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LIRR

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A historic look at Smithtown’s first LIRR trestle. Photo from the Smithtown Historical Society

By Marianne Howard

It wasn’t until the arrival of the Long Island Rail Road and a few transportation innovations that Smithtown began to flourish as a place to live.

Prior to the LIRR arriving in 1872, Smithtown was solely connected to New York City through the Long Island Sound transport and dirt roadways. With the railroad, travelers from New York City were free to access areas like St. James and Kings Park as day trips, which previously would have never been considered.

As more and more people began coming into town, economic and business development around town boomed. Local farmers could now load wagons full of produce onto flatbed railroad cars headed for New York City. Travelers who initially came east for fresh air eventually concluded that there were residential possibilities in Smithtown and settled into the area.  However, the horse and buggy was the most accessible way to travel on the area’s dirt roads.

Old Hauppauge Road in 1910. Photo from the Smithtown Historical Society

Country sleighing was a favored pastime by early residents, according to “Images of America: Smithtown” written by Bradley Harris, Kiernan Lannon and Joshua Ruff. The book cites Alma Blydenbyrgh’s 1833 diary entry for Jan. 17 , in which she wrote, “Mr. Floyd been to the river and took Em and myself for a sleigh ride. Good sleighing!”

Getting to and from Smithtown remained difficult for years to come. The main obstacle to Smithtown’s connection to the northern spur of the LIRR was the Nissequogue River. To accomplish fully connecting the LIRR, engineers crafted a trestle to span the river valley, the largest iron structure of its kind on Long Island. When completed, it stood over 50 feet high and spanned a distance of 490 feet.

In the 1890s, bicycles first became a popular fad in the area. Bicyclists were urging the town and the county to construct dedicated bicycle paths to improve riders’ safety. Millionare Richard Handley personally funded a bike path from his estate in Hauppauge out to Smithtown. Eventually, Suffolk County constructed a path along Jericho Turnpike. 

Bicycling quickly became a nuisance to town officials. In 1911, Smithtown’s town board issued a motion banning bicyclists from riding on town sidewalks. Any rider caught violating the order could be fined up to $5.

Thirty years after the railroad came to town, automobiles began appearing. By the 1920s, the automobile was replacing the horse and buggy. Town officials were eventually forced to pave the roadways, and by the 1930s, the town was primed for a boom in both population and land development.

Marianne Howard is the executive director of the Smithtown Historical Society. For more information on the society, its events or programs or on becoming a member, visit www.smithtownhistorical.org or call 631-265-6768.

Huntington riders may experience some problems with upcoming station work. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Huntington Long Island Rail Road commuters may face some additional strain in their usual commute in the coming weeks.

The elevator at the South Parking Garage at the Huntington LIRR station is now out of service and is being replaced, with construction that began July 11. According to a press release from the town, this project is “much-needed,” to increase the reliability, safety and comfort for those who regularly use the elevator. The town said it estimates that the elevator will be out of service for about four months, with construction wrapping in November.

“We realize that no matter what the alternative, riders will be inconvenienced,” the press release said. “Please be assured that our contractor will endeavor to complete the project as quickly as possible.”

In an effort to make the change as painless as possible, the town asked for input from residents to help create options for those who, because of physical handicaps, find the elevator necessary.

“I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that we’re not on the first page of Newsday, but we do have real problems,” Georgina White, a Huntington resident said at the June town meeting where the input was gathered. “This is really a hardship. I did go online and take the survey, but the proposed suggestions are really poor. The handicapped and the elderly, and the people with strollers are going to be held. I suggest that you try to put the shuttle, that’s handicapped accessible, from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. It needs to happen.

She acknowledged the elevator has had a lot of issues in recent years, including breakdowns and filth, and commended the town for finally getting a new elevator. But She encouraged the town to improve its ways of getting the motive out, as she feared not enough residents realized the changes that were going to soon occur.

Based on those responses and the town’s recommendations, the following actions will be taken:

1. The town has added handicapped parking spaces on both sides of the tracks. On the north side, the additional spaces are on ground level in the parking garage. On the south side, the additional spaces are on level 2 of the parking garage. Both locations will provide easy access to the handicapped ramps. If at all possible, the town suggests users should try to arrange their trip so eastbound and westbound trips depart and arrive on the same track. Information on which platforms trains usually depart from or arrive on is contained in the full Port Jefferson line LIRR schedule.

2. Consider alternate stations. In particular, parking is available at the Northport station, which has only one track.

3. A town Public Safety vehicle will be available at the station during peak hours — 5:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 to 9 p.m. — to transport persons with disabilities from one side of the tracks to the other. To arrange a ride during those or other times, call Public Safety at 631-351-3234. Riders can call from the train to make Public Safety aware of their need in advance.

4. The town has reached out to the LIRR and asked that announcements about track changes be made as early as possible, so commuters will know if there is an issue before they board the train.

5. If a rider has questions or a problem, they should call the Department of Transportation and Traffic Safety at 631-351-3053.

“I appreciate all you’re trying to do,” White said. “Could we work together to communicate some better things for people in our town?”
After she spoke at the meeting, Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) thanked her for her suggestions and encouraged her to meet with the town’s director of transportation to continue a dialogue.
The news adds to rider woes, as those dealing with Huntington’s maintenance may also be delayed by Long Island Rail Road work at Pennsylvania Station.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright and Highway Superintendent Daniel Losquadro stand on the newly paved Quaker Path in Stony Brook. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Daniel Losquadro (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) recently announced the completion of the resurfacing of Quaker Path in Stony Brook, from Route 25A to the Old Field Village Line, just south of West Meadow Road.

“Quaker Path is a main arterial roadway, leading to both Stony Brook University and the Long Island Rail Road Stony Brook train station,” said Losquadro. “I am glad that we were able to provide relief for residents, motorists and pedestrians in this area, while removing this roadway from our high priority list.”

The total cost for this extensive paving project, along a nearly two-mile stretch of roadway, was $413,000. Crews replaced 240 square feet of aprons, nearly 300 linear feet of curbing, 1,350 square feet of sidewalk, and installed three, new ADA-compliant handicap ramps.

“Numerous residents have contacted my office requesting that Quaker Path be paved,” said Cartright. “I am happy that Superintendent Losquadro and I can announce the completion of this paving project, which alleviates major quality of life concerns in this neighborhood. I look forward to continuing to work with the community and the Highway Department to improve roadways in our town.”

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Everyone knows about the doctor who was forcibly removed from his place on a United Airlines plane when no one volunteered to give up seats to accommodate a flight crew traveling to another airport. Fortunately for the doctor, another passenger videoed the event, and the video went viral. The public outrage that followed is prompting congressional hearings, new rules within the airline industry and new laws regarding removal by police of an unwilling passenger.

I think it is fair to say that the reaction to the incident is one of total disbelief that such an act could happen here in the United States. The callousness and utter disregard for the safety of the man, incidentally a paying customer, are astonishing.

Yet here is another story, closer to home and less violent, of insensitivity to customers. I was riding the Long Island Rail Road home from Penn Station on a weekday afternoon, expecting the usual change at Huntington for Port Jefferson, when an announcement over the public address system advised us that the connecting train was arriving across the tracks on the south side of the station. We were told to use the stairs to cross over if we wanted to continue east.

It seemed a bit of an inconvenience until we walked down the platform to the stairway and found the entrance blocked. Turning around to find the next closest stairway over the tracks, I saw that some of the passengers behind me were using walkers or canes. As they saw the locked gate to the stairs, they became frantic. The next crossover was a half block down the platform. Did you ever witness people with walkers and canes trying to run? The sight is pathetic. And the rest of us didn’t look too graceful, huffing and puffing our way to try and catch the waiting train.

The stairs were steep to the top of the overpass, and the passages on the south side leading back down to the platform and to the parking lot were confusing. We ran by an elevator, and some of us pressed the button, but it took what seemed like forever to arrive. Once inside, we were confronted with different buttons that were labeled, each with an ambiguous letter. We pushed the wrong button and wound up on the ground floor. Breathless at this point, we rushed back up the stairs to the platform just in time to see the train pulling away. Those with the walkers and canes, as well as those of us too slow to navigate in time, perhaps a dozen in total, were left to wait the hour and a half until the next train. The moans were loud.

There is, of course, pressure on the engineers and conductors to keep to a schedule. A regular report grades the on-time performance of the LIRR, and there is much disgruntlement when the trains are habitually late. So there was reason for the train to pull away before all the passengers had crossed the tracks. But where was the caring? Some of the passengers were lame. Some were old. Some were just out of shape for a sudden dash up, around and down the granite stairways. It would have taken perhaps another two minutes for the rest of the group to reach the train.

Where was the respect for the paying customer?

Perhaps this sort of disregard is inevitable in a monopolistic situation. There is no other train line to use. There aren’t that many different airlines left in our country after the assorted mergers. Or is it something else, something having to do with our society as a whole? Yes, in many ways we have become more tolerant over the past century, more accepting of differences. We have also become more relaxed, less formal in our dealings with each other — and not in a negative way. But there are some aspects of previous generations that are sadly scarce. I could name a few: politeness, honor, civility, patience, respect. We rush around a lot, but I’m not sure we always get where we want to be. And if we don’t rush, we get left behind.

A map of the Rails to Trails project provided by the county’s Department of Public Works. Photo from Legislator Sarah Anker’s office

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) will host two public information meetings to discuss the proposed design for the Port Jefferson-Wading River Rails to Trails project. The two dates for the public meetings are:

•March 22 at 6 p.m. at Shoreham-Wading River High School, 250 Route 25A in Shoreham.

•April 5 at 6 p.m. at Miller Place High School, 15 Memorial Drive in Miller Place

The proposed trail, a project that was spearheaded by Anker, is a 10-mile-long shared-use recreational path.

The path will be built along the abandoned Long Island Rail Road right-of-way, which currently is owned by the Long Island Power Authority. The trail will run through the hamlets of Port Jefferson Station, Mount Sinai, Miller Place, Sound Beach, Rocky Point, Shoreham, East Shoreham and Wading River.

These meetings will give residents an opportunity to hear from the Suffolk County Department of Public Works regarding the plan for design and construction of the trail. For more information, contact Anker’s office at 631-854-1600.

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Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant shows attendees at a public hearing Sept. 26 plans for the revitalization of Port Jefferson Station. File photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson Village is looking to bring Uptown Funk to Port Jefferson Station, but it’ll need some help.

The Port Jefferson Village board of trustees plans to submit a funding proposal to the Empire State Development Corporation to breathe new life into upper Port Jefferson.

The plans are part of the Restore New York Communities Initiative, which was funded in the 2015-16 state budget for the sole purpose of supporting municipalities in rehabilitating blighted commercial properties.

If awarded, the funding proposal would grant the village up to $500,000 to be used to clean up five adjacent parcels near the intersection of Perry Street and Main Street, about a block north of the Long Island Rail Road station. The village is calling the multiphased project Uptown Funk.

Mayor Margot Garant said during a public hearing on the matter Sept. 26 that the village plans to apply for the grant yearly in the hopes of redeveloping multiple areas in upper Port over time. The grant will also require the village to match at least 10 percent of the $500,000 toward the project, according to Garant.

“The $500,000 can be used for sidewalk restoration, demolition, redevelopment, parking lot improvements — all the things that would be necessary to help a developer make an improvement to this area.”

— Margot Garant

The location was selected following a blight study in May, which targeted several areas in Port Jefferson Station in need of attention. The buildings named in the funding proposal were ultimately chosen because of the village’s belief that the property owner will cooperate. The grant requires a willing participant from the private sector. Currently the buildings on the property are vacant.

Village grant writer Nicole Christian said she expects to hear back regarding the application by the spring of 2017, and at the moment no concrete parameters have been established for how exactly the money would be put to use.

“The $500,000 can be used for sidewalk restoration, demolition, redevelopment, parking lot improvements — all the things that would be necessary to help a developer make an improvement to this area,” Garant said. “The $500,000 is sort of loosely prescribed, and what I mean by that is we’re not told we have to put it into sidewalks, or told we have to put it into one aspect of the project. So as far as we see it, it enables the village to bring $500,000 to the table to help incentivize a project that will give back to the village perhaps more of what it would like to see, which is a strong, anchor retail establishment on the main floor, or a restaurant with housing above.”

Trustee Bruce D’Abramo expressed his excitement to get the project started.

“I’m really happy to see the village moving forward on this particular issue,” he said of the revitalization of Port Jefferson Station. “It has been a clear goal of mine since I became a trustee to do something about upper Port, and this is one of the mechanisms that I’m happy we can embrace.”

Trustee Larry Lapointe also voiced support for the plan.

“I think this particular corner is perhaps the worst corner uptown,” he said. “The two buildings that are on site were deemed to be so unsafe that we had to vacate and board them up. Two of the lots behind are magnets for homeless people, and we’re constantly working with the owners to get camps moved out of that area when they spring up. It’s sorely in need of redevelopment.”

Barbara Ransome, director of operations for The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, addressed the proposal during the hearing.

“The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce certainly supports this potential funding and really feels it’s very important, especially in upper Port, in our business community there, and as a gateway coming into the village,” she said. “It’s critical for this type of development to continue.”

Cesar Moncada mugshot from SCPD

By Elana Glowatz

Police have arrested two teenage stepbrothers in connection with one of the three shootings that took place in Huntington Station over the course of three days in late April.

Cesar Moncada mugshot from SCPD
Cesar Moncada mugshot from SCPD

The Suffolk County Police Department alleged on Thursday that 18-year-old Jonattan Canales and 19-year-old Cesar Moncada, who live in the same Tower Street home, shot a man in the foot while he was walking through the Long Island Rail Road commuter lot off New York Avenue.

When that shooting occurred on the night of April 23, police said 20-year-old Jose Jurado was walking in the lot when someone stepped out of a vehicle, pointed a gun at him and fired. Jurado, of Huntington Station, fled and made it to the 7-Eleven at New York Avenue and Depot Road, where another person called 911. The victim was treated at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow.

Detectives have charged Canales and Moncada with first-degree assault. They were scheduled to be arraigned on May 5 and attorney information was not immediately available.

Jonattan Canales mugshot from SCPD
Jonattan Canales mugshot from SCPD

According to the New York State court system’s online database, both the men have other charges pending against them: Canales for possession of a forged instrument and moving traffic violations, including unlicensed driving; and Moncada for criminal possession of marijuana and criminal possession of a weapon, for a loaded firearm.

The night of Jurado’s shooting was an active one for Huntington Station. About two hours after that incident, several shots were fired toward a home on East 6th Street, between Fairground Avenue and Lenox Road. Police said at the time that two friends were standing in the driveway when shots were fired in the house’s direction, with several of them hitting the home. Other bullets, police said, hit a vehicle in the driveway of the house next-door, where a child was asleep in the back seat.

The 8-year-old child was not hurt.

A few days later, several shots were fired near 10th Avenue. Officers responded to a ShotSpotter activation on that block, between Craven and West 15th streets. Five men who were standing in front of a home on the residential street reported hearing gunshots and seeing flashes of light, police said, but did not see anyone firing a gun.

According to police, no injuries were reported but spent bullet casings were found at the scene.

Huntington's south parking garage at the Long Island Rail Road station. File photo by Rohma Abbas
Huntington's south parking garage at the Long Island Rail Road station. File photo by Rohma Abbas
Huntington’s south parking garage at the Long Island Rail Road station. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Starting this week, the second level of the south parking garage at the Huntington Long Island Rail Road station will be closed, for the completion of a waterproofing project.

According to the town, waterproofing is the last phase of the garage’s rehabilitation, which began last year. Waterproofing was completed on the upper levels before work was suspended due to the winter weather. A town statement said it is estimated that the second level will be closed for about five weeks; after that, work will be done on the stair tower and handicap ramps, and then comes the detail work, which includes pavement markings on the third, fourth, and fifth levels.

Parking should be available in the surface parking lot on the west side of New York Avenue between Railroad and Church Streets, according to the statement.

Residents and Brookhaven officials will address ways to improve Route 25A near the Stony Brook train station, above, in the first phase of the study. Photo by Giselle Barkley

After decades of waiting, Brookhaven officials said they were taking legitimate steps toward giving Route 25A a face-lift — starting with Stony Brook.

The town board approved a resolution on Thursday, Jan. 14, to conduct land use studies for Route 25A in Three Village and Port Jefferson Station. The town said it would be holding several meetings over the coming months at which residents can suggest ways to improve the de facto Main Street, especially near the Stony Brook Long Island Rail Road station and where Route 25A meets Nicolls Road.

This three-phase study will start with the Smithtown line to Nicolls Road. The two other phases, including the Port Jefferson Station study, will follow. Route 25A near the Stony Brook train station is part of the first phase.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said the town will use money from a contingency fund in its operating and capital budgets to fund the study. The town hasn’t established dates, times and location, but Romaine said meetings will begin once the weather gets warmer in March or April.

“It’s long overdue,” Romaine said about the study. “We will be sending letters to [the Department of Transportation]  and ask them to participate because a lot of the work we’re going to comment on are things [DOT has] to do, like additional sidewalks.”

Several civic leaders across the Three Village and greater North Shore community came out in full support of the land use study on Thursday with hopes of spurring the town board to expedite progress along 25A.

“The intersection of Nicolls Road and Route 25A is really the gateway to the communities of the Three Village community, and quite frankly it’s sort of a hodge-podge of commercial and retail buildings,” said George Hoffman, vice president of the Three Village Civic Association. “We also have a real problem with safety … because the corridor is really lacking crosswalks and sidewalks.”

The town also asked Stony Brook University to participate in this study. Similar land use studies and plans for Route 25A were conducted in 1963 and 1975 according to Robert de Zafra, former president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook. A third study was conducted around 20 years ago.

Current civic leaders like Shawn Nuzzo, president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook, have tried kick-starting revitalization efforts for Route 25A near the Stony Brook train station for several years. Nuzzo has often been at the forefront of all discussions relating to upgrading 25A and ushering in a new era of commercial and residential prosperity across the main road.

At Thursday’s town board meeting, Nuzzo said the town was finally taking a different approach when working with civic groups.

“There’s been a lot of false starts with this area because it was based in the past on this old top-down model, where the people at the top were going to tell the people at the bottom what they’re going to live with for the next 50 years,” Nuzzo said at Town Hall before Brookhaven passed the resolution. “But this model now with this corridor study and community visioning, this is a bottom-up model.”

Over the last several years, Stony Brook University students have worked with their professors to propose idealistic and practical ways to improve the area by the train station. The groups have been hosting events with residents at the Bates House in Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket and other locations, where they have pitched their plans based on various land studies of the 25A corridor.

Professor Marc Fasanella from Stony Brook University has been leading entire classes on the revisioning of Route 25A and challenging his students with finding realistic ways to make the corridor more appealing visually and logistically.

In a previous interview with Times Beacon Record Newspapers, he said the crux of the challenge was to think outside the box, no matter how outlandish the plans might seem.

“We looked at this as a tremendous opportunity for our students and for the community moving forward,” Fasanella said. “Are we dreaming? Of course we’re dreaming.”

Nuzzo said the area by the train station has united people throughout the community, but the entire corridor, especially near the LIRR, can not only be safer but also more visually appealing to the community.

“This is an issue that transcends political lines,” he said. “This is an issue that has unified both the civic association and the Chamber of Commerce who have historically been at odds with one another. We’re in that redevelopment phase of this corridor and this is really a once in a lifetime opportunity to have a community vision to have something nice for 75 to 100 years.”

Phil Corso contributed to this report.

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Spaces to be closed beginning Monday

Roped off parking spaces on the fourth level of the Huntington Long Island Rail Road train station's south parking garage earlier this year. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Portions of the Huntington Long Island Rail Road station’s south parking garage will be closed beginning Monday, Aug. 17, due to a waterproofing project that is “the last phase of the garage’s rehabilitation,” according to a Huntington Town statement.

The entire roof level of the five-level garage will be closed for about 24 days. Work will then continue to the lower levels, one at a time. As work commences on the lower levels — also for an estimated 24 days each — three-fourths of the affected level will be closed.

“Commuters are advised that parking should be available in the surface parking lot on the west side of New York Avenue between Railroad and Church streets, but that they should allow some extra time to walk to the station,” according to the statement.

Earlier this year, the town closed off 228 spaces at the garage as part of an emergency repair project. The upcoming waterproofing work, which was anticipated and not an emergency repair, is necessary because it “helps preserve the concrete” at the garage, town spokesman A.J. Carter said.

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