North Shore lawmakers are gauging the public’s opinion as they revisit what Route 25A should look like.
Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) gathered residents, business owners, community leaders, teachers and elected officials at a forum at the Kanas Commons of The Stony Brook School on Monday, June 30, to discuss the future of the section of Route 25A between Main Street in Stony Brook and Bennetts Road in Setauket.
“As your councilperson, I thought it was important to engage in a community discussion regarding this issue,” Cartright said to the 95 residents gathered. She said that many members of Stony Brook, Setauket, Centereach and the greater Brookhaven area had been vocal about creating a discussion on this issue.
The public was divided into groups once they arrived at the forum and each group represented a different issue facing the road. The various issues included uses and zoning, traffic safety and transportation, design and aesthetics, impact on nearby businesses, Stony Brook University, community relations and infrastructure.
Each group was given a list of questions to discuss and then present to the entire forum. These questions were designed to get an idea of the changes the community wanted, the problems they thought this zone needed to address and what things the community wanted to preserve.
“This is a precursor to a land use plan,” said Brenda Prusinowski, the deputy commissioner for the Town of Brookhaven. “There are many steps to go once anything has been discussed here.”
Prusinowski said she was encouraged by the high number of residents that came out, and expected that everyone would come up with a great discussion to make the community better.
“This should be a gauge of what the majority wants, but also what every individual feels is important as well,” Cartright said.
Cartright urged that everyone keep an open mind and accept that conflicting opinions will arise. However, as the night unfolded, it seemed that a majority of the community members were on the same page.
Major issues that were brought up, in terms of improvement, were safety measures for pedestrians and bicyclists, the architecture and look of the downtown shops and better parking options near the Stony Brook Long Island Rail Road station.
Residents expressed a desire for a more cohesive look, while still maintaining the historical nature and heritage of the town, which leaders in attendance also support.
“We have a great sense of place, and that is important to all of us, that we maintain that,” said Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). “We want people to see the historic and charming feel of this community.”
Groups also said that although students from Stony Brook University can rent bikes to ride downtown, they still needed more safe paths to take. If students felt safer to go for a bike ride, residents argued they would be investing more into the area businesses by shopping there more frequently.
Many people said they felt there was almost an “iron curtain” between the students of Stony Brook University and the towns of Brookhaven and Stony Brook, and that more needs to be done to integrate the students.
Yet, other residents said that they feared the towns are losing their identity to the university.
“We were not brought together tonight to react to a problem, rather to look at our values as a community,” said state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket).
Englebright said that this community is host to a large economic engine with the university and that keeping the community great benefits the university and vice versa.
Preserving local small business was also very important, as no one said they were interested in seeing a national chain pop up anywhere near Route 25A.