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Charting A Course For Brookhaven Town’s 5th Council District

Councilman Foley works with law enforcemnt to raid illegal massage parlors in Patchogue and Medford.

Councilman Foley works with law enforcement to raid illegal massage parlors in Patchogue and Medford.

Foley has long time eyesore demolished in Holbrook.

Foley has long time eyesore demolished in Holbrook.

Story by Barbara LaMonica
When Brookhaven Town 5th District Councilman Neil Foley was elected to the Town Board in a special election to fill the unexpired term of Tim Mazzei, 2014 would mark the beginning of cutting edge improvements to the District and the continuation of projects that were already underway during his predecessor’s tenure. Foley was determined to navigate his district and chart a course in a positive direction for his constituents and the town at large. During an interview last week, Foley outlined projects that are underway and plans he has mapped out for the foreseeable future.
Taking into account Fire Island, Foley notes the 5th Council District is the largest ward in Brookhaven from a geographic standpoint. Parks were cited as among some of the more significant improvements. “We’ve renovated Peppermint Park from a point at which it was falling apart, and now we’ve changed the whole vibe,” Foley explained. Peppermint Park, situated in the heart of Medford on Route 112 at the corner of Jamaica Avenue, is what Foley acknowledges is “highly visible.” A few hundred thousand dollars later, the park which had outdated and weathered recreation equipment now boasts a new playground, swings, benches, gazebo and even a library book stand. “Everything that’s been done to Peppermint Park has been accomplished with an educational purpose and geared towards learning and education,” Foley explained.
Further southeast along Council District 5 in Patchogue along Montauk Highway, Foley highlights the continuation of a host of enhancements to Swan River Preserve that was underway when he took office. “Tim Mazzei began this initiative and I finished it by taking out 20 tons of material where the old Nessenger Chevrolet car dealership was; the place was leveled and we’ve returned the property to nature where we have water flowing and beautiful vegetation,” Foley said. Further west is Blue Point Preserve off Blue Point Avenue and Maple Street adjacent to Blue Point Elementary and across the street from the public library. Here, Foley notes what was once a 17-acre site slated for condominiums has, instead, been transformed into a “passive preserve” with vegetation, bird and bat houses and is what the councilman calls “one of the jewels of Blue Point.” In addition to increasing property values, Foley pointed out, “Feedback from the community on this project has been tremendous from senior citizens to moms with children. They did not want to see this developed and they’re excited. Government should not hamper progress – government should help people,” Foley stated.
Moving forward, significant focus will be placed on erasing zombie homes off the landscape of Brookhaven. “If you have a block with a zombie home, property values go down because what you have is loitering, homeless, drugs and kids hanging out,” Foley said. Foley said town officials “proactively go out” and seek “reports from an independent engineer and if the report concludes that a structure is compromised, the town boards up the home and takes it down, and” Foley added, “when a zombie home comes down, property values increase 10 percent.” “This is another huge part of how Brookhaven Town is changing its attitude,” the councilman said. According to Foley, zombie homes are typically in foreclosure and under bank ownership. “The bank has the responsibility to take care of the homes and they don’t, so these zombie homes sit empty for four years or more,” Foley said. After the town board votes on whether to level a zombie home, the property is leveled after a 30 day waiting period and the town puts a lien on the parcel. Citing statistics, Foley noted that six zombie homes were leveled in the 5th Council District in 2016. Foley said an additional 10 zombie homes are expected to be erased from his district by the end of 2017.
“We’re also trying to clean up Lake Ronkonkoma which has been neglected for many years,” Foley said. Lake Ronkonkoma, which extends beyond Brookhaven’s 5th and 3rd council districts and flows into Smithtown and Islip townships, has undergone some recent cleanup initiatives which Foley says has resulted in the removal of 100 tons of garbage and debris. The town is now taking an inter-municipal approach towards addressing future issues with Lake Ronkonkoma. “We’re working with Suffolk County and looking at a plan to clean the water and now we’re all on the same page,” Foley said.
From a fiscal standpoint Foley notes the town has an AAA Bond Rating and asserts, “We don’t spend money we don’t have, but more money will be put into paving every road in the town.” “Paving,” Foley underscored, “is going to be a big project moving forward.”
From an environmental standpoint, Foley noted the landfill has an eight year shelf life. “We won’t be kicking the can down the road,” he said, “so when the landfill is capped Brookhaven Town will be responsible for upkeep and regulation and always testing for methane gas.”
Soon to launch in the next few months with a groundbreaking date to be announced is a project development that will span the next five to seven years. Foley said the Ronkonkoma Hub is going to be “one of the biggest projects” on tap for the town in the immediate future. “This project is going to create an infrastructure, apartments, retail, and in the process will be creating thousands of construction jobs,” Foley explained. The mixed use project will include an assortment of affordable or work force housing and will be built on the north side of the LIRR Ronkonkoma Station. Once completed, Foley’s office reports the development will include 1,450 residential units with funding that will come from private investors. A train to plane concept includes a monorail which would run to the airport.
“The bottom line is, we’re doing the people’s work and as their elected officials we’re going to focus on our residents’ quality of life,” Foley said.

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