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(E) Croatian immigrant Nikola Tesla celebrated at Brookhaven
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  07/11/2006 | Science | Unrated
(E) Croatian immigrant Nikola Tesla celebrated at Brookhaven

Brookhaven salutes 150 years of genius


MEDFORD--Genius was celebrated July 10, 2006 at Brookhaven Town Hall.

In honor of the 150th anniversary of Nikola Tesla's birth, the day was named for the scientist/inventor -- and Supervisor John Jay LaValle declared that every future July 10 will be known as "Nikola Tesla Day" in Brookhaven Town.

"This is a wonderful day, not just for Brookhaven but for all of Long Island," said Kenneth Blinn, a member of the Rocky Point Historical Society and one of the most dedicated advocates of preserving what is known as the "Tesla property" in Shoreham.

Located at the northeast corner of Route 25A and Randall Road, the 16-acre property was first developed in 1903 as the residence and laboratory of Nikola Tesla, a Croatian immigrant who, the supervisor noted in his remarks, arrived in this country with "exactly four cents in his pocket."

Tesla was the inventor of, among other things, the polyphase alternating current system and a method of transmitting that power, wireless communication, remote control and fluorescent lights. He held more than 700 patents, and although less well-known is considered an innovator on the level of Edison. He is thought by many to be the creator of radio, since a 1943 U.S. Supreme Court decision invalidated many of Guglielmo Marconi's patents.

The Rocky Point Historical Society and the Friends of Science East, a not-for-profit organization established to develop a science and technology center on Eastern Long Island, have convinced Brookhaven Town to create a museum at the Shoreham site, which includes a house designed by Sanford White.

In May, Mr. LaValle said the town was eager to take the property from the present owners, AGFA, which purchased all 16 acres in 1969. AGFA, a multinational corporation based in Belgium with offices in more than 40 countries, ended all manufacturing at the site about 18 years later.

"They would have an enormous write-off if they gave us the property," Mr. LaValle said then. "I told AGFA this is the poster child of property that should be preserved."

The only roadblock seems to be an environmental cleanup. Serious contamination began in 1939 when Peerless Photo Products bought the property and chemicals used in photographic development soaked into groundwater over the years, according to Bill Fonda of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Mr. Fonda said that two reports on the severity of the pollution were filed over the Fourth of July weekend and are being reviewed. One study determines where groundwater will migrate over the next several decades and the other tests the quality of the water on and off the site.

"A feasibility study is then submitted, which will give options on how the site can be cleaned up," Mr. Fonda said. "Potentially, we could have this by August."

After another review, which should take about six months, a public hearing will be held to discuss various plans, the DEC official said. A decision will be made then by the state, and AGFA will begin operations which will make the property safe "for the environment and human beings," Mr. Fonda said.

At the July 10 celebration, which included a cake with a Tesla Radio Tower rendered in chocolate icing, Mr. Blinn said plans for the town to take and preserve the property were coming along well. "The conversations with AGFA are ongoing about donating the property, and we're really now waiting for the state," Mr. Blinn said.

(Photo) Brookhaven Town Supervisor John Jay LaValle (with cake) and others -- including (left to right) Robert White, a descendent of Stanford White; Jane Alcorn of the Friends of Long Island Science East; William Terbo, great-nephew of inventor Nikola Tesla; and Town Board members Timothy P. Mazzei and James M. Tullo -- gathered at Town Hall July 10 to celebrate the late inventor's 150th birthday.

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