The Niegocki siblings have reluctantly decided to sell the family farm bringing an end to a legacy that they say has lasted 100 years and spread out over 120 acres in Mt. Sinai.
Almost a century ago, Anthony Niegocki Sr. traveled east from Hicksville to purchase a large swath of land in Mt. Sinai. When the elder Niegocki’s son, Anthony Jr., met his future wife Joanna Bubka at a dance in Eastport, the two settled down to scratch out a living in the dirt, farming the front parcel for his father, growing potatoes, cauliflower and cabbage among other crops. They bought the property in 1941.
Over the ensuing decades, the Niegocki farm was slowly portioned off. In the early 1960s, 96 acres of the farm to the northeast was sold off and became a residential subdivision off of Jesse Way. According to the family, another 25 acres was sold to Panfield Nursery and McGoverns Sod Farm. That piece eventually became part of Heritage Park.
All that is left of over 120 acres of farmland is a two-story white and green farmhouse and a wooden barn on a little under four acres of property fanning out between Mount Sinai Coram Road and North Ocean Avenue (Route 83).
Last July, Joanna Niegocki passed away at 90-years-old, three years after her husband Anthony Jr. died at age 91. That four-acre remnant is now up for sale, perhaps to be snatched up by a developer who can cut it up into even smaller parcels.
The Niegocki children aren’t happy about it but it’s something they know they must do.
“It’s not good,” said Ray, one of the Niegocki’s four children – three boys and one girl – who just happened to be reuniting this week for the wedding of his son Matthew. Ray stood on the front porch of the farmhouse along with his brothers Joe and Stanley and his sister Terry Sclefani. Stanley and Ray both still live on Long Island. Joe retired to North Carolina. Terry lives in Tennessee.
“It sucks,” said Stanley echoing his brother’s sentiment.
The Niegocki sons and daughter would rather see the property farmed, or instead of having a stranger come in to subdivide the property, they’d like to do it themselves.
“For us to do it, it would take ten years,” said Stanley.
He said it would take more money and political influence than he and his siblings had in order to get it done.
Fred Drewes, chairman of Heritage Park's Farm Committee, told Patch that he's thought about the Niegocki property for years and said that it's a small but import key to a central open space within Mt. Sinai.
"[The Niegocki farm and the Heritage Park] form a core of space that is a breathe of fresh air in our built-out community," he said.
While Drewes has some ides on what could be done with the property - like using the farmhouse as mid 20th century period museum and the fields for community gardens - he said that someone would have to pay to preserve it.
"No one gets a free lunch so if this property could be added to our public assets then government and citizens must pay," he said. "I hope that is possible but am not sure who would carry the flag."
No one lives in the house anymore and the reasons to sell at this time are mixed. For some of the children it’s a matter of finances. For others, it’s just time to let it go.
The property hasn’t been farmed in years. The last crop grown there according to the children were tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.
When Anthony Jr. died, his children said that he wanted to be buried behind the barn on the property because the farm “gave him life.”
They couldn’t grant his request but his widow was able to get a bench in his honor placed across the street in Heritage Park, a portion of which was once part of the Niegocki’s farmland.
The bench – located next to the Heritage Center and faces their old farmhouse – has a gold plaque on it that reads: The gift of life this year – 2008. Anthony and Joanna Niegocki. Together farming this land and the land across the street since 1941.