The questions of who owns the large vacant lot on South Middle Neck Road, where it meets Susquehanna Avenue and why it, and the area bordering it where Gilchrest Road terminates, have become favorite places to dump garbage, have been answered.
The Long Island Power Authority is the actual owner of record of the lot, whose sidewalk extends halfway down the South Middle block, almost to Overlook Avenue, and is a popular route for walkers going to and from the LIRR and the Great Neck business district. The MTA also has a bus stop in front of the property. PSEG, which took over LIPA at the beginning of the year, is now responsible for the lot.
There is also a fence at the back of the property with an opening that allows pedestrians who would rather avoid the noise and speeding traffic on Middle Neck to walk through Thomaston and use Gilchrest as an alternative route to the center of town.
“People come in here with a small truck and find it an easy place to dump and get rid of their load,” said Village of Thomaston Mayor Robert Stern, referring to the dead end on Gilchrest and the area on the other side of the fence. “We’ve cleaned up this area a lot,” added Thomaston Superintendent William Mazurkiewicz, who was visiting the site in response to a complaint made to the Village.
Over the past several years, everything from office furniture to refrigerators to old gas cans have been dumped on either side of the fence, besides the usual litter from food and beverages. A nearby homeowner even instructed his gardener to empty his truck there after an afternoon of clearing his backyard of all his trees and bushes. The village was able to identify who the violator was and forced him to remove it all.
During the visit, Mazurkiewicz, and another staff member closely examined the fence opening to see what repairs might be needed, especially where one of the horizontal poles juts out into the passageway at eye level. A gravel path, running through the property, leads to the opening.
The Mayor, who has been in office 19 years and has lived in Thomaston over 60 years, said that LIPA had originally installed some very heavy power cables under the lot. “They were put in many, many years ago, so you wouldn’t want to start digging and planting,” he said when asked about any possible development of the site. “You might get electrocuted.”
Jeffrey Weir, director of communications for PSEG Long Island, addressed some of the lot’s history. “The path that cuts through the property was actually requested to be installed in the 1970’s by the Village of Thomaston,” he said.
Weir actually arranged for a new survey of the property to be taken earlier this month when the Great Neck Record inquired as to whether the fence was on LIPA’s (now PSEG’s) or Thomaston’s property. The fence is Thomaston’s and signs on the fence facing Gilchrest warn against dumping (a $250 fine) and that parking in the dead end is reserved for “official use only.”
“We’ll keep an eye on this a little closer,” Stern promised, in regard to the Gilchrest area, “but we’re limited to what we can do.”
Weir also acknowledged the litter. “The lot is maintained on a biweekly basis by PSEG,” he said. “I talked with the maintenance team and they said the litter on our side of the fence appeared to be very fresh, less than two weeks old.” But PSEG did immediately go in and clean the area.
Mayor Stern was frank when asked about the LIPA/PSEG’s performance in maintaining the lot. “They do shovel the walk, generally, during snow,” he answered. “Oh, from time to time we holler at them. But PSEG is new and I don’t know them. When LIPA was here we had somebody to talk to and they would clean it (the lot) up now and then. Maybe once a year they would rake it up.”
But the lot would have been handled differently were it not owned by a utility, according to Stern. “We would have cleaned it up and sold it already if it was ours, but it isn’t,” he said.