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Arline Goldstein

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Arline Goldstein. Photo from Leg. Trotta's office

Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta (Fort Salonga) has invited Arline Goldstein of St. James to serve as his appointee to the Suffolk County Citizens Advisory Board for the Arts. Established in 1978, the board suggests, reviews and recommends policies and programs for the arts. A major function of the board is the allocation of grants to various artistic and cultural organizations. The position is voluntary.

“Ms. Goldstein brings an incredible wealth of talent to the board as she is an artist who has had her work exhibited throughout Long Island and Manhattan. She is a past president of the Smithtown Arts Council and a retired teacher of Art and Gifted Children at the Longwood School District. In her studio on Lake Avenue, she teaches drawing and painting to adults, and in this pandemic holds classes on Zoom,” said Legislator Trotta.

In addition to her artwork, Ms. Goldstein is a founding member of “Celebrate St. James,” a non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve and promote the culture and arts of St. James. As vice president of the organization, she initiated “Art Walk” on Lake Avenue in St. James.

On May 19, Celebrate St James hosted state, county and town officials as well as local residents at the Lake Avenue Gazebo to commemorate an official Cultural Arts District, located along Lake Avenue in the hamlet of St. James. 

The event, led by one of the organization’s founding members Natalie Weinstein, included a custom artwork unveiling by local artist Arline Goldstein, a ceremonial toast and ribbon cutting. The not-for-profit organization was also responsible for approaching the Town of Smithtown with the vision of creating a Cultural Arts District along Lake Avenue.

“There has always been something about St. James that has fostered community pride. It was and is a place where people have come together in the past and still do,” said Weinstein. “It is a place where, no matter who we are or what we think, we always share one commonality – we love our hometown.”

Weinstein went on to thank Gary Fitlin, CEO of Gyrodyne; Mario Mattera of Deepwells Farm Historical Society; St. James and Smithtown chamber of commerces; and the Smithtown Historical Society. “They, along with local and state government, realize the economic benefits that a revitalization of St. James would have, not only for Smithtown, but Suffolk County and all of Long Island,” she said. 

The Smithtown town board voted unanimously on April 25 to declare an overlay cultural arts district along Lake Avenue in St. James from Route 25A (at the St. James Firehouse) on the north end down to Woodlawn Avenue on the south end, which is intended to highlight the arts, culture and entertainment for residents and visitors alike, creating much needed attractions, tourism and foot traffic along the St. James small business district.

“Thanks to the Town Council and Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, we are on our way to making history! Celebrate St. James is about you – all of you – all who will reap these benefits as you walk down Lake Avenue, sharing a coffee or ice cream, playing a game of chess, joining your friends for a meal or just … sitting on a park bench and enjoying the best of what small town life on ‘Main Street’ was like and will be again,” said Weinstein. 

“And we are privileged to make it happen and see it become a wonderful gathering place for us all. We truly look forward to the future, joyfully, as we celebrate our past.”

The ceremony was held in conjunction with Celebrate St. James’ first St. James Art Walk, which featured vendors, art demonstrations and music along Lake Avenue.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) asked the crowd of enthusiastic residents to envision the future Lake Avenue as it undergoes a renaissance.

“An artist looks at life around him or her and sees something that most of us can not … They see colors on a blank canvas, they see the finished product looking at a blueprint. They see potential. They see an extraordinary future,” said Wehrheim. “As we cut this ribbon today, I ask that you take a moment, find your inner artist … and imagine the potential.” 

Arline Goldstein and Natalie Weinstein together inside Studio 455 Art Gallery

By Susan Risoli

The St. James of the past was a gracious world, where locals were joined by artists and celebrities summering in the prosperous farming community. St. James of the present is a town marked by empty storefronts and limited opportunity for growth.

“St. James needs sprucing up,” said Eric Neitzel, owner of DeBarbieri Associates Real Estate agency and a member of Celebrate St. James. “If you look at Lake Avenue, it looks a little depressed.”

St. James residents at the summer concert series organized by Celebrate St. James.

Interior designer Natalie Weinstein helped form the nonprofit organization Celebrate St. James whose mission is to “develop community pride and involvement, and allow people to understand what we can have here.” She is owner of Uniquely Natalie, a high-end furniture consignment shop housed in the former location of the historic St. James Calderone Theater, and Studio 455 Art Gallery on Lake Avenue. 

Like Weinstein, many of the group’s members are lifelong St. James residents. They are proud of the town’s rich history. New York City mayor William J. Gaynor and his family lived at the Deepwells mansion, where notable figures such as Harry Houdini, Mae West and Madam C.J. Walker strolled through the parlor. 

“Our unique and special town has an auspicious history — but it has so much more,” reads a post on Celebrate St. James’ Facebook page. “It has spirit and pride and a desire to look back while looking forward. It has young and growing families, valued seniors, those who have been here for generations, and those who have just chosen to live and work in our wonderful hamlet because of who we are and what we stand for.” 

For their vision and determination to make St. James thrive once more, TBR News Media is honoring the members of Celebrate St. James as 2018 People of the Year. 

Since its formation in 2017, the group worked hard to create an 18-month calendar for 2018 featuring historic photos of the town and put together an outdoor concert series at the St. James Gazebo. 

Events scheduled for 2019 include a springtime silent film festival and an Art Walk slated for May 5, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For three weeks, more than 20 local artists will partner with St. James businesses along Lake Avenue to showcase their work, according to Arline Goldstein, a St. James resident and Celebrate St. James member. It is currently in the process of reaching out to visual artists, sculptors, photographers, potters, weavers, performing artists and others interested in participating in the event. 

Weinstein said Celebrate St. James has also applied for a grant to create a historic walking tour enhanced by kiosks that people could access via an app on their phones. 

Arline Goldstein and Natalie Weinstein. Photo by Kyle Barr

Celebrate St. James is continuing its work to create a Lake Avenue arts district that would stretch from the St. James firehouse on Route 25A to Woodlawn Avenue. The group first presented this idea to Town of Smithtown officials at their May 8 board meeting. 

“It’s in my heart for artists to show their work, and for others to see that work,” Goldstein told TBR News Media in May. “The project is the culmination of all my ideas about art.” 

Neitzel explained that the district could become a reality when the street is outfitted with a sewer system. In the new year, the first piece of the plan will move forward, with dry sewer mains scheduled to be installed on Lake Avenue. The town’s streets and sidewalks will also be redone. 

“Right now, development is hindered,” Neitzel said. “Eventually the commercial community, and an arts community surrounding it, will be piped into the sewers.” 

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R), the town board and its planning department have said they will help in any way they can. Smithtown officials and St. James community members, including representatives of Celebrate St. James, have been having regular meetings to plan out steps toward downtown revitalization, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. 

Weinstein and the organization’s hard work and persistence has not gone unnoticed by their neighbors. 

“Natalie is a phenomenal woman that’s done a tremendous amount for our town,” Tom Donohue, of St. James, said. She’s always looking for the future; she had a ton of energy.”

Goldstein also oversees a committee composed of residents, business owners, architects and representatives of the Town of Smithtown planning department. Goldstein said they are looking at various issues, including off-street parking and signage. 

“Right now signs are haphazard and not attractive,” she said. 

Goldstein said Celebrate St. James is strategizing ways to strengthen the relationship between the town and creative people. One goal is to have artists and musicians living and working in St. James, “to bring art from the studios right out into the community.”

“We can and will save this town through the arts,” Weinstein said. 

The members of Celebrate St. James are all volunteers. Together, they have embraced the challenge of navigating complex matters of zoning and funding, if it means restoring St. James to its former glory. 

“We have a big love for St. James,” Neitzel said, “It’s a wonderful town.”