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Developer's plan to shut road is opposed

Railroad Avenue meets Montauk Highway in East Moriches.

Railroad Avenue meets Montauk Highway in East Moriches. An office complex has been approved to be built resulting on the closure of Railroad Avenue. (Dec. 5, 2011) Credit: Randee Daddona

Railroad Avenue, a dog-legged strip of road alongside train tracks in East Moriches, is sparsely traveled -- but a group of residents is rallying to save a chunk of the street anyway.

A developer wants to build a 6,750-square-foot office and retail complex at the corner of Railroad Avenue and Montauk Highway, which must be approved by Suffolk County's Department of Public Works.

The DPW is considering closing the eastern end of Railroad Avenue, County Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) said in a statement, and that would block access to Montauk Highway from Railroad Avenue.

That doesn't sit well with many neighborhood residents, who don't like the idea of losing a decades-old road because of a private development, said Jim Gleason, vice president of the East Moriches Property Owners Association.

"If it were eliminated, they would have to go in circles to get to a place they can get to directly now by using that intersection," Gleason said. "Since the road is already there and has been there for eons, it doesn't seem fair to pull the rug out from under them and say, all of a sudden, you've got to make a change and drive around in circles."

The road closure will be the subject of a public forum Wednesday night in East Moriches.

Schneiderman, who represents the area, Legis. Edward Romaine (R-Center Moriches), Brookhaven Councilman Daniel Panico and representatives for the DPW and developer DNF Realty are expected to attend.

Representatives for DNF Realty did not return calls seeking comment.

Railroad Avenue once connected the Long Island Rail Road's East Moriches station with Montauk Highway, but the station closed in the late 1950s, along with the nearby Brookhaven and Eastport stations.

But Romaine said the road, which connects a residential neighborhood to Montauk Highway, still has value to the community.

"Very simply put, why are we closing a road to make a developer wealthy?" Romaine said. "There is a problem if to have your property be profitable you have to close a public right of way."

Deborah Muller, who works for Kurt Weiss Greenhouses in nearby Center Moriches and plans to attend the forum, agreed that closing a road could be a bad idea.

A site plan for the DNF Realty development, which sits on a little more than an acre of land, was approved by Brookhaven's planning board this fall. But the DPW must approve the related changes to Montauk Highway, a county road, said James Peterman, chief deputy commissioner of the DPW.

The forum begins at 7:30 Wednesday night at the East Moriches Fire Department at 9 Pine St.

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