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Port Jefferson Station

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After months of controversy, the Town of Brookhaven’s redistricting process is nearing completion. Earlier this week, the town released its latest proposal to reapportion its six council districts.

While this new map signals progress for the residents of Council District 1, our work is unfinished. This map still splits Comsewogue School District unnecessarily. As this redistricting process enters the home stretch, let’s remember how we got here. 

At the outset, powerful and unknown forces sought to crack Council District 1, targeting Port Jefferson Station and Terryville which share a school district, zip code, library, civic association and chamber of commerce. The original draft maps proposed cutting this hamlet in two, dividing our residents across different council districts. If adopted, these plans could have caused a diversion of public resources away from our area and disrupted years of progress — and future plans — made by our residents.

Seeing that our interests were at stake, the people took action. Civic organizations and business groups mobilized the troops, sending members to public hearings to resist these plans. Many spread the word by writing letters to the editor, which appeared on this page. And our hometown paper regularly covered the issue and vigorously editorialized on behalf of our districts.

The people of Port Jefferson Station/Terryville and beyond presented an overwhelming, unified front — a force too large to be ignored. Confronted by such stark opposition, the redistricting committee had little choice but to acquiesce to the community’s demands, restoring the boundaries of Council District 1 to their previous form.

The Town Board’s new map looks promising for most Comsewogue residents, but not all. Under this plan, the dividing line between CD1 and CD2 is Pine Street, meaning Comsewogue families in the school district east of Pine will belong to Council District 2. 

This year’s redistricting controversy has brought our community together. It has demonstrated the power of civic and business groups in coordinating their efforts. It has taught us there is strength in unity. It has also illustrated the dynamic interplay between a community and a community newspaper. 

When we speak with one voice, there is nothing we cannot accomplish. The Town Board will hold a public hearing on Thursday, Sept. 29, at 5 p.m. On that day, we must tell our elected representatives to bring our neighbors back into CD1. For the betterment of our community, let’s finish our work to the bitter end. No Comsewogue family can be left behind. 

Building upon our successes, we should remember we are not alone in this cause. The Mount Sinai activists were equally triumphant in preventing the splitting of their hamlet. And in CD4, our neighbors in Coram and Gordon Heights continue to fight apparent attempts to gerrymander that area.

The Town Board has a 6-1 Republican majority, and must adopt a new map by Dec. 15. How we proceed over the coming weeks could impact Brookhaven elections over the next 10 years.

Latoya Bazmore and Devon Toney, co-founders of All Included ’N’ Treated (A.I.N.T.), near Ross Memorial Park in Brentwood. Photo by Raymond Janis

After serving out a 17-year state prison sentence, Devon Toney returned to society unprepared for the challenges ahead.

Toney described parole as just another pressurized situation in a string of high-pressure environments that he has experienced since childhood. Parole, he said, only aggravated his post-traumatic stress disorder, stymying any opportunities for upward growth. 

He soon entered the shelter system in Suffolk County, traveling between homeless shelters and health care facilities, his most recent stay at The Linkage Center in Huntington. Eventually, feeling suffocated in the shelters and unable to sleep among strangers, he left that system for a life on the streets. By night, he slept in train stations, bus stations, dugouts and public parks. By day, he stole, often reselling juices and water just to get by. 

Without adequate resources and a lack of attention, Toney said those experiencing homelessness “have to steal,” that life on the streets “causes clean people — healthy people — to become addicts because that’s all they’re around.”

Toney remains homeless to the present day, currently residing near Ross Memorial Park in Brentwood. His story is one of countless examples of how easily one can become homeless after giving up on shelter, falling through the cracks with few opportunities to rise above these dire circumstances.

‘It’s probably one of the most difficult and complex moral and legal issues that I deal with.’

— Jonathan Kornreich

A startling trend

Mike Giuffrida, associate director of the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, a nonprofit that works throughout Long Island to determine better strategies and policies to address homelessness, said he has noticed a recent trend of others fleeing from shelters.

“Although emergency shelter is available to the majority of people who present as having nowhere else to go, we are seeing an increased rate of individuals who are presenting as unsheltered and are living on the street,” he said.

Motivating this shelter shock, Giuffrida sees two principal factors: “The greatest commonality of people that experience homelessness is … significant trauma, likely throughout the majority — if not all — of their lives,” he said. The second factor is the structure of the shelter system, which is constrained by strict guidelines from New York State and “can be retraumatizing for people or the shelter settings do not meet their needs.”

An aversion to communal living is commonplace among those requesting emergency shelter. In addition, occupants of these shelters are often asked to give up considerable portions of their income for shelter payments. “They pay, in some cases, almost all of their income in order to stay in that undesirable location,” Giuffrida said. 

Clusters of homeless encampments can be found in areas throughout Suffolk County. Brookhaven Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) says there are likely dozens of individuals experiencing homelessness in his council district alone, concentrated primarily in Port Jefferson Station. 

Kornreich complained about how he is limited in his capacity to help, saying he wishes that he could do more. “It’s probably one of the most difficult and complex moral and legal issues that I deal with,” he said. “The Town of Brookhaven doesn’t have any functions with respect to social services or enforcement, but because this is an area of concern to me, I try to identify people who might be in need of services and try to either talk to people myself or put them in touch with services.” 

Those services are provided through the Suffolk County Department of Social Services. In an emailed statement, a spokesperson affiliated with DSS outlined the array of options that are available through the department.

“The Suffolk County Department of Social Services offers temporary housing assistance, in shelter settings, to eligible individuals and families experiencing homelessness,” the spokesperson said. “We contract with nonprofit agencies that provide case management services to each client based on their individual needs, with a focus on housing support. Services may include referrals to community agencies, mental health programs, as well as medical services. These services, with the support and encouragement of shelter staff, work in concert to transition those experiencing homelessness to appropriate permanent housing resources.”

In an interview, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide economic challenges have only exacerbated the conditions of homelessness throughout the county. Despite external barriers, he holds that there is room for improvement.

“More could always be done, of course,” he said. “We are — as I’ve said many times before — coming out of COVID and grappling with impacts and effects that we’re going to be dealing with for years to come and that we don’t fully understand yet.” He added, “The Department of Social Services has, throughout COVID, and as we’ve started to move out of that now, worked very hard to fulfill its mission and will continue to do that.”

‘The frustrating part is that we are limited… We are limited in forcing a person to get medical treatment.’

— Sarah Anker

Accepting services: A two-way street

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) detailed the decades-long history of homelessness in Coram. She argues that it is closely tied to other pressing matters facing county government: public safety, access to health care, the opioid epidemic and inadequate compensation for social workers. 

The county legislator also blamed stringent state guidelines that handicap DSS’s outreach efforts. “The frustrating part is that we are limited,” Anker said. “We are limited in forcing a person to get medical treatment.”

Legislator Nick Caracappa (C-Selden), the majority leader of the county Legislature, voiced similar frustrations. He said he is concerned by the growing number of people that reject services from DSS.

“Even though you offer them help, you offer them shelter, and you offer them medical [assistance], they often turn it down,” he said. “They’d rather be out in the cold, alone, in the dark — whatever it is — than seek help. And that’s concerning.”

Emily Murphy, a licensed social worker who wrote a thesis paper investigating homelessness in Port Jefferson Station, said another significant problem is the lack of assistance for undocumented immigrants, whose immigration status bars them from applying for services.

“It’s not a DSS decision, but it comes from higher up, that if you don’t have documentation you can’t receive SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] benefits or shelter,” Murphy said.

This changes during the colder months, according to Murphy, as shelters open their doors to all. Murphy also observed how a lack of political mobilization hampers the homeless community from receiving adequate government representation.

“That was the main thing,” Murphy said, referring to the homeless population. “It was a voice that was so often unheard and unlistened to.”

The gradual downward slope

Joel Blau, professor emeritus of the School of Social Welfare at Stony Brook University, has followed trends in homelessness for decades. He attributes rising homelessness in the United States since the 1970s to the stagnation of wages across that time frame coupled with the rising cost of housing.

“The notion of somebody with a high school education maintaining a decent standard of living is becoming ever more elusive,” he said. “Housing prices, particularly in cities, have escalated a lot, so unless you have two professionals in the family or one person who makes a lot of money, it’s increasingly difficult to get decent housing.” 

Today, a growing number of people are just one step away from losing their homes. “Whether it be an accident or an illness or the loss of a job, all of a sudden they’re plummeting downward and onto the street,” he said.

Evaluating long-term projections of homelessness, Blau said there have been “periods where it plateaus and periods where it gets worse.” On the whole, he said, “the general trend is downward.”

Blau believes the way to remedy the issue is to change the ways in which society is organized. “It would require social housing, decommodifying it so that housing is a right, not something sold for profit,” he said. “And that’s probably, under the present political circumstances, a bridge too far.” In other words, problems associated with homelessness in this country have grown for many years and are likely to continue.

‘We need to let them know that we love and we care about them.’ — Devon Toney

Resurrection: A reason to hope

Toney has partnered with Latoya Bazmore, also of Brentwood, to create A.I.N.T. (All Included ’N’ Treated), a grassroots organization to combat homelessness in the community. 

Toney said his primary goal is to access adequate housing. After that, he intends to galvanize his peers in the community, serving as a beacon for those who are also going through the struggle of homelessness. As someone who has experienced homelessness firsthand and who can relate to the plight, Toney believes he is uniquely situated to be an agent of change and a force of good.

“I need to be the one that interacts with these gang members, these addicts … they need somebody to articulate things to them,” he said. “We need to comfort them. We need to let them know that we love and we care about them.”

To learn more about the A.I.N.T. project, please visit the AIN’T (all included N Treated) Facebook page or visit the group on Instagram: @all.included.and.treated.

By Daniel Palumbo

The Suffolk Progressives political organization hosted a rally for reproductive rights at Resistance Corner in Port Jefferson Station June 25. 

Over one hundred attendees made their voices heard regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 decision Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the 1973 landmark decision Roe. v. Wade and the 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey. 

Among the attendees were Skyler Johnson (D), who is running for New York State Senate District 1, and Suffolk Progressives activist Shoshana Hershkowitz, both of whom shared their passionate thoughts about this monumental reversal.

— Photos by Daniel Palumbo

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.”

Comsewogue Public Library honors original research committee during 55th anniversary ceremony

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), at podium, with Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) during the 55th anniversary celebration of Comsewogue Public Library. Photo by Raymond Janis

Surrounded by officials from the Town of Brookhaven, Comsewogue Public Library members honored their founding research committee during a 55th anniversary celebration.

The library research committee was the group of community members formed in 1966 during the library’s embryonic stage. The original committee members were the first to explore ideas and secure permissions to charter a new library that would serve the Port Jefferson Station and Terryville communities. 

Debbie Engelhardt, CPL director, recounted the early history of the library and the important role the committee played in its development.

“Today we’re shining a light on the library research committee, a group of citizens who banded together and worked toward the goal of establishing a library for the community,” she said. “They formed in 1966 with an original committee of six members, plus an advisor, and followed the steps that New York State requires in order for the state to charter a public library.”

‘It was an act of tremendous vision to see a need and to start planning … We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to this research committee.’ — Jonathan Kornreich

While most of the members of the committee have passed, the library’s archives provide enough information to produce a likely narrative of its early history. Records indicate the committee envisioned the library to be a community hub for scholarship and intellectual enrichment. 

“We do have many documents that help us piece together the timeline from back then,” Engelhardt said. “It appears the committee worked swiftly and that the community was supportive to where they did receive a charter.”

The idea to honor the research committee was first pitched by Jan Kielhurn, daughter of Jasper Newcomer, one of the six members on the committee. Kielhurn said she was browsing for a book one day when she decided to look for a plaque with her father’s name on it. Not finding one, she asked Engelhardt to explore ways to formally recognize the library’s earliest leadership.

“I had come up here to get a book and all the sudden I’m looking around and I realized there was nothing stating my father’s contribution to the start of this,” she said. “I had spoken to Debbie and she told me there was going to be a board meeting and she was going to bring it up then. That’s how all this all came about.”

The daughters of Jasper Newcomer, one of the six original members of the library research committee. Pictured: Lee Kucera (left) and Jan Kielhurn (right). Photo by Raymond Janis

Lee Kucera, Kielhurn’s older sister, remembers their father’s time commitment, dedication and collaboration with other committee members during the founding of the library. “They got together and went to wherever they had to go — several different places — to get the okey dokey on it,” Kucera said. 

In 1967, Newcomer sadly died shortly before the library was inaugurated. At the time of his death, Kucera remembers her father’s enthusiasm for the project. 

“He was very excited about it,” she said. “He was very, very interested in education and reading, and he really felt that was something everybody should have a chance to have.”

Knowing their father’s dreams for the institution and the personal sacrifice he and the committee had made for the betterment of the community, Newcomer’s daughters both agreed that he would be elated if he were around to see the library today. 

“He probably would have been very pleased, probably looking for other ways to help it,” Kucera said. “He probably would have been instrumental in making sure that it had computers.” She added, “This would have been one of his babies.”

During a formal dedication ceremony, Engelhardt presented a plaque with the names of the original members of the library research committee. The plaque will forever enshrine these names in the library’s history, honoring the visionary citizens whose aspirations became reality, and whose imprint is left upon the community into the present day. 

Brookhaven officials present two proclamations to the Comsewogue Public Library. Pictured (left to right): Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Jan Kielhurn, CPL Director Debbie Engelhardt, Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) and Town Historian Barbara Russell. Photo by Raymond Janis

Brookhaven officials were also present at the ceremony. Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said events such as these help to remind people of the reasons for serving the community and the important function the public library plays as a repository of information for its members.

“All good ideas usually start with one or two people talking about something and then it grows,” he said. “Today, the town has issued two proclamations, one acknowledging the tremendous influence of this library on this community, the second on that research committee that started this with an idea.”

‘Libraries make us better citizens. Libraries build better communities. We’re here to celebrate libraries.’ — Ed Romaine

Since his time long ago serving on the Long Island Library Resources Council, Romaine said he has cultivated a deep understanding and appreciation for the valuable work that libraries perform every day in making communities wiser and better.

“They are repositories of a lot of information — not only the books, but all types of multimedia,” the town supervisor said, adding, “It’s where we come to learn about things, it’s where we come to educate ourselves about the world around us. Libraries make us better citizens. Libraries build better communities. We’re here to celebrate libraries.”

Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) was also in attendance. He highlighted the strong foundation laid down by the library research committee, a foundation which still supports the library into the present day. 

“It was an act of tremendous vision to see a need and to start planning,” he said. “We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to this research committee.”

Since the founding of the library, the world has undergone remarkable transformations. These profound changes reshaped the ways in which humans relate to their technologies and to knowledge itself. Kornreich extolled the library’s leadership throughout its 55-year history for its willingness to adapt to changing times in service to the community. 

“Fifty-five years ago when this was built, we wouldn’t have had computers or printers, there was no internet and there was no digital media,” the councilmember said. “They never could have imagined the changes that took place.” He added, “Under the continued wise leadership of our board and our library director, this institution continues to evolve and serve the community.”

‘Modern ideas and a progressive way of thinking I think have always been a part of the vision from back in the 1960s and it remains so today.’

— Debbie Engelhardt

Over a half century after the committee first laid down its foundation, the Comsewogue Public Library continues to exist in a symbiotic arrangement with the community. While men and women like Newcomer foresaw how a public library could foster creative thinking and community enrichment, the library and community members keep that visionary spirit alive today. 

“It’s clear to me that from the research committee to the original library board to the original administration, there was a broad vision for an institution of excellence for this community,” Engelhardt said. “Modern ideas and a progressive way of thinking I think have always been a part of the vision from back in the 1960s and it remains so today.”

The names of the original members of the library research committee: Carol Benkov, Anne Herman, Florence Hughes, Laurence Lamm, Jasper Newcomer, June Tilley, and Gus Basile, advisor.

Sal Pitti (left) and Ed Garboski (right) stand outside of Jefferson Plaza in Port Jeff Station. Photo by Raymond Janis

Local leaders have weighed in on the proposed redevelopment project at Jefferson Plaza on Route 112, south of Hallock Avenue in Port Jeff Station.

Empty storefronts have been an ongoing issue for the PJ Station community. Photo by Raymond Janis

 

The plaza is owned by Staller Associates, a commercial real estate company based in Hauppauge. Staller intends to make a significant investment to redevelop this shopping center, according to leadership from the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association. Under the current plan, the plaza will be zoned commercial and residential. TBR News Media could not reach a representative of Staller Associates for this story.

Edward Garboski, incoming president of PJSTCA, said that a plan to revitalize the plaza has been in the works for nearly a decade. Since its approval, that plan has mostly been dormant until recently.

“Over eight years ago, we did a comprehensive study to create a transit-oriented district,” Garboski said. “We presented it to the Town [of Brookhaven]. They accepted it and it kind of got left on the shelf somewhere. We’ve been working on it behind the scenes, but until we got a new councilperson, now it’s really being pushed.”

Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D) is steering the initiative through town hall. According to Kornreich, redevelopment at Jefferson Plaza will help to revitalize the area.

“Redeveloping a site like that is going to really be vital to the rebirth of the Port Jefferson Station area,” he said. “As far as the town goes, in order to encourage redevelopment of sites like that, there was a new code created to encourage redevelopment to those types of properties.” 

Kornreich said that the change of town code will allow for the construction of residential housing units at the plaza. He added that this change will also promote inclusion for people with disabilities. 

“It’s going to create a greater diversity of housing options, which is something that’s very important for people as they get older and for younger people who are just starting out,” he said. “Also, there’s going to be a significant portion of the residential units there that are dedicated to people with disabilities.” He added, “Having a supportive environment for them that’s also walkable is going to be very valuable to the community as whole.”

Kornreich believes the Jefferson Plaza project will relieve traffic congestion, a problem for Port Jeff Station.

“Residential development generates less traffic than commercial development,” Kornreich said. “When you have a residential unit, people come and go once or twice a day. That same place, if it’s commercial development, is going to have 30, 40, 60 people an hour coming in and out.”

Local leaders expressed optimism that the Port Jeff Station community may soon link up to one of the neighboring sewer districts. The map above shows the geographic areas currently covered by sewers. The Suffolk County Department of Information Technology, GIS Division, granted permission to use data. Map generated by Raymond Janis

The additional step of adding a sewer extension is critical for the realization of this project. According to Salvatore Pitti, outgoing president and incoming vice president of PJSTCA, without a sewer line, redevelopment at the plaza will not be possible.

“One of our big problems here is also sewers,” Pitti said. “If we don’t get sewers, there is no way any of these restaurants or buildings are ever going to work. We’re currently in talks with Suffolk County to try to get sewers here.”

Pitti offered several possible sewer plant locations to which Jefferson Plaza could be attached in the future. He said the most ideal scenario would be to link the area to the Tallmadge Woods sewer district.

“What we’re pushing for is hopefully the Mount Sinai sewage plant, which is Tallmadge,” Pitti said. “Suffolk County is in talks with the town supposedly about trying to expand that sewer plant [to cover more area], but that’s another two-year project before we even hear if that’s going to work or not work.”  

Another important question will be where to put the Port Jefferson Station Post Office, which is presently situated in the plaza. According to Garboski, the post office is under federal lease until 2024, at which point construction can begin. “They have a lease,” he said. “The lease still goes another few years and there are other options as to where they can put the post office.” 

Pitti added, “That’s more of a federal thing that is way out of our hands.”

According to Pitti, the businesses that currently occupy the plaza are staples with longstanding ties to the Port Jefferson Station community. He said that it will be a challenge moving forward to accommodate both the aims of the developers and the interests of the business owners who fill those storefronts and who may wish to stay.

“I mean, it’s a business that [the developer] has to work out with the [current tenants] if they want to stay there or if they don’t want to stay,” Pitti said. “Honestly, I think they’re going to pretty much level the place and start construction because, fiscally, I don’t think it makes much sense to do half and half.” He added, “We asked the [developer] to do as best as he can to keep them in our community. Whether that happens or not is unfortunately between him and the [business] owners.”

According to Garboski, the developers are “looking to put in […] about $100 million into this project. That’s going to be a shot in the arm for the local economy. They’re serious, they’re putting serious money into it.”

He said that kind of private investment into the local economy is what the area needs to counteract its gradual decline and will encourage other real estate developers to join in. 

“This is the first project that’s going to get revitalized and when it does, it’s going to set a precedent for the rest of the street and the rest of the developers,” Garboski said.  

Although projects such as these seem to always receive some form of local opposition, Kornreich believes the community will soon notice the positive impact of redeveloping Port Jefferson Plaza.

“People get nervous sometimes when new projects are being proposed,” the councilmember said. “I’ve never seen a project that was universally loved from day one, but generally speaking once stuff gets built and people see it and they realize the positive change it has on the community, people tend to like it most of the time.”

Stock photo

By Tara HiggIns

Port Jefferson Village Justice

Patricia Maureen Higgins (maiden name Phillips), was born on May 6, 1931, in Jersey City, New Jersey, the first-born child to Brigid Dunne and John Francis Phillips. She was followed by her two brothers, Jack and Bob. Pat was the salutatorian of her eighth-grade class, second only to her life-long closest friend, Aunt Gebs. 

Photo from Kate Higgins

When she was 15, Pat met Joe Higgins on a bus on the way to a dance at the Polish Hall. Five years later they were married at St. Anne’s Church. Deeply devoted to their faith, they welcomed eight children into the world. They were an inseparable union for 70 years, navigating the highs and lows and challenges that life brings. 

Joe worked long hours while mom worked equally hard at home, raising eight kids, the oldest in college, the baby in diapers, and every age and stage in between. 

The family moved to Long Island 55 years ago. Pat insisted that they move back to New Jersey the next year, but that never happened. She would joke that she lived on Long Island for 20 years before she realized that she was on the wrong side of Route 25A. She wasn’t concerned with those sorts of pretentious things; she was a much earthier woman. She took her role as homemaker seriously — the glue that held the family together. She was organized, efficient and diligent in her duties. She had a loving and unique relationship with each of her children and grandchildren. 

Pat was an insightful woman who could assess a person’s character within minutes of meeting them. She had a kind, caring demeanor that made people divulge their problems and secrets. She was an avid reader — she read the newspaper cover to cover — and enjoyed suspense novels. 

And this lady, who never left the house without her hair perfectly coiffed and her lipstick on, enjoyed her children’s sports, and was never absent from a football game, track meet, swim meet or baseball game. 

This feminine lady understood stats and splits, knew a bad baton handoff from a good one, and comprehended the seemingly endless set of rules and exceptions to rules in the game of football. 

She enjoyed the Jets since the days of Joe Namath and the Yankees, and of course, her beloved Derek Jeter. Pat also had a penchant for war movies, cowboy movies and disco music. It wasn’t unusual to get in the car after Pat had been driving it and hear ABBA or Donna Summer blaring on the radio. 

Photo from Kate Higgins

Her house was always filled with the aroma of her delicious food. There was no takeout; Pat cooked every night and could give Julia Child a few suggestions on how to make gravy. Birthday cakes were homemade from scratch with Presto flour, never a box mix, that’s just not how it was done. If you missed dinner, your dinner was left on the counter in a pie plate with a piece of tinfoil on it and your name written in perfect Catholic school penmanship. 

The only time the house didn’t smell of Pat’s delicious cooking was when she was doing a load of white wash, in which case the smell of Clorox would simultaneously burn your eyes and nose. 

Pat and Joe were devout in their faith and active members of this parish since its inception. Now, she will be reunited with those that have left this earth before her including her parents, friends, her first son Paul, who only lived 36 hours, and of course, her dear son Bob, who was taken from this world far too early. 

Pat was the beloved mother of Nancy Sardinia and her husband Ted, Patricia Paddock and her husband Ken, Tara Higgins and her husband Peter Petracca, Kathleen Higgins and her husband Joseph Farley, Joseph and his wife Marybeth, John, Paul and his wife Kate, and the late Robert and his wife Ellen; cherished grandmother of Joseph and his wife Tara, Katherine, Matthew, Marty, Marybeth, P.J., Sean, Bobby, Brigid and her husband John, Siobhan, Fiona, Julia, Colette, Aeva; and great grandmother of Liam, Emerson, and Riley; and devoted sister of Jack Phillips and his wife Sheila and Bob Phillips and the late Barbara.   

Funeral mass and burial were on Wednesday, Feb. 16 at St. James R.C. Church in Setauket where she is now North of  Route 25A.

Donations can be made to Hope House Ministries and Three Village Meals on Wheels.

Editors note: The March 3 issue of the Port Times Record published the wrong name in this obituary. This is the correct version.

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File photo by Kyle Barr

The Sustainable Libraries Initiative recently recognized the Comsewogue Public Library as a leader in sustainability through its award-winning Sustainable Libraries Certification Program.

This initiative guides libraries through a step-by-step process to infuse triple bottom line sustainable decision-making into their library’s policies and actions. 

Through Comsewogue’s participation in the program, they have strengthened their existing community partnerships and expanded into new collaborations. The library staff are keenly aware of the needs of their community, although not always able to directly meet them. 

Forging partnerships with other agencies allows Comsewogue Public Library to leverage this insight and align their services to involve partnering community organizations to ensure that their community’s current and emerging needs are met. The ability to bring agencies and resources together highlights Comsewogue Public Library’s prominent role in establishing and maintaining a thriving and resilient community. 

The Sustainable Libraries Certification designation demonstrates to their community that decision making based on the triple bottom line principles can have lasting and tangible benefits.

“Everything we do now is looked at differently,” said Comsewogue Director Debbie Engelhardt. “Purchases, procedures, policies are put through the Triple Bottom Line lens. We want to be Environmentally Sound, Socially Equitable and Economically Feasible in our decision making.” 

As the library administration and staff worked through the rigorous benchmarking process, they reduced their greenhouse gas consumption through the installation of LED lighting fixtures, new HVAC units, a white roof and an EnergyStar-rated water heater. 

Shredding and recycling events open to the community diverted 3720 gallons of paper and 1349 pounds of eWaste from the landfill. Energy and water savings information was broadcasted to the staff and community, with a representative from PSEG, the community’s energy provider, offering information and energy savings tips to library users. 

Additionally, they collaborated with the Town of Brookhaven to provide a receptacle for the community to continue to recycle glass after household pickup was discontinued. 

To promote empathy and respect for all members of their diverse community, cultural competency training was offered to the staff and the library’s program offerings included several engaging programs that celebrate the variety of multi-cultural heritages of those they serve. 

The library set clear objectives in a new Collection Development Policy that sets out to promote literacy and inclusivity, encourage freedom of expression, and support their community’s interests. They have worked to expand their residents’ access to government services by hosting senior advocates, job fairs, and “Claim Your Unclaimed Funds” program. 

Reflecting on the certification program, Children’s & Teen Librarian Debbie Bush said, “I believe our community better understands how we operate and sees our library as a sustainable leader in the community.” 

International impact 

Comsewogue Public Library is among the first libraries to participate in the Sustainable Libraries Certification Program, the first of its kind in the world. This benchmarking program was developed to assist libraries of all kinds – public, academic, and individual school librarians — to create opportunities to make better choices on behalf of the local and global community. 

The program has been recognized by the International Federation of Library Associations at their 2019 World Congress in Athens, Greece, becoming the first program in the United States to be honored through their “Green Libraries” Award. 

Comprehensive approach 

With categories of actions focusing on each of the three pillars of triple bottom line sustainability such as Energy, Indoor Spaces, Social Cohesion and Resilience Planning, this comprehensive process leads a library toward institutional change that shifts the rationale for every decision to consider the local and global impacts. 

Through this program, libraries work with their communities to listen and learn, allowing local needs to be identified and addressed. Strengthening the relationship between the library and the community they serve builds resilience through stronger connections with many organizations and increased access to information. 

The path to certification through the Sustainable Libraries Certification Program is designed to be flexible for libraries of different types, sizes, and budgets and guided by the communities they serve. Each library that completes the program will select the benchmarks that best fit the needs of their library and community, resulting in a uniquely sustainable organization. 

The Sustainable Libraries Initiative is expanding to enroll libraries throughout the United States, with nearly 50 libraries currently enrolled in the Sustainable Libraries Certification Program. Comsewogue Public Library is the ninth library to be certified through this program.

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Katy Dornick and her student. Photo from Andrew Harris

Comsewogue Special Education teacher Katy Dornick has been working in the district for 12 years, and is a proud graduate of the district, too.

Since her first day working with children with special needs she felt at home. 

“Growing up with a sister with special needs I felt that I can relate to the families and be passionate to help their child succeed,” Dornick said. “I take pride in what I do, and I can relate to each family on a personal level.” 

After many years of waiting to teach the students most in need within the district, she finally got a chance to move up to the high school and teach that special class. 

“This is by far the most difficult class to teach,” said fellow teacher Andrew Harris. “It involves a lot of time, energy, and people management to run the class-and that is before you ever set foot inside the classroom and start teaching.”

He added that in this role, there is a lot of paperwork and medical knowledge required by the teacher. 

“It takes someone with a very strong background and work ethic to make it all work,” he said. 

“Not only that, but the students are the happiest I’ve ever seen them with Katy at the helm.”

During the summer, Dornick could be seen rearranging the areas the children would be working in. 

Katy Dornick and her student. Photo from Andrew Harris

“Classroom management is perhaps one of the most important things to have in place so that everything runs smoothly and is safe,” she said. “Some of my students have critical medical needs,  this is a priority, and I wanted the educational set-up to be perfect.”

When school was back in session, a new “sensory room” was created. A perfect place to bring a child — especially children with autism — it’s a place to help calm an anxious student. 

One student said it was his favorite place in the school.

Recently Dornicik, along with her class took over the responsibility of food collection for our high school. They donate all the food to the district pantry.

She has also guided her students to plan and create personal letters to be included when the district sent out care packages to veterans who have graduated from Comsewogue High School. One Marine in California was so excited to receive his gift from her class because he also had her as a teacher several years ago.

She has always been active in the local community including the fire department and a coach for sports teams. 

“Katy. Dornick is truly one of a kind,” said Principal Mike Mosca. “What she has done for the students in her class and the Comsewogue Life Skills program is nothing short of exceptional. Visiting her class and her students is certainly one of the highlights of my day.”

Dornick said it’s an honor to teach her classes.

“All I can say is I feel honored to be given this opportunity to teach this class,” she said. “I truly feel like the luckiest person in the room. There is a line in a song by Jordan Davis that stands true for me in this class: ‘Do what you love and call it work.’ There is not a day that goes by when I do not leave this class without a smile on my face. These kids are simply amazing, and they continue to make me proud on a daily basis.”

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File photo by Kyle Barr

Comsewogue Public Library has recently been awarded a 2021 Four Star Library rating by Library Journal. 

Now in its 14th year, the LJ Index of Public Library Service scores libraries across the U.S. by measuring circulation of physical and electronic materials, library visits, program attendance, public computer usage, Wi-Fi sessions and electronic information retrievals. 

Based on these scores, the libraries are given a rating of from three to five stars. 

“We’re excited to share with the communities we serve that their public library has been recognized for excellence by Library Journal, a leading national publication in our field,” said Comsewogue Director Debbie Englehardt. “Comsewogue Public Library’s staff continually delivers collections and services the public needs and wants, and goes beyond, regularly delighting members of all ages with new, innovative offerings. We’ll keep doing just that in 2022!”

Comsewogue Public Library was also designated a Star Library in 2016. 

“If you’re not a Comsewogue Public Library member yet, we encourage you to join so that you can enjoy all we have to offer,” said Head of Adult Services, Lori Holtz. “For your convenience, you can now apply for a CPL card online at cplib.org/join.”

Library Journal’s 2021 scores and ratings are based on fiscal year 2019 data from the Public Library Survey of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Due to the inherent delay in data collection and analysis, the scores reflect pre-pandemic times.