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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.

Bishop and Zeldin square off at Coram forum

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Rep. Tim Bishop and his Republican opponent, state Sen. Lee Zeldin, agreed during a candidates night forum in Coram that Congress must take action on immigration bills, but they disagreed about what to do.

Bishop (D-Southampton) said during the Monday night forum that he favors a "path to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants. Zeldin (R-Shirley), who is seeking to unseat Bishop, said children detained after crossing the border into the United States should be deported and "reunited with their families back home."

Bishop and Zeldin both blamed partisan gridlock for the House of Representatives' failure to act on the issue.

"I believe our Congress could be functioning a lot better now," Zeldin told an audience of about 50 people at the Coram Fire Department.

Bishop said Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) sent House members home this summer without voting on an immigration bill. "We have a lot of work that we still need to do," Bishop said.

The exchange was one of the few discordant moments during Monday's forum, which featured 17 candidates for various federal, state, Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town offices.

The candidates were unanimous in opposing the controversial Common Core educational standards and the possible siting of a casino in Medford.

Most candidates at the forum said they opposed hydrofracking, a method of extracting natural gas from underground, because the process may harm the environment. Republican Dean Murray, who is seeking to unseat Assemb. Edward Hennessey (D-Shirley), said he supports hydrofracking, but would require drilling companies to reveal potentially toxic material that may be extracted.

"I do believe our economy needs a kick-start," said Murray.

Most candidates said they supported alternative energy sources to reduce power costs.

Environmentalist Adrienne Esposito, running against Islip Supervisor Tom Croci for Zeldin's state Senate seat, said she supported a plan to build a wind farm about 30 miles off Montauk Point. "It's not a new technology," said Esposito, a registered independent running with Democratic support. "We don't have to import oil from countries that don't like us."

Croci, a Republican, said new energy sources must withstand natural disasters such as superstorm Sandy.

"Whatever we do, it has to be with a view for a technology that's sustainable and can be available in the worst of times," he said.

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Mastic house damaged by fire demolished by Brookhaven Town

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine during a Feb.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine during a Feb. 20, 2013, news conference. (Credit: Ana Maria Rico)

Brookhaven Town has demolished a Mastic house that officials said was structurally unsafe following a 2006 fire.

The house, at 131 Bedford Ave., is the third structure on the town's "Dirty Dozen" list of dangerous homes to be razed in the past two months.

A demolition crew hired by the town razed the Mastic house on Wednesday. Town officials said in a news release they condemned the house due to "significant damage" caused by a fire in May 2006.

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"This property was more than just an eyesore. It attracted transients and vandals who threatened the quality of life in the community," Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said in a statement. "By demolishing the house, we have made this neighborhood a safer place to live."

Town officials said the cost of demolishing the house and removing debris will be added to the county property tax bill of the homeowner, listed in property records as Laura M. Traina.

Brookhaven had demolished a home in Selden last month and a house in Port Jefferson Station on Oct. 1.

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Brookhaven Town supervisor wants Suffolk not to auction six properties in the town

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, and town board

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, and town board member Connie Kepert, look at a map after a press conference in Yaphank on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. (Credit: Ed Betz)

Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine has asked Suffolk County to remove six properties from an upcoming auction because he believes they have "significant" environmental or recreational value.

The parcels, which total 26 acres, including a 15-acre farm in Eastport, had been seized by the county for nonpayment of back taxes.

Town officials said the properties -- including single parcels in Middle Island, Eastport, Moriches and Manorville, and two in North Shirley -- are near environmentally sensitive areas such as the Pine Barrens and Carmans River.

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County officials say the properties don't meet their guidelines for open space acquisitions, and their sale will help recoup more than $400,000 in delinquent tax payments. The six properties are among 211 parcels scheduled to be auctioned from Oct. 28 to Oct. 30 at the H. Lee Dennison county office building in Hauppauge.

Romaine, in an Oct. 10 letter to County Executive Steve Bellone, said the properties "possess significant ecological, recreational, environmental and agricultural value." Romaine asked that the parcels be declared open space or transferred to the town.

"If the county feels that the reimbursement is the most important thing, we're certainly happy to have that discussion," Romaine said in an interview. "What we don't want to see happen is that parcels that shouldn't be developed get developed."

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said the county is willing to discuss the properties with Brookhaven officials.

Schneider said owners of the six parcels owe a total of $419,062 in back taxes. County officials believe the properties may be worth as much as $577,000, he said.

"We have a fiduciary responsibility to Suffolk County taxpayers to make the county whole," Schneider said.

He added that the properties do not meet the county's criteria to be included on a list of more than 1,000 properties that the county wants to buy for its open space preservation program.

Those criteria are based on federal and state guidelines for wetlands, groundwater protection, endangered species and unique geological characteristics.

Councilwoman Connie Kepert said the town should consider buying the Middle Island parcel, a vacant 6.1-acre property on state Route 25.

"I don't think it will cost very much," she said. "I don't think it's crucial that nobody build on that, but if we can get it for open space, wonderful."

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Brookhaven moves to preserve parcel near Carmans River as open space

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, and Richard Amper,

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, and Richard Amper, executive director of the Pine Barrens Society, look at a map of land recently preached by the Town of Brookhaven after a press conference in Yaphank on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. (Credit: Ed Betz)

A 120-acre Yaphank property that had been eyed for a housing development will be preserved as open space with hiking trails, Brookhaven officials said Tuesday.

Town officials formally announced plans to buy the property for $12 million from developer Silver Corporate Park LLC, which had planned to build a 622-unit retirement community at the site. The purchase is part of an agreement settling a lawsuit filed against the town by the developer.

Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said the town agreed to pay "a very reasonable price" for the site, which he said is the largest privately held parcel in the fragile Carmans River watershed.

The site, with four to five miles of trails and wildlife such as red-tailed hawks and white-tailed deer, will be preserved as open space, he said.

"This is a very excellent deal for us, because this whole property would have been bulldozed," Romaine said, surrounded by civic leaders and environmental activists during a news conference at the site.

The legal battle over the parcel lasted nearly a decade.

Silver Corporate Park had sued Brookhaven in 2006 after the town board rescinded its approval of rezoning plans related to a proposed retirement community.

Under the settlement announced last month, the company will be allowed to build a light industrial development on 47 acres it owns along the Long Island Expressway service road, south of the property that will be purchased and preserved by the town.

The settlement pleased civic and environmental activists, several of whom said they had been frustrated by the slow pace of the legal proceedings.Gail Lynch-Bailey, of Middle Island, said the purchase was "government at its best."

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Port Jefferson officials may move to condemn vacant diner in Upper Port neighborhood

Abandoned and boarded up diner at 1527 Main

Abandoned and boarded up diner at 1527 Main Street in Port Jefferson on Oct. 3, 2014. (Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan)

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Port Jefferson officials may condemn a vacant diner that they say is a safety hazard that should be torn down.

Mayor Margot J. Garant said the village board may vote on Nov. 3 to raze the building if its owner fails to submit plans to repair or demolish it.

Property owner Jose R. Ramos, of Riverhead, has been invited to appear at a public hearing that night to discuss his plans for the site. Attempts to reach Ramos last week were unsuccessful.

Garant said the shuttered diner, at 1527 Main St., is one of several buildings in the village's Upper Port neighborhood that may be razed because of safety concerns. Village officials have targeted the area for redevelopment.

"We're trying to send a very strong message to the Upper Port property owners that if they don't take down their properties, the village is going to do it for them," Garant said in an interview.

The diner demolition would be the first under a new procedure adopted this year to expedite condemnations of buildings that village inspectors find to be dangerous.

The village board approves plans to raze unsafe structures under the new procedure. Previously, the village had sought approvals for demolitions from State Supreme Court.

The diner has been vacant about eight years and has attracted vagrants, Garant said. It was inspected last month and found to have numerous safety hazards, including fire damage, inadequate light and air due to boards placed over windows, structural attachments that could fall and injure passersby, fire code violations and broken emergency shutoff valves, Port Jefferson officials said.

"It's a real problem up there because it's an attractive nuisance," Garant said.

The cost of the demolition would be added to Ramos' property tax bill, village attorney Brian Egan said. Garant could not estimate the cost of razing the structure.

This is the third time village officials have proposed tearing down the diner. The previous efforts, in 2007 and 2008, were scuttled when the owner, then listed as a Los Pipiles of Riverhead, announced plans to rehabilitate the structure.

Los Pipiles never followed through with those plans, village officials said.

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Three towns in Suffolk hit by August rainstorm do not qualify for federal assistance, officials say

Flooding on the on-ramp to the westbound LIE

Flooding on the on-ramp to the westbound LIE from Nicolls Road in Holtsville on Wednesday morning, Aug. 13, 2014, as heavy rain pounded the area. (Credit: James Carbone)

Three Suffolk County towns that were flooded by an August rainstorm do not qualify for federal disaster assistance, state and federal officials said Wednesday.

The announcement makes it less likely that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo would formally request a federal disaster declaration, which could trigger federal financial aid for the towns of Islip, Babylon and Brookhaven, officials said.

Federal Emergency Management Agency and state inspectors also determined that individual homeowners and businesses affected by the Aug. 13 storm did not qualify for federal assistance.

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"The joint assessments with FEMA confirmed that damages from the storm fell below the threshold required to receive a major disaster declaration from FEMA," the state homeland services division said in a statement. "The state is working with the Suffolk County communities to recover."

FEMA spokesman Don Caetano said the decision does not preclude Cuomo from requesting a federal disaster declaration. He said Cuomo had not requested one.

A spokeswoman for Cuomo declined to comment.

Brookhaven, Islip and Babylon officials had hoped for federal reimbursements to pay for repairs to roads and drainage systems damaged by the storm, which dumped a state record of 13.57 inches of rain at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma.

"We're definitely disappointed and we're continuing to work with residents that had issues from the storm that day," Babylon Supervisor Richard Schaffer said. "I don't think there's any other recourse that we had."

Town officials have estimated the storm caused about $20 million in damage to town facilities in Islip; $10 million in Brookhaven; and several hundred thousands of dollars in Babylon.

Officials said inspectors from FEMA and the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services found about $13 million worth of damage in all three towns -- far short of the federal government's $27 million threshold for damages that would be reimbursed by federal aid.

Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said he was "terribly disappointed" that homeowners, many of whom did not have flood insurance, would not receive federal aid.

"These were total losses," he said. "How are people going to recover from this?"

State officials encouraged businesses and homeowners to apply for federal Small Business Administration loans to pay for damage caused by the storm.

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Town studies uses for Lawrence Aviation Superfund site

A dump truck enters the gate of the

A dump truck enters the gate of the former Lawrence Aviation site on Sheep Pasture Road in Port Jefferson Station on Tuesday morning, May 13, 2014. (Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas)

Some Brookhaven Town officials are considering a plan to keep residential zoning on part of a contaminated federal Superfund site in Port Jefferson Station -- not because they want to build houses on the site, but because they don't want anything built there.

Supervisor Edward P. Romaine and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright said residential zoning on a 22.5-acre portion of the Lawrence Aviation Industries site would require the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the parcel more extensively -- and at a higher cost -- making it less likely that it would be developed.

The idea was raised last week during a public hearing on the town's 48-page draft plan for potential future uses of the former aircraft parts manufacturing plant on Sheep Pasture Road. That draft proposes eliminating residential zoning at the 153-acre site and rezoning it for light industrial uses such as factories, offices and storage facilities.

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That proposal has been opposed by some residents, who prefer preserving the site as open space.

The EPA is expected to complete a $27.3 million cleanup by 2036. A mile-long toxic plume emanates from the site. Federal agents raided the site in May to investigate suspected mishandling of hazardous material.

The property includes 11 separate parcels. About half the site is zoned for light industry; the rest is zoned for light industry or residential.

The alternative plan proposed by Romaine and Cartright would keep both residential and light industrial zoning on the 22.5-acre parcel on the site's north end, effectively blocking development there, they said.

Chris Short, who said he lives across the street from the site, preferred the residential zoning plan. "To change it . . . is going to cause all kinds of grief with the community," he said.

Lawrence Aviation owner Gerald Cohen said he thinks his property will be safe for homes or businesses once the EPA cleanup is completed.

"I believe that when they get it done, the property will be as pristine as you could get," Cohen said in an interview. He said the properties could be attractive to developers because they are close to Port Jefferson Village, a Long Island Rail Road station and Stony Brook University.

Homes have been built or restored at more than 100 former Superfund sites around the country, including Love Canal, the contaminated landfill in upstate Niagara Falls that led to the fund's creation, according to the EPA website.

Cohen owes an estimated $11.2 million in back Suffolk County taxes on the land, according to town figures. In the interview, he said the taxes will be "paid out of the proceeds of the sale of the property. . . . We anticipate the selling price to be substantially more than the price of the taxes."

Romaine said the tax liens would scare off potential buyers. "When you have a lien of that magnitude, I don't know who's going to step into that situation," he said.

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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 Town budget includes more road improvement, snow removal spending

Brookhaven Town Hall in an undated photo.

Brookhaven Town Hall in an undated photo. (Credit: Newsday / Bill Davis)

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Brookhaven's proposed capital budget includes almost $48 million in new initiatives and more than $21 million in drainage and road improvement projects throughout the town.

The $80.1 million capital budget -- unveiled along with the town's $274.7 million preliminary budget last week -- would reduce spending by $12.9 million. It includes using $10.1 million for parks improvements and open space acquisitions.

Town Highway Superintendent Daniel Losquadro declined to provide specifics about road projects that would be addressed with capital funds, but said the money would be spread evenly among Brookhaven's six districts.

The preliminary budget also adds $1 million to the highway department budget for snow removal.

The proposed town budget from Republican Supervisor Edward P. Romaine would increase spending by about 1.8 percent.

The town board must approve the spending plan.

Democratic Councilwoman Connie Kepert said she would vote for the budget because it "holds the line on spending, which we try to do."

The budget includes no layoffs. The town relied on attrition to avoid layoffs this year. Brookhaven officials said those job reductions -- 21 full-time and 14 part-time employees -- will save about $1.5 million next year.

"I'm very happy about no proposed layoffs," Kepert said.

Republican Councilman Dan Panico said he wanted more time to review the spending plan but thought it "was well put together."

"The cuts in staffing through attrition, the course to not fill positions to bring down the number of employees, will produce significant cost savings," he said. "We still have stagnant revenues and increasing costs [but] the budget maintains the current levels of services."

Most homeowners would not see a tax increase under next year's budget, officials said. No raises are planned for elected officials.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Nov. 6.

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Donald Blydenburgh dead; former Suffolk legislative leader was 62

Donald Blydenburgh, a consensus-building lawmaker who led the

Donald Blydenburgh, a consensus-building lawmaker who led the Suffolk County Legislature for seven years and served another 14 years as a New York State Supreme Court judge, died after a seven-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 62. (Credit: Newsday)

Donald Blydenburgh, a consensus-building lawmaker who led the Suffolk County Legislature for seven years and served another 14 years as a New York State Supreme Court judge, died Thursday after a seven-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 62.

Blydenburgh, a Republican, served 11 years in the Legislature, seven as presiding officer in the late 1980s and the '90s -- a record surpassed by only the late Democrat William Lindsay. He later became a state Supreme Court justice and an attorney in private practice.

Under Blydenburgh, the legislature passed a smoking ban in Suffolk restaurants and overturned budgets with tax hikes and multimillion-dollar borrowing. Former colleagues said Blydenburgh forged coalitions with Democrats and Republicans to pass legislation.

"He was the greatest presiding officer in the history of the legislature, and other presiding officers have to be measured against him," said Paul Sabatino, an attorney from Huntington Station who was the legislature's chief counsel under Blydenburgh.

"He was instrumental in creating a robust, truly independent branch of government." Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, who served with Blydenburgh in the legislature, said Blydenburgh helped calm the body following years when its unruly politics led observers to call it "the wild, wild east."

"He helped write the story that we know today as Suffolk County," Romaine said.

Born and raised in Kings Park, Blydenburgh traced his family's history on Long Island to Colonial times. Blydenburgh's father, Joseph, was the first clerk of the Suffolk Legislature, and a Smithtown park bears the family's name.

Blydenburgh received an associate's degree from Suffolk County Community College, a bachelor's degree from Long Island University's C.W. Post Campus -- now known as LIU Post -- and a law degree from Hofstra Law School.

In 1975, he married his childhood sweetheart, Mary Long, who survives him. The couple moved to Smithtown in 1975 and had three children: Donald P. Blydenburgh, 35, a lawyer from Brooklyn; Jessica Long, 33, an attorney from Smithtown; and Meghan Pruett, 32, of Arlington, Virginia, a PhD candidate at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Long said her father was "incredible. No matter what he had going on, he would always make time to coach our baseball and softball team."

Long said her father's most cherished award was a plaque from the Kings Park Baseball League which read: "The busiest man in Suffolk always has time for the kids."

Blydenburgh served as Smithtown town attorney and was elected to the legislature in 1986, representing the 6th District, covering Smithtown, Commack, Hauppauge, Nesconset and Lake Ronkonkoma.

In 1989, he was elected presiding officer over Conservative Michael O'Donohoe.

Blydenburgh bucked Republican Party leadership in 1991 when he backed Robert Gaffney as the GOP nominee for county executive over Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio. Gaffney won the nomination and defeated Democratic incumbent Patrick Halpin.

Colleagues said Blydenburgh forged bipartisan relationships with Democrats, at a time when that was typically frowned upon by party leaders, often passing budgets unanimously. "They got to the point where they were passing budgets 18-0, which was unheard of," Sabatino recalled.

"He was a fair presiding officer and was able to accomplish a lot," Smithtown Republican chairman William Ellis said. "The best thing he did was he was able to work with the other legislators."Gregg Blass, a former county legislator and Suffolk social services commissioner who preceded Blydenburgh as presiding officer, said he "had a good analytical mind and a strong sense of the legislature as an institution."

Blydenburgh credited the time he spent working at the Kings Park Psychiatric Center with teaching him to be compassionate, even amid chaos. He started out working in food service when he was 18 and later worked in patient care.

"They need you to be very understanding and explain things," said Blydenburgh, who worked at the now-shuttered hospital in the 1970s, while in college. "When you worked in the psychiatric center, you had a lot of times when things were hectic."

Blydenburgh served as a Supreme Court justice from 1997 until 2010. He later opened a private law practice in Kings Park, retiring late last year when he became ill.

In addition to his wife and children, Blydenburgh is survived by five grandchildren and five siblings: Joseph Blydenburgh, John Blydenburgh, Patricia Steketee, Joanne Wohlleb and Susan Cannarsa.

Viewing is 2 to 4:30 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at Clayton Funeral Home, 25 Meadow Rd. in Kings Park. A funeral Mass will be said at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, 59 Church St. in Kings Park.

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Senior housing proposed for Mount Sinai draws support, concern

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Mount Sinai residents are debating a proposed 91-unit senior housing development that some say would create too much traffic and spoil their views.

Supporters of the proposed Pond View Estates say it would meet growing demand for retirement communities in the North Shore hamlet. Civic leaders say that Mount Sinai won't need any more senior housing complexes if the development is built.

The developer, Mount Sinai Manor Development Co. of Glen Cove, has asked the Brookhaven Town Board to lift a 43-year-old covenant mandating a 100-foot buffer along the parcel at Canal Road and Plymouth Avenue, and change the zoning on the property from residential to planned retirement community.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner, who represents Mount Sinai, said the town board may vote at its next meeting, Oct. 28.

During a public hearing before the town board Tuesday night, some residents of a neighboring senior housing development, Plymouth Estates, said a sales office would be built near their homes if Pond View Estates were approved. They also said the views from their homes would be disturbed while the project is built.

"We're going to have a bird's-eye view of the construction trucks going in and out," said Linda May, who said she spoke on behalf of 30 to 40 people. "And they're going to have a bird's-eye view of us."

Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said the town Planning Department would require new landscaping to shield neighbors' views of Pond View Estates, and he said the location of the sales office also would be addressed. "You should not have people going in your development for sales," he said.

J. Timothy Shea Jr., an attorney for the developer, said Pond View Estates homes would cost about $600,000 each. Officials said 10 percent of the condo units would be offered at lower prices to comply with affordable housing laws.

"The aging population on Long Island continues to grow, and we feel this will meet that need," Shea said.

Mount Sinai Civic Association vice president Brad Arrington said the group supports the plan but would oppose future senior housing developments because retirement communities would make up 25 percent of the hamlet's homes if the project were completed.

Arrington said civic leaders should support housing aimed at young residents. "Housing for younger people is going to be of increasing importance," Arrington said.

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