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Superintendent of Highways Daniel Losquadro

Holtsville Hal

Following the snowstorm that battered Brookhaven Town earlier this week, the 2021 virtual Groundhog Day ceremony had to be canceled. However, that didn’t stop Suffolk County’s most famous weatherman from revealing his prognostication. 

In the early morning hours of Feb. 2, Holtsville Hal awoke from his slumber, brushed the snow aside to emerge from his burrow and did not see his shadow, predicting an early spring for the snow-covered Town of Brookhaven.

According to tradition, if a groundhog sees its shadow on Groundhog Day, there will be six more weeks of winter weather; if not, spring should arrive early. 

“After this week’s storm, I’m sure we are all looking forward to an early spring and keeping our fingers crossed that our resident weatherman maintains his accuracy,” said Superintendent of Highways Daniel Losquadro. 

“Regardless, the Brookhaven Highway Department remains ready to handle whatever else Mother Nature decides to send our way.”

“While we were disappointed that we couldn’t hold our usual family-friendly event, due to COVID, and then had to cancel the virtual ceremony, we hope to see big crowds next year for Groundhog Day 2022,” Losquadro continued. 

Highway Super Dan Losquadro and Councilwoman Jane Bonner on North Country Road in Miller Place. North Country Road has been repaved from Honey Lane to the entrance of the Miller Place elementary school. Photo from TOB highways

The Town of Brookhaven’s plan to redo the well-tread North Country Road is coming close to completion, with only a stretch in Sound Beach left for 2021. Officials said the last bit of work will depend on an extra $600K as part of this year’s proposed capital budget.

Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) announced the completion of three separate capital improvement projects, totaling more than $3.425 million on North Country Road from Miller Place to Rocky Point.

The initial phase of this project took place in 2019 when sidewalk, curbing and crosswalk improvements were constructed on North Country Road and Miller Place Road from the entrance to the Laddie A. Decker Sound Beach School to Echo Avenue. This phase was funded in part by a Multi-Modal grant secured by State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) in the amount of $500,000, with the Town of Brookhaven contributing the $345,418 match. Also in 2019 and part of this project, crews worked to dredge the bottom of the Miller Place Duck Pond, lowering its level and improving its drainage and water quality, at a cost of $125,629.

The second phase of this infrastructure improvement project included the construction of new sidewalk, curbing, bike lanes, ADA-compliant handicap ramps, driveway aprons, drainage infrastructure, pedestrian crosswalks, benches, bike racks, and the resurfacing of North Country Road from Honey Lane to the entrance to the Laddie A. Decker Sound Beach School. This phase was funded in part by a New York State Department of Transportation “Transportation Alternatives Grant” for $1.159 million, with the Town of Brookhaven contributing the $751,580 match.

It’s not just the road surface, but all the other improvements that make their work so important for the people who use it every day, especially when school is in session,” Bonner said. 

The third phase of this project included the milling and paving of North Country Road from Washington Avenue in Sound Beach to NYS 25-A at the Miller Place/Rocky Point border which totaled $555,411.

To complete the North Country Road reconstruction project in Miller Place, Losquadro said he has included 600,000 in his proposed 2021 capital budget to install over 3,000 linear feet of drainage pipe and 14 drainage basins on North Country Road from Honey Lane to Pipe Stave Hollow Road to solve the significant water problems experienced along this stretch. Once the drainage infrastructure work is complete, the entire roadway from Pipe Stave Hollow Road to Honey Lane will be resurfaced, completing the three-year capital project.

“The capital improvement projects completed on North Country Road over the last two years have created safer pedestrian access for the students who walk to the middle and elementary schools; residents who walk, bike and jog in the area; and motorists,” Losquadro said in a release. “Once the final phase of drainage infrastructure work and resurfacing is complete next year, we will have resurfaced North Country Road from the Village of Port Jefferson border to Route 25A at the Rocky Point/Miller Place border.”

Local civic leaders have noticed the difference from before to where it is now.

“All the improvements that have been done so far have made the area safer and more aesthetically pleasing, especially given all the kids that do walk there,” Sound Beach Civic Association President Bea Ruberto said. “I know that the town is strapped now because of COVID-19, but I do hope that they are able to secure the funding needed to complete this really worthwhile project.”

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Sidewalks being installed on Stony Brook Road near the university and the Research and Development Park. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Motorists driving along Stony Brook Road are currently witnessing what happens when the state and town work together.

In July, work began toward the north end of the corridor between Oxhead Road and Development Drive, in the vicinity of Stony Brook University. In 2016 state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) secured a $1 million grant from the New York State Dormitory Authority through its State and Municipal Facilities Capital Program to fund a traffic safety improvement project on the road. An additional $75,000 was acquired by state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) through the state multimodal program, and Town of Brookhaven Highway Supervisor Dan Losquadro (R) said the town has contributed an approximate additional $815,000, for a total of about $1.9 million.

“The project involves several components that are going to enhance safety for not only drivers, but also, just as importantly, for pedestrians with the university,” Losquadro said.

Most notable to drivers and pedestrians are the sidewalks being added between Oxhead Road and SBU’s Research and Development Park. There will be drainage improvements, according to Losquadro, as well as retaining walls at spots where there are significant grade changes with the sidewalks, in order for the walkways to be Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.

Losquadro said based on talks with university officials, community members and traffic studies conducted by the town, there was a need to improve vehicular flow at the Oxhead Road intersection and the school’s South Drive intersection. The highway superintendent said there will be a new signal and turning lane into Oxhead Road so cars can cue up at the light and not impede the flow of northbound and southbound traffic. The project will also entail a larger turning lane into South Drive which will have dedicated turning arrows, meaning those making a left turn from Stony Brook Road  will not have to worry about oncoming traffic turning in front of them.

“It will move many more cars out of that southbound queue, so traffic can flow much more freely southbound,” Losquadro said.

There will also be a new traffic signal at the Research and Development Park. At the end of the project, which is estimated to be the middle of October, the road will be resurfaced between Oxhead and the R&D park, and new decorative lights that will match ones used on the south end of the corridor will be installed.

The highway superintendent said in addressing both vehicular and pedestrian traffic, the project also takes into consideration both current and future needs, especially with future development at the R&D park.

“In speaking with the university, we want to plan for the future,” Losquadro said. “We want to future proof this. We want to make sure that even if the volume between the university and R&D park is lower now, as far as walkers, one of the reasons for that may be there is no safe way for those people to walk.”

The highway superintendent said he hopes the changes will encourage more people to use non-vehicular transit, meaning less traffic.

SBU spokesperson Lauren Sheprow said the university is grateful to all involved.

“The campus community at Stony Brook University is exceptionally grateful to have these new roadway improvements that will make it safer for those walking and biking near campus,” Sheprow said. “It would not have been possible without $1M in state Senate funding secured by Senator Flanagan and nearly the same amount by Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro. We are also grateful to Assemblyman Steve Englebright who provided funding that enhanced the project’s beauty and added safety through the addition of LED decorative street lights.”

Losquadro said there is a long-term plan for the corridor including hopes to work on the southern portion of the corridor near Route 347 in the near future, but a timeline for that project depends if money is included in the upcoming capital budgets.

By Heidi Sutton

The Town of Brookhaven held its annual Groundhog Day celebration at the Holtsville Ecology Site and Animal Preserve on Saturday, Feb. 2. Many families with young children braved the frigid weather to hear a very important prediction from Suffolk County’s most famous weatherman, Holtsville Hal, and the little guy did not disappoint.

At 7:25 a.m., before a crowd of several hundred spectators, the groundhog awoke from his slumber and did not see his shadow, joining Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil, Malverne Mel, Staten Island Chuck and Dunkirk Dave in predicting that spring weather is right around the corner.

Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), who was joined by Councilman Neil Foley (R-Blue Point), served as honorary Mayor of the Day and read Hal’s prognostication:

“Upon waking up this morning from my long winter’s nap, I heard Honey Bear yawning after this unusual cold snap, Lucy the Buffalo was up, Victoria the eagle too, wondering what everyone is planning to do. I exited my burrow and took a step out, realizing that my prognostication is what this is all about. Hundreds have gathered waiting to hear, will it be an early spring or more snow this year. I know you’re all anxious to hear what I have to say, I won’t keep you waiting at 7:25 on this cold blustery day. When I came out of my burrow and put my paws on the floor, I did not see the shadow I was looking for. According to folklore, go home and ready your lawn, spring is coming and the winter is more than half gone.”

Superintendent of Highways Daniel Losquadro (R), who was not able to attend the event this year, issued a statement on Monday.  “I’m sure we are all looking forward to an early spring and keeping our fingers crossed that our resident weatherman maintains his accuracy,” he said. “Regardless, the Brookhaven Highway Department remains ready to handle whatever Mother Nature decides to send our way.”

After the event, festivalgoers were treated to bagels and hot chocolate and were able to visit the 100 animals that call the Ecology Site home including deer, horses, goats, llamas, hawks and its newest addition, a pine martin. The center, which is open all year round, also includes jogging and exercise trails.

Greg Drossel, who has been Holtsville Hal’s handler for 22 years, said, “I remember when this ecology site was started by Harold Malkmes [Brookhaven’s longtime superintendent], 25, 30 years ago with a pair of buffalo and a pair of bald eagles and now it’s a gem in the Town of Brookhaven and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Located at 249 Buckley Road, Holtsville, the Ecology Site will next host the 2019 Home & Garden Show on March 23, 24, 30 and 31 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 631-758-9664.