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The spot at 225 Main Street will be where Northport Village will begin construction for a new inn. Photo from John W. Engeman Theater

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Blueprints and floor plans can be drawn up for the proposed Northport Inn, which overcame its first legal hurdle last week.

Northport Village trustees voted 3 to 1 to approve a code modification that paves the way for the construction of hotels and/or inns within the village’s downtown business district. Mayor George Doll and Trustees Jerry Maline and Damon McMullen voted in favor, and the sole dissenting vote was cast by Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin.

The village code approved Aug. 22 sets basic guidelines to regulate any future construction of a hotel and/or inn including maximum height and required parking spaces.

“There’s a tremendous need for lodging in this area” said Kevin O’Neill, managing director of John W. Engeman Theater. “Long Island is one of the most underserved locations in the United States for lodging.”

An artistic rendering of what the proposed hotel and restaurant at 225 Main Street in Northport Village may look like. Photo from Kevin O’Neill

O’Neill, along with his business partner Richard Dolce, the theater’s producing artistic director, first presented a proposal for a 24-room Northport Inn and restaurant to be built at 225 Main Street in May, feet away from the Engeman.

“With the entrepreneurial juices that we both have, we were trying to figure out different ways that we can hedge the risk of a show being successful or not to help keep us afloat,” O’Neill said. “The vision came into play where we could create a restaurant that synergizes with the theater and an inn.”

The main inspiration for the proposal came from The American Hotel in Sag Harbor, according to O’Neill, in addition to several boutique lodgings that Dolce and O’Neill visited in Camden, Maine, last year. The partners said their goal is to bring first-class harborside lodging to the village along with a restaurant to serve meals and drinks to both overnight visitors and theatergoers.

“We have no intention of this becoming a glitzy Hampton-type thing,” O’Neill said. “We think it could be a charming harbor town like you have in Maine, but seven hours closer.”

Since the initial presentation in May, the main public criticism voiced by residents and the sole dissenting trustee, Tobin, has been what the potential impact the addition of the hotel and restaurant would have on the village’s parking and traffic congestion. Public comments were accepted by the village board from May 16 to July 18.

“We’re already stressed for parking on Main Street,” Tobin said. “I support the hotel, I support the restaurant. The question is what size restaurant will work within downtown Northport?”

The proposed plans as set forth call for a ground-level, 200-seat restaurant, according to O’Neill. Tobin said a parking and traffic study should have been conducted prior to the trustees’ vote to modify the village code to allow for the construction of the hotel/inn.

“We are taking a building that’s a blight upon the community and turning it into a landmark.”

—Kevin O’Neill

“[A parking and traffic study] would give us guidance on how many seats a restaurant could have and yet have minimal parking and traffic problems,” Tobin said. “We could use a study to determine the balance between the economic needs of the hotel and the logistical needs of the village and its residents.”

O’Neill stressed that he and Dolce are “very conscious” of parking concerns in Northport, citing that the village currently has approximately 600 public parking spaces, largely at the west end of the business district. He said it is their plan to convert the existing two parking lots, of 12 spaces each, currently on the property into a total of 54 parking spots. This is more than the number required under the village code passed on Aug. 22, according to O’Neill.

“We have done tireless research and we are confident that the parking we are providing, along with our valet that we’ve provided for the last 10 years, that we will have a seamless process to handle this,” he said.

The John W. Engeman Theater currently offers a valet parking service for  its attendees, managing to service and park vehicles for 390 patrons up to twice a day for weekend matinees and evening performances.

A secondary issue raised by Tobin and residents was a concern that the 200-seat restaurant could be used for catering large events, causing a large influx of vehicular traffic at a time. However, O’Neill said he and Dolce have no interest in providing catering service for weddings, bat mitzvahs or other special occasions.

O’Neill said he hopes to have blueprints and a site plan drawn up for the proposed Northport Inn by Nov. 1 to present to the village, with the hopes of beginning construction in early spring 2018.

“We are taking a building that’s a blight upon the community and turning it into a landmark,” O’Neill said.

Both O’Neill and Dolce said they welcome any village residents with questions or concerns about their proposal to contact them directly for further discussion.

Port Jefferson Trustee Larry LaPointe stands with code officers, from left, James Murdocco, John Vinicombe, Paul Barbato and Gina Savoie as they pose with their proclamations. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Port Jefferson Village honored five code enforcement officers on Monday night who officials say went above the call of duty to serve the community.

Two helped save an overdosing man’s life, one attempted to revive a car crash victim, another thwarted a burglary and a lieutenant protected the village during the recent heavy snowstorm. The board of trustees presented them with proclamations for their service to cheers from the audience at Village Hall.

Gina Savoie was commended for preventing a break-in at a home in the Harbor Hills area earlier this month after she saw suspicious activity and called for police assistance. According to code bureau Chief Wally Tomaszewski, two Coram residents were arrested for loitering as a result.

Paul Barbato, who received a proclamation last year for reviving a man in cardiac arrest at a Port Jefferson restaurant, was honored again Monday for attempting to save a Belle Terre man trapped inside a Lamborghini that had crashed into a pole on East Broadway. Barbato, the first on the scene of the mid-December crash near High Street, got inside the car and performed CPR.

Lt. John Borrero is honored. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Lt. John Borrero is honored. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Although his attempt ultimately proved unsuccessful, he “tried desperately to save his life,” Tomaszewski said in a previous interview. “Believe me, his boots were filled with blood.”

A couple of weeks later, James Murdocco and John Vinicombe responded to an opioid overdose at the Islandwide Taxi stand near the Port Jefferson Long Island Rail Road station. Mayor Margot Garant said Monday that the officers were told the young victim was dead, and they found no pulse or respiration. Murdocco and Vinicombe each administered the anti-overdose medication Narcan and Murdocco performed CPR.

The man regained consciousness and “became violent,” she said, and had to be restrained.

Garant added an unplanned honor to Monday night’s affair, commending Lt. John Borrero for his work during the blizzard, commonly dubbed Winter Storm Jonas, that hit Long Island hard on Jan. 23.

“I cannot tell you what this one gentleman did, on tour all day, making sure our streets are safe, shutting down roads, calling other code enforcement officers in during a massive blizzard — he’s out there helping employees get to work at St. Charles Hospital,” the mayor said. “Your service to this community is just invaluable, John. I cannot tell you the amount of respect you earned that night.”

She told the audience that there is more to the code enforcement bureau than meets the eye.

“These officers are not merely giving out tickets,” Garant said, “but they’re saving lives.”

Kids buddy up at kidOYO camp to learn more about the coding world at a special summer camp workshop hosted at Stony Brook University on Friday afternoon. Photo by Rachel Siford

By Rachel Siford

Stony Brook University is hosting a different type of camp this summer.

kidOYO teaches kids between ages 8 and 15 how to code their own websites and games, using Java, Scratch, Python and HTML.

“Code. Make. Learn.” is kidOYO’s motto — geared to teach kids to code and create on their own.

“The kids learn how to map controls, sense the movements and think about it in a logical way,” co-founder Devon Loffreto said.

Loffreto, a graduate of SBU, and his wife Melora Loffreto founded the camp in 2001 and came to Stony Brook University three years ago because of its position as one of the top computer science schools.

“This area has a huge interest in computer science,” Melora said. “The support of the university has been tremendous.”

Some kids stay just one week, and others participate for the full five weeks. This week, 33 students entered the program along with 10 Stony Brook University computer science student mentors to help them.

Chairman of the Computer Science Department for 17 years Arie Kaufman welcomed the crowd to the newly built computer science building. This group was the first to have a demonstration there.

“I want to move Long Island to the point where everyone from ages 4 to 104 knows how to program,” Kaufman said. “This is a happy occasion for the new computer science building.”

For the first time since the camp was started, participants will be able to continue their websites and work at home. Their profiles will keep track of what they do with badges they get for different accomplishments. There are also challenges and tutorials on the website to keep them engaged.

Students made mods for Minecraft, a popular video game, meaning they wrote code modifications for the educational version of the game Minecraft. One student even made the mod downloadable so anyone can add his mod to his or her own game.

“This generation is one of the most powerful ever because of the tools they are given,” Loffreto said.

Another student built a script in Python, a general-purpose programming language, to draw a turtle, which took 370 lines of code.

Students made videos, comic strips, games, 3D printed objects and video games. For many of them, this was their first time using code.

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Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta holds a copy of a troubling letter sent to over 200 recipients operating home furnishing businesses in Suffolk County. Left to right: Ralph Mondrone, Natalie Weinstein, Robert Trotta and Charlie Gardner. Photo by Chris Mellides

By Chris Mellides

Housed in a building that was originally a vaudeville theater built in the early 1900s, Uniquely Natalie is a St. James-based consignment store catering to shoppers looking for affordable home and office furnishing.

Its owner, Natalie Weinstein, launched this space last year as a designer-driven shop adjoining the headquarters of Natalie Weinstein Design Associates — a full-service interior design firm.

Aside from contending with the challenges of owning her own business, Weinstein was recently served with some bad news from the county.

In a letter dated Oct. 27, Weinstein and several other small business owners with storefronts operating in Suffolk County were introduced to county code Chapter 563-106-A, which among other things states it is unlawful for any person to engage in the selling of furniture or carpets without obtaining a license.

“When I received the letter my first inclination was to say, since I’m a good law-abiding citizen, we’ve got to pay this, [but] how are we going to do this now?” said Weinstein. “This is my first retail operation … I felt it would be helpful to people who really couldn’t go to the big box stores or pay for expensive furniture and still get quality things.”

The code makes no distinction between “new, used or antique furniture,” and there are no exemptions that exist for “antique furniture dealers, churches or other nonprofit organizations.”

This means that Weinstein and others specializing in the sale of home furnishings in Suffolk County are required to apply for licensing at the initial cost of $200 with $400 needed to be paid every two years for relicensing.

Frustrated and looking for outside assistance, Weinstein reached out to Legislator Rob Trotta, who admitted his outrage over the county mandate.

“This is strictly an attack on small business,” said Trotta (R-Fort Salonga). “Over 200 letters were sent out right before the Christmas season. Downtowns are struggling, small businesses are struggling and this [code] said that you need to get a license.”

Trotta said the foundation of this law had shifted from its original intent and that this mandate was just “another attempt to hurt small business and to raise revenue.”

Aligning himself with Trotta is former Commissioner of Consumer Affairs Charlie Gardner. Gardner believes that this mandate aimed at small-business owners subverts the original intent of its legislation, which was to safeguard consumers from unlawful business practices.

“This legislation was aimed at regulating those businesses that would routinely go out of business, would take consumers’ deposits for money, fail to deliver furniture, deliver damaged furniture, and many times consumers had no recourse,” said Gardner. “Since the inception of this legislation the number of complaints dramatically decreased, but it was certainly not aimed at antique stores, antique dealers [or] roadside vendors.”

Gardner, who is now chair of the Government Relations Committee for the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, said if any of his town members were burdened with the mandate, he would suggest they appear before the Legislature to vent and demand that the legislation revert to its original intent.

In an attempt to resolve this issue, Trotta asked legislative counsel to draft legislation that would clarify the definition of “antique dealer” and “seller” and save Weinstein and others from additional hardship.

“I believe that the original intent of the law was to protect consumers when primarily furniture and carpet retailers failed to deliver the merchandise promised,” said Trotta. “Now it appears that the county is going after the small-business person who sells a few pieces of furniture and [the consumer] takes the merchandise with him or her.”