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Nicole Christian

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‘Red’ marks the estimated depth where the water table is less than 11 feet. Image from Campani and Schwarting

A state agency has granted Port Jeff over $80k in funds to help plan for future storms and floods.

The New York State Regional Economic Council awarded Port Jefferson village $82,500 Dec. 19 to create a Climate Resilience Plan. This comes in response to hurricanes over the past decade, including Irene and SuperStorm Sandy, as well as other storm surge events. The promised plan will integrate sea-level rise predictions to propose solutions to mitigate flooding and storm surges, along with the impacts of rising tides due to climate change.

Michael Schwarting presents the study’s findings to village officials back in August. Photo by Kyle Barr

Nicole Christian, Port Jefferson’s grant writer, said the village would have to put conducting the plan out to bid sometime early in the new year, and should cost a total of around $165,000. The $82,500 from New York State was the fully awarded amount requested.

With the funds, she said, Port Jefferson will be one of the few North Shore communities whose waterfront revitalization reports will be “on the leading edge” of current technologies and data from storms.

The funds go back to June this year, when the village presented its Waterfront Revitalization Plan to the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, describing its intention to perform immediately needed maintenance of the storm drainage system and provide emergency equipment to deploy in a rain event to protect properties in the village in catastrophic flooding.

At its July 15 meeting, the village voted unanimously to apply for grant funds from the state Division of Planning’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, Empire State Development and any other applicable state agencies.

In September of last year, Port Jefferson was bowled over with water, with nearly 4 inches of rain collected in a short span of time. Buildings like the Port Jefferson firehouse and the venerable Theatre Three were drowned in 3 to 4 feet of water, causing thousands of dollars in damages in the case of the theater. In July this year, the village was hit with yet another flooding event, and while this year’s was not nearly as severe as 2018, it still left many villagers wondering what could be in the future.

Christian said when submitting the grant, the village included images of that 2018 flood, giving an example of what could happen in the future if issues are not addressed.

The area outside Theatre Three was under 2 feet of water July 22. Photo from Brian Hoerger

Back in August, architects from the Port Jefferson-based firm Campani and Schwarting displayed a draft report about trouble spots for Port Jeff flooding. Michael Schwarting, one of the architects, pointed out Port Jeff has a lack of permeable surfaces, a significant amount of hardscape, and a water table that lies as close as 11 feet to the surface.

The Long Island Explorium is planning to create rain gardens at several points in the village, which may have the added benefit of creating permeable land for water to seep into during heavy rains. The gardens originally had a deadline of the end of this year, but the explorium’s Executive Director Angeline Judex said their grant was given an extension to June 1, 2020.

In a release, the village thanked Cara Longworth, chair and director of the LI Regional Economic Development Council and Denise Zani, deputy of the LIREDC, along with other state, county and town officials for continued support.

Photo by Arnold Christian

A Port Jefferson welcome

Members of the community, including Mayor Margot Garant, came out for a book signing and meet and greet with author Nicole J. Christian (in blue dress) at Z Pita in Port Jefferson on Oct. 29. Christian was in town to promote her new book, “How to Consult, Coach, Freelance and Gig: Gaining financial independence by doing what you know and what you love.” 

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Port Jefferson Village Hall. File photo by Heidi Sutton

Port Jefferson village is looking to use a New York State Dormitory Authority grant to install a new emergency command center extension to the Department of Public Works’ storage facility.

The board voted unanimously to approve the $450,000 grant to put an extension on the left-hand side of the DPW maintenance and storage facility. 

The village voted to approve the grant at its Sept. 3 meeting, saying it could lose access to those funds should it not meet deadlines. According to Interim Village Clerk Barbara Sakovich, the project is still in the early planning stages.

At the Sept. 3 meeting, village officials talked about a 20- by 10-foot addition to the left side of the DPW building on North Country Road. Mayor Margot Garant said she wished to install emergency equipment in the facility along with the new addition.

“If we don’t do this, we’re going to lose the whole $450,000,” she said.  

Nicole Christian, the Port Jefferson grant writer, said she has already finalized the paperwork for the grant and has sent it up to Albany. 

The command center is going to allow communications during a public emergency including storm events or any other natural disaster, according to Christian. It should allow communications with any emergency rescue units that shows up at the scene.

Alison LaPointe, the special village attorney for building and planning, said the plans for the site are still in their conceptual stage, and they are working with architects to hammer out details on site plans.

“The village is in the process of engaging an architect to work out the plan in terms of size and facilities,” she said in an email. 

The village has not yet put any funds forward or gone out to bid on the project as it awaits confirmation of the grant funds from the dormitory authority.

*Editor’s note: Nicole Christian recently joined the TBR News Media staff as a proofreader. Her duties with the paper are separate from her work with the village.

Nicole Christian, grant writer for PJV, helps fund projects by finding hidden dollars. Photo from HB Solutions website

Though the hills might not be saturated with valuable nuggets like the gold rush days of old, hidden money exists for municipalities in the form of state and federal grants for countless types of projects.

For the last eight years, Nicole Christian, a grant writer for HB Solutions consulting services, has been finding hidden dollars for Port Jefferson Village and, as a result, has helped to progress projects that might otherwise not have gone forward. Since 2014, Christian, a 2015 “Forty Under 40” honoree by Long Island Business News, has found more than $3 million to put toward a wide range of projects that have or will positively affect the lives of members of the community.

Her work has been instrumental to advancing the village’s upper Port Jeff revitalization plan. Dubbed “Uptown Funk,” the multiphased project has been building momentum since 2014 and aims to transform blighted properties, better connect residents to work, make the streets more walkable and vibrant, and provide an overall better place to live in the area of the village on Main Street between North Country Road and the Long Island Rail Road train tracks, according to Village Mayor Margot Garant,

At the beginning of 2017, Christian secured $500,000 from Empire State Development through its Restore New York Communities Initiative, and a grant of $250,000 from Suffolk County as part of its Jumpstart program, for transit-based improvements around the Long Island Rail Road Port Jeff train station. In December, the village learned it had received another $350,000 Restore New York grant from the state to go towards the upper Port plan, bringing the total Uptown Funk grant money up to $850,000.

“I think Uptown Funk is going to skyrocket this village through its stratosphere,” Christian said in a previous interview. “It’s a destination for young people, families, tourists. I think it’s a fantastic investment for the community, and I think the state knows that too.”

Garant said Christian has been an asset for Port Jeff Village because she is highly personable and understands the community and its needs.

“When it comes to trying to find money, you’ve got to squeeze every ounce of water out and turn over every stone, and that’s what Nicole does,” Garant said. “When you don’t have it in your budget it’s so important to have that lifeline to have someone help you find the money.”

Christian’s impact on the village in 2017 was certainly not limited to development projects. The village closed the iconic Rocketship Park for renovations and began a months-long refurbishment, partly funded by a $265,000 grant from New York State’s parks department. Garant said the village applied for the money multiple times, and prior to the third trip to present their qualifications for the grant, the mayor admitted her hopes were not high.

“We went three times to get money for Rocketship Park and the third time I was like, ‘Guys, I’m not going, why would I go, they never gave us any money the first time,’” she said. “Nicole said, ‘No, you’ve got to go.’”

The village still didn’t get the award, but finished close enough that when the applicant who came in first returned the money, Port Jeff’s application had been next in line.

“I think when you’re a grant writer you have to be persistent,” Garant said.