Recreation

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The beach over in Harborfront Park near where Robert Finke expects to launch their boats. Photo by Kyle Barr

A new rowing club is racing its way into Port Jefferson Harbor, and its coach is hoping to give high schoolers the first opportunity to get their hands on the oars.

Northport resident Robert Finke has been hard at work setting up a rowing club for residents and outside neighbors alike. The new coach of the rowing club sees the sport as wholly different than any other usual ball-based sport.

“It’s the ultimate team sport, but it’s hard to describe it without first doing it,” Finke said. “It’s you with eight people or four people or whatever boat you’re in, truly having to work together.” 

Starting out, the club will be hosting learn-to-row classes, which will take place at the beach in front of Harborfront Park starting April 15, with the first session going through April 19. Starting out, Finke and his two fellow coaches, the latter two working part time, will focus on young people in grades 9 through 12. Cost is $65 per person to row per session or $15 per child for an individual day, and he has a capacity of 65 to 80 kids per session. The second session is set for April 22 through 26, after which he plans to open up the club for rowers of all ages. Times are Monday through Friday 4 to 6 p.m.

Finke said he had been searching for a location all over the island, from the north to south shores. He settled on Port Jeff due to the harbor, it being shielded from most but the northerly winds, and because out of those he contacted, the town’s recreation department was very open to the idea.

“This is a great addition to Port Jefferson,” said Renée Lemmerman, the village recreation director. 

“It’s the ultimate team sport, but it’s hard to describe it without first doing it.”

— Robert Finke

Lemmerman was also excited by Finke’s past performance, him being an ex-coach of the Harvard University crew team, where he said he took several students who did not know about rowing and got them racing at a competitive level. While he raced crew at Rutgers University, he has also coached in schools in the Manhasset school district, and most recently, was a coach in the youth program in the Sagamore Rowing Association in Oyster Bay.

The new club is not the first crew to use the harbor as its training ground. The Stony Brook University Crew, the school’s rowing club, has used the harbor for training its members in the past as well, though Lemmerman said this is the first instance of having an official club for the Village of Port Jefferson.

The head rowing coach said plans for after the learn-to-row sessions are to start a 6-week spring youth season from May 1 through June 12 with day slots, one for Monday, Wednesday, Friday and another for Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. Each will have two time slots, one for 3 to 4:30 p.m. and another for 5 to 6:30 p.m. He said once the groups have set a good rhythm, he plans to set it up to compete against other local clubs and schools.

The master’s program, for those above high school age, starts April 1 and goes until April 1, 2020. A yearly membership is $750 per person, and the deadline to register is April 20.

“In rowing, it’s the boat, everyone’s very dedicated to the boat,” Finke said. “Kids get exposed to me, me, me, Lebron James every day. Rowing is the exact opposite of that, the exact yang for ying. The more fun and culture you have in a rowing club, the faster you go.”

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By David Ackerman

The ancient craft of wooden boat building is alive and well at the Bayles Boat Shop.

On a dreary Saturday morning in January the workspace, located at Port Jefferson’s Harborfront Park, was filled with many projects at various stages of completion while workers, ranging from teenagers to senior citizens, all performed jobs necessary to the task of boatbuilding. 

The space is heated by a wood furnace which allows production to continue throughout the winter months. According to Philip Schiavone, shop director and member for more than 10 years, “We use our mistakes as fuel,” speaking to the spirit of resourcefulness which has enabled the shop to grow purely by the effort of community volunteers.

“We use our mistakes as fuel.”

— Philip Schiavone

The boat shop was founded by Long Island Seaport and Eco Center, a nonprofit organization that tries to promote an appreciation, awareness and understanding of maritime history and the marine environment. The volunteer community at the shop contributes to the overall mission of LISEC by preserving Port Jefferson’s maritime history of boat building, and offering memberships and educational resources to the general public. 

In 2018 the boat shop started a canoe building project for high school students in coordination with Avalon Park’s Students Taking Action for Tomorrow’s Environment program in Stony Brook.

“This project is an opportunity for the students to learn new skills that they won’t get in high school while also contributing to their community,” said Len Carolan, the event coordinator at the boat shop.

Some of the practical skills the students are learning include the safe use of tools, making precise measurements, following detailed construction plans, and using advanced woodworking techniques such as mold making, joinery and wood-finishing processes. High school student and Port Jeff Yacht Club Sailing School member Oscar Krug said the project they were working on was a Sassafras 12 canoe kit with laser-cut sections built with a stitch-and-glue process. The finished product will be donated to Avalon Park where it will either be made available for public use or auctioned off in order to fund the next construction project.

“This project is an opportunity for the students to learn new skills that they won’t get in high school while also contributing to their community.”

— Len Carolan

Avalon Park’s STATE program operates year-round and provides volunteer opportunities for eighth- through 12th-graders both in Avalon Park and by networking with local nonprofits. The program is led by Kayla Kraker, a marine biologist and science educator who aims to involve students that are “self-motivated leaders and passionate about nature and the outdoors.”

Other student projects with the STATE program have included horseshoe crab tagging, organic farming, shellfish restoration and an archway construction.

Alongside the canoe build there are multiple projects underway in the boat shop. Members Bill Monsen and John Janicek are in the finishing stages of their restoration of a sailing dinghy called a German Pirate which will be the shop’s first submission to the WoodenBoat Show at Mystic in Connecticut. It has taken three years for this project to develop from a hulk of timber and wood to a stunning restoration, built with careful consideration to historical accuracy. The end product will be a faithful reproduction of the original German Pirate sailing dinghy which was first built in 1934 and is usually found only in Europe, making this model a rare discovery in the United States.

The shop is also preparing for its annual Quick and Dirty boat build in August where participants will race in the Port Jeff Harbor with boats that are constructed in four hours on the shore. Shop members are currently in the finishing stages of a raffle boat project which will be offered up at the event to raise funds for the facility.

Bayles Boat Shop at Harborfront Park is open for business every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and Tuesdays 7 to 9 p.m.

Breezy Park in Huntington Station. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A Huntington Station teen is seeking his community’s support to create a safe place where he and other skateboarders can safely catch some fresh air.

Daenys Cruz, 18, has launched a Change.org petition asking Huntington Town officials to consider constructing a skate park at Breezy Park in Huntington Station. What once started as a classroom assignment has slowly turned into a movement, garnering more than 520 signatures as of July 25.

“I think skateboarding is a healthy habit,” Cruz said. “It’s also a community where you will find people look out for one another.”

Skateboarders view architecture differently. Some people will see a set of stairs, but to us it’s something to jump off of.

– Daenys Cruz

The 2018 Walt Whitman High School graduate said the idea came to him in English class, where he had to write an argumentative essay. Cruz said he started skateboarding nine years ago after he was diagnosed with type I diabetes, commonly called juvenile diabetes.

“Skateboarding gave me a way to keep myself healthy,” he said. “With diabetes, you have to stay active to maintain a good quality of life.”

He started by practicing in an abandoned parking lot but quickly took to skateboarding at Breezy Park, as he could get to it from his house without having to beg his parents for a ride, he said. Its pathways and curbs provided him with inspiration to keep skating.

“Skateboarders view architecture differently,” Cruz said. “Some people will see a set of stairs, but to us it’s something to jump off of.”

Cruz said his petition seeks a safer environment for skateboarders by keeping them out of traffic on busy residential streets and off commercial properties. He admitted to having shop owners threatening to call local police on him while practicing in their parking lots, looking to get away from passing motorists.

“I had a friend who ended up getting hit by a car,” the teen said. “It was one of the scariest moments, because he almost lost his life.”

The Town of Huntington currently has two skate parks: Greenlawn Skate Park for BMX bike riders, scooters, rollerbladers and skateboarders; and Veterans Skate Park for rollerbladers and skateboarders only off
Bellerose Avenue in East Northport.

Veterans Skate Park, which was built in 2011 by Site Design Group and California Skateparks, cost the town $420,000 and was undertaken as part of a $8.3 million park renovation, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo.

If there was a place we could come every day, it would be a blessing.”

– Daenys Cruz

Cruz said he’s visited both skate parks, but there is no available public transportation and they can be too difficult for teens to get to without a ride. Greenlawn Skate Park has restricted hours to keep skateboarders,
scooters and rollerbladers separated from motocross bike riders, only permitting skateboarding in the afternoon. Cruz said it makes practicing difficult for older teens, like himself, who may work at a job until the late afternoon or early evening.

“We do not ask to make a huge skateboarding plaza, but a place where us skateboarders of Huntington can make a place to ourselves,” Cruz’s petition reads.

In speaking with others, the teen said he would like to see a street-style skate park that provides a flat, smooth surface with curbs, ledges, maybe a few small ramps or set of stairs.

“If there was a place we could come every day, it would be a blessing,” Cruz said. “We could really take it to our full potential.”

The Huntington Station teen said he’s reached out to the town via email and hopes to present his petition to town officials at an upcoming board meeting.

Nearly 250 Port Jeff residents support a pool somewhere in the village. Stock photo

By Alex Petroski

A group of nearly 250 Port Jefferson residents have a dream, but it is unlikely they will have any help from the village in trying to make it come to fruition.

Todd Pittinsky, a four-year village resident and Stony Brook University professor, has spearheaded and galvanized a movement that has nearly doubled in size since the beginning of 2017. The professor created a Facebook group more than a year ago to gauge community interest in constructing a pool for village residents.

In meetings that have taken place both online and in person, Pittinsky has organized a group that now has 243 supporters behind the idea of building a pool somewhere in the village and has even gotten one modest bite from a potential partner who might be able to supply a location: the Port Jefferson Yacht Club. Pittinsky formally presented some of the findings and brainstorming that have emerged from the meetings to the Port Jeff village board during a public meeting Nov. 6 in the hopes of gaining its support.

“We just realized we’ve been meeting and talking but at some point there’s only so far we can go as an outside group,” he said. “One of the issues that we talked about is this looming specter of the power plant closing and what that might mean for the tax base. One of the things that emerged from our group is we would just encourage the board and the mayor, as you think about that prospect and you think about that scenario, we can be pretty much guaranteed that property values will go down if there’s nothing to replace it. So you could imagine a race to the bottom where the village stops investing in education, stops investing in recreation and then the question becomes ‘Why should I move to Port Jefferson?’ Unfortunately being on the water is just not enough.”

Pittinsky’s pitch concluded with a request to the village to commission a study to determine the feasibility of a village pool and to examine the landscape of state grants available to municipalities constructing new recreational facilities.

“The village has no plans to actively pursue a pool at this time,” Mayor Margot Garant said in a statement since the meeting. “However, we are agreeable to working with the committee to assess the need and community support. We agree the country club would be the most suitable location, but under the current circumstances cannot foresee this as a village priority.”

Joe Yorizzo, commodore of the Port Jefferson Yacht Club, confirmed in a phone interview Pittinsky’s group has approached the club and although the conversations thus far have been preliminary, he said the club is interested in further discussing the possibility of building a pool. The group has also floated Danfords Hotel & Marina and the Port Jefferson Country Club as possible locations.

During the presentation, Pittinsky cited the health benefits of swimming, the safe and supervised environment for recreational activity that a public pool would create, revenue generated through memberships, a boost to property value and community cohesion across a wide array of age groups as some of the possible benefits. He said the cost of construction and finding a suitable location are the obvious hurdles that will need to be cleared in order for the proposal to truly get off the ground.

“At the end of the day, we ran a bunch of revenue models and the memberships do have to be expensive for at least the first 10 years to cover the construction, but we think that even if it is expensive we could balance it with access through something like once-a-week open community days where someone could buy one-day passes,” he said. “Then you’re kind of achieving the best of both worlds, where the people are particularly passionate about it and are willing and have the resources to contribute, but you also allow others to have access.”

In February Pittinsky said a place for his 3-year-old son to learn to swim was one of the few elements the village is currently lacking, though creating a place where the community can gather and enjoy together has also long been one of his goals. Part of the group’s work has included an informal study to try to determine how many people in the village have their own private pools. Using Google Maps, they concluded only about one in 17 homes currently have pools in Port Jeff. Pittinsky also stressed during the presentation that a wide range of demographics are represented in the group, and even those with their own pools see the value in a public pool.

He concluded his pitch with what he called the group’s tagline: “Let’s make a splash together.”

For more information about the group visit www.facebook.com/portpluspool/.

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