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Islip Town planners seek ideas for revitalizing Sayville, Bayport waterfront hamlets

(L-R) Neighbors John Gallagher, Debi Reines and Frank

(L-R) Neighbors John Gallagher, Debi Reines and Frank McAlonan stand at the corner Browns River Road and River Road, an area that floods frequently, on Monday, March 2, 2015. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Planners looking to revitalize the Sayville and Bayport waterfronts are tapping a primary source for ideas: local residents.

The Town of Islip recently launched a local waterfront revitalization program focused on the hamlets along the Great South Bay -- Sayville, Bayport and West Sayville.

A public engagement meeting at the Sayville Library in February was packed with dozens of residents who discussed their hopes and priorities for the waterfront.

"This is an exciting opportunity for improvement to the coastal areas," said Lauren Moy, a Sustainable Long Island community planner, to the more than 130 residents in attendance.

Sustainable Long Island, a nonprofit focused on environmental health, economic development and social equality, is conducting the community outreach along with environmental planning firm Nelson, Pope & Voorhis of Melville.

In 2009, Islip won an $89,500 grant from the New York Department of State to conduct the revitalization program, with "strong community input" as one of the requirements, said planner Pat Aitken of Nelson, Pope & Voorhis. Last year the town awarded the bid to Sustainable Long Island and Nelson, Pope & Voorhis to canvass the public and create a local waterfront revitalization program.

The program is in its first phase of community outreach, Moy said. Any actual work has to find funding and is years off, with plans to gather more public input and conduct engineering and environmental impact research before a firm plan can be created and executed.

Still, residents gathered at the library had plenty of concerns and ideas for future projects to share with Aitken and Moy.

Debra Reines, who lives on the water in Sayville, said she was concerned about local wildlife and overdevelopment. "I don't want anything built down there," she said.

Another top issue was "flooding, flooding, flooding," Reines added, saying that she was displaced for more than a year after superstorm Sandy destroyed her home.

Her neighbor, John Gallagher, said flooding is chronic in that area, especially on Brown's River Road. "Cars can't get down the road. The road is impassable," he told Aitken. "I'm not an engineer, but I see the flooding constantly and it's going to get worse."

He later called the community meeting "a step in the right direction" in fixing the flooding.

The program will hold at least two more community meetings by the end of spring. Moy said that any interested local civic or community groups can contact her to set up special meetings. The goal is to issue the program report by this fall, she said.

Residents unable to attend the meeting can still complete an online survey about their concerns and ideas at


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