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Main Street

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Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant shows attendees at a public hearing Sept. 26 plans for the revitalization of Port Jefferson Station. File photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson Village is looking to bring Uptown Funk to Port Jefferson Station, but it’ll need some help.

The Port Jefferson Village board of trustees plans to submit a funding proposal to the Empire State Development Corporation to breathe new life into upper Port Jefferson.

The plans are part of the Restore New York Communities Initiative, which was funded in the 2015-16 state budget for the sole purpose of supporting municipalities in rehabilitating blighted commercial properties.

If awarded, the funding proposal would grant the village up to $500,000 to be used to clean up five adjacent parcels near the intersection of Perry Street and Main Street, about a block north of the Long Island Rail Road station. The village is calling the multiphased project Uptown Funk.

Mayor Margot Garant said during a public hearing on the matter Sept. 26 that the village plans to apply for the grant yearly in the hopes of redeveloping multiple areas in upper Port over time. The grant will also require the village to match at least 10 percent of the $500,000 toward the project, according to Garant.

“The $500,000 can be used for sidewalk restoration, demolition, redevelopment, parking lot improvements — all the things that would be necessary to help a developer make an improvement to this area.”

— Margot Garant

The location was selected following a blight study in May, which targeted several areas in Port Jefferson Station in need of attention. The buildings named in the funding proposal were ultimately chosen because of the village’s belief that the property owner will cooperate. The grant requires a willing participant from the private sector. Currently the buildings on the property are vacant.

Village grant writer Nicole Christian said she expects to hear back regarding the application by the spring of 2017, and at the moment no concrete parameters have been established for how exactly the money would be put to use.

“The $500,000 can be used for sidewalk restoration, demolition, redevelopment, parking lot improvements — all the things that would be necessary to help a developer make an improvement to this area,” Garant said. “The $500,000 is sort of loosely prescribed, and what I mean by that is we’re not told we have to put it into sidewalks, or told we have to put it into one aspect of the project. So as far as we see it, it enables the village to bring $500,000 to the table to help incentivize a project that will give back to the village perhaps more of what it would like to see, which is a strong, anchor retail establishment on the main floor, or a restaurant with housing above.”

Trustee Bruce D’Abramo expressed his excitement to get the project started.

“I’m really happy to see the village moving forward on this particular issue,” he said of the revitalization of Port Jefferson Station. “It has been a clear goal of mine since I became a trustee to do something about upper Port, and this is one of the mechanisms that I’m happy we can embrace.”

Trustee Larry Lapointe also voiced support for the plan.

“I think this particular corner is perhaps the worst corner uptown,” he said. “The two buildings that are on site were deemed to be so unsafe that we had to vacate and board them up. Two of the lots behind are magnets for homeless people, and we’re constantly working with the owners to get camps moved out of that area when they spring up. It’s sorely in need of redevelopment.”

Barbara Ransome, director of operations for The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, addressed the proposal during the hearing.

“The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce certainly supports this potential funding and really feels it’s very important, especially in upper Port, in our business community there, and as a gateway coming into the village,” she said. “It’s critical for this type of development to continue.”

The Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn is the first of its kind on Long Island. Photo by Lloyd Newman

Innkeepers have brought European bicycle culture to Long Island.

Marty and Elyse Buchman, who have been bicycling the world together for a decade, opened the Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn on June 1, located at 48 Main St., Stony Brook.

The couple set out to create a bed and breakfast that would cater to cyclists; providing not only sleeping space and a morning meal, but bike tour itineraries and even bikes, if needed, as well. Two months in, business has been much better than they expected.

“We’ve had people just looking for a place to stay — and that’s fine,” the husband said, indicating that not only cyclists have made up their clientele. A wedding party used Brookside for lodging recently.

The Buchmans have enjoyed bicycling in Europe because traveling by bicycle is considered normal there. It’s not just recreation; it’s a legitimate form of transportation, even for vacationers.

Their inspiration for a new kind of American bed and breakfast came during a 2010 bike tour of Italy. They booked a room in a “bike hotel” in Riccione on the Adriatic Sea. “Each day a guide came and took you for a different ride,” Marty said. “The idea was that you came back to the same place; and didn’t have to worry about navigating [your way] around.”

Marty and Elyse Buchman open the first bed and breakfast catering specifically to bicycle enthusiasts on Long Island. Photo by Lloyd Newman
Marty and Elyse Buchman open the first bed and breakfast catering specifically to bicycle enthusiasts on Long Island. Photo by Lloyd Newman

The following week they had a similar experience at Lake Garda in the mountains of northern Italy, this time staying at a “sports hotel.”

By vacation’s end, they had all the inspiration needed to start their own business.

When they first saw the colonial revival building at 48 Main Street, next to the Stony Brook Grist Mill and across the street from the duck pond, they decided it was perfect.

Built in 1941 by renowned architect Richard Haviland Smythe in a beautiful natural setting, it had the added advantage of being within walking distance of restaurants and shops, a museum and historical landmarks, a pond and nature preserve. It took perseverance, patience and negotiation skills, but they were able to purchase the house in 2014.

“This is an up and coming area for people to visit,” Marty said. “We’re always struck by how beautiful it is when we go on bike rides. People think they have to go out to the Hamptons or Sag Harbor. This is an undiscovered area. Just in the past year, [the opening of] the Jazz Loft and the Reboli Center, it seems like a lot of stuff is happening.”

The couple has done various kinds of marketing. The most effective, they said, was the simplest. A friend who runs a bike tour company put their business cards in every bike store in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

“It’s called a Bed and Bike Inn because it is a Bed & Breakfast, but oriented towards cyclists,” Marty said. “We have mechanical stuff. We have pumps. We have everything you might need for your bike. We have bikes, we have helmets; but most importantly, if you come to me and you say, ‘I want to do 20 miles and I want to see historic things,’ I’ve created a route book to provide just that. People can look through our ride book and decide what fits them.”

Elyse pointed out that each ride page gives you distance and elevation data in addition to the general route.

“Once a route is chosen, we print out turn-by-turn directions and we also provide a Garmin GPS which mounts on their bike and beeps when they have to make a turn,” Marty said. “I have lots of suggested routes — everything from 12 to 100 miles.”

Marty is a high school history teacher and said he would love to lead a local history bike tour. So far, though, no one has asked for that. Elyse noted that most guests have preferred self-guided rides, because then it becomes an adventure. “People tend to like to do that,” she said.

The house has three bedrooms, each with a private bath, and is open to guests seasonally. It will close Nov. 1 and reopen to guests on April 1 next year. For more information, call 631-675-0393.

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File photo

The online version of this story was updated on July 7 at 12:30 p.m.

Suffolk County Police have arrested two men in connection with a shooting outside of a bar on Main Street in Smithtown on Friday, June 3 that left one man injured.

Police said one man grabbed and hung onto a water pipe inside of Hypnosis 8.0 at 43 East Main St. around 1:15 a.m., causing the bar patrons to evacuate and a crowd to form outside the bar. Soon after, police said at least two people fired shots following an altercation, leading to a 29-year-old man from Central Islip to be shot in the leg.

The victim, who was shot, but not identified, was taken to Stony Brook University Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, Suffolk County cops said Friday.

Following an investigation by Fourth Squad detectives, Joell Nieves surrendered to police on June 24 and Dashaun Odister was arrested by members of the Suffolk County Police Firearms Suppression Team on Montauk Highway in Bellport on July 6.

Nieves, 22, of Bay Shore, was charged with first-degree reckless endangerment and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon. Odister, 21, of East Patchogue, was charged with, first-degree reckless endangerment, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and an active warrant for military desertion.

Odister will be held overnight at the Fourth Precinct and will be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip on July 7. Nieves has already been arraigned.

Additional reporting contributed by Victoria Espinoza

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Suffolk County police car. File photo

A child was critically hurt while crossing the street on Saturday morning.

The Suffolk County Police Department said an 11-year-old girl was walking across Main Street in Kings Park at 11 a.m. that day when a van struck her. That van had been heading east and had just passed Thompson Street at the time of the crash.

The girl was in critical condition at Stony Brook University Hospital, police said, while the van’s driver, a 52-year-old Freeport man, was not injured.

Police impounded the van for a safety check and detectives from the 4th Squad are investigating the crash.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call them at 631-854-8452.

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Study could help officials push along revitalization

One blighted uptown property, the old diner on Main Street, was demolished earlier this year. File photo by Elana Glowatz

An upcoming study of blight along Main Street in uptown Port Jefferson could help the village revitalize the area, according to the officials who set it into motion.

The board of trustees approved the study at a recent meeting, in part to identify properties that potentially could be seized through a process called eminent domain, in which a municipality takes control of land to perform a public benefit and compensates the owner. Although eminent domain is classically used for public works projects like building new roadways or widening existing ones, Village Attorney Brian Egan explained that the Port Jefferson government could use the coming analysis of blight uptown as ammunition to make a case for applying eminent domain to less common purposes.

Seizing blighted properties along Main Street in the village’s troubled uptown area could help officials push along their revitalization efforts there.

Although cleaning up upper Port and creating a more pedestrian-friendly district with both business and residential space has been a priority for some years, progress has been slow. Residents and some local business owners have been calling for improvements as well, citing safety concerns stemming from a roaming homeless population and drug-related crime. One of the more recent and most visible changes to Main Street occurred when the decrepit, crumbling diner — previously known as the Station Diner and the Old Port Diner — was demolished in January, after months of discussion between officials and the property owner. However, a new building has still not been erected in its place.

East Coast-based engineering firm VHB is conducting the blight study. That firm is no stranger to Port Jefferson: In addition to various work around the village, the engineers have completed other projects specifically for the uptown area in the past, including a traffic study that was included in the upper Port revitalization section of the village’s new comprehensive plan.

When the trustees approved the new study on Nov. 2, they specified that it should not take more than 12 weeks to complete.

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Smithtown was swarming with history on Saturday in honor of the town’s 350th anniversary.

The Sesquarcentennial Parade marched down Main Street, starting at 11:30 a.m. and continuing into the afternoon. Residents new and old came together in tribute of the town’s founding 350 years ago and groups from throughout Smithtown marched down the parade route. Town officials and community leaders also participated in the festivities by donning colonial garb more commonly found 350 years ago.

Incident shut down part of Main Street on Friday afternoon

Firefighters exit Renarts, where there was a heavy smoke condition on the second floor on Friday afternoon. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The Huntington Fire Department responded to a call of heavy smoke at Renarts that shut down a part of Main Street on Friday afternoon.

An employee of the shoe store near Wall Street called the fire department at about 12:45 p.m. after going upstairs to grab a pair of shoes for a customer and discovering smoke on the second floor. There was a little bit of smoke in the first room and a lot of smoke in the second room, he recalled at the scene on Friday.

“I was coughing a lot,” Paul Rodriguez said. “I couldn’t even stand up for a minute.”

He ran down to place the call to the fire department, which responded in five minutes, he said. The chief got to the scene in less than two minutes.

Rodriguez said fire officials told him there was an “electrical problem” that was being handled.

Chief Robert Berry told reporters at the scene there was no fire, but a “heavy smoke condition” on the second floor. Officials are still investigating what caused the smoke condition but by about 2 p.m., it was safe to go back into the store.

There were no injuries.

A scene from this month’s annual Smithtown Festival Day, where residents enjoyed the sunshine and perused the various activities across Main Street, which was shut down to make room for the event. Photo by Greg Catalano

On your mark, get set — no.

Smithtown officials are taking another look at the way the town approves festivals, parades and similar events that close major roadways in different parts of the town. Before Tuesday’s special Smithtown Town Board meeting, Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) and Town Clerk Vincent Puleo discussed complaints both of their offices have received after recent events closed portions of Smithtown, citing negative effects on business and residential life.

“It discombobulates people,” Vecchio said, citing one recent grievance to his office about a town event putting a damper on business. “This is a beautiful town, but this is not the first complaint we have received. I think we need to revisit the process.”

St. James resident Scott Flugman prompted the discussion via a letter he penned to Vecchio’s office, citing traffic issues barring his ability to get around town during an outdoor race event in his town on May 31. He said it took him nearly an hour to drive his son home from a friend’s house, who lives roughly 10 minutes away.

“This is a dangerous and grave inconvenience and should not be allowed to happen again,” the letter said. “We could not pick up our children, we were late to their sports and other activities and we were put at risk for a potentially serious traffic accident. Please have more consideration for the impact on the community when planning these races in the future.”

Currently, the town lists a parade, a run or a similar event in the correspondence section of its Town Board meeting agenda. The events are read aloud at two consecutive meetings, and the public can weigh in. But Vecchio said that process only targets residents who actually tune in to each agenda item at any given meeting.

“We have two readings. But there is no time in between for anyone to say, ‘Wait a minute,’” Vecchio said.

Puleo echoed the supervisor’s sentiments on the limited avenue for residents to become aware of a given event being approved.

“If they’re not looking at the meeting, they’re not going to know there is an event,” Puleo said. “My office gets complaints all the time. If you’re the affected person, and that’s not your thing to look at what’s going on in town, you could be blindsided.”

In the last six Town Board meetings, there have been first or second readings for 12 separate events labeled as parades, runs, walks or festivals, according to agendas from those respective meetings.

Puleo said it was suggested that his office help install signs throughout town to alert business owners and residents of upcoming events, but he said it would be difficult to figure out where to put a sign and when.

A potential solution, Puleo said, could be to more frequently utilize areas of the town typically closed on the days these events often fall, like Saturdays and Sundays. The clerk recommended to the Town Board that future events be moved to spots like the Hauppauge Industrial Park, or the Kings Park Psychiatric Center.

But Tony Tanzi, president of the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, said he disagreed with such a strategy, as various events are planned with the intent to bring more people to Smithtown’s downtown areas. He acknowledged that events in his neck of the woods, like Kings Park Day, might have a negative impact on business temporarily, but the purpose was greater than that day’s cash flow.

“I can see the point with some people that sometimes events can be disruptive. As a business owner, it really does have a big impact on sales,” Tanzi said. “But if the goal is to entice people to visit your downtown, I don’t see how [relocating] helps.”

As a possible solution, Vecchio said the town might want to consider limiting the kinds of events it approves to allow solely Smithtown-based organizations or town residents as hosts. He argued there would be a lesser impact if the events excluded non-residents.

“The squeaky wheel is getting the grease,” Puleo said at the meeting. “Whether it’s Smithtown or not, the impact on the residents is still the same.”

Residents across Three Village in East Setauket, Stony Brook and beyond stopped on Monday to honor the memories of our nation’s heroes as their respective Memorial Day parades stepped off.

Groups representing various facets of the community came out in full force to march in the parade before somber ceremonies stopped to say thanks to those who dedicated their lives to military service.

Stony Brook students field questions at their final project presentation. Photo by Phil Corso

Nick Fusco is still in college, but he already has a vision for the Three Village community’s de facto Main Street known as Route 25A. He and his classmates brought that vision to his neighbors Monday night to show what a little dreaming can do for the North Shore’s future.

“Our community could look like this,” Fusco said in front of a projected rendering of a reinvented Route 25A complete with greenhouse spaces, apartment housing, environmentally friendly landscaping and more. “We’ve come up with ways to improve safety, aesthetics and, most importantly, functionality.”

Fusco and about a dozen other Stony Brook University students presented at the Setauket Neighborhood House on Monday evening as part of a final project for Professor Marc Fasanella’s ecological art, architecture and design class under the college’s sustainability studies program. The conversation, “Keeping a sense of place in the Three Villages,” involved four students presenting PowerPoint slides showing off their reimaged Setauket and Stony Brook communities, utilizing existing infrastructure to help employ ecologically-friendly additions and make Three Village a community that retains young people.

A student rendering shows what could be of a vacant field near Stony Brook University. Photo by Phil Corso
A student rendering shows what could be of a vacant field near Stony Brook University. Photo by Phil Corso

“We looked at this as a tremendous opportunity for our students and for the community moving forward,” Fasanella said. “Are we dreaming? Of course we’re dreaming.”

The class built off the work of last year’s students, who brainstormed ways to bridge the gap created by the railroad tracks that separate the university from the greater Three Village community. Their proposals were met with great praise from residents, civic leaders and officials in attendance Monday. The ideas were bold, including anything from pulling buildings closer to the 25A curbside to make way for a greater “Main Street” feel to constructing a “green” multi-tiered parking garage near the train station for both retail space and commuter parking.

Shawn Nuzzo, president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook, applauded the students for daring the community to take a different look at the future of Three Village. His group helped to sponsor the event alongside the Three Village Community Trust.

In an interview, Nuzzo said the Route 25A corridor, especially near the Stony Brook Long Island Rail Road station, has a long and troubled history and could use a facelift to enhance safety for pedestrians, motorists and anyone living in the area.

Nuzzo, who also studied environmental design, policy and planning at Stony Brook University, was also once a student in Fasanella’s ecological urbanism course and underwent a similar exercise in which he dreamt up projects to connect the campus to the nearby community.

“We need to have this discussion over what we want for our de facto Main Street. If we don’t decide, the developers are going to decide for us,” he said. “What do we want as a community? It starts with stuff like this.”

And the students’ visions did not fall on deaf ears, either. Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) sat attentively throughout four students’ presentations and ended the meeting with encouraging words.

She said she was working alongside Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) to enact a comprehensive Route 25A study, which should be discussed in a community forum on June 30 in East Setauket.

“It’s our responsibility to engage and continue the visioning process,” she said, on behalf of civic leaders and lawmakers in the community. “We want to work on our ‘Main Street’ and put the community’s visions into planning.”