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Fred Leute

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An outside building at 49 Sheep Pasture Road is filled with debris. Photo by Kyle Barr

Two homes in Port Jefferson have caught the eye of both neighbors and village officials, and not for any positive reasons. 

The blighted homes on 49 Sheep Pasture Road and at 101 Nadia Court have received several complaints from residents, who said the properties are dangerous and need to
be remediated. 

The boarded-up house at 49 Sheep Pasture Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

Code enforcement officers confirmed at the May 20 village board meeting that they had been looking at these particular properties as part of the village’s zombie home task force. Acting chief of code enforcement Fred Leute Jr. said there were bottles littering the site, evidence of drug use and used needles. Human refuse was strewn in one section of the house. Officers displayed images of the inside of the home on Sheep Pasture Road during the board meeting.  

Leute added that people occupied the home in the middle of the day and had likely used the abandoned home as a drug den. 

The Sheep Pasture home, which is now boarded up, will soon be demolished. The board voted unanimously May 20 in favor of the proposition. 

Code enforcement said they had previously investigated the house on Nadia Court, where they saw the door had been left open. There was mold in the basement, and the pool was filled with stagnant water, something neighbors who attended the meeting said was of a larger concern with children and pets in the area.

Ray and Linda Hawkins, who live on Nadia Court, said the owner has been largely absent from the location.

“He hasn’t lived there for several years,” Ray said. “His car hasn’t been used there.”

Leute said upon entering the home the house “looked like someone just got up and left,” as things were left on the stove and plates left on the tables. He added the house did not seem to be built to a good standard, with water damage already causing major issues to the ceiling, though engineers hired by the village had not identified major structural damage that would necessitate demolition.

The owner of 101 Nadia Court is David Ferguson, a Stony Brook University professor of technology and society and applied mathematics and statistics. Ferguson has worked on several projects with the National Science Foundation regarding computer science, including developing computer science courses for liberal arts students and innovating on human-computer interfaces.

Through email, Ferguson said his bank, Teachers Federal Credit Union, has plans to take over control of the property, and that a contract is currently being developed to take over control.

The house at 101 Nadia Court. Photo by Kyle Barr

He also said the village has been in contact with him over making the “repairs.”

“It was my understanding that the village would make the repairs and add to my taxes,” he said over email.

A spokesperson for TFCU relayed that the credit union was in talks with Ferguson.

“We are aware of the issue and is in contact with the member on a resolution.”

At the May 20 meeting, the board voted to remove the conspicuous decking from the rear of the property on Nadia Court and to cover the pool so it would be inaccessible.

The zombie task force has identified 27 homes within the three-square-mile village that need remediation, and five have already been reclaimed. Comparatively, the Town of Brookhaven has a list of nearly 2,000 derelict homes.

One such home in the village that has already been demolished was on California Avenue, and a contractor has puchased the lot who Leute said plans for a new house at the site

“Now it’s going to be a nice family there, hopefully, who will be a good component to the community,” he said.

While neighbors have said these complaints have gone on for years, Mayor Margot Garant said the village has to be cautious when going after blighted property, as the system has been built to make sure municipalities could not simply take over people’s homes.

A Port Jefferson firefighter emerges from the drain with Holmes the kitten in tow. Photo from Fred Leute

The idea of firefighters rescuing a kitten in distress is so overdone from movies to fictional novels it’s almost cliché, but in Port Jeff Village, life imitated art Aug. 31.

Strong Island Animal Rescue League Erica Kutzing and Port Jeff Mayor Margot Garant with kitten Holmes. Photo from Strong Island’s Facebook page

Brennan Holmes, chief of Port Jefferson Fire Department, said he was driving near the intersection of Winston Drive and Ronald Court Friday night when a resident walking a dog flagged him down saying a kitten appeared to have fallen down a storm drain. Holmes got out of his car to take a look. The kitten was at the bottom of the drain about 12 feet down. The chief said firefighters were out doing driver training at that time, so he radioed them to come provide assistance. When they arrived, the firefighters lifted the drain’s enclosure and sent a member down a ladder to retrieve the meowing feline.

Fred Leute, acting chief of the village’s Code Enforcement, said he got a call from Mayor Margot Garant as the rescue was unfolding and hustled to the scene to offer his assistance. When he arrived, Holmes said he jokingly told Leute it was his responsibility to find the cat a home. Leute said he already had that taken care of — Garant offered to adopt the kitten. She named her new friend Holmes in honor of the fire chief.

“Not a typical day at all — I’ve been taking some ribbing at the firehouse about it,” the fire chief said. “It’s kind of cool — it shows the village and fire department are close and work together.”

A Port Jefferson firefighter emerges from the drain with Holmes the kitten in tow. Photo from Fred Leute

Holmes, the cat, spent a night at the mayor’s home, where its road to recovery began. Unfortunately, the next day it was determined Holmes required additional medical attention as her fur was riddled with quite a few ticks. These health concerns precipitated a transfer of residence to Strong Island Animal Rescue League for the time being. The organization posted a video on its Facebook page updating the public on Holmes’ recovery a few days later, indicating she was doing much better.

“This was a lot of fun actually,” Leute said.

He said once Holmes was out of the drain he grabbed a box from his patrol car, added some holes and placed her on the floor of the car on the passenger side as the responders wrapped up their job. After a little while, someone alerted the code enforcement officer that Holmes was walking around on the car’s dashboard.

“We got an escape artist,” he said.

Leute said he stopped at the grocery store on his way to Garant’s house to grab some water and food for Holmes — a salmon pate.

Chief Holmes commended the firefighters who responded to his call and came to help out, saying they did a great job.

“That was pretty cool,” he said. “We’re always happy to help out in any way that we can.”

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