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Port Jefferson Village

The Shelf at East Main. Photo by Kyle Barr

A shelf can be a curious thing. When walking into a stranger’s house, what you may find on the shelves, whether it be pictures, books, art, can tell you much about that person. 

In a small shop located at 218 E. Main St., one local woman is trying to get others to discover something about local artists through the shelves she’s built to showcase their work.

The shelves Diana Walker is planning to use for artists. Photo by Kyle Barr

Diana Walker, a 25-year resident of Mount Sinai, is planning to open a consignment shop called The Shelf at East Main, a new spot that will showcase artists and entrepreneurs talents in a way many artists rarely have the opportunity to do so.

“To classify it, it is an artisan market,” Walker said. “The aim of this is to lift others through community connection, and also educate the community on the talent that is here locally.”

The idea has been sitting in Walker’s head for several years, since she helped her son Kyle arrange an art show in the Port Jefferson Village Center for him and a group of fellow artists. During the show she overheard several conversations about the artists who were desperately looking for ways to break into the art scene.

“Talking to the artists I heard, ‘It’s so hard to find places to exhibit,’ and ‘It’s so hard to sell,” she said. “I thought, wouldn’t it be nice where there was a place where they could sell their work, we could have events more regularly, to get their work out there not only to buy but just to experience?”

As of March 1, Walker had 32 artists signed onto the store, though not all will be present when it comes time for the grand opening April 19. She’s proud that many of the artists she expects to showcase come from all walks of life. She said a veteran has signed on to showcase his work, several older retired folks and even children as young as 9 years old.

“This is a talented group of people that is here locally.”

— Diana Walker

The new shop owner said since artists already have a tough time showcasing their work, often not having the funds to do so, she will take a percentage of each sale.

“This way if it sells you pay, if it doesn’t you don’t pay,” she said. “This is a talented group of people that is here locally.”

Items in the store are expected to be changed out every 90 days, and the owner expects to host several community events after hours, including giving artist the opportunity to showcase their entire line, doing crocheting classes, book signings, storytelling and podcasts. Her website will be a digital version of the store, showcasing the artists work so those unable to come into the store can still see the artist’s work.

“What motivates me is the energy that these people have,” Walker said. “It’s said you lift yourself by lifting others, and that’s what this is going to do.”

The Port Jefferson, Stony Brook University Shuttle. Photo from Kevin Wood

The Port Jeff Jitney will soon bear the Stony Brook University logo and bring SBU Seawolves directly into the heart of the village.

A new program, which offers a free mobility loop for riders between the university and the Village of Port Jefferson, will start its first pilot season March 7. The village will be repurposing the 20-seat jitney bus for this program.

“We consider Stony Brook University a true partner with the village and an economic engine,” said Port Jeff Mayor Margot Garant. “This program will bring students and faculty to the village in an efficient way with no cost to the rider, offsetting the average Uber fee of well over $13 one way. This program also greatly helps with our goals to free up our parking lots — something we constantly look at in our managed parking program.”

“We consider Stony Brook University a true partner with the village and an economic engine.”

— Margot Garant

The loop was first presented to village trustees at their Feb. 4 meeting by Kevin Wood, the village parking administrator, who said the program will be administered by the Port Jefferson Parking & Mobility Resource Center. The program will cost the village approximately $13,000, though the village is looking toward the university to pick up the
promotional costs.

The loop will start at the Port Jefferson Rail Road Station along Main Street in what’s known as Upper Port, before heading into Arden Plaza in the village, continuing up West Broadway down Route 25A, stopping at Stop & Shop in East Setauket. Once on the Stony Brook campus, it will make stops at the main circle loop, West Campus and the Chapin Apartments before coming back down Route 25A and ending at the train station. 

The pilot program will run until May 23 and have times starting on Thursdays from 3 to 9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wood said one does not need to show ID to enter the bus; otherwise, the program is free for students and university faculty.

The village and university are hosting a kickoff event March 7 to celebrate the first run of the bus. The event will also showcase tracking of the bus with a phone app, which Wood said should help cut down on frustration in knowing when it will arrive. The free app, Passio Go!, is currently available on both the Android Play store and the iTunes marketplace.

“It will certainly help students and faculty — there is no cost to ride. It will help free up our parking lots too.”

— Kevin Wood

The existing Port Jefferson Jitney has seen its share of riders in the past, such as the Friday and Saturday of the Sept. 15 weekend during the Dragon Boat Day Festival and the weekend of the annual Charles Dickens Festival, when the jitney had a ridership of 164 and 125, respectively, last year. On off weeks, the jitney has seen a low of 27 riders such as in the weekend of Sept. 8 and an average of approximately 70 riders in 2018.

Wood said while the idea has been around for about four years, he has been working diligently on it for the past four months. He said he expects the program might help rejuvenate the jitney’s ridership and mitigate some of the village’s parking issues.

“It’s a pilot, so we will see,” Wood said in an email. “It will certainly help students and faculty — there is no cost to ride. It will help free up our parking lots too.”

More information and a link to the bus locater app can be found on http://www.pjshuttle.com/.

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Port Jefferson Village Hall. File photo by Heidi Sutton

The Town of Brookhaven is looking to save money by consolidating property tax collections with other municipalities in the town, starting with Port Jefferson Village.

At the Brookhaven Town Board meeting Feb. 14, councilmembers voted unanimously to use approximately $478,000 of New York State grant funds to consolidate tax receiving methods with the village. 

“So, the tax collection will be on the front end and the back end.”

— Louis Maroccia

“I am grateful that some our discussions with the village have resulted in actual shared services,” Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said. “We are always happy when we are able to work collaboratively with other municipalities to streamline services to our residents and reduce costs.”

Brookhaven Town Receiver of Taxes Louis Marcoccia said the first phase of the program, which he expects to be implemented by June, will include printing out tax bills and sending them to village residents. Under the agreement, the village will reimburse the town for postage costs, which are estimated to be $2,000.

The second phase of the new program will introduce third-party software into the village, so it may integrate the entire financial system, though Marcoccia added the town still has to sign a contract with the company concerned and didn’t wish to name the software. He said the new program is expected to start being implemented in the third quarter 2019 and be finished before the end of next tax season in April 2020.

“So, the tax collection will be on the front end and the back end,” the tax receiver said.

Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant said the village will still be doing property assessments and creating the warrants, but instead of creating bills internally will send all the info over to Brookhaven. She added the new system will also enable village residents to pay bills online, but people will still be allowed to file taxes in person at Village Hall.

“If it creates efficiency, after all they say time is money,” Garant said. “I’d say it’s different than how it was years ago, more than 50 percent of us are paying our bills online.”

“If it creates efficiency, after all they say time is money.”

— Margot Garant

The funding of the new program comes from Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition Award, which granted Brookhaven $20 million in June 2018 to use in municipal consolidation. The intent behind the award was to reduce property taxes through the consolidation of government services, and the town has outlined a total of 16 projects it hopes to tackle in the next few years. 

Brookhaven’s tax receiver said the new system is expected to save the town more than $50,000 in the first year through cutting down on labor and reducing redundancy in the tax collection system. While Port Jeff is the first village to receive this new system, Marcoccia said in upcoming years it will be expanded to encompass all eight of the town’s villages.

“You take the $50,000 and multiply it if we’re able to do all eight, that’s not chump change,” he said.

Along with the consolidation of tax services, Brookhaven Town is also looking to reduce government bloat by consolidating public works operations within the villages, consolidate billing in ambulance districts, establishing shared information technology for cloud-based services and cybersecurity, and create townwide records storage and archive management.

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Mill Creek running after Feb. 12 snows. Photo by Kyle Barr

At a Port Jefferson village board meeting Feb. 4, Mayor Margot Garant held up a picture of West Broadway in front of Ecolin Jewelers from March 2, 2018. It’s a panorama of part of the village underwater after the area was hit by winter storm Riley, taken by photographer Craig Smith. 

Though that photo spoke of how the village had once been known as Drowned Meadow, Garant said it was telling that the picture could have been any number of occasions in the past year.

“Unfortunately, this is becoming an all too familiar picture,” Garant said. “We have probably had five or six events since 2018 that caused the three-way intersection to flood … flooding in and around Barnum Avenue is becoming a regular concern.”

“In short, I think it’s going to get worse.”

— Frances Campani

In July 2018, Port Jeff put in an application to New York State for a Local Waterfront Revitalization Program grant to update the 2013 Waterfront Revitalization Plan, an appendix to the village Comprehensive Plan Update. At the Feb. 4 meeting the board voted to go forward with Port Jefferson-based Campani and Schwarting Architects, who in part submitted for the grant last year, to create a visioning study to address the issue of stormwater runoff, storm surges and future rising tide protection in an effort to resubmit for the grant in July.

The proposed analysis would look at the flooding problem in the harbor, including Main Street and East and West Broadway, what causes it and what is predicted to happen in the next two, five and 10 years.

“In short, I think it’s going to get worse,” said architect Frances Campani. 

In addition, the proposal document for the visioning study states they would study the watershed groundwater flooding problem, including bringing in existing data on stormwater catch basins, the culvert running to the Mill Creek at Village Hall, flooding and ponding at Barnum Avenue and flooding in the area between Wynne Lane and Maple.

While the shoreline and Harborfront Park would be the expected areas of concern, Campani said the most concerning areas are East and West Broadway and the main stormwater drainage line, which partially runs underground and has become overcharged with water in the past. She added another problem could be the amount of asphalt in the village, which unlike dirt cannot absorb any water. In addition, there could be a mention of widening certain parts of Mill Creek to allow more water flow.

“Two things should be studied, certainly the park itself with an eye to flood mitigation and waterfront park design methods to help the uplands areas,” said Campani at the Feb. 4 meeting. “Also the watershed area — it’s so closely linked we should tie them together as a study.”

“A thing that really needs to be looked at is where do you put the water.”

— Larry Lapointe

In September 2018, Port Jefferson was hit with major rains that inundated the village in water, causing people to become trapped in their cars and thousands of dollars in damage to local businesses, especially village staple Theatre Three. In the basement of the venerable theater, waters rose as high as four or five feet. New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said he was concerned that such damaging flooding could happen at low tide.

He and other local officials feared what could happen if the same circumstances occurred at high tide.

The visioning study proposal said it would be completed in four months, adding up to a total cost of $9,800.

Village trustee Larry LaPointe said it was important to consider just where the water might go in efforts to drive it away from the village business hub.

“A thing that really needs to be looked at is where do you put the water,” LaPointe said. “How do you get the water to go into places where it’s not interfering with our use of the village?”

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A trash can outside a home in Port Jefferson. Photo by Kyle Barr

Many Port Jefferson village residents woke up one morning at the end of January to find their garbage would be taken by a different contractor.

In a letter dated Jan. 28 sent to all Port Jeff residents signed up with them, Ronkonkoma-based Quick-Way Sanitation Corp. said it would no longer be servicing the village and, as of Feb. 1, its contracts would move over to Yaphank-based Maggio Sanitation.

“Since garbage facilities have been raising dump fees on a monthly basis, we are no longer able to offer our current price and would have to raise residents [sic] astronomically,” read the letter signed by President of Quick-Way Joseph Litterello.

A representative from Quick-Way said they had no additional comment.

Residents then received an additional letter from Maggio dated Feb. 1 saying their company would be servicing their account, and they would provide residents with two new garbage totes, one for trash and one for recycling, within the next eight to 10 weeks.

On a post of the Unofficial Port Jeff Villagers Facebook group Feb. 3 village Mayor Margot Garant said she was not notified by the company about the change. She said in additional posts the changeover did not have anything to do with the village government in particular.

“Now you have things like the Brookhaven town landfill closing soon — there’s a lot of issues with garbage nowadays.”

— Joe Colucci

Joe Colucci, the president of Middle-Island-based Colucci Carting, posted to the unofficial Port Jeff Facebook page Feb. 10 saying that if 500 residents call with interest, he would expand his operation to include residential garbage pickup, though during a phone interview he said he is also considering if 300 residents show interest he will provide services to the village. So far, Colucci said he has received about 30 calls over the weekend. Pricing for garbage pickup would be $35 per month and $70 bimonthly.

“It’s got to be beneficial for me to go in,” he said.

Colucci said he was curious why Quick-Way didn’t simply raise its fees instead of ending service, though he has seen the cost of carting garbage increase for several decades.

“The cost to dump garbage has [gone] up significantly, almost $100 a ton to get it out of the Island,” he said. “Now you have things like the Brookhaven town landfill closing soon — there’s a lot of issues with garbage nowadays.”

According to the official Port Jefferson Facebook page, there are eight sanitation companies currently allowed to operate in the village, still including Quick-Way, Maggio and Colucci Carting, as well as Islandia-based Jet Sanitation Services, Bay Shore-based National Waste Services, Holbrook-based Superior Waste Services of New York, Brentwood-based V. Garofalo Carting and Babylon-based Winters Bros. Hauling of Long Island. Some of these companies have, for the most part, only serviced local businesses or provide dumpsters.

Town of Brookhaven residents pay an annual fee for their garbage and recycling pickup, but since Port Jeff village is an incorporated government, it has operated on different rules, asking residents to set up their own garbage carting contracts.

The official Port Jeff Facebook post also said any company can apply to operate in the village with a one-year license, first by providing the village with a $2,500 bond payment, provide proof of liability, property and workmen’s compensation insurance, and by paying a processing fee of $50 plus $10 per truck operating within the village.

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Renee Goldfarb, the owner of Origin of Era. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Karina Gerry and Kyle Barr

The winds of change have began to blow in Port Jefferson village as the new year brings a host of changes to the area’s small businesses.

A few restaurants in the area are closing. Japanese restaurant Oceans 88, famous for its sushi bar, planned to be closed Jan. 31. Owners did not respond for requests to comment.

“There’s no more sushi in the village, that’s a real shame,” said village Mayor Margot Garant.

Though not all is bad as a number of new shops, both new names and old names, take shape all around the village.

Billie’s 1890 Saloon

Billie’s 1890 Saloon, a Port Jefferson staple, has reopened its doors after a kitchen fire forced it to close two years ago.

The bar and restaurant located on Main Street is back in business under its original ownership. Founded in 1981 by Billie E. Phillips and his late first wife, Billie’s 1890 Saloon soon became a community favorite. In 1987, after six years, Phillips sold his business, but after the fire in June of 2016 he purchased the restaurant and bar back with his son, Billie S. Phillips, and set about renovating the space. 

Billie’s 1890 Saloon. Photo by Kyle Barr

While the layout of Billie’s has remained relatively the same, the crowd has changed.

“It’s a more grown-up establishment,” Phillips Jr. said. “The same tables, and bar length and everything like that but it’s just been cleaned up and refurbished and we’re just going for a little more of an adult crowd than what it had turned out to be before the fire.”

Before the 2016 fire, Billie’s was considered a college bar, tailoring to the younger crowd with its infamous wheel, which was spun every hour and wherever the wheel landed was the drink that would be offered at a reduced price. Now, it has an age limit of 23, pushing away the crowd that made it so popular before.

“The new Billie’s seems to have a very different vibe,” Christopher Gulino, a former East Setauket resident said. “The renovations look great, but I think the customers that were regularly going to Billie’s when it was previously opened were looking forward to seeing the same old Billie’s.”

While the younger crowd may not be too happy with the changes to Billie’s, Phillips Jr. said they were necessary for the business to succeed.

“Billie’s had become the local meeting place and people have very fond memories of it,” Billie the younger said. “But I don’t think the business model they had would have survived much longer.”

New shop from East Main & Main

Food lovers can rejoice as one of the owners of East Main & Main is opening a new restaurant in Port Jefferson village.

Lisa Harris and her husband Robert Strehle opened the popular donut shop in June 2017, offering customers new flavors of donuts daily. After the success of the donut shop, Harris is ready to take on a new solo venture, a restaurant that offers brunch, lunch, dinner and shareable appetizers.

“It’s always been my dream to own a restaurant and run a restaurant,” Lisa Harris said. “It just seemed like the natural next step — it seemed like it was something that we were ready to take a chance.”

The new restaurant is slated to open around the end of February on Main Street. Harris said she plans for the space to have a casual comfortable vibe.

East Main and Main in Port Jefferson Village. Photo by David Lucas

“We didn’t have to do any building, any construction, or anything like that,” Harris noted. “We were very lucky because the restaurant there had pretty much everything we needed, it was just something we had to make our own by changing the color scheme and doing a lot of cleaning.”

Harris plans on having some crossover between the staff at the donut shop and the new restaurant, but she is also looking to hire a full-time crew.

“So we will be creating some new jobs,” Harris said. “Probably seven to 10 new jobs will be created in Port Jefferson, which will be great.”

While rumors have been making their rounds that East Main & Main is closing, Harris assures that’s not the case.

“We’re not moving the donut shop,” Harris said. “The donut shop is staying right where it is.”

And if donuts are more your thing, don’t worry, as Harris insists her and her husband are open to the idea of opening up another space somewhere else if the right opportunity comes along.

“It’s finding the right spot is always a challenge,” Harris said. “We’re kind of so spoiled here because of the foot traffic that we get. It’s just always exciting and fun, so we’re looking for a spot that is very similar to Port Jeff and there aren’t a lot of towns like Port Jeff.”

Origin of Era

A new clothing shop that just opened Jan. 26 in Chandler Square is looking to attract women of all shapes and sizes with a fashion-forward, inclusive ideal.

Renee Goldfarb, the owner of Origin of Era, is a Long Island native but has spent much of her life living in Queens and Brooklyn and abroad while working in the fashion industry. 

“I worked in film and fashion for 15 years — moved abroad and worked in Prague and Berlin. I worked in two corporations in branding, but I didn’t want to make money for anyone else anymore, I wanted to do it for myself,” she said.

Origin of Era in Port Jefferson Village. Photo by Kyle Barr

The owner opened and operated another store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for several years before she and her husband bought a home in Amityville Harbor. When coming to Long Island Goldfarb wanted to find a town that had the same sense of community she originally felt in that city neighborhood. Her selection was between Babylon village and Port Jeff village, but she chose the latter because she said the elected officials had small businesses in mind, especially with events like the annual Charles Dickens Festival.

While she said her previous store focused on vintage clothing, her new shop emphasizes the modern. In terms of her clothing selection, Goldfarb supplies sizes from extra small to extra-large, and offers free alterations to any items purchased in the store. The brand selection encompasses companies from the U.S., Spain, the U.K., India and China, though she stressed she only selected ethically produced clothing.

Most important in her selection, she said, was the emphasis on getting clothing only designed by women.

“If I owned a woman’s store I would make sure we represented all women and made it inclusive,” Goldfarb siad. “That’s why I wanted to make sure we only carried female designers … If we think logically, we are catering to women, nobody knows women best but a woman.”

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Port Jefferson Superintendent Paul Casciano addresses the Class of 2018 during graduation June 22. File photo by Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson School District has a lot on its plate, and whoever ends up sitting in the captain’s chair is going to need a strong character to deal with it all.

In August Paul Casciano, the district’s current superintendent, announced his plans to retire at the end of the 2018-19 school year. By July 1, 2019, a new superintendent will have to fill the position.

“The most important decision a school board makes is who they hire as a superintendent, because that’s basically your CEO,” Casciano said. 

While the board still has to interview candidates in January and February of next year, come May 2019, board President Kathleen Brennan said she expects the board will make its final choice.

“Different people interact with the superintendent differently.”

—Kathleen Brennan

In the meantime, the Port Jefferson school board is looking for community feedback on what they would most like from a superintendent. Working with Eastern Suffolk BOCES, the board released an online survey to community members asking them to judge what best qualities they wanted from the head of their school district. Some of the questions ask residents to rate how important a prospective superintendent’s knowledge of finance and business is or how important is their background in education.

While a superhuman superintendent would exhibit five stars in all these qualities, Brennan said the questions are there to gauge how important one quality is compared to another. She added people who work in education might place a greater emphasis on the new superintendent’s educational knowledge versus a local business owner placing more significance on the financial health of the district.

“Different people interact with the superintendent differently,” Brennan said.

A superintendent makes the day-to-day decisions for the entire school district, often trying to keep to the vision of the school board, including spending, staffing, facilities and school programs. 

However, the next superintendent of Port Jeff will have to find ways to handle the situation involving the local National Grid-owned power plant. LIPA has alleged the plants in both Port Jefferson and Northport have been overassessed in its payment of millions of dollars in annual property taxes, though Dec. 14 the Town of Brookhaven announced it had reached a settlement with LIPA, promising to reduce the Port Jeff plant’s assessments by around 50 percent over nine years.

The fallout of whatever ends up happening with LIPA has the possibility of directly impacting residents property taxes as well as school funding. Casciano said it will be important in the future to make sure the fallout of LIPA does not fall too much on either the district’s head or on residents.

“The next superintendent is going to need to take a balanced approach,” Casciano said. “We don’t just represent the residents who have children, it affects their taxes and we’re cognizant of that. … On the other hand, our core mission is teaching and learning — our real clients are children — we can’t turn our back on that and call ourselves educators.”

The Port Jeff school district is of much smaller size compared to neighboring districts, though the current superintendent said they enjoy small class sizes and specialized programs. Should a final LIPA decision impact the district negatively, the next superintendent would have to make hard choices on which specialized education programs to prioritize if the economic situation gets any more complicated.

Based on that looming potential crisis, Casciano said a new superintendent is going to need a strong backbone.

“No matter which way you go, you never satisfy everyone with a decision,” he said. “When it comes to schools which has taxes and kids involved with it, there is a lot greater passion attached to those voices.”

“No matter which way you go, you never satisfy everyone with a decision.”

—Paul Casciano

Brennan said she expects the incoming superintendent should use the current district administration, which has been cultivated to provide a good support structure to whoever steps into the position.

“We’re not overstaffed administratively, by any means,” the board president said. 

Casciano said while he expects a new superintendent to bring their own ideas and creative solutions to problems, he doesn’t expect them to overhaul on current staff.

“It’s a successful school district, and to come in and think there’s major changes to be made says you don’t really know the district,” he said.

The school board will be hosting a public meeting Jan 3. with Julie Davis Lutz, COO of Eastern Suffolk BOCES, to allow residents to express their thoughts on the necessary skills for the next superintendent. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

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The Port Jefferson Free Library is at the corner of Thompson and East Main streets. File photo

Two spots for trustee on at the Port Jefferson Free Library are coming up for vote in January and five community members are asking library cardholders for their vote.

While current library trustee Christian Neubert is running again for the same spot, trustee Lisa Ballou has decided not to run again for her seat.

Those who wish to vote for the trustees must be a Port Jefferson Village resident and be a cardholder “in good standing,” meaning voters cannot have more than $5 outstanding on their library cards. The vote will be held 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Jan. 9, 2019, at the library.

Christian Neubert. Photo by Kyle Barr

Christian Neubert

As the incumbent, Christian Neubert said he feels he has become intimate with the qualities and the issues of the library over his six-year tenure.

“It’s important to not lose sight of the day-to-day processes we have going on here,” Neubert said.

Neubert said the library is missing out on the demographics of fourth- or fifth-graders as well as young professionals. He said if he were elected, he would work toward reaching out to those groups in conjunction with the library and is thinking of integrating the teen center with the main library building.

Lynn Hallarman. Photo by Kyle Barr

Lynn Hallarman

Dr. Lynn Hallarman, the director of Palliative Medicine Services at Stony Brook University Hospital said she is throwing her hat into the ring based on her unique background looking strategically at programs and institutions, as well as with urban planning, development and programming. Hallarman said the biggest changes will come to the library through urbanization, traffic, an aging population and higher taxes.

“The board has to be extremely forward thinking and out of the box in thinking about how a small-town library will survive,” she said.

Nancy Loddigs. Photo by Kyle Barr

Nancy Loddigs

Nancy Loddigs has been a resident of Port Jefferson for more than 30 years and boasts of her experience working in the libraries at Comsewogue School District and both Port Jefferson and Comsewogue public libraries.

The longtime Port Jeff resident said the library has already done a good job in its programming, with various adult programs being the most popular. She said she hopes those programs continue, but that the library will keep up with changing technology in order to stay current.

“I am interested in seeing how the library would be physically changed by incorporating all of these things,” Loddigs said. 

Wailin Ng

Wailin Ng, an engineer at Brookhaven National Laboratory, has been a Port Jefferson resident for a year, but she has been a patron of the library for close to a decade before that. 

Wailin Ng. Photo by Kyle Barr

Ng said there is potential for growth in the number of educational programs the library provides,

especially those that could get kids interested in STEM.

“We can increase the focus on introducing children to science,” Ng said. “We are in a very diverse community, and we have many people from other districts coming here. We need to assess where our needs are for educational programs.”

Joseph Orofino. Photo by Kyle Barr

Joseph Orofino

Joseph Orofino is a lifelong Port Jefferson resident with two kids currently in the Port Jeff school district. As a person who has worked in finance for 25 years, in both an upper management and on a voluntary basis with several local community organizations, he said he would work to make sure the library stays on top of its finances.

“My contribution could be making sure the library stays fiscally solvent,” he said.

When it comes to renovating the library’s currently owned properties, Orofino said the board should look at it from a long-term point of view.

“We need to weigh in on the existing plans and look at how financially they fit into the library on a long-term basis,” Orofino said.

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When the calm of the cold settles on visitors to the Village of Port Jefferson, all find reason to seek comfort indoors. Despite it, the village is illuminated in swathes of light all the way from West Broadway to East Broadway, down East Main Street and up Main Street. Here is just a selection of pictures displaying the serenity of the cold night, when the lights dance in the street and in the eyes of people behind the window panes of Port Jeff.

The LIPA plant as seen from Harborfront Park. Photo by Kyle Barr

A New York State Supreme Court judge approved the Town of Brookhaven’s settlement with the Long Island Power Authority over the Port Jefferson Power Station’s tax assessment. 

In the agreement signed Dec. 14, the $32.6 million tax assessment on the power plant will be reduced by around 50 percent incrementally over the next nine years to $16.8 million, starting with the 2017-18 tax year.

It’s a not-so-final finale to what has become years upon years of grinding legal battles and anxiety over what will happen to local taxes should LIPA, which claimed its power plant has been overassessed by hundreds of millions of dollars for nearly a decade. LIPA’s lawsuit wanted its assessments reduced by
approximately 90 percent.

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said in a statement the settlement will benefit Brookhaven in the form of lower electric bills.

“This deal puts an end to the uncertainty of this plant over the course of nine years and gives finality to this issue,” Romaine said. “I have always believed that all property assessments should be fairly based on property value.”

Brookhaven officials said that without a settlement, taxpayers faced the potential of being liable for $225 million to LIPA, and the power authority has said LIPA customers will save a total of $662 million by 2027.

“It was a reasonable settlement, one we can justify to our 1.1 million customers,” LIPA CEO Thomas Falcone said.

While this settlement promises savings for Brookhaven residents, the agreement has made Port Jefferson residents, especially those living close to the two red-and-white smokestacks, question what their taxes will look like in the near future. In October the Port Jefferson School District released a series of slides showing they annually received a $17 million payment through LIPA’s tax payments, but this would be reduced to $13.8 million by 2027. While Superintendent Paul Casciano said he and his staff are still reviewing the impact of the settlement, he sees the outcome could be even worse. He expects school programs will have to be cut in the next few years, with tax increases for residents.

“It’s going to affect the tax base,” the superintendent said. “Even if our budget was voted down, there’s a high likelihood that residents will see a
double-digit increase in their tax rate.”

The settlement will also require the district to amend their plans for the 2019-20 budget next year.

Falcone said the school district already enjoys lower annual school taxes at $6,273 compared to neighboring districts calculated at little more than $10,000 based on 2015 tax data.

“It means they will go from a ‘great deal’ to a ‘good deal,’” Falcone said. “They’re still going to have the lowest taxes of their neighborhood.”

The CEO added that it was unfair for the rest of LIPA customers to have to subsidize the Port Jeff school district through their higher bills.

“I think at some point you have to say what’s fair for those 1.1 million other customers because they pay their school taxes, too,” he said.

The Port Jeff superintendent said the village has been conciliatory about letting a power plant operate within its boundaries, whereas other places in Brookhaven would have barred the plant from existing in the first place.

“Are you, as a Brookhaven resident, really going to make out on your LIPA bills? I doubt it,” Casciano said. 

In April Port Jefferson Village board passed its 2018-19 budget of $10,642,146, about $233,000 up from last year’s budget. The new budget included $107,000 in reserve funds in anticipation of the glide path agreement with LIPA resulting in reduced payments.

Village Mayor Margot Garant said she agrees with the settlement, and it could lead to more use of the plant. In 2017 the facility was only powered on for 41 days, or 11 percent of the year, according to LIPA officials.

Falcone said the Port Jeff power plant operates based on the electricity needs of residents.

“This is an important step we made today to stabilize our tax base moving forward and the viability of any opportunity to repower our power plant,” Garant said in a press release.

The settlement also comes after big wins for LIPA in the courts against the towns of Huntington and Brookhaven, and Port Jeff Village, allowing LIPA to move ahead with its effort to challenge its assessments. Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) has publicly asked New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to enact legislation that would protect residents taxes should LIPA get its way in court.

“Are you, as a Brookhaven resident, really going to make out on your LIPA bills? I doubt it.”
— Paul Casino

PSEG Long Island customers pay power plant taxes through monthly surcharges on their electric bills, but LIPA owns the electric grid and has agreements with National Grid for the power plants in both Port Jefferson and Northport. In 2009 LIPA challenged both the towns of Brookhaven and Huntington saying it had been overassessed for years, especially since the Port Jeff plant runs for so little time.

The Port Jefferson School District along with the Northport-East Northport school district and Huntington Town filed a lawsuit saying LIPA had made past promises not to challenge the taxes levied on their power plants, but they were dealt a blow in September when a state Supreme Court judge ruled LIPA “made no promises” about challenging the taxes levied. 

Garant and other Port Jeff Village officials have expressed past desires to renovate the power plant once the tax assessment issue was settled.
In September the village board advocated for the refurbishment and repowering of its base-load plant to update its decades-old technology and to justify the property’s tax assessment.

This is despite Cuomo setting a goal for 50 percent of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources
by 2030.

Falcone said they do not currently have any plans to run the plant more or do any renovations to plant that has been there since the 1940s. 

Through being used so little and with the push for more green energy, residents have questioned how long LIPA will keep the plant running. The LIPA CEO said the plant will continue to operate for the next seven years, but in the future could be upgraded or transformed into some other space used by the power authority, such as a storage facility or a new, modernized facility.

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