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Suffolk County Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program

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New medians on Stony Brook Road with mulching instead of asphalt will need regular weeding unless replaced. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Determining who is responsible for the upkeep of medians on Stony Brook Road is causing some community confusion.

“There was definitely a misunderstanding about who was going to be responsible for maintaining all of the medians.”

— Lee Krauer

Earlier this year, the Town of Brookhaven replaced old street lights on the road’s five medians with decorative, energy-efficient lights, replaced asphalt with mulch and took down dead trees, according to town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R). The changes were a result of meetings with the Friends of Stony Brook Road, a committee of six residents whose goal is to beautify the street.

During the meetings, Losquadro said he talked to the residents about the upkeep of the medians, saying it would be up to them due to median maintenance not being in his budget.

“Vegetated medians are very labor intensive, and the understanding was that if we were going to do something vegetated that it would have to be done with a public-private partnership, and they would have to maintain it,” Losquadro said.

Lee Krauer, chair of Friends of Stony Brook Road, said the group didn’t agree to maintaining the whole median, only anything they would plant on the median.

“There was definitely a misunderstanding about who was going to be responsible for maintaining all of the medians,” Krauer said.

After the mulch was in place, Krauer said the Friends group enlisted the help of landscaping architects who donated their time. She said they were looking into low-maintenance plantings that would spread and wouldn’t need a lot of water or weeding. They discovered there was a roadbed from the original Stony Brook Road underneath six inches of mulch, which made it difficult to plant anything. The mulch would need to be built up or the original roadbed would have to be torn up, which would cost thousands, according to Krauer.

“We’re trying to do something to really help the community and keep our community looking pretty.”

— Lee Krauer

“Because we can’t do anything with the depth of the soil, we’re kind of between a rock and a hard place,” she said, adding the group also looked into grants.

At an Aug. 22 meeting at the Stony Brook firehouse, Losquadro said he told the group he could schedule one cleanup for the season but that’s all his budget would allow. At the same meeting, the Friends of Stony Brook talked about options for the future including covering the medians with concrete. Losquadro said it can be done but would have to go through the town’s capital projects and not the highway department.

Krauer said the group would add potted plants to the medians if concrete was used and would take care of the plants, which was part of their original beautification visioning.

“I assume that we will be able to work cooperatively with Dan, and that he’s going to do the stamped concrete,” Krauer said. “And then we can come up with some pots or some sort of design that we can get plantings there one way or another, and we will maintain the plantings.”

Losquadro said he urges the group to think it through before committing to the concrete.

The Friends of Stony Brook is also looking for someone who is knowledgeable about garden districts to speak at one of its future meetings as setting up a district is an option that they would consider.

“We’re trying to do something to really help the community and keep our community looking pretty,” Krauer said.

Maintenance of the medians was delegated to an unlikely source for the time being. Inmates from the Suffolk County Correctional Facility recently weeded the five medians on the street as part of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program, which allows qualifying nonviolent prisoners to volunteer to work
outside of the correctional facility.

Losquadro said he was familiar with the sheriff’s program from using it in the past for graffiti removal and beautification projects. He said he reached out to the office to see if they could handle a median cleanup, which would prevent him from pulling a town crew from elsewhere to weed.

“This really allows us to get two things done at the same time,” he said. “I was very grateful that the sheriff’s office was able to accommodate us.”