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Port Jefferson

The cars lined up along the drive to Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, and besides the sounds of running motors, the graduating seniors could express nothing but awe. The entire front face of the high school was dressed in a shawl of ’90s and early 2000s nostalgia. Above the entrance, dressed on a large orange blimp calling back to the classic Nickelodeon channel logo, was a sign reading Royalodeon. 

The parents of the Port Jeff graduates and members of the prom committee spent hour upon hour of their own time to help construct the pieces to the prom in the months leading up to graduation, and the entire final construction, bringing it to the high school, was done over the previous weekend.

Port Jefferson residents got to experience their efforts the evening of July 1, before the students saw it for the first time. Inside was a splattering of ’90s cartoons, from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” to “The Wild Thornberrys” to “Rugrats,” and the entire dining area designed around “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Lanterns were dressed like jellyfish, hanging from the gym ceiling, and to one side a fully stocked glass case filled with candy was accompanied by cardboard stands of the characters from “Drake & Josh.”

Students arrived awed, not only by the design of the prom but also the number of parents who came to watch their kids walk the red carpet. Kids came ferried in sports cars, but some came in more outlandish style, arriving via boat, the Port Jefferson Jitney, a Qwik Rides Car and even a rickshaw.

The home where an alleged attempted burglary took place. Photo from Google Maps

Port Jefferson residents helped detain an alleged burglar Sunday evening, police said.

Suffolk County Police said Frank Beinlich, 33, undomiciled, illegally entered the home at 22 Gladysz Way in Port Jefferson at around 5:05 p.m. and stole a safe, jewelry, small electronic equipment and clothing. No one was home at the time. Beinlich then allegedly placed several of the stolen items in a wooded area behind the house and called a taxi to pick him up.

When the taxi arrived, neighbors saw Beinlich carrying the safe to the waiting taxi. The neighbors called 911 and then detained Beinlich until 6th precinct officers arrived at the scene.

There was earlier police activity in the area after a neighbor spotted two individuals in the wooded area behind her house and called the police, one neighbor, who wished not to be named, said.

Police said they responded a few hours before the burglary in regard to a stolen vehicle that had been taken from Lake Grove. They are currently trying to determine whether the burglary suspect is also linked with the stolen car.

“They left and we thought it was over — that they had found who they were looking for,“ she said. “But about two hours later I noticed a cab coming down the block.”

The neighbor thought it was pretty unusual and the driver looked like he didn’t know what house to go to.

“He [the driver] parked his car at my neighbor’s and I knew he wasn’t home,” the neighbor said.” From my window I could see the thief behind the gate, he came out to talk to the driver briefly, went back to the house and then came back out with a bag. That’s when I called the police.”

Besides her, two other neighbors had called the police and they tried to keep the suspect in the car telling the driver to turn off the vehicle, but then the burglar jumped out, trying to escape.

“At that point my husband cornered him and with help from another neighbor they held him to the ground until the police came and took him,” she said.

The homeowner whose house was burglarized did not wish to be quoted in this article.

Beinlich was charged with burglary in the 2nd degree and an outstanding parole warrant. He was held overnight in the 6thprecinct and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip July 1.

Deal looks to make headway on Station Street

The current Texaco Parking lot was phase three of the Uptown Funk project. Phase three is to be Station Street, built when the Conifer project is finalized. Photo by David Luces

A small parcel on Oakland Avenue in Upper Port Jefferson is part of a planned sale between the Port Jefferson Fire District and Port Jefferson village in order to make room for Station Street, the last part of the eponymous Uptown Funk project.

Mayor Margot Garant said the village has purchased the property for $25,000 as part of a handshake deal with the fire department as an element of creating Station Street. That project has been on hold until final design plans come forward from the Conifer project, which would create mixed-use apartments and retail space in the footprint of the old Bada Bing parcel.

Though the property sale is only one bump toward getting the new street built, it does cross over a small piece of old time village history.

The property, a sand lot of only around 20 or so feet, was once home to one of the district’s siren towers. At its infancy, it was just a simple bell rung by hand to alert neighbors there was a fire.

Fire District Manager Doug Savage said that those towers were used by the district in the mid-20th century, though they were phased out with the advent of modern communication technology. At one point the district contained three of these sirens, with one near the elementary school still being around. The one on top of the firehouse is the only one still used. 

“That’s all they had to alert people of a fire call,” he said. 

The pole that contained the bell had rotted out, cracked and fell down likely over 20 years ago, Savage said.

Garant said it is a good deal for the fire department, who hasn’t found a use for the property in years.

“They could use the coin in the bank,” she said.

Tom Totton, the fire district commissioners chairman of the board, said the property is not big enough for anyone to build upon. 

In a legal notice published by The Port Times Record, it notes the real property is valued at more than $20,000 and less than $100,000. The notice said it has also deemed the property surplus to the fire district.

“The village wants that piece of property, so we have a deal to sell them the property,” he said.

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The boarded-up house at 49 Sheep Pasture Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

The vines inch up the side of the house at 49 Sheep Pasture Road. The grass was recently mowed, but only enough to keep the shrubs and the weeds from overtaking the lawn, and a unsecured Christmas tree light strand dangles from the front porch like a loose appendage. To the right-hand side of the one-acre property is a small, gazebo-like structure where old faded paintings cover the windows in flowers, hearts and what seems to be the names of children. Inside that structure, debris is strewn about, windows are broken and the back wall is caving in.

An outside building at 49 Sheep Pasture Road is filled with debris. Photo by Kyle Barr

On Long Island, zombie homes like this are a dime a dozen tragedy, but local historians look at the home along Sheep Pasture and see an even greater misfortune, since the house has real historical significance, having been built in the pre-Revolutionary War period by the famous Tooker family, which gave the house its name. 

“It’s one of the oldest homes still on its original location in the village,” said Nick Acampora, the president of the Port Jefferson Historical Society. “We have zombie problems with the Island, of course, and if it’s a house that was built later on, that has no historical value, people are quick, let’s get it out of here. When you have a 200-year-old building, it’s a little different.”

At a May 20 village board meeting, village officials voted to have the house at 49 Sheep Pasture Road demolished, citing the general state of the building and complaints of the residents.

At the May meeting, acting Chief of Code Enforcement Fred Leute helped present a number of pictures to those who attended the meeting. This included images of needles, used alcoholic bottles and other obvious signs of vagrancy. 

The village has yet to put out bids for the demolition, and Mayor Margot Garant said the village has paused in any further action on the building while continuing to take care of the grass and state of the property, all the while hoping to see what may come out of trying to communicate with the property owner.

“I’m glad we’ve brought awareness to the property because it hasn’t been in good repair for 18 months,” Garant said. “If they can purchase it, that would be great.”

The largest issue at hand is the property is privately owned, and it does not exist on any current historic registries. The village has reached out to the current owners, Jericho-based Tab Suffolk Acquisitions LLC, with no success. 

“I don’t think anybody’s been ignoring this, it’s just been a difficulty with the owner,” the historical society president said.

In the book “The Seven Hills of Port” by the late Robert Sisler and his wife Patricia, the house is referenced as “the only 18th century house still intact today in our village sitting in its original footprint on its original foundation,” being dated back to the 1740s.

In fact, the manner in which the book, written more than three decades ago, describes the house could not be any more distinct than how the home looks now. The book references Roman numerals on the attic rafters of hand-hewn post-and-beam construction. The building also contains a beehive domed oven in the fireplace and an old coat cellar in the east end of the building and an additional 20th-century modification to the living room for hiding liquor during the prohibition era, according to the book. Additional later modifications include added dormers and a porch. The book says even the original windows exist on the building’s north face. 

“We do have a couple of houses from that time that have been moved, but this one is still on its original property,” said Catherine Quinlan, historical society trustee. 

However, comparing then to now is staggering. A number of local residents who attended the May meeting asked for the building to be razed, saying they knew it had been broken into and used by vagrants in the past.

“To have a house from the 1700s, with this kind of context, is extraordinary.”

— Steve Englebright

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said he had been in touch with both the village and historical society, adding the preservation of such a venerable home would be a top priority for him and his staff. He said there should be a chance to bring in a historical architect to verify the real historical nature of the location, and he would be working to identify funds necessary to take over the building from the current owners and creating stewardship over the building with a nonprofit.

“To have a house from the 1700s, with this kind of context, is extraordinary,” the assemblyman said.

Preservation Long Island, a nonprofit historical preservation organization, posted June 6 about the house to its Facebook page.

“Instead of a village-funded demolition, perhaps the village could fund an independent engineering assessment for a second opinion on the condition?” it reads. “Long Island’s oldest houses are surprisingly resilient thanks to old growth timber-frames and incredible craftsmanship.”

The mayor and other officials were hesitant to allow people into the building since she said the engineers who studied it had told her there was major structural defect in the building.

“We’re really concerned about people going into the premises and literally falling through the floor,” she said.

In the book, it references the owner as of 1992 when the book was written as Tony Chiarini, saying he was rewiring the house at the time. 

Acampora said he understood the position the derelict property has put the village in, and only hopes that the historical society is contacted before the building is demolished or condemned in order for them to see if they can acquire any and all historical items from the house.

“They have to answer to the folks around it,” Acampora said.

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Photo of the Port Jefferson girl who reportedly went missing. Photo from SCPD

*Update: Victoria Masone, who was reported missing June 23, has been located unharmed, police said.

Original story:

Suffolk County Police are seeking the public’s help to locate a 12-year-old Port Jefferson girl who was reported missing.

Victoria Masone left her home, located at 102 Oakes Street, after getting into a fight with her parents on June 23. Masone, who has run away in the past, could possibly be headed to stay with family in Brooklyn.

Masone is approximately 5 feet 2 inches tall, 95 pounds with an olive complexion. She was wearing jeans, black sneakers and a red, white and blue windbreaker at the time she left her home. She was carrying a black and white checkered backpack.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on Masone’s location to call 911 or the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

Richard Anderson shows art skills to elementary student. Photo by David Luces

“They give me so much life — so much energy,” Richard Anderson, an Edna Louise Spear Elementary School art teacher said of his students. “It is so much fun.”

Anderson, who has been a fixture at the elementary school for the past 34 years, will retire at the end of the school year. He will be leaving behind a lasting impact on his current and former students over the years. 

Richard Anderson shows the artwork of one of the students. Photo by David Luces

“It has gone by so quickly, but I’ve had a blast teaching something I love,” he said, reflecting on his career. “I’ve been a part of the school community for so long and that’s coming to an end. I’ve been getting all these letters from the kids and it’s really nice but it’s sad at the same time. But it tells me that I have done a good job.”

Anderson’s love for art began when he was young. He fondly remembers a trip to The Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan when he was 7 years old and laying eyes on the work of famed artist Chuck Close. 

“My art teacher took me down to The Museum of Modern Art, and they had huge airbrush paintings of Chuck Close and some of his friends,” he said. “At 7 I was like, ‘I want to be an artist just like him.’”

This began a lifelong passion for the Port Jeff art teacher. From there, he would go on to State University College at Buffalo to get his art degree. During that time, he started experimenting with chainsaw wood carvings. He mentioned one of his inspirations was Wendell Castle, a renowned art furniture artist.  

“I had experience with a chainsaw working in the woods, cutting down trees with my father,” he said. 

Anderson would compete in wood carving competitions in upstate New York and found success, winning some events. He said the wood carving scene has really grown over the years and has gotten more refined from carving bears and eagles into more complex designs, such as his rendition of a mermaid carved in wood. 

The elementary art teacher said he enjoys wood carving because it is challenging and pushes his personal abilities further. Anderson hopes to continue to do wood carvings for the village’s harvest festival as well as coming back to the school to do wood carvings for the students. 

Meghan McCarthy, a fellow art teacher at the elementary school, has worked with Anderson for the past two years and says he sets a great example. 

“He’s has been an excellent mentor,” she said. “He’s taught me to approach elementary art as a fine-arts program. He sets the bar high and it shows in the kids’ artwork and shows what they are capable of doing.”

“He laid down a solid foundation for me.”

— Meghan McCarthy

McCarthy said she really lucked out having someone like Rich who has immense amount of experience teaching. 

“He laid down a solid foundation for me,” she said. 

Anderson admits it will be hard for him to retire, but he is looking forward to spending more time with family, getting back into his artistic furniture business and enjoying motorcycling and hunting. 

“I’ve been really blessed to have had a great career and leave a good impact,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to work with some former students of mine and be able to teach some of my former students’ children.”

The Wading River resident said the students motivate him to push himself and in turn he pushes them. 

“It works together, these kids have so much ability and we need to support them,” he said. “I have been given his great gift and it has meant so much to me.”

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First United Methodist Church in Port Jefferson. Photo by Kyle Barr

A new pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Port Jefferson will be taking over the reins of the venerable church starting July 1.

The New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church appointed Pastor Steve Chu as pastor, replacing Pastor Sandra J. Moore who has served the local church for three years. Pastor Chu currently serves as the Youth and English Ministry Pastor at Plainview UMC and prior to this appointment held positions in Herndon and Arlington, Virginia. He holds a Master of Divinity from Wesley Theological Seminary and an undergraduate degree from Hunter College of the City University of New York. 

The First United Methodist Church on Main Street, Port Jefferson has a long history in the community. The current building was erected in 1893 by Loper Brothers while the original chapel had been established on Thompson Street. The parsonage next door was purchased in 1930 and is still used today as a pastoral home. In 1961, the former New York Telephone Company brick building was purchased to hold Sunday school classes and now a day care program. The church is committed to Thanksgiving donations for needy families, sharing with patients at nursing homes, community concerts, a summer chicken barbecue and Christmas fair/cookie walk during the Charles Dickens
Festival weekend. 

On July 14, a welcome barbecue is being planned to follow the church service. People are asked to come and meet the new pastor.

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From left, Kathianne Snaden, Margot Garant and Stan Loucks just after learning the election results Photo by Kyle Barr

The results are as follows:

Unity Party candidates

  • Margot Garant (Incumbent) 1519
  • Stan Loucks (Incumbent) 1387
  • Kathianne Snaden 1383

Residents First Party candidates

  • John Jay LaValle 1013
  • Thomas Meehan 1230
  • Tracey Stapleton 1009

Two separate restaurants and bars in Port Jeff told two different stories the night of June 18, election night in the village. In Tommy’s Place, where the Residents First Party candidates learned of results, the air buzzed with cool conversation throughout the room, offering condolences and thinking about next moves.

In Old Fields Restaurant, with the Unity Party candidates, the room exploded with noise once the results came through. Mayor Margot Garant stood up on a chair, her brow sheened in sweat from the packed bar area and addressed the crowd.

“I have chosen unity and community for the last 12 years, and I’m so proud that everyone who lives here, who comes and plays in our parks, who visits our restaurants, who comes and visits for a day is always welcome and always will be welcome in this village,” she said to cheers of the gathered crowd. “I am going to tell you right now, every store that’s vacant, let’s get it rented tomorrow.”

Mayoral challenger John Jay LaValle was considerate once the results came through, saying they ran their case on the issues.

“This was going to be a race of a referendum on Donald Trump or a referendum on the uptown and downtown of Port Jeff and unfortunately that was their game; we were focused on uptown and downtown,” he said.

He said he wishes the best for Garant, adding he hopes she focuses on uptown revitalization and starts working with business owners to get businesses back into downtown.

“Stan Loucks and Kathianne Snaden are real class acts, they ran a nice race and I really gained a good deal of respect for them,” he said. “At the end of the day we’re all residents and we want to see Port Jefferson succeed
and thrive.”

Incumbent trustee Loucks said the vote was a mandate to move forward with current plans.

“The village has spoken, I think the village is happy with the administration, and they came out today to support them,” he said. “They know we are on the right track, and I think in two to three years we will have proven it to them.”

Newcomer candidate Snaden was close to tears as she spoke to the crowd in Old Fields, saying she looks at Loucks as a father figure and Garant as a “wonder woman.”

“Thank you to everyone who believed in me and supported me” she said. “I plan to do what I said all along, and that is to be the voice of the families in the village.”

Trustee candidate Tracey Stapleton said she wishes the best for those elected, and that hopefully the village can come together after what was a divisive time for a few months.

Mayor Margot Garant addresses the crowd at Old Fields Restaurant the night of June 18. Photo by Kyle Barr

“I hope everyone can be a little together now,” she said. “Just work to get Port Jeff on a good path.”

Garant has been mayor of Port Jeff for close to a decade, and in that time has been head of the village through numerous hurdles, from Upper Port being declared with blight to the settlement with the Town of Brookhaven and the Long Island Power Authority over the Port Jefferson Power Station.

LaValle was councilperson and supervisor of the Town of Brookhaven from 1996 to 2005. Afterward he became Suffolk County Republican Party chairperson, advocating for Republican causes for over a decade before stepping down at the beginning of this year. 

The Port Jefferson Village Center bustled with activity June 18 as thousands braved the rain, streamed through the doors and huddled over election ballots.

This year’s mayoral race has been contentious, as camps of supporters for Garant and LaValle butted heads over a number of issues, including the blight in Upper Port, empty storefronts downtown and the tax assessment settlement between the Town of Brookhaven and the Long Island Power Authority over its Port Jefferson Power Station.

Garant said she was looking forward to another two years as village head.

“I’m elated I get to work two more years for the village,” she said. “Just want to thank the people who trusted me, I wish my opponents well, and we’re going to carry on.”

 

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From left: Amanda Brosnan, Reid Biondo, David Rotunno, Kevin Wood, Connor Kaminska, Gavin Barrett. Photo by Kyle Barr

Four young men and one young woman can be seen by the meters in Port Jefferson with polo shirts emblazoned with Port Jefferson parking. Their job is to answer the question that’s on the lips of so many visitors and residents alike; “where do I park?”

Meters in Port Jefferson. File photo by Elana Glowatz

The first parking ambassador was introduced to the village last year, according to Kevin Wood, the village parking and mobility administrator.

“They bring that human touch to the operation of paying for a space,” Wood said. “Beyond that, they’re all Port Jefferson residents, so they know where everything is.”

All but one of the parking ambassadors are seniors at the Port Jefferson High School. Connor Kaminska, one of the village’s first parking ambassador, finished his first year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is back for the summer. Beyond fielding questions from confused visitors, Kaminska also uses his technical skills to fix the meter stalls he comes across

“I usually start off a shift with checking if they’re working,” he said. “If not then I usually fix them, take out the motherboards and catch boxes, just get them working… It’s nice being outside, helping people.”

The other four parking ambassadors include Port Jefferson High School seniors David Rotunno, Gavin Barrett, Reid Biondo and Amanda Brosnan. The young people work four to five days a week on four- to six-hour shifts, depending on how busy the village is at the time. They are paid $12 an hour, of which the money comes from the managed meter fund. During events like the Mini Maker Faire June 8, most of the ambassadors were out fielding questions about the meters.

Wood said, on a typical night, two ambassadors will be out for around four hours from 4 to 8 p.m. One is usually located on the west side of Main Street while the other focuses on the eastern end.

The parking administrator said the idea came from fielding many questions from visitors and residents while working on village meters.

“I found that 90 percent of questions are: how do I do this, what are the hours, does the machine give change, where is this restaurant, what time does this close, what time can I park here until,” he said. “The word ambassador is correct, Port Jeff ambassador.”

Brosnan saw an ad for the job on Facebook, and said she thought to herself, “Oh, I can walk around the village, help people and get paid for it.”

She added it’s especially helpful for when the village gets busy, and there’s hardly any spot to find within the entirety of Port Jeff. She usually suggests people find spots near the CVS or the Village Center in the back lot.

“Port Jeff is a tourist town, and people don’t know how to use it, even if there’s signs on the meters,” she said. “Sometimes the machine glitches, or just somebody isn’t sure what to do, so we’re there to help them with it.”

Biondo, a fellow high school senior, is also doing his first season as a parking ambassador. He finds he’s often acting as a facilitator for the parking meters, helping people understand how they can pay for their spot, where some machines don’t accept cash, and none give change. He also tries to tell people about the mobile app MobileNOW!.

“People do enjoy it, because it’s just one less hurdle for them to come and enjoy the village,” Biondo said.

“There’s no secret that there’s parking anxiety in Port Jeff.”

— Kevin Wood

Each of them has a consistent question they hear most often. Kaminska said he often hears about how one can add time to a spot and where certain restaurants are to give them “a lay of the land.”

Brosnan often gets asked where meters are, if meters apply directly to spots, or if they can be used for every spot in the village. Answer: the meters can interact with every parking spot.

Though it’s not necessarily an easy job. The ambassadors are always on their feet. With smart watches and Fitbits. Biondo said he has tracked more than 30,000 steps in a day, while the lone girl on the ambassador team said she had once tracked over six miles of walking distance in a shift.

All but Kaminska will be graduating by the end of June. Brosnan will be going to Salve Regina University in Rhode Island, Rotunno will be going to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Barrett will be going to Binghamton University in Upstate New York, and Biondo will be attending the University of Virginia.

Wood said their work has been invaluable so far this season.

“There’s no secret that there’s parking anxiety in Port Jeff,” Wood said. “These wonderful human beings just by being present calm that anxiety.”

More about parking can be found at https://portjeff.com/parking/

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Raymond LaGala (center with white hair), wife Stephany (blue shirt) and the rest of the family. Photo from Thomas LaGala

For Raymond LaGala, owner of Hairport in the Village of Port Jefferson, cutting people’s hair is a feel-good business. Great service and treating his clients right — that is what he said has been bringing people back for the last 45 years. 

“You have to love what you do,” he said. “I’m glad that I still enjoy it.”

Hairport hair salon in Port Jefferson. Photo from Google maps

LaGala said he had the idea of one day opening his own shop since he first became a hairdresser. He learned the craft working at shops in Merrick and Great Neck, and in 1973, he decided to try opening his own business. 

The longtime stylist and barber had visited Port Jeff before and thought it would be a good place for his salon. In June 1974, Hairport was born and has resided in the same spot on Main Street since. 

The Port Jeff business owner said his shop was one of the first unisex salons in the area at the time. 

“As we got busier, we kept expanding,” LaGala said. 

They then expanded into barbering and along the way his children became involved in the family business. 

One of his sons, Thomas LaGala, began barbering at the salon when he was 17 years old, and was followed by his brother Jason, who said he wanted to learn hairdressing so his father sent him to a school in the city. 

From there, the two sons and a nephew of Raymond, James, began barbering in the back of the salon and it proved to be successful. 

Jason said he remembers coming into the salon when he was a kid and he would watch his father cut clients’ hair. The young man thought it seemed like a fun place to work. 

“For me it was a cool time growing up, working for my dad,” Jason said. “He taught me to always take care of the customer.”

Throughout the years, two other children, David and Joann, joined the business. James and Jason, after working at Hairport for some time, decided to open their own business across the street after some encouragement from their father. The pair now run the Men’s Room Barbershop on Main Street in Port Jeff, with James as owner and Jason as partner. 

“Running a business is not always easy. It is an uphill battle,” Raymond said. “You have to be able to adjust — it is forever changing.”

The father of seven stressed the importance of not assuming customers will come back just because you are around. 

“You can’t take them for granted. If you treat them right they will be back,” he said. 

Over the years, the salon has built up a loyal client base who appreciate the service and honesty. Raymond mentioned it is all about the relationships you cultivate with your customers. 

Jason said he is proud that the family-run business is still striving. 

“It is cool to have a successful business grow with the area it’s been in,” he said. “It has become a staple of the village.”

Jason said it has been nice watching a family man, in his father, take care of his family. 

Raymond said the key to success is that you can’t rest on what you did in the past; you have to keep going forward 

“We are still here, making noise,” he said. 

This post has been amended June 19 to better reflect the ownership of Men’s Room Barbershop.

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