Group seeks counsel on Yaphank landfill

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In a sign of their lost faith in Brookhaven governance, a community group has hired a lawyer to determine how they can legally fight the town's proposed expansion of the Yaphank landfill.

Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko recently proposed adding 50 feet of height to the landfill, as well as expanding its footprint, in order to generate more money for the cash-strapped town.

Revenue from the landfill is about $45 million a year, and expanding its volume could earn the town millions more. Failure to expand the landfill could lead to higher property taxes or layoffs, Lesko has said.

In response, the Brookhaven Community Coalition has hired lawyer Christopher Murray, of Uniondale, who spoke to a packed audience at the coalition's meeting Monday at the Brookhaven Fire Department. He urged people to contact him with their problems with the landfill.

"I think the town is trying to do something quick and get away with something," Murray said in an interview after the meeting. "Now they're getting called on it."

Environmentalist Adrienne Esposito, who is on the BCC's executive board and also a member of the town's landfill liaison committee, urged residents to contact town board members and state officials to voice concerns.

"If they hear from all of you, that's very powerful," she said.

Resident Robert Bilello, of Brookhaven hamlet, said he was fed up with the landfill. "I'm embarrassed to tell people I live here," he said. "I'm paying $15,000 a year in taxes. I don't like it."

Lesko said the BCC's decision to hire a lawyer was going to have a "dramatic effect" on how the town works with the 13-member landfill liaison committee, which was set up to facilitate communication between the community and town and includes several BCC members.

"It's unfortunate that now the BCC has made this a litigation matter. Their tone has changed," he said. "If we're going to be sued, we're going to be in a defensive posture."

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That might mean withholding information in the landfill liaison meetings that could be used against the town in potential lawsuits, he said.

Lesko said the BCC's actions did not alter the town's plans to file an application with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to either modify the permit allowing the town to operate the landfill for expansion, or to file an application for a new permit altogether.

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