Brookhaven councilman Dan Panico decreed that a “new Mastic Beach” is coming, while joined by fellow town officials in front of the new Mastic Beach Ambulance Co. building last Thursday. Panico, supervisor Ed Romaine and planning commissioner Tullio Bertoli are commissioning a blight determination study on Neighborhood Road as the first of several steps to bring new life to the community.
“Every facet and every tool that we have in the Town of Brookhaven under our local control we’re going to use,” Panico said.
When the town took over the former village on Jan. 1, 2018, one of the first initiatives was to remove abandoned homes and either rebuild or restore the property to wetlands. Panico said at the end of this year, there will be no homes left in the former village to take down, as over 50 were demolished last year.
Panico pointed at the buildings on Neighborhood Road, saying many of them are vacant, dated, or “in serious need of an improvement.” He alluded to his upbringing in Mastic Beach, but said that is not what the town wants to bring back.
“We are not going back to the ‘50s, the ‘70s, the ‘80s Mastic Beach,” he said. “Our challenge is to build the new Mastic Beach for the residents of this area and the Town of Brookhaven.”
Panico said the town would use their zoning powers to make the Neighborhood Road district a bustling waterfront community. The top challenge, he said, is the lack of sewers. Legis. Rudy Sunderman has been working to get authorization to extend the main sewer line that will be built in Mastic down to Neighborhood Road, since the Mastic Beach phase of the project will not be seen for a while. Even so, it would be a few years before the sewer line was operational.
Through the blight study, performed by the firm Nelson, Pope & Voorhees, the town could seek approval to redevelop the entire area using a master developer. If approval is denied for the line extension, Panico said the master developer plan could include a sewage treatment plant to service the Neighborhood Road area.
“We are doing everything in our power to move forward,” Panico said.
Romaine said the process is similar to that at the Ronkonkoma train station, on the Brookhaven side, where the town commissioned a blight study and brought in a master developer that is currently revamping the whole area. He said the town is looking to take a similar approach after years of discussing what could be done.
“It’s a great community with wonderful people who live here, and they deserve better,” Romaine said.
The town hopes to capitalize on the “domino theory,” when one or two people or companies decide to place an investment in the community, others will follow. Panico said the area needs private investment to build private business. Bertoli said several developers have expressed interest in the area. But developers always ask about sewers, which are not currently available. Panico said there would be incentives to developers who express willingness to invest, especially if it involves a sewer plan.
“Everything is on the table,” Romaine said. “We’re looking at all options.”
Residents are also concerned with safety in the area, as people who visit the corridor would need to feel safe in order to want to stay. Officials said they are working with the county to get a 7th Precinct change-of-duty station behind the new ambulance building, which would bring an increased presence of police as they change shifts.