Community

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.

Mount Sinai High School. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Most people would be ecstatic to have millions of dollars put aside for a rainy day, but for school districts it’s not such a benefit, at least according to state law.

The New York State comptroller, who serves as a financial watchdog on public institutions, issued a report June 1 that said the Mount Sinai School District had amassed millions of dollars in its fund budget higher
than the legal max of 4 percent of the districts overall budget. Mount Sinai has said it intends to comply with the suggestions of the report, but some trustees said the restrictions on rainy-day funds only hamper the
district’s ability to handle its finances.

“We knew we couldn’t wait — those projects needed to be done now. I think that according to the [budget] vote the residents agreed with us.”

— Gordon Brosdal

“If you spent all the money you got every year, and then had nothing left, how fiscally responsible is that?” incoming board trustee Steve Koepper said.

The report said officials overestimated expenditures by more than $7.5 million and had underestimated revenues by $1.7 million from the 2014-15 through the 2016-17 school years. In the three years examined in the report, the district operated at a surplus and did not use any of its appropriated fund balance. This led to Mount Sinai’s unrestricted fund balance to be equal to 19.8 percent of the overall 2016-17 budget, way above the 4 percent limit.

The unassigned fund balance is developed from a school district having leftover, unspent funds by the end of each school year, and these funds accumulate. There are three levels to a districts total fund balance, including the restricted fund balance, which can only be spent for specific purposes like retirements; the appropriated balance, which is what the district sets up every year that can be spent from the overall funds; and the unassigned fund balance, or the unused portion. As of the 2016-17 school year, the district had $1.61 million appropriated and $9.9 million unassigned, according to the report.

Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said at the June 12 board of education meeting that talks with auditors have been congenial, and that they already have plans in motion to resolve the issue by using the funds in the already established capital project.

In the district’s 2018-19 adopted budget Mount Sinai residents voted 787-176 in favor of using $5 million of the unassigned fund balance to make repairs to the high school roof, upgrade the turf field and replace the campus’ perimeter fences, as well as other school security improvements. 

Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal speaks to community members about the state comptroller’s audit findings during a June 12 board of education meeting. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We hope that they will listen to our plan to spend down the fund balance, rather than just say, ‘No, your fund balance is too high,’” Brosdal said.

Brian Butry, a spokesperson for the comptroller’s office, said Mount Sinai is not the only district in the state that has been caught with a surplus of unassigned fund balance.

“We have districts in the state showing that they are using fund balance, but that money is not being spent,” Butry said. “You have districts planning for one thing that doesn’t materialize, or you have districts overestimating their expenditures and then just continually have this surplus that rolls over into the next year.”

According to Butry, the penalty for not complying with the comptroller’s report could be a withholding of state funds up to the amount that district’s fund balance is over the 4 percent limit.

Koepper works as the superintendent of buildings and grounds at Sayville school district, and he said that so many districts do not operate within the limit because it does not make financial sense to do so.

“To be imposed upon by the state ties our hands, because if emergencies occur what do you do?” Koepper said. “Especially because you’re not allowed to overspend your budget.”

“To be imposed upon by the state ties our hands, because if emergencies occur what do you do? Especially because you’re not allowed to overspend your budget.”

— Steve Koepper

Butry said the law is in place to keep school districts from having too much money on hand that’s not being put toward productive use. He added the comptroller’s office often recommends putting the surplus into a one-time expenditure or to use it in subsequent school years for reducing the tax levy.

Brosdal said the district had already planned to use the unrestricted fund balance for the capital projects months before the district received any news on the comptroller’s findings.

“We knew we couldn’t wait — those projects needed to be done now,” Brosdal said. “I think that according to the [budget] vote the residents agreed with us.”

In the letter to the state comptroller the district also said it would be establishing a capital reserve of $750,000 in an effort to reduce the unassigned fund balance. The district letter said there’s five-year-plan
effects that should reduce the overage by more than half, below the 4 percent limit, within two years. This will include tightening the amounts the district uses in fund balance appropriations for future school years.

Butry said that the comptroller’s office was largely satisfied with the district’s response so far.

“To their credit,” he said, “they did say they were putting this money to use.”

Making a difference together

By Heidi Sutton

Visit the Port Jefferson Free Library table at the 2018 Green Fest

Seeking to promote an eco-friendly environment and a “greener” lifestyle, the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce will sponsor its 10th annual Green Fest on Saturday,  June 16 from 1 to 5 p.m.

The free event will once again be held at the Port Jefferson Village Center at 101 East Broadway — a most fitting venue as the community hub is the result of a recycling/renovation of the historic Bayles Shipyard Building — and will feature green market vendors throughout the first floor and outside if the weather is nice.

The annual festival began a decade ago with the goal to educate, inform, entertain and enlighten people on how to make smart choices for a greener world including being energy conscious as a way to reduce our carbon footprint.

Quality Shredding will be at the event.

This year’s highlight will be a community shredding event from 1 to 3:30 p.m. by Quality Shredding of Deer Park. “We wanted to make more of an impact and add another dimension to the event,” said Barbara Ransome, director of operations at the chamber. Residents and visitors can bring up to three bags or boxes of personal papers per person to be shredded for free. The mobile truck is capable of shredding up to 10,000 pounds of personal paper.

Entertainment will include a yoga class by Satya Yoga & Pilates Studio in Mount Sinai (mats will be provided), two spiritual drumming circles with shamanic drummer Peter Maniscalco and a performance by improvisational solo street guitarist Jeff Bellanca of Classic Jam  1. 

Children will enjoy visiting the Port Jefferson Free Library’s Green Teens table to make a craft using recycled materials and the Sweetbriar Nature Center’s table to see their resident critters. And if your stomach starts rumbling during the event, visit the Sweet Melissa 1932 Farm to Table food truck, specializing in organic nutritional cuisine.

SERVPRO of Port Jefferson will return to the festival this year.

Of course, no festival is complete without a diverse group of over 20 select vendors highlighting green products and services including renewable solar energy, electric/hybrid and smart cars, electric bikes with live demonstrations along with a mini-farmers market offering candles, flowers, plants, soaps, yarn and baked goods for sale. 

With so much going on, this family-friendly event is a great way to kick off the summer. Come on down and enjoy the day learning about methods that promote sustainable ways of living that will benefit our environment and planet and make our community a healthier place to live. The first 100 attendees will receive a free canvas bag, courtesy of SERVPRO of Port Jefferson. Making a difference begins with one small step (or fest) at a time.

Co-sponsored by Times Beacon Record News Media, Maggio Environmental Services and SERVPRO of Port Jefferson, the event will be held rain or shine. For more information, call 631-473-1414 or visit www.portjeffgreenfest.com.

Photos courtesy of PJCC

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.

As members of the Mount Sinai Yacht Club in Cedar Beach came out June 10 for the 15th annual blessing of the fleet, most understood, as old of a tradition it is, the blessing is time-honored way to guarantee
a successful boating season.

“This is for the entire season to make sure [the club’s members] have a safe and fun boating season,” said Reverend Jerry Nedelka, Venerable Canon for the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. He has conducted
the blessing of the fleet ceremony for nearly two decades. “This is a great opportunity for fellowship among friends and club members.”

This year Nedelka and Reverend Francis Lasrado of Infant Jesus R.C. Church in Port Jefferson, held up a cross and gave blessings to the many boats, both large and small, of the yacht club’s members as they crossed in front of the marina. The reverends even blessed the Town of Brookhaven’s pump out boat as it crawled its way across the harbor to the mouth of the Long Island Sound.

The blessing was attended by club trustee Bill Dick along with various local government officials including
Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point).

“This … shows our strong, community-focused mindset,” Dick said.

Anker said the club plays a big park protecting the local harbor front and environment, especially when it comes to the repair of the channel that travels from Mount Sinai Harbor into the Sound, which is constantly affected by erosion and storms.

“They are good stewards of our environment,” Anker said. “They are an anchor in the marina community, and
they have been instrumental in efforts to repair the channel.”

Runners participate in 10th annual Nissequogue River State Park 5K

Racing junkies made their way through Nissequogue River State Park in Kings Park last Friday night.

The Nissequogue River State Park Foundation held its 10th annual 5K Sunset Run/Walk June 8 to raise money to help transform the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center into rolling parkland where community events can be held. The run was sponsored by the Reichert family, owners of the IGA Fort Salonga Market.

Connor Hesselbirg, 22, of Kings Park, took first place over 300 other runners with a time time of 18 minutes, 12.54 seconds, an average pace of a 5:51 per mile. Smithtown resident Alyssa Knott, 24, was the top finisher among women and third overall with a time of 19:27.72.

The full race results can be found online at elitefeat.

Benner’s Farm shared the sweetness of late spring with its annual Strawberry Fair June 9 and 10. Attendees enjoyed old-fashioned games, live music and strawberry treats, including chocolate-covered ones. Children took turns learning how to make ice cream, visited with Benner’s animals and enjoyed the farm’s big swing.

From left, Michael O’Dwyer and Annie and Stephen Healy enjoy last year’s event. Photo courtesy of TVHS

By Kyle Barr

If there’s anything that we know about the 1920s, it’s that the parties were wild. Despite, or likely because, of Prohibition, the music was loud and idiosyncratic as jazz came onto the scene, and the alcohol flowed as if by fountains into the expecting mouths of flappers and bootleggers alike.

Setauket’s Three Village Historical Society, in collaboration with The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook is hoping to bring that period of time back to life with the second running of their annual Prohibition Night fundraiser at The Jazz Loft next Thursday, June 14 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The event, sponsored by the Montauk Brewing Company, will include snacks, wine, beer and raffles.

This time the TVHS is adding an extra layer of early 20th-century history with a new emphasis on the women’s suffrage movement and how that tied into a time of cultural revolution.

The fundraiser will feature memorabilia from the Women’s Suffrage Movement including this stamp from the collection of the Melville Family papers.

“You had this revolution with the women’s movement and the right to vote, and you had this revolution with the clothing, with flappers and the Charleston and the bobbed haircuts,” said Tom Manuel, owner of The Jazz Loft. “These were real renegade statements of society and culture, and its cool when you put them together.”

The Jazz Loft will have several items on display relating to women’s suffrage, including several articles, papers and artifacts housed in display cases as well as a mannequin fully dressed up in the class women’s suffrage garb with a large purple sash reading “Votes for Women,” courtesy of Nan Guzzetta of Antique Costumes & Prop Rental by Nan in Port Jefferson.

“[The movement] was really ahead of its time,” said Stephen Healy, president of the Three Village Historical Society. “It’s interesting to see if history is going to repeat itself or we will move on from here. The movement has been a longtime coming.”

That historical revolution collided with the cultural revolution of the 1920s, as many of the same women who campaigned for the women’s vote also stumped for the temperance movement. Suddenly, with the ban of the sale and consumption of alcohol in 1919, a whole new era of organized crime and mass criminality was born as the sale of alcohol eclipsed any decade before or after it.

“Everybody became creative with getting alcohol,” Healy said. “From everything with potato farmers out on the east end of Long Island and vodka creation, and I can’t imagine [the activity] between the water and the farms and the amount of backdoor distributing that was taking place on Long Island.”

The fundraiser will feature memorabilia from the Women’s Suffrage Movement including this “Vote Yes” stamp from the collection of the Melville Family papers.

But it wouldn’t be the 1920s without jazz, and Manuel said he has that covered. Manuel’s band, The Hot Peppers, will be performing live music straight from the jazz giants of the period such as Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Thomas “Fats” Waller and more.

“I think for us it really supports and makes a statement about who we are,” Manuel said. “Our mission is jazz preservation, jazz education and jazz performance. Any time we can take history and allow it to come to life, we served our mission.”

Last year’s Prohibition Night was supremely successful with sold out tickets and a packed room. Healy said he expects this year to do just as good or even better.

“It was a great success, it sold out, and it gave us some cross pollination between history and The Jazz Loft,” Healy said.

Manuel agreed that the event is the perfect blend of history and recreation. “Any time we collaborate with something in the community, it really solidifies the statement they say about jazz, which is that it’s all about collaboration,” he said. 

The Jazz Loft, located at 275 Christian Ave. in Stony Brook Village, will host the 2nd annual Prohibition Night: Celebrating 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage in New York State on Thursday, June 14 from  6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 adults, $20 seniors, $15 students. Period costumes are encouraged. To order, call 631-751-1895 or visit www.thejazzloft.org.

Augusta R. Malvagno of Port Jefferson Station is our grand prize winner!

Click on the image.

Dear Readers, 

We recently held our third annual adult coloring contest. Readers age 21 and older were asked to color in the cover of Arts & Lifestyles.

The response was overwhelming, and we received many colorful entries from readers all along the North Shore who used many different types of medium, including colored pencils, markers, gel pens and glitter to create their masterpieces. 

Many participants commented on how much fun they had  coloring in the page and how relaxing it was. Jaclyn Visco of Wading River wrote, “Thank you for considering my entry. I love these contests!”

Susan Saviano of Selden gave us glittery red butterflies poised to flitter away, while Linda Sardone of Sound Beach gave us a Caribbean-inspired entry with a pink salmon background. 

The color choices for the petals of the flowers were also very unique, with yellows, reds, greens, purples and even multicolored and ranged from bold to demure. 

Although it was extremely difficult to choose a winner as every entry was unique in its own way, the judges (our editorial team) ultimately chose the coloring page by Augusta R. Malvagno of Port Jefferson Station  who edged out the competition by using vibrant colors that seemed to pop off of the page! Augusta receives a three-year subscription to any one of our six papers, courtesy of Times Beacon Record News Media.

And surprise, all other entries will receive a one-year subscription as a thank you for entering our contest. Congratulations to all!

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