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/.