Brendan J. O'Reilly

6 POSTS 0 COMMENTS

Suffolk County Water Authority Introduces New Tiered Rate Structure

(Shutterstock photo)

In an effort to curb excessive water use and promote conservation, the Suffolk County Water Authority has adopted a tiered rate, charging 15.4 percent more than the standard rate after a customer’s water demand surpasses a certain level.

The new rate structure took effect April 1. The base drinking water charge for all SCWA customers increased from $1.95 per 1,000 gallons to $2.028 per 1,000 gallons. For household consumption in excess of 78,540 gallons per quarter, the rate is now $2.34 per 1,000 gallons.

Additionally, the quarterly basic service charge, which is applied at a flat rate regardless of how much water a household uses, rose from $24.27 to $27.91. That’s an increase of $14.56 per year.

Considering average household usage and the new usage rates, typical SCWA customers who use 160,000 gallons of water per year can expect their total annual water cost to rise $25, or about 6.5 percent, according to the water authority.

According to the utility, tiered systems are used throughout the country, including on Long Island, but this is a first for SCWA. Jeffrey Szabo, the water authority’s CEO, said that there are several reasons why the SCWA board elected to introduce tiers this year.

“Every five years we hire an independent firm to do a rate study to look at our finances and our capital projects, and our treatment and infrastructure, and all that stuff, and they provide a report and make recommendations to the board here on how much rates should increase in order to support our operating and capital expenses,” Szabo explained.

“When they did the report three years ago, they recommended about 6.5 percent every year. We have not done that,” he said. “The last three years, we’ve done in the neighborhood of a flat 4 percent, without a tiered rate structure. And we’ve tried to mitigate the need for that 6.5 percent by using what we call one-shots.”

Those one-shots have included the sale of surplus water authority property that was not needed for water purposes, and $2.25 million from merged cellular service providers that canceled leases for antennas on SCWA tanks.

Now, the water authority is out of one-shots, Szabo said, and additional recurring revenue is necessary to operate successfully with the highest credit ratings in the face of aging infrastructure and new state mandates expected on unregulated compounds in drinking water.

He said there is a strong likelihood that the state will institute a low minimum contaminant level for PFOS and PFOA. The per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are man-made chemicals used in stain resistant and nonstick products and other common household products, as well as firefighting foam. They are considered contaminants of emerging concern, with evidence that exposure can lead to adverse human health effects, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

In order to remove PFOS and PFOA, the utility will need to invest in new infrastructure that can filter out or destroy the compounds. Simultaneously, the state is urging Long Island water providers to reduce consumption.

“The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has an initiative that is strongly encouraging at this point an overall reduction in islandwide water consumption by 15 percent over three years, and we’re trying to comply with that,” Szabo said.

He also noted that consultants recommended charging the heaviest users more “because it costs us additional dollars to get them water.”

The 78,540-gallon limit before paying a higher rate applies to SCWA customers with 5/8-, 3/4- and 1-inch water meters. That encompasses the vast majority of customers. Above 1-inch, the threshold increases as the meter size increases.

Larger meters typically serve larger institutions, such as skilled nursing facilities, hospitals and schools, Szabo said, noting that the tier is 12 million gallons a quarter for an 8-inch meter.

To reach the new tiered rate, average residential SCWA customers would have to more than double their annual use, according to the utility. Heavy users can avoid hitting the tiered rate by not wastefully watering lawns in the spring and summer, SCWA advises.

In an average year, SCWA pumps approximately 68 billion gallons of water. That can be a few billion higher in a year with a particularly dry summer.

Szabo said between 20 and 25 percent of SCWA customers will likely fall into the higher tier. That is about 70,000 of 400,000 accounts serving 1.2 million people, he said.

SCWA customers with questions about the new rate structure may call customer service at 631-698-9500.

This article first appeared in The Southampton Press.

Fight To Uncap SALT Deduction Waged On County And Federal Fronts

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on March 5 announces a plan to restore SALT deductions.

In Suffolk County, the fight to uncap the deduction of state and local taxes, which was limited to $10,000 by the 2017 federal tax law, is being fought on two fronts.

On the local level, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is planning a “charitable gift reserve fund” as an end-run around the new law. It’s designed to allow the county’s homeowners to be able to receive a full federal deduction for the cost of their property taxes by instead paying them as a charitable donation. On the federal level, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) is working with a bipartisan coalition toward reinstating the deduction, known as SALT, for “state and local taxes.”

Before the new tax law, sales, income and property taxes paid were deductible when determining taxable income at the federal level, and there was no cap on the deduction. With SALT deductions now capped at $10,000 — and the standard deduction pegged at $12,200 for single filers and $24,400 for married couples for 2019 — the tax benefit of being a homeowner in New York has become nonexistent for many. It also means the same money is being taxed twice, first by local and state governments, and then by the federal government.

Zeldin, representing New York’s 1st Congressional District, was one of 12 Republicans who voted against the GOP tax bill, based largely on the inclusion of a cap on SALT deductions. He renewed his call to reinstate SALT during a House floor speech on Wednesday, March 13. House members joining him in the effort are fellow Long Island congressmen Peter King (R-Seaford) and Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), as well as Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Westchester) and Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-New Jersey).

“It was a geographic redistribution of wealth that impacted too many,” Zeldin said during a phone interview the day following his floor speech, explaining his 2017 vote against his party’s tax bill. Now, Zeldin expresses optimism that the plan to uncap SALT will gain traction in the House.

“I believe that it has the support to pass in the House of Representatives,” he said. “The House Ways and Means Committee has members who are very interested and focused on the issue. Hopefully, the Ways and Means Committee passes legislation and sends it to the floor to send over to the Senate.”

He said that he expects the House to act on reinstating SALT before the Senate acts, and that Senate action will require an effort on the part of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and others in the Senate. But because New York is among the states affected most by the new measure, it’s likely that the senator will support the effort.

“I believe Senator Schumer and his conference would be more inclined to support a change,” Zeldin said. “So whatever I can do to assist him and his colleagues with that effort in their chamber, I certainly would offer myself to help however they think would be best. And also advocating directly with the administration — the White House, with the president, directly.”

The Democrats wrested control of the House of Representatives from the Republicans in the 2018 election, and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts), became chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, the House’s chief tax-writing committee.

“The leadership of the Democratic Party appears to be more inclined to make a change to the SALT deduction, and I have been eagerly working with them on ideas to help make that happen, even though I’m in another party,” Zeldin said. “It shouldn’t matter whether you’re a Republican or Democrat when fighting for these important issues.”

But, according to Zeldin, the negative impact that the tax bill had on LI is overstated.

“Some people like to attempt a branding of the tax bill as if Long Island is about to capsize and tip over in the Atlantic Ocean because of its devastating impact across the board on all Long Islanders, and that’s not the case,” he said. “Approximately half of [1st Congressional District] residents were previously standard deduction. They all benefited from the tax bill. They’re paying less now because of it. They are not paying more.

“As far as the itemizers in the 1st Congressional District, there are many who are paying less in taxes and not more,” he continued. “There were many different changes that were made in that tax bill. And some people, those changes benefited them more than the change to the SALT deduction impacted them negatively. My opposition to the tax bill was based primarily on the fact that too many were going to have to pay more, not because everyone was going to have to pay more.”

He added that he does not believe that reducing the corporate tax rate should be paid for by making personal income taxes higher.

“It’s just something that I don’t believe fundamentally is the right approach toward providing relief on the corporate tax side,” he said. “I’m happy that the corporate tax rate was reduced, but I don’t believe that this is the way to do it.”

Zeldin said he is working with Gottheimer, his colleague from across the aisle, to brainstorm options to pay for reinstating SALT, such as closing loopholes in the tax code that benefit wealthy individuals who have avoided paying taxes.

“We also have someone scoring these various proposals for us voluntarily — someone who used to work for the Congressional Budget Office — so we can see how the CBO would be scoring these various proposals,” Zeldin said. “And then based off those numbers that we get back, we’ll make a decision as to which ones to include.”

Zeldin noted in his floor speech that New York is one of most taxed states in the nation, and said that while SALT should be reinstated, New York also needs to reduce the tax burden on its residents.

“As I pointed out in my floor speech, what’s very important is for all of us to understand that the reason why our deduction was so high was because our state and local taxes are so high,” Zeldin said. “And all levels of government need to do their part to provide tax relief—especially the New York State government up in Albany. We have some of the highest tax rates in the entire country, one of the worst business climates in the entire country. And while Washington is, hopefully, doing their part, the elected officials in Albany will, hopefully, do their part.”

He said the three biggest tax concerns in New York are income taxes, property taxes and sales taxes.

“If we just were paying one at the rate that we were, it wouldn’t be much of an issue,” he said. “But when you have one of the highest income tax rates, one of the highest property tax rates, and one of the highest sales tax rates, it really adds up. And Albany needs to pursue efficiencies, especially with the size that its Medicaid program has grown to. And pursuing those efficiencies allows state officials to … pursue tax relief for New Yorkers.”

This week, the New York State Legislature made the 2 percent cap on annual tax levy increases permanent. The measure was instituted in 2011 to slow the growth of property taxes and was set to expire next year. Zeldin, a former state senator who was first elected to office in Albany in 2010 — the same year that Gov. Andrew Cuomo was first elected governor — supports the tax cap.

“New York State had reached its breaking point with the size of property taxes when that tax cap was enacted,” Zeldin said.

He added that Albany should also pursue mandate relief.

“Approximately 70 percent of our property taxes go to our local schools districts, and there are efficiencies to be found with regards to our schools as well,” he said. “We need to be delivering a quality education to our children and finding ways to make it more affordable. There are ways that the federal government can provide mandate relief. There are ways that the state government can provide mandate relief. And I believe that whenever the federal or state government is going to pass along a mandate to a local school district, that it should fund it. You either fund what you want to mandate, or you don’t require it.”

On the county level, Bellone is pursuing the “charitable gift reserve” plan that was suggested by the governor. According to the county executive’s office, Suffolk would be the first county in New York to establish the reserve to protect homeowners from the new tax law.

The IRS last year proposed regulations to ensure that charitable gifts that result in a corresponding state or local tax credit will not be eligible for a federal tax deduction. However, Bellone remained undeterred.

“My message to the IRS is clear: If you try to stop us from protecting our SALT deductions, we will see you in court,” the county executive said in a statement earlier this month. “Governor Cuomo took the lead in fighting back against the federal SALT tax law with a plan to protect localities, and, today, we are following that guidance prescribed by state law. And while we continue to push for Congress to restore these tax deductions, Suffolk County will not wait for Washington to act.”

Bellone’s plan also calls for reducing mortgage fees and freezing them for three years, and increasing access to affordable housing programs for young people with student loan debt.

This article first appeared in The Southampton Press.

Governor Launches ‘Buildings of Excellence’ Competition

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in Woodbury Oct. 22, 2018.

To advance his goal of making New York State’s entire building stock carbon neutral, Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched this month the “Buildings of Excellence” competition, which promotes the design, construction and operation of low- or zero-carbon emitting buildings.

The competition, which will award $30 million in prizes, is part of Cuomo’s “Green New Deal,” an initiative included in his 2019 executive budget. The aim of the initiative is to provide clean energy and green jobs while supporting the state’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

The three-round competition, administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, will award up to $10 million per round and each project is eligible to win up to $1 million.

The first round is focused on multi-family buildings, with applications accepted through June 4 and awards expected this summer. Proposals can be for new construction or rehabilitation projects. Projects must demonstrate design and construction methods that can be easily replicated and adopted by professionals for future projects.

Awards are available for projects in any of four stages: early design, late design, under construction, and post-completion performance optimization.

The governor’s office noted that New Yorkers pay about $35 billion annually for electricity and heating fuels, and buildings account for 59 percent of statewide greenhouse gas emissions.

“The time for addressing climate change is now and today we are doubling down on our commitment to lead the way with a revolutionary path toward carbon-free buildings,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The development of low- to zero-carbon buildings will create healthier living spaces and communities for all New Yorkers, while driving down harmful emissions from one of our highest contributing sectors—our building stock—and pushing us forward on our path to carbon neutrality.”

More information can be found at nyserda.ny.gov

This article first appeared in The Southampton Press.

Stand-Up Comic Pete Lee To Appear At Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center On February 7

PHOTO: Pete Lee. Credit: ROSHAN MOAYED

Stand-up comedian Pete Lee describes his style as clean comedy with an edge, or “cleaner comedy that’s very true.”

Take, for instance, a joke he performed during his Tonight Show debut in 2017: “I never want to offend anyone, especially nowadays, Like, the other day this guy sneezed and I wanted to say, ‘Bless you,’ but instead I said, ‘Happy holidays.’”

He performed the same joke at the Comedy Cellar in New York City the night that Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon popped in to catch his set.

“Jimmy was there and he stood up and clapped and said, ‘I love this guy,’” Lee recalled.

Immediately after, Lee was invited on The Tonight Show and his set could not have gone any better—he was the first stand-up comic during Fallon’s time as host to receive a standing ovation. Lee said he couldn’t comprehend it in the moment.

“I thought that there was a sign above me that said ‘stand up,’” he said.

Now, he appears on The Tonight Show almost quarterly. He can also be seen regularly on Comedy Central, TruTV, the NFL Network and even the Nicktoons channel.

He can be seen locally on Thursday, February 7, at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center when he becomes the first comic to appear in the venue’s new Toasted Thursdays series.

He explained his sensibilities when it comes to preparing a stand-up set.

“A lot of comics open up with really edgy material that is sort of off-putting to people,” he said. “And they forget that it is somewhat of a date activity. And if your date’s into really edgy stuff, that’s cool. But I think most, probably 80 percent, of the people aren’t into that. And so, I’m real cognizant of that and I like to do humor that’s very joyful. … I like to give wisdom to people and I like my comedy to have deep meaning, but you don’t have to be super vulgar within that to accomplish those ends.”

Speaking from Los Angeles, where the Wisconsin native moved last year after 12 years in New York, Lee discussed the triumphs and tribulations of his career, including when he called himself “the grim reaper of television.”

It was a successful appearance on Comedy Central’s stand-up showcase Premium Blend that motivated him to relocate to New York in 2005. But that same year, Premium Blend was canceled. He later had his own half-hour on Comedy Central Presents, a program that was canceled soon after. He competed in the sixth season of Last Comic Standing in 2008, and the show was off the air in 2009.

Then he was cast as a doctor in the long-running CBS soap opera As the World Turns.

“So I was having a complete Joey Tribbiani from Friends experience,” Lee said.

The show had been on television since 1956. The crew was looking forward to the 90th season, Lee said.

“When I walked in, they had a giant gold 89 in the lobby, and then underneath a terrycloth they had a giant gold 90,” he recalled. “I joked, well you can put that gold 90 in storage because you’re never going to get to it—because the show’s going to get canceled.”

He was on a total of seven episodes—and the show got canceled.

“I literally got blamed for it,” Lee said. “Since then I’ve been on shows that have gone three or four seasons, so clearly I’m not the grim reaper of television.”

He was selected to be on VH1’s Best Week Ever.

“I got to write jokes for the show, and then I got to perform those jokes, and then we also got to do sketches,” he said. “We were on the air for three seasons and that was really neat.”

He worked behind the scenes on Duck Dynasty, the A&E reality television series about the Robertson family, ostensibly as a producer.

“If you break it down, Duck Dynasty and those guys, they were basically doing a family comedy,” Mr. Lee said. “And you had almost all the character tropes you would have or characters types that you would have on most sitcoms. And I’m not the manliest guy in real life but I’ve performed in the Midwest enough and I have enough family members that I felt like I could write from that point of view.

“I took a job where I was technically a producer because none of the stuff is supposed to be written,” he continued. “It’s all supposed to be stuff that came off the cuff from those guys. But now that the show’s off the air, I can tell the secret: A lot of the lines from those people on those shows were stuff that they came up with, but then there were also producer-writers that were feeding them jokes in their ears. But it was crazy because there are sitcom actors in Hollywood that can’t deliver a joke that’s given to them as well as the Duck Dynasty guys did. It was incredible how funny they really were for literally being average people that just decided to do a TV show.”

He’s also a cast member of TruTV’s Greatest Ever, or at least he was.

“I think that our TruTV show got canceled without them telling us—which happens a lot in television,” he said. “When did you find out you were canceled? When the phone didn’t ring for a year.”

He also does Top 10s for the NFL Network. For Nicktoons, he riffs on football bloopers as if he were a SportsCenter personality for four-minute segments geared at children.

This past June, he moved to the West Coast. The timing worked out funny.

“As soon as I moved to Los Angeles, I got booked on a TV show out in New York,” he said.

It’s the topical comedy show This Week at the Comedy Cellar on Comedy Central.

The show is currently on hiatus, but when it’s filming, he commutes.

“I would get on a plane every Tuesday morning at 6 a.m., try to sleep while flying across the country,” he said. “I’d wake up, I’d write jokes, then go for a run and sweat out my Ambien. And then I would basically go film a TV show for two days and then I would fly back to L.A. I guess New York is like working for the government. You try to get out, then it pulls you back in.”

He doesn’t regret the move.

“There are no seasons here,” he said. “It’s 70 degrees out right now almost and the sun is starting to come out.”

Meanwhile, he checks Instagram and he sees his friends posting photos of themselves freezing on subway platforms.

“You know what? I made a good choice.”

So what brings him to Westhampton Beach in February? It’s his connection to Gram Slaton, the new Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center executive director. He said Slaton is a really good friend who he knows from Slaton’s days running the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen.

“He does great shows in the most remote places on earth, I believe,” Lee said.

Lee said he is using this upcoming show as an excuse to come back to New York for a few days. He has a few meetings planned, including one with Kelly Ripa to pitch a show. Then he looks forward to riding the Long Island Rail Road to Westhampton with a “tall boy” in hand.

“Flying back to New York is actually a real treat,” he said. “I’ll bring my puffer coat, and I’ll get my good New York scowl going on my face when it’s cold. And I’ll feel like a New Yorker again.”

Pete Lee will perform at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Thursday, February 7, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25. Call 631-288-1500 or visit whbpac.org.

The article first appeared in The Southampton Press.

Union Burger Bar Debuts In Southampton Village

Restaurateur Ian Duke and chef Scott Kampf of Southampton Social Club and Union Cantina are introducing a third restaurant to Southampton Village: Union Burger Bar.The burger-focused spot with an intimate dining room and bar shares 40 Bowden Square with the Mexican restaurant Union Cantina but has its own entrance. 

At Union Burger Bar on Thursday, January 17, the eve of its opening to the public, Mr. Duke spoke excitedly about the new venture.

“Scott and I started talking about doing a burger bar a little over a year ago, more because we both happen to love burgers more than anything else,” Mr. Duke said. “It wasn’t really necessarily about a need—more just wanting it and enjoying it. 

“With our little village losing a few restaurants over the last year, it sort of sparked my attention to thinking, ‘Well, we don’t have an awful lot of options on places to go where you can get a burger.’ There are restaurants that serve burgers—I’m not arguing that—but, I mean, a restaurant that’s focused on a burger.”

Union Cantina opened in 2016 after the building’s former longtime occupant, the Southampton Publick House, moved out. Union Burger Bar takes over the interior space that was formerly Union Cantina’s tequila bar. 

“We didn’t have the degree of interest in tequila that I would have expected,” Mr. Duke said. He also noted that he no longer needed the space for private events, because last spring the beer brewing tanks—vestiges of the Publick House—were removed from the dining room, freeing space for tables.

“I found that the degree of interest for most people for Mexican food is a once-a-week idea, and the idea behind this: People eat burgers two, three, four times a week,” Mr. Duke said. 

He is clearly proud of the beef they have chosen to serve: Niman Ranch hormone- and antibiotic-free black Angus from humanely raised cattle. “Our meat is absolutely undeniable,” he said. “It’s fantastic. Once you have a bite, you’ll keep eating, even if you’re full. You can’t not. It’s hilarious.”

The menu offers seven chef-recommended beef burgers with various toppings and sauces, but patrons can elect for a custom burger with their favorite ingredients.

“Our menu is designed for those who are looking to enjoy burgers that we have created, as well as burgers that you can create your own,” Mr. Duke explained.

The Coopers Beach Burger, for instance, is 8 ounces of beef with avocado, bean sprouts, pineapple marmalade, lettuce and tomato on a multi-grain bun. The Mac Attack! is made with mac and cheese and onion hay on a pretzel roll.

Besides beef, there’s also chicken breast, turkey and veggie options, and bun options include potato bread, English muffin, brioche and—for those counting carbs or allergic to gluten—lettuce wrap.

However patrons enjoy their burgers, Mr. Duke just wants them to have a good time. 

“What’s better than sitting down, having a burger, French fries, a killer shake, a beer, and, to be quite honest, bourbon?” he asked.

Union Burger Bar’s small-batch bourbon menu includes such rarities as Pappy Van Winkle from Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, which Mr. Duke called truly exceptional.

“Pappy Van Winkle is a famous bourbon that is not really available anywhere anymore,” he said. “They only make about a hundred bottles a year. And so, when people get it, they don’t put it on menus—they keep it and drink it themselves. And I want to try and expose people to it.”

The drinks menu also includes an extensive list of tequila in a nod to the space’s former use as a tequila bar—and because Mr. Duke is a fan. “It’d be remiss if I wasn’t going to include it,” he said.

The choice of shakes is also extensive, from $8 “Classic Shakes,” such as vanilla, peanut butter and caramel, to $15 “Boozy Shakes,” with Bailey’s, vodka or Chambord. The $14 “Real Deal Shakes: feature frosted rims and ingredients like Blue Bunny ice cream cones, Oreo ice cream bars, a giant lollipop and Reese’s peanut butter cups.

Mr. Kampf designed his own signature milkshake, “The Kampfire,” a vanilla-and-marshmallow milkshake with a chocolate graham cracker rim, topped with whipped cream, a s’more, chocolate sauce and a cherry. 

Mr. Duke, who conceived of the “Not Sorry,” with Nutella and Reese’s, said that heads turn when the shakes come out of the kitchen. “They’re fantastic. It’s indulgence at another level.”

The room is set for 50 people, and he could open up the sliding wood wall to spill over into the main dining room that Union Cantina uses. But that’s not his intent, he said. He wants to maintain the intimacy of the space. In a place that holds 50, everyone knows or gets to know each other, he said, while in a larger venue, no one meets.

He noted that the Manhattan bar that his father, Jim Duke, ran from 1968 to 1995, Drake’s Drum on the Upper East Side, was only slightly larger than the space Union Burger Bar occupies. Small bars like that, that served burgers and pub food, “they were the precursors to what we all do now,” he said.

Mr. Duke has another burger joint, Lucky’s Famous Burgers in Manhattan, with locations on 23rd Street and 52nd Street, but Union Burger Bar and Lucky’s have no similarities between them, other than serving similar foods, he said.

Lucky’s is quick, made-to-order burgers. “The idea is to cook it fast and get you your food, in and out,” Mr. Duke said of Lucky’s. “That’s not at all what I want here. This intimate setting is designed to serve, to eat and enjoy great food that’s comfort food. But we’re not rushing you. 

“I do think we’re going to do a tremendous amount of take-out business because there is a void in the market for being able to get a good burger take-out, and that will also apply to delivery when we start that,” he added.

There will be happy hour Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. with $5 beer, $7 wine, $9 mixed drinks and half-priced appetizers, and a $10.95 daily lunch special with a burger and side.

On Wednesdays, Union Burger Bar has a throwback: $5 burger night. The deal revives the recession-busting “Bail-Out Burger” special offered a decade ago by Barrister’s, the Southampton Main Street restaurant that closed in 2013 after 34 years in business.

Mr. Duke recalled how that restaurant would fill with locals on Wednesdays. 

“I think it’s a great homage to something that everyone loved and, again, a great way to get out and have a little bit of fun,” he said.

Union Burger Bar opens for dinner daily at 5 p.m. Lunch will be added to the schedule starting Friday. For more information, visit unionburgerbar.com.

This article first appeared in The Southampton Press.

Former Luigi’s Main Street Pizza Reopens As Piesano’s In Eastport

Luigi Mondi, the namesake of Luigi’s Main Street Pizza, is back at the pizzeria in Eastport, but Luigi’s now has a new name: Piesano’s.

Luigi’s shuttered last year not long after Mr. Mondi sold the business in July. The new owners kept the business going for just two months, Mr. Mondi explained in a recent interview. Because he still owned the building, he decided to reopen the pizzeria himself. 

After offering catering for the holidays while ramping back up, Piesano’s officially opened on January 5.

Mr. Mondi said he changed the name for two reasons: He had already closed his corporation that was under the name Luigi’s, and his new 35-seat pizzeria and restaurant that he opened on Shelter Island in July is also named Piesano’s.

Having two locations now, his original plan to work less has been thrown for a loop.

Originally from Shirley, Mr. Mondi, 52, moved to Eastport 12 years ago. He retired in 2010 from the Long Island Rail Road, where he worked various jobs for 26 years, but he always had a side hustle, he said. Having had previous experience working in pizzerias, he bought his first pizza place in 1987, Village Pizza, a 16-seat restaurant on Main Street in Riverhead. 

It was from the original owner of Village Pizza that he got the pizza sauce recipe that he still uses today. He explained that to make good pizza, the sauce can’t simply be poured out onto the dough and cooked in the pizza oven—the sauce has to be cooked before it goes on the pie. Even between owning pizzerias, “I kept that recipe in my wallet under lock and key,” he said.

Mr. Mondi had other pizzerias under different names in Smithtown and Moriches and eventually opened Luigi’s in Eastport the same year he retired. “I wanted a little something to keep me busy, and it turned into a monster,” he said.

Wanting to dial back how much he was working, he looked for a location where business would be more seasonal than it is in Eastport. He said he looked into Westhampton, but the rent was $9,000 a month. He found a better deal on North Ferry Road on Shelter Island and opened Piesano’s, which he said also offered him the opportunity to run a sit-down restaurant rather than a purely takeout business.

During the offseason, the Shelter Island location will be open one or two days a week, allowing him to concentrate on Eastport for the next four to five months, he said. Then, in the summer, his daughter, Savannah Mondi, 21, will run things in Eastport.

Mr. Mondi said his daughter wanted nothing to do with working in the pizzeria when she moved to the area in 2014—which she confirmed. But she came around. “Now, I’m the backbone,” Ms. Mondi said.

The space has been refreshed a bit, including a chalk-paint wall with the menu written out in Ms. Mondi’s hand. As a nod to Mr. Mondi’s former career, an LIRR emblem is hung on a faux brick wall.

While making pies for the Friday evening rush, Mr. Mondi said Fridays and Saturdays are the most popular days for pizza, and he wants to build the business back up to what it was—serving 200 pies on a Friday night. Because Piesano’s has no seating and serves no alcohol, he knows that success depends on the food, he said: “I need to have a good product.”

He noted that Luigi’s business was only 50 percent pizza, and the other half was dinners, such as his popular chicken Francaise. 

“It’s good to be back,” Mr. Mondi said, adding that it’s almost a blessing that his original plan did not work out. He said he’s now on a five- or six-year plan. 

So, Piesano’s is more than just a temporary pop-up.

Piesano’s is located at 491 Montauk Highway, Eastport. The new phone number is 631-325-1184.

This article first appeared in The Southampton Press.