Brookhaven deputy supervisor Dan Panico, 45 (R-Center Moriches), was an attorney and senior deputy Suffolk County clerk before becoming town councilman for the 6th Council District in 2010. Panico has authored landmark legislation including the tax cap, anti-nepotism law, and sweeping ethics reform during his tenure as councilman. He has preserved hundreds of acres of farmland and open space, worked to prevent overdevelopment, and has emphasized redevelopment of our existing developed lands. He’s credited with spearheading the most aggressive crackdown on illegal housing and blighted structures in the history of the town. Raised in Mastic Beach, Panico attended William Floyd High School. Here is his interview with the Long Island Advance.
Canvasses the neighborhoods
Panico told the Long Island Advance in 2010, after filling Keith Romaine’s position, he went with a legal pad after normal work hours block by block with his aide, cataloging problems that needed addressing.
Does he still do that?
“I still do, and frequently drive through different areas in my district to look at the progress we made and at the issues sent to me and to look at issues we can address,” he said. “Town quality of life and doing the job in town government has always been my emphasis.”
Environment and open space
“With open space, we’ve preserved well over 1,000 acres that includes the expansion of the Carmans River area as well as from the Long Island Sound to the South Shore,” he said. “I’ve also addressed the most aggressive crackdown on illegal housing and blight in the history of this town. We have demolished well over 300 decrepit structures, zombie homes, and the best part of that is, not only do you instantly clean up a dangerous eyesore and raise property values on the block, but then you see a brand-new home built where there was once a dilapidated eyesore with a family putting roots in the community. It’s throughout the entire Town of Brookhaven and in the tri-hamlet community, we have really made a difference.”
“We are rated by Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s as AAA. The New York State Comptroller rates all municipal entities with a financial scoring, and Town of Brookhaven in the last month earned a perfect score the first time in our history. These are objective agencies rating these scores. Also, I’m proud to have sponsored and passed the town’s anti-nepotism law and ethics reform that bars political leaders and executive board members from holding elected or appointed board positions in this town. There is a place for politics, but that place is not within the four walls of this Town Hall.”
Zoning and planning projects
“When it comes to land-use zoning and planning, there is not a person who knows the subject better than me. In fact, it is not only my expertise, but the most important power vested in town government through the application of that knowledge. I have been able to push forward a number of great projects, like the Gleneagle Green project in North Bellport with 70 affordable units, and I am working with same developer on a much larger mixed-use development on Montauk Highway. In the tri-hamlet community, I was able to preserve almost 100 acres of the former Links golf course and achieve a beautiful tax-positive development on one-half of the property and on the other half, we recently opened Patriots Preserve (a 99-acre park) in Shirley, but it also touches Mastic Beach. It is serene and absolutely beautiful.”
Crime, redevelopment, and affordability would be tackled first
“The biggest issue I hear is that people are concerned about crime, and they deserve to feel safe,” he said. “I have an excellent working relationship with our police department. I am pushing forward the use of additional cameras with Flock Safety (provides license plate recognition, gunshot detection and video). These cameras will be installed in the coming weeks through areas of town known for illegal dumping, but we will give the police access to this technology. We’re also going to expand personnel and hours for our law department investigators to tackle quality-of-life concerns.
“As for redevelopment, it’s the name of the game in Brookhaven. In Mastic Beach, we have undertaken the needed redevelopment of 38 acres of downtown with Beechwood Homes as the master developer on Neighborhood, Commack and Mastic roads—essentially, that triangle. It’s a prime example of how the town will use its land-use powers to transform an area affected by vacancy and vagrancy. We’ll achieve mixed uses. If you look to the west in East Patchogue, you have redevelopment moving forward with quality builders who have met with the community. How many units are to be decided. We’re looking for condominiums, restaurants, medical, retail, a coffee shop, wine bar. A new sense of place.”
Establishing government consolidation and efficiency
“Besides those two, I would initiate an overall review of the workflow here at the town. We have to find more efficiency. The costs of every municipal government and entity are rising. I went to Albany and made a presentation before an esteemed panel put together by former Gov. Cuomo. A consolidation and efficiency competition is one where the town and myself were up against five counties. We defeated them and were awarded a $20 million consolidation grant in 2018. The administration in Albany has changed, and our current governor has unfortunately developed a tenuous relationship regardless of political party with most every town and village on Long Island. Hochul’s efforts on housing can be achieved if the state makes sewer infrastructure funding available to local government. I am a staunch defender of our suburban quality of life; however, there are areas that cry out for redevelopment, and in that development we can achieve the residential component sought after. But the governor must realize there’s an established home rule law and the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act demands local input in a town’s geography larger than Nassau County. What’s appropriate in one hamlet or village is not in another.”
Keeping taxes low; transparency on town taxes
“While the town tax receiver collects taxes for all taxing jurisdiction, the town portion of the tax bill is on average 6 or 7 percent. We don’t set school taxes or those for the county. I am going to do my absolute best to keep taxes low in Brookhaven Town. I am also going to be truthful with people I represent as to the cost of providing services. The town is not immune to inflation, with increasing health care cost or pension contributions. We should be able to explain the taxes and what they are used for.”
Landfill will close in 2024 to commercial and demolition construction; capped in 2028 to household incinerator ash
“New York State DEC permits that ash to go into the landfill, and the DEC is charged with testing at Covanta and allowing the ash to come into the landfill. We have for decades a NYS DEC monitor at the landfill to ensure compliance. If the allegation that Covanta is not mixing ash properly, the DEC needs to do a better job. However, this is only an allegation. We are not looking to raise the height of the landfill at all. It will close to commercial and demolition debris in 2024 and be closed and capped in 2028 to household incinerator ash.”
Plans after landfill closing
“We have an agreement with NYSERDA and the governor’s office to convert the landfill into a renewable energy park (Build Ready Renewable Program) and that is to plan to create green energy for all of Long Island. It’s been very well received by people in the community and environmentalists and will create revenue for the town. Certainly, we’d like to get closer to zero waste and New York State needs to play a bigger role for recyclable commodities. That’s how recycling works. If there’s no market for commodity, you’ll essentially have boundless piles of material for which you’ll have no market. That’s the role New York State should play for this region. When you speak to the DEC, they’ll tell you because of municipal home rule, every town and village is on their own. However, when people collectively objected to the governor’s housing proposal and bring up municipal home rule law, the same state says, ‘What municipal home rule?’ The dichotomy and irony of those statements shouldn’t be lost on me and your readers.”
Pledges for Brookhaven Animal Shelter improvements
“Yes, 100 percent,” he agreed to a commitment. “I stop in frequently unannounced, and the work undertaken there is a dramatic improvement. We are adding personnel to the facility and people with a genuine interest and concern for the animals there, and our main objective is to get these animals adopted. We hired a full-time vet who is there every single day and additional social media and staffing there. That is going to be part of the emphasis of my administration, to get the animals adopted and into homes.”
Among Panico’s endorsements:
All law enforcement organizations in Suffolk County (nine) as well as CSEA Local 100, Theatrical Stage Employees Local One, Coram Civic Association, New York League of Conservation Voters.