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Elana Glowatz

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Elana Glowatz is TBR's online editor and resident nerd. She very much loves her dog, Zoe the doodle.

TRITEC officials and Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant shovel some dirt at the groundbreaking for the Shipyard apartments on June 14. Photo by Elana Glowatz

A new apartment complex is setting sail for downtown Port Jefferson.

Developers and Port Jefferson leaders gathered at the old Heritage Inn motel site on Tuesday to break ground on The Shipyard luxury apartments, a 112-unit building going up on West Broadway near the Barnum Avenue intersection.

The groundbreaking for the Shipyard apartments in Port Jefferson is held on June 14. Photo by Elana Glowatz
The groundbreaking for the Shipyard apartments in Port Jefferson is held on June 14. Photo by Elana Glowatz
TRITEC's Bob Coughlan talks about the development's impact on Port Jefferson Village at the groundbreaking for the Shipyard apartments on June 14. Photo by Elana Glowatz
TRITEC’s Bob Coughlan talks about the development’s impact on Port Jefferson Village at the groundbreaking for the Shipyard apartments on June 14. Photo by Elana Glowatz

They had started taking down the decrepit motel in mid-May, with Mayor Margot Garant getting into an excavator and smashing down the machine’s arm onto the roof of one structure at the site, a task she referred to afterward as “cathartic.” She and TRITEC Real Estate Company Principal Bob Coughlan had also used sledgehammers to smash some windows.

Previously called the Residences at Port Jefferson, the project calls for a three-story apartment building comprised of 42 one-bedroom apartments and 70 two-bedroom units, with resident parking underneath the structure. The building will take up less than half of the 3.74-acre property, which borders Old Mill Creek, to leave room for landscaping and buffers.

During the groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, Coughlan, who lives in Port Jefferson near the site, said the apartments will “clean up a blighted property” and help keep young people living and working on Long Island.

“There is a desperate need for housing of this type, particularly in walkable communities,” he said. “We are thrilled to be part of this.”

Heavy equipment is on display during the groundbreaking for the Shipyard apartments in Port Jefferson on June 14. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Heavy equipment is on display during the groundbreaking for the Shipyard apartments in Port Jefferson on June 14. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Garant also spoke at the ceremony, saying that having people living on the west end of the village year-round will support the businesses on that side of town, because they will eat in local restaurants and shop in local boutiques.

“This project is going to become a huge economic engine for us year-round,” the mayor said, adding that it could become home to both young professionals from Stony Brook University and elderly Port Jefferson residents who want to downsize without leaving the area.

Coughlan estimated The Shipyard would be finished in 18 months.

Port Jefferson officials shovel some dirt at the groundbreaking for the Shipyard apartments on June 14. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Port Jefferson officials shovel some dirt at the groundbreaking for the Shipyard apartments on June 14. Photo by Elana Glowatz

 

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A new chemical rating system will inform people using dry cleaners in Suffolk. File photo

Customers will soon have more information about how their clothes are being cleaned.

The Suffolk County Legislature recently approved a new law that will require dry cleaners to share information with customers about the types of chemical solvents they are using and the environmental effects of those solvents.

County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) had proposed the law, which passed on June 2. Under the new requirements, the county health department will categorize dry cleaning solvents, ranking “each chemical grouping based on both human and environmental impacts,” according to a press release from Hahn’s office.

From there, during the existing annual inspections for dry cleaners, county officials will provide the businesses with color-coded signs that “indicate the cleaning methods and solvents used by each individual shop.”

The dry cleaners would have to post the signs in their windows and behind their counters.

On the government side, the health department will also have a website — the address of which will be on the color-coded signs — with environmental and health information about different dry cleaning solvents and processes.

“This bill empowers consumers and allows them to make more informed decisions, which in the end is good for all of us,” Hahn said in a statement. “While it is common for consumers to read food ingredient lists and nutrition labels and to search out reviews for other products, most are hard-pressed to find the time to research details related to a myriad of dry cleaning solvents, figure out the exact solvent used by their cleaner and then investigate its potential impact on his or her self, family and environment.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) still has to sign the approved bill into law.

Hahn’s bill was related to a previous one she put before the Legislature, which was also approved in mid-April, to stop garment-cleaning businesses from using the term “organic” to describe their services, because there are no set criteria for its usage in consumer goods and services and could be misleading. The legislator has given the example of dry cleaning chemicals that are harmful to the environment but might be referred to as organic because they contain naturally occurring elements such as carbon.

“Organic in this context is a technical term, and does not mean chemical-free,” Beth Fiteni, owner of Green Inside and Out Consulting, an advocacy organization committed to empowering the public to find healthier alternatives to common toxins, said in a statement at the time the bill passed the Legislature. “This legislation in Suffolk County helps address possible confusion.”

That law prohibited dry cleaners from using the term to advertise their services, with fines between $500 and $1,000 for violating the rule.

The second phase of construction is underway at the Texaco Avenue apartments. Photo by Elana Glowatz

If you build it, they will come.

Port Jefferson developer Rail Realty LLC proved that old adage when Rob Gitto, from its parent company The Gitto Group, confirmed its uptown apartment project is already at full rental capacity — a month before it is even slated to open.

Gitto said the 38 units in the first completed apartment building has been completely pre-leased and there is a waiting list for the second building, which will add another approximately 36 units when completed next year.

Most of those future tenants are affiliated with Stony Brook University in some way, Gitto said, whether they are graduate students, medical residents, professors, nurses, doctors or other staff. There are also a few people from John T. Mather Memorial Hospital’s new residency program.

The first phase of the Texaco Avenue apartments is complete. Photo by Elana Glowatz
The first phase of the Texaco Avenue apartments is complete. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Officials broke ground on the much-anticipated project, dubbed The Hills at Port Jefferson, in May 2015, expressing hope that the first new development in upper Port would spur revitalization efforts in the troubled area.

Village leaders have been trying to enhance the uptown’s Main Street corridor, between North Country/Sheep Pasture Road and the Long Island Rail Road tracks, with the goal of improving quality of life, making it more pedestrian-friendly and attracting developers and visitors.

At the groundbreaking last year, Mayor Margot Garant said the 74 Texaco Avenue apartments would be “so important” to the revitalization.

Gitto thinks it’s already propelled other improvements. He said Monday that he has seen one nearby business making improvements to an existing establishment and two others sign leases to bring in new ones.

“We wanted to see the area revitalized and we’re seeing it,” he said, adding about the rest of the uptown area, “We definitely hope they follow suit.”

There are other community benefits attached: Under the conditions of the project’s approval, Rail Realty has to make improvements to a pocket park on the west side of Texaco that currently has a jungle gym, swings and a basketball hoop, and improve traffic flow in the area by redesigning the intersection of Main Street and Sheep Pasture Road.

Construction has gone in phases. Last year, Rail Realty knocked down vacant homes and buildings along the east side of Texaco Avenue between Sheep Pasture Road and Linden Place to make way for the two three-story buildings — which will have a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments — and began working on the northern building. That was completed recently, with the new apartments visible from some angles on Main Street, a block over. The developer got started right on the foundation of the second building, to the south.

The first phase of the Texaco Avenue apartments is complete. Photo by Elana Glowatz
The first phase of the Texaco Avenue apartments is complete. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Garant announced the milestone at a village board of trustees meeting on June 6, saying people would start moving into the first apartment building in mid-July.

Resident parking is underground, a noteworthy element for a small village in which having more cars than parking spaces has long been an issue. And toward the end of the second ongoing apartment construction phase, the developers will bring down a building on the south side of the Texaco Avenue and Linden Place intersection, the Stony Brook Electric Inc. building, to make room for additional above-ground parking.

That’s also when the park improvements will take place, Gitto said. Plans are still developing, but they might include landscaping, such as flowers and necessary irrigation, and taking down an unused shed there.

For The Gitto Group — which has built up other parts of Port Jefferson, including an office building, the CVS and the Barnum House apartments on Main Street — things are falling into place faster than anticipated. Rob Gitto said the project was done in phases because the developers weren’t sure how well the first set of apartments would be received and how quickly they would be leased.

“We knew it would be successful but we didn’t know it would sell that quickly.”

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Alain Jean mugshot from SCPD

A homeless man shot another in Port Jefferson Station on Saturday afternoon, following what authorities called a dispute between the two.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, 22-year-old Alain Jean shot the victim, another homeless man of the same age, multiple times shortly after 12:30 p.m. on Union Street, which is between Hallock Avenue/Route 25A and the Long Island Rail Road tracks.

The victim was treated for serious injuries at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Police arrested Jean after the June 11 shooting and charged him with first-degree assault.

His attorney, Happauge-based Donald Mates, did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Monday.

The incident is the second violent one between homeless people that police have reported in the area over the last several days. On June 7, officers arrested and charged a woman for allegedly stabbing her partner to death in a parking lot.

Police said last week that 60-year-old Ada Robinson was arrested at the scene in the Home Depot parking lot on Middle Country Road in Coram, where she allegedly had fatally stabbed 55-year-old Ralph Anthony. She was charged with first-degree manslaughter.

Patrol officers had responded to a 911 call close to 7:30 p.m. that day when they found the victim, who was later pronounced dead at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue.

Both Robinson and Anthony were homeless, and they were “at least common-law husband and wife,” according to the Homicide Unit’s Lt. Kevin Beyrer. He said in an interview last week that the pair had been a couple for a long period of time, but he wasn’t sure if the two were legally married.

Robinson’s attorney, Ronkonkoma-based Jason Bassett, declined to comment on the case.

She has previous charges of assault with a weapon pending against her, one felony and one misdemeanor, stemming from an incident in May 2015, in which Beyrer confirmed that Anthony was also the alleged victim.

Her attorney in that case, Central Islip-based Robin Stanco, did not return a call seeking comment.

Detectives are still investigating the June 11 shooting in Port Jefferson Station. Anyone with information is asked to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

Bill Glass is a newly appointed village justice in Port Jefferson. Photo from Glass

By Elana Glowatz

Justice will be served during the Port Jefferson government election later this month, with three people vying to be a village judge.

Bill Glass is a newly appointed village justice in Port Jefferson. Photo from Glass
Bill Glass is a newly appointed village justice in Port Jefferson. Photo from Glass

There are three years remaining on the term of former Village Justice Peter Graham, a judge of more than 30 years who died in office late last year, just months after being re-elected to his position on the bench. Bill Glass, the man appointed to fill in until the next election, is running to be returned to the seat and faces challenges from residents Tara Higgins and Scott Zamek.

Glass, 61, decided to run “because I really enjoy the job and I’d like to keep doing it.”

The lifelong resident, who also has volunteered with the Port Jefferson Fire Department for more than four decades, has a private law practice in the village through which he represents fire and emergency medical service groups throughout Suffolk County.

He graduated from Fordham Law School and once filled the roles of village prosecutor, village attorney and village trustee. He was also previously an assistant district attorney in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, where he worked under village Trustee Larry LaPointe in the Rackets Bureau.

Glass tried to win a village justice seat in 2011, but voters re-elected Graham.

People should vote for the married father of three this time because “I feel like I know the village inside and out,” he said. He has vast experience in criminal procedure law, which is a “key ingredient” in the village court. “I think that I’m … uniquely qualified for the position.”

Tara Higgins is running for village justice. Photo from the candidate
Tara Higgins is running for village justice. Photo from the candidate

Higgins grew up in East Setauket and moved to Port Jefferson 18 years ago, when she got married. The 50-year-old, who graduated from Seton Hall University School of Law, said she spent time in defense litigation for an insurance company before moving on to Islandia-based Lewis Johs Avallone Aviles LLP. She does municipal defense work and civil defense litigation for that firm.

“I just thought that it was a natural progression in my career,” she said about running for village justice. “I’ve tried cases, I’ve written appellate briefs and I thought, ‘Why not?’”

Voters should choose her because she is experienced in the courtroom, she said.

“I’ve spent my entire career in the courthouse,” Higgins said. “There are plenty of lawyers who never see the inside of a courtroom.”

The married mother of two high school kids, whose father named the Tara Inn pub in uptown Port Jefferson after her, said, “I’m hardworking, honest, fair and think I’ve got a good temperament for the position.”

Zamek grew up in the village, graduating from the local high school, and returned with his wife to raise his three daughters in Port Jefferson.

Scott Zamek is running for village justice. Photo from the candidate
Scott Zamek is running for village justice. Photo from the candidate

The 55-year-old graduated from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and has a private practice in Hauppauge where he focuses on transactional real estate. He explained that he represents landlords and developers with buying, selling and borrowing transactions.

He decided to run for justice because he’s always wanted to be a judge and has always been involved with the community, including working summer jobs for the highway department, volunteering with youth sports, helping out with the Port Jefferson arts council and, for the last two decades, serving with the Royal Educational Foundation.

“I think it’s time for me to step up a little bit,” Zamek said. He wants to give back to the village because “I feel that’s something everybody should do. … I want to do what I can to make it as good of a place as possible.”

Voting is at the Port Jefferson Village Center on June 21, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Also on the ballot will be two trustee seats, for which the incumbents are running unopposed for re-election. Bruce Miller is running for his second term on the board and Bruce D’Abramo is running for his fourth.

A forklift overturned onto its operator on Thursday afternoon, killing him.

The Suffolk County Police Department said the incident, which it is referring to as an industrial accident, happened at swimming pool company Swim King on Route 25A in Rocky Point. At about 4:30 p.m., a young man was operating a forklift and the vehicle fell on its side, pinning him under its roof.

The 21-year-old, Bellport resident Josue Rodriguez, was pronounced dead at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson.

According to police, his death “appears to be non-criminal,” authorities said in a media release.

The Suffolk County medical examiner’s office will be conducting an autopsy and detectives from the Homicide Squad are investigating the case.

Police said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been notified.

The village has scaled back a plan to stripe its basketball courts for pickleball after one resident said it would be a big dill to hoops players. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Village officials are making a compromise to avoid a pickle.

The basketball courts at Rocketship Park in downtown Port Jefferson were due for a redo, and while a Long Island company was repairing the court surface, village Trustee Stan Loucks had arranged for workers to also add stripes for people to play pickleball when the four hoops were not being used. But that plan has changed.

Pickleball is a sport that involves paddles and a net and has similarities to tennis and badminton. Officials added pickleball striping at the basketball courts at the park, between Barnum Avenue and the municipal parking lot behind Village Hall, to other work — which included repairing cracks, and dips in the surface that attract puddles — to embrace the growing sport trend.

But one resident was half-soured on the idea of basketball players potentially turning green with envy as they lost out on court time while others were playing pickleball.

Myrna Gordon called the courts a spot that “attracts many people from surrounding communities” in a letter to the editor last month, an opinion she also expressed to Loucks in person during board of trustees meetings in recent months.

“Culturally diverse people come to play pick-up games,” she wrote. “Converting this area for dual purposes would be an especially negative act when there are alternative sites for pickleball in the village.”

Gordon has suggested using the park on Texaco Avenue in uptown Port Jefferson, across from the upcoming apartment complex, for pickleball to avoid taking away court time downtown and to potentially attract people to the blighted uptown area.

Loucks announced at the board meeting on Monday that the pickleball proposal would be bumped back to keep ballers cool as cucumbers.

Instead of putting down lines for the sport on the basketball courts at Rocketship, the village is going to start by running a one-hour pickleball program on the court with removable nets and stripes, as a method of gauging resident demand for a venue for the activity.

The program will take place in the middle of the day, while young players are in school, the trustee said.

On Port Jefferson Harbor is the Centennial Park beach where there are four village kayak racks, each with enough space for six kayaks. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Not everyone is on board with a plan to remove non-permitted kayaks from public beaches.

A law proposal from the Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees is stuck in a knot after receiving both support and opposition during a meeting on Monday night, with advocates decrying the vessels that clutter shorelines for long periods of time and critics saying the board is going a bit overboard.

Officials are looking to bring order to Port Jefferson beaches where people leave kayaks strewn across the sand without a permit, unattended for days or even weeks or months.

There are several village kayak racks at Centennial Park beach, on Port Jefferson Harbor, and at the beach at the end of Crystal Brook Hollow Road, on Mount Sinai Harbor — with room for six vessels on each rack. Each year, after receiving applications from residents for a spot on one of the racks, the village holds a lottery to determine which applicants get a slot. There are also signs at the beaches warning that kayaks must be properly stored in racks. But many without a permitted place on the racks simply leave their kayaks on the sand or tied up to a tree.

The village trustees have proposed a law that would give the head of the public works department authority to remove those unpermitted vessels after they have been left unattended for at least 48 hours. The village clerk would give notice that the boats were removed, with a description of the vessels, and after 30 days unclaimed they would be considered abandoned. At that point, the village could auction or dispose of the kayaks.

If someone redeemed a kayak from the department, the village would be able to charge the owner for the costs of removal and storage, and the price of the clerk’s public notification.

Dorothy Court, a resident of Waterview Drive who is adjacent to the Crystal Brook Hollow Road beach, was strongly in favor of the measure.

“I have to deal with these kayaks every single day,” she said at the public hearing on the law Monday, describing one that has been chained to a village sign for a year. “I have, like, a boatyard in front of my house.”

She questioned how many of the people leaving their kayaks are residents, and asked the village to move the kayak racks from her local beach to another place, to lessen the impact on neighbors.

“There are so many parks and beaches to put kayaks in,” Court said.

Bob Laravie, however, said a time limit as short as 48 hours before the village impounds a vessel is “overreaching” and it isn’t the right message to send to people in a maritime village.

“I think the ground should be a right,” he said, calling for the public land to remain open to kayaks.

Joel Levine said the law proposal was “shortsighted.” He called on the village to instead issue more sticker permits to Port Jefferson residents, which would represent both a revenue stream for the government and a way to organize the mess.

As the debate went on, Village Clerk Bob Juliano noted that there were double the number of applications than spaces available on the kayak racks this year, and in response Mayor Margot Garant suggested the village should put in more racks. When she asked for a show of hands from people in the audience without a rack slot who would want a village permit sticker for a vessel, several shot up.

Given the debate on the subject, the village board closed the public hearing but did not vote on the law proposal.

Ada Robinson mugshot from SCPD

An incident between a homeless couple in a North Shore Home Depot parking lot has left the man dead and the woman behind bars.

The Suffolk County Police Department said on Wednesday morning that detectives had arrested a woman at the scene of a fatal stabbing the night before and charged her with first-degree manslaughter.

Patrol officers from the 6th Precinct were responding to a 911 call in the parking lot of the Home Depot on Middle Country Road in Coram close to 7:30 p.m. when they found 55-year-old Ralph Anthony had been stabbed, police said. He was pronounced dead at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue.

Homicide Unit detectives arrested 60-year-old Ada Robinson at the scene.

Both the victim and the alleged attacker are homeless, according to police. The Homicide Unit’s Lt. Kevin Beyrer said in a phone interview Wednesday that the pair was “at least common-law husband and wife” — they had been a couple for a long period of time, he said, but he wasn’t sure if the two were legally married. They frequented the Coram area where the stabbing took place.

Attorney information for Robinson on the first-degree manslaughter charge was not immediately available on Wednesday morning.

She has previous charges against her of assault with a weapon, stemming from an incident with Anthony on May 9, 2015, according to the New York State court system’s online database. Her attorney on the one felony and one misdemeanor charge for that incident, Central Islip-based Robin Stanco, did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Wednesday morning.

Beyrer confirmed that Anthony was also the victim in the 2015 assault case.

Detectives are still investigating the stabbing. Anyone with information is asked to call the Homicide Squad at 631-852-6392.

This version corrects the date Ada Robinson allegedly assaulted Ralph Anthony in 2015.

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Rob Marianetti is raising money to help fund his daughter Kayla’s care. Photo by Elana Glowatz

A local church is hosting a fundraising event to benefit a little girl who is seriously impaired after almost drowning in a bathtub at 17 months old.

Rob Marianetti is raising money to help fund his daughter Kayla’s care. Above, Kayla before her bathtime accident. Photo from Rob Marianetti
Rob Marianetti is raising money to help fund his daughter Kayla’s care. Above, Kayla before her bathtime accident. Photo from Rob Marianetti

Although Kayla Marianetti was found floating and unresponsive, doctors revived her. However, the Port Jefferson Station toddler was left with a brain injury. She needs multiple therapy appointments each day, including hyperbaric therapy, which involves putting her in an oxygen-rich environment; physical therapy, to move her toward sitting up, standing and walking; vision therapy, as neurological issues have made her legally blind, even though her eyes themselves are fine; and speech therapy, which is used both to teach her to communicate and to eat on her own.

Her father Rob, who works for Setauket-based Hurricane Tree Experts, has seen improvement in her function but needs help to fund the girl’s expensive treatments.

The theatrical fundraiser, for ages 15 and older, at the St. James R.C. Church in Setauket will be held on June 10. In addition to the performance “The Class of Life,” which starts at 7 p.m., there will be refreshments, a Chinese auction and a raffle. The father and daughter will be present. Contact Tabitha Chabalik for reservations, at 631-671-8206 or [email protected]. Tickets are $40. People can also contribute to Kayla’s recovery on her fundraising page.

Rob Marianetti has previously said his goal is to have Kayla at least be able to walk, talk, eat and see on her own.

“I’m not leaving her like this,” Marianetti said last year. “I’m going until either she gets better or I die.”