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Kevin Wood

By Aidan Johnson

Amid the warm summer weather, music filled the air on Saturday, July 30, at the second annual Port Palooza. 

Frank Doris, member of Grand Folk Railroad (left) and Kevin Wood, event creator (right).

Kevin Wood, the creator of this new local tradition, brought multiple bands together into one event at Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson. Wood, a Port Palooza performer himself, was happy to share that there was no cover charge to attend. He dedicated his first song to Dom Famularo, a jazz drummer and close friend of his. 

“Being a part of the village and my role in the village of Port Jefferson inspires me to just give back to it,” Wood said. He added that the event also helped raise money for a good cause. “Port Palooza is about bringing musicians together with one another and, most importantly, raising money for animal rescue and recovery through Jaeger’s Run, our partner in this.”

Jaeger’s Run Animal Rescue Inc. is a nonprofit organization coordinated by Lisa Jaeger. It helps in the rehabilitation of sick, abandoned and injured wildlife and domestic animals.

Lisa Jaeger, coordinator of Jaeger’s Run Animal Rescue Inc., above.
Photo by Aidan Johnson

“Port Jefferson was kind enough to showcase us at the Port Palooza this year,” Jaeger said. “All of the funds that are raised are going into our animal rescue and rehabilitation [programs].”

Jaeger could hardly express the gratitude she felt after receiving the funds. “When it comes to animals, people are very generous,” she said. “It makes me feel good that people appreciate the volunteer work that we do and the timeless hours we put into it. Events like this help us to continue the work we’re doing.”

Each band that performed had its own unique sound. Grand Folk Railroad, one of the bands in attendance, played covers of popular songs such as “Ooh Child” by the Five Stairsteps. 

The group, which consists of Mike Christian, Susan Schwartz-Christian, Gary Schoenberger, Bill Resvanis and Frank Doris, has been around for about 13 years.

“We played at last year’s event, and now we’re back again this year,’’ Doris said. “We got a really good reaction, and it’s always fun to play.”

Susan Schwartz-Christian, member of Grand Folk Railroad, autographs an electric guitar. Photo by Aidan Johnson

Cole Fortier, who has performed in both festivals, said he enjoyed being a part of it once again. 

“I was the opening slot today,” he said. Commenting on the time he had, he added, “I’ve been kind of running around, but I’m living it up. It was really exhilarating.”

While Port Palooza was successful, the event had to overcome its own set of obstacles.

“We came across a few problems,” said Walter Parbudin, a volunteer at the festival. “The skin at the top [of a drum] ripped, so we couldn’t even play it. We found out at 11:30 a.m., and the show started at noon, but I had to go out to Selden to get a new one before the show started. However, the event went really well.”

As much as Wood enjoys putting together these events, he feels that he needs some time off. “I just did the dog festival, and now this one,” he said. “I have to hibernate and rest for six months.”

However, when he is ready to hold another event, the people of Port Jefferson will be ready to partake in it.

Photo by Dianne Ferrer, courtesy Kevin Wood
By Aidan Johnson

Not even the sweltering heat could slow down the dogs during the inaugural Port Paws Dog Festival held over last weekend, July 23-24. 

The event, which took place on the Joe Erland Field on Caroline Avenue in Port Jefferson, was held on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dogs from all around Long Island came to compete in multiple events, including dock diving and maze running.

Ebonie Lewis with her dog, Hades. Photo by Dianne Ferrer, courtesy Kevin Wood

Several parties worked behind the scenes to make this weekend a success. Kevin Wood, creator of the festival, had teamed up with DockDogs, an organization that sanctions nationally recognized aquatic dog competitions. Wood shared the significance of bringing this festival to the village.

“About 18 months ago, I got a brand new English cream retriever named Brody, and those types of dogs love the water,” Wood said. “When I heard that DockDogs existed, I thought, ‘Why not be the first to bring them not only to Port Jefferson, but to a major municipality of Long Island?’” 

The dog festival could not have been possible without the canine competitors themselves. Among them was Hades, a Belgian shepherd, with his loyal human companion, Ebonie Lewis. Every time Hades competed, the crowd howled in wonder as he lunged and soared through the air. 

“They love him,” Lewis said. “He’s a crowd-pleaser and he accepts the attention all the time. It makes him do better when they scream out his name and cheer him on.”

Lewis, who has traveled far and wide to bring her dog to various competitions, was happy to have one in her own backyard. 

“DockDogs goes everywhere, but it’s always been in the Hamptons, and then that’s it for Long Island,” Lewis said. “You would have to travel upstate, or to Florida. Some people even come from Ohio to get to these places.” On the success of the Port Paws event, she added, “This is better than I thought it would be for the first time around. It’s great.”

Tino Zicchi, employee at Natural Hounds. Photo by Aidan Johnson

Along with the competitive events, several vendors were present to sell different dog-related items. Among them was Natural Hounds, a Port Jefferson-based dog food delivery service. Tino Zicchi, an employee, said the company learned about the festival when someone came into their shop. They were more than happy to participate. 

“It has been a really wonderful day,” he said. “I have seen some absolutely wonderful dogs jumping over there. My favorite part was when they put up a crane, and the dogs were jumping up to catch the toy in it. I have never seen that before in my life.”

Kaleigh Moffatt, a representative at the Maximum Canine stand, shared a similar sentiment. “It’s always nice to be able to get out and connect with the local community and be outside of our storefront for a day,” she said. “The dock diving dogs were all so amazing to watch. They all deserve big props. The whole event was very cool, and we will definitely be back.”  

The Port Paws Dog Festival not only provided loads of entertainment over the weekend, but also supported a good cause. All profits from the festival will be donated to the Port Jefferson Harbor Education & Arts Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the Village Center and Harborfront Park, among other programs and initiatives.

Photo from Facebook/Kevin Wood
Event will feature canine aquatic competitions hosted by Dock Dogs

By Julianne Mosher

The Village of Port Jefferson is bringing a new meaning to the dog days of summer.

The Port Paws Dog Festival is gearing up for  this weekend and it’s going to be dog-gone fun.

Festival organizer Kevin Wood with his dog Brody. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Kevin Wood, economic development director for the village and chair of the event, said the event will bring not only lots of business to Port Jeff, but also is an excuse to show some friendly competition for one furry friend to another. “The Dock Dogs competition is open to everyone,” he said while standing next to his 18-month-old English creme retriever, Brody. 

The dogs go tail-to-tail in different exercises — the biggest being retrieving a lure fastest in a 30,000-gallon pool that will be set up at Joe Erland Field, on Caroline Avenue, near the new Barnum Avenue parking lot. 

Wood said he first saw the competition while visiting the East End of Long Island, and soon realized he needed to bring it Down Port. “Port Jefferson is a dog-loving town,” he said. 

The Wood family always had small, lap dogs who they loved — but when they adopted Brody, who loves the water, he thought it would be fun to see how he, and all the other local dogs, would do in a friendly competition. 

“No municipality has done this before,” Wood said. “I wanted to bring it to the next level and bring it to the village.”

Presented by King O’Rourke Auto Group, the three-day event starts on Friday, July 22 with a mini event for non-competitors — a trial event for dogs willing to give it a shot. Dog owners interested in signing up can do so that day for a $20 registration fee, with the event beginning at 5 p.m.

On Saturday, July 23 and Sunday, July 24, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., dogs from all over Long Island, and even some flying in internationally, will complete on who can jump the highest, swim the furthest and retrieve a toy in the pool the fastest after jumping and diving off of a dock, to be built on the field, and into the giant pool. 

The inaugural jump will be dedicated to Aida Ramonez, an 11-year-old Port Jefferson resident who passed away earlier this year. She was an avid animal lover who would have loved an event like this, Wood said. 

Throughout the show, Dock Dogs will present the Big Air Wave competition accompanied by an Extreme Vertical and Speed Retrieve competition for both competitors and spectators to enjoy. The Big Air competition features dogs running down a 40’ dock and diving into a pool of water after an object, in which they are electronically judged for the length of their jump. 

The Extreme Vertical competition is a “high jump” for the dogs as they each lunge to snag a “bumper” suspended in the air. With each grab, the height increases in two-inch increments until only one dog is crowned king. 

Rounding out the action is the newest form of competition known as Speed Retrieve — where the dogs are put on the clock to see how fast they can run down the dock, jump into the water, swim to the end of the pool and retrieve an object which is held by a modified extender arm.

The competitions are open to any and everyone. Teams are made up of one dog and one handler. Your canine must be six months or older to be eligible. Canines of any breed, size or shape are welcomed. Not only is the competition open to all types of canines, but also handlers above the age of seven are welcomed. There is even a “Youth Handler” class for those who are between the ages of seven to 14. 

But Wood said that the weekend-long event won’t just be for games — they decided to turn it into a full-blown festival with dozens of dog-centric vendors, rescues, trainers and some food trucks for their human companions. 

“This is the first time in a long time that something attractive will be at this field,” Wood said, noting that he first brought the idea to the village more than eight months ago before it was officially voted on. 

Mayor Margot Garant, who has a furry friend named Wyatt who will be in attendance, said that the village is excited to host this family event.

“Our dogs are integral members of our family and should be celebrated as such,” she said. “I can’t wait to see everyone there and to enjoy the comradery and competition.”

Tickets are $10 for entry, while children under 12 and dogs are free. Proceeds from the event will help fund the Port Jefferson Harbor Education and Arts Conservancy, with hope to bring new drinking fountains (for humans and dogs) to different locations around the village. 

Wood added that the event will be livestreamed on Facebook, and shuttle buses will be circling all of the parking lots to help bring people to the event. 

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit portpawsdogfest.com. 

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File photo by Kevin Wood

In 2022, Port Jefferson will become the first Long Island town to host the New York State Parking and Transportation Association’s professional development seminar on March 15. 

Port Jefferson benefits from the 50-plus attendees who will stay here, eat here and shop here for the day and overnight. 

The annual conference brings together parking and transportation professionals statewide to discuss new trends and technologies. Their events are typically held upstate New York.

Kevin Wood, director of parking and mobility and IT for the Village of Port Jefferson, was named the executive vice president of NYSPTA. 

Wood is serving triple duty that day as executive vice president, host and speaker in their professional development series presenting alongside other industry experts. 

“The goal is to help support the local economy while bringing a brand-new event to town, thus helping raise awareness of the village as a great place to visit and do business while bringing cutting-edge knowledge to our parking and mobility department,” Wood said.

Photo from Kevin Wood

The PJ-SBU shuttle is back!

Starting Thursday, Aug. 19, Stony Brook University students can come Down Port to shop, eat and enjoy what the village has to offer.  

Created in 2019 as a partnership between the Port Jefferson Parking and Mobility Department, the university’s office of Community Relations and the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District, the program had to stop in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Kevin Wood, the village’s parking and mobility administrator.

Now, nearly a year and a half later, students can take advantage of it again.

“When Stony Brook came back from remote learning, it signaled to me that we should bring the bus back,” Wood said. “The university is looking at Port Jefferson as its downtown, so the bus makes it a direct link there now.”

Photo from Kevin Wood

The shuttle is free to students and runs four days a week — Thursdays through Sundays. It starts at the university’s SAC circle and then moves to the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel, SBU’s Chapin Apartments, Stop and Shop East Setauket, Arden Place in the village and ends at the LIRR before heading back to the campus. 

“Stony Brook University is proud to partner with Port Jefferson and the Business Improvement District to provide the student shuttle service for shopping, dining and entertainment in the village,” said SBU Community Relations Director Joan Dickinson.

Wood added that the shuttle is a 19-passenger vehicle and is ADA compliant. 

“Anytime we can bring visitors who spend money to the village without having to park is a win,” he said. 

Mayor Margot Garant said the village welcomes all SBU students, staff and residents.

“The shuttle is important to connect the Brook to Port Jeff Village, and to ensure the student body are welcome and have safe, easy access to our shops and restaurants,” she said. “We encourage them to sit back and enjoy the ride!”

Peace, love and local music. 

That was the idea behind Port Jeff’s first Port Palooza — a day-long festival at the Jill Nees Russell Stage at Harborfront Park.  

Spearheaded by Kevin Wood, the village’s parking administrator and owner of The Space downtown, the event was cosponsored by the village as a way to bring people together after the last year and a half. 

“I think it’s going to be the first of many, and it’s a great launch,” Mayor Margot Garant said at the concert. “It’s exactly what we envisioned. So, I’m looking forward to doing it year after year and I think it’s going to grow.”

From noon to 8 p.m., on Saturday, July 31, local artists took on the stage, including Flamenco guitarist Jonathan Fritz; Port Jefferson’s Cole Fortier and his father, Andrew; Mount Sinai’s The Como Brothers; musicians from Port Jefferson’s School of Rock All Stars; Common Ground; Grand Folk Railroad; and a special performance by the Frank Catalano Jazz Quartet from Chicago. Jeffrey Sanzel of Theatre Three kicked off the event with an invocation. 

Wood said this was something that happened after COVID-19 restrictions began to lift. 

“I thought people needed to get together,” he said. “Peace, love and local music. And that’s exactly what this is: peace, love and local music, with the exception of the last act which we’re importing from Chicago.”

Although the jazz quartet is Chicago-based, it still had a local connection. Wood’s grandfather, Al Gallodoro, was a world-renowned saxophone and clarinet player with the Paul Whiteman and NBC Symphony orchestras. Catalano knew of him, too. Wood and the musician met once at a New York City club, and they began talking. Catalano eventually bought one of Gallodoro’s saxophones.

“It couldn’t have gone to anyone better,” Wood said. 

Ending with jazz, the festival had it all — pianos, guitars and heavy metal. The one thing that didn’t make the set list this year was rockabilly, “but that will happen next year,” Wood said. 

The Como Brothers took the stage, playing their viral Port Jeff anthem, “Take Me Home” along with several new songs. Over the last two years, the brothers have been releasing such songs sporadically on their Spotify account, which will lead to an eventual EP release. 

Matt Como said when Wood reached out to them asking to play, they were thrilled. 

“This is actually the first full, original gig we’ve done in a while because of the pandemic,” Matt said. 

“It’s great to be playing for people again,” Andrew Como added. “We’ve been holed up in our basement writing new songs, so this gave us the chance to show people what we’ve been working on.”

Wood said that although the event was free for all to enjoy, raffles were held to raise money for the Middle Island-based animal rescue, the Star Foundation. A red guitar signed by all the musicians along with a pet portrait, hand painted by local artists Nancy and Bob Hendrick, raised over $1,500 for the foundation. 

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File photo by Kevin Wood

Port Jefferson officials say the village’s new contactless parking kiosks have already shown increased usage in the short time the program has been active.

Port Jeff has been using Honk, a contactless parking payment company, since July 1. The company allows customers to pay for parking in two ways, one by downloading the phone app and the other by tapping their phone or scanning a barcode on a HonkTAP station. 

In a release, the app company said that last week, 1,227 people tapped to pay for parking. Kevin Wood, the village’s parking and mobility administrator, said the tap action accounted for 43% of total parking sessions last week as well. Wood added that the amount of growth they’ve seen so far was primarily because an app is not needed to pay.

“The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the need for digitized, touch-free parking payments,” Wood said. “Usage has skyrocketed and our help center has received very positive feedback.”

The technology also allows an option for drivers to receive text reminders when their parking session is set to expire and to add more time to their spot remotely. 

“We’re proud to partner with Port Jefferson, and to help provide a safe, welcoming experience for visitor parking,” said Michael Back, Honk President and CEO in a release. “It’s never been more important for tourist destinations like Port Jefferson to offer easy, touch-free parking payments.”

The village sees an average of 250,000 visitor parking sessions a year, and parking in the village’s more than 600 spots has become one of the most hot button issues for the community, both residents and businesses. The village is planning to soon start construction on a new parking lot on Barnum Avenue next to Caroline Avenue to add 44 new spots. That project is expected to cost a total of $814,069, with an existing $300,000 bond, $200,000 grant and $314,069 in parking funds.

 

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Stony Brook’s SAC bus loop is one of the stops of the SBU to Port Jeff shuttle. Village officials say the cost of the project has put it in jeopardy after the end of the spring semester. Photo from Google maps

The jitney service between Port Jefferson and Stony Brook University is back on the menu for the spring and fall semesters, this time with extra funding from the Port Jeff Business Improvement District and a larger price tag.

The Port Jefferson, Stony Brook University Shuttle before the service was contracted out to Suffolk Transportation Inc.. Photo from Kevin Wood

The new service extends the service for an additional two weeks, from 10 to 12, and will run until midnight Fridays and Saturdays. The service also changes one of the pickups at Stony Brook University from the Chemistry Loop to the Hilton Garden Inn.

The BID is putting up $10,000 of its funds for the program, leaving Port Jefferson with just under $20,000 of the bill.

“We are proud to partner with the village in bringing the shuttle service back to our Business District,” said Roger Rutherford, BID president, in an online release.

At the Feb. 18 village board meeting, parking administrator Kevin Wood was seeking $24,608 in funds, per semester, to continue the PJ/SBU Shuttle for the next spring and fall semesters. The program is paid through parking meter funds.

However, Michelle Ferrante, senior account clerk, pointed out that any contract over $20,000 the village signs onto must go out to BID. This wouldn’t be a problem if the village were using its own jitney bus, however, the board voted last year to contract out to Bay Shore-based Suffolk Transportation Service, mainly due to the previous bus lack of Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and the overall failing quality of the previous vehicle. 

The village has also lacked other intervillage public transit options since the BID-run program with Qwik Ride ended. Officials said those small cars had not done the job they needed them to do, rarely being there for people who requested them, and drivers were taking requests from people outside the village to make tips. 

At the meeting, questions were raised whether the Suffolk Transportation was a sole source provider, and if it provides transportation services for Suffolk County.

According to its website, the company operates with Suffolk County public transit under the name Suffolk Bus Corp. The company also operates the paratransit buses, known as Suffolk County Accessible Transit, which ferry disabled people on select routes across the county.

The village board agreed to approve the funds for this spring semester if Wood could keep the budget for the jitney service under $20,000, which meant cutting the number of weeks and hours it ran for.

The program will come under review again come the start of the fall semester.

Wood said the university would not currently consider helping to pay for the program, but said he has plans for the future, including possibly surveying riders and asking where they shopped or dined.

“The program will gain popularity and ridership and, therefore, success,” he said. “We may test run a pay by cellphone so that students also have a contribution to this wonderful service. We would expect rates to be well below any alternative mobility.

Although officials have praised the program for bringing in more people sans cars into the village, Garant said she has questioned the cost of the program, especially since Port Jeff started to contract with an outside company. She said adding extra days and weeks to the program has only exacerbated those costs, and she doubts either the BID or university will either be able or willing to pick up the majority of the tab long term.

“Honestly, the program is in jeopardy in the fall,” she said.” The mayor added she has asked Wood to look into different transit companies or into the village purchasing its own two new jitney buses.  

The new schedule is Thursdays from 3 to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 12 a.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The bus stops at Student Activities Center Loop, Hilton Garden Inn, Chapin Apartments, Wild by Nature Market parking lot, Port Jefferson village on Arden Street and Port Jeff train station.

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Nick Dattilo, a salesperson for Nesconset-based electrical supplies company Kelly & Hayes, during his presentation to the village board Nov. 18. Photo by Kyle Barr

Port Jeff village officials are considering installing an electric car charger into an existing parking space toward the west end of the lot off Barnum Avenue.

Nick Dattilo, a salesperson for Nesconset-based electrical supplies company Kelly & Hayes, presented to the village board Nov. 18 about the possibility of installing a Charge Point electric vehicle charging station. Each station comes with two extendable charging ports and can be accessed with either an app or with a device that usually comes with a standard electric vehicle.

Kevin Wood, parking and mobility administrator, said the village is looking to make use of a New York State Energy Research and Development grant, which will provide up to an 80 percent rebate for such projects, from $250,000 up to a max of $500,000. The village would have to put the money upfront to be reimbursed. Mayor Margot Garant said she wanted to make sure the grant was in place before signing any contract for Charge Point.

Wood said the village could benefit, as the demographic of electric car owners is on the rise.

“As soon as you drive in [to the parking lot] you drive right into these,” Wood said. “I just like the idea that a person could come to Rocketship Park with their kids and charge their car.”

Officials said the hope is people with electric vehicles would shop while waiting for their car to charge. Each charge takes from three to five hours for a full charge.

The station includes an 18-foot retractable cord that winds up like a vacuum electric cord.

Though each station comes with two ports, Wood said he would like to see only one port be used with one space as a pilot. He added the village’s parking committee is usually hesitant to give up even a single space.

“If we saw it being used a lot, we’d open the second one up,” he said. “This town can’t afford to give away spaces.”

There are several electric vehicle charging stations in the immediate area. One set is in the parking lot of Heritage Park in Mount Sinai, and another set is provided at Stony Brook University, whose services are not billed for use.

The village board would still have to decide upon cost to the driver, with the rate depending on how long a car is being charged. Garant mentioned, depending on cost, the service could be offered free to attract people into downtown Port Jeff.

The board plans to reassess the feasibility of the charging station at the next board meeting, Dec. 2.

Wood said his goal is for installation of the charger next to Rocketship Park to take place in the first quarter of 2020.