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Port Jefferson Village

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.”

Port Jefferson turned breakfast into a special occasion over the weekend.

Sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and Pro-Port Jefferson Association, an organization that works on behalf of the food service industry in the village, the first-ever Walkabout Spring Breakfast Crawl was a success on a number of levels.

Breakfast crawl participants

Barito Tacos & Cocktails

C’est Cheese

East Main & Main

The Fifth Season

Kilwins

Local’s Cafe

Nantuckets

Pasta Pasta

Roger’s Frigate

Schafer’s

Slurp Ramen

Toast Coffehouse

The Steam Room

Wave Seafood Kitchen at Danfords Hotel & Marina

Brewology295

Fifteen establishments participated in the crawl March 24, offering special breakfast items and standing-room access during the three-hour event. Initially 200 tickets were made available for the event, but they sold out so quickly it was opened up to 100 more guests, according to chamber director of operations Barbara Ransome. She called the event super and very well attended and added if the restaurants are interested, they would bring it back again next year and would likely offer more tickets.

“There was this camaraderie and fellowship among the different groups waving to each other and using their maps,” Ransome said. “I don’t think there was anybody disappointed.”

Tickets were sold for three different tiers, a $20 ticket that allowed access to six of the participating stops, $30 for nine stops or $40 for access to all 15. The funds raised will go to Pro-Port Jefferson Association likely to be used for marketing, according to Ransome, except for a $500 donation being given to Port Jeff-based Welcome Friends Soup Kitchen.

“The event went very well,” doughnut shop East Main & Main owners Lisa Harris and Robert Strehle said in an email. “We would definitely be interested in participating again.”

Some of the offerings included chorizo hash at Barito Tacos & Cocktails, French toast skillets and Bloody Marys at Brewology 295, triple crème-filled croissants and mimosas at C’est Cheese and many more.

Ransome said she heard feedback from some attendees who enjoyed being able to participate on what is essentially “off-hours” for the various restaurants, thus not having to compete with typical restaurant business crowds or battle for parking. Initially planned as a standing-room event, Ransome said many of the restaurants had space to allow sit-down meals, and that aspect might be revisited in future years. She also said she’s working on an analysis of which attendees patronized which restaurants based on their ticket choice to help improve future incarnations.

 

After 15 years in business, Lombardi’s on the Sound is no more. File photo

Change is on the horizon at the Port Jefferson Country Club.

After a 15-year partnership with property owner Port Jefferson Village, Lombardi’s on the Sound is no more. The family-owned catering business with other locations in Holbrook and Patchogue will no longer serve as the proprietor of the hall located on the golf course on the shores of the Long Island Sound.

The village board unanimously passed a resolution at its March 5 meeting approving the transfer of the catering license at the facility from Lombardi’s Caterers to The Crest Group LLC, a Port Jefferson Station-based real estate group, effective immediately. Crest’s hospitality division also includes Danfords Hotel & Marina, a longtime staple in Port Jefferson Village. The country club catering hall will be rebranded as The
Waterview at Port Jefferson Country Club and is set to reopen in early April, according to Christina Whitehurst, director of sales and marketing at Danfords.

“It was time for a change for both them and us, but I can’t speak for what changed for them as far as their business plan,” village Mayor Margot Garant said. “Lombardi’s sold their business — bulk sale. We simply had to approve the new vendor to assign the agreement. We felt Danfords knows the village and would prove to be a good working partner, treating both our members and residents as VIP clientele.”

Garant said village personnel are meeting with Danfords staff throughout March to coordinate plans, names, menus and events.

“We will make a joint announcement on all when everything is ready to launch,” Garant said. “We are excited to reclaim our country club.”

The mayor added that the menu at the rebranded hall is “to be announced,” but to expect it will be compatible with a country club setting.

Guy Lombardi, one of the business owners who also oversees the kitchens at Lombardi’s various locations, said they made the decision because they wanted to focus more on their other locations, adding that he expected Danfords would do a great job with the location.

“I loved that place,” he said of Lombardi’s on the Sound. “I loved to go there. The mayor does a great job there. It was just time to move on. It was a great run. We’re going to miss the people.”

“We would like to express our most sincere gratitude and appreciation for allowing Lombardi’s on the Sound to provide you the exemplary food, service and catering experience during our 15 years at the Port Jefferson Country Club,” the company said in a statement on the Lombardi’s on the Sound website.

Whitehurst said in a phone interview Danfords would welcome back employees who had jobs at the country club catering hall, and also indicated those who had previously made reservations for events at the country club should get in touch.

“We care about our reputation and how we do business and how we treat our guests and the level of service we deliver, so no matter what it is, we’re not going in there like we’re in and out,” Whitehurst said when asked about duration of the contract. “We want to continue to have the same track record like we have at Danfords.”

Five years remain on the 20-year lease being assumed by Crest, according to the village.

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Repair work to strengthen bulkheads protecting the pier used by The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat ferry company is slated to be finished in June. Photo by Alex Petroski

It’s a common question lately for anyone within earshot of the Port Jefferson ferry: what’s that sound?

The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company, which docks its vessels on the shores of Port Jefferson Village, is in the midst of a repair project that is addressing critical infrastructure, but it’s also causing residents to wonder aloud when they might have some peace and quiet.

Chesterfield Associates, a privately-owned contracting firm hired by the ferry company, is in the process of replacing sheet steel panels that make up the bulkhead, or retaining wall that protects the infrastructure below the pier, according to Jeff Grube, the general manager of the firm. Grube said the loud noise residents are periodically hearing is caused by a vibratory hammer, the machinery being used to drive the steel sheets into the underwater soil. If something obstructs the sheet from being driven into the soil — like in one case a submerged barge, according to Grube — that’s when the decibel level is loudest near the waterfront.

“Projects should include some type of shielding to prevent residences being rattled like this.”

— Facebook poster

“The old sheet piling was corroding to the point where they were starting to lose a lot of fill behind the bulkhead,” Grube said. He added that structural issues could arise if the repair work were not completed, causing a hazardous situation for anyone using the pier. Grube said Chesterfield Associates constructed the dock in the ‘80s, and thanks to regular upkeep by the ferry company, the bulkhead hasn’t needed to be addressed until now, but it was time for the repairs in order to strengthen its critical infrastructure. The general manager said the project is progressing as initially expected, and should be completed by the end of June. The ferry company first submitted an application to the village’s building department Sept. 1, 2017, which estimated the total cost for the project to be nearly $10 million.

The area behind the bulkhead is below the vehicle holding area for the ferry, according to Linda DeSimone, the senior structural engineer for Greenman-Pederson, Inc., the design firm overseeing the plan.

“I don’t understand how the village residents are defenseless to this latest issue,” a poster on a closed Facebook group comprised of Port Jeff village residents said Feb. 20, referring to the loud noise. “Projects should include some type of shielding to prevent residences being rattled like this. I wouldn’t expect to pay for my room downtown, and the noise has to be hurting all village businesses. Get that thing shut down and keep it shut down ‘til they provide a plan that protects the residents and businesses. No one wants to live in or spend money in the middle of a noisy shipyard construction project.”

Others joined the poster in questioning when a projected end date for the construction is, and if the noise violated village code. The village does have a section in its code dedicated to noise pollution, which states specific decibel levels not to be exceeded Sunday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. A lower decibel threshold exits for all other hours.

 

One of the exceptions in the noise pollution section of village code is for construction activities, which are permitted to take place only from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. For this project, the village passed a resolution Sept. 18 allowing the repair work at the ferry to be conducted from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

The added hours were approved to expedite the completion of the project.

“The hours of relief requested are on the bookends of the workday, so those hours would be mostly for setup and breakdown,” Village Mayor Margot Garant said in September.

Garant said in an email the village has not received many complaints about the noise.

“It’s unfortunate, but this work needs to happen — the ferry is an important, integral part of our harbor,” she said. The mayor added the village has no plans to revisit the section of its code pertaining to noise pollution, but instead will “stay the course and hope they complete [the work] ahead of schedule.”

The ferry company also addressed the repair work in a November 2017 Facebook post.

“The terminal improvements should improve traffic flows and help us to stage vehicles more efficiently,” the post said. “Thank you for your continued patience and please know how much we appreciate you using our service.”

This post was updated Feb. 26 to include an updated photo and video.

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Port Jefferson Village Hall. File photo by Heidi Sutton

They say in life communication is key.

Those in the vicinity of Port Jefferson Village Hall and the Port Jefferson Country Club should soon expect to see improved cellphone signal reception thanks to an action taken by the village board Feb. 5. The board unanimously passed a resolution approving the design of the two Verizon antennae.

According to village Mayor Margot Garant, the antennae will not resemble the controversial cellphone towers being debated in places like the Village of Old Field. The mayor described Port Jeff’s new signal boosters in an email as “completely non-invasive and hidden.” She said they are small boards that will be placed behind wood in the cupolas, or small domes typically adorning the roof of a building. She said the devices will strengthen cellular reception in the vicinity of the two locations and would net the village about $13,000 annually in revenue per unit.

She added that the installation was desired in part as a way to alleviate an ongoing issue of inefficient cell service at and around the country club and village beaches, each located in the northeastern corner of Port Jefferson.

“We need cell service at the country club and beaches desperately for emergency related services,” she said.

Board Trustee Stanley Loucks, who also serves as the board’s liaison to the recreation department, expressed similar concerns about signal strength at the club.

“There are many areas on the country club property where there is absolutely no service,” Loucks said. “You can actually move a few feet and lose service. This has been a problem for many years and presents a dangerous situation. Golfers, tennis players, maintenance workers and club guests can and have experienced situations where assistance was needed, and they could not make contact with anyone. This becomes more of a problem when you are on or near our beaches.”

Residents’ concerns about the safety of stronger cellphone signals in close proximity to communities have abounded during the Village of Old Field’s public discourse about a proposed tower at a public park, known by many as Kaltenborn Commons, located at the intersection of Old Field Road and Quaker Path.

Oleg Gang, who works at Brookhaven National Laboratory, said during a hearing on the proposed Old Field cellphone tower he lives in close proximity to the proposed location and was among those who voiced opposition due to health risks.

According to the website of the American Cancer Society, there is currently very little evidence to support the idea of cellphone towers increasing the risk of cancers or other health problems.

Others in Old Field have also balked at the proposal because of the look of the tower. The proposed tower is similar to one installed in Belle Terre Village in recent years, according to Tanya Negron, founder of Elite Towers, a Long Island-based company that develops wireless telecommunications tower sites and is working on the Old Field project.

In August 2016, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) revealed a list of areas on Long Island deemed to be “dead zones” for cellphone service. The list was compiled through a crowdsourcing campaign and included Crystal Brook Hollow Road in Port Jefferson Station, North Country Road in Port Jefferson and Norton Avenue in Terryville.

“A heavily populated region like Long Island shouldn’t be home to over 200 dead zones,” Schumer said at the time, adding shoddy cell service could be a deterrent for individuals or businesses looking to move to the area.

Parking spots in the Brookhaven Town Marina lot were given to Port Jeff Village as part of a 2015 agreement, but the deal alienated parkland, according to the AG's office. Screen capture

To accommodate the sale of a Brookhaven Town-owned building within Port Jefferson Village jurisdiction, the entities reached an intermunicipal agreement in 2015 to swap parking spaces. An informal opinion from the attorney general’s office dated Dec. 13, 2017 has left the deal in limbo.

Brookhaven sold the property on the corner of Main and East Main streets to private developer Agrino Holdings LLC. The developer has since turned the space into first floor retail with apartments above. The change of use of the building triggered a requirement within village code for additional parking, but downtown Port Jeff has a perennial parking problem, with a constant space shortage that can make it difficult for new developments to meet village code requirements. To offset the lack of spaces, the town reached an agreement with the village on a parking space swap — giving the village control of spots at the town-owned marina lot overlooking Port Jefferson Harbor in exchange for spots behind what was previously First National Bank of Port Jefferson and the town tax receiver’s office.

Upon hearing of the agreement at a village board meeting, Michael Mart, a longtime village resident and former member of Port Jeff’s parking committee, said he had some questions. Mart said he believed the deal created an alienation of parkland, as the town-owned spots were meant for boat trailer parking at the marina and boat launch. He took the issue to other interested Brookhaven Town residents who joined up for his cause, and after some back-and-forth in a series of letters to the editor in The Port Times Record by both Mart and Village Mayor Margot Garant, in April 2016, the town attorney’s office requested an informal legal opinion from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asking, “Must the Town of Brookhaven seek legislative approval for the alienation of parkland for an intermunicipal agreement with the Village of Port Jefferson to maintain and control 30 vehicular stalls at a Town marina?”

In Kathryn Sheingold’s response for Scheniderman in December, the New York state assistant solicitor general in charge of opinions vindicated Mart’s contention.

“We are of the opinion that because land currently dedicated to park purposes — parking for the marina — would be made available for parking for other than park purposes, that is, general municipal parking, the change would constitute a diversion of park property that must be authorized by the Legislature before it can occur,” she wrote.

Englebright said in an interview last week he would not support legislation that results in the alienation of parkland.

“I’m open to a conversation if someone can persuade me that the precedent being set is good, but at the moment, from what I see, this is [not a good outcome], despite everyone being of good intent,” he said if he were to receive legislation for the swap as initially crafted. “My door is always open, but I’m very cautious about messing around with parkland.”

Port Jeff Village Attorney Brian Egan said the village has been in touch with the town attorney’s office and the sides are evaluating options, though he does expect an agreement will be reached to rectify the situation, and the sale of the building will not be voided.

““The fact of  the matter is that this informal opinion is only an opinion,” Egan said. “The town attorney and village attorney respectfully disagree with this non-binding opinion on the attorney general’s opinion of the facts and the law. [The document] is not the pinnacle of clarity if this transfer of parking for parking constitutes alienation … I’m confident with the creativity of the town and the village we will come up with a solution.”

Village Deputy Mayor Larry LaPointe said in a statement Egan is reviewing the opinion and the village will decide if any further action is necessary. Brookhaven Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto offered a statement on the matter through a town spokesperson.

“The town will not be seeking alienation,” she said.

A legal battle could ensue should the municipalities fail to reach an agreement.

This post was updated Jan. 29 to correct Michael Mart’s course of action in 2016. This post was updated Jan. 30 to amend Brian Eagen’s quote and to include a statement from Annette Eaderesto.

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Extreme low temperatures caused enough demand to require use of the Port Jefferson Power Station. File photo by Erika Karp

In Port Jefferson, the stacks are impossible to miss. They stick up in the sky, visible from Setauket and Port Jefferson Station when not in use. However, when electricity demand spikes, the billowing, white steam coming from the red-and-white, candy-striped stacks of the Port Jefferson Power Station is a sight to behold.

With the emergence of energy-efficient appliances and a general societal shift toward being “green conscious,” the power station is only activated in times of peak electricity demand these days, like when temperatures and wind chills start flirting with zero. From late December into early January, the New York office of the National Weather Service reported that for 13 straight days, ending Jan. 9, the maximum temperature at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip failed to exceed 32 F. It was the second longest period of below-freezing temperatures reported at the airport since 1963.

As a result of an Island-wide rush to crank up thermostats everyday from Dec. 27 through Jan. 10, the steam-powered electrical generation station was ready to go, serving as an addendum to the Island’s regularly used energy production. In 2017, the Port Jeff plant was operated for 1,698 hours through November, with an additional 260 hours of run time needed in December, according to Sid Nathan, director of public information for the Long Island Power Authority, which oversees operation of the station.

When running, its two steam units produce the white clouds or water vapor, which is a byproduct of burning oil or gas. As the vapor exits the stacks, contact with colder air causes condensation of the water vapor, producing the cloudlike white color. The two steam units ran for 1,958 hours in 2017, the equivalent of running for 41 days, or 11 percent of the year, Nathan said. The power station has the ability to generate about 400 megawatts of power.

The historic stretch of cold temperatures definitely generated an unusually high energy demand at the station, according to Nathan.

“Generally, on a typical 35 degree day, PSEG Long Island would not expect to dispatch the Port Jefferson plant,” he said.

For those concerned about the white steam yielded by the energy generation process, Nathan said the station is not producing more or different steam than normal and that the byproduct is more visible at extremely low ambient temperatures.

“There is no cause for concern,” Nathan said.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said the white smoke is mostly steam that could potentially contain particulates other than steam, and he reiterated residents shouldn’t be overly concerned. Although Englebright did say it would be “prudent to try to separate yourself from the atmospherics of the plant.”

As a North Shore resident and chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, Englebright said he was thankful the plant was ready to roll when needed most.

“Yes, during most of the year they are not in use,” Englebright said, of the stacks. “But when we really need it, it’s there. And we really needed it just in this cold spell and it went into high operation. Thank God it was there.”

A model unit inside The Shipyard at Port Jefferson Harbor apartment complex. Photo from Tritec

By Alex Petroski

The 112-unit, three-story apartment complex prominently perched at the west entrance to Port Jefferson Village, with a bird’s-eye view of Port Jefferson Harbor, got its last, most important feature Jan. 18: tenants.

Tritec Real Estate Company broke ground on the former site of the Heritage Inn motel in June 2016, and last week a  small group of renters began moving into their new homes. Five apartments were fully moved in by the end of the day Jan. 18, and more tenants have been moving in incrementally every day. Onsite Community Manager Phil Chiovitti, whose permanent office will be on the first floor of The Shipyard, said the incremental strategy is to avoid elevator gridlock. Chiovitti said so far, about 46 percent of the units have been preleased, and Tritec’s goal is to have the remaining units inhabited by summer.

“It’s nice to have the building start to come alive a little bit,” said Chris Kelly, Tritec’s director of marketing, who has been a regular fixture at the formerly under-construction building.

As part of Tritec’s financial assistance agreement reached with the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency, an organization tasked with helping to fund projects that will attract business and improve economic conditions within its area, smaller payments in lieu of property taxes will be made to the village by Tritec for 15 years. The agreement has created tension with some longtime homeowners in the village concerned about more neighbors using village streets and services without contributing to the tax base. Others have expressed varying levels of outrage over the sheer size of the building.

“The natural beauty of its harbor and surrounding hills make it one of the loveliest spots on the North Shore of Long Island,” village resident Karleen Erhardt wrote in one 2017 letter to the editor of  The Port Times Record. “It is no wonder that visitors come here year-round to escape the blur of boxy, vinyl-sided suburbia that now characterizes much of Long Island. The Shipyard has done irreparable damage to the character of Port Jefferson Village. All that we residents can do now is wait for the inevitable traffic congestion in and around our town that can only make life here worse.”

Jordan and Alejandra Kaplan were the first tenants to officially move into the building. The couple owned a home in Ridge for 40 years, and after spending about six months living in the basement at one of their children’s homes, waiting for their new dream apartment to be ready to move in, were excited to be at the front of the line last week.

“We had a very large house and for the two of us — it was three floors — it was enormous,” Alejandra Kaplan said. “We said we need to change our lifestyle, and this is definitely what we wanted to do. Everything is right here, you just have to go downstairs and you have everything at your fingertips, and we’re very happy about that.”

She and her husband cited relief from yard work and snow shoveling; proximity to the ferry, which allows them a convenient option to visit casinos in Connecticut or one of their children who lives in Vermont; and the long list of amenities and attractions both inside the building and within the village, as major factors in their decision to downsize. The couple said they’ve long been fans of the goings-on at Theatre Three and the Village Center, and have more than a couple of favorite restaurants in the village.

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