Stony Brook University resident students are not chained to campus—they have the ability to take public transportation to a variety of nearby areas.
Suffolk Transit buses take students to off-campus locations such as Smith Haven Mall and grocery stores, and university buses do the same on weekends. The new 7Bus, stationed at the Student Activities Center, stops at various locations in New York City. And the Long Island Rail Road is right on-campus as well, taking students all over Long Island and to NYC. The LIRR also takes students to Port Jefferson’s Main Street hub. With a five to 10 minute train ride, students can wander the numerous shops and restaurants there.
Only approximately ten to fifteen minutes from Stony Brook is Ronkonkoma, an area within the Town of Brookhaven. Recently, town officials and residents are discussing a $475 million project to re-develop a mix of residential, commercial, hospitality, retail and entertainment around the Ronkonkoma train station. In short, the town is planning to build a hub of their own.
According to an article by Patch, a public hearing at Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville was held last January to inform residents about the project and to show concept photos of the finished product. The project received some negative feedback when residents expressed concerns about overcapacity, traffic and possible tax increase.
In the comments section of an article by Patch, a user who used the screen name “Stephen 5632” stated that he is “now worried about overcrowded parking and the possibility of actually getting charged for parking. It will be just another tax.”
Another user who used the screen name “any” commented that “the increase in the tax base will help the town as they desperately try to fill their current budget shortfalls, but at what price long term?”
However, other residents believe that the new hub would attract more local young adults to stay on Long Island, benefiting local businesses.
In the article by Patch, President of the Ronkonkoma Chamber of Commerce Denise Schwarz said that “the chamber feels that the project would only brighten our way of living, and give new opportunities to residents and businesses that want to call Ronkonkoma home.”
No votes took place during the hearing and the public was encouraged to send feedback to the Town in the subsequent 30 days.
At Stony Brook, the Undergraduate Student Government realizes the positive impact of the hub in Port Jefferson to student life, thus the many attempts at providing a late night Port Jeff bus for student use. This legislation is yet to pass.
USG Vice President of Communications and Public Relations Mario Ferone is one member of the Executive Council pushing for the Port Jeff route. A Long Island native from Plainview, Ferone feels that Long Island does not have much to offer college students in terms of leisure.
“So to kind of have these areas, something like Port Jeff, where it’s more conducive to young working people, it will keep them on Long Island,” Ferone said.
Ferone described his hometown, in comparison to Port Jeff’s busy Main Street easily made accessible by LIRR, as filled with more “parking lots and shopping malls” than anything else.
“So if you don’t have a car, it’s really hard to do anything,” Ferone said. “So I think that’s one of the cool benefits of having an area like Port Jeff or Ronkonkoma, we have like a Main Street with things to do in one area.”
If this Ronkonkoma hub eventually comes into fruition, Ferone said that it could be considered as another alternative weekend spot for Stony Brook students, with it being so close to campus.
The problem, though, is if students do not have a car and use the LIRR to get to Ronkonkoma instead, the various transfers at Huntington and Hicksville could take up to two and half hours of travel time compared to the ten to fifteen minute drive by car.
“We can also look at other, maybe different alternatives on how to get students there, if that’s possible,” Ferone said. “I think that should be a goal of the University in the whole providing students with places to go and things to do.”
Correction: February 21, 2014
An earlier version of this article misidentified the location of Ronkonkoma—it is in the Town of Brookhaven, not the Town of Islip.