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Supervisor Romaine and Councilwoman Kepert Attended the Bellport Community National Night Out August 11, 2015

Farmingville, NY – On Tuesday, August 4, Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilwoman Connie Kepert attended the “Bellport Community National Night Out Against Crime” at Martha Avenue Park in Bellport hosted by the Bellport Hagerman East Patchogue Alliance, Inc. (BHEP). The annual event is designed to heighten crime and drug awareness; generate support for and participation in local anti-crime efforts; strengthen neighborhood spirit and to help neighborhoods organize and fight back against crime.

Supervisor Ed Romaine said, “It’s important that youngsters have a good relationship with law enforcement officers and understand that they can work together to make our neighborhoods safe. I thank the Suffolk County Police Department and the Bellport Hagerman East Patchogue Alliance for teaming up for this great event.”

“Bellport’s National Night Out Against Crime is a wonderful fun filled event in which youngsters who have helped and participated in the program are honored,” said Councilwoman Kepert. “All who attend get to enjoy great music supplied by the Victory Church Steel Drum Band, a great BBQ, an obstacle course set up the town’s Traffic Safety Department, and much more,” stated Councilwoman Connie Kepert.

Brookhaven calls for audit of LIPA/PSEG rate-hike request

June 9, 2015, Brookhaven Town officials pressed their effort to have State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli audit LIPA and PSEGs proposed three-year rate hike on Tuesday,  after a state department reviewing the case acknowledged errors in its calculations .

Brookhaven Town officials Tuesday pressed their effort to have State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli audit LIPA and PSEG's proposed three-year rate hike after a state department reviewing the case acknowledged errors in its calculations.

Four Brookhaven Town Board members and Supervisor Edward P. Romaine called a news conference to criticize LIPA and PSEG Long Island's original rate filing as "misleading" and rife with "omissions."

"It was confusing and may have led to some misinterpretations," Romaine said of the state's errors. "We have got to get the numbers right on this."

DiNapoli's office said yesterday it was "reviewing" the request for an audit.

"While the comptroller does not have statutory authority related to utility rate setting, this office is looking at the challenges that persist for LIPA and ratepayers," DiNapoli spokeswoman Jennifer Freeman said.

The Long Island office of the state Department of Public Service on Monday acknowledged that a $124 million "miscalculation" had forced it to revise its previous call for a 78 percent reduction in the proposed rate hike. DPS now says the rate request should be reduced by just 37 percent.

"I'm sure DPS did their best but somehow it was miscalculated," Romaine said. "It doesn't give us confidence."  DPS in a letter explaining the revisions to its original filing noted the issues involved in the case "are complex," and that it was "imperative that the developing public record is complete and accurate."

As a party in the rate-case proceeding, Brookhaven has filed paperwork requesting DiNapoli be "invited" to conduct an independent review of the rate proceeding, in which LIPA and PSEG seek 4 percent annual rate increases in 2016-18. LIPA says the LIPA Reform Act conveyed that authority to the Department of Public Service, not the comptroller.

Robert Calica, an outside attorney representing the town, said the DPS miscalculations change that dynamic. "The process was flawed, now it's broken," Calica said.  One observer said LIPA's history of missteps puts an onus on the state department.

"It's important to get this right," said Richard Berkley, executive director of the Public Utility Law Project of New York, noting LIPA rates are among the nation's highest. "Affordability is an issue. . . . Getting this wrong is a tremendous burden on the LIPA ratepayer."

PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir didn't address town officials' claims specifically but said the company has been "open and transparent" throughout the rate case.

Romaine was joined at the news conference by Brookhaven Town Board members Daniel Panico, Jane Bonner, Connie Kepert and Valerie M. Cartright.

Blighted former movie theater site in Coram being transformed into residential housing in $56M multiuse development

June 1, 2015 6:39 P

A nonprofit that creates housing for Long Island residents says a $56 million multiuse development under construction in Coram should pump nearly that much money into the local economy.

About 145 full-time and part-time workers are building Wincoram Commons on Route 112, the site of the former and long-dilapidated United Artists movie theater.

Marianne Garvin, president of the nonprofit Community Development Corporation of Long Island, based in Centereach, said she expects the housing development to be completed by December, but not before up to $55 million has been injected into the hamlet. "There will be permanent jobs to manage the development and a few jobs for retail developments," she said in an interview. Rochester-based Conifer Realty and the nonprofit broke ground on the pedestrian-friendly housing and commercial complex last year.

Wincoram Commons will offer about 175 affordable rental housing units, mixed retail and 13,300 square feet of commercial space. Roughly 100 residential units are expected to be available in July.

"It's a game changer for Coram," said Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Connie Kepert, who expects the project to help spur additional developments.

The project was launched after a $1 million award from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's Regional Economic Development Council initiative. The governor praised the project last year. This redevelopment project will transform a symbol of blight into a new engine for economic development and affordable housing,” Cuomo said in a statement at the time.  Cuomo also projected the development would pump about $56 million into the local economy.

The movie site has been vacant for more than a decade and a trouble spot. Suffolk County police have responded to more than 150 calls at the site since 1996, mostly for disturbances and trespassing, police said.  A fire caused the roof of the building to collapse in 2007, and town officials issued several building code violations to a previous owner, including having an unsecured vacant building.

Wincoram Commons will provide one-, two- and three-bedroom affordable rental apartments at prices from $929 to $1,788 a month, Garvin said. The development will feature commercial space on the first floor of some of the residential buildings, along with a commercial building on Route 112, which will serve as a gateway to the community.

A leasing office, fitness center and community space will be housed in a separate clubhouse.   Coram Civic Association president Erma Gluck, who worked for years to have the site redeveloped, said she's been jumping for joy since construction began.

"We had so much trouble trying to attract any kind of business such as small restaurants because of that property. We couldn't go forward," Gluck said.


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Reso for Woodside/Farber STP expansion design

Linda Leuzzi - Long Island Advance, 8/13/2015

A resolution introduced by Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) on July 28, if approved, could fund a $250,000 expansion and improvement design plan for the Woodside/Farber sewage treatment plant located off CR 101 south of Woodside Avenue.

The plant is rated for 400,000 gpd and is currently processing about 200,000 gpd, said Suffolk County Commissioner of Public Works Gil Anderson.

If approved, money would come from sewer district serial bonds. A legislative vote is expected early September. It would be one step closer for North Bellport to develop multifamily housing. 

“This is design money to expand it because there are some new developments in the North Bellport community and it ties in with the work [Councilwoman Connie Kepert] has been doing with the Montauk Highway Revitalization Plan,” said Browning. “Also, if Bellport Village wants to pursue the sewers for the downtown area, this would help.”

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said that developers have approached the town with interest in multifamily rental development and would work with a reputable not-for-profit in the North Bellport area. “The town is willing to work with them,” he said. “Both gentlemen are substantial developers. You would add to the value of the property there. But sewers would be the game-changer.”

Anderson said the plan would involve rehabilitating some steel tanks and changing the process a bit to improve it. “We are also looking for expanded leaching capabilities and have been in discussion with the town to possibly obtain adjacent lands they own to expand leaching fields,” he said.

Romaine commented that the town was willing to cooperate with the county on sewage improvements. “We own three acres beside [Woodside/Farber],” Romaine said. “I told Gil [Anderson] we would be more than happy to sell it to you for leaching purposes. We can’t give it to them; we have to get fair value to protect the taxpayers. If they are interested in the land, then we would do an appraisal.” Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) is co-sponsor on the bill.

“When we were talking about the potential to connect the North Bellport community and Bellport Village, there’s a need for the potential expansion,” Calarco said. “What I recall is that we need to add some leaching pools, but also engineering and design work. By the county undertaking the project, we make the option of coming to the Farber plant a more affordable option versus coming to Patchogue Village [for Bellport Village].

“When we get to that point [of the town approving a plan], we want to make sure the county is ready to accept it,” he added.

The town applied to the county for sewer funds for North Bellport in 2013 but was not selected. The county initially had looked favorably on a proposed North Bellport sewer project, whose centerpiece was a transit-oriented development hub for the North Bellport community on Station Road south of the Long Island Rail Road station that would encompass a mixed-use development on the adjacent empty parcels of land.

That plan was nixed. Currently, the town is considering a new headquarters for the South Country Ambulance Co. on one of those parcels.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said he wanted to clean up the area, citing the boarded-up homes in the community and the town applied for a New York State Brownfield Opportunity Award for North Bellport for $393,958 to cover 24 brownfield sites. The application was recently awarded.

“The sewers are essential if we want to develop a mixed-use area, which the community wanted,” said Kepert. “The town has always been in favor of going north to the Farber plant. We’re on board with the county acquiring the leaching fields .”

Kepert said a mixed-use development is being scrutinized between Hoffman and Bellport avenues on Montauk Highway. “My impression is that the town supports mixed use north of Montauk Highway,” she said.

As for the Brownfield Opportunity Area Grant, “we had several meetings with the community on how it can be used,” she said. The grant will fund an in-house Implementation Land Use Plan and Generic Environmental Impact Study that addresses 24 distressed sites. The town has provided a partial match of $65,717.

Kepert said the local community is not in favor of putting a dollar store at Miracle Plaza. “There are shops already there and the community doesn’t want them to be displaced,” she said.

The Island Squire dinner theater, once an entertainment destination, comes down

Updated May 12, 2015 8:06 PM

The vacant Island Squire restaurant was torn down Tuesday while Middle Island residents sipped Champagne and the children of its former owner reminisced about better times at the venue.

The former dinner theater -- which had been empty since the final curtain fell about 20 years ago -- was demolished after Brookhaven Town officials deemed it unsafe and structurally unsound.

Laurie Wilgenkamp and her brother, Steve, the daughter and son of former owner John Wilgenkamp, joined about two dozen residents who watched the dilapidated structure crumple into a pile of bricks, wood and concrete blocks. "It's definitely emotional to see it come down," Laurie Wilgenkamp, 43, of Mastic Beach, said. She recalled washing dishes there for $20 a night. "It's my second family," she said. "This was the place to be, besides going to the city or Westbury Music Fair." "It's time," Steve Wilgenkamp, 50, of Islip, said. "It's time to get rid of the eyesore."

The Island Squire once was beloved by the community for its New Year's Eve parties and shows such as "Fiddler on the Roof," often starring John Wilgenkamp, who performed under the stage name John Wyle. He lives in New Jersey. But as it deteriorated, the restaurant, on a busy stretch of Middle Country Road, became the object of ire among Middle Island residents, who demanded it be torn down.

Residents shared Champagne and served refreshments as Brookhaven workers demolished the crumbling edifice. Town officials and civic leaders used a sledgehammer painted gold to ceremoniously raze the building.

"I'm a Middle Island resident, and it's time to tear this thing down," Councilwoman Connie Kepert said.

Town officials said they had found signs that the graffiti-covered building had been used as a drug den, and inspectors said the roof had partially collapsed. A family of raccoons was removed shortly before demolition began.

Records show the property is owned by Walmart Real Estate of Bentonville, Arkansas. Walmart officials said they sold the site in 2003 to CJ Development of Centereach.  Attempts to reach CJ Development were unsuccessful. Town officials said CJ Development will be required to pay for the demolition.  It's unclear what will become of the site.

"This is a long time coming," Middle Island Civic Association president Gail Lynch-Bailey said. "It's well past time to build something new."

Town demolishes condemned home, property to remain open space on lake's shoreline

May 7, 2015 9:27 PM

Brookhaven Town has demolished a condemned home along the shoreline of scenic Artist Lake in Middle Island that was the source of several community complaints.  Town officials said the former homeowners of the house on Lake Drive were issued many violations related to the condition of the house before Suffolk County seized the property due to unpaid taxes. It wasn't immediately known what those violations were.

Brookhaven recently acquired the property from the county in order to demolish the home and preserve it as open space. The dilapidated property was torn down on Monday, town officials said. Several residents complained of squatters living in the residence.

"This parcel has long been an eyesore that has negatively impacted the surrounding neighborhood," Councilwoman Connie Kepert said in a statement.  "The land lies along the shores of the environmentally significant Artist Lake and is a valuable open space acquisition," she said.

Supervisor Edward P. Romaine thanked the community for coming forward with complaints, which resulted in the town having one less blighted home. "This property will forever remain as open space to preserve the beauty of Artist Lake and protect its water quality by removing a septic system from its shore," the supervisor said, referring to removing the home's cesspool.

Meanwhile, the town remains focused on knocking down at least a few more abandoned homes in the near future through Romaine's "Dirty Dozen" list.

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