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Port Jefferson Village

A group of community members is discussing the possibility of a public pool in Port Jefferson Village. Stock photo

By Alex Petroski

As a waterfront village, a group of more than 120 community members think Port Jefferson is missing one major and logical element: a place to swim. Led by Todd Pittinsky, a four-year village resident and Stony Brook University professor, a group interested in bringing a public pool to Port Jefferson is mobilizing, gaining support and preparing to present ideas and data to the village board.

The where, when and how are still up in the air, according to Pittinsky, but one thing that is unquestionable is the public interest in the project. Pittinsky created a Facebook page called Port + Pool as a way to gauge support for his vision. At the time of print the page has 123 followers.

“When we moved here it was the one thing we couldn’t find,” Pittinsky said in an interview. He said he has a 3-year-old son he’d like to have the opportunity to teach how to swim, though creating a place where the community can gather and enjoy together is also one of his goals. In a Dec. 17 post on the page, Pittinsky spelled out some of the major benefits he believes a public pool would bring to the community. He cited health benefits of swimming for exercise, the importance of teaching kids how to swim especially on Long Island, a possible boost in property values, additional revenue for the village and a place for kids to spend their time productively as some of the possible positive outcomes of his vision.

The group hasn’t decided if an outdoor or indoor pool would be best, but Pittinsky said several members would like to be able to use it year-round. He added he has seen designs that incorporate both lanes, for people who want to swim laps for health reasons with areas designated for play for kids, all incorporated into one. Currently Edna Louise Spear Elementary School has an indoor pool though it is only open to the public twice per week.

Pittinsky said it is too early in the process to start discussing possible costs, but his goal is for the Facebook group to eventually be involved in fundraising for the project to offset some of the potential cost for the village, should the ball truly get rolling. The group has brainstormed five potential locations, though they haven’t gained permission from any of the necessary parties just yet. He suggested the Port Jefferson Country Club as a possible spot because it is already open to the public and they are trying to increase membership. Other possibilities include a floating pool within Port Jefferson Harbor; somewhere uptown where revitalization projects are beginning and apartment buildings are being constructed; Roosevelt Park, which the village is in the process of repurposing; or  even Danfords Hotel and Marina.

At least one member of the board of trustees is willing to explore the idea along with the community. Stanley Loucks sits on the board, and is also the liaison for the country club.

“This is a marvelous idea — a swimming pool at the country club would be a major plus for the club members as well as the Village,” Loucks said in an email. “A pool facility is probably the only missing attraction in Port Jefferson. I personally retired from a school district that had two competition-sized swimming pools that were used 24/7. The potential for programs for all age groups is endless not to mention the free swim fitness aspect. It would seem the country club would be the natural location if this were to become a reality. I can tell you from my experience, this endeavor would be extremely expensive; however, would certainly pay for itself over time.”

Julia Bear, a Poquott resident and a member of Pittinsky’s group, said she would be in favor of a public pool in Port Jefferson.

“There are few pool options close by to the Three Village/Port Jeff area,” she said in an email. “A community pool is a great family alternative that meets the needs of kids and adults of all ages. In particular, it provides older children with a nice alternative to the mall. Overall, I am very supportive of this endeavor, and my hope is that it will bring the community together and perhaps we’ll even get into better shape in the process.”

Another group member, a Port Jefferson resident and Stony Brook ecology professor, pointed out the potential environmental dangers if everyone in a community had their own pool at their home.

“If each homeowner builds their own outdoor pool, it is a waste of water, energy, and resources, and we are all more isolated from each other,” Joshua Rest said in an email. “If a village builds a pool, then we all share in the cost, the environmental impact is reduced, and we build a community of strong swimmers.”

Pittinsky said his plan is to hold an informational meeting later in February to gauge public interest and figure out where to go from here. For more information or to support the project, visit www.facebook.com/portpluspool/.

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A rendering of the Overbay apartment complex. Image from The Northwind Group

By Alex Petroski

Construction of a third set of apartments is slated to begin in the spring in Port Jefferson Village after demolition of the vacant Islander Boat Center building on West Broadway began last week. This comes after ground was broken in June 2016 on a 112-unit apartment complex by TRITEC Real Estate Company adjacent to the Islander Boat Center property called The Shipyard luxury apartments, as well as the opening of the 38-unit complex by Rail Realty called The Hills at Port Jefferson in upper Port, which will grow by 36 units upon completion later this year.

Demolition of the Islander Boat Center building is nearing completion. Photo by Alex Petroski

Hauppauge-based building company The Northwind Group owns the site of the new project, which will be called Overbay apartments. A Conditional Site Plan and Conditional Use approval were granted for the property by the village building and planning department in May 2015 for the construction of 52 apartment units, according to Special Village Attorney for the department Alison LaPointe, and Northwind managing member Jim Tsunis confirmed in a phone interview that is still the plan. LaPointe said in an email several other conditions laid out by the department need to be met by the property owner prior to the issuance of a Final Site Plan and a building permit. Tsunis declined to give a reason why demolition began nearly two years after receiving board approval.

Demolition of the original structure began Feb. 10 but was not complete as of the morning of Feb. 13. The new building will overlook Port Jefferson Harbor.

“It’s a cute little nautical style building — I’m looking forward to building it,” Tsunis said. He added he’s excited to be a part of the expansion and beautification process going on in the village.

“Hopefully within the week that building will be down, which is good news,” village Mayor Margot Garant said during a board meeting Feb. 8 after the demolition permit was issued.

Another board member shared his positive outlook on the future of the site.

“It’ll improve the western entrance to the downtown area,” Trustee Bruce D’Abramo said during the meeting.

At least one trustee is concerned about the impact all of the changes in the village will have for long-time residents.

“This is a Victorian village but we’re turning it into hodgepodge lodge here,” Bruce Miller said. “There’s just no cohesion here.”

Garant added the village board has no jurisdiction over the building and planning department, and the new apartment buildings all meet standards set in the village code. According to the village code, structures are not permitted to exceed 35-feet at their highest point.

Demolition of the vacant Islander Boat Center building is nearing completion. Photo by Alex Petroski

A member of the community who lives on Beach Street shared similar concerns to Miller, and voiced her displeasure during the public comment period of the meeting.

“I’m sick to my stomach when I look at it,” the resident said of The Shipyard building, which is under construction, adding she’s not looking forward to another building going up next to it. “I’m sick to my stomach when I drive down the hill. I feel bad for every other resident in the area who’s going to be looking at this massive structure.”

Barbara Sabatino, a village resident and business owner, as well as a member of the building and planning department, was at the meeting and expressed regret over approving the building of the large structure.

“We had a lot of discussion about this at planning board, we’re restricted to what they can build by code,” she said. “If the code says you can build ‘x’ amount of floors with ‘x’ amount of square footage, we’re kind of stuck. We can’t say ‘no you can’t build something,’ if legally in the code they can. What we can do is learn from this is that this looks a lot bigger than we had anticipated.”

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

Port Jefferson Village’s vision for upper Port revitalization became a little clearer this week. The village was awarded a $500,000 grant from Empire State Development, the state’s economic development arm, as part of the Restore New York Communities Initiative, which was created to support municipalities in rehabilitating blighted commercial properties.

The money will be used for infrastructure and demolition needs on five adjacent parcels near the intersection of Perry Street and Main Street, about a block north of the Port Jefferson Long Island Rail Road station. This comes on the heels of the village receiving a $250,000 grant from Suffolk County earlier in January as part of its Jumpstart program for transit-based improvements around the train station. The village is calling the multiphase project Uptown Funk.

“I think the momentum is picking up behind us.”

— Margot Garant

“Now being recognized by New York state regional economic development dollars, that’s the exclamation point at the end of the sentence,” Village Mayor Margot Garant said in a phone interview. “I think the momentum is picking up behind us.”

The ultimate plan is to transform the area into a mixed-use, housing and retail area.

“This combined New York state and Suffolk County funding will be the turn-key to bring Uptown Funk alive, attracting young professionals, families and visitors to the area, spurring regional economic growth,” the village’s grant writer Nicole Christian said in a statement.

In an interview after receiving the Jumpstart money from the county, Garant stressed the importance of inter-municipal cooperation in trying to reach her goal of turning upper Port into a suitable gateway for the harborfront village.

“We’re working with all of these different agencies — largely state agencies — but to have the county executive and the county behind us giving us this kind of money, they’re investing in what we’re doing here,” she said. “They see the big picture, and I think that’s one of the things that made Steve [Bellone] a little unique in his role as county executive. He’s done this before in other areas and he knows what needs to be done.”

Village Grants for upper Port Revitalization

–$500,000 from New York State Empire State Development to address blighted/vacant buildings

–$250,000 from Suffolk County Jumpstart program for parking improvements at LIRR station

–$50,000 in state funds to finalize Urban Renewal Plan

The village took the step to commission a blight study in May 2016 in order to qualify for an urban renewal plan, which is required by New York state general municipal law. Because the study concluded the cluster of parcels was indeed a blighted area, the village will have the option to impose eminent domain over property owners should an agreement not be reached for the village to purchase the property, or if owners do not comply with the revitalization plans, according to Garant. The Mayor has said throughout the process she does not foresee the need for eminent domain to be used, but it is a “tool in the toolbox” should the village find it necessary. She added that she has spoken to property owners in upper Port who are excited to get the process started.

At a public hearing to discuss the urban renewal plan earlier in January, some people in the community were concerned about a lack of affordable housing in the area.

Barbara Sabatino, a Port Jefferson resident who owns Port Jeff Army Navy, a retail store in the blighted area, said she is in favor of revitalization, but acknowledged that redevelopment could push out hardworking families who can’t afford an increase in rent.

“Other than the people who rent a room out of their house — and there’s an awful lot of those in Port Jeff Station — I don’t see any safety net for those people,” she said. “If you want to clean up the area and make it more attractive, we need to change the mixture of tenants.”

Garant responded to Sabatino’s concerns.

“I think it’s a careful balance between wanting to keep young families and senior citizens and people who want to afford to live in the village as a family unit or individually, and other situations where you have people who bring other people in to help them pay the rent,” she said.

Other members of the village board have voiced their support for the project and desire to improve upper Port.

“I’m really happy to see the village moving forward on this particular issue,” trustee Bruce D’Abramo said during a board meeting in September. “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.”

The village has put out requests for qualifications to begin the process of selecting a private developer or developers, and they expect to begin the project sometime in the spring.

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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone presents a $250,000 check to officials from Port Jefferson Village for a revitilization project at the railroad station. Photo by Alex Petroski

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) stopped by Port Jefferson Station Jan. 19 to drop off a very generous gift. As part of the county’s Jumpstart program, an initiative established to fund infrastructure improvements for transit-oriented areas, Bellone presented a check for $250,000 to Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant for renovations slated for the Port Jefferson Long Island Rail Road station.

“We have to make our region more attractive [to young people],” Bellone said in an interview. “If we’re going to bring young people back to this region, we have to deliver the things that they need and want.”

The plan for the Jumpstart money is to redevelop parking lots around the train station to increase spots and improve safety in the area. To receive the actual grant money the village must first spend $250,000 on the project before receiving a full reimbursement, according to Nicole Christian who is responsible for writing and obtaining grants for the village. Port Jefferson Village is also in the process of an urban renewal project that would address vacant and blighted buildings on Main Street in Port Jefferson Station. Both projects are part of Garant and the village’s master plan to revitalize upper Port Jefferson and turn it into a more appealing “gateway” for the harborfront village.

Bellone and Mayor Margot Garant look over the area set for improvements. Photo by Alex Petroski

“We’re working with all of these different agencies — largely state agencies — but to have the county executive and the county behind us giving us this kind of money, they’re investing in what we’re doing here,” Garant said in an interview. “They see the big picture and I think that’s one of the things that made Steve a little unique in his role as county executive. He’s done this before in other areas and he knows what needs to be done. This isn’t a lot of money coming from the county level, but it’s a lot. Every little bit helps us. Just getting this is extremely important.”

Bellone commended Garant for her leadership and vision in Port Jefferson Station.

“I think, clearly this is a model and every time you see a project like this it is [the] local leadership driving it forward that is indispensible to making it happen and making it a success,” he said. “Local leadership is indispensible and partnerships between different levels of government, the private sector, universities — coming together and working together to do something that’s important for the local community and for the region.”

Fifth District Leg. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) also praised Garant’s dedication to the revitalization of Port Jefferson Station.

“She’s been working a long time to make this happen,” Hahn said. “To have the dedication and commitment to work on a project for the amount of time and to keep at it, to see it through to now at a point where things are going up, things are getting built, we’re breaking ground on the whole vision and it takes someone special to see something through to the end.”

Hahn said she is also excited for the progress being made within her district.

“I think it’s critically important the county is investing in these types of projects, especially a transit-oriented development where we are focusing our redevelopment in an area that has access to public transportation, that makes much needed housing available for the university one stop away, that supports economic development on a number of levels,” she said.

Garant said the plan is to put the project out for bid and to begin work in the coming months.

The Port Jefferson Frigate became the center of a controversy over a pro-Donald Trump sign last weekend that read “In Trump we trust.” Photo by Courtney Biondo

A decades-old Port Jefferson Village candy and ice cream store became the subject of a heated political debate over the weekend, after the business owner hung a large sign reading “In Trump we trust” from the building’s façade in anticipation of President Donald Trump’s (R) inauguration Jan. 20.

The Port Jefferson Frigate, also called Roger’s Frigate, is owned by George Wallis and has been a staple in the Port Jeff community for generations. Wallis authorized for the banner to be hung at his business Jan. 20 as a sign of support for the incoming president on Inauguration Day, according to Roger Rutherford, the general manager of the business who also maintains the property. Rutherford, who has worked at the Frigate for 20 years, said in a phone interview that Wallis declined to comment on the banner, but authorized Rutherford to comment on his behalf.

After a weekend of expressions of support and opposition from the community by phone and in the store, according to Rutherford, the banner was no longer visible as of the morning of Jan. 23. Rutherford said Wallis had planned all along to remove the banner after the weekend, despite a statement by email from Barbara Sakovich, a representative from Village Mayor Margot Garant’s office, which said an “order to remedy” was sent to the business Jan. 20 because the banner was in violation of section 250-31D(2)(iv) of the village code. Rutherford also called responses to the banner from the community “overwhelmingly positive.”

Rutherford said he and Wallis didn’t believe the code prohibited the banner, and opposition to its positioning could be attributed to an effort to target Wallis based on his political beliefs.

“Throughout the election I can drive around this entire village and see signs for presidential candidates, senators, local government — and that’s completely okay,” he said. “I think it’s targeting Mr. Wallis for his political views. I think we have a little bit of a double standard here.”

Garant, who said the phone was “ringing off the hook,” with complaints at village hall over the course of the weekend, addressed the claim the violation was issued because of the political message of the sign.

“We wrote the violation based on our code,” she said in an interview. “We try and get anybody — resident, commercial business owner, commercial property owner — to comply with the code. Putting up a sign like that knowing that it’s not going to comply with the code, the village did its job. I stand behind the village for writing the violation based on the material, the size and the way the sign was hung.”

Garant said the sign was removed in a timely manner and no further action would be required.

Rutherford added he and Wallis hope Trump “could successfully move the country forward,” and that the Inauguration Day should have been a time for the country to come together towards reaching common goals.

“It was up there in a congratulatory way,” Rutherford said of the banner.

A Facebook page was set up over the weekend calling for the community to boycott the establishment, and as of Monday morning the page had been liked by 88 people. After reaching out to the creator of the page for a comment, the page was deleted. It is not clear who was responsible for creating it. Rutherford said he and Wallis had a busy weekend business-wise, so they didn’t have a chance to see any social media response to the banner, nor did he feel the business felt any effects from the calls for a boycott. Garant said she encouraged the creator of the page to take it down.

“We’re really not concerned about it at all,” Rutherford said of the possible impact the political statement might have on business.

Another page was created Jan. 22 in support of the business.

“This page is solely intended to support the PJ Frigate and their right to political freedom without fear of repercussions, which is an American right and freedom,” a post on the page said.

A sign in support of Trump also hung from the building in the days leading up to the election, and Rutherford said the response was similarly mixed at that time.

This version was updated with comments from Margot Garant Jan. 25.

Jill Gallant of the engineering company VHB explains Port Jefferson’s urban renewal project at a public hearing at Village Hall Jan. 3. Photo by Alex Petroski

Plans to bring new life to upper Port Jefferson are in effect, as residents and village officials weighed in on the proposed renewal project this week.

Revitalization of businesses and infrastructure in upper Port, the area of Main Street south of North Country Road and north of the Long Island Rail Road train tracks, has been on the mind of the village board of trustees for more than a year. The community had the chance to voice its opinion on the proposed urban renewal project at a public hearing Jan. 3, when a representative from VHB, an engineering and planning firm, presented the findings of a blight study and laid out the plan.

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

A blight study was ordered by the village in May 2016 in order to qualify for an urban renewal plan, which is required by New York State general municipal law. Based on the findings of the study, the board determined the area was appropriate for an urban renewal project. The village hopes to eliminate substandard conditions identified in the blight study, redevelop vacant and deteriorating properties, create new housing opportunities, improve public safety, and generate economic activity and support for retail and service establishments through development of new housing in the area. VHB recommends a mix of ground-floor retail and commercial uses and upper-floor living spaces as a way to address several concerns in the blight study.

The study found the upper Port area has a number of poor building and lot conditions, a cluster of vacant lots and storefronts, lots that don’t conform to zoning regulations, building code violations and public safety issues.

As a result of the blight study, if necessary the village can now impose eminent domain on property owners in an effort to promote growth and development, meaning the village government now has the right to take land from a property owner in exchange for compensation. Village Mayor Margot Garant has repeatedly said the board has no plans to use eminent domain currently, but called it “another tool in the toolbox,” adding she hopes to have full cooperation from owners in the area.

Several community members voiced concerns about a lack of affordable housing in the area as a result of the plan.

Barbara Sabatino, who owns Port Jeff Army Navy, a retail store in the blighted area and lives in Port Jefferson, said she is in favor of revitalizing the area, but acknowledged that redevelopment could push out hardworking families who can’t afford an increase in rent.

“Other than the people who rent a room out of their house — and there’s an awful lot of those in Port Jeff Station — I don’t see any safety net for those people,” she said. “If you want to clean up the area and make it more attractive, we need to change the mixture of tenants.”

“Just getting people interested in redeveloping uptown is no easy task.”

— Margot Garant

Garant responded to Sabatino’s concerns.

“I think it’s a careful balance between wanting to keep young families and senior citizens and people who want to afford to live in the village as a family unit or individually, and other situations where you have people who bring other people in to help them pay the rent and it’s an uncontrollable rental situation,” she said. Garant reiterated the village’s preference would be to have a private developer revitalize the area in partnership with property owners without requiring the use of eminent domain.

Village resident John Koehnlein also expressed concerns about the project and the affordability of living in Port Jefferson upon its completion.

“To make it work you have to have families in there and it has to be affordable,” he said. “You’re also going to displace a lot of the families that are there right now.”

Garant explained the difficult position the village is in with trying to revitalize the area while maintaining a level of affordability.

“We’re trying to partner with Stony Brook University, we’re trying to partner with a lot of different entities to get more interest in redeveloping uptown,” she said. “Just getting people interested in redeveloping uptown is no easy task.”

The plan will still require official board approval in the coming weeks to proceed.

Rob Gitto and his son Ryan ride The Gitto Group’s float during Port Jefferson Village’s 2016 Santa Parade. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

A prominent Port Jefferson-based real estate development company opened a 38-unit apartment building in upper Port Jefferson earlier in 2016, but the father-son team behind the project is about much more than turning a profit.

Port Jefferson native Tony Gitto, who now lives in Belle Terre, and his son Rob have been in the business of developing communities together since 2002, when Rob joined the family business.

Their apartment building on Texaco Avenue, which opened in July in upper Port, is not only a business venture for Rail Realty LLC, a division of The Gitto Group, but also a major step in a villagewide effort to revitalize uptown and turn it into a suitable gateway for Port Jefferson’s downtown, waterfront community.

For their impact on the Port Jefferson community and dedication to making it a great place in which to live, Times Beacon Record News Media names The Gitto Group as People of the Year for 2016.

Rob Gitto of The Gitto Group. Photo from Gitto

When the company decided to build The Hills at Port Jefferson on Texaco Avenue, the plan was to develop in two stages because they weren’t sure if there would be enough demand to fill the units. A month ahead of the designated opening of the first phase, which housed 38 units, a waiting list already existed for phase two. Thirty-six more apartments will be filled in the summer of 2017 when the building is estimated to be ready.

“I think they took a lot of risk to put the shovel in the ground,” Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant said in an interview. “It’s a huge undertaking to do a project like that.” Garant actually grew up across the street from the Gittos.

Rob Gitto said the group saw an opportunity to try to improve a part of the community that needed attention. Garant said the village is actively seeking state and county grants to aid in the development of Port Jeff, and 74 housing units could have a massive impact in achieving that mission.

“Our whole goal with re-branding upper Port was making sure when you came to the [train] tracks, you have that same sort of gateway that you get down the hill,” Garant said. “You can’t do it by yourself. You need that private sector person to be willing to make the investment and then you as a municipal government, you need to be there to support them if it’s the right project. I think a lot of times ‘developer’ just gets such a negative connotation. We’re building our future.”

Garant said she hopes the influx of residents will have a large impact on businesses in the village.

“Tonight is going to be a cold and quiet night in the village — these merchants still have rents to pay,” she said.

Rob Gitto, who has since moved to Poquott, acknowledged that lifting up a community where he and his family grew up is an added bonus to business success.

“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. “A lot of our tenants go to [PJ Lobster House] and use the dry cleaner. Hopefully [the businesses] are feeling the effect of people living up there.”

The Hills at Port Jefferson opened in upper Port in July. Photo from Rob Gitto

The elder Gitto, who remains involved with the business, reiterated his son’s sentiments regarding the balance between business success and community service that the group has achieved.

“I believe that the village has the potential to be one of the finest communities on Long Island with all that it has to offer residents, visitors and businesses,” he said in an email. “The Hills development was an appealing option for The Gitto Group as it provided an opportunity to improve the uptown area, and provide facilities for young people to stay in the community and be the future of the community. In addition, the development was a great economic opportunity for our company.”

Barbara Ransome, the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce director of operations, said she appreciates the Gittos for their impact on the village’s business world, but their love of landscaping and dedication to beautifying their properties and other village properties is part of what makes them so special to the community. Rob Gitto said they also contribute donations throughout the year to the village and local charities.

“The family is just first class,” Ransome said in an interview. “It’s not just a flash. It’s consistent. They’ve been very generous to this community and they’re a nice family.”

Ransome said their properties, like the CVS on Main Street near Barnum Avenue, are stunning in the springtime after thousands of flowers are planted.

Garant called the father-and-son team “perfect gentlemen,” and recognized them for embracing Port Jeff’s slogan and their efforts to make it come true. It encourages visitors to stop by the destination village “for a day, or for a lifetime.”

“The only way it’s going to work [in upper Port] is if everybody does their part,” Rob Gitto said. “Hopefully we can make it a better location for people to come visit and live. We don’t want people to just drive through uptown anymore.”

Drivers slow down for rumble strips on East Broadway heading into Port Jefferson Village. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Drivers in Port Jefferson might think the little drummer boy has taken up residence in the village for the holiday season, but in reality the rumbling they’re hearing under their tires is a new initiative to get them to reduce their speed.

Rumble strips and speed tables were installed by the village in December in strategic areas to alert drivers to slow down on roads frequently used to enter Port Jefferson, following a study by an engineering firm which suggested motorists were traveling too fast.

Speed tables are on some village roads to curtail drivers’ speeds. Photo by Alex Petroski

Upon the recommendation of the firm, the strips were placed in the westbound lane of East Broadway between the Village Center and Belle Terre Village on Cliff Road. They were also added to both sides of Myrtle Avenue near Infant Jesus Roman Catholic Church. The speed tables are located on Brook Road near Caroline Avenue on the western side of the Port Jefferson high school campus. More speed tables and rumble strips may still be added to other areas in the village.

“I think the resident community was a little off put when they first hit them, but now they’re slowing down,” Mayor Margot Garant said in an interview. “Most of the local people in the neighborhood get it — you can’t just fly through the neighborhoods. I’ll put the rumble strips in just about anywhere people want.”

The village board of trustees passed a motion Nov. 28 approving spending for the project up to about $5,800, though the actual cost is not yet clear.

Garant and village Code Chief Wally Tomaszewski each referenced deadly crashes in recent years at the sites of the new speed reduction measures as evidence that something needed to be done to curtail speeds in the village.

In December last year, 48-year-old Belle Terre resident Glen Nelson was killed while driving on East Broadway after his car crashed into a telephone pole near High Street.

“Everything is done to exercise as much notice and caution to the general public utilizing the roadways.”

— Wally Tomaszewski

“On East Broadway the rumble strips were necessary because the cars that are coming down the hill, there are many that were speeding both going down and up the hill,” Tomaszewski said in a phone interview. The strips, which are painted white and cause a rumbling sound inside the car when tires roll over them, are spaced a few hundred yards apart over a half-mile stretch on East Broadway.

The code chief also said the measures are having the desired effect.

“Absolutely they’ve worked so far,” Tomaszewski said. “Everything is done to exercise as much notice and caution to the general public utilizing the roadways.”

Garant said she received some push back initially because the speed tables were not adequately identified according to some users of the village roadways, though the mayor said the plan is for the tables to be painted in the near future for better visibility. She added that other measures were considered, like narrowing roadways in some spots, but ultimately the strips and tables made the most sense.

The speed tables are elevated speed bumps that are wider than typical ones and can do damage to the bottom of a car if drivers go over them too fast.

“I’m sorry that people in the first week got caught off guard, but I think the long-term intent is to slow everybody down,” she said.

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Meters are covered and fines will not be enforced in Port Jefferson Village lots through March 15. File photo by Elana Glowatz

The holidays have come early for anyone who has experienced the frustration of circling Main Street, to Arden Place, to East Main Street, to East Broadway and back to Main Street countless times in search of Port Jefferson’s most sought-after natural resource — a free parking space.

In keeping with annual tradition, Mayor Margot Garant announced the suspension of metered parking in village lots effective Dec. 5 through March 15, 2017, in a video posted on Port Jeff’s website, which had more than 27,000 views at the time of publication. Parking in a village-metered lot ordinarily costs 25 cents per half hour and is enforced from 10 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. Parking on village streets is free, though there are varying time restrictions in most areas. Port Jeff Village residents always park for free in metered lots with special stickers on their cars, and for the time being, non-residents are afforded the same luxury.

Garant said, at a board meeting earlier in December, the idea behind suspending metered parking is to encourage visitors in the winter months to shop at and patronize Port Jeff businesses in the traditionally warm-weather destination. She added that in previous years the suspension of metered parking has extended into April if the weather in the area is particularly damaging for businesses in a given winter season.

Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant announces the suspension of metered parking through March 15 in village lots. Photo from Port Jeff Village website

In the video, Garant watches kids ice skate at The Rinx located outside the Village Center. She then slides a blue cover over the meter in the parking lot adjacent to the ice rink.

“During the holiday season and during the winter months, come on down to the Village of Port Jefferson, come visit us, park for free, visit our restaurants and please support our local merchants,” Garant says in the video.

Revenue raised from metered parking is reinvested into various village projects, according to Garant. Deputy Mayor Larry LaPointe, who is also the board’s liaison to the parking committee, estimated the fund from parking meters has about $900,000 in it currently.

If it were unclear how big an issue parking is in Port Jefferson, on the village’s Port Jefferson Facebook page, the pinned post featuring the video had 480 shares and more than three times as many likes as any other post on the page in December. Comments on the post indicate most visitors to the village wish parking were free year-round, and others are more likely to visit because of the suspension.

“Love being down Port in the off season,” Yvette Ortiz-Baugh said.

One commenter suggested the difficult parking deters her from visiting the area.

“Parking has become a big nuisance and we go less often to shop there now,” Sue Korpus Ditkowsky said.

Village kayak racks at Centennial Park beach don't provide enough space to meet demand. Photo by Elana Glowatz

By Alex Petroski

Many kayak users in Port Jefferson Village were left without a paddle during the summer of 2016, and as a result, the board of trustees is examining ways to accommodate more aquatically inclined residents.

Signs detailing the Village's kayak policy are visible year round. Photo by
Signs detailing the Village’s kayak policy are visible year round. Photo by

The village currently supplies four wooden racks, which hold six kayaks each at two different beaches. Use of the racks is determined after applications are submitted and a lottery is held in April each year. About half of the applicants were not granted permits because of limited space for the 2016 season, according to Village Clerk Bob Juliano at a recent board meeting. Storage is provided so that kayakers can safely and conveniently leave their vessels near the water, rather than having to transport them every time they are to be used.

The lack of available storage resulted in about two-dozen vessels being left locked to trees or simply strewn across the beach without permission this past summer. There is no cost to obtain a permit if a resident is selected in the lottery.

“My goal is to expand the number of people able to store kayaks,” Trustee Stanley Loucks, who also serves as the board’s liaison to the recreation department, said in a phone interview. He said the village is actively working on changes to improve policies for the 2017 boating season. “What I want to do is put enough racks in for any Port Jeff resident who wants to have a kayak.”

Permanent signs have been in place warning beachgoers to remove kayaks and other small boats from the racks, and by extension, the surrounding areas, by Nov. 1 or be subject to fines. The signs also warn those without permits to refrain from leaving vessels altogether. Juliano said stickers were placed on the remaining boats Nov. 2, warning the owners to remove them within a five-day period, though the village didn’t act until about two weeks later. To retrieve their kayaks, owners are required to visit the Port Jefferson Department of Public Works and pay a $100 fee.

Loucks said kayak storage and the dumping of vessels without permits got “out of control” this year.

Port Jefferson residents Lois O’Donnell Kilkenny and Jodi Casciano said in Facebook messages that they would like permits to store their vessels, but they avoid the lottery altogether because they don’t think the chances of being selected are great. Demand for spaces may be greater than the village realizes.

“We sure would enjoy having more of them, so those of us who don’t have could obtain one,” O’Donnell Kilkenny said. “It gets harder to transport them as we get older! I know I would use it a lot more if we only had to pull it off the rack and go.”

“I have, like, a boatyard in front of my house.”
—Dorothy Court

Dorothy Court, Waterview Drive resident, which is adjacent to the Crystal Brook Hollow Road beach, said, at a public hearing on the matter in June, that she supported tougher rules.

“I have to deal with these kayaks every single day,” Court said. “I have, like, a boatyard in front of my house.”

Loucks said he is sympathetic to village residents who get shut out by the application process. “It’s a shame we have to limit the number of people,” he said.

According to Juliano, a Port Jefferson family had five kayaks tied together and locked around a tree that were seized by village personnel in November. They submitted a letter asking for leniency from the village when they learned of the $500 in fees required to retrieve the boats. The board approved a motion Nov. 28 to cut the fees in half.

Village Mayor Margot Garant was in favor of reducing the fine for the family, though she said at a recent board meeting that the fees are in place to discourage the practice of abandoning kayaks.

“It’s not really about the money, it’s about cleaning up the area,” she said.

Loucks said the board of trustees is considering moving existing racks to East Beach and removing them from the beach at the end of Crystal Brook Hollow Road, while also adding more to comply with demand. He said an experimental contraption was used on East Beach this year, though moving the racks there and adding more would be ideal. Garant added she would like to see the existing racks moved because of a lack of parking in the area.

The village provides racks with space for 24 kayaks at the beach at the end of Crystal Brook Hollow Road in Mount Sinai Harbor, and the same amount of spaces at the beach near the Village Center in Port Jefferson Harbor.

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