The Civic Association of the Setaukets (CAS) has
been an active voice in issues impacting the Three Village area for over sixty years!
Dr. Charles Herman, a resident of Stony Brook, was a prime mover in the Association’s formation in May of 1942. Ward and Dorothy Melville were among the Association’s early members and long-time supporters. In the 1940’s, the Three Village’s were a quiet rural area struggling out of the effects of the depression years of the 1930’s and the impact of WW II. Farming was still a significant activity, and the total population was a small fraction of the present 38,000 inhabitants.
In the 1950’s the Association worked with the United Zoning Committee, an umbrella group of Three Village citizens and organizations, to institute the area’s first comprehensive zoning plan. The general outline of that plan can still be traced, including East Setauket’s light industrial zone around the old sand-pits and the research and development area along Terminal Road, which were included to form a more comprehensive tax base for the growth of the school system that was looming as suburban development moved eastward on the Island.
Amendments to this early zoning plan also included land for a regional shopping center at the south-east corner of Route 347 and Nichols Road, when these new highways were being laid out in the1960’s. That regional center was preempted by the construction of SmithHaven Mall, whose tax base went instead to Smithtown and Lake Grove. The unused shopping center site came to haunt the Three Village area through the next 20
In the mid 1960’s the Association, along with other North Shore organizations, was instrumental in successfully opposing a major highway rebuilding for Route 25A. The plan was promoted by New York State highway and park czar Robert Moses, as a prelude to a bridge crossing the Sound to Connecticut somewhere between Old Field and Shoreham. Locally, the plan included a four lane highway through Kings Park, bypassing Smithtown via a high-rise bridge across the Nissequogue River, slicing through Head of the Harbor, leaping Stony Brook Road over the Mount House on another high-rise bridge, and heading east through the present Stony Brook Railroad Station area and onward to Port Jefferson.
Fighting fire with fire, the CAS pointed out a shorter and less costly route to Port Jefferson Station, which helped end the local rebuilding with the help of County planning czar Lee Koppleman, and shortly after that Governor Rockefeller caved in to general opposition from many communities along Route 25A and announced the proposal was dead.
Not long after that came a monumental battle over Suffolk County’s plans to install sewer systems and treatment plants throughout the County. This was seen by many Civic groups, including the CAS, as little more than a well-stuffed pork barrel for County politicians to dip into. Sewers connected to regional treatment plants were also seen as catering to the building industry’s lobbying for higher housing density (allowed with sewers, but not with recharging cesspools). Housing density itself was an ongoing issue, as Brookhaven Town slowly moved, with prompting from the CAS, to revise earlier zoning concepts by increasing minimum lot sizes and adding new categories of zoning in the Three Village area.
The 1960’s and 70’s saw the construction of most of today’s suburban landscape in this area – the various alphabetical sections of Strathmore, the Story Book Homes in East Setauket, etc. SmithHaven Mall was added to the landscape, and the CAS fought relentlessly against further down-zoning for commercial uses along Rt. 347. What remains of green spaces or residential areas, rather than commercial “strip-mauling” along that highway, is largely a result of battles fought by the CAS with developers, and too often with the Town of Brookhaven itself.
One of the more recent of these was with the mega-giant retailer Carefour, which tried to take over the abandoned regional mall site at Route 347 and Nichols Road to construct a single mega-store of its own, well after this made any sense to the local economy- or the future of Nesconset Highway. The CAS was indeed successful in defeating Carefour, but the Town failed to take advantage of the opportunity to rezone this land and now much of it has been developed into big-box stores.
The CAS made the first suggestion (in 1975) that a new Brookhaven Master Plan should include Historic Districts, and shortly afterward that concept was enacted in the Town’s zoning code. As a result, four Historic Districts in northern Brookhaven were designated for in the Three Village area.
In recent years, the CAS has joined with other local groups in successful advocacy for preservation of the
Thompson-Detmer Farm (a 20-year-long cliff hanger), the Sherwood-Jayne farm in East Setauket, the Forthsyth Meadow and Forest plus the adjacent Smoke Run Farm in Stony Brook, and the 9-acre Amy Elzon Preserve in Setauket.
The “Greening of Rt.
25A” was taken under the wing of the CAS following its success in planting over 100 trees along Route 25A as part of the Bicentennial Celebration. The Greening of 25A has continued with tree plantings, and for the past 15 years has maintained the landscaping around the Stony Brook Railroad Station - a prize-winning activity making it one of the LIRR’s most attractive stations.
Lately the CAS has worked with the State Department of Transportation in planning its recent improvements to Route 25A from Ridgeway Avenue through East Setauket, and in organizing sponsors to take care of the installed landscaping along the
The CAS meets at the Emma Clark Library in Setauket on the first Monday of the month from September through June. Recent meetings have included opportunities to meet local school board and political candidates, presentation of school budgets, talks on traffic calming and signage issues, historic districts, Stony Brook University campus plans, the proposed Broadwater LNG facility, and other environmental issues. Our meetings are open to all and we welcome new members. The CAS is a long-time member of ABCO. CAS’s Executive Board member Cynthia Barnes is the ABCO delegate.