smart growth efforts, as it is located along a commercial corridor.

Residents and civic leaders who attended the public hearing expressed concerns about traffic and losing open space in their community. In addition, many were displeased to see the development proposed for the golf course, as the community is preparing to redevelop and revitalize the Route 112 corridor, on another side of town.

“[It’s] dismaying to see a town planning commissioner come before you and say this is a location that meets all criteria,” Bob de Zafra, of the Setaukets and Stony Brook civic, said at the public hearing. “It does not.”

He also criticized Panico for bringing forth the resolution.

De Zafra asked Panico and new Councilman Neil Foley (R-Blue Point) to recuse themselves from the vote, as the officials received campaign contributions from a company under the umbrella of Partrick’s Heatherwood Communities, the retirement community developer.

According to campaign financial disclosure records, Friends of Dan Panico received a $500 contribution from Heatherwood House at Coram LLC in September 2013, while Friends of Neil Foley received a $1,000 contribution in October 2014.

“There’s nothing illegal in that,” de Zafra said. “There’s nothing dishonest in that and I certainly don’t mean to imply that, nor am I due a lecture about it.”

Panico, who said he brought forth the zone change resolution because it was in the best interest of the whole town, interjected during de Zafra’s comments and said, “Why would you bring it up?”

Frank Gibbons, a board member of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, said he was concerned about the development’s impact on traffic.

“There are good arguments on both sides of this question, but I think that when we look at the best thing for the entire township, Mr. Panico, … how about taking care of Terryville, Port Jefferson Station and South Setauket,” Gibbons said.

The town board placed conditions on its zone change approval, including that Partrick must make the land donation, remove a billboard at the golf course, construct a sidewalk on the east side of Arrowhead Lane and complete a new traffic study for the Terryville site.

Heatherwood’s attorney, David Sloane, of Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman LLP, spoke about the positives of the project, including a decrease in the use of pesticides and more property taxes to the school districts without an influx of students.

“This proposal is the least intensive use that could be developed on this site,” he said.