Port Times Record

Steward to host biggest cleanup of the year Sept. 21

Coastal Steward board members and local divers plunge into Port Jefferson Harbor Aug. 18. Photo from Coastal Steward

There are monsters off the coast of the North Shore, but not the kind with purple tentacles and razor teeth. Some are man made.

The Coastal Steward boat is regularly used in beach cleanups. Photo from Coastal Steward

The nonprofit Coastal Steward Long Island has been hosting underwater cleanups in Port Jefferson Harbor for the past three years. This is amongst its other activities being the steward of the Town of Brookhaven’s Mariculture Facility in Mount Sinai while hosting beach cleanup brigades and educational seminars for adults and kids alike. But the nonprofit’s volunteers have been looking for a deeper clean beyond the shore.

Ashly Carabetta, executive director for Coastal Steward, said the garbage one sees when relaxing on the sandy shore is only a small part of the debris that sits in the ocean.

“This is our effort to go beyond the regular beach cleanup and extend it to underwater,” she said. “The trash that you see on the shoreline goes far beyond what is there.” 

Deeper into the water many of the heavier objects have no chance to wash up on shore. Denis Mellett, president of the Coastal Steward’s board, is a local diver and dive instructor. He has assisted with diving cleanups all around Long Island, but said they chose Port Jefferson Harbor for their close working connection with the village. Other municipalities on Long Island, he said, can be hesitant to allow these cleanups when they could be liable for the divers well-being. 

The board president said most people rarely think about what garbage has sunk to the bottom of the water. The rest of the garbage is often located closer to the shore underwater.

“The only stuff you often see or think about is stuff that floats,” Mellett said. “Typically, closer to shore is where you find the vast bulk of that debris.”

Coastal Steward board members and local divers plunge into Port Jefferson Harbor Aug. 18. Photo from Coastal Steward

The first cleanup took place in 2017, but last year the group had to cancel due to inclement weather. During the last underwater cleanup, which took place Aug. 18, 27 divers splashed underwater, going down to about 20 feet below the surface. Many were Coastal Steward board members.  

“Divers tend to be very conscious of the environment, because it’s where we spend our time,” he said. “It’s like hikers. Hikers tend to take care of the woods, divers tend to take care of the ocean.”

In past underwater dives, the group has come up with umbrellas and engine parts, and they have even found soda and milk bottles from all the way back to the 1940s. One memorable piece of debris was a 10-foot rolled-up rug that Carabetta found at the bottom of Port Jefferson Harbor. At the time, some feared what they might find rolled up in such a large rug, but they were relieved to find nothing inside.

Much of the debris, like small boats or parts of engines, actually become part of the marine life’s habitat, so they don’t remove it. However, they also find parts such as vehicle batteries, which can release toxic materials into the water. Objects like those are especially what the Coastal Steward looks for in these underwater cleanups.

“Typically, it’s down there until it’s buried in sand or silt, or a diver goes in there and brings it up,” Mellett said.

Despite what may come out of the harbor during these dives, Mellett said the true purpose is to gather interest in doing their regular beach cleanups and as part of their educational services, especially trying to get people to be more conscious of what and where they toss away.

“You can clean the beach every single day but as the tide goes in and out it brings in more garbage,” he said. “The only way you can make a significant dent is if you can keep the garbage out of the water in the first place.”

The Coastal Steward is hosting its largest beach cleanup of the year Sept. 21 at the far side Pirate’s Cove in Port Jefferson. The organization will be using its boat to take people up to that area, and if they gather enough volunteers, they will take people further up, across to the western side of McAllister Park. Volunteers will meet at Anchorage Road South in Belle Terre village at 8:30 a.m. before marshaling out. People can visit www.coastalsteward.org or call 631-941-6528 for more information.

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Village officials, members of the chamber of commerce, locals and members of the Long Island Explorium christen the new sensory garden. Photo by Julianne Mosher

By Julianne Mosher

A new sensory garden has been installed outside the Long Island Explorium in Port Jefferson, hoping to give those passing through the village an educational and therapeutic experience. 

Bruce D’Abramo, village trustee, Barbara Ransom, director of operations, Port Jefferson
Chamber of Commerce, Angeline Judex, executive director of the Long Island
Explorium, Jackie Grennon Brooks, senior advisor of the Long Island Explorium, Ellen
Kushner, treasurer of Decision Women in Commerce and Professions, Chelsea Finn,
board member of the Long Island Explorium, Shelia Wieber, board member of Decision
Women in Commerce and Professions, cut the ribbon on the new garden. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Sensory gardens are outdoor environments with flower aromas, plant colors, kinetic sculptures and interactive devices that encourage sensory play, learning and experience using all senses. 

“These gardens have been shown to offer a range of health, therapeutic and educational benefits to all visitors, with particular benefits to children with sensory challenges, especially those on the autistic spectrum,” said Angeline Judex, executive director of the explorium.

For the past year, the explorium has been working toward creating the space on its front lawn. It all began when Ellen Kushner, treasurer of Decision Women in Commerce and Professions, brought her grandchildren there to play last December. 

“I was so impressed with it and they had so much fun,” she said, “I thought to myself that we absolutely had to get involved and give the explorium some funding.” 

She said everyone at Decision was on board with the idea to fund the garden, and at the organization’s 40th anniversary dinner in June they gifted the
explorium the grant. 

The garden took about $2,000 to create and has been made possible by Decision’s funding, along with a donation and consultation from Port Jefferson Station-based Kunz Greenhouses as well as the village gardener, Caran Markson.

The garden transformed the grass that was originally outside, now including a solar fountain, a pathway of stones and several dozen types of plant species. The garden is more than 70 percent native, with flowers, leaves and stalks that provide food and habitats for wildlife, deep-root systems that purify water along with beauty that nurtures the senses. 

“We specifically wanted plants that appeal to the five senses,” said Jacqueline Grennon Brooks, senior adviser to the explorium. “We wanted them to be visually interesting with the variety of fragrances and textures … ones that produce sound when swaying or when touched, and herbs or plants with edibles parts.”

Village officials, members of the chamber of commerce, locals and members of the Long Island Explorium christen the new sensory garden. Photo by Julianne Mosher

She added, “Research indicates that at the 70 percent native mark, we can reestablish important insect and bird populations.”

Although it’s helpful to the environment, village Trustee Bruce D’Abramo loved the idea that kids can come to the garden and do what they want. 

“You don’t have to tell them what to do,” he said. “They make the decisions.”

He added that the space is going to be seen by all walking through the village. 

“This area gets a lot of foot traffic,” he said. “Just last weekend at the Dragon Boat Race Festival, 2,500 people walked right past this park.”

The ribbon-cutting ceremony officially opened the garden Sept. 17, and will be open year round, even when the explorium is closed. 

“People should come visit and be amazed by the transformation of our front yard into a delightful garden that both teaches and brings joy to everyone,” Judex said. ”I love seeing how people get excited about the sensory garden and want to create one in their own yard.”

Sunrise Wind official speaks of ‘underutilized facilities’ in Port Jeff

Ken Bowes, a vice president at Eversource, talks of using Port Jeff as a headquarters. Photo by Kyle Barr

Imagine a field, not on land but on the open ocean — not of green plants topped with colorful flowers, but of huge, 800-foot towers topped with spinning, white wind blades.

That is what officials from two companies and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority asked Brookhaven Town residents to envision. At a public meeting hosted at Town Hall Sept. 17. Plans are for two offshore wind projects, located off the East End and South Shore of Long Island. Eventually, the wind farms will provide close to 1,700 megawatts of energy to Long Island, powering 1 million homes and generating up 30 percent of New York’s power capacity by 2035, according to NYSERDA officials.

One offshore wind project, Sunrise Wind, a combined venture with U.S.-based Eversource and Denmark-based Ørsted, is of special interest to Brookhaven Town and the Village of Port Jefferson. The companies have announced its intent to use Port Jefferson Harbor as a headquarters and base of operations for not only this upcoming project, but for offshore wind across the Eastern Seaboard.

Ken Bowes, the vice president of offshore wind siting and permitting at Eversource, said they are currently working with local realtors, as suggested to them by Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant. The business is searching for warehouse and office space in the local area. He said they are looking for space in close proximity to the village, though finding a suitable location within the village boundaries will likely be difficult.

He said he expects around 50 full-time employees will work on the vessel the company uses to go out and provide maintenance and service the wind turbines, though they expect the project to supply 100 jobs over the planned 25-year lifespan of the turbines. These employees would stay on the vessel for weeks at a time before arriving back in Port Jeff, and he said the vessel should not interfere with the Port Jeff to Bridgeport ferry.

Representatives from Eversource and Orsted
presented plans for its offshore wind project at a Port Jeff Village meeting Sept. 17. Photo by Kyle Barr

If the plans pan out, Bowes said its ambitions are for Port Jefferson to be the headquarters for all work done for their company’s wind projects on the Eastern Seaboard, including current projects off Rhode Island and Massachusetts. 

“We may look to do this as a service for all of our projects and possibly for others as well,” he said. “We’ll see how that all unfolds.”

Sunrise Wind will encompass 110 wind turbines situated 30 miles off the coast of Montauk, and at full capacity will generate 880MW of electricity. Both projects, which include Empire Wind, are expected to be operational by 2024, according to current timelines. 

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said they are in support of renewable energy projects but said there are numerous questions that still need answered about how the projects will impact people, especially in terms of how it will affect fishing communities and in its cost to the surrounding communities.

“We all need to have clean renewable power — I think it’s more urgent than ever,” he said. “There’s a promise of not only clean power but also a little bit of economic opportunity.” 

Some major concerns have come from Long Island fishermen, who have said the planned wind projects could impact their business. Jennifer Garvey, the Long Island development manager at Ørsted, said there is no exclusion area for their project, and fishermen can get as close as they want to the turbines when fishing. Each turbine is planned to be spaced 1-mile apart east to west in a grid-like pattern, which, she said, will aid in navigation and in search and rescue operations.

In addition to the offshore wind projects, both Sunrise Wind and New York State say they plan to invest heavily in college-level training programs for people to work on offshore wind. Doreen Harris, vice president for large-scale renewables at NYSERDA, said the state has already invested around $20 million for an offshore wind training institute through the SUNY system. She described it as a hub-and-spokes model, where colleges and universities such as Stony Brook will contain centers for education and training in harnessing wind energy. For their part, Bowes said Sunrise Wind has already promised invested $10 million for a training program at Suffolk County Community College, though the college has not received any funds yet and details on the program remain sparse. The energy company vice president said they were still hashing out the details, adding more information will be available in the near future. 

Bowes said they chose Port Jefferson because of its deepwater harbor and its existing amenities. He also said they chose it due to its currently “underutilized infrastructure,” though when asked if that indicated the
LIPA-owned Port Jefferson Power Station, he declined to say. He did not wish to speak about Sunrise Wind.

The Sunrise Wind project is expected to be operational by 2024. Photo by Kyle Barr

“I can say we are looking at sites that would be natural for [the project,]” he said. 

The Port Jeff power plant, which recently settled in a tax certiorari agreement with the Town of Brookhaven over its tax assessments, has been running at low percentages for the past several years. It was only 11 percent in 2017, for example. In a previous Port Times article, LIPA said the reduction in taxes may help move the plant toward a clean energy recourse but has not provided more details on what that could entail.

The recently passed state Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act calls for a transition to a carbon-free electric grid for New York by 2040. A LIPA spokesperson previously told TBR News Media the Port Jeff power plant will be more than 70 years old by 2030. LIPA has already decommissioned fossil-fuel power plants in Far Rockaway and Glenwood Landing. LIPA has also said Sunrise Wind is key to transitioning toward the state engineered clean energy milestones.

Adrienne Esposito, director of the environmental advocacy group Citizens Campaign for the Environment said the best-case scenario would be Ørsted and Eversource using the power plant.

“Think about the symbolism of repurposing a fossil fuel plant and transform it to something that will help wind power. How great would that be?”

This story has been amended Sept. 19 to say Sunrise Wind has promised $10 million for SCCC has been promised but not yet received.

Suffolk Police searched a vessel at the Port Jeff ferry dock after a suspected bomb threat. Photo by David Luces

Dozens of cars stood idle and residents looked on in curiosity as a small fleet of Suffolk County police officers arrived at the Port Jefferson ferry dock on Sept. 18 around 1:20 p.m.

SCPD responded to the ferry dock after a 911 caller reported a passenger had been overhead discussing the potential to put a bomb on the boats, according to police. 

The incident delayed the 2 p.m. ferry to Bridgeport for close to two hours as police searched the vessel and found no explosives. After interviewing passengers it was determined to be a misunderstanding and the incident was deemed noncriminal in nature.

Around 3:40 p.m., ferry services resumed and cars were allowed to disembark.

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Comsewogue’s girls soccer team scored in first 10 minutes into the second half, but the Warrior’s lead proved short-lived Sept. 16. The West Islip Lions answered back with a pair of goal two minutes apart and tacked on an insurance goal late in the final period. With the loss the Warriors slip to 1-3 in the early season.

The Warriors will look to put another game in the win column when they travel to Half Hollow Hills East Sept. 20. Game time is set for 4 p.m.

The Walmart in East Setauket was cited for fire extinguisher and storage violations. File photo

*Click this link to see which stores in Brookhaven were cited for safety and storage violations.

Brookhaven Town has issued 22 summonses and 21 violations for numerous alleged safety violations of big box stores.

Town fire marshals visited 39 big box stores Aug. 30 to ensure they were in compliance with fire codes. The 22 summonses were for various infractions including blocked aisles and exits, and one for propane stored inside. 

“Our number one priority is the shoppers and employees who expect to be safe and able to exit the store in the event of an emergency,” said Brookhaven Town Chief Fire Marshal Christopher Mehrman. “Ensuring aisle widths are maintained and exits are not blocked by merchandise are just some of the things we are looking at. The town has a zero-tolerance approach to these violations.” 

Amongst multiple egress summons in some big box stores like the Kohls and Modells in Rocky Point, the Best Buy in Setauket was cited for an egress violation and the Kohls in Setauket was cited for a propane storage violation. Lowes in Stony Brook was cited for a Storage Violation and had two egress summons and one propane summons. The Walmart in East Setauket was cited for one fire extinguisher and one storage violation. The BJ’s in Setauket was also cited for one propane violation.

The fire marshals also issued 21 violations that did not warrant a summons and were not egress related. Each summons issued is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $10,000 and/or up to six months in jail. 

“A blocked aisle or exit could mean the difference between life and death during a fire or other emergency,” town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said. “We will not tolerate any violation of our fire codes.”

People who suspect that any store or business is in violation of Brookhaven’s fire codes can call 631-451-TOWN (8696). 

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File photo

Suffolk County Police said they are currently investigating an alleged stabbing that took place on Bicycle Path in Terryville Sept. 16 at around 3 p.m.

A 17-year-old, which police declined to name, was allegedly stabbed in the calf by an unknown assailant and was transported to a hospital for non-life threatening injuries. No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 800-220-TIPS (8477) or texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637). All calls and text messages will be kept confidential.

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The Port Jefferson, Stony Brook University Shuttle. Photo from Kevin Wood

Port Jefferson village, in starting up its connection with Stony Brook University for transit into the village, has hired on another bus to man the original route in the meantime.

The village approved an agreement with Suffolk Transportation Inc. at its Sept. 3 meeting to act as village jitney for $75 an hour for the remaining months of the university’s Fall semester.

Mayor Margot Garant said this was to help hold their obligation to the University and still run its regular bus route. The new bus itself is colored white instead of red, but it’s expected to be similar in size and number of seats to the current jitney bus, according to Parking and Mobility Administrator Kevin Wood.

Wood said this is in the interim while they continue to look into an additional Jitney bus. He added he is also considering reducing the number of hours of the regular jitney route due to low ridership. 

In 2018, the bus saw ridership as low as 27 in a week last September. Most jitney ridership occurs on event days, such as the Mini Makers Faire and the Dragon Boat Festival, which last year saw a ridership that week of 164. In 2018, the jitney saw an average of around 70 riders a week. 

The first two-and-a-half spring pilot for the PJ/SBU transit showed 3,200 riders. Wood has said he expects more ridership in this term. The spring pilot cost the village about $14,000, Wood said.

“This is definitely bringing people into shop, that’s what it does,” he said.

Daily schedules will remain the same, though the last pickup will be at 10 p.m. from SBU. The schedule is anticipated to be Thursdays from 3 to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The loop starts at Port Jefferson train station along Main Street in what’s known as Upper Port, before heading into Arden Plaza in the village, continuing up West Broadway down Route 25A, stopping at Stop & Shop in East Setauket. Once on the Stony Brook campus, it will make stops at the main circle loop, West Campus and the Chapin Apartments before coming back down Route 25A and ending at Port Jeff train station. 

The PJ/SBU transit bus is open to all Stony Brook students as well as Port Jeff residents and visitors.

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The director of the Echo Arms Adult Home in PJS said they are lacking funds to help support their residents. Photo by David Luces

As census data suggests the number of Americans ages 65 and over is projected to nearly double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060, some argue there has been an increased need for more assisted/senior living facilities. 

In New York State, licensed assisted living facilities receive government funding known as SSI, or Supplemental Security Income, which helps pay for services for seniors, including room, board, 24-hour supervision, medication assistance, case management and personal care assistance. New York State also supplements the federal SSI with additional payments through its Supplemental Security Program (SSP). 

“For lower-income and disabled individuals there are no other choices for them.”

— Harry Katz

Some local assisted care directors say the money is too little to care for an increasing demographic.

Harry Katz, administrator of Echo Arms Adult Home in Port Jefferson Station, said he runs one of the largest facilities in Suffolk County that exclusively accepts SSI/SSP individuals. 

“If SSI doesn’t change it will jeopardize a number of facilities on Long Island like mine,” he said. “For lower-income and disabled individuals there are no other choices for them.”

Though facilities in the state have said it has become increasingly difficult to pay for care of lower-income elderly, as the state has not increased its supplemental payment income for facilities in 12 years. 

Empire State Association of Assisted Living, a nonprofit organization whose stated goal is to strengthen New York State’s assisted living network, said due to the state not increasing the amount it will restrict senior’s access to this type of care. Currently, there are over 12,000 seniors living in SSI adult care facilities across the state. 

ESAAL serves more than 280 licensed assisted living residences, adult homes and enriched housing programs throughout the state. Some other locations in Suffolk County include Fairlawn Adult Home in Northport, Atria South Setauket and Maryville Assisted Living in Smithtown.  

According to ESAAL and Katz, the current SSI rate is less than $45 per day, which barely covers one half of a shift of one aide employed by an assisted living facility. 

Katz, who oversees 13 other employees at his facility, said he believes the state should increase funding so he and others can continue to provide these valuable services to seniors. 

“These are their homes, I’ve had residents who have lived here [Echo Home] for close to 20 years,” he said. 

Katz and others have reached out to elected officials to help their cause, but he said Albany remains stagnant in trying to increase funding.   

Back in 2018, current Democratic U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi, while then a state assemblyman, introduced a bill (A6715B) that would increase the SSP that adult care facilities receive. In order to ensure that these services continue to be available to low-income SSI recipients. The bill passed both the Assembly and Senate but was ultimately vetoed by Gov.Andrew Cuomo (D). ESAAL is requesting that NYS increase the current SSI rate to $61 in the 2020-21 state budget. 

The administrator said it is also about educating people on what their organization does every day, as well as what kind of services these facilities provide. 

“These are a vulnerable group of people, these homes are providing a very good function,” he said. 

Katz said for many facilities like his, the increase of operation costs, wages and other factors in addition to the current SSI funding has made it difficult for some operators to continue to run its services. 

“Many facilities unfortunately are moving in that direction, he said. “The edge is coming closer for us, if nothing happens.”                                              

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At each of the boats’ prow, a dragon, open-mouthed, roared its challenge to each other boat beating in time alongside. All day, Sept. 14, the dragons raced through Port Jefferson Harbor.

At the 6th annual Dragon Boat Race Festival, hosted by the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, 27 teams competed on a 250-meter, three-lane racing course in front of Harborfront Park. Each boat consisted of 20 paddlers along with one steersman and one drummer who beat out the time of the oars. The vast majority of teams were made up of amateurs, some whose first time stepping into a rowing position was at the Sept. 14 event.

Alongside the rows of tents used for the teams and their rowers, children could also watch and try their hands at traditional Chinese calligraphy and get their faces painted.

In addition to the ongoing races in the harbor, performers made use of the new stage at Haborfront Park for productions, from the Yiyuan Dance School showcasing a traditional Chinese and Xinjiang folk set to the Stony Brook-based Taiko Tides doing the classic Japanese percussion ensemble. Multiple martial arts schools gave demonstrations of Kung Fu and Karate.