Town board supports legislation for waste-transfer station

‘Home Rule’ message supports boundaries change of a 62-acre conservation easement for Winters Bros. proposal


Plans by waste disposal company Winters Bros. to run a rail line through some of the last undeveloped land in Yaphank to serve what opponents say would be the largest waste transfer station in state history got a boost from the Brookhaven Town Board last week.

On April 4, the board voted in favor of a resolution sponsored by Deputy Supervisor Neil Foley to send a so-called “Home Rule” message to Albany in support of legislation introduced last year by State Sen. Dean Murray (R.C Patchogue) and Assemblyman Joe DeStefano (R.C. Medford).

The bills by Murray and DeStefano would let the town change the boundaries of a 62-acre conservation easement in Yaphank to allow for a rail spur that would connect with the Long Island Railroad line and serve the waste transfer station Winters Bros. wants to build.

In return, the company would add six acres to the easement area, making it 65 acres. The easement is the result of a lawsuit the Town of Brookhaven filed several years ago to stop sand mining.

Foley said the home rule message is “the right thing to do for the environment and the right thing to do for the town of Brookhaven.”

Winters Bros. spokesman Will Flower called the board’s vote “a step forward” for the company’s plans.

But opponents of the home rule message and the project, including the NAACP, say the town board is trying to keep the public from having a say in the matter. The legislation in Albany hasn’t moved in the past and they vow to make sure it doesn’t move this time, either.

“The bill’s not passing,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Mark my words, the bill’s not passing.”

The bills have languished in the Senate and Assembly’s Local Government committees since they were introduced more than a year ago.  Murray’s bill has no co-sponsors. Only one other assembly member, Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R,C, Riverhead) has signed on to DeStefano’s bill as a co-sponsor.

It’s not the first time such bills have been introduced without moving forward.

In 2021, DeStefano and State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) introduced similar legislation which never got a vote in committee.

The proposed waste transfer station is opposed by Citizens Campaign for the Environment, the NAACP New York State Conference and Brookhaven NAACP and the Brookhaven Landfill Action Remediation Group.

They say the proposed transfer station and rail line would damage the environment in Yaphank and neighboring North Bellport, a largely Black and Latino community that already is home to the town landfill and whose residents suffer health impacts as a result, including high rates of childhood asthma.

Supporters on the other hand, say that once the Brookhaven landfill closes in late 2027 or early 2028, material that would otherwise go into the landfill will need to be shipped off Long Island. They say it would be better for the environment to do that by rail rather than by truck.

“There is no way the Long Island Expressway can handle massive amounts of additional trucks,” said Flower, whose company already transports waste by rail from transfer stations in Farmingdale and Lindenhurst.

He called rail “an excellent option” to dealing with the 2.4 million tons of waste Long Islanders generate each year, saying rail generates less air pollution than trucks cause.

Winters Bros.’s proposed waste transfer station would have capacity for 5,000 to 6,000 tons of refuse per day, large enough to handle peak loads during the summer when Long Islanders generate the largest amounts of trash.

Esposito, of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said the town shouldn’t be turning over to Winters Bros. some of the last parkland in Yaphank before the company has even presented its plans to the town board.

She called the legislation “severely premature.”

“You only alienate parkland as a last resort, at the end of the process, not at the beginning,” said Esposito.

The NAACP State Conference and Brookhaven NAACP say the town board wants to avoid holding a hearing on Winters Bros’s plan.

“It’s incredible that the Town Board is passing a home rule message to undo a conservation easement when it refuses to insist on local control over this massive waste transfer project,” Brookhaven NAACP President Dr. Georgette Grier-Key said in a statement. “Instead, it wants to duck its responsibilities and turn local zoning decisions over to the federal government.”

Foley, the Brookhaven Deputy Supervisor, denied that the board is trying to avoid holding a hearing.

“There’s complete transparency with this,” Foley said.

He also said no public hearing on a zoning change is needed because the property’s L-1 zoning already allows for a waste transfer station and rail line.

At the April 4 Town Board meeting, a statement was also read on behalf of the Brookhaven Landfill Action and Remediation Group expressing its opposition to the legislation and the town board’s home rule message.

Esposito, of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, says there’s no need for Winters Bros’ proposed Yaphank waste transfer station because competing facilities have already been approved for Medford and Brentwood.

Flower, the Winters Bros. spokesman, said those facilities alone don’t have the capacity to handle refuse once the Brookhaven landfill closes. 

The NAACP and Citizens Campaign for the Environment sued to block the transfer station. In January, a judge dismissed their lawsuit but the NAACP and CCE filed a notice of appeal. 


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