Mastic Beach Village officials had a message Monday night for Hampton Bays Civic Association members considering incorporation as a means of having greater control over their hamlet: it won’t be easy.
Mayor Bill Biondi, along with former Mayor Paul Breschard, Zoning Board Chairman Chris Ricciardi and Mastic Beach resident Stephen Colaianni, outlined the years of dedication it took to complete the process of incorporating their village. The task came at a cost of $40,000, which the group raised with donations and by hosting fundraisers.
“It’s been such a great satisfaction in my life to be a part of that,” Mr. Breschard told the estimated 100 people who packed the town senior center on Ponquogue Avenue.
The Mastic Beach residents first formed the Pattersquash Creek Civic Association, and, later, a village exploratory committee with members who dedicated thousands and thousands of hours to their objective of forming a village, voting democratically on every decision along the way. The sweat they put into the undertaking paid off, they said, when the public approved their village’s creation in 2010.
“It’s been a long battle, but Mastic Beach has come a long way,” Mr. Biondi said.
Much to the pleasure of the Hampton Bays community members listening in, the Mastic Beach officials shared some positive news. They said they were able to cut taxes for their residents by an average of $73 per year, explaining that the savings comes largely from a slash in the price of the new village’s twice-a-week garbage pickup service.
George and Nancy Land, who live in Hampton Bays, said they were pleased to hear about that savings. They have lived in the hamlet since the early 1960s and recalled voting against incorporation twice—once later that decade and again in the 1970s.
Mr. Breschard pointed out that the taxes Mastic Beach residents paid to the Town of Brookhaven were not all that hefty, accounting for a few hundred dollars a year, but once the village incorporated, officials were able to use those dollars efficiently and with the benefit of being free of debt and contracts. “It was a lot when we collected it and kept it, and we use it and use it more wisely,” he said.
The struggle and frustration of Mastic Beach residents with Brookhaven Town largely paralleled that of Hampton Bays residents with Southampton Town. The Mastic Beach residents said they grew exasperated with the number of abusive landlords neglecting rental properties and taking advantage of tenants. They criticized Brookhaven Town code enforcement officers for failing to properly prosecute those who violated the town code.
“What had been an absolute paradise had become something else,” Mr. Breschard said. That improved once the village incorporated, largely due to the fact that the village’s justice court was efficient in fining violators of the code, he said.
“The court is probably the single most important thing,” he said, explaining that the village judge lives in the village and, therefore, can witness the problems for himself.
The Mastic Beach officials also said that Brookhaven Town failed to fine landlords who rented out homes or apartments without permits. Since the village incorporated, the number of rental permits has jumped from 500 to 1,600, according to Timothy Brojer, the Mastic Beach Village administrator. The permitting process generates revenue for the village, and also gives the village greater oversight over rental properties because inspectors visit each individual site. Mr. Biondi said he has seen many homes that were previously rented out illegally put up for sale.
“We don’t want to drive the poor people out—we want them to live with dignity,” Mr. Breschard said. “That’s what we’re all about, making sure the housing stock is livable.”
Also in attendance at the meeting was Joseph Prokop, an attorney specializing in the creation of villages and an attorney for five villages in the county, including West Hampton Dunes. The Mastic Beach officials hired Mr. Prokop to help guide them through the incorporation process. He also helped in the creation of West Hampton Dunes and Sagaponack villages, as well as several other villages.
Mr. Prokop explained that under state law, the new village could be no larger than 5 square miles, unless residents choose to incorporate an existing municipal taxing district. The Hampton Bays School District is about 12 square miles. The Mastic Beach representatives said they chose to incorporate their zip code, and they met the required footage by excluding a portion of Fire Island and properties within the William Floyd School District, which sit on the outskirts of the village.