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Kathianne Snaden

Not even the rain could keep Santa from coming to town on Sunday, Nov. 27, during this year’s annual Santa Parade in Port Jefferson village.

Amid a steady downpour, dozens lined the village streets in rain gear and under umbrellas. Marchers along the parade route walked the duration of Main Street, starting from the Port Jefferson train station to the intersection of East and West Broadway, then ending at the Village Center. 

Port Jefferson Fire Department featured several of its vehicles. Dancers twirled and fairy princesses trotted along, avoiding the puddles. Santa Claus, the rock star of the evening, rode in a stylish stagecoach pulled by a horse.

The festivities finished in the warmer, dry Village Center, where Santa greeted the children in attendance, asking them what they would like for Christmas. A children’s choir on the second floor filled the hall with songs.

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted the event, which coordinates the parade annually. Barbara Ransome, the chamber’s director of operations, explained why the event was held through the rain.

Sunday was the only possible date for the event to be held, and Ransome decided that hosting the parade in the face of bad weather would be preferable to complete cancellation. “I’m glad we didn’t cancel in spite of the rain,” she said.

The chamber director of operations added, “We’ve been doing this for as long as I know. I was very surprised to see so many umbrellas on Main Street — it really worked out pretty well.”

Two elected officials representing the village government, Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden and trustee Rebecca Kassay, joined the parade procession. Snaden also expressed a pleasant surprise at the sizable turnout despite the conditions.

“Having the weather the way it was, I really thought it would just be empty streets when we walked down,” she said. “I was really impressed to see so many families brave the conditions to see Santa.”

Kassay described the experience as bringing together the various facets of the community’s heritage. 

“To see so many people coming out in their raincoats and under umbrellas to celebrate this tradition in Port Jefferson was a truly heartwarming thing to be a part of,” she said.

— Photos by Raymond Janis

Coastal erosion endangers the Village of Port Jefferson's property atop the East Beach bluff. Formerly the place of wedding receptions, the gazebo pictured above was obliterated by the most recent landslide last year. File photo by Raymond Janis

The Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees met on Monday, Nov. 21, for a business meeting covering a range of pressing public business.

Mayor Margot Garant presented the cost estimates for the proposed upper wall to fortify the East Beach bluff, presenting figures ranging from $3.32 million to $4.52 million depending on the scope of the projects, such as add-ons to accommodate racket sports amenities. [See story, “Port Jeff … trustees debate erosion mitigation strategy at village country club.]

After presenting these cost estimates, Garant recommended that the board reject these bids. “I don’t think we should take any action on the upper wall, the steel wall, at this point,” she said. 

The plans for the upper wall were delayed for a variety of factors, according to Garant. In a text message, she maintained that the delay was not a change of posture but rather a change in the timeline for final approval, given the weather and the pending completion of the lower wall. 

“My position hasn’t changed,” she said. “Something has to be done, but the timeline for the lower wall to be completed, with the upland restoration and plantings not occurring now to the spring, is pushing this from being done within the next six to eight months, so we cannot approve the bid.”

The board also debated an ongoing permit dispute between the village and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation regarding the Port Jefferson Village Clean Solid Waste Landfill. This kettle hole, which facilitates branch and leaf pickup services within the village, was affected by changes to state regulations in 2017.

The purpose of the deliberations was to decide whether to enable P.W. Grosser Consulting, a Bohemia-based environmental firm, to negotiate with the DEC to work out a permit agreement.

“We would like to get our permit back to what the state regs were prior to them changing them, which means we can put branches and leaves in there,” Garant said. “The challenge has become Mother Nature, really, with the large trees.” 

The mayor added, “Branch pickup, honestly, I don’t know if it’s sustainable for us in this community.”

With a looming Dec. 11 deadline, the future of the landfill and branch pickup in PJV hangs in the balance. After some debate, the board agreed to table the matter for a later meeting.

In her report, Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden detailed the results of a recent survey conducted to determine the name of Station Street, a one-way corridor opening in Upper Port. Out of 134 submissions, “Station Street” was the highest vote-getter.

Trustee Rebecca Kassay reported on an event she has been coordinating with other sponsors called Walk Safe with a Doc. The event will be held sometime this spring to  promote the physical benefits of walking and the importance of pedestrian safety.

Trustee Lauren Sheprow reported two upcoming meetings, one with the Country Club Social/Hospitality Task Force and the other with the newly reestablished Parks and Recreation Advisory Council. The PRAC will assign roles and designate committee chairs at its next meeting.

The board of trustees will reconvene Monday, Dec. 12, at 5 p.m., the same day as the upcoming bond vote in Port Jefferson School District.

Graphic from the Port Jefferson Village website

The Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees convened at Village Hall Monday, Nov. 7, for an evening packed with pressing public business. 

East Beach bluff

Mayor Margot Garant reported developments from the East Beach bluff construction site, stating buildout of the lower toe wall “has been moving along very nicely.”

“The steel wall is in, the concrete cap is about 100% in, there’s a lot of concrete rebar in there, and now they’re putting in the anchors through the wall and pinning the wall into the cliffside,” she said.

At the upland, the village must soon decide the fate of the clubhouse at Port Jefferson Country Club. The mayor said she has been gathering information from the village’s hired engineers and will provide the board with their findings later this month.

During the public comments, village resident Myrna Gordon inquired about Garant’s recent announcement regarding forthcoming informational meetings on the upland proposals. [See “A message from Mayor Margot Garant: A candid discussion about East Beach bluff,” The Port Times Record, Nov. 3.]

Responding to Gordon, the mayor said more information would be made available following the meeting later this month. 

“I’m still getting information from the engineers, looking at some of the drainage plans and alternative solutions for the upland project,” she said. “We put the [upper] wall out to bid. The engineer just got back to us with an analysis of the bid, so it’s coming together for the board to review with me.” 

She added, “Then, we’ll be setting a date and either making a presentation at the next board meeting or a special town hall, depending on which way the board thinks we need to go.”

Public safety

Representing the Suffolk County Police Department was police officer Sergio Möller. He stressed the need for drivers to lock their cars and take their keys with them when exiting their vehicles. 

“Fifty percent of the cars that get stolen within the 6th Precinct are vehicles that were already running with their keys in it, and that’s a problem,” he said. “Please take your keys with you. Shut the vehicle off. It [takes] only two seconds.”

Code enforcement chief Fred Leute underscored reasons for driving slowly on village roads. “It’s getting dark earlier now,” he said. “We have club and student athletes leaving the school late. It’s already dark, so just drive slow.”

Multiple residents pressed the board on pedestrian safety and walkability. Ana Hozyainova, who ran for trustee earlier this year, asked whether the board is considering a villagewide assessment to promote walkability, bikeability and pedestrian safety.

Responding on behalf of the board, trustee Rebecca Kassay reported she, Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden and village staff are exploring the possibility of conducting a study.

“We were pointed toward firms who would do a study, a villagewide study to look at what are the big issues in the village, and how in our particular village can we achieve the goals we want to, both with speed reduction and pedestrian safety,” Kassay said.

Snaden added there might be grant opportunities to subsidize the cost of the study. “It’s expensive, so we have to figure out a way to pay for it,” she said.

Information technology

Kevin Wood, the village’s parking administrator, director of economic development and communications committee head, delivered a presentation on the importance of securing the village’s information technology systems.

Wood’s report comes in the wake of a recent cyberattack against the Suffolk County government. He said municipalities are susceptible to ransomware and other hostile online events due to underfunding, understaffing and outdated systems. 

Based on meetings with Island Tech Services, the village’s network partner based out of Ronkonkoma, Wood said he is working to curtail these concerns.

“I live this every day,” Wood said. “I try to be ahead of the curve on this, of what our vulnerabilities are. I have met with ITS in person, and we think we’re on top of it in a lot of different ways.” 

He added, “If you look at my past reports, you’ll see why we’re ahead of the curve, but we still have to go forward and think about all of the ways we may be vulnerable.”

The village began enforcing two-factor authentication earlier this month, requiring village employees to pass through a second layer of verification to log into government accounts.

“You cannot sign onto your email with Google without having a way of authenticating [your identity], either through an authenticating app or through your cellphone,” Wood said. “It’s a little bit of a [pain], but we have to get through this because there’s been an indication that that’s how [hackers] are getting in.”

Wood also advocated the village upgrade to Municity 5, a multiplatform, cloud-computing municipal software program. He said this upgrade could make the Building Department “much more efficient and amazing.”

“Because of understaffing and other items, we have not gotten this done,” he said. “I just wanted to report that we have got to get this done.”

Wood further addressed how new technologies will affect parking. Namely, an automated license plate recognition system is already used to enforce parking limits on Main and East Main. This system, Wood said, is gradually supplanting the previous parking enforcement method.

Wood concluded his presentation by noting a villagewide software audit is ongoing to assess other vulnerabilities in the village’s various tech spheres.

Tax code

The night also included a public hearing to amend a section of the tax code. Explaining the measure, village attorney Brian Egan said the New York State Legislature sporadically changes its property tax exemptions for senior citizens. 

These changes, according to Egan, often do not correspond to the village’s tax schedule, creating an inconsistency between the state and the village’s tax laws. The motivation for the amendment was to automatically update the village tax code according to changes in state law.

“Instead of us missing that updated income, so a senior citizen can still qualify if that income level went up … we’re going to now set it automatically to whatever the state has,” he said.

Following the public hearing, the board approved the amendment unanimously.

Rental property code

Also on the agenda were two items to put out for public hearing amendments to the village’s rental property code. Kassay, who operates an inn, has helped inform the board of potential code changes, notably affecting Airbnb rentals.

Trustee Lauren Sheprow questioned this process. “I’m still unclear as to how — and I’m going to put out this disclaimer without malice — how a trustee can participate in creating a code and informing the board about a code that has direct impact on a business that she is vested in,” she said. 

Sheprow added, “I think there are guidelines and regs in [the New York Conference of Mayors] that say this has a perception or could be perceived as a conflict of interest.”

Responding to Sheprow’s concern, Garant suggested delineating a potential conflict of interest is complicated given how the code affects all board members in their capacity as residents.

“How I feel about this is everything we vote on impacts us because we’re all residents,” the mayor said. 

However, she expressed uncertainty regarding enforcing the code change, saying, “I think we need to figure out how we want to, as a board, grasp these issues from an enforcement perspective.”

On the ethics question, Kassay offered that she would recuse herself from any future vote related to this matter. Her intended role was to inform the board, given her professional expertise.

“We all have expertise,” she said. “I gave my expertise and perspective because there’s a lot that seems strange and weird, and it’s an odd industry. For me, whatever comes of it comes of it.” The trustee added, “If you’re looking at it, it’s creating more competition. The way it’s written, for my personal business, there’s no benefit.”

Responding, Sheprow said: “Regardless of what you are telling us right now, your involvement in this process is a conflict.”

The board agreed to table the two items pending an ethics review from the New York Conference of Mayors.

To watch the full general meeting, including trustee reports and public comments, click here.

The village's website will undergo significant revision in the coming months. Screenshot from portjeff.com

The Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees and staff members convened for a work session on Friday, Oct. 28, tackling the various features of the local government’s communications network.

Mayor Margot Garant called the meeting as part of an ongoing effort within her administration to enhance communications between the various entities interfacing with the village government. She set the meeting’s objective. “I want us to create some priorities as a team and then find out where we’re going from here,” she said. “I want the outcomes of this meeting to be defining our priorities for the next six months.”

Centralizing the message

For Garant, effective communication starts with communicating with the general public but goes further than that end alone. She maintained the village could carry out exchanges more efficiently by modifying the existing communications framework in all its facets.

“Communication goes beyond just communicating to the residents and the public,” Garant said. “It goes to communicating internally to staff and everything else.”

Garant said she sees regular communications meetings as essential. Through these dialogues, the team can establish a basis for deciding upon important stories, producing the content and then broadcasting its message.

Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden identified some of her priorities. While she said the village has a highly competent staff, greater coordination between these individual units could better advance a common end.

“We have fantastic pieces and parts,” she said, yet “each one is in a silo, somewhat. There’s obviously crossover, but I think … it’s just getting them to work efficiently and overlap.”

Trustee Lauren Sheprow, the village’s communications commissioner, referred to this overlapping method as “the cascading effect — create once, publish everywhere.”

The mayor offered her agreement: “We’ve been completely disconnected, and no one knows who’s driving the bus and where the bus is going.”

Garant also discussed the need for a central chain of command, with the communications team controlling how messages get out. She stressed the need for all parties to go through this decision-making body.

“It’s directing traffic,” the mayor said. “And it’s also creating a very clear line on who they should be talking to and who is giving them the direction.”

Sheprow pitched the potential value of implementing a “global event calendar” and a “content management calendar” within the village government, enabling better organization and tracking of upcoming deadlines.

Garant also identified the need to promptly formulate a plan for circulating emergency information.

“We have the winter season coming up, and that’s usually when we have emergency-type situations,” she said. “You’re going to have a different team at the table when it comes to that. You’re going to have the fire marshal, [code enforcement] chief [Fred] Leute, the ambulance company … you have different threads, different protocols, different everything.”

A website overhaul

In the coming months, a focal point for this administration will be modernizing the village’s website. Garant explained some of the difficulties she experienced using the existing web format.

The current website has several inefficiencies, some of which were identified during the meeting. The future overhaul of the website will emphasize user-friendliness.

“The most important tool we have is our website, and right now I can’t find things on it,” Garant said. “I think that [a revamped website] will have a tremendous impact on how we operate.”

Regarding the website, Kevin Wood, the village’s director of economic development, highlighted some areas for revision. He indicated the existing platform provides too many search results, which clutter the page and overwhelm the user.

“The problems with the website are plentiful,” he said. “One of the things that drives everybody insane is that if you search for just about any topic, you’ll get [results from] 2011, 2012,” adding, “we have to change that.”

Getting the message across

Another discussion point was the matter of producing press releases. Garant argued that generating content can help spotlight prominent stories within the community.

While producing more frequent press releases can help the village get its message out, Wood added that press releases are not limited to a written format. “We should be doing 1-minute video press releases,” he said.

The director of economic development added that compiling information for press releases requires coordination between the various entities involved in a story. For example, a press release spotlighting a particular aspect of village history may require commentary from local historians, public officials and other stakeholders.

“It’s not as simple as taking an email and writing a press release,” he said. “The idea of a press release has to be collaborative.”

As the meeting ended, Garant expressed satisfaction with how much the communications team had accomplished to date. While the village continues to implement its vision for more effective internal and external communication, she expressed confidence in the group assembled. Garant said the committee is headed up by Wood and Charmaine Famularo, a staff member, with trustees Snaden and Sheprow.

“I feel confident that we have the right team, and I think it’s going to be good,” the mayor concluded.

File photo by Heidi Sutton/TBR News Media

The Port Jefferson Village Board met on Monday, Oct. 3, for an afternoon packed with important business. 

Business meeting

Mayor Margot Garant

For its first order of business, the board unanimously approved a bond anticipation note to finance construction for improvements at the Old Homestead/Oakwood Road recharge basin. The BAN will enable construction to begin without the village having to draw from its operating budget. 

This project, according to Mayor Margot Garant, is primarily subsidized through a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Administration. 

“We’re still waiting for the grant to come in from FEMA, but we have to pay the bill,” Garant said. “Hopefully, that money comes in before the end of the year.”

The board approved Garant’s appointment of Shane Henry to the Architectural Review Committee. Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden, trustee liaison to ARC, anticipated Henry’s expected contributions to the committee.

“He’s young, enthusiastic, and he wants to get more involved,” Snaden said. “I think he will be a great addition.” Garant added that she is looking forward to drawing from Henry’s contracting and historic preservation background.

Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden

With trustee Lauren Sheprow voting “no,” the village board approved a 4-1 resolution for the 2023 rate increases for the Port Jefferson Country Club. Stan Loucks, trustee liaison to the country club, said these rate increases are based upon a unanimous recommendation from the Country Club Management Advisory Committee. 

The rate increases, according to Loucks, will enable the country club to make renovations to bunkers, improvements to cart paths and cover other unforeseen expenses.

“The rates that have been presented will increase our revenue by $100,000,” Loucks said. “That is an … increase in the overall budget, which I feel — I hope — is adequate.”

Defending her vote against the resolution, Sheprow expressed uneasiness about membership rate increases. She advocated exploring and exhausting other options for raising revenue before placing added costs on members.

“When I was the chair of the CCMAC, I did not agree with raising membership rates because I felt like there was an opportunity to find new revenue … without putting the revenue on the backs of the members,” Sheprow said. “We’re playing on this product that isn’t the A-plus product that it’s been. It’s kind of a C-level product, and we’re asking our members to come back next year and pay more for something that they don’t have yet.”

General meeting

Trustee Stan Loucks

After a brief interim for an executive session, the trustees moved upstairs for the general meeting. During that time frame, there were several exchanges between the public and the village government.

Chief of code enforcement Fred Leute reminded residents to drive carefully on village streets as schools are again in session. He also reported a speeding issue on Brook Road near the high school. “Brook Road is not a road you want to go fast on,” he said. “When you go down that hill, slow down.”

A Suffolk County Police Department representative told Port Jefferson residents to remain alert to the ongoing crime trends of catalytic converter thefts and phone call scams. 

During her report, Sheprow announced that she would present findings from her internal communications audit at a future meeting. She also reported that the Country Club Social/Hospitality Task Force has already met several times and is working with the restaurant management of The Waterview to “create a more welcoming, accessible and fun environment up at the country club.”

Trustee Rebecca Kassay reported that she is continuing to coordinate with Snaden on a “complete streets concept” for Port Jefferson.

Trustee Rebecca Kassay

“I am highly recommending that the village looks into investing into a study, which can be anywhere between $30,000 and $80,000,” Kassay said. “This would be something that benefits all residents. It would assess how to make the village more walkable and potentially more bikeable as well.”

Loucks gave an update from the parks department regarding removing vessels from village racks. “The vessels need to be removed by November 1,” he said. 

Snaden announced her effort to coordinate more closely with the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District.

“We’re going to have quarterly meetings moving forward just to make sure that everyone is on the same page with their activities and their events,” the deputy mayor said. “We can all collaborate and bounce ideas off each other, let each other know what we’re all doing.”

Garant gave a detailed report on several significant initiatives within the village government. There are ongoing discussions about giving a proper name to Station Street, a block in Upper Port opening later this month. 

Trustee Lauren Sheprow

“There will be a conversation about what we should call this new street as the new gateway to Port Jefferson,” the mayor said. “We do have a ribbon-cutting on the calendar for October 26 … It will be a great new start to a total revitalization of Upper Port.”

Bids for an upper wall to stabilize the East Beach bluff are due this Friday, Oct. 7. Garant announced that once the board has the final cost estimates, it will decide whether to approve the upper wall or retreat inland. For more on this local issue, see The Port Times Record’s story, “Port Jeff mayor estimates $3M for upper wall, trustees debate erosion mitigation strategy at village country club,” Sept. 29 edition, also tbrnewsmedia.com.

During the public comment portion at the end of the meeting, village resident Michael Mart advised the board to consider the future instead of the past when deciding upon the East Beach bluff.

“Rather than put all of our efforts into saving the past, please look forward to creating the future that we might want here,” he said. “And in doing that, I think it’s important the residents have an opportunity to express their views on the final decision, and maybe even, like with the school board [proposed capital bond projects], have an opportunity to vote on the final decision.”

To watch the full video of the general meeting, visit the village’s official YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bwpxXtRxmA

File photo by Carolyn Sackstein

The Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees is approaching a meaningful vote to decide the future of the Port Jefferson Country Club.

PJCC is a village-owned property. In a two-phased initiative, the board is actively responding to the harmful effects of coastal erosion at East Beach. Construction of a lower retaining wall is ongoing after a 4-1 vote under a previous composition of the board of trustees. 

Now the board is looking upland, where erosion has encroached dangerously upon the PJCC clubhouse. Without remediation, the clubhouse could fall off the cliff within years. 

Weighing its options, the board must soon decide whether to invest in preserving the existing clubhouse by adding a steel wall or retreating inland.

‘We’re already at a point where we’re playing beat the clock. We’ve lost a tremendous amount of material, and that is something we have to take into consideration.’ — Margot Garant

A battle against time and nature

In an exclusive interview with Mayor Margot Garant, she provided her initial estimates for the cost of the upper wall. 

“We’re estimating approximately another $3 million for that upper wall project,” she said. “The lower wall was a more complicated project because of the steel, rock and revegetation of the entire slope. The upper wall is really only steel and vegetation.” Bids for this project are still out but are due by Oct. 7, when the village will receive its final estimate.

Garant acknowledged the severe economic and environmental constraints working against the village. The construction cost index is forecast to see a 14.1% year-to-year increase by Dec. 31. While the cost of building materials skyrockets, inflation is at its highest point in four decades. 

Meanwhile, the cliff erosion is rapidly closing in on the clubhouse. For these reasons, Garant feels a sense of urgency to approve the upper wall if the village board favors that option.

“I think economic factors … plus Mother Nature are all kind of not working to our advantage at this point in time,” she said. “We’re already at a point where we’re playing beat the clock. We’ve lost a tremendous amount of material, and that is something we have to take into consideration — the pros and cons and the risk factors.”

‘As community leaders, it’s our duty to look at the realities in front of us and serve the community accordingly.’ — Rebecca Kassay

While the mayor appears committed to quick remediation, the board has no unanimous consensus. Trustee Rebecca Kassay was the lone dissenter on the lower wall vote, citing a lack of public input into the final determination.

If presented with a similar vote on the upper wall, Kassay said she would vote “no” again. “My position is still the same,” she said. “I cannot, in good conscience, vote for another multimillion dollar project without having the residents of Port Jefferson show their support or rejection for it.”

Drawing from her background in environmental advocacy, Kassay believes there are viable alternatives to the upper wall. While the burgeoning science of coastal erosion mitigation may be daunting, according to her, exploring these options may be in the village’s long-term interest.

“Adopting new strategies and technologies can be very nerve-racking,” the trustee said. “It’s quite upsetting but, as community leaders, it’s our duty to look at the realities in front of us and serve the community accordingly.”

Elizabeth Hornstein, above, delivered a presentation to the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Sept. 27, regarding the impending threat of sea-level rise and coastal erosion to the area. Photo by Raymond Janis

This week, a local climate expert presented some of her findings to the Port Jeff community. During a Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce meeting Tuesday, Sept. 27, Elizabeth Hornstein, a New York State Sea Grant sustainable and resilient communities specialist for Suffolk County, explained the pending threat of sea-level rise and intensifying storms on coastal communities. 

Hornstein’s presentation stressed the need for community planning and resiliency. She advised that addressing the issue of erosion near the country club would require a communitywide assessment of its environmental priorities.

“I think the community as a whole has to decide what is most important,” she said. “Is the country club an asset that is very important to the community? What else in the community, though, is also very important that you may want to protect?” She added, “I think it’s a tricky situation, and it’s hard to make those calls.”

‘I would like to see more of a country club atmosphere up there, and I’m not sure we’re getting it with the existing building.’

— Stan Loucks

Reimagining PJCC

Trustee Stan Loucks remains undecided whether he will support the upper wall. Like Kassay, Loucks has expressed support for putting the matter out for a public referendum. However, he suggests the board should tie an upper wall proposal to a plan for reinvigorating the country club.

Critics of saving the clubhouse have cited examples of village officials referring to the clubhouse as “underutilized.” Joining these detractors, Loucks hopes for greater use of the country club’s available amenities.

“I would like to see more of a country club atmosphere up there, and I’m not sure we’re getting it with the existing building,” he said. “I want to see what it’s going to cost to put an upper wall in there, and I want to see what it would cost to perhaps build a new building.”

‘I would also like to hear how this would factor into a more comprehensive long-term strategy for the country club campus.’

— Lauren Sheprow

Trustee Lauren Sheprow campaigned earlier this year on a platform of protecting the clubhouse. In an email statement, she referred to the facility as “one of Port Jefferson’s finest assets.” 

In her short tenure on the village board, Sheprow has already resurrected the Parks and Recreation Advisory Council. The newly elected trustee said this council will work to bolster recreational activities at the clubhouse.

“I am hopeful that our new Parks and Recreation Advisory Council will help to build and cultivate a concept, which will be on the agenda for our first meeting in October,” Sheprow said. “We would also like to create more recreational opportunities over the winter months.” She added that new racket sports amenities might provide even more avenues for recreational use.

As the board awaits cost estimates for the upland projects, Sheprow intends to evaluate both options thoroughly before making a final judgment. “I would like to be able to do a walkthrough of the proposed solutions and hear from those who have designed them,” she said, adding, “I would also like to hear how this would factor into a more comprehensive long-term strategy for the country club campus.”

Garant said residents could expect at least one more work session in the coming weeks for the upland proposals. After that, it remains unclear whether these projects will go out for a public vote. 

“I think the Board of Trustees will make that decision as soon as possible if we’re moving forward [with the upper wall],” the mayor said. “And if we’re not moving forward, some of the other retreat plans will take time because the retreat plan means that we’re abandoning the facility.” 

With respect to a possible referendum, she added, “When we have that price point, we can have that discussion as a board. I’m not sure I’m in agreement with that as that was something we should have discussed when we passed the resolution for the $10 million bond.”

Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden could not be reached for comment on this story.

Graphic from the Port Jeff village website

The Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees covered a range of issues during a business meeting Monday, Sept. 19.

With trustees Stan Loucks and Lauren Sheprow absent, the board approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into a contract to purchase the historic derelict home at 49 Sheep Pasture Road. 

With this authorization, Mayor Margot Garant announced the village was moving closer to acquiring that property and presented plans once an agreement is met.

“We will be finally securing that property,” the mayor said. “Once we secure it, I’m going to bring the historical society to the table and the preservation company.” [For more information on this property, see The Port Times Record’s 2019 story at TBR News Media’s website: “Port Jeff historians decry potential loss of historic house.”]

Garant also reported the village is pursuing a granting opportunity to subsidize the development of the Six Acre Park along Highlands Boulevard. The grant application process sets certain conditions requiring an applicant to present a concept plan along with other criteria. 

“That grant will provide funding for the final buildout in terms of plans and material and construction,” Garant said. Trustee Rebecca Kassay, trustee liaison to the Six Acre Park Committee, added that this “could be an enormous amount of money.” 

To satisfy the conditions of the grant application, the board approved a proposal from Hauppauge-based consultancy firm VHB Engineers for $22,750.

The board also voted to reinstate the Parks and Recreation Advisory Council. Based on guidelines from the village code, this advisory council can make recommendations to the board of trustees related to recreational programs, leisure and cultural activities, and parks and playgrounds. 

Garant appointed Beth Capodanno, Gerard Gang, Robert Gross, Jennifer Hildreth, Kelly Juliano, Lois Kilkenny and Rima Potter to serve on this reconstituted council. The mayor appointed as alternates Mary O’Sullivan, Thomas Provencher and Dana Eng.

Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden discussed her ongoing work to stabilize the feral cat population villagewide. Coordinating with Jaegers Run Animal Rescue, Snaden requested the board allocate funds for sterilization services and rabies vaccinations to 100 cats per year.

Responding to Snaden’s request, Garant said, “Let’s see if we can appropriate $3,000. It’s a good cause. Lisa [Jaeger]’s a good person, helping in so many ways with all sorts of creatures.”

Snaden additionally reported on an ongoing difference of opinion between the Board of Trustees and the Planning Board regarding active-use space in the Six Acre Park. 

Though some members favored an active-use provision at the Six Acre Park, the Planning Board could not reach a consensus on a formal recommendation, according to Snaden. Garant countered these claims by saying, “I think there are tons of recreational opportunities in this village.”

Kassay reported the Beach Street Community Garden program would take place Monday, Sept. 26, from 6-7 p.m.. This program is free to the public and will focus on fall harvesting. 

Kassay also discussed her continuing work to investigate tick disease awareness and prevention. According to her, the village has been offered tick removal kits through a Stony Brook University-affiliated disease research center. These kits will most likely be made available at the Village Center. [For more on the issue of ticks in Port Jefferson, see The Port Times Record’s July 21 story, “Tick-borne diseases likely to worsen amid warming temperatures.”]

Kassay concluded her remarks by offering to deliver a presentation to the board on a potential revision in the village code for short-term rental properties. This presentation could come as early as mid-October. 

Neither Loucks nor Sheprow delivered a report by proxy.

File photo by Heidi Sutton/TBR News Media
By Aidan Johnson

The Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees held its monthly meeting Tuesday, Sept. 6, to discuss current plans and issues throughout the village.

The meeting started with a reminder from code enforcement chief Fred Leute to drive carefully down the streets. Now that school is back in session, more wet weather and leaves will likely be on the ground.

Trustee Rebecca Kassay announced that she and Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden have been working together to make the village more walkable and bikeable. These efforts will make it easier to travel around Port Jefferson without using a vehicle.

Kassay also shared that she and Snaden have worked to replace dead street trees this fall with more aesthetically pleasing and ecologically friendly ones.

Kassay said they have been meeting to discuss issues regarding uptown parking. “We’ve been looking at hopefully partnering with some of the medical office space uptown so that we don’t have to pave any additional space uptown — and take it from there,” she said.

After concerns were brought up to the trustees about ticks a few months ago, Kassay has been discussing the issue with the Stony Brook University disease center. The village will be putting information on its website and working with local media to spread awareness about the issue, as well as reaching out to schools to see if they can give the items to nurses and coaches. The village has also been offered tick handbooks, tick identification cards and tick removal kits.

Next meeting, Kassay intends to discuss the timeline and action plan for the village to work on flood mitigation.

Kassay also announced that the Beach Street Community Garden program scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 7, has been rescheduled due to inclement weather. The new date is to be determined.

Trustee Stan Loucks announced that the drought Long Island has faced has started to impact the golf course, which has had 300,000 gallons of water put into it every night. 

“Our conditions up there have gotten to the point where some of the fairways were turning brown, so this rain we’re getting today is kind of a godsend,” Loucks said. He added, “All of our water comes out of on-site wells. The wells up at the country club have reached the level where we’ve been put on restricted watering. We’ve only been able to water our greens and tee boxes for the last 10 days or so, so this rain is coming at a perfect time.”

The golf course will be closed this week on Thursday and possibly Friday while the aeration process takes place.

The country club’s early bird program starts on Saturday, Oct. 15. However, the membership rate fees are to be determined.

Loucks also asked that nobody walks down to East Beach, due to the Bluff Stabilization project. Still, he assured everyone that considerable progress had been made already. Snaden would later add that drone footage of the progress is available to view, provided by Charmaine Famularo.

Tennis courts 7 and 8 are still open and will stay open through September and possibly through October.

Loucks said there are plans to build a permanent barbecue on the patio behind the scoreboard on the golf course.

Finally, Loucks shared that the annual village golf outing will be taking place on Thursday, Sept. 22. The outing is open to all village residents, along with anyone who works in the school district, is a member of the fire department or a business owner in the village. The cost of the outing is $50.

Trustee Lauren Sheprow announced the first meeting of the Recreation and Parks Committee would take place on Thursday, Sept. 29.

The next meeting of the Country Club Social/Hospitality Task Force will take place Wednesday, Sept. 14, at Port Jefferson Country Club at 6:30 p.m.

Concluding her report, Sheprow shared that the village’s internal communication audit is still underway. She looks forward to meeting with the other trustees individually to discuss it.

Snaden reported that the Port Jefferson high school homecoming game has been moved to Saturday, Oct. 22, due to an issue regarding the number of football players on the team. The parade will now take place on Oct. 21 at night. Instead of floats, the students plan to decorate their vehicles with lights. Due to scheduling conflicts, there will not be the Caroline Field events that have been held in the past, but Snaden hopes to bring them back next year.

Snaden went on to report that code union negotiations are continuing. Also, the Architectural Review Committee is looking into an application for a new “Sea Creations” sign to be put on the front of the Harbor Square Mall on Main Street. Additionally, St. Charles Hospital wants to build a retaining wall in its parking lot for expansion. 

Mayor Margot Garant reported that the trustees, with members of the planning and zoning boards, attended a walkthrough of the Port Jefferson Crossing Apartments at 1615 Main St., and were very happy with the amenities that they saw. There is also a 3,000-square-foot retail space. 

Station Street is expected to be installed sometime in mid-September. Overall, Garant is happy with the direction Upper Port is taking.

File photo by Heidi Sutton/TBR News Media

The Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees held a public meeting on Monday, Aug. 15, to explore various issues related to parking, public spaces and upcoming programs.

Parking

Kevin Wood, the parking and mobility administrator, gave an hour-long presentation to the board on the state of parking in Port Jefferson. Wood was delighted to report that the addition of 25 parking spaces on Barnum Avenue has increased the village’s parking capacity for the first time in decades.

“By building that Barnum parking lot and dedicating those 25 spaces, we came up about 8% on managed parking,” he said.

Despite added capacity, conflict over space persists. Wood reported a recent physical altercation over a parking space, which he considered informative in seeing “how people value parking so much.”

Wood said his department has implemented new technologies to alleviate competition over spots. Today, over 70% of metered parking is done digitally using cellphones. Currently, the village uses 11 meters with over 100 QR-code touchpoints for its metered parking.

“If somebody actually wants to use a meter, they still can, but we keep pushing the pay-by-cell,” Wood said, adding that digitally metered parking has generated revenue for the village and has facilitated the payment process.

With regards to public safety, Wood reported that there are now security cameras covering all parking lots in the village 24/7. He also discussed the possibility of further modernization of parking through automatic license plate reading, which he considers a more efficient way to handle parking.

Wood believes that as the activities at the Village Center expand, there will be a greater need to direct out-of-town visitors on how to find parking options.

“I can’t create parking spaces where they don’t exist, but I really feel that … we should have a dedicated person just to help part time to be out on the street by the Village Center when there’s an event,” he said.

Trustee reports

Mayor Margot Garant reported that the board has entered into deliberations with members of the Masonic Lodge located on Main Street to potentially acquire that property. The Freemasons are interested in deeding the property to the village, according to the mayor.

Motivating this transfer of the property is the Freemasons’ desire to preserve the historic character of the building and to promote community-minded use of the facilities there, she added. For these reasons, Garant advocated converting the lodge into a theatrical education studio used almost exclusively for those purposes.

Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden, the trustee liaison to the planning department, reported that during a recent meeting of the Port Jeff Planning Board, some members expressed concerns over plans for the Six Acre Park. Relaying the comments of the members in attendance, Snaden said: “They’re looking for, in a nutshell, more of an active-type park. They’re concerned about the density of the apartments uptown, how many more bodies are up there and the need for active space.”

Responding to these comments, Garant said that a grant search has already been conducted and that one grant under consideration “would be perfect” for moving forward “with the plan as we have adopted for the Six Acre Park.”

“Put it in a memo or make it part of some other formal presentation to us because the Board of Trustees has adopted the vision presented and I think we’re pretty firm on that,” the mayor advised the Planning Board.

Snaden and trustee Rebecca Kassay both reported their coordinated beautification efforts through the replacement of dead and dying street trees villagewide.

“I walked around and made maps of where all the dead or dying trees are,” Kassay said. “We had a great meeting about the next steps … looking at which native trees might provide color and blossom and things like this.”

Kassay also reported that there will be a free public program for the Beach Street Community Garden on Wednesday, Sept. 7, at 6:30 p.m. 

Trustee Lauren Sheprow reported the progress made toward the new Recreation and Parks Committee. A draft charter for the committee is currently in the works, and Sheprow has already received recommendations for volunteers and is hoping for more in the near future.

The Board of Trustees will reconvene Tuesday, Sept. 6, for a public meeting at 5 p.m. at Village Hall.

File photo by Heidi Sutton/TBR News Media

The Port Jefferson Board of Trustees delivered several important announcements to the public during its monthly general meeting on Monday, Aug. 1.

During the business meeting, the board accepted the resignation of village administrator Joe Palumbo, effective Aug. 12. This marks the end of Palumbo’s nearly three years of service in that role.

Along with the resignation of the village administrator, Mayor Margot Garant announced multiple appointments, naming Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden as trustee liaison to the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals. Trustee Rebecca Kassay will take over as the village’s commissioner of environmental sustainability. In addition, residents Gerard Gang and Jennifer Testa were appointed to the Architectural Review Committee.

Mayor’s report

During the general meeting, Garant delivered several updates on projects at East Beach that will affect residents in the coming weeks. Construction of the lower wall at East Beach to stabilize the bluff will begin next week. The mayor predicts the project will take approximately eight months to complete.

“You’ll start to see large boulders and the steel being delivered to the parking lot area,” Garant said. “They’re going to start to mobilize with construction. Unfortunately, the beach, folks, will be closed. You can walk down, but you’ve got to stay away from the major construction.”

About 450 lineal feet of bluff line will be sloped and revegetated, likely sometime in the spring. “It’s a long project, it’s a lot of stabilization, and that is underway,” Garant said.

The mayor also announced that plans to construct an upper wall to protect the clubhouse at the Port Jefferson Country Club will be going out to bid. This next step, according to the mayor, will allow the board to gather more information as it prepares to make a final determination on how to proceed with regards to that facility.

“That project will be going out to bid just so we can get the information and see what the numbers look like,” she said. “We need to have the hard numbers before we can make any real decisions. We will be making a presentation to the public, informing you all along the way.” She added, “It’s a pretty complicated process.”

Concluding her report, Garant announced that the village will partner with the Long Island Seaport and Eco Center to commission a whaleboat.

“It’s not a whaleboat to go fishing for whales,” she said, jokingly. “It’s a whaleboat that was famously used during the [Culper] Spy Ring … Our whaleboat will be something we can use for programming and for demonstrations down at the museum.”

Trustee reports

Snaden provided an update on the roadway obstruction at the intersection of Arlington Avenue and Route 25A. She was pleased to see that the New York State Department of Transportation had resumed construction at that site.

“You can see that a lot of work has been done,” the deputy mayor said. “Most recently, they have started the layers of paving and they are still on track to be finished with that and [have] that road open hopefully by the end of summer.”

Trustee Lauren Sheprow delivered several updates on the status of the Recreation Department. She first highlighted the close relationship the village recreation director has forged with the Port Jefferson School District.

The newest member of the board also announced a village-wide golf outing scheduled for Sept. 22. The fee for the event is $50, which will cover 18 holes of golf at the PJCC along with cart fees, green fees, food and prizes.

“We are opening up our golf outing to the entire Port Jefferson community,” Sheprow said. “That will include Port Jefferson Fire Department volunteers, Port Jefferson School District employees, Port Jefferson village employees and all the residents of Port Jefferson village.” She added, “Proof of employment is required, as is proof of residence.”

Sheprow also announced the reinstatement of the village recreation committee, which will be made up of “seven to nine village residents who can provide feedback and guidance, leading to recommendations to the board of trustees for improvements to parks, facilities and recreational programming,” the trustee said. She added that the next step is to establish a charter for the committee and explore possible candidates.

Sheprow also announced her plans to foster a closer relationship between the Village of Port Jefferson and Stony Brook University. Following conversations with the Office of Community Relations at SBU, the village government hopes to tap into resident experts and specialists in service of the village’s aims.

“The village is proposing to establish a think tank of sorts made up of researchers and scientists at Stony Brook [University] who live in Port Jefferson and who can engage and consult on the opportunities and challenges in their hometown village,” Sheprow said. “This can include marine sciences, engineering sciences, environmental sustainability, education, health and wellness, culture, society … it doesn’t stop. There are so many opportunities to bring in the knowledge of these experts.”

Kassay offered her support for this proposal, saying, “I’m looking forward to seeing all of the community members that are engaged in a lot of those initiatives, as well as the university.”

Kassay delivered a brief report, highlighting some of the environmental activities she has undertaken. She said the Conservation Advisory Council is researching municipal bamboo codes.

“This has been brought up by a few residents over the years and increasingly so more recently,” she said.

Trustee Stan Loucks used his report to recognize the Parks Department for its recent efforts to facilitate several events held throughout the village.

“The Parks Department is responsible for a lot of things in the village that a lot of us are not aware of,” he said. “They take care of every park in the village. They take care of a lot of grassy areas in the village that are not considered parks … and I think they deserve a lot of credit.” He added, “Many times you’ll see them out there with the white trucks and the blue uniforms. If you see them working, stop and say ‘Hello’ and thank them for what they do.”

To access the full meeting, visit the village’s YouTube page.