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Mayor Margot Garant

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.” 

 

Port Jeff currently looking at more than 10 zombie homes

The Town of Brookhaven and Port Jefferson village have launched numerous intermincipal agreements over the past year. File Photos

A new intermunicipal agreement between the village and town could mean more zombie homes in Port Jeff may have a larger target on their heads. 

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

At its Oct. 3 meeting, the Brookhaven Town board voted unanimously to enter into an intermunicipal agreement to let town workers assist, if requested, with demolition projects and then dispose of the waste at the town’s landfill in Brookhaven hamlet.

Under the agreement, Port Jefferson would pay the expenses of inspecting the property, demolition and carting away the debris.

In previous meetings, the village identified little more than 10 zombie homes in the village boundaries. These colloquially named “zombie homes” are derelict houses that have slowly started to degrade where the owner is absent. The village’s Zombie Task Force, run by the constabulary, goes weekly to these houses to check in, looking to see if there are vagrants or squatters at the premises and checking for other illicit activity.

Mayor Margot Garant said this will mean shearing costs for the village.

“Tremendous savings for us, because we can just call it in and schedule it, instead of going out to bid and doing everything like that,” she said. “If it works out, it will be great.” 

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said the agreement will mean the town’s engineers that usually inspect these derelict houses, Hauppauge-based Cashin Spinelli & Ferretti, will inspect homes in Port Jefferson upon request and report to the village. Then, depending on the decision by the board after a public hearing, a vote to demolish will mean either Brookhaven employees will demolish the home, or a private company will be contracted in the case where asbestos is on the premises. The area will be cleared, and debris taken to the town landfill. The village will then have to put a lien on the property for any unpaid taxes and for the cost of demolition.

Costs range on average from $25,000 to $40,000, depending on the size and type of home being demolished, according to the supervisor.

“It helps reduce the overall cost of government.”

— Ed Romaine

Romaine said this is just one deal in a long line of 35 intermunicipal agreements between the Brookhaven and smaller municipalities such as Port Jefferson Village for close to a year. The town has made these deals as part of a $20M Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency grant from New York State. Other agreements have included plowing snow in the Village of Shoreham and completing road repairs in the Village of Patchogue.

“We have contracts and things of that nature that they can benefit from, and we’re happy to help with that,” he said. “It helps reduce the overall cost of government.”

Recently the village announced it would be working on two zombie homes, one on Sheep Pasture Road and another at Nadia Court. The former was soon found to be a nearly 300-year-old historic structure, and the village has promised not to touch the property while local historians and New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) work to find ways to preserve it, though the difficulty comes from the owner, Jericho-based Tab Suffolk Acquisitions, not responding to any calls or having a set location. 

While the village has not made any move on the property, other than to continue to board it up and monitor for vagrancy, Garant said the village is not willing to pick up the tab for any restoration, citing the costs associated with fixing up the Drowned Meadow House.

“Until you find a full-time [caretaker] for [the house], it’s going to be a big challenge,” she said. 

This is just one in a line of intermunicipal agreements between the village and town. Earlier this year the town and village announced a new intermunicipal agreement to consolidate property tax collections. The village has also worked out an agreement over salt and sand between the two municipalities.

The article that appeared in the Oct. 24 edition of the Port Times Record inaccurately reported the number of zombie homes in Port Jeff. We regret the error.

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Mayor Margot Garant speaks of new parking lot at press conference Oct. 10.

Funds are coming from both town and county for the construction of a new parking lot in Port Jeff, yet still the price tag could be high.

At its Oct. 2 meeting, the Suffolk County Legislature voted to grant Port Jefferson $200,000 in a jumpstart grant for the creation of a new parking lot on Barnum Avenue. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) joined village officials Oct. 10 to announce the new funds.

“This is a village that for some time has been leading in innovation and creativity and we’ve been there to support it,” Bellone said. “What this really is about is how do we continue to grow in a sustainable way.”

The new parking lot at Barnum Ave. is expected to have 44 new spots. Photo by Kyle Barr

The new parking lot will be located on Barnum Avenue at the intersection between it and Caroline Avenue. The site is expected to include 44 new stalls, two of which are planned to be charging stations for electric vehicles, which would be a first for Port Jeff village.

“Importantly, this lot is very close to the newly renovated Rocketship Park, which brings down thousands on a daily basis,” Mayor Margot Garant said.

The site will have ingress and egress onto Caroline Avenue in two separate spots and will border the Joe Erland baseball field on its southwestern end. The 32,000-square-foot lot will also include two bioswales bordering the foot entrance onto Barnum Avenue to aid in flood mitigation. The bioswales will look like two dips in the ground with plantings overlaying them.

Nicole Christian, the Port Jeff grant writer, said the fact the project includes these green initiatives was one of the main reasons they got the grant.

Costs for the Barnum lot could cost approximately $900,000, the mayor said. The village will use its own funds to construct the lot, and the grant will reimburse the village up to the set amount.

“Because we need to do prevailing wage, it doubles the cost,” Garant said. “There’s no way around that.”

Other than the recently finished Texaco parking lot in Upper Port, this would be the first new piece of downtown parking infrastructure in more than a decade.

Parking has been an issue in Port Jeff for years. Several years ago, in 2015, the Town of Brookhaven had sold property to a local developer for retail and apartment space. However,  because of a lack of parking for the structure, the town was all set to go forward on an agreement to grant around 30 parking spots from the town’s marina municipal lot near the harbor to the village, which had planned to reconstruct it with more plant fixings and solid boundaries. However, after a disagreement between officials and a resident in Port Jeff, a letter sent to the New York State attorney general by the Brookhaven town attorney provoked a response in December 2017 saying the land was parkland, though purposed for marina parking, and it would require consent from the New York State Legislature.

In the years following, officials tried to hash out some kind of agreement that would grant payment in lieu of parking (PILOP) for those 30 spots. Brian Egan, the village attorney, said talks became mired, with it finally requiring the village to put out a notice of claim before the town agreed to grant the PILOP. However, as another wrinkle to the issue, due to outflow of sediment from Mill Creek into Port Jefferson Harbor, which the town said the village was responsible for paying for dredging, the town only agreed to pay after subtracting the cost of dredging.

Finally, at the village’s Oct. 7 meeting, officials voted to accept a check for $125,800, an amount which subtracts the cost of dredging the outflow from the creek of $34,600.

Although the mayor said the money is nice, parking is much more expensive to build than the money they are granted from the town, and she would have rather had the marina spaces.

“That plus the jumpstart money, that’s half the Barnum lot,” she said.

The lot is expected to go out to bid within the next several months, with full construction to start no later than early spring, according to Garant.

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting for the village’s latest restaurant, Due Baci (Two Kisses), on Sept. 25.

From left, owners Patrick and Maria Aubry, Maria’s father Joseph Cuffaro, and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright; back row, from left, sons Yannick and Nicolas with a proclamation from the Town of Brookhaven

Owners Patrick and Maria Aubry were joined by family, friends, staff, Mayor Margot Garant, Councilwoman Valerie Cartright and members of the chamber to celebrate the momentous occasion.

“On behalf of the chamber we welcome both Maria and Patrick to our restaurant community, our business community. Best of luck and congratulations,” said chamber president Joy Pipe.

“I’m one of your biggest fans … and wish you lots of success,” said Mayor Garant. Councilwoman Cartright presented the Aubrys with a proclamation from the Town of Brookhaven and also wished them well before the ribbon was cut.

Located at 154 West Broadway, the family-run restaurant offers southern Italian cuisine in a fine dining experience overlooking Port Jefferson Harbor. Open for lunch and dinner, hours are 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. The restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. For more information, call 631-377-5111.

Photos by Heidi Sutton

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Port Jefferson Village Hall. File photo by Heidi Sutton

The Village of Port Jefferson has hired a new village administrator whom officials expect to be able to work with the board, residents and all municipal entities.

The village board voted unanimously, with Deputy Mayor Stan Loucks absent, to bring in Joseph Palumbo of Carle Place as new village administrator at the Sept. 23 board meeting. His first day is set for Oct. 7 with an annual salary of $135,000 on a six-month probation period. 

The village board have decide to bring in Joseph Palumbo of Carle Place as new village administrator. Photo provided by Joesph Palumbo

Palumbo will be leaving his job of 16 years with the New York Liquidation Bureau, a number of those as managing director of operations. According to his resume, his duties included “direct operational authority over virtually every aspect of the NYLB operations.”

“I was impressed with him,” said trustee Bruce D’Abramo.

Palumbo comes with a bachelor’s degree in political science from New York Institute of Technology and an associate’s degree in business management from Briarcliff College.

Mayor Margot Garant said she especially liked his energy and his “role up your sleeves attitude.” 

In a phone interview, Palumbo said he had worked in municipal government once before as a legislative assistant in the Town of North Hempstead, work he called “one of the better jobs I’ve ever had.” After working 16 years in various positions at the Liquidation Bureau, he said he was looking to get back into the work of local government, seeing the administrator job as a good mix between managing personnel and working with and for local people.

The mayor added she wanted someone who is going to make the effort and bring together the separate village operations.

“We wanted someone in the field with the employees — going up to DPW checking out what they want, talking with them, helping them with their schedules, helping them with their fleet management issues,” the mayor said. “That’s what I think this village needs right now.”

Palumbo said he didn’t like working behind a desk.

“I like to be out and about,” Palumbo said.

Previous clerk and administrator Bob Juliano was discharged from his position after 19 years of working in the village. The move was controversial among residents, some of whom said he had been a respected member of the village administration. He was also made to leave his position a few years before he could receive full retirement benefits.

Village attorney Brian Egan said Palumbo will be filling the position of administrator and not that of clerk. The administrator acts as the effective chief operating officer of the village, with responsibility for all the municipal departments answering to the mayor and board of trustees. On the other hand, the clerk is a statutory position that includes all procedural and formal roles of a village, including supervision for death certificates and permits, as well as being chief election officer in the village.

Assistant to the mayor and Deputy Village Clerk Barbara Sakovich has been in the role of acting clerk as the village worked to find a replacement. Egan said Sakovich will remain as acting clerk for the time being, but that officials will be looking for a full-time clerk in the near future.

 

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Some residents and village officials object to a reduced recreation fee for private facilities at The Shipyard, here seen originally in construction. File photo by Alex Petroski

The Village of Port Jefferson has a lot of apartments on its plate, both those developments already settled into their foundations and those still in the hopper. 

So far, the experience for Port Jeff community members and officials alike has not left the greatest impressions.

Some points have become so contested that village officials voted to change the code to prevent similar experiences in the future.

The village held three public hearings Sept. 3 to propose changes to the village code. Two code changes were in direct response to complaints of the development of separate apartment complexes. One code change was for payment in lieu of parking and the other on what counts for reducing the recreational space fee owed to the village.

In the latter case, the village has moved to excise rooftop decks, patios and other common areas not accessible to the general public from being considered park or recreational facilities for the purposes of developers reducing the parkland fee paid to the village.

Mayor Margot Garant said the change has come after review of comments from the community, especially in regard to the fee paid by Tritec Real Estate Company, of which the mayor said is over $50,000, is still owed to the village.

“As we cannot enjoy the rooftop deck at Shipyard, we don’t think that should be taken into consideration when taking a calculation of the fee,” she said.

In August 2018, the village passed a resolution reducing the fee levied on Tritec for not including sufficient public green space, with the mayor arguing at the time the desire to have developers build amenities and green space for use by their tenants. At that time, Trustee Bruce Miller vehemently disagreed with the decision.

Just over a year since then, at the Sept. 3 meeting, Garant argued for a “bright line” code for the planning board to take into account in future developments, this time specifically pointing to the Tritec development for the code change.

Not all Port Jeff residents saw this as a complete victory. Michael Mart, a longtime Port Jefferson resident and regular watchdog, said he applauded the change, but argued the code as it previously stood could have been interpreted to prevent developments like Shipyard from getting recreation fees lowered for private amenities. 

“The planning board members shouldn’t make the difference because the code governs what the planning board does,” Mart said.

Garant disagreed. 

“[The recreation fee] was meant to make sure the village was getting an appropriate recreation fee for the stress that it puts on our public amenities,” she said. “Not to subtract the private amenities. I don’t think the language is strong enough as it exists to make that a protocol.”

Barbara Sabatino, a member of the planning board, said it had been informed the facilities would not be off limits to nonresidents.

“At the time we made that decision we were informed by Tritec that those outside decks that have view of the harbor could be accessed by the public, that it wasn’t Tritec residents only,” she said.

Representatives of Tritec did not answer multiple phone calls for comment.

Mart said the onus should not be just on Tritec for “pulling the wool,” but on the village and planning boards for not enforcing their vision of the code. 

The mayor said the village is still owed the fee from The Shipyard, which she added they can only pursue after the developer files the deeds with the Suffolk County Clerk’s Office. 

“I can’t really say when those deeds are recorded, but as far as I’m concerned, I want my money,” she said.

Also discussed in the meeting was a change to the code on payment in lieu of parking, citing another apartment development in the space that Cappy’s Carpets once occupied.

In a March public meeting, attorney’s representing Brooks Partners LLC, a subsidiary of Port Jefferson-based Gitto Group, said the Cappy’s Carpets project, known as Brockport, would have to pay for four spaces in payment in lieu of parking. The project is set to have 78 spaces of parking for its residents and for those working in the retail stores set to be located under the new apartments. 

The New York State Department of Transportation recommended removing two on-street parking stalls along Main Street for safer access to the property on Main Street. This did not sit well with some community members who saw it as a loss of parking spots in a village desperate for more lot space.

Garant attended that March meeting and agreed with those who criticized the project for the loss.

“But for that project we would still have two on-street parking spaces,” she said.

Bruce D’Abramo, the only board member to vote “no” on this code change, said it was out of the developers’ hands, having been ordered through the state DOT.

“In the case we are talking about the applicant who had no choice in this matter, it was the DOT who removed two on-street parking spaces on a state road that the village has no real control over anyway,” he said.

Mart, again, asked why the planning board did not make it a condition of their approval of the building’s site plans to mandate paying for the loss of the on-street spots.

“The planning board had the opportunity to make it a condition on the approval,” he said.

Chris Bianco, an attorney working on behalf of the village alongside Village Attorney Brian Egan, said the planning board would be on shaky ground if it made that a condition under the current code.

Garant acknowledged the change in code could present legal trouble down the road.

“I know everybody’s hands are kinda tied,” she said. “Somebody can certainly challenge me on that and take me to court, but I would rather be on the upside of that than downside of that.”

 

The Mount Sinai Jetty will see reconstruction early September. Photo by Kyle Barr

After a decade delay and wringing of hands, the Mount Sinai Jetty project is going to start construction within a week as the end of summer closes in.

The ramp up East Beach in Port Jefferson is splashed with waves at high tide. Photo from Margot Garant

Ed Morris, the Brookhaven Town Parks & Recreation  commissioner, said construction is ready to start the project within the week. The contractor Bay Shore-based H&L Contracting is already in the process of gathering supplies. Materials will be stored at the Cedar West Beach Parking lot, which is down the road of the main town beach parking lot. 

“H&L will be starting up a staging area sometime in the next few days — [and will] be mobilizing everything,” he said.

H&L’s $7.4 million contract to rebuild the east and west jetties, which has been crumbled mess for close to a decade. The jetties rocks collapsed and submerged at the seaward ends during  high tide, and lower than 4 feet in some places. Holes in the jetty have also caused erosion to surrounding bluffs and beachfronts. The western jetty has been of particular concern to neighboring Port Jefferson village and its beaches.

Matt Miner, Brookhaven Town chief of operations, said an outside engineering firm did an underwater review of the jetties, which confirmed that sand is slipping through it. The rocks that will be placed in the jetties will match the size as the ones currently used and will restore the structure’s integrity.

In addition, Melville-based surveying and engineering firm Nelson & Pope is being paid $86,000 for full-time construction inspection services. 

The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year, with a finalization hopefully by spring, Morris said. Construction will be done on opposite sides of the inlet, which the commissioner noted, to allow boats through in both the on and off season.

The jetties are expected to increase in height and become slightly wider. The west jetty will extend slightly further south than the east jetty.

One element of the project that is still to be determined is the outcome of the sand sitting at the bottom of the inlet. Suffolk County has promised to dredge the sand from its bottom once the jetty project is concluded. Port Jefferson Village officials have been chomping at the bit looking to get sand back to repair its rapidly diminishing East Beach. Morris could not confirm where the sand would end up.

“Ideally, sand would be going on both sides of the jetty,” he said.

In the meantime, Port Jefferson officials have plans to piggyback the town’s contracts to aid their own beach restoration efforts.

Mayor Margot Garant said the village will be entering into contract with H&L to drop off materials at East Beach and to use the village’s East Beach parking as a staging area. She said it was still unclear how much of the parking lot they would be using. With the massive amount of rocks the company will be hauling, it could mean several trucks traveling down the steep driveway on a consistent basis. 

“I don’t know to what degree they’re going to be using the east end parking lot as a staging area for some heavy equipment, maybe not at all, but it’s mostly for access,” Garant said. 

As of Sept. 3, the village attorney was set to go over the details with the contractor.

Port Jefferson has plans of its own to revitalize its easternmost beachfront. The contract with H&L allowing them use of the beach will give them stone for use in rebuilding its cracked concrete access ramp. Plans are for a steel wall to cut back 200 feet tied into the hill along the country club property. The mayor said they originally looked at 356 linear feet to run along the tennis courts area, but New York State Department of Environmental Conservation restricted them to the 200.

However, the mayor said the state has promised to allow them to create a rock revetment wall around that tennis courts area to help offset erosion.

The village is still waiting on its permits from the DEC before going out to bid on those projects.

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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.

While not as bad as last year, village continues plans to reduce water’s impact

The area outside Theatre Three was under 2 feet of water July 22. Photo from Brian Hoerger

July 22 was a sudden reminder of a certain day last year in September, when water ran down Main Street like a river, and parts of Port Jefferson were drowned in water.

The area outside Theatre Three was under 2 feet of water July 22. Photo from Brian Hoerger

Instead, July 22 was a moderate rain by comparison, only hit with 2.35 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service, instead of the more-than 4 inches it received in that last major storm.

Still reeling from massive flash floods that inundated Port Jefferson village last year, those who were most impacted by the September waters said they were more prepared for the high waters this year. 

Brennan Holmes, the chief of the Port Jefferson Fire Department, said they had learned from their mistakes last year, and for the first time put into practice their new flood protocols.

“Last night was a good test,” Holmes said the day after the flooding. “Although there was a lot of water, it went by real quick.”

Last year waters reached nearly 5 feet in the main firehouse, though this year the fire department moved its emergency vehicles from the department building up to the higher ends of Maple Place, but waters didn’t enter the firehouse. The department also made use of a recently converted high-water rescue vehicle, donated by the Miller Place Fire Department. That was available as well as department members in water rescue suits, according to Holmes.

In addition to dealing with the flooding, the department responded to two automatic alarms caused by lightning, three welfare checks on the businesses of Ruvo East, Old Fields Restaurant and Theatre Three, all of which had been hard hit last year. The department also assisted in removing a person from a vehicle which was situated in about a foot of water.

The fire department closed off Main Street for about an hour from around 7 p.m. to a little after 8 p.m. Holmes said this resulted in much less traffic into and out of the village, making it much safer for motorists.

“We fared much better than last September, which we’re really happy about,” the fire chief said.

Mayor Margot Garant was adamant that last year’s high of 4 inches of rain dropped in under an hour plus the high water table led to the described devastation. She said she is especially concerned the idea of Port Jefferson as a flooding town will impact the village’s image and its businesses.

“I think everybody has to think that was such an exceptional event,” she said. “It’s all about the tide. If there had been a coastal storm surge, it would have been a different scenario. It’s a coastal resiliency issue.”

Last September one of the most heavily impacted by the flooding was Theatre Three, which received nearly 4 feet of water in its downstairs area, causing thousands upon thousands of dollars in damage to props, costumes and electrical equipment.

“Nothing like a little flash flood to trigger the old PTSD from the last flood.”

— Brian Hoerger

Brian Hoerger, the facilities manager for the theater, was at the head of last year’s cleanup, coordinating close to 50 volunteers in cleaning up the mess left by that storm. On his Facebook page, Hoerger said seeing the waters roll down Main Street reminded him of the harrowing September flood.

“Nothing like a little flash flood to trigger the old PTSD from the last flood,” Hoerger wrote.

The back doors by Theatre Three had waters rising close to 2 feet, according to the theater facilities manager, though only around 3 inches made its way through the lower doors since he was able to stack sandbags at the breach. Still, pictures showed water was making its way through cracks in the brickwork like sprinklers.

Hoerger, along with Steve Ayle, an actor in the theater, moved the precious theater items to higher ground while helping to vacuum up the muddy liquid in the theater’s lower floor.

Garant responded to Hoerger on Facebook showing him potential flood resistant door panels to resist rain, though Hoerger said much of the water came up from under the building as they sit on a below-ground creek.

What is currently being done to prevent flooding

Three months ago, Port Jefferson officials approved a scoping of the water line that runs and empties into Mill Creek, though Garant said while they wait for the engineers report to return to the village, they believe there is a low point in the line underneath the grass by the basketball courts where a pumping system might be able to help that water flow faster, and not get caught up in and around the low point by those nearby restaurants and Theatre Three.

In June, Campani and Schwarting Architects released a draft version of the Watershed Management and Storm Surge Study. Though the architects have yet to publish a full report, the draft discussed potentially daylighting Mill Creek, along with the culvert at the Brookhaven parking lot by the harbor and the Meadow parking lot. It also mentioned a permeable pavement system in municipal lots, along with rain gardens at low areas such as an expansion of the pond by Old Fields and the Brookhaven parking lot.

Theatre Three suffered damaged to costumes, props and other mechanical equipment back in September 2018. File Photo by Kyle Barr

In June, Port Jefferson Village presented its Waterfront Revitalization Plan to the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, describing its intention to perform immediately needed maintenance of the storm drainage system and provide emergency equipment to deploy in a rain event to protect properties in the village in catastrophic flooding. 

The village would also look to implement long-term projects, including daylighting Mill Creek, reducing impermeable paving throughout the village, introducing bioswales and rain gardens as part of the storm drainage system and redesigning the parking areas at the waterfront to mitigate flooding.

“There’s proactive measures and there’s mitigation measures,” Garant said. “We’re throwing the kitchen sink at the state to help us with these coastal resiliency issues.”

At its July 15 meeting, the village voted unanimously to apply for grant funds not to exceed $1 million from the state Division of Planning’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, Empire State Development and any other applicable state agencies. 

In this case, the village would have to put the money upfront and be paid back from the grant funds at a later date. The deadline for those grants is Friday, July 26.

Garant said that soon the village will be partnering with the Long Island Explorium in Port Jeff in constructing three rain gardens using $43,626 in grant funds from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Long Island Sound Futures Fund initiative. These will be located in front of Village Hall, at Village Center and a final one in the traffic barrier next to the loading ramp for the ferry.