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Push to sell land for Yaphank rail depot

Brookhaven Railroad Terminal in Yaphank, which opened in

Brookhaven Railroad Terminal in Yaphank, which opened in September 2011, has two diesel trains, and one railcar alone can carry four truckloads’ worth of freight. (June 22, 2012) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Thursday is make or break for the $20 million sale of Suffolk County land for an expansion of the rail depot at Yaphank.

Several legislators said Tuesday they still had reservations about how they would vote on the resolution for the sale of the 230 acres to operators of the Brookhaven Rail Terminal.

But deputy county executive Jon Schneider said the county would have to lay off the equivalent of "approximately 300 people" if the sale, which is expected to bring $19.335 million into county coffers after commissions are taken off, does not occur.

"There is no give in this budget -- we don't have any money," Schneider said Tuesday, adding most county legislators understood they had already approved the land as surplus, included the sale's proceeds in this year's operating budget and accepted "getting trucks off the road is a good thing."

Legis. Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), who is running for Brookhaven Town supervisor, said he still had not decided how to vote. "I have serious concerns about how the land was offered for sale and what will happen after the sale," he said, noting there are "positives" in reducing truck traffic.

Legis. Rick Montano (D-Brentwood), who is running for State Senate, said he too has yet to decide. "I'm concerned that potential increases in the transfer of garbage could result and that, with some other environmental issues, need to be looked at."

Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley), whose district includes Yaphank, echoed those concerns but also wants to see more community input if the sale proceeds. "I think an advisory community board, that includes all parties, is the way to address a lot of these concerns."

Andrew Kaufman, president of Brookhaven Terminal Operations, said Tuesday the rail yard had worked with the community in the past and would "absolutely participate in an advisory board."

Legislators are expecting Queens residents to testify at Thursday's meeting, concerned the Yaphank operation will eventually be used to transport garbage that must pass through their neighborhood.

A contingent of residents from Queens addressed Suffolk's ways and means committee hearing on the issue late last month, expressing opposition to an increase in rail freight across Long Island in general.

Kaufman said if the depot was asked in the future to move solid waste, it would do so in accordance with all federal regulations and use state-of-the-art containers that are both water and air tight, preventing any unpleasant odors from escaping.

Said Schneider: "Unless those folks from Queens are coming out with a $20 million check for the county, I would suggest they stay home."

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