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Port Jefferson

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Freshman midfielder Thomas Mark evades the Panthers. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Despite a 14-4 loss at the hands of Babylon on a rainy Tuesday, the Port Jefferson boys’ lacrosse team is looking on the bright side.

“I think a young team like this, not ever experiencing the competition at the varsity level, especially a team that is the reigning county champions, it’s an uphill battle every single time,” Port Jefferson head coach Taylor Forstell said. “It was quite a learning experience. They competed until the last whistle and that’s all I could ask of them.”

A young team, the Royals are looking to improve day by day, to prove that they can hang with — and one day rule over — the other varsity teams.

Junior attack Spencer Woolley passes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Junior attack Spencer Woolley passes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

To get to that level, junior attack and co-captain Taylor Chiarelli said the team has been doing a lot of running during practice, something the team likes to call “lacrosse country,” while also working on stick skills and ball movement to learn the basics.

“We just need more practice, more movement and more calling out,” he said after the loss. “We didn’t win the game, but it’s all right. We tried our hardest and that’s all that matters.”

Forstell said competitiveness is one thing his athletes don’t lack, adding that although the score of the game may not show it, his Royals never gave up on a play and pressured Babylon until the last whistle.

The Panthers started off with eight unanswered goals until Port Jefferson junior attack Marco Scarda received the ball off of a pass and, from about 20 yards out, sent a straight shot past the goalkeeper to put his team on the scoreboard.

Babylon scored once more in the first, three times in the second and once in the third to take a 13-1 advantage into the final quarter.

“I feel like we kind of lost the game before we got out here, mentally,” said junior goalkeeper and co-captain Connor Fitterer, who made six saves on the evening. “We knew they were going to be a tough team. There’s a lack of experience for a lot of these players. Some of them picked up the stick for the first time last year or this year, so it’s been difficult, but it’s been fun.”

The Royals had something to smile about when Scarda scored again with 10:44 remaining in the game, off a pass across the field that he whipped into the back of the cage.

Sophomore midfielder Chandler Sciara looks downfield to make a play. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Sophomore midfielder Chandler Sciara looks downfield to make a play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Babylon scored again but Port Jefferson sophomore midfielder Chandler Sciara countered with a goal of his own.

With five seconds remaining, Port Jefferson freshman midfielder Thomas Mark passed the ball from the far left side to sophomore attack Brian Mark, his older brother, who was in front of the goal and managed to lob the ball in overhead to bring the final score to 14-4.

With the loss, Port Jefferson moves to 1-2 overall and 1-1 in League IV, having lost the first game of the season to Bellport, 16-3, but bouncing back with a 16-6 win over Southampton/Ross in its second matchup.

“We definitely could’ve pressured harder, we definitely could’ve been playing a little tougher against them — we didn’t come out with as much fire as they did — but next week’s a new week and we’ll see them again,” junior midfielder and co-captain Max Scandale said. “We just need a little bit of practice, a little bit of time and we’ll definitely get there.”

The Greenway Trail runs between Port Jefferson Station and Setauket. File photo

Days after human skeletal remains were discovered near the Greenway Trail, a Suffolk County police officer assured local residents that he would be patrolling the hiking and biking path in the warmer weather.

Officer William Gibaldi said at the March 25 meeting of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association that he had just driven the trail, which runs between Setauket and Port Jefferson Station, the day before in a police car with another officer.

“When it warms up a little, we’re going to be riding our bikes through there, at least two or three times a week,” he said. “We’re gonna be in there.”

On March 22, around 4 p.m., skeletal remains were spotted close to the 3.5-mile trail at its stretch off of Gnarled Hollow Road. Police are investigating the human remains, and officials have not yet released the sex of the deceased or the person’s cause of death.

It was also unclear when the person died and how long the body had been in the place it was found.

The Greenway Trail, which opened in 2009 and originally ran from Gnarled Hollow Road to Sheep Pasture Road, was recently extended by two miles — one mile on each end — to bring it all the way to Limroy Lane in Setauket and close to Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station. While construction was largely completed in late 2013, the community officially opened the trail with a ceremony in early 2014.

“The inspector of the precinct, he wants us on that trail all the time anyway, so we’re gonna be on that trail a lot,” Gibaldi said. “You’ll see us in there, hanging out, riding around or … driving a car.”

The upcoming budget vote is at the library on Thompson Street. File photo

The average Port Jefferson resident will pay $10.80 more in library taxes next year, if members approve a proposed $4.33 million budget for 2015-16.

Most of the Port Jefferson Free Library’s expense lines would increase or decrease modestly under the spending plan, according to a budget breakdown from the library. One of the larger changes would be in materials and programs — the library would spend $42,500 less on books next year, for a total of $178,000. Spending on programs, meanwhile, would increase almost $15,000.

In personnel expenditures, salary and retirement costs would both decrease next year, while insurance costs would increase.

Library Director Robert Goykin explained that the decrease in the book budget “is largely the result of many of the expensive print items moving to less expensive electronic versions or publications going out of business,” such as encyclopedias.

While Goykin called it “sad” that those publications are no longer being printed, he said that many of them work well in a digital format because “people don’t read them cover to cover as much as consult them for facts.”

Library Director Robert Goykin says a decrease in spending on books can be partially attributed to reference publications going digital. File photo
Library Director Robert Goykin says a decrease in spending on books can be partially attributed to reference publications going digital. File photo

The director said, “In this case the economics work in our favor despite the fact of losing some ‘old friends’ on the shelf.”

The proposed increase in funding for library programs reflects a higher demand, Goykin said, and more programming in science and technology, which can be more expensive than other areas.

In addition to those budget lines, the library would transfer $107,000 into its capital fund for facility improvements.

The library board of trustees has been working on a strategic plan for how the establishment will serve residents in the future, which includes improving the facilities and deciding what to do with a recently purchased residential property that is located next door on Thompson Street.

“With the plan almost concluded,” Goykin said, “the board wanted to set aside some funding to make improvements in the facility.”

All together, the budget would increase less than 0.6 percent next year, and would carry a roughly $3 million tax levy.

If the proposal is approved, for every $100 of assessed value, residents would have to pay an extra quarter to the library next year. The average house in the community is assessed at $4,500.

“The board and the staff have been very mindful of the difficult economic circumstances of the last number of years,” Goykin said. “This is our fifth straight year of minimal budget increases.”

Voting is at the library on Tuesday, April 14, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Just do it
A 35-year-old Bay Shore man was arrested in Stony Brook on Nesconset Highway on March 21 at about 4:43 p.m. and charged with petit larceny. Police said the man stole two pairs of Nike sneakers from Sports Authority.

You’ve got mail
Police said a 28-year-old man from Brooklyn was arrested in Setauket-East Setauket on March 17 at Brewster Lane and charged with two counts of petit larceny. Police said the man, who was arrested at about 1:15 p.m., stole two pieces of mail from a mailbox on Brewster Lane.

Hit the gas
A driver made off without paying for gas after fueling up at a BP gas station on Route 25 in Setauket-East Setauket sometime around 8:54 p.m. on March 22. Police described the car as an older, dark-colored Toyota.

A hairy situation
Police said someone broke into a Cactus Salon on Nesconset Highway in Setauket-East Setauket just after midnight on March 19. A piece of cement was thrown at a rear glass door and a suspect walked through, but police said nothing was taken.

Off the grid
A resident of Patchogue Road in Port Jefferson Station reported an unknown person had cut cable wires at their residence on March 20 at approximately 2 a.m.

Clean sweep
A ring was stolen from a 2005 Toyota Land Cruiser while it was at a Port Jefferson Station car wash on Route 347. The grand larceny occurred on March 19 at 11 a.m.

Cash station
An employee at a Port Jefferson Station gas station on Route 25A reported a white male had attempted to purchase cigarettes, but then demanded and stole cash from the cash register. He then fled from the scene. According to police, the incident occurred on March 17 at around 8 a.m.

Not very loyal
A gold claddagh ring and other items were stolen from a North Bicycle Path residence in Port Jefferson Station sometime between 8:30 p.m. on March 16 and 5 p.m. on March 17.

Brawling
A person was taken to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in the early morning of March 22 after an altercation at Schafer’s in Port Jefferson. According to police, the victim was punched in the face and no arrests have been made.

A taxing crime
A Port Jefferson resident fell victim to an IRS letter scam on March 16. According to police, the Longfellow Lane resident mailed a check in response to a fraudulent letter.

Cat burglar nap
A 23-year-old Miller Place man was arrested in Port Jefferson Station for criminal mischief and burglary on March 20 after he broke into a commercial building on North Country Road in Port Jefferson by breaking the window and fell asleep inside.

Cheap ride
A 31-year-old Holbrook woman was arrested in Port Jefferson after she refused to pay for a cab service on March 20.

Sneaky critter
An unknown individual damaged the basement door of the Miller Place Animal Hospital on Route 25A on March 17 at around 2:30 a.m. Police said the suspect broke the door’s windowpane.

To the max
The RE/MAX Alliance office in Miller Place was robbed of laptops, office furniture and cash between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. on March 17.

Airing his dirty laundry
An unknown man entered the Rocky Point Laundromat on Broadway and demanded money on March 22. He then fled the business without taking anything.

When a stranger calls
A resident of Sunburst Drive in Rocky Point reported receiving threatening phone calls from an unknown person on March 19.

Can’t Beats the police
A Ridge man was charged with petit larceny on March 19 for stealing two Fitbit watches and two Beats headphones from the Rocky Point Kohl’s.

Space opens up
An unknown person forced their way into an ExtraSpace Storage unit in Centereach and removed three motors and parts on March 21, shortly after 3:30 a.m.

Carjacked
A 1999 Honda Civic parked on North Coleman Road in Centereach was stolen between 7:15 p.m. on March 19 and 9 a.m. on March 20.

Ganged up on
A man was punched by an unknown number of males at a BP gas station in Selden on March 21 shortly before 2:30 a.m. It was unclear if the man needed medical attention, and the group of assailants fled.

Scratched
An 18-year-old Selden man was arrested in Selden for criminal mischief after he scratched the passenger side door of a 2014 Toyota Camry on March 22.

Port Jefferson Village Treasurer Don Pearce, above, worked with the board of trustees on Monday night at Village Hall to reduce the budget for 2015-16. File photo

Port Jefferson officials are whittling down the village’s budget proposal for 2015-16.

During a budget workshop at Village Hall on Monday afternoon, the board of trustees slashed almost $300,000 from department funding requests, to get the preliminary spending plan down to about $10.34 million.

One of the pricier items the trustees removed was a generator for the Department of Public Works — something that had also been an issue during last year’s budget process. On Monday, the trustees agreed that the generator, being a one-time capital expense, would better belong in the capital budget, rather than the operating budget. The board was also looking at the generator as part of a larger capital project: its proposed emergency operations center.

Due to safety concerns and power complications during storms like Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Winter Storm Nemo in 2013, officials have set up shop at the Mount Sinai headquarters of the Port Jefferson Volunteer Ambulance Company during weather emergencies. But the village is seeking to build an emergency operations center, which would include a generator, at the village government building on North Country Road that houses both the public works and building and planning departments. That operations center could receive state aid to be built.

The draft $10.34 million budget for next year — as compared to the current $10 million budget — would increase the tax rate by a little more than $1.50 for every $100 of assessed value.

However, the trustees are still reviewing both the revenue and spending sides of the budget, including items like trustee salaries and the number of code enforcement work hours.

The board will hold a public hearing on possibly piercing through the state-imposed cap on tax levy increases in Village Hall on April 6, and then will hold a public hearing on a finalized budget proposal on April 15.

Human remains were found along the Greenway Trail in Setauket. Photo by Phil Corso

Skeletal remains were spotted in Setauket on Sunday, prompting a police investigation, officials said.

Suffolk County police were seen investigating the human remains soon after they were found, around 4 p.m. on Sunday near at a stretch of the hiking and biking Greenway Trail off of Gnarled Hollow Road, police said. The cause of death was unknown, and it was still unclear whether the remains belonged to a male or female, cops said.

The medical examiner’s office is still determining the cause of death, police said.

The Greenway Trail runs 3.5 miles between Setauket and Port Jefferson Station. It starts at Limroy Lane on the western end and goes to the state department of transportation’s Park and Ride lot near Route 112.

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Senior runner finishes final indoor track and field season with a multitude of achievements

Head coach Rod Cawley, runner James Burke, athletic director Debra Ferry and Burke's mother Maureen pose for a photo. Photo by Jim Burke
James Burke stands atop the podium after earning a gold medal in the mile at the state championship. Photo by Jim Burke
James Burke stands atop the podium after earning a gold medal in the mile at the state championship. Photo by Jim Burke

Almost no one can catch him.

This past weekend, Port Jefferson high school senior James Burke earned a silver medal at the New Balance Nationals Indoor at the Armory in Manhattan, making him the second fastest miler in the country at 4 minutes, 8.48 seconds.

It’s just one highlight of his final and most memorable indoor season.

“I’ve just been more about trying to win races and disregarding time, not really watching the clock, because my mentality with that was every record you get will eventually be broken, but every title you get can never get taken away from you,” Burke said.

Although he wasn’t watching the clock, Burke ran a new national No. 1 time in the 1,000-meter at the Molloy Stanner Games in January, finishing in 2:26.35.

Burke said the 1,000 is, of course, not his forte, but he was excited to be able to show his range.

“It was definitely a big confidence booster for me to know that there’s a variety of events that I can excel in; to know that I’m not limited to one event,” he said.

Besides topping the country, the mark also broke the Long Island record of 2:27.39, set by Chaminade’s Sean Kelly last season.

Following that race, Burke competed in the New Balance High School Boys’ Mile at the New York Road Runners’ Millrose Games in February, and finished first with a time of 4:11.25. He also nabbed his first New York State gold medal for the mile at the state championship meet earlier this month.

Head coach Rod Cawley, runner James Burke, athletic director Debra Ferry and Burke's mother Maureen pose for a photo. Photo by Jim Burke
Head coach Rod Cawley, runner James Burke, athletic director Debra Ferry and Burke’s mother Maureen pose for a photo. Photo by Jim Burke

“Anything he had, he put it out there this year,” Port Jefferson head coach Rod Cawley said. “He performed to the best of his ability throughout the entire season, and it showed in the result.”

The medal was special to Burke not only because it was his first time earning gold in a state competition but also because of the memories that haunted him from the same meet the year prior.

Last winter, Burke made his move with about 600 meters to go in the race and was passed with nearly 20 meters left, resulting in a second-place finish.

“That image was in my head pretty much all year, because I didn’t get a chance in the spring,” Burke said, explaining that he had mononucleosis last spring and could not compete at states. “I was waiting the whole year for that day. Remembering what happened last year, every day, for the whole year, it was definitely a good feeling to place first.”

Then came the national championship, which went a little differently for the Royal compared to his previous races, but his coach was still proud of his athlete.

“He ran beautifully, he did what he had to do, he went out faster than he ever went out before,” Cawley said of his six-year varsity runner. “James persevered and he never gave up. He always tried to catch [Michigan’s Grant Fisher]. It was a phenomenal performance — very gutsy, very smart. He did a great job.”

The difference this time around was the pace of the first 800 meters. During the state meet, the first half of the race was completed in 2:17, but at nationals he finished that distance in 2:01.

The pressure didn’t bother Burke. The mile was just run differently because the stakes were high and the competition was fiercer. But as a result of the speed, Burke believes he got in his own head.

James Burke runs in a previous outdoor competition. File photo
James Burke runs in a previous outdoor competition. File photo

“That was the fastest I’ve ever gone through 800 meters, by 10 seconds, in the mile, so it was interesting because as I was going through it at that pace, I saw the clock and thought I should be really tired but I wasn’t,” he said. “Going through at a pace I’m just not used to going got in my head a little bit, so I told myself I was more tired than I really was.”

But Burke got through the mental minefield to secure his second-place finish.

As a result of the new feat, Burke believes that he can continue to shave time off his mile to reach his goal of four minutes.

“So much of racing is staying in the right mental place throughout the race,” he said, which is also why each time he sets foot on the track, he remains confident and determined that he will win.

Cawley said this quality is critical to his senior’s success.

“To go in to a race with that attitude gives you an advantage, because when you doubt you’re going to beat somebody, you’re not going to beat them,” he said. “James is a reality check, because with him around, no matter what you do, you just don’t look as good. He’ll always exceed your expectations and he will always perform to the best of his ability. There’s no doubt in his mind, when he stands on the track, that he’s going to beat everybody else.”

James D. Schultz as Peter Rabbit and Tazukie Fearon as Benjamin Bunny in a scene from 'The Adventures of Peter Rabbit.' Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

I always know that spring is right around the corner when Theatre Three presents its adorable annual musical production of “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit.” Written by Jeffrey E. Sanzel and the late Brent Erlanson, suggested by the characters created by Beatrix Potter, this show is a personal favorite of mine and seems to get better every year. Directed by Tazukie Fearon for the second year in a row and accompanied flawlessly on piano by Steve McCoy, it follows the adventures of Peter Rabbit (played by James D. Schultz) and his cousin Benjamin Bunny (played by Fearon) as they sneak into Mr. McGregor’s garden to steal his vegetables.

Like two peas in a pod, Schultz and Fearon work very well together. They know their target audience well and draw the most laughs. Amanda Geraci plays Mrs. Rabbit and charms the audience with her beautiful rendition of “Morning.” Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail, played by Marquéz Catherine Stewart, Jenna Kavaler and Caitlin Nofi (who has a fondness for Trix cereal), respectively, are a terrific supporting cast. Dan Brenner and Sue Anne Dennehy return as Mr. and Mrs. McGregor and shine in their duet, “A Friend.”

Of special note is the constant interaction with the audience — asking them what to do next or answering a child when she asks a question. While being chased by Mr. McGregor, the cast runs up and down the aisles, sitting in chairs to hide, much to the delight of the young theatergoers. A nice touch.

The set is minimal, with just a few props including a scarecrow and a basket of vegetables, allowing your imagination to run wild. Listening to the dialogue, one can envision a garden full of carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, string beans and parsley and understand how two little rabbits could find this forbidden bounty irresistible. Utilizing a trap door on the stage as a rabbit hole is very effective.

Masterfully choreographed by Stewart, the musical numbers, arranged by Kevin F. Story, are all showstoppers, especially “One More Time Around” and “Peter’s Socks,” and the audience is treated to an encore performance of all the songs in a finale mega mix.

Sophie Jeong, 4, of Coram, came prepared for the show by wearing a pretty pink shirt with a bunny sewn on it and by bringing her favorite stuffed rabbit along. She sang along to all the songs, and, when asked who her favorite character was, she replied without hesitation — “Peter Rabbit.” Her favorite scene? “When the bunnies were eating their lunch [of blackberries, milk and toast].”

Don’t forget to take a picture with the cast in the lobby after the show. Bunny stuffed animals will be sold before the show and during intermission, and booster seats are available. Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” through April 11, perfect for spring break. Up next is “The Littlest Pirate” followed by “Puss-in-Boots” and “Jack and the Beanstalk.” Tickets are only $10 each. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

School building has lasted through ups and downs in Port Jefferson Village

Port Jefferson’s old high school on Spring Street, above, was made of wood and burned down on July 4, 1913. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village Digital Archive

A lot has changed in the last century, but Port Jefferson’s Spring Street school building still stands.

BOCES social worker Christian Scott, special education teacher Patricia Dolan and Principal Chris Williams wear period clothing to celebrate the Spring Street school building's 100th birthday. Photo from BOCES
BOCES social worker Christian Scott, special education teacher Patricia Dolan and Principal Chris Williams wear period clothing to celebrate the Spring Street school building’s 100th birthday. Photo from BOCES

Eastern Suffolk BOCES, which leases the school building from the Port Jefferson school district, recently celebrated the building’s 100th birthday, with festivities that included period costumes and popular music from the era — the 1914 hit “By the Beautiful Sea” and a World War I marching song from 1915, “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag.” There was also a ribbon-cutting ceremony and lots of cake at the school at Spring and High streets, which is now officially called the Jefferson Academic Center.

Though the mood was light that day, the road leading up to the 100th birthday bash was a rocky one.

Another building, the original Port Jefferson High School, once stood in that same place, but it burned down on Independence Day in 1913.

According to the village’s historical archive, it is still a mystery what caused the fire, which started the night before. At the time, many believed that some young people broke into the building so they could ring the bell at midnight to celebrate July 4. They believed the kids started the fire by accident while using matches to light their way in the dark building.

The Spring Street school building went up in 1914. Photo by Barbara Donlon
The Spring Street school building went up in 1914. Photo by Barbara Donlon

There was also a theory that an arsonist lit up the wooden building, according to the archive. A suspect was presented to a Suffolk County grand jury, but he was not indicted.

The current Spring Street building was erected the following year, with the community laying its cornerstone on May 2.

According to Eastern Suffolk BOCES, $75,000 went toward the new brick and stone structure, which had separate entrances for boys and girls on opposite sides of the building.

“The genders may have been separated by doorways, but their education fell under the doctrine that knowledge is power, a phrase carved into the front of the building for all to see,” a press release from BOCES said.

Though the building was once home to all the grades in the school district, the district expanded and it eventually housed only middle school students. When those kids were moved into the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School building on Old Post Road, where they remain today, the historical building was left behind.

Port Jefferson’s old high school on Spring Street was made of wood and burned down on July 4, 1913. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village Digital Archive
Port Jefferson’s old high school on Spring Street was made of wood and burned down on July 4, 1913. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village Digital Archive

Eastern Suffolk BOCES stepped in during the late 1990s. Sean Leister, Port Jefferson’s assistant superintendent for business, said the school district began leasing the building to BOCES in March 1997. And according to BOCES, it has been providing special education services at the Jefferson Academic Center since 1998.

In 2007, the deteriorating Spring Street building got a little lift — district voters overwhelmingly approved a $5.2 million bond to renovate the building, which came with a renewed 10-year lease, the yearly rent of which covered the cost of the improvements. Those included replacing the gym floor, piping and the boilers; improving site drainage; doing work on the electrical system and the foundation; and making the building more handicapped-accessible with additional toilets, a wheelchair lift and an elevator.

The renovations have kept the Spring Street school going strong — it is the oldest school in Suffolk County that still operates as such.

To 100 years more.

Harbormaster Peter Koutrakos observes the water from his patrol boat. File photo by Elana Glowatz

The Port Jefferson Harbor Complex is just that — a complex cluster of waterways that needs diligent eyes watching over it.

Those eyes belong to Brookhaven Town Harbormaster Peter Koutrakos and the others in his department, who are all working to keep the water safe this boating season.

The harbor complex includes Port Jefferson Harbor at its center, where Koutrakos is based, as well as Setauket Harbor and the adjacent Little Bay; Pirate’s Cove; Conscience Bay and the Narrows that lead into it; and a small section of water immediately outside Port Jefferson Harbor on the Long Island Sound that is bookended by Old Field Point to the west and Belle Terre’s Mount Misery to the east. Between these sections, the complex has more than 2,000 acres of surface water, and that area sees thousands of boats every season.

Peter O’Leary, the town’s commissioner of public safety, said between moorings and slips in the area, there are more than 1,200 spaces for boats, and that doesn’t include the ones just passing through.

On any given summer weekend, “the place is bedlam,” O’Leary said. “It creates quite a bit of traffic.”

With heavy traffic comes risk.

For Koutrakos, who has been harbormaster for 14 years and has jurisdiction in all town waters, it was the attack on the USS Cole in 2000 — an al-Qaida suicide attack in Yemen in which a small vessel next to the U.S. Navy ship was blown up, killing 17 Americans — that made him realize boats could be used as weapons.

Things also changed after the 9/11 terrorist attack. Officials became aware of the harbor’s vulnerability, as possible targets for terrorists include power plants, oil terminals and ferries — and Port Jefferson Harbor has all of them. Long Island has also been a concern in national security discussions because it is close to New York City and at the same time is remote: Ferries would be the only way off the island if an emergency event were to shut down transportation into the city.

The view of Port Jefferson Harbor from the harbormaster's patrol boat. File photo by Elana Glowatz
The view of Port Jefferson Harbor from the harbormaster’s patrol boat. File photo by Elana Glowatz

To keep the complex safe, the harbormaster works on a number of security exercises. One program, Operation Shield, involves coordinating with other agencies to randomly check foreign vessels for travel documents.

Though Operation Shield only runs on certain days, Koutrakos said he regularly does checks on his own. If the vessels do not have the proper documentation, he calls in customs officers to board and search them.

Another exercise he occasionally works on is search and rescue training with the U.S. Coast Guard, which helps prepare for an emergency situation, for instance if the ferry were to sink due to a mechanical problem or a bomb.

Koutrakos explained that the exercise group determines how to respond to an incident and who would take command of the scene. In the case of the ferry, officers also talk to the captain to learn how he would respond under certain circumstances and discuss a strategy for saving as many lives as possible, “before something really happens.”

The harbormaster also meets every few months with a Long Island security committee whose members range from the local to the federal level.

To boost security all over, O’Leary said, the town is working to install security cameras on its properties, and Port Jefferson is slated to receive some of that surveillance.

However, one of O’Leary’s concerns in protecting town waters is linked to the economy. He said budget cuts have meant cutbacks on seasonal employees, so there are fewer bay constables on both shores and they are working a shorter season. There are also fewer workers to pump out waste from the boats so it is not discharged into the water.

On Koutrakos’ end, he has an assistant harbormaster year-round and two seasonal harbormasters during the summer.

Most summer days, Koutrakos spends his time patrolling the waters and helping people who call him for assistance.

‘The place is bedlam. … It creates quite a bit of traffic.’
— Peter O’Leary

Born and raised in Port Jefferson, Koutrakos has a name people might recognize — his family owned the Elk Hotel and Restaurant on Main Street before it went out of business. He wife, Carol, works for the Port Jefferson ferry.

He has been around long enough to see security at the harbor change over the years. Before 9/11, if someone were to leave a bag at the ferry terminal, an employee would grab it and ask if anyone had left it behind. Now there are security protocols in place to handle such a situation. Before, there weren’t any restrictions on taking photos or video of the harbor. Now officials keep an eye out for people capturing the ferry terminal or other sensitive areas.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Koutrakos’ “only gripe with the job” — he isn’t permitted to carry a sidearm while he is on duty, though he is licensed to carry.

Other marine law enforcement agents carry a sidearm, including those from the Coast Guard, the Suffolk County Police Department’s Marine Bureau and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The harbormaster said he never knows what situation he will find himself in and “should we get put into a lethal force situation, the fact of the matter is we have no way of defending ourselves or the public.”

Despite this sticking point, another thing that hasn’t changed is Koutrakos’ playful personality and his passion for all things marine.

He has said he enjoys his job because he gets to be on the water and he gets to help people: “At the end of the day, tired or not, it makes you feel better.”

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