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Farmingdale Civic Associations Host Town Hall Meeting

Republic Airport, Taxes, Water District Among Discussion Items

Republic Airport. The East Farmingdale Water District. Sex offender housing. Rising foreclosures. These were a few of the hot-button topics addressed by a trio of civic associations representing Farmingdale and East Farmingdale at a lively and productive joint town hall meeting on Wednesday Feb. 24 at the East Farmingdale Fire Department.

Tommy Joseph, the president of the East Farmingdale Civic Association, Chuck Gosline, the president of the Concerned Citizens Association of Farmingdale, and Helen Norjen, a board member of the Woodland Civic Association, reported on recent developments concerning these topics.

Joseph opened the meeting with a discussion about the East Farmingdale Water District. After residents received a letter from the Town of Babylon about changes in the water district’s management and the Farmingdale Observer carried an article with quotes from Town Supervisor Steve Bellone about the future of the water district, Joseph continues to worry about its fate.

“We have lots of issues to contend with concerning the water district and not much information from the Town of Babylon,” he said. “We need to hear directly from Supervisor Bellone.”

One East Farmingdale resident recalled how the Town wanted to sell the water district 17 years ago to help the town with its budget problems.

“We should ask to see the lease,” said Norjen.

Joseph has had unusual phone calls asking for his input about changes to the water district and he believes there is an issue that the residents are not fully aware of.

Next, Norjen related the large sums of money that Republic Airport is spending on a vision plan and is including in its capital plan to aid its expansion. Its recent five-year capital plan intends to use $50 million for items such as easement acquisition and land acquisition for both ends of Runway 14-32. These projects, explained Norjen, are needed in order to lower visibility minimums on Runway 14-32, which would enable high performance aircraft to land in more hazardous weather conditions than presently permitted.

A separate proposal, that includes seven 30,000 square foot hangars, totaling approximately 300,000 square feet of hangars, office space, and FBO building, is currently under review. The 60,000-pound weight limit for aircraft landing at Republic Airport is still in court after nearly 15 years.

“If the airport had a Master Plan and a cumulative environmental impact statement we would be aware of their intentions,” said Norjen. “People take advantage of opportunity. Airport firms are reaping profits without paying taxes to our local community and we get the noise, pollution, and all of the other problems.”

Currently, the state-run airport is spending $400,000 on a vision plan that includes a new website (www.republicairportvision.com) and a questionnaire for both area residents and aircraft pilots.

One attendee commented that strapped New York State taxpayers are footing the bill for the airport’s $400,000 vision plan, which they felt was unnecessarily high. Many of the Farmingdale resident attendees expressed the need to appeal to state legislators to remedy the problem of for-profit businesses that have space in the airport hangars and are not currently paying property taxes.

Another attendee asked what had happened to the property across from the airport along Route 110, which food retailer Stew Leonard’s was planning to purchase to open a new store. No one was quite sure but it was felt that the firm’s contract had been relinquished due to ongoing litigation with the airport and the Department of Transportation. The airport, said Norjen, is influencing what property is sold and what types of corporations are moving to the area.

“I believe that the area around the airport is underdeveloped compared to property north along Route 110 because of uncertainty on what the airport is going to do,” she said. “We’re not getting nice quality development due to this uncertainty.”

Gosline turned to other areas of concern including the increase of home foreclosures, loss of revenue, and higher school taxes. Attendees, some from the Farmingdale School Board, raised objections to New York State’s proposal to slash school funding on Long Island.

“It’s so unfair,” said Tina Diamond, a school board trustee member. “They think we are rich on Long Island. Upstate schools are receiving 45 percent to 65 percent funding from the state but Long Island schools only receive 17 percent and they want to take that away. The income numbers for Long Island get skewed when they include all of the multimillionaires in the Hamptons and the Gold Coast.”

Gosline announced that the Concerned Citizens Association of Farmingdale will be holding a special March 18 meeting in which rising school taxes will be the subject. Gosline also asked all attendees to watch a new video produced by the Long Island Index entitled “The Clock is Ticking,” which depicts how many jobs are being lost on Long Island, how many more homes are being foreclosed upon, how many more young people are leaving Long Island, and how little land is being preserved. (The video can be found at http://www.liindex.org/press_kits.html under multimedia).

Finally, Joseph led a lively discussion on the threat of sex offender housing that was proposed for East Farmingdale by Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and which was ultimately rescinded after a meeting of more than 800 angry residents along with Suffolk County Legislator Dwayne Gregory. It was noted that while Nassau County representatives were in attendance to defeat the proposal, no representative from the Town of Babylon was in attendance. While this proposal was defeated, attendees were angry that $90 of their taxpayer money is going to sex offenders for housing and food.

Residents need to continue to be vigilant, said Joseph, since there are at least eight or nine sex offenders living in the Farmingdale School District and he believes there is a sex offender parole office in East Farmingdale.

In other news items, Joseph announced that his organization is rallying behind a Farmingdale Girl Scout who is working toward her Silver Award and is collecting gowns, shoes, and accessories for academically promising girls who want to go to their senior prom. (See box on Page 3.)

 Many of the attendees asked about the foul smell emulating from property across the street and north of Airport Plaza. Joseph believes the smell to be mulch-making but said to call the Town of Babylon to inquire about it.

In addition, Joseph announced that the East Farmingdale Fire Department is collecting school items for the students of the South Bay Elementary School in West Babylon whose school burned to the ground last week.