Panico sworn in as Brookhaven supervisor

Promises to streamline process for approving new housing

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Dan Panico was sworn in as Brookhaven Town supervisor on Monday, and the longtime town board member said one of his first priorities will be to deal with a housing shortage by “dramatically” streamlining the approval process for new projects and making it easier for homeowners to add accessory apartments.

Panico’s comment came at an inauguration ceremony at Brookhaven Town Hall that also included the swearing in of the six town board members, highway superintendent Daniel Losquadro and receiver of taxes Louis Marcoccia.

Panico, a member of the town board for the past 14 years and deputy supervisor for the last 10 years, beat Lillian Clayman in the race for town supervisor in November. He succeeds Ed Romaine, who was elected county executive.

Romaine, who hired Panico to work in the county clerk’s office decades ago when Romaine was county clerk, praised Panico as someone with “boundless energy” and a vast knowledge of land use and zoning.

“I have no doubt he will do a tremendous job and provide the leadership that is so needed today,” Romaine said.

For his part, Panico promised to be active as town supervisor.

“The easiest thing to do in government is nothing,” he said. “If you want to stay in office forever, do nothing. You won’t build up enemies. You can go around handing out certificates and cutting ribbons for the rest of your life. That’s not the type of elected official I will be.”

Panico said he will introduce before the town board in the next month, legislation to “dramatically shorten the time for necessary projects to be completed in the Town of Brookhaven.”

Projects would receive town board site-plan approval and approval for a zoning change “in the same night,” shortening the process by a year, Panico said.

Panico also wants to disband the town’s Accessory Apartment Review Board, the body that decides, for example, whether a homeowner can convert their garage into an apartment. Instead, applications would go directly to the town Building Department for review.

Panico said he also wants to improve North Bellport residents’ access to the ferry to Ho-Hum Beach on Fire Island. Current ferry access is limited to Bellport Village residents and their guests.

Panico, a Republican, said the town will be a partner with the federal and state governments and other municipalities.

But he also blasted Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, for what he called “a glaring lack of respect” for local government by her effort, since withdrawn, to override local zoning ordinances.

Panico also criticized Hochul for signing legislation to move elections for some local offices outside New York City to even-numbered years so that they coincide with the presidential election years and elections for Senate and Congress.

Democrats said the change would increase voter turnout while Republicans said it was politically motivated.

“While I want to foster that sense of spirit and cooperation with all levels of government, I’m not going to allow this town and its residents, their needs and their wishes, to be cast aside,” Panico said.