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Northport Village

Hugo Fitz and his barista, Vito, at Nautilus Roasting's pop-up shop inside Carl's Candies. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Coffee lovers may find themselves intrigued by a sidewalk sign promising Japanese iced coffee is available inside Carl’s Candies.

Nautilus Roasting Co. owner Hugo Fitz has launched a seasonal pop-up coffee shop off Northport’s Main Street that will offer a variety of hot and iced coffee drinks for sale through Sept. 30. For Fitz, he said he hopes the stand is a first step toward fulfilling a dream.

It’s been at least 12 years of me talking about how I’d love to open up a coffee shop one day.”

— Hugo Fitz

“I have a passion for coffee,” he said. “It’s been at least 12 years of me talking about how I’d love to open up a coffee shop one day.”

A Huntington Station resident, Fitz, 39, has spent the last 13 years working for a New York City advertising agency. Facing lengthy commutes into the city, coffee was not only a passion but a daily necessity.

“There’s plenty of opportunities to experience higher-end coffee when you work in the city,” the entrepreneur said. “There’s where I cut my teeth on being a coffee fan.”

Pourover coffee at Nautilus Roasting’s pop-up shop. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Fitz said he quickly became a hobbyist who “dove down the wormhole” in learning what went into a cup of java starting with four different methods of processing the beans, the hundred or more methods of brewing from standard drip and iced coffee to Japanese iced brew. This Japanese iced brew method at Nautilus uses hot water and a traditional drip to brew the coffee, but then drops onto ice “flash freezing” it to preserve each batch’s unique flavors.

“I have a master’s degree worth of knowledge in coffee, and yet, there’s still so much more I don’t know,” he said. “I think to evangelize good coffee to people, this is a great opportunity.”

Fitz said he wants to help bring “third-wave” coffee, a movement to create high-quality artisanal coffee that’s sourced from individual farmers or locally roasted, out to Long Island. While it’s prevalent in New York City, he claims to know only a handful of shops that offer it locally.

In 2017, the entrepreneur founded Huntington-based Nautilus Roasting Co. and began searching for a storefront. After four failed attempts at negotiating a commercial lease, Fitz said he decided just to focus on what he loved — making a great cup of joe. The entrepreneur began renting time on a Long Island City roasting machine to prepare 25 to 40 pounds of coffee beans at a time — putting him in business as a nanoroaster. His first product, the Signature blend of Columbia, Burundi, Guatemala and Sumatra coffee beans, was sold online. 

There’s a great opportunity to bring the coffee bar up on Long Island.”

— Hugo Fitz

Fitz met with Gina Nisi, owner of Carl’s Candies, looking to rent space before being offered the chance to setup a space of his own. He’s got a small coffee bar set up inside the sweet shop where customers can purchase espresso, hot coffee, hot or cold lattes, cold brew, Japanese iced brew or the potent Red Eye, a choice of hot or Japanese iced brew coffee with two espressos, made from his roasted beans through Sept. 30. Prices range from approximately $2.50 to $4 per serving.

Fitz said he feels like he’s gotten a warm reception in Northport, sometimes finding it difficult to keep growlers of cold brew and cold-brew concentrate in stock due to its popularity.

“There’s a great opportunity to bring the coffee bar up on Long Island,” Fitz said. “There’s no reason if you want great coffee to go to Brooklyn. It’s not grown there. We can make great coffee here too, and get people drinking great coffee.”

Bags of his specialty coffees are available for purchase inside the Carl’s Candies. Learn more about Nautilus Roasting at www.nautilusroasting.com.

Former Northport Mayor George Doll with newly re-elected Deputy Mayor Tom Kehoe. Photo from Tom Kehoe

Spring brings the winds of change to the village of Northport as the longtime Mayor George Doll and his deputy have stepped down, giving over the reins to  familiar faces.

As of April 3, Doll and Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin have officially retired. Former trustee Damon McMullen has taken up the mantle of village mayor, while Tom Kehoe is now the deputy mayor. The question on many residents’ minds is, why did they retire?

“It’s been 12 years,” Tobin said. “I never meant it to be a career. I loved being a trustee and the deputy mayor, but it’s time to do other things.”

Tobin hopes to travel more. Doll said he is ready to roll up his sleeves and spend more time at his other career, as a commercial fisherman. The former mayor also wants to spend more time with his wife, children and grandchildren.

“I will miss George and Henry both miserably,” said Village Clerk Donna Koch. “It was a pleasure working with them for the past 12 years.”

McMullen served as a Northport trustee for 10 years before running unopposed for mayor last month.

I never meant it to be a career. I loved being a trustee and the deputy mayor, but it’s time to do other things.

— Henry Tobin

“If George had wanted to run again, I would have stepped aside,” McMullen said. “I learned so much from George, mainly to relax and be level headed. He said there’s always a solution to whatever problem was at hand that day.”

McMullen added that he admired Doll’s ability to work well with everyone around him. As a trustee, he felt the two had a good relationship working together.

Kehoe agreed with McMullen on the longtime mayor’s approach to running Northport.

“George had an even-handed approach to managing the village; he never attacked people.” Kehoe said, explaining a prior mayor had been contentious. “There was so much rancor and bitterness before George became mayor. Once George took over, no one was ridiculed. He was approachable. He was never disrespectful.”

Kehoe lauded Doll for transforming the village hall into a community forum where residents felt their concerns and issues could be heard. He said the new board will endeavor to do the same.

As the outgoing deputy mayor, Tobin stressed it is important that the new trustees keep sight of working together.

If George had wanted to run again, I would have stepped aside.”

— Damon McMullen

“‘All of us on the board knew that the public wanted a well-unified, well-functioning village government and so we all worked through all the issues until we had a consensus, trusting George and each other,” he said.

Fellow board members said a great deal was accomplished by Doll during his tenure as mayor. Kehoe said they started outdoor dining in Northport, which turned the village into a destination like Huntington or Port Jefferson.

“We have zero vacancies now on Main Street, except for Gunther’s, which is closed because of the fire,” the new deputy mayor said. “We’ve brought people into the village.” 

Tobin said the former leadership also fostered many community activities such as the farmers’ market and Northport Harbor Family Nights, which occur in August. Among Doll’s successes, he said, was rallying community support to save the post office from being closed.

Northport is a unique place with all types of people here. We have 7,000 residents and we want to balance everyone’s needs.”

— Tom Kehoe

The former board, including McMullen and Tobin, managed to obtain significant grants to cover the cost of upgrading the sewer treatment system and installing sewer mains in Steers Pit. The project cost a total of $13 million, but due to the board’s hard work and financial savvy the village taxpayers only had to pay $1.2 million out of pocket. 

Now with McMullen at the helm, he will be setting new goals for the board and already has a list of projects he wants to tackle.

“I want to see the bay area even cleaner,” McMullen said. “And if the weather ever breaks, we will start a lot of road work, including curbs and sidewalks on Woodbine Avenue and work on Laurel Avenue by the library.”

The new mayor said he plans to have the board review the village’s code book to update some of the existing laws.

“Some of the code is 40 years old and it worked in its day, but it just isn’t practical anymore,” he said.

Both McMullen and Kehoe know they will face a few challenges, but both feel they are up for the job.

“We will keep Northport vibrant,” Kehoe said. “Northport is a unique place with all types of people here. We have 7,000 residents and we want to balance everyone’s needs.

Northport Village Hall. File photo

Votes are in for the March 20 Northport Village Board trustee election, and results show that an incumbent and a former trustee have captured the two open seats in the three-candidate race.

Ian Milligan, a trustee since 2014, has come out on top with 1,078 votes, while Thomas Kehoe, who served as a trustee for two terms from 2006-14, came in second with 788. Each candidate secured titles for the next four years.

Ian Milligan. Photo from Ian Milligan

Trailing Kehoe by just 16 votes was Joseph Sabia — a former Northport police officer, Northport-East Northport school board member and a mayoral candidate in 2014 — who received 772 votes, all according to the office of the village clerk at Northport Village Hall as of March 21. The trustee-elects will begin their terms April 6.

“I’m glad to be back on the board,” Kehoe said. “I was here for eight years, so people know me — they know my work ethic, know that I get things done and that’s what they want. They want someone who’s going to work hard for them and be ethical and transparent, so, I think that’s why they voted for me.”

Kehoe, the owner and operator of East Northport-based K & B Seafood for more than 30 years, ran on an agenda to push the village into the 21st century by updating its infrastructure and antiquated codes, maintaining its public safety by securing the future of the village police department and helping solve problems of the local business community.

When he was trustee, Kehoe served as the commissioner of commerce, police and sanitation, and created the Northport Business & Economic Development Committee — a group he said he plans to re-implement. He said the committee’s first mission will be to tackle parking in the village.

“I’m very thankful that, hopefully, Northport can now return to some stability,” he said. “We have a lot of different opinions and lifestyles in the village and we make it work and, so, I’m happy to get back to it.”

Milligan, a Northport native and the owner of Electric Harbor Inc. on Willis Street, has focused his bid for re-election on maintaining Northport’s quality of life for residents, keeping taxes low, continuing to better the Northport Village Dock and getting a rain garden into the village to absorb rainwater runoff to keep the waterfront clean.

Thomas Kehoe. Photo from Thomas Kehoe

He could not be reached for comment following the election results, but in a previous interview with TBR News Media, Milligan said of re-election: “I have enjoyed this work and there is more work to be done.”

Sabia, also a local businessman as the owner of Sabia’s Car Care on Fort Salonga Road since 1977, ran for trustee promising to keep taxes low, restore the village’s crumbling roads and sidewalks, update village codes and push to bring a full-time paramedic to the vilalge’s firehouse.

Despite his disappointment in the overall results, the challenger said he’s proud of how he ran his campaign.

“I think [my opponents] spent a ton more money than I did, and they had more manpower, and I think I did pretty good,” Sabia said. “I think the people of the village spoke based on the tight race. Fifty percent of the people in this village aren’t happy. God bless everybody and God bless all the people that voted for me.”

Asked if he plans on running for the position in the future, Sabia said he wouldn’t rule it out.

“You never know what’s going to happen in life — I leave all my avenues open,” he said. “I’m not a quitter.”

The results also saw the election of new mayor Damon McMullen, a longtime trustee and the unopposed mayoral candidate in the race who secured a total of 1,078 votes. Paul Senzer was elected village justice with 966 votes.

Longtime trustee Damon McMullan running uncontested for village mayor

Northport Village Hall. File photo

By Kevin Redding

Three candidates — an incumbent and two challengers — are vying for two open seats within the Northport Village Board of Trustees, hoping to tackle financial, safety and quality of life issues within the town. The trustee candidates who receive the most votes March 20 will each serve a four-year term.

Thomas Kehoe

Kehoe is no stranger to the village board, having served as trustee for two terms from 2006 to 2014. He was the commissioner of commerce, police and sanitation.

Thomas Kehoe. Photo from Thomas Kehoe.

While a board member, he wrote the village’s outdoor dining code, created the Northport Business Development Committee, and said he routinely helped members of the local business community, professionals and merchants with any business-related issues in the village. If elected, he hopes to
reinstate that committee and assume the police commissioner responsibilities again.

“I’m looking forward to getting back on the board,” Kehoe said. “I’ve always enjoyed public service and giving back to my community. And plus, I understand business and know how to make things happen.”

As the owner and operator of East Northport-based K&B Seafood for more than 30 years, Kehoe has traveled extensively throughout China, Japan and Russia, importing and exporting seafood and opening up markets. But he said he will focus his time and energy on the local front as trustee. He wants to make sure the Suffolk County Police Department doesn’t take over the village’s police force, preserve Northport’s status as “one of the 50 safest places to live in New York state” as ruled by the National Council for Home Safety and Security and keep the village in the 21st century.

“We want to always be evolving,” he said. “Northport Village is a very unique place. It’s a real melting pot of different ethnic, religious and political groups and there’s a great tolerance and respect here for others.”

Ian Milligan

Milligan, 48, a Northport native and the owner of Harbor Electric Inc. on Willis Street, became a trustee in 2014 after regularly attending zoning and board meetings. He often voiced ideas on how to better the Northport Village Dock.

Ian Milligan. Photo from Ian Milligan.

Upon election, the lifelong boater was appointed commissioner of docks and waterways. He proposed new fees for the dock, which successfully brought more boaters to the area during dinner hours, helped boost downtown businesses and discouraged boaters from docking all day.

He said by talking to hundreds of local boaters, shopkeepers and residents during that process, it prepared him well for his day-to-day tasks as a trustee.

“What I did there is consistent with all issues in the village,” said Milligan, who also served as the board’s commissioner of sanitation. “I always strive to talk to as many people as I can and understand all sides of an issue, then take all the information and share it with the rest of the board, so we can make a decision in the best interest of the residents.”

If re-elected, Milligan said he wants to continue making Northport a safe and healthy environment for residents, keep a line on taxes and roll out new projects — among his most anticipated is the implementation of a rain garden into the village to absorb rainwater runoff and keep the waterfront clean.

“I have enjoyed this work and there is more work to be done,” he said.

Joseph Sabia

Sabia, 62, is a former member of the Northport Police Department, Northport-East Northport school board and owner of Sabia’s Car Care on Fort Salonga Road since 1977. He  said he’s an advocate for the village and wants to work for the taxpayers within it. He believes in transparency, commitment to community, respect and courtesy, and fiscal discipline.

Joseph Sabia. File photo.

“While on the board of education for three years, I watched our tax money and never voted to raise our tax dollars,” Sabia said. “So, I’m very interested in our finances and want to see where our money is going.”

Sabia said besides keeping taxes at bay, he hopes to be able to restore the village’s crumbling roads and sidewalks, bring a full-time paramedic to the village’s firehouse, oversee the upcoming sewer plant project in Northport Bay Estates, and update the village’s antiquated zoning codes and building department.

“We have to move forward and be business-friendly,” he said. “We need people to be able to get building permits in a timely manner.”

Sabia previously ran unsuccessfully twice — against outgoing Mayor George Doll in 2014 and for a trustee seat in 2016. He points to those experiences, as well as his years as a successful business owner and school board member, as building blocks for this election.

“I have skin in the game here, I own a business here, I’m in the village 24/7 and have never left,” he said.

The Vote

The polls will be open March 20, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Northport Village Hall on 224 Main Street in Northport.

The spot at 225 Main Street will be where Northport Village will begin construction for a new inn. Photo from John W. Engeman Theater

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Blueprints and floor plans can be drawn up for the proposed Northport Inn, which overcame its first legal hurdle last week.

Northport Village trustees voted 3 to 1 to approve a code modification that paves the way for the construction of hotels and/or inns within the village’s downtown business district. Mayor George Doll and Trustees Jerry Maline and Damon McMullen voted in favor, and the sole dissenting vote was cast by Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin.

The village code approved Aug. 22 sets basic guidelines to regulate any future construction of a hotel and/or inn including maximum height and required parking spaces.

“There’s a tremendous need for lodging in this area” said Kevin O’Neill, managing director of John W. Engeman Theater. “Long Island is one of the most underserved locations in the United States for lodging.”

An artistic rendering of what the proposed hotel and restaurant at 225 Main Street in Northport Village may look like. Photo from Kevin O’Neill

O’Neill, along with his business partner Richard Dolce, the theater’s producing artistic director, first presented a proposal for a 24-room Northport Inn and restaurant to be built at 225 Main Street in May, feet away from the Engeman.

“With the entrepreneurial juices that we both have, we were trying to figure out different ways that we can hedge the risk of a show being successful or not to help keep us afloat,” O’Neill said. “The vision came into play where we could create a restaurant that synergizes with the theater and an inn.”

The main inspiration for the proposal came from The American Hotel in Sag Harbor, according to O’Neill, in addition to several boutique lodgings that Dolce and O’Neill visited in Camden, Maine, last year. The partners said their goal is to bring first-class harborside lodging to the village along with a restaurant to serve meals and drinks to both overnight visitors and theatergoers.

“We have no intention of this becoming a glitzy Hampton-type thing,” O’Neill said. “We think it could be a charming harbor town like you have in Maine, but seven hours closer.”

Since the initial presentation in May, the main public criticism voiced by residents and the sole dissenting trustee, Tobin, has been what the potential impact the addition of the hotel and restaurant would have on the village’s parking and traffic congestion. Public comments were accepted by the village board from May 16 to July 18.

“We’re already stressed for parking on Main Street,” Tobin said. “I support the hotel, I support the restaurant. The question is what size restaurant will work within downtown Northport?”

The proposed plans as set forth call for a ground-level, 200-seat restaurant, according to O’Neill. Tobin said a parking and traffic study should have been conducted prior to the trustees’ vote to modify the village code to allow for the construction of the hotel/inn.

“We are taking a building that’s a blight upon the community and turning it into a landmark.”

—Kevin O’Neill

“[A parking and traffic study] would give us guidance on how many seats a restaurant could have and yet have minimal parking and traffic problems,” Tobin said. “We could use a study to determine the balance between the economic needs of the hotel and the logistical needs of the village and its residents.”

O’Neill stressed that he and Dolce are “very conscious” of parking concerns in Northport, citing that the village currently has approximately 600 public parking spaces, largely at the west end of the business district. He said it is their plan to convert the existing two parking lots, of 12 spaces each, currently on the property into a total of 54 parking spots. This is more than the number required under the village code passed on Aug. 22, according to O’Neill.

“We have done tireless research and we are confident that the parking we are providing, along with our valet that we’ve provided for the last 10 years, that we will have a seamless process to handle this,” he said.

The John W. Engeman Theater currently offers a valet parking service for  its attendees, managing to service and park vehicles for 390 patrons up to twice a day for weekend matinees and evening performances.

A secondary issue raised by Tobin and residents was a concern that the 200-seat restaurant could be used for catering large events, causing a large influx of vehicular traffic at a time. However, O’Neill said he and Dolce have no interest in providing catering service for weddings, bat mitzvahs or other special occasions.

O’Neill said he hopes to have blueprints and a site plan drawn up for the proposed Northport Inn by Nov. 1 to present to the village, with the hopes of beginning construction in early spring 2018.

“We are taking a building that’s a blight upon the community and turning it into a landmark,” O’Neill said.

Both O’Neill and Dolce said they welcome any village residents with questions or concerns about their proposal to contact them directly for further discussion.

Owners will be required to keep companions on a leash

Stock photo at top; file photo above from Stephen Jimenez; photo at left by Sara-Megan Walsh Dog owners in the Town of Huntington can now walk their dogs on leashes in most parks. Stock photo

By Sara-Megan Walsh

The dog days of summer are here as Huntington residents and their canine companions are now welcome to  enjoy a stroll in most local parks.

Huntington Town Board voted unanimously at their Aug. 15 meeting to amend town code to allow on-leash walking of dogs at town parks.

Dog owners in the Town of Huntington can now walk their dogs on leashes in most local parks, like those at Frazer Drive Park in Greenlawn. File photo from Stephen Jimenez

“It is the highlight of my day to take my dog for a long walk,” said Ginny Munger Kahn, president of the Huntington-based Long Island Dog Owners Group. “I don’t want to do it just in my neighborhood on the street, but I want to be able to walk my dog in a beautiful public park. It’s been frustrating over the years on Long Island as many towns don’t allow it.”

The town code changes now permit on-leash walking of dogs in town parks and trails on a leash that’s 4-to-6 feet in length.

Dog owners are required to immediately pick up and dispose of any waste. It will remain illegal for dog owners to bring their canine companions into the more developed areas of town parks: all playgrounds, picnic areas, courts and sports fields, campgrounds, near educational area programs and all town beaches with the exception of paved areas and boardwalks.

The exceptions to the new changes are that no dogs will be allowed at Huntington’s Heckscher Park or Centerport’s Betty Allen Twin Ponds Nature Park.

Huntington spokesman A.J. Carter said that based on recommendations made by the Huntington Greenway Trails Advisory Committee in a letter dated May 24, town board members excluded  Heckscher Park due to its continuous public events and the nature park due to  its primary use as a fishing site, as casting of lures could pose  safety risks.

A sign at Frazer Drive Park in Greenlawn tells visitors a list of rules for walking dogs in Huntington parks. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

The decision to exclude Heckscher Park, one of the more widely used town parks, was not unanimous.

“We thought that Heckscher Park would greatly benefit from the presence of leashed dogs as it would deter the geese from fouling the grass there,” Munger Kahn said. “Unfortunately, the town was not ready to make that change yet.”

She pointed out that Northport Village had similar issues with a population of Canadian geese making a mess of Northport Village Park, which based on her personal experience has been largely resolved by allowing on-leash canines and their companions to stroll the grounds.

“We hope that once the policy is put into effect and proven successful that we will be able to revisit the issue with the town,” Munger Kahn said.

The push for changes to Huntington’s park regulations started as a request made by the trails committee in early 2016 for uniform park standards.

“It was kind of crazy to have some parks in the Town of Huntington allow on-leash dogs and the vast majority of town-owned parks not to allow dogs on a leash,” Munger Kahn said. “This was confusing to people. The thought was if we adopted standards, a policy more closely aligned with Suffolk County’s policy, it would make enforcement easier.”

The town co-owns 10 parks with Suffolk County, including Knolls Park, Hilaire Woods Park, Fuchs Pond Preserve, Paumanok Wetlands Preserve, Elwood-Greenlawn Woods, Breezy Park and Lewis Oliver Farm. Under county code, licensed dogs were permitted on trails in all county parks on a leash not more than 6 feet in length. The new laws approved by Huntington now fall more in line with the county code.

Gunther's Tap Room caught fire in May, and a fundraiser was held this week to help restore the historic bar. File photo from Photo from Chris Ciaci.

By Victoria Espinoza

Gunther’s Tap Room was gutted after a fire consumed the walls of the bar Tuesday morning, May 23.

The fire at Gunther’s, a mainstay in the Northport Village community, required the response of more than 60 firefighters to the scene after Northport fireman Jake Milliken passed the bar in the morning while driving on Main Street and noticed the smoke, according to Steve Silverman, public information officer for the Huntington Fire Chiefs Council.

The department said the fire started at about 7 a.m. and was brought under control within an hour, however it took another two to do a complete overhaul of the establishment.

“It was very labor intensive because of the construction of the property,” Northport Fire Department Chief Brad Wine said in a phone interview. “The body of the fire wasn’t tremendous but it was in the walls and ceiling so we pretty much had to gut it.”

Wine said the firefighters had to remove the tin ceiling and open up all of the walls to ensure there was no chance of an additional fire starting.

Three firefighters, two from Northport and one from Kings Park, suffered minor injuries including smoke inhalation and back and ankle injuries from slipping, and were transported to Huntington Hospital and St. Catherine’s Hospital. Wine said all three are on the mend and home recovering.

Wine said it was difficult responding to the call, knowing the importance of Gunther’s for the community.

The inside of Gunther’s after firefighters worked to stop the fire and inspect the establishment. Photo from Chris Ciaci

“Pete Gunther was a former chief with us in the department, I knew him my whole life, and I graduated high school with Eddie [McGrath] so it was tough to see something like this happen to a local business,” he said. McGrath, a former bartender at Gunther’s became the owner of the bar after Gunther died last year.

“Everyone knows Gunther’s, it’s a landmark in Northport,” Wine said.

Northport Police Chief Bill Ricca said the department received an alarm from Milliken, as well as a few other residents.

The police assisted the fire department with evacuating five people from apartments on the second and third floor of the building.

“The fire department did a really good job of containing the fire,” Rica said. “These old buildings are tinder boxes, and we were pretty fortunate that is was contained to the first floor, with minor damage on the other two floors.”

Ricca agreed it was sad to see this happen to the historic bar.

“We’re hopeful they get the spot up and running again,” he said. “It’s a staple to the Northport community, and a we hope they can successfully recover it.”

The Centerport, East Northport, Kings Park, Greenlawn and Eaton’s Neck fire departments responded to the scene to help. The fire is currently under investigation by the Suffolk Police Arson Squad and Northport Fire Marshal, and no determination has been made for the cause of the fire. Suffolk Fire-Rescue Coordinators, Emergency Management and the American Red Cross were on the scene to provide assistance with relocating displaced residents.

Ricca said neighboring businesses Clipper Ship Tea Company and 7T8 European Fusion also suffered some fire and water damage as a result of the incident.

Bruckenthal retires Saturday, Lt. Bill Ricca to take helm

Northport Village Police Chief Ric Bruckenthal will retire on Saturday. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Northport Village Police Chief Ric Bruckenthal will be retiring on Saturday, Sept. 26, ending a career of nearly four decades of policing the village’s streets.

Lieutenant Bill Ricca will be taking over at the helm. The lieutenant said he is looking forward to continuing the chief’s work.

“He’s done such a great job here; he’s made this a model department,” Ricca said in a recent sit-down interview. “[There will] be very few changes when I take over.”

Bruckenthal, 62, has spent 37 of his 39 years in law enforcement at Northport Village Police Department. He has been chief for the last 15 years, after working his way up the ladder. He began his career as an officer and rose to sergeant and then lieutenant. He resides in Northport with his wife Patricia, and they had four kids, Noa Beth, Nathan, Matthew and Michael. Nathan was killed in action in Iraq as a coastguardsman in 2004.

Bruckenthal grew up in Queens. He graduated from Queens College and then attended John Jay College, where he received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and police science. From there, he took the first police job he was offered, in Asharoken Village.

“It was very quiet, and in the winter it was dead,” the chief said. “I wanted a little more activity. So in 1978, I had the opportunity to come here. Northport then was a lot different than it is today.”

He said that downtown Northport used to have a “tremendous” number of bars. Bruckenthal said with a laugh that there were quite a number of bar fights back then, but that has changed due to a big decrease in the number of bars in the village now. While he doesn’t know why the dynamic of Northport has changed, he thinks it has to do with more and more people realizing that Northport is a unique spot.

“That has changed the environment here,” he said.

Bruckenthal said being involved with the community is the best way to run a successful police department.

“I really believe interacting with people, just talking with people and getting out of the police car, is the best police work you can do. It’s a small department, so I try to encourage the officers to tell me what they are interested in, so maybe we can do something with their interests that’s going to help the department and the community.”

For example, one officer under Bruckenthal’s command is a former Eagle Scout, so he attends all the Eagle Scout presentations. Other officers interact with the schools in Northport, because they have children that are in all the different schools within the district. He thinks this management strategy helps connect cops to their community.

Bruckenthal has enjoyed working with the administration at Northport Village Hall and said “they really do have the community and the village in their best interests.”

Henry Tobin, deputy mayor of Northport Village, said that Bruckenthal would be deeply missed.

“One reason Ric has been loved by the village and supported so strongly through tough times is because the people know he has no personal agenda,” Tobin said in a phone interview. “He is motivated by what is best for the village.”

Tobin acknowledges that the village is fortunate, however, to be gaining a chief in Ricca.

“He is a deeply felt member of the community. He is dedicated to public service, fairness and empathy,” he said.

In terms of improvements he’s made to the department, Bruckenthal touted a number.

“I think we’ve better trained our people in first aid, CPR, and AEDs (automatic external defibrillators),” Bruckenthal said. “That was always something I thought was very important. I was the first EMT in the department. We handle a significant amount of aided cases. If you can help the person more than just saying, ‘hurry up with the ambulance,’ I always thought that was important.”

Bruckenthal and Ricca have both personally made several saves using CPR, which they consider highlights of their careers.

Ricca, 49, has been a part of the department for 24 years. He and his wife Dawn have five kids: Joe, Nicole, Dominic, Angelina and Steven. Ricca worked as a police officer in New York City with the K-9 Unit, with canine partners Sparky and Sherlock. Sparky was a German Shepherd and Sherlock was a bloodhound.

“The dogs and you are a team,” Ricca said. “Your dogs come home with you. It was probably the most fun I’ve had being a cop.”

In 1991, he came out to Northport as a police officer, and quickly became the firearms instructor for the department. He has taken on more responsibilities since then as the department trainer.

“In a small department like this, when an opportunity comes around here to do something specialized, you’re excited to grab it,” Ricca said. “Under Chief Bruckenthal, he’s been very aggressive in sending guys out to do training.”

Ricca has been taking over Bruckenthal’s duties and day-to-day activities for a few weeks now, and once he officially becomes chief on Sept. 27, he will fully take over administrative duties at the department. He doesn’t think the Northport Village Board will replace him with a new lieutenant immediately after he is promoted.

When asked why he was first interested in becoming the new chief, Ricca said, “I was always an ambitious person. I never sat down and said ‘good enough.’ I think I make a good leader.”

Ricca thoroughly enjoys working in Northport.

“I love to be a cop where I live,” he said. “I walk downtown almost daily and stick my head into the stores, say hello to the store owners, say hello to the shoppers. It makes my day, it’s my favorite part of working with the police department in Northport.”

Ricca hopes to build an even stronger bond with the community as chief, with potential events like coffee with a cop.

“We can’t do this job ourselves. We can answer calls and catch bad guys, but we need their support. We do public service 90 percent of the time. And we don’t want the people to be afraid to call us.”

Restaurant is first in village to attempt rooftop dining

Skipper's wants to create outdoor rooftop dining. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Skipper’s Pub of Northport Village has set its sights on the sky with plans to create rooftop dining at its Main Street eatery — but the proposal saw a bit of grounding by village zoning officials and residents on Wednesday.

Representatives of the restaurant came before the Northport Village Zoning Board of Appeals at a public hearing with hopes of gaining area and parking variances to create a 109-seat seasonal rooftop dining area atop Skipper’s. The plan raised eyebrows and exclamations from ZBA chairman Andrew Cangemi, who questioned whether the ZBA even had jurisdiction over the proposal and brought to light parking issues with the plan.

This is the first time a restaurant has attempted to gain approvals for rooftop dining in Northport Village.

“What we’re doing is a little different than a couple of tables and chairs, Mr. Chairman,” Chris Modelewski, the attorney for the applicant said.

Skipper’s needs a variance from the code for about 37 parking spots, as they want to build a 2,750 square foot rooftop deck. The deck would add 33 additional seats to its eatery and plans to remove a number of sidewalk dining seats and tables.

A view of what a proposed outdoor rooftop dining space would look like at Skipper's Pub in Northport. Photo by Rohma Abbas
A view of what a proposed outdoor rooftop dining space would look like at Skipper’s Pub in Northport. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The plan also includes adding a bar and bar stools, a stairway and fencing to the roof.

Officials and residents at the hearing questioned where those spots would come from, in a village that is already strapped for parking spots during the busy summer months.

Another issue Cangemi raised was whether the ZBA should even be reviewing the application. Modelewksi said the rooftop dining complies with the village’s outdoor dining code, which allows restaurants to create sidewalk dining for a $50 annual permit fee. Those applications don’t require ZBA variances, Cangemi said, according to the code.

“Why are you here?” he asked.

Modelewski said he needed variances for parking and other issues, and that he wanted to secure them in case the law changed in the future. Cangemi replied that the applicant basically wanted the ZBA to assume a legislative role and “play village board.”

“Chris, I hear what you’re saying, but it seems like you’re asking this board for cover.”

The representatives delved into the details of the application. When pressed on parking figures — Cangemi asked where the applicant would create 37 additional spots — Modelewski said he reasoned many of the individuals who come out to eat at night are out-of-town visitors who arrive by boats and moor up to the neighboring marinas and village dock, therefore not requiring parking. Representatives also mentioned there are available spots open to the public at Woodbine Marina.

About 10 residents weighed in on the proposal at Wednesday night’s hearing. Those who critiqued the plan did so on the parking issues. One person who spoke in favor of the plan noted that the village is home to a number of large-scale events like the farmers’ market and the Great Cow Harbor 10K Race, and people manage to find parking at those events.

Former Northport Village Trustee Tom Kehoe also made an appearance and spoke on the application. The original author of the outdoor dining legislation, Kehoe said it was initially drafted years ago when vacancies and inactivity were a common sight in Northport. Officials then were looking for ways to stimulate activity in the downtown.

He said everyone has had a hand in “the Renaissance of Northport,” turning it into a destination.

“Sometimes you just have to be careful what you wish for.”

Cangemi said the public hearing would be held open until Sept. 16 for any additional comments to be entered into the record.

Pols reopen beach after seven years

The shore at the Centerport Yacht Club is open. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The push to clean up Suffolk County’s water quality saw a major milestone on one Centerport shorefront Monday.

Lawmakers and community members gathered at the Centerport Yacht Club on Northport Harbor on a hot summer day to mark the reopening of the beach, which had been shuttered for seven years because of its poor water quality. The harbor is celebrating a cleaner bill of health thanks to multi-governmental efforts to reduce pollution — most significantly through recent upgrades to the Northport wastewater treatment plant.

“Today is unprecedented due to the efforts of many stakeholders,” Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) announced at a press conference inside the clubhouse. “…This is the result of a lot of hard work.”

Officials cut a ribbon to mark the reopening of the beach at Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Officials cut a ribbon to mark the reopening of the beach at Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), Spencer and a number of Huntington Town officials including Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) cut the ribbon opening the beach, and the county officials hand-delivered a beach permit to the supervisor.

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services, with oversight from the New York State Department of Health, conducted more than 600 tests in 20 locations at the beach since April, Spencer said. The results found that the quality of the water meets “required stringent standards,” Spencer’s office said in a statement.

Northport Harbor, once the “epicenter of red tide in the Northeast,” has seen a dramatic reduction of nitrogen, from 19.4 lbs. per day to 7.5 lbs. And there’s been no red tide in the harbor in the last three seasons, Spencer’s office said.

Officials said a significant upgrade to the Northport sewage treatment plant had a huge hand in turning the tide.

Bellone, who said the county is facing a “water quality crisis,” recognized Northport Village officials for being on top of the issue. He called the rehabilitation of Northport Harbor an “example of what we need to do around the county.”

Petrone and Bellone said Spencer had a big hand in making waves on the issue.

“The doctor’s orders worked,” Petrone said.

Young bathers dive into the waters of a newly reopened beach at the Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Young bathers dive into the waters of a newly reopened beach at the Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The issue of Northport Harbor’s water quality gained steam among Centerport Yacht Club members when Joe Marency, past commodore, was at the helm about five years ago. He praised the beach reopening at Monday’s press conference.

“There’s still a lot to do but this is a big step in the right direction,” he said.

At the close of the press conference, lawmakers gathered outside the club on the water. They excitedly uprooted a “no swimming” sign posted there, and Bellone and Spencer exclaimed, “Who’s going in?”

Assemblyman Andy Raia (R-East Northport) waded into the water, ankle-deep. It took a pair of bold bathers seconds to dart towards the shore and dive in.

“It’s beautiful and warm,” said Randall Fenderson, one of the swimmers who emerged from the water.

Fenderson, who presently lives in Santa Monica, California, said he grew up in the area and has a personal connection to the beach, and was sad to see it closed.

A group of children also made their way to the water, include Greenlawn sisters Paige and Madelyn Quigley. The girls, 6-years old and 10 years old, also said the water felt nice.

“Now we’ll be in here forever,” Madelyn said.

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