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Country Club

The Port Jefferson Country Club at the edge. Photo from Village of Port Jefferson

It’s been a long and harrowing timeline of events for local officials and residents who use East Beach and the surrounding country club.

For years now, the village has been preparing for this moment, where the tennis courts and Port Jefferson Country Club have seemingly moved to the edge of the cliff overlooking the beach thanks to climate change and the ever-increasing erosion.

To the naked eye, one can see a gazebo in photos hanging by a thread. The tennis courts will be next. Eventually, if nothing is done, the club could potentially collapse into the harbor and have devastating impacts on the local environment. Over the course of several months, Mayor Margot Garant, village administrator Joe Palumbo and the village trustees have been anticipating this moment where something needs to be done now.

“We lost so much material,” Garant said. “The deck is approximately 30 feet from the bluff line … the gazebo isn’t there anymore. We’re getting very, very close to the bluff.”

Because the tennis courts are so close to the edge now, tennis at the country club had to be canceled for this season.

A view of the eroding bluff. Photo from Village of Port Jefferson

The backstory

In February, a representative from CGI Engineering, Varoujan Hagopian, presented to the board what could happen with three different options on the table: build a wall at the bottom of the bluff; renovate the building and surrounding areas upland; or do nothing at all.

Hagopian said that many clients he works with on the Eastern Seaboard are experiencing the same, or similar issues. “If you do nothing, this kind of erosion will continue,” he said. “I estimate the building will be totally damaged or gone in three to five years. I’m not trying to scare you, but these are realistic calculations.”

Hagopian added that although the building might be gone, that means it will impact the road and East Beach as a whole. The erosion won’t stop at the club.

Two weeks later at the March 3 work session, the board listened in to Garant’s presentation on the bluff, where she gave a detailed history of just how much East Beach has been through over the last decade.

The restoration project began in 2010, with engineering group GEI working on several projects that included the sea wall restoration, the west end wall extension, a ramp installation, a large jetty project and sand dredging, which was finally completed in 2021.

Garant said that the village and its surrounding beaches have seen devastating effects of different storms throughout the years, including Irene, Sandy and more recently, Isaiah back in September.

Aerial shot of Port Jefferson Country Club. Photo from Village of Port Jefferson

Finding funding

Meanwhile, Palumbo has been working with the DEC and with FEMA applications to try to get some federal funding — a feat that takes a lot of time and a lot of patience.

The East Beach Bluff Stabilization Phase I project’s DEC permit was originally filed in 2016, finally being awarded in June 2021, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ approval being obtained in September.

The DEC approved plans call for 454 linear feet of steel wall and rock revetment with tiebacks to stabilize the lower bluff and bolstering the “groin” to prevent further erosion into the roadway, according to a February presentation.

A significant expense of the entire project is the replanting of the entire flank of the hill which includes core logs, erosion control blankets, wood terracing, soil anchors and tens of thousands of native plants, including woody plants, beach and switch grasses.

The comprehensive project and detailed drawings were put out for competitive bidding. Twelve bids came in ranging from $4.8 million to $6.2 million. Funding the project will require a bond initiative, which will have an impact of increasing the typical household tax bill by approximately $147 per annum over the 15-year term if no other sources of funding are available or if no other budgetary changes are made.

The final awarded bid for the lower wall project ended up being $4.3 million. But when it comes to federal funding, the village is competing with other locations which have had their share of issues with Mother Nature.

“We were denied the application for the reimbursement of the bluff, they claimed, in short, that it was an existing condition,” Palumbo said. 

“We’re appealing that because we know it’s a preexisting condition and it’s going to be a condition that will continue to occur if our measures aren’t taken to the bluff.” 

The village has recently enlisted the assistance of Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), who is offering his full support to the appeal to FEMA and helping to seek other funding sources. 

Palumbo added that he has been in talks with decision makers with FEMA weekly, and has been scouring to find other types of funding that could help offset the cost.

“This is probably one of the most expensive projects any municipality on Long Island has ever had to deal with,” Garant said. “This is a severe erosion issue and it’s not going away. We might lose a lot more than we already have lost if we don’t act quickly.” 

For more information, including the plans to stabilize and restore the bluff, visit the website portjeff.com/eastbeachbluff. 

Photo by Kimberly Brown

Staying active has been hard enough during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most indoor sports still have restrictions or are closed entirely, making it difficult for Long Islanders to keep them-selves occupied while living life under pandemic rules.

Yet luckily for some, there is one sport that has not let anyone down in 2020 — golf.

While other activities were cancelled throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, golf courses like this one at the Port Jefferson Country Club became a popular pastime. Photo by Kimberly Brown

As the virus pandemic hit Long Island in March, golf became one of the most popular outdoor sports to play throughout last year. It is one of the few activities where contact is either extremely limited, or even nonexistent, as it can even be played alone.

General manager of the Port Jefferson Country Club, Brian Macmillan, explained how his business has done ex-ceedingly well given the circumstances.

“We saw a great increase in membership and play,” he said. “With many off of work or not losing time in their day-from-work travel, more people were on the course. It seemed to be the only safe activity for anyone to do.”

But the pandemic has created minor setbacks for some golf courses like PJCC. The shortage of cleaning supplies stunted the business for only a short time, but what became a bigger issue was the shutdown of production from golf companies.

“Keeping up with golf balls and gloves was an issue that hit later in the year,” Macmillan said. “The golf compa-nies shut down production for a period while product was in the highest demand ever. Getting products in the door was tough, but we found ways to use different companies to get our members what they needed.”

Besides the increased play, there were many positive attributes to come out of the pandemic. For example, the Wil-low Creek Golf & Country Club in Mount Sinai said COVID brought their members closer together as they com-bated the new mandates New York State implemented.

Photo by Kimberly Brown

“The challenges of 2020 triggered changes in how we operate on a day-to-day basis,” Robin Rasch, general manager of Willow Creek, said. “This strengthened our team here as we continue to evolve and adapt to COVID mandates.”

Without consistent loyalty from golf members, country clubs would have had a difficult time surviving. Thankfully, the businesses have been able to thrive while simultaneously bringing golf lovers together, at a safe distance of course.

“Eventually, golfers came to understand that being on the golf course was a safer place to enjoy the outdoors — the game of golf — and connect in a safer manner with friends,” Rasch said.

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Port Jefferson’s Shane DeVincenzo scored a hole in one at the Port Jefferson Country Club on Oct. 8. Photo from the Port Jefferson school district
Port Jefferson’s Shane DeVincenzo scored a hole in one at the Port Jefferson Country Club on Oct. 8. Photo from the Port Jefferson school district

It was one for the record books, as Royals freshman Shane DeVincenzo recorded his first hole-in-one during a game against Mount Sinai at the Port Jefferson Country Club on Oct. 8.

“Not many people can say they’ve made a hole-in-one, particularly during a competition,” Port Jefferson head coach Charles Ruoff said. “Shane has quickly become one of the strongest players in our league as a ninth-grader.”

DeVincenzo, who has been playing golf for the past two seasons, took the hole-in-one shot with a six iron on Hole No. 2, playing 166 yards. He went on to shoot 33 for nine holes, barely missing a 15-foot putt for 32.

“We are all very proud of Shane,” athletic director Debra Ferry said. “He works really hard.”

With DeVincenzo’s hole-in-one, the Port Jefferson varsity golf team went on to win the League VI game against Mount Sinai, with a final score of 8-1.