08/23/12 6:00am
08/23/2012 6:00 AM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Ed Romaine goes about his lawmaking business at a recent Suffolk County Legislature meeting in Riverhead.

A quick glance at the Suffolk County legislative district map reveals that only one representative’s territory stretches all the way from the North to the South shore.

It’s a very narrow line, but at that one point, from Wading River to Center Moriches, one legislator represents residents from Long Island Sound to Moriches Bay.

That legislator is our very own representative, Ed Romaine, who lives in Center Moriches.

So for the past six-plus years, the North Fork has been represented in the county Legislature by a South Shore resident from Brookhaven Town.

This hasn’t been an issue … so far. Mr. Romaine has worked tirelessly since his 2006 swearing-in and has been an effective legislator for his entire district. He’s made land preservation and public transportation — important topics on the North Fork — two of his signature issues.

Mr. Romaine has done us good, and this newspaper has supported him with an endorsement in each of his four campaigns.

Now Mr. Romaine is considering a run for the soon-to-be vacant Brookhaven Town supervisor seat. If he receives his party’s nomination, he’ll have a good shot at beating likely Democratic nominee Brian Beedenbender.

What we fear is that the North Fork could soon be represented by someone with no real connection to this area; someone who wouldn’t work quite as hard as Mr. Romaine has to make sure we’re represented effectively in Suffolk County.

Even more troubling is the fact that the new county redistricting plans, which don’t go into effect until 2014, have already been finalized, so any hope that the district could be redrawn to better serve the North Fork is lost.

The current district lines have never made any sense, apart from the fact that they were drawn in a way that enabled Mr. Romaine to represent the East End all these years.

It seems more logical that Center Moriches share a district with Moriches and East Moriches than with Greenport. It also would appear to make more sense for Wading River and Shoreham to share a district than the current arrangement, which aligns Wading River with the likes of Peconic and matches Shoreham with Coram. While that latter scenario certainly rhymes, it is without reason since Wading River and Shoreham currently share a school district.

These district boundaries didn’t bother us so much last election, when they enabled Mr. Romaine to continue representing us in the Legislature, but the possibility of a change on the horizon highlights just how oddly the county jigsaw pieces fit.

Should Mr. Romaine move on to Brookhaven Town government, we hope whoever replaces him pays as much attention to the needs of residents on the North Fork as he or she does to those in Brookhaven.

Council district gerrymandering doesn’t hurt so much when you’re represented well, but our communities could be facing years of being overlooked and underserved if our next legislator’s focus leans toward another spot on the map.

03/12/11 6:57am
03/12/2011 6:57 AM

BARBARELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A car makes a left turn onto Riverside Drive

Blocking left turns from County Road 105 onto Riverside Drive may have had the support of the previous Town Board, but it doesn’t have the support of most current board members.
And that may force residents there to wait longer for any potential relief from persistent traffic problems on the “cut-through” block.

Through traffic, speeding and cars backed up and blocking driveways as they wait to turn onto Route 25 were among the problems residents cited at a meeting Wednesday night in Town Hall called by County Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches).

But the county will not take any action until the new Town Board requests it, according to Mr. Romaine and Bill Hillman, chief engineer of the county Department of Public Works.

While the previous resolution still exists, only two members of that board are on the current board.

The previous Town Board, acting on requests from Riverside Drive residents, passed a resolution in September 2009 urging the county to prohibit northbound traffic on County Road 105 from making left turns onto Riverside Drive.

The resolution came about after a proposal to dead-end Riverside Drive before it connects to Route 105 failed to get Town Board support.

None of the current board members attended Wednesday’s meeting, but in interviews afterward, Supervisor Sean Walter and councilmen Jim Wooten and George Gabrielsen said that they don’t support banning left turns from County Road 105 onto Riverside Drive.

The town asked the county to install the left turn signal on traffic light at Route 105 and Riverside Drive several years ago at a cost of about $250,000, Mr. Walter noted.

I think it’s irresponsible for us to turn around and say don’t make a left turn here because the whole purpose of [the traffic signal] was to make the intersection safe,” the supervisor said. “If the county was just going to close that intersection off, they could have done that for probably a couple of thousand dollars.

“Also, if you do this you’re going you have the unintended consequences of creating additional traffic on Hubbard Avenue and other places,” Mr. Walter added. “This is just going to move the problem to another neighborhood. I’m the town supervisor for all the residents of the town. Not just those that live on Riverside Drive.”

Resident Pam Hogrefe, who supports the no left turn proposal, said the problem stems from traffic cutting through Riverside Drive to get to stores on Route 58. And the problem is only going to get worse, she insisted.

“The problem is that Route 58 is continuing to grow, so Riverside Drive’s problems will grow,” Ms. Hogrefe said.
According to Mr. Hillman, public works actually studied the traffic on Riverside Drive and confirmed that it is pass-through traffic. But the county’s study did not propose any solutions.

“From a county standpoint, our intersection works fine,” Mr. Hillman said.

Because Riverside Drive is a town road, he said, “it’s not the county or the state’s responsibility to figure out a solution.”
Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said several potential solutions to Riverside Drive’s traffic problems have been proposed and rejected for various reasons over the years.

Cutting off access to County Road 105 didn’t have the support of the Town Board, putting stop signs on Riverside Drive to slow traffic didn’t have the support of residents and putting speed bumps on Riverside Drive didn’t have the support of the town attorney.

Riverside Drive residents themselves also seemed to lack consensus on what potential solutions they would like officials to pursue.

Sue Frohnhoefer, who lives off Riverside Drive, said she opposes banning left turns and it should not be assumed that everyone on Riverside Drive and its side streets favors banning left turns.

Other solutions discussed include “traffic calming” methods such as increased police enforcement and “speed humps” to slow drivers down.

Mr. Walter said in an interview Friday that the one change he would like to see is for the state to ban left turns from Route 25 onto Riverside Drive because these cars are often backed up on the railroad tracks, which creates a danger.

tgannon@timesreview.com

10/12/10 6:10pm
10/12/2010 6:10 PM

The Suffolk County Legislature approved a bill Tuesday that will allow the county to begin taking steps toward acquiring a 4.1-acre parcel at the corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue where a controversial shopping center has been proposed.

County Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), whose represents the North Fork, gave the crowd of residents and local leaders a thumbs up after the board voted 17-1 approving the legislation

“It should remain rural and there shouldn’t be any further commercial development on Sound Avenue,” Mr. Romaine told the News-Review this week in an interview. “It is the last rural highway on Long Island. People go out there to experience how Long Island was 50 years ago.”

The legislature approved a “planning steps” resolution, which is the first step in the acquisition process and authorizes the County’s Division of Real Estate to contact property owners, to order appraisals, perform title work, and begin negotiations, officials said.

Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher, chair of the county’s Environment, Planning & Agriculture Committee, said the land’s Council of Environmental Quality rating rose from 7 to 55 after the committee concluded the property would be best suited for acquisition as a “hamlet park” as opposed to open space.

The new rating enables the county to move forward on its acquisition process, officials said.

Reeves Park resident Bob Kelly, whose brother Tom was a New York City firefighter killed in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, told legislators that building a stripmall “won’t be beneficial” to residents and believes creating a hamlet park would give the community “a peaceful place” to enjoy.

The town renamed Park Road in honor of Tom Kelly several years ago, and a plaque and flag in his memorial was placed there as well.

Mr. Romaine said residents would like to see a wood chip or blue stone parking area, a walking trail throughout the property, lights installed to shine on the 9/11 memorials, benches and a small reflecting pond.

Riverhead Town would manage the park if the owner sold the land to the county, he said.

EMB Enterprises, owned by Kenn Barra, is seeking to build a 28,000 square foot shopping center at that corner, and earlier this year, an appellate court ruling on a lawsuit brought by EMB against a town rezoning of the property stated that the application was approved, subject to an environmental review.

While the owner has not agreed to sell the property to the county, he’s willing to listen to the county’s offer, Mr. Romaine said.

Jennifer@northshoresun.com