Tags Posts tagged with "Port Jefferson Village"

Port Jefferson Village

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.

The owner of The Bench Bar & Grill in Stony Brook is bringing his experience and menu items to the Port Jefferson Country Club beginning in April. Photo by Alex Petroski

Members of the Port Jefferson Country Club and village residents alike may soon have a new favorite local spot to grab breakfast and lunch.

Port Jeff Village’s country club has reached an agreement with the owner of Stony Brook bar and restaurant The Bench Bar & Grill, located on Route 25A. He will take control of the operation of the club’s grill room beginning in the spring. The village has been searching for a proprietor for the vacant restaurant for several months, and after a thorough vetting process, according to village trustee and liaison to the country club Stan Loucks, The Bench’s owner Jeff Capri was the ultimate choice. The grill room will be called The Turn at PJCC after its grand opening, which Loucks said is expected to be April 15.

“He’s got a very successful background,” Loucks said of Capri in a phone interview. “I’m very confident … we’re pretty excited to have this guy on board.”

Loucks said the grill room has been renovated to get the partnership off on the right foot, as new flooring at a cost of about $7,900; tables and other furnishings for about $6,300 and new kitchen equipment have been installed. The village board also approved the purchase of a new bar top for about $4,000 and about $2,600 in electrical upgrades, during a meeting Jan. 24. General carpentry at a cost not to exceed $17,600 and plumbing improvements not to exceed $5,300 were approved Dec. 19.

“It’s the first time we’ve had this kind of a facility upgrade to make it more attractive and comfortable for the membership,” Loucks said. He said the agreement between the village and Capri is a three-year contract, which includes a minimal rental charge to be collected by the village that can go up based on success of the establishment in year one, but allows Capri to collect all of the proceeds from food sales. Loucks said the arrangement is meant to establish a service for members and village residents, not as a means to gain revenue for the club or village.

“We’re not looking to make money on this, we’re just looking to provide a good experience for membership — it’s not a revenue stream for us,” he said.

The menu has not yet been finalized, but Loucks said the plan is to serve burgers, sandwiches, French fries, wraps and more on what he referred to as an “extensive lunch menu,” available from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. most days. Traditional breakfast items will be served from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. He said he and a committee had lunch at The Bench to sample some of their best items during the vetting process, and he’s looking forward to having the food regularly available at
the club.

Loucks called Capri and his wife Barbara “true professionals,” and said they have been involved in the renovations and setup of The Turn at PJCC every step of the way.

“He and his wife Barbara have been dynamite,” Loucks said.

Loucks added Capri is in the process of getting a liquor license approved for the location, and happy hour deals a couple of days per week are being discussed. The grill room will not be open for dinner, because the club already has a contract established with Lombardi’s on the Sound for evenings.

Capri did not respond to a request for comment.

by -
0 1085
Sidewalks on Main Street in Port Jefferson will be repaired in March. Photo by Kevin Redding

Starting in March, while walking on Main Street in Port Jefferson, don’t look down.

Repairs to sidewalks on both sides of Main Street will take place beginning March 1, weather permitting, and are expected to last about four weeks, according to Port Jefferson Village.

Village Mayor Margot Garant said during a board meeting Feb. 8 that $200,000 of the total expected cost of $235,000 was secured from the state’s capital improvement account thanks in part to efforts of state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

Garant said Suffolk County contractor Deal Concrete Corporation will be doing the job along Route 25A. One side of Main Street will be done at a time, and temporary bridges will be utilized to allow shoppers to enter and exit businesses while the concrete is wet, according to Trustee Larry LaPointe.

“It just needs to be done because the sidewalk is a disaster,” Garant said during the meeting. “After we replace this sidewalk we are putting all of the building owners and merchants on notice that they really have to clean the sidewalks. They have to get out there with gum-busters, hoses.”

According to the village code, business owners are responsible for maintaining the sidewalks in front of their establishments. During the board meeting, a community member suggested fines be imposed on businesses that are not in compliance, and Garant agreed.

“Once we’ve got a clean slate then we can do exactly that,” LaPointe said during the meeting in response to the community member.

The sidewalks to be repaired span from the three-way intersection of Main Street, East Broadway and West Broadway near Port Jefferson Harbor, heading south and stopping at East Main Street.

The three business owners and one manager of establishments within the area who were available to be interviewed all said they hadn’t been notified by anyone of the impending project as of the afternoon of Feb. 14.

Vincenzo Chianese, owner of Vincenzo’s Pizza on the east side of Main Street, said he anticipates it might be bad for business if the sidewalk is inaccessible for an extended period of time, but said the temporary bridges would be helpful for customers.

“If they do it the right way I think it’ll be ok,” said Bill Familia, owner of Yogo Delish frozen yogurt shop. “It’ll be a little bit of a hassle for the walkers, but we can handle March in my business.”

Joseph Ciardullo, owner of C’est Cheese, an artisanal cheese, boutique wine and craft beer restaurant on the west side of Main Street, said despite his shop’s rear entrance, lengthy construction projects are rarely good for business.

“It’s definitely not going to be the most ideal situation,” he said. “I’m sure there will be a slight decline [in business], but hopefully it won’t be too inconvenient.”

Ciardullo added he’s looking forward to the project’s completion.

“I think any village improvement is
always a good idea,” he said.

Linda McLoone, manager of Thomas Kinkade art gallery on the west side of Main Street, also expressed concerns about access for patrons, but admitted repairs are probably for the best.

“It probably will affect business, but I don’t know,” she said. “I guess it needs to be done because the sidewalks out there are horrible — they’re tripping hazards.”

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/.

by -
0 3696
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.

by -
0 1365
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.

Social

9,389FansLike
0FollowersFollow
1,155FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe