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Kara Hahn

Photo by Kimberly Brown

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce finished off its Summer Concert Wednesdays Aug. 11 with a classic car show, performances by the School of Rock and a BMX stunt show in the Port Jefferson/Terryville train car park. 

Dozens of families attended to enjoy the rock concert put on by Port Jefferson’s School of Rock singing classics from Queen and other iconic rock bands. 

“It’s been so rewarding to see this concert series grow and evolve over the years,” said Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), one of the sponsors. “The turnout this year was some of the best I’ve seen with a mix of young families, retirees, veterans and music lovers coming together to enjoy a free night out in the community.”

The BMX bike show, presented by Dialed Action from New Jersey, featured two skilled BMX bikers who amazed the crowd with their daring stunts, from flipping upside down to imitating Superman in the sky. 

“The BMX stunts are a yearly favorite and always bring out a crowd,” Hahn said. 

Despite the COVID-19 Delta variant becoming a concern as cases spike up again, families continued to attend the three-part Summer Concert Wednesdays while keeping in mind the need to socially distance. 

For this year, the series also hosted a Hawaiian-themed night followed by a tribute to Long Island’s frontline workers. The other show was a ’60s night with Just Sixties, including a tribute to veterans. 

The events were sponsored by Brookhaven Town Councilman Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) and the chamber of commerce with Hahn. 

“We ended the series last night on a high note, with music from the School of Rock Port Jefferson, a classic car show, BMX stunts and some free ice cream on a hot summer night,” she said.

Photo from PJST civic

Following the June 17 stabbing of 39-year-old Benjamin Flores-Mendez — who was found dead in Port Jefferson Station on the Greenway Trail — the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association called an emergency meeting this week to demand answers on a variety of issues from local representatives.

On Tuesday, July 6, nearly 150 people attended the meeting at Comsewogue High School. Suffolk County Police Department 6th Precinct officers joined elected officials from town, county and state offices to listen to topics such as the Lawrence Aviation space, homelessness, gangs and drug abuse which were brought up by concerned residents.

While the stabbing sparked the meeting, SCPD officials were unable to give details or answer questions surrounding the death, as it’s still an ongoing investigation. 

But that didn’t stop Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), and town Councilman Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) from joining the panel. State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) could not attend, but a representative joined in his place. 

“I’m going to tell you that myself and my colleagues from the Town Board are upset, disturbed by what we see is a growing problem in various communities in the Town of Brookhaven,” Romaine said. “And that is homelessness.”

According to residents, they have seen homeless people set up tents near the vacant and decrepit Lawrence Aviation buildings located adjacent to the Greenway on the Port Jefferson Station section. 

Kornreich added that those who are homeless aren’t necessarily in that plight because of a financial issue — oftentimes it revolves around mental health problems or drug abuse. 

“I think that what we need to try to do is to find a way, a compassionate way, to get these people the services that they need, that maybe they’re reluctant to take,” he said, adding it might require a greater investment in services from county agencies. 

Englebright, who spearheaded the creation of the trail years ago, said the Lawrence Aviation project has been an issue for years and requires coordination from all levels of government. 

“We’re in a moment of turmoil, not only locally but nationally,” he said. “We’re coming off of one of the worst years in the last 100 years because of the COVID infection that has ravaged our communities, and everybody is on edge — that includes disadvantaged individuals, and those who have ill intent. So, we have our work cut out for us.”

During the community forum, questions of hiking trails being linked to crime came up.

“The simple answer is no, there is no correlation, no cause and effect,” Englebright said. “Trails such as this are open space, and so they become targets to the opportunists.”

On the town level, Kornreich assured that meetings like this — between residents and local government — are what allows things to change. 

“We’re all here because we have to renew our commitment to work together at all levels of government to face challenges like the ones we have in Port Jefferson Station,” he said. 

The 6th Precinct commanding officer, Inspector Patrick Reilly, gave an update on crime statistics. In wake of the stabbing, new cameras were placed at the entrances and along the Greenway Trail. Reilly said more patrol officers have been out during the daytime and evening, as well as overnight. Plainclothes officers and the SCPD gang unit are on-site, as well. 

The stabbing that happened last month was the only one in 2021 and 2020, Reilly said. Robberies are down this year, as well as a 100% decrease in aggravated assault. 

“Overall, total violent crime is down 11.1%, total property crime is down 4.8%,” he said. “So, obviously, there are problems that still need to be addressed, and we will continue to do that.”

The next normally scheduled civic meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 20, at 7 p.m. at the Comsewogue Public Library. 

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Students like Mei Li Johnson spent their mornings volunteering at the local nursing home. Photo from Andrew Harris

By Deniz Yildirim

On Monday, June 21, the Comsewogue community celebrated its fourth annual Joe’s Day of Service — a day for students and educators alike to give back and complete service projects for the community. 

This year the day started with a special ceremony at the Comsewogue High School where a tree was planted and dedicated to the late superintendent of the district, Dr. Joe Rella, who died in February 2020.

As per the class of 2023, a Japanese red maple (Joe’s favorite) was planted in front of Comsewogue High School. Speakers during the planting included the current superintendent, Dr. Jennifer Quinn and Richie Rella, Dr. Rella’s son. 

Photo from Andrew Harris

They moved the crowd, including Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), with their words about the late superintendent and spoke about his love for the school and kind nature. 

“If anyone knew my dad, they knew it’s all he ever talked about,” said Richie. 

“And though Joe is no longer with us, it is his sincerest question that has guided Dr. Quinn during this incredibly challenging school year; How are the kids?”

After these heartfelt testaments, a small student choir, directed by Charlotte Johnson, performed “Blowing in the Wind” by Bob Dylan. 

Afterward’s, two buses, donated by Suffolk Transportation, took volunteers to Woodhaven Nursing Home in Port Jefferson Station. Once there, students gifted residents with painted rocks and artwork. They also planted flowers and read handwritten letters from students from the elementary schools and JFK Middle School which were collected and paired with a blanket by school social worker, Ginger Guidone. 

“All in all, it was a day well spent and one we hope Dr. Rella would have been proud of,” said special education teacher and student character liaison Andrew Harris, who coordinated the event. 

Deniz Yildirim is a librarian at the Terryville Road Elementary School.

File photo

In the wake of the June 17 stabbing of 39-year-old Benjamin Flores-Mendez, who was found dead in Port Jefferson Station on the Greenway Trail, new precautions are being taken to help make residents feel safer when exercising alone.

To make the Greenway Trail safer, Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) requested cameras on the trail, bike patrols during the day and sector car patrols at night. As a result of Hahn’s push for better safety, cameras and new patrols are already in place

“As a Suffolk County resident, parent and legislator, public safety is always top of mind, and if I’m sent to Congress, that will continue,” Hahn said. “I’m proud of my work to keep our communities safe, like investing in security cameras and additional patrols in crime-prone areas and would welcome any new opportunities to expand on those efforts.”

As part of a women’s running group herself, Hahn advocates running with a partner and recommends using trails during daylight hours. 

According to Herb Mones, chair of the Three Village Civic Association land use committee, the Greenway Trail is the most used recreational area in the community.

Although this is the first reported incident of this type, Mones was still disheartened to learn the news. 

“Being part of the trail’s initial planning, and still active in its stewardship, I was shocked to see violence occur on the trail,” Mones said. “This corridor is a place for people to enjoy, and it is sad to see a loss of life on this path.”

Suffolk County police have stepped up their patrols on the trail and, with Hahn’s support, the implementation of security cameras will help deter any suspicious activity. 

“It is important for trail users to report any suspicious behavior, and refrain from being out on the trail at nighttime when there is less likelihood to observe your surroundings,” Hahn said, adding that it is illegal to be on the trail between dusk and dawn. 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

Port Jefferson Village officials headed to Centennial Beach on Saturday to unveil its new beach cleanup incentive. 

Partnering with Remsenburg-based nonprofit Relic Sustainability, the group has collaborated several times with the county and the Town of Brookhaven to create cleaner beaches for everyone to enjoy.

“Our goal is to collaborate with the town, businesses and community members in combating beach pollution that is a growing issue on the coastline of Long Island,” Alex Kravitz, COO of Relic, previously told TBR News. 

On Saturday, June 12, county, town and village officials joined the group to celebrate Port Jefferson’s first basket station right at the entrance into Centennial Beach. These stations give beachgoers the opportunity to take a basket on the beach, pick up trash and deposit it into a trash receptacle. This is part of Relic’s Coastal Collaborative project, which encompasses 10 preexisting stations across Long Island, including one at Cedar Beach that was unveiled by the town in April. 

Kravitz said the plan is to add more stations across Long Island and at different county parks. 

Spearheaded to bring into the village by Trustee Rebecca Kassay, she said the baskets will help people make good choices while out and about, as well as at home. 

“It’s so important to put in steps like this, to empower individuals to be good stewards of their community,” she said. “This station is so simple, people see it, they get it right away, and it’s a prompt to remind people that it is so easy to do something so good and so important for our ocean, for our sound and for our harbor.”

Kassay added they are planning on bringing two more stations to other beaches in the village. 

County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said the stations will be great for children to learn how important it is to keep the beaches clean.

“I think it’s great for families, cleaning up a beach, cleaning up a park — its instant gratification for the kids that are participating, it shows them the impact they can make right then and there.”

Brookhaven Councilman Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) applauded the groups for bringing the baskets in.  

“I think that this is really great leadership from the village in setting up this kind of thing, and helping to show people ways that we can change our own behavior,” he said. 

The first station at Centennial Beach has been sponsored by the Fox and Owl Inn — which Kassay owns. Relic said they are continuously looking for sponsors for the other baskets that will soon pop up.

Relic also sells organic apparel that gives back to local waters. For every T-shirt sold, they plant five oysters back into Moriches Bay. 

The clothing items are available at relic-design.com.

Leg. Sarah Anker with Schiavone. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Suffolk County Legislator Sam Gonzalez (D-Brentwood) was joined with local and national officials this week, urging Suffolk County to adopt a bill he spearheaded that would make March 21  Down Syndrome Awareness Day.

Leg. Gonzalez talking with Derek and Hazel. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“The idea behind this was something that has been in the works for some time now,” he said. 

There are three phases to it — county, state and eventually federal. 

“This day is acknowledged around the world and by the United Nations,” Gonzalez said. “I just couldn’t understand why it wasn’t something that was recognized here.”

During the press conference on May 18 outside the county offices in Hauppauge, elected officials from both parties supported their colleague who passionately has moved the bill forward. They proudly stood next to advocates with Down syndrome, like Brittany Schiavone, founder of Brittany’s Baskets of Hope, Daniel Fletcher of the Special Olympics World Games and John Cronin founder of John’s Crazy Socks.

Daniel Fletcher, Brittany Schiavone, Suffolk County Leg. Sam Gonzalez, Janissa Lloyd, John Cronin and Nassau County Leg. Joshua Lafazan

“This resolution declaring March 21, as Down Syndrome Awareness Day is long overdue,” said Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport). “It’s been recognized all over the world to bring attention and to create a voice advocating for the rights, inclusion and the well-being of people with Down syndrome.”

Spencer added that Down syndrome occurs in one in 700 births. There are currently 400,000 people living in the United States with Down syndrome — half of those people with heart defects. 

“Down Syndrome Awareness Day is to encourage more people to learn about this condition, to celebrate those living with it, and to recognize the ways in which medical advancements can boost their quality of life,” he said. 

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) felt a personal connection to the bill. She said her cousin grew up with Down syndrome. 

“We have to get the word out,” she said. “We have folks who have Down syndrome that are superstars, that can do amazing, things that can inspire us.”

And by establishing a date that reminds people about this community only betters them in the future. 

“What’s also important about having a day like the Down Syndrome Awareness Day is talking about the needs of our community members going forward,” said Legislator Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue). “Some of these young men and women, as they grow older, they’re going to be looking for housing services, they’re going to be looking for ways to get out on their own and establish their own lives. And we need to make sure that we have those underlying resources available to them. We won’t do that unless we are talking about what those needs are.”

Centereach mom Karyn Degnan. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Centereach resident and mom of two children with Down syndrome Karyn Degnan said this is long-overdue. A board member with Patchogue-based GiGi’s Playhouse, she said she’s been surrounded by a supportive group and a day like this will help even more.

“I am excited for my kids to be recognized and for awareness to be brought to their disability,” she said. “I just couldn’t be happier.”

Legislator Nick Caracappa (R-Selden) knew this was special, too. 

“I don’t see inability,” he said. “When you have the ability to love, when you have the ability to appreciate, make something and give back to your communities. That’s not inability — that’s inspiring.”

Courtesy photo

The Suffolk County Legislature has approved the purchase of 17.29 acres of open space within the Terryville Greenbelt — its vote providing county officials with authorization to complete the remaining steps of the acquisition process for these properties. 

Through a partnership, the cost of purchasing these parcels will be divided between Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven at a 75% and 25% split, respectively. Additionally, the County and Town are expected to enter into an agreement for management and oversight of this open space by Brookhaven. 

As part of the Central Suffolk Special Groundwater Protection Area and located within the heavily developed Port Jefferson Station community, the Terryville Greenbelt is situated south of Route 112, adjacent to the rear of Comsewogue High School, and is approximately 75 total acres. 

The Town of Brookhaven has already preserved approximately 40 of the greenbelt’s acres through open space acquisitions and these 60 individual parcels will add to those existing municipal open space holdings to form continuous greenery.

“Preserving the Terryville Greenbelt parcels, located within a Special Groundwater Protection Area, in perpetuity highlights the continued commitment of Suffolk County to being a strong community partner to ensure protection of the local environment and our quality of life,” said Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket).

Suffolk’s efforts to preserve the greenbelt began in 2017, when Hahn gained approval for the appraisals of the parcels, the first step in a multi-phased county acquisition process. 

That initial step commenced a complex process of contacting the 60 parcels’ owners, gauging the owners’ interest in selling to the county and appraising the sites.

According to a letter of support provided to legislators from the Port Jefferson Station Terryville Civic Association, “Given the past and present development in this hamlet this proposed acquisition is needed for both quality of life and of our drinking water. The community supports the need for this type of quality and amount of open space in our Suffolk hamlet.”

Councilman Jonathan Kornreich was also grateful for Hahn’s help.

“This is a monumental achievement for our community and I’m grateful for your passionate dedication to getting it done,” he said. “This latest addition to the 40 acres preserved by the Town of Brookhaven will further strengthen our shared efforts to protect our groundwater and provide more public access to precious green spaces.”

Leg. Kara Hahn during a press conference at the Arthur Kunz County Park in Smithtown on May 11. Photo by Kimberly Brown

By Kimberly Brown

Suffolk County deputy presiding officer, Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), officially launched Tuesday the Park Stewardship Program, where community volunteers are selected to oversee local parks that do not have staff. 

County nature trails are in need of assistance as illegal dumping and vandalism are often discovered on the paths where local residents take their daily walks. 

“The responsibilities of the stewards would be to pick up trash and to notify the parks department if there is vandalism or dumping,” Hahn said. “We’ve had very high profile dumping issues, so it’s good to have eyes and ears on the ground.”

The stewards are also encouraged to help with signage to assist local residents with navigating through the trails. 

Hahn said it is important to create more signage to help residents such as mothers with children to ensure they know how far the trail is to reach a particular scenic spot. 

Photo by Kimberly Brown

County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) expressed his gratitude for Hahn’s program, as his involvement in preserving Long Island parks dates back to 2006 when he won support for the transfer of the 365-acre former Kings Park State Hospital property to New York State parks department.

“This is very near and dear to my heart, I walk through here regularly,” he said. “This is the kind of thing that starts off small but may develop into a group where we can raise money so we can make improvements to the park.”

The falling of trees throughout Long Island trails since Hurricane Sandy in 2012 has been continuing many years later. The president of Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference, David Reisfield, has taken it upon the Greenbelt organization to remove hazardous trees on trails that caused concern for residents. “This, to me, is the best thing,” he said. “We go out every Tuesday and cover three to four miles of trail, but the more volunteers the better. I could not be happier.” 

According to Hahn, stewards are not expected to cut down trees but are welcomed to use clippers for branches that may cause blockages on the trails. 

“It’s important that people get to go out and experience this, and sometimes a candy wrapper or a water bottle can mar that experience,” she said. “So, having stewards that are there to help pick those up is a good thing.”

If community members are interested in becoming a part of the Park Stewardship Program they can visit the county’s parks website at suffolkcountyny.gov/departments/parks and sign up online.

Mayor Margot Garant was joined with all the different groups who made the new Barnum Avenue parking lot possible this week at a official “ribbon cutting.” Photo by Julianne Mosher

The Barnum Avenue parking lot is officially open and ready to be used. 

As part of the village’s downtown revitalization project, the lot was upgraded to include 46 new parking spaces, an electric vehicle charging station and filtration system to mitigate flooding and stormwater runoff. 

On Tuesday, May 11, village officials, along with the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and representatives from the county and state, celebrated its grand opening.

“We are very, very proud of this new parking lot,” said Mayor Margot Garant. “This is the first new parking lot in the Village of Port Jefferson in over 50 years. I think that’s amazing.”

And it started about six years ago when there was a vision to remove an eyesore and put in something new. 

Located east of the Joe Erland baseball field, an old, vacant building was once located on the property. 

The Barnum Avenue parking lot. Photo by Julianne Mosher

The several-year-long process to remove the building, clean it up and turn it into a free municipal lot that is futuristic in its amenities finally came to fruition in March of this year. 

The new 32,000-square-foot lot includes 46 new spaces oriented diagonally, including two handicap spots and two EV charging stations. The lot has a one-way entrance, to help alleviate traffic congestion. 

Almost entirely technology-driven, the lot is free to everyone — all a visitor has to do is register with the barcode scan. 

“We’re trying to encourage most of our merchants and their employees to park here for free to keep all the high proximity spots available for patrons,” she said. “That way, they can have a better turnover at your shop or your restaurant.”

Garant added that last week, the village had over 4,800 parking sessions with a revenue just under $12,000.

“That means we are back to a pre-pandemic number, folks,” she said. 

The lot came to be thanks to a $200,000 jumpstart grant from Suffolk County back in 2019. The funding also helped make the lot eco-friendly, adding bioswales bordering the foot entrance on Barnum Avenue to aid in flood mitigation. Those bioswales help with stormwater runoff.

“Being conscious of stormwater runoff, and what it can do — the damage it can cause to the harbor — and making sure that when we add asphalt, we are collecting the water and it’s not bringing contaminants into our bays and waterways, that was critically important to this project,” said Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket).

Overnight parking not permitted and will be tracked.

Photo by Julianne Mosher

A new law will now keep bicyclists safe on the roadways with its 3-foot rule.

On Tuesday, April 27, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) joined Deputy Presiding Officer Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and members of the biking community at Stony Brook’s Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn to sign it in officially. 

Bellone said the legislation will help ensure the safety of bicyclists while out on the roadways requiring drivers to pass on the left and provide the riders with at least 3 feet of space. Violations of this law are punishable by a fine of $225 for the first offense, $325 for the second offense and $425 for any subsequent offenses. 

It is the first of its kind in New York state.

“For us in Suffolk County, where we love the outdoors, many of the reasons why people choose to live here is because of our incredible natural resources: our parks, our open space and the beauty that we have here,” he said. “Bicycles are such a big part of that. We are committed to, and we have to be committed to, making sure that cycling can be done safely, and people are protected as much as possible.”

He added that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, bike sales have “skyrocketed.” People want to be outside more. 

“We’ve obviously been working on these issues for some time,” he said. “But the pandemic has only made it even clearer how important this is to people’s lives — and quite frankly, to all of us, even if you never get on a bike.”

Hahn added that Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn attracts bicyclists from around the world who come and enjoy the area’s paths, roads and trails.

“Our roads are going to be safer now,” she said. “But there is tremendous synergy between our environment and our economy, between what we have here to enjoy where we live. And who we attract to come here as visitors, who we attract to come here as businesses, and people — especially after the pandemic — are looking for places to live, places to visit where they can recreation safely.”

Bellone noted, though, that Long Island roads can often be dangerous, and he is committed to keeping the streets safe.

“We know that bicycling on certain roads in the county can be dangerous, but we’ve been working on that issue,” he said. “We’ve taken a number of significant steps to educate drivers and improve infrastructure to create a safer environment for bicycles on the road. So, today, our efforts go one step further.”

Attorney and board member of the New York Bicycling Coalition Daniel Flanzig said that currently only 33 states have this law.

“[NY] Vehicle & Traffic Law 1122-A currently exists, but only requires a motorist to pass a cyclist at a safe distance,” he said. “What a safe distance is to me is different to you.”

Flanzig said that the new law of a 3-foot distance is a tangible, recognizable number.

“I think 3-foot distance actually makes it easier to enforce,” Hahn said. “Now there’s a set difference. Previously, the law said drivers must pass cyclists at a safe distance and that wasn’t defined.”