A rebuttal regarding Brookhaven Rail
THE LONG ISLAND ADVANCE - August
By MaryAnn Johnston
before the county on plans to sell public land in
Yaphank. Suffolk has many problems and critical issues:
unemployment, huge budget shortfalls, stress to the
natural environment, high taxes, traffic congestion and
a diminished quality of life. Any approach to address
these issues must allow our citizens to rely
on government to provide comprehensive, independent
and nonpartisan information. The county’s proposal to
sell the land in Yaphank to the BRT owners exemplifies a
process increasingly designed to disguise poor policy.
planning director, Sarah Lansdale, states the sale had a
“full and thorough environmental review.” The fact is
the review she alludes to included absolutely no
analysis of the impacts of an intermodal freight rail.
No analysis of traffic, air quality, groundwater or
impacts to adjacent communities of an intermodal rail
was even contemplated. Further, the county avoids a
“full and thorough environmental review” by claiming no
knowledge of the BRT’s intended use — even as Brookhaven
Town reviews BRT expansion. We must demand more from the
professionals we pay to properly advise our policy
the sale is linked to the construction of a “sewage
treatment plant” and that the discharge from this
unconstructed STP won’t enter the river’s fresh waters,
but will flow south, discharging into the tidal waters —
or right into the impaired waters of the Great South
Bay! The county’s own health department study recognized
that nearly 80 percent of this region’s STPs failed to
meet drinking water standards much of the
time. Environmentalists, civics and most planning
professionals recognize that the 10p/PL drinking water
standard is inadequate to protect the health and ecology
of ground or surface waters.
statement that “to the fullest extent possible under the
law, the county has provided the most extensive planning
and environmental protection of the river as possible,”
is questionable. The easiest, most effective way to
protect the environmental quality of the watershed is
through responsible zoning and coordinated
preservation efforts. The county has spent millions of
dollars to preserve and protect Suffolk’s environment.
Yet now, inexplicably, it reverses gears and tells us
the sale of over 230 acres in the heart of the Carmans
watershed is the best strategy possible. In light of the
facts, that statement seems absurd.
Lansdale advises the price at a mere $20 million is “a
fair price,” even without an independent appraisal. The
truth is, the sale of public land to the BRT is simply
an easy fix to appease special interests while making a
quick buck. One-shot revenue deals never make long-term
fiscal sense, and they do nothing to address
the underlying cause of budget shortfalls. Selling
precious assets for less than their maximum value is
shortsighted, and depletes the county of those assets in
the Carmans watershed requires that we balance economic
development, environmental quality and social equities
through reliable information and a commitment by
government to sound science and fiscal responsibility.
Meaningful community-based planning can empower and
accomplish these goals. Unfortunately, the current
process fails our citizens on all fronts.
Johnston is the former president of the Affiliated
Brookhaven Civic Organization.