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Port Jefferson Village Code

Port Jefferson Village Hall. File photo by Heidi Sutton

They say the best defense is a good offense.

Port Jefferson Village officials believe it will be better equipped to enforce elements of its housing and building code thanks to its newly approved village special prosecutor. The village board voted unanimously to approve the appointment of attorney Paul Feuer to serve as special prosecutor during a Dec. 18 public meeting. He will serve in the position at a rate of $225 per hour, with a 15-hour monthly cap not to be exceeded without board approval.

Village Mayor Margot Garant said Feuer will be used to pursue cases including, but not limited to, illegal rentals, illegal signage and site clearing. Prior to Feuer’s appointment, Dara Martin Orlando prosecuted all cases on behalf of the village.

“What we’re doing here is we’re splitting out the prosecution of these cases from basically parking violation cases,” Larry LaPointe, deputy mayor and trustee, said, adding he’s known Feuer for about 30 years, calling him highly competent. “These are far more complex than parking cases. They’re not an area in which our present prosecutor is very well versed. I think it’s a good idea to split out the tough cases and to give them to a specialist who can start winning cases in court.”

Feuer’s selection came following the recommendation of Village Attorney Brian Egan and Alison LaPointe, special village attorney for building and planning, according to Garant. The new appointee’s law practice, Feuer & Feuer, is located in Patchogue and specializes in personal injury, real estate and criminal cases. According to his attorney profile on the website, he has been practicing law since 1987 and opened his own practice in Patchogue in 2000.

“There’s some serious cases that involve these illegal rentals,” Garant said, adding the typical slow pace of state supreme court cases, where cases on the local level can sometimes end up, were a motivating factor to establish a better system for handling and ultimately resolving more cases in-house. “Paul is a specialist in this … we are hoping that the people who continue to violate the code will now take us extremely seriously.”

Garant said the village is also considering separating building and housing code violators making court appearances in front of the village justice from parking-related cases, Currently all code violation cases are heard on Tuesday nights.

“If you’re ever up there on a Tuesday…everyone moves through that courtroom very quickly except for these,” Bruce D’Abramo, village trustee, said. “And then everyone with a parking ticket is sitting and waiting.”

The board expects Feuer’s hours to be heavily front-loaded, as it will take him time to get up to speed on existing cases. Garant said the expectation is that Feuer’s handling of the cases should allow the village to divert other dollars from its legal budget to the new special prosecutor, while also reducing the amount of hours spent on the cases by others. D’Abramo suggested Feuer’s appointment could also result in more revenue brought in by the village court, which could assist in paying his hourly rate.

“It could make a real difference, especially when these are serious cases that may go up to the next level, to the state supreme court,” he said.

Chris Bianco, an attorney who sat in on the meeting for Egan, also made the case for Feuer’s appointment.

“They’re the type of cases that invite legal challenges,” he said. “People actually get attorneys for these types of cases and they’re going to nitpick the information, subpoenas if they’re used, and it makes it difficult.”

New policy sets cap on accrual of daily fees while seized boats are in storage

'Kayaks at Bay' by Holly Gordon

By Alex Petroski

In a seemingly ongoing effort to solidify policies regarding the storage of kayaks in Port Jefferson Village, the board of trustees voted to approve additional code changes during an Oct. 16 meeting.

The latest code change will set a minimum opening bid for kayaks and other small vessels previously seized by the village for being left on racks at village beaches past the posted required date for removal to be auctioned off. Each year, residents interested in storage space for their boats enter a lottery, and those selected are permitted to use village racks for the season. Signage near the racks warns owners they need to be removed by Nov. 1, though the village typically allows a several week grace period before it starts seizing abandoned vessels and moving them into storage.

The village still has several unclaimed boats left on racks from the 2016 season, which will be auctioned off Nov. 9. Adherent to the new policy, the minimum bid for any vessel will be $75, or $1 per day in storage plus a $25 fee — whichever total is less. So for example, a vessel in village storage for 10 days would have a minimum opening bid of $35 at auction. Any vessel kept for more than 50 days would have a minimum opening bid of $75.

Signs detailing the Village’s kayak policy are visible year round. File photo by Alex Petroski

“The whole goal is to get this thing rolling,” Village Mayor Margot Garant said during the meeting. The goal behind the connected village policies is to incentivize owners of seized boats to retrieve them from storage while also deincentivizing rack users from leaving them through the winter.

The $1 per day in storage policy makes it less expensive for owners to retrieve abandoned boats then if they were to pay the fines, though they assume the risk of competing with other bidders. The new policy would eliminate the current $10 fee per day for storing abandoned vessels.

Art Worthington, a village resident for more than a decade, is a boat owner who stands to benefit financially from the policy change, though on principal, he said he’s not satisfied with the new rules.

Worthington said during a phone interview, and a village spokesperson confirmed by email, that he stored a 14-foot Sunfish sailboat on village property at the Crystal Brook Hollow Road beach during the 2016 season without a permit, and went to retrieve it for the winter in December 2016, about a month after the posted date warning of possible removal. He said at the time he asked the village by phone if they had seized his boat, and based on his description the spokesperson said it was not in storage. In Sept. 2017, Worthington was granted permission to inspect the storage area, and found that his boat was in fact in the village’s possession. Worthington has since been instructed to bid on his vessel to get it back at auction.

“I’d pay $75 for it, sure, but the bottom line is they’re dead wrong,” he said. “They deprived me of the use of it for a season. They should be giving the people their boats back.”

Worthington said he believes his boat should be returned to him free of charge, and hasn’t decided yet if he will bid on it.

Members of the public can view the vessels up for auction Oct. 27 from 10 to 11 a.m. at East Beach to consider participating in the Nov. 9 auction.