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Steve Englebright

The boarded-up house on Sheep Pasture Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Samantha Rutt

In a triumph for local preservationists and historians, the William Tooker House on Sheep Pasture Road, Port Jefferson Station, has been safeguarded from neglect and demolition. The oldest known structure in the village faced threats of urban renewal before being included in Preservation Long Island’s Endangered Historic Places List in 2021.

Constructed before 1750, the William Tooker House holds immense historical significance. It was once the residence of William Tooker, a descendant of early Long Island colonists, whose family played a pivotal role in the region’s colonial history. The house itself is a testament to the area’s heritage, retaining a colonial Cape Cod-style timber frame on intact fieldstone foundations.

A significant milestone was reached on Oct. 3, 2022, when the Village of Port Jefferson agreed to purchase the property from its current owners using a grant applied for by Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) during his time in the state Assembly. Through the State and Municipal Facilities Program, the Village of Port Jefferson was granted $500,000 to be associated with purchase and restoration of the property.

Since 2022, local officials have worked to decide the future of the property, mentioning using the house as a central museum to pay tribute to the village’s history.

“The mayor seems very focused on the significance of the site, wanting to operate within the parameters of the grant,” now-county Legislator Englebright said of Port Jefferson Mayor Lauren Sheprow’s plan for the property. “The grant will more or less include the acquisition cost as well as a phase one restoration.”

Englebright described a phase one restoration project as stabilizing the existing structure, returning it to as much of the original structure as possible and using whatever may be left over from the grant to refurbish the interior and possibly add or update the existing heating and cooling units.

The village has not yet finalized the acquisition but is actively in contract to do so, Englebright explained. Despite its historical importance, the William Tooker House has been endangered by neglect, demolition threats and insensitive alterations over the years. However, with the village’s eventual acquisition of the property, a new chapter in its preservation is soon to begin.

Preservation Long Island, along with local community members and organizations such as the Greater Port Jefferson Historical Society and Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, have advocated for the preservation of this piece of Port Jefferson’s history. Their efforts have culminated in the village’s commitment to acquire and preserve the property in collaboration with community stakeholders and nonprofit stewardship partners.

To further ensure the preservation of Port Jefferson’s historic resources, including the William Tooker House, Preservation Long Island and local advocates have outlined a series of actions for village officials to undertake. These include conducting a survey to identify and designate all historic resources and districts, leveraging public funding with private donations for rehabilitation work and incorporating historic preservation into downtown revitalization plans.

In addition, the New York State Historic Preservation Office recognized the property’s importance by determining its eligibility for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2020. With the village assuming ownership, it can proceed with the application for this designation. If successful, the designation will not only honor the house’s historical significance but also make the village eligible for tax credits, financial incentives and technical assistance for rehabilitation work.

With the William Tooker House now under the village’s stewardship, there is renewed optimism for its preservation and future as a cherished landmark in Port Jefferson. As efforts continue to unfold, residents and historians alike look forward to seeing this iconic structure restored to its former glory.

“Restoring the property will help to develop a sense of place,” Englebright said. “Place is hard to measure but important in developing community identity and pride. The restoration will help to carry and pass on a baton of knowledge for generations to come.”

Port Jefferson Station/Terryville civic association listens to a presentation from North Wind's Jim Tsunis on Feb. 27. Photo by Samantha Rutt

By Samantha Rutt

The recent Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association meeting saw presentations from developer group North Wind, the Suffolk County Police Department COPE report and a presentation regarding substance abuse from Kym Laube, HUGS Inc. executive director.

The Feb. 27 meeting began with reports from the board regarding the upcoming board elections. Two of the current members, Charlie McAteer and Sheila Granito, will be termed-out come March. The civic is seeking reelection for all positions and has no current candidates for the recording secretary position.

Only members in good standing may cast a vote for board elections. Those who have paid dues and attended at least three meetings from March 2023 to March 2024 remain in good standing.

Some notable community figures were in attendance: Port Jefferson Deputy Mayor Rebecca Kassay and Skyler Johnson, both Assembly District 4 Democratic candidates; Council District 1 Chief Legislative Aide Amani Hosein and Suffolk County Legislator Steve Englebright (D-Setauket).

The meeting carried on with reports from members of the South County Police Department offering insights from the COPE report from Jan. 23 to Feb. 27. Officer John Efstathiou mentioned for the Port Jefferson Station area overdoses have decreased from this time last year from 4 to 2. Additionally, motor vehicle incidents saw an increase from 43 to 60 over the last year – for the same January to February time period. The officer also mentioned a slight increase from last year of criminal incidences, raising to 63 from last year’s 59. 

“In my opinion, and it’s just my opinion, it’s a safe area, absolutely,” Efstathiou said.

The meeting continued with a presentation from developer Jim Tsunis of North Wind — the organization responsible for the construction of developments like Port Jefferson’s Overbay and Setauket Meadows.

Tsunis showed a 10-minute video where he shared his background and connection with the Port Jefferson Station community sharing that his father was a businessman who made an impact on his PJS community. 

The video also touched on the proposed 5.6-acre Baylis Avenue development property to become Brook Meadows. The proposed development sits along Sheep Pasture Road and Baylis Avenue, and neighbors a current apartment complex and existing railroad tracks.

The presentation also included testimony from four residents about the soon-to-be Brook Meadows site in support of the development — most reasoning with the residential zoning the development would provide over the existing industrial zoning.

Following the video, Tsunis addressed the civic association and their questions. 

Many concerns were raised for the proposed density of the site at 56 units. Civic members asked Tsunis questions about the use of the property, suggesting it could be used for single-family homes instead. Fear of increased density was also raised by Englebright in his statement to Tsunis. 

Englebright shared his experience growing up and around the Island saying that he has experienced the loss of suburbia and does not want that to continue.

“We’re getting into the realm of causing me to wonder whether we’re going to lose a suburban lifestyle over time,” Englebright said. “A density that is urban is being proposed repeatedly. I just want to commend the possibility of a cumulative environmental impact statement. I think that makes a lot of sense — piecemealing what happened to Bayside — there’s nothing left of what I was familiar with when I grew up.”

Additional concerns arouse touching on added traffic from the development, with feedback from other civic attendees supporting the single-car traffic from the residential zoning over the potential industrial-zoned traffic.

Tsunis defended his group’s proposal, mentioning the increase of affordable housing units to the original plan, suggesting a monthly rental price point of around $2,100 for a two-bedroom apartment offered by Brook Meadows. Tsunis also noted an addition to the buffer from the road surrounding the development, a concern raised at previous civic gatherings.

Many civic attendees commented on the presentation and civic president Ira Costell welcomed Tsunis back to continue the conversation as both organizations seek a compromise.

Following the North Wind presentation, Laube from HUGS Inc. shared a PowerPoint presentation, addressing addiction, substance abuse and sharing several statistics relating to these issues.

Laube spoke to the increased ability to purchase substances like cannabis and alcohol as dispensaries are opening and, unlike the past, alcohol sold in various locations rather than solely at liquor stores.

The HUGS representative’s presentation included anecdotes from her lived experiences eliciting many reactions from the audience, offering moments of amusement and response to points made. Laube urged the audience to look at each situation a little differently, to seek the truth and to get involved.

The next civic meeting will take place March 26 at the Comsewogue Public Library. For more information regarding the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association visit its website at www.pjstca.org. 

Brookhaven Town Hall. File photo

By Carolyn Sackstein

The Brookhaven Town Board meeting last Thursday, Nov. 30, began at 5 p.m. and didn’t close until after 11. Many residents who attended stayed for the long haul.

The board heard public comments on the application of Hauppauge-based Staller Associates, owner of the Jefferson Plaza shopping center at the intersection of Route 112 and Terryville Road. Staller is seeking a change of zone for the 10-acre parcel from a J-2 Business District to a CRD Commercial Redevelopment District.

The CRD is a new zoning category within the town Code. Jefferson Plaza will be the first property to receive this classification if the board greenlights the application.

A town official indicated that under the conditions of the CRD code, the development would qualify for 280 residential units. The proposal includes demolishing the existing shopping center to accommodate mixed-use development.

Anthony Guardino, partner at the Hauppauge-based Farrell Fritz law firm, represents the applicant. In a presentation, he traced the property’s historical developments, contributing to “an unsustainably high vacancy rate” with today’s blighted conditions.

The CRD code “creates the planning tool which the Stallers are using to redevelop their blighted shopping center into a destination development with a dynamic mix of residential and commercial uses,” he said. “And after many years of planning and design and input from the town and the community and numerous plan revisions, the Stallers believe it is time to put pencils down. It is time to move this project forward.”

He added that the current plan accommodates 280 apartments — 224 of which will be “market rate,” with the remaining 56 units set aside as affordable housing for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The attorney projected that approximately 50,000 square feet of commercial space would be occupied by a restaurant, food hall, retail, office space and health club.

Public comments primarily revolved around building height, density, traffic and emergency services. Ira Costell, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, stressed the importance of proper planning in weighing these factors.

“There is appetite and willingness to see investment in this parcel,” he said. “While this presents an opportunity, it is incumbent on us to address and mitigate the negative impacts that could follow from the intensive use on that parcel.”

Suffolk County Legislator-elect Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), whose 5th Legislative District includes Port Jeff Station, discussed the possible environmental impact of redevelopment. 

Skyler Johnson (D-Port Jefferson Station) — currently pursuing the Democratic nomination for New York’s 4th Assembly District— placed the proposed redevelopment in the context of ongoing affordability concerns.

“If we continue on this path, we will see not only young people not be able to afford to live here, but older people not be able to retire and downsize as their kids continue to need to stay in their homes,” he said.

Some spoke in favor of the redevelopment project. “I am in favor of the zone change,” Port Jeff village resident Brian Harty said. 

Bob LoNigro, whose family-owned business, Plaza Sports, was formerly in the shopping center for decades, said, “I think it is important for the community to understand who they’re dealing with. We dealt with [the Staller family], who were honorable, honest and caring about my family. They cared about our success,” adding, “I was sitting there thinking this was going to be a war, and it’s not a war. We’ve just got to tweak it and make some concessions and get to the finish line. I would love nothing more than to see that place flourish again.”

The board made no decisions on the application. Residents can continue submitting written comments up to 30 days after the meeting.

To watch the full public hearing, please visit brookhavenny.gov/meetings.

Family and supporters surround Sklyer Johnson during his announcement for New York's 4th Assembly District. Photo by Raymond Janis

Less than two weeks after Election Day, the candidate pool for New York’s 4th Assembly District is already crowded.

Skyler Johnson (D-Port Jefferson Station), chair of the Suffolk County Young Democrats, declared his candidacy for District 4 in downtown Port Jefferson on Saturday, Nov. 18. The announcement comes just days after Village of Port Jefferson Deputy Mayor Rebecca Kassay, also a Democrat, announced her bid for the seat. [See story, “Port Jeff’s deputy mayor announces run for New York State Assembly,” Nov. 15, TBR News Media.]

Freshman state Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) currently represents the 4th Assembly District. Last November, Flood unseated former state Assemblyman — and current Suffolk County Legislator-elect — Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who had held the seat for three decades.

Skyler Johnson, chair of the Suffolk County Young Democrats, launches his campaign for New York’s 4th Assembly District on Saturday, Nov. 18, at Mary Bayles Park in Port Jefferson. Photo by Raymond Janis

During an announcement event at Mary Bayles Park, surrounded by family and supporters, Johnson indicated he decided to run to address the high cost of living within the area. “I am from this district, and I am struggling to afford the cost of living on Long Island,” he said. “People of my generation, and of every other age group, are facing the exact same struggle.”

He added, “I am running because I think I can make a difference on those key issues, especially on the environment, on housing and, like I said, on cost of living.”

Johnson first threw his hat in the ring in 2020 and again in 2022, both unsuccessful bids for state senate. Before pursuing elective office, he worked under former Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren. Johnson is currently a nonprofit consultant and previously served as director of development, communications and advocacy for Brentwood-based New Hour for Women & Children LI.

Johnson pledged to address a range of issues, such as expanding abortion access, promoting criminal justice reform and protecting the environment.

Highlighting on the event’s location, the Democratic candidate noted that Port Jeff — originally called Drowned Meadow — is particularly vulnerable to flooding and related environmental calamities.

“A single flood could wipe out millions of dollars worth of property in Port Jefferson at any moment,” he said. “Across the district, we need to make sure that we are fighting the drastic effects of climate change and that we are properly working with our state to make sure that we are finding ways to prevent this flooding.”

Johnson referred to housing costs as “at an all-time high, and wages have stagnated.” He underscored the phenomenon of vacant storefronts throughout commercial districts within AD4.

“We need to make sure that we are reforming our tax laws coming down from Albany,” he said, supporting “working with municipalities to do so, so that small businesses benefit from tax breaks, not just Amazon or Walmart or these giant corporations that eat up our real estate and do not create the same level of community engagement that our small businesses do.”

The Suffolk Young Democrats chair pointed to public transit as another area for improvement from the state, saying district residents “are struggling to get to work,” the lack of transit options hampering those who do not have access to or cannot afford an automobile.

“We’re going, if I’m elected, to bring money back to Suffolk County — back to Assembly District 4 — to invest in public transportation,” he said. “And at the same time, we’re going to make sure that the third rail of Port Jeff’s [branch of the Long Island Rail Road] is electrified finally.”

In his announcement address, Johnson said he would “fight for those in our community who have been underserved for years,” adding, “We have about one year to go, and every day I’m going to work for you now and in Albany.”

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich, right photo, speaks to a crowd of residents assembled at the Jefferson Plaza shopping center in Port Jefferson Station on Sunday, Nov. 12. Photos by Carolyn Sackstein

By Carolyn Sackstein

On the first cold day of the season on Sunday, Nov. 12, locals gathered in the parking lot of Jefferson Plaza along Route 112 in Port Jeff Station to discuss the proposed revitalization of the plaza.

In the days before the gathering, Paul Sagliocca and members of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association canvassed the neighborhoods surrounding the shopping center. This preparation brought out roughly 80 residents.

Sagliocca was joined by fellow civic members Lou Antoniello and Jerry Maxim. Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) spoke to the crowd and Suffolk County Legislator-elect Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) — both representing PJS/T in their respective districts — listened to the concerns of attendees.

The speakers called for residents to attend PJSTCA’s upcoming meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 7 p.m. at Comsewogue Library. They especially urged residents to speak up during an upcoming meeting of the Brookhaven Town Board to consider a proposed change of zone to a new Commercial Redevelopment District classification on Thursday, Nov. 30.

Questions raised

Owned by Staller Associates, Jefferson Plaza is currently zoned for commercial use. Staller must seek zoning changes from Brookhaven Town for mixed-use development of the property. The proposed revitalization calls for 263 residential units in a four-story structure.

Sagliocca suggested that residents to the west were anxious that the new apartments would have sightlines into their yards and windows. Critics also expressed concerns over increased traffic and possibly rerouting traffic with one-way streets, making accessing their homes inconvenient. 

Others raised concern over the impact of potentially many new residents on the environment, especially the aquifer. They questioned how much more stress the local environment could bear.

Another concern was the blocking of the sun by the height of the new structure. Maxim called for a “shade study” to determine how far the shade would extend into the neighborhood. Sagliocca spoke of the impact on Mather and St. Charles hospitals in Port Jefferson, which serve Coram, Selden and the greater Port Jefferson area. Kornreich emphasized the need for a traffic study to be conducted independently and objectively.

Maxim highlighted the potential impact of the proposed units on the Comsewogue School District. 

Antoniello explained, “I’m not saying we don’t need multifamily housing, but you can’t have it dictated by the people up in Albany. Right now, the development they want for this area is really land abuse, not land use. They are looking for a density that is three times the allowable density that the Town of Brookhaven allows. This will set a precedent for every multifamily project that occurs in Port Jeff Station, Terryville and Port Jefferson village.”

He added, “As per our hamlet and [commercial] hub study, over 80% of the people questioned said they didn’t want multifamily units. We’re now taking studies which cost combined over a hundred thousand dollars. We are throwing them in the trash. Those are our bibles. We have to do it right, we don’t have a choice.”

Village of Port Jefferson Deputy Mayor Rebecca Kassay is a declared candidate for New York State’s 4th Assembly District. Photo by Jen Romonoyske, courtesy Rebecca Kassay

Just over a week after Election Day, the 2024 election season is already underway.

Village of Port Jefferson Deputy Mayor Rebecca Kassay has exclusively announced her campaign for New York State’s 4th Assembly District. She is running as a Democrat.

The 4th District seat is currently held by New York State Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson), who unseated former Assemblyman — and Suffolk County Legislator-elect — Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) in 2022, who had occupied the seat since 1992.

Kassay entered the Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees in 2020 and was appointed deputy mayor earlier this year. During her tenure in village government, she has served as trustee liaison to the Building Department and Planning Board; the Conservation Advisory, Six-Acre Park and Tree committees; and was appointed the village’s inaugural sustainability commissioner.

Before entering public life, she worked as a youth environmental volunteer program director at Avalon Park and Preserve in Stony Brook. She is also a small business owner, operating The Fox and Owl Inn bed-and-breakfast on Main Street in Port Jefferson with her husband Andrew Thomas since 2014.

Kassay outlined the motivations guiding her campaign.

“I’m running for the New York State Assembly because we need leaders who understand that governance which truly reflects the voices, needs and concerns of their constituents starts with listening,” Kassay said in a statement. “In the village government, there are no national political party affiliations. I am practiced in working with anybody who is interested in pursuing commonsense, balanced solutions to ongoing challenges.”

Kassay described several quality-of-life concerns as “screaming for representation” in Albany, such as housing scarcity and the unaffordable standard of living in District 4. She said the state government must help create housing opportunities while conforming to the existing suburban character of local communities.

“I know that one-size-fits-all plans and mandates have tried to come down from the state, and while they try to address problems, they’re not suitable for the variety of unique communities within our area,” she said in an interview. “We need to find ways that we can support the creation of more housing opportunities for the middle class while preserving that suburban lifestyle.”

The Port Jeff deputy mayor identified various environmental challenges facing the 4th District, offering to leverage her environmental advocacy background toward climate-resilient policies.

“I really look at climate resilience as something that’s part of almost every dynamic conversation that government is having at this point,” she indicated.

Kassay referred to health care as another policy concern, citing soaring health care expenses as a barrier to entrepreneurship and economic development. “A lot of folks here who might set out as entrepreneurs or small business owners might be held back by health insurance as a barrier, so I really want to work to address that and make that more affordable for small business owners and entrepreneurs, specifically, but also for everyone else who is interacting with the state health insurance market,” she said.

Among other ideas, Kassay said she would use the office to pursue greater public investment in mental health services, target the opioid crisis, apply pressure on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for improved services along the Port Jefferson Branch of the Long Island Rail Road and expand coordination between the state and local levels of government.

Kassay’s current term as village trustee expires in July 2024. She stated she will not seek reelection for village office.

“I really look forward to serving not only Port Jefferson village residents but the residents throughout the district of AD4 from Stony Brook and all the way down to Gordon Heights, using the skills and relationships I’ve built at the village level and leveraging those skills all throughout the district,” she said.

To read Kassay’s entire statement, click here.

Caretaker informed minutes before animals due to be taken away

Locals confront Preservation Long Island on Wednesday, Nov. 8, during the nonprofit’s attempted removal of the animals at Sherwood-Jayne Farm in East Setauket. Photo by Mallie Jane Kim

Local residents rallied outside Sherwood-Jayne Farm in East Setauket Wednesday, Nov. 8, when representatives from Preservation Long Island — the nonprofit that owns the farm and its animals — made an unexpected attempt to remove the elderly pony and four sheep that live there.

The impromptu protest was confrontational and tense, with caretaker Susanna Gatz visibly distressed, and PLI executive director Alexandra Wolfe expressing frustration. Suffolk County police officers who cleared the 20 or so people out of the pasture area as requested by Wolfe also worked to maintain a calm atmosphere where possible.

In the end, the sheep and pony were spooked amid the tension, so the Save-A-Pet representative engaged to move the animals wouldn’t do so while they were agitated, and left the scene.

PLI has long planned to rehome its animals, but paused for review in August after significant community outcry. Gatz has lived on the property and cared for the sheep and pony for more than eight years. She and other local residents have been hoping the sheep and pony could live out the rest of their lives there.

On Nov. 8, Wolfe told Gatz the animals would leave just minutes before a Save-A-Pet van arrived to transport them.

Gatz said she felt blindsided. “To show up here today with a 15-minute notice to start moving the animals is not fair.”

Suffolk County Legislator-elect Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) attempted to help mediate and said he had a productive start to a conversation with Wolfe. He explained that the animals are an important educational and cultural resource for the community, but that he also understands PLI is essentially a collection of small museums and not in the business of caring for live creatures.

“She’s unhappy because the ownership that they have of these animals is not part of their mission,” he said, but added, “There has to be a solution other than removing the animals.”

Englebright said Wolfe expressed willingness for the idea of a separate organization owning and taking charge of animals on the property — though as police cleared people out of the pasture area and the protest grew heated with sobs, yelling and even a bit of shoving, Wolfe told the crowd she did not want the current animals to be part of any discussion.

Gatz’s sister, Sharon Philbrick, pulled three of her children out of school so they could come say goodbye to the animals, but police were no longer allowing people to go near the barn by the time they arrived. The kids were crying, and one ran past police officers to get close. “They’ve been around these animals their whole lives.” Philbrick said, adding that they’d held the sheep when they were little lambs. “The animals know them.”

PLI explained in a fact sheet provided to TBR News Media that the sheep are slated to get a private enclosure at Berkshire Farm Sanctuary, a nonprofit farm in Massachusetts that rescues and rehabilitates “abused and neglected companion and farm animals,” according to its website.

Snowball, the old white pony, PLI’s fact sheet indicated, would move to a private farm “a short distance away from the Sherwood-Jayne Farm,” and would have access to another elderly pony and 24-hour veterinary care. 

PLI provided a statement Thursday suggesting it still planned to move the animals, without indicating when.

“Regrettably, the emotions of our property custodian and some protesters disrupted the attempt to gently move the animals yesterday, and that effort had to be paused. We continue to believe that Berkshire Farm Sanctuary will provide the humane and caring environment we seek for the grazing animals,” the statement read.

Compliance issues for Sherwood-Jayne

In an additional layer of complication for PLI, a Sept. 8 letter from the county procured by TBR News Media informed them the property is out of compliance with the Farmland Preservation Development Rights Program. Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven purchased development rights to the 10.6-acre farm parcel in 2003, requiring Sherwood-Jayne to maintain a working commercial farm. The county also owns the 36 acres directly north of the property.

A county statute about the program stipulates “no owner shall leave agricultural land uncultivated and not engage in agricultural production … for more than two consecutive years.”

The letter also informed PLI it needs to apply for special-use permits to host events like the recent Baseball on the Farm, and the nonprofit also needs to discontinue the practice of allowing nearby schools and camps to use the field for overflow parking.

According to PLI’s fact sheet, the organization met with Mikael Kerr, the county’s farmland and open space supervisor, Sept. 30 to talk through options of bringing the property into compliance with the program.

PLI has not provided details about those options, but it will need to create a plan to put forward for approval by the county’s farmland committee.

Though there was no indication the current animals staying at the farm would hinder that process, the effort to move the animals last Wednesday made clear the organization is so far not interested in rethinking the decision.

“We have made arrangements to rehome our animals to a private sanctuary, where they will peacefully live out the rest of their days in a beautiful, park-like environment,” PLI said in a statement.

But some area residents think the animals should stay. One protester, Judy Wilson, who has helped feed the animals during times Gatz needed coverage, twisted a lock of the pony’s coarse white tail she found in the grass as she watched the situation unfold.

“What has happened today is atrocious,” she said. “The animals don’t need rescuing.”

Herb Mones, land use chair of the Three Village Civic Association, also came to the farm to show support. He took issue with the way the nonprofit handled a delicate situation, because the last the community heard, the plan to move the animals was on pause.

“We are quite shocked that something like this would happen by any organization that depends upon Long Island communities’ support,” said Mones, who is also president of the Three Village Community Trust, another organization that acquires and preserves local properties of historical importance. “These are really actions that go beyond anything that’s reasonable. It just amazes me.”

Gatz said she was touched that so many neighbors and friends stopped by — some who noticed the commotion while driving by and others who got calls to support the effort to keep the animals at the farm.

“People love this place, and they care about these animals,” she said. “I want them to stay here. This is their home, and I don’t know why [PLI] doesn’t understand that.”

Romaine's win continues rightward political shift in the county

Suffolk County Executive-elect Ed Romaine delivers his victory speech at Stereo Garden in Patchogue Tuesday night, Nov. 7. Photo by Raymond Janis

By Raymond Janis and Aidan Johnson

As returns came in Tuesday night, Nov. 7, electricity pulsed through Suffolk GOP headquarters. 

Republicans flipped the Suffolk County executive’s seat for the first time in two decades, with Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine cruising to victory over his Democratic opponent, businessman Dave Calone, by a 57-43% margin as of Wednesday morning.

“Thank you, Suffolk,” the county executive-elect told the audience assembled at Stereo Garden in Patchogue. “You’ve given me a large mandate tonight — you’ve crushed it.” 

“And we’re going to use that mandate to move this county forward,” he added.

Calone concedes, county executive transition commences

At the Democratic headquarters in Holtsville, Suffolk County Democratic Committee chairman and Town of Babylon supervisor, Rich Schaffer, addressed the deflated crowd as the results started to come in.

“Obviously, we would have wanted to be on the winning side tonight, but we know that what we are up against is not only the atmosphere created out of Albany, the atmosphere that’s created out of Washington, and that has hurt us here as a brand in Suffolk County,” he said.

In his concession speech, Calone thanked his family, team, running mates and outgoing county executive Steve Bellone (D), along with his supporters.

“I want to thank the people of Suffolk County for the last year, for the chance to visit with you, your families from one end of this county to the other,” he said. “And I am so proud of the ticket we put together.”

“I promise to continue working with all of you as we move and push meaningful solutions that affect the lives of the people of Suffolk County,” Calone added.

Bellone congratulated Romaine on his victory, pledging to do “everything I can to assist the new county executive-elect and his administration.”

“I am committed to ensuring a seamless transition and handover of responsibilities to the new administration beginning on Jan. 1,” he said in a statement. “To that end, I have asked Chief Deputy County Executive Lisa Black to lead our administration’s efforts to coordinate with the incoming administration.”

Republicans expand county Legislature majority

Romaine’s victory was fortified by steady gains in the county Legislature.

Chad Lennon (R-Rocky Point) flipped the county’s 6th Legislative District, besting Dorothy Cavalier (D-Mount Sinai) 61-39% in the race to succeed termed-out Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai).

“I would not be here today without you,” Lennon told the audience. “Thank you for entrusting me. I’m looking forward to a successful two years.”

Majority Leader Nick Caracappa (C-Selden) won reelection in the 4th District over Timothy Hall 64-36%. Additionally, incumbent Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) cruised to reelection with 69% of the vote in the 12th District. And Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) won his uncontested race in the 13th District with over 99% of the vote.

In Huntington, incumbent Legislator Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport) narrowly defeated her Democratic Party challenger Dr. Eve Meltzer-Krief, of Centerport, 53-47% in the 18th District.

Former state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) defeated Anthony Figliola (R-East Setauket) 53-47%, winning the 5th District seat left vacant by Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket).

“I’m looking forward to working on the environmental issues that are tied to the economy, such as tourism, and we really have a chance with the people who are being elected here tonight to make a difference going forward in the county Legislature,” Englebright said, before all of the final results had come in.

According to the unofficial results, the Republicans gained one seat in the county Legislature, giving the party a veto-proof 12-6 supermajority.

Town-level victories

The GOP racked up considerable victories across the towns of Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington.

In the race to succeed Romaine as supervisor of the county’s largest township, Brookhaven Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R) defeated SUNY Old Westbury professor Lillian Clayman (D) 62-38%.

“We know what our mandate is,” the supervisor-elect said. “We are going to govern correctly. We are going to be bold in our initiatives. This is a new day in the Town of Brookhaven, and I am proud to be the supervisor.”

Panico pledged to redirect the focus of the town government toward traditionally nonconservative areas, adding, “We are going to make major inroads throughout this entire town.”

Alongside Panico, Republicans held onto their 5-1 majority on the Town Board. Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) and Councilman Neil Manzella (R-Selden) were both reelected carrying 65% of the votes in their districts.

Incumbent Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) retained his seat with a 55-45% margin of victory over Republican challenger Gary Bodenburg.

“For the past three years, I have worked hard to represent the more than 80,000 residents of Three Village, Port Jefferson village, Port Jefferson Station and Terryville, and last night the community hired me to serve another term,” Kornreich said in a statement.

“I love this community and promise to keep showing up for them day in and day out, celebrating our successes and sharing our challenges,” he added.

Brookhaven voters also reelected incumbent Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) and Receiver of Taxes Louis Marcoccia (R) with 62% and 63%, respectively.

Republicans swept each townwide race in Smithtown. Town clerk candidate Tom McCarthy — not the incumbent town councilman — cruised to victory over Bill Holst (D) carrying 65% of the townwide vote. Incumbent Smithtown Receiver of Taxes Deanna Varricchio (R) retained her seat by a 2-1 margin of victory over challenger Amy Fortunato (D). For Town Board, incumbent town Councilman Thomas Lohmann (R) and Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo (R) each carried 33% of the vote over Democratic challengers Maria Scheuring and Sarah Tully.

In Huntington, Republicans expanded their majority on the Town Board to a sweeping 5-0, if the unofficial results hold. In an extremely close four-way contest, Republican candidates Brooke Lupinacci and Theresa Mari edged their Democratic counterparts Jen Hebert and Don McKay. Lupinacci and Mari received 25.5% and 25.4% of the vote respectively to Hebert’s and McKay’s 25% and 23.9% share respectively.

Incumbent Receiver of Taxes Jillian Guthman (D) was reelected over Pamela Velastegui (R) 53-47%, and incumbent Town Clerk Andrew Raia (R) won reelection over Linda Davis Valdez (D) 57-43%.

TBR News Media published its endorsements in the Nov. 2 editions of our papers, which run from Wading River in the Town of Brookhaven to Cold Spring Harbor in Huntington along the North Shore. As always, these are only our opinions, and we urge you to learn about the candidates and make your own decisions as to whom you will give your vote. We merely share our impressions with you, feeling it our duty since we have personally interviewed them.

Romaine is what county government needs

Ed Romaine

Suffolk County is staring down trouble, and it will take strong leadership to lift us from this rut.

Our ancient wastewater infrastructure is deteriorating rapidly, prompting urgent, countywide planning and intervention. The Brookhaven Town landfill, which serves our entire region, is set to close, triggering potentially a regional garbage crisis.

Seniors and young people are fleeing our region, forming a vacuum of local leaders and depleting our up-and-coming workforce. And financial projections for our county government paint a bleak picture in the years ahead.

To confront all of these challenges, our residents will select a new Suffolk County executive this November. For this role, we need someone with the political tact to guide 18 legislators toward tangible policy outcomes. This moment requires urgent action, and given the choice of who best can steer this teetering ship, we believe Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) will rise to the occasion.

Our county government is a vast, complex bureaucracy. Bringing order to this labyrinthine system will require someone with a firm grasp on the inner workings of government. Romaine is a consummate politician, someone who has lived and breathed politics for the better part of a lifetime. It is now time for him to apply that lifetime of political experience toward fixing our broken county system and improving our collective quality of life.

At the same time as this year’s county election, we are deeply aware of the growing concentration of power and political influence forming within the Suffolk County Republican Committee. We hope that if he is elected, Romaine will stand up to the power brokers within his party ranks, that he will not put party interest over the public good. We challenge Romaine to stay true to the aspirations of his campaign, and we pledge to hold him accountable if he backs down from his word.

Romaine’s opponent, Dave Calone, is a good man with the interests of county residents at heart. We believe that Calone has the makings of an effective public official and we encourage him to throw his hat in the ring again soon.

But for his experience, proven record and knowledge of the system, TBR News Media endorses Ed Romaine for our county’s highest post.

Panico will provide needed reform for Brookhaven town government

Dan Panico

The Town of Brookhaven faces many challenges in the years ahead, and meeting this moment demands bold leadership and vision within the Town Supervisor’s Office.

The chief executive of the municipality must be an advocate for the people, someone guided by core values and who will not be beholden to party bosses, land developers or union leaders. We believe Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico fits this description.

In our office debate, Panico impressed us as well-informed with the inner workings of town government. With land use determinations being the central function of local government, we believe Panico can leverage his vast knowledge of this area to advance resident interests effectively.

Throughout the TBR News Media coverage area, major plans are currently on the drawing board. From Three Village to Port Jeff Station to Middle Country, our residents are eager for sewers to come into their communities, with expanded sewer access to bring about real transformation and revitalization.

But with increased sewer capacity comes the potential for over densification and sprawl. We need someone in the supervisor’s office who understands the levers of government and land use and who can pull them appropriately to advance our local interests.

The function of the Brookhaven Town Board is to serve the public, guiding developers and awarding contracts in a manner that serves the public good rather than advancing the private interests of developers and unions.

We believe Panico is properly suited to make those decisions. He assured us that he is not beholden to any outside interest group, and we hope he stands by his word if elected.

Panico’s opponent, Lillian Clayman, did a tremendous service by stepping forward in this race after an unforeseen illness eliminated  the previous Democratic candidate, Margot Garant. Through Clayman’s candidacy, she has raised public awareness around several important topics, such as the town’s landfill and animal shelter, while identifying other areas for improvement.

We thank Clayman for keeping the democratic process alive and well and for offering a powerful counterbalance throughout the campaign. Win or lose, her efforts will go a long way to help reform this town government.

But we believe Panico is the right person to enact those reforms in office. In this year’s race for Brookhaven Town supervisor, he has our endorsement.

Kaplan would put service first as Brookhaven highway superintendent

Michael Kaplan

As Election Day quickly approaches, Brookhaven residents will have an important decision before them about who they want overseeing their town highways. 

Incumbent Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) has undoubtedly proven to be a capable leader of the Highway Department, with accomplishments such as securing multiple multimillion dollar grants for Brookhaven projects.

However, Losquadro’s opponent, Michael Kaplan (D), proved that he would put his position over politics and party affiliation. We believe that kind of messaging is highly appealing amid these turbulent times.

During our office debate with the two candidates, Kaplan displayed a true gentleman’s nature, praising Losquadro for the work that he has done for Brookhaven residents while politely establishing areas of disagreement. Kaplan refused to engage in any form of unnecessary attack against Losquadro, instead tactfully debating the substance of the job.

Kaplan’s eagerness to use a hands-on approach to lead the office is warmly received, and it is clear that his past positions in highway departments (and the U.S. Army) have shaped his style of thinking and way of approaching complex problems.

In the end, we firmly believe that Kaplan will listen to the needs of the residents, and will fulfill his duty wholeheartedly. While Brookhaven is a geographically massive township, it needs leaders with a “small-town mentality.” That kind of resident-centric, hands-on focus is sorely needed to meet this moment.

For these reasons, TBR News Media endorses Michael Kaplan’s bid for the position of Brookhaven Superintendent of Highways.

Englebright’s record speaks for itself

 

Steve Englebright

On this November’s ballot, voters will decide between two very different kinds of candidates for Suffolk County’s 5th Legislative District.

Given the passion and sincere convictions of both candidates, the decision to endorse was close. But given the choice of only one candidate, we believe former New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) has the political experience and impressive connections to advocate most effectively for 5th District residents.

If elected, Englebright would bring a lifetime of political experience with him into the county Legislature. He had already served in that capacity from 1983-92, followed by three decades in the state Assembly. Also a geologist by training, Englebright’s expertise on environmental sustainability — coupled with his sustained commitment to protecting our groundwater and surface waters, preserving open space and preparing our community for a sustainable future — make him the right choice to meet the growing environmental needs within our county. With simultaneous wastewater and garbage crises brewing along our county’s horizon, we need a firm environmental voice in the county Legislature.

In securing public investment into the 5th Legislative District, we know Englebright will help bring home its fair share and then some. Throughout his political entire career, he has done so repeatedly. With a wealth of experience and connections behind him, Englebright is prepared to leverage those assets to benefit this community.

Anthony Figliola, Englebright’s Republican Party opponent, has good ideas and passion that would be of service to 5th District residents. We hope that he stays involved in the political process.

But this year’s county election is about experience and proven leadership. Because Steve Englebright uniquely possesses those experiences, he has earned our endorsement to represent the 5th Legislative District.

Kornreich is a champion for Council District 1

Jonathan Kornreich

One of the great civic victories in the Town of Brookhaven’s recent political history was the institution of the councilmanic system.

This system created six separate council districts, each with one representative on the Town Board. The principal fruit of this civic effort has been Council District 1, a traditionally Democratic council district whose representative serves as a valuable check against the Republican Party stronghold in town government.

Since entering the Town Board via special election in 2021, incumbent Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) has been a forceful advocate on behalf of his constituents. Through his efforts, real progress has been made, with tangible policy wins for the people of his district.

Look no further than Port Jefferson Station, a place where a homegrown local renaissance is currently underway. Thanks to Kornreich’s advocacy work, that hamlet’s Train Car Park has become a central community hub. And with the proposed redevelopment of Jefferson Plaza on Route 112, we believe Kornreich will help create a vibrant, traditional downtown feel along that corridor.

During our office debate with the CD1 candidates, we were struck by Kornreich’s depth of expertise in the areas where town government is most central: land use. His private-sector background and his civic leadership within the Three Village Civic Association uniquely qualify him for this kind of work.

We also notice and greatly appreciate the considerable efforts he takes to be present for his constituents. Whether at civic associations, chambers of commerce or other local events, Kornreich always seems to be there and engaged. These frequent interactions between the representative and his constituents are instrumental in identifying and advancing the local interest.

As journalists, access to public officials is crucial for properly informing our readers. Whenever we request a comment from Kornreich, he is quick to offer his insight and perspective. This is an important public service, assisting the local press in informing the public and fostering  democracy. We encourage Kornreich to continue contributing op-eds to our newspapers, which help keep our readers up to speed on his work in town government.

Evidenced by his presence and actions, Kornreich is an effective ambassador for his district. It is undeniable that he cares deeply for this community and leverages his experience and skills to make this area a better place.

If reelected, we remind Kornreich that his position — while determined by CD1 voters — has townwide implications. As the lone elected Democrat in town government, residents across the entire town look to him for guidance and leadership. After all, the formation of CD1 was the consequence of a townwide civic effort.

For this reason, we were disappointed by Kornreich’s “yes” vote for the adopted map in last year’s redistricting process — a vote negatively impacting the historically underrepresented communities of Gordon Heights and North Bellport in Council District 4. But while Kornreich’s redistricting vote was a mistake, we believe in his capacity for growth and remind him to let the light of conscience and good will guide similar votes down the road.

We found Kornreich’s opponent, Gary Bodenburg, to be a likable and sincere person. We admire and respect his advocacy work for disadvantaged youth, and we believe his time is most valuably spent if he continues in that capacity.

But this election cycle, the choice is clear. TBR News Media strongly endorses Jonathan Kornreich’s reelection campaign for Brookhaven’s 1st Council District.

Marcoccia is a dutiful department head

Louis Marcoccia

Unlike the other races, the Town of Brookhaven Receiver of Taxes race isn’t exactly competitive, with the democratic candidate Tricia L. Chiaramonte not running an active campaign. However, as incumbent Lou Marcoccia (R) offers a high quality choice. 

Marcoccia’s dedication to serving his constituents cannot be underestimated. He has made it clear that he truly wants to help the residents of Brookhaven in ways such as allowing them to turn in their taxes after the office has closed on the last day possible, and not charging them a hefty late fee. He doesn’t have to do this, but he chooses to, which shows his true character. 

He does not concern himself with party politics, but rather sticks to being a good leader and superb manager, very rarely raising his voice. His strive for accessibility is admirable, as there are many times when the blind and deaf community have to fight for basic accommodations. 

However, Marcoccia makes sure to offer an inclusive environment. TBR News Media looks forward to another term served for Lou Marcoccia as the Brookhaven Receiver of Taxes and endorse his campaign for reelection.

Cavalier will bring continuity to the 6th Legislative District

Dorothy Cavalier

Due to county term limits, incumbent Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) cannot seek reelection, creating an open contest for the 6th Legislative District for the first time in over a decade.

To succeed Anker, two well-qualified attorneys have stepped forward. During our office debate with Dorothy Cavalier (D-Mount Sinai) and Chad Lennon (R-Rocky Point), we were struck by their shared knowledge of the law and familiarity with their community.

It’s unfortunate that only one of these candidates will be selected this November because we believe each has a unique set of ideas for guiding our county in a positive direction. But like the voters, we can only endorse one. And while the decision was close, TBR News Media supports Cavalier this November.

If elected, Cavalier will bring with her a wealth of legal knowledge to the county Legislature. Given her experience as Anker’s chief of staff, she has a firm grasp of the issues at stake and a rooted understanding of the challenges facing 6th District residents.

Cavalier’s boss has been a positive force during her time in county government, working across the aisle to attain cross-partisan appeal. We believe Cavalier seeks to continue the work Anker has started.

During our debate, Lennon demonstrated an enthusiasm and dedication we deeply respect. His interest in veteran issues especially moved us. Given his combat experiences and his evident passion for his fellow service members, we believe Lennon is ideally suited to chair the county’s Veteran Services Committee if elected this November.

The only variable that brought Lennon down a notch in our eyes was his tenure on the Town of Brookhaven’s controversial redistricting committee last year, resulting in a botched process and a gerrymandered map. We wish cooler heads could have prevailed within that committee and remind Lennon he must be an independent voice for 6th District constituents capable of bucking his party when necessary.

To represent the communities across northern Brookhaven, our staff endorses Dorothy Cavalier for Suffolk’s 6th Legislative District.

Bonner is an ambassador for Brookhaven’s 2nd District

Jane Bonner

In the race for Brookhaven’s 2nd Council District, which covers the northeastern hamlets from Mount Sinai to Wading River and a large chunk of Coram, residents are weighing various quality-of-life concerns.

Seniors and young people are becoming increasingly priced out of the region. Commercial districts, such as those along state Routes 25 and 25A, are struggling post-pandemic. And the town government is staring down a sizable loss of public revenue due to the planned closure of the Brookhaven Town landfill.

To meet this moment, Brookhaven requires experienced, knowledgeable public servants in office. Given her track record, we believe incumbent Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) will rise to the occasion.

Bonner’s commitment to the 2nd Council District is undeniable. She has served in this capacity for well over a decade, and her continual reelection suggests that her policies are registering with voters.

We also appreciate Bonner’s continued presence within the community. While covering local events, we often bump into the councilwoman. Making frequent public appearances is critical for connecting with the public and advocating on their behalf in town government. Bonner has done just that.

Bonner’s challenger this election cycle, Carol Russell (D-Coram), has some good ideas and has demonstrated an interest in serving her community. If elected, we believe Russell would be a positive force within the Town Board. We hope she stays involved in the community, regardless of the outcome.

But given a choice, we will stand by the incumbent for this election. Bonner has our endorsement for Brookhaven’s 2nd Council District.

Caracappa will show up for 4th District residents

Nick Caracappa

Uncontested elections are all too familiar in Suffolk County, evidenced by the current race for Suffolk County’s 4th Legislative District.

Incumbent Legislator Nick Caracappa (C-Selden) is running virtually uncontested, his Democratic Party challenger Timothy Hall a candidate on paper only. Hall is not running an open campaign and declined to attend an office debate with the incumbent.

Our staff would have appreciated a spirited discussion on the issues. The 4th District has many challenges ahead, from limiting overdevelopment along Middle Country Road to expanding housing options for seniors and young people to addressing the plight of homelessness within the district.

In this race, only one candidate is willing to offer any ideas or potential solutions. Caracappa has thought through the many issues facing his constituents and is determined to address the quality of life needs within the area.

We appreciate Caracappa’s willingness to serve, advocate for his community and make the Greater Middle Country area a better place to live. For showing up for the people of his community, TBR News Media endorses his reelection campaign this November.

In the meantime, we are deeply distressed by and strongly condemn the tendency of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee to sacrifice races to their opposition. Holding contested elections should not be a calculation of cost or likelihood of victory. Having two viable candidates debate the issues is a universal good for our local deliberative process.

We ask that Suffolk Democrats radically rethink their current political strategy. They are bleeding seats across all levels of local government precisely because of their unwillingness to debate the issues and run contested campaigns. Our democracy depends upon a functional two-party system. We hope to have one again in elections to come.

Leslie Kennedy is a compassionate voice for Suffolk’s 12th District

Leslie Kennedy

Leslie Kennedy has served as legislator of Suffolk County’s 12th District for the last eight years and is seeking another term.

Within her work as a legislator, she is recognized for her focus on constituent services, showing compassion for those needing aid and assistance. She serves as a voice for the district’s residents.

As a result of the recent county redistricting, District 12 now includes more low-income residents, a cohort she seeks to help.

Kennedy is often recognized for her compassion for helping those within the elderly community, most often those economically disadvantaged. In an interview with TBR News Media, she shared a story detailing her experience with seniors, typically women, who cannot afford retired life based on the Social Security stipend they receive. She touched upon her work connecting seniors to food pantries, accessible transportation and affordable housing options.

She has also voiced her views on one of the most significant issues this election cycle, Suffolk County’s wastewater infrastructure and the proposed sales-tax referendum accompanying it. Kennedy voted against the referendum to enhance the existing infrastructure by instituting a 1/8% sales tax increase due to her expectations for a future plan including a more well-thought-out and effective revenue split between sewers and Advanced/Innovative septic systems.

Kennedy is a major proponent of open-space preservation, with efforts to combat the ever-growing development slowly engulfing Suffolk County. She continuously expressed concerns and the need for adequate legislation for young people and families seeking life on Long Island who are increasingly unable to afford it.

If elected, Kennedy plans to continue her important work serving the residents of her district. Her opponent, Democratic candidate Denis Graziano, is not actively campaigning. TBR News Media endorses Kennedy’s reelection campaign.

McCarthy will do the job of Smithtown town clerk

Tom McCarthy

To fill the vacancy left behind by former Smithtown Town Clerk Vincent Puleo (R), who vacated the post in January when he assumed the Suffolk County clerkship, Smithtown voters are faced with two candidates with starkly different outlooks on the office’s role within town government.

On the one hand, candidate Bill Holst (D) brings a wealth of public-sector background and civic energy to this campaign. During our office debate, he advocated for a more assertive clerk to help steer the Town Board toward better policy outcomes.

On the other hand, Tom McCarthy (R) — not the town councilman — has a private-sector background that qualifies him for the demands of the office. Given the growing fears over cybersecurity both locally and more broadly, McCarthy’s experience in the security sector could be a major asset for town government.

But given the pick of only one candidate, the choice seemed clear. While we admired Holst’s drive, McCarthy seemed genuinely interested in the position.

There is nothing sexy about record keeping. Serving as recording secretary during Town Board meetings does not conjure ideas of political intrigue either. Yet this position is an elective office because it’s quite important for the operations of government.

We believe Smithtown residents deserve a clerk who is engaged by the office. An effective town clerk must be 100% dialed in. As evidenced by last year’s cyberattack against the county, when officials are not fully dialed into these seemingly mundane municipal affairs, things can go wrong quickly.

Tom McCarthy seemed to be excited by the prospect of performing these tasks. He had ideas about maximizing the office’s customer service potential. We hope he continues that enthusiasm if elected.

For his interest in the work ahead, TBR News Media endorses McCarthy’s candidacy for Smithtown town clerk.

Trotta adds a healthy dose of pessimism to county government

Rob Trotta

A government as large and complex as Suffolk County’s could take any reform-minded individual down an arduous and ultimately unfulfilling rabbit hole.

Take Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), who has been running on a reform agenda since 2013. Trotta is running for his sixth and final term in the county Legislature, and his prospects for reelection look promising — he is running unopposed. He has always been a rebel, but entering his last term, he pledged to go out with a bang. We hope he does.

The county government is at a critical juncture in its history. From aging cesspools polluting our water to long-term uncertainty over our regional waste management system to the potential for serious financial strife in the years ahead, there are many challenges our county government must soon resolve.

Trotta not only concentrates on the principles of good government; he has staked his entire political career upon these precepts. And with just two short years before he is termed out of office, he has nothing to lose.

In the coming term, we wish Trotta well and hope that he achieves his goal to “clean up this mess.”

We also support his platform of open space conservation, which is critically important in this time of often continuing development. Our county must protect the few remaining parcels left, and Trotta seems determined to do so.

Meanwhile, we strongly condemn the Suffolk County Democratic Committee for refusing to run an opponent against the sitting incumbent. This practice is detrimental to our local deliberative process and quite possibly explains the staggering loss of Democratic seats in the county Legislature and for countywide office.

But despite the committee’s faults, we have good reason to back the incumbent. This November, TBR News Media strongly endorses Rob Trotta’s uncontested reelection campaign.

Majority endorsement: Hebert and McKay will bring needed change for Huntington

Don McKay
Jen Hebert

Watch a typical public comment period during general meetings of the Huntington Town Board and the takeaway will be clear: the people yearn for change.

This year, voters are considering a qualified slate of candidates, all deeply motivated and informed on local policy. Yet there are some noteworthy differences between them.

During our office debate, our staff was deeply moved by Jen Hebert’s depth of insight, her conviction and her compassion for local residents. For each issue we asked her about — from accessory dwelling units to land use to quality of life decisions — Hebert seemed to speak to the core issues facing ordinary citizens, offering tangible policy solutions for each problem.

We believe Hebert’s background as a trustee on the South Huntington school district Board of Education uniquely qualifies her for the task of breathing new life into Huntington Town Board. This year, each member of our staff enthusiastically endorses her vision for town government.

In deciding between the other two candidates, a majority of us felt Don McKay had the slight edge.

If residents desire change, then McKay would be the ideal vessel to carry out their will. McKay said he is not looking to make friends while in office but to bring about real reforms. If elected, we hope he follows through on his objective and brings change to a system which evidently demands new vision.

We thank each of the candidates for a substantive and cordial discussion of local topics. Any one of these three candidates, we believe, will be a force of good for town government.

But given the choice of only two, a majority of our staff endorses Jen Hebert and Don McKay for Huntington Town Board.

Minority endorsement: Mari will preserve Huntington’s charm and character

Theresa Mari

During a roundtable debate with TBR News Media, Theresa Mari exhibited an ardent dedication to the betterment of the Town of Huntington. 

Mari prides herself on her strength of character and commitment to being a strong leader.

Mari’s vision for Huntington revolves around responsible development and sound infrastructure. While acknowledging the necessity for housing, she stands against large-scale development projects that could alter the town’s character.

Mari is equally dedicated to maintaining financial stability. If elected, she vows to “hold the line” on taxes, ensuring that residents’ tax burden remains stable. Simultaneously, she aims to enhance infrastructure, addressing issues like road maintenance and safeguarding drinking water resources.

Mari also showed a deep care for community youth as she shared plans to bridge the gap between youth organizations and school districts to create positive programs for the town’s young residents. This includes collaborating with youth courts, local drug rehabilitation centers and school districts to offer crucial support, particularly in the area of mental health.

As Huntington faces the upcoming election with two vacant seats on the Town Board, Mari stands out as a dedicated advocate with a clear vision for the town’s future. Her legal background, commitment to community service and passion for preserving Huntington’s character make her a compelling candidate for the Town Board. 

She, therefore, has the endorsement of a minority of our staff.

 

Former New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, left, and Anthony Figliola debate the issues. Photo by Raymond Janis

By Mallie Jane Kim

Forty-year political veteran Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) is facing off against business development and government relations professional Anthony Figliola (R-East Setauket) to be the next Suffolk County legislator for the 5th District. The recent incumbent, county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), vacated her seat in August to take up a New York State parks post.

The two candidates discussed current county issues in a rather tense debate hosted in the TBR News Media office. “Can you tell we are passionate?” Figliola asked at one point.

Indeed, their passion was evident as they expressed frustration about each other’s negative political mailings and questioned aspects of each other’s backgrounds. On the issues they discussed that were pertinent to governing the county, their differences were nuanced.

Key issues

Englebright previously held the county post for nearly a decade before he was elected in 1992 to the New York State Assembly, where he stayed until he narrowly lost his seat last year.

He said he felt his work in the county is not yet done, especially in light of the move last summer by the county Legislature to table a bill that would have allowed residents to vote on establishing a 1/8-cent sales tax to create a water quality protection fund, which would help add sewers and Innovative/Alternative septic systems.

“The future of drinking water in this county is in peril,” he said at the debate, pointing to the decision not to include the water referendum on November’s ballot. “They denied that opportunity for people to vote to determine the future well-being of their families and our communities.”

Figliola said he is invested in the community despite watching so many friends leave due to quality-of-life and cost-of-living issues. He said that a priority for him is making sure the Suffolk County Police Department has the resources it needs to fight crime, and in particular to address deadly fentanyl overdoses.

“This is a serious issue,” he said. “It doesn’t care about your political ideology or gender, it’s designed to kill — and we have to put these drug dealers in jail.”

Wastewater

Both candidates agreed Long Island has a wastewater issue — the sheer volume of cesspools on Long Island puts the area’s waterways and sole-source aquifer at risk.

Englebright claimed the county Legislature’s down vote of the referendum over the summer was an effort at voter suppression, assuming the clean water vote would have drawn more Democratic voters to the polls in November. “It was a partisanizing of an issue that has been bipartisan for years,” he said. “Our drinking water is a limited and finite resource, and it should not be partisanized. But it was.”

Figliola said he’s been supportive of the measure as a private citizen, but he also thought the bill, which would designate a majority of the funds to updated septic systems, had flaws. He argued there should be a 50/50 split of funds in order to add more sewers in places like Port Jefferson, Port Jefferson Station and other main streets, and perhaps a percentage of funds could be left as wiggle room. 

“I would like greater flexibility to be able to give dollars more to sewers — or perhaps in 10 years, there’s some new technology that we don’t even know about, but we’re handcuffed because there are specific percentages,” he said.

Englebright rebutted that in the decade of preparation for the clean water bill, the proportion was worked out by Stony Brook University scientists and “field tested” in public hearings.

“It’s proportional that it’s about 75% of the problem is in cesspools, not in business districts,” he said.

Migrants and asylum seekers

Both candidates condemned the tactic by Republican governors of busing illegal migrants from border towns to Democratic-leaning so-called sanctuary cities, including New York City, as inhumane. But they agreed the county was right to block any move to bring the migrants to Suffolk, after Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) eyed SUNY campuses like SBU as temporary migrant housing.

The candidates said the county does not currently have the capacity to accept a sudden influx.

“You can’t just unilaterally start flooding this area without any preparations,” Figliola said, adding that there could be ways to activate churches and nonprofits to help out, but leadership on this issue needs to come from the federal government.

Englebright balked at any mandate to receive migrants without funding and time to prepare.

“New York City’s plight is serious and not New York City’s fault, but it shouldn’t be translated into Suffolk County,” he said. “There’s a way to do it the right way, and that’s not what has been proposed.”

Pedestrian/bike safety

Both candidates are pro-sidewalk, saying they think new developments should be required to install them, though Englebright said he sees a “built-in conflict” in mature communities where beautiful trees have grown up where sidewalks should be.

Englebright pointed to other solutions, like recreational walking and biking trails such as Trustees Road at West Meadow Beach and also to potential commuter routes, such as the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway and the bike paths on SBU’s campus — all of which he said he had a hand in creating through his position in the state Assembly.

But walkers on the Greenway itself see issues of safety and potential drug activity. Figliola said he would like to see bike patrols by the Suffolk County Police Department, and perhaps even call boxes along the trail for easier reporting.

“We need to give police the resources they need so that if you’re walking with your kids, you can feel safe,” he said.

Englebright agreed that the county has a big role to play. “Almost 200 acres of county parkland is strung like jewels on a necklace if the string of the necklace is the trail itself,” he said, suggesting county police should be involved, but this county land could easily house call boxes.

County police

Englebright called the Suffolk County Police Department “almost overwhelmingly the most important issue from an economic perspective of the county budget,” and said upcoming contract negotiations are important since public safety takes up about 70% of the budget.

“We need to have a clear-eyes reappraisal of how we go about the very real need to support our police and make sure the thin blue line is not made so thin that it weakens the protections we depend upon in our communities and for our children,” he said. 

Figliola stressed again the need to give police the resources they need to keep communities safe but agreed the contract negotiation is important. “There has to be transparency in the process. We need to make sure what we do is in the benefit of the people,” he said. “We need to have a need matched with a public benefit.”

He also expressed frustration over positions at the county left open, particularly detective positions. He said the Suffolk administration under County Executive Steve Bellone (D) has been “crafty with budgeting” by not filling positions already in the budget and paid for by taxpayers.

Homelessness

Figliola said the county’s Department of Social Services could better coordinate with the towns to assist people living in encampments but said a huge factor is mental illness.

“We have to find a way to help these folks,” he said, suggesting a partnership with SBU to incentivize people to become social workers. “There’s not enough people to help those who are mentally ill.”

Englebright praised the county for working with nonprofit organizations on this issue, but said that could be expanded, and engaging with area churches in particular could work well. He said the county needs to find a way “to incentivize people to leave who are just camping out in open spaces and causing a lot of young families to not want to venture into those spaces.”

County District 5 voters will decide on these two candidates Tuesday, Nov. 7.