Suffolk, Brookhaven preserve East Moriches farm

Cuomo farm in East Moriches. (July 1, 2010)

Cuomo farm in East Moriches. (July 1, 2010) Photo Credit: James Carbone

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A 27-acre property in East Moriches will remain a farm forever because of a $5-million purchase by Brookhaven Town and Suffolk County, officials announced Thursday.

The Cuomo Family Farm, which has been owned by the same family for nearly 50 years, will continue churning out vegetables and flowers on Cross Street because of the town and county's acquisition of development rights, County Executive Steve Levy said at a news conference.

"This is a beautiful vista that we will preserve forever," Levy said.

The town and county closed on the property - which remains owned by the Cuomo family - last month, officials said.

The county's $3.5-million portion of the cost will be paid through its quarter-cent sales tax drinking water protection program, officials said.

Brookhaven is paying for its portion out of its capital budget, officials said.

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The government purchase of development rights means the property can be sold, but it cannot be developed, Levy said. Louise Cuomo, part owner of the farm, did not attend the news conference but later told a reporter she is glad the land will remain a farm.

"I'm happy there won't be houses on it," she said. "The memory will be kept alive."

The acquisition of the farm is key for the health of the Terrell River, which is about 1,200 feet away, Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko said. He added that the town and county have made other purchases in the area to spare the river from development pressures - including a joint purchase of a 16-acre parcel on the Terrell River across the street from the farm, and Brookhaven's purchase of a 9-acre property on the river near Montauk Highway, town officials said.

"This is a tremendous example of combining resources," Lesko said of Thursday's announcement.

Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, who has clashed with the town over development in eastern Brookhaven, called the purchase "the right way" to manage growth.

"We need to preserve the land that's still whole," Amper said, "and we need to stop developing the land that could be preserved."

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