By Alex Petroski

The 112-unit, three-story apartment complex prominently perched at the west entrance to Port Jefferson Village, with a bird’s-eye view of Port Jefferson Harbor, got its last, most important feature Jan. 18: tenants.

Tritec Real Estate Company broke ground on the former site of the Heritage Inn motel in June 2016, and last week a  small group of renters began moving into their new homes. Five apartments were fully moved in by the end of the day Jan. 18, and more tenants have been moving in incrementally every day. Onsite Community Manager Phil Chiovitti, whose permanent office will be on the first floor of The Shipyard, said the incremental strategy is to avoid elevator gridlock. Chiovitti said so far, about 46 percent of the units have been preleased, and Tritec’s goal is to have the remaining units inhabited by summer.

“It’s nice to have the building start to come alive a little bit,” said Chris Kelly, Tritec’s director of marketing, who has been a regular fixture at the formerly under-construction building.

As part of Tritec’s financial assistance agreement reached with the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency, an organization tasked with helping to fund projects that will attract business and improve economic conditions within its area, smaller payments in lieu of property taxes will be made to the village by Tritec for 15 years. The agreement has created tension with some longtime homeowners in the village concerned about more neighbors using village streets and services without contributing to the tax base. Others have expressed varying levels of outrage over the sheer size of the building.

“The natural beauty of its harbor and surrounding hills make it one of the loveliest spots on the North Shore of Long Island,” village resident Karleen Erhardt wrote in one 2017 letter to the editor of  The Port Times Record. “It is no wonder that visitors come here year-round to escape the blur of boxy, vinyl-sided suburbia that now characterizes much of Long Island. The Shipyard has done irreparable damage to the character of Port Jefferson Village. All that we residents can do now is wait for the inevitable traffic congestion in and around our town that can only make life here worse.”

Jordan and Alejandra Kaplan were the first tenants to officially move into the building. The couple owned a home in Ridge for 40 years, and after spending about six months living in the basement at one of their children’s homes, waiting for their new dream apartment to be ready to move in, were excited to be at the front of the line last week.

“We had a very large house and for the two of us — it was three floors — it was enormous,” Alejandra Kaplan said. “We said we need to change our lifestyle, and this is definitely what we wanted to do. Everything is right here, you just have to go downstairs and you have everything at your fingertips, and we’re very happy about that.”

She and her husband cited relief from yard work and snow shoveling; proximity to the ferry, which allows them a convenient option to visit casinos in Connecticut or one of their children who lives in Vermont; and the long list of amenities and attractions both inside the building and within the village, as major factors in their decision to downsize. The couple said they’ve long been fans of the goings-on at Theatre Three and the Village Center, and have more than a couple of favorite restaurants in the village.

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