Imagine a vibrant downtown development surrounding the Stony Brook train station corridor on Route 25A: a beautiful, village-like community that is safe for pedestrians – one that encourages people to shop and dine in the area while remaining respectful of the nearby residents and convenient for nearby students.
That kind of vision is what has brought together a new community-based group of leaders, the "Stony Brook Safety, Beautification and Improvement Planning Committee." It has been tasked with exploring ideas that would re-imagine that area of the Three Village community, make it safer for traffic and pedestrians, and plan for the future with the help of the residents and stakeholders.
Modeled to an extent after the committee that convened for – for which an East Setauket-based company, Tritec Real Estate, was recently – town supervisor Mark Lesko invited leaders from all facets of Three Village community life to participate, from the school board to the fire districts to the various historical preservation and civic groups. Ultimately, the committee will make recommendations to Brookhaven's town board, which will then formally decide how to proceed.
"This group will lead public outreach and be the ones to review and seek submissions from potential master developers," Lesko said. "You’re talking about a community-based planning process. Here are the leaders and here they will shape the process."
The idea was partly born out of necessity to accommodate the anticipated influx of Stony Brook University students to be housed in new dormitories to be built in the coming years in the vicinity of the train station on the University side of the tracks.
"We’re going to have even more dorms close to the station on the University site, so why not prepare for that?" town councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld said. "The off campus community has been around a lot longer than that. We should be kind of maturing together, and accommodating what is going to be an additional population."
Stony Brook president Samuel L. Stanley junior said the University administration supports the project.
"I thnk we have a great opportunity to do something very special," Stanley said, "to benefit not just the University, but the community as well."
Stanley pointed to the community surrounding Princeton University as an example of what smart community-based planning can do for the local culture. Mixed-use development and smart planning have created a college-town feel with shopping, dining, office space, and other attractions, largely accessible by public transportation.
"The real hope here is that we can be about the creation of a university based community that we’re all proud of," he said.
Among the committee members is Bob deZafra, who is a Civic Association board member, Three Village Community Trust board member, and Stony Brook professor emeritus; Jonathan Kornreich, vice president of the Three Village school board; Cynthia Blair, a Stony Brook resident who lives near the train station; Barbara Chernow, Stony Brook University's senior vice president for administration; executives of the Chamber of Commerce; and other community leaders.
Fiore-Rosenfeld along with Suffolk Legis. Kara Hahn, State Sen. John Flanagan, and State Assemb. Steve Englebright will also be involved in the process but will not carry a voting responsibility on the committee.
Former Greenport mayor Dave Kapell, whose vision for improvement helped revitalize the incorporated village of Greenport as a welcoming and beautiful place, will also sit on the new planning commitee.
The committee's first step will be putting out a call to more than 200 master planners/developers across the nation to gauge their interest in working with the committee to shape the vision for the Stony Brook downtown. The committee will also facilitate community meetings to hear residents' and business owners' thoughts and ideas.
The target area spans Route 25A from Bennetts Road in Setauket down to the property of at 1115 North Country Road, Stony Brook. The land is owned or managed by multiple parties: the Long Island Rail Road, New York State Department of Transportation, Stony Brook University, and multiple private business owners.
Lesko said the project likely won't be affected by his from the town government.
"My role was to bring people together and get the process started, but really let the community lead the process going forward," he said. "Thats the best way to do this. It's really the only way to do this."