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Carl MacGowan

With my colleague Deon J. Hampton, I cover the Town of Brookhaven and its villages and hamlets. What we try to offer is an ongoing chronicle of an enormous town — that stretches from the Long Island Sound to the Atlantic Ocean — as it grapples with development pressures, environmental issues and the challenge of maintaining programs in the face of the state tax cap. You’ll see us scribbling notes at municipal meetings, so stop by and say hello.

Three Suffolk supervisors ask Gov. Cuomo to request federal assistance

The supervisors of three Suffolk County towns that were hardest hit by flash floods from an Aug. 13 rainstorm have asked Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to request a federal disaster declaration.

An Aug. 27 letter from Tom Croci of Islip, Richard Schaffer of Babylon and Edward P. Romaine of Brookhaven said a declaration by President Barack Obama would help the towns and residents recover from a storm that dumped a state-record 13.57 inches of rain at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma.

Islip officials have said the storm caused about $20 million in damage.


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Brookhaven's estimate is about $15 million.

A Babylon figure was not available Friday.

The one-page letter said many residents need federal financial aid because they did not have flood insurance to pay for cleaning out basements and repairing sinkholes.

"Most of the residents impacted by this storm are being forced to shoulder the immense financial burden associated with its aftermath," the supervisors wrote. "We need the federal government to provide these residents with the assistance they desperately need so that they can begin to rebuild, and recover from this disaster."

A Cuomo spokeswoman said Friday the governor is awaiting damage assessments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency before requesting federal aid.

"The governor's office has been aggressive in assisting Suffolk County since the recent storm and floods," spokeswoman Dani Lever said in an email. "State officials immediately began damage assessments, set up a mobile command center, requested the federal government come in to review storm impacts, and once FEMA completes its damage report, the governor will quickly evaluate it."

FEMA spokesman Don Caetano said Friday he did not know when FEMA will complete its report to Cuomo.

The agency plans to inspect additional damage sites next week.

"We're still in the process of doing assessments of storm damage," Caetano said. "We're going to look as long as the state has something they want to show us and want us to add to the assessment."

Romaine said in an interview that Brookhaven may struggle to pay cleanup costs from the storm.

"We're concerned because we are worried how we are going to balance this budget," Romaine said in an interview. "There's a lot of people who got wiped out."

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Brookhaven town board member Tim Mazzei resigns to pursue a County Court judgeship

Suffolk County Court candidate Tim Mazzei has resigned

Suffolk County Court candidate Tim Mazzei has resigned from his Brookhaven Town Board seat with 16 months remaining in his term to hasten a special election to choose his successor. (Credit: Newsday/David Pokress)

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Suffolk County Court candidate Tim Mazzei has resigned from his Brookhaven Town Board seat with 16 months remaining in his term to hasten a special election to choose his successor.

Mazzei, 60, a Blue Point Republican who has been cross-endorsed by the Republican, Democratic, Independence and Conservative parties, said Friday he resigned early so that a special election can be held in November, rather than early next year, saving the county an estimated $100,000. His resignation from the $67,986-per-year town board post was effective at midnight Thursday.

Mazzei, a former Suffolk prosecutor who led the district attorney's homicide bureau and has been in a private law practice for 24 years, was the town board's senior member at 11 years. In an interview, he said he was proud of economic revitalization efforts in East Patchogue and his role in building and cleaning up parks throughout his southwest Brookhaven district.

"It was an opportunity to do something different with respect to my legal career, which is the pinnacle of anybody's legal career, to become a judge," he said. "I just couldn't resist the opportunity."

Mazzei's early resignation will permit political parties to name candidates by mid-September by convention so they can be on the Nov. 4 election ballot. The winning candidate will take office immediately once the election is certified and will fulfill the remainder of Mazzei's two-year term.

Jesse Garcia, Brookhaven GOP chairman, who called Mazzei's move "bittersweet," said Republicans will name Neil Foley, 46, a Patchogue pharmaceutical salesman, as their candidate to succeed Mazzei.

Anthony Parlatore, Brookhaven Democratic chairman, said the party will nominate Amy Keyes, 30, of East Patchogue, an assistant to County Executive Steve Bellone and former aide to Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue). The fifth district includes Patchogue Village, East and North Patchogue, Medford and parts of Lake Ronkonkoma, Holbrook, Holtsville and many Fire Island communities.

Brookhaven officials, in a news release Friday, praised Mazzei's role in upgrading town parks and shepherding projects such as the Ronkonkoma Hub mixed-use development.

"He's participated in major decisions in this town," Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said. "He's been a strong advocate for his district, particularly Fire Island."

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Stony Brook University leases dorms in Shirley at Dowling College's former student housing space

The Stony Brook University campus on Oct. 22,

The Stony Brook University campus on Oct. 22, 2013. The school has overflowing dorms and is leasing housing for fall semester 2014 at the Dowling College Shirley campus. (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)

Stony Brook University is leasing dormitories at Dowling College's Shirley aviation school as part of a plan to address a chronic shortage of on-campus beds.

About 200 Stony Brook students moved into dorms at the Shirley campus this past weekend in preparation for the school year, which began Monday. Dowling had closed the dorms last year as part of a cost-cutting move.

Stony Brook housed students at the aviation school in 1999, while a dormitory was under construction at the Stony Brook campus, university spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow said.


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Stony Brook has recently added more than 650 beds to existing residence halls on its main campus, and the university broke ground this summer on a new dormitory that is expected to add 759 beds by 2016.

The moves were announced this month by university president Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. in a letter to the school's neighbors. Residents have complained that hundreds of Stony Brook students have moved into off-campus houses in residential neighborhoods due to on-campus housing shortages.

Stanley, in the letter, said the additional housing will allow the school to provide beds "for nearly all freshmen who choose to live on campus." The college welcomed about 24,400 graduate and undergraduate students to its campuses this week, including 2,849 freshmen, Sheprow said.

Sheprow said Stony Brook has a two-year lease to use the Dowling dorms. Student housing fees cover the cost of the lease, she said. The university will provide shuttle bus service for students to and from the campus, officials said.

Stony Brook residents have complained about increased traffic and noise caused by students in off-campus homes. Suffolk County and campus police broke up a party last spring that had attracted hundreds of young people to an off-campus house. Stanley's letter said three students were disciplined for their role in the party.

Brookhaven Town launched a crackdown on illegal rentals last year in response to Stony Brook residents' complaints.

Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright said Tuesday she plans to convene a meeting between residents, landlords, and town and college officials to discuss off-campus housing issues. The meeting will be moderated "by a neutral third party," Cartright said in an email to Newsday.

Kai Li, organizer of the Coalition of Landlords and Tenants of Stony Brook, said the group plans to take part in the meeting. "We try to work together," Li said. "We want to listen to their concerns, and we want them to listen to our arguments."

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Brookhaven's Cedar Beach shellfish hatchery is helping rebuild a dying industry

Long Island's imperiled shellfish industry is getting a

Long Island's imperiled shellfish industry is getting a boost from a Mount Sinai hatchery that has added millions of young clams and oysters to local waters. (Credit: Craig Ruttle)

Long Island's imperiled shellfish industry is getting a boost from a Mount Sinai hatchery that has added millions of young clams and oysters to local waters.

Officials and scientists said they think the 30-year-old hatchery, at the Town of Brookhaven's Cedar Beach, can help preserve a disappearing piece of Long Island maritime culture -- and improve water quality in area bays.

Last year, the hatchery placed about 3 million oyster and clam seeds in Mount Sinai and Port Jefferson harbors, the Great South Bay and bays along the North Shore. Hundreds of thousands of juvenile bivalves will be lowered into those waters again this fall.


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"On a small harbor like Mount Sinai Harbor, we can make a significant difference," said Tom Carrano, assistant waterways management supervisor at the hatchery.

The program started in 1984, when the Island's shellfish industry was beginning to struggle due to overharvesting, brown tide and algae blooms.

Since 1980, the number of full-time baymen working Island waters has declined from about 7,000 to a few dozen, said Christopher Gobler, a Stony Brook University marine sciences professor. Landings of clams, mussels, oysters and scallops have dropped 70 to 95 percent during the same period, he said. He said the Cedar Beach hatchery can help spark a comeback.

"There is interest amongst Long Islanders in rebuilding these shellfish stocks," Gobler said. "People recognize that first, how abundant they were, and two, that it was really a big part of the culture of Long Island. Most importantly, people recognize how important shellfish were for maintaining good water quality."

The hatchery features about 44 tanks, each containing several dozen mollusks purchased from an Islip hatchery. Water from Mount Sinai Harbor is pumped into the tanks to nourish the tiny seeds as they grow.

"Everything is done by hand, by us," said bay management specialist Craig Strong.

Oysters and clams spend the winter in the bays, protected by cages while their shells harden. In the spring, specialists will decide which seeds have developed shells strong enough to fend off predators such as crabs. About 75 percent of seeds survive into adulthood.

Oysters raised at the hatchery have a distinctive black mark; clams have a unique red stripe. The town also donates seeds to programs such as Western Suffolk BOCES.

The hatchery costs the town about $50,000 a year -- money well spent in the eyes of officials such as Councilwoman Jane Bonner. "You can't put a dollar amount on how much they clean the water," she said.

Officials say the local shellfish industry might never be what it once was. But they hope the hatchery helps save it from extinction.

"If we can make the water a little bit cleaner, or help someone make a little bit more money in the summer," Carrano said, "then we're doing our job."Shellfish seeds from the Town of Brookhaven hatchery planted in local waters last year:

2 million

Oysters planted in Mount Sinai and Port Jefferson harbors

800,000

Clams in Great South Bay

200,000

Clams in North Shore embayments

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What is the biggest challenge facing environmentalists trying to save LI's threatened water system?

Nitrogen pollution from septic systems Too much polluted water runoff Weak environmental protections for the region Lack of water quality education

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Brookhaven moves to speed up housing code prosecutions with special court session

Brookhaven Town hopes to speed up prosecutions of

Brookhaven Town hopes to speed up prosecutions of suspected housing code violations when a special court opens next month in Patchogue. (Credit: Newsday / Bill Davis)

Brookhaven Town officials said Monday they hope to speed up prosecutions of suspected housing code violations when a special court opens next month in Patchogue.

Supervisor Edward P. Romaine announced Monday that Suffolk County Court officials have agreed to set aside one day a week for cases involving alleged town code violations, including housing cases, at Sixth District Court.

The first session of the Brookhaven Community Housing Court is scheduled for Sept. 4. The court will be in session each Thursday, officials said.


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Brookhaven previously had launched a crackdown on housing code violations, prompted by complaints from residents who said dozens of houses in the Stony Brook area had been illegally rented to hundreds of college students.

Romaine, during a news conference Monday outside the Patchogue courthouse, said the town handles 150 to 200 code violation cases each week. Most involve alleged housing violations, he said.

"We want our cases to be expedited," he said. "We don't want to be delayed, delayed, delayed."

The new court might cut the time needed to prosecute cases from about 60 days to 30 days, town officials said.

In a July 28 letter to town officials, Suffolk County Supervising Judge Glenn A. Murphy said court officials agreed to establish the housing court "to make sure that cases before it are adjudicated in a prompt, yet fair manner, recognizing the rights of all involved."

The new court was supported Monday by Stony Brook community activists who recalled waiting several hours earlier this year before a District Court judge heard a case involving a landlord charged with safety violations.

"We waited till the last case at the end of the day on a Friday," said Bruce Sander, co-founder of Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners. "This should expedite the cases because they'll go before the judge much sooner."

Kai Li, organizer of the Coalition of Landlords and Tenants of Stony Brook, said he did not object to the court or to town laws intended to ensure safety. But he said he was concerned the town was unfairly targeting landlords renting to college students.

"They cannot deny the students the rights of choosing off-campus living," Li said in a telephone interview. "They cannot try to pass numerous laws to eliminate this type of business, because everybody has a right to rent their houses."

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FEMA officials tour Suffolk areas hit by record rainfall

Suffolk officials went with FEMA assessors to perform inspections of flood-damaged homes on Aug. 20, 2014, to determine whether a state of emergency should be declared and how much federal funding should go toward helping town residents rebuild and repair their homes. (Credit: James Carbone)

Federal and state emergency management officials Wednesday saw flood-damaged yards and basements and inspected sinkholes that swallowed a row of fence posts during a tour of homes damaged by last week's record-breaking rainstorm.

Guided by Suffolk County and town officials, workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state Office of Emergency Services visited communities such as Centereach and Farmingville, where residents -- many of whom did not have flood insurance -- said flash floods from the Aug. 13 storm caused thousands of dollars' worth of damage.

Brookhaven, Islip and Babylon town officials hope the FEMA tour helps persuade federal officials to declare the region a disaster area, making the towns eligible for federal financial aid.


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Among the stops was the Centereach home of Tricia Lomando, where floodwaters left behind four sinkholes into which sank a row of fence posts. The flooding also caused thousands of dollars in damage to a Brookhaven Town drainage system that runs along Lomando's property line.

"This one was a little scary when it swallowed the fence posts," Lomando said, adding that flood insurance was "not something that I even thought was needed because of where we are."

Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said it would cost "at least $15,000" to repair the town drain system along Lomando's yard. Town officials hope to be at least partially reimbursed by FEMA.

"Our costs are rising exponentially," Romaine said.

The storm dumped a state-record 13.57 inches of rain in less than 24 hours at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma. Romaine said the storm damaged 200 to 250 homes in Brookhaven and caused at least $10 million in damage to town roads and facilities.

FEMA has said it expects to continue inspecting flood damage Thursday and Friday.

Carla Peres of Farmingville said a FEMA team visited her home Wednesday, taking photographs of sinkholes in her front and back yards that collapsed her patio and driveway. She said she also had more than 4 feet of water in her basement when the storm struck.

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FEMA officials to arrive in Suffolk County on Wednesday to assess storm damage

People walk through Islip's flooded Main Street Wednesday

People walk through Islip's flooded Main Street Wednesday morning, Aug. 13, 2014. (Credit: James Carbone)

A federal storm damage assessment team is set to visit Suffolk County Wednesday to inspect homes and businesses slammed one week ago by torrential rains that flooded basements and highways from Babylon to Rocky Point, officials said Tuesday.

The inspection is expected to help determine whether the towns hardest hit by the storm -- Islip, Brookhaven and Babylon -- will be declared a disaster area, making them eligible for federal financial aid, officials said.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials are scheduled to meet Suffolk County and town officials Wednesday to examine multiple sites damaged by the storm, which dumped a state-record 13.57 inches of rain in less than 24 hours at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma.


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FEMA spokesman Don Caetano said the assessment team might take the rest of the week to visit sites that sustained storm damage. "It's going to take longer than a day," he said.

Caetano said he was not sure what areas would be inspected Wednesday. The storm cut through portions of Babylon and Islip towns before slashing central Brookhaven hamlets such as Holbrook, Selden and Farmingville.

"We are going to go where the locals and the state want us to go for assessments," Caetano said.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to ask the federal government to declare Suffolk a disaster area after the FEMA assessment is completed.

Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said Tuesday that the storm caused more than $15 million worth of damage to town roads and an additional $10 million to $15 million in damage to homes. The town has condemned nine houses, "and we expect that number to rise," Romaine said.

Islip officials have estimated damages at about $20 million.

"This is going to be a cost to the taxpayers," Romaine said. "There's nothing we can do. It's like a snowstorm."

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Town scraps plan to rezone Medford parcel next to site considered for gaming facility

Brookhaven Town officials have scrapped plans to change the zoning of a Medford parcel that could become part of a video lottery terminal complex.

The town board voted unanimously on Tuesday to withdraw the rezoning proposal, moments before a public hearing was to have been held on the issue. The rezoning would have permitted commercial recreation, including gaming, at a vacant parcel on the south service road near Exit 64 of the Long Island Expressway.

Town officials had proposed changing the zoning of the 9-acre parcel, which has been eyed as a potential addition to an adjacent 23-acre plot that Suffolk County officials are considering for a gaming facility with up to 1,000 video lottery terminals.

Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said Wednesday the rezoning plan would not be taken up at a later date. "I don't think it's necessary," he said in an interview. "When we have a site plan [for a gaming facility], we'll decide then. But right now, it doesn't look like it needs a rezoning."

The 23-acre parcel already is zoned to allow commercial recreation, which permits gaming, town officials have said. Supporters have said video lottery terminals would add jobs and boost the local economy.

Civic activist MaryAnn Johnston, who opposes the gaming facility, said she was "thrilled" that the rezoning plan had been dropped. She said she feared that such a facility would lead to increased crime.

"It doesn't bring the kind of benefits to a community. It doesn't bring the kind of jobs to a community," she said.

The town board also voted 6-1 to withdraw a proposal to rewrite the town's definition of commercial recreation zones. Among other things, it would have required a special permit for gaming operations.

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'Whole lot of fill' needed to repair Bay Shore sinkhole, says contractor

Emergency personnel respond to the scene where tow
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Emergency personnel respond to the scene where tow truck and other cars collapsed in sinkholea inside the parking lot of the AutoZone at the shopping Center on Middle Country Road near Mark Tree Road Thursday evening in Centereach on Aug. 14, 2014.(Credit: James Carbone)

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Contractors Thursday worked on building a wooden barricade around a large sinkhole in a Bay Shore parking lot -- one of many sinkholes that developed on Long Island in the wake of a historic rainfall that hit the towns of Islip, Babylon and Brookhaven especially hard.

"We're building a wall to keep people away," said contractor Gary Micheletti, while onlookers snapped photos of the sinkhole.

The hole was at least 10 feet deep and larger than a sport utility vehicle. Micheletti said it would take "a whole lot of fill" to fully repair the sinkhole.


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Christina Hinderer was working at the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Wednesday morning around 9 a.m. when she saw the parking lot depression form after a car drove over the spot.

"It started dipping down, and we blocked it off," she said.

The cafe had to close about two hours later after management decided the sinkhole could become dangerous.

The cafe lost about a couple thousand dollars in sales because of the closure, and business remained sluggish Thursday, said manager Samantha Scherger.

Hinderer said last year a small sinkhole about the size of a watermelon developed in the same spot.

"It was really small and the dirt was still there," she said. The center's landlord patched up the hole, and "they said this time they are going to fix it the right way."

Meanwhile, Brookhaven Town reported 22 sinkholes in various streets.

In Centereach, two parked cars became stuck in sinkholes Thursday and one was stuck Wednesday in a lot in front of AutoZone when the pavement gave way, according to an AutoZone employee.

A Crown Victoria and a medium-sized tow truck sunk into the blacktop of the parking lot around 3:30 p.m. Thursday, the employee said. Both cars were towed out in the late afternoon.

Suffolk police Sixth Precinct officers were at the scene Thursday evening, securing the area where cars seemed to be susceptible to sinking.

Elsewhere in Brookhaven, town crews pumped out a half-million gallons of water from West Bartlett Road in Coram.

Flooding at the town-owned Pennysaver Amphitheater at Bald Hill in Farmingville caused the cancellation of a Friday night concert, "Party 105's Summer Madness." Promoters expect the venue to be cleaned up in time for Saturday's show, featuring Little Big Town, Eli Young Band and The Henningsens.

Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said the theater sustained electrical damage, and seats in the pit area at the foot of the stage were flooded.

"It was two to three feet high on the stage," he said, referring to water damage.

The town Thursday delivered American Red Cross flood kits to homes that were damaged by the storm. The kits include buckets, brooms, mops, scrub brushes, sponges, gloves, garbage bags, bleach and other cleanup material. The kits also will be available Friday free of charge at Town Hall, 1 Independence Hill, Farmingville.

Town officials still were assessing storm damage Thursday.

"We believe that the damage done to the town will cost several million dollars" for road repairs, unclogging storm drains and cleaning out sumps, Romaine said. "We suspect the damage to personal property is in the millions also. So this was an expensive storm."

With Candice Ruud

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Suffolk to turn over county-subsidized health clinics in Shirley and Patchogue to upstate group

The Marilyn Shellabarger South Brookhaven Family Health Center

The Marilyn Shellabarger South Brookhaven Family Health Center East at Shirley at 550 Montauk Highway in Shirley on Aug. 12, 2014. (Credit: Newsday / Daniel Rader)

A Peekskill-based health care network will take over this fall as the operator of two Suffolk County-subsidized clinics in Shirley and Patchogue, officials said Tuesday.

The clinics, currently managed by Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue, will be transferred to Hudson River HealthCare Inc., also known as HRHCare, by about Nov. 1.

The change is expected to save the county $31 million over the next five years, Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said.


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The clinics, which primarily serve low-income residents and provide services such as primary care, family planning, diabetes education and prenatal care, will add services such as dental and mental health care as part of the change, Schneider said.

Brookhaven hospital officials said in a news release that most clinic employees are expected to transfer to Hudson River HealthCare. The state Labor Department said 48 employees may be affected by the move.

"The current staff will have the opportunity to transition to the Hudson River HealthCare as well as appropriate job possibilities" at Brookhaven hospital, the hospital said in a statement, adding that "patients will have a seamless transition."

Hudson River HealthCare officials could not be reached for comment.

Schneider said the move was prompted in part by a steep reduction in state subsidies for the county's health clinics. Subsidies have been cut from $28 million in 2010 to $15 million last year, he said.

The county in recent years had turned over management of clinics in Coram, Southampton and Amityville to Hudson River HealthCare, for an anticipated savings of $19 million over five years, Schneider said. The firm, which operates 22 facilities on Long Island and in the Hudson River valley, is able to hold down costs in part because its malpractice costs are covered by the federal government, he said.

"Just about everyone who has seen the job they've done has been very impressed," Schneider said.

Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset) said he supported the change because of the projected savings, but expressed concern that "a handful" of county employees working at the clinics may lose their jobs.

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