President’s Letter – April 2014
Finally, after what seemed like a very long winter the weather is beginning to turn for the better. Now it is time to prepare for our semi-annual Holbrook Beautification cleanup day on May 3rd at 9 AM. In association with Legislator Bill Lindsay’s office we will be meeting over at the Seneca Middle School where we will provide clean-up items for all of our volunteers. We hope you would consider joining us as we help make our town a better place. Frankly, this is one of the very best initiatives the Chamber and community take place in every year. Let’s make a difference together and encourage our neighbors to keep Holbrook litter free.
Earlier last month the Chamber attended along with several Holbrook Residents and fellow community leaders from surrounding towns a public comment hearing over at the Islip Town Hall with respect to the proposed change of zone application for the Islip Pines Project located along both the Sunrise/Veterans’ Hwy. corridors of the southern portion of Holbrook. The property is just west of Costco, south of the Parkland Development and southeast of the Bishop Lane community. Many valid concerns were heard by the Town Board regarding traffic and safety, environmental impacts, quality of Life and the oversaturation of development specifically that of a retail component. All comments were heard for close to 3 hours in a meeting hall at full capacity. The Town Board Members as is protocol with this type of meeting did not make any statements and only spoke if they had a question or to clarify a comment.
Both our Vice President Kevin Guilfoyle and I spoke before the Board. Kevin quite candidly commented first on how “our downtowns are dying” given their current void of sewers which leads to more of an ability to attract new restaurants and medical offices. He also spoke about how today’s consumer is sourcing more on-line and not as much within the downtowns. He also stated that the current industrial zoning for the Pines property as it stands is no longer economically viable. Given current energy costs and taxes the demand for manufacturing on Long Island has declined dramatically over the past several years. Kevin continued to state that given the same change of zone logic the Town Board is contemplating utilizing with the Pines, the Chamber will in turn now look to deploy that same logic with amending some of our own downtown zoning regulations.
I then commented on the trichotomy that currently challenges my own position as follows; 1. Residential, as many of you know I grew up in Holbrook and my Mom and Dad still reside in that home located right in the aforementioned Parkland Development, literally a few thousand feet from the Pines property. In fact, for my only other employment when I was 16 I used to walk along the LIPA trail to get to the Sun-Vet Mall which literally runs through this large parcel of land. My concern is to not have the quality of life impacted negatively for my parents who are original owners and have resided there for nearly 40 years. That’s what is actually most important to me as their son. No matter what happens in or with your business, mom and dad are always number one first and foremost. 2. I own and operate a large pharmacy on Main Street of which I have either been employed or owned for the past 30 years. As a retailer, I echo the concerns of my fellow chambers and local business owners just the same if not more. I have a lot at stake in the event a competitive business or businesses take occupancy within this project. To which I cautioned the Town Board that if the application is approved they must consider limiting the overall retail footprint. 3. As the President of the Holbrook Chamber for the past 15 years and currently holding an advisory position on the Town of Islip’s Economic Development Commission for over 5 years I have to broaden my thoughts with respect to future development. There are significant and sorely needed tax benefits to be considered for Sachem despite unfounded rumors that the residential component of the Pines will drive up student enrollment. For starters, Sachem enrollment has been on a slight decline of recent and frankly not to pigeonhole the developer but in all likelihood the condos will attract more of our senior Long Island population looking to perhaps downsize a bit and enjoy life a little more. The use may be mixed similar to the community I reside in with younger working people and recent retirees who love the local food & entertainment too much to relocate out of the area. I do not feel it will have a negative impact on the school district whatsoever. Islip Town is also in need of more tax revenue and in speaking with the property owner’s attorney he said none of these rumored tax abatements have even come up in discussions with the Town. So as I ponder my own trilogy of issues and try and do what’s best for all involved please understand I cannot remain as myopic as those who may only have an agenda or two.
Both my Vice President and I do not want to sound like politicians but in all fairness we have to state for the record that the Holbrook Chamber has not yet taken a position of support or opposition with respect to the Islip Pines proposed change of zone. We’re still meeting and continuing an intense dialogue with both our Islip Officials and the Developers. We still have serious concerns with respect to traffic mitigation issues that we need worked out. In the end, our Chamber always wants what’s’ best for our entire community and anyone who truly knows us will attest to this as being the truth. I know a number of our “sister” chambers and civics are questioning why we are not 100% opposed to the Islip Pines but frankly after all of these years of being one of the lead organizations in improving the lovely community of Holbrook we feel we had to stand alone and weigh out all of our options and hopefully do what’s best for OUR own community’s interest.
In closing, please consider joining the Chamber as we celebrate our 60th Anniversary on May 1st at Villa Lombardi’s. We will host a great cocktail hour, delicious dinner and dancing to the Legendary “Somethin Fresh” dance band. The event is open to ALL of our friends, neighbors, residents and businesses .This promises to be a night to remember. Our Chamber has worked very hard over all these years to improve our downtown, promote local businesses, provide many great cultural events and raise the property values for our homeowners and commercial property owners respectively. Come out and help us recognize this wonderful organization for its 60 years of service.
Happy Passover and Easter, holiday blessings to all!
All the Best Always,
Rick Ammirati, President
Holbrook Chamber of Commerce