Town will use state grant to clean up junkyards
Brookhaven Town officials announced last week that they were awarded $25,000 in state funding from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.
According to Supervisor Ed Romaine, the funds will be used to further enforcement efforts related to the “Junk Yard” initiative, which began last fall. The issue was brought to light nearly a year ago, when Focus East Patchogue member Nick DePalo brought his concerns to town officials about unsightly and potentially unsafe junkyards along Montauk Highway in East Patchogue and Bellport.
Last August, the Advance reported that Councilman Neil Foley formed a task force, working with town code enforcement and the law department, to address those concerns. At the time, Foley told the Advance that the end goal is to bring the businesses back to code, rather than continue the practice of issuing a fine and appearing in court for a mere slap on the wrist.
The task force found approximately 25 businesses along that corridor to be in violation of either zoning or other violations such as grass height and overcrowding. The biggest problem, Councilman Michael Loguercio explained, was that many of the businesses were operating in the wrong zoning. That discovery prompted the rezoning of dozens of properties along Montauk Highway to address these issues and also conform with the land use plan. Most of those properties are now zoned to accommodate retail stores and Main Street businesses.
One year later, code compliance is more tangible than ever, with over 250 summonses issued for a number of issues including piling cars up, illegal junkyards and invalid certificates of occupancy. “Enforcement of both state and local codes are being utilized to force operators and landowners to clean up these properties and, in some cases, cease the activities where they are found to be illegal due to improper land use,” Romaine noted in a statement.
At several community meetings, including the Greater Bellport Coalition, residents have noted that the stretch of auto businesses already looks better. Loguercio confirmed that the initiative has so far been successful, with most businesses willing to work with the town. The grant money, Loguercio said, would help the fire marshal look into violation of fire codes.
The grant was secured through Sen. Thomas Croci (R-Sayville), who sponsored a bill to help municipalities enforce codes. “The grant must be used for services and expenses of law enforcement,” Loguercio explained. “We decided it would be best spent in the Bellport area to continue our effort to clean up businesses over there. We’re really not trying to shut anyone down, we just want it cleaned up.”
Romaine sees the issue as a quality-of-life issue for area residents. “The illegal junkyards along Montauk Highway are not only a detriment to the community, they are a threat to the environment and the health and safety of the residents who live nearby,” he said in a statement.
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