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Three Village Civic Association

The Three Village Community Trust, the Three Village Civic Association, the North Suffolk Garden Club, the Three Village Chamber of Commerce and students and faculty at the Stony Brook School have engaged in a Beautification Project at the Stony Brook Train Station over the past year.

Significant progress has been made removing debris, weeds, and invasive plants from the landscaped beds. And a wide variety of Long Island native plants have been added to the landscaped beds.

As part of their efforts, the Stony Brook Train Station Beautification Committee invites the community to
the opening reception of a very special art installation created by local artist Michael Rosengard at the Station titled ‘All Aboard – Home For The Holidays’ on Monday, Dec. 4 from noon to 1 p.m. Meet the artist, take photos and enjoy bagels, coffee and cookies.

This outdoor work of art, located outside the front entrance of the historic Stony Brook Station House, creates a sense of wonder and whimsy to those walking or driving past the Station, highlights the history and importance of the Long Island Rail Road, celebrates the accomplishments of the Beautification Project, and helps kick off the Holiday Season.

For more information, call 631-942-4558.

The Brookhaven Town Board will consider a proposed change of zone for the Jefferson Plaza property on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 5 p.m. File photo by Raymond Janis

Port Jefferson Station/Terryville is approaching a potentially community-defining transformation as the Brookhaven Town Board weighs the future redevelopment of the Jefferson Plaza shopping center, owned by Islandia-based Staller Associates.

Later this month, the board will consider rezoning the 10-acre parcel at the intersection of state Route 112 and Terryville Road to a Commercial Redevelopment District, or CRD, a new classification within the town’s Zoning Code. Jefferson Plaza would be the first property in town history to receive this designation if approved.

Enacted in 2020, the CRD enables mixed-use development along parcels of over 5 acres in size. According to the code, the CRD aims “to create the type of planning and zoning flexibility which is necessary to stimulate the revitalization of abandoned, vacant or underutilized commercial shopping center, bowling alley and health club properties.”

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) represents Port Jefferson Station on the Town Board. In an exclusive interview, he summarized the CRD’s purpose as “more housing, less commercial space, generally.”

“The local government has created an incentive to spur redevelopment,“ he said. “But it hasn’t been used yet, so we’re trying to use it now.”

Commercial decline

Kornreich said this new approach to commercial revitalization is guided by a sequence of “extinction events” occurring within the local retail market.

Since the establishment of these local downtowns in the previous century and even earlier, Kornreich identified the emergence of automobile culture and the growth of large box stores as the first threat to traditional mom-and-pop storefronts and downtown economies. In the wake of this first extinction event, “retail took a hit that it never really recovered from,” Kornreich said.

Retail’s downward trajectory was further exacerbated by e-commerce, which began to put even the big box stores and large retailers out of business. “And then, of course, COVID came, and that hit commercial real estate and retail,” the councilmember noted.

Confronting the many changes reshaping the commercial landscape, Kornreich said the CRD would help spur commercial redevelopment.

“This is our existential challenge: How do we help guide the redevelopment of our community so it can be healthy, so that it can thrive, and so that people can afford to live here and have a good quality of life,” he said.

Richard Murdocco is an adjunct professor in the Department of Political Science at Stony Brook University, specializing in land use, real estate markets, economic development and environmental policy. Given the current pressures upon the commercial sector, Murdocco concluded that “these antiquated shopping centers need a redo.”

While redevelopment has traditionally elicited local opposition from nearby residents, Murdocco suggests that various projects throughout the region have gained traction among locals.

“It seems to me that a lot of these redevelopment projects are starting to gain momentum because the property and the blight are so large,” he said. “These are significant pieces of property,” adding, “Government responded to the need for adaptive reuse, and now there’s a legal mechanism through the zoning district on which to do that.”

Questions raised

The push for commercial redevelopment has met with scrutiny from some.

Ira Costell, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, raised several questions about the Jefferson Plaza proposal.

The CRD “hasn’t been used previously, and this does seem to be the test case,” he said. “In my estimation, it’s the lynchpin for further development in our community, so that’s why it’s essential that we get this right and not rush to judgment.”

“To address those things, I think we need better community input,” he added. To generate such input, he has asked residents to attend the civic’s upcoming meeting at Comsewogue Public Library on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 7 p.m.

Local civic members are ringing the alarm over the CRD in the neighboring Three Village community. Herb Mones, land use chair of the Three Village Civic Association, highlighted the need to remediate commercial blight but suggested the CRD code is too developer-centric.

“On every level, the intention of redeveloping neglected or failing shopping centers is an admirable goal,” he said. “But the way that the code is written allows for really unprecedented development that has a tremendous negative effect on communities that are impacted by the density that results.”

Mones said the language of the CRD code is “so vague, so arbitrary and so capricious that it could be applied to virtually any shopping center in the Town of Brookhaven.”

Based on the statute, which incentivizes redevelopment of blighted properties through relaxed land use standards, Mones said the CRD code “encourages landowners to purposely neglect their properties in order to promote this eventual redevelopment.”

George Hoffman, also a member of TVCA, concurred with Mones, referring to the CRD code as “a very vague law that I think was done in haste.”

“It was really a code change that was done when we didn’t know what was going to happen with COVID,” Hoffman said. “I think it really has to be reevaluated, and I don’t think it works in this situation here” at Jefferson Plaza. 

Given that Jefferson Plaza would be the first parcel listed as a CRD, he added that this matter has implications for residents townwide.

“If they use this code to the maximum allowable density, I think it’s going to set the standard of a new suburban model for development,” he said.

The Town Board will consider the proposed change of zone for the Jefferson Plaza property on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 5 p.m.

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.”

Democratic Party lawn signs posted along Route 25A in Setauket. Photo by Mallie Jane Kim

A Three Village Civic Association Meet the Candidates event Monday, Oct. 2, hosted nine hopefuls (with one absentee) for local government positions — namely Suffolk County executive, Brookhaven Town supervisor, Brookhaven supervisor of highways, county legislator and town council — asking them questions through moderator Herb Mones relevant to current issues in the community.

Brookhaven Town Council: 1st District

Incumbent Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) is facing special education teacher Gary Bodenburg (R) in his bid to keep the seat he won in a special election in March 2021.

Kornreich, who previously served on the Three Village school board and as civic president, said he has a deep understanding of the main issues facing Brookhaven today — land use and planning, including an undersupply of affordable housing and an oversupply of vacant retail and commercial properties.

“One of my most important goals is to help guide the redevelopment of those properties in a way that doesn’t tax our already overburdened infrastructure,” he said, referring to the current system of dealing with sewage primarily through cesspools and its impact on the town’s sole drinking water source, as well as traffic.

Bodenburg acknowledged land use is a major function of the town, but added that assuring quality of life is equally important, pointing to how the many expenses of living on Long Island are straining for families.

“Sometimes we need an outsider, somebody with a fresh set of eyes to look at the issues that we face and create solutions that are somewhat creative, but are keeping our main focus of our families and our children in mind,” he said.

Both candidates said they wanted to ensure community members have the same level of access to government as land developers, as well as increased transparency in the process of member selection for planning and zoning boards.

Kornreich expressed particular concern about overdevelopment of areas like Three Village, as well as frustration about the current notification process of proposed zoning changes to nearby residents. He called the required notification letter “arcane” and confusing, and said he sends his own letter with a map and narrative explanation to residents explaining what is proposed for their neighborhood.

He said he’s working with the town’s legal department to require more robust and transparent communication. “That type of notification and that type of process makes a big difference,” he said.

Bodenburg promised to take on long wait times for things like permits. He said he planned to ensure different departments are sharing information and working cohesively to improve the efficiency of government services.

“We can do that very easily by surveying each department and finding out from the people that are serving our community: How can we help you? What makes your job easier? How can we make your job easier, so we can get our residents to get what they need faster,” Bodenburg said.

Brookhaven superintendent of highways

Newcomer Michael Kaplan (D) is challenging current Highway Supervisor Daniel Losquadro (R), who has served in that position for a decade.

Kaplan, a veteran who spent time in the Middle East with the U.S. Army, is trying to capitalize on his 30 years of experience with highway departments, from a laborer to a road inspector to working for the superintendent of highways in Huntington.

“The highway department should be run by someone who possesses the skill, someone who actually filled potholes, ran a street sweeper, plowed in many snowstorms, cleaned up things like Hurricane Sandy,” he said, adding that he also knows well the administrative side, and what needs improvement. “I want to get rid of pay-to-play. I want to get rid of basically politics in highways — people will be promoted with their merit and not by, per se, writing a check to their political party. That needs to end.”

Losquadro highlighted his accomplishments at the department, including conversion from analog to digital since his election 10 years ago. “We were a department that was hand-writing notes on work orders,” he said. “All my foremen now have iPads with a simple graphic user interface. They’re able to take photos, they’re able to upload that information instantaneously.”

That digital revolution, he added, “not only allows me to track how those work orders are being done, but it gives me a measurable metric by which I can gauge the performance of my employees.”

Both candidates shared their desire to improve safety for bikers and pedestrians, but also acknowledged the challenge of retrofitting modern infrastructure into one of the oldest parts of Long Island.

Another area of agreement was the frustration of unfunded mandates from the state and county — particularly for road and sidewalk maintenance. “I don’t know why the Department of Transportation even bothers to call themselves the state Department of Transportation anymore, because they seem to want to abdicate the responsibility for state roads almost entirely,” Losquadro said, adding that repairing sidewalks along state roads that were installed by the state has not traditionally been part of the town’s budget, and he would like to push back and request funding from the state for this work.

Kaplan suggested a more forceful response. “You need a more fierce attitude dealing with Suffolk DOT and state DOT,” he said. “I think we need fresh eyes — someone that’s really going to go up against the state government and the county government and say, ‘No, we’re not doing this anymore, and if you want us to do it, give us some money for it.”

Suffolk County executive

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) has thrown his hat in the ring to lead Suffolk County after 11 years at the helm of the town. He said he’s proud of his accomplishments in Brookhaven and hopes to make the same kind of changes at the county level.

“When I came into Brookhaven, we had a lot of financial trouble and we had a divided board that was very argumentative — that ended within a few months,” he said. “My colleagues on the board right up to the present day will tell you, we work together. We have unity on the board. We have a focus to go forward.”

He said he also helped repair the town’s financial distress, pointing to the fact that the town currently has a AAA credit rating, and the New York State Comptroller’s Office just gave the town a perfect “0” score for fiscal and environmental stress indicators. He said he would also work to invite wind energy into the area, noting he’d like to move the county away from fossil fuels.

Challenging Romaine, businessman Dave Calone (D) is a Three Village resident and former federal prosecutor who sought accountability for international economic crimes, particularly in oil and gas, and for terrorism after the September 11 terrorist attacks. He later participated in assisting start-ups on Long Island and around the country.

He said he is passionate about protecting the environment and, while serving as chair of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, helped streamline and expedite the permitting process for residential solar panels, something that became a model for other counties and states. He said he even spoke at a conference on the topic in Chicago. 

“I think I’m the only person ever who has gone from Long Island to somewhere else to teach them how to cut red tape,” he said.

Calone also pledged to reintroduce a bill that would allow residents to vote on whether to raise sales tax by 1/8 of a cent to establish a water quality protection fund, which would help add sewers and update septic systems, in light of a summer that saw several days of beach closings due to poor water quality.

Marine scientists and other water experts have said prolific outdated cesspool systems in Suffolk are harming area waterways and the aquifer. The county Legislature blocked a referendum on the wastewater fund in July.

“For me, it’s about focusing on safety, opportunity, affordability and, obviously, environmental protection,” Calone said.

Both candidates agreed the county has significant areas to improve, especially in cybersecurity as well as in increased staffing for Child Protective Services, 911 operations and the police. Both blamed traffic fatalities on insufficient enforcement.

Calone said he would seek funding to create more “complete streets,” that is, roads friendly and safe for multiple uses: pedestrians, bikers and motorists.

Romaine called out the current county executive, Steve Bellone (D), saying there are essential positions left “deliberately” vacant, leaving police officers, 911 operators and CPS caseworkers overloaded and unable to keep up with demand for services. 

“I’m supervisor of a town,” Romaine said. “If I put a job in the budget, it gets filled. If it becomes vacant, it gets filled. That is not true in the county of Suffolk,” calling the practice dishonest. “If we fill those jobs, it’s not that you’d have to pay more because you’re already getting taxed for that.”

County legislator: 5th District

Anthony Figliola (R-East Setauket), a Three Village resident with experience in economic development and government relations, and former New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) are vying to replace the vacant seat left by Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who would have been term limited in any event.

A geologist by trade with a long association with Stony Brook University, Englebright served in the Suffolk County Legislature from 1983 to 1992, before his long term in the state Assembly until the end of 2022. He said he was particularly inspired to reenter the county’s political sphere when he heard the Legislature in July rejected the opportunity to let people vote on the clean water bill. He said the move took away a chance for public education on how aging septic infrastructure affects the county’s sole-source aquifer and local harbors.

“The reason I’m running for the county Legislature is the work that I began there to protect clean water and protect us environmentally, and in order to encourage the growth of renewable energy — those issues are still very, very much in need, I believe, of some of the attention that I can give to them,” he said. “Let the people vote for clean water.”

Figliola, who indicated he was also disappointed the Legislature did not allow the clean water referendum, said he wants to bring to Suffolk his experience helping small businesses grow and assisting municipalities seeking federal funds for infrastructure.

“I care about this community, which is why I want to bring a private-sector mindset to the county Legislature because we have fiscal problems,” Figliola said. He also said he’d like to help small businesses succeed in order to decrease the number of vacant storefronts in the area.

Both candidates agreed red-light cameras should be used in a more thoughtful and disciplined way — for public safety and not as a revenue stream. “People feel that it is a cash grab, and I want to make sure their pockets are not being picked,” Figliola said.

Brookhaven Town supervisor

In the race to replace Romaine as town supervisor, Lillian Clayman (D), a SUNY Old Westbury adjunct professor and former mayor of Hamden, Connecticut, is facing off against Brookhaven Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville).

Clayman, who also worked as an organizer for a health care union and chair of the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee, was unable to make the event, but said previously her priorities include bringing “good government” to Brookhaven, and solving issues of waste management in light of the planned closure of Brookhaven’s landfill.

At the event, Panico detailed his long service in public office, including 13 years at his current post as councilman for the 6th District. He said Brookhaven is “light-years” from the “sordid history that unfolded from decades ago,” thanks in part to anti-nepotism and ethics laws he was part of passing.

He said a key to his collaborative style is to represent all constituents and work collaboratively with others, no matter their political leaning. He also does not talk about national politics.

“I find it to be extremely divisive,” he said. “A lot of times when elected officials are so willing to jump into the fray of national politics and culture wars, it’s because they’re not necessarily spending that time that they should be doing the job they were elected to do.”

Panico pledged to do his best to protect open spaces from overdevelopment, an issue of particular interest to area residents, and something he has had success doing. “Land use zoning and planning is my expertise,” he said, adding that the area where he grew up — Mastic Beach — was a victim of “haphazard” development, which is difficult and expensive to redevelop. He said he would like to avoid that issue in places with historical properties and such a sense of place. “You have something special here in the Three Village area,” he said.

He also said he would address issues of illegal student housing in local neighborhoods by working with Stony Brook University to find solutions — especially in light of record donations to the school that could enable additional appropriate student housing. He said he has experience in cracking down on illegal housing situations and pledged to do the same in the Three Village area. “It’s like cancer,” he said. “If you, as a government representative, do not address the issue, and the people don’t believe their government is listening and doing something, what happens? The ‘for sale’ sign goes up, especially in this market, and it spreads down the block.”

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

A visitor stands atop Patriot’s Rock in Setauket. Photo by Mallie Jane Kim.

By Mallie Jane Kim

Local parks and trails took center stage at the Three Village Civic Association monthly meeting Monday night, June 5. The civic’s land use chair Herb Mones took attendees on an impressive slideshow tour of the area’s offerings for walkers, cyclists, view seekers and the like. 

The sun sets over Setauket Harbor Marina. Photo from Mallie Kim

These natural spaces “are unique and different, and enable us to be proud that we’re Three Villagers,” Mones said. “I always say there are two types of people: Those that live in Three Villages, and those that want to live in Three Villages.”

Among the more-than-20 properties Mones highlighted were well-known spots such as Frank Melville Memorial Park, Avalon Nature Preserve, Gamecock Cottage and the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail. 

Also featured were lesser-known gems such as McAllister County Park located in Belle Terre near the eastern entrance to Port Jefferson Harbor; Old Field Farm County Park adjacent to West Meadow Beach; and the Besunder property on North Road at the entrance to Strong’s Neck.

Nearly all of the sites on Mones’ slideshow boast trails or harbor views, or both. Among his favorites, he said, is the Flax Pond Tidal Wetland Area.

He also mentioned a particular point of pride in Patriots Rock Historic Site, acquired by the Three Village Community Trust. “For the first time in 300 years, the site is open to the public,” said Mones, who is president of the trust. According to him, the trust plans to add trails surrounding the location to enable the public to enjoy the entire property.

There are also undeveloped, “emerging” places to watch, Mones said, such as the Suffolk County parkland known as the Sand Pits along the Greenway Trail; the Patriots Hollow State Forest across from the shopping center on Route 25A in East Setauket; and the Stephen D. Matthews Nature Preserve in Poquott. Each of those areas, he said, could use trails and added public access.

Mones urged members to keep a careful watch over these local natural assets. “Parks are so special, parks are so desirable, parks are so beautiful that you have to be ever vigilant because somebody is always trying to acquire, buy and obtain it,” he said.

Mones added that he plans to publish his presentation on the civic association Facebook page.

Police scam warnings

Also at the meeting, Suffolk County Police Community Liaison Officer Sergio Moller, from the 6th Precinct, warned about the prevalence of scams popping up in the area, particularly electronic scams. 

According to Moller, residents are receiving texts purportedly from utility or media companies warning service will be halted unless the person clicks a link to pay their bill. “What a scammer wants you to do is hit that link, so they can get access to your computer,” he said at the meeting. “So don’t do that, please.” 

He also urged the audience to be skeptical of calls from an unknown number alleging a loved one has been arrested or needs money — even if the voice on the other line is familiar. “Artificial intelligence can reproduce your voice to a T, so it may sound like you’re talking to your grandson … it may sound like you’re talking to a loved one,” he said.

As with the texting scams, Moller said people should call the person’s known phone number to verify whether they actually need assistance. 

“Please don’t give money to anybody, especially if they ask you for gift cards,” he said. “If they are asking you for gift cards, this should be an automatic red light in the back of your head that this is not legit.”

Birds and Bees Protection Act

George Hoffman made an impassioned plea for civic members to lobby state Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) and state Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) to support the imminent Birds and Bees Protection Act.

The Gamecock Cottage exterior will soon undergo renovations. File photo

A popular landmark in the Three Village area is about to get a facelift.

Local architect John Cunniffe updated attendees at the Three Village Civic Association April 3 meeting on the renovations that are set to begin at the end of May or early June on the historic Gamecock Cottage at Shipman’s Point at the tip of the West Meadow Beach peninsula.

Renovations

Cunniffe estimated the work on the cottage would take two to three months. Once the cottage restoration is completed, the Three Village Community Trust will take over as steward. TVCT officially entered a stewardship agreement with the Town of Brookhaven in 2010.

Work on the cottage will be supervised by the town. Cunniffe said a maintenance program would be developed for Brookhaven and the trust. The architect said the allotted budget for the work is $175,000.

“From 1990 to today, there was very little maintenance and upkeep on the building, and we’re at a 30-year lifespan on material, paint, with dilapidation. I think we’ve all seen what has happened to the Gamecock Cottage, and it seems to be getting progressively worse, exponentially by the month.”

William J. Solan Contracting, of Stony Brook, with Walter Dwan will be responsible for all decorative work. Solan and Dwan worked on the 1990 renovation, according to Cunniffe. Statewide Roofing, of Ronkonkoma, will be in charge of roofing, while the town’s Parks & Recreation Department will work on siding, painting and additional work.

Cunniffe added material will be pre-primed or pre-painted, so there will be no staging or scaffolding at the site. Custom-milled material will provide the full length needed so the roof and seams allow no water penetration.

Currently, the budget covers exterior renovations. While many have voiced concerns about beach erosion in the area and possibly elevating the cottage, Cunniffe said after talking to town historian, Barbara Russell, he feels it may be best to keep it at its current level for now.

Robert Reuter, a local architect, added that the building for decades flooded and dried. “It was designed essentially to do that,” he said, adding the salt water may have helped preserve it.

Cunniffe said the current staircase on the building doesn’t belong there architecturally, but it was added for utilitarian needs. As for an ADA-compliant ramp, that would be something for a future conversation, the architect said.

Herb Mones, community trust president, added once the trust takes over as steward, part of an agreement with the town is to aim to have a seasonal caretaker living in the second-floor apartment.

History

Cunniffe said Ward Melville bought the Gamecock Cottage in the 1940s and sold it to the town. The Ward Melville Heritage Organization took stewardship over the lease in the mid-1980s and in 1990 the cottage was renovated. Cunniffe said the roof was replaced, the cupola, gingerbread trim and windows were rebuilt, and 45% of siding was removed and replaced.

For decades, Gamecock Cottage was a boat storage facility, honeymoon getaway and rental unit, according to the TVCT website. WMHO relinquished the lease after 2004, and soon afterward the trust offered to assume stewardship. While the nonprofit was in discussion with the town, Brookhaven applied for and received the State and National Registers of Historic Places designation for the 1870s Gamecock. Cunniffe said Russell was instrumental in securing the designation for the town.

Carl Mills, assistant vice president for government relations at SBU, above in tie, met with the members of the Three Village Civic Association. Photo by George Hoffman

Three Village Civic Association meeting attendees received news Feb. 6 on recent developments at Stony Brook University.

Carl Mills, assistant vice president for government relations at SBU, answers questions from members of the Three Village Civic Association. Photo by George Hoffman

Carl Mills, assistant vice president for government relations at SBU, was on hand for the meeting to provide university updates, answer questions and receive feedback from members.

Mills said it was important for the university to have a dialogue with the civic association, calling them “the voice of the community.”

He added, “From the president on down, it’s very important for us to be good neighbors and to really be a strong beacon for the community.”

Local improvements and developments

Mills informed the group that the federal government approved a grant for a pedestrian bridge that will be constructed over Nicholls Road. It would enable pedestrians to safely walk from the university’s main entrance to the hospital side and back again. Separate funds will also be used for safety and structural improvements  for an existing underpass that Mills said many pedestrians don’t use because it’s further south on campus and, instead, cross the main intersection. The pedestrian bridge, with provision for cyclists, is currently in the process stage.

In April, the new Stony Brook Medicine Lake Grove facility at the Smith Haven Mall will open. He said the facility will be similar to the 500 Commack Road location in Commack. After the current roadwork by the state along Route 347, traffic concerns are not anticipated.

He said legislation passed both houses in the state Legislature last year to make Flax Pond in Old Field an estuary, but Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) asked for revisions and Mills said the bill will have to pass both houses again. The Flax Pond Marine Laboratory is operated for research purposes by SBU’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. The laboratory building and the Flax Pond Tidal Wetland Area are owned by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Bill A10187, sponsored by former State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and state Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James), establishes the tidal wetland area as a sanctuary. Initially, the intent was to amend the navigation laws to prohibit the use of motorboats within Flax Pond. Mills said with the revisions, motorboats up to 10 horsepower and certain hunting will be allowed. However, jet skiing will be prohibited as well as commercial fishing, hunting and trapping.

In conjunction with Englebright, university officials have been working to clean up and improve a parcel of land at the end of Dogwood Drive that SBU owns, near the house of 19th-century painter William Sidney Mount. Within that parcel is 635 square feet of land that belongs to a woman, who until recently, didn’t realize she owned it. The land is a gravesite where it is believed slaves and Native Americans are buried. Two of the gravestones are at the Long Island Museum and grave markers stand in their place

Englebright, who was in attendance for the civic meeting, said one gravestone is significant as a fiddle is carved into it. 

“It’s also unique to have an apparent slave given this much dignity,” he said.

Many of Mount’s paintings featured musicians, including those who were enslaved.

SBU is working to acquire the property with the gravestones and also contact homeowners who have encroached on the parcel. The hope, Mills said, is to produce a documentary or podcasts about the people buried at the site.

“We’re not going to exhume the bodies but make sure that they’re protected and dignified,” he said.

State matters

SBU is one of the State University of New York’s flagship schools, along with the University at Buffalo.

“We have felt we’ve been for a long time, but that designation has profound impacts on where we can go and really what we can bring back to the local community,” Mills said.

U.S. News & World Report’s 2023 Best Colleges publication rated SBU as No. 77 nationally and No. 31 among public universities.

While SBU tuition has been flat since 2019, and it’s one of the lowest in the country, Mills said Hochul has proposed a 3% tuition increase in SUNY schools and then up to 6% for University at Albany, Binghamton University, Buffalo and SBU.

“But we look at that in the context of the fact that we have not gotten an increase in operating aid since 2012,” he said. “Since 2012, the state has funded us at the same amount to keep the lights on, to pay salaries, when all of those costs, as we all know, will increase each year.”

Last year, SBU received state capital funding due to being designated as a flagship. A new engineering building will be constructed from $100 million of funding and another $25 million will be used for a neuroAI facility that will be part of the engineering building.

“One of the big determinants of whether you’re successful as a higher education institution is how much federal research dollars you can bring in,” he said. “Stony Brook by far has the most research dollars of any SUNY campus, even more so than Buffalo, but our facilities, many of them are very, very outdated.”

He gave the example of the 1960s chemistry building where specific lab/spaces in particular need to be brought up to best practices and codes. 

He said Hochul’s affordable housing proposal, which includes increasing multi-home developments by transit hubs, would affect the university the same as the community.

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

“With Stony Brook train station there’s not a lot of room, but how that plays out, will be very important to the issues that you guys care about but also for us,” he said.

Concerns by local town supervisors of planning controls possibly being taken out of their hands were noted by the audience. 

Mills added, “Off-campus housing is a challenge not just for the university faculty or for students, I’m sure for you in the community to find affordable housing as well.”

The property in question, outlined in blue, sits behind Village Automotive Service on North Country Road, 250 feet north of Route 25A. Image by Town of Brookhaven Board of Zoning Appeals

At the April 27 Town of Brookhaven Board of Zoning Appeals public hearing, a decision about property at 63 N. Country Road, Setauket, was put on hold until its next meeting, May 25.

Known by many in the area as the former Caropelo property, the current applicant, listed as 63 N. Country Road LLC, c/o Jennifer Leeds with a P.O. box in Coram, is seeking several variances on the 3.3-acre property on the east side of North Country Road and north of Route 25A.

The owner is seeking approval to subdivide the 144,452 square-foot parcel into four lots. The proposal is to build single-family residences on each plot after the division of the property. The smaller parcels of land will range from 32,648 square feet to 40,000 square feet. A shared driveway for lots 1 through 3 would exit onto North Country Road and a second driveway for lot 4 would be from the town arterial.

The Three Village Civic Association recently sent to members a copy of a letter, written by Land Use Chairman Herb Mones and addressed to Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook), to notify them of the variance application.

According to the civic association, the wooded property adjacent to the Thompson-Detmer Farm and behind Village Automotive Center and the old phone company building is one of the few remaining open parcels of land along the Route 25A corridor.

In his letter, Mones summarized other points why the parcel “bears an ‘outsized’ significance”:

  • It is highly visible due to it bordering “our busiest roadway” — Route 25A.
  • It is part of the Old Setauket Historic District.
  • It has a natural grade/slope to the existing farmland that needs to be protected.
  • Any exit from this property is onto Brookhaven’s historic “first road” — North Country Road.

According to BZA planner, Christopher Wrede, during the April 27 meeting prior applications included lot divisions and a change of zone application to provide for J Business throughout the parcel in 2013. The current applicant purchased the property in 2021 and was not part of prior applications.

Wrede said 77.4% of the property is zoned for A-1 residence and the remaining is J Business. The most restrictive zoning classification, A-1 residence, would apply. Residence zoning requires lots of at least 40,000 square feet and three of the four lots do not meet the requirement.

The town’s Historic District Advisory Committee had an opportunity to review the application, and one of the recommendations was a cluster plan to help prevent “suburban sprawl.” Such a plan means building homes closer together to preserve more open space.

At the BZA meeting, attorney Larry Davis represented Leeds and answered some concerns and board members’ questions. Wrede said during the meeting the Environmental Assessment Form had inaccuracies regarding wetlands near the property. Davis said the owner reached out to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and it is believed that nearby wetlands do not affect the property.

Davis said the three lots that do not meet the square-footage criteria do not have a detrimental effect on the nearby neighborhood. He said there is more than sufficient frontage on Route 25A, and the owner doesn’t want to access the state road, which the NYS Department of Transportation will not allow.

Davis also said regarding an alternative plan that Wrede created, the owner wasn’t opposed to the property being divided into three lots and moving two houses closer.

Mones, in a phone interview, said civic association members are concerned because, despite prior development proposals by previous owners being brought to the attention of the civic association or Brookhaven Planning Board, this one wasn’t. While it is not required, it gives either the civic association or Planning Board an opportunity to weigh in and provide better options if necessary. Mones said, currently, proposals such as this one that involves four houses or less “jumps right from a developer’s sketch pad right to the board of zoning appeals for approval” in Brookhaven.

Mones said the civic association would like to see the best use of the property with the least impact to the 25A corridor.

“We see over and over again developers looking to build what is a traditional suburban sprawl or footprint on parcels of land that are better served if the houses were placed a little bit closer together and most of the land left open,” Mones said, adding the best resolution would be to preserve and protect it as part of the Thompson legacy.

By Chris Mellides

[email protected]

Concerned local property owners were joined by members of Saint James-Head of the Harbor Neighborhood Preservation Coalition and other representatives to block the planned subdivision by Gyrodyne to repurpose the 63-acre Flowerfield site. A legal challenge was filed April 26 to overturn the March 30 preliminary subdivision approval by the Town of Smithtown Planning Board.

The application proposal from Gyrodyne included a multistory 125-room hotel along with 250 assisted living housing units, 175,000 square feet of office space, parking to accommodate over 2,000 cars and a 7-acre sewage plant. 

Among those who spoke at Tuesday’s press conference on the corner of Mills Pond Road and Route 25A outside of Flowerfield were local attorney Joseph Bollhofer; Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook); legal counselor E. Christopher Murray; and Judy Ogden, Head of the Harbor village trustee and neighborhood preservation coalition spokesperson. 

“Our lawsuit has been filed and the decision to file this litigation against the Smithtown government was not made lightly,” Bollhofer said. “Like many of you, I love this town. I grew up here, my wife was born in St. James. In the 1970s, I did my Eagle Scout project for the benefit of the people in this town.”

Bollhofer went on to say that the “Smithtown government is doing a very good job” yet its handling of the Gyrodyne application has been bungled. “It’s been our hope that we are able to preserve this property,” he added. “We’ve been doing our best to get the people involved with this to come together to try and find a way to get the money to pay Gyrodyne fair compensation for this open space.”

Representing Three Village Civic Association was Herb Mones. “Smithtown has to go back and review its determinations on this property,” he said, while also saying that in the opinion of many in the civic association, the Town of Smithtown did not pay close enough attention to the law that required them to “carefully review what the buildout would mean to the surrounding community.”

Living just 600 feet up the road from Flowerfield, Ogden spoke on behalf of residents in the communities of both St. James and Head of the Harbor. Together, Ogden said community members have been speaking publicly against the Gyrodyne subdivision application for the past two years.

“We’ve been speaking at public forums, at Zoom meetings, writing letters and sending emails at every opportunity that has been provided to express our concerns with the proposed Gyrodyne megadevelopment,” she said. “But no matter what we say or how many people show up, our voices have been ignored.”

For more than a year, opponents to the subdivision application have said that the environmental impacts of changes Gyrodyne made to its original plan after the initial environmental review was completed have not been evaluated and “did not comply with state law,” according to a press release issued on the day of the event.

“The role of government is to show leadership, which represents all people of the community and follows a comprehensive plan steering development in the right direction, while preserving and enhancing the nature of our community and natural resources,” said Ogden.

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Herb Mones, of the Three Village Civic Association, presents Superintendent of Highways Dan Losquadro with a certificate of community appreciation. Photo from George Hoffman

Attendees of the Dec. 6 Three Village Civic Association had local roads on their minds.

Town of Brookhaven Superintendent of Highways Dan Losquadro (R) was on hand for the meeting at the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library to talk about what was going on with Brookhaven roads and answered a few questions from attendees and those who sent in inquiries before the meeting.

The job is one that he described as “the best job I’ve ever had” as well as the hardest. Regarding making decisions about what gets done, he said it’s all about funding availability and prioritizing.

“I steal Supervisor [Ed] Romaine’s [R] line every chance that I get when he says every issue of government is an issue of budget,” he said. “It’s just that simple. If I had unlimited funds, I would do all the work. This year, we all know that’s not the case.”

Losquadro said deciding what needs to be done is a mixture of listening to the community and balancing it against engineering assessments and needs.

“What may not seem obvious to the average resident, when we select a road or a neighborhood or a project to complete, it usually serves a greater purpose,” he said. “If we don’t do that, we may suffer deterioration … that might cause us to have to spend more money if we waited another couple of years to do it.”

Streetlights

Losquadro said recently he has worked with The Ward Melville Heritage Organization in Stony Brook which has brought a lot of concerns to his attention, including problems with streetlights. WMHO is currently working with state-elected representatives to see if there is funding to restore the sidewalks that need to be disrupted to fix underground wiring.

He said one thing residents need to know is that when post top streetlights go out, it’s not as simple as changing a bulb.

“In a lot of older communities, we get a lot of underground breaks,” he said. “When these areas were put in, they just did direct burial cables. They didn’t put any conduit in the ground. This wire is aging out.”

He said with supply chain disruptions this year, the department has not been able to get enough poles and streetlights needed to accelerate the town’s LED replacement program. However, because money wasn’t spent in that area, he was able to repurpose the money to replace a lot of underground wiring next year.

“I’d more than double our budget from $150,000 to $300,000 for next year to replace underground wiring,” he said, adding the wiring problem is significant and townwide.

Stony Brook Road and 347

Nelson + Pope, a Melville engineering firm, has been brought “on board to begin the engineering process for the improvements at Stony Brook Road and 347,” Losquadro said.

“It’s a very important project,” he added. “One that obviously we’re going to have to coordinate with New York State, because we’re just talking about the improvements on the Stony Brook Road side, but with the businesses there, especially the expansion of the medical park to the west side of the road there, you get a lot of cross traffic.”

The highway superintendent said there have been a large number of collisions at the intersection and the goal is to make it safer and more efficient. He added there will be traffic studies conducted in the area.

“We’re going to measure all the turning movements, in and out, of those businesses and see how we can best improve again the efficiency and the safety of moving vehicles through that confined and heavily traveled space,” he said.

Losquadro added that a physical barrier between the north and southbound traffic on Stony Brook Road could also be possible, hopefully something stone stamped like the barriers on 347 which are more aesthetically pleasing.

Sidewalks

Losquadro said there isn’t room in the budget for new sidewalks in the town. He said when sidewalks are added, it’s usually due to federal, county or state grants.

“We’ll certainly work with the councilman [Jonathan Kornreich (D)] to identify them and find funding sources,” he said. “I assure you, whenever I get the money for something, I build it.”