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George Hoffman

Task force member Mark Smith at Setauket Harbor installing buoys and lines in Setauket Harbor for growing sugar kelp. Photo from Setauket Harbor Task Force

By Chris Cumella

Rows of sugar kelp – a brown native seaweed — are being planted and will be harvested in Setauket Harbor, not for decoration but to provide cleaner water and other benefits to the community.

Neighboring next to Port Jefferson Harbor, the Setauket Harbor Task Force has installed two 100-foot lines with sugar kelp seedlings in hopes of cultivating them when they are ready for harvesting. There are numerous ways in which the sugar kelp can be benefited from.

This aquatic plant is edible for both people and pets. It can be used as a fertilizer, bioplastic, biofuel, cosmetics and is a method to help improve water quality.

“Our main goal for this year is to spread the word about kelp and where it grows, the conditions it needs, how to process it and how it can benefit growers on Long Island,” said Wendy Moore, benefactor and manager of the sugar kelp project.

Moore, along with her husband, Justin, founded The Moore Family Charitable Foundation, a nonprofit community involvement program.

“To that end, we’ve developed relationships with 11 growers this season,” she said.

Moore attributes her profound interest in the project to the fact that sugar kelp is self-sustaining. It is what she describes as a “low-intensity process,” which has seen nearly no obstacles other than lesser amounts of sun in the winter months. The Town of Brookhaven was one of the first to support the project and even provided equipment to the task force. There are plans to expand the project in the following years.

Even in a continuous pandemic, the project has not been swayed. According to Moore, the gear distribution and outplanting have been outdoors. Everyone on the team has been able to gather safely and follow proper COVID protocols.

“We’re lucky that much of the needed operations at this time are outdoors,” she said.

David Berg, a scientific advisor to the Moore Foundation, said that the cultivation rate would be more likely to increase after the equinox in March.

Besides Setauket and Port Jefferson Harbors, the Moore foundation has set up in other locations including Islip, Brookhaven, Greenport and Oyster Bay.

Two years ago, the Setauket Harbor Task Force began conducting water monitoring in Setauket Harbor. They set out in the spring, summer and fall seasons to take water chemistry readings and samples to document the water quality. With authorization from New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the task force has been able to look at what can be done about the water and possibly cleaning it up.

“There’s oyster harvesting and clam harvesting,” said George Hoffman, a trustee of the task force which helps oversee the sugar kelp cultivation and production. “We decided to try sugar kelp harvesting, and they’re cleaning up the water by feeding on the C02 … which leads to water acidification.”

Hoffman describes his feelings about the task force being included in this pilot project as “exciting” and wants to show the public that harbors like Setauket can become productive areas for marine agriculture.

“We’re happy to have a product that will help us clean and improve the quality of the water and likewise providing beneficial food,” he said.

Cultivating the sugar kelp requires attaching the seeds to two 100-feet lines in the harbor, held together in place by mushroom anchors. When the kelp is ready to harvest, it is thick, rubbery, and a glistening shade of brown before it is processed and cleaned into a vibrant emerald green color, ready for distribution.

According to Hoffman, the harvesting sites take up roughly 200 feet of water, and he hopes to see expansion in a couple of years if this project yields successful results.

“The main thing we’re interested in doing is taking the interest that’s already here and helping Long Island along in the momentum of progressing further,” Moore said. “We want to seek out and connect with people and help get the word out about the amazing potential that it has.”

Volunteers for the Setauket Harbor Task Force have monitored the health of Port Jefferson Harbor for the past three years. Photo by Kyle Barr

What does it take to monitor the health of your local waterways? For the people who month after month do just that, all it takes is a love for the place one lives.

The Setauket Harbor Task Force was one of the most active of the 22 groups involved with Save the Sound and its bay water recording initiative. The immense amount of work is taken up by a squad of volunteers, some of whom have been active during the May through October months of the last three years.

Laurie Vetere and George Hoffman, co-founders of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, discuss this year’s findings compared to two years ago. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Setauket Harbor Task Force originated as a way to monitor the health of what they considered the lone “orphaned” bay on the North Shore, but their activities eventually spread over the border into Port Jefferson as well. While the task force originated in 2015 to help maintain the local waterways’ wellbeing, in 2018 the group joined the United Water Study program under the EPA’s Long Island Sound Study, and since then has done monitoring in 10 different locations in Port Jeff and Setauket harbors.

Hoffman, of the task force, said they have dedicated much of their time and energy to the project, especially maintaining rigorous scientific standards. They have gone out in foggy mornings where you could barely see a few feet in front of the boat. Once, their craft’s engine stopped working, and they had to be towed back to harbor. There have been times their small craft has rolled in early morning swells, but they keep on going.

“With climate and environment, there’s so little that most people can do,” he said. “Every day you read about a new thing — ice shelves melting, whales being beached … I find when I talk to volunteers, it’s just being able to do something.”

Every participating organization must take readings of the water twice a month, no less than 10 days apart. Because monitoring must be performed three hours before sunrise, volunteers are up well before dawn, getting into the small craft and wading out into the harbors. Their recording instrument, a sonde meter that records all manor of water quality metrics, costs close to $20,000. 

Steve Antos, one of the task force board members, also owns Setauket Landscape Design. Though he and others in his group have lived in the area for decades, the idea of water quality has really taken a hold on many of its participants. Antos enjoys constructing rain gardens in his regular job, which are critical for preventing water runoff flowing from people’s yards down toward the Sound. 

“In the past, everyone tried to get their properties to drain onto the road … and eventually it just runs into our bays and takes all the pollution and dog waste with it,” Antos said. “A lot of it is way beyond our control, but whatever we can do, just little things, it all adds up.”

Before working with the task force, many of the 10 or so volunteers wouldn’t have known what most of the readings, from the chlorophyll levels or turbidity (the water clarity) meant, but now have become a kind of citizen scientist, able to comprehend measurements using a very technical device. Their backgrounds range from a retired veterinarian to retired teachers, but what brings them together is their long time proximity to the bays and waterways of the North Shore. It’s what drove them to want to make sure the water was being maintained.

Tom Lyon, of Mount Sinai, and Mark Smith, of East Setauket, are the boat captains, and have lent their experience and water crafts to the project. They are small runabouts, one an 18-foot and the other 16. 

Nancy Goldstein, herself a trained scuba diver, got into the project thanks to a friend and has been active for three years. 

“I took marine biology in high school, but I’m totally not a scientist,” Goldstein said. “I care about the earth, and the marine — it’s all one.”

Bert Conover, a retired veterinarian from Port Jeff, said he has always been on the water “from Delaware River to Ocean City.” Long ago, he majored in chemistry and biology, but went to grad school for zoology and then went on to veterinarian school. 

“Now that I’m retired it gives me a chance to give back,” he said. “And hopefully the data will redirect how to approach a healthy harbor.”

Alice Leser has lived in Stony Brook for 49 years, and is a life-long Long Islander. She has taught programs about Long Island waters as a teacher and alongside fellow environmentalists at the Long Island Museum. When three years ago the task force offered her a training program at the Village Center, she snapped up the opportunity.

“I’ve been surrounded by water my entire life,” she said. “I’ve canoeed all the rivers, and I’ve taught programs about Long Island waters, so I really care about the purity of the water.”

Laurie Vetere, the fellow co-founder of the task force, said they have not had anyone drop out in three years.

“When we first started this program, we found that we had more volunteers than we needed,” Vetere said. “People are attracted to the water.”

Hoffman agreed, saying there is something about Long Islanders and their connection to their coasts.

“Long Islanders are coastal people,” he said. “I think what keeps us on Long Island is we all have a love for the water.” 

Jamie Vaudrey, a professor of marine science at the University of Connecticut, detailed the issues with multiple Long Island bays across the North Shore. The main issues are nitrogen and how well a bay flushes. Photo by Kyle Barr

A new report by a regional environmental nonprofit says a little under half of all bays on either side of the Long Island Sound were given a poor-to-failing grade. It’s a continuing problem, but more and more local groups are stepping up to dedicate their time and energy to trying to maintain the water as a strong habitat.

At a press conference Tuesday, Oct. 6, Save the Sound, a Connecticut-based environmental nonprofit funded by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant, released its biennial 2020 Long Island Sound Report Card that described the general health of 50 bays from Long Island and Connecticut based on the previous year’s data. 

Click on the above link to see the grading of the entire Long Island Sound.

Officials and experts revealed that, of those monitored, Suffolk County North Shore harbors were largely better off than those in Connecticut, but several still had issues. Port Jefferson, at least the outer and middle portions of the harbor, was ranked in the top 10 most healthy, with experts saying it most likely has to do with how well the harbor flushes daily.

Meanwhile sites like Northport and Centerport harbors were ranked C- and C respectively. Northport Harbor received a F grade for its excess of chlorophyll, a measurement of how much microalgae is in the water, and its low level of dissolved oxygen, an important factor for the health of fish. Centerport had similar difficulties, but also had issues of excessive seaweed accumulation.

Perhaps the most concerning of North Shore Suffolk County’s waterways was the innermost part of Cold Spring Harbor which received F grades in chlorophyll, seaweed and dissolved oxygen. 

U.S. Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) were both present to offer their support of bipartisan funding for this and future studies as well as initiatives to keep local bays clean. Suozzi said in the past four years, the Long Island Sound Caucus has extended the EPA Long Island Sound program to 2023 and increased the $4 million appropriated to the Sound to $21 million. The House has already passed a bill to up that to $30 million, but has not yet been taken up by the Senate.

Zeldin said the low grades of so many bays only emphasizes the need for more federal funding for further studies and additional relief. 

“Working across the aisle and across the Sound, we’ve made great progress in preserving this critical waterway, but with nearly half of the waterways measured in this report as receiving a D grade or below, there’s still work to do,” he said. 

George Hoffman, a co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force that monitors Port Jeff, also acknowledged a great deal of why the bay has done comparatively well is because of its flushing capacity. Another factor, he said, may be the hundreds of thousands of oysters and shellfish the Town of Brookhaven seeds into the bay. The shellfish do a great job of filtering organic particulates from the water.  

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi said the Long Island Sound Study needs more federal funding. Photo by Kyle Barr

Save The Sound’s Unified Water Study program includes 22 organizations covering 50 harbors on both sides of the waterway. Monitoring begins in May and ends in October. The study also looks at the general health state of the Sound itself. It’s long been clear that the closer one is to New York City, the less healthy the water is. The Western Narrows portion of the Sound received an F grade on all marks, while the Eastern Narrows, which runs from Northport to the edge of Hempstead Bay, received a C grade overall. Areas to the east were reported as much healthier in general.

Jamie Vaudrey, an assistant research professor of marine science at the University of Connecticut, said likely the biggest factor for the health of bays in a modern environment is how well the water flushes in and out of the harbor. Water like that trapped into the southernmost tip of Cold Spring Harbor is more impacted by any real increase in nitrogen.

“They just have this large nitrogen burden coming in that’s not being flushed out,” she said. “In systems like that, really pushing down that nitrogen load is important.”

Nitrogen has been called public enemy No. 1 for coastal waters as it’s the leading cause of hypoxia, namely low or depleted oxygen causing major problems for marine life. This can cause fish or other sea creatures to die off and lead to an excess of seaweed or algae. Some of these algal blooms have even been dangerous to animals or humans.

Though Port Jefferson Harbor’s general health was rated high, it too has experienced its share of dangerous algal blooms, including a so-called rust tide back in 2018. Though this specific bloom doesn’t present a threat to human beings, it kills fish quite rapidly. Those who study water quality have become very concerned with how often these blooms have appeared since the early 2000s.

For some of the struggling bays in the Town of Huntington, New York State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) called for a funding stream from the federal government on down that can really start to make a dent in Suffolk County’s lack of sewage treatment facilities and get the ball rolling on nitrogen-reducing septic systems, which individually can cost a homeowner $10,000 to $15,000 apiece without government funding. 

“People can’t do that on their own — we need tax credits, we need funding,” he said.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, right. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By George Hoffman

George Hoffman

With the likely election of Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) to the New York State Supreme Court as a justice in the 10th District this November, it will mean that residents of Council District 1 will be choosing a new town councilperson at the beginning of next year.

Before prospective candidates come forward, I thought it might be worthwhile to suggest a list of attributes that our next councilperson should possess.

1. Be active in community affairs.

Our new councilperson should be someone who is involved in the local community. Council District 1 has numerous and active community organizations from civic groups, historical societies, chambers of commerce, volunteer fire and rescue companies, youth athletic leagues and school and library boards.

Having a background in local civic affairs means that our new councilperson knows who the community leaders are and what’s important to the community.

2. Have a nonpartisan attitude.                                                                                                                                      

Our new councilperson should be someone who builds relationships with the others rather than stirs up partisan conflict. Town government deals mostly with the delivery of services like garbage pickup, road repair, snow removal, maintaining the parks and town facilities. Most issues of the Town Board are nonpolitical and should not be used for scoring partisan points. New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia famously said, “There is no Democratic or Republican way to pick up garbage.”

3. Makes friends not waves.

Though we are currently living in very partisan times, Americans continually tell pollsters that they want their elected officials to work together rather than fight amongst themselves and get nothing done. Our next councilperson should leave their party registration at the door of town hall and build relationships with their colleagues on the board and in town government to make our town a better place.

4. Understand the importance of our history, harbors and open spaces.

The Town of Brookhaven was first established on the shores of Setauket Harbor, 365 years ago. The people who live here are coastal people and want their leaders to protect this legacy. They also are proud of the role our ancestors played in early American history, helping Gen. George Washington and his armies overcome the British forces. Protecting the historic Washington Spy Trail, what we now call NYS Route 25A, is central to that history.

5. Be fiscally prudent.

Though some in our area are very well off financially, most of us are holding our own in an area that has a very high cost of living. Our next councilperson needs a sense of prudence when deciding how much town government can spend in providing necessary services to its residents. Now with the challenge of dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, town government will have to restructure itself and learn to do more with less. Something much easier said than done. Our next councilperson will need a sense of balance in making tough fiscal choices in the next budget process.

But more importantly, our next councilperson needs to care about our town and community, and always put their interests ahead of party and self.

George Hoffman is active in civic affairs and currently serves as vice president of the Three Village Civic Association and is one of the founders of Setauket Harbor Task Force. He recently was co-chair of the Town of Brookhaven Citizens Advisory Committee for the Route 25A corridor. Hoffman has worked as a chief of staff in three of Suffolk’s biggest towns and served as a district director for a local congressman.

TBR News Media invites community members to submit their thoughts on what qualities they believe the next councilperson should possess. Submissions can be emailed to [email protected]

James Bouklas, president of We Are Smithtown, leads a protest against Gyrodyne March 2. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Civic groups from two neighboring townships joined forces March 2 to advocate for additional studies of a development along Route 25A.

George Hoffman, 1st vice president of the Three Village Civic Association, and others call for an independent environmental study of the property. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Members of the civic group We Are Smithtown organized a rally on the corner of Mills Pond Road and Route 25A in St. James to protest the proposed Gyrodyne property development at the site. The group was joined by representatives from the Greater Stony Brook Action Coalition, Three Village Civic Association, Town of Brookhaven Citizens Advisory Committee for Route 25A, Setauket Harbor Task Force and Smithtown activist Amy Fortunato.

The company is hoping to build an assisted living home, hotel, medical offices and sewage treatment plant on the property. 

James Bouklas, president of We Are Smithtown, said all in attendance opposed the development and were concerned about possible toxins in the soil of the former helicopter manufacturer’s land, along with a list of other concerns.

He and other protesters called on the Town of Smithtown and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to take action and conduct an independent and rigorous forensic environmental study.

He described the potential development as “akin to building a new Smith Haven Mall on this rural, country stretch of Route 25A.”

The civic group president gave examples of former aviation manufacturers such as Lawrence Aviation and Grumman that he said, “operated behind a huge wall, often in secrecy, and in the end, they all left a legacy of pollution and toxic plumes.”

“Here is what we do know,” he added. “Gyrodyne was a defense manufacturer in those pre-Earth Day years of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when America wasn’t exactly careful about what went in the ground.”

The civic president also expressed concern that through the decades auto repair and photography businesses have operated on the Gyrodyne grounds as well as above-ground vehicle storage among others that may have released chemicals into the soil. The property is a short distance from Stony Brook Harbor.

“What goes into our groundwater quickly winds up as our drinking water,” he said. “There is no margin for error.”

In addition to environmental concerns, Bouklas cited traffic congestion on both 25A and Stony Brook Road.

Justin Bryant, who grew up in Smithtown and now lives in Stony Brook, said he too is concerned about chemicals in the ground at Gyrodyne, saying it’s been too long since a forensic environmental analysis was done.

“It’s important to remember where about 2,000 feet behind you a Superfund site, regulated by the [Environmental Protection Agency],” he said. “This site is on the national priorities list, which means it’s a site most at risk to the people who live in the area.”

“What goes into our groundwater quickly winds up as our drinking water. There is no margin for error.”

— James Bouklas

According to the EPA, there is a groundwater contamination site in the villages of Nissequogue and Head of the Harbor. Since the pollution was discovered in 1997, the agency has been monitoring the area’s ground and surface water. 

Herb Mones, chair of the Three Village Civic Association land use committee and a 30-year resident of Stony Brook, said the historic corridor should be protected and preserved and any development should be done in a reasonable and sensible way to protect the surrounding communities.

George Hoffman, 1st vice president of the Three Village Civic Association, was co-chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee for Route 25A, where the Town of Brookhaven met with residents to gather their thoughts about what needed improvement on the corridor.

“You can’t save one part of the highway without saving the entire highway,” he said. “This is a really historic corridor.”

He pointed to an environmental study done more than 10 years ago, when the State University of New York bought 250 acres of Gyrodyne property, that found several chemicals in the soil. However, both Hoffman and others at the rally said the chemicals did not show up in the recent environmental study Gyrodyne paid for in the location of the potential subdivision.

“We’re really suspicious of how one part of the property could have had a lot of chemicals in it, where this part of the property now has apparently been given a clean bill of health,” he said.

Cindy Smith, chair of the Greater Stony Brook Action Coalition/United Communities Against Gyrodyne, held the first protest against the Gyrodyne development on the steps of Smithtown’s Town Hall Nov. 2017. After the March 2 press conference, she said she is pleased with the bond that has been formed with “like-minded civic groups in Smithtown and Brookhaven.”

As a member of Friends of Stony Brook Road, she has helped addressed the impact of the overcapacity street. 

“We knew that the additional traffic from the proposed Gyrodyne development would cause even more quality-of-life and safety issues on our road, not to mention the increased financial burden to Brookhaven residents,” she said, adding she is also concerned about water quality, historical impact, increased taxes and more.

Smith said the organizations have given both town residents voice, and Greater Stony Brook Action Coalition/United Communities Against Gyrodyne has worked with environmentalists, including Carl Safina, Dick Amper of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society and John Turner conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society.

Smithtown spokesperson Nicole Garguilo said in a statement that the Town has been vigilant in following New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act requirement and law,

“It would be negligent, not to mention a dangerous, unethical precedent to ask the hard-working taxpayers of our community to foot a $500,000 (minimum) bill for a private property owners’ Environmental Impact Statement. Especially, when the EIS process requires the Town’s planning, engineering and environmental professionals to thoroughly review and verify the analysis,” Gargulio said.

A representative from Gyrodyne could not be reached for a comment about the protest or environmental study. 

At the Suffolk County Legislature’s March 3 general meeting, a vote for a comprehensive planning study for the corridor was tabled until March 17.

Northville Industries is located on Beach Street in Port Jefferson, where barges full of oil come to dock and unload the fuel, which is pumped through pipelines to a location in East Setauket and then to Holtsville. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Town of Brookhaven has renewed leases on two entities in Port Jefferson Harbor, but one of those operations has local environmentalists a little concerned.

The Town voted unanimously Jan. 30 to renew the lease for the Port Jefferson/Setauket Yacht Club (which is more known as simply the Port Jefferson Yacht Club) as well as the Melville-headquartered Northville Industries for use in its underwater and uplands properties on the eastern end of the harbor. The licensee has operated in that location since 1975, according to Town attorney Annette Eaderesto.

The yacht club’s lease has gone up to $35,100 for 20 years with a 3 percent annual increase. The club’s land includes around .892 acre underwater and 2.723 acres upland, including the club facilities.

“Oil transport is inherently a dirty operation.”

— George Hoffman

Northville’s operation has oil being brought in on ship or barge to the Port Jeff terminal, where it is shipped via either of two 16-inch pipelines up to its storage farm in East Setauket before moving on to a Holtsville terminal via a 12-inch pipeline, according to the company’s website. 

The oil transport company’s lease now increases to $77,322 based on a new appraisal, which includes around $40K for the underwater portion and around $37K for the upland portion. The company has agreed to pay slightly more than what the upland portion was appraised for. The 20-year term is set to increase annually by 3 percent. The company has had the lease since 1975, and the Town attorney said the company has not had any claims against the town.

George Hoffman, the co-founder of Setauket Harbor Task Force, said he had several concerns over the company’s continued engagement with the harbor. His group has been doing more and more testing of the Port Jefferson harbor in the past two years, having just finished the second season of testing. He asked for strict liability regarding the oil transport company.

“Oil transport is inherently a dirty operation,” he said. “There’s always tiny spills, no matter how hard they work there is always going to be problems.”

Eaderesto said Northville does not post a bond in case of any ruptures, and any spills are handled by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Miller Marine Services, a regional company with a site right next to the oil transport company, is there for immediate response. 

Steven Ripp, the chief operating officer of NIC Holding Corp., the parent company of Northville, denied there has been any leaking or spills into the harbor from their operations, further arguing the company would be able to contain any major spills into the immediate area of their operations on the harbor’s east end.

“There are never any minor spills, not even a gallon,” he said. “If there is a spillage whatsoever, we have to immediately report it to DEC and take swift action.”

Northville has been previously cited by the DEC. In 1987, Northville notified the DEC of a gasoline leak at its East Setauket site of approximately 1.2 million gallons that had leaked into the ground over a 10-year period. That gasoline had penetrated into the ground and reached the water table 100 feet below the surface. 

The company had settled with the DEC for a $25 million cleanup plan after the spill. In 2006, after a long and complicated cleanup process, the DEC reported Northville had completed all remediation.

In a later interview, Hoffman said he came away from the public hearing with more concerns, not less, especially concerning the overall health of the Port Jefferson Harbor and the age of the pipelines running over into East Setauket.

“This is going to be potentially 30 years — I didn’t feel comfortable about that,” he said.

When asked, the general manager at Northville, Peter St. Germaine, did not relate anything about the age of the pipe, instead saying it is frequently inspected by the state. 

“There are never any minor spills, not even a gallon.”

— Steven Ripp

A spokesperson for the state DEC said the agency inspects the facilities for petroleum bulk storage and major oil storage facility regulations. Recent inspections were performed in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2018. The DEC also conducts a review of the facility license renewal application, testing of certain tanks and secondary containment areas, and groundwater results from 12 monitoring wells at the East Setauket location, as well as two monitoring wells at the Beach Street site. The wells are sampled every six months.

Eaderesto said the town is able to back out of any lease at any time should the need arise. 

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said he is aware of the need for attention paid to Port Jefferson Harbor, especially considering the effluent from both Stony Brook University and Port Jeff treatment plants flows into the harbor as well.

Ripp said the location received hundreds of barges of oil a year, and through their pipelines run hundreds of millions of gallons, “safely” every year. 

“It is a critical facility for the Town of Brookhaven,” he added.

Northville isn’t the only industrial company to work close to the harbor. Along Beach Street in Port Jeff the Tilcon quarry is constantly operating with heavy moving equipment. The area also includes the LIPA power station to the north of both operations.   

Romaine said his concern was the location and that the lease would conflict with plans of a joint venture of Ørsted and Eversource to make Port Jeff a hub for planned wind turbines off the coast of Montauk. However, the town attorney said the lease is just an extension of a lease that has been in effect for several years.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said she had initial concerns regarding community comments and ensuring proper liability coverage, but those concerns had been assuaged by the town law department, and she thanked the company for, “being a good licensee over the years.”

Both leases for upland and underwater land were set to expire April 30, 2020. The new license terms go 20 years with the availability of two 5-year extension options for the town.

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Residents can now use a boardwalk from East Setauket Pond Park to the harbor. Photo by Maria Hoffman

Three Village residents have a new way to enjoy and connect with nature.

The Town of Brookhaven recently constructed a 180-foot boardwalk that starts at East Setauket Pond Park, next to Se-Port Delicatessen, and ends with a viewing platform at Setauket Harbor. Laurie Vetere and George Hoffman, co-founders of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said the boardwalk complements the group’s vision for the site.

“We always had a plan for the park,” Hoffman said. “We really think it’s a unique park that’s been neglected over the years.”

Vetere called the park its pet project.

“We can see the vision of it becoming a beautiful waterfront park right in the heart of downtown Setauket,” she said.

Hoffman and Vetere said the town plans to add benches to the viewing platform and switch out the current light posts to match the historic fixtures along Route 25A. The town is also currently waiting for a permit from the New York State Department of Conservation to cut down the phragmites that are currently slightly blocking the view at the platform.

The task force co-founders said a couple of months ago the town’s Parks & Recreation Department had a surplus of funds for park improvements around town, and Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) were able to secure $75,000 to be used for the Three Village park.

Vetere, said the Three Village Civic Association, of which she is 2nd vice president, is currently forming a committee to be chaired by Herb Mones and Robert Reuter. She said the hope is to further the vision of the park including aspects such as adding plantings, play equipment for children and possibly moving the gazebo that is currently there to another spot in the park.

“The hope is just to make it more useful and get people invested in Setauket Harbor and the beauty of the harbor,” Vetere said.

Cartright said she was happy with the improvements.

“This is an important place in our community, and we want to increase and promote public access and use of the park,” she said. “We received community feedback about improvements that residents wanted to see at this location. Working off of that community input, I was able to secure $75,000 funding for this project that started about two-and-a-half weeks ago and was completed [Oct. 15].”

In addition to the current work being done by the Town of Brookhaven, in 2016 state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) secured a $1 million grant for the town for East Setauket Pond Park. The funds, which became available at the end of 2018, will go toward removing sediment from the retention pond at the park and implementing improvements to mitigate stormwater inputs into the harbor. The grant will also go toward repairing the dock at the Shore Road park along the harbor.

“We look forward to the completion of this project as it fits into the larger picture of preserving and protecting the area,” Cartright said.

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Cadets in the Naval Academy’s Summer Navigation and Seamanship Training Block toss a line as they prepare to dock in Port Jeff Harbor Aug. 8. Photo by Kyle Barr

From the west, a storm came in. Five U.S. Navy boats watched the clouds sweep in from the opposite direction they sailed, with lightning flicking out of dark skies. 

With the direction of the officers on the small 44-foot crafts, they knew what to do.

Two made it into Port Jefferson Harbor through the night of Aug. 7, while the other three stayed out in the Sound beyond the harbor. People on the vessel Valiant said they saw gusts of wind driving them at 38 knots, then staying in the mid 20s for a time after that. With two reefs in the mainsail and no jib, the boat, carrying eight midshipmen and two other officers, was as light and fast as a bird over a rough swell.

The Intrepid sailing into Port Jeff Harbor on Aug. 8. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We did hit that storm for a little while; for an hour and a half it was pretty rough,” said senior officer first class Joe Llewellyn, laughing, “It was a bit of a thrill … these guys,” he looked to the other young midshipmen, “handled the boat great though.”

The rapid entry into Port Jefferson Harbor was part of the U.S. Naval Academy’s Summer Navigation and Seamanship Training Block, where Lt. Matt Vernam, a commanding officer on one of the vessels, took around 40 young midshipmen (despite the name, it consists of both men and women) from Annapolis, Maryland, to Delaware Bay into New York City Harbor, where the cadets watched the Statue of Liberty and Freedom Tower roll by, before climbing up the Hudson and visiting the USS Intrepid. The boats then sailed down the East River and made good sail until they came outside Port Jefferson during the storm. 

The program that Vernam helps run, called the Offshore Sail Training Squadron, is meant to give cadets a leadership experience. Four midshipmen are up on deck at a time and are instructed to listen to advice as they carry out operations of the vessel, even getting the vessel safely into dock through their own muscle and sweat.

“We try to let these guys run the boat and exercise leadership,” Vernam said. 

George Hoffman, cofounder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, had helped suggest Port Jeff as a place the sailors could visit on their tour. When the boats came in the Thursday morning, they did so with a police boat escort.

Vernam, a graduate of Shoreham-Wading River High School and a Wading River native, said it was nice to be back to his home on the North Shore. His father, Don Vernam, was acting on the Valiant as a civilian volunteer, and his family reunion would include his mother who came up to greet them both on the harbor.

“It’s nice having two local bodies to plan this,” he said.

Rob LoScalzo, a Wading River resident, helped contact the Navy to have the midshipman take their boats into Port Jefferson. His son Mike, a fellow SWR graduate, had just graduated from the Navy academy in May. 

LoScalzo said he has been trying to get the Navy to Long Island for years, originally trying with the Village of Patchogue but the keel was too long for the harbor. 

“With all the naval history that’s around here, with the Culper Spy Ring, to the Taylor Brewster, to the shipbuilding — its rich history — we’re just so excited that we could piece it together.”

The Town of Brookhaven allowed the visitors to use the dock space, and the public was able to visit for tours on the vessels.  

People on the Port Jefferson Tall Ship Committee, who have been working to bring tall, masted sailing ships into Port Jefferson Harbor, watched the tall ship Lady Maryland sail away on the morning’s tide, listening for the cannon shot to announce its departure. Chris Ryon, village historian, said he expects the historical schooner Amistad to make its appearance once again in PJ Harbor some time in the near future.

 

Among the suggested improvements for Route 25A is making signs more consistent, especially at Woods Corner east of Nicolls Road. File photo by Rita J. Egan

The next phase of the 25A corridor study is set to begin. Late last month, the Route 25A Citizen Advisory Committee, town officials and community leaders met to begin discussing a land use code for the corridor. This code would regulate future development and architecture styles among other things in the area.

“This is where we can take a vision and be able to actually make an impact.”

— George Hoffman

The land use phase is one of the most significant land use initiatives affecting the community in years.

George Hoffman, co-chair of the CAC, said he is excited for this next phase and to be working with this group of individuals.

“This is where we can take a vision and be able to actually make an impact,” he said.

The corridor study dates back to 2016 when the town appointed the CAC to assist them in the study and land use plan in the future development of the area. In 2017, the town came out with its Route 25A /Three Village Area Visioning Report.

The report covered the hamlets of Stony Brook, Setauket and East Setauket. Its goal was to use the report as a tool to help achieve a corridor that has a well-functioning road, quality building, site design, improved pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly facilities and preserve historic and natural open spaces.

Hoffman said 25A is an important and historical road that he believes should
be protected.

“The community has seen what has happened to Route 25 after it was turned into a highway,” he said. “They don’t want 25A to turn into Jericho Turnpike.”

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said the 25A corridor study is an important tool for land use planning in the community.

“We have just entered into the second phase of this project and I look forward to working with the Citizens Advisory Committee and the community toward implementation of the community vision,” she said in a statement. “I am proactively advocating for this project to proceed as quickly as the process allows, and I will continue to look for public input and participation as we move forward.”

“I am proactively advocating for this project to proceed as quickly as the process allows, and I will continue to look for public input and participation as we move forward.”

— Valerie Cartright

Hoffman said with the land use phase they can apply what they learned in the vision report and decide if there needs to be any changes in zone codes.

One option they are considering is a design manual for future development in the corridor.

“We want to slowly over time make the architecture more consistent,” Hoffman said.

He said residents have expressed they would like the historical nature of the area to be preserved and be a kind of colonial rural community.

The committee will look at all the available parcels in the corridor that could be developed to make sure they are appropriately zoned.

Hoffman also mentioned areas of opportunity the committee and others will look at. One of them is Woods Corner, which is a commercial area east of Nicolls Road. He said he has gotten a sense from the community that there could be improvements to the signage of the commercial buildings.

Another area is the East Setauket commercial corridor near Gnarled Hollow Road and East Setauket Pond Park.

“The boarded-up building on the corner has been an eyesore for quite some time,” Hoffman said. “The county is attempting to purchasing it.”

The first step is to get an appraisal on the land and then the owner of the property will be made an offer. Hoffman said the area is environmentally sensitive due to a stream flowing under the property into nearby waterways. The building’s basement was known to flood because of the running water.

“Because there are no sewers in the area there are limitations on how large a building can be,” he said.

The co-chair of the committee said they hope to take about six months on the land use plan process, and when completed, they will look to write an updated town zone code. If approved, it will be adopted by the town board.

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Jane and Rob Taylor: Maria and George Hoffman; and Gretchen and Herb Mones are familiar to many in the Three Village community. Photos from Jane Taylor, Maria Hoffman and Herb Mones.

The Three Village area is filled with movers and shakers, so it’s no surprise that many of them are married to each other. Recently, three of the area’s community-minded couples took time out of their busy schedules to talk about their relationships and balancing their active lifestyles.

George and Maria Hoffman

“We make time to balance all the busyness. So, I think that is part of keeping things alive.”

— Maria Hoffman

George Hoffman, of East Setauket, is a familiar face in the Three Village area. He is first vice president of the Three Village Civic Association and co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force. Maria Hoffman is chief of staff for state Assemblyman Steven Englebright (D-Setauket), a local beekeeper and a volunteer with the harbor task force.

The Hoffmans married in 2009 in Frank Melville Memorial Park, and they said it’s the second time around for both of them. A couple of years before they tied the knot, the two met through Englebright’s office. George Hoffman, who has worked in the political field for 35 years, was living on the South Shore working with a former county legislator, Wayne Prospect, when he first met Englebright. One day when he saw Maria at the office, she asked him to take a walk in the park and soon after they started dating.

The husband said with both being community activists they understand each other’s schedule, like when she’s under deadline or he has a night meeting, and they don’t get as stressed as some couples might. George Hoffman said it also helps that their interests overlap, and they have easygoing temperaments.

“I think we are respectful of each other’s responsibilities,” he said. “We have separate spheres that overlap a little bit in terms of the environment and community. She’s involved more in government, and then it overlaps into environment and community.”

The husband, who said his wife is the first one he goes to for editing his work, added the two are good for each other especially making sure the other doesn’t procrastinate. Maria Hoffman said they also work on ideas together.

The wife said it’s important for busy couples to spend time alone with each other too, calling the time “regeneration periods.”

“We also make time for things that are important, whether it’s walking or in the summertime boating — being on a sailboat,” Maria Hoffman said. “We make time to balance all the busyness. So, I think that is part of keeping things alive.”

Herb and Gretchen Mones

Herb and Gretchen Mones, from Stony Brook, have been married for 28 years and have three grown sons. The two met while teaching at Centereach High School where she was an English teacher and he was a social studies teacher.

“Gretchen has such an integrity to do the work she does correctly and immaculately, and with a degree of professionalism, that it becomes a model to attain to.”

— Herb Mones

Gretchen Mones is the first vice president at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium, an organization where she has been an active board member for 15 years, and has chaired the education and exhibits committee for more than a dozen years.

Herb Mones has been a board member of the Three Village Civic Association for almost 30 years. A past president of the civic, he currently serves as the organization’s land use chair. In addition to his work with the civic association, he is a board member of the Three Village Community Trust, which works to preserve and protect buildings and properties in the community. He co-chaired the civic’s task force for more than a decade which eventually resulted in the construction of the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail. Herb is a past chair of the Greening of 25A and was active in the movement to restore the West Meadow peninsula. He currently serves on a Town of Brookhaven West Meadow Beach steering committee.

Herb Mones said his wife’s commitment to everything she does inspires him to do things to the best of his ability. It’s something he noticed when they both taught at Centereach High School.

“Gretchen has such an integrity to do the work she does correctly and immaculately, and with a degree of professionalism, that it becomes a model to attain to,” Herb Mones said.

Gretchen Mones said her husband has never met a project he couldn’t conquer and has the energy of four of five people. He is up early every morning and walks the Greenway trail, where he cleans up any graffiti he sees.

“He’s just so capable and optimistic — dedicated,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a short term or long term. Once he starts, he’s in it until he finishes it. It’s really incredible. I don’t know how he does it. All my friends tell me how lucky I am and how lucky the community is, and I have to agree with them. He’s an incredible person.”

Gretchen Mones said sharing calendars helps them manage their schedules and attending each other’s social functions, especially fundraisers and annual events, is important.

Herb Mones said volunteer work helps with one’s personal growth as well as a relationship, even when a husband and wife may be involved in different community activities.

“You have a greater understanding not only of what you’re doing but what the other person is doing,” he said.

Jane and Rob Taylor

Jane and Rob Taylor, who have been married for 47 years, were introduced by a friend at a Doors concert. Three Village residents know Jane Taylor from her various roles with The Stony Brook School during her 44-year career. Her husband graduated from the private school in 1967 and worked in the school’s business office for a time after college.

“Blending all the parts of your life together is never easy and it’s never going to go smoothly, and there are going to be bumps. And you have to accept that fact that it’s going to be bumpy. Some seasons are going to be a little harder than others.”

— Jane Taylor

Last summer Jane Taylor stepped down from her role as assistant head of school and is currently the executive director of The Three Village Chamber of Commerce. Rob Taylor, a CPA and a former partner in the Manhattan office of CapinCrouse, still provides virtual chief financial officer services for local organizations.

Successful careers haven’t kept the couple from being involved in the community. Jane Taylor serves on a West Meadow advisory committee, co-chaired the Route 25A Corridor Citizens Advisory Committee, is a long-term member of the Walk for Beauty Committee, among others. Over the years, Rob Taylor has served as an elder of a local church, is a founding president of Leadership Huntington, and is on the boards of The Jazz Loft and Citygate, which works with the homeless. He is also a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

The couple said a wife and husband don’t have to be involved in similar activities, and sometimes one’s community work not only helps them each to become a better person but improves relationships. The two have also learned from each other.

While Jane Taylor admires her husband’s knack for writing, she also appreciates his energy. Rob Taylor said he takes joy in seeing how his wife works with people from many different perspectives. He also credits her for bringing order to his life.

Jane Taylor said a shared calendar is helpful to keep their schedules in sync, even though she admitted sometimes they forget to tell one another about an activity here and there.

“Blending all the parts of your life together is never easy and it’s never going to go smoothly, and there are going to be bumps,” she said. “And you have to accept that fact that it’s going to be bumpy. Some seasons are going to be a little harder than others.”

Rob Taylor, who together with Jane has two grown children, said commitment helps with balancing, too.

“I think some of it is a matter of just, from a philosophical and practical standpoint, knowing that you want to be involved in community and to make a commitment to business and family at the same time and just working together to make it work,” he said.

Know someone in the Three Village area who is mover and shaker? If so, send an email to [email protected], and you may see his or her story in a future edition of The Village Times Herald.