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Port Jefferson Village

Extreme low temperatures caused enough demand to require use of the Port Jefferson Power Station. File photo by Erika Karp

The Long Island Power Authority is tied up in a battle with communities including Port Jefferson Village that host, by LIPA’s estimation, outdated and increasingly obsolete power plants with steep property tax sticker prices. After the release of a study on the possibility of refurbishing and repowering, among others, the Port Jefferson Power Station, the power authority now has the data to back up their assertions.

LIPA released its 2017 Integrated Resource Plan and Repowering Studies April 22, a report conducted by their partner PSEG Long Island’s engineers, energy specialists, planners and consultants, which was later independently reviewed by consulting firm the Brattle Group and the New York State Department of Public Service.

Trustee Bruce Miller speaks at a hearing opposing National Grid’s proposal to lift limits on peaker unit output. Photo by Alex Petroski

In August 2016, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) mandated that 50 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, by 2030. The study found that if LIPA were to achieve compliance, it would be overkill to cover times of peak demand that renewable sources couldn’t cover by repowering the Port Jefferson steam unit plant, which runs on oil or gas, and increasing its use. Currently the plant, which was built in the 1950s, is only used about 11 percent of the time. LIPA’s study suggested that number could be as low as six percent by 2030 if trends regarding the efficiency and availability of renewable sources of energy continue.

The study also concluded forecasts for peak demand are decreasing, due to an increase of energy efficiency products on the market for consumers, meaning the repowering of the Port Jefferson Power Station would not be necessary in years to come. The plant has the capacity to produce about 400 megawatts of power, and LIPA’s study said they need to add about 800 megawatts of renewable power sources to be compliant with Cuomo’s mandate by 2030 as is.

A lawsuit is currently pending that includes Port Jefferson Village and the Port Jefferson School District as plaintiffs against LIPA, associated with the power authority’s desire to pay less in property taxes at sites like the Port Jefferson power plant because of its condition and infrequent use. The village and district receive substantial amounts of revenue from property taxes because of the presence of the plant. The lawsuit alleges LIPA is breaching their contract, which runs until 2028.

The village has proposed that upgrading and repowering the plant with updated technology would be a fair compromise to allow them to continue receiving the same amount of revenue.

“A plant like this should really run about 80 percent of the time,” LIPA chief executive officer Thomas Falcone said in an interview. “In the ‘90s they were running about 50 percent of the time. Right now Port Jeff is running 11 percent of the time, which basically implies it’s running in the summer … it’s not to say we’ll never build another power plant, it’s just to say that these aren’t the right power plants to build. You put in all of this investment optimized around a plant that is going to run 24 hours a day. If it doesn’t run 24 hours a day it’s a very, very expensive plant, which is the wrong kind of plant.”

Falcone added LIPA still needs the plant, and utilizing more peaker units, which are meant to supplement other energy sources and are only used in times of peak demand using gas or oil, would be a sensible way to utilize Port Jefferson going forward. He said LIPA’s goal is to reach an amicable solution for everyone involved.

“We’re a state-run utility. We’re a state-owned, community-owned utility,” he said. “We find ourselves in a situation that is a real sticky wicket for everybody. The community obviously is entitled to compensation for hosting a power plant. On the flip side we have 1.1 million customers and I think only about 3,500 of those customers live in Port Jeff Village. So those other 1.1 million customers are also entitled to pay a fairer level of compensation and not an excessive one.”

Falcone and village Mayor Margot Garant both said settlement discussions are ongoing between the two sides, and Garant said a proposal was submitted to LIPA about 30 days ago.

“We’re a state-run utility. We’re a state-owned, community-owned utility. We find ourselves in a situation that is a real sticky wicket for everybody.”

— Thomas Falcone

Garant weighed in on the findings of the reports in a phone interview.

“We’re digesting these reports, we’re doing our homework and gathering data, and we don’t agree [with the findings of the report on the possibility of repowering],” she said. “Our concern is that report is driving a conclusion that they wanted to have instead of being objective.”

The Brattle Group issued a statement regarding the possibility of repowering.

“None of the plants are needed for reliability or economic purposes. For all the options the plant costs exceed their benefits for at least the next decade,” the statement said in part.

In March, Port Jefferson Village hosted two public hearings to allow residents to voice opinions on a petition issued by National Grid, another LIPA partner in delivering power to the island, to the New York State Public Service Commission asking for caps on peaker output to be lifted. Village residents and trustees contended at the time the move was a thinly-veiled effort to squash the hopes of repowering the steam unit.

Bob Foxen, chief executive officer of Global Common, LLC, was contracted by Port Jefferson Village to study the plausibility of a scaled-down plant that would utilize peakers and upgraded steam units at the current Port Jefferson site, a compromise that Falcone said he would be open to. Foxen’s study is ongoing.

Ivan Albert, owner of Sweet ‘n’ Savory and Ralph’s Italian Ices & Ice Cream on Main Street in Port Jeff, says a group of unsupervised teenagers are disrupting business. Photo by Kevin Redding

Port Jefferson is a walkable, waterfront village that attracts members of its own community and neighboring ones regularly, especially when the weather improves and schools are closed. In theory it should be an optimal environment for business owners thirsty for more foot traffic on Main Street, but at least one is not enjoying the influx of customers.

Ivan Albert, owner of Sweet ‘n’ Savory and Ralph’s Italian Ices & Ice Cream on Main Street in Port Jeff, says a group of unsupervised teenagers are disrupting business. Photo by Kevin Redding

Ivan Albert is the owner of two shops on Main Street in Port Jefferson Village: Ralph’s Italian Ices & Ice Cream, and Sweet ‘n’ Savory, a café that specializes in gourmet crepes. He said throughout the course of the last year an ongoing situation has developed in the two stores involving a group of about 60 teenagers — Albert speculated in an interview at Ralph’s that most of the offenders are 14 or 15 years old — who use profanity, enter and exit the store repeatedly in large groups, are rude to employees and other customers, smoke from vaporizers within the stores, and even occasionally steal items or damage property.

“This year it has gotten really bad,” Albert, a Mount Sinai resident, said. “It just seems like the thing to do is for parents to just pull up and drop their kids off in Port Jeff and say ‘I’ll pick you up at 11 at night or midnight, have fun with your friends.’”

Albert said he has tried to approach the group nicely to convey his message that he believes their behavior is bad for business, but it hasn’t worked.

“They’re having fun with their friends, and I’m good with that, I was once young and having fun with your friends is great,” he said. “When a family comes in with young kids, or any family, looking to have a nice time, they don’t want to hear cursing. And then there’s fighting and throwing stuff and breaking stuff — it’s horrible.”

Albert said he repeatedly has called village code enforcement and the Suffolk County Police Department to complain and report issues. He said he believes the constables in the village “have their hands tied” and aren’t able to make any meaningful changes, and county police often take too long to respond to calls about teenagers causing a nuisance for businesses.

“Out of control — and business people can’t cope with rudeness, vulgarity and profanity,” Port Jefferson Village code chief Wally Tomaszewski said in a text message of the unsupervised teenagers walking the streets most nights that aren’t followed by school days. “My officers do all they can at night to try and control them.”

The SCPD did not respond to a request for comment in time for print.

“It deters people from coming. I feed my family with these businesses.”

— Ivan Albert

An employee at Sweet ‘n’ Savory, a 20-year-old Port Jefferson resident who asked to be identified only as Chris, said he doesn’t feel the kids present a tangible threat, but their presence is bad for business.

“They’re not really dangerous or a threat just because they are so young, they’re just obnoxious,” Chris said. “They light firecrackers outside of the doors, they harass the people that walk by them. It’s annoying for the business because customers don’t like it. They don’t want to be bothered, so some people are just like, ‘Well if this is how it is I’m not coming back here.’”

Albert said he’s gotten complaints from the parents of his employees, who tend to be in the 17- to 25-year-old range, about the environment their kids are forced to work in. He said his wife tried to spread the message to parents in the area by posting on Facebook about the problem last week, while many of the local schools were on spring break.

“I would just like to reach out as a mom above and before being anything else,” the post said. “There is an extremely large group of kids high school age that hang out around Main Street in Port Jeff. If you are allowing your sons and daughters to spend their free time roaming the streets there I would like to inform you about what goes on. They are totally disruptive, rude, obnoxious and out of control.”

Albert said the post was shared several times, and his plan is to record more incidents on his cellphone and post them on social media going forward in the hopes that parents might see it and lay down the law with their own children.

“The kids aren’t going to stop on their own. I need to bring awareness to the parent that’s dropping them off,” he said. “It deters people from coming. I feed my family with these businesses.”

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted its 19th annual Easter Parade down Main Street in the Village, followed by an egg hunt in Harborfront Park Easter Sunday, April 16. Hundreds of kids and their parents scoured the park for eggs to fill their baskets, and later posed for photos with the Easter Bunny.

History is repeating itself, at the boat ramp in Port Jefferson Marina located at the north end of Barnum Avenue in Port Jefferson Village.

A man is being treated for serious injuries at Stony Brook University Hospital after driving into Port Jefferson Harbor via the ramp at about 5:30 p.m. April 6, according to the Suffolk County Police Department. The car was found submerged underwater and at least one good Samaritan 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, and the police said the investigation is continuing.

Several similar incidents have occurred since an episode in December 2005 when then-60-year-old Setauket resident Richard Levin drove into the water on the same ramp and onlookers had to pull his unconscious body from the fully submerged car. Levin died days later as a result of the incident.

“People are dying here and it’s a simple fix,” Christopher Kelsch, one of the people who witnessed Levin’s death 12 years ago and tried to help, said after seeing news of the April 6 incident.

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

Kelsch was given a Carnegie Medal by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, for his attempts to save Levin’s life. Kelsch had to be rescued by firefighters as a result of his efforts, and suffered from hypothermia in the aftermath. He was also called to give testimony about the incident when Levin’s family sued Brookhaven Town for negligence, a suit that was dismissed by the New York State Supreme Court.

The Carnegie Medal recipient said during the interview he wanted to reach out in part to make the 2017 victim and family members aware he would be glad to help them if they sought him out.

“Somebody needs to shine a serious spotlight because Dr. Levin died at that location,” he said.

A Brookhaven Town spokesperson said in an emailed statement there are clear signs and traffic measures in place to warn residents of the ramp’s location.

“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.”

Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant is taking the issue seriously, and said she asked the village’s code enforcement chief to compile data for her regarding the number of times similar incidents have happened at that location, and she plans to present the data to Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine to reiterate calls for preventative action to be taken by the town. Garant said in a phone interview she had heard the driver was in stable condition as of Saturday, but she was told he had taken a turn for the worse since.

“It’s only a matter of time before this happens again,” Garant said. She added at the present time she plans to call on the town to do something to solve the problem and no plans of possible village actions are currently being discussed. Garant said Port Jefferson Village and Brookhaven Town cofunded a waterfront revitalization plan years ago, which included a proposal to move the town ramp elsewhere.

“This is town-owned property — they have to step up and resolve this once and for all,” Garant said. She added that additional signage beyond two “do not enter” signs or some sort of barricade would be “minimal” steps the town could take.

The now cleared areas surrounding the train tracks for the Port Jefferson LIRR station will be fitted with new trees soon. Photos by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Cleaning up is hard to do.

Port Jefferson Village is entrenched in a beautification project that spans large sections of the area, including several efforts in the vicinity of the Port Jefferson Long Island Rail Road station located in between Main Street and Highlands Boulevard. Two years ago, according to village resident Kathleen Riley and Village Mayor Margot Garant, the village requested that LIRR property be cleared of dead trees along the train tracks on the south side of Highlands Boulevard in the hopes of improving aesthetics in the area.

The now cleared areas surrounding the train tracks for the Port Jefferson LIRR station will be fitted with new trees soon. Photos by Alex Petroski

“When this beautification effort started there were a number of dead trees along the said property, and when the LIRR was requested to remove the dead trees, workmen cut down all the trees, dead and alive for a considerably large portion of the property,” Riley said in an email. “When investigated with survey records, it happens that the LIRR cut down trees on Port Jefferson Village property, truly a violation that calls for compensation. Mayor Garant has yet to receive any compensation from the LIRR for the past two years. To her credit she continues to pursue beautification.”

Riley shared a letter she received in early April from Susan McGowan, the MTA’s general manager of public affairs for the LIRR as a response to several letters she sent to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and to Ed Dumas, the vice president of market development and public affairs for the LIRR, since the trees were first removed. McGowan addressed the findings of the survey that the trees were on village property.

“In light of these findings, we will work with the village to address the concerns you raised, and the LIRR will continue to coordinate with the village as our station enhancement project for Port Jefferson Station moves forward,” McGowan said.

Aaron Donovan, MTA deputy director for external communications for the LIRR responded to requests for comment from Dumas on the matter in an emailed statement.

“I’m just going to get the job done; then I’m going to the railroad and ask for restitution — I can’t wait any longer.”

— Margot Garant

“We have received and reviewed all of the correspondence, and we are evaluating what we can do to improve the Highlands Boulevard area,” he said. The village and LIRR officials have met several times in recent months to discuss beautification of the station and the areas near the train tracks.

Since the removal of the trees, the village has obtained grant money to improve parking for the train station in lots on both sides of Main Street, in addition to funds garnered for business improvement projects just steps away from the train station.

“We’re seeking some sort of cooperation from the railroad,” Garant said in a phone interview. “We’ve been dealing with this and other issues for well over two years.”

Garant said the village now plans to plant six-foot tall Leyland cypress trees along the fence line on Highlands Boulevard overlooking the train tracks using unencumbered monies and will then ask the LIRR for restitution.

“I’m just going to get the job done; then I’m going to the railroad and ask for restitution — I can’t wait any longer,” she said.

Riley said she met with Caran Markson, village gardener, Garant and some other community members recently to secure plans for the project, which they hope will begin during April. Some of the other issues raised by the village regarding the look of the areas surrounding the tracks include crumbling walls bordering the tracks, rusted railings and insufficient fencing.

Port Jefferson is fighting to keep property tax revenue flowing from the power plant and to prevent restrictions from being lifted on peaker unit output. File photo by Lee Lutz

By Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson Village officials and residents, as well as Brookhaven Town officials and Suffolk County legislators, flocked to Port Jefferson Village Hall for two public hearings March 22 to voice opposition of a National Grid petition seeking elimination of restrictions on output of small peaker units located at the Port Jefferson Power Station. Peaker units are additional power generators generally used only when there is high demand for power.

National Grid issued the petition Feb. 28 to the New York State Public Service Commission. The hearing was hosted by the commission and overseen by Administrative Law Judge David Van Ort.

Trustee Bruce Miller speaks at the hearing. Photo by Alex Petroski

Both Village Mayor Margot Garant and Port Jefferson School District Superintendent Paul Casciano at respective board meetings this week called the petition and subsequent hearings “pieces of a larger puzzle” in relation to the eventual fight between the village, the district and the Long Island Power Authority, who is a partner with National Grid in supplying power to the area. The village and district are both part of a pending lawsuit filed in 2015 about LIPA’s assertion they pay too much in property taxes. The power authority reiterated that claim in a Feb. 14 annual report on property tax reduction. Both the village and district receive substantial amounts of revenue from the power authority in the form of ratepayer tax dollars.

National Grid is seeking to eliminate the 79.9-megawatt cap on output on the peaker units and allow for maximum output. According to Van Ort, the company has cited greater efficiency as the reason behind their desire to lift restrictions on output, which were established in 2001.

“We, the people of Port Jefferson, believe that this hearing is a thinly veiled attempt to add extra capacity to the grid,” Village Trustee Bruce Miller said during the hearing. “Peakers are dirty. This expansion plan forecloses the clean air, cost-effective alternative that Port Jefferson offers for Long Island with the repowering of our baseload plants.”

In a letter submitted to the commission by Garant, she stated the village has been pursuing the repowering of existing older steam units in the village for more than 10 years. A spokesperson for National Grid did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and representatives from the company in attendance at the meeting declined to speak on behalf of National Grid.

“We need cleaner, cheaper energy on Long Island now,” Miller said. “We need to take dirty peakers off line and replace them with a modest plant with modern technology.”

Village resident Kathleen Riley also voiced opposition to the proposal.

Residents pack Village Hall for the hearing. Photo by Alex Petroski

“Please be finally advised of our deep concern regarding this entire situation, ultimately and especially because Port Jefferson Village depends upon the revenues of the power plant,” Riley said. “The village’s financial viability relies on this power center.”

Riley also expressed concerns about the environmental impact of increased output from the peaker units.

“[LIPA] makes the argument in part that the Port Jefferson Power Plant is functionally obsolete and should be closed,” Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) said during the hearing. Romaine went on to argue considering the power plant functionally obsolete while simultaneously filing a petition to lift restrictions on peaker units are “contradictory assertions.”

Deputy Mayor and Trustee Larry LaPointe also provided testimony during the hearing.

“They’re increasing their ability to shut down the main plants in Port Jefferson forever, throwing this village under the bus, throwing our schoolchildren under the bus, throwing this community under the bus, throwing our senior citizens under the bus,” LaPointe said. “But of course that doesn’t seem to matter.”

Peaker plants are generally run using natural gas and are less efficient and more expensive to operate than baseload plants, like the Port Jefferson Power Station, which used steam.

Garant was expected to speak at a second hearing March 22 which occurred after the time of print. The commission will continue to take comments from the public until March 28 by email, on the department website or by phone.

A view of the main page of a piece of Reclaim NY’s Transparency Project. Image from ReclaimNY website

Transparency and honesty play a major role in healthy democracies, and now New York State municipalities will have a watchdog tracking their effectiveness, providing feedback publicly to concerned citizens, by concerned citizens.

Last week, Reclaim New York, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established to “educate New Yorkers on issues like affordability, transparency and education,” launched a website designed to rate government accessibility and transparency based on an index of recommendations.

The site is part of the group’s New York Transparency Project, an initiative launched in 2016, which kicked off with 2,500 Freedom of Information Law requests for basic expenditure information to county, town and village governments, as well as school districts across Long Island and the state.

“This is an accountability tool,” Reclaim New York Communications Director Doug Kellogg said. “Anybody who wants to help do something to make government more accessible and accountable, go spend 30 minutes and input ratings.”

The new system allows citizens to grade local governments based on 29 indicators, including whether contracts are posted on the internet, there’s access to expenditure records, notices of meetings and the minutes to the meetings are available and contact information is listed for elected officials. The municipalities will receive an overall, objective grade. The grade will indicate which are transparent and law-abiding, as budget information and records access officers need to be publicly available.

“Anybody who wants to help do something to make government more accessible and accountable, go spend 30 minutes and input ratings.”

— Doug Kellogg

“Citizens can hold their governments accountable at every level if they have the right tools for the job,” executive director for the organization Brandon Muir said in a statement. “This is a truly unprecedented moment for New Yorkers who want to reclaim ownership of their government. Working with this new site they can make proactive transparency a reality.”

To input data, users must register with an email address. When data is put into the system, it is vetted and sited prior to going live to avoid a “wild west” feel, according to Kellogg. The process of imputing data to extract a rating for municipalities has only just begun. Kellogg said it will take time to have an all-encompassing collection of information.

In May 2016, Port Jefferson Village and Commack school district failed to comply with FOIL requests as part of the organization’s Transparency Project.

New York’s FOIL requires governments and school districts respond to records requests within five business days, whether with the information requested, a denial or an acknowledgement of the request. The response needs to include an estimated date when one of the latter two will occur. Denials can be appealed but  not allowed “on the basis that the request is voluminous or that locating or reviewing the requested records or providing the requested copies is burdensome, because the agency lacks sufficient staffing.”

As part of a project it dubbed the New York Transparency Project, Reclaim New York sent 253 Freedom of Information requests to school districts and municipalities on Long Island. It reported on its findings, saying that while many entities complied with state guidelines on processing such public records requests, and after the findings were released, Port Jefferson Village and Commack school district eventually complied with the requests.

Entities that it said complied included Suffolk County; Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington towns; Belle Terre and Lake Grove villages; and the Port Jefferson, Kings Park, Huntington, Smithtown, Mount Sinai, Miller Place and Rocky Point school districts, among others.

To become an evaluator for the website or to view data, visit www.reclaimnewyork.org and click on the Transparency tab.

To commemorate International Women’s Day and “A Day Without a Woman” March 8, dozens of women, men and children of all ages gathered in front of The Frigate on the corner of Main Street and Broadway in Port Jefferson Village in support of gender equality, ending violence against women, acknowledging women’s achievements in history, and to voice their concerns about the current administration in the White House.

“We all need to know that we are in this together and we need to persist and we will persist,” Port Jefferson resident Kathy Greene-Lahey said over a microphone to the North Shore community members in attendance. “We are so capable and strong and intelligent and courageous, we have grace and style and are simply fabulous. We show up, put our money where our mouths are, stay the course, hang tough and we rock.”

Lahey, a member of the local activist group Long Island Rising organized the “Women Rock Rally” after seeing the success of the sister march she organized in Port Jefferson Station in January, a regional iteration of the Women’s March on Washington following President Donald Trump’s (R) inauguration.

She said she was invigorated by that event’s turnout and spread the word on social media to help women “come together in solidarity.”

Members of the crowd held up signs that read “My Body My Choice, Less Government Less Regulations,” “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” and “Equal Pay 4 Now” and came to the event for a variety of issues.

Linda May of Sound Beach said she had never been politically involved until the recent election and decided to be more vocal when it comes to protecting women’s reproductive rights and civil liberties for all.

“We are so capable and strong and intelligent and courageous, we have grace and style and are simply fabulous. We show up, put our money where our mouths are, stay the course, hang tough and we rock.”

—Kathy Greene-Lahey

“I want to find a way to bring inclusiveness and equality back,” she said during the event, adding her concern that Trump and his administration are “destroying” all the progress made during Barack Obama’s presidency. “I stand with Planned Parenthood, stand for equal work for equal pay, LGBTQ rights, same sex marriage — we’ve made so much progress in that area and I do not want to go back to the Dark Ages.”

Jackie Rooney, a Nesconset resident and teacher at Brentwood High School who attended the march on Washington, said she wants to keep the momentum going.

“We think it’s necessary to keep the message of equality, message against what this president signifies — which is hate, misogyny and fear of those who are different,” Rooney said. “We are Americans and as Americans we are accepting of everybody no matter what.”

Port Jefferson resident Tom Farriss said he was there for his 14-year-old daughter.

“I’m interested in making sure women are treated equally I want to see my daughter have the best opportunities possible to prosper and have a good life,” Farriss said.

A large sheet called the “Bold Action Wall” was laid down and Lahey encouraged those in attendance to write on it what they intend to do in the future to create change in the world. Some of the messages included “Educate our sisters!” “Elect Democrats from Local to National” and “Protest Protest Protest for Women.”

Eleven-year-old Francesca, from Patchogue, wrote “Making the world a better place for my future.”

“I believe that all women should have exactly the same rights as men,” she said. “We’re just trying to make the world a better place for all of us. When I grow up and if I decide to have children, I want my future and their future to be really good.”

The group ended the event by reading from a list of women’s rights accomplishments throughout history.

Roosevelt Avenue’s park is tucked away in the woods. A path leads from the road to the field, which is next to the railroad track. File photo by Elana Glowatz

What was intended to be a first step in cleaning up a Port Jefferson Village park for future repurposing, instead, served as fodder for community outrage at a March 6 board of trustees meeting. Roosevelt Park, which lies hidden in a wooded area near the southern end of Roosevelt Avenue between Dark Hollow Road and the train tracks in the village’s southwest corner, was cleared of fallen leaves and dead branches recently, though several unintended consequences were brought to the board’s attention by people who live near the park.

A corporation that built houses in the village in the 1970s, as a condition of project approval, was supposed to give three parcels on the western side of Roosevelt Avenue, opposite the ball field, to the village for recreational use. It was also supposed to contribute $5,000 to the village so it could acquire a fourth piece of land, which is pinned between the existing park, the three adjacent parcels and the Long Island Rail Road track that borders the park’s southern side. Due to a clerical mistake, the transaction wasn’t officially completed until May 2016.

The village has discussed possible projects for the site, but at the present time nothing is remotely close to being implemented. Several community members voiced issues with what was done in the wooded area without notifying the residents.

“Ninety percent of what we brainstorm we don’t do…we have no present plan to do anything there.”

—Larry Lapointe

“I was away for a week,” said Steven Metzler, who lives on Roosevelt Avenue and came to the meeting out of interest. “They came in and supposedly took down dead branches and whatnot, but if anyone took a look at it, it looked like they took a small bulldozer through and created paths and tracks for something, down to the sand.”

His concern, living in the area for 20 years, is that he’s had pheasants, turkey, grouse, red-tailed hawks, deer and red fox around his property for years, and he and his neighbors are afraid now that the lot is cleared, they’ll come to their property for shelter or have nowhere to go at all.

“Someone else suggested a community garden — that’ll last about a month,” Metzler said. “It’s like living in the Rocky Mountains almost here. And it’s beautiful, it’s a lovely thing.”

Other neighbors of the park said the dense brush used to insulate their homes from noise and light from the train tracks and questioned why the cleanup had to be done so deep in the woods.

Several village officials defended the cleanup project.

“I went with my parks supervisor and we went through all of our parks — we went to the country club, we went to Caroline [Avenue Park], we went to Rocketship [Park],” said Renee Lemmerman, superintendent of recreation and parks. “All of the dead branches, all of the leaves that have accumulated — we cleaned those up. We didn’t cut any trees down. They did some pruning of trees that were on the fence and came down. We cleaned up. That’s all we did in all of our parks.”

Lemmerman also denied the use of heavy machinery to do the job.

Trustee Stan Loucks and Deputy Mayor Larry Lapointe, who stood in for the absent Mayor Margot Garant during the meeting, both stressed the fact that ideas for the site are only in the brainstorming phase, and community forums will be held before any plan is approved to ensure all voices are heard.

“We brainstorm all of the time about every village program, about every village resource,” Lapointe said. “Ninety percent of what we brainstorm we don’t do. We asked the director of recreation to do some brainstorming about that property and about the acquisition of a parcel there that adjoins the two parcels that we already own, which by the way, were given to the village by the developer when these neighborhoods were built, to build parks. We have no present plan to do anything there.”

Some ideas discussed have included a vegetable garden, a “fit park” or a bike trail.

The Shipyard apartments on West Broadway in Port Jeff is one of three new complexes in town, joining The Hills at Port Jefferson uptown and a third planned for West Broadway. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Construction projects in Port Jefferson village and upper Port have raised concerns from some residents and merchants, but according to a study conducted by a Stony Brook University professor of economics and population, the juice will be worth the squeeze once the apartments are occupied.

Port Jefferson resident John Rizzo, who earned a Ph.D. in economics from Brown University and now teaches at Stony Brook University, presented at a meeting Feb. 22 the findings of a study done to analyze the economic impact of the partially opened The Hills at Port Jefferson and the under-construction The Shipyard, two new apartment complexes in Port Jeff.

“The economic impacts of these projects are substantial,” the summary of Rizzo’s report reads in part. “Apartment space is scarce on Long Island. The average vacancy rate was just 3.4 percent as of October 2016. Increasing apartment space is important, not only for stimulating economic growth, but for attracting and retaining younger workers on Long Island.”

The study concluded the additional living spaces in Port Jefferson will spur an additional $4 million approximately in increased discretionary spending for the area on an annual basis. The two projects also are expected to create 757 jobs, though not all are expected to exist in perpetuity. They are also projected to increase economic output, or the total value of all goods and services produced in an economy, by more than $122 million, according to Rizzo’s analysis.

“Increasing apartment space is important, not only for stimulating economic growth, but for attracting and retaining younger workers on Long Island.”

—John Rizzo

The estimates are based on multipliers produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, which are used to quantify effects of a project on any U.S. county. The cost of construction projects, boosts in sales for suppliers involved in the projects, jobs created, and even spending in the area by workers on the project are all factored into an input-output model to assess a construction project’s potential economic impact, according to the study.

The results are drawn largely from expenditure data provided by Rail Realty, the developer of the two-phase, 38-unit and 36-unit complex located on Texaco Avenue in upper Port, and TRITEC Real Estate Company, the developer responsible for the 112-unit The Shipyard project near Port Jefferson Harbor. Because of this, the results of the study should be considered estimates, according to Rizzo.

Village Mayor Margot Garant, who has taken on elimination of blighted properties and overall beautification of Port Jefferson village and upper Port as a major aspect of her tenure in office, called the projects in an email exactly the kind of economic
injection the village needs to bolster property values, on top of the positives of cleaning up properties in need of attention.

“The introduction of more people living in the village within walking distance to shops and restaurants combined with the redeveloped properties that will have significant increase to our tax roll over the next decade, will support the businesses not only in the off-season when things are quiet, but year-round as well,” she said. “We need to stop the crawling blight and revitalize the west end of the village in addition to uptown.”

Village trustee Bruce D’Abramo echoed Garant’s vision.

“That was our goal. Some of those stores up there are not doing real well, but feet on the street will always improve that,” he said at the Feb. 22 meeting.

Rob Gitto, Port Jeff native and owner of the development company The Gitto Group, which owns Rail Realty, said in an interview in December building The Hills in upper Port was about more than profit for the company.

“We’re a business and we’re looking to make a profit, but at the same time we’re hoping it jump-starts revitalization up there,” he said.

Though it was not factored into the study, construction of a third set of apartments is slated to begin in the spring, after demolition of the vacant Islander Boat Center building on West Broadway adjacent to The Shipyard was completed in February. Hauppauge-based building company the Northwind Group owns the site of the new project, which will be called Overbay apartments and will feature 52 more units.

Village trustee Bruce Miller has expressed frustration in the past, over the look and size of The Shipyard project and the overall look of Port Jefferson village as a result of the various, unaffiliated construction projects. Garant has said all of the new buildings comply with village code.

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