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Port Jefferson Village

By Serena Carpino

Hundreds of patrons gathered in the village Sunday, Feb. 4, for the finale of the 5th annual Port Jefferson Ice Festival. The first part was held Saturday, Jan. 27.

The festival, organized by the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District and the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, had many activities, including live ice carvings, interactive games such as ice corn hole and ice mini golf, also horse and carriage rides. In addition, attendees could walk around and find ice sculptures purchased by local businesses. 

Retailers could purchase the sculptures for about $300, only half of what they cost to make. Many stores are in full support of the festival because of the business it attracts. 

“I’m totally in support, it brings people out certainly and this is a beautiful weekend,” said Mary Joy Pipe, the owner of East End Shirt Company. “People want something to do in the middle of winter and this is it. I mean, come out, be outside, bring your family and there’s a lot of activity a lot of things to do.”

Pipe explained that her business did not purchase a sculpture this year because of their proximity to businesses that did, but they have bought sculptures in the past. However, they did participate in a raffle that store customers “were able to engage in and we were happy to see them.”

Other business owners shared their love for the festival as well. “It’s a terrific event that brings a lot of happy people,” Sue Hoeffner, owner of Sea Creations, said. “Gets everybody out of the house in the cold weather. It’s such a perfect day, the sun is out. Everybody has a smile.”

Local residents gathered Dec. 29 in front of Port Jefferson Harbor to participate in a ceasefire vigil organized by the North Country Peace Group. The event, held amid the ongoing Israeli-Hamas conflict, aimed to raise awareness and call for an immediate end to the violence in Gaza.

As the clock struck noon, participants displayed signs bearing messages of peace and hope. Speakers from the peace group shared their thoughts on the conflict, urging those present to advocate for diplomatic solutions and humanitarian aid.

“We need to be visible, we need to let people know what our community stands for,” Port Jefferson resident Myrna Gordon said. “We need to let them know that we want a ceasefire, that we want to end these atrocious killings. It’s important for our community to see that we’re here, that we’re not going to go away, and what’s happening now.”

Attendees shared stories of hope, emphasizing the cost of the ongoing conflict.

“We’ve been doing this for over 50 years,” Gordon said. “You do get tired, and you do get worn down by the bureaucracy. But with support like this in our communities, we’re very fortunate to have a very solid community of peace activists, people who are simply working for justice. We just have to stay the course.”

Despite the somber mood, the vigil was also a testament to the enduring human spirit. The shared grief and the collective call for peace created a powerful sense of solidarity among those present.

The ceasefire vigil is just one of many similar events taking place around the world. As the conflict continues, the call for peace grows louder, urging leaders to find a way to end the suffering and bring about a lasting peace.

Downtown Port Jefferson was ready for Santa as the shops and businesses of the village continued a popular tradition this holiday season. 

— Photos by Bill Landon

File photo by Alex Petrosk

The Long Island Seaport and Eco Center (LISEC) seeks boat building/race teams for its annual Sikaflex Quick & Dirty Boat Build Competition, sponsored by the Sika Corporation, to be held at Harborfront Park, 101 East Broadway, Port Jefferson on Aug. 19 and 20.

Now in its 12th year, the event provides would-be boat designers and builders to have a weekend of fun and  showcase their creative skills and talents. Using only a provided supply of plywood, plastic cable ties, and Sikaflex/sealant, two member teams must build, paint and then paddle their design around the village dock in Port Jefferson Harbor located just offshore of Harborfront Park.

Up to 12  2-person  teams will construct a boat in five hours on Saturday and return on Sunday to decorate their boats and prepare to race them at 3 p.m. Trophies will be awarded after the races for design, decoration, first built and race winners. Are you up for the challenge? Download an application at www.lisec.org. For more information, call Len at 631-689-8293 or email [email protected]. 

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Suffolk County Police Sixth Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that seriously injured a motorcyclist in Port Jefferson Village on Nov. 2.

Jeffrey Smith was riding a 2019 Harley Davidson Trike on East Broadway, near Bridle Path, when he struck a deer crossing the roadway at approximately 11:25 a.m. Smith was knocked off his motorcycle and struck his head onto the pavement. The three-wheel motorcycle continued to travel unoccupied for approximately 1⁄4 mile until it drove off the roadway, striking several bushes before stopping in the side yard of 101 Hoyt Lane.

Smith, 77, of Smithtown, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital in serious condition. The deer was gone upon police arrival.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check. Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the Sixth Squad at 631-852-8652.

Port Jeff village historian Chris Ryon, above, poses with a Revolutionary War era whaleboat. The planned “Resolution“ will be similar in style and scale to the above vessel. Photo courtesy Ryon

American history and local tradition are on a collision course here in the Village of Port Jefferson.

Last month, public officials announced that the village government would partner with the Port Jeff-based Bayles Boat Shop to recreate a whaleboat from the American Revolution era. The boat shop is an offshoot of the Long Island Seaport and Eco Center, also known as LISEC, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of maritime history on Long Island. 

Mayor Margot Garant said the village government entered into conversations with LISEC because it sought a way to promote the story of Port Jefferson’s role in the Culper Spy Ring.

“We would have never considered it without having LISEC as a partner,” Garant said. “They just absolutely loved the concept. We brought it to them for the historical component and for helping us tell the story about Port Jefferson’s instrumental role — and the Roe family’s role, in particular — in the spy ring.” She added, “We felt the whaleboat would be a unique way of embracing the history, telling the story and engaging the community.”

In an interview, LISEC president Len Carolan indicated that the buildout would last for up to two years or so. “The boat will be a little bit longer than 25 feet, 6 feet wide, and it will weigh up to a ton,” Carolan said. He added that a project of this scale will also require additional steps: “This is the first time we’re going to be using a lofting platform.”

Lofting is a practice in wooden shipbuilding that enables designers to produce full-scale drawings used as templates. These renderings will help the builders to cut wood pieces with precision and to create a vessel that is as true to the source as possible.

The designers even hope to use the same building materials as the original whaleboats. “Typically, the boats then were built with white oak and white cedar,” Carolan said. “We have access to white oak because that grows here on Long Island. The white cedar, though, is no longer available here, so we’ll have to go a little further north to get the kind of wood we need.”

The term “whaleboat” is a misnomer, denoting the style of the vessel rather than its intended function. Carolan stressed that the operators of the original whaleboats did not use them for hunting whales.

“It’s similar to the design of the boats used to hunt whales, but those boats were much bigger — they were like 32 to 36 feet long,” he said. However, the boat’s design likely offered the patriots certain tactical advantages at sea. “It was easy to maneuver and row, and they were able to raid British ships and get away quickly using these whaleboats.”

Local historian Mark Sternberg is among the key figures involved in this project. Sternberg said he cultivated an interest in local history while growing up in the Port Jefferson School District. Back then, the stories of local patriots left an early impression upon him, inspiring him to pursue the subject more deeply.

“I’m from Port Jefferson … and grew up surrounded by the history here,” he said. “There is a lot of stuff here in Port Jeff that hasn’t been well documented. We have barely even started to scratch the surface of what we know about the spy ring.”

Sternberg foresees the whaleboat serving an array of educational purposes. An operational whaleboat makes possible various historical reenactments, such as Valentine Rider’s misguided plundering of the Roes — whom he had falsely believed were loyalists — and scenes of the numerous whaleboat battles fought in the Long Island Sound.

Sternberg added the whaleboat would help to tell the story of Caleb Brewster, a Setauket native who assisted the American war effort through his participation in the spy ring. Brewster also joined in the famous whaleboat fighting on the Sound. 

Though the name of Brewster’s whaleboat is lost to history, Sternberg recommends naming it “Resolution.” He said this title could still honor the Brewster legacy.

“My recommendation is to call the boat Resolution,” he said in an email. “This was the name of Valentine Rider’s whaleboat; [he was] a patriot privateer who launched from Connecticut to harass perceived loyalists on Long Island. It will work for plundering reenactments, as Valentine Rider and his men plundered the families of Nathaniel and Phillips Roe in May 1781 — the Roes were portraying themselves as loyalists as part of their roles in the Culper Spy Ring.” He added, “The name will also work if we ever try to reenact the intense whaleboat fight of 1782, as Valentine Rider fought alongside Caleb Brewster in that battle.”

Port Jeff village historian Chris Ryon also supports the whaleboat project. He sees the whaleboat as a unique opportunity to showcase two previously distinct strands of local history, connecting the village’s shipbuilding roots to its contributions to the Revolutionary cause.

The whaleboat “pulls it all together,” Ryon said. “It’s one of the earliest histories we have and pulls our Revolutionary War history in with our maritime history.”

Carolan expressed similar enthusiasm for the project. He said he hopes for the public to be able to follow the various stages of the buildout, from the construction of the lofting platform to the completion of the whaleboat. 

He also holds that the whaleboat could be a precursor to similar projects down the road, generating momentum and boosting confidence among those working on it. “We are hoping that it becomes a visible sign to students and local school districts,” the LISEC president said. “And that the entire build from beginning to end is open for the public to see the progress.” 

Carolan added that he hopes the build is the first of many large undertakings for the Bayles Boat Shop and added, “I think it’s going to give us so much more exposure.”

For Garant, sharing the local history of Port Jefferson is essential. By educating locals about their historical origins, she believes residents can better understand who they are, where they come from and their place within that history.

“I think the history is key to who we are,” the mayor said. “I feel one of the responsibilities of local government is to not only embrace that history, but to enrich and save it and work with the community to celebrate it and talk about it.”

METRO photo

During a meeting of the Port Jefferson Board of Trustees on Monday, Aug. 1, trustee Lauren Sheprow suggested building closer ties between the village government and Stony Brook University experts.

Sheprow, who worked as the university communications officer at SBU for over a decade, proposed the creation of a local think tank composed of resident experts whose specialized knowledge could be used in service to the community. We believe that this is a neat idea, worthy of the public’s attention and further exploration.

Long Islanders sometimes forget that there are world-renowned scholars living among us. SBU is the largest single-site employer on Long Island. This institution harbors thousands of faculty members who are trained specialists in their chosen fields.

Citizens can often feel alienated from their local government. Municipal operations — reports, budgets, meetings, hearings and so on — can appear to be endless drudgery at times. Perhaps, innovative thinkers could be the source of new ideas.

With regularity, we read about various scientific and medical breakthroughs made by SBU faculty members. From the sciences to mathematics, the humanities to the arts, SBU students and faculty are changing our world for the better. These are people of immense talent and wisdom, sometimes an untapped resource in solving local problems.

The community would tap into local experts who could offer up their insights on matters that most affect us. Specialists could advise our elected officials to make better decisions. 

This is not without precedent. During the administration of SBU President John Marburger, there was a community advisory council, or CAC, in which such a relationship was forged. It was disbanded some 15 years ago. Perhaps it’s time to bring that back.

Anything that brings the government closer to the people, injecting new blood and ideas into the political process, is beneficial to democracy. We should support our local municipalities in strengthening their ties to local universities. This is good for the government, the university and the people.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Sitting at a bistro table on the sidewalk in Port Jefferson village this morning, sipping my coffee and people-watching, it occurred to me I could be anywhere enjoying such a scene. I was lingering on after a breakfast business meeting, and now alone, I relaxed with this thought. I could be in the many shoreline villages strung along the New England coast or any of the Atlantic fishing ports of the United States, or for that matter, those on the Pacific or the Gulf of Mexico. I could even be in Paris or Rome, although those are not portside locations.

That’s what summer will do to you. The warmth of the sun and the caressing breeze encourage daydreaming.

I saw residents walking their dogs, who, in turn, seemed more interested in what I was eating than in getting exercise. I greeted people I know, but haven’t seen in too long due to COVID, as they strolled by. A friend rolled down his window and waved on his drive up the block, calling out to me from the far lane to ask how I was. Customers at the next table started chatting with me and showing off their young baby, their first. The waitress came out to check on me and asked, “Can I get you anything more or would you just like to enjoy the moment?” Smart young woman, she understood.

We live in a wonderful place with many delightful offerings, but we probably don’t take the time to dwell on that fact. For example, even this past Thursday alone, we could have attended the opening night of the Stony Brook Film Festival, screening indie movies from throughout the world at the Staller Center on the campus of Stony Brook University. Or we might have tapped our feet and kept time with a performance at The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook village. The Huntington Summer Arts Festival has ongoing performances, this past Thursday featuring Lakecia Benjamin & Pursuance that started at 8 p.m. in Heckscher Park.

Also, on Thursday evening, there was the Smithtown Library concert, a lecture on the much-in-the-news sharks at the Whaling Museum in Cold Spring Harbor, a concert in the Show Mobile at Harborfront Park in the village of Port Jefferson, and in Northport Village Park the Northport Community Band continued its summer concert series. The Huntington Manor Fireman’s Fair, Long Island’s largest, started on Thursday at the Henry L. Stimson Middle School in Huntington Station.

And, as they say, so much more.

I’m not even mentioning the movie showings in the moonlight, the largesse of theaters, the art galleries, the farmers’ markets, the U-Pick opportunities, the wineries, the plethora of restaurants and opportunities for boutique shopping, and the glorious beaches to be enjoyed during the day and under the stars at night that are available at different times and days on our Island.

And try the local corn on the cob. This week it has been fabulous.

This may sound daffy to you, but when the weather becomes unbearably hot and humid, and I just want to get out on the water, I have even been known to ride the rear deck of the ferry to Bridgeport and back to Port Jefferson for a poor person’s afternoon cruise. And if you find yourself in need of a little exercise, walk the wooden pathway around Port Jefferson harbor, with or without your dog.

Next week is already August, and soon the summer will be gone, along with many of these attractions. While certainly others remain, we don’t have quite the leisure of mind to enjoy them that summer brings as the calendar turns.

File photo by Heidi Sutton/TBR News Media

The newly configured Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees held its first public meeting on Tuesday, July 5.

Trustee Lauren Sheprow took her seat alongside her colleagues on the board for the first time. After completing her first full day in office, the trustee discussed ways in which she intends to familiarize herself with the mechanics of the village and learn more about the concerns of her constituents.

“I continue to take information in and I’ll continue to seek information from the residents, not because I am not campaigning anymore but because I am really interested in what they have to say,” she said. 

Sheprow will jump headfirst into her first term of office, already securing two important assignments from Mayor Margot Garant: commissioner of communications and commissioner of recreation. Outlining her rationale behind these appointments, the mayor said she intends to tap into Sheprow’s professional experience in public relations and repurpose those skills in service to the community.

“We put her to work as commissioner of communications [because] we want to put her public relations experience and career to work for us,” Garant said, adding, “And also as commissioner of recreation, so that she can help the recs department and because she was a former member of the recs committee.”

As well, Garant congratulated reelected Trustee Rebecca Kassay, who began her second term this week. 

Kassay reported that she received a request to explore code changes related to the planting of bamboo as the roots of this woody grass can cross property lines and create conflicts between neighbors.

“This would address the planting of new bamboo as well as sort of being more clear about when someone has bamboo and it starts creeping over to another property line,” she said. “This is a big issue as far as property values can go and can help prevent neighborly disputes in the future.” 

Trustee Stan Loucks delivered an extensive report on the status of the recreation department as it enters the height of its busy season. He announced that two tennis courts at the country club have been opened for pickleball and will remain minimally open throughout the summer until construction begins at the East Beach bluff.

“We anticipate that the construction of the lower wall along the bluff will be starting sometime in August or early September and if any part of this construction requires working from the top, in other words, working from those tennis courts, then we’re going to have to close those courts,” he said. Loucks added that East Beach and its parking lot will also be closed off during the construction period.

Although golf membership at the country club has exceeded 630 members this year, Loucks said there are no plans to cap membership. He advised community members that while tee times are scarce between 6 and 11 a.m., there are plenty of remaining slots available after this time frame.

Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden used her report to address an ongoing issue related to the recently renovated public bathrooms at Rocketship Park. According to her, the bathrooms were vandalized just four days after they were opened, prompting the board to enforce a closing time for public use of the facility.

“The conclusion we all came to was that because of the vandalism that happened four days after opening our brand new, expensive bathrooms … it is best to keep them closed at 7 p.m. and to have a sign to say that they are closed at 7 p.m. due to the vandalism that is occurring,” she said. This signage will assure that the public knows “when they’re closed and why they’re closed.”

Snaden also informed the public that the village has renewed its intermunicipal agreement with the Port Jefferson School District to allow constables on school grounds. She added that the roadway closure at the intersection of Route 25A and Arlington Avenue remains ongoing.

Garant recognized the village employees who worked to facilitate a smooth election day last month. She also acknowledged all of the candidates who ran for the village board and commended them for their continued commitment to the service of the village.

“I thank you for your involvement, for engaging, for getting out and knocking on the doors,” the mayor said. “You make a difference and we hope that you stay engaged.”

Garant also highlighted the monumental act of heroism on the part of a group of Port Jeff high school graduates. As reported on June 30 in The Port Times Record, these grads left their high school commencement ceremony to help extinguish a fire on Arlington Avenue.

“Brave is not even the word,” Garant said. “Community service is an understatement. … This really says what Port Jefferson is all about.” She added, “The fact that we do have a fire department that helps train our kids and that they are ready to serve under any circumstances is just absolutely amazing and encouraging and amazing to me.”

Photo by Heidi Sutton

PORT JEFF IN BLOOM

In celebration of the 5,000 daffodil bulbs planted this past fall (and currently in bloom) for ‘Plant Port Yellow’ through a beautification grant received from PSEG, the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce will host a food crawl, Blooms and Bites, featuring a selection of small dessert bites and beverages on April 30 from 1 to 4 p.m.   Photo by Heidi Sutton/TBR News Medi

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