Town focuses on coastline preservation
BY RANDALL WASZYNSKI
Brookhaven Town supervisor Ed Romaine stressed the priority of maintaining Long Island coastlines and discussed plans and current pursuits to preserve such during his State of the Town Address on April 3.
“With the largest coastline of any town in New York State, the Town of Brookhaven knows full well that global climate change and sea level rise are real and pose significant challenges in the decades ahead,” Romaine said.
Romaine referenced continued efforts in restoring wetlands by demolishing homes deemed uninhabitable — most by the hand of Superstorm Sandy.
“We plan to have more properties scheduled for demolition soon with the vacant land restored to marshland,” he said. “Preserving wetlands is a critical part of our plan to address sea rise.”
Over 150 abandoned and foreclosed homes have been demolished by the town and over 1,750 have been boarded and secured.
The town’s collaboration with the Long Island Housing Partnership and the Long Island Builders Institute has created opportunities to sell some of these secured parcels that have capability to be rehabilitated, an initiative that awaits approval at the state and federal levels, Romaine said.
“Money obtained from the sale of these homes would be placed in a revolving fund to purchase, rehab and sell other former zombie homes as affordable housing,” he said.
Romaine also referenced Brookhaven’s stance on removing wooded areas to construct solar farms, an issue that has caused friction between the town and the state. The town passed legislation in 2016 that deemed cutting down trees for this purpose unlawful.
“Deforestation is the leading cause of increased carbon dioxide in our planet’s atmosphere. Our coastlines are paying a high price,” Romaine said. “We will not trade ‘green for green.’”
Instead, Brookhaven Town intends to pursue opportunities in solar energy like the community solar project in the proposed energy park at the town landfill in Yaphank that includes 40 acres of solar-ready land. Although it is a long-term project, as the landfill is not scheduled to close until 2024, Romaine said an additional 30 acres would be available for this purpose in 2025. The completed project — which also consists of the use of fuel cell energy, landfill gas energy and biogas energy — would generate enough power capable to supply around 30,000 homes with electricity.
The town also continues to pursue solar panel installments on the roofs of buildings and atop parking lots — avenues that bypass cutting down trees.
“The town will protect its trees and forested areas,” Romaine said.
Highlights of State of the Town Address
Supervisor Ed Romaine noted that Brookhaven has maintained its AAA bond rating from Standard and Poor’s, the highest that can be attained. The town has also experienced a surplus for the fourth consecutive year; the funding of certain capital projects including emergency improvements to the Davis Park Marina with $7 million in cash rather than incurring debt; and establishment of a debt reserve fund.
Romaine said that he will continue to work with our school districts, local taxing districts, the county and state on various shared services opportunities. The town’s recycling center provides the region with a state-of-the-art processing center, which has enabled three other towns, five villages and seven school districts to enter into municipal agreements. Through energy audits and energy upgrades, the town is converting more than 40,000 streetlights to LED fixtures.
Yaphank Meadows, located on William Floyd Parkway, has completed Phase 1 including fully rented apartments, a hotel and an assisted living facility with Phase 2 to begin shortly. The Industrial Development Agency closed on 20 projects that will result in $435 million of private investment and the creation of 4,050 permanent or construction jobs. The IDA has 13 approved projects that have or are about to close in 2018, with the potential for another $440 million of private investment into our town, creating or retaining another 1,000 jobs. The town remains in the running for Amazon’s second headquarters, which would produce an estimated 50,000 jobs. In addition, Brookhaven’s Industrial Development Agency was named IDA of the Year for 2017 by Long Island Business News.
Romaine said the town will develop a “green” future at the Waste Management complex once the landfill closes. Designs have begun on the concept of an energy park consisting of fuel cell energy, landfill gas energy, biogas energy and solar energy. Romaine also said the town will protect trees from deforestation, promising not to trade “green for green.” In 2016, the town passed legislation making it unlawful to cut down trees for solar farms. Brookhaven has also supported shellfish programs placing 2 million oysters, 1 million hard clams and 70,000 seed scallops in the waters each year.
The town is working to redesign many communities to avoid unneeded strip shopping centers and retail development, stressing that residents need to be afforded a voice in the future of their communities. Highlights include updating the Medford Land Use Plan and completing a land use plan for the headwaters of the Forge River.
Quality of life and
housing code enforcement
In 2017, the town demolished more than 150 abandoned, unsafe structures, boarded up over 1,750 vacant houses and is currently seeking state and federal assistance to allow for the purchase of abandoned homes.
The supervisor has made a commitment to work with NYSDEC and other towns and villages to formulate a regional plan for solid waste disposal for Long Island.
To watch supervisor Romaine’s State of the Town address, visit www.brookhavenny.gov.
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