Authors Posts by Alex Petroski

Alex Petroski

Alex Petroski
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Preparing for an emergency is at the top of minds in the education world these days. Parents in the Port Jefferson, Comsewogue and Three Village school districts can sleep well, as their kids’ bus company had a unique opportunity to put its preparedness to the test.

Suffolk Transportation Service was among a small group of bus companies in the United States selected by the federal Transportation Security Administration to participate in a training program meant to assess and improve coordination between school bus operators and other agencies in emergency situations. The three local districts are among 16 in Suffolk County that use STS, and about 80 percent of those participated in the training exercise, according to the company’s Vice President of Operations Ray Grimaldi. The day-long training exercise was conducted by representatives from TSA, an agency of the federal Department of Homeland Security, at STS’s training facility in Bay Shore in May. The six-hour exercise featured simulations of actual emergencies, like one in which a bus driver found an explosive device on a school bus and had to decide on courses of action as the intensity of the simulation steadily increased. Grimaldi called the exercise powerful and comprehensive.

“It was actually awesome — it’s so realistic it’s crazy,” Grimaldi said. “It allowed us an opportunity to see how good we are, where we need to improve.”

Grimaldi said the company is still waiting on an official assessment from TSA on its preparedness, but agents conducting the exercise told him it was the best training session the agency has conducted to date. He said part of the reason STS was selected was because about eight years ago, the company volunteered to undergo a voluntary baseline audit by Homeland Security, which Grimaldi said yielded the highest score attainable.

“Our top priority as a school bus operator is student safety,” STS President John Corrado said in a statement. “STS is pleased to be selected to spearhead this training program in Suffolk County, which helped all participants enhance their coordination with other agencies to keep students safe.”

Port Jefferson School District’s Facilities Administrator Fred Koelbel was in attendance for a portion of the exercise.

“It was very interesting, and I think an illuminating exercise,” he said. “It really gave everybody some food for thought. Suffolk Transportation Service is on the cutting edge of so many things. We always say that the students’ day starts when he or she gets on the bus, and they embrace that.”

Local emergency responders including Suffolk County Police Department; the New York State Bus Contractor’s Association; and administrators, security and transportation personnel from the bus company’s districts were on hand to observe and participate in the day’s events.

Grimaldi said STS expects to see the results of the exercise in about two weeks.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine at his state of the town address April 3. Photo by Alex Petroski

Sharing is a beautiful thing. It can foster friendships and good will, and even net a municipality a $20 million check.

Brookhaven Town was selected June 14 as the winner of the Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition, an initiative announced by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in 2016 that challenged local governments to submit in-depth proposals for reducing the cost of living through streamlining services offered by overlapping taxing jurisdictions like villages, schools, ambulance companies, library and fire districts, towns and counties. Brookhaven was amongst six finalists as of summer 2017, the others being smaller upstate municipalities. Each of the nine incorporated villages within Brookhaven passed resolutions identifying the areas in which a consolidation of services makes sense, and officially pledged partnership with the town in pursuing the projects last year.

“High property taxes are a burden that far too many New Yorkers must bear and we will continue to deliver innovative solutions to keep taxes down without sacrificing the services they provide,” Cuomo said in a statement June 14. “I congratulate Brookhaven for putting forth a creative plan to better serve their community and crafting an innovative model to save taxpayer dollars.”

Some of the projects in the town’s proposal included the consolidation of tax collection and tax assessor services; utilizing Brookhaven’s staffed maintenance workers rather than putting out bids for contracts; creating a regional salt facility to be used during snow removal; using town contracts to buy in bulk for things like asphalt replacement , which yield a better price due to Brookhaven’s size compared to the smaller villages; and creating a digital record keeping and storage system.

“We expect this grant to help us reduce costs to our taxpayers and save our taxpayers millions of dollars,” Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said in announcing the win for the town prior to the June 14 public meeting. “So while we’re delighted that we won, out of all of the municipalities in the state, we were selected — we’re very happy for our taxpayers.”

The supervisor estimated in July 2017 in total, the projects would result in a savings of about $66 million for taxpayers – a return of more than three times the investment made by the state. He thanked town’s Chief of Operations Matt Miner for his work in crafting the proposal, and Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville) for going to Albany to present the town’s plan. Romaine added that winning the grant wouldn’t have been possible if not for the work of the entire town board and other staff members from all town departments.

“We worked very hard — we all contributed,” the supervisor said.

In a 2017 interview, Romaine and Miner both stressed the importance of allowing the villages to maintain their autonomy despite the consolidation of services. The projects will emphasize ways to eliminate unnecessary redundancies in government services while allowing incorporated villages to maintain individual oversight. Romaine also dispelled possible concerns about loss of jobs. He said he expects the phase out of antiquated departments through retirements, stating no layoffs will be required to make the consolidation projects happen.

Village of Port Jefferson board candidates, from left, Bruce Miller, Kathianne Snaden and Bruce D’Abramo at the Village Center for a meet the candidates event June 12. Photo by Alex Petroski

The future of the Village of Port Jefferson was on the minds of those at the Village Center June 12.

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted a meet the candidates event Tuesday to help taxpayers get a feel for their options on the June 19 ballot. Three candidates are vying for two open seats to serve on the board of trustees, positions that carry two-year terms. Incumbents Bruce D’Abramo and Bruce Miller are each seeking re-election, while village resident Kathianne Snaden is making her first bid for the position.

D’Abramo is looking to secure a fifth term on the board, having first been elected in 2011. He touted his more than 35 years of municipal experience as an asset to the village, specifically his time as a superintendent of buildings and grounds for two East End school districts.

“I think I bring an important talent to the Village of Port Jefferson,” he said of his experience in overseeing large construction contracts and projects, making sure they were completed on time and on budget.

He has served as the village board’s liaison to the Building and Planning Department during his tenure on the board, and said he had a vision for improving uptown Port Jeff when he first took office, and is looking forward to finally seeing construction get started. The village has obtained several grants and completed the necessary steps to get a handful of concurrent revitalization efforts underway in the
near future.

On one of the more pressing issues facing the village, the prospect of decreasing future revenue as a result of a pending settlement in a legal battle with the Long Island Power Authority over the utility’s contention its
property taxes are overassessed on the decreasingly necessary power plant in the village. D’Abramo said he has supported settling the case, rather than fighting it out and risking a loss in the dispute, which would require back pay from taxpayers to LIPA. He also said he supported the idea of building new apartments both uptown and downtown, as they replaced blighted structures, and cited their occupancy as evidence of demand.

Others, like Miller, have taken issue with the tax arrangements reached between the developers of the apartment projects and the town- and county-run industrial development agencies. The agencies are municipal arms that help fund building projects in areas deemed in need of economic development in exchange for decades-long tax breaks.

“I must emphasize that oversized zoning and almost complete lack of tax revenue because of the Brookhaven and Suffolk County Industrial Development Agencies’ giveaways will deny Port Jefferson revenue when we need it the most,” Miller said.

Miller is seeking his third term on the board, after spending 12 years on the Port Jefferson School District board of education. He touted his aversion to IDA deals and his organizing of a grassroots committee to galvanize support for repowering the plant, as a means to increase its value, as evidence of his willingness to
fight for residents. He said the issue has been on his radar for more than 20 years. He said he ultimately supported settling the case.

“I have been aggressive and smart in supporting Port Jefferson’s tax base,” Miller said.

Snaden has lived in the village for 13 years and sends three kids to the school district. She identified herself as a homemaker while also running a freelance photography business, and previously worked as a litigation paralegal. She shed light on why she decided to make a run for a trustee seat.

“I have a deep appreciation for small-town life, family-owned small businesses, and a safe and very welcoming community where children and families can flourish, and older folks can feel secure in their future,” she said.

Snaden added that she was initially inspired to run in the aftermath of a safety scare at the high school earlier this year, during which rumors and innuendo ran wild. She said she helped organize a town hall meeting that produced comprehensive feedback, which she later presented to the school district.

Snaden said she was supportive of settling the LIPA case as well. She said she’d like to see the village have more of a voice in discussing IDA tax breaks for development in the village, but like D’Abramo, said she was in favor of apartments if the other choice is blighted properties.

Polls will be open June 19 at the Village Center from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Port Jeff Army Navy on Main Street uptown will close at the end of August. Photo by Alex Petroski

Boarding the wrong train in 1939 might have put a damper on Joseph Sabatino’s day, but if he knew the series of events that would play out over the eight decades that followed, what he likely viewed as a
mistake would be more accurately depicted as destiny.

As his daughter Barbara Sabatino told it, her father was a pharmacist who saw a newspaper advertisement that a location of the Whelan’s Drug Store chain was for sale in Port Washington. She joked that her father must have confused his presidents, ending up on a train to Port Jefferson instead.

Barbara and Peter Sabatino, owners of Port Jeff Army Navy. Photo by Alex Petroski

It was his lucky day, because a storefront in the same building that currently houses Port Jeff Army Navy also
happened to have a Whelan’s location up for sale. He started his pharmacy at the site, eventually buying the building in 1958 with his brother Samuel. His children, Barbara and Peter, have owned the location since his death in 1977, operating as Port Jeff Army Navy since 1999, though the store underwent several transformations over its 80-year lifespan in the Sabatino family. Later this year, the location will embark on another transition, as Sabatino’s son and daughter plan to retire and close up shop. Barbara Sabatino, a Port Jeff Village resident, joked she and her brother, who lives in Port Jeff Station, are getting old and are ready for some relaxation and travel time.

“I always used to say, ‘We’re Madonna,’” she said. “You know how Madonna always used to reinvent herself? Well we’re just like Madonna, reinventing ourselves.”

Her father’s 1939 mistake had a lasting impact not only on his business, but also his personal life. Sabatino said her parents met when her mother Frances went on a trip to her family’s property in Coram, and before heading home on the train, as fate would have it, stopped for a soda at Whelan’s.

“If he didn’t come to Port Jefferson by accident, and if my grandfather didn’t own property out in Coram, [my parents] never would have met and we never would have been here,” Sabatino said. “This was a happy mistake.”

“You know how Madonna always used to reinvent herself? Well we’re just like Madonna, reinventing ourselves.”

— Barbara Sabatino

The Sabatino children were faced with a decision in 1999, though it was far from the first time, having transformed the pharmacy into a stationary store in prior years, and even adjusting the spelling of the name in decades past. Whelan’s Drug Store had to change to “Weylan’s” in the 1960s when the company decided to
require franchise owners to license the name for $100 a month, according to Sabatino. Her dad decided instead to flip the “h” in the sign over to a “y” and tweaked the order of the letters, allowing them to keep their vibrant neon signage and avoid the fee.

The opening of a couple of office supply stores nearby decimated the business, and Sabatino said she and her brother settled on becoming an Army Navy store because of a hole left in the market — Mac Snyder’s was a long-standing Army Navy store in downtown Port Jeff that closed a few years earlier. At their store, veterans and military aficionados could purchase ribbons and Army-Navy accessories, recover lost medals, buy uniforms and other items like firearms and camping gear.

“It was a natural draw with Peter being in the Navy for 11 years,” Barbara Sabatino said, adding that she used to shop at Mac Snyder’s and always found it a cool place to be. “Out of all of our incarnations, this was my favorite. It’s fun, and the customers are lovely.”

Both Sabatinos noted how special it was to be able to assist active and former military personnel in getting what they needed in the store, which also allowed them to interact with some of the country’s most upstanding and honorable citizens.

“After Barbara suggested the idea of an Army Navy store it brought back a lot of memories, and I said to her, ‘That’s a good idea, that’ll work,’” he said. “There’s a lot of people from Vietnam that are trying to replace all of the stuff they have, and we’re able to get the items in for them.”

Whelan’s Drug Store became Weylan’s drug store in the 60s when then-owner Joseph Sabatino decided to flip the ‘h’ in the name over rather than pay a licensing fee or remove the store’s iconic neon sign. Photo from Barbara Sabatino

At the public village board meeting in June — Barbara Sabatino is a regular fixture at these meetings — a village resident mentioned the pair’s impending retirement, currently slated for the end of August.

“If Barbara is happy, I’m happy,” Village Mayor Margot Garant said upon hearing the news, adding that she
wished her well.

Their impact on the community will be a lasting one. Sabatino said the store owners not only prospered in business during their time uptown, but also gave back to help those around them by helping neighborhood kids with homework, advocating successfully for a new park on Texaco Avenue in recent years and even supplying transportation to village events for uptown kids who wouldn’t have otherwise had a means to get there.

Sabatino shared a card a longtime customer sent to her and her brother when they heard the news.

“At first I was very upset to hear that you were closing because we’re not only losing the best store around, but also the friendliest and most helpful people out there,” the card said. “Port Jeff Army Navy’s goods, services and friendship will absolutely be missed. I am happy that you are retiring. You deserve to rest and be happy and enjoy your family and friends.”

This post was updated June 13.

Danielle Turner was previously the assistant principal at North Country Road Middle School in Miller Place. File photo from Danielle Turner

Athletics in the Port Jefferson School District reached unprecedented heights during the last few school years, and now one of the people who oversaw part of the rise is moving on.

Danielle Turner, the district’s director of physical education, health, athletics and nurses since 2016 will not be returning to the district this fall. She said in an email she had accepted a similar position in the Locust Valley School District.

“I would like to thank the board of education, district staff, students and this great community for taking a chance on me as a new AD,” Turner said. “I am confident that the tools, knowledge, and skillset I’ve acquired here in Port Jefferson will serve me well at my new home in Locust Valley, and throughout my career. 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.”

During her 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 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.

Turner was the assistant principal at North Country Road Middle School in Miller Place prior to taking the position in Port Jeff. She received her first teaching and coaching positions at Longwood Middle School, where she was a physical education teacher and varsity volleyball coach from 2008-12, while also coaching lacrosse and basketball at different levels. She later served as assistant principal at Eastern Suffolk BOCES’ Premm Learning Center and Sayville Academic Center.

While at Port Jeff, she was known for attending nearly every sporting event, posting updates on social media and serving as a promoter of the district’s athletes.

Superintendent Paul Casciano wished Turner well in her new endeavor in an email.

“We’ll miss her energy and vision,” he said. “We thank her for her contributions to our successes over the past two years.”

The district will conduct a search for a new athletic director.

Legislator Kara Hahn visits challenges residents to visit a county park everyday in May as part of her effort to promote Suffolk's green spaces. Photo from Hahn's office

Suffolk residents may not realize it, but the county has enough parkland to explore for an entire 31-day month and then some. Making sure her constituents are fully aware of their outdoor options right in their own backyard has become a mission for Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket).

Legislator Kara Hahn visits challenges residents to visit a county park everyday in May as part of her effort to promote Suffolk’s green spaces. Photo from Hahn’s office

She has been the chair of the Parks & Recreation Committee in Suffolk County since 2016, and upon getting started, said she was excited to start talking about parks. But Hahn didn’t realize how big of a job building awareness was going to be.

“Even in our neighborhood, there were people who had never been to Avalon [Park], people who had never been to the Greenway Trail,” she said. “I couldn’t believe that people didn’t know these things existed.”

In 2017 she kicked off her A Park a Day in May challenge, an initiative designed to get people out and about, visiting one of Suffolk’s dozens of parks to take a selfie and share on social media with the hashtag #APADIM. Hahn said even as the county’s parks chair, in researching and preparing for the now-annual challenge, she encounters green spaces she wasn’t aware of.

“When I became parks chair I said to all of my colleagues, ‘I want to tour all of the parks,’ thinking it was going to be so easy,” she said, adding she was totally mistaken. “It’s awesome.”

Legislator Kara Hahn visits challenges residents to visit a county park everyday in May as part of her effort to promote Suffolk’s green spaces. Photo from Hahn’s office

She said she and her family realized a couple of summers back, after taking a family trip to Cape Cod, they were traveling to enjoy experiences that were similar to what could be done back home.

“There’s so much here,” she said. “What we have here — there is no comparison anywhere else.”

Hahn admitted it would be impossible for her as a legislator to visit 31 different parks on 31 consecutive days, so the selfie’s she posts on a given day in May are sometimes taken previously and involve months of planning. She said getting out and visiting parks also affords her the opportunity to speak with constituents and gauge needs at certain parks, like monitoring ticks and funding for more benches.

In addition to her May initiative, Hahn also spearheaded a parks passport program last summer, which encourages kids to explore county parks and keep track of where they’ve been in a green, replica passport.

To see a full list of Suffolk green spaces and activities available at them — like kayaking, hiking and fishing to name a few — visit www.suffolkcountyny.gov/departments/parks/thingstodo.aspx.

Port Jefferson Village Hall. File photo by Heidi Sutton

Port Jefferson Village taxpayers will have the opportunity to hear from the three candidates seeking seats on the board of trustees Tuesday,  June 12 at 7 p.m. in the Wayfarer room at Port Jefferson Village Center, located at 101 East Broadway. The candidates at the event, hosted by The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, will give opening and closing statements and take part in a question-and-answer session.

The election will take place June 19 and will feature incumbents Bruce D’Abramo and Bruce Miller as well as challenger Kathianne Snaden.

Kate Browning, Perry Gershon, Elaine DiMasi, David Pechefsky and Vivian Viloria-Fisher debate at TBR News Media's Setauket office. Photo by Kyle Barr

Fifty percent of the Nov. 6 ballot in the race to represent New York’s 1st Congressional District is already set, but there’s plenty to sort out before the other half is finalized.

Five candidates garnered enough signatures on their petitions for elected office, earning spots on the ballot for the June 26 Democratic primary. They’ll square off for the right to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in the general election.

Kate Browning. Photo by Kyle Barr

All five candidates were at TBR News Media’s Setauket office June 1 for a debate to point to the areas in which they differ, matters they think they’re better suited for the job and ways they can dethrone
their adversary.

In pitching herself as the candidate most capable to do the latter, former Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning said she can take votes away from Zeldin in a variety of ways.

“We need to be able to appeal to the blue-collar voters, and I believe that’s something I can do,” she said. “Having a husband who’s in law enforcement, who’s an Army veteran — we hear Lee Zeldin talk about ‘vote for the vet, vote for the William Floyd graduate,’ and I live in his base, and I can tell you I know that I can take votes from his base. And having two kids in the military, I can take a lot of that away from him.”

Zeldin is a U.S. Army Reserve veteran.

Perry Gershon identified a different way that he can pull from Zeldin’s support. The candidate said he made a living in commercial mortgage lending for 25 years and owned a small business — a sports bar in New York City — touting the fact he is a political outsider hoping to shake things up.

“What that background means is that when I talk about the economy and jobs I have a little extra credibility, because I’ve been involved in creating jobs before,” Gershon said.

Elaine DiMasi. Photo by Kyle Barr

Elaine DiMasi provides perhaps the most unique qualifications of the bunch.

“There aren’t too many districts that can add a professional scientist to that problem-solving team that is congress,” said DiMasi, a physicist at Brookhaven National Lab. “There’s 435 professionals there — many lawyers, many legislators, many more people with business degrees than with backgrounds like mine, and it’s badly needed right now.”

David Pechefsky said he offers a blend of foreign and domestic policy experience despite never holding elected office, which is uncommon for most first-time candidates. He has worked as an adviser to governments abroad, in addition to his time as a staffer for the New York City Council.

“We’re going to need that to go toe-to-toe with Zeldin,” he said. “He talks a lot about foreign policy. Our national lawmaking body [is] going to have to vote on a whole host of issues pertaining to foreign policy, and I also feel deeply that the Democratic Party needs to challenge the narrative on foreign policy. We cannot afford to continue to have military interventions.”

Vivian Viloria-Fisher said she previously served as a delegate at three Democratic National Conventions in the past. That, her experience as a Suffolk County legislator and living in the district for nearly five decades helps her to understand the needs of 1st District Democrats, she said.

Perry Gershon. Photo by Kyle Barr

“This is who I am, this is who I’ve always been,” she said. “I have a footprint that goes throughout the district and I’ve done good work throughout this district. I’m well-known.”

Viloria-Fisher and Pechefsky said they possess empathy and compassion, respectively, which they said they feel Zeldin lacks. DiMasi said she’s dexterous, or quick-witted, capable of thinking on her feet in the midst of say, a scrutinized debate. Gershon said during his years in business he thought he’d earned a reputation as a person with high integrity, capable of getting along with people from all walks of life. Browning said she’s approachable, often having to remind people to call her “Kate,” as opposed to Legislator or Mrs. Browning.

The winner of the primary will be campaigning for a seat Zeldin won by almost 20 points in 2016, within a county Trump won by seven points, marking the first time a Republican presidential candidate secured Suffolk County since 1992.

Viloria-Fisher said she partnered with Republicans to pass various pieces of bipartisan legislation while representing the county. Pechefsky said he thinks his message — his willingness to advocate for working people — cuts across political lines. DiMasi said she thought her approach to campaigning — sticking to just the facts — would earn her respect with Republicans.

David Pechefsky. Photo by Kyle Barr

Gershon said he believes many people who voted for Trump in the past could be convinced to vote Democratic because he thinks many regret doing so, with an opportunity to score points because of the Republican tax plan, which did particular damage to Long Island property owners. Zeldin was one of few Republicans in Congress who did not vote for the bill.

The candidates identified many of the same issues — gun control legislation, immigration reform, health care options, lack of high-paying jobs, high cost of living in the district — as the most important to the voters they’ve spoken to, while also citing what they said they viewed as Zeldin’s misguided positions on these issues.

Browning named taxes and water quality as among the biggest concerns facing the district in the near future.

“[Zeldin will] come to the Island and say, ‘I have a great environmental record, I’m opposed to the offshore drilling, I’m all about clean water,’ however, he’s voting for bills that are polluting the waters in Virginia,” she said.

Pechefsky identified availability of affordable housing, for people from all income brackets, as desperately needed.

Vivian Viloria-Fisher. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Brookhaven is losing population except for Patchogue, and seniors can’t afford to stay here either,” he said. “When you say we’re trying to figure out interventions that can make for healthier communities, healthier neighborhoods — housing is one you could tackle directly. I worked a lot on housing policy in the city.”

Viloria-Fisher also noted the importance of creating reasons — be it high-paying jobs or vibrant downtowns — for young graduates to remain local and plant roots.

She also referenced Zeldin’s position on guns, and campaign donations he has received from the National Rifle Association, as counter to the values of voters she said she’s spoken to.

“He calls it Second Amendment support, I just call it gun violence support,” she said. “Nobody needs to carry around an assault weapon.”

DiMasi said she’s been trying to get through to those with a distaste for politics, recalling a conversation with an African-American as she was campaigning door-to-door.

“The fact is, I believe that federal law is the place to decrease discrimination,” she said. “Laws create personal biases, much more so than the other way around, and that’s from research. We have to understand just how deeply disenfranchised people have become.”

Port Jefferson code Chief Wally Tomaszewski. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By Alex Petroski

A Port Jefferson Village fixture for more than 35 years is saying goodbye to his role in the community.

Code Enforcement Chief Wally Tomaszewski is retiring, according to an announcement by Mayor Margot Garant during a public Village Board meeting June 4.

“Chief Tomaszewski came in and he signed a retirement letter today with us,” Garant said. “He is going to be retiring, receiving his compensation for the month of June, and we will be searching for a new chief of the bureau. There’s a lot of change in the department in terms of technology, things that have to happen, and chief, we wish him well. We want to recognize him and retire him in this community for the public service he has provided for us for 35 years. And we mean that sincerely.”

Garant made the announcement when asked by a resident what was going on, as rumors had begun swirling on social media over the weekend about Tomaszewski’s job status and the story behind the departure.

Tomaszewski did not respond to a request for comment.

Community members packed Village Hall for the June meeting to discuss a host of issues, but the larger than normal turnout was likely largely a reflection on rumors about the chief.

“We spoke about this Friday, we shook hands, he came in today and signed his letter,” Garant said.

Several attendees spoke in support of Tomaszewski and asked the board to reconsider accepting the letter.

“I moved here about 50 years ago, and the reason we did was because this was a personal village,” resident Naomi Solo said. “It was a special village, and I think the person that really epitomizes this, besides yourself, was Wally. The loss of Wally is devastating.”

The chief was known for being on call for residents, be it to address noise complaints in the middle of the night or assist the Suffolk County Police Department in certain cases.

“I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find a replacement that’s equivalent to him,” resident Marge McCuen said.

Deputy Code Chief Fred Leute will serve as the acting chief, according to Garant.

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James Marci sits in his completed Eagle Scout project with his mom, Christine Napolitano, at Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson June 2. Photo by Alex Petroski

Like the Iron Throne in Westeros, Port Jefferson Village now has a roughly seven-feet-tall by four-feet-wide seat that will make any visitors at Harborfront Park feel like royalty. James Marci, 16, a Port Jefferson High School student and member of Boy Scout Troop 454, was tasked in approaching his Eagle Scout Service Project with demonstrating leadership of others while completing something to benefit his community. After months of work, planning and coordination, the harborside park now features what Marci is calling #PJBigChair.

Marci said he wanted to build a landmark for Port Jeff, something that would attract both tourists and locals to visit and take photos on and share on social media using the hashtag, which is actually painted on the massive blue seat in white lettering. He said he got the idea from visiting Cape Cod and heard from others who had visited Vermont and seen something similar in public spaces. The big chair — made out of Douglas fir wood discounted by Riverhead Building Supply — was dropped off at the park June 2 and will be officially permanently installed on the gravel path overlooking the harbor behind the Long Island Explorium and near The Shipbuilder’s Monument June 8. Interested sitters won’t need exact coordinates to locate it though.

James Marci, in chair on the right, sits on his completed Eagle Scout project at Harborfront Park, joined by, from left, his mom, Christine Napolitano, Trustee Larry LaPointe, Mayor Margot Garant, Trustee Bruce D’Abramo and Trustee Stan Loucks. Photo by Bethanie Rizzo

“It’s something that brings people together, and even the finished product will bring people together through pictures, that’s something I like to advocate for,” Marci said. “All of the connections you have to make it’s truly a matter of coordination, because that’s what it says for the requirement, you have to plan and execute, and it’s more of the planning than the execution that makes it a great project. If everything runs smoothly that’s what makes it a spectacle to see, just everything came together. Someone who’s going to come from Connecticut or the middle of the Island is going to see this and is going to wonder how it got here. It’s a story.”

Marci’s mom, Christine Napolitano, said she and her son love the area and have fostered a nice relationship with Village Mayor Margot Garant over the years. She said her son interviewed Garant as a first-grader and wrote her a letter as part of a community project.

“To see him use tools was kind of fun for me, because he now knows how to use a lot of things I don’t know how to use,” Napolitano said. “Letting him be in charge of something was very hard because moms always do everything, but he did it all by himself and I’m very proud of him.”

Marci said the primer and stain for the wood were donated by Benjamin Moore in Port Jefferson Station, and a couple of the employees who helped him out were former Scouts. He said his uncle — Napolitano’s brother — and Village Trustee Stan Loucks and the rest of the board helped him in coordinating and completing the project. He also thanked the family of Bethanie Rizzo, Troop 454 Committee Chair, who allowed him to store the chair in her garage while it was being completed and assisted in transporting it to the park.

“The work that it takes to become an Eagle Scout is just remarkable,” Trustee Bruce D’Abramo said. “I think that the Boy Scouts of America are really training some leaders of tomorrow and it’s not easy to get through all of the steps. I’m just so proud of this boy, and I wish him well.”

This post was updated June 12 to correct that Riverhead Building Supply provided a discount and did not donate the wood, and to amend Christine Napolitano’s input.

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