Suffolk County

Courtesy photo

Concern Housing, Inc. — a Medford-based nonprofit agency committed to helping individuals live with dignity and enhanced opportunities —celebrated the grand opening of Liberty Station in Port Jefferson Station last week. 

Liberty Station, a 77-unit rental community, provides workforce and accommodating housing options to persons in the community, including veterans 

“We are thrilled to join the Port Jefferson community and provide a housing option that is in desperate need for so many in our region,” said Ralph Fasano, Executive Director of Concern Housing. “Liberty Station offers veterans who have fought for our country quality, affordable housing as everyone deserves to live with dignity and respect.”

Courtesy photo

Standing beside its various partners and elected officials, Concern cut the celebratory ribbon welcoming six, two-story apartment buildings comprising 77 affordable homes. Seventy-five of the 77 apartment homes are one-bedroom units and the remaining are two-bedroom units. Twenty-five of the apartments are reserved for veterans, 20 additional units are given preference for veterans and the remaining units are for individuals making less than 50% of the Area Median Income. 

To ensure the quality living of residents, the community also provides residents with access to private parking lots and amenities such as a fitness center, a library and a computer room. 

Additionally, staff offices are on-site so that staff members can be available to help resolve any issues or needs. Residents also benefit by being in close proximity to major bus routes as well as the Port Jefferson LIRR station. 

“I am in an apartment on my own at a great location,” said U.S. Army Sergeant Harold Mains. “I could never afford an apartment like this on my income and also, live on my own. I am living 150% better than I was. I love my own space, the sense of community and appreciate all that Concern does for housing Vets, like me.”

According to New York State Governor Kathy Hochul, the $28 million affordable and supportive housing development will be an entity to the Town of Brookhaven. 

“With its affordable homes, health services and gorgeous grounds, Liberty Station is now a permanent piece of the Port Jefferson Station community — and the residents of Brookhaven will benefit as a result,”  Hochul said. “Making it possible for people to access stable, supportive homes that they can afford is one of the principal missions of my administration, and it is one that we will continue to fulfill.”

State funding for Liberty Station includes more than $18 million in equity from Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and more than $6.3 million in subsidy from New York State Homes and Community Renewal. 

The Community Preservation Corporation is providing a $1.45 million permanent loan funded through their partnership with the New York City Employees’ Retirement Systems, Suffolk County provided $900,000 and the Home Depot Foundation donated $300,000. OMH has provided $382,000 in start-up funding through a program development grant, and $1.1 million in annual support service funding through ESSHI. 

Liberty Station is part of the state’s $20 billion, five-year effort to provide New Yorkers with access to safe, affordable housing. The plan, now in its final year, makes housing accessible and combats homelessness by building and preserving more than 100,000 units of affordable housing and 6,000 units of supportive housing.    

Over the last decade on Long Island, HCR has invested $366 million to finance nearly 2,900 affordable apartments in multifamily developments, an investment that leveraged more than $272 million in funding from other sources.

c“An essential part of moving our region forward and remaining competitive is making investments in affordable and diverse housing options. Liberty Station will provide permanent, supportive housing for adults with disabilities, working-class individuals and families, and veterans,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “Our goal is to ensure that all of our residents have a safe place to call home.”

Commissioner Jeff Vlack, Chairman John Romonoski, Vice Chairman Richard McKay, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker, Commissioner James McLoughlin, Chief Darran Handshaw, Ex-Chief Michael Rosaco, First Asstistant Chief William Rosasco, and Second Asstistant Chief Alex Riley. Photo from Sarah Anker

On Saturday, Sept. 4, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) attended the Sound Beach Fire Department’s Annual Fire District Inspection and Installation Dinner at East Wind Long Island in Wading River. 

Anker joined the Sound Beach Fire Department members in honoring the newly installed incoming officers as well as other department members for their many years of dedicated service, including Erica Elisseou and Cheyenne Enlund for five years; Dede Zenz, Kevin Creedon, Ex-Captain James Hudson, Captain James McLoughlin and Chief Darran Handshaw for 10 years; Ex-Captain Joseph Luise for 15 years; Ex-Chief Thomas Sternberg and Ex-Chief Michael Rosasco for 20 years; John Marino and Ex-Captain Daryl Blasberg for 25 years; John Hoffmann, Joseph Russo and Anthony Russo for 30 years; Ex-Captain John Curtin and Ex-Chief Edward Sullivan for 35 years; and Philip Alaimo III for 50 years. 

Members of the Auxiliary Company were also recognized for their years of dedicated service, including Maureen Strauch for 25 years; Ann Moran for 30 years; Denise Hellberg for 40 years; and Patty Pulick for 50 years. 

 “It was an honor to attend this year’s annual inspection and installation dinner and to have the opportunity to recognize members of the department and the Auxiliary Company for their many years and decades of dedicated service,” Anker said. “I want to thank the all the members of the Sound Beach Fire Department and the Auxiliary Company for their continued and courageous service to the community during a challenging and unprecedented year.”

The Sound Beach Fire Department has been providing emergency services to the residents of Sound Beach for 91 years.

Photo from Hope Children’s Fund

The board of directors of Hope Children’s Fund, in conjunction with the Rocky Point Rotary Club, recently announced the ordering of an Isuzu 25 passenger bus for the Jerusha Mwiraria Hope Children’s Fund Orphanage in Meru, Kenya. 

The bus will provide safe transport for the 86 children of the home and is to be used for transportation to schools, medical appointments and food shopping. 

Photo from Hope Children’s Fund

The Isuzu bus is the culmination of the efforts of hundreds of donors. A GoFundMe initiated by Hope Children’s Fund board member Kyle Spillane raised thousands of dollars for the cause. 

In addition to the Rocky Point Rotary Club, several other clubs including Port Jefferson, Westhampton, Stony Brook, Riverhead, Patchogue and Ronkonkoma contributed to fund for the bus. All clubs are members of Rotary District 7255 led by District Governor Mary Ellen Ellwood.

On Sept. 21, at the People’s United Bank Wading River branch, a wiring ceremony took place where members of the board sent the money to the orphanage in Kenya. People’s United Bank is the official bank of Hope Children’s Fund, and has waived all wire fees on all transactions to the orphanage. 

A farm complex broke out into flames Tuesday; Left: Seven Seas Construction helps combat the fire in Strong’s Neck. Photo from Setauket Fire Department

By Julianne Mosher & Rita J. Egan

When a fire broke out at a horse complex in Setauket Tuesday morning, more than a dozen different fire departments came together and helped.

One of those volunteers was Thomas Lund, owner of Seven Seas Construction Co. in Port Jefferson. 

Lund, who is also a volunteer firefighter with the Port Jefferson Fire Department, said he was aware of what was going on a town over and was gearing up to drive to work in Strong’s Neck when the fire broke out. 

“The fire happened to be sort of along the way. So, I figured I would bring the barge over,”  he said. “I knew they were bringing the fire boat, and I figured I could be a solid platform for them to work off of.”

While dozens upon dozens of fire trucks headed to the flames, along with the fire boat in the harbor, Lund said the team ended up using the water pump that he uses for dock building with his company. 

Photo from PJFD

“We were able to supply water until the fire broke out there,” he said. “At the very least we could give a hand because I knew it would be a big operation — a very small part of it, but I figured we could at least do something to help and we were able to, so it was great.” 

He added that for about 45 minutes, he and his fellow fighters stretched a line from his equipment on the deck, connecting it to another line at the dock. 

“It was a big operation from the start,” he said.

The fire initially broke out at 10 a..m Sept. 21 at 23 Brewster Lane, according to Setauket Fire Department Chief Scott Gressin. The SFD received mutual aid in excess of 16 surrounding departments.

The chief said a 19,000 square-feet structure, that was once used as an interior horse-riding arena, had heaving smoke and fire could be seen coming from multiple sides as firefighters arrived on the scene.

Gressin said the first approach was an offensive one; however, considering the fire load inside of the building, the first responders had to take a defensive approach.

There were no horses in the structure as it has not been used as a riding arena in some time. Gressin said horses in a nearby stable were under no threat. Two firefighters with burns were treated and released from the hospital.

Wednesday morning firefighters and investigators were still at the site. 

“It continues to be an active fire scene with a hazardous material incident involving buried propane tanks,” Gressin said. “I have multiple agencies working to mitigate the problem.”

Photo from PJFD

He said the SFD is coordinating with the Town of Brookhaven and Suffolk County Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services. At this time, he cannot anticipate when the investigation will be completed.

Brookhaven’s Chief Fire Marshal Christopher Mehrman said the origin and cause investigation was concluded Tuesday. He said the reason was human error as an electrical conductor that shouldn’t have been energized was. Two electricians who received electrical shocks were transported to the hospital. Mehrman did not have their present status at press time.

Mehrman said the intensity of the fire caused two 1,000-gallon propane tanks to leak. Even though they are underground, the valving is above. He said HazMat technicians are on the scene to control the flow. The fire marshal said neighbors are not in any danger because the propane is being burned off which means no gas is accumulating.  

Mt. Sinai senior Skylor Wong sets the play in a league IV road game against Harborfields Sept 20. Photo by Bill Landon

The Harborfields Tornadoes looked to sweep the visiting Mustangs of Mount Sinai in three games after winning the first two 25-7, 25-16, but the Mustangs had other ideas rallying from behind in the third set to win 25-22 forcing a game four. 

It was a back-and-forth battle down to the last service but the Tornadoes prevailed edging Mt. Sinai 25-21 in the final set for the 3-1 victory.

Harborfields senior Ava Spencer had 16 kills at net, freshman middle hitter Peyton Elward buried 8 along with 9th grader Joey Greenberg who notched 26 assists. The win lifts Harborfields to 3-1 in league IV as Mount Sinai drops to 2-3.              

Photo by Julianne Mosher

For its seventh year, the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual Port Jefferson Dragon Boat Race Festival this past weekend.

Full of color and culture, dragons danced around Mayor Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park on Saturday, Sept. 8 for a day full of fun festivities. 

Originally spearheaded by Barbara Ransome, director of operations at the chamber, she came up with the idea after she attended a dragon boat race festival in Cape May, New Jersey, a few years ago.

“We could not be more pleased that coming somewhat out of COVID we were able to successfully run a safe outdoor event with excellent participation and with wonderful weather,” Ransome said. 

Opening ceremonies began at the Jill Nees Russell Performance Stage at 8:30 a.m. and included a performance by the Asian Veterans Color Guard, singing of the national anthem by Alanna Wu, a Blessing of the Dragon and the traditional “Eye Dotting” ceremony to awaken the dragon.

“To have people come to Port Jefferson, to this beautiful park, and spend the day here is great,” said Stu Vincent, first vice president of the chamber.

This year’s event consisted of 17 racing teams with dragon boats provided by High Five Dragon Boat Co. The teams competed on a 250-meter, three-lane racing course in Port Jefferson Harbor, and were made up of 20 “paddlers,” one steersman and one drummer. 

Along with the races, the festival hosted several performances including the famous Lion Dance, Taiko and Korean Drum performances, martial arts demonstrations and Asian singing.

In the middle of the festival, teams also competed for best t-shirt, where The Moody Team won. 

Team NYCB took home the gold, while Vax NYC placed second and Extreme NY placed third.

Newfield senior defender Megan Spina maneuvers mid-field in a D-I matchup against Smithtown West Sept 21. Photo by Bill Landon

After protecting a one goal lead going into the second half, Smithtown West junior Sophia Campitites scored the insurance goal with 13 minutes left in regulation for the 2-0 lead in D-I road game against Newfield Sept. 21. 

Newfield’s Megan Spina’s foot spoke next when the senior drove her shot home five minutes later to trail by one. Smithtown West desperate to hang on to their one goal advantage had those hopes dashed by Newfield forward Sarah Cavallo with 20 seconds left in regulation when the sophomore’s shot found its mark to tie the score at 2-2 forcing overtime. 

Unable to settle the game in the first ten-minute overtime period, Smithtown West managed a team goal in the scrum in front of the Newfield net seven minutes into the second, to take the lead and held on to win it 3-2.

The win lifts Smithtown West to 3-1-0 in league while the loss drops the Wolverines to 2-2-1. Both teams are back in action on Sept. 23 where the Bulls travel to take on their cross-town rivals, Smithtown East, while Newfield will host Lindenhurst. Game times are 4:30 and 5:30, respectively. 

— Photos by Bill Landon

Suffolk County Police arrested a Selden man after he targeted Hispanic men and brought them to remote locations and attacked them.

Christopher Cella drove to the vicinity of La Placita, located at 711 Horseblock Road in Farmingville, and picked up a 52-year-old Holbrook resident at approximately 8:15 a.m. on Friday, September 17. Cella brought the man to an abandoned construction site on Blue Point Road in Farmingville, where he attacked him.

Photo from SCPD

Cella then left the construction site and drove to the vicinity of 7-Eleven, located at 3000 North Ocean Ave. in Farmingville, where,  just after 9 a.m., he picked up a 60-year-old Medford resident. Cella brought him to the Blue Ridge Condominium Complex, located on Granny Road in Medford. There, Cella attacked and choked the man before the victim was able to escape.

The following morning, at approximately 8 a.m., Cella went back to the North Ocean Avenue location and picked up a third victim, a 47-year-old Brentwood resident. Cella attempted to bring him to an unknown location. The man became suspicious and was able to get out of the vehicle. 

 Suffolk County Police Hate Crimes Unit detectives, in coordination with 6th Squad detectives and Sixth Precinct Crime Section officers, arrested Cella, 19, of 254 Adirondack Drive, without incident at his home at approximately 10:15 a.m. on Sunday. He was charged with two counts of Aggravated Harassment 2nd Degree, two counts of Criminal Obstruction of Breathing, two counts of Unlawful Imprisonment 2nd Degree under the Hate Crimes Law, and one count of Reckless Endangerment 1st Degree under the Hate Crimes Law. 

“The defendant allegedly targeted these victims because of their ethnicity and lured them in under false pretenses before carrying out these violent attacks,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini. “This is a highly disturbing case, and my Office’s Hate Crimes Task Force will work in collaboration with the SCPD Hate Crimes Unit to investigate and prosecute these incidents thoroughly.”

Cella was arraigned on the charges today in Suffolk County First District Court and was released on supervised release with GPS monitoring. He is being represented by the Legal Aid Society and is due back in court on Sept. 24.

The investigation is ongoing, and Sini urges anyone who believes he or she may be a victim of Cella to contact the Suffolk County Police Department’s Hate Crimes Unit at 631-852-6553.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Sheetal Shetty, of the Felony Offense Bureau’s Major Crime Unit, who is a member of the District Attorney’s Office’s Hate Crimes Task Force.

Suffolk County Legislator Nick Caracappa was recently invited to tour the Suffolk County Farm in Yaphank, operated by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE). Caracappa’s colleague, Legislator Jim Mazzarella also attended.

According to CCE’s website, The Suffolk County Farm and Education Center’s mission is to provide hands-on research-based learning to all residents with themes in agriculture, animal sciences, history, STEM, healthy living, and life skills in a unique year-round learning environment and in community spaces. The Farm’s vision is to connect with the County’s agricultural heritage and to pave the way for a bright, healthy, and sustainable future.

The tour included a tractor tour of the facility, which includes sunflower and cornfields, animals, a playground and various gardens.

Also in attendance were 32 National Grid employees, volunteering their services as part of the company’s “Project C” initiative. Project C is a program designed to transcend convention and create a more equitable future. In collaboration with the people of New York State, Project C wishes to inspire positive change — from neighborhood beautification to workforce development. Legislators Caracappa and Mazzarella presented each volunteer a Certificate of Recognition for their volunteer work.

“I’d like to thank Vanessa Lockel, CCE’s Executive Director, Vicki Fleming, the Director for Suffolk County Farm, as well as farm employees for a tour of this incredible county facility that has so much to offer. Whether it be in the way of education or for family recreation, the farm programs and events provide something for everyone,” stated Legislator Caracappa. “I’d also like to offer a special thanks to the employees of National Grid who volunteered their time to work the farm today. Suffolk County Farm truly is a resource run by and for the community.”

A trolley from the Suffolk Traction Company is shown in Patchogue. Although track was laid along Port Jefferson’s Main Street, Suffolk Traction never ran a streetcar in the village. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Port Jefferson was not immune to the trolley fever that swept the United States during the late 19th century.

Orange T. Fanning, Thomas O’Donnell, Charles E. Tooker and other prominent village businessmen met in 1895 and called for the construction of an electric trolley line that would cross Long Island from Port Jefferson on the Sound to Patchogue on the Great South Bay.

According to its supporters, the proposed trolley would provide a connection with the Port Jefferson ferry that sailed to Bridgeport, Connecticut; increase tourism among day-trippers; and carry passengers from the Sound to the Bay in less than one hour.

The project’s cheerleaders also claimed the trolley would enrich property owners along the line and improve transportation by intersecting with the LIRR’s stations at Patchogue, Waverly (Holtsville) and Port Jefferson.

Note the trolley tracks. A procession leaves Athena Hall, crosses Port Jefferson’s Main Street and marches up Spring Street for the 1914 cornerstone laying ceremonies at Port Jefferson High School. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Seeing enormous profits in the trolley venture, parties from Long Island, New York City and Bridgeport organized the Patchogue and Port Jefferson Traction Company on Jan. 29, 1896.

Port Jefferson Traction announced that its 14-mile trolley road would be finished and in operation by April 1, 1903, but several factors kept the project from moving ahead.

Confronted by the high costs of equipment and materials, the corporation delayed work waiting for prices to fall. Word that New Haven, Connecticut, might run a steamboat to Port Jefferson and link with the trolley worried investors in Bridgeport who had backed Port Jefferson Traction’s scheme. 

Arguments also arose over the trolley’s hours of operation, rate of speed, type of roadbed and method of power. The streetcar’s proponents quarreled over whether the line should be built from Patchogue to Port Jefferson or vice versa. 

Mired in endless trolley talk, Port Jefferson Traction was acquired by the Central Long Island Electric Light and Railroad Company. Chartered on Dec. 17, 1903, the new corporation amended the proposed Patchogue-Port Jefferson route to include a Setauket-Stony Brook branch line. The organization also sought to build a power plant in Port Jefferson and develop land in an envisioned “Jefferson Manor” section of Echo.

Notwithstanding its glowing prospectus, Central Long Island never ran a streetcar in Port Jefferson, opening the door for the Suffolk Traction Company and its plans for a Cross Island trolley road.

Incorporated on June 27, 1906, Suffolk Traction soon became embroiled in legal disputes with its competitors over franchises, the LIRR over grade crossings and property owners over condemnation proceedings.

When the court battles finally ended and construction actually began, Suffolk Traction diverted resources that had been earmarked for Port Jefferson to expanding service on the South Shore. As a result, track was not laid along Port Jefferson’s Main Street (Route 25A) until 1909-13, but by then it was too late. Even discounting the years lost to inactivity and sporadic work, the trolley plan was already doomed in the village.

A self-propelled crane enters Port Jefferson’s Bayles Shipyard, East Broadway, April 1918. The crane arrived by the LIRR and then steamed down to the waterfront traveling on the Suffolk Traction Company’s trolley rails and temporary tracks. Photo by Arthur S. Greene; Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Automobiles were revolutionizing travel, giving Long Islanders the freedom to explore the open road and making them less dependent on public transit. In addition, Suffolk Traction was facing competition from faster buses that carried passengers between Port Jefferson and Patchogue on the “Auto Trolley Line.”

While managing to run a battery-powered streetcar between Patchogue and Holtsville, a bankrupt Suffolk Traction ceased operations in 1919.

Although the trolley never ran in Port Jefferson, the existing tracks were supplemented by temporary rails and used during World War I to move a self-propelled crane downhill from Port Jefferson’s LIRR station to Bayles Shipyard on the village’s waterfront. 

The rusting trolley tracks, viewed as a nuisance by Port Jefferson’s motorists and pedestrians, were torn up as improvements were made along Route 25A, although rails were still visible at the foot of the village’s Main Street as late as September 1956.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.