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New plan aims to turn Stony Brook into a college town

Stony Brook University and the Town of Brookhaven announced earlier this month that they are seeking to develop a shopping strip along Route 25A near the Long Island Rail Road station in Stony Brook and the adjoining area on the other side of the tracks.

The renovation will primarily involve making the area more pedestrian-friendly and is intended to smooth the transition from campus to community.

“The broad goal is to make the railroad station area more attractive, to provide more varied commercial services to students and local residents via a plan that will guide growth for as long as the next couple of decades,” SBU physics professor Robert de Zafra said.

Many homeowners, however. reacted strongly on the Internet, saying that their property values and quality of life decrease in proportion to the degree of student presence outside of the university. Members of the outside community have often questioned whether or not university involvement in their community is in their best interest.

Susan Studier, a Stony Brook resident for 45 years, said her biggest concern is the traffic.

“Students at the university need services and places to go, so I see that,” she said. “But my first thought was they would need to widen [Route 25A]. More shops would make a lot of traffic problems. It is already crazy with people pulling out of 7-11.”

University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said he is aware of those concerns, but he said SBU “works very hard to be a good neighbor,” according to a university spokeswoman.

“[The project] will certainly help to stimulate the local economy through increased foot traffic, and we are very interested in helping the local economy grow as we continue to grow as a university,” Stanley said.

The Town of Brookhaven created the Stony Brook Safety, Beautification and Improvement Planning Committee, which comprises university faculty, community representatives and civic officials, to find a developer for the project. Once the decision is made, it will go to the Town Council in the form of a

recommendation. The council’s approval is required before an official hire can be made.

Tullio Bertoli, the commissioner of planning in the Town of Brookhaven, said that community members should not feel threatened.

“What the project is really about is the creation of a destination, a sense of place,” he said.

Wendy Martin, a resident of Stony Brook for 27 years, said the project could finally allow for students and the community to interact.

“I always thought we needed more shops here. In fact I would open one myself,” he said. “The community has always turned its back on the college. The railroad divides the university from the town.”

De Zafra said that even if the committee can come to a consensus on which developer to hire, the plan “might take some years to fully unfold. “

“There is no construction planned yet and no construction date in sight. The point is to have a plan, rather than a random series of private decisions as to what might be appropriate or ‘make money’ for someone,” de Zafra said. “Everyone profits from an attractive, cohesive shopping and residential area.”

Last year, senior Seong Hoon Baek was killed in a hit-and-run while biking off-campus. In 2010, another was killed in an automobile accident while crossing Nicolls Road.

De Zafra also said there is discussion about the safety of crossing both Route 25A and Nicolls Road and how to improve both services and appearance of the area between Nicolls Road and Bennetts Road.

Bertoli characterized the initiative as a “community-based plan.”  The project grew out of the local civic association’s desire to create more cohesion between the area by the railroad tracks and the university. SBU and the Town of Brookhaven have only recently become involved.

Similar projects on Long Island have been implemented with varying success.

The Ronkonkoma Hub Project, an initiative to develop a parcel of land near Long Island MacArthur Airport, made a formal agreement with developer TRITEC Real Estate Company in August to build up the area, and recently received a “best plan” award from the Town of Brookhaven.

Other efforts have stagnated, such as a recent push by community members to protect the Carmans River, which has failed to gain traction.

 

 

Ashleigh Sherow contributed reporting to this story.

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    physics137Oct 16, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    Great idea!!

    Reply