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Port Jefferson Village

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

After recent accounts of “shifting” and “swaying” of the pier in Harborfront Park, the Port Jefferson Village board of trustees commissioned a field assessment of the pier.

The Bohemia-based engineering firm P.W. Grosser Consulting Inc. conducted the assessment, made several recommendations — including instituting a maximum occupancy for the pier of 180 people — and noted several deficiencies that may need to be addressed.

The Village hosted its annual Port Jefferson Dragon Boat Race Festival Sept. 16 at Harborfront Park, which drew participants and spectators totaling in the hundreds. During the event, the pier was frequently packed with people, and according to the report, it could be felt swaying and shifting at various points throughout the day.

The assessment in part found “severe section loss” to pilings, or columns driven into the sediment that serve as a foundation for the platform, a missing washer and nut for one beam-to-piling connection, rusted connections between pieces of wood and a split in at least one cross-bracing. The report recommended that section loss to pilings and the missing washer and nut be addressed immediately, and called them “significant structural deficiencies.”

Village Mayor Margot Garant said in an email the issues will be addressed as a matter of “when” and not “if,” and the job will be put out for bid. Garant said the maximum occupancy recommendation would be increased when the improvements are completed. At a village board meeting Oct. 20, Garant estimated that, at any given point, there might have been as many as 200 people on the pier.

“We immediately asked everybody other than the boaters to get off the pier,” Garant said after accounts of swaying and shifting circulated Sept. 16. She added the assessment was ordered as an emergency. “It’s obviously showing some age and some wear and tear. … It’s something we’ll need to have addressed.”

Village Trustee Bruce D’Abramo was in favor of a proactive approach regarding the recommendations.

“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,” he said during the meeting on the Oct. 20.

The 337-feet long by 12-feet wide pier is made entirely of timber and was originally built in 1996. It was last modified in 2004, according to the report. The pier remains open for use, with the maximum occupancy restrictions in place.

The Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted their annual Taste at Port Jefferson event Saturday Oct. 22 at the Village Center, where visitors sampled local foods, wines and desserts from more than 35 North Shore based vendors.


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Mayor Margot Garant, Trustee Larry Lapointe and Trustee Bruce Miller prepare for Rocketship Park renovations with members of Cub Scout Troop 41. Photo by Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson’s iconic Rocketship Park is getting a facelift this winter. Village board members, mayors past and present, local politicians, community members and donors gathered at the park Oct. 13 to commemorate the kick-off of the project.

From left; Trustee Stanley Loucks, Mayor Margot Garant, Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Jennifer Martin, a representative from Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright's (D-Port Jefferson) office, help to kick off Rocketship Park renovations. Photo by Alex Petroski
From left; Trustee Stanley Loucks, Mayor Margot Garant, Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Jennifer Martin, a representative from Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright’s (D-Port Jefferson) office, help to kick off Rocketship Park renovations. Photo by Alex Petroski

“In the seven years that I’ve been your mayor, we’ve done a lot of projects here in Port Jefferson … but of all of those projects, I don’t think one is more important or near and dear to our hearts than this little park, because Rocketship Park is really the heartbeat of the community,” Mayor Margot Garant said.

In all, nearly $275,000 has been raised toward the project, in large part thanks to the efforts of the Village’s Treasure Your Parks campaign.

On Oct. 9, a 15K Run to the Port Jeff Brewing Company hosted nearly 1,000 runners and raised more than $5,000 toward the renovations. The brewery’s owner, Mike Philbrick, said he decided to donate the proceeds from the race toward the Rocketship Park initiative because he has four kids and the cause is very personal to him.

Local Cub Scout Troop 41 held a bake sale and sold candy and popcorn for movie night events at Harborfront Park during the summer to raise money as well, and representatives from the group were in attendance Oct. 13 to hand over a $350 check to Garant.

“It takes a village to rebuild Rocketship Park,” Garant said. “It’s about our children and it’s about the local economy, because parks are critically important to our community.”

Former village trustee and a member of the fundraising committee, Adrienne Kessel, thanked those involved for their hard work.

“No one does this alone — we have a committee that has worked tirelessly for the last four years to get us to where we are today,” she said.

Garant also recognized the long list of private donors who supported the fundraising efforts.

The park will be dismantled beginning in late November, equipment will be ordered and installed, and a ribbon cutting ceremony for the brand new Rocketship Park will be held sometime in late April or early May, according to an estimate from Garant.

Billie Phillips, the original owner of Billie's 1890 Saloon, will retake control of the Port Jefferson property on Main Street. File photo by Elana Glowatz
Billie Phillips, the original owner of Billie’s 1890 Saloon, will retake control of the Port Jefferson property on Main Street. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By Billie Phillips

My name is Billie E. Phillips. Thirty-five years ago, my late first wife and I, borrowed every dollar we could and spent every dime we had to open up the Bar/Restaurant, Billie’s 1890 Saloon. Like every venture into the hospitality business, it was a gamble. We were very fortunate. Through the first years it became apparent that Billie’s was becoming a special place for the community, a place for stories to be told, laughs to be had, and new memories to be made.

Since then and after my sale of Billie’s it has maintained its standing as part of the fabric of the community. Unfortunately, as most of you know, Billie’s sustained a kitchen fire and has been closed since late June. Since then, the current tenant’s lease was cancelled for reasons many people have speculated about, but most people have no true knowledge of.

Rumors have spread to the point that petitions were started to save the building from being torn down. The building will not be torn down and the bar and restaurant you have grown to love will continue on in the tradition of Billie’s 1890 Saloon for as long as I have a say in the matter.

After a brief tour of the building by the landlord, I was asked if I would be interested in leasing the property, as a new lease would not be offered to individuals of the previous corporate tenant for reasons that were explained to me. After some contemplation, I felt the reasons were understandable.

At the end of the day, I could not stand by and watch Billie’s 1890 Saloon be taken over by anyone without ties to the Port Jefferson community. In a decision that was very difficult to me because of friendships I have with people connected to Billie’s, in many capacities, my family and I have assumed control of the space used by Billie’s 1890 Saloon. It is my hope people will begin to understand this could have been the end of Billie’s as they knew it, and to some it will probably still feel this way. However, to those that are skeptical, please know my family and I will endeavor always to maintain the intangibles that make Billie’s such a special place in the hearts of so many.

Billie Phillips is the original owner of Billie’s 1890 Saloon, located on Main Street in Port Jefferson.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant shows attendees at a public hearing Sept. 26 plans for the revitalization of Port Jefferson Station. File photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson Village is looking to bring Uptown Funk to Port Jefferson Station, but it’ll need some help.

The Port Jefferson Village board of trustees plans to submit a funding proposal to the Empire State Development Corporation to breathe new life into upper Port Jefferson.

The plans are part of the Restore New York Communities Initiative, which was funded in the 2015-16 state budget for the sole purpose of supporting municipalities in rehabilitating blighted commercial properties.

If awarded, the funding proposal would grant the village up to $500,000 to be used to clean up five adjacent parcels near the intersection of Perry Street and Main Street, about a block north of the Long Island Rail Road station. The village is calling the multiphased project Uptown Funk.

Mayor Margot Garant said during a public hearing on the matter Sept. 26 that the village plans to apply for the grant yearly in the hopes of redeveloping multiple areas in upper Port over time. The grant will also require the village to match at least 10 percent of the $500,000 toward the project, according to Garant.

“The $500,000 can be used for sidewalk restoration, demolition, redevelopment, parking lot improvements — all the things that would be necessary to help a developer make an improvement to this area.”

— Margot Garant

The location was selected following a blight study in May, which targeted several areas in Port Jefferson Station in need of attention. The buildings named in the funding proposal were ultimately chosen because of the village’s belief that the property owner will cooperate. The grant requires a willing participant from the private sector. Currently the buildings on the property are vacant.

Village grant writer Nicole Christian said she expects to hear back regarding the application by the spring of 2017, and at the moment no concrete parameters have been established for how exactly the money would be put to use.

“The $500,000 can be used for sidewalk restoration, demolition, redevelopment, parking lot improvements — all the things that would be necessary to help a developer make an improvement to this area,” Garant said. “The $500,000 is sort of loosely prescribed, and what I mean by that is we’re not told we have to put it into sidewalks, or told we have to put it into one aspect of the project. So as far as we see it, it enables the village to bring $500,000 to the table to help incentivize a project that will give back to the village perhaps more of what it would like to see, which is a strong, anchor retail establishment on the main floor, or a restaurant with housing above.”

Trustee Bruce D’Abramo expressed his excitement to get the project started.

“I’m really happy to see the village moving forward on this particular issue,” he said of the revitalization of Port Jefferson Station. “It has been a clear goal of mine since I became a trustee to do something about upper Port, and this is one of the mechanisms that I’m happy we can embrace.”

Trustee Larry Lapointe also voiced support for the plan.

“I think this particular corner is perhaps the worst corner uptown,” he said. “The two buildings that are on site were deemed to be so unsafe that we had to vacate and board them up. Two of the lots behind are magnets for homeless people, and we’re constantly working with the owners to get camps moved out of that area when they spring up. It’s sorely in need of redevelopment.”

Barbara Ransome, director of operations for The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, addressed the proposal during the hearing.

“The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce certainly supports this potential funding and really feels it’s very important, especially in upper Port, in our business community there, and as a gateway coming into the village,” she said. “It’s critical for this type of development to continue.”

Port Jefferson Village snatched ownership of the Village Cup back from John T. Mather Memorial Hospital at the 7th annual Village Cup Regatta boat race on Sept. 10 in Port Jefferson Harbor.

The race, which is presented by the Port Jefferson Yacht Club, features about a dozen competing boats representing either the village or Mather Hospital, and is held for a good cause.

The event has raised more than $300,000 since its inception for Mather’s Palliative Medicine Program and the Lustgarten Foundation, which funds pancreatic cancer research.

The hospital held the cup entering the 2016 race, though the village has now won four of the last six years.

Prepare for disaster in Port Jefferson. File photo

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) are teaming up to help North Shore residents prepare for a natural or man-made disaster. The lawmakers will host a free NYS Citizen Preparedness Training event Sept. 10 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Port Jefferson Village Center, located at 101 East Broadway.

Participants will learn how to develop family emergency plans, how to stock up useful supplies and will receive a free disaster preparedness kit containing vital items if a disaster were to strike.

“The state training and kits will help New Yorkers be the most trained and best-prepared citizens in the country,” a release from Hahn’s office said.

Those interested in participating should visit www.prepare.ny.gov to register in advance of the event.

Port Jefferson’s annual Heritage Weekend celebration took place Aug. 20 and 21 at 19 locations throughout the village. Visitors made stops at the Village Center, Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum, Port Jefferson Village Chamber of Commerce and more to take in historical sights and sounds during the two-day event. Funding for the event was provided in part by a grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation.

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The Port Jefferson Fire Department Museum will be open to the public during Heritage Weekend. Photo by Jill Russell

By Rebecca Anzel

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

A Heritage Weekend kickoff event will be held on Friday, Aug. 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. aboard the Lettie G. Howard historic fishing schooner. Tickets are $45 per person or $80 per couple. Money raised will support the cultural events featured during Heritage Weekend, as will funds donated by the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation.

This week, check out attractions that will take place at the Port Jefferson Fire Department Museum, Port Jefferson Masonic Temple and Christ Church Episcopal. Check out parts one, two and three of our Heritage Weekend preview series.

Port Jefferson Fire Department Museum

Fire department equipment on display at the Port Jefferson Fire Department Museum, which will be open to the public Heritage Weekend. Photo by Jill Russell
Fire department equipment on display at the Port Jefferson Fire Department Museum, which will be open to the public Heritage Weekend. Photo by Jill Russell

On the second floor of Port Jefferson’s fire department on Maple Place is a museum housing 130 years of history. The collection of equipment, helmets, uniforms and pictures dates back to the late 1800s and early 1900s and tells the story of how fighting fires in the village’s four square miles has evolved. The exhibit will be open to the public during Heritage Weekend.

“It’s a small museum — just one room — but it’s got a lot of history in it,” Third Assistant Chief Jim Sarubbi said. “It represents what this department is all about — tradition and dedication.”

Some of the department’s nearly 100 members will be on hand over the weekend to escort event attendees to the museum and around the firehouse to check out the historical artifacts. The museum will be open from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Port Jefferson Masonic Lodge

The freemasons’ purchased their current building, which was constructed in 1854, from the Presbyterian Society in 1912. Photo courtesy of Suffolk Lodge Number 60
The freemasons’ purchased their current building, which was constructed in 1854, from the Presbyterian Society in 1912. Photo courtesy of Suffolk Lodge Number 60

On Main Street, a two minute walk away from the fire department, is the Masonic temple. Also known as Suffolk Lodge No. 60, it was organized in 1796 and chartered in 1797.

The group is hosting an open house and Q-and-A session from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday. Visitors will be able to learn more about Freemasons and the fraternal organization’s history, and view historic photos and other artifacts while there, former Master of the lodge Gary D. Gudzik said.

Christ Church Episcopal

Christ Church Episcopal’s first service was June 3, 1888; a fire uniform at the museum. Photo from Christ Church Episcopal's
Christ Church Episcopal’s first service was June 3, 1888; a fire uniform at the museum. Photo from Christ Church Episcopal’s

Locals know Christ Church Episcopal as the little white church up on the hill. Built in the 1880s on land purchased from P.T. Barnum of Barnum & Bailey Circus, the members of the yellow pine church on Barnum Avenue will be hosting a yard sale during Heritage Weekend.

Irene Choate, the event’s organizer and head of the church’s women’s group, said housewares and small appliances will be on sale in Christ Church Episcopal’s air conditioned recreation room, where refreshments will be served. Senior Warden Gene Seiler will be answering questions about the church’s history and giving tours to interested visitors.

“We look forward to seeing potential new parishioners,” Joyce Bock, the church’s communications officer, said. “We’re a tiny church, but we have a big heart. All are welcomed and we mean it.”

The yard sale will be on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The church’s services are at 9 a.m. on Sunday.