Tags Posts tagged with "Port Jeff Village"

Port Jeff Village

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ransome said that is called “privilege.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by -
0 767
Lester H. Davis’ Ice Plant was located along the waterfront on the north side of East Broadway. Photo by Arthur S. Greene, photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Parker’s Pond was an artificial body of water located in Port Jefferson, west of Main Street, directly across from today’s First United Methodist Church.

Long filled in, the man-made pond was created by stonecutter Andrew J. Parker, who in 1861 — along with his wife and children — settled in Port Jefferson where the opening of Cedar Hill Cemetery two years earlier had brought job opportunities for tombstone sculptors.

In 1865, Parker bought a house and meadow land at the foot of Port Jefferson’s Spring Street and established a marble works on the site.

Not just a stonecutter, Parker was also a blacksmith skilled in building ploughs for harvesting ice.

Parker’s Pond, also known as Crystal Lake, was located west of Main Street, directly across from today’s First United Methodist Church. Photo by Arthur S. Greene, photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Natural ice was a valuable commodity during the 19th century. Collected in winter from frozen ponds, lakes and rivers, the crystal treasure was stored in icehouses until the warmer months. The ice was then sold and used in domestic and commercial settings to preserve food, cool drinks and prepare ice cream.

In 1869, Parker presaged his entry into the lucrative ice trade by purchasing Port Jefferson meadow land neighboring his business and cobbling together the separate parcels into one large tract.

A stream originated in the hills above Parker’s newly acquired property, ran north through his land, flowed into Port Jefferson’s salt meadows, joined the village’s Old Mill Creek, and discharged into Port Jefferson Harbor.

Parker created a pond by damming the stream as it crossed his property, first clearing the land and then in partnership with Josiah Randall building an icehouse to serve the site.

In winter 1873, ice was first harvested from the pond by Parker’s Crystal Lake Ice Company, the names Parker’s Pond and Crystal Lake soon becoming synonymous.

Over the years, the pond and its icehouse were leased to various parties who cut the ice and stored the crop. In 1881, Crystal Lake reportedly yielded 600 tons of quality ice.

In 1891, directing his energy to the temperance movement, Parker sold his two-acre pond to investor John Davis.

Davis leased the pond in 1893 to the Nassau Trout Association. The freshwater anglers stocked Crystal Lake with fry but abandoned the venture in 1894. 

In 1901, butcher Lester Davis opened an ice plant on the north side of Port Jefferson’s East Broadway, effectively ending natural ice harvesting at Crystal Lake. At Davis’ factory, artificial ice was manufactured year-round, unaffected by the vagaries of weather and safer than the products of suspect waters. 

While Port Jefferson moved from old to modern technology, idyllic Crystal Lake remained a popular attraction among skaters. On some winter days, upwards of 100 people glided along on the frozen pond.

A scenic landmark in Port Jefferson, but no longer important to the ice trade, the pond as well as Parker’s former home were sold in 1910 to Fred Griswold, who also purchased Athena Hall (Theatre Three) in a separate transaction.

In 1911, Griswold’s North Shore Electric Light and Power Company reclaimed ground from Parker’s Pond and built a powerhouse on what is now Maple Place.

The landscape surrounding Crystal Lake continued to change as other structures rose near its waters. In 1927, the Port Jefferson Fire Department laid a cornerstone for its new station north of the pond on Maple Place.

In 1930, Griswold began showing “talkies” at the Port Jefferson Theatre, formerly Athena Hall, which he remodeled to seat 600 people. Griswold also provided free parking at the cinema, where patronage had increased following the introduction of movies with sound.

Lester H. Davis’ Ice Plant was located along the waterfront on the north side of East Broadway. Photo by Arthur S. Greene, photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

The parking lot was entered from Maple Place, could handle 200 cars, and made by dewatering Parker’s Pond and covering its exposed bed with cinders. As the dumping of fill continued, evidence of the former pond gradually disappeared.

Located in a declivity, Griswold’s parking field was subject to storm water runoff, but the construction of a box culvert in 1934 channeled the area’s surface waters and eased the situation. 

In a village bedeviled by inadequate public parking, the theatre’s lot was eyed as a prime location for a municipal parking field.

In 1961, a local committee proposed the creation of a Port Jefferson Parking District, which would have entailed the building of a parking lot at what was once historic Parker’s Pond. Facing spirited opposition from villagers, the scheme was abandoned.

In September 1980, New York State’s Department of Transportation presented a proposal to build a parking field at the former Crystal Lake site.

Spokesmen for the Port Jefferson Fire Department argued that blacktopping and elevating the property would cause flooding at the firehouse on Maple Place.

Although the State later scrapped its plan, the Port Jefferson Fire Department bought the parcel, thus insuring the Department’s stewardship of the lot. Landscaped and seeded, the acreage is now used by the village’s volunteer firemen for training and recreation.

While there is no marker indicating that the site was formerly an ice pond, fish farm, skating rink, scenic landmark, and parking field, the soggy feel underfoot hints of earlier times.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.

Photo from Hometown Hope

On Tuesday, May 25, local nonprofit Hometown Hope gathered with members of the Port Jef-ferson Fire Department, as well as representatives from village and local government to honor three fallen heroes in honor of Memorial Day.

American flags were installed in front of Village Hall in memory of local residents David George Timothy Still, U.S. Navy; Honorary Chief Frederick J. Gumbus, U.S. Army Air; James Von Oiste, U.S. Marine and Belle Terre resident; and Victor Gronenthal, U.S. Army and the husband of a current resident.

Hometown Hope plans to add more flags each year to honor those local heroes who sacrificed their lives to protect our freedom.

 

by -
0 570
Above: Sitting in a decorated touring car, Abram Bentley, Port Jefferson’s last surviving Civil War veteran, leads the village’s 1930 Independence Day Parade accompanied by his wife Marion. Photo from Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

On Memorial Day, we honor America’s fallen sailors and soldiers and decorate the graves of the men and women who served in the nation’s armed forces.

Among the comrades-in-arms buried at Port Jefferson’s Cedar Hill Cemetery, Abram Bentley was the village’s last surviving Civil War veteran.

Known locally as “Uncle Abe,” Bentley was born in Manhattan on Sept. 4, 1844 and apprenticed at a carriage factory while in his teens.

At the age of 20, Bentley enlisted in Company I, 39th Regiment, New Jersey Infantry, which fought the Confederates in Virginia. He was soon promoted to corporal and then sergeant.

After his discharge and return to civilian life, Bentley married Marion Wilson of Newark, New Jersey, on Dec. 9, 1866. Days later, the newlyweds traveled by the steamer Sunbeam from New York City to Port Jefferson, where a job awaited the groom.

Skilled as a wheelwright and an upholsterer, Bentley worked at Effingham Tuthill’s carriage shop on Main Street. After Tuthill left Port Jefferson in 1874, Bentley continued operating the establishment with Aaron Coles and John Baldwin. By 1886, as his partners withdrew from the business, Bentley became the sole proprietor of the company.

Besides running a manufactory, Bentley was active in Port Jefferson’s Baptist Church on East Main Street, today’s Harborview Christian Church. He was the superintendent of the Sunday School, a member of the choir, secretary/treasurer of the bible class, and a deacon. 

He was also a Republican party stalwart, served on the election board and completed four terms as Brookhaven Town Auditor.

Never forgetting his time in the military, Bentley was a founder and later commander of Lewis O. Conklin Post 627, Grand Army of the Republic, a Union veteran organization with a “camp” in the village. 

Under Bentley’s leadership, the Post organized Port Jefferson’s annual Decoration Day ceremonies which typically began with religious services at the Baptist Church. The GAR members, followed by a contingent of townspeople, then marched to Cedar Hill Cemetery. 

After listening to a stirring patriotic address and martial music played by the Port Jefferson Brass Band, the veterans adorned the graves of their lost brothers with flowers, wreaths, crosses, and flags. Among those interred at the cemetery, there are over 40 soldiers and sailors who served with the North during the Civil War.

Below: Civil War veterans, Lewis O. Conklin Post 627, Grand Army of the Republic, are shown during Decoration (Memorial) Day ceremonies at Port Jefferson’s Cedar Hill Cemetery. Abram Bentley is fourth from the right.
Photo by Arthur S. Greene. Photo from Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Bentley also represented Port Jefferson at the GAR’s regional encampments, was a familiar figure at the head of the village’s Fourth of July parades and was drill master of the local Boys’ Brigade, a semi-military organization founded “to develop Christian manhood” among Port Jefferson’s youth.

“Uncle Abe” died at his home on Thompson Street on June 25, 1934. He was predeceased by his wife who had passed the previous March. They had been married for over 67 years.

On the day of Bentley’s funeral, the destroyer USS Lea (DD-118) was anchored in Port Jefferson Harbor to take part in the village’s 1934 Independence Day celebrations. The warship was named after an officer killed during the Civil War. 

An honor guard from the Lea escorted the caisson carrying Bentley from the Baptist Church to his final resting place in Cedar Hill Cemetery, a fitting end for one of Port Jefferson’s beloved citizens. 

 Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.

Progress is being made at the Beach Street community garden in Port Jefferson. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Nearly three-dozen volunteers spent their Saturday building metal beds that will soon be home to veggies and other plants at Port Jefferson’s new community garden.

On May 22, from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., 32 volunteers contributed between one to nine hours of volunteer work toward the building of the Beach Street Community Garden. 

The build comes after months of planning, spearheaded by trustee Rebecca Kassay and the PJV Community Garden Committee — a group of volunteers who helped scout out a location that would be beneficial to gardeners young and old. 

“While I planted the seed, it could not have sprouted, thrived and borne fruit like this without the time, efforts and support of so many individuals and groups,” she said.

Kassay said the garden will be able to give residents an opportunity to grow local, organic food and enjoy outdoor recreation together, while creating learning opportunities for its villagers and maintaining parkland. 

The pilot project was approved unanimously by the village during its March 15 board meeting, and $4,000 of village beautification funds was contributed specifically for irrigation and raised-bed materials.  

Volunteers putting the garden beds together. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“Looking at how far this project has come in such a short span of time — only five months — I am overwhelmed by gratitude for this community, the passionate individuals who stepped up to the Community Garden Committee, and community stakeholders who didn’t hesitate to ask how they could help make it happen,” Kassay said. “On Saturday, we kept saying ‘many hands make light work,’ and that was true for the day as well as the project at large.”

While Saturday saw hot temperatures and slight humidity, that didn’t stop the group from prepping the land for its new life. For years, the space on Beach Street was home to a playground that eventually fell into disrepair. As of late, it was an empty lot.

According to Kassay, the volunteers assembled 24 raised-bed kits — each with about 150 pieces in the kit; lined the bottoms of each bed with cardboard; installed 25 fence posts; dug a 12-inch trench around the perimeter of the garden; stapled up deer fencing; installed a poultry netting rodent guard; and moved about 9 cubic yards of topsoil into the raised beds — thanks to Holmes Irrigation which donated company time to help.

“I think it’s an excellent use of property that has sat vacant for too many years with really not a good function,” said Barbara Ransome, director of operations with the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. “I think this will add another dimension to our community. It’ll engage our residents … maybe assist with businesses that want to do organic gardening. It’s really a win-win.”

Resident Kelly DeVine came down to help out because she was excited for the cause.

“I’ve watched this piece of property go from a playground to this disused lot,” she said. “And when I heard about the community garden, I was really thrilled because I like the environmental aspect of it and the opportunity to start encouraging people to compost, but also the community building. I’m meeting so many of my neighbors out here on this beautiful day and that’s what is so special about living in Port Jeff.”

If the pilot garden project is successful, the committee expects to expand with more raised beds at the Beach Street site in 2022, and in subsequent years create a second garden site at the Highlands parkland uptown.

In order to become a part of the garden’s community, there is a lottery system to obtain a raised bed. There are 20 total raised beds available for rent, with four communal herb/flower beds for registered gardeners. Four of the raised beds have higher sides for gardeners with different abilities.

Submissions are due to Village Hall by June 4 and recipients will be notified via email by June 10.

Those interested can apply at portjeff.com/communitygarden, or may drop off the lottery form to Port Jefferson Village Hall, Raised Bed Lottery, 121 W. Broadway, Port Jefferson, NY 11777.

Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County Police Sixth Precinct Crime Section
officers are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate the man who allegedly vandalized a car
in Port Jefferson Village last year.

A man slashed two tires on a 2014 white Acura parked on Mariners Way on December 2,
2020 at approximately 10 p.m.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward for information that leads to an
arrest.

Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime
Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS, utilizing a mobile app
which can be downloaded through the App Store or Google Play by searching P3 Tips, or
online at www.P3Tips.com.

All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.

by -
0 541
This summer, the above concession stand will become a new taco shack at Port Jefferson’s East Beach. Photo by Julianne Mosher

The vacant concession stand at East Beach will be the new home to a taco shack this summer.Prohibition East Beach is planned to opened on Memorial Day or shortly after, weather permitting. 

Lisa Harris, owner of Prohibition in the village, said she found out she won the bid last week after she submitted a thorough plan, complete with renderings and a menu.

With the recent upgrades that included a sand dredging and a new retaining wall to the resident-only beach — located by the Port Jefferson Country Club — Harris thinks a food stand will be the icing on the cake in revitalizing the local beach.

“The beach was always popular, but I think because people were staying home for the past year, the beaches have become so important,” she said. “I love seeing the village investing energy and resources into a space like this.”

Back in April, the village put out a call to food and beverage providers encouraging them to submit proposals for a snack concession stand. Mayor Margot Garant said the spot has been vacant for close to 25 years. 

Over the years, the village tried to encourage residents to utilize the beach, including family fun nights that never stuck. 

“I’m looking forward to bringing back some of the traditions that bring our families together down at the beach,” Garant said. “Now, we’re open and we want to see people come in, come back and enjoy the beach in the summertime.”

Garant added this year is a “trial year.” 

While other business owners inquired about the stand, during the bid process, Harris seemed like the best fit thanks to her involvement in the village and owning of several businesses in Upper Port. Along with Prohibition, she owns Torte Jeff, the pie shop, which recently combined with her donut store, East Main & Main.

That’s why she’s calling the stand Prohibition East Beach.

“Prohibition has a good reputation [on Main Street],” she said. “And I worked really hard at maintaining that.”

So, making this small shack an extension of her popular bar and restaurant was a no-brainer — and the Main Street spot will act as the commissary to the new space. All the food will be cooked there and then sold out of the East Beach location.

Her concept is a casual taco spot with a beachy vibe. The concession stand will be cleaned up, with benches and bistro tables next to it. 

Harris plans on stringing lights, giving it a cool, laid back atmosphere. She wants to set up speakers and maybe have some steel drum music down the line.

“I love this beach,” she said. “Every time I come down here, I always wondered why there wasn’t a beach concession down here. So, I’m really excited about it.”

Photo from Lavender Fields

For two decades, one local shop has seen it all. 

Lavender Fields, located at 118 Wynn Lane in Port Jefferson, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month. 

Known for its homewares, furniture, luxury bedding, gifts and interior design services, it officially opened on April 14, 2001 and has kept its doors open since. 

Owner Lori Ressa said it wasn’t always easy, but staying creative and innovative was the secret to her success.

“I think just being unique and passionate about what you do, instead of copying another store or just trying to be what you’re not is key,” she said. “Something I learned back in the day in business school is be open to change.”

Originally from Brooklyn, Ressa had a background in e-commerce, but always had a passion for design and antiques. She also always wanted to be an entrepreneur and opened her first antique store in New Jersey.

Ressa decided she wanted to change pace and landed in Port Jefferson. She and her then-husband saw an advertisement for a store being sold and immediately knew this is where she belonged. 

“We came here, fell in love with the town, purchased the store and 20 years later, here we are,” she said. 

Since opening, they had several different locations — starting off on East Main Street under Pasta Pasta, they moved to where the current space for Fame & Rebel is down the street. Six years ago, she found the current spot tucked away off the beaten path. 

Ressa and her 12-year-old daughter Ava Madrid run the store now, monitoring the e-commerce through their website, working the retail part of the store and helping clients with interior design. 

Lori Ressa’s daughter, Ava, inside their shop. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“Customers love the experience of just coming in,” Ressa said. “They walk around, they’ll see the candles, the home keeping stuff, the soaps, and then we have other clients that come in for the bedding and the rugs. We have a real mixed demographic.”

She said that for the anniversary, she will be remodeling the store. For now, the front door will feature a decorative flower arch, with their signature bundles of lavender outside for sale. 

Tucked away on the cobblestone-paved walkway of Wynn Lane in Port Jefferson, across from Ruvo’s. 

Inside the store is filled with a treasure trove of bedding, apothecary items, candles, artwork, luxe pajamas and lounge wear, gifts for children, kitchen wares, home decor, and more. Ressa and her staff are also able to create custom gift baskets.

“Many of our customers wander in before they go to a baby shower, birthday party, or bridal shower at a local restaurant, see all of the things we offer, and we end up creating a custom gift for them to take to their event,” she said. “You need to think outside the box.”

Ava, who has grown up in the shop, said she loves Port Jefferson and the community where she helps her mom every day.

“I love the environment here,” she said. 

Her plans? It might be to take over Ressa’s store one day, but she said the customer service skills she’s learning as she works alongside her family might lead her to run for village mayor one day.

Sonny Stancarone will be hosting a new piano relaxation program in Port Jefferson. Photo by Julianne Mosher

What do you get when you combine meditation, mindfulness, yoga and pianos? A new piano relaxation center in Upper Port.

Vic “Sonny” Stancarone, owner of Sonny’s Pianos at 1500 Main St., decided to open another spot right across from his store, that will be beneficial to the community — especially after a stressful 2020. 

On Friday, April 30, a dozen people gathered at his new Piano Relaxation Center, now located at 6 North Country Road. The idea behind it, he said, was to give people a new space to learn piano in a stress-free way. 

He said that this has been something he’s wanted to do “forever.”

“I love buying and selling pianos,” he said. “But I love working with people and now I circle back to doing what I’ve always wanted.”

Photo by Julianne Mosher

At his other shop, Stancarone buys and sells refurbished pianos. From Steinways to Young Changs, he cleans them up, tunes them and helps them find new homes. He is also known for his art case collection — often vintage pianos with decorative artwork painted throughout the instrument.

But on top of selling pianos at wholesale prices, he had an extensive career in health, fitness and wellness — while also being a piano performer. 

Stancarone is a former health and fitness director for big-name corporations, adjunct professor and yoga practitioner. He said learning breathing exercises, relaxation and meditation techniques, yoga and marital arts helped cure him of crippling childhood asthma at 11 years old. That experience always stuck with him and, with whatever career path he followed, he always tried to help others the way he was helped, before. 

His piano playing and teaching methods are based on breathing with the diaphragm, relaxing with emphasis on enjoying the playing rather than playing perfectly. He calls his method “piano yoga.”

“I feel that piano playing is wonderful, creative, therapeutic, life-enhancing, stress-reducing vehicle that everyone can enjoy,” he said. “The biggest problem with the piano is that people are intimidated by it, they think, ‘Oh, I don’t have talent,’ or ‘I can’t play it,’ but it has nothing to do with talent.”

He added that interested people just need to sit down and try. The way to success is approaching the keys like one would for meditation or mindfulness.

“I want them to read, relax and clear their heads of everything,” Stancarone said. “To just kind of connect to what I call the musician with them, so that they could just get into the flow.”

So, the new relaxation center is a new way for people to learn piano, learn how to decompress or just jam out. 

“People are looking to get out of the house,” he said. “They’ve all been cooped up. So, something like this is very nonthreatening. It’s very relaxing. It’s very easy and my approach is just now sitting down to play.”

The main thing is just to relax and enjoy the instrument. 

Sonny Stancarone instructing two piano players at his new space. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“My mission is to let people see that everyone can do this,” he said. “And show someone that the piano is the most accessible of all instruments — you can just sit down and you’re making music.”

The space will offer classes of 10 people — each receiving their own spot at a piano. 

“I teach them breathing techniques, stress management techniques, relaxation techniques,” Stancarone said. “We do a little sitting chair yoga … so, it really incorporates a lot of different things.”

The Willows was run by Mrs. Hebee Fowler and located in Port Jefferson at Norton’s Corner, the intersection of East Main and Thompson streets. Photo by Robert S. Feather. Image from Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Boarding houses were ubiquitous in Port Jefferson from the late 19th through the early 20th centuries.

In a typical Port Jefferson boarding house, guests rented one or more rooms, stayed for either a short-term or an extended period, and were provided with family-style meals and other amenities such as laundry services.

Some of the village’s boarding houses were small, private homes where the owners took in one or more lodgers as a way to supplement their income. Others were larger establishments, could accommodate a greater number of guests and operated strictly as a business.

In many cases, it was less expensive to live in a communal boarding house with its limited space and privacy than to stay in one of Port Jefferson’s hotels or to rent an apartment or a single-family home.

Mrs. S. J. Powell sits in front of her boarding house on East Broadway, Port Jefferson. Image from Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

It is difficult to determine the exact number of boarding houses in bygone Port Jefferson since many of their keepers craved anonymity and were known only by word of mouth, but evidence from multiple sources confirms that boarding houses were once everywhere in the village and had a diverse clientele.  

Newspapers provide a rich variety of information about Port Jefferson’s boarding houses and their lodgers. In an 1879 “Board Wanted” advertisement in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, a family noted it was seeking “comfortable and airy” rooms in the village “for the summer” and expected a “first class” table. 

The comings and goings of vacationers who boarded locally was regular fodder in the “Jottings” column of the Port Jefferson Echo which reported that 22 members of the Elks were staying at Mrs. Benjamin Odell’s on Beach Street. 

Besides tourists, Port Jefferson’s boarding houses attracted unmarried workers. The diarist Azariah H. Davis recounted how telegraph operators on tight budgets boarded in rooms above Lee’s Drugstore on the village’s Main Street following the telegraph’s arrival in Port Jefferson in 1880. Census records from that year reveal that the village’s boarders also included newlyweds, transients, retirees and professionals.

Four of the village’s boarding house keepers advertised in Long Island, an 1882 travel guide published by the Long Island Rail Road. The proprietors listed, all women, were Mrs. C. L. Bayles, Mrs. E. B. Gildersleeve, Mrs. E. P. Tooker and Mrs. Hamilton Tooker.

Lain and Healy’s 1892 Brooklyn and Long Island Business Directory identified Port Jefferson’s 11 boarding house keepers, all women. The village’s female proprietors included Phoebe Beale, Ann Conk, Mary Tuthill and Mary Van Zandt.

Summer Homes on Long Island, the LIRR’s 1893 vacation guide, also listed Port Jefferson’s boarding house keepers, the majority women. They included Mrs. S. C. Abrew who charged from $5 to $8 per week for a room and Mrs. George E. Brown who could accommodate 21 guests at her Bay Side Cottage situated at Port Jefferson’s 303 West Broadway.

The Darlington House on Beach Street was listed in a 1908 LIRR travel guide, backed on the west shore of Port Jefferson Harbor, could accommodate 25 guests, and operated seasonally from June through September. 

Renamed Shadow Lawn and kept by Mrs. Daniel Sprague, the boarding house was set ablaze on April 5, 1964 in a controlled burn by the Port Jefferson Fire Department.

The Linden House was located on Linden Place, offered residents “electric lights” and “reasonable rates,” and opened in 1915. In a glowing endorsement of the boarding house, one satisfied lodger said, “The meals are simply swell, and one gets more than it is possible to eat.”

The village’s other notable boarding houses were managed by keepers and located throughout Port Jefferson: Mrs. S. J. Powell (East Broadway); Mrs. Ellis Jones (Vineyard Place); Emma A. Rackett (Thompson Street); Mrs. Hebee Fowler (East Main Street); Louise Patterson (Belle Terre Road); Betty Greene (Bayview Terrace); and Mrs. John G. Clark (East Broadway).

While some boarding houses still survived on Thompson and other local streets as late as the 1960s, their numbers in the village had steadily declined because of several factors:

Automobiles and mass transportation made it possible to work in Port Jefferson and reside elsewhere. Boarding houses, which afforded food and shelter, were replaced by rooming and tourist houses, which furnished shelter alone, but gave their lodgers greater freedom and privacy. 

From left to right: Volunteer firemen George Bone and John Hancock display a sign from Shadow Lawn, a boarding house that once stood on Beach Street. The derelict building was set ablaze on April 5, 1964 in a controlled burn by the Port Jefferson Fire Department allowing volunteers to practice fire-fighting techniques. Photo by Al Semm. Image from PJFD Collection

With rising incomes, middle-class workers left boarding houses for their own homes or apartments, often leaving behind the poor, elderly and unemployed. Boarding houses were seen as less respectable, some arguing that their presence among single-family homes destroyed a neighborhood’s integrity and depressed property values.

Despite these legitimate concerns, boarding houses contributed to Port Jefferson’s economic growth by providing lodging for the employees in the village’s many industries, boosting ancillary businesses particularly real estate and establishing Port Jefferson as a vacationland. 

Boarding houses also improved the social status of the village’s women, enabling them either to generate additional household income or make an independent living.

Perhaps most important, Port Jefferson’s welcoming boarding houses introduced thousands to the village in the comfortable surroundings of a home away from home.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.