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Port Jefferson Harbor

Road repair after a burst sewage line in East Setauket poured an estimated 350,000 gallons of partially treated water into Setauket Harbor. Photo by George Hoffman

By Mallie Jane Kim

A river of water ran down the steep hill of Gnarled Hollow Road when Sotiria Everett arrived home from work June 4. The water appeared to be coming from under the street at the top of the slope, she said, adding she had to move cones and navigate around Suffolk County Water Authority trucks to reach her driveway.

“It was a disruption for us, obviously,” she said, noting the water to their house was off until about 10:30 p.m. that night. “The other concern is the damage it’s doing now in Setauket Harbor.”

A broken pipe spewed about 350,000 gallons of mostly treated wastewater over about 4.5 hours from the corner of Harbor Hill Road and Gnarled Hollow Road, according to a New York State sewage pollution alert. The water, which hadn’t yet gone through the final step of disinfection, followed surface streets to pour into Setauket Harbor, near Setauket Pond Park.

The place where the effluent entered the tidal harbor is the slowest to flush out and get diluted into the Long Island Sound because of its tucked-back location, according to George Hoffman of the Setauket Harbor Task Force.

The high-pressure pipe that burst originated from a sewer facility that processes wastewater from Stony Brook University and surrounding neighborhoods. It was mostly treated but lacked the final disinfection step, which takes place in Port Jefferson before the treated water is pumped out into Port Jefferson Harbor, a method water quality advocates say is outdated.

“If you were building it now, you wouldn’t be allowed to outfall sewage into the middle of the harbor,” Hoffman said. “We’ve learned so much since then about nitrogen in the harbor.”

Too much nitrogen in area waters leads to various issues, including dangerous bacteria and algae blooms.

But water quality isn’t the only concern with piping effluent into the harbor, according to County Legislator Steve Englebright, D-Setauket.

“There are two broad themes that emerge when we talk about groundwater on Long Island,” Englebright said. “One is quality of water, and the other is quantity of water—this is a little of both.”

Suffolk County draws water from a single-source aquifer, and if more water from that source is pumped into the harbors than is recharged by rain, the aquifer starts to drain.

Coincidentally, that same week, Suffolk County legislators met about modernizing area sewage lines, including the one in question that runs from Stony Brook University to Port Jefferson, according to Englebright.

The group heard a presentation about the possibility of using processed sewage to water athletic fields and other green spaces on Stony Brook University’s campus, as well as St. George’s Golf and Country Club next door. Englebright pointed to Riverhead’s Indian Island Golf Course, which has been watering with effluent since 2016, as a model for this method.

In addition to helping recharge the aquifer, this method obviates the need to buy nitrogen to fertilize the grass since the cleaned wastewater already contains it.

The county is currently working out its budget, according to Englebright, and though he said it’s unclear whether such updates will make it into the budget as a capital improvement this year, he’s glad it is at least on the table.

“The sewer break underlined the urgency and reinforced the timeliness of some of these conversations,” he said. “It is important for us to reassess.”

After the spill, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services warned residents to take precautions when recreating in Setauket or Port Jefferson harbors and closed several area beaches, including Little Bay, Grantland, Bayview, Indian Field, and Bayberry Cove. The county lifted its advisory June 10, after testing showed bacteria was within “acceptable limits” for all areas except Indian Field Beach, which remained closed.

Englebright said the high-pressure pipe may have burst at that point because it takes a turn to be nearly vertical, accommodating the steep grade of the street. “That’s where the pressure was concentrated,” he said.

Regardless of why it happened, area resident Everett hopes it won’t happen again. The bottom of the steep road, she said, is often flooded enough from rainy weather.

“The area is always prone to flooding, and you add that it’s not from Mother Nature, not from rain,” she said. “Any way that could be prevented would be ideal.”

Veterans for Peace Golden Rule sailing into Port Jeff Harbor

The Golden Rule, above, will enter Port Jefferson Harbor tomorrow, May 26, at 6 p.m. Photo courtesy Myrna Gordon

Veterans for Peace Golden Rule will be sailing into Port Jefferson Harbor on Friday, May 26, at approximately 6 p.m. and will be docked at Harborfront Park from May 26-28.

This historic small ship is currently on a journey along the Atlantic coast for educational conversations about peace, nuclear disarmament, clean water and collective consciousness for our environment.

In 1958, as atmospheric nuclear testing heightened the stakes in the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, the Golden Rule sailed toward the Marshall Islands aspiring to stop early atmospheric testing.

The Golden Rule was the first sailing vessel in American history to practice nonviolent activism on the high seas 65 years ago and was the forerunner for today’s better-known Greenpeace ships, as well as the template for every kayak, canoe and outboard motorboat that’s peacefully protested anything in the nearly seven decades since.

The Golden Rule helped ignite a worldwide movement to end nuclear testing and led to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty signed by President John F. Kennedy [D] in October 1963, some five years after the initial action.

The boat has a significant connection to Long Island as its first crew included William Huntington, a Quaker from St. James. In homage to him, a true trailblazer, the Society of Friends, Conscience Bay Quakers Meeting will join members of the Setalcott Nation, the original stewards of our waterfront community, and many other peace and justice organizations in meeting the boat and welcoming its captain and crew.

North Country Peace Group with South Country Peace Group are the sponsors of this event with a special acknowledgment to the Conscience Bay Quakers. We hope everyone can join us.

Myrna Gordon

Port Jefferson

Words matter in immigration dialogue

One of the most beautiful elements of America is diversity. The immigrants who live in our communities contribute to our economy, our culture and our public life. We are a better nation for it.

We have seen a vilification of those seeking asylum at our southern border. This past Sunday, local, state, and federal Suffolk County Republicans held a press conference, announcing a plan to hire legal counsel to block asylum seekers from entering Suffolk County.

Though seeking asylum is legal, county Legislature Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey [R-Lindenhurst] said, “We don’t know who’s coming over.” In doing so, McCaffrey implies that asylum seekers are a danger to us.

U.S. Congressman Nick LaLota [R-NY1] differentiated between documented and undocumented immigrants. Both ignore a basic truth: Asylum seekers are fleeing their countries because of climate change, poverty and political violence. They are not seeking to do us harm. Our federal government must provide assistance and address these root causes in our foreign policy. That is the direction we must take, rather than demonizing and “othering” asylum seekers.

Today’s asylum seekers remind me of my paternal grandfather. As a teenager, he fled Odessa [now in Ukraine] after his father, a practicing rabbi, was murdered in Siberia. My grandfather didn’t consider paperwork — he fled to survive. My grandfather may have had a different religion and skin color than the migrants at the border, but their stories and their humanity are quite similar. As a Jew who has had branches of my family tree cut off by political violence, I know that “Never Again” applies to every one of us, including asylum seekers.

Words matter. When our politicians use xenophobic rhetoric like the county Republicans are, it makes all of us less safe. Will the base they have riled up distinguish between which of their neighbors are documented or undocumented? Did the teenager who murdered Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue in 2008 check his immigration status before ending his life? Rather than learning from our history, the county Republicans seem intent on repeating that harm, all in the name of firing up their base for the November elections.

We cannot accept this in Suffolk. We must seek solutions that bring us all together, rather than divide us up. We must expect more from our elected leaders. If they cannot deliver, we must vote them out and replace them with moral leaders who can.

Shoshana Hershkowitz

South Setauket

Concerns about proposed Maryhaven development

The 19 units in Canyon Creek, which were completed in 1999, are directly impacted by any activities on the former Maryhaven Center of Hope site on Myrtle Avenue. 

All four Port Jefferson Village trustees have met with several of the Canyon Creek Home Owners Association members on-site, and we expressed to them our overall concerns about the proposed development of the site by Beechwood Homes.

Our biggest concern is the proposed nearly 200 units, on the 10-acre site, to be priced at approximately $1 million each, in buildings that would be allowed to be three stories in height, plus the requirement for two parking spaces per unit.

Canyon Creek is located on close to 10 acres and has 19 units. We would hope that the village Board of Trustees would change the zoning to include a requirement of an equal density in the adjoining property. Our quiet and peaceful neighborhood will be detrimentally impacted with the proposal now before the board.

The proposed development plan calls for preserving the old building on the former Maryhaven site, but Beechwood is seeking concessions from Port Jefferson Village to change the zoning code to allow for increased density of residences on the site. The consensus among the homeowners is that while there are positive considerations for preserving the historic building and converting it for residential and recreational use, as proposed by Beechwood, the allowance of an incentive of increased units and taller structures as a tradeoff is absolutely detrimental to the Canyon Creek community. 

There are numerous serious adverse impacts on our community from such a development so close to our backyards: loss of privacy, noise, change in ambience of the surrounding area, increased traffic, water runoff into properties and many more.

We as a community are very concerned that there appears to be a rush to change the code to allow the development of a property that would be inconsistent with the surrounding area without submitting an environmental and traffic study for full public review and comment. 

We recognize that the board’s only role is to alter the zoning code, and we hope that they will take into consideration how all of Port Jefferson will be impacted, as well as the devastating impact it will have on Canyon Creek.

Philip A. Velazquez, President 

Canyon Creek Homeowners Association

Port Jefferson

Plan realistically for future of Port Jeff schools

In commenting in the May 18 issue of The Port Times Record about the third defeat of a 15-year bond proposed by the Port Jefferson School District, Mayor Margot Garant said she hoped the “community would have a little bit more vision and understanding of the consequences.” 

Maybe it’s the mayor and school board that lack that vision and understanding. The community wants answers. Port Jefferson currently spends over $50,000 per student, well above other districts. Our enrollment is declining, with graduating classes projected to drop to near 60 students by 2031. 

Taxes are already projected in the school district’s current financial plan to increase 34% by the 2027-28 school year. After the LIPA glide path expires in 2028, taxes would double if the plant is closed. Mayor Garant said “The norm is like another 10-year glide path to give you a chance to settle into another loss of revenue.” [“Powering down?” May 18, TBR News Media]. Really, another glide path — what norm? 

Over 10 years, Shoreham saw its LIPA taxes — which represented 90% of its budget — drop 10% per year. There was no further assistance. If the mayor knows where Port Jeff would get yet another glide path, please let us know the source, and have their representatives confirm it. And will this white knight also provide additional benefits for Northport and Glenwood Landing, which are on similar glide paths to Port Jefferson?

As an alternative to hoping for a magical rescue, let’s plan appropriately and realistically, with every option considered before we are asked to commit to another long-term bond that would effectively remove several options from consideration. Let’s find out if other districts would be interested in a merger or tuitioning our students. Let’s have an impartial consultant analyze the numbers and determine what our taxes would be with LIPA gone if we continue alone, or with a merger or some combination. 

Also, let’s discuss whether the opportunities for our projected 60-student per grade high school enrollment would be greater, and at less expense, in a merged or tuitioned district.

And will the mayor and school board please stop discounting the feasibility of a merger based on our current school tax rate being so much lower than neighboring districts. That projected rate is 190.11%, according to PJSD’s Summary of Estimated Revenues in the 2023-24 Draft Budget, an increase from 178.46%. Take out LIPA’s assessed value and by my calculations the rate jumps to 330.37% which is equal to or greater than surrounding districts.

Our vision and understanding needs answers.

Robert J. Nicols

Port Jefferson

The reality of closing local generating plants

Your editorial and lead article [TBR News Media, May 18] both address the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed stringent limitations on power plants’ emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that cause the climate change we already see here.

 The EPA’s proposal is consistent with the existing state Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act that mandates similar reductions in New York state of fossil fuel generation and its replacement with renewably generated electricity.

Both TBR pieces recognize that the Northport and the Port Jefferson plants cannot continue for too many more years to be powered by natural gas.

 Your editorial correctly challenges local governments and school districts that have been subsidized by tens of millions of dollars annually that are indirectly paid by other Long Island residents through the taxes on these greatly overassessed properties to start “imagining a future in which those subsidies no longer exist.” These entities should certainly seek state aid to ease this transition, but that is not a long-term solution.

There could be other uses for these sites that are robustly connected to the grid, such as for landing power cables from offshore wind farms, or massive batteries to store electrical energy during times of low renewable generation.

Bruce Miller, former Port Jefferson Village trustee, suggested two possibilities for continued onsite electrical generation. One would be continuing to burn natural gas, while adding equipment to capture the resulting carbon dioxide. This possibility ignores the known substantial leakage of methane — a powerful greenhouse gas — at the well, and all the way to the generating plant. Such carbon dioxide removal equipment does not now exist at scale, and would be rather expensive.

He also suggests burning hydrogen to produce electricity when renewable generation cannot meet demand. Such “green” hydrogen would be produced during the summer from water using renewably generated electricity, stored in large quantities, transported here by pipelines that could not leak even small amounts of climate-changing hydrogen, and burned to produce electricity. The main combustion product would be harmless water. However, the oxides of nitrogen and other polluting combustion products would have to be removed before being released, adding to the cost of the electricity generated. 

There are no certain answers to continued use of these sites for electrical purposes to replace lost tax revenues. Just the opposite is true: The higher the taxes on any new facilities, the more expensive will be their operation and less likely they would be built here.

Peter Gollon

Huntington

Editor’s note: The writer was a LIPA trustee from 2016-21.

EPA power plant standards are cost prohibitive

The EPA’s proposed rules for cutting emissions are so onerous that older generators, like Northport and Port Jefferson as well as hundreds around the country, will be shut down because the expense to upgrade would be prohibitive.

These power stations have operated since the 1960s with incredible reliability and cost-effectiveness. They have blessed Long Island and the communities that host them with tax income and life-sustaining, consistent energy. The developed world survives on this. 

A main difference between our society and the third world is their lack of affordable, reliable energy. It is also a matter of survival. One can broil in the heat and freeze in the cold. One can starve for lack of food and water. One can die from inadequate health care facilities and resources. 

Note well that these power plants have operated within EPA pollution regulations. Now the EPA is moving the goalposts. Companies, towns and cities that have relied on the energy for our civilization will be in mortal danger. 

It is extremely difficult, costly and lengthy to site, plan, permit and build a new power station. The real estate is gone. The possibility of rebuilding an old power station to new standards, repowering, may not be cost-effective, especially if there are the preferential power purchase agreements that put wind and solar electricity ahead of fossil fuel generation.

Another consideration is China, Russia, India and the Global South in general are building fossil-fueled power plants, including coal, at a breathtaking rate — hundreds a year. Decarbonization of New York state and the U.S. power plant emissions will have no effect.

Furthermore, wind and solar power operate on average about 20% of the nameplate capacity of generation. Spinning reserves are mandatory. Battery backup, aside from the huge expense, child labor and devastation to the environment in obtaining rare earths, may work for a few hours. Where is that coming from if Northport, Port Jeff and other power stations are closed?

Planet Earth, throughout its billions of years, experienced much higher temperatures and CO2. In fact, the Holocene period, with the greatest explosion of flora and fauna in history, flourished with way higher temperatures and CO2. Life adapted and thrived. In fact, thousands of scientists confirm there is no CO2 crisis.

Buy some candles if this goes through.

Mark Sertoff

East Northport

Have you seen my wife?

If you live in the village of Port Jeff, I’m sure you have.

The kids and I, however … not so much. Since my wife, Kathianne Snaden, became village trustee in 2019 and deputy mayor in 2021, I sometimes think village residents get to see her more than we do.

When I get home from work, my first question to the kids is, “Where’s Mom?” Their answer in that typical teenage voice is usually, “At a meetinggggg… .”

It seems like my wife is always at a meeting. Board meetings, trustee work sessions, union negotiations, meetings with business owners, meetings with residents, meetings with Suffolk County Police Department brass, and on and on the list goes. When what she does as deputy mayor comes up in conversation and she explains all that she actually does here in the village most residents respond with some variation of “wow, I didn’t realize that you did so much.” All the nice flowers you see planted this week … Kathianne personally worked with the garden center and the parks department to make that happen and so much more.

Kathianne makes so many positive safety and quality-of-life improvements here in the village it would be difficult to list them all in under 400 words.

On top of all that, I think one of the things that really sets Kathianne apart is her willingness to meet with people, be approachable and be open to any inquiry from residents. On more than one occasion, Kathianne and I have been out in the village and she will post online where we are and anyone who wants to talk can come down and sit with us, whether we are at the Farmers Market, watching our kids play at Rocketship Park or even out to dinner. Kathianne makes herself available to everyone.

As a business owner, I recognize the drive and positive spirit my wife has to get anything done that she sets her mind to, and I’ve seen her do it. As a Port Jeff resident, I’m thankful for the great ideas, programs and initiatives she has brought to the village that benefit us all.

As a husband I’m so proud — she impresses me every day. And while it means I (and the kids) still won’t see her that much at home, I urge everyone to vote for Kathianne Snaden for mayor so she can continue to excel for us here in Port Jeff.

William Snaden

Port Jefferson

Sheprow will put residents first

It’s time for a change of direction in Port Jefferson. That’s why I’m proud to endorse my long-time friend, Lauren Sheprow, for mayor.

I’ve known Lauren since our days at Scraggy Hill Elementary. She’s always been bright, dedicated, focused and, most importantly, a great friend. As a single mom, she raised three wonderful children while pursuing a career that ultimately led to her becoming chief media relations officer at Stony Brook University.

I know running for mayor wasn’t in Lauren’s plan. But when she became a village trustee, she saw major decisions being made without any input from residents. So she did what Lauren always does — started asking the tough questions. The concerns she raised, however, even when they identified a potential conflict of interest or a question of ethics, were frequently met with denial or simply ignored. That’s part of the reason she decided to run.

With deep roots in Port Jeff, Lauren has a vision that’s focused on putting residents first. She wants to bring best business practices back, increase transparency and put an end to closed-door decision-making. Lauren is a communications professional and as mayor will work to improve our relationships with the business community — as well as our town, county and state governments — to ensure we’re making the most of all our resources.

She’ll also put an end to wasteful spending. On day one, Lauren will seek board consensus to enlist the expertise of a forensic accountant and an administrative consultant to help bring fiscal responsibility and operational excellence to Port Jefferson.

If, like me, you’re ready for new leadership and a fresh start for the village, I urge you to vote for Lauren Sheprow as our next mayor.

April Quiggle

Port Jefferson

Exploiting bail reform is not a solution

In response to my letter on bail reform [“Eliminating bail reduces recidivism,” TBR News Media, May 4], Jim Soviero takes exception to my use of the term “crocodile tears” [“Local crime exposes bail reform dangers,” May 18] to describe his professed concern for “minorities” that “tragically . . . continue to suffer disproportionately from violent crime.”

This was not an attack on his person or behavior, or an attempt to question the sincerity of his political beliefs. My point was that it seems a trifle presumptuous for Soviero, who is white, to proffer ending bail reform as a cure for the suffering of “minorities” when they themselves overwhelmingly disagree.

The larger point is that exploiting bail reform to excite fear and division for political gain is the worst possible way to actually address the underlying issues behind violent crime. Bail reform isn’t something that was just dreamed up by “leftist think tanks” as Soviero puts it. It was to address a very real problem he ignores, namely, the inequity of a system that condemns people who have not been convicted to days, weeks or even months in jails such as Rikers Island, for, in effect, the crime of being poor. As I noted in my May 4 letter, it is overwhelmingly supported in the minority community. If it’s so harmful to them there’s a very simple remedy  — they can vote out their representatives who support it.

Soviero scoffs at the data presented by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice study I cited, surrounding the word “data” with scare quotes. Naturally, since the data doesn’t support his contention that bail reform is terrible, he would much rather rely on anecdotal evidence that seems to. And for every horror story he could cite where someone was harmed by a person arraigned and released without bail, I could cite a horror story of someone who committed suicide or whose life was damaged beyond repair by being held in jail for days or weeks without being convicted. The point is, this is no way to formulate criminal justice policy. If we don’t use data, what do we use? Who can cite the most sensationalized anecdotes?

New York City Mayor Eric Adams [D], whom Soviero approvingly cited in his original letter denouncing bail reform, recently termed fixing it a “bumper sticker slogan.” Adams is right. Instead of politicians weaponizing this issue for political gain what we need is reasoned discussion of underlying issues. The problems with the criminal justice system are much deeper and more entrenched beyond the obsession with this one issue.

David Friedman

St. James

Editor’s note: This correspondence on bail reform is now closed.

Left to right: Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich, Scott Declue, Joe Cristino and Neil DeVine at the town-operated Port Jefferson Boat Ramp. Photo by Raymond Janis

On a rainy evening in April 2017, Smithtown resident Joe Cristino drove north on Barnum Avenue in Port Jefferson when he approached the intersection of West Broadway.

Between poor visibility and unfamiliarity with the sideroads, Cristino continued straight as the light turned green. This decision would prove to be nearly fatal.

Within seconds, Cristino’s vehicle was in the Port Jefferson Harbor, having plunged off the Brookhaven Town boat ramp just west of the marina. Six years later, he and two indivduals who helped save his life met with Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornriech (D-Stony Brook) at the scene to discuss potential progress.

Cristino recalled the moment he drove off the dock. “I see that I’m in the water, so I screamed out, ‘Help, please help,’ and I saw two people at the dock, and they came running into the water,” he remembered. “Next thing I know, I’m in the hospital.”

Cristino lost consciousness for hours, placed in a medically induced coma. Doctors did not know if he would be brain dead. He remained hospitalized for five days following the incident. 

Luckily for him, there were two good Samaritans — Scott Declue and Neil DeVine — who helped to pull him from the water, saving his life.

Declue, who had braved the 38-degree water to pull Cristino from the car, remembered the trauma of looking into the eyes of a seemingly dying man.

“It’s something you never forget,” he said. “All I remember was looking at him and seeing those eyes, like, ‘You’re my only hope.’” 

Declue recalled Cristino’s precarious physical condition: “He was foaming at the mouth, and when they pulled him out, he was in a [near] rigor mortis form, frozen.” 

DeVine had jumped into the water as well. Along with Tony Barton and Wayne Rampone Jr., DeVine helped to pull a life-rescue line and ring carrying Cristino and Declue, lifting them from the frigid water.

DeVine, a Port Jefferson resident, remarked upon the severity of the moment. “To fail at this attempt would have changed our lives dramatically,” he said.

Cristino, Declue and DeVine remain friends, united by shared trauma. 

Town of Brookhaven officials are working to alleviate longtime public safety concerns over the intersection of Barnum Avenue and West Broadway in Port Jefferson. Under the new plan, above, the town aims to redesign its boat ramp exit while adding landscaping and signage. Graphic courtesy Jonathan Kornreich

Layout changes

In December, Nassau resident Stuart Dorfman was pronounced dead at the scene after driving off the same dock. [See story, “Man suffers medical emergency, drives off dock in Port Jefferson,” TBR News Media website.] Six years after the original incident, the boat ramp remains the same.

DeVine, who passes by the intersection frequently, described an unnerving feeling of hearing about another tragedy. “Reading that in the paper definitely stirred up some feelings there,” he said. 

‘This hopefully will never happen again.’

— Jonathan Kornreich

The Town of Brookhaven is taking tangible steps toward remediating the issue. Kornreich, whose 1st Council District includes Port Jefferson, attended the dock reunion with Cristino, Declue and DeVine.

Kornreich noted that the dock issue first came to his attention after reading about the most recent fatality at the site, after which he approached the town parks commissioner, Edward Morris, asking for a redesign. The commissioner complied with the request. 

“There have been a number of these kinds of incidents,” the councilmember said. “We’re getting ready to repave over here, so as part of that I asked the parks commissioner, and we’ve redesigned” the intersection.

Kornreich presented engineering plans for the redesign, which include closing off much of the existing exit to traffic while adding trees and additional signage. The councilmember said the proposed layout changes should go into effect in the coming months.

Resolutions

Upon hearing the story of Cristino’s near-death experience, Kornreich expressed both consolation for the victim and optimism for the site’s future.

“This hopefully will never happen again,” he said to Cristino. “What you went through, no one should have to endure.”

Assessing the engineering plans, Declue remarked, “This is amazing compared to what’s going on here now.”

‘The only regret is that it didn’t happen sooner.’

— Neil DeVine

On why the safety hazard has stood unchanged for so many years, Kornreich suggested that simple solutions require the necessary public attention and political initiative. “It’s not politics, it’s not complicated,” the councilmember said. “It’s just that someone has to say, ‘Hey, there’s a problem here, and let’s fix it.’”

DeVine conveyed his confidence in the new plan. “The only regret is that it didn’t happen sooner,” he said. “But I’m happy that things are going to get done now, and I’m so thankful that Joe is here with us today.”

Declue noted that tragic events do not always come to tidy resolutions. He thanked Kornreich and the town for recognizing the public’s concern and putting a plan in place. 

“You don’t have good outcomes like this all the time,” he said.

As for Cristino, who opted not to sue the town for the injuries he sustained, he remained appreciative of the potential remedy, though reminding the town not to let up until the intersection is made safe for all.

“Let’s try to get the ball rolling so that no one else will have to suffer a horrible event as I had,” he said.

Slippery slopes

The Village of Port Jefferson and the Village of Belle Terre need to get together about the views from Port Jefferson Harbor. The views to the west side of the harbor are of busy commerce while the east side has historically been a beautiful natural bluff, with houses discretely sited, until the advent of the McMansion. The new buildings are becoming an eyesore, but worse, the steep slopes are eroding.

 

Michael Schwarting

Port Jefferson

Earth Day is every day

Celebrate Earth Day, April 22, every day. Besides recycling newspapers, magazines, glass, plastics, old medicines, paints and cleaning materials, consider other actions which will contribute to a cleaner environment. 

Leave your car at home. For local trips in the neighborhood, walk or ride a bike. For longer travels, consider public transportation. MTA NYC Transit subway, bus, Long Island Rail Road, the buses of Suffolk County Transit, Huntington Area Rapid Transit (HART) and Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) offer various options funded with your tax dollars. They use less fuel and move more people than cars. Many employers offer transit checks to help subsidize costs. Utilize your investments and reap the benefits. You’ll be supporting a cleaner environment and be less stressed upon arrival at your destination. 

Many employers allow employees to telecommute. Others use alternative work schedules, avoiding rush-hour gridlock. This saves travel time and can improve gas mileage. Join a car or van pool to share commuting costs. 

Use a hand-powered lawn mower instead of a gasoline or electric one. Rake your leaves instead of using gasoline-powered leaf blowers. Pollution created by gas-powered lawn mowers or leaf blowers will surprise you. 

A cleaner environment starts with everyone.

Larry Penner

Great Neck

Silence on upcoming school bond vote

Did you hear that? No? Neither did I.

I’m not hearing much about the Port Jefferson School District’s nearly $16 million bond that’s up for a vote soon. It’s the same day as the budget vote on Tuesday, May 16, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School cafeteria.

School tours? Not a word.

Postcard in the mail? Nope. But it must be coming. It’s the law.

Robocall? My phone’s not ringing.

Why the different tactic from last fall’s failed bond proposal when the rusty pipes and other wanted design changes were highlighted for the public? 

Even a recent Facebook post about the school district presenting at a coming Port Jefferson Village public board meeting mentioned the budget and omitted the proposed bond. The district, I was told, must present the budget at the village board. But, apparently, not so much the bond. Further inquiries were being made.

You see where this is going.

You say budgets? Boring! 

You say $16 million bond and some folks might be interested in attending … and voting.

So what is going on here? What’s the secret? Why the silence?

Silence works.

Silence is the sound of a harried resident with no student in the district unaware and uninformed about having their voice heard and their vote recorded on an issue directly affecting their increasingly strained pocketbook. Silence is the enemy of a fair and open government and process. Silence should never be condoned.

Omission, too, is a form of silence. A laryngitis. And it’s happening right before our ears.

I’m reminded of the school district administration’s postcards sent last fall announcing an important meeting for residents that conveniently omitted the then bond proposal. Remember? The district omitted the word “bond” on the postcard, I suspect, to not rally budget-strapped residents. The district, I’m sure, will deny my interpretation but optics matter.

Rinse. Recycle. Repeat. It’s happening again.

Now, the school district is presenting its school budget to the village board and public attendees on May 2 at Village Hall. The proposed $16 million bond should be given equal time, public discussion and attention and not just passing mention as a part of an annual budget presentation. The bond amount, time and date of the vote should be plastered across the village including on a banner across Main Street.

When the district is purposefully transparent, it will have rightfully earned my vote, and maybe yours too. I hope they do.

Until they do, sign up at www.myvillagemyvote.com to be reminded about upcoming important budget votes and elections. If they won’t do it, residents can.

 

Drew Biondo

Port Jefferson

Legitimate issues with wind and solar power

The letter by George Altemose [TBR News Media, April 13] raises some very legitimate issues with wind and solar power. Politicians are often happy to say that power will be 100% carbon free by a certain date. Such claims as Sunrise Wind providing power for about 600,000 homes as Altemose recounts makes clear the claim is about making electricity generation carbon free; the much more difficult issue is to make all energy use carbon free. Currently, electricity generation amounts to one-third of the energy used by New York state, and of that, about half is already carbon free, coming mainly from nuclear and hydro sources. The other energy uses are about one-third for transportation and one-third for everything else, such as heating buildings and industrial uses. The national goal is to decarbonize electrical generation at the same time that other energy requirements are shifted to electricity, for example, electric vehicles and heat pumps. 

Electrical power generation has to be matched with the demand. As Altemose points out, wind and solar are intermittent sources and there are times when more power is needed than they can produce. It is important that the system includes sources that provide a baseline power such as nuclear, and also power that can be turned on when needed such as hydro. Altemose mentions several forms of energy storage systems that would need further development to address the shortfall in renewable energy. Another key component is the ability to import power from other regions where the wind may be blowing or the sun shining, and for this the grid must be modernized and upgraded. The Inflation Reduction Act includes $65 billion to upgrade the grid and make it more resilient. Once the grid is improved then market forces for electricity should help to distribute energy from the whole country to where it is needed. A high voltage DC line can carry power 1,000 miles with only a few percent losses. 

Additional power will need to be added to the electrical system, to account for electric vehicles and heat pumps. Estimates are that this is comparable to the percentage increase in electrical demand that happened when air conditioning became more widespread. It will happen over tens of years and all systems must be improved over that time scale.

This transition to green energy will not be easy, and the fossil fuel companies will continue to fight it tooth and nail, but we must do it to keep the Earth a good place for humankind. The U.S. has put more CO2 into the atmosphere than any other country, including China, so we must lead the solution of this worldwide problem, and it is good for business to do so. 

Peter Bond, Stony Brook 

Gene Sprouse, South Setauket



Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden, left, Michael Schwarting, partner of Campani and Schwarting Architects, center, and trustee Rebecca Kassay. Photos by Raymond Janis

Between rising sea levels, more frequent and intense storms and a changing climate, the Village of Port Jefferson is also addressing longstanding flooding concerns.

Public officials, architects and residents gathered at Village Hall on Wednesday, April 5, sharing updated findings of the ongoing village Climate Resilience Plan in a community workshop. With water targeting the village from all angles, data is being used to develop new intervention strategies.

“The Village of Port Jefferson, Drowned Meadow if you will [the village’s original name], has had unending issues with flooding as a result of topography, tides, runoff, rains, storms, a shallow water table and many other issues,” said Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden. “I believe tonight’s workshop will be extremely helpful in moving Port Jefferson toward the ability to implement a responsible and solid resiliency plan.”

Trustee Rebecca Kassay, the village’s sustainability commissioner, updated the public on the status of the Project Advisory Committee. Composed of residents, contractors, Conservation Advisory Council members and Amani Hosein, legislative aide to Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook), the PAC is pursuing the Climate Resilience Plan for the village with a focus on flooding.

The study is made possible by an $82,500 grant from the New York State Department of State to fund the creation of the Port Jeff plan. Michael Schwarting is a partner of the local Campani and Schwarting Architects, one of the firms hired to carry out various tasks associated with the grant. During the meeting, he updated the public on the study’s findings.

Flooding: an Achilles’ heel

Schwarting analyzed Port Jeff’s long history of flooding using historical aerial photographs and maps. He identified various hidden water bodies, such as Crystal Lake near the fire station and other creeks and streams, flowing beneath the existing built environment in Lower Port.

“The maps tell us a good deal about the conditions, and what we know is that it’s all still there,” he said. “That water is underground, and it doesn’t go away.”

Schwarting said three factors work to exacerbate flooding conditions: rising tides, waters below the surface and low-lying topography. “Those three things interact with one another to cause the problems that we’ve been having in the past, are still having and will have in a worse way, according to predictions,” the architect said.

The village is simultaneously afflicted by water from above, with projections for more frequent and intense precipitation events due to climate change. “The prediction is that the storms are going to increase,” Schwarting said, adding that as global sea levels rise, Port Jeff Harbor is projected to begin spilling over into much of the downtown business district.

Potential solutions 

Despite the challenges ahead, Schwarting maintained that there are some natural remedies to help counteract these threats.

Storm drainage systems and rain gardens, for example, are already in place, collecting and channeling some of the stormwater load into the ground. Bioswales, bioretention planters and permeable pavement systems offer other modes of stormwater discharge and filtration, assigning it a reuse function as well.

The architect also proposed transitioning hardscape surfaces along the harbor, such as the Town of Brookhaven parking lot, as green space, which could add scenic value while acting as a floodwater sponge.

The next stages of the study will involve collecting more resident feedback and defining projects worth public consideration. Schwarting said a similar meeting would take place as those phases progress.

“We will start to move toward solving the problem now that we have spent quite a bit of time understanding the problem,” Schwarting said.

Kassay acknowledged the complexities of the flooding question, referring to these initial findings as “a little overwhelming.” Despite this, she maintained that planning and intervention remain the proper path forward.

“The only thing worse than digging into this problem is to ignore it because it’s happening, whether or not we do something,” she said. “We really need to come together to prioritize, make these decisions and support this work so that it is guided toward the result that you wish to see as a community.”

 

 

To view the full presentation and the Q&A portion of the meeting, see video above. To respond to the Port Jefferson Village Climate Resilience Survey, scan the QR code.

Dragon boats were back in the water during the 8th annual Port Jefferson Dragon Boat Race Festival on Saturday, Sept. 17.

Sponsored by The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, this event is a way to foster community togetherness. It also serves to promote Asian and Asian American culture and customs. 

Barbara Ransome, the chamber director of operations, said dozens of community organizations and business groups participated during the event, bringing together hundreds more community members. 

“This is six months in the making,” Ransome said. “It’s a tremendous amount of organizing, not only with the teams … but all of this entertainment. It’s wonderful to see this all going well, flawlessly and without a hitch.”

A total of 23 teams participated in the boat races. Among the organizations represented in the dragon boat competition were Stony Brook University, Suffolk County Police Asian Jade Society, Mather and St. Charles hospitals, and club teams from as far as New York City, among others.

The day kicked off with the ceremonial “Dotting of the Eyes.” During this ritual, team captains and local officials painted a dragon head. Among them was Port Jeff village trustee Rebecca Kassay, who described the rush of this ceremonial gesture. 

“It was a beautiful moment to dot the eyes and tongue and forehead of the dragon,” she said. “You feel connected with the people around you, and I think that’s something we’re missing these days. To be a part of something where you’re connecting with others is really special.” 

This year was Kassay’s first dragon boat festival. For her, the event was an opportunity to celebrate the community’s rich culture and diverse people. “I am so delighted to see so many people come out, the diversity of people here, and the enthusiasm of everyone here for this cultural event on Port Jefferson Harbor,” Kassay said.

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) also made an appearance. He seemed overjoyed by the festival’s sizable turnout and the many people he encountered throughout the day.

“I’m excited to see our friends here, especially my friends from Long Island Youth Development and the Chinese School at Stony Brook,” he said. “We are excited to enjoy the awakened spirit of Port Jeff Harbor for another year.”

Kornreich also recognized the festival as a cause for celebration. He described the invaluable contributions of Asian Americans and their steadfast commitment to building a stronger community.

“The Asian American population here in our area is growing,” he said. “They have a huge presence and enrich our community so much with their culture and with their friendship, as with their dedication to the community.” He added, “They’re an amazing group of people, and we’re just excited to enjoy this day with them.”

The East Setauket-based LI Youth Development Inc., or LIYD, is a nonprofit organization founded in 2021. The organization is dedicated to supporting the community youth through extracurricular programs. LIYD instructors host weekly sessions to reinforce these skills regularly.

“We started as a way to help teach kids around our communities about different topics and subjects,” said LIYD member Luke Hou. “For example, we have a bunch of different clubs inside of LIYD that each teach their own thing, like tennis club, art club, music club and so on.”

David Wu, one of Hou’s team members, discussed how the lessons of teamwork and cooperation learned from the dragon boat competition harmonize with LIYD’s organizational principles. “Although this is our first year competing, through the practices it has been pretty fun,” he said.

Several dance and choral groups gave moving performances throughout the day. These often paid homage to the cultural and linguistic traditions of the performers.

Video by Bill Doherty

By Donna Deedy

While boating alone just outside of Port Jefferson Harbor over the Labor Day holiday, South Setauket resident Bill Doherty had what he called a once-in-a-lifetime thrill. First, a big splash caught his eye. Then, another. 

Humpbacks, above, devour sea life during a recent whale watching expedition. Researchers attribute more whale sightings to a thriving menhaden or bunker fish population. Photo by Artie Raslich/Gotham Whale

“I kept my eye on the water thinking it could be a boat accident or something,” he said. “I undid the anchor to get a little closer — but not too close — and realized it was a whale.”

For 15 to 20 minutes, Doherty watched in amazement as the whale put on a show spouting and breaching in the water about a mile off Old Field Point. He recorded it on a cellphone video just so he could prove to his friends this was no joke.

A big yacht and another passing boat, he said, cut their engines nearby so the passengers could enjoy the spectacle. 

Whale sightings, as unlikely as it might seem, are becoming more regular events in the New York area, including the Long Island Sound. 

Barrett Christie is director of animal husbandry at The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Conn. His team has been tracking whale activity in the Sound since the museum opened in 1988. 

Almost every year since 2009, Christie said, more and more yachters and fishermen are seeing marine mammals in local waters.

Since 2015 whale counts, predominantly humpbacks but also minke whales, have been ramping up. The aquarium’s annual whale counts range from no sightings at all, to one per year, up to as many as a half dozen or more.

The aquarium’s observations, he noted, are consistent with the findings of other researchers. A Staten Island-based research organization Gotham Whale, for instance, documented in 2011 three whales and five sightings. Recently, the number was up to more than 260. The whale population has become so bountiful around the mouth of New York Harbor, Gotham Whale now coordinates research expeditions with the public in conjunction with five commercial whale watching vessels.

Healthier ecosystems

Scientists praise the Clean Water Act for improving water quality to protect marine habitats. The landmark environmental law, passed in 1972, regulates pollutants from agriculture, industry and wastewater to prevent or limit discharges into waterways.

“It’s taken fish populations more than 30 and up to 50 years to rebound,” Christie said. “We’re seeing not only more whales, but also more Atlantic white-sided dolphin, more seals, more sharks and further down the food chain more sand eels and herring.” 

After a long history of decline, Christie explained that forage fish such as menhaden or bunker and alewife, both in the herring family, have returned to spawn in the many freshwater tributaries that flow into the Sound. 

“The turnaround is miraculous,” Christie said.

Maxine Montello is a wildlife ecologist and the rescue program director at the New York Marine Rescue Center. She teaches a marine mammal and sea turtle course at Stony Brook University. 

After viewing Doherty’s cellphone video, she quickly identified that whale as a humpback. It’s huge pectoral fins, visible as the creature leaped out of the sea, made it easy to distinguish. 

Humpbacks, she said, are baleen whales — they have no teeth. To capture its prey, it swallows and strains seawater through the long and narrow strips of fingernail-like material called baleen that grows out of its jaw. Through this feeding process, it consumes krill, plankton and small fish, such as menhaden.

A flourishing menhaden population in the food chain, researchers are noticing, attracts whales.

In fact, researchers from the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, when conducting aerial surveys, track whales by following menhaden movement. 

Some 15 years ago, they saw few clusters or bait balls of menhaden along Long Island’s southern coastline. Today, Rob DiGiovanni, the society’s chief scientist, said a continuous stream of bunker stretches from Montauk to the New York Bight. Consequently, whales are more abundant there and traveling closer to shore and staying in the area longer. 

Montello and DiGiovanni also praise the Clean Water Act for improving marine habitats. But, with humpbacks near extinction in 1972, another bold act of Congress that year also deserves credit for reviving the whale population. 

“I would say that the Marine Mammal Protection Act has really changed the game for marine mammals,” Montello said. “This act has provided great protection and awareness of these charismatic species.”

This law prohibits hunting, capturing, collecting, harassing or killing marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, seals and manatees.

Whaling once was one of Long Island’s most important commercial industries, according to the Cold Spring Harbor-based Whaling Museum with Cold Spring Harbor, Greenport and Sag Harbor serving as the Island’s three whaling ports. 

Today, people are armed with cameras and spreadsheets instead of harpoons, and more interested in spearheading marine restoration projects that aim to protect rather than slaughter these giant marine mammals. 

If you are lucky enough to spot a whale, scientists want to hear from you with photos. Like human fingerprints, whales bear distinct characteristics on their tails. Gotham Whale has an extensive and growing archive of these tail shots. Through such photos, researchers there have been able to identify and track the activities of 269 individual whales, according to Paul Sieswerda, Gotham Whale’s executive director. 

“It would be interesting to find out if whales — our New York City whales — are the same ones traveling through the Sound,” he said. 

To report whale sightings, contact: Atlantic Marine Conservation Society at www.amseas.org/reportsighting; Gotham Whale at www.gothamwhale.org/citizen-science; The Maritime Aquarium, Norwalk at 203-852-0700.