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Port Jefferson Ferry


By Samantha Rutt

All members of the Brookhaven Town Board at the May 16 meeting sported a green ribbon to signify their support for mental health awareness. “We are all wearing green ribbons … that is for mental health,” town Supervisor Dan Panico (R) said. “Statistics show one in five people in this country have a mental health issue. It is an issue that touches all of our lives, some of our families and what we want in the Town of Brookhaven for you to know you are not alone.” 

Panico continued, “There is help out there. If you feel you need help or a family member needs help, contact the supervisor’s office or your councilperson.”

Moving on to the public hearing portion of the meeting, several applications were addressed including a modified site plan of Mount Sinai Meadows. The plan to amend the excess materials to be removed from the site was approved and will have no financial impact. 

In Centereach, the Centereach Hyundai filed an application for a change of use for the reduction of the building size from 45,150 square feet to 40,091 square feet, update landscaping, lighting and parking areas, special permit for outdoor parking or overnight parking with variances for property located on the north side of Middle Country Road. The application was approved with oversight from the town Environmental Protection Division ensuring no significant impact on the environment. 

Soon after, the board addressed the resolution agenda portion of the meeting. As part of the town’s agreement with the Long Island Housing Partnership, an extension of the initial agreement was granted. This agreement from May 25, 2022, was created under Title II of the National Affordable Housing Act of 1990. The general purposes of the program include expanding the supply of decent and affordable housing, particularly rental housing, for low and very low-income persons. The program is fully supported with HUD Federal funds. There is an adequate budget of $90K remaining resulting in no financial impact.

A request was made by District 1 councilmember, Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) for increased travel efficiency of the Port Jefferson Ferry terminal. The Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamboat Company is currently in the process of a major construction project at the ferry terminal by connecting to a sewer line located in a Port Jefferson Village parking lot. Approval of the councilmember’s request is awaiting state Legislature approval. 

Still pending decision, the application by Staller Associates for a zone change from Business to a Commercial Redevelopment District located on Patchogue Road in Port Jefferson Station. The application, initially submitted in 2021, proposes a demolition of an existing commercial building and an addition of a new mixed-use development. The proposed development includes seven commercial buildings for retail, restaurant, health club, professional/medical buildings as well as 280 dwelling units — 20% of which will be marketed as affordable housing units. 

The next Town Board meeting will be held on June 6 at the Town Hall in Farmingville. For more information about the Town Board visit brookhavenny.portal.civicclerk.com.


Elisa Hendrey of Sound Beach captured this image of the Grand Republic Ferry engulfed in a thick fog at Port Jefferson Harbor on January 25, a result of the unusually warm air temperature of 57 degrees reacting to the colder water

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Pixabay photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This year, when we attended the annual Publishers’ Conference, we experienced high anxiety adventures on both land and sea. Well, in a manner of speaking. 

The gathering of about 40 publishers was held at a venerable hotel in Boston.

We had a nice enough room overlooking some of the downtown, and it wasn’t until the second day that I noted what seemed to be a solitary fruit fly or gnat, perhaps, flying around my head as I was reading. Not paying much attention, I swatted at it, missing it, and continued to read. Later that day, I saw another-or was it the same fellow-in the bathroom? This time I managed to catch him and do him in. 

Deciding to pay attention to what might be turning into a private battle, I stopped at the desk in the lobby on my way to the next workshop and explained the situation to the clerk, who might have regarded me dubiously but nonetheless agreed to send up a combat team to the room. They, too, seemed unconvinced until we spotted two more such bugs hanging out on my pillow. They sprayed, assured us the problem was solved, and left, telling us there were no other rooms. Busy with the conference, I accepted that decision and went on with my schedule.

That night, in the dark, we were bitten. Nervously, we awaited the dawn, and upon our dire accounting to the front desk clerk, the management changed our room. 

Victory at last. And the hotel did graciously extend an accommodation on the tab when we checked out.

But the excitement in our trip was not ended. We were supposed to leave for home Saturday afternoon. Remember what the weather was like this past weekend? Right around the time of our planned departure, a tropical storm with ferocious winds was moving toward the New England coast from the South and another storm was about to batter the shore from the Atlantic, We were between them.

Should we go? Should we stay an extra day? We would be driving into the teeth of the ex-hurricane, even as we were fleeing the storm at our backs. And what about the ferry? We had hoped to sail home on the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry for that last lap, saving ourselves an extra hour-and-a-half drive. Would it be running? If so, did we want to be aboard in the midst of the tempest?

We loaded our luggage into the car, waved good-bye to the several people who told us they would be praying for us, and headed toward the Mass Pike.

To our great relief, the drive from Boston to Bridgeport, while sometimes in a mild rain and under black skies, was an easy and a fast one. The usual traffic on that route had been scared off the roads, the predicted thunder and lightning had not yet appeared, and when we called the ferry company en route, they told us they were still running “for now.”

We waited in the ferry loading area for 50 minutes as daylight ended, it began to pour, and until the next boat arrived. We were rewarded, after they unloaded, by being the first car to board. 

“Was the crossing difficult?” I nervously asked several crew members as I drove on. “It was rough!” came the answer. At least they didn’t sugar-coat, I thought.

The boat rocked, pitched from side-to-side, and anything not tied down crashed to the floor as we powered across the Sound. An occasional loud slam that shook the ferry when we hit a large wave, further reminded us what the water was like in the darkness. We were  ordered to sit; the food concession was closed. Some passengers covered their faces. And then it was over.

“Look, lights!” Someone yelled. We had crossed in under an hour, the fastest in my experience. The overhead door opened in front of us, and as the large ferry was artfully ushered to its dock, we marveled at the skill of the captain.

And then we were home. We slept well that night.

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By Joan Nickeson

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It’s the first leg of vacation and consequently, the first sight of home. 

The Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamboat Company has transported passengers since 1883. 

Most of us refer to the entire operation in port as, simply, “the ferry.” It is a fixture in the lives of Long Islanders and travel across the sound is almost second nature. There’s history here. At a recent member meeting of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, we learned a bit worth sharing from the company’s General Manager, Fred Hall.

The founder, first company president and shareholder of the Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamboat Company was P.T. Barnum. The year 1983, however, marked the modern era when the company built and put into service the first Grand Republic. What seemed megalithic proportions, the ‘new ferry’ ushered in year-round ferry service.

The addition of the Park City in 1986 and the P.T. Barnum in 1999 rounded out a three-boat system. In 2003 the second ferry named Grand Republic joined the fleet and its namesake was sold. 

Currently on weekends three ferries are usually in service for our convenience and enjoyment. Fred explains, “Our annual business generally transports 450 thousand vehicles, serving a million passengers.”

Destinations north include an exciting new amphitheater just two blocks from the Bridgeport ferry dock. The venue is within walking distance, Hall said. 

“We tweaked operations to stick around and slightly delay our departure from Bridgeport. We wanted Long Island passengers attending shows to get on and get home. Hopefully we will do so again next summer,” he said. “We look for ways to work with our communities. It’s one of the reasons we join the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce and others. We appreciate the marketing efforts involved in connecting residents with commerce.” 

This winter the Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamboat Company expects to embark on construction of a new administration building. Stay up to date on tickets, tours, schedules and steamboat news, at 88844ferry.com, by phone at 888-443-3779 or email [email protected].

Joan Nickeson is an active member of the PJS/Terryville community and community liaison to the PJS/T Chamber of Commerce.

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Photo from PJFD

It takes a team.

On Oct. 28, at approximately 7:05 p.m., Port Jefferson Fire Department rescue personnel joined Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau officers to respond to a report of two kayakers in distress in Port Jefferson Harbor.

According to PJFD, the department was alerted initially by the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound of a possible kayaker in distress. 

With help from the Grand Republic — of the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry — two victims were located on the west side of the inlet at the entrance of the harbor clinging to the jetty. 

Fred Hall, vice president and general manager of the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company, said that when two victims were spotted, the ferry captain moved the boat to where a rescue swimmer from Marine 6 entered the water and made contact with a man and woman on the jetty. 

“We used the searchlights on the boat and were able to spot them,” Hall said. “We were happy to come on the scene and help out at the appropriate time.”

Photo from PJFD

Hall said that the boats captain, Michael Purce, helped keep the boat steady as the roughly 30-minute rescue went on. 

PJFD 1st Assistant Chief Soeren Lygum said that when the Coast Guard put out the alert, all three agencies sprang into action within seconds apart. 

Captain Christian Neubert was one of nearly a dozen first responders who helped rescue the duo in the inlet. 

“It was a dangerous situation out there because of the strong current,” he said, adding that it was also high tide, so visibility was difficult because of rocks below the waterline.

Due to those jetty rocks, PJFD Inflatable 14 was deployed from Anchorage Road and used to transport the victims from the jetty to Marine 6. 

Neubert swam into the cold waters to help pull them into the department’s inflatable rescue boat manned by Ex-Chief Brennan Holmes and firefighter Joe Pisciotta. Ex-Chief Charlie Russo operated Marine 6 alongside Lieutenant Geoffrey Markson.

The victims were brought to the boat ramp by Russo and Markson where they were evaluated by Port Jefferson EMS.

Although exhausted, both individuals refused medical attention and ultimately were uninjured. 

“This is a scenario we practice so our rescue personnel are well trained for it,” Lygum said. “Everyone involved did a great job and it’s always a good day when everyone goes home safe.”

SCPD crime scene vans outside Danford's Hotel and Marina in the village. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Suffolk County Police Homicide detectives are investigating a body that washed up near Danfords Hotel and Marina in Port Jefferson at approximately 3 p.m. on Jan. 28.

Detectives said a man in his 40s was discovered in the water. Sources say it was called in when spotted by Port Jefferson Ferry workers.

A police officer at the scene said it appears non-criminal at this time.

An autopsy will determine the cause of death.


Route 112 was proposed for a bike route connecting the Port Jeff and Fire Island ferry. Photo by Kyle Barr

The New York State Department of Transportation is proposing to establish a bicycle route on Route 112 in partnership with the Town of Brookhaven. The resolution was passed unanimously 7-0 Jan. 16.  

Bicycle Route 112 would be a signed on-road bike route between the Port Jefferson Ferry on the North Shore and the Fire Island Ferry on the South Shore. 

The NYSDOT has proposed to Brookhaven that it would utilize certain portions of Town roadways to maximize the safety of the bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists instead of using segments of Route 112 that are unsuitable for safe bicycling. 

A representative from the NYSDOT declined to comment on the proposed bike route stating that the Town and agency plan to have further discussions later in the year on the matter.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said the addition of the bike route, which would begin in her district, will be a positive one. 

“The development of a bicycle route between the Port Jefferson Ferry and the Fire Island Ferry is a positive infrastructure addition to the community for multiple reasons including improved safety for our cyclists,” she said in a statement. “To create greater connectivity between the two ferries and the North and South shores is an added benefit that will increase access and encourage more people to travel between one ferry to the other via bicycle.”

As part of the plan, the NYSDOT would fabricate and install all signs associated with the bike route at no expense to the Town. Brookhaven will periodically inspect the signs and inform the NYSDOT of any replacement signs required and the NYSDOT will fabricate the replacement bicycle route signs. 

Bike Route 112 would utilize Columbia Street from the Town boundary at the Long Island Rail Road to New York Route 25A at Hallock Avenue; Wincoram Way between NY 25 and NY 112; Granny Road between NY 112 and Old Medford Avenue; Old Medford Avenue between Granny Road and Katy Street; Katy Street between Old Medford Avenue and Weidners Lane; Weidners Lane between Katy Street and Shaber Road; Shaber Road between Weidners Lane and Suffolk County Road 83; North Ocean Avenue between the Sunrise Highway South Service Road and the Village of Patchogue boundary line at Lakewood Street.

Suffolk Police searched a vessel at the Port Jeff ferry dock after a suspected bomb threat. Photo by David Luces

Dozens of cars stood idle and residents looked on in curiosity as a small fleet of Suffolk County police officers arrived at the Port Jefferson ferry dock on Sept. 18 around 1:20 p.m.

SCPD responded to the ferry dock after a 911 caller reported a passenger had been overhead discussing the potential to put a bomb on the boats, according to police. 

The incident delayed the 2 p.m. ferry to Bridgeport for close to two hours as police searched the vessel and found no explosives. After interviewing passengers it was determined to be a misunderstanding and the incident was deemed noncriminal in nature.

Around 3:40 p.m., ferry services resumed and cars were allowed to disembark.

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Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. And ages. I was reminded of that fact this past weekend, when a good friend and I went on our annual Tanglewood trip. Situated in the lush green Berkshire Hills in western Massachusetts, Tanglewood is a beautiful estate donated to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and since 1937 the BSO summers there and offers outdoor concerts to the public. As a result of their presence and the huge crowds that they draw, the greater area of Lenox, including Pittsfield, to Stockbridge and even to Williamstown has developed as a mecca of culture. There are many museums, theater, dance and of course good restaurants throughout the neighborhood, making for a fun-filled runaway weekend destination.

Thanks to the Port Jefferson ferry, Tanglewood is an easy two-and-a-half-hour drive from Bridgeport to one of the many motels that accommodate the thousands of visitors. We unloaded our suitcases on Friday night just in time to drive to our seats in the Shed to hear a Mozart piano concerto, followed by Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 9. Content, we navigated the exiting traffic, which is admirably directed by the local police, returned to our motel room and slept.

After a leisurely breakfast, we made the scenic drive to Williamstown and enjoyed a couple of hours in the Clark museum. Their current exhibit, Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes from the Prado, includes works by Titian, Rubens, Tintoretto, Brueghel the Elder, Poussin and many of the other greats of the 16th- and 17th-centuries. These paintings would only have been seen at the time in what were called, “salas reservadas.” These were special, hidden rooms for select audiences, because to display nude bodies was considered sinful and contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church, also to the Spanish Inquisition. On the one hand, the monarchs were charged with upholding the decreed doctrines and moral values, and on the other, they were the primary collectors of these treasured works of art — especially Philip II and his grandson Philip IV.

We left the museum hurriedly to scoot down the road for the Williamstown Theater Festival premiere of “Romance Novels for Dummies” by Boo Killebrew. This delightful play, about two sisters, their relationship and their experiences dating in the big city, was worth the rush to get there. Well acted and staged in a beautiful theater, the play ended just in time for another rush down Route 7 to our seats at Tanglewood.

And this is when the bullying began. We were seated near the front, and I began chatting with the man to my right. He told us he was from Maryland and even tried to help me open a container. But his arm completely covered the narrow armrest between us. I laughingly asked him if he had siblings and therefore had learned to share. I suggested we each take half the armrest for our elbows and demonstrated. He had an empty seat next to him, which I assumed he had paid for since there were no other empty seats anywhere around us. He responded that I should have bought two seats. Then, when the music began, a violin concerto by Sibelius featuring spectacular soloist Augustin Hadelich, he actually pushed my arm off the armrest and jabbed me in the ribs with his elbow.

It’s hard to know what to do in such a situation. People around us were entranced by the magnificent music and I wanted to be, too. But I alternated between being absorbed and being discomforted by the man splayed out beside me. I strained to lose myself in the music, and when it ended I considered explaining my plight to the nearest usher. I didn’t want to cause a scene in one of my “happy places,” yet I clearly couldn’t handle the problem. How frustrating. Almost unwillingly, I approached a volunteer usher, who couldn’t help me directly, but he did bring me to a person in authority. That gentleman promptly changed our seats to what turned out to be an even better location, from which we thoroughly enjoyed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.

Beauty washes away ugly every time.

Fred Hall, vice president and general manager of the Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamboat Company, has been selected as the 67th Ringmaster of the Barnum Festival. The Barnum Festival, founded in 1948, is meant to build community spirit, as well as honor Phineas Taylor Barnum, a successful businessman, community leader and world-renowned showman, who was a resident of Bridgeport.

The festival will run from June 12 to 28, and every year a ringmaster is chosen to lead the festivities. The event, which will be held in various locations throughout the greater Bridgeport area, includes the Wing Ding Parade for Kids, the Ringmaster’s Ball, the Barnum Pub Fest, and the Greater Bridgeport Symphony Pops Concert and Skyblast Fireworks.

Ringmaster Fred Hall, photo from Hall
Ringmaster Fred Hall, photo from Hall

Hall first joined the Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamboat Company in 1976 and became vice president in 1985. He served as a judge on the royal family panel for two years. I recently chatted with Fred Hall about his newly appointed position.

Q. What are the duties and responsibilities of the ringmaster?
A. You are basically the master of all the ceremonies. You’re at almost every event and are the face of the festival. Some specific duties I’ll do is throwing the first pitch at the Long Island Ducks and Bridgeport Bluefish baseball game and putting together a friendly wager between Mayor Bill Finch of Bridgeport and Mayor Margot Garant of Port Jefferson during the game.

Q. Are you essentially the kickoff for every event?
A. Pretty much. I think I have 16 appearances in the month of June alone. One of the events that is not widely know, we actually go to nursing homes and convalescent homes and we put on small shows for the residents. I know we go to more than 10 homes and we do the show and stop in. For some of these folks it’s the highlight of their year. All the past ringmasters told me that is the most rewarding of all the events.

Q. Can you give me a bit of a preview of the show?
A. No, because rehearsal hasn’t even started yet!

Q. Oh, I see. So when does rehearsal start?
A. We need to find out who the winners of the Barnum’s Got Talent Competition on June 13 are. Right after that we go into rehearsals for the small road shows, with myself, the performers and the royal family.

Q. What exactly is the royal family?
A. The royal family is made up of six members: a king, queen, prince, princess, Tom Thumb and Lavinia. To find the king, queen, prince and princess, we ask for two high school juniors in the top 15 percent of their class, one male and one female, from every school we can get in Connecticut. They go through a two-part process; the first is a panel of judges who asks varying questions to each contestant. The two years I served as a judge, my question was “Who was P.T. Barnum?” Not everyone knows about Barnum, the philanthropist or the inventor. So we have to get the word out! After the panel we hold a social event for them, and we are looking for the kids that are getting other kids dancing and socializing. At the end of that event the judges select a king, queen, prince and princess, and they all get scholarships.

Q. Who are Tom Thumb and Lavinia?
A. They were little people that Barnum employed in his circus, and they were also married. So we have a competition with seven- or eight-year-olds. Interviews happen, they get a tour of the museum, and at the end of the event we chose a Tom Thumb and Lavinia, and they comprise the last two members of the royal family.

Q. Can you tell me a little about some specific events, like the Ringmaster’s Ball?
A. It’s a great social event. Last year there were 500 people. There are cocktails, dinner, dancing; and a lot of people from the area show up. We get numerous politicians; last year Governor Malloy attended. It’s a great event. The tickets are $175, and the money helps support the scholarships we give out every year, as well as the various activities during the festival.

Q. What are you most looking forward to this year?
A. Meeting new people, getting to know the entire royal family. There really are some amazing people involved in this festival, and frankly I am in awe of them. The volunteers as well are terrific people. I can’t emphasize enough how much this festival is about the people.

Q. What was the best piece of advice former ringmasters gave you?
A. Just to relax and enjoy it as much as possible. The previous ringmasters and Elaine Ficarra, executive director of the festival, built a tremendous organization here.

For more information, call 203-367-8495 or visit www.barnumfestival.com.