Tags Posts tagged with "Port Jefferson Village"

Port Jefferson Village

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The site of the planned parking lot on Barnum Avenue. File photo by Kyle Barr

The Village of Port Jefferson finally has an amount attached to plans for the Barnum Avenue parking lot, coming in lower than had been initially anticipated.

The winning bid for the Barnum parking lot was approved at the Feb. 18 village board meeting, showing Connecticut-based F&F Concrete saying it can do the project at $795,069. The company won out over five separate bids. 

At the same meeting, the board approved the $200,000 in jumpstart grant from Suffolk County that was originally announced last year. Unlike other kinds of grants, Mayor Margot Garant said, the jumpstart funds become immediately available after they are approved.

While all the money is now there for the lot, officials said the village is waiting on the grant to finalize, with the
village needing to show before shovels go in
the ground.

“Ideally, the village would like the project to start as soon as possible so that the lot would be open for our peak season, but that timing has a few factors to consider including but not limited to the weather, execution of the contract, insurance being satisfactory and all county grant requirements being met,” said Joe Palumbo, the village administrator in an email.

With the grant funds, the village administrator said Port Jefferson will be using approximately $600,000 from parking meter revenue. Garant said the parking capital account currently amounts to $800,000. At the end of every year, unspent revenue from the account that’s not used for salaries and other upkeep ends up in the capital account. 

“We have that money in place,” Garant said.

Though village officials had originally anticipated the project would come in at around $900,000, officials were pleasantly surprised to see the winning bid came in somewhat under that amount. 

The parking lot is expected to contain 44 new spots, located off Barnum Avenue and east of the Joe Erland baseball field. Based on residents feedback, the two-way ingress and egress planned on
Caroline Avenue have been made one-way. Surrounding plantings have also been bolstered, but the 32,000-square-foot lot will still include two electric car charging stations and two bioswales bordering the foot entrance onto Barnum Avenue to aid in flood mitigation. Once constructed, the bioswales will look like two dips in the ground with plantings overlaying them. Port Jefferson grant writer Nicole Christian had said those plantings and green initiatives were a large reason the county provided the village the $200,000 grant.  

Clothing items and other miscellaneous items left near the Port Jefferson train station. Photo by Kyle Barr

At 7 in the morning, the Port Jefferson Train Station is largely deserted. At such an early hour, the morning frost glistened as the sun peaked over the horizon. It’s 39 degrees outside. By 7:30 a.m., the few commuters who travel on the morning’s last scheduled peak train simply stuck their hands in their pockets and waited outside. They were not drawn to the warmth and seats found in the nearby station office.

Port Jeff resident Gordon Keefer arrived at around 7:25 with his small dog, a maltese, carried in the bag beside him. He walks to the station from his home and takes the train from Port Jeff to Penn Station several days a week, but he can’t even remember a time when there were benches outside of the station or on the platform. He said the ticket building gets crowded when the temperature drops low enough, but he’s never seen it be too much of a problem.

“There’s a pro and a con to that,” he said about the prospect of benches. “Otherwise you would have some of the ‘regulars’ coming by.”

Many of those who stood outside waiting for the train did not feel too concerned about the lack of seating, but many understood “why” they weren’t there. As Port Jefferson village, Brookhaven town and Suffolk County continue to look for means to help the homeless population in Upper Port and Port Jefferson Station, village officials said there wouldn’t be any outdoor seating until they can get more support from the state and MTA.

“I hate to think those who are less fortunate are not afforded the same opportunities.”

Michael Mart

At the last Port Jefferson village meeting Jan. 6, one resident’s call for benches at the local train station led to a heated argument between him and local officials.

Michael Mart, a local firebrand, asked why the station lacked outdoor seating compared to other stations on the line. He said the lack of benches was very unfair to the elderly or infirm who want to use the station.

“I hate to think those who are less fortunate are not afforded the same opportunities,” Mart said. 

According to an MTA spokesperson, the LIRR coordinated with the mayor and other local residents to not include the benches when the train station was remodeled “as they were attracting homeless and others who could compromise the safety of customers and cleanliness of the station.”

There are 12 benches in the station’s ticket office, which is open from 5 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. daily except Thursday when open until 7:15 p.m. 

Mayor Margot Garant said that although the current master plan does not eliminate seating at the train station, she does not support benches that would facilitate the homeless loitering or sleeping on them. Brookhaven Town’s Quality of Life Task Force held a public meeting in December to discuss what’s currently being done, but members described the need for further legislation at every level of government that could better get the homeless population off the streets and into shelters. 

“I have been doing this for 11 years, every concern [with which] people have come to me I have addressed and done everything I can do about it,” the mayor said. “But I will not tolerate the people panhandling, making beds … We have a task force of 40 people around the table, we have been working on this every other week.”

She added there have been multiple calls about homeless in the area, from those sleeping under the tracks, in planters, or in the area surrounding the parking lot. Remnants of clothes and other discarded items are evident in the gravel lot behind what was once known as the Bada Bing restaurant. 

Pax Christi, a temporary homeless shelter located just feet from the station for men aged 16 and up, has come up in conversation during meetings multiple times recently. It’s one of the few shelters in the area that provides lodging for those who need it, but it can only contain people for a short time, as per state law. Residents have complained about people going outside into Pax Christi’s backyard through an unlocked security door, where they say they have harassed and heckled those standing on the platform.

The village has moved to create a higher fence between the platform and the Pax Christi building. The shelter’s director, Stephen Brazeau, told TBR News Media he has no problem with such a fence.

Part of the issue, the mayor said, is due to a lack of MTA police presence at the station, adding there are only a handful on the entire length of the northern rail lines. The MTA has said more officers will be deployed along the LIRR, but no number has yet been specified, the spokesperson said.

Sal Pitti, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association and member of the town task force, said the problem is perhaps even more prevalent on his side of the tracks.

“I’ve gotten hundreds of complaints about benches at the train station, we don’t need them,” he said. “The task force physically told the MTA don’t put benches back there.”

“The majority of problems stem from homeless mentally ill people, people who prefer living on the street without restrictions to people who want to use the system to get out of that.” 

Barbara Sabatino

Barbara Sabatino, who along with her husband once owned the Port Jeff Army Navy surplus store before it closed in 2018, said homeless who used to occupy those nearby benches across from her shop at the station negatively impacted her business.

“The majority of problems stem from homeless mentally ill people, people who prefer living on the street without restrictions to people who want to use the system to get out of that,” she said.

Members of Suffolk County Department of Social Services have said one of the hardest tasks of trying to help the homeless is to build trust, and to convince homeless individuals to be taken to a county shelter. It takes time, patience and having the right person there at the right time. 

Mart said part of the issue is too many people have the attitude they don’t wish to deal with or interact with the homeless. 

“If we feel uncomfortable dealing with people that are different, then that’s another issue, and that’s what I’ve seen most up there and heard everywhere else,” he said. “To deprive everyone else of an opportunity to use the train station comfortably is unfair.”

 

Lisa Harris inside her business Prohibition Kitchen in Port Jefferson. Photo by Lisa Harris

By Leah Chiappino

Port Jefferson resident Lisa Harris is on her way to becoming a household name in the village. 

Having first opened the popular “Instagrammable” donut shop, East Main and Main, in June 2017, she has since launched three more businesses in 2019, starting with the eclectic Prohibition Kitchen in April, followed by the pie shop Torte Jeff in October and the southern, family-style restaurant, Fork and Fiddle, in December.

Harris’ experience in the service industry goes back 20 years. She became the second owner of Caffe Portofino in Northport in 2007 and quickly grew “concerned” by the fact that her customers were ordering high-carb, unhealthy foods every day. Looking for a healthier option, she began to develop a breakfast cookie. Eventually, she signed a contract with a supplier and expanded the Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookie to 200 stores before selling it to health snack company Lesserevil. Struggling to find consistent foot traffic, she eventually sold Caffe Portofino as well.

A Miller Place native, Harris moved to Port Jefferson three years ago with her husband, working part-time in food consulting. 

“She believes in her community and I’m so fortunate that she’s investing here.”

Margot Garant

“I thought I had reached my tenure in the food business,” she said. 

One day she began talking with a friend about the businesses missing in the village. They realized Port Jeff was missing a donut shop. Harris and her husband agreed they would open one if the space became available. Sure enough, the right spot appeared, and they sold out every day for the first week after opening East Main and Main.

With the business doing so well, a friend mentioned to the landlord of the building that houses Prohibition Kitchen that they were looking to expand. “I’m not sure where they got the idea but that was the rumor,” Harris said with a laugh. When the landlord approached her to sign a lease, Harris confirmed she was happy with the current location, but realized she could use donuts “to create something fun, creative and electric for the area.”

Described as “illegally good food,” the restaurant serves items such as the Dirty Mother Clucker, a chicken sandwich on a donut and a donut grilled cheese. They also offer other eccentric items such as PJ Wings and mashed potato egg rolls.

Months later, the space for Fork and Fiddle became available and Harris once again jumped on it.  

“I dislike the idea of seeing great space remain vacant too long,” she said. 

She traveled to Nashville with her business partner, Thomas Fazio, where they got the idea of a southern tasting experience. The larger space gives them room to have private parties, live music and seat more people than Prohibition. 

“We’re really trying to create a Sunday dinner, southern family-style atmosphere,” she said. 

They offer a 14-course tasting menu and Sunday brunch, as well as smaller tasting experience and a traditional menu with items like lobster and grits, pork loin and deep-fried apple pie.

Harris one again fell in love with a vacant space and opened the pop-up pie shop just in time for Thanksgiving. 

“Port Jefferson is trying to rebrand as a more progressive village in doing things like pop-up shops,” she said. “I thought a pie shop was a great idea, but I didn’t know if it would work year-round, but after the holidays I decided to continue the business year-round and expand to dinner pies for the winter.”Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant offered tremendous praise for Harris’ impact on the village. 

“She believes in her community and I’m so fortunate that she’s investing here,” she said “What sets her apart from the rest is the way she treats her staff with special respect and esteem. We are very proud to have Lisa Harris and all her esteemed businesses.”

Harris has become involved with the Business Improvement District (BID) and has coordinated the Mac & Cheese crawl as part of the upcoming Ice Festival. 

“Lisa Harris has been a great asset to the village of Port Jefferson, as well as the Business Improvement District,” James Luciano, the secretary for the BID said. “Her passion has revived abandoned locations in the village and the pride she puts into each business is exceptional.”

Harris admitted she is pondering opening even more locations and hopes to bring in more partners to help her expansion. 

 “I always say I’m not looking to expand, but deep down I know that’s not true,” she said. 

She attributes the success of her businesses to “a tremendous amount of goodwill from the community, that comes from a creative, high-quality product with professional service … The response from the community with one business enabled me to start a second, third and fourth business in the same town.”

She claims that while the rents in the village are important to negotiate properly with landlords, adding they are “not disproportionate to another village district such as Northport or Huntington.” 

“If you build a destination, the customer will come anywhere,” Harris said.

This article was amended Jan. 16 to correct Harris’ ownership of Portofino, who her cookie company was purchased by, and the name of her business partner.

Port Jeff Village trustee Kathianne Snaden has made waves in her first year as village official. Photos by Kyle Barr

The smaller into the levels of government you get, the less visible an official usually is.

That’s not much of the case with Port Jefferson Village trustee Kathianne Snaden. 

The number of events and meetings she has been willing to attend has been far above average, especially for a trustee of a 3 square-mile village on the North Shore. She’s often seen at school meetings, Business Improvement District meetings and other gatherings involving Brookhaven Town. But beyond her short yet active time in village government, those who have interacted with her said it’s Snaden’s willingness to reach out to the village community and be there for questions, and her willingness to get her hands dirty, that’s giving her renown.

“I believe people like Kathianne are the future of this village.” 

– Margot Garant

“There’s very few people who will come to the table, roll up their sleeves and do what they were going to do,” said Mayor Margot Garant, who has known Snaden since she originally came to the village. “I believe people like Kathianne are the future of this village.” 

When she first came to Port Jefferson, she was a single mother of two, originally hailing from upstate around the Finger Lakes region. After she met her husband Bill, who originally hailed from Connecticut, she was inexorable in her desire to stay in the village. 

“Kathianne is unlike many people, if she sees something isn’t right, she will figure out how to get involved and make it better,” Bill Snaden said. “She does not do something unless she knows she can do it 100 percent.”

Snaden has become more involved with the community over time, having immersed herself with the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption. She and her family were big players in putting on the recent Greek Festival and other church events. 

“I have always appreciated what she does for Port Jeff village,” said Louis Tsunis, Greek church parish council member, who said he has known her for around four years. “I have a lot of gratitude for what she does for the community.”

Snaden became involved in local politics after the school district received a shooting threat in 2017, shortly after the dreadful shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Her husband said since so little information was available, his wife helped organize a town hall-style event for residents to get the information they needed.

Kathianne Snaden, right, at the annual Dickens Festival in Port Jefferson. Photos by Kyle Barr.

Running for trustee in 2018, Snaden lost by only four votes, though instead of bowing out, she refocused her efforts, attending numerous board meetings and becoming even more involved in village activities. 

Garant said one moment, in particular, this year exemplified Snaden’s passion for the community. When a tragic incident at Port Jeff Liquors in October saw a man shot after nearly assaulting the owner with a sword, Snaden, along with fellow trustee Stan Loucks, was there soon after the police, calling the school district constantly as she knew there was a bus that usually drops off students in front of the library’s teen center. 

“Her response was immediate, her communication with the school district was immediate,” the mayor said.

As a mother of three, with one child in each of the Port Jefferson School District’s three buildings, she started her public office career with children and young parents in mind, her husband said, looking to bridge the oft-perceived disconnect between the district and village.

Attempts to bridge that gap was epitomized with the recent homecoming celebration, one that Snaden helped facilitate. PJSD trustee Tracy Zamek worked with Snaden on the celebrations that brought hundreds of students and alumni to Caroline Field. Zamek said she has found more collaboration between village and district since Snaden came on board.

“I feel like she’s a connection with the school, she’s the liaison someone I can go to, bringing ideas or issues,” she said. “Homecoming was a great school community event that helped build that bridge between the village and the school. I look forward to continuing to build that bridge, and I think trustee Snaden will be a key piece in building it as well.”

 

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Both children and adults beat the wind and rain and celebrated Halloween at the Port Jefferson Country Club Oct. 31. Photo by Kyle Barr

Despite gusting wind and spits of rain, some children still managed to hit the streets Halloween night for some old fashioned trick or treating. But for parents and their kids looking to avoid that, the Port Jefferson County Club opened its doors to people of all ages during its annual Halloween party.

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Port Jefferson Village Hall. File photo by Heidi Sutton

The Village of Port Jefferson has hired a new village administrator whom officials expect to be able to work with the board, residents and all municipal entities.

The village board voted unanimously, with Deputy Mayor Stan Loucks absent, to bring in Joseph Palumbo of Carle Place as new village administrator at the Sept. 23 board meeting. His first day is set for Oct. 7 with an annual salary of $135,000 on a six-month probation period. 

The village board have decide to bring in Joseph Palumbo of Carle Place as new village administrator. Photo provided by Joesph Palumbo

Palumbo will be leaving his job of 16 years with the New York Liquidation Bureau, a number of those as managing director of operations. According to his resume, his duties included “direct operational authority over virtually every aspect of the NYLB operations.”

“I was impressed with him,” said trustee Bruce D’Abramo.

Palumbo comes with a bachelor’s degree in political science from New York Institute of Technology and an associate’s degree in business management from Briarcliff College.

Mayor Margot Garant said she especially liked his energy and his “role up your sleeves attitude.” 

In a phone interview, Palumbo said he had worked in municipal government once before as a legislative assistant in the Town of North Hempstead, work he called “one of the better jobs I’ve ever had.” After working 16 years in various positions at the Liquidation Bureau, he said he was looking to get back into the work of local government, seeing the administrator job as a good mix between managing personnel and working with and for local people.

The mayor added she wanted someone who is going to make the effort and bring together the separate village operations.

“We wanted someone in the field with the employees — going up to DPW checking out what they want, talking with them, helping them with their schedules, helping them with their fleet management issues,” the mayor said. “That’s what I think this village needs right now.”

Palumbo said he didn’t like working behind a desk.

“I like to be out and about,” Palumbo said.

Previous clerk and administrator Bob Juliano was discharged from his position after 19 years of working in the village. The move was controversial among residents, some of whom said he had been a respected member of the village administration. He was also made to leave his position a few years before he could receive full retirement benefits.

Village attorney Brian Egan said Palumbo will be filling the position of administrator and not that of clerk. The administrator acts as the effective chief operating officer of the village, with responsibility for all the municipal departments answering to the mayor and board of trustees. On the other hand, the clerk is a statutory position that includes all procedural and formal roles of a village, including supervision for death certificates and permits, as well as being chief election officer in the village.

Assistant to the mayor and Deputy Village Clerk Barbara Sakovich has been in the role of acting clerk as the village worked to find a replacement. Egan said Sakovich will remain as acting clerk for the time being, but that officials will be looking for a full-time clerk in the near future.

 

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Some residents and village officials object to a reduced recreation fee for private facilities at The Shipyard, here seen originally in construction. File photo by Alex Petroski

The Village of Port Jefferson has a lot of apartments on its plate, both those developments already settled into their foundations and those still in the hopper. 

So far, the experience for Port Jeff community members and officials alike has not left the greatest impressions.

Some points have become so contested that village officials voted to change the code to prevent similar experiences in the future.

The village held three public hearings Sept. 3 to propose changes to the village code. Two code changes were in direct response to complaints of the development of separate apartment complexes. One code change was for payment in lieu of parking and the other on what counts for reducing the recreational space fee owed to the village.

In the latter case, the village has moved to excise rooftop decks, patios and other common areas not accessible to the general public from being considered park or recreational facilities for the purposes of developers reducing the parkland fee paid to the village.

Mayor Margot Garant said the change has come after review of comments from the community, especially in regard to the fee paid by Tritec Real Estate Company, of which the mayor said is over $50,000, is still owed to the village.

“As we cannot enjoy the rooftop deck at Shipyard, we don’t think that should be taken into consideration when taking a calculation of the fee,” she said.

In August 2018, the village passed a resolution reducing the fee levied on Tritec for not including sufficient public green space, with the mayor arguing at the time the desire to have developers build amenities and green space for use by their tenants. At that time, Trustee Bruce Miller vehemently disagreed with the decision.

Just over a year since then, at the Sept. 3 meeting, Garant argued for a “bright line” code for the planning board to take into account in future developments, this time specifically pointing to the Tritec development for the code change.

Not all Port Jeff residents saw this as a complete victory. Michael Mart, a longtime Port Jefferson resident and regular watchdog, said he applauded the change, but argued the code as it previously stood could have been interpreted to prevent developments like Shipyard from getting recreation fees lowered for private amenities. 

“The planning board members shouldn’t make the difference because the code governs what the planning board does,” Mart said.

Garant disagreed. 

“[The recreation fee] was meant to make sure the village was getting an appropriate recreation fee for the stress that it puts on our public amenities,” she said. “Not to subtract the private amenities. I don’t think the language is strong enough as it exists to make that a protocol.”

Barbara Sabatino, a member of the planning board, said it had been informed the facilities would not be off limits to nonresidents.

“At the time we made that decision we were informed by Tritec that those outside decks that have view of the harbor could be accessed by the public, that it wasn’t Tritec residents only,” she said.

Representatives of Tritec did not answer multiple phone calls for comment.

Mart said the onus should not be just on Tritec for “pulling the wool,” but on the village and planning boards for not enforcing their vision of the code. 

The mayor said the village is still owed the fee from The Shipyard, which she added they can only pursue after the developer files the deeds with the Suffolk County Clerk’s Office. 

“I can’t really say when those deeds are recorded, but as far as I’m concerned, I want my money,” she said.

Also discussed in the meeting was a change to the code on payment in lieu of parking, citing another apartment development in the space that Cappy’s Carpets once occupied.

In a March public meeting, attorney’s representing Brooks Partners LLC, a subsidiary of Port Jefferson-based Gitto Group, said the Cappy’s Carpets project, known as Brockport, would have to pay for four spaces in payment in lieu of parking. The project is set to have 78 spaces of parking for its residents and for those working in the retail stores set to be located under the new apartments. 

The New York State Department of Transportation recommended removing two on-street parking stalls along Main Street for safer access to the property on Main Street. This did not sit well with some community members who saw it as a loss of parking spots in a village desperate for more lot space.

Garant attended that March meeting and agreed with those who criticized the project for the loss.

“But for that project we would still have two on-street parking spaces,” she said.

Bruce D’Abramo, the only board member to vote “no” on this code change, said it was out of the developers’ hands, having been ordered through the state DOT.

“In the case we are talking about the applicant who had no choice in this matter, it was the DOT who removed two on-street parking spaces on a state road that the village has no real control over anyway,” he said.

Mart, again, asked why the planning board did not make it a condition of their approval of the building’s site plans to mandate paying for the loss of the on-street spots.

“The planning board had the opportunity to make it a condition on the approval,” he said.

Chris Bianco, an attorney working on behalf of the village alongside Village Attorney Brian Egan, said the planning board would be on shaky ground if it made that a condition under the current code.

Garant acknowledged the change in code could present legal trouble down the road.

“I know everybody’s hands are kinda tied,” she said. “Somebody can certainly challenge me on that and take me to court, but I would rather be on the upside of that than downside of that.”

 

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Construction on the new Overbay apartments started Aug. 1. Photo by Courtney Biondo

On Thursday, Aug. 1, village residents noticed construction vehicles on the lot located on 217 West Broadway. Suspicions turned out to be correct, as development has finally started on the long-awaited apartment complex.

Construction on the new Overbay apartments started Aug. 1. Photo by Courtney Biondo

Overbay LLC has been in front of the project since it was first purchased in 2013 for $1.8 million. The company is a subsidiary of the Hauppauge-based Northwind Group, which does developments all along the north shore.

Jim Tsunis, the CEO of the Northwind Group, confirmed the start of construction, saying they received their final building permit from the village last week.

“Overbay will consist of 52 apartments with a fitness center and community gathering area,” Tsunis said in an email statement. “There are plans for outdoor balconies and upscale appointments to each apartment.”

The 54,000-square-foot “nautical-style” apartment building will be on the now-vacant site of the former Islander Boat Center building, which was demolished in 2017. Each apartment is expected to be 1,000 square feet each, and a common room area is expected to be approximately 800 square feet.

The start of construction was acknowledged by village officials at the Aug. 5 board meeting. Some in the public offered their concerns over a payment in lieu of taxes agreement between the development and the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency. That agreement would mean the property would be paying taxes on the assessed undeveloped property during construction and would pay only $28,000 for the first year. The PILOT payment would rise over 15 years to $184,015 before paying the full taxes on its assessed value. The total payment for the PILOT will be $1,590,115.

According to previous reporting by TBR News Media, the complex is also expected to create two permanent jobs and 150 temporary construction jobs over a two-year period.

This PILOT payment is the second in tax agreements between apartment complexes in the village and IDAs. The Shipyard apartments received a similar 15-year PILOT from the Suffolk County IDA, but that agreement was more generous than received by Overbay.

Community members argued that the development would be excused from paying the lion’s share of its taxes, but the mayor argued it was more taxes than a vacant lot.

Still, Mayor Margot Garant argued that while the village has sent letters of disagreement with the IDA decisions for both apartment complexes, they do not have control of how or when those decisions are made.

“We sent a letter saying we were largely concerned on the impact of the schools and our local services,” she said. “The Town IDA and County IDA are really looking to give construction jobs, that’s how they see these developments. We’re more concerned about long-term jobs in terms of IDA relief.”

In January 2018, Tsunis said the agreement would help in offsetting the cost of demolishing the original boat seller building.

Trustee Bruce D’Abramo, the liaison to the planning and building department, said the developer is looking into helical pilings, which screw into the ground instead of being hammered in, which he said should help reduce noise, such as had been residents’ complaints when pilings were being hammered in during the Shipyard apartments construction.

The $10.8 million project was put on hold for years due to financing difficulties relating to the death of a business partner, Garant said at the Aug. 5 meeting.

“That project’s been in the works pre-Garant — 10-plus years,” the mayor said.

The Overbay development is just one of several apartment developments within village limits, with apartments expected to be developed over the now vacated Cappy’s Carpets building, with storefronts underneath. Uptown, Port Jefferson is looking to Conifer Realty LLC, a real estate development firm with projects across New York State and south into Maryland, for “affordable” apartments in what was once the Bada Bing structure, and another project dubbed Walnut Hills located north of Bada Bing in the quadrant before Perry Street. The last project is being developed by the Gitto Group, who were also behind The Hills apartment complex in Upper Port.

In his statement, Tsunis said more information will be available on Northwind Group’s website after Labor Day, Sept. 2.

Protesters hold signs in front of Port Jefferson Village Hall May 8. Photo by Kyle Barr

A score of people from Port Jefferson and surrounding areas gathered in front of Village Hall May 8 to protest what they said is a potential mass slaughter of innocent deer.

Protesters hold signs in front of Port Jefferson Village Hall. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Hunting tears families apart and leaves countless orphaned … they grieve for them, just like humans do,” said Gabby Luongo, a protest organizer and representative of animal rights group Long Island Orchestrating for Nature. “Trying to manage the deer through lethal means is also inefficient. When deer are killed, more deer will use those available resources, the temporary availability in the food supply will cause those does to breed at an accelerated rate.”

The protesters traveled from nearby areas like Shoreham, Selden and Fort Salonga as well as a few from the villages of Port Jeff and Belle Terre. They said they came in response to news the village has been making plans for some sort of deer management program, particularly some kind of controlled hunt or professional culling.

The protest signs read, “Don’t kill my family” and “Port Jeff: Animals are not ours to slaughter.” The signs also had the LION and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals logos printed on them.

In April, the Village of Port Jefferson hosted a public forum with representatives from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, along with other federal environmental agencies. Those representatives said deer have had a particularly harmful effect on the Long Island environment, especially in them eating vegetation and ground cover, including tree saplings that would replace the ever-shrinking forest growth of Long Island.

Mayor Margot Garant said PJ Village has not yet made a decision about its deer policy. Photo by Kyle Bar

Village code still curtails hunting by restricting the use of any firearm or bow and arrow within village limits. However, Mayor Margot Garant said they have received a letter from the New York State Attorney General, Letitia James (D), stating the village does not have the legal capability to regulate hunting, as that is a state matter.

“The community has a lot to think about and address, the board of trustees has a decision to make, whether we change the code or keep the code in place and wait for that code to be challenged,” Garant said during the public portion of the meeting, attended by the protesters. “We are not here supporting the hunting of deer.”

The mayor said that no decisions have yet been made on the issue of deer population, and at the meeting left it open to any forms of suggestions, saying for the moment, the code restricting hunting remains on the books.

However, in conversation after the April deer forum, the mayor said if a person had the right permits and brought a hunter onto their property, and the hunter was staying a lawful distance from other residents property, the village could not and would not go after those residents who broke the code.

“I think we have to take a really hard look at what we’re doing, not just with deer, but all the other animals that pay the hard price for our greed and our non-consideration of them,” Shoreham resident Madeleine Gamache said.

Protesters hold signs in front of Port Jefferson Village Hall. Photo by Kyle Barr

Protesters at the meeting said instead of a hunt or cull, the village should instead look into nonlethal sterilization programs, such as that currently taking place in Head of the Harbor with the Avalon Park & Preserve. Scientists from Tufts University and The Humane Society of the United States have taken a $248,290 grant from the park to fund the six-year study.

“We would like to see some kind of birth control,” said Belle Terre resident Yvonne Kravitz. “We’re very much opposed to having these beautiful animals hunted and killed.”

Others called for the village to change the code to allow for higher fencing, as current fencing is restricted to no more than 6 feet.

Still, others were adamant the village needs to step up and perform a culling or controlled hunt of deer.

“I don’t know one person from where I live who doesn’t want you to go out and do a big cull,” said Port Jeff resident Molly Mason.

Garant said the village had a meeting with the Village of Belle Terre May 7, and the two villages together barely make up more than 4 square miles. A healthy deer population would be 15 deer per square mile but the local mayors have said the real number could be several hundred per square mile. Belle Terre has had 33 vehicle collisions with deer on Cliff Road alone, according to the Port Jeff mayor.

The Village of Belle Terre voted at the beginning of this year to allow hunting within the village. Since then Mayor Bob Sandak said hunters have killed approximately 100 deer so far.