Local politicians and Huntington Town residents have successfully lobbied the state Department of Transportation to halt construction of a rest stop on exit 51 of the Long Island Expressway.
Individuals were up in arms over the proposal, and lawmakers expressed their dissatisfaction about the plans. Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) said it’s an unacceptable location for a rest stop and said the rest stop itself is unnecessary.
“It backs a residential area,” Stern said in a phone interview. “Unlike other rest stops or centers, where they carry on commercial activity, on the LIE, here all the exits are about a mile apart. There is an ample supply of restaurants, shopping centers and restrooms at every exit, so there is no need for a separate rest stop at this location.”
Stern said the plan calls for featuring the state’s Taste NY program, designed to promote New York’s agriculture vendors. This particular Taste NY would serve as a gateway for Long Island wine country out east, according to Stern.
“This exit is a long way from being a gateway to the East End,” Stern said about why this exit choice doesn’t make sense to promote Taste NY.
According to Stern, Suffolk County has made an offer to work with New York State to create a Taste NY location off exit 67 in Yaphank, which Stern said is a more appropriate location.
Gary Holmes, director of communications for the state’s Department of Transportation, said no work is currently being done at exit 51.
“The commissioner has held several productive meetings with local and state officials on Long Island, and while no decisions have been made about the rest stop at exit 51, we look forward to continued conversations about the health and safety of all users of the LIE,” Holmes said in an email. “LIE motorists deserve a safe place to rest and we’ll keep working on the best way to do that.”
Town Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) said the rest stop should not be added, and that she started fighting plans for it 15 years ago.
“I led the charge against this rest stop when I was vice president of the House Beautiful Dix Hills Civic Association,” Berland said in a phone interview. “I have always been opposed to this.”
She also said the Taste NY aspect is inappropriate, and that the state should not be selling alcohol on an expressway: “The last thing you want to do is give people the opportunity to get alcohol there.”
Berland said the rest stop is too close to a residential community, and the construction the state’s done so far was done without permission. She said residents are already being impacted by the sound of the LIE because brush berms have been removed.
Assemblyman Chad A. Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) agreed that the rest stop is disruptive to residential life near exit 51.
“The location is poor because of the noise and the secondary effects it will have to the area and the residents,” Lupinacci said in a phone interview. “I am totally against it.”
Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) agreed with his colleagues that the rest stop should not go up, and that the voices of Huntington are not being heard.
“It doesn’t sound like the Town of Huntington was involved in this decision,” Spencer said in a phone interview. “I always think coordination and communication with the community is key.”