Judy Cartwright Judy Cartwright

Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column

As St. Andrew's Church in Yaphank prepares to celebrate its 160th birthday later this month, congregants have been concerned that its appearance is not very festive.

Remnants of a Brookhaven Town project -- the dredging of two nearby millponds -- left drainage pipe across the churchyard. The driveway apron was so akilter after a section of pipe was laid underneath that the pavement scraped against the underside of cars.

"We're trying desperately to entice people to come to our church," Michael Seif, a member of the congregation's executive board, told Watchdog. "But the church looking like a storage warehouse doesn't exactly entice people."

The long-awaited dredging project was intended to remove invasive plants choking Upper and Lower Lakes.

The congregation had anticipated the pipe would be removed, and the driveway leveled, when the dredging was finished by the scheduled Oct. 31 completion date. But work was suspended instead of completed due to concerns about the level of sediment being stirred up. The church was left with the pipe across the front yard -- that section was unmowable -- and a driveway that remained uninviting.

With the Nov. 30 celebration approaching, and with no response to the voice mails Seif had left for public officials, he contacted Newsday.

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The town responded quickly to our inquiry on a Friday afternoon: By Monday, the yard was free of pipe, which was moved to adjacent county properties. The section of pipe under the driveway apron was removed and the space filled with sand, and town spokesman Jack Krieger said the town and church are working to schedule a date when the apron can be replaced.

The millponds were dug in the 1800s for a lumbering operation. Seif said the church, which bears a National Register of Historic Places plaque, was built in 1853 with cedar planks from that operation.