Tags Posts tagged with "Village of Port Jefferson"

Village of Port Jefferson

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Photo of Michael Cristiano. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police issued a Silver Alert for a missing homeless in Port Jefferson who may be suicidal.

Police said Michael Cristiano, 41, made suicidal statements to a friend, adding he suffers from drug and alcohol addictions and lives in a yellow tent in the woods behind the Greenbelt Bike Train in Port Jefferson.

Cristiano was last heard from Aug. 22 at 7:45 p.m. Cristiano is white, balding, with graying hair and a beard. He is missing his right eye, and his left eye is brown. He is 5 feet 11 inches tall and approximately 220 pounds.

Anyone with information on Cristiano’s location is asked to call 911 or the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

Michael Schwarting presents the study's findings to village officials. Photo by Kyle Barr

If Port Jefferson experiences another “100 year flood” sooner than a century, then at least it knows where the water is coming from.

Professionals from Port Jefferson-based Campani and Schwarting Architects attended the Aug. 19 village meeting showing map after map of where the problem areas for Port Jeff flooding are, and offered suggestions, some big and some small, of how to combat the issue of flooding.

Michael Schwarting said many of the issues are due to an excess of hardscape, both building roofs and roads, and a significant lack of permeable spaces, especially in areas where the depth of the water table is less than 11 feet below ground. Forty percent of village property is non-water-permeable.

“There’s a fair density of buildings that contribute to the groundwater conditions,” he said. “That contributes in bringing water from the watershed to the lowest point.”

In the three-square-mile village, with a population of just over 8,000, the vast majority of land sits within the Port Jefferson watershed area.

The village tapped the PJ-based architectural firm back in February to construct a water management and storm surge study. While the study still needs to be finalized, with map after map, the architect discussed numerous issues contributing to flooding. One such map described how there were numerous roads that sloped down toward Port Jefferson Harbor. Some roads house catch basins to collect the water before it reaches trouble points, some streets have too few or no catch basins while others had more than is likely necessary.

Last September, Port Jefferson was bowled over with water, with nearly 4 inches of rain collected in a short span of time. Buildings like the Port Jefferson firehouse and the venerable Theatre Three were drowned in 3 to 4 feet of water, causing thousands of dollars in damages in the case of the theater.

The architect said what is likely a major cause of this is due to piping systems that draw a lot of water to the end of Barnum Avenue and the driveway to the Port Jefferson high school. Schwarting added there are stories of when that pipe was being built, children used to walk to school along it, meaning the system sits close to the surface.

“All of these pipes, some coming from North Country Road to Main Street with a lot of catch basins are contributing to this one point at Barnum and high school,” he said.

Mayor Margot Garant said they have received a report from Bohemia-based engineering firm P.W. Grosser Consulting about the pipe running from that culvert to the outfall pipe behind village hall. That report said there was sediment buildup at a low point in the pipe, also showing the pipe had “a pinch and a jog” that leads down toward the harbor. 

In June, Port Jefferson Village presented its Waterfront Revitalization Plan to the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, describing its intention to perform immediately needed maintenance of the storm drainage system and provide emergency equipment to deploy in a rain event to protect properties in the village in catastrophic flooding. 

At its July 15 meeting, the village voted unanimously to apply for grant funds not to exceed $1 million from the state Division of Planning’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, Empire State Development and any other applicable state agencies. 

The architects point out numerous small projects that can be done around the village to aid in flood mitigation, mostly in increasing permeable surfaces around the village. This would include rain gardens and bioswales, a landscape element designed to concentrate or remove debris and pollution out of surface runoff water, permeable paving systems, tree trenches and bioretention planters, acting as plant bed medians with grooves cut in the curb allowing water to drain in and flow into local outlets.

Though the architectural firm also endorsed several major projects, such as “daylighting” Mill Creek and the firm’s own plan proposal, given to the village in 2013, to completely remake the Brookhaven Town parking lot and boat ramp, adding significantly more greenery and passive recreational space in what is now hardscape. 

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Mayor: No money for state road paving projects in Port Jeff until 2025

Vanessa Taranto looks at letters she’s sent to officials over the years. Photo by Kyle Barr

For nearly six years, village resident Vanessa Taranto has sounded the drum to the New York State Department of Transportation for a sidewalk running along the north side of West Broadway from Setauket into Port Jefferson Village. 

DOT plans to build a sidewalk on the north side of West Broadway up toward Setauket. Photo by Kyle Barr

In letter after letter, she asked for a chance to take her children down the road without the anxiety of walking in the opposite direction of cars. In 2013, she received a letter from state DOT saying there were no accidents involving pedestrians on the road, and it would have been cost prohibitive. This, especially, had her laughing to herself.

“People are driving up the hill during the day sometimes with the sun in their eyes, and it’s dangerous,” Taranto said. “I wrote back to everyone, ‘Does the Village of Port Jefferson have to wait for someone to die before they build a sidewalk five blocks long?’”

To people like the Port Jefferson mayor and the DOT, she became known as the “sidewalk lady.” 

Now her wish could soon become a reality, and those looking to climb the hill of West Broadway into Setauket may soon find their path aided with a new sidewalk.

DOT confirmed the plans to construct a new sidewalk by late next year along the north side of West Broadway, a quarter-mile stretch compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act connecting existing sidewalk sections between Hoyt Lane and Bayview Terrace.

While this is good news for those along the state-owned stretch of road, of course, there is a catch — and it’s a big one.

While bids have already gone out for a sidewalk along the north side of West Broadway, otherwise known as Route 25A, a true repaving of the steep road from the village into Setauket is missing funds on the part of the state. Mayor Margot Garant told the public at the last board meeting Aug. 5 the state DOT does not have any more funds for road repaving in all of New York until 2025.

Though this does not preclude the village going in to patch holes, complete repaving — usually an expensive endeavor — might not be in the pipe for another six years.

“It means I could not put in a request to have West Broadway repaved,” Garant said, “[DOT] said the best they could do was to have the maintenance crew go out and patch on the south side of West Broadway going down the hill.”

The DOT did not confirm or deny the lack of funds for projects until 2025, and instead said they were looking for other options for dealing with Route 25A.

“Route 25A (Main Street) was resurfaced three years ago between the ferry terminal and NYS Route 112 and we are exploring options for additional paving on Route 25A in the near future,” DOT spokesman Stephen Canzoneri said in an email. “We are in the process of scheduling a follow-up meeting with the mayor’s team to discuss these projects.”

Garant said she learned this in a meeting with DOT officials several weeks ago along with other village officials including Steve Gallagher, superintendent of the village Department of Public Works.

West Broadway is a steep hill climbing up toward Setauket, and several parts of that street are pockmarked with wide and deep potholes. Route 25A, which is otherwise known as Main Street before turning into West Broadway, travels all the way from Calverton into Queens at Long Island City. Taranto called the state of the road “a nightmare.”

Garant said while the village could ask the state for permission to go in and patch the worst parts of the road, the village Department of Public Works would not be keen on spending time and money on a road that should be handled by the state.

“If we’re going to do this, we should do it right and make it one continuous walkable community.”

— Margot Garant

Though repaving on West Broadway has been stymied, the north facing sidewalk is still in the pipe. One plan for the new sidewalk goes all the way down the north side of West Broadway until Beach Street, but the other would be pushed back to start after Bayview Terrace. Garant was adamant it should start by the bottom of the hill.

“If we’re going to do this, we should do it right and make it one continuous walkable community,” the mayor said. 

The mayor said the village will be having a follow-up meeting Aug. 27 with the DOT. 

The final decision comes down to DOT officials. Meg Danielson, a transportation analyst for the state DOT who will be meeting with village officials later this month, did not respond to requests for comment. 

Meanwhile, Port Jeff is gathering funds to repave several village-owned roads, including: Pine Tree Court, Nadia Court, Contessa Court, Roslyn Court, Peninsula Drive and Landing Lane at a total cost $349,404. Paving is being done by Rosemar Contracting Inc. of East Moriches. Previous quotes for repaving had come in at just under $500,000, according to village officials.

“Their quote was so wonderful that we added another street,” Garant said at the Aug. 5 board meeting. “That’s not to say there’s other streets in the village that need to be done.”

And despite the state of West Broadway, Taranto is looking forward to a chance to bring her children down into Port. For one of her daughters, Roxanne, who is on the autism spectrum, it’s an important opportunity to allow her some degree of independence as she grows toward high school.

It wasn’t just for her, Taranto said, nor her other daughter Maggie, but for the other 12 children — 11 girls and one boy — living on her block along Longacre Court, who she said have developed into a close-knit community. 

“If I can do this for all of those kids to keep them safe, that’s really my goal,” Taranto said.

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Security footage of woman police said stole from Chris Jewelers in Port Jeff. Photo from SCPD
Security footage of woman police said stole from Chris Jewelers in Port Jeff. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County 6th precinct police officers are trying to identify and locate a woman who allegedly stole merchandise from a Port Jefferson store in July.

A woman allegedly stole a silver ring from Chris Jeweler, located at 202 Main Street, July 30, at around 2 p.m.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on this robbery to call Major Case at 631-852-6555. Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 800-220-TIPS (8477) or texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637). All calls and text messages are kept confidential.

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By Julianne Mosher

Beloved Port Jefferson resident Jill Nees-Russell lost her battle with cancer in June 2018, and now the community is celebrating her spirit with a new performance stage at Harborfront Park.

It all started last year when, after her passing, her friend, Carolyn Benson of East Setauket, along with village-based landscape engineer Michael Opisso, decided to find a permanent space that could honor Jill’s legacy.

The Port Jefferson resident came to the north shore from Los Angeles and immediately became involved with the community. She worked alongside Mayor Margot Garant as the village’s Director of Economic Development and Public Relations, as well as with the Port Jeff arts council, the PJ School of Rock and had worked in tandem with the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.

“I feel like Jill designed this stage… I just held the pen.”

— Michael Opisso

“Dedicating this perfect stage to Jill is special,” Mayor Garant said. “She was a huge advocate for the arts within the community… dedicating this stage to her made sense and it was something the community could get behind.”

The planning for the 15 by 25 foot half-circle wood stage overlooking the harbor began in April. On Saturday, Aug. 10, it made its debut with an afternoon of songs all with the common themes of family and home.

The lawn was filled with over a hundred people whose lives were touched by Jill.

“We have beautiful weather today,” Garant said, “We know who’s looking out for us.”

Over 500 volunteers came together and money was set aside for the concept. With Opisso as the designer on record and Andrew Fortier as the builder, Opisso said that it wouldn’t have been made possible if it weren’t for Jill.

“I feel like Jill designed this stage,” he said, “I just held the pen.”

Fortier was also the first performer on the stage with his two children in their group, Tricycle. Together they kicked off the show with a song they dedicated to Jill and the legacy she left behind called, “Beautiful Light.”

“I want to thank you from the depths of my heart for what you’ve done for this community,” he said before they started to play.

Among the hundreds of people that attended Saturday’s event were Jill’s siblings and family who flew in from all over the country from places like Oklahoma, California and North Carolina.

“The stage is a way to showcase the talent that’s here and to showcase the community she loved.”

— Jeffrey Nees

“We want to thank you from the bottoms of our hearts for dedicating the stage to her,” Jeffrey Nees said. “Although she was from Oklahoma, her heart and her home were here in Port Jefferson.”

As emotional as the day was, Nees said that he knows his sister would be thrilled.

“Jill would think today’s event would be wonderful,” he said. “The stage is a way to showcase the talent that’s here and to showcase the community she loved.”

A dozen community members performed upon the stage, including students from the Port Jefferson School of Rock as well as a reading from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Theatre Three’s Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel.

Fortier said that performing on a stage is special because every performance is different. “That’s the beauty of live music,” he said, “That’s the beauty of what’s going to be happening on this very stage.”

Although this weekend’s concert kicked off the planned future performances the stage will hold, the stage was not entirely complete. A plaque dedicated to Jill will be added to the stage, as well as a canvas sail canopy that will embody the look of a sailing ship.

“The stage is a tribute to who she was,” Garant said. “It’s about time we had a focal point in our backyard that allows us to celebrate.”

Kyra Sommerstad represents Port Jefferson at the Suffolk County championships. Photo from Sommerstad

Kyra Sommerstad, 17, lives for the water and the thrill of shaving seconds off her best swim times. Though she has been swimming competitively since she was 10, for nearly five years, her major goal was to make it to the Olympic trials. 

Kyra Sommerstad will be attending the Olympic trials in June 2020. Photo from PJSD

This year, during a meet at the Nassau County Aquatic Center, she was wide eyed when she reviewed her time for the 100-yard backstroke. Her time, 1:02.66, just under the qualifying time by .03 seconds.

“I hoped I would make the qualifying time any time this summer, but I really wasn’t expecting it at this event,” Sommerstad said. “When I looked up and saw my time, I didn’t really realize at first, so I had to do a double take to make sure the time was right, and I just got really emotional.”

Sommerstad’s dad, Ray, said at the time he and the rest of the audience weren’t especially looking at the times, instead focused on the intense back and forth between his daughter and another swimmer during the second backstroke leg, where each was neck and neck. Once she finally got out of the pool, only then did eyes turn up to her final times. 

“She goes to practice eight times a week, six days, some days she goes twice,” her father said. “She’s a hard worker — she shows up every day with a smile. Her positive enthusiasm is contagious.”

The Port Jefferson swimmer started in the pool when she was just under 10 years old, as part of what her dad described as every parent’s quest to find an activity for their kid that
would stick.

This one stuck. She took to the water like a fish, her parents said, and would improve in skill year after year after year. When she was 13, she set a goal for herself that she would make it to the Olympic trials, and she dedicated herself to that bar ever since.

While she represents the Port Jefferson high school in school swimming, for years, the Port Jeff swimmer has been practicing with the Three Village Swim Club. Her coach for the past three years, Mark Anderson, said she is as close to the perfect student as one can get. In his years of coaching, Sommerstad is the first he’s taught to qualify for the Olympic trials.

“She’s really a coach’s dream athlete — she makes corrections really well and she does what she’s told to do, and that’s really rare in a lot of people,” he said. “She’s finally starting to achieve every goal she’s set in front
of her.” 

When she made it her intention to make it to the Olympic qualifiers, she, her coach and her parents would look at the times expected to qualify increase from 1:03.99 in 2012 to 1:03.39 in 2016. For 2020, the time jumped by close to a full second.

Kyra Sommerstad represents Port Jefferson at the Suffolk County championships. Photo from Sommerstad

And in swimming, when shaving off decimals of a second in a swim time is considered solid work for months of effort, the task looked daunting.

“I’m happy if a swimmer takes off half a second in months trying to get better,” the coach said. “She made it by .03 … It’s a sport of hundreds of seconds, and it puts a lot of things in their lives in perspective.”

As well as being a Scholastic All-American recipient, Sommerstad currently is maintaining a 95 percent average in school and is already committed to The Ohio State University where she plans to compete in swimming. While she hasn’t settled on a specific major yet, she said she was looking into working with children, either in teaching or in occupational therapy.

Those who have seen her train know she puts the same amount of effort into training for swim meets as she does the other important aspects of her life.

“[Her academics] do not suffer at all for all the time she spends in the pool,” her father said. “It actually gives her discipline to make sure she manages her time effectively.”

Though she is heading to the Olympic trials, she, her family and her coach are trying to keep their expectations realistic, as she will be competing against the best swimmers from all across the nation. Despite this, Sommerstad, who is traveling from state to state competing in swim meets, expects her training to ramp up hard as they head to the Olympic trials June 22, 2020.

“I’m definitely going to be working a lot harder this year — doing some extra stuff out of the pool to maybe gain some muscle so I can swim faster,” she said. “I’m hoping to swim a best time at Olympic trials, so I can be seated higher among all the people who have made it.”

LI and tristate distance swimmers participate in one of world’s longest swim challenges

SHU Swim teammates Victoria Catizone, Nikole Rudis, Julia Pusateri and Shanna Haddow pose for a picture after finishing the grueling 15.5 mile trek. Photo from SWIM organization

Just over 30 years ago, in 1987, three swimmers and two boats launched from Port Jefferson. For more than 15 miles they dragged themselves across the dark blue-green waters of the Long Island Sound, finally making it to Bridgeport, all for the sake of those battling cancer. 

Swimmers take off from Port Jefferson to Bridgeport. Photo from SWIM organization Facebook

This year, just over 100 swimmers sank into the cold waters of the Sound early morning Aug. 3, and in three groups took off on the 15.5-mile trek across the Sound with around 64 support boats and 20 law enforcement vessels staying in pace beside them all the way across to Captain’s Cove Seaport in Bridgeport, Connecticut. 

The event is part of Bridgeport-based St. Vincent’s SWIM Across the Sound Marathon, helping to support thousands of people in the Fairfield County, Connecticut area battling cancer. While in 1987 the swimmers raised approximately $5,000 for cancer charity, this has jumped to an average of $250,000 to $300,000 annually in modern times. So far, the foundation is halfway to its final goal of $300,000, while the SWIM program raises around $2 million a year through all their various events.

The money goes to the assistance of people suffering from cancer in the Connecticut area for financial assistance for things beyond what insurance provides, such as mortgage and tax bills. They also help provide mammograms and ultrasounds for uninsured women.

“The goal of the swim is to help patients get through the diagnosis and the cancer, a lot of them aren’t working,” said Lyn Fine-McCarthy, the executive director of St. Vincent’s Medical Center Foundation. “There is about 30,000 individuals every year that we help, these are patients who are going through cancer treatments, out of work, and sometimes are single moms, and just need a lot of financial assistance.”

Fine-McCarthy added they are grateful to Danfords Hotel & Marina for being the staging ground and home base for the event for years going on.

SHU Swim teammates Victoria Catizone, Nikole Rudis, Julia Pusateri and Shanna Haddow pose for a picture. Photo from SWIM organization

Each relay team is asked to raise a minimum of $7,500, while two-person teams must raise $3,500 and solo swimmers a minimum of $1,500.

While a majority of the swimmers were from Connecticut, a good portion came from the tristate area and from as far away as Tennessee and Florida. Two native Long Island swimmers and exercise science majors at Connecticut’s Sacred Heart University, Victoria Catizone, of Sayville, and Shanna Haddow, of Northport, participated in a team where they have already raised just over $3,000 for the event with a goal of reaching $7,500.

Haddow said this was the first time she and her three teammates have participated in the marathon, with her finishing in a time of 7 hours, 17 minutes.

“We had never done it before,” she said. “We knew what to expect, but not really what to expect. We were taking it swim by swim, and we knew we had a long day ahead of us.”

Haddow, has been swimming since she was 6 years old. She now swims distance for her college team, and said they trained year-round with two practices a day during the school semester and swimming all summer every day up until the start of the race.

Catizone, team captain, has been swimming for nine years, adding it wasn’t just their first time with the marathon, but collectively their first time in open water with the threat of the current, rising waves and poor visibility.

“You definitely start to feel it in your shoulders,” she said. “Once we got to mile 5 it got to be a little mentally grueling, but you just think about the reason why you’re doing it, and the people who you’re doing it for, and it helps you push through.”

Haddow said stepping into open water was at times a shock, sometimes literally as they approached the middle of the Sound where the temperature grew cold, and they swam on without wet suits. 

swimmers meet their boat professionals in front of Danfords Hotel & Marina. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Once we swam into Captain’s Cove, spirits were high again, and once we came in sight of the harbor, we kicked it into gear and all four of us were sprinting to make it to the finish,” she said, adding she was the last one to swim the last leg to the finish line. “Because you swam all day through 15.5 miles, just getting there and hearing your name being called, participating with such a great foundation, it was just the best feeling.”

Both the team and individual swimmers struggled the distance for people in their lives who have or are currently battling cancer. Catizone swam in honor of her grandparents and a friend who is a two-time cancer survivor. Haddow swam in honor of her grandfather, who was diagnosed with bladder cancer last year. As a team, they swam in memory of a SHU alumni family member who passed last year from cancer.

“Once it got really tough, I told myself, ‘Keep swimming,’ because it was not for me, it was for somebody else,” Haddow said.

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Port Jefferson Treasurer Don Pearce and Village Clerk Bob Juliano as they tallied the 2015 election results. File photo by Elana Glowatz

The Village of Port Jefferson announced the village clerk of nearly two decades, Bob Juliano, will no longer be in his position effective Aug. 1.

“This is difficult, very difficult,” said Mayor Margot Garant. “We wish him well, and I mean that in every sense of the word.”

The village held an emergency executive meeting July 26 regarding a “personnel matter.” According to Garant, the board voted 5-0 to not reappoint Bob to the position of clerk. She said this decision was made two weeks ago, but it became official July 29.

“It was the same position we were in two weeks ago, but I wanted everybody to take two weeks and make sure that was what we had to do and what was in the best interest of the village,” the mayor said.

Juliano took an unannounced vacation for that period but has since returned to Port Jefferson. He took to Facebook July 30 thanking the community and saying he does not intend to leave Port Jeff.

“I have always tried to conduct myself as a gentleman in all my actions at Village Hall, and hope I succeeded more times than I failed,” he wrote. “To date, I am the longest serving village clerk that Port Jefferson has had, and I appreciate the fact that no one will be able to say that before the year 2038.”

He added he intends to seek employment with another municipality in the near future.

Garant would not speak on the record about why Juliano was being called to retire from his position but said she has appreciated him as a person and a friend.

Juliano has been with the village for just under 19 years, assisting in village elections amongst his many other duties. He was named clerk of the year in 2017 by the New York State Association of City & Village Clerks, and currently serves as Suffolk director for the Long Island Village Clerks and Treasurers Association.

In the interim, assistant to the mayor and Deputy Village Clerk Barbara Sakovich has been filling in as clerk while Juliano was on vacation and now that he is no longer with the village. She said the village will need to perform a lengthy hiring process, and that a new clerk would have to have many skills in administrative work.

“You need someone with very specific credentials, someone specifically from a municipality,” said Sakovich.

She added she is doing her best to get in front of a steep learning curve of the full clerk position, though the process for hiring a new administrator could potentially take some time.

Deputy Mayor Stan Loucks and Garant met with Juliano the morning of Monday, July 29, to agree to his retirement and accept his signature, according to the mayor, who told TBR News Media they would provide him a letter of recommendation for a future job if he needed it.

The mayor said he is retiring with his full sick pay and vacation benefits, and that he is entitled “to the rest of his health care insurance.”

At the same time, Juliano will not be retiring with full retirement benefits. A village employee would require having worked 30 years by the age of 55, or be 62 and retire, to receive those full benefits, according to Sakovich.

Reaction to the news on Facebook ranged from surprise to anger, with many people lauding Juliano for his welcoming personality and his general respectability.

This post has been updated to include quotes from Juliano.

While not as bad as last year, village continues plans to reduce water’s impact

The area outside Theatre Three was under 2 feet of water July 22. Photo from Brian Hoerger

July 22 was a sudden reminder of a certain day last year in September, when water ran down Main Street like a river, and parts of Port Jefferson were drowned in water.

The area outside Theatre Three was under 2 feet of water July 22. Photo from Brian Hoerger

Instead, July 22 was a moderate rain by comparison, only hit with 2.35 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service, instead of the more-than 4 inches it received in that last major storm.

Still reeling from massive flash floods that inundated Port Jefferson village last year, those who were most impacted by the September waters said they were more prepared for the high waters this year. 

Brennan Holmes, the chief of the Port Jefferson Fire Department, said they had learned from their mistakes last year, and for the first time put into practice their new flood protocols.

“Last night was a good test,” Holmes said the day after the flooding. “Although there was a lot of water, it went by real quick.”

Last year waters reached nearly 5 feet in the main firehouse, though this year the fire department moved its emergency vehicles from the department building up to the higher ends of Maple Place, but waters didn’t enter the firehouse. The department also made use of a recently converted high-water rescue vehicle, donated by the Miller Place Fire Department. That was available as well as department members in water rescue suits, according to Holmes.

In addition to dealing with the flooding, the department responded to two automatic alarms caused by lightning, three welfare checks on the businesses of Ruvo East, Old Fields Restaurant and Theatre Three, all of which had been hard hit last year. The department also assisted in removing a person from a vehicle which was situated in about a foot of water.

The fire department closed off Main Street for about an hour from around 7 p.m. to a little after 8 p.m. Holmes said this resulted in much less traffic into and out of the village, making it much safer for motorists.

“We fared much better than last September, which we’re really happy about,” the fire chief said.

Mayor Margot Garant was adamant that last year’s high of 4 inches of rain dropped in under an hour plus the high water table led to the described devastation. She said she is especially concerned the idea of Port Jefferson as a flooding town will impact the village’s image and its businesses.

“I think everybody has to think that was such an exceptional event,” she said. “It’s all about the tide. If there had been a coastal storm surge, it would have been a different scenario. It’s a coastal resiliency issue.”

Last September one of the most heavily impacted by the flooding was Theatre Three, which received nearly 4 feet of water in its downstairs area, causing thousands upon thousands of dollars in damage to props, costumes and electrical equipment.

“Nothing like a little flash flood to trigger the old PTSD from the last flood.”

— Brian Hoerger

Brian Hoerger, the facilities manager for the theater, was at the head of last year’s cleanup, coordinating close to 50 volunteers in cleaning up the mess left by that storm. On his Facebook page, Hoerger said seeing the waters roll down Main Street reminded him of the harrowing September flood.

“Nothing like a little flash flood to trigger the old PTSD from the last flood,” Hoerger wrote.

The back doors by Theatre Three had waters rising close to 2 feet, according to the theater facilities manager, though only around 3 inches made its way through the lower doors since he was able to stack sandbags at the breach. Still, pictures showed water was making its way through cracks in the brickwork like sprinklers.

Hoerger, along with Steve Ayle, an actor in the theater, moved the precious theater items to higher ground while helping to vacuum up the muddy liquid in the theater’s lower floor.

Garant responded to Hoerger on Facebook showing him potential flood resistant door panels to resist rain, though Hoerger said much of the water came up from under the building as they sit on a below-ground creek.

What is currently being done to prevent flooding

Three months ago, Port Jefferson officials approved a scoping of the water line that runs and empties into Mill Creek, though Garant said while they wait for the engineers report to return to the village, they believe there is a low point in the line underneath the grass by the basketball courts where a pumping system might be able to help that water flow faster, and not get caught up in and around the low point by those nearby restaurants and Theatre Three.

In June, Campani and Schwarting Architects released a draft version of the Watershed Management and Storm Surge Study. Though the architects have yet to publish a full report, the draft discussed potentially daylighting Mill Creek, along with the culvert at the Brookhaven parking lot by the harbor and the Meadow parking lot. It also mentioned a permeable pavement system in municipal lots, along with rain gardens at low areas such as an expansion of the pond by Old Fields and the Brookhaven parking lot.

Theatre Three suffered damaged to costumes, props and other mechanical equipment back in September 2018. File Photo by Kyle Barr

In June, Port Jefferson Village presented its Waterfront Revitalization Plan to the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, describing its intention to perform immediately needed maintenance of the storm drainage system and provide emergency equipment to deploy in a rain event to protect properties in the village in catastrophic flooding. 

The village would also look to implement long-term projects, including daylighting Mill Creek, reducing impermeable paving throughout the village, introducing bioswales and rain gardens as part of the storm drainage system and redesigning the parking areas at the waterfront to mitigate flooding.

“There’s proactive measures and there’s mitigation measures,” Garant said. “We’re throwing the kitchen sink at the state to help us with these coastal resiliency issues.”

At its July 15 meeting, the village voted unanimously to apply for grant funds not to exceed $1 million from the state Division of Planning’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, Empire State Development and any other applicable state agencies. 

In this case, the village would have to put the money upfront and be paid back from the grant funds at a later date. The deadline for those grants is Friday, July 26.

Garant said that soon the village will be partnering with the Long Island Explorium in Port Jeff in constructing three rain gardens using $43,626 in grant funds from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Long Island Sound Futures Fund initiative. These will be located in front of Village Hall, at Village Center and a final one in the traffic barrier next to the loading ramp for the ferry.

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The Schooner Elizabeth will be used as a placeholder at the village dock. Photo from Jason Rose

Port Jefferson residents continue to look toward the harbor expecting to see masts of a tall ship high above the surrounding buildings, but they may have to wait for a while longer.

The Amistad will make a brief appearance in Port Jefferson Harbor July 18. Photo by Chris Ryon

Back in March, the village had announced negotiations with The Halie & Matthew, a 118-foot-long schooner originally set to dock in Port Jefferson Harbor. It was the result of months of work by the Port Jefferson Harbor Education & Arts Conservancy and local maritime enthusiasts, but village officials said negotiations fell through when the schooner company, Maine Windjammers Inc., wanted to work the vessel partly as a restaurant, operating outside the normal hours of the pier.

“We’re like, nope, absolutely not,” said Mayor Margot Garant at a July 15 village meeting. ”The pier closes at dusk … The tone and tenor of that agreement changed so drastically that it just fell apart.”

Village Attorney Brian Egan confirmed the scope of the operation the schooner company desired was inconsistent with what the village originally intended, that the ship would be used for tours and as a promotional platform for the village. Port Jefferson would have given the boat exclusive access to one side of the pier near Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park for four years.

However, the search for tall ships in the harbor is far from over, at least according to Port Jefferson village historian Chris Ryon. 

Ryon and other enthusiasts had set up the Port Jefferson Tall Ship Committee, a subset of the conservancy, to bring a tall ship to the harbor. Ryon said he was unfazed by the setback, saying they already have other plans in the works. The village historian and other committee members set up the Port Jeff Maritime Facebook page to advertise for additional tall ships, from which he said they have received several offers.

“We’re opening up the dock for free to schooners and are saying ‘come on down,”
he said.

These plans include using fellow committee member Jason Rose’s own still-to-be-reconstructed schooner, Elizabeth, as a placeholder at the dock site.

“[Rose] is a very altruistic person,” Ryon said. “He really wants that schooner to be a part of Port Jeff.”

The Amistad will make a brief appearance in Port Jefferson Harbor July 18. Photo by Chris Ryon

Ryon, who attended the July 15 meeting, said there were two ships they were looking at, one being the Amistad, a re-creation of the famed African slave ship where slaves rebelled against their captors in 1839. Famously, the slaves would eventually gain their freedom in court after being brought into New London Harbor in Connecticut. The ship will dock for a brief time Thursday, July 18, while the ship’s crew takes measurements of the dock.

Another ship, the schooner SoundWaters, has also been in talks with Ryon, Rose and the tall ship committee about docking in the harbor for a yet undetermined space of time.

In anticipation of the Hallie & Matthew, the village hooked up the dock to be used by the schooner with electricity, but whichever ship next moors there would be able to use it.

The dock in question currently only contains the Stony Brook University-owned Seawolf, which resides on the dock’s west edge. There is currently no other boat residing on the east edge.

Ryon added the Port Jefferson Yacht Club has made its own dock available should the village wish to house two tall ships at the same time. The club’s dock is actually deeper than the village-owned dock, the village historian said. The yacht club’s dock is 11 feet deep at dead low waters, while the village-owned dock is 5½ feet deep at dead low closest to the shore.

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