Recreation

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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