It’s been an active first 60 days

Daniel Panico as town supervisor


March 1 marked 60 days since Brookhaven Town supervisor Daniel J. Panico (R-Center Moriches) took up his new role.
The former town councilman and deputy supervisor was first elected to the board in 2010 after stints as an attorney and senior deputy Suffolk County clerk. The Long Island Advance spoke to Panico by phone and asked about his energetic last couple of months.
LIA: What were the immediate first three issues you wanted to address if you won? And did you?
Dan Panico: I did. The first one was immediately cutting the red tape and streamlining the processes in the town with regard to approvals. Just recently, the town board voted to amend the code and take on all of the responsibilities of the planning board. This is going to cut approximately a year out of the approval process. You can ask most anyone who’s involved in commerce or development that everything takes too long. We have now embraced and accomplished a reform that will have a real positive effect in this town.
In the same vein (No. 2), the town board unanimously voted to streamline the process for accessory apartments in eliminating the accessory apartment review board. Under this reformed model, those people who want to follow the law and do things the right way will no longer be subject to an arduous process and added costs associated with this additional layer of approval. As a government, we must not only accept the reality of the housing shortage on this island, but also make it easier for people who want to do it the right way. With that comes the town commitment to redouble our efforts in dealing with illegal housing. That will be an emphasis of each town board member going forward.
No.3 is a general overall theme to be 100 percent honest and transparent with the people we represent here, including matters that include controversy or difficult matters. In eliminating these boards, that constitutes 12 political appointees. All 12 of these positions of the planning and accessory apartment boards have been filled by those [who] were diligent and who did their jobs well. But the town board is taking on the issues directly.
LIA: You’ve already addressed Swan Lake in East Patchogue with a grant you won to eliminate invasive species, and recently voted to unanimously expand the town’s shellfish management area to four acres off the coast of Bellport Village. With the $4.5 million Long Island Region NY Forward funds to advance North Bellport’s affordable mixed-use housing, what is the next step, and will locals be included in the process?
DP: Locals will be included. It will be a 10-month planning effort by the town and a representative of New York State, Jim Morgo. He was chosen by the state as co-chair of the local planning committee. The Town of Brookhaven supervisor or designee will be co-chair; then we’ll be suggesting names for candidates included in this committee. I have to recommend names and their connection to the community, and the state will then choose its members for advancing the development of the North Bellport area. It will be an opportunity to expand real transit-oriented development. I went to the Empire State Economic Development Corp. and outlined our plan for North Bellport. The panel I spoke in front of was an esteemed panel, and I’m happy to say North Bellport was chosen over every other finalist. Here we have potentially a developer, Peter Florey, with an amazing track record. We want to do housing, to build truly affordable apartments northwest of the train station, add a fresh market to the area, and also we’ve begun discussions with the state for a bank or credit union. We’re working to truly revitalize North Bellport. On all our other efforts, with regard to parks and illegal housing, we recently demolished the home at 509 Station Road across from the former Spicy’s. That [Spicy’s] location is being reinvented into a bagel store. Good things are happening in North Bellport. I want residents to know they have a supervisor who cares about them. With Peter’s (Florey) first project, I worked to make that happen. Whether it’s landowners or road abandonment, to accomplish something like this, you have to be fluid in the language of land use. You have to be in it with two feet.
LIA: Any projects that involve Center Moriches? There are a lot of oyster farmers there.
DP: In Center Moriches, as we are throughout the town, we’re working to continually acquire open space. We’re about to go into contract and are working with Susan Wicks of Violet Cove Oyster Company in Moriches Bay and [Legis.] Jim Mazzarella on a joint effort to locate an area for drying and processing sugar kelp. What’s beautiful is that the kelp itself sucks up a great deal of nitrogen and traps a great deal of carbon from the atmosphere. It grows pretty much on its own and its most frequent use is as fertilizer. We can move it over to farmers as a natural fertilizer.
LIA: When we spoke before the election, you said the landfill will close in 2024 to commercial and demolition construction, capped in 2028 to household incinerator ash. What initiatives are you taking to make sure that happens?
DP: We’re still on track. Our target is to accept demolition and construction debris to the end of 2024 and then for 2025, ‘26, ‘27 and the first two months of ‘28 will be at the specs of approved capping. It will move toward permanent closure. So, this region has to find alternatives. The New York Environmental Facilities Corp. built the landfill, then transferred it to the Town of Brookhaven. While it bears our name, it’s regional. It’s headed towards closure. I’ve been an outspoken proponent of rail. We need rail for more than dealing with waste. We need it for freight and product.
LIA: Is the job a 15-hour day?
DP: I have always said the first day I was elected as a town councilman in 2010, I’ve given this job all of me as to getting the job done and addressing government meaningfully. I have one speed and that speed is go. I make it my job to understand the issues and that I am elected to lead. At times, it will mean taking on difficult issues. You can be an elected official going around cutting ribbons. That’s not who I am


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