The developers of the proposed Ronkonkoma Hub residential and retail complex that supporters hope will transform an aging commercial strip near Long Island MacArthur Airport received a mostly friendly reception when they appeared before the Brookhaven Town Planning Board this week.
Robert Loscalzo, chief operating officer of Tritec Real Estate, the East Setauket developer hired by Brookhaven Town officials to build the Hub, said company officials hope to begin construction of the project's first phase later this year or in early 2016. The first phase will include 489 rental units and a sewage pumping station at Union Avenue and Mill Road.
When it is completed in about a decade, the $538 million Hub project is expected to include up to 1,450 apartments and 545,000 square feet of retail and office space on 50 acres. Many of the apartments are expected to be affordable units to attract young people and senior citizens.
The project received support at the meeting on Monday from civic, business and labor leaders who spoke at the half-hour hearing. Some lauded Tritec for its last major project, a mixed-use development in Patchogue that officials have credited with helping revitalize that village.
"I look at this project and I see nothing but progress," said James F. Peña, business development representative of Local 25 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. "What they did in Patchogue is the same thing they're doing with this project."
Anthony Mingoia, vice president of the Ronkonkoma Chamber of Commerce, said the Hub will provide homes for "a generation that otherwise would leave Long Island."
There is opposition to some aspects of the Hub. For example, Village of Islandia officials are trying to block Suffolk County plans to connect the Hub to the Southwest Sewer District by building a sewer line through the village. That issue was not raised on Monday.
The only person who spoke in opposition to the Hub was Nart Bashqoy, vice president of sales for North Fork Express, a Hampton Bays-based bus company that operates a depot near the proposed Hub site. Company officials previously have expressed concerns that Brookhaven officials would attempt to seize the bus property by eminent domain.
Town officials have said they don't intend to condemn property for the Hub project.
Bashqoy said company officials filed a request under the state Freedom of Information Law to view an environmental assessment of the Hub project, but they were unsuccessful.
"We're wondering if the developers are receiving any sort of special treatment for this project," Bashqoy said. "We've had a hard time with this."John M. Wagner, an attorney for Tritec, said the environmental assessment was part of a "finding statement" delivered to town officials last year. "I frankly don't understand the response that he [Bashqoy] got" to the Freedom of Information request, Wagner said.