Authors Posts by Alex Petroski

Alex Petroski

Alex Petroski
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Girl Scout Devin Rotunno helps kids plant seeds using her Gold Award project Aug. 10 at the Long Island Explorium on East Broadway in Port Jefferson

Port Jefferson’s most inquisitive young explorers will have a new, sustainably minded activity to learn from thanks to the efforts of one of their own.

Girl Scouts looking to achieve their Gold Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn, are tasked with identifying an issue in their community, conducting research, pitching a project and shepherding it to completion in a leadership role in the hopes of achieving some greater good for the community.

Girl Scout Devin Rotunno, a Port Jeff resident heading into her senior year at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, decided to achieve her Gold Award by building a station where kids can plant locally native vegetation at the Long Island Explorium, a Port Jeff museum located at 101 E. Broadway dedicated to fostering an environment of learning and discovery for visitors of all ages, where Rotunno has volunteered for years. She dropped off and set up the project with help from her parents Aug. 10.

“When I started here early last year in 2017, we felt the programing here has always been about STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics], and we wanted children, guests and visitors not only to know STEM for the knowledge of STEM, but really the civic component of it, like, ‘What’s the big deal about learning about science, technology, engineering and math?’” said Angeline Judex, executive director of the Explorium. “The civic component is obviously our interaction and our relationship with the world and our environment surrounding us. I’ve been trying to infuse some sort of sustainability type programing and I think this was something that we thought was perfect.”

Rotunno’s project was built from common cedar wood and includes a laddered portion where kids can keep and monitor their plants as they grow, as well as a station to plant seeds, equipped with soil and gardening tools. She credited a family friend and contractor for helping with the design and lending his shop and tools for the cause. 

“I love it here so much, and as my Gold Award project was approaching I thought it would be the perfect place to dedicate my Gold project to,” Rotunno said of the Explorium. She reflected on providing a new program for kids now in the position she used to be in, visiting the museum to enjoy activities it had to offer. “It’s awesome, just the feeling — since I’m going off to college in a year, the fact I can leave something they can use forever — it’s just a good feeling I can give back.”

Carol Van Duyn, the museum’s manager who has been there for 13 years, reflected on the full-
circle nature of Rotunno’s time at the Explorium.

“Many of the children that came to join and participate in the interactive exhibits continued and then they became volunteers, and then came to us to ask us if they could do something to leave their mark, and we were thrilled,” she said. “She [Rotunno] kept redesigning and reconfiguring, coming back to remeasure before she made her final cut. So, this was a work in progress for a number of months.”

Rotunno’s mom, Jennifer, who also served as Girl Scout Troop 2988 leader since her daughter was in kindergarten, shared her feelings about witnessing the culmination of the long process for her Scout daughter.

“It’s awesome, I’m very proud,” she said. “I’m proud that she’s been a Girl Scout all these years. It’s not common for a girl to make it to this age and to this award. It’s a really special thing. She’s loved coming down here and volunteering.”

All photos by Alex Petroski

Rebecca Muroff, a 17-year-old Girl Scout Gold Award recipient, shows off the archive of historical photos she created for the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society Aug. 11. Photo by Alex Petroski

A piece of history has been organized and preserved thanks to the hard work of a Mount Sinai teen.

Girl Scouts looking to achieve their Gold Award, the highest honor a scout can earn, are tasked with identifying an issue in their community, conducting research, pitching a project, and shepherding it to completion in a leadership role in the hopes of achieving some greater good for the community. Rebecca Muroff, a Mount Sinai High School student heading into her senior year, stood at the William Miller House, the headquarters of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society on North Country Road in Miller Place, Aug. 11 and shared the byproduct of months of hard work as the culmination of her Gold Award project.

Muroff and her family have long enjoyed events held by the historical society, from the annual Country Fair to the local Christmas tradition of passing letters to Santa off to Postman Pete, so exploring a project to help an organization close to her heart was a no-brainer, she said. The Gold Award recipient, beginning in October 2017, sifted through the historical society’s vast collection of old photos amassed since its inception in 1974 to create a pictorial archive, labeling the photos with numbers and a corresponding destination in a spreadsheet, including categories like location, date, names of the people in the photo and any other pertinent comments. The result is a detailed catalog available to visitors who can now quickly and easily find photos of specific people or events dating back decades. Muroff said plans are even in the works to digitize the archive in some manner.

From left, Troop 1090 leaders Tara Broome and Gretchen Lynch join Muroff’s parent Greg and Christine, right and third from right, as well as Edna Giffen of the society, second from right, in honoring the latest Gold Award recipient. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It shows people as we matured over the years and there are a lot of people — members — that, because we were founded in ’74, have passed or moved away,” said Edna Giffen, the society’s recording secretary and archivist, who Muroff said played a crucial role in working on the project. “I realized there are people in the pictures that I don’t even know. Members will be glad to see this.”

Muroff said she always liked going to events at the society as a kid and reflected on the idea that she’d created something that will enrich visits by future generations.

“It’s just nice I think to have tangible memories of the historical society,” she said. “Now people can look through the pictures and people can see themselves or their family members. It’s a nice feeling to know that I’m preserving history so other people can enjoy it.”

Tara Broome and Gretchen Lynch, Muroff’s leaders in Girl Scout Troop 1090, attended the Aug. 11 event set up to unveil the new photo archive.

“It’s really beautiful because we started with the whole troop when they were in second grade and now they’re seniors in high school,” Broome said.

Lynch added the troop had about 20 members when the girls were young, and Muroff was one of only five to earn the Gold Award.

“We’re almost like second mothers to them really,” she said. “They really persevered and did everything that was asked of them, and they’re like a family now.”

Muroff’s actual parents, Christine and Greg, also beamed with pride over their daughter’s accomplishment.

“It really hit me yesterday when we went to the Girl Scouts store to complete her sash,” her mom said. “I’m so happy she stuck with it.”

Port Jefferson School District’s new athletic director, Adam Sherrard. Photo from PJSD

Port Jefferson School District’s athletic programs have excelled in recent years, but the Royals faced a new kind of challenge this summer.

Adam Sherrard has been named the replacement for Port Jeff’s outgoing director of health, physical education and athletics, Danielle Turner, who accepted a similar position in the Locust Valley school district in June.

Sherrard, a Farmingville resident, has coaching and teaching experience from previous stops at Huntington and Smithtown school districts, where he taught physical education at all grade levels. Most recently he taught at Jack Abrams STEM Magnet Intermediate School in the Huntington district. He served as Smithtown East High School’s defensive coordinator for the varsity football team and as a middle school lacrosse head coach, in addition to other high school and middle school coaching assignments, according to his LinkedIn page.

“I’m eager to work with the students, staff, nurses, administrators, coaches and parents in the district,” Sherrard said in a statement. “Since I first arrived here, I noticed the commitment to the well-being of students is profound and I look forward to continuing to strengthen the positive environment in the Port Jefferson School District.”

He earned an advanced graduate certificate in educational leadership from Stony Brook University and a Master of Arts in educational leadership and administration from Touro University International, according to a district press release. He holds a Bachelor of Science in physical education from Cortland University.

“The energy and enthusiasm that Mr. Sherrard exudes will serve our district well,” district Superintendent Paul Casciano said in a statement. “We look forward to his leadership and progressive ideas in building on the many successes of our athletic program. Mr. Sherrard will continue to move us in the positive direction of our physical education and health education programs. This includes social and emotional growth opportunities to ensure our students have the support systems needed to succeed.”

During Turner’s time with the Royals, the girls varsity basketball and soccer teams each reached New York State championship rounds, with the soccer team bringing home its second straight trophy in 2016. It was the team’s third straight appearance in the finals. The basketball team fell just short in the 2017 state title game, though it was the first time it had won a county crown since 1927. Quarterback Jack Collins broke numerous school records and became the first football player in school history to be named League IV Most Valuable Player. The wrestling team went undefeated and won the League VIII championship during the current school year. Shane DeVincenzo put Port Jeff’s golf program on the map, winning the Suffolk County individual title in 2017.

“Port Jefferson will always have a special little place in my heart, and I could not be more thankful that my career has led me through it,” she said in a June email.

Port Jeff and Belle Terre would like to be absorbed by the Mount Sinai Ambulance District, which is overseen by Brookhaven.

The villages of Port Jefferson and Belle Terre are proposing a change to its ambulance service contracts with the goal of increased efficiency on the mind.

Currently emergency ambulance services are provided to homes in Mount Sinai Ambulance District, and the two incorporated villages by the Port Jefferson Ambulance Company, a not-for-profit corporation located on Crystal Brook Hollow Road in Mount Sinai. 

The ambulance company provides services to the three entities through individual contracts, with a projected 2018 total budget of $1.4 million. Port Jeff and Belle Terre villages contracted KPC Planning Services Inc. to examine the possibility of proposing to expand the Mount Sinai Ambulance District to encompass the two villages, thus simplifying the process and requiring a single contract with the company for its existing coverage area.

Port Jeff Village Attorney Brian Egan called the current set up, “not even close to efficient,” noting the three entities do not even operate on the same fiscal year, making budgeting for ambulance services more complicated than village officials say it needs to be.

“It creates a problem for us because the 51 percent majority can pass a budget without our say,” Port Jeff Mayor Margot Garant said during a May board meeting. The Mount Sinai Ambulance District makes up more than 50 percent of the ambulance company’s territory and is overseen by the Town of Brookhaven.

KPC Planning Services’ report summed up the goal behind the proposed change: “Operationally, the district managers must answer to three municipalities to make a capital, equipment or operational decision. The goal of the expanded district is to remove the village[s] from operational responsibility and vest the power exclusively in the Town [of Brookhaven].”

In actuality, Port Jefferson Village’s contract with the ambulance company expired in 2011, meaning the entities have continued a relationship without an official contract for seven years.

“It means no change in area, no change in service, no change in population — everything remains exactly the same,” Egan said in an interview. “The only structure that we’re changing is that we would no longer be a contracting party. It would be 100 percent exclusively in control of the Town of Brookhaven.”

Egan said residents should not expect to see any changes in their taxes, services or even the name on the side of an ambulance in the case of an emergency. Both villages have passed resolutions proposing the change, which will need to be acted on by Brookhaven before it can go into effect. Egan said he’s not sure of the timeline from the town’s perspective but hopes it is soon.

Consolidating services has been on the mind of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), as the town was named the winner of a $20 million grant for its proposals as part of a New York State competition earlier this year.

“Elimination of this three-ring tangle is consistent with Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine’s goal to eliminate duplication in districts, streamline decision making and consolidate services,” the KPC report said.

At Hope Academy at Little Portion Friary in Mount Sinai, representatives from State Farm pass off keys to a Ford van to Charlie Russo to be used by Hope House Ministries. Photo by Alex Petroski

The private sector stepped up to help the helpers Aug. 3.

Through a program called Recycled Rides, which creates partners between insurance providers and auto-repair companies to repair and donate vehicles to those in need, a Ford E series van was donated to Port Jefferson-based Hope House Ministries during a ceremony held at its Mount Sinai location, Hope Academy at Little Portion Friary Friday. Recycled Rides is an initiative started about 10 years ago by the National Auto Body Council, a not-for-profit organization aimed at improving the image of collision industry professionals. In this case, ProLiner Rescue auto-repair shop in Medford and State Farm teamed up to facilitate the donation.

“We brought [ProLiner Rescue] the van, it was a mess,” said Steven Wisotsky, Metro New York Salvage Unit agent at State Farm.

Wisotsky said the vehicle had been stolen. When it was recovered and ultimately purchased by State Farm, it was missing parts, there was substantial damage to its body, and other mechanical work and a paint job were also needed. The repair shop did all the work free of charge.

Steven Wisotsky of State Farm with Charlie Russo of Hope House Ministries. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It’s phenomenal — we don’t have any federal funding or state funding, so for us, everything that we get is so appreciated,” said Charlie Russo, Hope House Ministry’s board chairman. “To have to go out and buy something like this, we can’t budget for. All of our money goes to direct services. It’s a phenomenal gift from this community, we receive so many gifts from this community. Just their support — emotional support, monetary support — and the amount of volunteers that come from our community, it’s just amazing.”

Russo said the van would be used to transport necessary supplies to and from the organization’s 10 facilities, which are dedicated to serving individuals in crisis on Long Island since 1980. The chairman said the van was much needed, though he mentioned Ramp Motors in Port Jefferson Station has also been generous in supplying Hope House with transportation-related needs in the past.

Brookhaven Town councilmembers, Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) and Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), were among the elected officials in attendance to commend the companies for their generosity.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. File photo by Erika Karp

Although politicians in Brookhaven Town are not up for election this cycle, voters will be asked a question with long-term implications for town government in November.

Brookhaven Town board voted unanimously to establish a referendum on the ballot Nov. 6 asking town residents to weigh in on changes to terms in office for elected officials, specifically increasing terms from two years, as is currently the law, to four years for councilmembers, the supervisor and highway superintendent. The referendum will have a second component as part of the same yea or nay question: limiting officials to three terms in office. That component would impact the above positions, as well as town clerk and receiver of taxes. Both components will appear as part of a single proposition, according to Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto. Putting the issue up to a vote was established as a result of an Aug. 2 public hearing. If passed the law would go into effect for terms beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

“[The voters] have, in the past weighed in, and whatever they weighed in to is not being listened to now,” Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said during the hearing. “Maybe that’s fine with them, maybe it’s not, but I would like to go back and ask them, ‘what do you think?’”

In 1993, residents voted to implement a limit of three, four-year terms on elected officials, though that law was no longer applicable following a 2002 public vote to establish council districts, as state law dictates councilmembers in towns with council districts serve two-year terms, according to Emily Pines, Romaine’s chief of staff and a former New York State Supreme Court justice, who spoke during the hearing.

Several members of the public commented in opposition of various aspects of the referendum, saying the two components should be separated to be voted on individually; there’s not enough time to untangle issues with the language of the law, like what to do with an individual who served as a councilperson for 12 years and then is elected to another position such as supervisor; and how to handle time already served by current members. Others cited shorter terms as fostering more accountability for elected representatives.

“I think it’s too complex to be one resolution,” said Jeff Kagan, a resident and representative from Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization. “I think you’re asking the voters to vote on somethings they like and somethings they may not like.”

Anthony Portesy, the Democrat candidate for town highway superintendent in 2017 and a private attorney, spoke against extending terms to four years, but said he would be in favor of three years because having to campaign every two years can be “arduous.”

“While I’m not opposed to the extension of terms per se, four-year terms is an eternity in politics, too long for hyperlocal town races,” he said. “We don’t want to create electoral feudalism in Brookhaven through the coercive powers of incumbency.”

Patchogue Village Mayor Paul Pontieri spoke in favor of going to four-year terms during the hearing about having to run for office every two years, saying it can get in the way of accomplishing goals set forth at the beginning of a term. Romaine and councilmembers Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) each expressed similar sentiments when asked if they intend to support the idea in early July when the public hearing was set.

“You don’t have the constant churning in politics that can sometimes undermine the system,” Romaine said. “It allows for long-range planning and programs. It takes the politics out of local government.”

Eaderesto said the town’s law department will draft the wording as it will appear on the ballot in November and share it with the town board prior to submitting it to the Suffolk County Board of Elections by Oct. 1.

A Suffolk County Police Department boat. File photo by Alex Petroski

A Mount Sinai woman died after falling overboard in the Great South Bay Aug. 4, according to Suffolk County Police Department.

Donna Ramirez, 38, of Mount Sinai, went overboard from a 2005 Monterey 30-foot-boat about half a mile south of Green Creek Marina in Sayville at approximately 12:45 a.m. Saturday morning, police said. The owner of the boat Robert Udle, 37, of Lake Grove got assistance from two other people, looked for Ramirez, located her, brought her onto the boat and called 911.

Ramirez was transported to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore where she was pronounced dead, with drowning cited as the cause of death.

The investigation is continuing. Anyone with information is asked to call Homicide Squad detectives at 631-852-6392.

This story was updated Aug. 6 to correct a typo.

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Blighted buildings and empty storefronts in upper Port Jefferson could soon be addressed through various grants. File photo by Kevin Redding

“Time for a bulldozer.” “What happened to this community?” “Something needs to be done up there.”

As eyebrow-raising stories in upper Port Jefferson — the area on and around Main Street between North Country Road and the train tracks — and Port Jefferson Station keep coming, so too does reaction, available in abundance at community meetings and on social media pages geared toward the Port Jeff area. If these reactions were a person’s only window into the state of an increasingly crime, addiction and poverty-stricken area, an element could surely be lost: the human element.

“You keep putting Band-Aids on bullet holes,” said Darryl Wood, 60, a Mastic Beach resident and employee at Echo Arms Adult Home, a residential facility on Route 112 south of the train tracks that houses adults with disabilities and provides shelter for low-income individuals, within the area designated for revitalization by Town of Brookhaven.

Wood was referring metaphorically and broadly to government’s approach to improving communities showing many of the symptoms characteristic of Echo Arms’ backyard, though his analogy had a tinge of reality. On July 22, a 27-year-old man from Selden was shot to death inside a billiards hall in upper Port. About a week prior, a man was stabbed at a bar just north of the tracks following an altercation. Wood hadn’t heard of the revitalization plans presented by the town July 24.

“They need help — they need someone who cares.”

— Darryl Wood

“They need help — they need someone who cares,” Wood said July 27 on a hot afternoon as he enjoyed his lunch break on a bench near the Port Jeff Station entrance to the Greenway Trail. He shared that he had been homeless previously, addicted to crack and panhandling to survive in Manhattan.

“I thought I would die a crackhead,” he said, adding he has been clean for 12 years, and working at Echo Arms for three. “I owe, because I’ve taken so much.”

Perception has become reality for those who don’t spend much time in upper Port, though personal interactions can serve as a reminder — people live in this community characterized at times only as a hot spot for drug use and violence.

“There’s always a lot going on in Port Jeff Station,” said a woman, who looked to be in her 60s, named Anna Maria, sitting on a bench adjacent to the train station July 27 while she waited for the S60 Suffolk County bus to arrive when asked if she’d heard about some of the recent events in her community.

She pushed a walker to help her reach the bench, coming north from around Maple Avenue and carrying a reusable shopping bag. A brief conversation revealed she spent time teaching American culture in Beijing, China, about 30 years ago, and carried a printed photo with her to prove it. She concluded the conversation saying, “God bless you,” as she boarded her bus.

“You’re doing better than me, I’m shot, the heat and humidity is killing me,” another man likely in his 50s waiting on the same bench for a bus downtown responded to the simple conversation starter “How ya doin’?”

He counted the change in his pocket as he spoke, wearing a gray baseball hat, dirty white T-shirt and gray sweatpants.

“Can you tell which bus is coming, I don’t have my glasses today,” he asked peering south down Route 112. “Be careful kid,” were his departing words.

Later a man who appeared to be homeless with a messy, full head of gray hair and out-of-season clothing sits down on the bench. He wandered over from the direction of Pax Christi Hospitality Center, a homeless shelter on Oakland Avenue. He stayed on the bench for about 20 minutes, halfway between seated and hunched, with his hand on his head and covering his face. Eventually, he stood up slowly, gathering a garbage bag in one hand and what appeared to be a bundled towel or blanket under the other arm. Without checking traffic, he hobbled across Main Street, stopping cars in both directions and turned the corner, disappearing from view.

Brookhaven Town presented its vision for Port Jefferson Station between the train tracks and Route 347 at civic association meeting July 24. Photo by Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson Station’s future is still blurry, but the vision is beginning to come into focus.

Members of the Town of Brookhaven Planning Department were on hand at a Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association meeting July 24 to share a preliminary look and float recommendations for the revitalization of the area of Port Jeff Station between the train tracks and Route 347. Representatives of the department announced, as a result of examining both the 2008 Comsewogue Hamlet Comprehensive Plan and the 2014 Port Jefferson Station Commercial Hub Study, which were largely the product of community input in the form of mailed surveys, demand exists to create a walkable, downtown hub with buildings zoned for retail and/or restaurant use on the first floor and residential use on potentially up to a fourth floor.

The announcement also served to lay out a timeline for the next steps in the process, which will require the formation of a citizens advisory committee, the conducting of a blight study and drafting of an actual land use plan to be brought before the town as a final stage, among many others. Completion of the preliminary steps is expected to occur in 2020, at which point the town would need to approve zoning changes necessary to precede shovels entering the ground.

Town of Brookhaven, as part of its presentation July 24, laid out some of the important dates upcoming for its revitalization plans, most of which will take place in 2019. Graphic by TBR News Media.

“Patience is not a virtue, it’s a necessity for these kinds of matters,” town planning commissioner Tullio Bertoli said. “We did visioning. This is the implementation of that visioning into a full-blown land-use plan.”

The announced timeline and plans come as several violent crimes have garnered media attention, including a July incident in which a 27-year-old man from Selden was shot to death inside a billiards hall in upper Port, as well as what locals would likely characterize as an increase in delinquent activities perpetrated by the homeless population in the area.

“We want to clean the area up, this is the most efficient way right now to try to clean that area up,” civic association President Sal Pitti said during the meeting.

He and other officials in attendance stressed simply building and developing cannot be expected to alleviate all of the area’s ills.

“There are some issues that cannot be solved by building structures,” Bertoli said.

Still, Thomas Chawner, a senior planner with the town who conducted the presentation, said the community’s desire to improve public safety and decrease blight were taken into account in making the plans.

“There’s a need for better enforcement for derelict properties in the hub area,” he said. “Affordable housing — we heard loud and clear in both studies people are feeling that their children cannot afford housing. They don’t want their children to leave Long Island. They need affordable housing.”

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) was also at the meeting and threw his support behind the proposal.

“I’m with the civic on this, because this community is a great community and really deserves all of our effort to make sure that it’s always going in the right direction, not the wrong direction,” he said.

A map identifying the areas set for revitalization and included in subsequent studies, taken from the July 24 presentation by the planning department.

Community members present at the meeting expressed both support and concerns relating to the presented possibilities for redevelopment. Some are worried about coordination between the interested parties — namely the community, the town’s planning department and the private developers — from the planning stage to the actual implementation stage. Others conveyed opposition to increased population density in the area and the possibility of more traffic. Those in support stressed that the combination of residential, retail and restaurant spaces would provide for the desired outcome — a vibrant, walkable downtown with feet on the streets, fostering an environment intolerant of the drug use and violence garnering the headlines in the area at present.

The plan, in addition to the physical building options, also laid out suggestions for aesthetic “streetscape” fixes that could also help to foster that desired environment, like crosswalks decorated with commissioned art and plantings hanging from light poles. Strategically placed pocket parks or passive green spaces, as well as a community center, were also listed as possible addendums to the larger plans.

Charlie Lefkowitz, who owns much of the real estate in the hub study area, said in a phone interview he has worked with the town in visioning improvement in the area and intends to continue to do so.

A blight study is expected to begin and be concluded by early 2019, which will trigger the next steps of the revitalization plan.

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E.H. Rogers Feed and Grain, circa 1910. Photo from Ken Brady Collection

Revitalization plans between the train tracks and Route 347 in Port Jefferson Station have an eye toward the future, but those who have dedicated their lives to the community’s history have a message: not so fast.

Five buildings with historical roots in Port Jefferson Station that fall squarely within the bounds of Town of Brookhaven’s territory slated for redevelopment, as indicated during its planning board’s July 24 presentation during a Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association meeting, could be at risk of being demolished. Two of the buildings, 101 and 105 Main St., adjacent to the south side of the train tracks, could be in more imminent danger, according to Jack Smith, president of Cumsewogue Historical Society, based on a phone call he said he had in March with Charlie Lefkowitz, a real estate developer who owns many of the buildings in the area personally or in part with business associates.

The present day Costigan building, which operates as a law office. Photo by Jack Smith

The buildings, dating from the early 1900s, one of which housed E.H. Rogers Feed Mill, serve as links back to the area’s agricultural roots, according to Smith.

“We worked with the community and town for several years,” Lefkowitz said in a phone interview about the proposed redevelopment as a whole, though he declined to comment specifically on the historical buildings other than to confirm he spoke with Smith in March. “We will continue to work with the community and the town to create the best product and vision for Port Jefferson Station.”

In 2014, the findings of the Port Jefferson Station Commercial Hub Study commissioned by the town to compile community feedback and detailed analysis from professionals to determine what redevelopment of the area might entail were released to the public. Though the study has no legal bindings, it contains recommendations from Port Jefferson-based architects and consultants for the study, Campani and Schwarting Architects founders Frances Campani and Michael Schwarting, as well as longtime Suffolk County planner Lee Koppelman, calling for the preservation and incorporation of the five buildings into future redevelopment plans.

Smith said Lefkowitz told him the two buildings nearest the train tracks specifically are in a state of disrepair and cannot be preserved, despite the fact that they are occupied by businesses currently. Smith said the developer was willing to preserve relics from the historical structures and even establish a museum to memorialize the history, which Smith called “nonsense” and “insulting.” Schwarting said he disagreed with Lefkowitz’s assertion, relayed to him by Smith during a joint interview July 20.

“They’ve got good bones,” the architect said of the buildings.

Schwarting’s partner Campani said she understood the dilemma developers like Lefkowitz face in situations like these, though she agreed she does not see a case for needing to knock the buildings down rather than refurbishing them and incorporating them into revitalization plans.

“These buildings should be celebrated not simply demolished.”

— Nick Acampora

“Part of the problem, which is one of the things we tried to address in the study, is that it’s not a very pedestrian-friendly area right now, and you sort of have to slow down to a pedestrian pace to start to appreciate these things,” Campani said. “If you’re flying by at 40 miles per hour, you’re not going to.”

Sarah Kautz, preservation director of Preservation Long Island, a nonprofit that advocates for the protection and stewardship of historic sites, said the buildings’ location on a state road and proximity to a Long Island Rail Road station would trigger review by New York State as part of the State Environmental Quality Review Act prior to demolition, though getting the sites listed on state or national historic registries would go a long way toward securing their protection.

“It doesn’t prevent [demolition], but it does put it on a longer path, and it can bring private owners to the table in a serious way and kind of leverage a little bit of a negotiation,” she said, adding that public support and collaboration between the two historical sites would ultimately serve as strong deterrents against the approval of any plans ultimately necessary from the town’s planning board when a site plan is eventually weighed. Kautz said the organization would support a push to preserve the buildings. “They’re important buildings. The local community will benefit more from a rehab than it would by a total blitz.”

Nick Acampora, president of the Historical Society of Greater Port Jefferson, pledged to support Smith in his efforts, even if it comes to “laying down in front of a bulldozer.”

“These buildings should be celebrated not simply demolished,” Acampora said.

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