Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column
A stretch of South Ocean Avenue in Patchogue stands out because its sidewalks are in such lousy condition. Years ago, when new sidewalks were installed to the north and south, the section in the middle remained untouched.
Joseph Pellegrino sees that as a disgrace.
"There's a broken sidewalk in front of my house," he said when we first spoke. "It's 13 years that it's been this way," a condition dating to the sidewalk replacement project.
We visited and saw how different the old and newer sections are. "It's a night-and-day situation," Pellegrino said. "I figured sooner or later they were going to come" and finish the work on sidewalks from Carman Street to Laurel Street.
But as he waited, new sidewalks were laid along other streets, work that rankled his sense of fairness. He asked the village about the prospects of completing the South Ocean job, but got no results.
Mayor Paul Pontieri, who took office 10 years ago, told us the beginnings of the sidewalk project date to the 1990s and funds were depleted before the length of the sidewalk could be completed.
Pontieri defended installation of other sidewalks, which are in locations that serve public facilities such as schools and parks.
But Pellegrino insists that the village should be using federal grants to complete the unfinished project before spending them on new sidewalks elsewhere.
Pontieri said that the South Ocean sidewalk is "on the list of things to get done. It's cracked and broken and needs repair." But, he said, "it's not a priority now."
It is to Pellegrino.
Concerned that the sidewalk has become a hazard, he has arranged for a contractor to replace the section that's on his property. We asked if the village would grant property tax relief in exchange for a homeowner's footing the bill.
No, we learned, it doesn't work that way.
Our street looks like it has been beaten up. It's in such bad shape that soon you'll see grass growing up through the cracks. Other streets around us were repaved but the work stopped before it got to ours. It seems that we are a forgotten entity.
We don't customarily look into issues involving streets in disrepair because, let's be honest, we wouldn't have time for anything else. Roads in disrepair are a fact of life in many communities and the work is typically awaiting funds, either in the form of grants or future tax revenues.
But Libuser got our attention when he said that when many other streets in the neighborhood were resurfaced a couple of years ago, Magnet Street was left out. Which, from the vantage point of people who live on Magnet, seems inexplicable.
After a visit, we can't argue with his description of the road: Large sections of asphalt are missing in several spots, and one crater near his home is several feet wide. Pavement seams are stretching apart and cracks are reaching far and wide.
Libuser and neighbor Anthony Defeo want Brookhaven Town to give Magnet the treatment nearby streets got. In another effort years ago, Defeo got results when the town closed off a road to prevent traffic from cutting through.
But getting a road repaved, not so easy.
We asked the town about the prospects but didn't get a commitment that the street would be resurfaced any time soon. We did get an explanation from town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro, and it comes down to one word: money.
The department needs $80 million to resurface all the town roads that are in bad shape, Losquadro said, but this year's budget allocated about one-sixth of that amount, $13 million. Some additional funding is expected from a state budget category for local roads, he said. But though the town expects to receive a large share because of its size -- more than 2,100 miles of town roads -- whatever sum the town gets won't come close to filling the gap.
So what are the chances Magnet Street will get resurfaced soon?
"I won't say we won't get to this one by the end of the year," Losquadro said. Residents of Magnet, don't hold your breath.
"We're starting with the worst of the worst," he said of streets that are long overdue. "We do this as objectively as we can. We examine the roads, then look at how to allocate funding." He pointed to Arrowhead Road in East Setauket as one high-priority example: It leads to an elementary school and was already bumped from the 2013 repaving schedule.
Losquadro, who took office last year, said the department's resurfacing projects now aim to incorporate all streets in a given area. That's good news for future projects, but little comfort for residents of Magnet Street.