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It's raining golf balls in W. Sayville

Al Slavik with some of the golf balls

Al Slavik with some of the golf balls that have landed in his yard. Each of the balls on the table has a color imprint -- red, brown or black -- an indication of what they collided with. Red is the color of his house. Credit: Judy Cartwright

Residents near Suffolk County's West Sayville Golf Course take the warning "fore" to heart. Last year those who live in an apartment complex across Montauk Highway reported that balls were sailing across the road, landing on their cars and balconies. They blamed a gap in the golf course netting.

Two blocks to the west, and far from the gap, Al Slavik recently displayed a collection of balls that have landed in his yard. These sailed over the netting, he said and showed Watchdog how an inexpert golfer on the hole nearest his house, the 5th, could achieve that result by hooking or slicing a shot.

"What these people don't understand is that . . . [on the 5th hole] when you hook the ball, it goes over the net and bounces on Montauk Highway," he said.

In his backyard are buckets full of balls, a collection that includes some with colorful imprints -- red, for instance, the color of his house, which is pockmarked. Slavik said he counted 182 balls in his yard last year, 52 of them from Aug. 31 to Sept. 31. (The season typically begins in March and continues as late as December.)

It comes as no surprise that the balls make a racket when they hit houses and cars. They've made contact with humans, too: Slavik recalled a day when one bounced off the roof and hit his wife, Eleanor, in the head. He is wary of letting his grandchildren spend time in the yard.

And he is frustrated by the county's response: that it isn't responsible for damage or injuries from the balls. Last year he submitted a claim after a ball dented his car, parked in his driveway, and received a response saying "neither the county nor its Parks Department is legally responsible for damage caused by errant golf balls."

That leaves the Slaviks responsible for damage caused by a golf ball hit on a golf course that didn't exist when they purchased the house in 1963. That was four years before the county purchased the land, at that time an estate, and transformed it into the golf course.

The apartment residents near the gap can't make the argument that they were there first. Still, last September the county's then-parks commissioner, Joseph Montuori, told Watchdog that though he wasn't convinced the gap needed to be filled in, he didn't rule it out. "If that's what's going on, we'll study it," he said at the time. "We like to be a good neighbor."

When golfers returned in the spring, the Parks Department had a new commissioner, Gregory Dawson. Apartment resident Rose Van Guilder said Dawson recently told her the gap will not be filled.

Watchdog's calls to Dawson's office were not returned. So we turned to county spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter, who responded that the work would be "cost prohibitive" given the county's fiscal issues. She put the estimated cost at $20,000.

And she pointed out that the gap, which appears to be about 200 feet wide, falls along a section of the course that she termed "out of play." It's next to a putting green and a pond; Montuori, too, had said the location shouldn't pose a problem.

A golfer Watchdog consulted had another view: that balls head toward the gap when a golfer hooks a shot from the tee on the 8th hole (the one with the pond).

Van Guilder said last Sunday a golf ball hit a visitor.

Neighbors aren't the only ones filing complaints. In response to a Freedom of Information request about golf ball damage along that stretch of road, the county attorney's office provided two documents. One involved the side mirror of a car parked at another golf course. The second was from a woman struck in the face as she was driving on Montauk Highway, past the West Sayville course.

So Watchdog sought out the county again, hoping to learn whom they consider responsible for damage to passing drivers and residents who predate the golf course's arrival. The county had not responded by Friday evening.




Utility pole finally gone


A utility pole in front of my house was struck by lightning, so a new pole was installed. LIPA told me that Verizon owned the old pole and was responsible for its removal. Verizon said they would take care of it and sent a worker to examine the pole. In April, he put in a work order to remove it. The pole is still there.

-- Jen Bernstein, Massapequa Park

We're pleased to report the old pole is gone.

Verizon spokesman John Bonomo said the company had been waiting for LIPA and Cablevision to remove their equipment and transfer it to the new pole. Neither Verizon "nor any other tenants on poles, handle LIPA or any electric utility's cables," he said.

When Verizon revisited the location this summer after our inquiry, LIPA and Cablevision's lines had been transferred, so Verizon removed the pole the same day.

After noticing the completed work, Bernstein sent us an enthusiastic email. "Yes! They removed it today," she wrote. "I appreciate it!"

Readers with similar issues involving Verizon can call the company at 800-VERIZON.


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