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Port Jefferson Free Library

From left, Leg. Kara Hahn and Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant check out the selection of books in the new Little Free Library at Rocketship Park with a young reader. Photo by Kevin Redding

‘Today a reader, tomorrow a leader’ — Margaret Fuller

By Kevin Redding

Port Jefferson’s newest minilibrary has liftoff at Rocketship Park. In a partnership between the Port Jefferson Free Library and the village board, a Little Free Library was recently installed at the family-friendly park, where adults, teens and children alike can reach into the purple-painted wooden box to pick up or drop off a wide array of books. An official ribbon cutting was held last Thursday, Sept. 28.

The library, shaped like a tiny schoolhouse and currently stocked with children’s titles like “A Series of Unfortunate Events” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” was built from a kit and installed by Stonegate Landscape. It stands as Port Jefferson Free Library’s second book exchange program, with the other unveiled in front of the William Miller House on North Country Road in Miller Place last month.

From left, PJFL Director Tom Donlon, Leg. Kara Hahn, Mayor Margot Garant and Chris Graf, president, Stonegate Landscape in East Setauket. Photo by Kevin Redding

Director of Port Jefferson Free Library Tom Donlon led elected officials, including Mayor Margot Garant and Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for what the mayor called a fantastic addition to the town.

“I’m so happy that we can provide some reading for our young children because I think reading a book goes a long way to helping educate them and bring them into the world,” Garant said with giant scissors in hand. “[It’ll make for] a true sense of community, and that’s what makes our village great.”

Donlon said when the park reopened in June, he and the library’s board members knew it was a perfect spot for book-sharing for all ages. “We have families that come here and while the kids are running around, mom or dad or the adult with them might want something to read,” he said. “Giving back to the community is our goal. And you never know what you’re going to find in there … and what adventures await.”

Rocketship Park is located in the Village of Port Jefferson on Maple Place between Mill Creek Road and Barnum Avenue, across from the tennis courts. For more information, call 631-473-0022.

More to come as next location is planned for Rocketship Park in Port Jefferson

Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society Vice President Antoinette Donato unveils the new Little Free Library in front of the William Miller house in Miller Place. Photo by Kevin Redding

Outside the oldest house in Miller Place sits the newest public library on the North Shore.

What might initially appear to be a newly installed, red-and-white mailbox in front of the William Miller House at 75 North Country Road is actually a Little Free Library, where residents of all ages are encouraged to pick up or drop off a book while on the go.

The mini library, which is shaped like a tiny schoolhouse and currently holds between 15 and 20 books ranging from “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” to “Goodnight Moon,” stands as the most recent free book exchange program to sprout up on Long Island, with others installed at West Meadow Beach and Heritage Park in Mount Sinai last year.

Books inside the new Little Free Library in front of the WIlliam Miller House in Miller Place were donated by the Port Jefferson and Comsewogue libraries. Photo by Kevin Redding

The idea for the book-sharing movement, which has spanned more than 70 countries around the world since the first little library was built by Todd Bol of Wisconsin in tribute to his mother in 2009, is that with a quick turn of a wooden latch, it can increase book access for readers of all ages and backgrounds and to inspire a love of reading and community connection.

Members of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society unveiled their new addition Aug. 9 to a large crowd of smiling faces, which included residents, elected officials and representatives from Port Jefferson Free Library and Comsewogue Public Library. The two libraries partnered with the historical society to buy and sponsor it.

“I woke up this morning and I had the Mister Roger’s song in my head, ‘Oh what a beautiful day in the neighborhood,’” said Antoinette Donato, vice president of the historical society, during the ceremony. “This little library is symbolic of how our community comes together … and a community is strengthened when all the different organizations work well together. So when you reach into that box to put something in or take something out, please remember that you’re also reaching into your community. I hope it’s a very active library.”

Tom Donlon, director of Port Jefferson Free Library, said when he and Debbie Engelhardt, director of Comsewogue Public Library, decided to partner up to bring the program to the Miller Place community, they immediately knew the perfect place for it.

Jack Soldano, who has been selling his comic book collection this summer to raise money to help fix the historic William Miller House, was the first to add to the new Little Free Library’s collection. Photo by Kevin Redding

“Right away we thought of the historical society,” Donlon said. “The society really meshes with our libraries’ goals of education, entertainment, enlightenment and lifelong learning and investigation. We love that it’s here, it’s a great spot and I think it’s certainly going to serve the community very well.”

Engelhardt called little free libraries a beautiful concept.

“Anybody can use it as much as they want and it’s always a mystery when you open that box — you never know what you’ll find,” Engelhardt said. “There are no late fees, no guilt, no stress. If you want to keep a book, you can … we are pleased to partner with the historical society to bring this gem. The books inside will move you and teach you. We say that libraries change lives and, well, little free libraries can too.”

She added that these mini libraries have also proven to energize the spot they’re put in. For the historical society, whose William Miller House is nearly 300 years old and needs between $18,000 and $28,000 to renovate a collapsing roof and a total $100,000 for a full-house repair, any amount of attention to their cause is welcomed.

“What this does for us is it puts us in the limelight again, so that people are aware of us, they come and visit us and are sensitive to our needs,” Donato said.

Fittingly, although the box was stocked with books already donated by the libraries, the first batch of reading material from the public came from 12-year-old Jack Soldano, who spent the summer raising more than $1,000 for the historical society with his very own comic book stand.

Soldano contributed issues of Captain America, Star Wars and Power Rangers comics to join such titles as “Leaving Time” by Jodi Picoult, “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn, “The Stranger” by Harlan Coben and the Grimm fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

Over at Heritage Park, next to the Shack concession stand by the playground, the red-painted little free library currently contains more youth-oriented reads. Several books within “The Babysitters Club” series and Walt Disney’s “Fun-To-Learn Library” collection, as well as “Sable” by Karen Hesse, are available for the taking.

Manorville resident Megan Murray, who was at the park with her young daughter, said she’s been a fan of the initiative since a few popped up in her area.

“The concept is great because it’s for everybody, rich or poor,” Murray said. “It’s really sad that so many kids don’t have access to books and I think it’s wonderful.”

Currently there are plans for a little free library to be installed at Rocketship Park in Port Jefferson next month.

Striving to be more environmentally conscious, the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce invites the community to join them on Saturday, June 17, for its 9th annual Green Fest. This festival will draw in hundreds from all over Long Island who want to become more environmentally conscious.

Held at the Port Jefferson Village Center at 101A East Broadway and the neighboring Mayor Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park’s Great Lawn from 1 to 5 p.m., this thematic event reflects a world that gives you the ability to make “green” choices in your daily lives. The festival concentrates on educating, informing, entertaining and enlightening people on how to live a “greener” lifestyle.

SCWA’s water buffalo will make an appearance at the festiva

This year come check out the “water buffalo” sponsored by the Suffolk County Water Authority. This portable water truck will be filled with hundreds of gallons of water for all attendees to fill up their own water bottles with fresh clean water. This helps the environment by reducing plastic bottles going into our landfills. So bring your containers and have a drink on us!

Entertainment will again be engaging and fun this year. The Ripple Effect Spiritual Therapy Drum Circle will be bringing 13 drums with shakers and rattles to compliment the other percussions. These hand drums are placed in a circle and volunteers are asked to “perform” in an improvisational manner as a gathered group. Drop-ins are welcomed, so come and play with us.

At 1 p.m. the local and very popular singer/songwriters, the Como Brothers, will be performing their heartfelt lyrics and harmonies on the Great Lawn. Their style of songwriting draws from pop, rock and blues originating from a love for acts such as the Beatles.

Join Diane McDonald for a free yoga session at the event.

If you are not feeling musical, join It Takes a Village Wellness yoga instructor and owner Diane McDonald at 2 and 2:40 p.m. for some green yoga right on the front lawn of the PJ Village Center; mats will be provided.

Join the Port Jefferson Free Library’s Green Teens throughout the day for children’s activities as the group presents a short demonstration on how to create crafts using recycled materials while also teaching others what it means to be a Green Teen at the Port Jefferson Library.

“Your Connection to Nature” biologist, wildlife handler, outdoor educator, photographer, traveler and storyteller Ranger Eric Powers will present two programs reflecting wild diversity using live animals! Just in case you want more animals, check out the Sweetbriar Nature Center’s table to visit with its resident screech owl.

Finally, to keep attendees amazed, there will be varied vendors (see page B18) highlighting green products and services including solar power and renewable energy, electric/hybrid cars, demonstrations and a mini-farmers market.

This free event is family friendly and kicks off the summer season. Come on down and enjoy the day, learning about methods that promote sustainable ways of living that benefit our environment and planet. Won’t you join forces with us to work together to make our community a healthier place to live? It starts with one small step (or fest) at a time.

For more information, visit www.portjeffgreenfest.com or call the chamber at 631-473-1414.

The Port Jefferson Free Library, 100 Thompson St., Port Jefferson will present its 4th annual Job Fair on Tuesday, June 6 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Presented by the Suffolk County Department of Labor’s One-Stop Employment Center, the event will feature representatives from over 35 Long Island companies including A Gentle Touch Senior Care, ACLD, Amneal Pharmaceuticals, Attentive Care, Club Demonstration Services, Comfort Keepers, Dollar Tree, East End Disabilities, EPIC LI, Express Employment Pros, FREE, Gutter Helmet, Home Depot, Home Instead Senior Care, Jefferson’s Ferry, Lowe’s, New Vitality, NRL Strategies, NYS Civil Service, Precious Lambs Child Care, Qsac, Suffolk AHRC, Suffolk County Civil Service, Suffolk County National Bank, UCP of Suffolk Urban League Mature Workers Program, US Postal Service, Utopia Homecare and WindowRama.

Attendees are encouraged to bring copies of their resume and to dress to impress. Questions? Call 631-473-0022.

Keynote speaker Isabel Vincent. Photo by Zandy Mangold

Readers of all ages can meet the authors and illustrators of thrillers, short stories, poetry, nonfiction and children’s books and hear about their newest books at the Port Jefferson Free Library’s 3rd Annual Friends of the Library Local Author Fair on Saturday, May 13, from 2 to 4 p.m. The event is free and open to all.

The keynote speaker this year will be author Isabel Vincent who will talk about her newest book, “Dinner with Edward,” at 2:30 p.m. The book is scheduled to be produced into a film version by Donald Rosenfeld, the producer behind “Remains of the Day” and, more recently, “The Tree of Life” and “Effie Gray.”

Vincent is an award-winning investigative reporter for The New York Post and the author of four books, including “Gilded Lily: Lily Safra, The Making of One of the World’s Wealthiest Widows.” The book is the unauthorized biography of the international philanthropist, whose fourth husband, the banker Edmond Safra, died in a mysterious fire in Monaco. Vincent spent several years researching her subject in Brazil, where the book has been banned by a local court.

Vincent is also the author of the award-winning “Bodies and Souls,” which tells the story of impoverished Jewish women from the shtetls of Russia and Poland who were forced into prostitution in South America. Vincent won the National Jewish Book Award (Canada) for her work on “Bodies and Souls,” which has become a primer for activists fighting against sex trafficking around the world today.

Her book on Swiss banks and dormant accounts in the Nazi era — “Hitler’s Silent Partners” — was the recipient of the Yad Vashem Award for Holocaust History, and her first book, “See No Evil,” goes behind the scenes in one of Latin America’s biggest kidnapping cases.

Marketing and outreach librarian at the Port Jefferson Free Library Salvatore Filosa said, “The library strives to provide open access to literature in many forms, one being a showcase of local authors whose works inspire so many people. Keynote Speaker Isabel Vincent’s newest book is truly a beautiful story that has a wide appeal to readers of many genres. Now is your chance to meet the author and gain insight into what it took to write the story. Readers of all ages are invited to find their next favorite book.”

The Port Jefferson Free Library is located at 100 Thompson Street in Port Jefferson. For more information, call 631-473-0022.

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The children's section of the Port Jefferson Free Library. File photo by Heidi Sutton

The community sent a resounding message of approval for two different library budgets April 4 — a vast majority of voting residents are happy with the services provided by their local libraries and are willing to pay for more.

The Port Jefferson Free Library’s $4.2 million budget passed with a 143 to 10 margin. The 2017-18 financial plan is about 1.2 percent more than last year’s version and will cost homeowners on average about 49 cents more monthly in property taxes compared to last year.

“We are very flattered and pleased at the support we get,” Library Director Tom Donlon said in an email. “This year we juggled a few budget lines around, and tried to focus on where our community wanted us to go. We increased the book budget as well as the programming budget in order to deliver the materials and services that Port Jeff has come to expect.”

More than 1,000 children participated in summer reading programs offered by the library in 2016, and 270,000 items were checked out during the 2016-17 fiscal year, according to a budget newsletter sent out to the community. Library administration was also proud of a teen garden established in 2016, which allowed children and teens to grow vegetables for local soup kitchens. A new, easy-to-use website was launched by the library last year, and the board also plans to update the community on some possible improvements to the facilities coming in the near future.

Additional books and programs, along with an increase in staff salaries, benefits and retirement payments represent the largest drivers of the budget increase. The gap in those increases is closed in large part by a near $200,000 savings compared to last year in transfers to the capital fund and debt services fund. The library also will offer fewer print and nonprint newspapers and periodicals this year.

The Comsewogue Public Library’s budget was passed with 102 yes to 14 no votes. The total operating budget for 2017-18 will be about $5.6 million, up 2.7 percent from last year. Like its Port Jeff counterpart, Comsewogue Public Library’s budget increases can be attributed for the most part to increases in staff salaries and benefits. Additional money was also factored into the current budget for some furniture and equipment upgrades. The library will see a savings in the coming year in computer equipment and supplies, as well as in debt service payments.

The average homeowner in the district will be required to pay about $4 more in taxes for the 2017-18 fiscal year compared to last year.

“The 2017-18 proposed operating budget is designed to ensure that the library continues to provide a high quality service program at a reasonable cost,” a letter to the community from the library said. “The public library serves everyone in the community, from babies to seniors.”

Port Jefferson Station resident and library trustee Edward Wendol was also elected to remain in the position on the board that he’s held since 1972. Wendol, who ran unopposed, has previously served as the board president and was named a Port Times Record Man of the Year in 2003. Library administration said he “has provided guidance and oversight to the organization,” in a letter sent to residents along with an informational budget newsletter.

“I’m very happy to be on it, and I’m happy to be elected continuously,” Wendol said in a phone interview. He added his primary objective in his next term is to move along a heating and air conditioning plan for the library. “I think we’re a good asset to the community.”

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Join the Port Jefferson Free Library, 100 Thompson St., Port Jefferson for its 5th annual Community Service Fair from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 8.

Representatives from over 20 community service organizations will be on hand to discuss ways you can give back to your community and to help those in need including Dress for Success Brookhaven, Friends of the Port Jefferson Free Library, Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, Angels of Long Island, Island Harvest, Literacy Suffolk, Mather Hospital, Open Door Exchange, Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, Port Jefferson Fire Department, Rotary Club of Port Jefferson, RSVP of Suffolk County, S.T.A.T.E., Save-A-Pet, St. Gerard Majella Soup Kitchen, Suffolk County United Veterans, Theatre Three, Three Village Meals on Wheels, Ward Melville Heritage Organization, Water’s Edge of Port Jefferson for Rehabilitation and Nursing and Welcome Friends Soup Kitchen (formerly the Welcome Inn).

The event is free and open to all. No registration necessary. Call 631-473-0022 for more information.

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File photo by Elana Glowatz

Deaths due to heroin and other opiates are increasing exponentially on Long Island, especially on the North Shore. Join the Port Jefferson Free Library, 100 Thompson St., Port Jefferson for a Narcan Training workshop on Sunday, Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. and help save a life.

Learn about the signs and symptoms of opiate overdose and what to do from health and safety education expert, Erik Zalewski. This 45-minute class also includes a free naloxone (Narcan) emergency kit. A 20-minute “hands-only” CPR class will follow. All are welcome. Questions? Call 631-473-0022.

From left, John Blatny, Jenny Minett, Leanna Jones, artist Robert Jones and Theda Clesceri. Photo by Sal Filosa

A WARM RECEPTION The Port Jefferson Free Library hosted an art reception for artist Robert Jones last Wednesday, Jan. 11. Jones’ exhibit, “Complicating Abstracts,” featuring 40 oil and acrylic paintings, is on view in the Meeting Room and display cases of the library through Feb. 28.

'The Whale'

By Heidi Sutton

Although it’s only the first week of January, 2017 is turning out to be a very good year for Port Jefferson artist Robert Jones. The 29-year-old is excited to share his art with the community in his debut show, “Complicating Abstracts,” at the Port Jefferson Free Library now through the month of February. In this unique exhibition, which will feature approximately 40 paintings, the viewer will have the opportunity to witness the past few years that Jones has spent developing a unique style and his journey to apply this style to a form.

Sal Filosa, marketing and research librarian, said the library was pleased to be the host of Jones’ first exhibition, adding, “Robert’s creativity through reflection is truly unique among the themes of artwork displayed at the library, and we hope that community members and passersby will stop in to view this stimulating artwork.”


Above, the artist working on his latest painting titled ‘Turtles All the Way Down’

Raised in Stony Brook, Jones graduated from Ward Melville High School in 2006 and moved down to Georgia in 2011 before returning to the area two years ago. In addition to being a musician and songwriter, Jones started painting in earnest in his early 20s. Entering Stony Brook University’s Studio Art program this semester, Jones will concentrate on painting, drawing, printmaking and graphic design. He feels that now is the perfect time to have an exhibit and to branch out and connect with the community. “I want to further myself; I want to progress.”

The artist is drawn to the works of abstract painters like Franz Kline (“I really like the simplicity; the black and white”) László Moholy-Nagy and Piet Mondrian and finds inspiration in local landscapes like West Meadow Beach. He enjoys visiting the Nassau County Museum of Art, the Guggenheim and the Heckscher Museum in Huntington.

According to Jones, his paintings are created by a reaction toward an initial gesture, the starting point, whether it be a flick of the wrist or a full arm motion. Says Jones, “I never try to paint something [in particular], I just go through the action of painting,” adding that his artwork is a reflection of what is happening in the world, including its happiness, the gray area and its futility.

Alternating between oils and acrylics, the artist uses forms, shapes, lines and colors taken from everyday life to create something so abstract that it seems to jump off the page. Study each painting closely though and eventually your eyes will light up in recognition as hidden objects reveal themselves among the brush strokes.

‘Cab Color’

In “The Whale,” based on a song that Jones composed titled “A Whale in the Sky,” the image of a white sperm whale, inspired by Herman Melville’s novel “Moby-Dick,” is inconspicuously incorporated into the painting, while Jones’ first and favorite piece, “The Inferno,” depicts city buildings that appear to be toppling down into the abyss among the orange and red fiery background. Another piece in the exhibit, “Cab Color,” utilizes the stain of cabernet among vibrant shapes and colors, some of which seem to resemble liquor bottles. One of his newer pieces, “The Tree,” is a bit more straightforward, depicting a tree reaching for the sun. “I’m trying to work toward more representational works,” explains Jones.

Like many artists, Jones finds painting as a way to decompress and to relieve stress. “While I’m organizing my painting, I’ll be thinking about everything that’s going on in my life and try to organize that more also,” he said. While he loves music, Jones says he finds more clarity in painting. “I’m more comfortable with this type of expression,” he explains.

Jones encourages everyone to check out his exhibit, adding that some people may not necessarily like this type of art while others may end up liking it a lot. “Art is something I’m really passionate about and I’ve always had a passion for,” he said, adding, “For the last two years I have disciplined myself enough where I feel like my art is going to grow even more, so I’m excited for people to see this exhibit. It is one of my first milestones and I hope to find success in life through art.”

“Complicating Abstracts” will be on view in the Display Case and Meeting Room at the Port Jefferson Free Library, 100 Thompson St., Port Jefferson through Feb. 28. Come meet the artist at an opening reception on Wednesday, Jan. 11 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served. For more information on the exhibit, call the library at 631-473-0022. For more information on Robert Jones and his paintings, visit www.artbyrobertjones.com.