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Board of Trustees

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File photo by Heidi Sutton

By John Loughlin

The Port Jefferson Board Trustees held their bi-weekly Zoom meeting on April 19.

After their approval of minutes, changes and amendments from the previous meeting on April 5, they got down to business.

One of the first topics of discussion was Harbor Square Mall. The village said they are looking to take some parking spots out to stop the constant crowd that it brings. The purpose of switching and eliminating parking lot spots is to keep the parking moving and open, and there is not a lot of parking spaces for the restaurant and apartment complex that is in the mall.

Mayor Margot Garant made a special thanks to the families and children who helped local nonprofit Hometown Hope clean up beaches last weekend.

There were teams that went McAlister Park, Centennial and East Beach where they cleaned up everything that was necessary to cleanup.

For leisure as the warm weather hits, the basketball league is starting up in June from ages 12 to 15.

Also, a tentative date of May 21, will potentially hold a movie night for high school seniors who missed out on their final year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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By Iryna Shkurhan

In the Village of Head of the Harbor, two trustee incumbents, Daniel White and Jeffrey Fischer, are running for another two-year term March 16.

Daniel White

Both candidates are currently serving in their eighth year as trustees for the village. As a result of the pandemic, this past year brought new budget challenges due to a shortfall of court and sales tax revenues. But both candidates credit working effectively and diligently with their team to prevail through unforeseen circumstances.

“The village faces significant problems this year because we have a very tight budget as a result of a pandemic, and I think that I can contribute to the overall effective functioning and improvement of life in the village,” White said.

During his service so far, White worked with his fellow trustees to initiate modern radio communications for the highway trucks. Most recently he also helped secure funding for reflective stainless steel clips on the fire hydrants so the firemen can find them easily, even when covered with snow.

“It seems very small, barely worth mentioning, but it can make a significant difference in a situation where if it’s not there, it could be a problem,” White said.

White, 66, has worked as a fidelity lawyer for Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi PC firm for the past three years, specializing in fidelity and surety law. His past law experience includes serving as assistant district attorney in Kings County.

He has lived in St. James at intervals since 1965. Currently White and his wife reside in the home he grew up with their two labradors, Daisy and Holly.

White also served as president of Preservation Long Island, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving Long Island’s diverse cultural and architectural heritage, and completed his extended term in June. He also served on the organization’s board for 13 years.

White and Fischer align with the village statement on the proposed Gyrodyne development project in St. James, which raised concerns about negative traffic and environmental impacts on the village. They are concerned about the possible consequences of a proposed treatment plan on the property so close to Stony Brook Harbor and drastic changes to historic Route 25.

“I think that the historic corridor along Route 25A in that section is a resource that we must conserve and that we must preserve,” said White, who views the proposed location of the site as the “wrong place.”

Jeffrey Fischer

Gyrodyne has proposed to subdivide its 75-acre-property to build a 150-room hotel with a restaurant, two assisted living centers, two medical office parks in addition to a 7-acre sewage treatment plant.

Fischer believes that a moratorium needs to be placed on this project until further studies are conducted on the environmental impact, as well as from a traffic standpoint.

“Our biggest concern right now is the potential Smithtown master plan Gyrodone property,”  Fischer said. “It can have such a negative impact on our village.”

Fischer, 64, has lived in St. James for the past 27 years with his wife and two children.  He is the president and CEO of Atlantic Business Systems, an IT company in Hauppauge that he started 33 years ago. During the past four terms as trustee, he served on the finance board and is responsible for maintaining and balancing the budget.

“With the financial shortfalls that were unforeseen, due to COVID, it’s been challenging,but you know, we’ve prevailed,” Fischer said.

He has also served on the zoning board of appeals for 17 years, for ten of those years he was chairman of the board.

Fischer spearheaded the joining of the St. James fire district for the village, rather than being a customer of the fire district. The initiative was approved this year, giving residents the opportunity to vote in the fire district elections and join as volunteers or commissioners.

“I love doing it,” Fischer said. “I work with a great team of people. Our mayor and my fellow trustees are outstanding people to work with, and we’re getting a lot accomplished.And, I really enjoy it.”

Voting will take place March 16 at Head of the Harbor Village Hall located at 500 North Country Road, St. James. The polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m.

“We live in a wonderful community and people are willing to help in all kinds of ways, and I want to work to focus on getting participation even greater, so that we can make things better,” White said.

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A rendering of the potential community garden located on Beach Street in the Village of Port Jefferson. Photo from Rebecca Kassay

On Monday, March 15 at 3:30 p.m., the Village Board of Trustees and Mayor Margot Garant will vote on a resolution proposed by Trustee Rebecca Kassay to launch a pilot community garden program in Port Jefferson Village. 

The community garden aims to provide residents, who otherwise do not have garden-ready outdoor space, with square footage to grow their own local, organic food. The garden also provides new recreation and learning opportunities for community members of all ages and skill levels. 

Since the year’s start, Kassay and the 11 hardworking members of the Community Garden Committee have researched and met virtually to assemble the 14-page proposal for this pilot program. 

The pilot is proposed for currently-vacant village parkland located at the intersection of Beach Street and Sheldrake Avenue. The plan proposes 16 raised beds, noting that some should be built double-high for residents with different abilities. 

The committee is currently responding to questions sent by the board after the initial pilot presentation at the village board meeting on March 1, addressing specifics around community programming, initial budget and infrastructure. 

If the board approves the pilot program at this Monday’s village meeting, the Community Garden Committee expects that gardeners can be signed up and growing their own produce by early this summer. 

The pilot program will launch with a modest budget, seeking to raise funds and attract material donations for the project. 

Throughout the year, the committee plans to invite local experts and enthusiasts to host programs offering gardening how-to’s, cooking lessons, nutrition/wellness tips, children’s activities and more. 

If the pilot garden project is successful, the committee expects to expand with more raised beds at the Beach Street site in 2022, and in subsequent years, create a second garden site at the Highlands parkland uptown. 

Any residents interested in updates about this project can email [email protected]. Residents who are interested in updates about this project can sign up for the garden newsletter here.

Courtesy of Port Jefferson Village Trustee Rebecca Kassay.

Port Jefferson Village Hall. File photo by Heidi Sutton

Port Jefferson Village taxpayers will have the opportunity to hear from the three candidates seeking seats on the board of trustees Tuesday,  June 12 at 7 p.m. in the Wayfarer room at Port Jefferson Village Center, located at 101 East Broadway. The candidates at the event, hosted by The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, will give opening and closing statements and take part in a question-and-answer session.

The election will take place June 19 and will feature incumbents Bruce D’Abramo and Bruce Miller as well as challenger Kathianne Snaden.

PJ Village Trustee Bruce Miller says commuters to NYC have stayed away from the PJ line without electrification. Photo by Elana Glowatz

By Elana Glowatz

Two village trustees are unopposed for re-election this month, each with his own goals for improving Port Jefferson.

Bruce D’Abramo and Bruce Miller are seeking a fourth term and a second term on the village board of trustees, respectively.

Bruce Miller is running for re-election. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Bruce Miller is running for re-election. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Miller wants to keep up his work to get the Port Jefferson power plant upgraded, known as repowering. The aging power plant runs on outdated technology and many residents and officials fear the loss of its significant property tax revenue if it were to shut down without being rebuilt.

“It’s something that I’ve been doing for about 20 years,” he explained, between his work on the Port Jefferson school board and with the local group Grassroots Committee to Repower Port Jefferson. “I want to try to see this thing through. I think it’s very important to the community. I have other interests but I have I think significant expertise in this area and think that I can benefit the people of the village.”

Miller is also interested in environmental issues, and said he has been working with the village’s conservation committee on making the village more energy-efficient and on strengthening the power grid in Port Jefferson to better withstand storms. He is helping put together a proposal to receive grant funding for a microgrid, which would be independent of the regional grid and rely on its own power-generating resources — and thus keep the community, which includes two hospitals, going during power outages.

For those who may vote for him, Miller said he strives to “keep in mind [the idea of] a small maritime New England village.”

Bruce D’Abramo is running for re-election. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Bruce D’Abramo is running for re-election. Photo by Elana Glowatz

The other candidate, D’Abramo, is running for two more years because “I love what I’m doing in Port Jefferson and I love the difference that we’re making.”

He said his top priority in the past and in a new term is to “turn uptown port Jefferson around into a community that we can all be proud of.”

One thing he is particularly proud of accomplishing in his third term, however, is in the downtown area: the beautification of Old Mill Creek.

The polluted creek winds through the west side of lower Port, including under Barnum Avenue and behind Village Hall, before flowing into the harbor. In addition to being contaminated by chemicals that had been dumped at an industrial site in Port Jefferson Station and had traveled through the groundwater, it was plagued by invasive plant species. But in the last year, the village put a plan into action to clean up the creek, improve its flow and remove the invasive species and replace them with native ones.

Another project he is proud of is using money left over in last year’s budget to pave additional streets in the part of the village referred to as the “poets section,” which includes Emerson Street, Longfellow Lane, Hawthorne Street and others.

“Every time we can put some money into the infrastructure, we’re doing something that’s going to last for a while; that’s going to make a difference,” D’Abramo said.

To the voters going to the polls later this month, the trustee said, “If they’re interested in seeing upper Port Jefferson change, then consider voting for me.”

Voting is at the Port Jefferson Village Center on June 21, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. There is also a village judge seat on the ballot, to complete the three years remaining on the term of Justice Peter Graham, who died in office in October, a few months after being re-elected. Graham, who was known for his colorful personality, had served the village for more than 30 years.

Bill Glass was appointed to replace him in the interim, and the lawyer is running for election to stay in that role. He faces challenges from Tara Higgins and Scott Zamek.

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Debate focuses on bar fights downtown, narcotics uptown

File photo

Residents and village officials butted heads with a police lieutenant on Monday night, debating the level of coverage officers provide in Port Jefferson.

The downtown commercial district, with its numerous bars and restaurants, is busy on summer nights, particularly on the weekend. Village officials have lobbied over the years to increase Suffolk County police presence downtown during those peak times, and to have more bodies in the uptown area, which sees criminal activity such as drug sales and has a consistent homeless population.

Lt. Donato Mignone said at the village board meeting Monday that there are additional officers patrolling Port Jefferson on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, pointing out that the village gets more police coverage relative to its number of police incidents. Mignone said of the 7,800 incidents the Suffolk County Police Department’s 6th Precinct handled in July, 385 of them were in Port Jefferson.

While he agreed the village deserves more attention than it gets, the department is working with limited resources and “you want to be wise with your manpower.”

But Trustee Larry LaPointe argued, “If you’re not here, there is no incident to report. If a tree falls in the woods and nobody’s there to hear it, the tree didn’t fall. That’s what’s happening in this village.”

The trustee called for more police coverage.

“There’s too much violence downtown,” LaPointe said.

The lieutenant said he would pass on the village’s concerns to his superiors. He added, “I absolutely understand, I agree, I commiserate.”

Later in the meeting, after Mignone left, LaPointe said the village might take its fight to a higher level, like the county executive’s office, if things don’t change.

“It’s their job to keep our community safe,” the trustee said. “We will exhaust every possible avenue that we can think of to bring our needs and our concerns to their attention and to push our case as hard as we can.”