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Islip board OKs more ferry parking despite residents' concerns about flooding

Several Sayville residents and business owners who favor

Several Sayville residents and business owners who favor the parking lot expansion said the ferry company is an economic engine that attracts Fire Island-bound tourists to the hamlet. Credit: Danielle Silverman

The Islip Town Board approved a new parking lot for a ferry business in Sayville, despite concerns by some residents who worry construction could lead to flooding that would threaten nearby homes.

The board voted 5-0 this month to expand a gravel parking lot on two acres for 239 spaces, adding 109 spaces, said Guy W. Germano, the lawyer representing Kenneth Stein III, who is president of Sayville Ferry Service and the owner of the limited liability company named on the application. The proposal successfully sought converting three parcels into zoned business districts.

“During the busy summer months and the nice summer days, and holidays, the ferry parking lot that exists builds up, and there are lines of cars along River Road waiting to get in," Germano said at the April 18 change-of-zone meeting. "They can’t get into the parking [lot] until someone else leaves.”

The property is near River Road and Browns River Road and is surrounded by Browns River, wetlands and the Great South Bay.

According to an engineer with the project, a lawsuit filed by a Sayville resident against Stein-controlled entities and Islip Town, as well as comments by residents, the area has a history of problematic draining.

“The backyards are wetlands and they will be most affected by the fill that goes in to make this parking lot," Brenda Coman, who lives on Browns River Road, said at the zoning meeting. "There hasn’t been given any consideration to the fact that this is going to flood yards on the west side.”

Sayville resident Anthony Bernardis has an ongoing lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Suffolk County against Islip and Stein-controlled entities for flood damage to his home. The 2008 lawsuit accuses Islip of failing to maintain and repair a drainage system on Terry Street, where he lives. It also alleges personnel with Stein-controlled entities, which manage parking lots used for the ferry business near Bernardis' home, failed to stop flooding, said Bernard T. Callan, Bernardis' lawyer.

“They have not addressed the flooding that occurred on those lots," Callan said. "As a result, my client has borne the brunt of what occurs on those properties.”

The existing parking lots for Sayville Ferries sit east and south and walking distance from Bernardis' home. Newly constructed parking will be south of those lots. Neighbors have moved out over the years due to drainage problems, Bernardis said.

“It’s going to make the entire neighborhood worse," he said.

A 2012 letter that Bernardis provided from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to then-Islip Supervisor Tom Croci said: "Of most concern is the recent development of parking lots that included the addition of large amounts of different fill materials. ... This fill may have ... changed the natural drainage patterns from toward the creek to away from the creek, potentially increasing the risk of flooding."

Islip board members in February passed a resolution to improve Terry Street. The upgrades include removal and replacement of existing drains. At that board meeting, Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter thanked Sayville residents for their patience and said the fixes are a “viable and permanent solution.”

Tom Dixon, with Nelson & Pope Engineers & Surveyors based in Melville, said at the meeting, “It's a very low-lying area, a very challenging area for our drainage."

Several Sayville residents and business owners spoke in favor of the parking lot expansion. They said Stein's ferry company is an economic engine attracting tourists to the hamlet who take ferries to Fire Island.

Stein declined to comment last week about residents’ concerns but said there are no plans for additional ferry services.

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