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Kevin Wood

Nick Dattilo, a salesperson for Nesconset-based electrical supplies company Kelly & Hayes, during his presentation to the village board Nov. 18. Photo by Kyle Barr

Port Jeff village officials are considering installing an electric car charger into an existing parking space toward the west end of the lot off Barnum Avenue.

Nick Dattilo, a salesperson for Nesconset-based electrical supplies company Kelly & Hayes, presented to the village board Nov. 18 about the possibility of installing a Charge Point electric vehicle charging station. Each station comes with two extendable charging ports and can be accessed with either an app or with a device that usually comes with a standard electric vehicle.

Kevin Wood, parking and mobility administrator, said the village is looking to make use of a New York State Energy Research and Development grant, which will provide up to an 80 percent rebate for such projects, from $250,000 up to a max of $500,000. The village would have to put the money upfront to be reimbursed. Mayor Margot Garant said she wanted to make sure the grant was in place before signing any contract for Charge Point.

Wood said the village could benefit, as the demographic of electric car owners is on the rise.

“As soon as you drive in [to the parking lot] you drive right into these,” Wood said. “I just like the idea that a person could come to Rocketship Park with their kids and charge their car.”

Officials said the hope is people with electric vehicles would shop while waiting for their car to charge. Each charge takes from three to five hours for a full charge.

The station includes an 18-foot retractable cord that winds up like a vacuum electric cord.

Though each station comes with two ports, Wood said he would like to see only one port be used with one space as a pilot. He added the village’s parking committee is usually hesitant to give up even a single space.

“If we saw it being used a lot, we’d open the second one up,” he said. “This town can’t afford to give away spaces.”

There are several electric vehicle charging stations in the immediate area. One set is in the parking lot of Heritage Park in Mount Sinai, and another set is provided at Stony Brook University, whose services are not billed for use.

The village board would still have to decide upon cost to the driver, with the rate depending on how long a car is being charged. Garant mentioned, depending on cost, the service could be offered free to attract people into downtown Port Jeff.

The board plans to reassess the feasibility of the charging station at the next board meeting, Dec. 2.

Wood said his goal is for installation of the charger next to Rocketship Park to take place in the first quarter of 2020.

 

Photo by Arnold Christian

A Port Jefferson welcome

Members of the community, including Mayor Margot Garant, came out for a book signing and meet and greet with author Nicole J. Christian (in blue dress) at Z Pita in Port Jefferson on Oct. 29. Christian was in town to promote her new book, “How to Consult, Coach, Freelance and Gig: Gaining financial independence by doing what you know and what you love.” 

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A new video released at the end of October looks to entice more people to come and shop in Port Jeff village businesses. Photo from Port Jeff promotional video

Port Jeff and the Business Improvement District are hoping cooperation will equal better results, starting with a new hashtag, #PortJeffersonMeansBusiness.

The Village of Port Jefferson, in partnership with the BID, released a new video at the end of October looking to entice more people to come and shop in village businesses. The video includes interviews with Mayor Margot Garant, along with business owners such as Debra Bowling from Pasta Pasta, Joey Zee from Z Pita restaurant and Jena Turner from Breathe, located on East Main Street.

The video was produced by parking and mobility administrator, Kevin Wood, through his media company FPS Inc. Originally created as part of a rebranding campaign for the village, it has become a step toward a tighter working relationship between the village and BID, which for years has not exactly seen eye to eye. 

Previous BID president, Tom Schafer, the owner of Harbor Grill and Tommy’s Place in Port Jeff, stepped down after a divisive mayoral race earlier this year. Schafer had strongly endorsed Garant’s opponent, John Jay LaValle, in the past election. 

Since he has stepped down, Roger Rutherford, manager of the staple candy store Roger’s Frigate has stepped into the role of interim president. While he said he wasn’t able to speak on the topic of the BID, he directed questions to James Luciano, the owner of the PJ Lobster House. At the time of reporting, members were expecting him to be voted onto the improvement district’s board of directors Nov. 5.

The incoming board member said with a change of leadership, bringing new blood onto the BID’s board has been necessary going forward.

“We’re in it to revive the community, we just need everyone to participate.”

James Luciano

The 36-year old has owned the PJ Lobster House since he was 23 and said the BID’s board had previously been reluctant to go for new ideas.

That, he said, is changing. One new concept is a grant system, where businesses can ask for matching funds up to $1,000 for small projects, whether it’s a sign that needs fixing or a new door. The village has agreed to waive the permit and application fee when it comes to these small projects.

The BID is looking toward future advertisements, including television commercials, railroad ads and joint ads with businesses in Connecticut. They are working with Dix Hills-based Ed Moore Advertising. Luciano said more focus is on social media, working with Mount Sinai-based social media agency Social Butterfly. Instead of using its own online pages for social media content, the BID plans to go through the already active Port Jefferson accounts.

The owner of the PJ Lobster House said the BID is planning on a new initiative to allow businesses to be put on a list for social media advertising with no extra expense to them, with two posts a week and boosts paid for by the BID.

In November last year, the BID and village partnered with Qwik Ride, a company that uses electric vehicles that both residents and visitors can use for transport within the village. The service was free thanks to a sponsorship between the BID and Qwik Ride, though some residents were critical of its low ridership numbers and some residents’ difficulty calling one of its cars. Luciano said at a recent BID meeting, the group met with the CEO of Qwik Ride to air their complaints about how the program was being administered, with some vehicles moving out beyond the village and ignoring requests to put more vehicles on the road during events. The BID offered to pay extra money on a shift to keep the transportation company within the area, but they could not reach an agreement. 

Garant agreed the service was not working for what the village required: A quick, efficient transport staying within the zip code.

In the past, the mayor has criticized the BID for sitting on its funds. The current budget for the improvement district sits at around $190,000, according to officials, and it receives $68,000 every year from the businesses within the district. The current advertising campaign is earmarked for $75,000. With the planned $20,000 grant program, the budget will sit on an approximated $90,000 surplus. The mayor said around $30,000 of that budget is set aside for Port Jeff in case of heavy snowfalls, but in recent years the village has not dipped into those funds.

The village has yet to give the improvement district its $68,000 for this year, with trustees saying they wished to see more movement on projects.

“The board of trustees wanted to see more initiatives going forward,” the mayor said. “When it comes to municipal funds, it’s move it or lose it.” 

 

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The Como Brothers play a set at the Port Bistro Pub in Port Jefferson. Photo from Kevin Wood

By Leah Chiappino

A small crowd gathered at the Port Bistro Pub to see The Como Brothers, a Long Island-based singer-songwriter duo, and see a new music video all about Port Jeff.

Kevin Wood on the red carpet with the Como Brothers. Photo from Kevin Wood

The band has toured the country playing its music, recorded with Grammy-nominated engineer Kenta Yonesaka, and even has had its songs featured on “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” The two brothers were in Port Jefferson Aug. 27 to perform a set and release their new music video “Take Me Home,” which is centered around the Village of Port Jefferson.

The video was produced by Kevin Wood, the village’s parking and mobility administrator who doubles as the owner of his own production company Kevin Wood Media and the Port Jeff Pulse.

Wood petitioned the singing duo, whom he had known from them performing at Rocketship Park, to make a song “that was centered around the beauty and majesty of Port Jefferson.” Wood said despite the fact he may have “many friends that write music, few can write the catchiness of The Como Brothers.” 

Wood said that he immediately loved the song once he heard the music duo recorded it and decided to try and make the music video. It centers around a character, Lily, who returns home to Port Jefferson after traveling around. It maintains simple shots of the band playing music on the streets of the village, as well as on the  dock. Shots of the village are further showcased by video of Lily wandering around in contentment at being back “where she belongs.” 

This was perfect for the actress who plays her, Kiley Holmes, as she is a Navy wife and has traveled around the world. “I knew Kevin had a game plan and I trusted him,” she said. “It fits perfectly because I’m so used to moving. It talks about traveling and then wanting to come back home.  This is the fifth state that I’ve been in and I’ve even lived abroad for a while, so I totally got that feeling.”

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Vilage officials have been paying attention to the Port Jefferson Country Club lower parking lot. Photo by Kyle Barr

Port Jefferson village officials hope $12,000 is enough to cover the Port Jefferson Country Club parking lot and area around the golf pro shop with camera surveillance.

At its Aug. 19 meeting, village officials agreed to put together $12,000 from various budgets to replace seven cameras around the country club parking lot. These cameras will be at 4K resolution to better enable reading license plates in case that data needs to be forwarded to village constables or Suffolk County Police. The money will also go toward adding a new system to use the upgraded cameras at the country club.

“The system we got there is five years old — the cameras have always been cloudy there,” said Kevin Wood, the Port Jefferson parking and mobility administrator. 

At the meeting, the village officials went back and forth on the cameras’ price tag, but Wood argued 4K is the way of the future.

“The 4K costs have gone down tremendously, even since we did Texaco a year ago,” he said. “We’re at the point where we don’t consider anything but 4K, it’s that close to the cost.”

The board unanimously voted to install the new cameras, and Mayor Margot Garant said she is looking to take some money out of the country club, the parking and main budgets.

In previous meetings, trustee Stan Loucks made a point of trying to stop people from parking in the country club’s lower parking lot and walking down to the beach to fish.

“We believe that a lack of cameras at the lower lot creates additional problems down at the east beach,” he said at the Aug. 19 meeting.

In May, the village announced it had hooked up its camera system to Suffolk County Police Department’s real-time crime center. The system is used by police to tap into local cameras and use that data in conjunction with databases to catch criminal activity.

Wood said they expect the cameras to be installed by mid-September.

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From left: Amanda Brosnan, Reid Biondo, David Rotunno, Kevin Wood, Connor Kaminska, Gavin Barrett. Photo by Kyle Barr

Four young men and one young woman can be seen by the meters in Port Jefferson with polo shirts emblazoned with Port Jefferson parking. Their job is to answer the question that’s on the lips of so many visitors and residents alike; “where do I park?”

Meters in Port Jefferson. File photo by Elana Glowatz

The first parking ambassador was introduced to the village last year, according to Kevin Wood, the village parking and mobility administrator.

“They bring that human touch to the operation of paying for a space,” Wood said. “Beyond that, they’re all Port Jefferson residents, so they know where everything is.”

All but one of the parking ambassadors are seniors at the Port Jefferson High School. Connor Kaminska, one of the village’s first parking ambassador, finished his first year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is back for the summer. Beyond fielding questions from confused visitors, Kaminska also uses his technical skills to fix the meter stalls he comes across

“I usually start off a shift with checking if they’re working,” he said. “If not then I usually fix them, take out the motherboards and catch boxes, just get them working… It’s nice being outside, helping people.”

The other four parking ambassadors include Port Jefferson High School seniors David Rotunno, Gavin Barrett, Reid Biondo and Amanda Brosnan. The young people work four to five days a week on four- to six-hour shifts, depending on how busy the village is at the time. They are paid $12 an hour, of which the money comes from the managed meter fund. During events like the Mini Maker Faire June 8, most of the ambassadors were out fielding questions about the meters.

Wood said, on a typical night, two ambassadors will be out for around four hours from 4 to 8 p.m. One is usually located on the west side of Main Street while the other focuses on the eastern end.

The parking administrator said the idea came from fielding many questions from visitors and residents while working on village meters.

“I found that 90 percent of questions are: how do I do this, what are the hours, does the machine give change, where is this restaurant, what time does this close, what time can I park here until,” he said. “The word ambassador is correct, Port Jeff ambassador.”

Brosnan saw an ad for the job on Facebook, and said she thought to herself, “Oh, I can walk around the village, help people and get paid for it.”

She added it’s especially helpful for when the village gets busy, and there’s hardly any spot to find within the entirety of Port Jeff. She usually suggests people find spots near the CVS or the Village Center in the back lot.

“Port Jeff is a tourist town, and people don’t know how to use it, even if there’s signs on the meters,” she said. “Sometimes the machine glitches, or just somebody isn’t sure what to do, so we’re there to help them with it.”

Biondo, a fellow high school senior, is also doing his first season as a parking ambassador. He finds he’s often acting as a facilitator for the parking meters, helping people understand how they can pay for their spot, where some machines don’t accept cash, and none give change. He also tries to tell people about the mobile app MobileNOW!.

“People do enjoy it, because it’s just one less hurdle for them to come and enjoy the village,” Biondo said.

“There’s no secret that there’s parking anxiety in Port Jeff.”

— Kevin Wood

Each of them has a consistent question they hear most often. Kaminska said he often hears about how one can add time to a spot and where certain restaurants are to give them “a lay of the land.”

Brosnan often gets asked where meters are, if meters apply directly to spots, or if they can be used for every spot in the village. Answer: the meters can interact with every parking spot.

Though it’s not necessarily an easy job. The ambassadors are always on their feet. With smart watches and Fitbits. Biondo said he has tracked more than 30,000 steps in a day, while the lone girl on the ambassador team said she had once tracked over six miles of walking distance in a shift.

All but Kaminska will be graduating by the end of June. Brosnan will be going to Salve Regina University in Rhode Island, Rotunno will be going to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Barrett will be going to Binghamton University in Upstate New York, and Biondo will be attending the University of Virginia.

Wood said their work has been invaluable so far this season.

“There’s no secret that there’s parking anxiety in Port Jeff,” Wood said. “These wonderful human beings just by being present calm that anxiety.”

More about parking can be found at https://portjeff.com/parking/