Suffolk County transit bus. Current Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine left the Long Island Regional Planning Council, a group that aids in planning infrastructure on Long Island, in 2018. ADAM E. MOREIRA/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS VIA CC BY SA 3.0

Will Ferraro is the Democratic and Working Families candidate for Brookhaven Town Supervisor and a graduate of Stony Brook University’s Masters in Public Policy program.

Imagine a time when a Stony Brook University (SBU) student can finish an afternoon class and head onto an electric town bus, operating seven days per week.

They travel from campus past a beautiful greenway to a rent-stabilized duplex in a walkable area of Farmingville, where the student prepares for a job interview in Port Jefferson with EverSource, a company that operates a wind farm on the East End. EverSource agrees to train them cost-free over the next year while they finish their bachelor’s degree in engineering, before hiring the student as a Project Solutions Analyst with full benefits. This would give them the necessary salary to purchase a home ⁠— something made possible on a single income because public transportation has negated the need for a vehicle.

Now they’re heading back to campus to attend a meeting for the university’s Community Advisory Board, which includes representatives from community groups including the Graduate Student Employees Union (GSEU) and other student represented groups. The meeting topics range from a new university-owned off-campus apartment complex to a discussion on the size of the incoming freshman class.

At the meeting’s end, the Town Supervisor of Brookhaven walks in to update the board on his recent trip to Albany, where he lobbied for a Senate bill to expand the state’s program providing free in-state tuition.

This is what a sustainable future looks like, and one of the reasons I’m running for Brookhaven Town Supervisor: to make this future a reality by 2024.

Too many politicians offer students empty promises with platitudes about jobs, investment and affordability. When you ask them to define the problem and propose a solution, they stop short.

People chastise young voters for not turning out in better numbers for local elections. I blame politicians who have failed to give them something worth voting for.

Right now, two large entities are failing students, young workers and local communities: SBU and the Town of Brookhaven. For SBU’s part, former President Stanley’s tenure was a disaster. SBU stole wages from its grad student employees through excessive fees, admitted too many students without care for the inevitable impacts on housing and transportation and has not stepped up to work in a meaningful way with local officials to solve any of these issues.

For Brookhaven’s part, Supervisor Edward Romaine’s secretive, corporate-funded Republican Town Board has dragged its feet on regional planning issues, placing most of the burden on Suffolk County while punting on transportation solutions. Their primary focus on code enforcement does nothing but lay a coat of sweetener on problems that remain unsolved.

Brookhaven’s sole focus is cracking down on your landlords for renting single-family homes to 10 students at a time. I’m not blind to that problem; the Three Village community has shouldered the entire burden, and local residents have a right to be angry. Some of these people have spent generations living here, and like you, they want respect and a voice.

I don’t believe that the interests of students and locals are mutually exclusive. Many of you have been unfairly evicted and profited off of by greedy landlords. The local housing crisis and lack of sustainable job prospects keeps graduating students transient and uninvested in our town. Horrendous road infrastructure on major roads like Stony Brook Road is an area of mutual agreement; so is the involvement of a diversely represented search committee for the university’s next president.

What I’m proposing is a town-led partnership to achieve regional planning solutions that will create a thriving community for everyone. Before we can attract jobs and investment, we need to fix our housing and transportation issues. As Supervisor, I would spearhead the creation of a town-owned electric bus fleet with routes to every major shopping area and housing development. The town would zone for dense, multi-family units such as duplexes in hamlets like Farmingville and Port Jefferson Station where revitalization projects make the most sense. I would help the county expedite a greenway project to replace the planned Gyrodyne development that would constitute a transportation nightmare.

Town roads are in desperate need of repair, and I would be the most aggressive Supervisor in town history on road infrastructure, by directing more funding for road repair and appointing a Public Infrastructure Advocate.

Finally, the town must get more serious in its dealings with SBU. Romaine’s plan to “force” the university to mandate non-commuter freshmen to live on campus is a ridiculous fantasy. What is more realistic is to apply pressure points towards the creation of a permanent advisory board ⁠— with students, town leaders, community groups and local legislators ⁠— that would begin its job by aiding in the search for the next university president. SBU must also prioritize the building of off-campus student housing, particularly in Port Jefferson.

On Nov. 5, I urge you to cast your vote for Town Supervisor.

The Statesman does not endorse any political candidate for office.

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