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Sayville residents protest proposed Rechler apartments at Island Hills

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Milynn Augulis has less than two months to strengthen her ranks before a forthcoming battle in a four-year standoff.

The president of the Greater Islip Association opposes Rechler Equity Partner’s Greybarn Sayville proposal, which seeks a 27-building 1,365-unit residential complex built at the 114-acre site of the former Island Hills golf course.

Sporting a popular “No Zone Change” red t-shirt, she stood among 120 protesters gathered at the corner of Lakeland Avenue and 11th St. Sunday afternoon from noon to 2 p.m. The crowd galvanized to oppose Rechler’s 2017 request — which remains under review — to change the site’s zoning from residential to planned development district for multi-family housing.

Demonstraitions like Sunday’s, as well as mailings that Augulis hopes to issue, are recruitment efforts before a Town of Islip public hearing slated for December. As vice president of the Connetquot Board of Education, she is a firm believer that numbers speak volumes.

“The idea is to fill up those venues,” she said. “I know if my room fills up with parents, it’s a hot topic people are concerned about.”

Too tall

Rechler’s proposal calls for 1,365 market-rate and workforce apartments and amenities, such as swimming pools, dog parks, a screening room, billiards and game rooms, a community garden, grilling areas and fire pits, according to the project’s webpage.

Four-story buildings will contain this living and amenity space, the height of which residents feel is inappropriate in a residential neighborhood.

“I’ve been out here because we’re trying to save a community,” Kevin Shapiro, one of the protesters, said. “There’s a big buildout going on on Long Island but this one is right in the middle of a neighborhood.”

Golf course chemicals

The developer’s Greybarn Sayville webpage lists community concerns that will be considered throughout its review process, from the uncharacteristic nature of a four-story project in a residential neighborhood to environmental impacts.

Residents are concerned the construction process will release pesticides and other chemicals used on the former golf course, causing them to become airborne and contaminate Green’s Creek. there’s also concern over the disruption of natural habitats, native and potentially endangered plant life and storm water patterns.

Too many cars

One notable absence from the developer’s list of concerns is traffic.

Dozens of cars honked their horns as they drove by the protest. Many protesters pointed to the volume of vehicles as another point of contention with the apartment complex.

“During the week, you always have a jam up,” Shapiro said. “It’s already bad, figure you add another 3,000 people, it will be so much worse.”

“It just doesn’t make sense here,” fellow protester Tom Johnson added. “If they had mass transportation here, if they had sewer infrastructure here going to a municipal plant that’s out of area, if they had the proper streets here for the amount of cars, it would be a little bit better.”

To address some of these issues, the Greater Islip Association raised about $25,000 to hire engineers for private traffic and environmental impact studies. Augulis said they are awaiting the results.

Rechler’s response

Gregg Rechler, a co-managing partner of Rechler Equity Partners, prepared a statement following the upset in the Sayville community.

“We have spent more than four years listening to the community’s feedback on the initial plan for Greybarn Sayville and have launched a new website that articulates the points of concern by Sayville residents and much more,” Rechler said in the statement. “We remain committed to working through the Town’s process and are eager for the opportunity to present a significantly-revised, community-enhanced plan that takes this feedback into account.”

Despite the Greybarn Sayville web page and Rechler’s statement, community members feel ignored.

“The developers have been very unwilling to work with us,” protester John Tafe said. “We got frustrated because we’re working so hard and it feels like their not listening. They say they are, but the plans still haven’t changed since 2017. They just updated their website saying they’re listening to us.”