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Port Jefferson Station

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Project part of near-decade-long attempt to revitalize area

New rustic street lights along Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station, near Port Jefferson Cinemas. Photo by Kyle Barr

Beginning at the end of April, Port Jefferson Station residents will start to notice new rustic lights being installed along Route 112 near Joline Road as part of the early stages of a long-awaited project. 

New rustic street lights along Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station, near Port Jefferson Cinemas. Photo by Kyle Barr

The installation of the rustic lights is part of the main street project, which dates back to a 2008 hamlet study done by Louis Antoniello, a former Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association president and Lee Koppleman, a longtime Suffolk County planner. When the first phase of the project is complete, the lights will be installed at various points throughout Main Street in Terryville on Route 112 between Bicycle Path and Route 347.

Antoniello, who co-chaired the initial hamlet study with Koppleman, said the idea to install these rustic lights came about due to answers from a questionnaire put to residents several years ago. 

“They told us what they liked about the area and what they didn’t,” he said. 

Antoniello, a Terryville resident, said many residents expressed the desire for the preservation of important buildings in Port Jeff Station, more open space and, most importantly, they wanted an identity. That identity would start with improving Main Street. 

The former civic president also said people in the community wanted places to go on Main Street where they could go shopping, eat and enjoy the area. 

“The area [Port Jeff Station] has a lot of history and landmarks,” Antionello said.

Another factor in the project is to repair buildings and get businesses to come that will benefit the community. 

Antoniello said the process to get the funds needed to begin the lights installation took a long time to come about. 

He first spoke with Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) about the proposed lights project and with his assistance was able to get  approved a $150,000 grant from New York State in November 2016 to help purchase the lights. 

Despite being approved, Antoniello said the money was not received until almost two years later. 

“I contacted the governor’s office on my own and asked for assistance,” he said “This began the process of getting the money released.”

The former civic president said the state holds on to grant dollars for months, sometimes years. This, he was told, by elected officials is common practice. Once the money was released, he worked with engineers and the Town of Brookhaven Street Lighting Department in preparation for the lighting structures to be installed. 

The $150,000 grant will cover the Nesconset Highway/Joline Road section installation. This comes after the installation of the lights on the eastern side of Route 112 by the new ShopRite center. Antoniello said he plans to try to get another grant from New York State and will be applying to the Downtown Revitalization Grant Program to get additional funding for the Main Street project. 

This won’t be the first time Port Jefferson Station has applied for the downtown revitalization grant. 

“They said we aren’t a true main street, we have too much traffic and we don’t have enough buildings,” Antoniello said. “It’s a lot of excuses — hopefully this time it will be different.”

Brookhaven town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said the antique lighting project is a long-standing community project connected to the revitalization of Route 112 and promoting and enhancing the existing “main street corridor.”

“Many current and past members of the civic association were very involved with supporting and championing this project,” Cartright said. “Main street is the heart of any downtown community and the antique light project helps create a sense of place in the community. This in turn helps to attract additional businesses to the area.”  

Some of the lights are already installed near Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace and residents are already taking notice.

“Somebody told me it looks great and are glad that they are finally up,” Antoniello said. 

The Terryville resident also had ideas for other proposed projects in the area, including putting a historic marker on Patchogue Road, as it served as the road for stagecoaches back in the 19th and 20th centuries.   

He also plans on helping with the construction of a community park located at the intersection of Route 112 and Nesconset Highway where the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce-owned train car resides. Antoniello said once funding becomes available they will move forward with constructing the park.

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Addison Azmoun leaps a fence. Photo by David Luces

Horseback riding is a sport that requires full commitment, courage and a particular skill set, one based on mental fortitude and bravery to even get up on the horse. 

For members of the Old Towne Equestrian’s middle school team, they can’t picture their lives without their horses. Now their collective passion, as well as their recent successes in tournaments throughout the season, has propelled them to the Interscholastic Equestrian Association National Finals taking place April 26-28 in Pennsylvania.   

From left, Addison Azmoun, coach Lauren Sobel, Graney, Ali Treuting and Hairston show off the awards they’ve received this season. Photo by David Luces

Myrna Treuting, head coach of the team, couldn’t be prouder of the girls. 

“We’ve had a pretty strong team this year,” she said. 

To get to nationals, individual and team performances throughout the season are crucial in getting the points necessary to qualify. First, if the team has enough points, it qualifies for regionals, and the top two teams then go to zone finals. The Old Towne team won the IEA Zone 2 Final March 16, securing a spot in nationals and bringing home a trophy back to the Old Towne Equestrian Center barn. Two members of the team: seventh-grader Maggie Graney of Garden City and eighth-grader Ali Treuting, Myrna’s daughter, also qualified individually to compete at nationals.   

“This is the first time that the middle school team has [collectively] qualified for nationals,” the head coach said. 

According to Treuting, the team is the top ranked middle school team in all of New York State. 

Fellow coach Lauren Sobel said the journey has not been easy. 

“They are very dedicated, hardworking and they show great sportsmanship,” she said. “Going to nationals is very exciting for us.”

Sobel said most of the girls have been riding at the barn their whole careers, and started at a very young age, some before they could
even walk. 

In preparation for nationals, the coaches have made sure the riders are securing extra practice and are getting used to riding without stirrups. 

In many of the competitions, riders draw the name of the horse they will ride out of a hat the morning of the event. It is a way of evening the playing field as many riders become comfortable riding with their own horses. 

Treuting said it’s the luck of the draw sometimes, and it doesn’t come down to the horse but to the skill of the rider. She mentioned her team has experience riding many different horses and can easily adapt to a new steed. 

“I think going to nationals is a great opportunity to advance and learn to ride different horses  outside of your comfort zone,” seventh-grader Tess Hairston of Selden said. 

Graney added the season has been pretty good, and it’s really cool to go back to nationals this year. The young girl had qualified individually for nationals last year as well. 

The members of the team are close with one another, and though they don’t go to school together, they relish the time they spend with each other at the barn. 

“It is exciting, you get to learn together and get to grow as friends,” Hairston said.  It’s nice because we get to see each other more often and do things that we love.”

Tess Hairston practices drills. Photo by David Luces

Treuting has owned the Old Towne Equestrian Center for close to 30 years and started a horseback riding team about 15 years ago, just around the time IEA was created. The organization’s mission is to introduce equestrian sports to students grades four through 12. 

In addition to the middle school team, Treuting coaches a high school team and the Stony Brook University Equestrian Team as well.   

“I think we can do quite well at nationals, we have a very good team,” she said. “We are so proud of them, they work hard and they deserve it.”

The Old Towne Equestrian Center is located at 471 Boyle Road in Selden.

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Cottone at Sensationally Sweet in Patchogue which was helping to promote the Economic Opportunity Council of Suffolk. Photo from Nic Cottone

LI Spidey-Guy shows the real compassion of a hero.

When heroes don their masks, who do they become?

In the main Marvel Comics book series Spider-Man, it’s Peter Parker who’s behind the facade. But as recent films like “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” put it, can anybody wear the mask? Can anybody embody those simple ideals of the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, helping people because one has the capacity to do so?

Port Jefferson Station native Nic Cottone puts on the mask and becomes Spider-Man, not in the way that he flings webs and swings around New York City, but that he uses the mask to make people’s days a little brighter. He said the mask does something to a person, makes them fit into the person they most want to be.

“It’s because of the mask, nobody sees who you are, even if you’re scared nobody can see it,” Cottone said.

Cottone, 24, is a cosplayer, one who dresses as a fictional character from all sorts of media, from television to movies and, of course, comic books. Cosplaying is often displayed at “nerdy” events like conventions, where those dressed up will sometimes act in character, often to the pleasure of those in attendance. The young man got his start at cosplaying when he was in eighth-grade, though he started focusing on comic book characters in 2011, and 2012 at the tail end of his time in high school.

Nic Cottone during Gaming Night for Autism Awareness hosted by Game On in Miller Place. Photo from Nic Cottone

Since then, along with the nonprofit group of fellow cosplayers, the East Coast Avengers, Cottone has traveled throughout Long Island and far beyond, attending as Spider-Man for charity events and fundraisers. He assisted in events like Kids Comic Con at Bronx Community College, looking to give kids a creative outlet along with others closer to home such as Miller Place video game shop Game On’s annual events that help children with autism. He’s attended functions with hospitals and has even professionally gone to children’s birthday parties, who often can’t contain their excitement in seeing Spider-Man in the flesh.

The Port Jefferson Station resident, who professionally as Spider-Man goes as LI Spider-Guy, is unassuming, a young man who speaks in subdued tones that rise in pitch whenever he has the opportunity to speak about his passions. Most of those passions take the form of helping his fellow man.

“It’s just incredible, I guess,” Cottone said. “It’s the feeling you get when you can make people happy, when you can make people smile.”

Cottone started out in superhero cosplay portraying Captain America sidekick Bucky Barnes, at first likening the character to an almost-parody of American exceptionalism, but as he grew into it, he found that he saw the rational side of the hero, one who embodies the pinnacle of the American dream, one that centers around helping those who can’t help themselves.

But in his heart, he’s always liked the character of Spider-Man, the story of a young man from Queens, an unlikely hero in the first place. He’s a shy young man, smart, but socially awkward. Though even after he’s bitten by a radioactive spider, it takes a tragedy, the death of his father figure, for him to come to terms with the need to help people, simply because he has the power to do so.

“When I started in 2012, I wanted to inspire others to be their own heroes,” he said. “In high school, I struggled with confidence, I struggled with my drive. I struggled with finding a direction. When I realized I had the power, anybody could have the power to inspire others, that’s when I dedicated myself to being the best I could be for myself and for other people.”

It’s become a lifestyle. He’s done extensive online research on the physique of Spider-Man. And though he’s been exercising since high school, he’s tailored his diet to fit the look. For a year, Cottone has been taking his coffee black to excise as much sugar from his diet as he can.

The first spidery outfit Cottone bought came right after the release of the movie “Captain America: Civil War.” Upon first seeing the character, portrayed by Tom Holland, the Port Jeff Station native, and several of his friends, all thought the actor and character resembled him, in more ways than one. But those close to him know the comparison goes beyond the superficial. Fellow East Coast Avenger and friend Rafael “Captain” Pedragon said the Port Jeff Station native is, in many ways, better than the character of Peter Parker ever was.

“Peter Parker took a long time to realize his destiny, but Nic just knows,” Pedragon said. “He believes in his journey, he believes in what he does. Even when things are going rough with him I do see that he just pushes forward. In my eyes I think he’s better. That’s how I see him. Personality-wise he’s stronger mentally than Peter Parker ever was in the comic books.” 

The first suit he bought was from a company called Zentaizone, but when Joshua Darbee, the owner of Red Shirt Comics in Port Jefferson, asked him to attend free comic book day in May 2017, Cottone decided to go all out and buy a suit from RPC Studios, which many in the cosplay community see as some of the highest quality, movie prop level quality spidery suits. He now owns several suits, all different variations of the same character from movies, video games and the comics. It’s a commitment in both time and money, but the 24-year-old said it’s worth it to be the most authentic superhero he can be.

Nic Cottone at Public School 48’s Read Aloud Day in Brooklyn. Photo from Nic Cottone

Since it opened in 2017, Cottone had become a regular in Red Shirt Comics. Darbee bonded with the young man over comics and days of conventions gone by. It’s also how the store owner learned about the young man’s compunction to use superhero costumes to help people.

“The best story I have about Nic, the day he earned his CPR certification, he came in and he just wanted to share it, he was so proud and so happy,” Darbee said. “It was characters like Spider-Man and Captain America who were always so willing to go that extra mile for their fellow man, that he wanted to at least in some small way to be able to be there for somebody else, so he went out of his way to get that CPR certification, so if there was an emergency, he could be there for someone.”

Cottone graduated from Suffolk County Community College with a degree in psychology before moving on to Queens College looking at elementary education. First, he intended to become a high school teacher, but later he moved onto elementary, seeing it as a way to better help people develop in their formative years. He became disillusioned with the larger education system, saying it emphasized learning to the curriculum rather than developing as a person. 

After graduating from Queens College, Cottone returned to Long Island where he spent a year as a teaching assistant at the Maryhaven facility in Port Jeff, where he assisted children with developmental disabilities. Now he’s looking for full-time work while doing tutoring and working with children with autism.

To hear him say it, all the best things that have come to him recently have been because of Spider-Man. He met his girlfriend because of his love of the character and of comics in general. 

Better still, he doesn’t think he will stop any time soon.

“Ultimately we are alive for a very small amount of time, to be able to enjoy the things you’re passionate about is something very important to me,” he said. “It’s another aspect of life imitating art.

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Three days after President Donald Trump (R) declared a national emergency to build a wall on the United States-Mexico border, protesters in Port Jefferson Station held aloft a large sheet with four words painted on it, “Trump is the emergency.”

The North Shore Peace Group, a local activist organization, galvanized close to 50 people to protest Feb. 18, despite cold winter winds, about Trump’s Feb. 15 announcement he would declare a national emergency in order to build 234 miles of physical barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border. The total funds freed up from the national emergency and other measure will equal up to $8 billion, more than the originally proposed $5.7 million Trump had previously asked from Congress. 

Trump is “actually giving a demonstration of how a unilateral president — an imperial presidency is emerging — he’s now overriding Congress’ constitutional mandate to control the purse strings,” said peace group member Bill McNulty.

Standing at the corner of state routes 112 and 347, which has been dubbed by other left-leaning activists as Resistance Corner, the protesters chanted and asked passing cars to honk in support.

Myrna Gordon, a Port Jefferson resident and peace group member, said there are other national issues which are better suited for the moniker “national emergency.”

“With all the things that could be an emergency, think about all the people every day who die from gun violence.” Gordon said. “Down at the border people need help. Instead it’s a wall that people will either tunnel under — they
already have — or find a way to go over.” 

Some activists said the president calling the ongoing illegal migration across the southern border a national emergency opens up the doors for future presidents to declare national emergencies for agenda items. While activist Rosemary Maffei said this could mean, in the case of a Democratic president, national emergencies to deal with gun violence or climate change, it could also set precedent for a Republican president could call national disasters on practically any agenda.

McNulty said the ongoing illicit immigration across the southern border is due to the past and continuing foreign policy of the U.S.

“Our policies in Central and South America have caused the destabilization of country after country, including overriding democratic elections,” McNulty said. “Brazil, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, these are the very countries that have been negatively impacted by American intervention.”

The peace group has hosted many pop-up protests in Port Jefferson and the Three Village area since the inauguration of the 45th president, enough to lose count. Gordon said she expects they will host many more in the future.

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Keith Brown, right, and other representatives display site plans for self-storage facility on Baylis Avenue. Photo by Kyle Barr

There are two new developments on the horizon for Port Jefferson Station, tucked away in the backwoods along Sheep Pasture Road. Despite first assumptions, they’re not hotels, restaurants or homes, but self-storage facilities. 

Beyond that, both projects could be located a three-minute drive from each other.

At its Jan. 31 meeting, the Town of Brookhaven board voted unanimously to change the zoning on a parcel located along Sheep Pasture Road, across from the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption from B1 Residential to L1 Industrial for the purpose of creating the 87,550-square-foot self-storage facility on the nearly five-acre wooded area.

site plans for the self-storage site at the corner of Sheep Pasture Road and Dark Hollow Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We make our best efforts to balance all of the competing interests and factors and make decisions that take into consideration all concerns.” Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said. 

Enrico Scarda, founder of The Crest Group, a real estate firm based in Hauppauge that owns the property, said he expects to start building the structure within the next eight months.

“We had huge community outreach, both to the immediate residents and others, we couldn’t really do anything better than this proposal,” Scarda said. 

The development was initially proposed in 2018, but complaints about the structure being close to the road along with its large amount of parking spaces and its industrial-seeming facade made the company and town go back to the drawing board. 

Anthony Graves, the town’s chief environmental analyst, presented designs of the new structure that included an updated rustic facade, a limitation of 35 feet in height and 75 feet of natural buffering between Sheep Pasture Road, Dark Hollow Road and the structure. This pushes the facility back to the northern end of the property, near the LIRR train tracks. The site allows for 44 parking spaces and 41 spaces for the storage of vehicles. Graves and Crest Group’s attorneys said they promised to include solar panels on the roof and have the entrance onto the property come directly across from Harborview Avenue.

“The safest thing to do is not have people living on the site,” Graves said.

The town said they have received letters of approval from the Three Village Civic Association as well as the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption.

A number of residents spoke at the meeting, and while some spoke up in favor of the proposal, complementing its setback away from the road and for the convenience it could give some residents and businesses, others spoke their opposition to the development.

Anthony Graves, middle, speaks about projects site plans. Photo by Kyle Barr

“The value of my house is definitely going down because of this thing,” Port Jeff Station resident Richard Rowland said. His property was described as a “stone’s throw” away from the planned storage facility.

Cartright said the town worked hard to account for resident’s complaints.

“Every change that was made to the project was in response to a request or concern raised by constituents,” the councilwoman said.

The Crest Group president said they went ahead with this development instead of homes because of the unique nature of the property. In 2015 the town restricted development at the site as it was once owned by Lawrence Aviation Industries, which dumped harmful chemicals onto the property for years that then leached into the soil and groundwater. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, along with the Town of Brookhaven, have been working on cleanup efforts. In the meantime, the town promised to restrict certain industrial and residential developments. 

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said self-storage facilities, at least compared to overall development, has relatively little impact in terms of cars, traffic or the environment. 

“It’s the least impactful on traffic,” the supervisor said.

Port Jeff Station resident Jim Fox contested the idea the old Lawrence Aviation property is unavailable for single-family residences
development in the near future. 

“The EPA has said there has been a significant reduction in the plume,” Fox said. “It’s going to be 100 percent drinkable in 10 years.” 

Baylis Avenue self-storage

Another self-storage structure has been proposed to the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, one with a much smaller footprint than the one down the road.

This project, which would be located at 16 Baylis Ave., is currently a small set of undeveloped woods and an empty field zoned L1 Industrial sitting next to a pocket of residential homes and apartments.

Designs presented to the civic by Atlanta, Georgia-based developer Talon Inc., show six storage units spaced 30 feet apart, with five being one story and the last being a two-story storage space. Each single-story unit takes up 7,750 square feet and is accessed from the exterior while the two-story has a footprint of 40,500 square feet and will contain an office space as well. 

Charlie McAteer, the civic’s corresponding secretary, said the developers had already talked to the civic and Brookhaven town in summer 2018, but that no moves were made before the Jan. 22 meeting.

Plans for the exterior of the self storage facility on Baylis Avenue. Photo by Kyle Barr

Keith Brown, a zoning attorney from Melville-based Brown & Altman LLP, said they chose the site because of its current zoning, its proximity to the railroad tracks, and the wooded buffer between it and the neighboring Heatherwood House at Port Jefferson apartment complex.

“The site is designed with a 76-feet-deep, contiguous, naturally wooded buffer that will serve as a buffer to the south and a 214-feet buffer to the north, and 48 percent of the site will be landscaped.”

Designs shown at the civic meeting indicate 53 parking spots with another four stalls designated for loading. The road leading up to the facility is currently pockmarked with potholes, and the property at the end of Baylis currently features a small-scale lumber operation. 

Brett Hatcher, senior vice president of investments at Columbus, Ohio-based real estate company Marcus & Millichap, who is working with Talon on the project, said they were already aware of the other self-storage site down the road, but wouldn’t comment on if that facility has changed their plans.

When asked, Scarda said he was unaware of the proposal for Baylis Avenue.

In a letter to the town, the civic relayed its appreciation for the 76-foot buffer and had no other comments on the property.

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The corner of Route 112 and Route 347 in Port Jeff Station has hosted enough protests that those who have come out every year to demonstrate have dubbed it an unofficial name, “resistance corner.”

On Jan. 19 members of that resistance came out for the 7th Annual Long Island Rising V-Day Flashmob and the 2019 Long Island Women’s March Rally and protested for hours despite the impending cold. Holding signs representing a smorgasbord of progressive talking points, from women’s reproductive rights to ending the current government shutdown, many of those who attended said while the U.S. House of Representatives and New York State Senate turning blue are good changes, major change needs to come from the White House.

“Today we celebrate the women’s wave that stormed the face of the government, and we come out here to show the world in solidarity against a misogynist right wing agenda to demand change,” said Port Jefferson resident and protest organizer Kathy Greene Lahey.

“We come out here to show the world in solidarity against a misogynist right wing agenda to demand change.”

— Kathy Greene Lahey

Lahey works for Long Island Rising, a progressive advocacy group that has helped organize the three Port Jeff protests as well as several others across the Island. The group also collected women’s health products to be distributed to those in need. The protest was held in conjunction with two other women’s marches in Manhattan.

In 2017, after the inauguration of President Donald Trump (R), thousands upon thousands went to Washington, D.C., to protest the 45th president’s inauguration with many other smaller protests popping up all across the country. Since then, the protests have been exasperated by controversy over alleged anti-Semitism among one of the Women’s March original national leaders. The original Port Jeff Station protest in 2017, held in conjunction with the national Women’s March movement, drew a crowd of several thousand. The protest has dwindled to a few hundred this year, yet many of those who came out to protest were as adamant as ever.

Some dressed up for the event. Rachel Cara wore the red shawl and headpiece from the web television series “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

“I’m really upset about the treatment of women, minorities and the LGBT community,” Cara said. “Especially recently with the separation of families, Christine Blasey Ford’s testimonies [about then U.S. Supreme Court candidate Brett Kavanaugh] and how she was ignored by Congress.”

Lisa Jackson and her 15-year-old daughter Gloriana attended the protest. Gloriana, who’s in a wheelchair, held a sign that read, “I March to the streets ‘cause I’m willing and I’m able …’”

“It’s a very, very crazy administration, and we can’t have him anymore in our White House,” Jackson said. “We can’t have this divisiveness and separation and misogyny that’s rampant. She should be growing up where her rights are as equal as everyone else’s.”

Civic leaders Charlie McAteer, Edward Garboski and Sal Pitti discuss local developments. Photo by Kyle Barr

Port Jefferson Station and Terryville residents may be willing to give a proposed apartment complex a tentative thumbs up, but a new potential fast food restaurant is having its feet put to the fire.

Members of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association listened to the developers of several prospective businesses and apartment complexes at a Nov. 27 meeting, one the once-maligned Concern for Independent Living apartment complex off Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station.

The 77-unit complex, slated for north of East Grove Street and south of Washington Avenue across from the Sagamore Hills Condominiums, originally came under fire from residents when Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced May 10 that New York State was setting aside $8.1 million for the project to promote affordable homes, particularly for the homeless.

Sal Pitti, the president of the civic, said after talking with representatives of the apartment’s developers he realized there was much misinformation about the project. “It was a culmination of nonsense,” Pitti said.

The civic leader said Ralph Fasano, the executive director for Concern for Independent Living, has also been extremely forthcoming and attentive to addressing the community’s concerns.

Fasano said 75 units in the complex will be single bedroom, and only two are two-bedroom, one of which is reserved for the apartment manager. Veterans would get preference when applying for these apartments, and the remainder will be available for people making up to 60 percent of the area median income, which is about $40,000 to $60,000 a year according to U.S. Housing and Urban Development guidelines.

A majority of the civic voted to write a letter of conditional support to the Town of Brookhaven, with specific requests for the town to compel the developer to work to obtain a traffic light on Route 112, provide as much fencing as possible between adjacent housing, provide a landscaping screen for the adjacent property and preserve open space.

“They seem to be trying to address [those concerns],” Charlie McAteer, the civic’s corresponding secretary, said.

While the apartment complex received support, a potential Popeyes, to be located on property east of the TD Bank on Nesconset Highway at the corner of Old Town Road, garnered the opposite reaction. The proposal was spurred by residents angry over the amount of existing fast-food restaurants on Route 347 and fears of an increase in traffic.

While the land has not yet been sold,  Jim Tsunis, the CEO of Hauppauge-based The Northwind Group, said preliminary designs  call for a 2,400-square-foot restaurant with access from Route 347. Tsunis said they are seeking a change of zoning application to allow for the restaurant use.

Residents were especially concerned about traffic on a road that has already seen its share of accidents. Tsunis said that he doesn’t expect the project to put any more cars on the road, but rather some drivers would decide to pull into the Popeyes rather than visit other existing restaurants further down the highway.

“It’s a balance, not a give and take,” Tsunis said.

Craig Fazio, a lifelong Port Jeff Station resident, said he disagreed with others about the Popeyes, especially since Tsunis still owned the property. Fazio said Tsunis could push to build a 14,000-square-foot medical office complex in that same spot, which he believes would be even worse for traffic.

“If you put health care there, how many doctors will see patients every 15 minutes versus a much smaller restaurant?” Fazio asked.

Tsunis said that he has considered building medical offices and the property is zoned for a two-story office building. 

“I hope we can work together in the future to mitigate some of these points,” he said.

Jennifer Dzvonar, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, asked why  Popeyes wasn’t considering building on Route 112, other vacant land or existing empty retail space.

McAteer said he didn’t believe the civic was totally against Popeyes, but it needs to be located on a better and safer site. “We were not saying, ‘We just hate your restaurant, we just want you out.’ Just put it in an area that could use a little boost,” he said.

The civic’s next meeting will be held at Comsewogue Public Library, 170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station on Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m.

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L.I. Pour House on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station will host a free Thanksgiving dinner for those in need Nov. 22, and is prepared to feed up to 500 people, according to owner Anthony Pallino. Photo from L.I. Pour House Facebook

A restaurant and bar on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station will be open Thanksgiving Day, but those seeking a burger or beer will have to wait until they reopen Friday.

L.I. Pour House, located at 650 Route 112, will for the second consecutive year hold a free Thanksgiving Day meal for those without a place to go for the holidays, from noon to 3 p.m. Last year the event fed about 100 people, according to owner Anthony Pallino, though he said he expects at least double the crowd this year, and he’s prepared to feed as many as 500.

“We have the platform to do it so it’s kind of selfish not to,” Pallino said. “It’s a time for people not only that are homeless, but also that just don’t have families and stuff like that to have a place to go. I’ve never felt that before — I‘ve always had a place to go on the holidays. I’m very lucky.”

Pallino said all of the food — turkey, stuffing, pasta, desserts and more — will be made in-house by the restaurant’s chefs. Many of those who take up the L.I. Pour House offer will likely be regular patrons of Welcome Friends Soup Kitchen based in Port Jefferson Village, which for nearly 30 years has served a hot, fresh meal homemade by volunteers at several area churches free of charge for those in need Sunday through Wednesday, as well as Friday, including at First Presbyterian Church on Main Street. The soup kitchen does not have Thursday offerings and while it offers turkey dinners repeatedly around Thanksgiving, it is closed on the actual day. The organization’s president, Marge Tumilowicz, said she’s been directing her regular guests to go to L.I. Pour House for a hot, home-cooked turkey dinner Nov. 22. She said Welcome Friends made up invitations for the event and distributed them to their guests prior to Thanksgiving.

“It’s wonderful,” she said of the event. “It should be a time of warmth and community, that’s what Thanksgiving is all about. Everybody says it’s for the family. Well, guess what, it was for more than family at the beginning. The whole community came together to celebrate.”

The statement on L.I. Pour House’s Facebook page summed up the thinking behind hosting the event.

“This Thanksgiving we at L.I. Pour House will be giving back to the community that has supported us for four years,” the post said. “So if you know of any family down on their luck or have no place to be this Thanksgiving tell them to come to L.I. Pour House. … We wish everyone a great holiday season.”

Comsewogue Superintendent Joe Rella congratulates a member of the class of 2016 during graduation June 23. File photo by Bob Savage

By Rob DeStefano

What can you accomplish during a 25-year career at Comsewogue School District? Greatness. Let me explain: While I was a sophomore at Comsewogue, we were introduced to Joe Rella as the new teacher in the music department, a quarter century ago. In the months that followed, students started talking about music, band, theater and jazz with an increased frequency not measurable before. Something special was beginning.

I don’t remember which concert it was, winter or spring, but as a junior participating in the newly reinvigorated jazz band, it happened. We sat playing an upbeat swing-time classic — maybe Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” or Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” — and this new teacher stepped away from the conductor’s podium. We stayed cool, kept playing, though we wondered what was happening. He walked to the audience and offered a hand to his wife. A moment later, this new teacher and his wife were doing the Charleston in front of an audience of parents, while our band played. In that moment, the magic became real. Comsewogue had hired our own “Mr. Holland.” We had our first glimpse of who Rella was.

In the years that followed, class after class grew to appreciate his style — and his impact. His collaboration with our music educators led to a number of new opportunities for students. We had a pep band at home football games. Our theater performances recruited more students, some discovering talent they didn’t know they had. Even more, they found confidence, overcame shyness and lifted each other to perform at higher levels. This influence benefited all the district’s high school students when he became principal in the 1998-99 school year. How he found the time to continue to accompany students in their musical endeavors, I don’t know.

Comsewogue Superintendent Joe Rella with students who participated in Joe’s Day of Service. Photo from CSD

Rella’s appointment as Comsewogue’s superintendent in 2010 coincided with my election to our board of education. To call the last eight-plus years of working with him “unforgettable” is an understatement. Just as he inspired our students, he’s been a source of trust, candor and community to Port Jefferson Station residents, and beyond.

He’s proposed innovative solutions to challenges that threaten public education. He’s stood up for our children and an educational curriculum that prepares them to be their best. He’s advocated logic in the face of unreasonable and irresponsible policies dictated by out-of-touch government actions. As he prepares to retire after nine years as superintendent, his influence on our district, community and public education are deep and long lasting.

Great leaders don’t act alone. At each step in his 25-year journey, Rella has influenced the culture of the departments, schools and communities he’s worked with. Those who became Warriors along the way have become part of this culture of openness, collaboration and unwavering spirit. That makes me very excited for our community and Comsewogue School District’s future.

Our district administration has delivered great community successes in recent years. We’ve weathered the limitations of the property tax cap without compromising the quality of student education. Student access to technology has grown at all levels. Our arts programs are amazing. If you haven’t been to one of our schools’ art shows or musicals lately, I highly recommend them.

We’ve received accreditation from the Middle States Association Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools, a first on Long Island for a full-sized district, putting our educational standard significantly above those dictated by the New York State Education Department. Program performance has been on a strong incline. Our literacy program and programs for English language learners are providing stronger foundations toward the educational growth of every student. Our problem-based learning program is proving our students have the analytical, critical thinking skills for 21st century success. They not only pass state exams but demonstrate deep knowledge of topics and an understanding of the world around them.

Rob DeStefano is a Comsewogue board of education member and a Comsewogue High School graduate

On top of all this, our district — and really, our community — culture is unprecedented. Our students are not only academically thriving, but they are responsible stewards of the schools and neighborhoods to which they belong. The number of volunteer initiatives and the number of students who participate is awesome to see. And the latest of these, “Joe’s Days of Service,” is one of the great cultural legacies that I have no doubt will become a lasting part of how Comsewogue students give back to the community that has supported them, even after Rella moves on. Our students, past, present and future, will continue to make us proud.

As incoming superintendent, Jennifer Quinn represents the next stage in our community’s Warrior spirit. She has worked alongside Rella to get us where we are. As our district has been elevated, she has built, evolved and driven the programs that are enabling our students to thrive. I’m extremely excited about the vision she has shared to continue Comsewogue’s trajectory toward the very best in academics, athletics and arts. Our community is becoming a more attractive place to live and raise a family. Ask your local real estate agent to confirm this. Where we’re headed, the place we live will become an even more coveted venue — a benefit for all residents.

Legacy takes many forms. Rella’s real, lasting impact on our community is proven by how we celebrate and carry forward the torch he passes along to us all. The job belongs to all of us. We must not lose sight of what makes ours a special place to be. We must recognize the opportunity ahead of us and continue toward it with the same unwavering commitment. We must continue to work together, support each other and continue to carry Comsewogue forward with pride because, in some way, we’ve all had the blessing of being students of Joe Rella. We are a family of Warriors.

Rob DeStefano is a Comsewogue School District Board of Education member and a graduate of Comsewogue High School.

North Shore residents line the corner of Routes 347 and 112 in Port Jefferson Station Nov. 7 in response to the removal of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Photo by Alex Petroski

They say all politics is local.

The national drama of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the potential ties between President Donald Trump’s (R) 2016 campaign and Russian interference in the election experienced an escalation of tensions Nov. 7, one day after the midterm elections, and the response could be heard as far from Washington D.C. as Port Jefferson Station.

Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R) resigned that day in a letter that stated the president requested he do so.

As a result, the left-leaning political action group MoveOn organized nationwide protests called Nobody is Above the Law — Mueller Protection Rapid Response to take place across the country Nov. 7 at 5 p.m. A few dozen protestors congregated at the corner of Routes 112 and 347 to make their voices heard and send a message to Washington. The local activist organization North Country Peace Group acted to mobilize North Shore residents in the aftermath of the news.

“[Trump] firing Sessions and everything that he’s been doing since he’s been in the White House is my impetus to get out here,” Ellie Kahana, of Stony Brook, said. “He’s obviously going to try and get rid of Mueller and conceal whatever Mueller is finding out.”

Sessions’ position at the top of the U.S. Department of Justice would ordinarily make him the person in charge of a special counsel investigation, though he recused himself from that investigation to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest because he campaigned with Trump during 2016. Sessions’ potential removal was long viewed as a signal by his opponents that Trump may be moving to undermine Mueller’s probe or even fire him altogether.

When asked by White House pool reporters if acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, whom Trump appointed, was installed to harm the investigation, Trump called it a “stupid question.” While Trump has referred to the investigation as a “witch hunt” repeatedly on Twitter and in interviews, he has yet to take any steps to conceal its eventual findings or cut off its funding.

“I knew this would happen, in fact I thought it would happen at midnight,” said Lisa Karelis, of East Setauket.

Karelis said the Democrats seizing of the U.S. House of Representatives on election night creating the possibility of increased scrutiny triggered Trump’s urgency for a new attorney general. She added Whitaker’s public statements opposing the expanding scope of the Mueller probe prior to his appointment made it clear what the president hoped to accomplish by naming Whitaker acting attorney general.

Members of U.S. Congress and from both political parties have suggested legislation be advanced to prevent removal of the special counsel. The bill has yet to gain enough support to be delivered to Trump’s desk for signature.

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