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Port Jefferson Free Library

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'Artist Lake' by Joe Rotella

By Rita J. Egan

The days are becoming chillier, but that hasn’t stopped the Port Jefferson Free Library from celebrating the beauty of the great outdoors. The library is currently hosting the exhibit Slices of Nature/Phase 3, featuring the plein air paintings of Mount Sinai resident Joseph Rotella.

Salvatore Filosa, marketing and outreach librarian, said it’s the third time the library has displayed Rotella’s artwork. Filosa said the painter’s past shows have done well, and the exhibit allows visitors to experience the beauty of both plein air painting and Rotella’s artistic interpretation of local landscapes. “I hope that they’ll enjoy the scenes, and since most of the pictures are of Long Island scenes, I hope it will also give them a better appreciation of where they live,” Filosa said.

'Cedar Beach' by Joe Rotella
‘Cedar Beach’ by Joe Rotella

Raised in Brooklyn, Rotella spent 28 years of his career as an art teacher with the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES). During this time, the artist said he did very little painting of his own and concentrated on teaching. When he retired in 2008, he was finally able to pursue painting steadily and become a professional artist, something he aspired to since a child. “It’s a full-time passion,” he said.

Working with acrylics and sometimes with oil paints, Rotella’s artwork represents his interpretation of Long Island landscapes and seascapes. Since 2010, he has exhibited his work in both New York and South Florida in shows such as the Hampton Bays Outdoor Show and Patchogue Arts Council Summer Member Show.

The artist said he considers himself a Post-Impressionist. “I’m interested in expressing myself more so than the impressionist artists do. I’m trying to capture light in the moment, but I am also trying to give a feeling of emotion in my brushwork and so forth,” he said.

Rotella prefers plein air painting where one paints landscapes outside and interprets what they see physically in front of them as opposed to a scene captured in a photograph. Shortly after he retired, he moved to Mount Sinai and visited Gallery North in Setauket on a day when the Joseph Reboli Wet Paint Festival was taking place. “One day I went to Gallery North, and I saw people working outside, and I said, ‘Wow that’s just what I do, and what I want to do,’” he said.

He spoke to Esther Marie at Gallery North, who said he was more than welcome to participate in the plein air festival in the future, and in 2012, he did just that. Rotella said he also has contributed to art shows at the gallery since then.

'Lenny Bruno Farms' by Joe Rotella
‘Lenny Bruno Farms’ by Joe Rotella

When it comes to summing up his work, the painter said his artist statement on his website relays his mission best. The statement begins with: “In my work I try to capture the atmospheric conditions in terms of light, tone and color. I paint what I see and try not to compromise color. I am concerned with some details but do not obsess over them. I paint the surface tones as I see them trying to be fluid and spontaneous with my brush strokes.”

The artist is pleased to display his paintings at the Port Jefferson Free Library once again. He said a few years ago he attended an art critique there and noticed artwork hanging on the walls of the meeting room. He approached the librarian at the desk and discovered all he had to do was schedule a date in order to exhibit his own paintings.

Rotella said he chose large works of art for this exhibit, with some measuring as much as 30 by 54 inches. While the paintings won’t be available for sale at the library, interested buyers can contact Rotella directly. The painter hopes library patrons come away from the exhibit with a different perspective of nature. “I’ve gotten many comments from people saying that my artwork makes them feel good because of the way I paint the scenes of nature. And that’s one thing, just to get a sense of nature, and how an artist interprets nature and sees nature, so that they can feel good about nature,” Rotella said.

“Maybe begin to look at nature in a different way; begin to start looking at nature and seeing what nature has to offer. Nature is beautiful. That’s what I would like them to get out of it — getting a good feeling from my work and appreciating it and feeling good about what they see.”

The exhibit will be on display in the meeting room of the PJFL, located at 100 Thompson Street, until Nov. 28. For more information on Rotella and his paintings, visit www.rotellafinearts.com.

Above, a birdhouse made with the library’s 3D printer peeks out among the hydrangea bush and impatiens. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Ellen Barcel

Tucked among the quaint shops on East Main Street in Port Jefferson is an urban oasis.

A community garden came to Port Jefferson this past growing season. The new garden is located in front of the 1812 Captain Thomas Bayles House, right next to the Port Jefferson Free Library on East Main Street. The former home of the Scented Cottage Garden gift shop, the historic building was sold to the library last year. Erin Schaarschmidt, head of teen services for the library, said “there are no plans just yet” for the future of the building, and “public input is needed” with suggestions for its future use, but the front lawn of the property was quickly put to use.

Teens pick vegetables in the community garden to donate to a local food pantry. Photo courtesy of PJFL
Teens pick vegetables in the community garden to donate to a local food pantry. Photo courtesy of PJFL

The idea for the community garden came from Anthony Bliss, youth services librarian. Bliss, who works with children and teens, wanted something that the younger children could do. “And teen volunteers are always clamoring for community service,” said Schaarschmidt. “The teens started the seeds in the teen center in spring [which is across the street from the main building]. Then the children came with their families to plant [the seedlings]… the teens have been weeding it to keep up with it.” Even when school started, teens have been coming in the afternoons after school. Commenting on the dedication of the teen volunteers, Schaarschmidt noted, “The teen volunteers even came when it was 90 degrees or more and in the rain. It really was a labor of love.”

Teens weed the community garden during the summer. Photo courtesy of the PJFL
Teens weed the community garden during the summer. Photo courtesy of the PJFL

The garden featured several types of tomatoes and peppers in raised beds. Welcome Inn, a soup kitchen in Port Jefferson, was the recipient of the bounty. But vegetables were not the only plants raised in the community garden. Lots of annuals including sunflowers, impatiens, zinnia and salvia, many in colorful planters decorated by a local Girl Scout group, filled the garden, as well as herbs such as basil and mint. There was even an aquatic garden with water hyacinths and a fountain. Painted rocks placed carefully along the beds completed the picture.

The brightly colored birdhouses that adorn some of the larger perennials in the garden, such as the beautiful hydrangeas, are embossed with the letters PJFL. But what is more unique about them is that they were made using a three-dimensional printer that the library owns. A 3D printer makes objects from a digital file. So instead of printing out a photo of a birdhouse, the 3D printer produces the birdhouse itself. Using PLA, a type of biodegradable plastic, the teens created the colorful additions. The library owns the printer, but currently it is used only for special programs. “It takes one to two hours to print each thing,” said Schaarschmidt, so the process is time consuming, but “in the future [the public] will be able to use it.” She noted that the library is working out details, including the cost.

Now that autumn is just about here, plans include putting in a fall display of mums and corn stalks. Noted Schaarschmidt, “The Friends of the Library will be having a small sale of pumpkins to raise money for the library on Oct. 22.” She added, kids will be able to have their photos taken. “It will be a family event.” Check the library’s website, www.portjefflibrary.org, for specifics, or call 631-473-0022 closer to the date.

Community gardens have so many benefits: produce for those who can’t afford it, service for local volunteers and, of course, the beauty of the plants themselves. They increase local property values and they cut down on the distance food must travel, helping to control pollution, to name just a few. For further information on community gardens, especially if you are interested in starting, or taking part in one, can be found at the American Community Gardening Association website: www.communitygarden.org.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

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

Don’t judge the Port Jefferson Free Library by its cover, at least not before ground is broken on potential renovations.

The board of directors at the Port Jefferson Free Library are mulling ideas for upgrades in the hopes of meeting the needs of the community as a 21st century library. At a public meeting Sept. 14 at the library, the board and architects from Patchogue-based BBS Architects & Engineers discussed options for upgrades and listened to input from the community. In addition to its annual operating budget, the volunteer organization, Friends of the Library, is seeking donations from the public to be able to afford the total cost of potential renovations.

“We want to figure out what you guys want to see from your library going forward, not just the next five years, but 10, to 15, to 30,” Library Director Tom Donlon said to residents in attendance during the meeting. “We’ve been doing a lot of research, a lot of work. You guys have had a lot of questions.”

According to the board’s presentation, goals of the eventual renovations will be to relocate the library’s teen center, which is currently across the street from the main building; establish a more functional meeting space than the current one in the library’s basement; provide visitors with access to more computers and other technology; and expand the use of existing space in the main building, among others.

Community members in attendance suggested issues they’d like to see addressed by the project. Some aligned with the board’s plans, including technology expansion and improvements, better use of existing library space and a larger area for group meetings. In addition, residents want to see better elevator access and expansion to connect the property at 205 East Main Street, which the library purchased in 2015.

“It was in good shape, and it lent itself to the history of Port Jeff, and we all know, Port Jeff, we love our history,” Donlon said of the historic house, which was built in 1812, according to the Port Jefferson Historical Society. “We love to honor it, we love to soak ourselves into it, we believe in it. Our best plan of action, not only for the library but for the village, was for restoration and preservation. So that’s the mode we’re getting into.”

The next step in the process will be to formulate a complete design plan to be presented to the community. That meeting is tentatively scheduled to take place in the coming weeks. For more information about the project or to contribute to fundraising efforts, visit www.portjefflibrary.org.

Port Jefferson Village’s second annual Heritage Weekend is fast approaching. The event features more than 15 cultural and historical locations for residents and visitors to explore on Saturday, Aug. 20 and Sunday, Aug. 21. Each stop is set to include presentations with interesting information, historical photos of the village that used to be known as Drowned Meadow, as well as fun, interactive activities.

The Port Times Record will preview each of the featured locations around the village leading up to Heritage Weekend. This week includes a look at the attractions that will be take place at the Port Jefferson Historical Society’s Mather House Museum, Port Jefferson Free Library, Belle Terre Community Center and Antique Costume & Prop Rental by Nan during the weekend.

For part one of the series click here and for part two click here.

Mather House Museum

The museum will be open the Saturday and Sunday of Heritage Weekend from noon to 4 p.m. for guided tours of the 1840s home turned museum of shipbuilder John Mather. This year’s exhibit, Hats Off to Port Jefferson, will feature styles of hats dating back to the 1700s, including a helmet that belonged to community member Earl L. Vandermeulen during World War I.

“We’re very happy to share this with the community,” museum curator Laura Warren said.

The museum will also feature a “clock building,” with more than 200 antique clocks. In addition, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, members of the clock guild will hold appraisals to assess the value of clocks brought in by visitors.

“I’m looking forward to bringing more people to our museum,” Warren said. “It’s the best-kept secret in town.”

Port Jefferson Free Library

The historic front doors to the original Port Jefferson Free Library will be open and visitors will be greeted by Friends of the Port Jefferson Free Library volunteers upon entering on Saturday. Explore the historic reference desk and view paintings by local artist Leon Foster Jones. Children can enjoy period activities and stories on the front lawn. Story times will be held at 1:30 and 3 p.m. A lemonade stand and refreshments, sponsored by the Friends, will be on the Library’s lawn.

At 1 and 3 p.m. on Saturday, Friends of the Port Jefferson Free Library will also host guided walking tours of the Port Jefferson area. No registration is required. Meet at the Library’s main doors on East Main Street. The 30 points of interest on the tour will begin on Thompson Street, up along High Street and down Prospect Street, returning back to the Library via East Main Street.

Beginning at noon, take part in a geocache hunt around the village. Geocaches have been hidden at different historical sites around Port Jefferson. Stop by the Library for your “Past-Port” Field Guide on how to use your phone to track down each cache.

Belle Terre Community Center

Belle Terre Village Historian John Hiz will give a presentation at the Community Center during the weekend about the history of Belle Terre. From its past as Mount Misery in the early 1700s, to the Strong family’s ownership of the village, which became known as Oakwood during that time, to Dean Alvord’s construction of the village into the contours of the land, Hiz, will provide in-depth facts about the history of Belle Terre.

“I think I’m always excited about people coming and learning the history, not only about Belle Terre, but also about Port Jefferson,” he said. Hiz said he is looking forward to the weekend as a whole. “Opening it up and allowing each individual participant to talk about their unique history — that brings everything together.”

Antique Costumes & Prop Rental by Nan

Nancy Altman Guzzetta has been in business in Port Jefferson since the 1970s. Her antique costume shop will be outfitting models and actors at nearly all of the Heritage Weekend stops. Culper Spy Ring re-enactors at the Village Center, both patriots and redcoats, will be adorned in Nan’s costumes. Children and adults will be dressed in 18th century clothing at the Drowned Meadow Museum and in 17th century attire at the Chamber of Commerce. Waiters and customers will be at Grammas’ in outfits provided by the shop.

“I think it’s much more meaningful,” she said about incorporating elaborate costumes as part of the weekend festivities. “It helps make history come alive.”

At the shop, different props and costumes will be available for photo opportunities along with light refreshments.

Author R.J. Torbert, left, talks about his new book with John Valeri of The Hartford Book Examiner. Photo by Wenhao Ma

By Wenhao Ma

The story of a Port Jefferson murderer — albeit a fictional one — was discussed at length by a novelist and his fans in the village on Saturday.

Author R.J. Torbert brought his new book “No Mercy,” which was released in June, to a question-and-answer session with more than a dozen readers at Port Jefferson Free Library on July 16. “No Mercy” continues the story of fictitious Detectives Paul Powers and Bud Johnson of Port Jefferson, who dealt with the mysterious murderer Ghost Face, in Torbert’s first novel, “The Face of Fear,” which was released in 2013.

“He turned [the Ghost Face mask] into a home town classic.” —Joseph Borozny

“When [readers] look at the cover, they think it’s a horror story,” Torbert said in an interview after the event, referring to the Ghost Face mask on the cover. “[But] this is a relationship story, a love story,” he said.

Torbert is the licensing director of Fun Wold, a Halloween costume company. His company created the Ghost Face as part of the Fantastic Faces series back in 1991.

Torbert noted that there are many differences between his books and “Scream,” the movie that made the mask famous back in the 1990s. He said that he did not design the iconic mask, but he did come up with the name Ghost Face and has been protecting its name and trademarks for years, and even fought to keep the character wearing the mask in the movies from doing anything bad enough to give too dark of a stigma.

Author R.J. Torbert poses with a fan of his newly released novel. Photo by Wenhao Ma
Author R.J. Torbert poses with a fan of his newly released novel. Photo by Wenhao Ma

“[In the first novel], the person who wore the mask was not necessarily a bad person,” Torbert said.

He said that he had always wanted to write a book, but what turned his idea into action was a novel he read on a plane. He was so disappointed with the story that he started writing on that book. What he wrote eventually became “The Face of Fear.”

“He turned [the Ghost Face mask] into a home town classic,” Joseph Borozny, a Port Jefferson resident and a fan of Torbert’s books, said, adding that Torbert used the Ghost Face character to create something that’s real, not just fictional.

Borozny brought his family to the event, including his 14-­year­-old son, Joey, who received a Ghost Face mask from Torbert as a gift. “If you like horror movies,” Joey said, “this is the guy you’ll love to meet. And he’s a real nice guy.”

After the question-and answer-portion, Torbet signed copies of the book and posed for photos with fans.

Join the Port Jefferson Free Library on Sunday, Sept. 20, for a discussion of Harper Lee, the author of one of the most popular books that deal with race relations in the United States, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The southerner recently released her second book, “Go Set a Watchman,” 55 years after her first was published. The story, like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” is seen through the eyes of Jean Louise “Scout” Finch and returns the protagonist and hero Atticus Finch, Scout’s father. The books are set in the fictional Maycomb, Ala., the first in the 1930s and the second in the 1950s.

Both books are loosely based on the hometown and life experiences of Lee.

In the library program “Harper Lee: A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma,” Stony Brook University professor emeritus Michael Edelson will present an illustrated talk of Lee’s life and work, including unpublished writings. Edelson will use interviews, film clips and photos analyzing both books and the Oscar-winning 1962 film “To Kill a Mockingbird” starring Gregory Peck as Atticus.

Copies of each book will be available for those who attend the program, which starts at 2 p.m.

Port Jefferson Free Library board President Laura Hill Timpanaro and Library Director Robert Goykin present the findings of the library’s strategic plan to more than 40 community leaders on Wednesday. Photo from Robert Goykin

Port Jefferson Free Library is checking out architects as it moves toward expanding its facilities, officials announced on Wednesday at a breakfast meeting with community members.

At the meeting, library staffers updated a few dozen neighborhood leaders on the library’s strategic plan, which its board of trustees recently finalized and includes ideas of how the institution will serve residents in the future. Those plans involve branching out to two properties adjacent to its central building at the corner of Thompson and East Main streets: a residence on Thompson that it has acquired and a business on East Main that it is in the process of acquiring. The goal of expansion is to bring the Teen Center, which is now housed in a separate building across East Main, into the main building.

And an “inadequacy of library meeting space, in addition to parking challenges, were prime considerations,” library board President Laura Hill Timpanaro said in a statement.

The library is looking to hire an architectural firm that will consider the area’s historical character while designing the potential expansion, Library Director Robert Goykin said in a phone interview Thursday. “The library board is extremely committed to preserving the historic streetscape and the historic nature of this corner of the town.”

Once the board hires an architect, there will be public meetings to get community feedback and suggestions during the design process.

“We want to keep the public informed and aware every step of the way,” Goykin said.

According to a press release from the library, the adjacent property on East Main Street, which currently houses Scented Cottage Garden, measures 7,750 square feet.

Marge McCuen and Mary Lee, who co-own the property with their husbands, John McCuen and Roger Lee, said while the sale of the property is not final, the business will be closing on May 31.

The library director said the property would help the space-strapped library meet village parking requirements while satisfying the library’s needs.

Goykin said the meeting Wednesday at the library was positive, as the community offered supportive comments “and really showed how much the public appreciates the library here in Port Jeff.” He said it’s a good sign for the future, in terms of receiving community input on the design of the facility expansion.

“To see this diverse group of people seemingly in agreement … is a good start.”

This version corrects information about the sale of the Scented Cottage Garden property.

Standing in front of Jay Gatsby (Robert Redford) at Port Jefferson Free Library's tea party are, from left, Linda Gavin; Earlene O’Hare; Carol Stalzer; Shirley Weiner; Stephanie Costanzo; Lucio Constanzo; Francesca Lutz; and Deborah O’Neil. Photo by Heidi Sutton

In celebration of the 90th anniversary of the publication of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary novel “The Great Gatsby,” the Friends of the Port Jefferson Free Library held a Gatsby Tea Party fundraiser on Wednesday, April 29.

Guests enjoyed a wonderful lunch and dessert and sipped tea from their favorite teacups. Shirley Weiner presented a lecture on F. Scott Fitzgerald and his literary works which was followed by a raffle drawing.

The Port Jefferson Historical Society loaned a period costume exhibit, featuring a flapper dress, a man’s tuxedo and a bridal trousseau, for the occasion.

Proceeds from the event will be used to fund projects at the library such as its Living Heritage programs, Dickens Festival events, music programs, Baby Book Welcome Bags, Vets Memorial Project, family carnival and more.

Library members in Port Jefferson and Comsewogue approved the two districts’ proposed budgets on Tuesday. Stock photo

Comsewogue and Port Jefferson library district members approved both institutions’ 2015-16 budgets on Tuesday. The Port Jefferson Free Library budget passed with 106 votes in favor and nine against. Comsewogue Public Library’s budget passed with 104 votes in favor and 19 against.

The Port Jefferson budget, which totals $4.33 million, will increase annual taxes by about $10.80 for the average village resident. The budget includes a $107,000 transfer to the library’s capital fund for facility improvements, as the library nears the finish line on forming a strategic plan for how the institution will serve members in the future. That plan includes improving the facilities and considers possible uses for an adjacent residential property on Thompson Street that the library recently purchased.

In Comsewogue, annual taxes will increase by about $11 for the average resident under the approved $5.58 million budget.

The Comsewogue district residents also elected a new trustee, Corinne DeStefano, with 116 votes. The candidate, who ran unopposed for a five-year term, is the wife of Comsewogue school board Trustee Robert DeStefano. A lifelong resident of the district, she works in quality assurance for software corporation CA Technologies.

The upcoming budget vote is at the library on Thompson Street. File photo

The average Port Jefferson resident will pay $10.80 more in library taxes next year, if members approve a proposed $4.33 million budget for 2015-16.

Most of the Port Jefferson Free Library’s expense lines would increase or decrease modestly under the spending plan, according to a budget breakdown from the library. One of the larger changes would be in materials and programs — the library would spend $42,500 less on books next year, for a total of $178,000. Spending on programs, meanwhile, would increase almost $15,000.

In personnel expenditures, salary and retirement costs would both decrease next year, while insurance costs would increase.

Library Director Robert Goykin explained that the decrease in the book budget “is largely the result of many of the expensive print items moving to less expensive electronic versions or publications going out of business,” such as encyclopedias.

While Goykin called it “sad” that those publications are no longer being printed, he said that many of them work well in a digital format because “people don’t read them cover to cover as much as consult them for facts.”

Library Director Robert Goykin says a decrease in spending on books can be partially attributed to reference publications going digital. File photo
Library Director Robert Goykin says a decrease in spending on books can be partially attributed to reference publications going digital. File photo

The director said, “In this case the economics work in our favor despite the fact of losing some ‘old friends’ on the shelf.”

The proposed increase in funding for library programs reflects a higher demand, Goykin said, and more programming in science and technology, which can be more expensive than other areas.

In addition to those budget lines, the library would transfer $107,000 into its capital fund for facility improvements.

The library board of trustees has been working on a strategic plan for how the establishment will serve residents in the future, which includes improving the facilities and deciding what to do with a recently purchased residential property that is located next door on Thompson Street.

“With the plan almost concluded,” Goykin said, “the board wanted to set aside some funding to make improvements in the facility.”

All together, the budget would increase less than 0.6 percent next year, and would carry a roughly $3 million tax levy.

If the proposal is approved, for every $100 of assessed value, residents would have to pay an extra quarter to the library next year. The average house in the community is assessed at $4,500.

“The board and the staff have been very mindful of the difficult economic circumstances of the last number of years,” Goykin said. “This is our fifth straight year of minimal budget increases.”

Voting is at the library on Tuesday, April 14, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.