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Long IslandTowns

Roundup: Construction starts on cycle, walk path

Construction is starting on the second section of a path for pedestrians, bicyclists and other nonmotorized users along Ocean Parkway between Wantagh State Parkway and Captree State Park.

The 3.6-mile stretch will pick up the recently completed Jones Beach access bike path at the southern end of Wantagh Parkway in Parking Field Five and run east to the Tobay Beach parking field, parallel to the northern edge of Ocean Parkway at a cost of $3.8 million, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced.

The project is expected to be open to the public by mid-May. When the project is completed, cyclists and pedestrians will be able to travel 8.8 miles from Cedar Creek Park at the beginning of the Wantagh, all the way to Tobay.

Building the pathway as far as Tobay gives New Yorkers and tourists a new way to enjoy the natural beauty of Long Island's beaches, Cuomo said in a statement. "The Ocean Parkway Coastal Greenway will provide a scenic route for visitors to walk or bike between Wantagh and Tobay Beach, creating an additional asset in our efforts to promote tourism and recreation in Nassau County."

Originally, a 14-mile greenway path was envisioned to run the entire stretch of Ocean Parkway, east from the Wantagh. A spokesman for the state Transportation Department said capital funding had not yet been identified for the remaining 10-mile stretch, but it remained under consideration.

The new path will be 13 feet wide, will be wheelchair accessible throughout and include a cable guide rail to protect users from Ocean Parkway traffic.

The project includes enhanced landscaping, educational signs, informational kiosks, benches, and storage for 24 bicycles at Tobay Beach.

$2M in funds set for Wyandanch station

Babylon Town has been cleared to redirect $2 million in federal highway funds toward design and construction of a new train station in Wyandanch.

The station is part of Wyandanch Rising, a massive public-private redevelopment project more than 10 years in the making that aims to revitalize the downtown of one of the poorest communities on Long Island.

The federal funds were initially awarded for a roads project. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) intervened with the Federal Highway Administration and the Department of Transportation after town officials said they had other funding for that project.

"A new Wyandanch train station will be a powerful engine in efforts to attract private development and revitalize the downtown," Schumer said Mondayin a news release. "I'm pleased that the feds will direct these resources to such an important and transformative project."

The new station will replace one built in 1875, Schumer said, and will provide a new pedestrian overpass, complementing the Long Island Rail Road's Second Track initiative to build another track between Ronkonkoma and Farmingdale.

The total cost for the project is $4 million, Schumer said. The state has committed to $1 million for design and construction of the station building.

Public hearing on erosion control set

Residents of the Robbins Rest community on Fire Island could soon have their own erosion-control district.

The Islip Town board will hold a public hearing at today's meeting on establishing the new erosion-control district, which would be paid for by residents living in the district and would create a taxing system to help that community shore up its ocean beaches and dunes.

According to a town board resolution from September, a petition, map for the proposed area and plan for the new taxing district were filed with the town in April. "The proposed district will involve no capital costs or improvements.

The intent is to provide services aimed at beach erosion control (i.e., plantings, fencing, irrigation, etc.)," the resolution states.

"In the first year it is estimated that a maximum of $25,000 will be expended for said services and thereafter approximately $25,000, with much of the labor being provided by the residents of the proposed district at no cost."

As is the case with other similar taxing districts on Fire Island, the Robbins Rest/Oceanview Beach Erosion Control District would be financed by a levy against all property within the district, according to the resolution, and not by all residents in the town.

Islip's portion of Fire Island already has erosion-control districts in Kismet, Fair Harbor, Dunewood, Atlantique, Lonelyville, Corneille Estates/Summer Club and Seaview. The villages of Ocean Beach and Saltaire also have erosion-control districts, which are independent from the town.

In February, when the town voted to bond $19.9 million for beach replenishment on Fire Island after superstorm Sandy, town attorney Janessa Trotto said beach replenishment usually occurs every two years and is paid for by the districts, but bonded through the town.

Town budget, up 1%, avoids any layoffs

Southold's budget would increase 1 percent under a $41.58-million spending plan released by Supervisor Scott Russell.

The budget does not lay off any town employees, fills some vacant positions and includes one part-time code enforcement officer. It also keeps a 12 percent general fund appropriation in reserves, Russell said yesterday.

"We're holding our own economically," Russell said in an interview.

Revenue from all sources continued to decline, along with the town's assessed value. But while some sources, such as the mortgage tax, remain well below peak levels, he said, "we're starting to see signs of a more robust real estate market."

The budget also includes $75,000 for deer control.

Transit advocates seek restored funds

Transit advocates yesterday called on Nassau to increase its "paltry" subsidy for its bus system as part of its 2014 county operating budget.

At a news conference in the County Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola, members of several business and policy groups asked lawmakers to restore some of the funding that was pulled from the system when the county privatized its bus system in January 2012.

Currently, the county contributes $2.6 million annually to the Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) Bus, which is operated by Veolia Transportation and has an annual budget of $113 million.

"For a long time, Nassau County was able to get away with this kind of underfunding, but it seems that the lack of money is catching up with the bus system now," Ryan Lynch, associate director of the nonprofit Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said. "We think NICE is doing a good job with the money they have, but their hands are tied."

Lynch pointed to falling ridership since 2011 and NICE survey results showing lower customer satisfaction as compared to last year as proof that the system needs more money. NICE cut service on several routes three months after taking over the system to close a $7.3-million budget gap.

With an additional $8 million in revenue because of increased state aid and a fare increase, NICE restored some of the cuts and made other service improvements this year.

But several civic and business groups, including the Long Island Business Council, said further service improvements will help boost Nassau's economy.

"I have employees who would use the bus system, but they can't, so they walk," David Sabatino, owner of Sip This Coffeehouse in Valley Stream, said. "This help would improve the bus system and improve my business."

Lenses trained on post-Sandy town

Nearly 50 amateur and professional photographers explored Long Beach over the weekend to capture its beauty and state of recovery from superstorm Sandy.

The Saturday event was one of 1,238 photo walks that took place that day around the globe as part of the sixth annual Worldwide Photo Walk, organized by noted photographer Scott Kelby.

Long Beach was selected for a photo walk to help bring business back to the area, said Ilene Schuss, 54, of Oceanside, who volunteered as the Long Beach walk leader. Previous photo walks on Long Island took place in Port Jefferson, Northport and Islip.

"People fanned out all over the city to take fantastic shots of the recovering and not-just-yet-thriving community of Long Beach," Schuss said. "It helps more people see how far it's come."

Photographers visited the new memorial benches bolted to the concrete on the boardwalk. Many of the benches had washed away during the storm. Peering through a fence, some photographers saw the unfinished portion of the boardwalk, a reminder of the storm's devastation.

Schuss said participants have until noon Monday to upload their best image at She'll choose a winner by Oct. 21, based on composition, clarity and concept.

Photo walk participants are competing for $13,000 worth of prizes, including the top prize for the single best overall photo at any of the worldwide events. The grand-prize winner will be announced Nov. 4.

Public hearing over gas station, store

The Smithtown Board of Zoning Appeals plans to hold a public hearing tonight for a gas station and convenience store at state Routes 347 and 111.

Garden City-based Bolla Operating Corp. is seeking a special exception from the zoning board to permit a filling station with a convenience store in a neighborhood business zoning district, along with several variances.

Despite objections from the town's chief planner, the Smithtown Town board in a 4-1 June vote, approved changing the adjacent residential parcel of the property purchased by the company to a neighborhood business zone. Bolla sought that zone change so the company had sufficient land for the 16-pump filling station and 1,200-square-foot convenience store, officials said.

Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio was the dissenting vote, saying in an interview at the time that the site "will have problems with traffic circulation and generation."

Frank DeRubeis, Smithtown planning director, said that he had opposed the rezoning "on one of the most congested intersections in town."

The company's site plan still faces review by the state Department of Transportation.

In an interview yesterday, DeRubeis said he asked the zoning board to adjourn tonight's hearing "until we get the proper plans [from Bolla] that reflect the state's comments."

Representatives for Bolla Operating Corp. were not available for comment.

Tax incentives apply for green buildings

Babylon Town will grant property-tax exemptions for up to a decade for new and recently constructed commercial green buildings.

The measure, signed into law at last week's board meeting, applies to $250,000 of the market value of projects valued at $10,000 or more that meet the LEED certification standards of the United States Green Building Council.

"Babylon has always set the standard when it comes to green initiatives," Supervisor Rich Schaffer said in a statement. "By offering this incentive for commercial buildings, we are hoping that more businesses realize the cost =-savings that can be found in building to LEED standards."

Fifteen buildings in the town now meet at least the most basic of the three LEED certification standards.

The exemptions will apply to improvements begun after last Jan. 1. Depending on the level of certification, the exemptions could last from seven to 10 years.

Basic certification will earn the $250,000 exemption for three years, with decreasing exemptions for the next four years; the highest standard of LEED certification will earn the $250,000 exemption for six years, with decreasing exemptions for the next four years.

Signs promote safe speeds near schools

Hempstead officials today will unveil speed safety signs for seven schools in the town.

The signs will be at Saw Mill Road Elementary School in North Bellmore and six other schools, town officials said in a statement.

The town is unveiling the signs now because daylight-saving time ends Nov. 3 and children will soon begin leaving schools in darkness, officials said.

"The new signs are being installed at schools along busy roadways," Hempstead officials said in a statement. "Before-school and after-school programs take place before sunrise and after sunset."

Teachers and students will gather to unveil the new signs during a news conference at 11:15 a.m. at Sam Mill Road Elementary School, 2801 Saw Mill Rd. in North Bellmore.

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