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Port Jeff

Photo from Pixabay

By Jim Hastings

The recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia sent shockwaves around the world. The images of troops, tanks and bombed-out buildings have left many feeling enraged, frustrated and helpless. TBR News Media took to the streets of Port Jefferson and Stony Brook Village to get local residents’ perspectives on the situation. 

 

Photo by Jim Hastings

Debra Saparito, Mount Sinai

“It’s going to affect us as a country, because we can’t have someone just bow to another. We allow that to happen in one portion of the world, then everybody’s going to think, ‘Well, we can do that too.’ We have to step up as a world, whether they’re part of NATO or not. We have to do what’s right for the people. After what we’ve been through in the world in the last two or three years, we have to humble ourselves and look at each other as people.”

 

 

Brian Israel, Setauket

Photo by Jim Hastings

“It’s unbelievable that a sovereign country can be attacked, really, with no real consequences. Understanding that, you know, any military action could cause a larger conflict, but it’s just unbelievable that it was allowed to get this far.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Jim Hastings

Kathryn Schoemmel, Setauket

“It’s scary. I have a family member over there. She’s still in Ukraine. She’s hoping she has a home to go back to.”

Pictured with husband Leon.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Jim Hastings

Ernesto Cruz, Coram

“It’s pretty senseless. It just seems like there’s no real reason to be doing this. We’re getting to a stage where, through social networking and all that, the world’s becoming that much more interconnected and it’s like, we can feel each other’s pain. It’s no longer what the government tells us or what the news tells us. We can see what each person is feeling, truly, through their words and their actions.”

 

 

 

Photo by Jim Hastings

Clara Rosenzweig, Poquott

“I definitely feel horrible for the people going through it. I think it’s completely unnecessary what’s happening over there and I hope that everything gets resolved.”

Kenny Lee, PJ Lobster House’s new sushi chef, inside the restaurant. Photo by Julianne Mosher

It’s now the best of both worlds.

When Benten Fine Sushi and Japanese Cuisine in Miller Place permanently closed in October, members of the community were devastated.

A new opportunity came just this month for Kenny Lee, the former Benten owner, where he has found a new home inside Port Jefferson village’s PJ Lobster House. 

It began when the Lobster House’s owner, James Luciano, started getting tips and requests from mutual customers about Lee. 

“James had another sushi person before who left and the timing just worked out,” Lee said. “I thought it was a good opportunity.”

When the PJ Lobster House moved from Upper Port to Main Street last year, as part of the renovations came a full sushi bar that they didn’t have at their old spot. 

“It’s great to add sushi to the menu, especially with the summertime coming,” Luciano recently said. “There’s no sushi in Port Jeff.”

Luciano admitted that when the previous sushi chef was at the bar, people didn’t come to sit there and indulge. But then Lee came on board and the seats have been filled every night he’s there.

“We’re getting a lot of customers where people are asking for sushi, and then ask if Ken is working,” Luciano added.

Last March, TBR News Media reported that Benten was struggling to keep their doors open due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A GoFundMe was created to help support the sushi restaurant with hundreds of people showing their support.

Unfortunately, Lee said, the closure was inevitable.  

“It was hard finding people to work,” he said. 

Lee and his mother owned the building at 971 Route 25A in Miller Place for nearly two decades, previously owning a place in Mount Sinai for many years before that. 

Lee and his family decided it was best to close instead of dealing with the constant stress.

But the new opportunity at PJ Lobster House is special for Lee — he is a graduate of Port Jefferson high school and is happy to be back in the community.

And while it’s not a carbon copy of his menu at Benten, Lee is bringing a ton of favorites — customers who order the new PJ roll might remember it as Benten #2.

Luciano said that right now they will have sushi available Wednesday through Sunday and will offer lunch, dinner and plan to add seafood towers to the menu.

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John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson. File photo from Mather Hospital

Update: The virtual public hearing has been postponed to Thursday March 3, 6:30 p.m.

A public hearing for the Mather/Northwell Hospital Master Plan will be held by the Port Jefferson Village Planning Board on Thursday, Feb. 10 at 6:30 p.m.

Major aspects of the proposed master plan will include expansion of parking; updates to the emergency and surgical departments; modification of traffic patterns, and more.

The plan would be completed in three or four phases: In phase one, Mather/Northwell looks to: expand its northern parking area; expand and fit-out its emergency department; begin expansion of its surgical department; relocate and build-out its heliport; construct an exterior storage building; and complete North Country Road improvements.

As the result of traffic studies, a new traffic signal is proposed for North Country Road. In phase two, Mather/Northwell would complete the interior of their newly expanded surgical department. 

In phase three, Mather/Northwell proposes to expand their main lobby on the south face of the building. If there is an increased need for parking in the future, Mather would build a parking deck over a portion of the existing south-east parking lot as the plan’s phase four.

Phase one’s northern parking expansion is proposed for the northeast corner of the property, where there are currently multiple acres of woodland and walking trails. 

In comments requested by the Planning Board, the Port Jefferson Village Architectural Review Committee suggested that the parking structure — not the expansion of the northern parking lot — should be the first form of parking expansion.

The comments read, “These issues do concern the fabric, both built and natural, which make up the architectural character of a neighborhood. We also wish to state that we do not object, and in fact strongly encourage, the building of a parking structure of the type shown. We suggest that it should be a first strategy, and therefore in lieu of the additional clearing/removal of natural habitat and walking trails which is proposed.” 

In Planning Board work sessions, Mather/Northwell has expressed that they hope not to build the parking structure because of the expense it would add to the project.

At Thursday’s virtual public hearing, viewers will be given a presentation about Mather/Northwell’s master plan and then be able to give comments via Zoom. 

The Zoom meeting link, project map, and more can be found at portjeff.com/virtualmeetings in the Planning Board Materials section. Anyone wishing to submit comments about this project may do so by emailing or sending a letter with comments to Cindy Suarez at the Planning Department, [email protected]

Comments may be received prior to or within 10 days of the Feb. 10 public hearing. The meeting will be recorded and posted to The Village of Port Jefferson’s YouTube channel.

Towards the conclusion of the Feb. 3 Planning Board work session, board Chair Ray DiBiase said, “Let’s see what the public has to say.”

8565-Port Jeff junior Jenna Jacobs and her sister 8564-Alexa Jacob compete in the 300m dash at SCCC Feb 6. Bill Landon photo

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Photo by Julianne Mosher

The Port Jefferson Free Library has been named as one of America’s star libraries for 2021, according to the Library Journal. 

Recently announced, the Journal stated, “This is the 14th year in which LJ has scored U.S. public libraries on the LJ index of public library service and awarded star library ratings.”

“Because of the unavoidable delay in data collection and analysis, that means this year’s star libraries once again represent not our current pandemic realities, but a sort of pre-pandemic time capsule,” the release noted.

While the ratings come from before the coronavirus, the award is still noteworthy.

“They represent a useful point of comparison,” the release continued. “We’ve interviewed library directors to learn how the pandemic has changed things since these numbers were collected.”

PJFL director Tom Donlon said that last year, in 2020, the library was rated at a four, so the 2021 five-star rating is certainly a win.

“We couldn’t have done it without our staff,” he said. “They were able to pivot quickly from in-person to virtual, along with our great base — our patrons who support us.”

Donlon said he and the rest of the library staff feel “fantastic” about the rating.

“We’re so grateful,” he said. 

He added that the library is continuing to offer exciting programs for residents of all ages. Masks are still required inside the library at all times to help keep staff and the community safe. 

“We’re here to support our community in any way we can,” he said. 

The 25th annual Charles Dickens Festival drew in hundreds with Port Jefferson village transforming into the Dickensian era last weekend.

After a halt in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the community was able to travel back in time (again) decked out in their most festive attire. 

“It’s just such a wonderful destination for the holidays,” said County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). “It’s unique, it’s special and it’s great thing for businesses.”

Characters like the dusty chimney sweeps, Father Christmas, Dickens Mayor, the Town Crier and of course, Scrooge, performed on the village streets and posed for photo ops with visitors and residents, alike. 

The festivities began on Dec. 4 at 11 a.m. with a parade down East Main Street, headed by village officials and former mayor Jeanne Garant and concluded Sunday night.

“We are so proud and grateful that we can bring back this great tradition to the village,” said Mayor Margot Garant. “Not only does it bring an economic boost to our merchants and kick off the holiday season, but it brings good will and merriment to all. I am proud to carry on this tradition and keep it alive in hearts for all near and far.”

— All photos by Julianne Mosher

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On Friday, Dec. 3, village officials gathered at two lanterns on Main Street to remember Nan Guzzetta and Bradley Charles Collins.

Across the street from her home and costume shop, a lantern was named for Guzzetta who passed away earlier this year. 

Guzzetta was a well-known and beloved costumer who dressed local actors and was instrumental with her involvement in the Dickens Festival. 

“I will always look up at that porch and wave to Nan every time I pass that building,” said Mayor Margot Garant.

The group then headed outside the Chase Bank on Main Street to honor Collins, who also recently passed away. 

After the dedications, residents stopped into the Village Center for hot chocolate, cookies and ice skating. Santa also made an appearance on his sleigh for photos.

— All photos by Julianne Mosher

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Photo from Rebecca Kassay

To maintain and keep Port Jefferson village’s pollinator gardens, Trustee Rebecca Kassay has implemented a new program and is looking for volunteers to help. 

According to Kassay, the village is home to several gardens that attract bees, butterflies, insects and some birds that help keep plants and flowers growing. These gardens full of plants naturally attract, feed and provide habitat for different wildlife. 

Starting this week, Kassay is looking for the community to come together and learn about these different gardens. On Friday, Sept. 10 from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m., interested gardeners can meet with like-minded people at Harborfront Park Gardens, to focus on the border along the traffic circle by the Village Center. 

“Whether you’re an avid gardener, or this is your first time working with pollinator plants, we encourage you to join for these hands-on working and learning sessions,” Kassay wrote in the Port Jeff community garden newsletter. 

The program is open to volunteers ages 10 and up. 

“Volunteers will learn about pollinator and native gardens, and their ecological importance, as well as getting to know specific pollinator plants,” she added. “How to care for them, where to source them and more — all while pruning, weeding, digging  and making the village’s pollinator garden’s look as attractive to humans as they look to wildlife.”

There will be two more meet-ups, one on Sunday, Sept. 26 at Harborfront Park and another on Oct. 17 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the triangle garden at High Street and Spring Street. 

Those interested can email Kassay at [email protected]

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Edna Louise Spear Elementary School music teacher Christian Neubert introduced students to music lessons. Photo from PJSD

The Port Jefferson School District welcomed students back for the 2021-2022 school year on Sept. 2. 

Edna Louise Spear Elementary School second grade teacher Carleen Parmegiani
prepared a lesson for her class. Photo from PJSD

Greeted by teachers and administrators throughout the district, students met teachers and classmates while quickly adapting to their new routines as they move forward in an engaging and productive academic year.

Photo by Julianne Mosher

The North Shore of Long Island was hit hard when the aftermath of Tropical Depression Ida swept along the East Coast.

While the storm pummeled the Island Wednesday night, the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Suffolk County. Severe flooding headed down Main Street, E Broadway and the side streets of Port Jefferson, causing damage to local stores, the Port Jefferson Fire Department and Theatre Three.

Photo from PJFD

On Wednesday night the fire department responded to numerous water rescue emergencies, and multiple victims were rescued from their vehicles by its High Water unit. They were joined by the Terryville Fire Department and Mount Sinai Fire Department.

According to the PJFD, in some cases, civilians were found on the roof of their vehicles, or trapped within a floating vehicle. Additionally, a landslide took place on Dark Hallow Road, which left the road essentially impassable with nearly 4-feet of mud and debris.

As a result of the landslide, eight families were evacuated from their apartment building due to unstable conditions of the land.

While fire department volunteers made their ways out to help others, they, too, were victims of the storm. The firehouse on Maple Avenue suffered extensive flood damage.

“Our firefighters did an excellent job coordinating multiple rescues,” said Chief of Department Todd Stumpf. “We have a lot of cleanup ahead, but we are fully in service and able to respond to all emergencies.”

Photo from PJFD

He added that fortunately no injuries were reported during the storm.

Down the street, Theatre Three said they had more than three-and-a-half feet of water inside as of Wednesday morning.

Executive artistic director Jeffrey Sanzel said that the theatre has had its fair share of floods throughout the years, and even though they were more prepared for Ida than others in the past, it was still a hard hit.

“This will be two or three days of cleaning,” he said, “But we’ll get it done and you won’t know what happened.”

Water record-setting levels heading too close for comfort to the stage downstairs. Sanzel said water knocked over and carried one of the dumpsters outside, as well as damaged dozens of costumes, furniture and a beautiful, donated upright piano that is now ruined.

Other businesses like Ruvo and Lavender Fields had flood damage and are currently in the midst of cleaning up.

“Port Jeff was hit again with a flash flood of over 7’’ of torrential rainfall,” said Mayor Margot Garant. “While it hit hard, we remain resilient and continue our work with the state emergency office and state agencies on our flood remediation efforts.”