The South Yaphank Civic Association's proposal to
Suffolk County regarding alternatives to the shooting range

On September 27, 2011, five members of the South Yaphank Civic Association met with Suffolk County officials at the Office of the County Executive in Hauppauge to present a proposal (below) titled: "Sensible Arguments for Closing the Suffolk County Trap and Skeet Range" which outlined alternative uses for the land on which the trap and skeet range currently exists.

Also in attendance at that meeting were Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider, 3rd District Legislator Kate Browning, aide to Ms. Browning, Josh Slaughter, County Parks Commissioner Greg Dawson, Suffolk County Planning Director Sarah Landsdale along with various representatives of the Suffolk County Law Department.

Our presentation was well received and much interaction occurred between ourselves and those in attendance.  In a follow-up email to Mr. Schneider, we thanked him for his time and he responded by writing:

"I think that you and the other Yaphank residents did an excellent job of laying out the facts in a very reasonable way, representing the broader community and providing some very positive ideas on how to move forward."

Below is what we presented to Suffolk County:


Sensible Arguments for Closing the
Suffolk County Trap and Skeet Range

 “People want to live in communities with great parks and great public spaces”“quality of life issues should not happen” “People have a right to live in quiet enjoyment of their property”.

-Steve Bellone, speaking to residents at a meeting of the
South Yaphank Civic Association, May 10, 2011



·         NOISE ISSUES





·         LEGAL

·         FINANCIAL











It's painfully obvious that noise has ALWAYS been an issue and not just since 2006, but since the range’s inception in 1954.  This is supported by the following which is excerpted from the May 6, 2004 Suffolk County Parks Board of Trustee Minutes:

The property on which the range exists today was first used by the Nassau Gun Club [in 1954].  Referring directly to this "first use" Ray Corwin, at a meeting of the Board of Trustees of Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation stated:  “…as soon as the shooting began, one neighbor that lived across the street, Mrs. Glover was upset with the noise and attained an attorney, and it was determined that Mrs. Glover receive a nuisance fee.’

·       All of the people involved with the reopening of this range were well aware of the noise problem.

·       All three of the County-commissioned noise studies showed that noise was an issue and all of the various agencies who debated the reopening of the range knew this as well.

·      Most importantly, everyone knew, long before the range was reopened, that Brookhaven's noise law was going to be a problem and all were aware that Brookhaven had no intention of granting any exemptions.  It was made eminently clear that if the range was reopened, the County would be breaking the law.

Brookhaven Town Definition of "Noise": 
Any airborne sounds of such level and duration as to be or tend to be injurious to human health or welfare or that would unreasonably interfere with the enjoyment of life or property.”

In a Suffolk County document entitled:
“Report of the Trap and Skeet Oversight Committee – prepared for Peter A. Scully, Commissioner of Suffolk County Parks, Recreation and Conservation March 2002”, the following was written in regard to noise from the shooting range: 

“…noise levels on the range were routinely found to be greater than 65dBA.  Sound levels were generally 70-90dBa when the range was in operation.

The issue is summed up best by statements made in the Hansen Consulting Study of August 19, 2002 which read: “In summary, shooting activity on this range was clearly audible beyond the Suffolk TSC property.  Based on the measurements results of 25 June 2002, sound exposure to the nearest neighboring properties is high.  The study went on to state further that: “A long-term solution would be to relocate the range to a more remote location”.




After studying the overall effect of the shooting range on homes in the area based on noise complaint calls received by Brookhaven Town, The Town Assessor’s office reduced the assessed value of 178 homes in the area by an average of 6% citing the reopening of the range as the sole reason for the reduction. 

If one assigns even a modest market value of just $350,000 for each of these homes, this adds up to a loss of almost FOUR MILLION DOLLARS in community equity. 
That loss in value translates into a loss of YEARLY revenue (in the form of taxes) for the South Country School District (estimated to be between $70,000.00 to 90,000.00), the Town of Brookhaven (estimated to be between $40,000.00 to $60,000.00), as well as a loss in tax revenue for other services such as fire and ambulance - and this shortfall will continue to exist as long as the range remains open.



Living with the range is impossible.

With cannon-like "BOOMS" occurring in pairs and at intervals of 3 to 5 seconds, it is impossible for anyone to escape the sound of gunfire.   The gunfire not only invades the neighborhood directly, but once there they began to bounce off of one house and then another, filling the air with not just cannon blasts, but ECHOES of cannon blasts as well!

There are virtually no daylight hours (save for *Monday and Tuesday) that are not accompanied by gunfire.  There is absolutely no opportunity to simply sit in one's backyard and simply relax. 
Activities considered normal by most people such as barbeques, backyard parties and even “indoor” activities such as watching a movie or reading a book is sometimes impossible unless windows are closed or devices such as fans are run to drown out the noise from the guns.

Quality of life here in Yaphank is substandard.  The range was closed for nearly five years and having it reopen after many people had built lifestyles geared towards peace and quiet and then to have that taken away from them isn’t just annoying – it’s cruel.












It is simply not possible to have any serious discussion about protecting and preserving the Carmans River Watershed without addressing the existence and effect of the Suffolk County Trap and Skeet range which sits a mere 800 yards from the river itself.

In March of 2002, the "Carmans River Environmental Assessment Report" was prepared for Suffolk County by Cashin Associates.  The report pointed out that the Carmans River “is almost entirely fed by groundwater from the uppermost of Long Island’s aquifers”.

That very same report also examined the Suffolk County Trap & Skeet Range and pointed out that the range “sits directly atop a sole source aquifer from which Long Islanders draw their drinking water and is part of the Carmans River Watershed and Drainage Basin.” 

Also in March of 2002, a report of the Trap and Skeet Oversight Committee was prepared for then Suffolk County Parks Commissioner Peter A. Scully.  That report indicated that: “Lead contaminated soil exists throughout a major portion of the range.  Lead levels well above those acceptable for parkland use were encountered to a depth of at least 6” below grade.”   

 Suffolk County’s own documents, namely the “Review of the 2007-2009 Proposed Capital Program 2007 Capital Budget”, (published in May 2006), as well as the 2006-2008 Proposed Capital Program 2006 Capital Budget, (published in May 2005), refer to lead and other contaminates that resulted from the use of the range stating that “This material has been determined to be hazardous waste and poses a threat to the ground water."   Additionally, recent groundwater samples taken between 2007 and 2008 in an area downgrade of the range near the Carmans River showed elevated levels of arsenic (arsenic is used in the manufacture of lead shot as a hardening agent).

Adrienne Esposito, the Executive Director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment wrote a letter on November 26th, 2008 to Peter Scully (presently the DEC Regional Director) calling for the Suffolk County Trap and Skeet Range to be closed.  

In her letter, Ms. Esposito wrote: “The Trap and Skeet facility in Southaven County Park has accumulated high amounts of lead and other contaminants from years of use”, and that “Levels this high pose potential threats to the environment and public health.”  









The County and the concessionaire are embroiled in a number of legal matters involving the range. 
This litigation is draining the resources of the County as well as the Town of Brookhaven to the tune of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

Although we feel that there are many legal issues surrounding the reopening of the range, the most immediate and most relevant is of course the Brookhaven Town Noise law.  Since it’s true that for at least three years prior to reopening the range the County Legislature was well aware of this law and we feel that it was deliberately ignored.

For example, on May 13, 2003, at a meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature, then County Attorney Paul Sabbatino was asked as to what effect the Brookhaven Town ordinance would have on the shooting range.  As noted in the minutes from that meeting, Mr. Sabbatino offered the following:

MR. SABATINO: “… the Town ordinance would be applicable subject to whatever its provisions are.  I don't know what exemptions they've got, I don't know exactly what the interplay of all of the sections would be, but whoever the vendor would be that would take over the operation of the facility would have to adhere to those Brookhaven restrictions, whatever they are.”

This of course was just one of many occasions during the years leading up to the reopening of the range that this law was discussed and the Legislature was made fully aware that this law would indeed impact the range’s operation.

Whether in the near or distant future, the courts will likely side with Brookhaven Town and fines will be issued for excessive noise emanating from the range.  Why delay the inevitable?

JUSTIFICATION:  Point out that the legal issues are too great and too costly to overcome especially since the range’s reopening was questionable from the start.  Not only would you be saving money and resources, but you’d be “righting a wrong” in the process.











Suffolk County could choose to close the range based upon the financial burdens it places upon the County and its constituents.

At the time the range was reopened in 2006, Suffolk County had allotted $800,000 for noise mitigation, environmental restoration and general improvements and this exists in the form of bonds, which will be paid back at about 5% interest over 15 years. 

Revised numbers put the actual total at $500,000.00 because there are no current plans for noise mitigation.  But even at this reduced rate, that $500,000.00 is costing the County (the taxpayers) $33,000.00 per year.  The average proceeds to the County from the licensee are in the neighborhood of $40,000.00 per year.  After the cost of the bond payment is deducted, this leaves just $7,000.00 in profit for the County.

However, when one calculates the costs involved with defending the range both in Civil and Criminal court along with the reduced assessed value of 178 homes in the area (approx.. $4,000,000.00) as well as the resultant loss of tax revenue (approx. $110,000.00 to $150,000.00 per year) to various entities such as the South Country School District, the Town of Brookhaven as well as for other services such as fire and ambulance, that “profit” quickly disappears and becomes a rather large deficit and one that will remain as such (at least in terms of home value and tax revenue) for as long as the range remains open.

JUSTIFICATION:  Though it may be true that a recreational opportunity offered by a municipality does not necessarily have to make a profit, the costs involved with the shooting range reach far beyond the County and cannot validate the range’s existence.
















Quality of life issues are paramount and are the single glaring effect of the range’s presence both to the communities surrounding it and to Southaven Park itself.

Southaven Park has a rich history and has often been described as a “jewel” but the range’s presence renders it virtually useless as anything other than a place to shoot.  A park-like setting is one that imagines a large area of land preserved in a natural state for recreational use by the public and surely no one would ever describe a park-like experience as something that would include the sound of shotgun blasts lasting for eight hours each day.  Likewise, one would certainly not expect to hear the same gunfire in a residential backyard or (as in many homes in Yaphank) inside one’s own home.  

This is especially egregious when such a situation is created by a municipality which, unlike a private business, is supposed to protect the Health, Safety and Welfare of its constituents and does not need to engage in such activity in order to “make a living”.

When a recreational facility infringes on the rights of people to peacefully enjoy their own property, it ceases to be an amenity and becomes a nuisance.  And that a municipality would willfully impose a nuisance upon its own constituents runs counter to its mandate to ensure Health, Safety and Welfare.

There may have been a time in the past when the shooting range’s presence did not cause an inconvenience to others, but that was long ago.  Suffolk County cannot claim to exist in a vacuum and cannot feign surprise at the “sudden” arrival of residential development.  Suffolk was well aware of impending development as far back as the early 1990’s when it promised relocation of the range no later than 1995.  Population growth and expansion is inevitable and whether development “should” or “should not” have occurred near Southaven Park entirely misses the point; such being that a shooting range cannot exist in close proximity to residential development.

The cost of closure or relocation, or the inability to identify a suitable site for relocation cannot and should not be used as any rationale to have the range remain open and in its present location.  It is incumbent upon any municipality to keep abreast of changes within its borders and this inevitable conflict should have been recognized and dealt with long ago.  But it wasn’t addressed and people who simply want a quiet place to live cannot be subjected to what can only be described as “punishment” for that municipality’s lack of foresight.

JUSTIFICATION:  People need a place to live more than they need a place to play and though recreational opportunities are part of what a municipality should offer its constituents that recreational opportunity cannot infringe on other people’s rights or property.  The shooting range had once enjoyed a relatively “private” existence but that is no longer the case and since it cannot exist without negatively affecting the quality of life of many people in multiple communities, it must be closed.







There are those who feel that the range’s current site cannot be used for anything other than a shooting range or that alternative uses for the land would be too costly.

This Is Simply Not True.

On the subject of cleanup at the range site, on April 23, 2012, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Regional Director, Peter A. Scully wrote in a letter to Legislator Kate Browning:

“…a final range clearance activity should be done to remove any munitions on or near the surface. If this is done initially by solely removing the lead shot and metal casings, these can be recycled under the hazardous scrap metal exemption to decrease costs. The separated metal would not be subject to storage and labeling requirements, nor is a hazardous waste manifest required, and the smelter or scrap metal dealer does not need a permit to accept the lead scrap, but notification to the Department is required.

There is no specified timeframe for the cleanup; however there should be no admittance to the property until the cleanup has been done. The level of cleanup is dependent in part on whether or not the groundwater has been impacted by the activity and what the future use of the site will be…”

Additionally, the licensee’s contract stipulates that it is his responsibility to conduct a general cleanup of the property every five years.  But in the event his contract is terminated, if he still “owes” a cleanup, he can be made to conduct one even if he is no longer operating the range.


With the recent sale of surplus land to BRT, Yaphank has reached a tipping point.  Besides the shooting range, there’s the Long Island Compost, the Landfill, Caithness, industrial development along Horseblock Rd. and now the potential for a huge Intermodal Freight yard and the attendant Quality of Life issues that may bring.

Yaphank needs a break and needs to have something removed!

The shooting range is easily the most egregious problem in Yaphank, but it is also the easiest problem to solve.


JUSTIFICATION:  Since closing the range will not cause the County to incur significant expenditure of monies, resources or personnel, we do not see this as an obstacle should you decide to cease operation of this facility.  Additionally, Yaphank has been asked to bear a substantial burden in the form of various facilities and it’s only fair to remove those which are most immediately impacting and which can be removed most easily.






Back in November of 2011, there were County Legislative meetings dealing with the purchase of land at the North Fork preserve for use as County parkland.  This land was also considered to be a possible relocation site for the Trap and Skeet range since there already was a skeet range on the property in question.

The relocation idea was hotly debated and ultimately defeated, but the issue illustrated the parallels between the North Fork Preserve and Southaven Park which turned out to be ridiculously similar; nearly identical, in fact.


·         Both parcels had either existing shooting ranges or accommodated shooting in some form before they became County Parks

·         Both are located in Environmentally Sensitive Areas

·         Both offer Hiking, Camping and Equestrian activities (among others)

·         Both are in close proximity to residential development (within 1/2-mile at North Fork; and 33-feet at Southaven)

·         Both contain environmentally sensitive areas (though only Southaven contains an environmentally threatened river - said to be the last nearly pristine river left on Long Island)

The interesting thing is that all of those issues were cited as reasons why no shooting of any kind should be allowed at North Fork.  In fact, the only way that Riverhead would sign on to be a partner in the acquisition of the land (as is required by law) was if shooting was specifically prohibited. 
Riverhead told the County Legislature that if shooting was to be part of the amenities offered at North Fork, they would not agree to partner the deal.

So this begs the question: "Why is a ‘double-standard’ allowed to exist?"

Why is it that one Suffolk County park offering all of the stated amenities and being situated on environmentally sensitive land and being within a half-mile from residential development and having an existing shooting range on its property WOULD NOT ALLOW shooting, while the OTHER Suffolk County park with identical amenities, identical environmental issues (including an endangered river) and also containing an existing shooting range but with proximity to residential development measured in FEET instead of miles (33 FEET from the nearest residence) DOES ALLOW shooting?








Besides simply fencing off the property from public access, many options exist for future use of the property such as:

Since a building and parking area exist on the property, they could be used as a field office for a county agency such as for the County Water Resource Department or Highway Department.  There exists ample parking for large or small vehicles.

The County Park Police currently use buildings within Southaven Park, many of which are old or in some cases historic to varying degrees.  Relocating the Park Police headquarters to the building on the present range site would offer a more modern building, again with ample parking and might allow the older buildings to be put to a better use.

This could serve as a center for community activities for both the immediate community in South Yaphank as well as for the community of East Yaphank and Yaphank proper to the north.  The building could be used for meetings and events and if the land beyond it were to be reclaimed in the future to be used as active parkland, it too could serve as a place for large scale private, public, community or corporate outings and events and could otherwise serve as a “Great Lawn” in the style of Manhattan’s Central Park.

Convert the present building into an educational center for the Pine Barrens and the Carmans River.  This could be modeled after the building used by the Quogue Wildlife Refuge, which is sometimes used for meetings of the Pine Barrens Commission.
The Learning Center could also serve as a trail head and information center for hiking the more than 1,300 acres of Southaven Park.  A small “pro shop” could also be established to provide basic hiking gear and other amenities and a snack bar with a small indoor or outdoor eating area might also be included.

No matter what the building and land becomes, since the range would no longer exist, there would be no need for full perimeter fencing.  This might allow a way to offer “overflow” parking for the Long Island Steamers so that patrons would not have to park along Gerard Rd. and of course walking access to other areas of the park would also be possible.








Aside from offering use of the former range land, the absence of the shooting range would encourage use of Southaven Park overall and patronage would likely increase considerably once people realize that they can enjoy a true “Park Experience” free from gunshot noise.

This increase in park patronage could create a need for many new things such as additional rowboats for rental and possibly adding canoe or kayak rentals, or perhaps even bicycle rentals so people could ride throughout the park instead of walk.  Increased interest in the park might also serve to induce more people to go camping or just visit the park for its now peaceful environment.

Naturally all of this would also serve to restore value in the surrounding neighborhoods which is not only a benefit to those who live there but will also restore needed tax revenue to various entities by raising home values. 


  • Endless gunshot noise
  • A quality of life in the gutter
  • People unable to enjoy the homes they’ve worked so hard to buy
  • 178 homes negatively reassessed equaling nearly $4,000,000.00 in lost equity
  • Loss of tax revenue to the Town, school district and essential services
  • A 1,300 acre park once described as a “Jewel”, now virtually deserted
  • Park revenues declining to the point of irrelevance
  • Lead and Arsenic threatening groundwater and the Carmans River.
  • Anger
  • Animosity
  • People forced to leave their own homes to seek peace and quiet elsewhere
  • Helplessness
  • Endless legal battles and the wasted taxpayer resources used to fight them
  • A government demonstrating contempt for its own citizens
  • A deep seated mistrust of leadership
  • Contempt for that government by those citizens
  • Yaphank being forced to bear excessive burdens far beyond those of other communities


  • The peace and quiet that people deserve
  • A return to a Quality of Life that was once enjoyed
  • People investing in their homes and preferring to spend time in their community
  • Home values return to normal levels
  • Tax revenues increase
  • Southaven Park becomes what it ought to be;
    a destination, a place that people seek out to enjoy a peaceful day in a beautiful setting
  • Park revenues soaring as park patronage increases
  • A halt to the pollution of groundwater and a big step in protecting the Carmans River
  • Happiness
  • Good will
  • People looking forward to spending time at home
  • Pride of purpose
  • An end to the legal battles and the monies wasted on fighting them
  • A government recognizing the needs of its citizens
  • A government recognizing the importance of the environment
  • A government demonstrating concern for the last nearly pristine river on Long Island – the Carmans.
  • An admiration for a government that recognized a problem and solved it
  • A balance achieved by removing excess in favor of that which serves a greater good thus easing the burden to a community





By promoting an alternative to the negative aspects of a shooting range located between two large communities as well as in an environmentally sensitive area, the county has an opportunity to solve a multitude of problems and to revitalize Southaven Park, the county’s largest and oldest park.

County government can be seen as taking the lead in promoting a “Green” alternative that not only benefits these communities but by transforming an otherwise underutilized asset into a pleasurable destination.

  • Southaven Park becomes what it ought to be; a place that people seek out to enjoy a peaceful day in a beautiful setting
  • Park revenues rise as park patronage increases
  • This will end the legal battles and the monies wasted on fighting them
  • Suffolk County will be seen as taking significant steps to protect a valuable watershed and especially the Carmans River itself
  • Suffolk County government will be seen as recognizing the needs of its citizens
  • This will result in public admiration for a government that recognized a problem and not only solved it, but took further steps to drastically improve the entire area.



  • A halt to the pollution of groundwater
  • A major step in demonstrating the health of an ecosystem is more important than a pastime.
  • Converting the existing building into a Pine Barrens Educational center would allow visitors to see for themselves just how important the watershed, the Carmans River and the overall environment are to Long Island and the people who live here.
  • Promoting hiking and other park activities would serve to place people directly into this environment which would further cement its importance in their minds.


In terms of how such a thing could be managed, experts from Cornell Cooperative extension along with input from environmental organizations could be solicited to ensure that such an undertaking is done properly and in the best interests of all concerned.


  • The peace and quiet that people deserve
  • A return to a Quality of Life that was once enjoyed
  • People investing in their homes and preferring to spend time in their community
  • Home values return to normal levels
  • Tax revenues increase accordingly
  • An end to the anger and acrimony that has consumed residents since the range reopened.
  • Restoring a sense of community; replacing a “bunker mentality” with pride of purpose
  • A restored faith in leadership
  • A balance achieved by removing excess in favor of that which serves a greater good





It’s no secret that because of the various facilities and entities which have come to Yaphank in recent years, Yaphank is seen as a “dumping ground”.  Suffolk County’s recent sale of land in Yaphank to BRT further cements that feeling and casts BRT itself in the role of villain and complicit in turning Yaphank into a third-class community.  But it doesn’t have to be that way and Suffolk County is in a unique position to change that mindset.

While it may be obvious that the shooting range can no longer exist in Southaven Park, some have expressed concerns as to what can be done with the range’s land afterward. 
Many proposed alternatives have been offered in this outline but two in particular might prove to be the best in ways that transcend simply removing the range and would also serve to improve not only the park and its surrounding communities but the image of BRT and that of Suffolk County government as well.

The two proposed alternatives which hold significant promise in this regard are:


The following scenario combines these two possibilities and includes the “Great Lawn” concept:

Upon closing the shooting range, the DEC requires a minimal cleanup and little more than fencing off the property.  More importantly, John Pavacic executive director of the Central Pine Barrens Commission, has expressed that after undertaking a basic cleanup, reclaiming the land as active parkland would require little more than a top dressing of fresh soil in order to (as in this example) plant grass for a lawn.

Lawns do require upkeep and feeding and at first glance, this may seem problematic - especially in a nitrate-sensitive area.   However, there are many examples of turfgrass being grown successfully in such areas and the County’s own Indian Island golf course is one such example.  Additionally, there are countless other golf courses and recreational fields throughout the world that exist in similar areas, many of which are of championship caliber and are regarded as prime examples of how such facilities can be successfully managed in environmentally sensitive areas.


The Brookhaven Rail Terminal and its proposed expansion has caused more than a little concern from an environmental standpoint so much so that even if it is operated flawlessly, it will still come under scrutiny.  BRT can help to both better its image and actually prove itself to be interested in positive contributions to the environment by offering its services (either free of charge or for a modest price) in supplying the transportation and materials necessary to assist in the transformation of the park and their “Good Neighbor” efforts could figure prominently in this undertaking.

Judy White, BRT’s public relations person, has expressed on many occasions that she and her group are more than interested in being good neighbors and this would be an opportunity to prove that through perhaps a “Volunteer Partnership” with BRT on this project which would also allow the County itself to enjoy a bit of an image makeover as well.





Clearly the negative aspects of the presence of the shooting range in Southaven Park far outweigh any positive aspects and this is something that needs to be acknowledged and addressed by Suffolk County.

The various topics discussed in this outline and especially those concerning future use can only lead to one conclusion; that the communities near the shooting range, the park, the Town of Brookhaven and Suffolk County itself would fare far better if the county closed this facility than by insisting it should remain.  In short, the shooting range has outlived its usefulness and though it may someday be able to exist elsewhere, it simply cannot exist any longer in its present location.


The most important aspect in this process of transformation is
a desire to do what’s right for the people, for the park and its environs
along with a willingness to subscribe to a vision of “what can be”
instead of clinging to that which can no longer justify its existence.



Such change requires help and we believe that help is already here.

·         The “vision” for such change can be found in community and environmental groups.

·         Much of the technical expertise already exists within county government.

·         “Outside agencies” such as the Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Pine Barrens Society along with many other organizations would surely offer their services.

·         BRT could supply bulk materials and coordinate their handling and transportation.

The problems associated with the shooting range are painfully obvious and no one with any concern for what’s right can genuinely favor its continued existence in Southaven Park. Change is not only possible but it’s necessary if Suffolk County is to be taken seriously as having the capacity to lead its constituents into the future.



Does Suffolk County Government wish to be seen as
helping people and their communities, caring for the environment
and thinking forward into the future?

Or does it wish to be seen as a dysfunctional entity
stuck in the past; unable or unwilling to change?







©2013 South Yaphank Civic Association