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Port Jefferson

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Eastern Suffolk BOCES CEO Julie Lutz speaks to residents. Photo by Kyle Barr

Who would be Port Jefferson’s perfect superintendent?

It’s a question of priorities, according to Eastern Suffolk BOCES CEO Julie Lutz, who hosted a public meeting Jan. 3 at the Port Jefferson High School asking residents what they would like to see in a new PJ superintendent once Paul Casciano, the district’s current superintendent, vacates his position July 1. 

“A superintendent’s job is to work at the direction of the board, and to organize his or her cabinet to implement the business and instructional practices of the district,” Lutz said. “He’s or she’s the voice of the district to the community, he’s basically responsible for everything that happens.”

‘We need to keep us as a school district of excellence, not cutting programs or anything like that.’

— Arnold Lustig

Twenty-four people applied for the superintendent position through the month of December while the position was being advertised, according to Lutz. BOCES and the Port Jeff school district are still currently screening interviews. All candidates require a School District Leader state-level certificate, and while around half of all superintendents in the Eastern BOCES area have doctorates, it is not required for the job.

Lutz guided a conversation among around 20 Port Jeff residents who came to the meeting about what residents wanted from a superintendent from the perspective of personality and professionalism.

Longtime Port Jeff resident Arnold Lustig said he is currently satisfied with how Casciano has handled the district as of late, and he wants the new superintendent to continue in that.

“We need to keep us as a school district of excellence, not cutting programs or anything like that,” Lustig said.

Karen Sullivan, the president of the Port Jefferson Special Education Parent Teacher Association, said the district is different than other schools across Long Island due to its small class size and its large amount of retirees who live within the district. She said she would want a superintendent willing to reach out to the different segments of the village population.

“We’re an anomaly,” Sullivan said. “If that person can meet with all the stakeholders besides just the parents in the district we would be better for it.”

Leza DiBella, the president elect of the PJSEPTA, said the district is well known in the area for taking special education to heart, and she hopes that will continue with a new superintendent. Other community members agreed a new superintendent should not pay sole attention to high achieving students or students who need the most assistance, but those students in the middle of the pack could also use that consideration.

“This is a district handpicked by residents known for being inclusive and welcoming,” DiBella said.

‘If that person can meet with all the stakeholders besides just the parents in the district we would be better for it.’

— Karen Sullivan

Some in the meeting said they wanted the new superintendent to have had classroom experience, while others asked that he or she should have a strong business sense to handle the district’s finances.

Port Jeff resident Bob Gross, whose child is currently enrolled in the district, said he would want continuous improvement in the school district, whether it’s renovating some of the aging school buildings or building upon current programming, though he was concerned if the district will be able to finance these improvements or pass its budget due to recent events at the end of 2018.

The Town of Brookhaven and the Village of Port Jeff settled a lawsuit with the Long Island Power Authority over the Port Jefferson power station’s tax assessment. The effects of the lawsuit will reduce the $32.6 million tax assessment by 50 percent incrementally over the next nine years to $16.8 million, starting with the 2017-18 tax year. 

The school district is still analyzing what the overall impact on the community could be, but Casciano said at the time residents should expect a tax increase, and the decreased funds the district will receive from LIPA could result in programming being slashed.

Lustig said while many in the district remain concerned over how the LIPA decision might impact them, it’s time to move forward.

“The LIPA issue is done, in fact, it’s no longer an issue,” he said. “The tax rate will go up, and we may be comparatively taxed compared to other local districts. We have to decide what we are going to do to keep the school moving along.”

Eleanor Davis with a photo of herself as a little girl with her mother and brother. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

As far as birthdays go, this year’s was an extra special one for Eleanor Davis. The Port Jefferson resident celebrated her 100th birthday last Sunday surrounded by family and friends. A second birthday celebration on a grander scale is planned for May with a three-day trip to Cooperstown with her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and more.

Born in Philadelphia on Jan. 6, 1919, Eleanor lived in Mount Holly, New Jersey, until the age of 8 when her father, who was a physician, bought a practice in Floral Park. While visiting a friend in Port Jefferson during the summer of 1944 she met her future husband, Chester “Ritchie” Davis. They eventually settled in the village and raised their three children, Laurie, Patricia and Chester, in a charming historic home on Prospect Street.

In the days leading up to her milestone birthday, I had the privilege of spending some time with Eleanor as she reminisced about her long life and answered some questions for, as she likes to say, “her 15 minutes of fame.”

What do you want people to know about you?

I have three claims to fame: I took a parachute jump at the 1939 New York World’s Fair in Queens; I’ve been up in the original Goodyear Blimp; and I’m related to Buffalo Bill by marriage (my father’s cousin was married to Buffalo Bill).

Who is your favorite president so far?

Ronald Reagan. He was a very personable person.

What was one of most tragic events in history for you?

The most tragic event to me was the [Nazi] concentration camps but it was also upsetting when the U.S. government took the Japanese and put them in an encampment. They took away their businesses and everything which was a terrible thing to do. The assassination of JFK was sad and the bombing of Pearl Harbor was also a terrible thing. Those boys were all on their ships and they all went down and couldn’t get out.

Do you remember the Great Depression?

Vaguely, but it really didn’t affect my family that much — my husband suffered more with his family. Sometimes they didn’t have enough to eat. His father couldn’t work anymore because he had a very bad heart so his mother baked biscuits and cookies (cakes and pies on order) and the boys peddled it up and down the harbor as far as Poquott.

What technology are you most impressed about? Cell phones? Computers?

Oh, the ones I don’t like! I hate those iPad things and of course the fancy phones — you can do every but make coffee on them! My son is always finding out information for me on them … but I think it’s too bad that nobody talks to anybody anymore but that’s the way of the world these days, you know?

Who is your favorite historical figure?

I remember going to the library at the age of eight and getting hooked on Mary Queen of Scots — I’m still hooked on Mary Queen of Scots — she was a fascinating person.

Have you traveled?

I’ve camped in Ohio, explored caves down in Kentucky and visited Utah and New Orleans. I loved New Orleans. I’ve also been on the QE2 to Scotland twice, the second time to see the Edinburgh Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle. 

What’s left on your bucket list?

I’ve always wanted to go to Venice. 

Do you have a favorite movie?

My favorite is “Love With the Proper Stranger” with Steve McQueen and Natalie Wood. My daughter loves that film also. 

Do you have a favorite actor?

I would have to say Jimmy Stewart. I had two albums (scrapbooks) as a kid. I collected everything I could get on him — every picture, every article that came out. I wish I still had that. I also liked Margaret Sullivan.

What has been your favorite decade so far?

The 1940s. The early ’40s when I was living in New Jersey was the best time of my life. I had a job I liked and I lived with six girls in a boarding house. We paid $12 a week with meals and refrigerator privileges; we could do laundry in the basement — whatever we wanted to do. [The landlady] didn’t care if we had parties or not. The girls were all different and I was always going to write a book about that time but I never did — that was my secret ambition.

What advice would you give to a young person starting out in life?

Well, my favorite expression is, “Go with the flow.” I suppose that’s the easy way out but I’m not much of an arguer. Also to not worry so much. Sometimes people worry about something that isn’t worth a hoot and a holler in the long run. And you have to find humor in things. Everything is funny if you look at it close enough.

The Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption in Port Jefferson hosted its annual celebration of Epiphany at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai Jan. 6 by once again sending eager young adults through chilling waters to reach a cross thrown into the waters celebrating the Orthodox religious holiday.

While three young men lunged for the cross, 14-year-old George Franks came up in the shallow waters holding the cross aloft. An ambulance awaited the chilled participants to warm them up directly afterward.

Father Demetrios Calogredes, who performed the day’s ceremonies, said the ceremony which celebrates the story of Jesus being baptized in the Jordan River, has been held since the church’s founding in 1959. The blessing is done for all forms of travel, whether by car, plane or boat, to ensure safe
journeys.

Photos clockwise from top: the three young men dash after the cross; Calogredes throws the cross into Mount Sinai Harbor; Mount Sinai resident George Franks holds up hand in triumph, and he stands holding the cross.

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By Bill Landon

The Port Jefferson Royal’s boy’s basketball team looked to notch their first league victory Jan. 8 but had their hands full when Elwood-John Glenn came knocking. The Knights overpowered Port Jeff 77-50 dropping them to 0-4 in this early season. 

Eighth grader Drew Feinstein had the hot hand for the Royals draining 4 triples, banking a pair of field goals and netting 5 from the charity stripe to lead his team in scoring with 21 points. Senior forward Grant Calendrille followed with 2 treys along with 2 field goals putting him up 10.  

The Royals search for that elusive league victory when they hit the road to take on Mattituck Jan. 11. Tip-off is at 5:45 p.m.

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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Port Jefferson’s Royals fought hard at the at the Bob Armstrong Memorial Cup multi-school wrestling tournament held at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School Dec. 15.

Port Jeff’s Rick D’Elia, at 120 pounds, took top spot on the podium in for the Royals wrestling team

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By Bill Landon

Mount Sinai Mustangs showed off their wrestling chops Dec. 15 during the annual Bob Armstrong Memorial Cup multischool wrestling tournament at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School in Port Jefferson.

In five different weight classes Mount Sinai’s Jack Tyrell, Joe O’Brien, Joe Goodrich, Mike Sabella and Matt Campo each took the top spot on the podium.

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Port Jefferson Earl L. Vandermeulen High School. File photo by Elana Glowatz

In the Port Jefferson School District Board of Education’s efforts to hire a new superintendent of schools, an online survey is collecting information on community input on the qualifications, instructional leadership and community engagement it expects from the next leader of the district.

The online survey is available in both English and Spanish and is open until Dec. 21. Those interested can use the links below:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ptjeffeng

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ptjeffspan

The district is allowing residents to fill out a paper copy as well if they visit the District Office located at 550 Scraggy Hill Road, Port Jefferson.

On Jan. 3, 2019, Dr. Julie Davis Lutz, Chief Operating Officer of Eastern Suffolk BOCES, will meet with interested community members to further provide residents an opportunity to discuss skills and characteristics that the new superintendent of schools should possess, and the short-term and long-term issues that he or she will need to address. This meeting will be held at the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School at 7 p.m.

Check back next week for more details in Port Jefferson School district’s search for a new superintendent.

Dr. Edmunde Stewart had a passion for riding horses. Photo Courtesy of the Steart family

By Vicky Stewart

Dr. Edmunde Andrew Cameron Stewart, 80, died Dec. 6 in St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, surrounded by the love of his family. Stewart had been fighting pneumonia. For the past several years, after being diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, his lungs were compromised.

The Stewart family is most known for living on Old Field Road for many years, where he and his wife, Norma, raised their three children. Stewart was an orthopedic surgeon working at St. Charles Hospital and Mather Hospital, serving as the chief of orthopedics at Mather, for many years, and as a past president of the medical staff at both St. Charles and Mather. He had a private practice on Elm Street in Port Jefferson.

Stewart was also an exceptional equestrian and had a passion for foxhunting. He was the master of the Smithtown Hunt Club and a president of the Smithtown Hunt Horse Show. He is remembered affectionately by fellow foxhunters as “Doc” as he would often help injured riders, during a foxhunt. For many years, he moderated the hunt breakfast, to benefit the museums at Stony Brook. He also served three terms as a trustee for the Village of Old Field.

Although medicine and horses were his passions, his greatest love was his family. Right until the end, with family by his side, he was letting them know how much he loved them.

His legacy will live on through his loving family, who adored him. He leaves behind his wife of 56 years, Norma; his son Greg; daughters Victoria and Gillian; and son-in-law Juan. He was a loving grandpa to his four grandchildren, Olivia, Cameron, Benjamin and Emilia, all who affectionately called him “Deda.”

Stewart was a native of Dundee, Scotland. He was predeceased by his father Andrew Stewart, mother Winifred Byrd Lennox and sister Winifred Lennox Govan.

Stewart entered St. Andrew’s University Medical School in Scotland at the age of 17. Upon graduation in 1961, he did two specialty residences in Scotland: internal medicine and orthopedics. In 1962-63, he taught anatomy at St. Andrew’s University. He came to the United States in 1963 and served his residency in orthopedics at Nassau Hospital, Meadowbrook Hospital and here at St. Charles. He became a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in 1971, and the following year he received his fellow of American College of Surgeons. He also served in the Army Reserve, as a reserve commissioned officer  for the United States Army.

The doctor was a man of many talents. His children remember him playing the trumpet and the piano. Prior to entering medical school, he had spent many years on the stage, as a member of the Dundee Repertory Theatre, with starring roles in productions of “Oliver Twist” and “Great Expectations,” to name a few. At the same time, although busy on the stage and with his studies, Stewart managed to find some time to participate in one of his favorite sports. For two years, he was the junior champion of the West End Lawn Tennis Club, a prominent private tennis club in his native Dundee.

While at St. Andrews, Stewart was a member of the university’s fencing team, touring England, Ireland and Scotland and in the process obtaining his “full blue” for the university.

He was laid to rest Dec. 10 at the Caroline Church of Brookhaven in Setauket, on a beautiful sunny day, with a bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace,” in the distance.

“Every man dies, not every man lives” is a quote he was fond of, by William Wallace, a freedom fighter from Scotland near the end of the 13th century. This quote is a great testament to the fact that Stewart truly lived and lived with passion, until the very end. His fighting spirit and love for life will live on in all who knew him.

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By Bill Landon

The Comsewogue Warriors stretched their legs in a 48 to 36 victory over the visiting Port Jeff Royals in a nonleague contest Dec. 6. Danielle McGuire along with teammate Lindsay Hanson topped the leaderboard for the Warriors with 12 points apiece, while Julianna Watson added three triples for nine more. Eighth-grader Lola Idir led the Royals in scoring six field goals, a triple and a free throw for 16 points while Hailey Hearney netted 10. Both teams open league season play Dec. 12 with the Royals at home against Mattituck as the Warriors hit the road to take on Centereach. Game times are 4:30 p.m. and 4 p.m., respectively.

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