A decades-old Islip Town firing range utilized by hundreds of shooters each year -- including several government agency employees -- has itself come under fire from residents sick of continued gunshot sounds ricocheting throughout their normally quiet neighborhood.
Law enforcement officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, along with state and county court officers, use the range on Freeman Avenue in Islip hamlet during business hours on weekdays.
But weekends during the summer at Islip Rifle, Pistol and Archery Range are troublesome, some residents say. That's when the public can use the 28 firing stations, and as many as 70 people are shooting "nonstop" between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., residents and town officials said.
Kim Loeffler, who lives on Brookville Avenue west of the range, said weekend barbecues are hindered by the blasts. Young children scream and become "so frightened," while an Iraq War veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder tries to find ways to cope with the noises, she said.
"It's the sound of continuous bullets, and I'm not talking 'pop, pop.' I'm talking about repeated firing," Loeffler said at a town board meeting last month.
ICE officials on Sept. 1 signed a one-year, $40,500 contract with the town to continue to use the range.
Agents from the U.S. Marshals Service already use the facility on a per-session basis, but a proposed $28,600 one-year contract was rejected at last week's town board meeting. Council members Trish Bergin Weichbrodt and Steven J. Flotteron cast "no" votes, and the resolution failed with a split 2-2 vote. Supervisor Tom Croci and Councilman John C. Cochrane Jr. voted to approve it, and Councilman Anthony Senft was absent.
"I am reluctant to bring another agency into that facility until we can make structural and noise-mitigating changes so that we can strike a balance between these agencies that need safe places to train and the community that is looking for noise abatement," Bergin Weichbrodt said.
A wall measuring 150 feet long, 8 feet wide and 10 feet high was installed last September in the center of the range to help reduce noise, but there are no mitigation measures on the western or northern ends that border the residential areas along Spur Drive South and Brookville Avenue.
Loeffler presented 100 signatures to the town from neighbors demanding action.
Town officials said they will seek federal funding for a possible remodel of the range -- originally built around 1960 -- which could include additional walls on the south and north ends of the property, as well as a soundproof overhang above the shooting area to muffle the sounds.
"We're at the beginning stages of the plan, but it is something that is very important to us," Bergin Weichbrodt said.