Tags Posts tagged with "Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim"

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, at podium, announces new downtown revitalization stimulus funds for Smithtown communities. Photo from Bellone’s Flickr page

By Sabrina Artusa

Suffolk County is giving Kings Park, St. James and Smithtown a sizable chunk of downtown revitalization stimulus.

These funds, made available by the pandemic economic recovery allotments, will help revitalize the downtown districts while investing in developing infrastructure in downtown areas.

Through the JumpSMART Small Business Downtown Investment Program, which awards money to nonprofits, organizations and businesses, and the Jumpstart program, which awards money to towns and municipalities, the county gave $5.5 million to improve the local downtown economies.

“We recognize that our long-term economic prosperity is dependent to an extent on the success of our downtowns,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). “Our downtowns are the places where we have the vibrancy we need to keep and attract young people in our community.”

The Smithtown Performing Arts Center was awarded $500,000, and Celebrate St. James, a leading organization in preserving arts and culture in St. James, was awarded a $100,000 JumpSMART grant. The town was additionally given a $900,000 JumpStart grant for the acquisition and restoration of the century-old Calderone Theatre, which is currently in disrepair.

Kings Park, Bellone said, has one of the most prosperous downtowns in Suffolk County. The Agape Community Sports Services was awarded a $1.45 million JumpSMART Award. Bellone described the organization as a “major regional tourism asset” expected to attract 350,000 people to Kings Park.

The Town of Smithtown was also awarded $2.5 million for traffic and street improvements in Kings Park.

“Every single penny we receive will be well spent, and it will be to benefit the Smithtown community,” Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said.

“This is how we are able to raise local talent, invest in local communities and, more importantly, put your tax dollars back in your hands, which is why we are doing it.” Minority Leader Jason Richberg (D-West Babylon) added.

Also in attendance were legislators Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) and Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), Suffolk County’s commissioner of Economic Development and Planning Sarah Lansdale, and Jonathan Keyes, director of downtown revitalization and transit-oriented development.

“Without the Legislature voting to put these funds in place in this year’s operating budget and in the capital budget over the last couple of years, this wouldn’t be possible,” Bellone said.

All photos by Steven Zaitz

The late Brooklyn Dodger great Jackie Robinson once said that a life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.

It was only fitting that the St. James-Smithtown Little League Opening Day parade and celebration coincided with Major League Baseball’s annual day of recognition of Robinson.

Over 1,000 players, coaches, parents, and baseball fans marched and lined the sidewalks of Woodlawn Avenue west to Gaynor Park in St. James on Saturday as the league marks its 66th year of little league competition — and the impact of this celebration of baseball’s return to Smithtown could be measured by the smiles of everyone who was there.

The 11 and Under Girls Softball team, who won the New York State Championship in July of 2022, rode in the Fighting Two Fire Engine of the St. James Fire Department, which led the parade west on Woodlawn to the new artificial turf field at Gaynor. The champs were honored lavishly throughout the day. Five hundred other players and coaches followed them, dressed in full uniforms, all carrying decorative team banners with one hand and waving to adoring onlookers with the other. 

This trip down Smithown’s version of the Canyon of Heroes was the thrill of a lifetime for the girls.

“The fire truck arrived and one of the firefighters asked the girls to enter, the shocked look on their faces said it all,” said Coach Sean Singh, who piloted the team to glory. “As the fire truck slowly drove along the parade route, they quickly realized that the cheering from friends, family and community was all for them! Having so many people come down to personally congratulate the young ladies was such an honor and their success spoke volumes to the quality of programs Smithtown provides such as our Little League program, along with the opportunities we can provide for our younger athletes.”

Singh’s daughter, Jiselle, plays shortstop for the team.

“Riding in that fire truck was so cool,” Jiselle said. “When I heard the cheering and knew it was for us, I almost cried.”

Tears of joy and laughter were de rigueur on this day, as hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn and soft drinks were available to all at no cost. League sponsors pitched tents along the foul line of Gaynor Field 3 to ply their wares and dole out raffle tickets, most to kids who didn’t know or care what the prizes were. Two giant, rainbow-colored bouncy houses rollicked behind the centerfield fence, as the rain that had been predicted earlier in the week for this day, exercised a reasonable restraint.

SJSLL Board Member and Co-Softball Coach Peter Russo welcomed the crowd and then league President and Master of Ceremonies Richard Tomitz introduced the girls individually in his customary carnival barker style.

“This is a great day and great celebration of our league, our town and our State Championship girls,” said Tomitz. “It is the first time we are able to have this party on the new turf field here at Gaynor and I’m happy the rain held off and everyone is able to have a wonderful time and stay mostly dry.”

Tomitz then brought Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim to the podium and he, along with Councilman Tom Lohmann, who played in SJSLL in the late 1960s, threw out the ceremonial first pitch of the season to softballers Gabrielle Krayewski and Riley Connelly. Players and coaches formed a semi-circle around the two politicians as parents and fans cheered from the bleachers.

Wehrheim also gave his congratulatory remarks to the softball champs, the league and spoke glowingly about the project team who helped to complete the turf field. This improvement was the clincher that enabled St. James-Smithtown to acquire the hosting rights to the New York State Championship later in the summer.

“This is an amazing group of girls, and they represented this town with class and excellence,” Wehrheim told the crowd. “This new field surface and improved grounds project was truly a team effort with the league, town hall and the community and is a great example of your tax dollars working for Smithtown.”

Lucas Neems, who is six years old, is not yet focused on a championship, but was nevertheless having the time of his life.

“I loved marching with my new baseball friends,” said Lucas, who plays on Pietro’s Sandlot Scrappers. “I also loved the chocolate ice cream and the pretzels.”

When the ceremony was over and most of the crowd took to the free food, it was time to play ball for a select few. On the main diamond, Singh, Russo, Eric Hanson and Mark Sciortino shared coaching duties for a mixture of girls in blue and red, while minor league boys kicked off the baseball season on Gaynor Field Two. Later on, the 12-year-old boys, the oldest group in the league, played a game on the new turf. This ballgame closed out the party, as sponsors, food vendors and face-painters folded up their tents. 

“It was a great time,” Tomitz said. “We had competitive baseball and softball, everybody seemed to have fun, and I’m happy the girls got the recognition and kudos that they deserve.  If they win again this year on our home turf, I hope Supervisor Wehrheim gives them one of those giant keys to the city.”

For more photos, visit tbrnewsmedia.com.

Map included with the petition submitted to the independent federal agency Surface Transportation Board by Townline Rail Terminal, LLC to construct and operate a line of railroad. Blue lines show proposed tracks.

Community members are voicing their opposition to a proposed rail yard in Kings Park.

A petition titled “We Oppose Townline Rail Terminal” started by Keegan Harris, has already received more than 1,600 signatures on Change.org to stop the proposed construction of a rail spur that would extend approximately 5,000 feet off the Long Island Rail Road Port Jefferson Branch line and be located near Pulaski and Town Line roads.

The petition was posted after The Smithtown News published several articles by managing editor David Ambro, with editorials during January. Townline Rail Terminal LLC, an affiliate of CarlsonCorp. with property on Meadow Glen Road in Kings Park, made a proposal to the Surface Transportation Board — an independent federal agency — that asks for the tracks to be used for commercial use. Among the uses would be the disposal of incinerated ash and construction debris using diesel freight trains. The incinerated ash would then be trucked between the rail terminal and the Covanta waste facility on Town Line Road in East Northport. The proposal from Townline also said “that the line would provide freight transportation to CarlsonCorp’s transloading facility and could serve other local shippers, including Covanta Energy, Kings Park Ready Mix Corp., Kings Park Materials and Pelkowski Precast.”

Currently, ash is transported to the Town of Brookhaven Yaphank landfill, which will close in 2024.

Petitioners feel that if the project is approved, it will negatively affect Kings Park, Fort Salonga, East Northport and Commack. Harris stated on the petition, “Our concern with this project is that this is to be built bordering a residential area of a neighborhood where children live and play.” Other concerns listed were health risks associated with diesel exhaust and incinerated ash; rail spurs being close to homes; diesel trains operating between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.; the impact on the quality of life; noise and possible water pollution; negative impact on home values; and the lack of notice provided to residents about the project.

Members of the Commack Community Association have also stated their concerns on their website and at a Jan. 19 CCA meeting.

Comments from the Town of Smithtown

The Town of Smithtown is currently preparing a FAQ for its website regarding the proposal to answer questions they have received from residents.

According to the town, while Townline Rail Terminal has submitted its petition to the federal agency STB, it will be “the first of many steps in a multi-year-long process.”

Once federal approval is received for the rail spur, proposed buildings and site work will be subject to town approval. “These include a change of zone, amendments to the town’s zoning ordinance, Special Exceptions to the TB and BZA, and site plan approval, and would be subject to a full SEQRA review, including Environmental Impact Statement.”

Smithtown’s draft FAQ states that Covanta “is permitted to process non-hazardous residential, commercial and industrial wastes. Air emissions are monitored to ensure they are below permitted levels (emissions data is available on Covanta’s website) and ash residue is tested per state environmental regulations to ensure it is a non-hazardous waste.”

While Townline in its petition to the STB and in preliminary discussions with town staff and officials “expressed an interest in importing commodities for the local industrial area that are currently trucked to the area” the company would need an amendment “to the town’s zoning ordinance, including the requisite public hearing and SEQRA requirements.”

According to the town, the company plans to run one train per day, five days a week: “Per Townline and its engineer, HDR Inc., the proposed yard has been designed to handle one inbound and one outbound freight train of up to 27 cars daily. The storage tracks have the capacity to store approximately three days of excess storage (up to 79 cars) in the event of rail service outage.”

In a letter to the STB dated Oct. 28, 2022, Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) wrote in support of the project.

“The town is supportive of Townline’s petition because there is mounting pressure on towns and villages due to the anticipated 2024 closing of the Town of Brookhaven’s Yaphank landfill facility,” he wrote. “Smithtown’s residential and commercial solid waste and residential construction debris (“C&D”) is currently disposed of at the Brookhaven landfill. Smithtown’s solid waste is converted to ash at the Covanta waste-to-energy facility which then delivers the ash to the Brookhaven landfill. Alternative means of disposal and carting of C&D and ash off of Long Island will be mandatory soon for municipal and non-municipal waste facilities.”

According to a STB Jan. 12 decision, the federal agency will address the issues presented in a subsequent decision. 

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), center, signed legislation Jan. 27 to provide Smithtown with an additional $5.4 million for the Kings Park Business Sewer District Project. Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, left, and Tony Tanzi from the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce were on hand for the signing. Photo from Steve Bellone's office

The Town of Smithtown received good news Jan. 27.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone And Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim. Photo from Bellone’s office

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) signed legislation last Friday to provide the town with an additional $5.4 million for the Kings Park Business Sewer District Project. A press conference took place in the hamlet’s Svatt Square to mark the occasion.

The funding is possible due to money the county received through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 signed by President Joe Biden (D).

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) and Town Board members, with Kings Park Chamber of Commerce and KP Civic Association representatives, joined state and county elected officials as well as Bellone and Deputy County Executive Peter Scully, for the announcement and signing.

Scully said the project initially was made possible by a $20 million state transformative program grant in 2014. With rising construction costs, expenses have increased for the project.

With the additional $5.4 million from the county, contracts were awarded to Holbrook-based G&M Earth Moving, ALAC Contracting Corp. in West Babylon and Amityville-based L.E.B. Electric. 

Bellone called it “a great day” and thanked Wehrheim.

“This doesn’t happen without his leadership here and the Town Board,” the county executive said.

He also thanked county and state officials for working together in a bipartisan manner and the community, which he said is critical to working on projects such as this.

“A significant step forward in any community, in any way, is not possible without the work and the support of residents and the businesses in the community,” he said.

Bellone said sewers would be coming to Kings Park this year. He added construction would break ground in the coming weeks, and there would be community meetings to lay out the construction schedules and paperwork will be finalized. 

“Make no mistake, the contracts have been awarded, the project is happening now,” he said.

Pipes will connect sewers to the Kings Park treatment plant located on the property of the former psychiatric hospital.

Bellone said the project “highlights how much more we need to do” regarding improving water quality on the Island. He added about 360,000 homes in the region are operating on old septic and cesspool systems.

“We have to address this issue in a way that is affordable for homeowners,” Bellone said. “That burden cannot be placed on them.” 

He added investments in wastewater infrastructure are critical for a prosperous economic future.

With other Suffolk County areas needing sewer systems, including St. James, Bellone said, “This represents what we need to be doing all across the county.”

Wehrheim echoed Bellone’s sentiment that the project was a team effort, and he thanked the members of all levels of government and the chamber, civic and community.

“Without the cooperation and all working together, things like this will never come to fruition,” Wehrheim said.

The supervisor, who is a native of Kings Park, said he was proud “of what we’ve done here,” adding, “The future is bright for the Town of Smithtown as far as economic development goes, economic success and, especially just as important, environmental issues to clean up waters.” 

Tony Tanzi, president of KP Chamber of Commerce, said, “Some would say we’re at the end of the road. Personally, I think this is the beginning of the road.”

He added he believes Kings Park will soon resemble the robust downtown it was decades ago.

“When you take politics out of it, we can all work together — and that’s the beautiful thing,” Tanzi said.

 

Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, at podium, joined elected officials at the Jan. 20 press conference. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Local elected officials held a press conference Friday, Jan. 20, to make it clear that they don’t agree with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) New York Housing Compact proposal.

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, at podium, joined elected officials at the Jan. 20 press conference. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Republican state senators and assemblymembers, county legislators and town supervisors from Suffolk County gathered at the Perry B. Duryea State Office Building in Hauppauge with a message for Hochul. The elected members speaking at the press conference said zoning, land use and development matters are best left to local elected officials.

In her State of the State message earlier this month, Hochul proposed a housing strategy calling for 800,000 new homes to be built in the state over the course of a decade to address the lack of affordable housing. Among the plan’s requirements would be municipalities with Metropolitan Transportation Authority railroad stations to rezone to make way for higher-density residential development. All downstate cities, towns and villages served by the MTA would have a new home creation target over three years of 3%, compared to upstate counties that would need to build 1% more new homes over the same period.

But speakers on Jan. 20 called her proposed initiative “government overreach” and “misguided,” and they said municipalities should create zoning laws, grant building permits and urban plans based on the individual needs of their communities. Many added that a blanket state housing proposal wouldn’t work on Long Island due to lack of sewer systems, also infrastructure and environmental concerns.

The press conference was led by state Sen. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue).

“We all agree that we have an affordable housing problem,” he said. “What we don’t agree on is how to fix it.”

He added, “The governor apparently believes that one size fits all is the way to go, that heavy-handed mandates are the way to go.”

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, at podium, joined elected officials at the Jan. 20 press conference. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Murray said the Village of Patchogue is the model of revitalizing villages and downtowns across the state. He added local issues must be considered, such as environmental concerns, traffic issues and parking options. He said Patchogue officials worked to rebuild the village’s infrastructure, invested in and expanded sewer plants, repaved 85% of its streets, invested into pools, parks and the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts. Murray added 700 new residential homes were built since 2003, 575 of them are within walking distance from the train station and village.

Town supervisors speak up 

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said they were all concerned about what Long Island will look like in the future. He added there is a need for sewer systems in most towns, and local infrastructure needs improvement. He said the three rail lines that cross the town depend on diesel fuel, and he added overgrowth has also contaminated the waters.

“Governor, before you start talking about more housing, how about the infrastructure to support it?” Romaine said. “How about electrifying the rail? How about making sure the roads work? How about making sure that there are sewers?”

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said the town is manufacturing affordable housing “to the extent it’s possible” based on its infrastructure.

In the last five years, he said the town has approved the construction of 450 rental units, 10% of which are classified as affordable per state law.

Town of Huntington Supervisor Ed Smyth, at podium, joined elected officials at the Jan. 20 press conference. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“The only elected officials that know how to do that on Long Island are your local elected officials with the help of our county, state and federal officials as well,” Wehrheim said. “So, we are doing what the governor wants, but we’re doing it the right way.”

Town of Huntington Supervisor Ed Smyth (R) said New York politics “is not Republican vs. Democrat. It’s New York City versus New York state.” He said the governor is affected by New York City extremists. 

“I implore the governor to form a working coalition of centrist Democrats and centrist Republicans in the state Legislature to govern from the center as the vast majority of New Yorkers expect of you,” Smyth said.

Additional perspectives

State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said when he hears the governor talk about local control, he feels she is aligning with the progressive left. He added “everything they touch they destroy,” listing the economy, energy independence and the southern border.

“They want to destroy our local zoning, and they will destroy what makes Long Island and New York state the wonderful place to live that it is,” Fitzpatrick said. “Local control works, and we seek a cooperative relationship, a carrot approach rather than the stick approach that she is putting before us.”

Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, also spoke at the press conference. He acknowledged there is a housing problem on the Island and said the town supervisors have provided hope with past projects.

“They have been behind getting affordable housing in their communities,” Alexander said, adding 20,000 units of multihousing have been approved on Long Island over the past 17 years.

According to Alexander, 10,000 more units are coming down the pike, and 50 communities have had buildings built near transit stations.

State Assemblyman Keith Brown (R-Northport), who has been a zoning attorney for more than 20 years, in an interview after the press conference said incentives and funding are needed.

He said Brookhaven’s Commercial Redevelopment Districts are excellent zoning examples of redevelopment and multifamily houses where there are incentives such as being near transportation and connecting to sewers.

State Assemblyman Jonathan Kornreich, at podium, joined elected officials at the Jan. 20 press conference. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“Those are the incentives that we should be talking about, not creating super zoning boards, and more bureaucracy,” Brown said.

In a statement to TBR News Media, Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook), who was a former president of the Three Village Civic Association, said, “We have to be wise enough to recognize that the land under which our aquifers sit can only bear so much development.”

He gave the example of a parcel of land in Port Jefferson Station on Route 112 and near the train station. The large, vegetated parcel has restrictive covenants to limit the type of development on the site.

“This place is a vital area of green space, where trees can grow, where oxygen is produced and where rainwater is filtered before it goes down to the aquifers we drink from,” he said. “The governor’s proposal would throw all that planning out the window and turn this into a potential development site for hundreds of new units.”

Former state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who was chair of the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee between 2015 and 2022, attended the press conference and in a phone interview said, “This is a proposal that attempts to meet one need, but has a likely outcome, if advanced, of completely overriding environmental concerns. Our first limiting factor for sustainable communities is the environment, in particular water — drinking water.”

He added the proposal to increase the density of housing not only overrides local planning but threatens communities’ quality of life.

He added, for example, a village such as Poquott wouldn’t be able to build more housing as it’s “essentially a completely built-out community.” Or, a hamlet such as St. James wouldn’t be able to add more housing near the train station.

“If you impose from above a mandate to change the land use, you’re basically impacting the environment immediately and, for the long term, the quality of life of a community,” he said.

Englebright and current elected officials are concerned that the housing legislation would be included in the state budget similar to bail reform.

Hochul’s administration has said more information on the housing proposal will be released in the near future.

St. James residents had a new park to visit along Lake Avenue this summer. On Tuesday, Oct. 18, elected officials, members of Celebrate St. James, donors and residents came together at Celebrate Park for an official dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Oct. 18 marked the official dedication of Celebrate Park in St. James. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The park sits where the Irish Viking pub was once located. The establishment had been closed for nearly a decade when Town of Smithtown officials considered tearing it down to make way for a park and municipal parking lot. When the bar was put up on a tax lien, the town worked with Suffolk County to acquire it through an intergovernmental contract.

Volunteers from the cultural arts organization Celebrate St. James worked with elected officials during the design and construction of the park, including soliciting donations for the brick walkways that feature stones embossed with local families’ names and special messages from residents. 

In November 2020, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R), other elected officials and members of the community broke ground and officially unveiled the plans for the park. On Oct. 18, among those Wehrheim thanked was Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) for his part in making the park happen. Bellone was unable to be in attendance due to dealing with the recent county cyberattack issues. The town supervisor said everyone had a part in making the park a reality.

“This day marks completion of the third and final phase of the revitalization efforts in St. James,” Wehrheim said, adding that the town is working on a connection to the sewer line installed under Lake Avenue a few years ago.

The town supervisor said before he took office in 2017, he had counted 33 vacant storefronts on Lake — now there are less than a handful. With more people strolling the street, kids riding their bikes, the park and more, he compared it to a Norman Rockwell picture.

“Today we can see what can happen when a community, the good people who call it home and local levels of government all work together as one,” he said. “Today we get to enjoy the fruits of our labor and officially welcome the people of this great town to Celebrate Park.”

Today we can see what can happen when a community, the good people who call it home and local levels of government all work together as one.”

— Ed Wehrheim

Wehrheim credited the Celebrate St. James volunteers, especially former president Natalie Weinstein and current president Patricia Clark, for being a big part of the process.

Weinstein said the park came to fruition due to an “unusual administration and an unusual group of volunteers.”

“Both embody the vision of economic revitalization,” she said. “Both are committed to progress, and both attract the talent and cooperation of some pretty amazing people.”

Weinstein also credited St. James residents due to their “generous donations of dollars, service and talents.”

“We know St. James has always been a special place,” the resident of nearly 50 years said. “This little sleepy hamlet of Smithtown has a history worth sharing and perpetuating. It has been home to a famous architect [Stanford White], a New York City mayor [William Gaynor], countless vaudevillians and many hardworking people who, in good times and bad, helped their neighbors.”

Weinstein said the park was aptly named by the town’s public information officer Nicole Garguilo, a lifelong resident of St. James.

“Today we cut a ribbon to symbolically and actually turn a vision into reality, taking an eyesore in our community and transforming it into a place of pride for all, now and in the future,” Weinstein said.

Clark said in 2017, every time she drove through Lake Avenue and other parts of town and see so many empty storefronts, she thought, “This place is dying.” Later she discovered Weinstein and Celebrate St. James vice presidents Arline Goldstein and Jack Ader had noticed the same as she did and approached town officials to see how they could help revitalize St. James.

She said in addition to working on the park, Celebrate St. James aims to turn the former Calderone theater on Second Avenue into the St. James Community Cultural Arts Center.

“Today, we see our dream of this park become reality, and now we at Celebrate are once again on the verge of a community endeavor of unique proportions,” Clark said. “Once again it is time to come together to plan for the future for our children, for our seniors and for ourselves. Now is the time to preserve and cherish the past on which we build a future to serve the town for generations to come.”

by -
0 747

Over 500 local youths turned out to spend the day honing their crafts on the ball field at Daniel J. Flynn Memorial Park on Aug. 21 The event was hosted by Smithtown Supervisor,Ed Wehrheim and New York state Sen. Mario R. Mattera, and included partnerships with MLB, Smithtown Central School District, Smithtown Recreation, Smithtown Youth Bureau, Nesconset Athletic Association, Kings Park Youth, Play Like a Pro Sports, Smithtown – St. James Little League and honoree foundation — Heros 4 Our Heroes.

The free baseball/softball clinic was offered to both male and female children ages 6-18, featuring former Major League Baseball stars and local school coaches. Children received personalized baseball playing cards, MLB baseballs, autographs, photos and complimentary lunch for participants and guests catered by Panico’s Italian Market of Nesconset.

“There is really nothing more gratifying as an elected official, than to witness hundreds of families enjoying such a memorable experience,” Wehrheim said. “This event could not be possible without the incredible support and partnership with Senator Mario Mattera and his team, Heros 4 Our Heroes, the work of our dedicated Parks Department, Recreation, Public Safety, and our spectacular volunteers from the Youth Bureau. I also would like to thank Panico’s Market for cooking for over 1,000 people, Nesconset FD, Capital Graphics and Trend it Branding, who went above and beyond to make Sunday special. Finally, thank you to the inspiring coaches, former MLB stars, volunteers and to our military and veterans organizations who brought forth an unforgettable day for so many local families.”

The Heros 4 Our Heroes foundation, founded by Panico’s, was honored with a NYS Senate Proclamation and a check which was presented by Smithtown High School West Student Gianna Cangro, who fundraised over $2,700 for the organization. Heros 4 Our Heroes is a local not-for-profit organization which has served our military, fire, police and medical heroes since Sept. 11, 2001.

Former Major League players Frank Catalanotto, Art Shamsky, Oreste Marrero, John Doherty, Sal Agostinelli, Frank Tepedino, Fred Cambria, Adam Greenberg, Charles Galiano, Rick Schmidt, Keith Osik and Don DeMola were stationed at various fields to inspire and teach the budding athletes. Additionally, former Hofstra Softball Head Coach Bill Edwards oversaw the girls softball program. Former Congressman Peter King volunteered to coach alongside Frank Catalanotto. Smithtown Superintendent of Recreation Tom McCaffrey and his son Ryan also teamed up to coach the youngest participants, in addition to McCaffrey’s work in coordinating the event with the supervisor’s and senator’s offices. At the end of the clinic, each child received baseballs and/or softballs, collected autographs and took photographs with each of the coaches.

The Town of Smithtown will premiere its Veterans Documentary, entitled War Stories, on Sunday, November 21 at 6 p.m. at the Smithtown Center for Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown. The documentary focuses on local residents who enlisted to serve in the US Armed Forces during war time, from World War II to Present Day.

“I’m forever grateful to the men and women all across the Country who have served in our US Armed Forces. This began as an interview process, so we could document and preserve the stories of patriotism, camaraderie and strength of our brave hometown heroes, for future generations. But it has become so much more. This is our way of saying Thank You for Your Service to our local heroes… for we owe them everything,” said Supervisor Ed Wehrheim.

Tickets are free and members of the public are encouraged to attend the premiere to show support and gratitude for the Men and Women within our community who served in protection of our Nation’s freedoms. Residents are encouraged to bring non-perishable items for donation, which will be delivered to the United Veterans Beacon House Pantry.

The Town began production of the Veterans documentary, interviewing service members from World War II, through to modern day conflicts. Filming for the documentary began in 2019 on Veterans Day, November 19th. The film is dedicated in memory of two World War II Veterans; Eddy Reddy and Howard Laderwager, who were filmed for the documentary, but have recently passed away.

For more information, call 631-360-7600.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim and challenger Maria Scheuring during a debate at TBR News Media’s office Oct. 21. Photos by Rita J. Egan

Development in the Town of Smithtown is on the top of town supervisor candidates’ minds on the way to election day Nov. 2. Incumbent Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) lauds his and board members’ efforts to revitalize downtowns and sewer infrastructure. Meanwhile, his challenger, local attorney and Democrat Maria Scheuring, said she is concerned about overdevelopment.

Wehrheim has spent nearly 50 years in town government, working through the ranks of the town parks department from 1972 until he was appointed department director in 1989. He retired from that position in 2003 when he was elected to the Town Council. Wehrheim was put forward as the Republican frontrunner for supervisor in 2017, ahead of previous supervisor Patrick Vecchio, who had been in the position for close to four decades. Wehrheim won the close primary and went on to handily win his supervisor seat that November.

Photo by Rita J. Egan

Scheuring grew up in the Bronx, where she worked in the Bronx D.A.’s office before moving to Smithtown in 2006. She currently has a private practice dealing in matters from guardianship to visiting clients in nursing homes to looking over music contracts. A musician herself, she is also the executive director of Alive After Five festival in Patchogue, where she said her frequent attendance of village meetings has given her insight into the struggles of local government. 

During an in-house debate in TBR News Media’s offices, Scheuring said she was concerned with the number of empty storefronts in Smithtown, especially due to the pandemic. She said she counted around 25 empty buildings along West Main Street from Katie’s bar to Route 111. She would propose making a director of industry a full-time position to work with the community and “only find appropriate stores, or restaurants or businesses that could be put in those empty storefronts, but not taking away from the current businesses that are there.” She also proposed taking the empty bowling alley located near the Smithtown train station and turning it into a youth and community center.

Wehrheim said COVID-19 had an impact on all three of Smithtown’s main small business districts, in the St. James, Smithtown and Kings Park hamlets, though the vacancy rate among all three remains 12%. He defended the town’s response to the pandemic, saying Smithtown instituted a three-day turnaround outdoor dining permit, which around 80 restaurants and bars took advantage of. That permit and permit process had been extended into the current year. The town took its audio/visual staff, which work out of the code and safety office, and created lengthy videos about how each business was adjusting to COVID measures, which were published on the town app and social media. 

Still, Scheuring said she is most concerned about new development, especially new apartments along Smithtown’s main streets. She said her old Bronx neighborhood in Throgs Neck was being slowly transformed from single family homes into apartment complexes. She said she doesn’t see how the town is prepared for new incoming residents, whether it’s the impact on schools or traffic. She pointed to Babylon and Sayville that have “thriving main streets” without apartment buildings.

“I think a lot of people feel that way,” she said. “I don’t think that they are happy that there’s an apartment complex going up right on [Smithtown’s] Main Street. The traffic is bad enough, it’s going to cause more traffic.”

She added that she was further concerned with the price of some of these apartments, that they are overpriced for single people and that many who move in “don’t have roots, they don’t intend to put roots in this community necessarily.” Scheuring further asked why the town instead doesn’t focus on building townhouses, such as those in Patchogue.

The current supervisor said that Smithtown has changed drastically from when he was a young man, when most of the town was farmland. Now, “that ship has sailed.” He argued that most experts agree that the way to save main streets is to have constant foot traffic within the downtowns, and that requires apartments, and especially mixed-use buildings with living space above and commercial space below. He added these apartments are important for keeping both young and old on Long Island, but residential neighborhoods will not suddenly start seeing apartment complexes going up on their blocks.

“We have beautiful residential communities in the Town of Smithtown — they will never be hampered or affected by what we do,” Wehrheim said. “We do it in commercial areas. Some of the developments that some folks have talked about … they’re developments that we’re doing in blighted areas.”

The other big controversial topic within the town, especially the North Shore communities, remains the proposed Gyrodyne development on the Flowerfield property in St. James, especially plans for a sewage treatment plant on the property. 

Photo by Rita J. Egan

Wehrheim said that now the renovations on Lake Avenue in St. James are complete, including underground sewer infrastructure, the town would be able to connect to a sewage treatment plant, either to the north, at Gyrodyne, but if not then also east or south. Similarly, with plans to renovate Kings Park business district in a similar way, state approval for a sewage treatment plant on the old Kings Park Psychiatric Center property is a huge boon for residents in that area. 

Water quality and the health of coastal bays remains top priority, Wehrheim said. He cited the town’s recent acquisition of the Oasis gentlemen’s club through eminent domain in order to protect the head of the Nissequogue River.

As far as Gyrodyne is concerned, he said the only action currently happening is the Smithtown Planning Board will be making a decision on an eight-lot subdivision of the Flowerfield property, “then the Town Board will have an opportunity to work with the principals of their property on what is going in there. We will look at it as a Town Board, if and when the subdivision is done, and then we will control what gets developed there through our planning professionals and our environmental professionals on that site.” 

Scheuring said it has been hard for the community to understand what is currently happening with the Gyrodyne development, and that at meetings and other community gatherings, people “are saying they just didn’t want that, they want green space, they don’t want overdevelopment — the traffic is already bad on 25A.”

She went on to say “there is no information about the latest plans for this town,” regarding this or other developments. Wehrheim countered that the town does regular updates on its website and now has an app for residents to get up-to-date info on their phones. Meetings are also livestreamed and accessible to the general public.

Overall, Scheuring said, as a Smithtown resident and mother of three, she represents a good portion of the community, and she would like to focus on the use of properties to maintain the town’s character.

“As a member of this community, I feel passionate about these things, because this is my family,” she said.

Wehrheim said his track record speaks for itself, and if elected he would continue with parks and downtowns revitalization efforts, as well as keeping an open and transparent town hall. “The fact that it’s been my career, and I love doing it, bodes well for me to continue to serve the Smithtown public,” he said.

 

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, at podium, was joined by town, county and state officials and community advocates to make a plea to Gov. Kathy Hochul to help the town secure a path to sewer infrastructure. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The steps of Smithtown’s Town Hall were packed the morning of Oct. 12 as elected town, county and state officials, as well as community leaders from the hamlets of Smithtown and Kings Park, were on hand to talk about sewers and make a plea to the state’s new governor.

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim signs a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul to help the town secure a path to sewer infrastructure. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The group signed a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) asking her to help to secure a path to a sewer infrastructure in the town. Those speaking at the press conference spoke about the lack of a sewer system in the town having a negative impact on economic growth and the health of waterways, especially Smithtown Bay.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said the group has worked “tirelessly for years to make this project come to fruition.”

“For nearly 50 years, the goal of providing sewers for the Smithtown business district had seemed out of reach, resulting in vacant storefronts in the downtown area and continued discharges of untreated wastewater into our environment,” the supervisor said. “Now, at long last, a clear solution has been identified. A victory is in sight for both of these business districts. This is truly a historic day for the Town of Smithtown and the future of our town.”

A $20 million grant was announced in 2017 by the state that would have helped bring sewers to the town’s business districts. According to Wehrheim, a lack of a site for a system stalled the project. Recently, the Smithtown Sewer Working Group, which includes local business and community leaders, has worked for 18 months to identify a site for a recharge facility and named a parcel owned by the state Office of Mental Health at the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center as a possible location. The hopes are to connect Main Street, Smithtown and the Kings Park business district to a system.

The plan would include removing an abandoned building. The facility would use only 2 acres of 17 of the land.

Smithtown United President Timothy Small called the working group an “example of your government and community working together for solutions.”

He added that under current conditions the sewer recharging facility would lead to an 87% reduction of the amount of nitrogen dumped into groundwater which eventually makes its way to the Nissequogue River. He said after a complete “downtown buildout consistent with the draft Smithtown Master Plan” the nitrogen reduction would be 71%.

Michael Kaufman, a member of the civic group Smithtown United and the town’s working group, said hooking up central business districts to a sewer system is the “gold standard for solutions” to avoid environmental issues such as nitrogen from septic waste being released to nearby bodies of water. He added that a recent water quality report showed that Smithtown Bay is one of the most oxygen-deprived areas east of New York City. This deprivation means that it’s difficult for fish to survive.

“That’s why no one can really go fishing in Smithtown Bay anymore,” he said.

Kaufman said the damage is identical to issues the area had in the 1990s.

“We know what the source is, and we also know how it gets out into the water,” he said. “Basically, [it goes] west right into the Nissequogue River and then just flows down the river and then it goes into the Smithtown Bay where it unfortunately stays for a couple of days.”

Among those representing chamber and civic groups was Kings Park Chamber of Commerce President Tony Tanzi who called the proposed facility “an absolutely wonderful thing.” He said he felt it helped the community as a whole for many reasons, listing qualities such as a viable downtown, lessening pollution of rivers and protecting open space. He added from the chamber of commerce’s perspective it could restore economic viability to the downtown.

“We’ve got the ability to preserve 15 acres of open space in perpetuity,” Tanzi said. “You’ve got the ability to protect our drinking water. You’ve got the ability to protect the Nissequogue River and the Long Island Sound and preserve our drinking water for future generations, which is really what we’re all here trying to do.”