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Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant

Port Jefferson high school could look very different in the coming years if a $30M bond proposal is approved by the community. File photo by Elana Glowatz

The Port Jefferson School District has been asking the community to weigh in on a $30 million bond proposal to complete a litany of districtwide projects, and Monday night village leadership spoke out.

The Port Jefferson Village Board, which includes several members who previously served on the Port Jeff board of education, collectively took the position during a meeting Sept. 18 that now is not the time for the district to be asking taxpayers for permission to borrow millions for upgrades and repairs. Village Mayor Margot Garant and other board trustees cited the unclear financial future of the village and district due to pending litigation against the Long Island Power Authority.

Proposal Highlights

•$7.6M to construct a three-story addition at PJHS

•$2.3M to construct new music room and instrumental practice room at PJHS

•$2.2M to build addition to PJHS cafeteria and renovate kitchen space

•$1.2M to replace windows at PJHS

•$2.5M to construct two additional classrooms at elementary school

•$1.7M for locker room renovations at PJHS

•$1.6M for installation of stadium lighting at Scraggy Hill fields

•$1.4M for a new synthetic turf football field at PJHS

•$3.7M to convert tech ed building to new administration headquarters

•$1.6M to install drainage walls at north side of middle school building

“I’m going to strongly encourage the board of education, respectfully, to postpone this until a resolution is reached with LIPA,” Garant said in a phone interview after the meeting. “I want to commend them for looking at investing in the school system to improve the quality of education. We really want to resolve this issue so this community can stop putting off the plans to invest in our facilities and education.”

The village has no official jurisdiction over the district, though a vast majority of the village’s taxpayers also pay school taxes to the Port Jefferson School District. Both entities stand to potentially lose substantial tax revenue in the coming years should a settlement or decision in the LIPA case be reached, as LIPA has contended it pays too much in property taxes to operate the Port Jefferson Power Station, now that sweeping energy-efficiency upgrades have drastically reduced the regular need for the plant.

“We have deep respect for our mayor’s viewpoints as well as the various opinions of our residents,” district Superintendent Paul Casciano and board President Kathleen Brennan said in a joint statement via email in response to the village’s position. “Our board of education and district administration have been conducting public meetings and seeking feedback through multiple venues. Our goal is to develop a final proposal for our residents’ consideration that meets our responsibility to educate our community’s children in a safe, secure and welcoming learning environment.”

Garant suggested the village board is in a uniquely qualified position to comment on the district’s proposal given each of the individual members backgrounds prior to serving the village. Trustees Bruce Miller and Larry LaPointe were previously on the board of education, Trustee Stan Loucks is a former school district athletic director and Trustee Bruce D’Abramo is a former school district facilities manager.

Village Mayor Margot Garant agreed Sept. 18 they’d like to see the school district wait on a $30M bond project. File photo by Elana Glowatz

“I think if they’re going to ask for these things they ought to ask the public to vote on them in discrete segments so that the public has the chance to say, ‘Yes, we want this but we don’t want that,’” LaPointe said during the meeting. “I hesitate to criticize another board, I know they’re trying to do what’s best for everybody. It’s just an awfully big nut.”

LaPointe’s position was similar to several community members, who during a Sept. 12 board of education meeting suggested voting on the bond proposal as an all-or-nothing referendum, rather than in smaller pieces, would make it less palatable for many taxpayers.

“I haven’t made a decision, but one of the things that will probably sway me is if this is an all-or-nothing,” resident Drew Biondo said during the board of education meeting. “If it’s all or nothing, I don’t know which way I’ll go.”

District administration presented the $30 million capital bond proposal to the board of education and the public during the Sept. 12 meeting, featuring a three-story addition to a wing of the high school, additional classrooms at the high school and elementary school, a turf football field at the high school, lights for the elementary school field and many more improvements. The district’s total budget for the 2017-18 school year is about $43 million. If approved by the community with a vote tentatively scheduled for Dec. 5, construction would begin in 2019 and payments would be made annually beginning at about $1.5 million and concluding with a final $2.5 million installment in the 2033-34 fiscal year. The district would accrue nearly $10 million in interest over the life of the 15-year payment plan.

“Regardless of what happens with LIPA, we need to take care of the schools,” Casciano said during the last board of education meeting.

The village has reached out to set up a meeting to discuss the proposal with the district in the coming weeks. A survey soliciting public input on the proposal will remain accessible on the district website until Oct. 9.

A barge used by Northville Industries in Port Jefferson Harbor. File photo

A 2010 “legislative oversight” caused a stir between Port Jefferson Village and an oil company with decades-old roots in the community, though the village announced Aug. 7 during a public meeting the case has been settled.

As part of the settlement, with Northville Industries, a petroleum storage, distribution and wholesale company with property on the shores of Port Jefferson Harbor, the village agreed to amend a previously deleted section of its code. The village held a public hearing to discuss changes to permitted uses of marina waterfront-zoned parcels during the Aug. 7 meeting.

In 1976, the zone where Northville’s dock facility on Beach Street in Port Jeff was housed, and continues to be, was changed from an industrial to a marina waterfront. The change made Northville’s Port Jeff facility, which is used to take in petroleum deliveries by ship or barge that are then transported around Long Island, nonconforming to the village code. During the hearing, Village Attorney Brian Egan explained that the change was fought up to the New York State Supreme Court in 1976, and the site was granted conditional uses within the MW district, which allowed their decades-old operation to continue functioning.

In 2010 the village, to create multiple marina waterfront districts identified as MW-1, MW-2 and MW-3 drafted new legislation. The Northville property is located within MW-1. That legislation identified several permitted uses within marina waterfront districts, including recreational marinas, boat launching facilities, boat storage facilities, charter fishing boat operations, yacht clubs, restaurants and several others. However, it eliminated permitted conditional use of the space for “petroleum products and biofuels, marine terminal and pipeline facilities,” rendering the Northville facility noncompliant with the village code. Northville filed a lawsuit against the village in 2011. Egan said during the hearing the village had reached a settlement with Northville, and a stipulation of the suit was the code amendment.

“What this is really trying to do is, because we settled it I can say this, I would probably say it was a legislative mistake in 2010 to have eliminated a use that was already there and probably will continue forever,” he said. During a phone interview after the meeting Egan walked back “mistake” and instead classified it as a “legislative oversight.” “It’s been there forever, it will continue forever. What Northville said was, ‘Hey guys, we’re here. We were here even before this code was drafted. We’ve had it since 1976, just at least restore to us what you originally had in there before you took it out in 2010.’”

Northville’s is not the only property within the MW-1 district, which is the only one of the marina waterfront districts being granted conditional use pertaining to petroleum or biofuel related uses. So several village residents spoke out during the hearing with concerns that other companies might try to use property within the zone for similar purposes. Egan said the conditional-use status would leave any future proposals of that nature up to the village planning board to approve.

“Our history of this village is, it’s very difficult to do that,” village resident of Beach Street Michael Mart said during the hearing regarding a planning board denying conditional use on a property. “I’ve only heard of one time that they’ve prohibited a request for a conditional use, so I fear that by passing this, I guess we have to if it’s a settlement, because there’s only one street accessing those properties. For the most part that’s Beach Street. It’s shared by residents and to allow all of these uses to go there in the future, not immediately — I’m thinking far into the future when I’m not even here — that raises a significant zoning issue and a safety issue.”

Other members of the public were concerned by the phrase “marine terminal,” which does not have a definition within the village code. Village Mayor Margot Garant asked that a definition of marine terminal be added to the code to avoid unwanted uses from being permitted within the zone.

Egan also said an aspect of the amendment would be to create a “residential buffer” on Beach Street to separate Northville’s property and homes on the street.

He added the settlement was reached at no additional monetary cost to the village.

No vote was held on the amendment.

Port Jefferson Village is considering changing its code to make jaywalking illegal. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Crossing the street in Port Jefferson Village may soon be a ticket-able offense.

During a village board meeting Aug. 7, a public hearing was held to discuss amending the village code to include language prohibiting jaywalking on Port Jeff streets.

“No person shall, at street intersections where traffic is controlled by traffic control signals or by police or public safety officers, cross the street against a red, ‘stop’ or ‘don’t walk’ sign or signal, nor cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk, nor disobey the lawful command of a police or public safety officer,” the proposed addition to the code said.

Offenders would be written a summons to appear in village court, and penalties for violating the code would be assessed at the discretion of the court based on circumstances. Repeat offenders or offenders whose violation results in a car crash would be given harsher fines, with a maximum possible fine of $2,000.

Initially the code change was slated to be for the entirety of Port Jeff Village, but the proposed language in the code inspired questions from members of the public and the board about crossing streets like East Broadway and Highlands Boulevard, which have devices that qualify as “traffic control signals” but no crosswalks for miles. The proposed code change was amended during the hearing to limit the jaywalking restriction to commercial districts encompassing Main Street and East Main Street, and near John T. Mather Memorial Hospital where crosswalks already exist. Jaywalking restrictions will not be enforced on residential streets if the code change is passed by the board.

“Throughout the village there’s a 30-mile-per-hour speed limit,” village Code Enforcement Chief Wally Tomaszewski said during the hearing. “On Main Street there are hundreds of people a day that cross outside of the crosswalks. We have so many accidents. We have so many people that are hit by cars, people pushing off of cars, and people actually jump out in front of cars. We have children in cars that the people jam on the brakes and the kids go flying up against the dashboard and the windshield.”

Trustee and Deputy Mayor Larry LaPointe was among those in favor of the law applying to only commercial areas. Trustee Bruce Miller was against the change altogether.

“I guess I’m just a bit of a libertarian, more free range than chasing people because they didn’t cross at a crosswalk or they didn’t wait for a signal, or maybe there’s nothing to wait for,” he said. “I’m not too enthusiastic about jaywalking enforcement.”

Village Mayor Margot Garant spoke in favor of the proposal.

“I see people darting across the street all of the time,” she said. “At night they’re darting from Schaffer’s to run across the street — it’s so dangerous.”

Garant added she had previously asked the New York State Department of Transportation for a crosswalk to be added in front of Village Hall, and she planned to speak to State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) about the matter again. She also assured concerned residents that proper signage would be installed warning pedestrians about the crackdown on jaywalking.

Neil DeVine and Scott Declue are honored in front of family and attendees of a Port Jeff Village board meeting for saving a motorist who drove into the harbor in April. Photos by Alex Petroski

The decisive actions of four good Samaritans likely saved the life of a motorist who drove his car into Port Jefferson Harbor via the Brookhaven Town boat ramp at the end of Barnum Avenue in Port Jeff Village in April, and for their efforts the heroic men were honored by the board of trustees during a meeting July 17.

Scott Declue was on the phone with his wife Jeyce, with whom he had plans to meet later in the evening April 6. The 40-year-old Mount Sinai resident said in a phone interview he was driving on Route 25A in a severe rainstorm, and was sitting at the light at the intersection of Barnum Avenue and Route 25A, yards south of the boat ramp which leads straight into the harbor. When the light turned green, he said miraculously it stopped raining, and near the edge of the dock he could see a car almost fully submerged in the water. Declue said he told his wife he was going to pull over to take a picture. Soon after stepping out of the car he said he saw a person’s head peeking out of the sunroof of the car.

Good Samaritans and SCPD Marine Bureau divers help a driver submerged in
Port Jefferson Harbor April 6. Photo by Andrew Tetreault/Fully Involved Media Group

“If I don’t do something this guy is going to die in front of me,” Declue said was the thought crossing his mind as he began running to the end of the dock, shedding clothing as he went. Declue dove into the water and swam to the car.

Port Jefferson Village resident Neil DeVine, 38, was also driving when he said he realized something was out of the ordinary. He said he was making a right onto Barnum Avenue from Route 25A when he caught a glimpse of the car, and turned around to enter the marina parking lot. He said he repeatedly tried to call 911 but got a busy signal several times.

“I didn’t expect the water to be as cold as it was,” DeVine said during a phone interview. Village Mayor Margot Garant said during the presentation of a proclamation to honor the heroism of the four men that the water was about 38 degrees at the time of the incident, which occurred around 5:30 p.m. DeVine said he and Declue jumped in the water, but he soon realized his heart rate and breathing were slowing.

Declue reached the car and got on the roof attempting to pull the driver out of the car. DeVine said he went back to the dock and tried to find a way to help pull both men to safety. The two men described DeVine luckily finding a line from a crane on a nearby barge that was tied to a ring, and both line and ring were thrown to Declue and the victim. DeVine, with other-witnesses-turned-heroes Tony Barton and Wayne Rampone Jr., pulled the two men to the dock and lifted them out of the water. Barton and Rampone could not attend the meeting.

Declue, who is an Eagle Scout, said he thought the victim was dead while he tried to get him to safety.

“His eyes were rolled back a little bit and yellowish,” DeVine said of the victim. He added during the rescue he heard the driver say he couldn’t swim.

“If I don’t do something this guy is going to die in front of me.”

— Scott Declue

Since the incident Declue said he spoke briefly with the victim and family members, but no in-person meeting has taken place. DeVine said the victim’s mother wrote a letter to DeVine’s children, thanking him for his bravery and explaining the actions the men took on the night of the incident.

Declue said he had a hard time articulating to his wife what exactly happened after he tossed his phone and sprinted to the end of the dock.

“I think I saved someone’s life,” he said he told her. “She asked, ‘How big was this puddle?’”

Declue called it divine intervention that his plans changed.

“I wasn’t even supposed to be there,” he said, adding that the incident kept him up at night for weeks.

DeVine said he was appreciative of the village recognizing their actions.

“We want to thank you for, really, saving a life in the Village of Port Jefferson,” Garant said. “That’s what this community stands for — citizens like yourselves seeing a person in harm’s way or an accident situation — so I really want to commend you on behalf of the board of trustees.”

The victim was treated for severe injuries in the aftermath of the incident according to the Suffolk County Police Department, and his current condition is not known.

The pier at Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson needs repairs, according to a report by an engineering firm. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Kevin Redding

The pier in Harborfront Park will remain open, with restrictions, through the summer.

The Port Jefferson Village board of trustees decided during a public board meeting July 17 to hold off on several significant repairs to the pier until after Sept. 16. On that day, the annual Dragon Boat Race Festival sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce is set to take place. The 2016 version of the event prompted a field assessment of the pier last fall following reports of the 337-foot-long by 12-feet-wide timber structure “shifting” and “swaying” while packed with people waiting to board boats and compete in the event.

Mayor Margot Garant said during the July 17 village board meeting that while Port Jefferson’s Seven Seas Construction, Co., could potentially begin work on the pier in two weeks, she could not “in good conscience” allow the pier to be closed to the public during its prime season for use.

“I’d hate to have my pier closed for two months in the summertime,” Garant said, estimating the repairs will now take place during the fall or winter.     

According to the evaluation reports of the Bohemia-based engineering firm P.W. Grosser Consulting Inc., the group commissioned by the village in Oct. 2016 to assess the pier, there was “severe section loss” to pilings or columns driven into the sediment that serve as a foundation for the platform; a missing nut and washer for one beam-to-piling connection; rusted connections between pieces of wood; and a split in at least one cross-bracing beam.

The pier, which was originally built in 1996, was last modified in 2004, according to the firm’s report.

All findings were referred to as “significant structural deficiencies” and it was advised they be addressed immediately. During an Oct. 20, 2016, meeting, Village Trustee Bruce D’Abramo said he was in favor of doing just that.

“They’ve called the village’s attention to a couple of issues [with the pier], I think that if we ignored it, it would not be good,” D’Abramo said.

P.W. Grosser at that time also recommended the enforcement of a maximum occupancy of 180 people for the pier, which was estimated to hold up to 200 during last year’s festival.

At the recent meeting, Garant said the occupancy restriction will be implemented for this year’s event.

“During the Dragon Boat Race there would be absolutely no more than 150 people at a time on that pier,” Garant said. She added that the pier would no longer be open to spectators, only race participants.

When asked how members of P.W. Grosser felt about the delay in repairs, Senior Vice President Paul Boyce said he was unable to speak on the matter until getting the village’s consent. The village board did not respond to requests to interview Boyce nor inquiries as to how it plans to fund the eventual repairs.

The October report stated the “overall structural condition of the pier was considered good to fair.

Alex Petroski contributed reporting

Supervisor Ed Romaine is taking a leadership role in trying to streamline town government services. File photo by Erika Karp

Brookhaven Town is looking to get by with a little help from its friends.

The town is among six other New York State municipalities vying to be selected as the recipient of a $20 million grant that will be awarded in the fall to the applicant that demonstrates the most innovative ways to reduce property taxes through the consolidation of shared government services and increased efficiency. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced the Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition in November as a way to inspire local governments to reduce the cost of living for residents in the state. Each of the nine incorporated villages within Brookhaven passed resolutions identifying the areas in which a consolidation of services makes sense, and officially pledged partnership with the town in pursuing the projects, which would be funded by the $20 million grant.  In addition to the nine villages, leadership from ambulance, school, fire and library districts, as well as special districts like sewer and erosion, were consulted and will remain involved in brainstorming ways to make shared services more efficient and cost effective going forward.

“The big winner in this at the end of the day, should we be successful, will be the taxpayers of the various taxing jurisdictions, because this should reduce costs and hopefully either reduce or stabilize taxes.”

— Ed Romaine

“Property taxes remain the most burdensome tax in New York and with this competition, we are incentivizing local governments to band together to think outside the box, streamline their bureaucracies, cut costs and deliver real relief to their taxpayers,” Cuomo said in November. “New York has no future as the high tax capital of the world and by encouraging innovation, we are taking one more step toward a stronger, more affordable Empire State for all.”

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) explained his interest in applying for the grant for the town during an interview at Town Hall July 7.

“The big winner in this at the end of the day, should we be successful, will be the taxpayers of the various taxing jurisdictions, because this should reduce costs and hopefully either reduce or stabilize taxes,” Romaine said.

Brookhaven’s application included 16 proposed projects that would accomplish the stated goal of the competition, according to Town Chief of Operations Matt Miner, who played a vital leadership role in applying for the grant.

“We’re doing duplicated services — why can’t one municipality do ‘that,’” Miner said. He said some of the projects would include the consolidation of tax collection and tax assessor services; utilizing Brookhaven’s staffed maintenance workers rather than putting out bids for contracts; creating a regional salt facility to be used during snow removal; using town contracts for things like asphalt replacement, which yield a better price due to Brookhaven’s size compared to the smaller villages; and creating digital record keeping and storage.

The supervisor said in total, the projects would result in a savings of about $66 million for taxpayers, or a return of more than three times the investment made by the state in disseminating the grant dollars.

Romaine and Minor both stressed the importance of allowing the towns to maintain their autonomy despite the consolidation of services. The projects will emphasize ways to eliminate unnecessary redundancies in the administration of government services while allowing incorporated villages to continue overseeing themselves. Romaine also dispelled possible concerns about loss of jobs as a result of the consolidation of services. He said he expects the phase out of antiquated departments through retirements, stating no layoffs will be required to make the consolidation projects happen.

“New York has no future as the high tax capital of the world and by encouraging innovation, we are taking one more step toward a stronger, more affordable Empire State for all.”

— Andrew Cuomo

Port Jefferson Village approved a resolution to partner with Brookhaven in pursuit of the grant during a June 26 board meeting. The resolution stated the village’s interest in pursuing projects related to enhanced services in the highway department and department of public works; the purchasing portal; electronic records management and storage; and several others.

Village Mayor Margot Garant said during a phone interview she was on board for any initiatives that would result in savings for taxpayers, though maintaining Port Jeff’s autonomy and independence is of the utmost importance to her.

“The reason why you incorporate is so you have home rule,” Garant said, adding she has concerns about the management of a government that would in effect be growing, should the town win the competition. “The proof will be in the pudding. It’s all about who is going to manage these programs and what level of competence they have.”

The winner of the $20 million grant is expected to be announced this fall. Representatives from the town will head to Albany next week to present their case to a panel, but for reaching Phase II of the competition, Brookhaven has already received a $50,000 grant, which was used to develop project proposals for the application.

As another aspect of the application, the town passed a resolution in June that formed the Council of Governments, a committee that will be led by the town and comprised of leaders of the various villages and districts that will meet quarterly to discuss common issues. The first meeting of its kind is slated for September.

By Alex Petroski

It was like Christmas in June for kids in Port Jefferson, as an iconic village park is finally ready for a new launch. Rocketship Park, located on Maple Place between Mill Creek Road and Barnum Avenue, had been closed since the fall for a massive renovation project that saw funds pour in from private donations, fundraising events, grants and taxpayer dollars. At least 200 kids lined the fences June 15 eagerly waiting for the official ribbon cutting to try out the new equipment for the first time, which now includes a tree house, pirate ship and of course, a rocket ship.

The refurbishment effort was done thanks in large part to a three and a half year mission by the Port Jefferson “Treasure Your Parks” campaign, an initiative created to help give a facelift to the more than 50-year-old Clifton H. Lee Memorial Park, which has commonly been known as Rocketship Park. Suffolk County Leg. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket); Jennifer Martin, a representative from Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright’s (D-Port Jefferson Station) office; the 2016 New York State championship runner up Port Jefferson High School girls basketball team, and droves of excited local kids joined members of the Port Jeff Village board and Mayor Margot Garant to cut the ribbon and officially open the park for the summer.

Garant also recognized two Port Jeff kids, Cooper and McKenna Negus, who collected change in a jar and periodically went to village hall to contribute to the fundraising efforts for the park. The mayor said she planned to use the money to purchase a tile to commemorate the generous young donors.

“Everyday we were building this park we’d have kids hanging out on the outside of the fence saying ‘when can we come and play,’” Garant said. “It’s all about the kids right?”

Garant added the park will be under video surveillance and asked that all those who visit the park help to ensure it remains clean, and free of graffiti, vandalism and litter.

The total cost of the project was about $900,000, with $500,000 coming from taxpayer dollars, $265,000 from a New York State parks grant and about $120,000 from donations, according to Barbara Sakovich, assistant to the mayor.

This version was updated June 16 to include the total cost and breakdown of funding for the park renovation. It was edited June 19 to correct that it will still be officially called Clifton H. Lee Memorial Park and commonly referred to as Rocketship Park.

Good Samaritans and SCPD Marine Bureau divers help a driver submerged in Port Jefferson Harbor April 6. Photo by Andrew Tetreault/Fully Involved Media Group

Following an April incident in which a man drove into Port Jefferson Harbor via the Town of Brookhaven boat ramp located at the north end of Barnum Avenue, Port Jefferson Village is calling for action.

Village Mayor Margot Garant announced during a board meeting June 5 the village has sent a letter to the New York State Department of Transportation and State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) asking for the traffic signal at the intersection of Barnum Avenue and West Broadway to be changed from having a standard green light to a green left arrow and right arrow. The April 6 incident saw a man in his early 60s drive into Port Jefferson Harbor via the ramp at about 5:30 p.m., according to the Suffolk County Police Department. The car was found submerged underwater and a few good Samaritans helped remove the man from the car. Members from the Suffolk County Marine Bureau dive team went in the water to search for possible additional victims. The driver was treated for serious injuries at Stony Brook Hospital and his current condition is still not known, according to Garant.

“People sometimes are losing their way on a misty morning or a foggy morning or a rainy morning or on a sunny morning,” Garant said during the meeting.

In the aftermath of the incident in April Garant called on the Town of Brookhaven to step up and do something to resolve the recurring issue, as the ramp is town property.

“It’s only a matter of time before this happens again,” she said.

A spokesperson for the town that asked not to be named responded to Garant’s calls for action at the time.

“The Port Jefferson boat ramp has existed at its current location for generations,” the spokesperson said. “A number of measures are in place including a multitude of ‘Do Not Enter’ signs, road arrows and other traffic control measures to clearly indicate that this is not an entrance.”

This is not the first time the positioning of the town ramp beyond the village intersection has been the source of controversy.

According to documents obtained from Brookhaven in May, both the town and village were sued by the wife and executrix of the estate of Richard Levin in 2007. Levin died Dec. 5, 2005, after driving into the water via the ramp at about 6 p.m. Alice Cialella, an eyewitness of the incident who was directly behind Levin in traffic, said Levin had his left blinker on, hesitated momentarily, then accelerated through the intersection and plunged into the harbor via the ramp.

“As a result of the negligence of the defendants in failing to properly maintain the intersection of Route 25A and Barnum Ave., in failing to properly safeguard against motorists driving onto said Port Jefferson ramp into the water, in failing to properly illuminate said area, in failing to provide fencing and warning lights — as a result of the aforementioned Richard Levin died,” the lawsuit read in part. “[The] town failed to submit any evidence that it maintained its property in a reasonably safe condition by providing adequate fencing, lighting or warning of the dangerous condition on its property.”

Judge Joseph Farneti of the New York State Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit in January 2011 because the “acts or omissions of defendants were not the proximate cause of the alleged accident.”

Christopher Kelsch, a former village resident who was given a Carnegie Medal by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission for trying to save Levin, said in an April phone interview he’d like to see action to prevent similar future accidents.

“People are dying here and it’s a simple fix,” he said. Kelsch also testified on behalf of Levin’s case in the 2011 lawsuit.

East Beach in Port Jefferson is getting smaller due to erosion, according to a consulting firm contracted by the village. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson Village is shrinking. East Beach, which lies within the parameters of the Port Jefferson Country Club bordering the Long Island Sound, is experiencing erosion that has caused Mayor Margot Garant to take notice and seek assistance in the hopes of reversing the trend.

“The Village of Port Jefferson’s shoreline suffered significant structural damage, resulting from multiple state-of-emergency storm events,” said a Jan. 17 letter from GEI Consultants, a privately owned consulting firm, to the village regarding its concerns about erosion. “These storm events appear to be occurring in greater frequency and severity.”

East Beach in Port Jefferson is getting smaller due to erosion, according to a consulting firm contracted by the village. Photo by Alex Petroski

Representatives from GEI, the village and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation met on the beach May 26 to examine the area and assess its condition. The village is seeking recommendations from GEI and the DEC so that they can then apply for grants from the state to financially assist in projects that would stabilize an already slumping bluff.

“We found that the shoreline erosion has continued to claim significant portions of this recreational area,” the letter said of a Nov. 1, 2016, visit to the beach to view the condition of a bluff that lies below the golf course and adjacent to Port Jefferson Country Club tennis courts and a dune near the mouth of Mount Sinai Harbor.

The bottom 15 feet of the bluff had fallen 260 feet west of the rock revetment, a man-made pile built to preserve the eroding shoreline, according to the letter. Dredging of sand from the Mount Sinai Harbor navigation channel could be used to revitalize the eroding shoreline, and GEI also suggested dead trees be removed on the slumping bluff near the borders of the PJCC to relieve some of the weight on the sand. Removal of trees would require a permit from the DEC.

“These two actions are critical for long term coastal management of this beachfront,” the January letter said, referring to dredging and the eventual repair of a jetty near the mouth of Mount Sinai Harbor, which is owned by the Town of Brookhaven. “In the meantime, East Beach will continue to erode unless stopgap measures are implemented.”

Aphrodite Montalvo, a representative from the DEC’s office of communication services, addressed the May 26 meeting in an emailed statement.

“DEC and GEI have met to discuss erosion issues in the area, as well as options for, and alternatives to erosion control,” she said. “DEC does not currently have any pending permit applications from GEI for the vicinity of East Beach.”

The department referred further questions about the matter to GEI or the village.

The village installed a ramp in May 2016 from the road to the sand at the end of Village Beach Road, the road that leads to the waterfront through the country club, which is becoming exposed at its base due to the eroding sand, according to Garant. GEI representatives said the erosion issues had gotten worse since previous checks during the winter and fall.

The mayor added she plans to go after grant money from the county, state and federal government in the hopes of sharing the cost of potential repairs.

GEI and Garant reiterated that the repair of the Brookhaven-owned jetty would be the first step in alleviating the beach’s erosion issues. In September 2016, Brookhaven committed nearly $6 million in funding to go toward the jetty repair. At the time, Brookhaven hoped Port Jeff Village would contribute dollars for the repairs, because according to Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) the village would receive a direct benefit from the fix, but Garant has yet to show an inclination to do so. The repairs are expected to begin sometime during 2017. The total cost of the repairs is expected to be about $8 million, with grant money secured by state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) also going toward the project.

Scouts from Boy Scout Troop 70, Leg. Kara Hahn, Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, members of Girl Scout Troop 3083, and Port Jeff Village Mayor Margot Garant during a June 1 press conference about Hahn's Passport Parks Program. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Rita J. Egan

There’s a wondrous world of nature to explore along the North Shore and beyond, and Suffolk County Leg. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Suffolk County Parks are challenging local children to get out of their houses and discover the natural treasures of public open spaces.

Scouts from Boy Scout Troop 70 during a June 1 press conference about Leg. Hahn’s Passport Parks Program. Photo by Rita J. Egan

At a June 1 press conference held at Old Field Farm County Park in Stony Brook, Hahn introduced a new passport program that will combine exploring nature with a bit of technology. Suffolk Parks Commissioner Philip Berdolt, Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant as well as representatives from Boy Scout Troop 70 and Girl Scout Troop 3083 were on hand to show their support.

“Many months in the making, this pilot program expands on my earlier legislation designed to showcase Suffolk County parks,” Hahn said. “One reason I am so excited about it is because now, thanks to cooperation from our state, town and village partners, we have expanded the pilot here in the 5th Legislative District to include all the parks in the district. That means we’re able to introduce children and their families to even more great places where they can go out and get in nature right in our own backyard.”

Hahn said her 2015 sponsored legislation that established a countywide Parks Passport Program created to encourage residents to visit parks focused solely on Suffolk County managed parkland, while the new expanded pilot program includes state, town and village public lands and open spaces in the 5th Legislative District, which covers the northwest section of the Brookhaven Town. Hahn’s hope is that in the near future the county will include all park organizations countywide in a passport program, too.

The legislator said the first step in the park adventure is to obtain passport books that are available at her Port Jefferson office at 306 Main Street, local libraries and staffed county parks. Participants can also download the book by visiting suffolkcountyny.gov.

Hahn said parks in North Brookhaven include hidden “check-in” signage located along trails and elsewhere within the parks. Once a visitor discovers a sign, they can scan a QR code with their smartphone or enter the provided website address into a web browser to check-in. The reward is a printable badge that can be pasted in the passport book, which includes the majority of the parks in her legislative district, including Old Field Farm County Park, North Shore Heritage Park in Mount Sinai, Centennial Park in Port Jefferson and Sherwood-Jayne Farm Nature Trail in East Setauket.

Hahn said there is also a digital option that will issue Open Badges. The legislator’s aide Seth Squicciarino said participants can take a photo of a sign and email it to kara.hahn@suffolkcountyny.gov, and a digital badge, which is compatible with any Open Badge platform, will be emailed back to them.

Once children collect and paste the 25 badges in the passport book, they can bring or email their passport to Hahn’s office to receive a certificate of completion. The legislator compared the new initiative to collecting stamps in travel passports or autographs at Disney World, and she believes children will enjoy the parks adventure.

“I am convinced children are going to love it, and what they love, they will be eager to do again and again,” she said.

The passport local park-goers can pick up to use for Leg. Hahn’s Passport Parks Program. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Cartright said she believes the passport program will be a success with children and is a great opportunity for residents to get outside and meet other families calling it “a networking opportunity in the sun.” The councilwoman said she will be exploring the parks with her eight-month-old daughter this summer.

“I look forward to filling up my book as well,” Cartright said.

Hahn said among her hopes are that residents will appreciate their open spaces and take better care of them, citing recent dumping problems, and that families will become familiar with parks they might not have been aware of in the past.

“I’m always surprised that people don’t know about some of our wonderful treasures,” she said.

The legislator thanked park officials and staff members for installing the signs as well as her staff members, Squicciarino, Zach Baum, Alyssa Turano and May Zegarelli, for all their help in developing the program.

“This summer there will be children on a summer-long scavenger hunt,” she said. “Some day they will be grandparents bringing their grandchildren to the same parks, boasting gently about the summer they filled their passport book with badges.”

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