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Communication Breakdown at Ronkonkoma Hub Project

Property owners raise concerns with Brookhaven Town officials over lack of input and communication with project developers.

At a recent MacArthur Business Alliance meeting, Town of Brookhaven Chief of Staff Brian Beedenbender announced the establishment of a sewer district required for the proposed Ronkonkoma Hub Project.

But property owners said that something still smelled, and they pointed not at sewage, but rather, at the lack of involvement they have had in the process. Perhaps of even more concern, they said, is the lack of communication they have had with Tritec, the East Setauket real estate and development company that is the master developer of the proposed 50-acre project adjacent to the Ronkonkoma train station.

“We’ve been kept in the dark, and we can’t make the business decisions we need,” charged Tom Newman at the mid-April meeting.

Newman, who has five acres of property in the area, including the World Gym on Hawkins Avenue, said he was speaking not just for himself, “but for over a dozen other property owners” who wanted to know why they have not heard from the developer which would ultimately be looking to buy up the properties.

“Talk to us now,” Newman said. “Waiting around is not in the best interest of anyone.” Added Barry Bergman, president of Alba Investments, LLC, “Let’s put a little fire under [Tritec] to meet with these people.”

Not so fast, or even logical, Beedenbender said, noting the significance of the sewer district designation as a must-have performance point in the process.

Sewage Treatment Funding Key

With the 500-thousand-gallon sewer project (upgradeable to as much as 1.5 million gallons) estimated to cost upwards of $30 million, Beedenbender said, Tritec “needed to know that the project is real. That means it’s in the county’s next budget. We’re issuing an RFP (deadline is May 18) for the design, planning on having a design prepared for the first quarter of 2013.”

Added Yves R. Michel, deputy director of Brookhaven’s Industrial Development Association, “If we don’t have the sewage treatment plant, it will be impossible to get anything else off the ground.”

As Brookhaven officials have been pursuing funding sources and options for the sewage project—including grants and financing options—Beedenbender insists that Tritec can’t be expected to meet with, and have any discussions with property owners until they know what the costs will be.

“We just secured $4 million from the state Economic Development Corporation for the design fees,” Beedenbender said. “As we can reduce the cost for the sewage handling, that’s more money available to Tritec that they can use elsewhere. That includes potentially, for them to offer property owners.”

Impact on Ronkonkoma

The project, which tentatively calls for retail, residential and business use surrounding the Ronkonkoma train station, will cost “several hundred million dollars,” Beedenbender said, adding that until plans are finalized and actual purchases and designs have been approved, there’s really no accurate estimated price tag. The approach is less about zone-specific planning, and rather, a complete vision for the area. That has raised additional concerns about potential negative effects due to traffic and business being drawn away from other areas.

“I’m concerned that when the project is done, whether we will like our town,” said Kevin Kanakos, president of Peradata Technology Corp., and membership director of the Chamber of Commerce of the Greater Ronkonkomas. “If this becomes a walkable area, and we will need that, where does that leave the downtown and lake area?

Property value and future vision concerns aside, local business representatives loosely agreed that the project is an important step forward for the area, and the town.

“Personally, I’m very excited about it,” said Denise Schwarz, president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Greater Ronkonkomas. “The project will bring affordable housing (estimates of about 800 units) for the young, it will create jobs. We all want this done right, and quickly. But a project of this magnitude is going to take time.”

‘It’s a great idea. The concepts are great,” Newman said. “But it’s a massive development, and we have to know how long this is going to take.”

“I understand [property owner concerns],” Beedenbender said. “If I were them, I’d probably feel the same way. We’re working on many parallel tracks, like the sewer district, the development plan, reaching out to the MTA.

"Publicly, the property owners are right with respect to discussions. But behind the scenes, there’s a lot going on.”

Jeff Rogers January 23, 2013 at 04:19 AM
Time to leave
Judy Pepenella June 09, 2013 at 11:00 PM
Yea a lot is going on under the noses of the taxpaying citizens. Please be aware that you are being duped! I had attended the last Tritec meeting in March. Before the meeting the plans was for 880 mixed use residential units. After the meeting they were up to 1,450 units. When asked by residents why the large increase in units, they, the developers, said they need the extra units to support the businesses that will be moving into the area? I do not want to upset anyone, but low income residents are not going to be shopping at high end retailers like Uncle Giuseppe's, Lombardi's Market, Gap, Briermere Pies or Orvis stores. I wonder how many residents know that the LIRR has bypassed environmental studies and hearings and plan to start breaking ground to install a second rail line at Ronkonkoma Station. How many young people want to spend $2000 to live across from a train station, an airport, a sewage treatment plant, and a composting facility??
Mary Calamia, Long Island Matters June 10, 2013 at 07:32 AM
So, we have to build it to see what's in it, is that how it goes? Forget it! We don't need Ronkonkoma to look like the Bronx. Clean up the area. Yes! Build The Projects on the back of hard working taxpayers? No!
annette kattau June 11, 2013 at 09:31 AM
DUPED IS RIGHT JUDY IS RIGHT DON'T LET THEM DO THIS FIGHT LIKE HELL STOP THEY ELECTION DAY IN NOVEMBER VOTE ALL OUT INVOLVED.. C. KEPERT, T MAZZEI, PANICO THE BOARD THIS IS RIDICULOUS. CONNIE GAVE US THE BRT CATHINESS I AND NOW SOON TWO CAR FARMS AND SHE IS HEADING OVER TO HELP NORTH BELLPORT. ALL SHE IS DOING IS GIVING HER DONORS WHAT THEY WANT...AND SHE HAS A LONG LIST OF BUILDER ANDDEVELOPERS GIVING TO HER VOTE HER OUT SOON. BEEDENBENDER IS BRINGING IN LESKOS PROJECT WE CAN STOP THEM SCREAM MAKE NOISE CALL THEY CAN'T BE VOTED BACK IN PROTECT THIS LAND....

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