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Kathianne Snaden

Stan Loucks, Margot Garant, Kathianne Snaden, Barbara Ransome and Suzanne Velazquez at Tuesday’s debate. Photo by Julianne Mosher

For two hours on Tuesday night, dozens of people sat inside the Port Jefferson Village Center to watch the highly anticipated election debate, hosted by the League of Women Voters. 

Incumbents trustee Kathianne Snaden, trustee Stan Loucks and Mayor Margot Garant sat alongside Barbara Ransome and Suzanne Velazquez to answer questions from the audience surrounding village issues and how they will work toward them if elected.

Two trustee seats are up, with the two incumbents and Velazquez vying for the spots. Ransome, the director of operations with the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and a past village trustee, is looking to take over Garant’s seat as mayor.

After opening remarks, the first question up was regarding uptown revitalization. Garant said, “Everyone knows uptown is a very challenged business improvement district.” With a master plan in place, she and her team have helped initiate the start of building mixed-use spaces as of three months ago — bulldozing the vacant Bada Bing location to start construction with the Conifer Realty apartments. More plans are being implemented to continue the growth and revitalization of Upper Port, which will continue to take time and planning.

Ransome added that during her tenure with the chamber, membership has increased by 50%. By working with landowners, landlords and closely with Stony Brook University, she said the village is a vital place to conduct business.

“There has always been a line of communication to try to encourage businesses to come down into the village as well in Upper Port,” she said. 

The topic of cannabis became heated when all five participants had different views on smoking or ingesting the plant within the village. Garant noted that under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) legislation, cannabis can be ingested or smoked and for dispensaries to operate, but the village has until the end of the year to opt out. As of right now, Garant has not made a decision because she said it is a “tough decision.”

“Cannabis dispensaries are clean and safe,” she said. “People will want to go to other places and purchase it and come back, but I think it might be an incentive for uptown redevelopment. So, I’ve not closed the door on this. I’d like to hear from my community before I make that kind of decision.”

The village currently has a code which prohibits the use or smoking of tobacco or cannabis products on any village-owned property, which includes village parks but excludes the golf course at the country club. 

“We know when we’re on a golf course in the open space, some of the ladies and gentlemen like to enjoy a smoke,” she said. “If we cannot enforce one type of tobacco, it’s difficult to enforce another type of tobacco. So, we’re looking to make it the policy of membership — when you join the country club to prohibit the use of cannabis as a policy when you become a member.”

Ransome said that is called “privilege.” 

“It should be an even-lane regulation,” she added. 

Loucks believes there should be absolutely no use of cannabis anywhere within the village, while Snaden looked at the issue from both a financial and public safety point of view. 

“It could be an opportunity for our town,” she said. “There are tax implications there where we would receive tax revenue but, as the commissioner of public safety, I have a lot of concerns.”

Velazquez, too, was concerned about the close vicinity of the middle and high schools, but also as a health care professional who acknowledges the positives medicinal marijuana could have on a person. 

Things got heated again when the discussion of bus shelters and the future of transportation came up. Garant said previously there were issues with graffiti and homeless people using the shelters as a home, along with the loss of the Stony Brook shuttle during COVID. However, she said the shuttle is coming back with the university sporting 50 percent of the bill. 

Snaden, who is also the liaison to the village parking and transportation departments, said that the bus will help continue to bring business back.

“I think it’s very important for businesses to have students and staff and anybody else on that shuttle route come into the village to patronize the businesses and the restaurants without their vehicles,” she said. 

Velazquez agreed, but was upset by the lack of places for people to sit while they waited for their buses, and that Port Jefferson is the only train station on Long Island that has removed its benches.

“I think that we should make sure that we have places for people to sit,” she said. “Seniors, the disabled or just people wanting to enjoy. I think we should have bus shelters and benches at the train station for everybody to use — not just select who should be allowed to rest.”

Snaden rebutted, noting the reason benches were removed at the train station was because of the multitude of complaints that they received of criminal activity going on around the benches. 

“It’s not about selectivity,” she argued. “We do not discriminate as to who can sit and who can rest. We welcome everyone to this village, and we help them in any way that we can. We cannot have crime, we cannot have drug deals, we cannot have what was going on at the train station.”

For public safety concerns, Loucks started off with how proud he was that the Suffolk County Police Department Whiskey Tour would be patrolling the village at night, afterhours. 

“They have a little bit more clout than our code officers,” he said. “Our code officers are somewhat restricted with what they can do but are always the first ones there.”

Snaden, who throughout her two years as trustee has implemented several different policies for public safety including the “See Something — Say Something” campaign, as well as a new kiosk for code enforcement to be readily available during their tour. 

Ransome argued that when the officers are off duty is when trouble arrives, especially when the bars are let out. She said she would prefer officers to be touring during later hours. 

“I think that we need to change our shifts on our codes so that they are working in conjunction with Suffolk County,” she said. 

Snaden responded that she is working on making the now part-time officers full time. 

“So that would help with those hours, and for them to work closer with Suffolk County later hours into the evening,” she said.

The LIPA power plant and water quality in the harbor were also discussed, with everyone equally acknowledging the importance fiscally of the plant and of renewable green energy. Loud music was asked about, and what the village can do to better control noise after dark, as well as political signs outside of businesses in the village.

When the conversation about the Port Jefferson Country Club came up again, Loucks noted that as of that day, the club had 700 new members. 

“I believe the country club is the crown jewel,” he said. “If you’ve not gone up to the country club and walked around the facilities, you really don’t know what you’re missing.”

Ransome agreed, but argued about the senior citizen discount that was taken away, as well as allowing more walkers on the property.

“I think we need to do a better job with our contract we have with our current vendor there, which is The Crest Group, because right now we’re only getting $20,000 a month from the rental of that facility, which is extraordinarily less than what happened when Lombardi’s was there,” she said. 

Loucks argued back that when the Lombardi Group left, the space was empty. 

“No one wanted to go up there,” he said. “$20,000 per month goes directly to the village — the village residents pay absolutely no tax money to support the club. Zero. It is a self-sustaining country club.”

Other topics included the marrying of Upper Port and downtown, planning committee critiques, the Gap store vacancy and its parking, also the continuous Lawrence Aviation impact and its future. 

To watch the whole debate online, visit the Village of Port Jefferson’s YouTube page. 

Residents can vote on Tuesday, June 15, at the Village Center at 101A E. Broadway between the hours of 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. 

Trustee Kathianne Snaden with Chief Fred Leute with SCPD Acting Commissioner Stuart Cameron. Photo from Kevin Wood

Last week, Port Jefferson village officials took a trip out to Yaphank to take a look at the Suffolk County Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center.

The village’s parking and mobility administrator, Kevin Wood, was joined out east by trustee Kathianne Snaden and chief of code enforcement, Fred Leute, where the team was updated by Stuart Cameron, chief of police department and acting commissioner.

Wood said that Cameron gave a detailed report on the integration of Port Jefferson’s security cameras into the RTCC, and learned that the crime center has around 4,000 integrated cameras integrated. This network of cameras has been created to deter and solve crimes. 

“It was fantastic to be the first village on the Island to be hooked up to the Real Time Crime Center,” Snaden said. “That partnership is invaluable, and our village is on the cutting edge of all technology when it comes to public safety. I’m happy to where we are and am proud of it.”

According to Wood, back in May 2019, Village of Port Jefferson officials announced it become the first village on Long Island to connect through videography with the county’s RTCC. This allowed the police to tap into the eight village security cameras (at the time) positioned in places like the train station and the three-way intersection at West Broadway and Main Street.

“The technology is growing, and getting better and better,” Wood said. “I thought it was important to bring Kathianne and chief along to catch up, see where they’re at and where we’re going with it.” 

These cameras were instrumental in capturing the murder of David Bliss Jr., of Shirley, in March, which led to an arrest just 72 hours after the incident.

The print version of this story said Kathianne Snaden has never been to the Real Time Crime Center before. This was her third visit. We regret the mistake. 

Port Jefferson Village Hall. File photo by Heidi Sutton

Port Jefferson Village residents have the opportunity to vote on Tuesday, June 15, from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. at the Village Center, located at 101 E. Broadway. Two village trustee positions will be accounted for, as well as the mayor’s position.

On the ballot are five residents: incumbents Mayor Margot Garant, trustees Kathianne Snaden and Stan Loucks; newcomer Barbara Ransome will be up against Garant, with running-mate Suzanne Velazquez vying for trustee. 

Alliance for All

Suzanne Velazquez, who’s running for trustee, and Barbara Ransome, vying for the mayor spot.
Photos by Julianne Mosher

While new on the ballot, Ransome and Velazquez aren’t new to the area. Running under the Alliance for All party, the duo believes new leadership is needed.

As a member of the Port Jefferson community for 37 years, Ransome previously held trustee and deputy mayor positions under former Mayor Jeanne Garant. She said she decided to run because she believes there needs to be change.

“We have had an administration now that’s been in for six terms, and it’s long enough,” Ransome said. “We feel that there is sometimes a level of complacency that can happen when you have someone in for too long of a time. So, we feel that we could bring fresh eyes, and new perspectives.”

Ransome was in village government from 1995 to 2008. She was owner of a flower shop in East Main Street for 13 years, and now owns and operates a bed and breakfast, The Ransome Inn.

For the last decade, she has held the title of director of operations for the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. 

“What I bring to the table is not only my commitment of service over self, but my experience,” she said. “I’ve never wavered in my experience and working with the village.”

She added that there is an “atmosphere in the village, that there is privilege with certain situations, and we just want to be able to evaluate and reassess the operational departments in the village to make some positive changes.”

Ransome said that since beginning her professional career in the village in the early ’90s, there are still problems people are complaining about. 

“So, I believe when we’re elected, we can kind of go through some of this and explore why these things haven’t been done differently, or better,” she said.

One of Ransome’s biggest criticisms is of village code enforcement. 

“I think we can be a lot better with our ambassadors, that the code enforcement officers should be stronger ambassadors,” she said. “There should be a stronger presence. In the morning, when the bars are let out, where we have a lot of mischievous activities, we shouldn’t have to tell our code people to be more visible, they should be more visible. They shouldn’t have to be directed to see things if they’re so well trained.”

If elected, Ransome would leave the chamber to be a “full-time” mayor.

“I certainly feel I have the energy to take on this position,” she said. “I am in a very unique and good position where I can do this.”

As part of the Alliance for All campaign, Ransome and Velazquez created flyers in three languages prominent in the village — English, Spanish and Chinese. 

“We got a very positive response, people are looking for change,” Ransome said. “I think it’s past due. I just felt now that this is my time, and I didn’t want to wait another two more years.”

A horticulturist by trade, she said her running is like a winning plant which grew in great conditions.

“In the realm of that industry, there are things that are there are plants that are called proven winners,” she said. “That’s why I’m a proven winner. You can plant me, and I grow really well. This plant does very well in this in this area.”

Velazquez is a clinical associate professor at Stony Brook University School of Social Welfare, an administrator and village business owner. A mom of a senior in the Port Jefferson School District, she said she was raised by the mantra: “Service to humanity is the greatest work of life.”

“I’ve always been invested in community service and public service,” she said. 

 She said her skills in social work make her a great candidate for the ballot. 

“That’s where I’m bringing the experience of skills to help improve the health of our community,” she said. “Looking at how can we improve, how can we move forward, and continue to move forward and make positive changes for everybody.”

Velazquez is a former president of the chamber, a member of the Port Jefferson Historical Society, a member of the PTA and is involved with the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. 

A child from a military family, she said she moved around a lot growing up. But when she married her husband, they knew Port Jefferson was where they wanted to stay. 

“Port Jefferson is really where I’ve laid my roots,” she said. “Because I’ve been here for the longest I have ever been in one place in my whole life.”

Velazquez said listening to people, building relationships and engaging in the community are skills that she uses in her daily life that can be used in problem-solving crisis situations in local government. 

“I’m lending my ear and my voice right to the residents,” she said. “If they’re going to entrust me with the village, you have a professional ear and voice.”

Velazquez, if elected, wants to dedicate her platform to the “three e’s”: economic health, emotional and physical health, and environmental health. 

The village should be fiscally responsible in strengthening Port Jeff as a place of opportunity and prosperity for all members, residents and businesses; improve public safety; foster a sense of belonging and inclusion of all voices; create recreation opportunities and quality of life programs; and protect and enhance natural resources — redevelop resources to better serve the needs of its community members. 

The Unity Party

Above: Trustee Kathianne Snaden, Mayor Margot Garant and Trustee Stan Loucks, incumbents.
Photo by Julianne Mosher

Incumbent Mayor Margot Garant would be heading into her seventh term if reelected. She said that having someone take over right now wouldn’t make sense because there would be a lot they need to catch up on.

“It would take somebody new literally two years just to catch up,” she said. 

Mayor for 12 years, she said that the projects she has helped with do not happen overnight.  And while the Alliance for All party demands change, Garant said the Unity Party is the change. 

“There’s a lot on the horizon. In my opinion, the consistency or the continuity is really important because these are not small issues,” she said. 

Projects like the Ørsted wind power, National Grid and LIPA, and the electrification of the LIRR and Upper Port’s revitalization have been decades in the making. 

“That doesn’t happen overnight — that’s 12 years of being in front of them,” she said. “It’s our job to listen. I think we do a great job. We don’t always agree with you, but we will never ostracize you. We will always try and bring your viewpoint to the table and incorporate it as best we can.”

Garant said she chose to run again because she felt it was important to continue getting the village through the pandemic. 

“The executive team that we have in place is exceptional,” she said. “People should be really proud of what we have here, we have something very special. I’m committed to keeping everything moving forward to large projects.” 

Garant said the last time a Garant — her mother and former mayor Jeanne — left office, the village’s taxes went up 70%. And with over a decade under her belt, the daughter doesn’t want to leave anytime soon.

“We have a lot going on here, and I love what I do,” she said. “And I want to just keep on doing it.”

Trustee Kathianne Snaden moved to the village 16 years ago and became involved with the local government because she wanted answers to a problem she saw in the school district. She began attending every board meeting she could get to, work sessions and joined the parking committee. She studied the village inside and out. 

She ran and won her current trustee position in 2019, but COVID-19 happened right in the middle of her term. Snaden decided to run again to continue the work she is proud to have accomplished and continue moving forward. 

“I’ve made great strides with public safety and the relationship with the Suffolk County Police Department, and went through a year of a pandemic,” she said. “So, I’ve really only had one year in to actually be able to do things in a normal way. I’m not done. I want to continue to improve and learn.”

As liaison to public safety, parking committee and zombie house task force, she thinks that the last two years have been successful. 

“I am proud of the work that I’ve done addressing the public safety issues. We see fast results because of the team that we have in place,” she said. 

Snaden said that when calls were coming in about troublesome zombie homes in the village, she immersed herself into the situation, visited the spaces, took notes and took action. She worked with Pax Christi Hospitality Center when homelessness was a problem near the train station.  

“I want to continue doing that to be the voice, to be an open line of communication with the residents and the school district for public safety purposes and for the families,” she said. 

With Snaden’s public safety initiatives, including the “See Something, Say Something” campaign, the crime rate in the village has remained low.

“We have a vibrant business community, which brings people from all over from all walks of life, and all behavior statuses,” she said. 

Snaden also helped implement code officers on bike patrol, a walking code ambassador dedicated solely to Main Street and a “whiskey tour” of officers at night.

“I think that’s a huge accomplishment on the part of code and public safety,” she said. “And I’m proud of that.”

Trustee Stanley Loucks has been a resident of Port Jefferson for 41 years. For 23 of those years, he worked in the village one way or another. 

With the country club, for four years he served on the tennis board, five on the board of governors and eight on the management advisory committee. The last six years, he has served as village trustee and is currently deputy mayor. 

Retired after decades in education, he has devoted his life now to serving his community in the village and as liaison to the country club and parks department.  

“I’m proud of my accomplishments up at the country club,” he said. “ I introduced the bond to build a new maintenance facility up at the country club, we put in a new irrigation system, we created a new fitness center, renovated the locker rooms, increased our membership twofold. Over the years, I just want to continue to improve. I’ve got ideas about going forward with pickleball up at the country club and many more ideas to come down the road.”

He said that changing the current administration now could halt these plans, especially after having successful programs down at the Village Center. 

“We don’t run a single recreation program that’s not filled with a waiting list,” he said. “We use every facility we could possibly use — our beach camp programs are stuffed, our tennis programs, golf programs are up.”

An earlier mayoral candidate, Melissa Paulson, a small-business owner, has recently dropped out of the race and said she supports the mayor’s Unity Party now.

There will be a meet-the-candidates night on Tuesday, June 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the Village Center. 

The print version of this story said Suzanne Velazquez is a clinical assistant professor at Stony Brook, but she is a clinical associate professor. This article has been updated. 

File photo by Heidi Sutton

The candidates are offically on the ballot. 

Last month, local resident and nonprofit owner Melissa Paulson announced she would be running against incumbent Margot Garant.

Village clerk Barbara Sakovich confirmed that as of Wednesday, May 12, Paulson officially dropped out of the race. 

However, Barbara Ransome, director of operations with the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, announced this week she would be running on the mayor ticket, with fellow chamber president, Suzanne Velazquez.

For the village’s election on June 15, the candidates are now as follows: 

Margot Garant and Barbara Ransome for mayor; incumbents Kathianne Snaden, Stanley Loucks and newcomer Suzanne Velazquez are running for two trustee positions.

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Richared Harris and Kathianne Snaden join Joey Zangrillo in his new outdoor dining spot located behind his restaurant, Joey Z’s. Photo by Julianne Mosher

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Long Island in March of last year, restaurants had to shut their doors and come up with creative ways to survive.

At first, they utilized contactless, curbside pickup, and then as the summer approached, the warm weather opened up impromptu outdoor dining.

“It was a scary time,” Village of Port Jefferson trustee Kathianne Snaden said. “But the attitude with outdoor dining was whatever they need, we will make it work within reason and safety.”

Restaurants had to make use of whatever outdoor space they had — Joey Z’s, for example, be-ing just two tables on the busy sidewalk in front of its location. Others used their back parking lots, taking up space from visitors and their cars.

Snaden said they were able to relax their already-in-place outdoor dining codes to help the businesses stay open. 

“Even though it was hurriedly done, we still did everything to the standards with the fire marshal and the attorney that visited every site,” Snaden added. “We were very careful with that stuff. Our goal was for the businesses to continue doing business and stay open.”

Now that this has become the new normal, the village knew they had to prepare early for the busy season, using what they learned last year to make outdoor dining even better.

Deputy village attorney Richard Harris and Snaden began researching different accommodations the village could make. 

“We came up with a waiver form,” Harris said, “And whenever people came in for an application, for the most part we said ‘yes.’”

Using the good and the bad from what they learned early on in the pandemic, Harris and Snaden began measuring different spots that could accommodate outdoor tables, again joined by the fire marshal to make sure everything was safe, and ADA compliant. 

“We were able to take more time in identifying locations,” Snaden said, adding that this year the village again waived the $100 table fee restaurants typically need to pay for outdoor dining. 

And this year, the village is continuing to assist the restaurants which could use the extra space.

Recently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that indoor dining could seat at 75% capacity, but some restaurants Down Port are small spaces that still cannot make a profit without a full house. 

So, the outdoor dining helps.

Joey Z’s, located at 217 Main St., is now utilizing a small park behind his restaurant, at the bottom of the staircase by Toast Coffeehouse.

Joey Zangrillo, owner of the Greek and Italian spot, said he is grateful for the tables located within the park because he knows it’ll help his business this summer. 

“This whole place, the way it looks right now, looks perfect to me,” he said. 

And the tables will not interfere with the rest of the park, Snaden said, because benches are still available for people to take a break. 

“Everybody that requested a certain area or type of outdoor dining, they were not denied,” she added. “We worked within our parameters and what the code allows, but nobody was denied what they asked for.”

While many restaurants are beginning to utilize the outdoor dining now that spring is here, Harris said applications are still rolling in, and have been since early March. 

“If you let us know what you want, we’ll take a look at the permit and make it work for you,” he said. “We want the businesses to survive — that’s our job.”

Stock photo

Over the last month, elected officials on both the county and village levels have been trying to tackle reckless bicyclists on the road.

Suffolk County

Last week, Suffolk County voted on a new bill aimed to give bicyclists distance with a new 3-foot passage rule — the first county in New York State to implement the law.  

According to the new legislation, “The operator of a vehicle which is overtaking, from behind, a bicycle proceeding on the same side of the road shall pass to the left of such bicycle at a distance of at least 3-feet until safely clear thereof.”  

Violators can face fines not to exceed $225 for a first offense, $325 for a second offense and $425 for any subsequent offense. The minimum distance requirement, however, will not apply on roads that have clearly marked bicycle lanes.

Authored by Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), it was originally in response to a bill sponsored by Legislator Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic) which aimed to ticket and condemn bike riders who popped wheelies, swerved into traffic or biked while intoxicated across Long Island.

Hahn said she filed her bill, and abstained from Sunderman’s, to focus more on education for drivers and bike riders, as well as keeping veteran bicyclists safe. 

“I filed a bill that looks to fix the problems that existed,” she said. “I felt there were problems in the one that passed a few weeks ago.”

Sunderman’s bill was originally passed by the Legislature in February but was vetoed by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) earlier this month. 

“We believe this legislation is overly broad and that current law provides the necessary tools to address this issue,” Derek Poppe, a representative with Bellone’s office said in a statement. “We remain committed to working with the Legislature address safety concerns around bicycling practices.” 

On March 16, the Legislature approved Hahn’s bill, and Sunderman’s veto override failed the same day. 

Hahn said that the county was named by Bicycling Magazine as the most dangerous county in the country for bike riders and has since continuously been in the top 10.

“There are approximately 350 accidents a year in Suffolk County,” she added.

The vote brings Suffolk County closer to becoming the first county in the state to adopt a 3-foot-rule requirement. 

“I think it’s just really important that people know they have to give bicyclists room when they pass them,” Hahn said. “They might not hear you and the tires of a bike cannot handle roadway obstacles the same way a car can.”

Hahn noted that things such as sand, sticks, leaves, trash, a storm drain or pothole can be life-threatening to bikers. 

“A car can handle those, no problem, but a bike tire makes those obstacles potentially deadly,” she said. “Sometimes the cyclist needs to swerve a little bit and this 3-foot buffer gives them space.”

The bill will now go to the county executive for a separate public hearing and his signature within the next 30 days.

“I am thrilled,” she said. “This is a real concrete step to improve safety, and at the same time it makes a statement that we care about our residents on the road.”

The Village of Port Jefferson 

Village officials have been tirelessly enforcing their own rules when it comes to reckless bicylists. 

Signs like this will be posted throughout the village encouraging visitors to call code when they see disorderly behavior. Photo from Kathianne Snaden

Last year, when outdoor dining began, there were concerns over individuals harassing diners and drivers while they popped wheelies and swerved into traffic on Main Street. 

They began enforcing a code created in 2019, with new training, to keep residents and visitors safe. 

Mayor Margot Garant said a new bicycle task force has been unveiled, encouraging business owners and residents to call code enforcement when something doesn’t look right. 

“Our code specifically looks toward curbing the behavior of the individual riding a bike down the middle of the street or sidewalk in a dangerous and reckless manner,” she said. 

With rules penned by trustee Kathianne Snaden, the bicycle task force is comprised of Snaden along with a representative of the Suffolk County Police Department, the chief of code enforcement, Deputy Village Attorney Richard Harris, the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and members of the business community. They simply ask, “If you see something, say something.”

The “see something, say something” campaign encourages business owners to keep their eyes peeled on issues throughout the village, and to call code immediately before the problem accelerates. That way the code officer can talk with the individual and give a warning before someone gets hurt.

“This time of year, we don’t see the issue,” Snaden said. “But the minute warm weather hits, it becomes an issue.”

And the last few weekends have shown how popular Port Jefferson is when the sun is out, and a light jacket is needed. 

Signs are posted up throughout the village, like this one seen here. Photo from Kathianne Snaden

“I want everyone to be aware if bicyclists are doing the right thing, obeying the traffic laws, we welcome them with open arms,” the trustee said. “We want to be ready to intervene before it becomes a problem — we’re not going to intervene if there is no problem.”

Along with the campaign, the village has begun using officers on bikes and has instituted a designated officer to patrol on foot throughout Main Street. Snaden said there will always be someone on duty, with no absence in shift changes. 

“I’m confident to date we have bridged that gap,” she added. “The communication is now there. We work as team to dissuade any potential issues.”

If dangerous behavior is happening within the village, readers are encouraged to call code at 631-774-0066.

The original article did not mention the chamber and business owners who are part of the task force. They have been added to the online copy.

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The three members of Port Jefferson’s Unity Party running for village reelection are Trustee Stan Loucks, Mayor Margot Garant and Trustee Kathianne Snaden. Photo by Julianne Mosher

This isn’t the time for them to leave their positions, all three members of the Village of Port Jefferson Unity Party said. Work is still to be done. 

Mayor Margot Garant has led the village for over a decade. This six-term incumbent locally practices law and her mother, Jeanne Garant, once served as village mayor. The current mayor said that although she’s been doing this for a while, she’s not leaving her post anytime soon — especially under the current COVID-19 situation.

“The basic underlying decision was I felt it would be irresponsible,” she said. “I couldn’t afford to sit down at a time where there’s still so much instability.”

In 2019, she ran against former Suffolk County GOP chairman John Jay LaValle.

“The last election cycle was important, because I was feeling that people are feeling very apathetic and not engaged,” she said. “And it was great that everybody came out, whether they were for or against, because everybody got educated again on what the issues were. They show that they care about this community.”

Running alongside her are trustees Stan Loucks and Kathianne Snaden, who also said there is more to accomplish. Loucks, who has been on the board for almost six years, has oversight of  the Port Jefferson Country Club which is owned by the village.

“It’s not a time to leave,” he said. “We’ve got a lot on the plate, and we have a lot of jobs to finish. My own opinion is that I have to stay on and see it through.”

Loucks said his responsibilities as trustee, the country club apart, are the recreation and the parks departments — “all of which have a lot of projects going on right now.”

Some of those projects include the  sand dredging at East Beach, finished earlier this month; adding new kayak racks to Crystal Brook Hollow Road beach; and other big projects at the country club. 

“What’s really important to understand is even though we have been in this pandemic, the village is running pretty well,” he said. “We haven’t gone all the way to the bottom of the slide. We’ve got our heads above water.”

Snaden, who is in her second year with her position, said she had just started and then the pandemic hit. 

“A lot of things that I had started, the brakes went on,” she said. “But we’ve made tremendous headway on public safety issues, which is my biggest department.”

She said that although a global crisis was going on, she was able to help curb crime uptown at the train station and put a fence there. 

“The crime up there just plummeted because I just hammered home,” she said. 

Garant agreed, adding that while things outside might seem gloomy, she and her team have worked tirelessly to get more projects done.

“As people are coming out of this pandemic now, things are starting to really blossom,” she said. “Things are opening up for us.”

She said that big projects, like the uptown revitalization project, to smaller tenants opening up shop Down Port, she wants to see all of them through. 

“We just want to keep doing our good work,” she said. 

Garant said that being mayor of the village is “like running a multimillion-dollar corporation, with seven different departments, 9,000 clients — you can’t come in here without the experience.”

She applauded her colleagues for running alongside her. 

“You don’t necessarily have to agree with me on everything, but I’m always going to do what’s in the best interests of this village,” she said. “I try my best to come to a happy medium, and I think that’s basically the philosophy of this board — they’re hardworking. These two here are my left and my right.”

Snaden said that although they’re running together, it doesn’t mean they agree on the same things. 

“We come from different worlds, and we have those different demographics represented here,” she said. “I think anybody that thinks they can just come in without the experience and the knowledge is not seeing the big picture.”

Loucks said they chose to announce their reelections earlier than normal. 

“We came out very early this year, because it’s a different year, things have been kind of treading water for a while,” he said. “We’ve got a lot to do, and it was very important to come out early and start doing it. People know that we’re going to continue — that’s the one thing we all agree on.”

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Residents were concerned to see vape and hookah merch being set up in an empty store in Chandler Square, but both the village and shop owner say the new location will focus on tobacco product. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Questions over Port Jeff’s handling of hookah and vape products has become inflamed once again, though the outcome might just be the loss of one vape shop and the opening of a new smoke store.

Locals have noticed smoke and hookah products moving into a space in Chandler Square next to where The Soap Box resides. Officials said Sanjay Bakshi, the owner of Hookah City, which was located on Main Street, had planned to move from its space there to that new spot but, upon learning of the move, village officials quickly moved in to explain current code requirements.

Village trustee Kathianne Snaden said the village was alerted after residents spotted vaping paraphernalia in the front window. Deputy village attorney, Richard Harris, spoke to owner and is working on getting the issue resolved.

Village code restricts any new vaping stores from opening up in anything but light industrial zoning. All new vape shops or hookah parlors must also be granted a special-use permit by the board of trustees. 

Snaden said Bakshi, has agreed to comply with village code and is continuing his work opening in the new space, though now as a smoke shop selling cigars, pipes, tobacco and other products. Harris said the owner understands the code and has moved about 90% of all the vape or hookah-type products from the premises. The Port Jeff fire marshal, Ryan Klimar, has also been to the location and has recommended a few minor changes to the sprinklers and fire extinguisher placements.

“He understands very clearly what he needs to do,” Harris said.

Bakshi said the owner of the previous location did not renew his Main Street lease, requiring the move. The new space, he said, is going to be part smoke shop, part “convenience store” that sells candies and soda. He is getting rid of the name Hookah City and is just going with Smoke Shop, displayed in small letters on the front window.

Bakshi confirmed he does not plan to display any smoking product in the window and that he doesn’t plan to sell any kind of electronic tobacco products like the old vapes and hookahs.

Before the move Hookah City had been able to continue despite the code change, having been grandfathered in under old requirements. In 2019, when the shop was cited by Suffolk County police for allegedly selling a vape product to a minor, village trustees openly talked about what could be done to the shop but village attorney, Brian Egan, said that officials could not impact a business in any major way unless the code was violated. 

In the past, Port Jeff constables have sent Suffolk police details of what they said were examples of the store allegedly selling to minors, according to past interviews with Fred Leute, code enforcement chief.

Though more and more smoke and vape shops have reported an incredible decline in sales since New York State officially banned the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes back in May, and that’s in addition to the wider economic impact of the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Schools in recent years have complained about the number of vape products getting into minors’ hands, despite age restrictions. Though the science is not conclusive, studies have shown the harmful and addictive nature of nicotine-based products. The U.S. Federal Drug Administration guidelines are still evolving, but the FDA considers vaping medically unsafe for young people, pregnant women and adult smokers who are not using it to quit the habit.

Still, for village officials like Snaden, seeing the last remaining vape shop go is a clear victory for the local community. 

“Anything keeping vape products out of the hands of our children is better for our schools, parents and kids,” she said.

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The boarded-up house at 49 Sheep Pasture Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Chris Parsick

As it remains in disrepair, a blighted house on Sheep Pasture Road in Port Jefferson has become the center of a difficult situation for the Village of Port Jefferson. 

The house, located at 49 Sheep Pasture, has for years been a sore spot for surrounding residents. There have been examples of squatters and vagrants moving in and out of the home, the interior has become unsafe for entry and the surrounding property became overgrown. The building has since been boarded up, and the village takes care of the lawn.

As Port Jefferson began the process of demolishing the derelict building back in 2019, officials  were informed by members of the  Port Jefferson Historical Society that the house had significant historical worth. Historians estimate it could be one of the oldest buildings in the Port Jeff area, potentially dating back to the 1740s, according to the book “The Seven Hills of Port” by the late Robert Sisler and his wife Patricia. State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) also stepped in to request the house be preserved. This has left the village in an interesting dilemma. 

“It’s a Catch 22,” said Trustee Kathianne Snaden, who as the liaison to code enforcement has worked with constables to look after derelict property in the village. “It’s our responsibility to do it, but not incur the cost.” 

Snaden said she has been working to transfer the property to the ownership of the Town of Brookhaven now that the house is on the Historical Registry. Richard Harris, the village’s recently hired deputy attorney, is currently in the process of locating the owner.

Harris did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

However, every day that the owner is not found is a day that the house becomes more decrepit. 

“The house is in major disrepair,” Snaden said. “Somebody needs to do it and fast, because the house is deteriorating.”

The owner of the house is reportedly TAB Suffolk Acquisitions, an elusive real estate company reportedly based at 63 George St. in Roslyn Heights, according to the town. The owner has in conversations with TBR News Media reporters called himself Sam, but would not return calls after initially being approached on the phone. Officials say the company has bought multiple local properties in foreclosure sales but has not done any improvements on them afterwards.

The home is just one example of many so-called “zombie homes” on Long Island. The Town of Brookhaven has taken a unique approach to dealing with these derelict properties, having to negotiate with owners and related banks, and then if either the owner cannot be found or persons do not make required repairs in a set time, the town demolishes the structure on its own dime. A lien is then placed on the property for both the demolition and any back taxes owed.

In 2019, the village signed an agreement with Brookhaven for town workers to assist in clearing derelict property.

Master ice carver Rich Daly will create ice sculptures like the one above throughout Port Jefferson Village. Photo courtesy of Rich Daly

By Melissa Arnold

Now that the holidays are over and the excitement of the new year is beginning to fade, it can seem like the dull gray of winter will last forever. But there’s still plenty to enjoy in the colder months on Long Island, and Port Jefferson is pulling out all the stops to celebrate wintertime at its first Ice Festival next weekend.

Sponsored by the village’s Business Improvement District, the Ice Festival was inspired by a similar event held about nine years ago, said Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant.

“We’ve been looking at new ways to advertise the village beyond the holiday season, and one of our members, Marianna Ketcham, approached the board with the suggestion that we revisit the ice festival idea,” Garant said. “People come to Port Jeff because of its close proximity to the water — they want to visit the harbor and take a stroll. We wanted to create an upbeat, active event that would encourage people to come out in the winter as well.”

The village’s merchants were eager to jump on board, Garant said, with special event sales. The highly anticipated Mac and Cheese Crawl sold out weeks ago, but those lucky enough to get tickets will enjoy hot and cheesy pasta samples from 18 different eateries. Some will also offer mac and cheese for purchase throughout the weekend.

“I hope all those who come to visit and shop, realize how much we appreciate their support toward small businesses on Main Street USA,” said Port Jeff BID interim president, Roger Rutherford. “Make sure you find time to come down Port for the Ice Festival to take part in the many different festivities.”

Hop on a horse-drawn carriage and enjoy the village’s icy blue lights. Take part in some marshmallow toasting at the corner of Main and E. Broadway and meet costumed characters including your favorite ice princesses and snow friends. Then warm up with some ice skating at the RINX at Harborfront Park. Periodically throughout each day, professional skaters will entertain and share their expertise with live demonstrations. 

Of course, no ice festival would be complete without an ice sculpture or two, but Port Jefferson isn’t stopping there. They’ve invited New York’s only certified master ice carver, Richard Daly of Ice Memories Inc., to create dozens of brilliant, backlit works of art for the festival.

Each participating business will have an ice sculpture on their property with a theme they’ve chosen themselves. Keep an eye out for Baby Yoda, ice skates, a giant slice of toast and more.

Visitors will also have the chance to watch Daly work. He’ll do multiple live carvings throughout the weekend, including a four-person sleigh and a 3,000-pound throne that you can actually climb on (carefully!) for pictures. Don’t be surprised if he makes it look easy — the Mastic Beach resident earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2013 as the world’s fastest ice carver. To break the record, he created 60 sculptures in just two hours, 52 minutes and 12 seconds using 18,000 pounds of ice.

“The work that Rich does is just beautiful, and the sculptures will be incredible all lit up,” said Port Jefferson trustee Kathianne Snaden. “It’s unbelievable how he can create these complex works of art from a block of ice.”

Daly carved his first ice sculpture while in culinary school at Johnson and Wales University. He developed an immediate passion for the craft and was competing on a national level just six months later. “What’s not to like about getting to play with a chainsaw and a blowtorch?” joked Daly. “I can’t even tell you how many sculptures I’ve done in a year. I’ve lost count.”

Each sculpture for the Ice Festival will begin with a sketch. They’ll be carved from 300-pound blocks of crystal clear ice that are fused together by adding a little water. Daly is bringing 25,000 pounds of ice with him for the weekend, he said. 

“I’m looking forward to doing the live carving demonstrations,” he added. “It’s fun to be able to talk with people and answer questions while I work.” 

Ideally, the village is hoping for seasonally chilly weather and even some snow for the festival. In the event of inclement weather, the event will be postponed until the weekend of Feb. 22.

“It can be challenging to be innovative with our events, especially in colder weather, but the Ice Festival really captures the season,” said Barbara Ransome, director of operations for the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a great opportunity to increase foot traffic in the area and show everyone that Port Jeff is a great place to be regardless of the time of year.”

Port Jefferson’s Ice Festival will be held throughout the village on Saturday, Feb. 8 and Sunday, Feb. 9 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Join them for a weekend of winter fun! For further information, call 631-476-2363 or visit www.portjeffbid.com/ice-festival.