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Town of Smithtown

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Photo from Town of Smithtown

Town of Smithtown officials announced in a press release March 13 a number of closures, adjournments and scheduling adjustments to prevent the potential community spread of the coronavirus.

“Currently there are two confirmed coronavirus cases in the Town of Smithtown,” officials said in the press release. “Suffolk County Health experts have said that as of present, each confirmed COVID-19 case had been contracted through community spread. As such, many parades, events and races have been postponed already. If you are planning on holding a large event, you may wish to consider rescheduling it to a later date, to help protect the safety of our residents.”

Smithtown Senior Center

The Town of Smithtown will be closing the Senior Center for two weeks starting Monday, March 16, through March 30.  For residents who come to the Senior Center for lunch, the town can make arrangements to deliver those meals during the building closure. The Meals on Wheels program will continue to operate to homebound seniors.

Board Meetings

The Town Board meeting scheduled for March 19 at 7 p.m. has been moved to 2 p.m. in the Victor T. Liss Board Room, and the town will suspend the public portion of the meeting. Residents can email townclerk@smithtownny.gov prior to the meeting time and those public comments will be added to the record.

The Board of Zoning Appeals and the Planning Board will be making adjustments to limit the number of individuals in the room at one particular time. The town will update the public on those scheduling adjustments in real time.

Residents wishing to watch Town Board, Planning and Board of Zoning meetings can do so via live stream by logging into www.SmithtownNY.gov.

Town Buildings

The town has asked that anyone planning to come down to Town Hall or other official town buildings to first call ahead or attempt to speak with department staff over the phone instead if possible. Many Smithtown functions can be found or completed online at www.SmithtownNY.gov as opposed to in person.

The press release also reminded residents that the closure of schools in the Smithtown Central School District from March 16 through March 22 was “not to be viewed as a typical vacation.”

“Families should consider restricting travel and avoiding large gatherings,” town officials said.

 

 

Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer points to a chart showing the impact discovery law changes have had on small municipalities. Photo by David Luces

Town supervisors in Suffolk County say recent criminal justice reform has caused “unintended consequences” to municipalities and local code enforcement. They are asking the state to exempt small municipalities from new guidelines, among other things. 

The issue they have is with the state’s new discovery provisions, which require names and contact information for complaints to be turned over within 15 days of arraignment. In turn, it has eliminated anonymity, which many municipalities rely on when it comes to handling code violations. 

“You’re not going to call, you’re not going to complain, what does that do for the quality of life?”

— Ed Romaine

Rich Schaffer (D), Town of Babylon supervisor and chair of the county Democratic committee, said at a March 5 press conference they usually receive a lot of anonymous tips from concerned residents but have noticed many are not willing to come forward with the new changes. 

“They don’t want to put their names down, and quite frankly we don’t want to [either],” he said. “We want to be able to go after the offenders and educate them on how to clean up their act and be a good neighbor.”

A letter signed by all of the county’s town supervisors was sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in January. The group said with the new standards in how case information is turned over to the courts, it means there are currently no distinctions between a homicide case and a “municipal code violation for high grass.” 

The supervisors said the reform was rushed through the legislature and didn’t give municipalities enough time to formulate a public education campaign. In addition, the changes hurt them on a local level because the state “got involved in things that we didn’t need their involvement in,” Schaffer said.

Supervisors also complained the requirement for after issuing a summons, a court date must be set within 20 days. Officials said it used to take a month to process cases, but now there are four additional “hoops to jump through” to process a complaint. A case could take up to two years to be resolved.

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said the criminal justice reform has had a “chilling effect on code enforcement.” 

“So now, if you live next to a guy that has a house with two illegal apartments and four or five unregistered vehicles and trash on the property, if you call, we are obligated by state law to tell the guy next door that you called,” he said. “You’re not going to call, you’re not going to complain, what does that do for the quality of life?”

The four supervisors called on the state Legislature to pass a bill that would allow townships to handle their own code enforcement cases and reinstate anonymity.  

State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) and state Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) are proposing bills that would allow anonymity for those reporting local code violations, let municipalities take these cases out of district court and allow them to create their own administrative bureau. 

Chad Lupinacci (R), Town of Huntington supervisor, said many of the problems discussed can be eliminated if municipalities had their own administrative bureau. Huntington is one of three municipalities in the state to have one. 

“The bureau should be up and running sometime in May,” he said. “Code enforcement officers, instead of having to comply with these changes, will be able to just enforce the code and ensure that neighborhoods are safer.”

Brookhaven assistant attorney David Moran said they will work in compliance with the law but called it an “unfunded mandate” with no real direction given how to be in compliance. 

Schaffer said he’s volunteering Babylon to be the guinea pig regarding not following the new law and seeing what comes out of it. 

“I’d like to be the test case to challenge the system,” he said.

Owl Hill estate is located south of Sunken Meadow State Park in Fort Salonga. Photo from Douglas Elliman Real Estate

A historic estate nestled in Fort Salonga for years has been drawing renewed interest from developers who want to build homes on the property.

The Owl Hill estate, located at 99 Sunken Meadow Road, spans 27.63 acres and is the largest parcel of 1-acre residential-zoned land in Suffolk County. In 2017, the property was up for sale for the first time in more than six decades at the price tag of $6.45 million. 

The estate, which is the most expensive property in the hamlet, is owned by Manhattan resident Maya Ryan. Her family has occupied and maintained the house for more than half a century and currently uses it as a summer and weekend residence. 

Peter Hans, planning board director for the Town of Smithtown, said in an email the Town currently does not have any type of application for the property but detailed that they have met with several different prospective developers in the past year about how the estate is permitted to be developed. 

“The property is zoned R-43 (single-family residential, 1 acre min. lot size),” Hans said in the email. “There are steep slopes on the property which would limit yield on future development. Additionally any developer that would like to subdivide the property would be required to cluster a large portion of the property, meaning that lot sizes would be made smaller than 1 acre so that the difference could be preserved as open space.” 

In 2017, the Town and the county raised a $1 million grant to be used to preserve a portion of the Owl Hill property for open space. 

Similarly, in an Oct. 2017 TBR News Media article, Owl Hill’s listing agent Kelley Taylor, of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, said she had seen a majority of interest from developers, including one evaluating the property as the site of a 55-and-older community.

Corey Geske, Smithtown resident and scholar, said Owl Hill is a great example of beautiful architecture in the town. 

“In my opinion the estate in terms of historical importance is on par with Sagamore Hill,” she said. 

Geske said Edmund Wetmore, the first patent lawyer in the U.S., commissioned architect Henry Killam Murphy to design the estate home in 1907. Murphy was renowned overseas for his work in China, Korea and Japan. Some notable work includes designing the campus of the University of Shanghai.

“Owl Hill is one of the finest rare examples of Henry Killam Murphy’s early work in the United States and has been a cornerstone of the community,” she said.

The Smithtown scholar said the estate’s history merits recognition to be established as a national historic landmark, as it’s linked to internationally and nationally known figures.

Residents are concerned about increased development in the area as 2 miles to the west sits Indian Hills Country Club, the site of a potential 55-and-over housing development. The proposed project would call for the construction of 98 town houses, a new fitness center and an expanded clubhouse alongside the existing golf course.

John Hayes, president of the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association, said he is worried about what the potential addition of close to 100 homes at Indian Hills and further loss of green space could do to the character of the area.

“[Indian Hills] would no doubt be the largest development in Fort Salonga history,” he said. “I feel like the rural feel of the hamlet won’t be around for much longer. Who knows what will happen but it would be a terrible shame.”

Community members and public officials gather in Smithtown for a public hearing on the development of the Flowerfield/Gyrodyne property in St. James. Photo by David Luces

By Cindy Smith

As a Smithtown native who mobilized my neighbors to study the Gyrodyne project and speak at the hearing, and having spoken myself, I am gratified at what was predominantly an open-minded reception. Clearly many residents had not been informed of the grossly negative impact that project might have, and why they should insist the Smithtown Planning Board ask more questions before rubber-stamping the proposal.

Cindy Smith. Photo by Jim Lennon

Based on research by dozens of concerned residents, including nationally known environmental advocates like Carl Safina, we testified to evident prior use of lead arsenate, methyl bromides and excessive nitrates at Flowerfield — a fact not mentioned in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). We documented how the Planning Board excluded data concerning traffic, provided evidence of potential harm to Stony Brook Harbor and surrounding waterways, and — disturbingly — rebuffed regional officials like Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) who sought to provide information about shared infrastructure and planned regional development.

We also presented economic evidence that many jobs potentially created by the development will produce low-paying, minimum-wage positions — and that the property might actually be removed from the tax base, causing it to shrink rather than grow.

Lastly, we shared our concern that the development will trigger more high-density use along historic 25A, creating more suburban sprawl.

As a descendant of Richard “Bull” Smith, I envision a shared North Shore future that values both our history and our tomorrows. I hope Smithtown residents will visit us online at www.UnitedCommunitiesAgainstGyrodune.com and at Facebook.com/UnitedCommunitiesAgainstGyrodyne.

The conversation is not over! The Planning Board will accept written comments through 5 p.m. Jan. 24. Residents should also communicate their concerns directly to Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R).

Thank you, Smithtown, for welcoming your neighbors into the planning process. 

Cindy Smith

United Communities Against Gyrodyne Development community group

Stock photo

The Town of Smithtown School Aged Child Care Program will hold its annual Preschool Fair on Wednesday, Jan. 29 from 10 a.m. to noon in the Community Rooms of the Smithtown Library, located at 1 North Country Road. 

The Preschool Fair will offer parents an opportunity to visit with representatives from multiple nursery schools and preschools in and around the Town of Smithtown. The expo serves as a popular event for parents to source and gather information regarding prospective programs.

The snow date is scheduled for Wednesday, March 25. Advance registration is not required.

 For further information, call School Aged Child Care at 631-360-7517. 

Community members and public officials gather in Smithtown for a public hearing on the development of the Flowerfield/Gyrodyne property in St. James. Photo by David Luces

Residents of both Brookhaven and Smithtown spoke during a Jan. 8 public hearing about the impact of the proposed development of the 75-acre Flowerfield/Gyrodyne site on Route 25A in St. James. While opinions varied, one thing was certain: The project will be the largest development the area has seen in quite some time. 

The proposal seeks to subdivide the land into nine lots, keeping existing businesses and a catering hall while adding a 150-room hotel with a restaurant, two assisted living centers, two medical office parks and a 7-acre sewage treatment plant.

During the hearing, Gyrodyne representatives said they are taking a sustainable approach and have come up with multiple alternatives to the original plan that balance out potential impacts to the surrounding communities. 

Kevin McAndrew, a partner at Cameron Engineering, a Woodbury-based firm hired by Gyrodyne, discussed the potential benefits of the project. 

“The project would bring in significant economic benefits — generate over $3.5 million dollars, bring in high quality jobs and no increase to [area] school enrollment,” he said. 

McAndrew said the firm has acknowledged traffic concerns in the area. The proposed plans, he said, such as the assisted living center, would contribute minimal traffic congestion during peak commute hours. The developer pointed out the inclusion of walking trails, bike lanes, green infrastructure and a potential sewage treatment plant at the site, which representatives said could be used for sewering for downtown St. James. 

Despite what they heard from the presentation, many speakers and civic leaders said they were not convinced, including officials from Brookhaven, Suffolk County and New York State. 

“This 75-arce project will undoubtedly be the largest development in the Smithtown/Brookhaven area for the next generation.”

– Ed Romaine  

Ed Romaine (R), Brookhaven supervisor, said the project would impact the communities of Brookhaven in a devastating way. 

“This 75-arce project will undoubtedly be the largest development in the Smithtown/Brookhaven area for the next generation,” Romaine said. 

Romaine and others complained that Brookhaven is being left out of the planning process and their concerns are not being addressed. As the site is just outside their borders, it would impact their roads, particularly Stony Brook Road. 

“I submitted extensive comments on the scope of the project, to this date I haven’t been contacted about any of these concerns,” the supervisor said. “25A is over carry capacity and we are going to add more? I have concerns about Setauket Harbor and water quality as well as this sewage treatment plant.” 

Maria Hoffman, press secretary read a statement from Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket):

“Shortcomings of this DEIS include the project’s impact on Stony Brook Harbor, will the onsite [treatment] plant become a regional sewer district? What type of sewer system will be purchased and installed, and will it remove nitrate? These meaningful unanswered questions need to be answered and resolved before the project is allowed [to move forward].”

Stony Brook resident Curt Croley said he’s worried about the project’s impact on property values. 

“There is no doubt in my mind that this proposal is opportunistic based on available land,” he said. “I can’t help but wonder if there’s been enough diligence about the sewage treatment plant, the runoff and all the potential impacts that are so close to all these municipalities.”

Joy Cirigliano, chapter president of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, expressed concerns about the nearby harbor and other waterways.

“We already have water quality issues in Stony Brook Harbor and Smithtown Bay with Ecoli and hypoxia, adding more nitrogen to the harbor is significant,” she said. The applicant must analyze these impacts and the repercussions before proceeding with the plan.”

Artists, such as Kevin McEvoy, who had a thriving studio on the Flowerfield site, have already left. The atelier now has limited operations at Gyrodyne. 

 “The development of that property will only enhance us and allow us to grow,” she said. “[St. James] will become the microcosm of small-town life we yearn to be again.” 

– Natalie Weinstein

Some Smithtown residents welcomed the project, because the St. James business district on Lake Avenue could tap into the project’s proposed sewage treatment plant. 

Natalie Weinstein of Celebrate St. James stressed the importance of the potential project and how it would finally allow for the revitalization of Lake Avenue as a cultural art district. 

“The development of that property will only enhance us and allow us to grow,” she said. “[St. James] will become the microcosm of small-town life we yearn to be again.” 

Following the public hearing and end of the public comment input later this month, the Smithtown Planning Board will await submission of a final environmental impact statement in preparation for a vote on the Gyrodyne applications. 

TBR News Media has previously reported that Smithtown has already received $3.9 million from Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), so it can connect the Lake Avenue business district in St. James to the Gyrodyne sewage treatment plant. 

 

Brookhaven town hall. File photo

By Monica Gleberman

Town of Brookhaven residents were in for a shock the day before new years, after the town posted on its website that the sanitation company, Quickway, abruptly broke its contract Dec. 31 saying it would no longer be doing pickups in multiple areas throughout Brookhaven.

Brookhaven officials said they were given notice at noon on December 31 that Ronkonkoma-based Quickway Sanitation would no longer honor their contract to collect residents trash from areas they serviced in Brookhaven; including portions of Shoreham, Rocky Point, Port Jefferson Station, Farmingville, East Patchogue and Manorville.

“Quickway carting was one year into a multi-year contract where they were the successful bidder for residential refuse and recycling services,” town officials said in a statment. “Town of Brookhaven intends to pursue every available legal option as a result of this carter’s unacceptable actions.”

Officials added the town is working with other local carting companies to put contingency plans in place.

The Town of Smithtown also had contracts under Quickway, which concurrently voided its garbage carting with them New Year’s eve.

Within 24 hours of its original message, Brookhaven town had a new post on its website that it had entered into emergency award agreements with several local companies to immediately “provide coverage for garbage pick-up in the seven garbage collection districts affected by the carter who broke their contract with the town.”

Kevin Molloy, spokesperson for Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), said the new contract is only for the time-being.

“The contracts were emergency contracts so they are for the short term,” he said. “For the long term, we will be looking at the second highest bidders and making sure any changes we make keeps us in compliance with New York State laws. We will keep residents informed as the information comes in.”

Smithtown also held an emergency meeting and signed a one-year procurement contract with Brothers Waste to takeover Quickway’s route in St. James and Smithtown.

Quickway did not respond to phone calls for comment.

Molloy said that the town has received “normal to low cals” to its waste management office as of today.

Multiple community Facebook groups spread the message of the company having voided its contract. Some residents complained of Quickway’s past policies. The release said all companies it reached out to have worked with Brookhaven in the past and service would continue as normal with regular pickups on Thursday, but did ask residents to be patient with this transitional process.

“Because they will be new to these service areas, we ask residents in these areas to be patient as they learn these routes. Please call 451-TOWN if your garbage has not been collected by late afternoon.”

This post will be updated when more information becomes available.

This post was updated Jan. 2 to include quotes from Kevin Molloy. This post was updated Jan. 3 to include information on Smithtown garbage services. 

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#ResilientInSmithtown

November is Mental Health Awareness Month and the Town of Smithtown is seizing it as an opportunity to implement a social media campaign that highlights simple activities that help boost personal resilience. From Nov. 18 to 22, the Town’s Horizons Counseling & Education Center, the Youth Bureau and the Response Crisis Center will share advice, tips and resources to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #ResilientInSmithtown. 

 This campaign is designed to educate residents about four kinds of personal attributes that boost mental well-being: physical, mental, emotional and social.  Strengthening these attributes contributes to living longer, happier lives, with a heightened ability to cope with life’s stressors. 

“This is a wonderful opportunity for residents to learn how they can have more control over their own personal resiliencies and be able to guide and support family members and friends,” said Stacey Standers, Town of Smithtown Youth Bureau executive director.

Residents of all ages are encouraged to participate in the educational campaign, which relies upon easy and fun exercises that will help Smithtown residents build upon their own personal strengths. 

Approximately one out of every five children in America has a diagnosable mental health disorder. Anxiety, depression and substance abuse are major issues impacting young people and their families, as well as schools and communities. Community education about the importance of bolstering one’s own personal resilience is beneficial at any age, town officials explain, and can be a vital component in maintaining mental health.

“There is a very clear and distinct correlation between childhood trauma and mental health issues and substance addiction,” said Matthew Neebe, director of Horizons Counseling & Education Center. “Problematic mental health issues experienced in childhood can very easily and often do follow individuals into maturity, creating a variety of long-term mental health issues that may cause self-medication through excessive drinking or substance abuse.” 

The campaign promotes scientifically validated activities that contribute to personal well-being. 

Physical resilience means the body can withstand more physical stress and heal itself faster. Mental resilience includes strengthening mental focus, discipline and will power, which is like a muscle that gets stronger the more it is exercised. Emotional resilience provokes powerful, positive emotions like curiosity or love, precisely when it’s needed the most. Social resilience strengthens from bonds with friends, family, neighbors and community.

Some of the recent posts include the following advice:

  • If you cannot change the situation, change your mind.
  • Once a situation is accepted for what it is, begin working on uncommon or creative solutions.
  • Humor can boost one’s mood, alleviate emotional distress and even buffer against depression.  Laughter and humor improve immune response, enhance perceptual flexibility and offset the effects of stress.
  • Positive reframing allows you to take control of your response to a situation by reframing it into a potential growth experience.
  • The first step of a good plan is to define what success looks like.

The postings are part of an ongoing campaign and represent one part of this initiative.

Look for Smithtown Youth Bureau on Facebook to find the different exercises and more information about #ResilientInSmithtown.

Steve Bellone discusses ideas about promoting the arts in St. James with the civic group Celebrate St. James during a recent visit to the Calderone Theater. Photo by David Luces

State and local officials gathered at the St. James General Store to commemorate the recent completion of the new pedestrian crossing that connects the store to Deepwells Farm and its parking. The project also included drainage and infrastructure repairs near the building as part of phase one of the Downtown Revitalization Project. 

The arts, experts state, is a sure-fire way to revitalize a community. Photo by David Luces

Smithtown Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) noted that the repairs were completed just in time as the community nears peak holiday season, when residents frequent the Suffolk County-owned and operated shop. 

“As you know this is the oldest general store in operation in the United States,” he said at a press conference. “Not only does this [repaved road] make for safe crossing on Moriches Road, but the beautification allows for more people to stop and encourages people to shop locally.”

Douglas Dahlgard, Head of the Harbor mayor, said the general store is a destination in the community. 

“This is a destination, it has been one since 1857,” he said. “History is very important in this community, tourists have come from as far as South Africa [to visit the store]. [The store] reminds me of my roots.”

Wehrheim expects the rest of phase one initiative, which includes renovating sidewalks, crosswalks and concrete gutters spanning from Patrick’s Way to Jericho Turnpike, will be completed in the next two weeks.

Phase two of the revitalization plan is expected to be completed by the end of winter.  It includes adding a sewer line and pump station along the main stretch of Lake Avenue, new off-street municipal parking and major pedestrian safety and traffic calming measures. 

After the press conference, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) joined town officials in a Lake Avenue walking tour and visited the Calderone Theater, which will soon open as a cultural arts center in the future.     

Wehrheim said they have looked at a number of parcels that are primed for economic development. Ideas include purchasing the vacant Irish Viking Bar to create a pavilion for live entertainment in the center of town and additional parking. 

Councilmembers Tom Lohmann and Lisa Inzerillo after the election was called Nov. 5. Photo by Leah Chiappino

By Leah Chiappino

Smithtown Republicans gathered at Napper Tandy’s on Main Street in Smithtown Tuesday to watch the town election results and subsequently celebrate their victories. Trump shirts and GOP symbols were frequently spotted in the crowd and there was talk of Donald Trump Jr.’s upcoming St James fundraiser in conversation.

Smithtown receiver of taxes Deanna Varricchio (R) won reelection against Democratic challenger Justin Smiloff 70 to 30 percent for a four-year-term. She says she is looking to update the technology of her office in her new term. “Every day you get [equipment] in and it’s obsolete, so we’re looking to budget new equipment in,”  she said. She declined to say anything to the Smiloff, citing his lack of campaigning.

Incumbent Smithtown Town Council Members, Thomas Lohmann (R) and Lisa Inzerillo (R) claimed victory over challengers, Libertarian Patricia Shirley, Democrat Richard Guttman and Democrat Richard Macellaro, for a four-year term with 32 percent of the vote each.

Lohmann looks forward to continuing his work as councilman.

“I want to get done what I started,” he said. “That includes the completion of a truly town-wide comprehensive master plan that is inclusive of every hamlet, to ensure that every hamlet is represented in what they want to see in their communities and their little area of the township.”

He said plans to work with Highway Superintendent Robert Murphy (R) to improve Smithtown’s infrastructure.

Lohmann is pushing for the completion of projects such as Lake Avenue Corridor project, the revitalization of Smithtown parks and beaches and the expansion of sewer systems in business districts like what was recently done in Kings Park.

“These are huge projects and we want to move them along,” he said. “We want to bring back a sense of pride in our community.”

He commended his challengers for running a civil campaign and congratulated them for their efforts.

“I ran because I’m a lifelong resident here and I believe in my community and wanted to do for my community what I thought wasn’t being done,” he said. “Each one of the candidates came forward because they wanted to bring something to the town and I applaud them for the simple fact that they put themselves out there, which is a very hard thing to do.

Inzerillo said she wants to continue to strengthen the vape code “to protect areas where teenagers are living and going to school.”

She cited a long list of accomplishments she wants to continue.

“I’m still maintaining the best animal shelter on Long Island,” she said. “We’re working with some developers that want to do some smart development but also keep the feeling of country in Smithtown.”

When asked if she wanted to say anything to her challengers, she replied, “unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to meet them, but I wish them best in the future.”