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Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce

Two bastions of commerce and culture joined forces on Saturday, Oct. 22, for a night of fright and fun at Port Jefferson Station’s Train Car Park.

The Spooktacular Music Festival was a three-hour production co-hosted by the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce and the local affiliate of the School of Rock, the largest music school franchise nationwide. The event showcased the talents of local student musicians while bringing community members together for a night out.

Tracie and Jaime Smith have owned the Port Jefferson-based franchise of the School of Rock for 12 years. They described the music school as a place connecting like-minded youth with a shared passion for music.

“A lot of the kids that come to the School of Rock don’t quite fit in in public school,” Jaime Smith said. “When they come to our school, they are exactly who they are, and they’re accepted for that, regardless of age, race, it doesn’t matter.” He added, “They all share that common goal of art, and they do a heck of a job expressing that on stage.”

This sentiment held on Saturday night as the student performers entertained hundreds of spectators on the Train Car Park’s main lawn, playing songs across various genres, such as classic rock and punk rock. 

Tracie Smith offered her perspective on the evening, saying that the event closely aligned with the music school’s organizational principles.

“We pride ourselves on getting the kids on stage,” she said. “It’s not just taking a guitar lesson in your basement and never doing anything with it. We get the kids on stage multiple times per year, and they get to rock out,” adding, “It helps them build their confidence and meet other like-minded kids.”

While the School of Rock has held the event in years past, this marked the first year the performance was held at the Train Car Park. Jennifer Dzvonar, president of PJSTCC, was also present during the event and discussed how it all came together. 

“We’re trying to get some more community events over here at the Train Car Park, so together we said, ‘Bring it here, and we’ll do it in collaboration with the chamber,’” she said. “We have some chamber members here setting up some tables. It’s open to the community, free admission, and with live music and fun.”

For Dzvonar, this event marks just the next chapter in a string of recent positive developments for the Greater Comsewogue area. According to her, boosting recreational use at the Train Car Park has been the chamber’s priority for years. 

Now, with the availability of public funds and political will, those plans are bearing fruit. “We have always been trying to get this up and running,” she said. “Phase one is trying to get the park usable for the community, so they’re going to be making a walking path in here, we’re getting a parking lot and we’re going to get a playground.” She added, “Hopefully, that should be completed by the end of this year. If not, then the beginning of next year.”

After these improvements are executed, the chamber plans to use the historic train car on-site for community tourism. In addition, plans are in place to repurpose some of it as office space, providing chamber members with new headquarters.

“Our vision is coming to fruition finally,” Dzvonar said. “This is exactly what we wanted for the community — a place to come, a place for kids and adults, a place for anybody. Basically, the motto of the chamber is to bring local businesses and the community together. This is a hub for that.”

Jaime and Tracie Smith have observed a gradual shift in the area throughout their time running the music school. For them, the arts will continue to play a central role in the area’s burgeoning cultural renaissance.

“What we’ve seen in the over a decade that we’ve been here is a movement toward families and the arts and a dedication to the community,” Jaime Smith said. “There has been a real movement forward toward creating something different here … and music always brings people together.”

Tracie Smith added to this perspective, touching upon how the COVID-19 pandemic has brought more families from New York City onto Long Island. Given these trends, she sees reason for optimism.

“We’ve seen such a nice bump in our enrollment post-COVID,” she said. “We’ve seen a lot of new families, a lot of resurgences, a lot of people moving from the city to come here, so we’re looking forward to the future for sure.”

— Photos by Raymond Janis

Residents traveled to Brookhaven Town Hall, above, to resist two draft proposals on the Brookhaven Redistricting Committee's website. Photo from the town website

For the second consecutive week, the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville community gave a strong display of community solidarity, this time during a public meeting at Brookhaven Town Hall on Thursday, Aug. 11.

Joined by neighbors from around the township, residents spoke out against two proposed maps for the redistricting of Brookhaven Town Council. If approved, the proposed maps would make significant changes to the existing boundaries of Council Districts 1 and 2, severing large chunks of Port Jefferson Station from Terryville and cutting Mount Sinai in half.

Public comments

Logan Mazer, a Coram resident, has proposed an alternative to the maps on the redistricting committee’s website. He told the Town Board that the only two districts requiring change are Districts 2 and 6 — the former being underpopulated and the latter being overpopulated. Because the two districts share a border, Mazer proposed the simple transfer of territory from District 6 into District 2 to correct the population imbalance.

The map of least change “doesn’t really change the political alignment … it doesn’t produce any gerrymandered districts and it protects communities of interest that are being carved up in these new maps for no discernable reason,” Mazer said.

Throughout the evening, Mazer’s map received favorable reactions from those in attendance. Among the supporters of the Mazer map is Lou Antoniello, a member of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, who considered the draft proposal a way to transfer the burden of costs and maintenance into District 1.

“They showed that there was a portion of Mount Sinai — a beautiful section down by Cedar Beach and the surrounding community — which is a high-maintenance area for Mount Sinai that would be swapped out for the relatively self-sufficient area of Terryville,” he said. “I am here tonight to tell you that I don’t think that map is a map that should be voted on.”

Joan Nickeson, a Terryville resident and community liaison for the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, discussed the phenomenon of cracking, a practice in political redistricting that dilutes the voting power of an area by distributing its population across districts.

“It is unconscionable that you would crack our high school from the rest of its district, and crack neighbor from neighbor, and actually cleave members of the chamber of commerce from the chamber of commerce office,” she said. Addressing the board, she added, “I want you to remember to keep [the] 11776 [zip code] together when you go to vote.”

Paul Sagliocca, also a member of PJSTCA, shared the historic neglect of PJS/Terryville. He said that recently, the community has begun to counteract that narrative, introducing a Shakespeare in the Park event at the Chamber Train Car Park and building momentum for positive changes to the area.

Sagliocca asked that the board not impede the development of the area by dividing community members across political boundaries. “It is on the up — we do not need to be divided,” he said. “I would really wish that when it comes time to vote, that Port Jeff Station/Terryville stays in one solid community within District 1.”

Francis Gibbons, a Port Jefferson Station resident and member of the PJSTCA, said the redistricting process has diminished the public’s faith in its institutions. “Why are we continuing with this farce?” he asked. “I believe disenfranchisement brings with it a lack of political faith in our system. When you have a lack of faith, after time it brings civil war.”

Community members were joined by allies from the village of Port Jefferson. Bruce Miller, a former trustee of Port Jefferson Village, criticized the process. He considered the multiple cancellations of public hearings in CD1 as a way to silence the public.

Miller also suggested that the proposed maps fail to advance the interests of the town. “Just leaving Mount Sinai and Port Jefferson Station and Terryville the way they are seems to be a more appropriate strategy,” he said. “All this straining, all these machinations, result in small gains but are a bad look that angers the public needlessly.”

Also attending was Port Jeff Village trustee Rebecca Kassay. Speaking on her own behalf, Kassay told the Town Board that plans to divide Port Jefferson Station/Terryville would impair the village’s own efforts to revitalize its uptown areas.

Citing her history of coordinating with the PJS/T chamber of commerce and the civic association, the village trustee said, “To see the work slowed at all by political lines, by having these two communities needing to go to two different councilmembers, that would surely slow down the work and the progress of the area at large.”

Kassay also described how a breakdown in procedure can alienate ordinary citizens from the political process, leading to cynicism and distrust of their elected officials.

“There are people who truly believe that all politicians get into office and then they serve themselves or they serve their parties, and I don’t want that to continue,” she said. “I want all elected officials to stand up and make decisions and show their allegiance to their constituents and not their party.”

Supervisor’s reply

Following the public comments, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) responded to those in attendance. He thanked the residents for coming out and for expressing their opinions. The supervisor affirmed his trust in the Town Board to listen carefully to constituent concerns.

Romaine also discussed the criteria that he will use to evaluate the proposed maps, saying that he favors a map that offers fewer “splits” of communities of interest.

“As supervisor, I’m going to tell you, I’m going to be looking for a map with less splits,” he said. “Your comments were very helpful. We’re looking for less splits.” Referring to his colleagues on the Town Board, the supervisor added, “I think they’ll sit down and they’ll take all the comments that you said … and they will consider all of them.”

The next meeting of the Brookhaven Redistricting Committee is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 16, at 6 p.m. at Comsewogue Public Library, 170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station, NY 11776.

Brookhaven residents gathered at the Rose Caracappa Senior Center, above, in opposition to the proposed draft maps. File photo

Dozens of local residents turned out on Tuesday, Aug. 2, at the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai to voice their concerns over the proposed redistricting plans for the Brookhaven Town Council.

The meeting was called by the Brookhaven Redistricting Committee, which has recently drawn public scrutiny over proposed maps that suggest significant changes to Council Districts 1 and 2. In an attempt to clear up any confusion surrounding two existing maps circulating on the town’s website, members of the committee held their own deliberations on this matter.

‘These maps, to me, don’t seem sensitive to what communities are and what communities can achieve when they work together.’

— Jonathan Kornreich

George Hoffman, a Setauket resident and member of the redistricting committee, questioned the legitimacy of the draft maps. Under these proposed boundaries, Council Districts 1 and 2 would see significant changes, as half of Port Jefferson Station/Terryville would be swapped for half of Mount Sinai.

During the meeting, the committee announced that it had not yet met with the mapmaker or had any discussion on the maps. To clear up confusion, the board voted unanimously to designate the existing maps as unofficial.

“We don’t have any official maps before us,” Hoffman said. “Every map that’s submitted, either by our attorney or by the public, is going to be given equal weight.”

Public comments

Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook), who currently represents Council District 1, stated that the intended purpose of redistricting is to rebalance council districts based on changes in population. Because his district does not need to adjust for population, he said he was “mystified” when he saw the draft proposals.

“It’s just very disappointing to me to see a map like this get created because I think that people more and more have a sense of cynicism toward their government,” the councilmember said. “There’s a feeling that government serves its own needs more than the needs of the residents, and these maps, to me, don’t seem sensitive to what communities are and what communities can achieve when they work together.”

Leaders representing various community organizations addressed the committee during the public hearing.

Joan Nickeson, a Terryville resident and community liaison for the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, said the proposed maps would divide the community if approved.

“The proposals that were put forth that belong to your mapmaker that you have not yet met cleave our advocacy power with the chamber,” Nickeson said. “They cleave our school district buildings from the other school district buildings, neighbors from neighbors.” She added, “It is unconscionable that these maps got out into the public without the public being able to ascertain where they came from.”

Salvatore Pitti, vice president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, considered the proposed redistricting scheme for Council Districts 1 and 2 nonsensical. According to him, the plans undermine the years of close coordination between the civic association and its representative on the town council.

“It has taken us years to get us to where we are, and now we’re going to start from scratch,” he said. Referring to the draft maps, he added, “It makes no sense. It does not work for our community.”

Francis Gibbons, a resident of Terryville and member of the PJS/Terryville Civic Association, discussed how residents of Port Jefferson Station and Terryville have coordinated their efforts in service to the greater community.

“We have people that have worked together for years to make our communities whole,” he said. “And you think tearing them apart is a good thing?”

Ira Castell, a resident of Port Jefferson Station and member of PJSTCA, referred to Port Jefferson Station/Terryville as a community of interest with longstanding ties to Council District 1.

“It is one of the organizing principles of any redistricting effort to avoid cracking and to unite and retain communities of interest,” he said. “A community of interest is a neighborhood, community or group of people who have common policy concerns and who would benefit from being maintained in a single district.” He added, “Segmenting our community, we will no longer have a united voice to advance our story with one councilperson who represents all my neighbors, with whom I share a common purpose.”

‘Our community does not want to be split.’

— Brad Arrington

Nancy Marr, president of the League of Women’s Voters of Suffolk County, reiterated these objections. “People who share a common history and are connected by common institutions such as community libraries or civic associations should be in the same council district,” she said.

In his opposition to the proposed maps, Brad Arrington, vice president and corresponding secretary of the Mount Sinai Civic Association, defended the preservation of Mount Sinai as a contiguous community.

“Our community does not want to be split,” he said. “Mount Sinai is a community of interest. It is a unified community. And from being on the civic association for 17 years, I can say that we are a very cohesive community.”

The redistricting process remains ongoing. The next meeting will be held Friday, Aug. 5 at 6 p.m. at the Setauket Neighborhood House, 95 Main St., East Setauket. 

Graphic courtesy Valentin Staller

During a meeting of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce on Monday, June 20, the developer of the Jefferson Plaza project presented his vision for its future.

Valentin Staller, vice president of the Hauppauge-based real estate firm Staller Associates, delivered a presentation on the proposed redevelopment of Jefferson Plaza, a property that has been in the family for over half a century.

The history of Jefferson Plaza

Jefferson Plaza shopping center is located on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station. The property was first developed in the late 1950s by Erwin and Max Staller, Valentin’s grandfather and great-grandfather, respectively. For a period, the shopping center was a popular and prosperous commercial hub serving the Port Jeff Station and Terryville communities. However, the plaza experienced its share of setbacks as the area underwent a steep decline.

“The whole commercial corridor began to suffer its challenges,” Staller said. “Certain negative elements within the commercial corridor made it really hard to do business.” He added, “Unfortunately, the pandemic only exacerbated things.”

In 2014, the Town of Brookhaven released the Port Jefferson Station Commercial Hub Study, a 135-page document outlining a comprehensive plan to revitalize the area, emphasizing mixed-use commercial and residential zoning with pedestrian walkability. After being approached by, and entering into negotiations with, the Town of Brookhaven, Staller Associates began to seriously consider redeveloping the property. 

Under the current plan, the site would include a main street, food hall, fitness center, apartments and more. Graphics courtesy Valentin Staller

A redevelopment plan

Staller’s plan includes 49,400 square feet of commercial space, including restaurants and a proposed food hall. The plan accommodates 280 apartments “with a heavy skew toward one-bedrooms.” Staller also said 80% of the apartments will be offered at market rate while the remaining 20% will be designated for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, “a tremendously underserved community as it relates to housing on Long Island,” he added.

When the developers began planning for the redevelopment of the property, they quickly entered into conversations with Suffolk County about extending sewers into downtown Port Jeff Station.

“We recognized immediately that for any redevelopment to occur, whether it’s this property or any other property in the corridor, a connection to sewers is vital,” Staller said.

The goal of the project, according to Staller, is “to create a dynamic, mixed-use suburban environment.” The developers have already undergone several iterations of their site plan with the Brookhaven Planning Department. 

Under the current site plan, the development “is designed to create a much more neighborhood business feel than what exists today and create a more walkable downtown type of environment,” he said. There are also plans to accommodate a fitness and retail center in the plaza. 

At the core of the project is a proposed main street that would include retail stores, restaurants and a food hall. The main street would be distinguished by its “exceptional landscaping and distinct pavers” that are both pedestrian-friendly and promote outdoor dining. 

“We want to be able to close it off for events,” Staller said. “We want to work with the Terryville Fire Department so that we can have things like farmers markets, Oktoberfest, winter holiday markets and St. Patrick’s Day right on our main street.”

Opposite the main street, there are plans to have what Staller calls “the innovation center.” This venue would serve as a gathering space for engineers, entrepreneurs and programmers.

“We want this to be sort of a mini economic development hub right here in this community,” he said. “We want to bring in Stony Brook [University]’s growing engineering department.”

At the south end of the site, Staller proposes to build apartment complexes that are “designed to be tucked away into the site” to avoid pushing up against and obstructing existing neighborhoods in the area. 

Three-dimensional rendering of the proposed redevelopment project at Jefferson Plaza. Graphic courtesy Valentin Staller

Impact on the community

Staller believes the development will stimulate economic activity in the Port Jefferson Station-Terryville community. In order to qualify for a market-rate apartment, Staller said, a prospective tenant must first demonstrate that he or she makes three times the rent before income taxes. 

“If you add all of that together, with 80% [of the apartments] at market rate, there’s a lot of disposable income that is concentrated in this community,” he said. This disposable income, he suggests, will inject $7 million per year into the local economy. 

Jefferson Plaza is uniquely situated near several major employment hubs on Long Island. Among these are Mather and St. Charles hospitals and Stony Brook University. Staller believes that this redevelopment plan will work due to the demand for housing that these centers generate.

Staller summarized his vision as follows: “We’re talking about a major investment in the built environment with purpose-built outdoor dining, great building materials, high quality architecture and landscaping.”

The developers are still at least two years away before they can begin building. In the meantime, there remains much to be worked out with Brookhaven and Suffolk County.

To read about how the local civic association has embraced the redevelopment project, see the TBR News Media March 31 story, “Reimagining Jefferson Plaza.”

Photo from Councilmember Kornreich's office

On April 20, Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich joined members of the Port Jefferson Station /Terryville Chamber of Commerce to celebrate the installation of a new fence at Train Car Park. The park, which is home to one of the last remaining Long Island Railroad electric baggage coach cars, is located at the southeast corner of the intersection of Nesconset Highway (Route 347) and Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station.

Future improvements to the park include enhanced parking, updated signs and a new stage for community events, including “Summer Concert Wednesdays.” Pictured from left to right are Port Jefferson Station /Terryville Chamber of Commerce members Craig den Hartog (Events Director); Jennifer Dzvonar (President); Indu Kaur (Director); Councilmember Kornreich; Kristin Winter (Membership Director); Dee Earle (Director); Joan Nickeson (Community Liaison) and Jeff Kito (Facilities Director).

“We’ve all passed the intersection of Route 347 and Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station a million times. Most people have seen the train car, which is the home of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce and many people have attended one of the amazing events hosted by the Chamber. But despite the best efforts of the community, for far too long this park has not received the attention and resources it deserves. We’ve decided that it’s time for that to change,” said Councilmember Kornreich.

“Working closely with Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber’s board and Commissioner Ed Morris from the Brookhaven Town Parks Department, we have identified the first few steps in helping establish this park as one of the centerpieces of a Port Jefferson Station renaissance. We started with a beautiful wooden paddock fence to help define the space and echo the area’s long equestrian history, but there are many great improvements to come. I look forward to enjoying this space together with the community and taking part of the exciting changes coming to Port Jefferson Station and Terryville.”

Pixabay photo

By Joan Nickeson

Inspired by the beautification of Dutch parks filled with daffodil blooms, Old Town Blooms and the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce are hosting the second annual Daffodil Dash. This hybrid event includes a virtual 5k and 10k, taking place now through the end of April.

The 1k Daffodil Dash fun run/walk/wheel has an in-person option with three trips around the Chamber Train Car Park on Saturday, April 23. Arrive at 9 a.m. for a 9:30 a.m. start. Virtual participants can upload their race times and photos as of April 16. The first 100 registrants receive a t-shirt and a Bloomer Buff. All race participants receive a Daffodil Dash medal. Profits go to community beautification by Old Town Blooms, and the Chamber Flag Fund.

April 23rd was chosen for the 1k Fun Run to commemorate both Earth Day and Arbor Day. Sunburst Tree Experts will be giving away tree saplings to the first 100 attendees this day. There will be also be free bicycle inspections and a shred event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sponsors also include Bass Electric, Buttercup’s Dairy, Christmas Decor, Coach Realty, Emerald Magic Lawn Care, Flushing Bank, Got Poison Ivy, Old Town Blooms, Suffolk Legislator Kara Hahn, Port Jefferson Physical Therapy, Sunburst Tree Experts, Team Perrone Realty, and TREK. The Chamber Train Car Park is located at the intersection of NYS Rte 112/Rte 347/Canal Road. Entrance is on Rose Avenue in Port Jefferson Station. For more information or to register, visit events.elitefeats.com/22daffodil or www.pjstchamber.com. Joan

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

To help maintain social distancing, but still with the holiday spirit, the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce hosted their second drive-thru Santa visit and letter drop off on Saturday, Dec. 4.

President Jennifer Dzvonar said that for decades, the chamber has hosted Santa at the Port Jefferson Station Train Car. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020 they opted for a drive-thru visit, instead. 

During the free event, kids were able to unroll their car windows, say hello to the man in red — who waited in his sleigh— and then pull their cars to a mailbox where they drooped letters to the North Pole. 

“Last year everyone raved about the drive-thru, and everyone seems to enjoy it,” Dzvonar said. 

Raffle tickets were also sold to help the chamber’s flag fund.

— All photos by Julianne Mosher

Get in the spirit of the holidays with a screening of The Polar Express in a real train car!

The Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Chamber of Commerce will host screenings of The Polar Express in the Chamber Train Car, corner of Nesconset Highway and Route 112, Port Jefferson Station on Fridays, Nov. 26, Dec. 3, 10 and 17 at 6 p.m.; Saturdays, Nov. 27, Dec. 11 and 18 at noon, 3 and 6 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 5 at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. $15 per person includes popcorn, a cookie and hot cocoa. To reserve your tickets, visit www.pjstchamber.com.


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Photo from PJSTCC

By Joan Nickeson

A book walk — also known as a story walk — is an innovative and delightful way for people to walk outdoors and enjoy a bit of reading. 

You’ll find a half dozen handcrafted wood podiums for a new book walk, installed in the park at the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce Train Car. 

Photo from PJSTCC

This is the eagle scout leadership project of Enrique Rivera of Boy Scout Troop 354, Port Jefferson Station. These substantial kiosks display information compiled by Jeff Kito, from his archives. He is a former president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce and currently serves as Facilities Director of the Train Car, and you can stroll the park book walk at the intersection of Route 347, Route 112, Rose Avenue and Canal Road. 

The story of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce-early 1900s Train Car comes to life as you walk from page to page. It includes fascinating photos of when it was transported through our streets to its present location. 

The current set of book stands will be supplemented by six more kiosks, to be built and installed by scout Jake Lopez for his future eagle scout project. At that time laminated pages from a children’s book, supplied by the Comsewogue Library, will be inserted on top of the train history pages. This is all protected by plexiglass topper. 

“It is important to note that in light of the constraints due to the pandemic, the boys have had to shoulder the costs of their community projects,” said scoutmaster Bob Pearsall. “Mr. Kito made a substantial contribution to Enrique’s project.”

The Scoutmaster who has been with the troop for 20 years did so, as well. The individual financial support in addition to paint and supplies from Aboff’s, Lowes and other Long Island businesses were critical to pulling this project together. 

Photo from PJSTCC

And what a treat for us. Anytime one can combine reading while walking under the trees of the park is time well spent. It benefits all residents of Brookhaven. Thanks to the many hands involved in this. For more information on the project contact Bob Pearsall at (631) 678-5689

or the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce at (631) 821-1313.

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 PJSTCC

Girl Scouts of Troop 991 got to work on their Silver Award Project at the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce Train Car.

Pictured above are scouts Vanessa Molinelli, Olivia Vecchio and Emily Gaide. Behind them are volunteers pressed into service. 

The Silver Award leadership project is one that scouts plan, prep and execute. These one entrails refurbishing the deck, rails, steps and handicap ramp at the early 1900s baggage coach “train car.” 

The scouts organize schedules, responsibilities and fundraisers. They received building material donations from Home Depot of South Setauket and Margaritas Café Port Jefferson Station have been keeping them fueled.