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Port Jefferson Village

Costume maker Tom DePetrillo will return this year as the Marvel Comics Giant Hulkbuster. Photo from Angeline Judex

By Kyle Barr

Creativity, innovation, experimentation and a whole lot of fun are all on the menu as the Village of Port Jefferson gears up for the third annual Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire to be held on June 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Hosted by the nonprofit Long Island Explorium (formerly the Maritime Explorium) and the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, the event will take place at the Explorium, all three floors of the Port Jefferson Village Center and spill out onto the adjacent Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park as makers from all over Long Island and beyond will come bringing robots, music, woodworking, metal sculptures and practically anything handmade to celebrate the exciting worlds of science, technology, engineering, music, art and math.

Last year the event drew more than 2,000 visitors who were able to experience everything from 3-D printing to flame belching metal sculptures. 

Ray Rumore with his robot ‘Volt’ at last year’s Mini Maker Faire. Photo from Chris Rumore

Angeline Judex, executive director of the Explorium in Port Jefferson, said she expects close to 60 “Makers” will be there for this year’s event. “At this event, people are able to explore new concepts and technologies, take [this knowledge] home with them and then dive into their own exploration and engagement to create their own maker experience,” Judex said in an email. “It transforms theory into reality. It excites, inspires and motivates the next generation to embrace STEM as a resource for innovative problem solving.”

New this year will be the Long Island Vegetable Orchestra featuring students from the Waldorf School in Garden City using carrots, squash and gourds as musical instruments and a visit from the Suffolk County Chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism, which will demonstrate how trades such as blacksmithing, inks and paints and naval shipbuilding technology have evolved over time. 

Returning this year will be costume maker Tom DePetrillo from Rhode Island-based Extreme Costumes who dazzled participants in last year’s Makers Faire with his burly Transformers Bumblebee costume. This year he will be bringing a to-scale HulkBuster Iron Man suit seen in the movies “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”

“People really enjoy the giant costumes,” said DePetrillo. 

The Hulkbuster costume took 10 months and approximately 1,600 man hours to complete. DePetrillo tours all over the world with his giant designs as a full-time job. It enables him to keep making and creating. “It allows me to have an outlet for my creative energy,” he said. “I do this because I love doing it.”

Father and son team Chris and Ray Rumore have been attending the Mini Maker Faire every year since its inception. Ray Rumore got involved with 3-D printing, crafting and robotics, and created a robot named “Volt,” a companion robot who can follow him around and live stream events with his on-board camera.

“Ray enjoys three main things about Maker Faires — they allow him the opportunity to encourage others to join the fun and become a Maker, the opportunity to meet other Makers and learning about their creations and the food,” the elder Rumore said in an email.

The event is sponsored in part by Stony Brook University, BASF Chemical Company, Capital One, Riverhead Building Supplies and Suffolk County Community College.

The Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire will be held on June 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine, at the Maritime Explorium, 101 East Broadway, Port Jefferson. Tickets, which are $10 per person, are available online at www.easternlongislandmakerfaire.com and at the door. Parking will be available around the Village of Port Jefferson, Off Street Parking, Brookhaven Town Lot as well as Spring Street. The Port Jeff Jitney will be running during the day. For further information, please call 631-331-3277.

Port Jefferson code Chief Wally Tomaszewski. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By Alex Petroski

A Port Jefferson Village fixture for more than 35 years is saying goodbye to his role in the community.

Code Enforcement Chief Wally Tomaszewski is retiring, according to an announcement by Mayor Margot Garant during a public Village Board meeting June 4.

“Chief Tomaszewski came in and he signed a retirement letter today with us,” Garant said. “He is going to be retiring, receiving his compensation for the month of June, and we will be searching for a new chief of the bureau. There’s a lot of change in the department in terms of technology, things that have to happen, and chief, we wish him well. We want to recognize him and retire him in this community for the public service he has provided for us for 35 years. And we mean that sincerely.”

Garant made the announcement when asked by a resident what was going on, as rumors had begun swirling on social media over the weekend about Tomaszewski’s job status and the story behind the departure.

Tomaszewski did not respond to a request for comment.

Community members packed Village Hall for the June meeting to discuss a host of issues, but the larger than normal turnout was likely largely a reflection on rumors about the chief.

“We spoke about this Friday, we shook hands, he came in today and signed his letter,” Garant said.

Several attendees spoke in support of Tomaszewski and asked the board to reconsider accepting the letter.

“I moved here about 50 years ago, and the reason we did was because this was a personal village,” resident Naomi Solo said. “It was a special village, and I think the person that really epitomizes this, besides yourself, was Wally. The loss of Wally is devastating.”

The chief was known for being on call for residents, be it to address noise complaints in the middle of the night or assist the Suffolk County Police Department in certain cases.

“I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find a replacement that’s equivalent to him,” resident Marge McCuen said.

Deputy Code Chief Fred Leute will serve as the acting chief, according to Garant.

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James Marci sits in his completed Eagle Scout project with his mom, Christine Napolitano, at Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson June 2. Photo by Alex Petroski

Like the Iron Throne in Westeros, Port Jefferson Village now has a roughly seven-feet-tall by four-feet-wide seat that will make any visitors at Harborfront Park feel like royalty. James Marci, 16, a Port Jefferson High School student and member of Boy Scout Troop 454, was tasked in approaching his Eagle Scout Service Project with demonstrating leadership of others while completing something to benefit his community. After months of work, planning and coordination, the harborside park now features what Marci is calling #PJBigChair.

Marci said he wanted to build a landmark for Port Jeff, something that would attract both tourists and locals to visit and take photos on and share on social media using the hashtag, which is actually painted on the massive blue seat in white lettering. He said he got the idea from visiting Cape Cod and heard from others who had visited Vermont and seen something similar in public spaces. The big chair — made out of Douglas fir wood discounted by Riverhead Building Supply — was dropped off at the park June 2 and will be officially permanently installed on the gravel path overlooking the harbor behind the Long Island Explorium and near The Shipbuilder’s Monument June 8. Interested sitters won’t need exact coordinates to locate it though.

James Marci, in chair on the right, sits on his completed Eagle Scout project at Harborfront Park, joined by, from left, his mom, Christine Napolitano, Trustee Larry LaPointe, Mayor Margot Garant, Trustee Bruce D’Abramo and Trustee Stan Loucks. Photo by Bethanie Rizzo

“It’s something that brings people together, and even the finished product will bring people together through pictures, that’s something I like to advocate for,” Marci said. “All of the connections you have to make it’s truly a matter of coordination, because that’s what it says for the requirement, you have to plan and execute, and it’s more of the planning than the execution that makes it a great project. If everything runs smoothly that’s what makes it a spectacle to see, just everything came together. Someone who’s going to come from Connecticut or the middle of the Island is going to see this and is going to wonder how it got here. It’s a story.”

Marci’s mom, Christine Napolitano, said she and her son love the area and have fostered a nice relationship with Village Mayor Margot Garant over the years. She said her son interviewed Garant as a first-grader and wrote her a letter as part of a community project.

“To see him use tools was kind of fun for me, because he now knows how to use a lot of things I don’t know how to use,” Napolitano said. “Letting him be in charge of something was very hard because moms always do everything, but he did it all by himself and I’m very proud of him.”

Marci said the primer and stain for the wood were donated by Benjamin Moore in Port Jefferson Station, and a couple of the employees who helped him out were former Scouts. He said his uncle — Napolitano’s brother — and Village Trustee Stan Loucks and the rest of the board helped him in coordinating and completing the project. He also thanked the family of Bethanie Rizzo, Troop 454 Committee Chair, who allowed him to store the chair in her garage while it was being completed and assisted in transporting it to the park.

“The work that it takes to become an Eagle Scout is just remarkable,” Trustee Bruce D’Abramo said. “I think that the Boy Scouts of America are really training some leaders of tomorrow and it’s not easy to get through all of the steps. I’m just so proud of this boy, and I wish him well.”

This post was updated June 12 to correct that Riverhead Building Supply provided a discount and did not donate the wood, and to amend Christine Napolitano’s input.

Mount Sinai resident Michael Cherry arrives to be the first customer of the valet parking service in Port Jeff in July 2017. File photo by Alex Petroski

Grass is green, water is wet and Port Jefferson Village doesn’t quite have enough parking to accommodate all of the demand.

To try to alleviate one of the village’s longest standing criticisms, the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District is taking another shot at a valet parking program to make finding a spot easier while patronizing downtown stores and restaurants on the weekends. The program was first instituted in July 2017 on an experimental basis, with cars dropped off in the Meadow parking lot, located south of Roessner Lane, west of Main Street and east of Barnum Avenue, adjacent to Rocketship Park. The increased traffic entering and exiting the parking lot and obstruction of spaces used for visitors of the nearby restaurants were among the complaints resulting from last year’s program that were tweaked for 2018.

Valet parking program
  • $7 per car
  • drop off at Village Hall
  • cars to be parked at Port Jefferson High School
  • service offered Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day

“Last year’s location was less than optimal, in that cars were being staged on a very busy entrance to our busiest parking lot,” said Kevin Wood, parking administrator for the village, who will receive regular reports from BID representatives on the execution of the program throughout the summer. “The village has a responsibility to look at all ways and solutions to bring optimal parking options to its visitors and residents and reduce ‘parking anxiety.’”

This year, the drop-off point will be the parking lot behind Village Hall on West Broadway. The building has separate driveways for entering and exiting.

“The location at Village Hall is a very natural setting for staging cars with an entrance and an exit and a semi-circle flow,” he said.

The program will still cost users $7 but will only be offered from 5 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays. Last year Sunday hours were also available. As was the arrangement last year, the cars will be driven by valets from the staging area to Port Jefferson High School, where they will be parked.

An agreement between the BID and Port Jefferson School District remains in place, in which the valet company, Advanced Parking Service, will take 75 percent of profits, leaving the remaining 25 percent to be split evenly between the village and school district. The BID supplied an upfront investment to get the program going for 2018. BID President Tom Schafer said the organization determined it would need about 120 cars to use the service daily to cover the cost of five employees for the company, and anything more than 120 would result in the program turning a profit.

“The village has a responsibility to look at all ways and solutions to bring optimal parking options to its visitors and residents and reduce ‘parking anxiety.’”

— Kevin Wood

Schafer said he and the BID’s members were glad to hear the program would be given another opportunity with a full season and with what all stakeholders view as a more practical staging area. Port Jeff’s board of trustees approved the use of the Village Hall lot during a meeting May 21. Multiple meetings took place between the end of the program last year and its ultimate renewal between representatives of the BID, Wood and village elected officials to work out some of the issues that arose in 2017.

“I wouldn’t be doing this if not for the fact that we have Kevin Wood as our parking administrator,” Mayor Margot Garant said during a May 7 board meeting.

Schafer also touted Wood’s involvement as an asset this time around.

“Everyone’s ecstatic,” Schafer said of the BID members. “Kevin Wood has been a great help. He understands that there’s just too many cars.”

The village has also approved hiring two parking ambassadors for this summer, who will be tasked with occupying lots to help parkers use meters, the village’s parking specific mobile phone application and to direct them to available spaces.

The continuation of the project will ultimately be determined by the village, which included a provision in its resolution to terminate the program “at any time or for any reason.”

Valet parking will be available in Port Jeff from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Rob Gitto of The Gitto Group, representative from the Long Island Rail Road Ryan Attard, grant writer Nicole Christian, Tony Gitto of The Gitto Group, Leg. Kara Hahn, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, village Mayor Margot Garant, village Trustee Larry LaPointe, Trustee Bruce Miller, and Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright during a groundbreaking for an upper Port Jefferson revitalization project May 9. Photo by Kyle Barr

After years of planning upper Port’s redevelopment to deal with blighted buildings, traffic and a lack of parking space, Port Jefferson Village officials are finally ready to say, “Don’t believe me, just watch.”

As part of the village’s revitalization efforts — a project dubbed “Uptown Funk” — village, Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town officials held a groundbreaking ceremony May 9 for a new parking lot in the space at the corner of Texaco Avenue and Linden Place. The lot should allow for another 74 parking spaces, largely for Long Island Rail Road commuters using the Port Jefferson train station.

“The village is thrilled to partner with the county, Empire State Development and the Long Island Rail Road on improvements in upper Port to enhance pedestrian connectivity and safety, revitalize blighted commercial properties, and promote safe living and economic growth,” Mayor Margot Garant said.

The revitalization of upper Port is part of the Connect LI project of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). The plan behind the initiative is to use both existing and new public transportation options to connect people to commercial centers and main streets as in Port Jefferson.

“This is a model of what we need to be doing around the region,” Bellone said. “My administration is committed to providing funding to assist our towns and villages with these revitalization projects. The project we broke ground on today is a major step in continuing our efforts to make Suffolk County a great place to live, work and raise a family.”

Phase one of the project will cost $850,000 to be funded by grants from the county’s Jumpstart program and other financial contributions. Along with the parking lot the first phase of the project will improve sidewalks that lead to the train station from The Hills at Port Jefferson apartment complex.

Phase two of the project will include a renovation of the north, east and south LIRR parking lots with new pavement, lighting and plaza entryway.

Phase three will create “Station Street,” a new one-way road that will provide access to the new renovated parking lots. Garant said the road should also reduce congestion on Main Street and allow for smoother access into the train station parking lots.

Part of the hope for the project is that students coming from Stony Brook University and other commuters will help create interest in the area, which in turn should incentivize businesses to invest in upper Port and remedy the blighted property seen on Main Street, according to Garant.

“We want feet on the street,” Garant said.

Last year Nicole Christian, a consultant at law firm HB Solutions and grant writer for the village, helped apply for several grants for the Uptown Funk project. Last year Port Jefferson Village was awarded $250,000 in Jumpstart money to start plans on the project and the village also applied for a grant from the Empire State Development Corporation, a state entity, for $500,000.

“Empire State Development is excited to support this roadway realignment that will foster this transit-oriented development and revitalize this community to create a true linkage from upper Port Jefferson to the waterfront,” Howard Zemsky, ESD president, said in an email.

Part of the purpose of the new parking lot is also to help facilitate foot traffic from The Hills at Port Jefferson to the train station across the street. “All of the apartments in two separate buildings, which were completed in 2016, have already been rented out and there is already a long wait list to get in,” said Tony Gitto of The Gitto Group, the real estate development company behind development of the apartment complex, during the event.

The Town of Brookhaven and Port Jefferson Village worked with Gitto and his company to create the two-building complex. To incentivize the creation of the apartment complex, Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency, an arm of municipalities dedicated to funding projects to stimulate job creation and economic growth, gave Gitto and his company sales tax exemptions on construction items, a mortgage tax exemption and a 10-year property tax abatement.

Gitto said that they provided money toward the funding of the new parking lot.

“They hired the contractors and we made a financial contribution,” Gitto said.

This post was updated May 15.

2018 BOE candidates Ryan Biedenkapp, Mia Farina, Jason Kronberg, René Tidwell, Tracy Zamek and Ryan Walker. File photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Candidates for Port Jefferson School District’s board of education have thrown themselves into the world of public service at a tumultuous time for the district and education more broadly. To better inform voters about the positions of the six candidates vying for three trustee seats prior to heading to the polls May 15, each was asked to provide answers to the same  questions.

Candidate Mia Farina answered the questions during a phone interview while the other five chose to respond via email. Their answers to the questions, or answers in part, are provided below in alphabetical order by the candidate’s last name.

If the district loses revenue as a result of a LIPA settlement, how can the BOE scale down the budget without doing too much harm to existing programs?

There is the possibility of losing property tax revenue as a legal battle plays out between Port Jefferson Village, the school district and Long Island Power Authority, which has a plant in the village. The utility company contends Town of Brookhaven  overassessed and is seeking to reduce the assessment. The district receives about half of the revenue in its budget from taxes paid by LIPA based on the plant’s assessment.

The village and Brookhaven have publicly stated a settlement is on the horizon, the result of which will likely reduce the plant’s assessment, though few details have been shared. The district has publicized a plan for the budget should an official settlement be reached in time to impact the 2018-19 school year, with
proposed cuts to instrument rental availability, textbooks, athletic teams, clubs and overnight field trips, to name a few.

Budget highlights
  • $44,945,812 for total operating budget
  • 3.72 percent increase in 2018-19 compared to current year
  • Additional expenses would be covered with 2.27 percent tax levy increase and 2.23 percent state aid increase
  • All programs rolled over from current year in next year’s budget
  • Expense increase largely due to contractual raises and increasing health insurance costs
  • Second proposition on ballot to release capital reserves for roof repairs
  • Vote May 15 at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School

Ryan Biedenkapp: “There will need to be a scaling down of nonmandated costs by looking to trim where student participation fails to justify the cost. An increase in taxes combined with increased community participation in seeking alternative funding sources will also be required. Maintaining the academic integrity of Port Jefferson schools should be the guiding principle when deciding where reductions will occur.”

Mia Farina: “There’s actually grants out there — privately — [like] music grants that actually [pay for] musical instruments and pay for the maintenance of those instruments, so that alone would cover that lost revenue. I went to public school, and we did fundraisers. We could sponsor events. We possibly may lose revenue. If we could do anything to bring that back by having the community involved … ”

Jason Kronberg: “Depending on how severe the loss of revenue is, I’d like to hold forums with the community to come up with potential cuts to the budget.”

René Tidwell: “As a member of the BOE, I will work diligently to ensure the high standards the district has set for its instructional programs remain in place. I believe the district needs to form a Citizens Advisory Committee immediately, with the objective to assess the impact of the loss of LIPA revenue under various scenarios (such as 50 percent reduction of revenue, reduction on assessment or reduction on payments, etc.).”

Tracy Zamek: “The board can scale down the budget by looking at budget trends, participation rates, enrollment patterns and non-mandated costs. However, a combination of program adjustments and increased taxes will be necessary in order to absorb the significant loss of revenue. The community will once again be asked to provide input through a values survey and community forum response initiative. Understandably, not everyone is going to agree on every priority, but the most important thing to remember is our students come first.”

Ryan Walker: “Several suggestions that have been successful in other districts come to mind, such as encouraging increased philanthropic contributions, seeking out unused state and federal financial aid
opportunities and grant writing. The first thing to consider is what must the district have in order to maintain the high quality of education that makes families chose to move to Port Jefferson.”

Do you believe security officers and/or educators should be armed on school campuses?

Security in schools is never far from district’s and parent’s minds, though this has been particularly true in the wake of the latest mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February, which left 17 dead. Neighboring districts have moved to employ armed security personnel, while some participated in the national discourse through walkouts.

Biedenkapp: “I don’t believe in arming teachers, ever. The idea of having an armed security person inside our schools is one that gives me pause. The retention of a single, possibly two, retired officers, who also was/were licensed air marshal that was carrying [a] concealed [weapon] at the front of the school at the vestibule or outside the school on the perimeter is something that I would be inclined to support.”

Farina: “Absolutely not. Their job is to educate, not to have the responsibility of a [carrying] firearms. Security officers, I believe, should be armed if they’re fully capable of being armed, meaning training is a huge priority.”

Kronberg: “Weapons-trained security can be an essential layer of protection for our schools. There is no definitive study on the effectiveness of this form of protection, but in my opinion it is something, with proper training, that can help prevent and deter violence. Arming teachers in schools is an irresponsible idea.”

Tidwell: “I believe the answer to this question is best answered by the community itself, and as a BOE member, I would recommend a town hall meeting to listen to the community’s ideas and concerns regarding security for our facilities.”

Potential cuts pending LIPA settlement
  • Reduction of rental of music instruments for students ($12,000) Reduction in equipment ($18,000)
  • Reduction of textbooks ($15,000)
  • Reduction of 6 budgeted sports teams based upon student interest ($37,000)
  • Reduction of 6 extra curricular clubs based upon student interest ($18,000) Elimination of overnight/long distance field trips (Busing/Chaperons) ($18,000)
  • Reduction in Board of Education organizational dues ($2,000)
  • Reduction in District Community Printing/Mailings (Newsletters/Calendars) ($10,000)

Walker: “I worked in two school districts as a nationally certified School Resource Officer for the New York State Police Department. At first, residents were hesitant to have a police officer in full uniform, which included a gun, in the schools. Resident hesitation swiftly dissipated as I worked to build a positive collaborative relationship with students, families, administration, teachers and staff.”

Zamek: “I absolutely do not support the idea of having teachers armed in schools. Guns do not belong inside our schools. However, I would welcome a village and community discussion about having professional armed security guards on the outside of schools, especially at arrival [and] dismissal and on the perimeter of fields during recess.”

Do you think BOE communication and transparency with taxpayers can be improved, and if so, how would you do it?

The district and board have been criticized by members of the community for a lack of transparency and for their communication methods on issues, like how the district informed parents of a social media threat made by a student in February long after it was received and via email instead of a robocall.

Biedenkapp: “We can absolutely improve communication with all stakeholders, as well as our transparency. With respect to the taxpayers the district Facebook page should be utilized to give a brief synopsis of each BOE meeting, along with the live video of the meeting and quick links to any pertinent web pages. The school’s web page is rather cumbersome, but design of a new website would be fiscally irresponsible at this time. Residents should have an ability to have their phone number added to the school robocall list.”

Farina: “I think there’s always room for improvement in any type of communication whatsoever. I haven’t really had an issue [with] school communication because I’m very active. … I would ask the community for ideas on how they would want to be notified. Who’s not getting information that wants information? How do you get your information?”

Kronberg: “Communication between the board and community, although strong in many ways, can always be improved. I’m excited for the ‘super team’ approach arrived at by the superintendent for this fall [which brings community members from different sectors together to come up with ideas to solve problems]. While the meetings are online and available, it may be a good idea to provide a question and answer email session with board members, where community members can write in and receive answers to specific questions.”

Tidwell: “I believe there are significant gaps in the BOE’s communication process with all the district’s stakeholders. I would establish a telephone communication protocol that includes all district taxpayers — not just the parents of children attending the district’s schools. I would ensure that taxpayers who currently do not utilize the internet or social media are informed of upcoming BOE events in a timely manner. I propose utilizing cellphone alert applications to remind residents of upcoming meetings, important announcements, etc., all of which could have ‘opt-in’ or ‘opt-out’ choices for all residents.”

Walker: “The current way of disseminating information is adequate for those with children attending schools in the district. However, everyone else must seek out information by checking the district’s web page on a daily basis to make sure they didn’t miss anything important. Printed newsletter mailings to residents are infrequent, costly and not always timely. All residents should have an opportunity to register their email addresses with the school to have the same information sent to them as parents of school children. Board members should make themselves more available to attend public functions, have face-to-face interactions with residents.”

Zamek: “There needs to be a greater emphasis on enrolling every community member on our connect-ed phone, text and email system. I have already started to improve communication between the school and village officials by creating a direct line of communication between the two offices. The school now informs the mayor’s office monthly concerning school board meeting dates and times and provides an agenda.”

By Alex Petroski

Who knew walking could do so much good.

The Fortunato Breast Health Center, John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson’s arm dedicated to treatment of breast cancer, played host to Families Walk for Hope, a fundraising event May 5 featuring a five-mile walk through Port Jefferson and Belle Terre villages. The event raised more than $81,000 for the center as of midday May 7. To donate to the center, visit familieswalkforhope.kintera.org.

A slumping bluff is raising eyebrows in Port Jefferson Village.

Bids are being accepted, and will continue to be through April 16, for a project that village officials hope will stave off erosion at Port Jefferson East Beach Area and Pavilion that is endangering a tennis court.

Port Jeff has been trying to figure out how to deal with its shrinking beach and slumping bluff at least as far back as early 2016. The new plan of action is to build a wall — it’s yet to be determined whether it will be built out of steel or a revetment of rocks — at the base of the bluff. Overhead images of the beach accessed via Google Earth show the shoreline nestled between the Long Island Sound and a bluff that leads to the grounds of the Port Jefferson Country Club clearly shrinking over the years. Officials are concerned about tennis court No. 4 at the country club, which has inched closer to the edge of the bluff as the beach has eroded.

Erosion of East Beach in Port Jefferson is causing trees to slump down an adjacent bluff. Photo by Alex Petroski

“The Village of Port Jefferson’s shoreline suffered significant structural damage, resulting from multiple state-of-emergency storm events,” said a Jan. 17, 2017, letter from GEI Consultants, a privately-owned consulting firm contracted by Port Jeff, to the village regarding its concerns about erosion.

After the East Coast was hit with four storms classified as Nor’easters by the National Weather Service in March, a walkway and pavilion on the eastern end of the parking lot at the end of Village Beach Road was severely damaged, and many trees can be seen uprooted and horizontal at the bottom west of the road.

“That whole area East Beach is just a disaster,” Trustee Stan Loucks said during a March board meeting after taking a look at the area.

Trustee Bruce D’Abramo called it “scary” to see how badly the beach is eroding.

In an article entitled “Forgotten North Shore vulnerable to sea level rise” published by TBR News Media in January, R. Lawrence Swanson, the interim dean and associate dean of the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, said staving off erosion of bluffs is a complicated problem on the North Shore that will require more research from New York state.

Several strong March storms caused damage at East Beach in Port Jefferson. Photo by Alex Petroski

“What can be done in the way of resiliency to preserve the character of the North Shore and yet also protect individual properties on the Sound — both those on the cliffs and those on the barrier spits?” he wrote. “Is hardening the bluffs and beaches at great expense the answer? Do we let nature take its course? Do residents on the barrier beaches have rights to the sediment of eroding cliffs in much the same way that downstream California claims rights to Colorado River water? If hardening of bluffs is allowed, will there be enough sediment at the toe to maintain a beach to reduce wave run-up? New York State needs to examine this issue and develop guidance that works for all.”

He warned that construction of sea walls can hinder the natural process of erosion from the base of North Shore bluffs, reducing the materials available to maintain barrier spits, or formations caused by the lateral movement of water along a shoreline, subjecting bluffs to “over washing.”

“Beaches fronting the bluffs will disappear so that waves will be beating directly on the seawalls,” he said. “This is a regional issue that cannot be solved property by property or even on a town-by-town basis. With the state of development on the North Shore, some form of intervention or adaptation is probably required; nature cannot be left totally unchecked, given the grim climate projections for this coming century.”

Port Jeff includes $107K in 2018-19 budget for anticipated “glide path”

Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant. File Photo

The potential ramifications of the looming LIPA lawsuit specter may finally be coming into focus.

Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant announced during a public hearing April 2 on the 2018-19 budget the village is “on the cusp of a settlement” with the Long Island Power Authority, which would end the legal battle being waged since 2010 regarding the assessed valuation and property tax bill the public utility has been paying on its Port Jefferson power plant. LIPA has argued the estimate is too high based on decreased energy demand, and the village accused LIPA of breaching its contract, which was supposed to run until 2028. The village and Port Jefferson School District receive substantial revenue from LIPA’s tax dollars and have had the prospect of lost revenue hanging over future financial planning. Port Jefferson is among other municipalities, like Northport, which host plants that have lawsuits against LIPA and believe the contract has been breached.

Garant said the board came to the decision to write $107,000 into the upcoming budget to create a reserve fund to prepare in anticipation for a “glide path” agreement, in which the village’s LIPA revenue will be scaled down gradually over time. The figure was chosen to bring the total budget’s tax levy increase to exactly 2 percent, thus avoiding asking residents to pierce the cap. The 2018-19 adopted budget is $10,642,146, about $233,000 up from to the current year, with the largest driver of the increase being the money set aside to deal with LIPA.

“The appropriations of reserves that we have accumulated over the last six to seven years aside, once we know what the glide path looks like, we will be putting our fund balance, monies that we’ve built, into that reserve account, which kind of locks it away so that future boards, if there should be future boards, can’t take that money and do something else with it,” Garant said. “It’ll preserve that money and entrust it to contributing toward the glide path.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) announced during his State of the Town address April 3 it had reached a settlement with LIPA on its version of the assessment suit. Village Attorney Brian Egan said Brookhaven’s settlement would have no impact on Port Jeff’s discussions, and that negotiations were ongoing.

“This year it’s basically another rollover budget like we’ve had in the past with very minimal changes,” village treasurer, Denise Mordente, said during the presentation. Other factors contributing to the budget increase included contractual raises for village employees, the increasing minimum wage, increased costs for medical benefits, and some additional funds for code enforcement that were used for installing security cameras and maintenance throughout the village, among a few others.

The board also passed a resolution that would give it the option to pierce the tax levy increase cap — as it does every year — should it need to do so, though that is not in the village’s plans for the upcoming year.

Port Jefferson School District offered a scathing statement in response to the news about Brookhaven’s settlement, saying it is “deeply troubled,” to hear of the settlement.

“This decision will imminently place the School District in harm’s way,” the statement said.

This story was updated April 4 to remove information mistakenly included about a public budget vote, and to include a statement from Port Jefferson School District.

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Representatives from Kilwins chocolate shop and Welcome Friends Soup Kitchen with a 22-lb., 3-foot-tall chocolate Easter bunny. Photo by Alex Petroski

Easter was a little sweeter this year for guests of Welcome Friends Soup Kitchen thanks to a donation from a Port Jefferson chocolate shop.

Welcome Friends Soup Kitchen in Port Jefferson serves a hot, fresh meal homemade by volunteers at several area churches free of charge for those in need on a daily basis, and for patrons who stopped in to First Presbyterian Church on Main Street March 30 for dinner, a stunning visual awaited for dessert.

Brian and Christine Viscount, owners of the Kilwins location on Main Street in Port Jeff, elected to take an offering from the company’s corporate headquarters to commemorate Easter. For the last two weeks the store has been displaying a 3-foot-tall, 22-lb. milk chocolate Easter bunny behind Plexiglas which it donated to the soup kitchen for guests to take home on the Friday before Easter Sunday.

“We knew we wanted to have the bunny in our store because it gives the store that ‘Wow’ effect, but we wanted to do something special with it afterwards,” Christine Viscount said. “We were trying to think of a charitable way to use the bunny, and we spoke with the mayor’s office actually and they gave us some ideas. When we heard about the soup kitchen we said what better way for a lot of people to enjoy the chocolate. No one family needs 22 pounds. We thought this would be the perfect fit.”

A 3-foot-tall, 22-lb. chocolate bunny from Kilwins chocolate shop on display at Welcome Friends Soup Kitchen. Photo by Alex Petroski

The solid chocolate bunny was displayed whole for guests to admire during dinner, then broken into pieces by the Viscounts before being bagged up and sent home with the guests as an Easter treat. It was made in the Kilwins kitchen in Petoskey, Michigan using the company’s truffle chocolate and a giant bunny mold.

“The guests were so pleased with the fun of having this huge bunny on site as they entered the dining room,” Marge Tumilowicz, president of Welcome Friends, said in an email after the meal. “Everyone was thrilled to take home the full gift bags. Welcome Friends thanks our new neighbors from Kilwins for their kindness, generosity and community spirit.”

Lorraine Kutzing, a co-coordinator at the soup kitchen who was on hand helping volunteers March 30, said seeing the bunny and taking home the chocolate made the day special for guests.

“For a lot of them, they probably won’t be getting a lot of chocolate for this holiday, so at least we’re able to give them a taste of something that’s really good,” she said. “It just means a lot that the community backs us the way they do to do something like this, to provide for those less fortunate, I think that’s wonderful.”

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