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Port Jefferson Station

Much of the Port Jefferson Station community, and all of the Comsewogue Public Library’s past director’s were on hand Saturday for a day of celebration to commemorate the facility’s golden anniversary.

As part of the event, the library’s community room was dedicated to its first director, Richard Lusak, who served in that position from 1966 to 2002. In its 50-year history, the Comsewogue Public Library has had just three directors. The 50th anniversary celebration Oct. 14 also featured games, a bounce house, farm animals, crafts, giveaways, snacks, face-painting, balloon animals, music, a historical society photo gallery and tour and a new gallery exhibit.

“The program says ‘celebrating our past, present and future,’ so that’s what we’re doing all in one day, with the community,” the third, and current Director Debra Engelhardt said during the event. “We thought of it as a community thank you for the ongoing support that we’ve had since day one, across all three administrations.”

Engelhardt’s predecessor, Brandon Pantorno, who served at the helm of the library from 2003 through 2012 and is a Port Jefferson Station native, is a lifetime member of what they each referred to as the library family, as they all worked in several different capacities in the library’s hierarchy before becoming director.

“I remember when Blockbuster video came into the neighborhood right on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station and people would say ‘videos, they’re going to be the end to libraries,’” he said. “Well, libraries started circulating videos in addition to books, in addition to library coordinated programs, and guess what? Blockbuster video is no longer here, but Comsewogue library and other libraries — the library world — is still stronger than ever. We have evolved; we have very cleverly metamorphosed into different things for so many people.”

Lusak was brought on to lead the library in its infancy in 1966 by its board of trustees at the time. During the summer of 1966, the Comsewogue School District board of education petitioned the community in 1966 to schedule a vote, in which five trustees would be elected and establish a budget of about $68,000. In November 1966, Lusak was hired, and the library’s original grounds were established in a portable classroom at the southern end of Terryville Road, which still exists today. By November 1967, the community overwhelmingly voted in support of funding the building of a 16,000-square-foot facility at 170 Terryville Road, where the library remains today, though it has grown exponentially over the years.

Lusak said he was honored and humbled to have the community meeting room dedicated in his honor.

“I think the community decides whether or not we did a good job,” he said. “I can say this: the community has always been supportive of the library. The board of trustees here has always been dedicated to this institution — totally dedicated.”

The library’s first director tried to sum up what his time at the community institution meant to him.

“The people just love this library for the community, and I take a tremendous amount of pride in being associated with that,” said Lusak, who is still a resident of Port Jefferson. “It made my life a pleasure.”

Lusak’s wife Rosalie also attended the ceremony to celebrate her husband’s lifelong work.

“It was never a job to him, it was just his passion,” she said. “It’s very, very moving that something would be dedicated to him and I’m glad he got to see it.”

The Cumsewogue Historical Society was on hand during the event to share stories of the library’s history. Historical society Vice President Joan Nickeson said the very first library card issued in 1967 was to Thomas E. Terry, the grandson of Edward Terry, who was one of the Terry brothers who founded Terryville.

Pax Christi Hospitality Center in Port Jefferson has been around for almost 30 years, though its founder said homelessness was an issue in Port Jeff long before that. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

An Aug. 28 post by a user in a private Facebook group of about 1,300 Port Jefferson Village residents featured a photo of two men sleeping at the Port Jefferson Long Island Rail Road station. Amidst a longer message attached to the image was the phrase: “I’ve had it.”

The post inspired comments from more than a dozen users who began a lengthy discussion about homeowners’ concerns over property values as a result of activity related to homeless people in the area. Some responses included efforts to tackle the issue of homelessness after the main poster asked: “Does anyone know what is being done about this?”

Elected officials, local leaders and data from nonprofit organizations serving the state, Long Island and Suffolk County seem to agree: Efforts exist to reduce the number of undomiciled residents, but the problem is not going away and more needs to be done.

Volunteers at Welcome Friends Soup Kitchen in Port Jefferson prepare a meal for guests. Photo by Alex Petroski

Homelessness has been a topic of conversation in Port Jeff for decades, and Father Frank Pizzarelli, a Port Jeff resident and founder of the nonprofit Hope House Ministries, began addressing the issue in 1980. With 10 facilities, he helps serve groups and people in need. His first endeavor was The Community House in Port Jefferson.

A 30-bed long-term facility, the home on Main Street is still in operation today for at-risk 16- to 21-year-old males in need of a place to live. Almost 28 years ago, Pizzarelli said he opened Pax Christi Hospitality Center on Oakland Avenue after a Vietnam veteran froze to death in winter while living in what he described as a cardboard box village in Port Jefferson.

At least seven people listed as undomiciled by the county police department were arrested on the morning of Oct. 4 for sleeping in tents in the woods behind the Comsewogue Public Library on Terryville Road, according to police.

According to the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, a nonprofit organization established in 1985 that works with government agencies to secure funding and services for homeless people in Suffolk and Nassau counties, 3,937 people on Long Island were classified as homeless as of January 2017. The number includes people in emergency or transitional housing, as well as those who are completely unsheltered, of which there were 64, according to the group’s annual report for 2017.

In context, the number of homeless people living on Long Island hasn’t changed much over the last three LICH yearly tallies. In 2016, New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli (D) conducted an audit to examine the issue of homelessness in the state, which reached some discouraging conclusions.

Homelessness is on the decline nationwide, according to the report, though New York was one of 18 states to see an increase in the number of people without a permanent residence between 2007 and 2015. The number rose by 41 percent to more than 88,000 statewide during that span, which was the largest increase of any state in the country. Much of the increase was attributable to New York City, though DiNapoli’s audit stressed homelessness as a state problem and not simply a city problem, saying homelessness is affecting “communities in virtually every corner of the state … on a daily basis.”

‘Hope House Ministry lives and has lived for 38 years because of this community. I find this one of the most extraordinary communities when it comes to compassion and generosity.’

— Frank Pizzarelli

“The homeless problem pre-existed Pax Christi,” Pizzarelli said. The licensed social worker said the idea that his facilities attract the homeless to Port Jeff is a common refrain he’s heard cyclically over the years from people like the Facebook poster, though he said he has found those voices are few and far between and don’t represent the majority of the community.

“Hope House Ministry lives and has lived for 38 years because of this community,” he said. “I find this one of the most extraordinary communities when it comes to compassion and generosity. Yes, there are always people that are super critical and, because of the socioeconomic nature of our community, would prefer certain things not be here. They’re a very small minority from my experience.”

He said he receives no financial support from the government other than reimbursements from the county’s Department of Social Services to barely cover his costs for sheltering people overnight at Pax Christi. His entire budget, which he estimated to be in the ballpark of $5 million annually, is covered by donations and grants. He also said he believes homeless people who commit crimes or contribute to tensions in the Port Jeff community tend not to be the same people who are interested in getting help.

“Uptown is a complicated place,” he said. “The homeless have no fixed address and they also have no voice, so it’s easy to blame them. They’re a part of the issue, but it’s not that simplistic. I don’t think the larger community really realizes that.”

Pizzarelli pointed to insufficient funds from the county and state governments as his and other organization’s biggest obstacle in providing services for those in need. He said mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction, especially to opioids, are at the root of Suffolk County’s homelessness problem. Once people are in treatment for substance addiction or any mental health affliction, he said more transitional housing needs to be made available to get people on the road to recovery.

Pizzarelli said Pax Christi does not admit any persons under the influence of drugs or alcohol, so they occasionally have to turn people away.

“We probably all need to take a firmer stand so [homeless people being aided by services] understand if they’re not going to take care of business — hanging out at the train station is not the answer,” he said. “I agree, people don’t need to be harassed when they’re getting off the train.”

A breakdown by race of Long Island’s nearly 4,000 homeless people, according to the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless. Graphic by TBR News Media

DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, in conjunction with the Welfare to Work Commission of the Legislature, arranged a public hearing Oct. 10 to discuss the impact that massive cuts in President Donald Trump’s (R) early budget proposals to funding for human services would have on local residents.

Michael Stoltz, the executive director of Ronkonkoma-based Association for Mental Health and Wellness said before the hearing he thinks the county fails to adequately invest in mental health services.

“We see a proportionate rise and increase in the number of people in our jails who have mental health conditions — untreated and under treated — and among our homeless populations,” he said.

Stoltz was representing one of the 13 agencies slated to speak during the hearing.

“The county and these agencies are facing a crisis of what could be unparalleled and unprecedented proportions,” commission chairman Richard Koubek said before the hearing. “We have watched with dismay and frustration the chronic underfunding of contract agencies that serve Suffolk County’s poor people.”

Suffolk and Nassau counties collectively are considered a Continuum of Care community, which is defined as a community with a unified plan to organize and deliver housing services to meet the needs of people who are homeless. Grants from the CoC are funded through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is a federal department responsible for more than $10 million in CoC grants obtained each year to aid locals, according to its website. DiNapoli’s report found of the smaller communities with CoC programs, Long Island’s counties had the third largest homeless population in the United States.

Long Island’s relative lack of affordable housing can further complicate the issue, as housing units are priced to rent or own in Brookhaven Town according to HUD guidelines, which are dependent on the area median income of a region. In 2017, Suffolk County’s average household income was $110,800. To qualify to rent an affordable living space, household income must be less than 50 percent of this number, meaning in Suffolk, any family earning less than $55,400 annually has a right to reduced rent. Monthly rent for a three-person home for a family earning less than that, for example, by law cannot exceed $1,200.

Pax Christi Hospitality Center in Port Jefferson has been around for almost 30 years, though its founder said homelessness was an issue in Port Jeff long before that. Photo by Alex Petroski

Because of the relatively high average income in Suffolk, “affordable” rent is a term that most likely wouldn’t apply to someone sleeping on the street or residing in a homeless shelter. According to Pizzarelli and Brookhaven Housing and Human Services Commissioner Alison Karppi, there’s far less affordable housing available in the town and the county as a whole than demand would dictate.

“It is estimated that 42,500 renters spend half or more of their income on household costs,” Gregory said prior to the Oct. 10 hearing. “That startling figure emphasizes the need for cheaper housing our working families and young people can afford. We are here today to send a message that we simply can’t afford this budget.”

Last week Brookhaven Town announced a new initiative to acquire vacant “zombie” homes and make them available for veterans and first-time homebuyers at reduced costs as a way to expand the availability of affordable housing in the town. Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) estimated there are as many as 2,000 vacant homes in the town with many in a salvageable state.

Port Jeff has another resource in its backyard to help those in need, which reiterates Pizzarelli’s sentiment that on the whole, it is a compassionate community.

Welcome Friends Soup Kitchen in Port Jeff Village has been serving people in need, homeless or otherwise, in the area for 28 years. The group also has two locations in Port Jefferson Station comprised of about 200 volunteers and functions entirely on donations of money and food, oftentimes from a local Trader Joe’s. Five days a week, the soup kitchen opens its doors to serve as many as 100 guests free of charge each night. Unlike Pax Christi, Welcome Friends never turns away guests due to intoxication. The volunteers prevent entry to those who could be a danger to other guests, but even in those instances the person is sent away with a to-go meal, always well balanced and fresh. Multiple courses are available but served once a day Sunday to Wednesday and also on Friday.

Lorraine Kutzing, a longtime coordinator at the soup kitchen, said the organization’s sole focus is having as many meals as possible prepared each day, and hopes that she and others like Pizzarelli can continue to try to fix the problem highlighted by community members like those in the Facebook group.

“I think the need has always been there,” she said. “I don’t think that has changed that much.”

Daniel Justino’s mugshot. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police have arrested a man in connection with a stabbing of two men that occurred on Oct. 4 in Port Jefferson Station.

A man was walking on Jayne Boulevard at approximately 9 p.m. when the driver of a passing Jeep slowed down and yelled at him. The man ran to a nearby friend’s house as the Jeep followed. The driver of the Jeep and a passenger exited the vehicle and attacked him. Two male occupants of the house heard the commotion and came to the man’s aid. During the altercation, the two men who came to his aid suffered stab wounds. The man being chased was not injured. The suspects fled in the Jeep.

The victims were transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. One man was treated and released, and the other victim remains in the Intensive Care Unit following surgery.

After an investigation, 6th Squad detectives charged Daniel Jusino, 20, of Centereach, with first-degree and second-degree assault. He was held overnight at the 6th Precinct for arraignment this morning, Oct. 6, at First District Court in Central Islip. The investigation is ongoing.

Rabbi Aaron Benson from the North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jeff Station is drawing guests every Thursday for coffee and free advice. File photo

By Alex Petroski

Outlets for negative feedback are bountiful in 2017 America. One need not look far to find someone willing to tear down or criticize, but for residents in the Port Jefferson, Setauket and Stony Brook areas, finding a friendly face who’s ready to listen and provide constructive advice is as easy as buying a cup of coffee.

Rabbi Aaron Benson of the North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jeff Station began hosting regular “office hours” at Starbucks on Route 25A in Setauket earlier this year, or gatherings to discuss ideas in a comfortable, informal setting which have been dubbed Benson’s “Starbucks Schmooze.” Every Thursday, members of the NSJC congregation, or anyone else with something on their mind, are invited to the coffee shop to visit with Benson between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m.

“I always liked the idea, when I was a kid, I really had this in mind, when I would see one of my teachers outside of the classroom it was always like a special treat,” Benson said during his schmooze Aug. 31. “Like, ‘Oh my goodness, they let them out of the box.’ And so I thought in today’s day and age, it would be a nice thing to be able to interact with people not inside the synagogue, to be out there and perhaps interact with people that I don’t know, and the success of it is really just if I meet a few people and connect a few people.”

Benson said typically he has between two and four visitors during a session, though he’s had as many as six guests actively engaged in conversation, and the discussion ranges from politics to relationship advice to current events and everything in between. He said the idea emerged organically because it fit in perfectly with his normal Thursday routine, which always includes a stop at The Rolling Pin, a kosher bakery, in the same shopping center as Starbucks where the rabbi supervises to ensure traditional processes and requirements are followed for the kosher designation. After that he would go to Starbucks for his caramel macchiato, then heads to St. Charles and Mather hospitals, where he volunteers as a chaplin. He decided to work the hour-long schmooze into the routine in January and hasn’t looked back since.

“If I can bounce an idea off one of those vital life questions for somebody then I am happy to help with that.”

— Rabbi Aaron Benson

JoAnne Shapiro, a regular attendee and member of the NSJC congregation, said it’s refreshing to have a personal relationship with the rabbi at her synagogue.

“I think when you think of the term rabbi, even in this day and age, people view the rabbi up there [on a pedestal],” Shapiro said. “And it just makes our rabbi much more approachable … I think the neat thing about this is that you never know what’s going to come out of the visit. It’s neat, it’s sort of like a nice way to start the day.”

Linda Miller, another member of Benson’s congregation, was attending her first schmooze Aug. 31, though she said before she left she planned on sending her husband for advice the following week. She said the visit was worthwhile not only for the advice she got from Benson regarding upcoming Jewish holidays, but also because she had a lengthy conversation with Shapiro, who she said she’d known in passing for years but couldn’t recall the last time, if ever, they had conversed for so long.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Miller said.

Benson said some of the more rewarding sessions are the ones that feature conversations which require very little of his own input. He recalled one schmooze when two attendees spent much of the hour bonding over the watch one was wearing.

The rabbi offered perspective on the importance of seeking help and guidance in challenging times, be it religious advice or otherwise.

“I can’t tell you to believe in particular stories, but everybody in the world has to have a set of stories that tells them about how you decide on priorities in life,” he said. “What do you do when you fall in love? What do you do when you fail? What do you do when you lose someone important? Religion provides those stories for you, but everyone has those sorts of questions. Everyone confronts those sorts of issues and everyone needs help with that. So if I can bounce an idea off one of those vital life questions for somebody then I am happy to help with that.”

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St. Paul’s Church in Port Jefferson Station

By Jill Webb

St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church’s first meeting was held on Dec. 13, 1917, marking its 100th anniversary this upcoming December. During the church’s first meeting, as the then-called The English Lutheran church of Port Jefferson Station, the Rev. Pallmeyer and his associates decided that services would be held at the Grange Hall on Route 112 and Union Street. Back then, the hall’s rent was only $10 per month.

The church has faced hardships over the past century. During the Depression, the church found difficulty in acquiring a full-time pastor along with acquiring guest pastors. This forced the church to close its doors for a year before reopening as the renamed St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, now at 309 Patchogue Road (Route 112), Port Jefferson Station.

Currently the church has approximately 150 members. “We are small but mighty,” said the president of the church council, Betsy Prosser. John Reiersen, the chairman of the 100th anniversary committee, emphasizes the welcoming atmosphere at the church over the 45 years he’s been a member. “We’re known as the friendly church on top of the hill,” he said.

Pastor Paul Downing, who has been with the church for four years, said the church has lasted so long due to the commitment of the members. “They’re committed not only to coming together to have a worship home, but also to serve the community,” Downing said.

One of the ways St. Paul’s serves the community is through feeding the hungry. The church does a soup kitchen twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays, feeding around 40 to 60 people each time. They do these soup kitchens through the Welcome Friends organization, which is an interfaith not-for-profit corporation serving the Port Jefferson area. Through Welcome Friends, each day of the week a different place of worship hosts the soup kitchen. “People have a place to go each and everyday to get a good meal,” Downing said. Their devotion to the community can be attributed to their motto “God’s work, our hands,” Prosser said, adding, “and sometimes our feet.”

In an obvious contrast to the busy road it resides on today, the area around St. Paul’s used to be very rural, causing the church to stand out. According to John Sehlmeyer, the vice president of the council, the church became a hub to the area’s residents. “Everything that happened here — whether somebody had a baby, somebody got married or somebody visited from out of town — it made the newspapers,” Sehlmeyer said. “All of the community always came and attended these events.”

A struggle St. Paul’s has been trying to overcome is the decline in millennial church attendance. They are constantly putting forth initiatives, including an outreach to Stony Brook University to promote how close the church is to the railroad station. “We’re hoping to see some kind of a rebirth where people start valuing attendance,” Reiersen said. He sees a potential rise in attendance with Generation Z.

Downing sees raising the attendance as more of a challenge than a struggle. “It’s just like when the church started, when you have this curiosity and this message of hope that Christ brings to the world that we are part of,” Downing said. “That’s exciting to be able to share that.”

Noting the division in politics, Downing strives to bridge the gap of differences with his faith. While he realizes that ethnically the Port Jefferson area has little diversity, he has noticed there are clear divisions in points of view, talents and gifts. Growing up in a congregation in Queens, “diversity was obvious and plentiful,” Downing said. “This congregation has taught me that diversity takes a lot of forms.”

As their 100th anniversary nears, the congregation has a lot planned for the celebration. “We got a theme during the year for the 100th year anniversary: ‘Let’s not look 100 years old,’” Sehlmeyer said. “We’ve done an awful lot in terms of upgrading the church to make it’s appearance nice.”

Downing is also incorporating what he calls “flashback services” into Sunday Worship. Working their way back to 1917, each Sunday the service will be based on what is was like 10 years prior. “We just did 1967 so we used the hymnal liturgy from that time with all the ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ and the older version of the scripture,” Downing said. Going along with the decade theme, there have been film screenings every few weeks in which a popular film is screened from that decade at the church. In August, they will end with a screening of “WALL-E.”

In September, they have a weekend planned to celebrate the past 100 years, in which all current and past members are invited. It will start with a wine and cheese reception on Friday, Sept. 22. On the Saturday, they will attend a dinner dance at the Polish Hall in Port Jefferson Station and will finish up the festivities with a special 100th anniversary worship service on the Sunday, with Bishop Robert Rimbo officiating. Rimbo is the bishop of the Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. “It’s a pretty action-packed weekend,” Reiersen said.

The longevity of the church can be accredited to the member’s dedication to it’s mission: Bringing the word of God to both the churched and the un-churched. “The thing you got to avoid is controversy, because in any organization there are troublemakers. You just kind of have to have a leadership that can recognize that, and remember what the mission is,” Reiersen said. “It’s a rule for any organization: Don’t sweat the small stuff and stick to going after the mission.”

Members of Soulfarm perform for the crowd. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Rita J. Egan

The eighth annual Jewish Summer Festival at West Meadow Beach Aug. 9 brought together members of the North Shore Jewish community for a night of family fun.

Chabad at Stony Brook hosted the event that is co-directed by Rabbi Motti and Chaya Grossbaum. The rabbi said the festival was originally organized to celebrate Jewish pride and community, and like the Chabad, is open to all members of all sects of the religion. He estimated about 500 people attended this year’s festival including local residents outside of the Jewish community.

A child walks around with a face painting from Rainbow Rosie. Photo by Seth Berman/Rapid Shutter Photograph

“We focus on what unites us not what divides us,” Rabbi Grossbaum said.

This was the second year Jennifer O’Brien from Hauppauge attended the festival with her family, she said, and it was the first time she brought her 16-month-old son Everett to a Jewish cultural event. She enjoyed seeing so many familiar faces at the festival after attending other Chabad events this past year.

She said she admired the efforts of the Grossbaums and Rabbi Cohen of the Chabad regarding the festival and the religious organization. 

“No matter what your Jewish affiliation is or how much or little you are involved, the Grossbaum and Cohen families welcome everyone with such an overwhelming warm and loving sense of acceptance and togetherness,” O’Brien said. “They go above and beyond in all of their community efforts and take pride in building relationships with each individual and family.”

Tracey Mackey of Port Jefferson Station said she was unable to attend last year but her family did. She said after hearing about it she was looking forward to seeing friends and meeting new families. She said her daughter Ava, 11, helped out at the Chabad’s camp this summer and the children were so happy to see her.

Uri from St. James enjoys some cotton candy. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“It was so wonderful because they had camp all summer, and they worked together on their crafts, and it was kind of a celebration that you get to see someone you really created a bond with,” Mackey said.

Mackey echoed O’Brien’s sentiments about the feel of the festival and the Chabad.

“That’s what Rabbi Motti likes to do — bring everyone together as a community,” Mackey said, “And when you’re there, you know you belong.”

The evening included performances by the popular Jewish rock band Soulfarm, and the high-energy group Industrial Rhythm. Children were able to get their faces painted and play in a bounce house, and kosher barbecue, cotton candy and ices were served. Mackey said the event was perfectly timed to witness the sunset at the beach. Grossbaum was grateful for the various local businesses that sponsored the festival and  “without them we would not be able to produce such a beautiful event.”

The rabbi said he hoped attendees left the festival feeling inspired and empowered about the future of the Jewish community on the North Shore of Suffolk County.

“We’re a minority but when we all come together it gives everyone a sense of pride and a sense of positivity that we could be a more active community while living here,” Grossbaum said.

A girl plays on a drum. Photo by Seth Berman/Rapid Shutter Photograph

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that seriously injured a construction worker in Coram Aug. 14.

Gloria Taylor was holding a sign to slow or stop traffic on the east side of northbound Route 112, which was under construction, when a 2000 Isuzu box truck traveling northbound drifted to the right near Pauls Path at about noon. The truck struck Taylor, 55, of Islip. She was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital in critical condition.

The driver of the Isuzu, Dominick Sconzo, 19, of Selden, was not injured. A safety check was conducted on the truck, owned by Casa Piazza, located at 509 North Bicycle Path in Port Jefferson Station.

Blighted buildings and empty storefronts in upper Port Jefferson could soon be addressed through various grants. File photo by Kevin Redding

With a master plan in place to breathe new life into the area, Port Jefferson Village is pushing for millions in state funds to give some long overdue Uptown Funk to residents.

The village, in an effort to get moving on much discussed upper Port Jefferson revitalization, has recently applied for a combined state grant of $9.46 million through the Consolidated Funding Application — $7.06 million from Local Waterfront Revitalization Program and $2.4 million from Empire State Development.

Initially hoping to secure up to $10.5 million through New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, Port Jeff lost out on that grant last week when Hicksville officials received the funds to renovate and revitalized their own downtown area.

However, Port Jefferson village officials applied for funding through the state’s Consolidated Funding Application so they could still get agency funding individually by project for several desired initiatives in the area surrounding the Long Island Rail Road station in what’s commonly called upper Port.

If awarded, the funds will contribute to the village’s face-lifts along the intersection of Perry Street and Main Street and about a block north of the train station.

The multiphased project known as Uptown Funk has been building momentum since 2014 and aims to transform blighted properties, better connect residents to work, make the streets more walkable and vibrant and provide an overall better place to live, especially for younger residents, according to Village Mayor Margot Garant.

At the beginning of 2017, the village secured $500,000 from Empire State Development through Restore New York Communities Initiative to help demolish a blighted building, and a grant of $250,000 from Suffolk County as part of its Jumpstart program for transit-based improvements around the train station.

Garant said the latest ask for millions of dollars is for good reason. The pending grant is considerably more money than the village has received in the past, though the mayor said she feels it is necessary due to a drastic change in Port Jefferson’s marketplace.

“[Rail] Realty built 76 brand new apartment units last year that got rented out in lickity split time — housing is desperately needed,” Garant said in a phone interview. “We only put in for $500,000 last year because we weren’t ready. Now we are.”

The mayor said among those who will benefit from the project are Stony Brook University students, who are just a train ride away.

“Those people need housing, those students need a place to be, they need a sense of community,” she said. “We’re ready with shovel in the ground projects and I’m hoping we get a piece of the pie. I need the state to recognize that these projects are ready to go.”

On the long list of projects in the upper Port master plan, Garant said, are new gateways, parking lot renovations, major streetscape improvements, blight studies and the implementation of new sidewalks and streetlights. Many of these are currently underway using the previously awarded funds.

“Whatever they give me, I’m going to put to work,” Garant said. “One of the reasons I decided to run again for my fifth term was I wanted to see the planning we’ve done, the money we’ve spent and the effort the community has put into planning this come to fruition. We’re right on the cusp of that.”

The village’s grant writing manager Nicole Christian, of HB Solutions LLC, said all the village’s projects aligned with the requirement set by the region, and she said she believes the village stands a good chance of at least getting partial funding.

“I think Uptown Funk is going to skyrocket this village through its stratosphere,” Christian said. “It’s a destination for young people, families, tourists, I think it’s a fantastic investment for the community. And I think the state knows that too.”

She said the application is currently under agency review and they should have an answer by November.

By Desirée Keegan

Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a motorcyclist in Centereach at 9:47 p.m. July 10.

James Conner was driving a 2014 Mini Cooper southbound on North Washington Avenue in Centereach when his vehicle struck a motorcycle. The motorcycle was operated by John Greehy, who was traveling east on Gould Road, when he ran a stop sign at the corner of North Washington Avenue and Gould Road.

Conner, 50, of Centereach was transported by Centereach Fire Department to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of minor injuries and released. Greehy, 27, of Port Jefferson Station, was pronounced dead at the scene by the physician assistant medical examiner.

Both vehicles were impounded for safety checks. The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

Subway on Old Town Road in Port Jefferson Station was robbed July 6, according to SCPD. Image from Google Maps

A Subway sandwich shop on Old Town Road in Port Jefferson Station was robbed Thursday night, July 6, according to the Suffolk County Police Department.

“Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating a robbery that occurred in Port Jefferson Station this evening,” Assistant Police Commissioner Justin Meyers said in an email through a police spokesperson. “A man robbed the Subway located 681 Old Town Road at approximately 5:45 p.m. The man fled with cash. The investigation is continuing.”

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