Speakers divided on 40 apartments for special-needs tenants

Planning board delays vote on zone change application


On Wednesday, June 5, the Town of Islip Planning Board held a meeting to hear public comments on the proposed construction of 40 garden apartments for special-needs individuals on 405 Locust Avenue, in Oakdale, by Family Enterprises and Essential Residence Inc. (FREE).

After hearing public commentary, the planning board decided to reserve their decision on the zone change application.

The application requested a change of zone from AAA residential to CA residential. Currently, to the north of the property are baseball and softball utilized by Connetquot School District and to the south a building owned by BOCES containing the Islip Career Center.

FREE’s application would demolish all existing structures on the site and build their garden-style apartments, consisting of 11 buildings with 20 one-bedroom units. The two buildings facing Locust Avenue will “have the appearance of single-family dwelling,” according to the representative for FREE.

Structures will be set back 50 feet to enhance the residential look of the apartment complex.

Seventy parking stalls will be put on the south side, with one exit/entry for vehicles.

The proposal allots for 53,000 square feet of landscaping.

A shuttle was included in the program to allow for accessibility to downtown areas like Sayville’s Main Street.

Sean Venetta was the first person to speak and is a resident on Locust Avenue.

“A lot of us can’t back out of our driveways because of traffic; in the mornings it’s terrible, on the weekends its awful,” said Venetta. “We don’t need any more traffic.”

“I’m not sure what kind of disabilities these people have, but we don’t need people walking around the area,” said Venetta. “They’re breaking up the whole community… I’m upset they’re doing this on my block.”

Jared Hagar, an Oakdale resident who has done volunteer work for FREE, said, “They keep these properties impeccable; they are clean, they are built to the highest standards. You couldn’t possibly ask for a better project. If another entity went in there like Skills, there would be a lot more traffic.”

Hagar went on to say, “They are an excellent organization.”

Kathy Patterson, who lives across the street with her husband, said she was in support of the project and asked the planning board, “Currently we have a lot of traffic from Skills Unlimited… when this goes into place, are we going to improve Locust Avenue? Are we going to have curbs?” Patterson listed several traffic infractions on Locust Avenue that resulted in property damage.

“FREE is an excellent organization… this is a wonderful opportunity for the neighborhood,” said Patterson.

Scott Maskin submitted a statement that said he was in the construction industry, owned several commercial properties, and was well versed in residential projects.

In the statement, Maskin asked, “I urge this panel to evaluate this project on the merits without being influenced by NIMBYism.”

“When viewing the site plan, one should note the low density and landscaping… this is a good project and should move forward,” said Maskin.

Denise Carillo said, “I’m not opposed to what the place does, just the location” and cited traffic concerns.

“Everybody cuts through… you can’t even get out of your neighborhood,” said Carillo.

Debbie Lee Antonio commended the FREE representative for “covering all your areas,” but said he “neglected to mention all ballgames, soccer games, kids in the area.”

“I’m opposed to this because kids run around throughout the neighborhood until 8 at night and there are no sidewalks. Where are these special-needs people supposed to walk? What if they wander off?... There’s plenty of other open spaces.”

The last speaker for the public commentary portion was Marty Bonfield, who said he attended a previous community meeting with FREE.

He described FREE as “deceptive, in a lot of ways. Kind of pulling at the heartstrings of the community. Bringing up the fact that these are disabled people. That’s not a problem. But it’s 40 apartments… the traffic it’s going to cause.”

Countering the claim of industrial buildings already in the area, Bonfield said, “At 5 o’clock or 6 o’clock, all of those businesses shut down, it’s quiet.”

Susan Sorrentino, chief administrative officer for FREE, spoke and said, “We have many residential programs on Long Island; most of them are certified group homes… the apartments that we’re utilizing for support for those clients that are the same level of independence [who] are renting from your Fairfield… this was an opportunity for us to create more affordable options for our clients.”
Sorrentino said that there was no other site for the apartment complex being considered. 


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