A group of Mastic Beach residents wants its waterfront community to become the first new village to incorporate in New York State in four years, and Brookhaven Town will soon hold a hearing on the proposal.
Groups in two neighboring communities - Smith Point and Mastic - also have started drives to incorporate, but they are not as far along as the Mastic Beach group, whose members hope a special referendum on the proposal will take place this spring.
Activists in all three neighborhoods share the same purpose. They say their area suffers from derelict properties owned by rampant absentee landlords. An incorporated village government would allow residents to take local control of building regulations and code enforcement, they say.
Mastic Beach, which has about 11,500 residents, needs a government that "will be by Mastic Beach, of Mastic Beach and for Mastic Beach," said Paul Breschard, one of the residents leading the charge. Mastic Beach Village would keep its costs down by electing an unpaid mayor and board of trustees and running village hall out of a rented storefront, he said.
"We want to get control of the housing issue in the community," Breschard said. "We've been taken advantage of by unscrupulous slumlords that have created a little industry down here."
The Mastic Beach residents have submitted a petition with signatures they say are from more than the required 20 percent of the community's voters, which means the town must hold a public hearing on the proposal in the next two months, town officials said. The hearing will examine the technical points of the residents' proposal to incorporate, officials said.
A referendum will be scheduled if Supervisor Mark Lesko approves the petition after the hearing, officials said.
Bob DeBona, president of the Mastic Beach Property Owners Association, said the residents have not convinced him that the new layer of government is necessary. DeBona said he's also concerned about a possible tax increase, although Breschard said village taxes would be less than $100 annually per resident.
"I'm not a full believer in it," he said.
New villages last formed in New York in 2006, when the Orange County villages of South Blooming Grove and Woodbury incorporated, said Peter Baynes, executive director of the Albany-based New York State Conference of Mayors. The most recent Long Island community to incorporate was the East End village of Sagaponack, which became chartered in 2005, Baynes said.
"The primary reason for villages to incorporate is to provide a level of service that the town is not providing," Baynes said.
Delia McKernan, one of the Smith Point activists, said volunteers are still collecting signatures. John Sicignano, one of the Mastic activists, said he is researching the possibility of an incorporated Mastic Village.