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Port Jefferson Village

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Billy Mauff races his No. 5 Superboat boat. Photo from WHM Motorsports

By Joseph Wolkin

A Port Jefferson native tried to bring a high-speed boat race to his hometown, but concerns about logistics sank the plan before it could leave the dock.

The Port Jefferson Super Boat Grand Prix, an event that would have featured 25 to 30 speed boats racing through the Long Island Sound near Port Jefferson Harbor during the second week of September, will not take place after their sanctioning body, Super Boat International, couldn’t get approval for the event from town or village officials. SBI has held races across the United States, including in Patchogue in years past.

“It’s not because I don’t like boats or any of these other reasons that I don’t want to help my merchants or boost our economic development. It’s strictly public safety.” —Margot Garant

According to a Facebook post from Billy Mauff, a Port Jefferson native and the driving force behind the proposed race, the contest was removed from SBI’s schedule due to opposition from Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point). Mauff is an owner and drives for WHM Motorsports.

“It has always been a goal of mine to bring the sport that I love so much to my hometown, with all of the positive attributes that come along with it … including the local and national exposure that the racing will bring to the community as well as the substantial economic impact that the event would have on the Village of Port Jefferson and the surrounding areas,” Mauff said in the June 21 post on WHM Motorsports’ Facebook page.

Garant addressed her concerns about the event in a phone interview Aug. 1.

“We can barely handle Pokémon right now,” Garant said. “As much as we were thankful for them thinking of us to put us on the map for economic development, we only have 600 parking spaces here. When you’re taking away the main parking lot in the Town of Brookhaven … where is everybody parking? When you look at the things we struggle with on a daily basis on an average day in the height on the summer, it’s not attainable for us.”

Bonner declined to comment on the event.

Garant’s version of events leading up to the nixing of the race differs from Mauff’s. The Mayor hesitated to call what occurred a cancelation of the event, because village or town officials never approved it.

“[Mauff] took it upon himself to tell his organization that Port Jefferson would be  fantastic,” Garant said. “He came to see us in March and apparently, the organization he represented already advertised that it was happening without meeting with the Village of Port Jefferson, the fire departments and then, I sent him to the Town of Brookhaven because I don’t own the water. He was looking at staging this in the Town of Brookhaven parking lot, which is right across the street and a vital parking lot for us. He had this whole plan, but thing is, he failed to scope out the whole plan with all of us.”

Mauff said he began the process of obtaining all necessary permits in Nov. 2015. Barbara Ransome, director of operations for the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, said she has correspondence dating back to March with Mauff and other organizers of the event. According to Ransome, on Feb. 22, the Chamber of Commerce supported the race and sent a letter to the Village the Port Jefferson village business district, Mauff and his wife, June Connolly. Mauff said he also met with Bonner in May.

Connolly said Mauff and SBI had a plan to run buses to and from the area to Cedar Beach to ease traffic. She said officials quickly shot down the plan. Mauff was also in contact with the United States Coast Guard in an effort to secure a permit.

“I cannot express how deeply disappointed we are in the shortsightedness of Mayor Garant and Councilwoman Bonner as well as the Town of Brookhaven in allowing their complacency, fears, personal and political differences and interests and/or biases to defeat the race without, at least, giving us the opportunity to have the race voted upon by the public, the constituents they purportedly represent, before using political influences to block an event that they do not support,” Mauff said.

The proposed race would have followed this track. Politicians opposed the race for safety and congestion reasons. Photo from SBI
The proposed race would have followed this track. Politicians opposed the race for safety and congestion reasons. Photo from SBI

SBI’s races tend to draw crowds in the thousands, according to the organization’s website.

Mauff listed more than 40 businesses in his statement that he claims supported the event.

“He said he’ll have buses, but where are you going to put the buses,” Garant said. “How are the buses going to get on the hills. It’s not because I don’t like boats or any of these other reasons that I don’t want to help my merchants or boost our economic development. It’s strictly public safety.”

The historic Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum is open to the public. Photo by Wenhao Ma

By Wenhao Ma

Port Jefferson history buffs got a sneak peak back in time at an event July 21, which previewed new additions at one of the village’s most historic sites.

The exhibits on display at the historic Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum were revealed for those in attendance at the special event. The museum contains artifacts, including a handwritten letter legitimizing the involvement of Port Jefferson in George Washington’s Culper Spy Ring during the Revolutionary War.

The historic Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum is open to the public with some added attractions. Photo by Wenhao Ma
The historic Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum is open to the public with some added attractions. Photo by Wenhao Ma

The museum was first opened in 2011, though it was closed shortly after. The re­opening of the house in 2015 was tied to the discovery of the letter, which is displayed at the museum and was written in 1780 by Loyalist solider Nehemiah Marks. The July 21 event also debuted the museum’s second floor, which had never previously been safe for occupancy, according to Georgette Grier-Key, village historian and curator of the house. She described the new addition as a “peek-a-boo deck” because visitors of the second floor can see some of the house’s exposed architecture, in addition to more exhibits that demonstrate the house’s history.

“It’s very significant to our shared American history,” Grier­-Key said of the museum. “It’s a surviving Revolutionary War structure circa 1755.”

The house belonged to Philips Roe. He and his brother, Nathaniel Roe, according to the letter, were providing intelligence and supplies to Washington’s army.

The house, located today at West Broadway and Barnum Avenue across from Port Jefferson Harbor, has been moved several times during its history. The most recent move took place in 2008 when the house was restored and made into a museum with the help of Robert Sisler, Port Jefferson’s first historian who passed away earlier this month.

“It’s very significant to our shared American history…it’s a surviving Revolutionary War structure circa 1755.” —Georgette Grier-Key

A foundation had to be built under the house to raise it high above the ground because the house is in a floodplain, according to Jim Szakmary, who has been assisting Grier­-Key in setting up the museum. Szakmary also said the house is so old that when restoring it they had to use steel rods that went all the way from the roof to the cement foundation to secure it.

Szakmary said private collectors and other museums donated or lent their collections to the Drowned Meadow Cottage museum in advance of the re-opening July 21.

“With the significance of the Culper Spy Ring,” said Mayor Margot Garant, who attended and spoke during the event, “it’s really mind-blowing to actually be standing in the house.”

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The Eckford Base Ball Club is set to play a game with rules from 1864 during Heritage Weekend. Photo from Port Jeff Village

By Rebecca Anzel

Port Jefferson Village’s second annual Heritage Weekend is fast approaching. The event features more than 15 cultural and historical locations for residents and visitors to explore on Saturday, Aug. 20, and Sunday Aug. 21. Each stop is set to include presentations with interesting information, historical photos of Drowned Meadow, as the village was previously known, and fun, interactive activities.

The Port Times Record will preview each of the featured locations around the village leading up to Heritage Weekend. This week includes a look at the pop-up exhibit of community favorite Grammas’ Sweets restaurant; an old-time baseball game at the chamber of commerce; a photograph exhibit and tour of Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum; and a historic schooner available for attendees to explore.

Grammas’ Sweets

Grammas’ original neon sign is being re-created by craftsmen for Heritage Weekend. Photo from Port Jeff Village
Grammas’ original neon sign is being re-created by craftsmen for Heritage Weekend. Photo from Port Jeff Village

The Home Art Gallery on Main Street will soon transform into a pop-up exhibit of cherished town restaurant Grammas’ Sweets.

Jill Russell, Port Jefferson Village media relations and marketing consultant, is the weekend’s chairperson and the woman in charge of the event. She said the right side of the space will be transformed into a re-creation of what Grammas’ looked like, complete with a checkered floor, candy cases and a soda bar.

The left, occupying what now is a gallery space, will be a timeline that tells the story of Grammas’ through photography, stories and anecdotes. There will be soda jerks behind the counter showing off old menus and display cases containing vintage candy around the space.

“What’s really going to get everybody’s attention is the re-creation on the right side,” Russell said. “But for me, the stuff on the left is going to be very, very fascinating. I just love the entire exhibit — I really do — for different reasons, and I think others will too.”

Despite rumors of Grammas’ original sign being used in the space, Russell said it was destroyed. Instead, she is working with craftsmen to create a new sign that will fit over the Home Art Gallery’s. It will be based on a photograph Russell found of the original neon sign.

Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce

The Eckford Base Ball Club is set to play a game with rules from 1864 during Heritage Weekend. Photo from Port Jeff Village
The Eckford Base Ball Club is set to play a game with rules from 1864 during Heritage Weekend. Photo from Port Jeff Village

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce is hosting two attractions sure to draw in a crowd. Parked in front of the building on West Broadway will be several Model A Ford Club of America cars, which Chamber Director of Operations Barbara Ransome said will hopefully bring visitors inside the building, which was constructed in 1682.

The historic building, called Roe House, has ties to the Culper Spy Ring. Descendants of John Roe helped get information to General George Washington to help win the Revolutionary War.

Outside will be a vintage 9-inning baseball game played by rules used in 1864. The umpires will be operating using rules from that time, which Ransome said are “totally different from what we do today.” Village residents will be competing against players from Eckford Base Ball Club of Brooklyn — both teams wearing 19th century uniforms. A quick presentation will precede the game and the Chamber will be giving out ices.

Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum

The Lettie G. Howard schooner, one of the last vessels of its kind in existence, will be available for attendees of Heritage Weekend. Photo from Port Jeff Village
The Lettie G. Howard schooner, one of the last vessels of its kind in existence, will be available for attendees of Heritage Weekend. Photo from Port Jeff Village

Down the road from the Chamber, on the corner of Barnum and West Broadway, sits Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum. Constructed around 1765, the building is named after the area’s original name.

Dr. Georgette Grier-Key, its historian and curator, will have two exhibits ready for Heritage Weekend. The first is called “History Squared,” where artists will use village archives to create artwork with various mediums on a 12×12 inch square. The second, called “Patriots’ Stand” will feature 28 rare prints from the American Revolution. Artifacts from Drowned Meadow will also be exhibited and tours of the building will be offered.

“This event is so exciting because it’s a way to celebrate our role in our nation’s independence,” Grier-Key said. “We take a lot of pride in this crowning jewel for Port Jefferson.”

Historic schooner

A national historic landmark schooner will be docked along the water. The craft, the Lettie G. Howard, was built in 1893 as a commercial fishing vessel and is one of the last vessels of its kind in existence. It will be representing Port Jefferson’s rich heritage of shipbuilding and be open to the public all weekend. Guides will be onboard to share the history of the boat and the village’s relationship with building such crafts.

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Former Port Jeff Village Historian Robert Sisler leaves behind a lasting impact. File Photo

By Wenhao Ma

Port Jefferson Village mourned the death of its first historian and a proud, devoted community member earlier this month. Robert Sisler died July 2 at the age of 88.

Sisler was a Spanish teacher at Port Jefferson High School from 1953 to 1984 and headed the school’s Foreign Language and Reading departments. He served as a member and eventually became the chairman of the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals. He was also the chairman of the Harbor Committee, a village trustee and the deputy mayor in addition to being the first historian of the village.

“[Sisler] was a constant lover of the village…his love turned into action.” —Nomi Solo

“He was an integral and driving force for exploring, recording and documenting our local history,” Mayor Margot Garant said in an email. “His writings and lifelong work of preserving Port Jefferson will ensure that our children for generations to come will learn about our ship-building heritage, our car-building years and our influence and impact in the American Revolution.”

As a historian, Sisler wrote several books on the early years of Port Jefferson. Topics included shipbuilding, automobile manufacturing, moral ethics, the development of radio and television at RCA Radio Central in Rocky Point and other historical articles for TBR News Media.

Jack Smith, historian from the Cumsewogue Historical Society, shared an anecdote about one of his experiences with Sisler. He said he read an article on an automobile factory in Port Jefferson about eight years ago. He then contacted the author, who was Sisler, hoping to invite him to the society’s annual Heritage Day, which is meant to celebrate the history of the community, to give a group of fourth-graders a lecture. Sisler agreed.

“He was always willing to share,” Smith said. He recalled on that day Sisler didn’t just come talk to the kids about the factory, but brought his own old car. “It’s a very generous thing,” he said.

The historical society once received a unit brick from Sisler as donation, according to Smith. The unit brick is different from normal bricks because it’s shaped like the letter “U.”

“We always had a nice relationship,” Smith said. “He’s a very nice man … he knew so many different things about Port Jefferson.”

Sisler’s most recent contribution to Port Jefferson was the restoration of the two centuries-old Roe houses, named for the family of the first settlers in downtown Port Jefferson, according to the village’s historical society. The original owner, businessman Phillip Roe, used his resources to help George Washington pass information in the Culper Spy Ring during the Revolutionary War.

The reason for Sisler to restore historical sites, according to Nomi Solo, who said she had known Sisler since the 1970s, was because it’s better for people to experience the history themselves than to look at the remaining pieces in a museum.

“He was a constant lover of the village,” Solo said. She added that Sisler was instrumental in the construction of the Village Center.

“His love turned into action,” she said. “He was a very, very, very caring individual. It’s a loss for the community.”

Author R.J. Torbert, left, talks about his new book with John Valeri of The Hartford Book Examiner. Photo by Wenhao Ma

By Wenhao Ma

The story of a Port Jefferson murderer — albeit a fictional one — was discussed at length by a novelist and his fans in the village on Saturday.

Author R.J. Torbert brought his new book “No Mercy,” which was released in June, to a question-and-answer session with more than a dozen readers at Port Jefferson Free Library on July 16. “No Mercy” continues the story of fictitious Detectives Paul Powers and Bud Johnson of Port Jefferson, who dealt with the mysterious murderer Ghost Face, in Torbert’s first novel, “The Face of Fear,” which was released in 2013.

“He turned [the Ghost Face mask] into a home town classic.” —Joseph Borozny

“When [readers] look at the cover, they think it’s a horror story,” Torbert said in an interview after the event, referring to the Ghost Face mask on the cover. “[But] this is a relationship story, a love story,” he said.

Torbert is the licensing director of Fun Wold, a Halloween costume company. His company created the Ghost Face as part of the Fantastic Faces series back in 1991.

Torbert noted that there are many differences between his books and “Scream,” the movie that made the mask famous back in the 1990s. He said that he did not design the iconic mask, but he did come up with the name Ghost Face and has been protecting its name and trademarks for years, and even fought to keep the character wearing the mask in the movies from doing anything bad enough to give too dark of a stigma.

Author R.J. Torbert poses with a fan of his newly released novel. Photo by Wenhao Ma
Author R.J. Torbert poses with a fan of his newly released novel. Photo by Wenhao Ma

“[In the first novel], the person who wore the mask was not necessarily a bad person,” Torbert said.

He said that he had always wanted to write a book, but what turned his idea into action was a novel he read on a plane. He was so disappointed with the story that he started writing on that book. What he wrote eventually became “The Face of Fear.”

“He turned [the Ghost Face mask] into a home town classic,” Joseph Borozny, a Port Jefferson resident and a fan of Torbert’s books, said, adding that Torbert used the Ghost Face character to create something that’s real, not just fictional.

Borozny brought his family to the event, including his 14-­year­-old son, Joey, who received a Ghost Face mask from Torbert as a gift. “If you like horror movies,” Joey said, “this is the guy you’ll love to meet. And he’s a real nice guy.”

After the question-and answer-portion, Torbet signed copies of the book and posed for photos with fans.

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Blue road signs promoting the I Love NY campaign sprung up in Port Jeff on Route 25A this month, but will be replaced with smaller ones following community outrage. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Joseph Wolkin

When they opened up their eyes, they saw the signs.

Port Jefferson Village residents were furious when a New York State agency added three highway-sized road signs on Route 25A, a state road, essentially in the middle of the night earlier in July. The signs were part of the I Love NY campaign from the Empire State Development office.

“They’re outrageously huge,” Mayor Margot Garant said. “They’re metal, they’re huge and they plopped them on the middle of our sidewalks without any notice.”

Blue road signs promoting the I Love NY campaign sprung up in Port Jeff on Route 25A this month, but will be replaced with smaller ones following community outrage. Photo by Alex Petroski
Blue road signs promoting the I Love NY campaign sprung up in Port Jeff on Route 25A this month, but will be replaced with smaller ones following community outrage. Photo by Alex Petroski

Garant, who was caught off guard by the road signs, immediately contacted the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). After she had several meetings and phone calls with state officials, the community also spoke up. After an overwhelming volume of pleas heard by state officials, the signs were removed Saturday and, according to Garant, will be replaced with significantly smaller ones in the coming weeks.

According to the mayor, community members emailed the governor’s office and requested the signs be taken down. Additionally, a Twitter campaign was created in order to showcase the town’s fury over the signs. The three styles of large, blue signs featured the slogans “Welcome to New York,” “Explore New York History,” and “Experience New York Attractions,” with prompts to visit www.iloveny.com, a site geared toward tourists visiting the state.

“Apparently, the explanation I got was it was a [New York State] project that was on a deadline and I would probably think they wanted the deadline to be around the Fourth of July since it was right before it,” Garant said. “Because it was a heavy push with little explanation, as a result all of the communities [involved] went nuts. We had no input and weren’t given any notice. We just woke up one morning and there were these massive signs.”

Chyresse Wells, a spokeswoman for the Empire State Development office acknowledged their plan to replace the signs following the backlash.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with local leaders which addresses their concerns but continues to promote the world-renowned I Love NY campaign,” she said in an emailed statement. “New York State tourism has generated a record-breaking economic impact of $102 billion across the state, supporting over 894,000 jobs and generating $8 billion in state and local taxes in 2015.”

State road signs in Port Jeff Village being taken down after community outrage. Photo by Drew Biondo
State road signs in Port Jeff Village being taken down after community outrage. Photo by Drew Biondo

Village Trustee Bruce Miller received input on the issue from parents of parochial school students at Infant Jesus Roman Catholic Church regarding the poor and deteriorating quality of signs on lower Myrtle Avenue.

While Miller said road markings have been criticized, he did not know there would be several large signs placed on Route 25A. He added that little has been done to address the problem of deterioration of existing signs, an issue he said he has presented to the board of trustees in the past.

Bruce D’Abramo, another village trustee, tweeted his satisfaction to the removal of the signs in response to the news that Montauk was having its signs downsized as well.

“Port Jefferson Village rejoiced as our NY State signs came down as well,” D’Abramo said. Montauk, East Hampton and Port Jefferson were three of several Suffolk County communities saddled with the giant signs with alleged little notice.

Reporting contributed by Alex Petroski.

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A rice bowl at Slurp Ramen. Photo by Lauren Fetter

By Lauren Fetter

Something good is cooking up in the neighborhood.

With summer in full swing, the owners of new local eateries are preparing for the season’s arrival, when bustling crowds and waves of tourists will make their way to downtown Port Jefferson for sights, sun and good eats.

No one knows this change of pace better than Smoke Shack Blues owner Jonathan Levine.

A former fine-dining chef in Manhattan and Las Vegas, Levine served as the head chef at Wave Seafood Kitchen in the nearby Danfords Hotel & Marina for five years before opening up his Main Street barbecue joint in April.

Though Levine had many opportunities throughout his career to open a restaurant of his own, it wasn’t until a stop in the Carolinas during a family trip to Disney World that he decided to try his hand at a different type of cooking skill: real smoking and wood-burning barbecue.

“When I came back, I started experimenting. It was just amazing,” Levine said. “Something that was old was new again, and it just made sense.”

Walking down Main Street, customers cannot miss the restaurant’s smokehouse aromas and the sound of blues music pouring out of an open window onto the street. An exposed brick interior, paired with deep reds, blues and homemade wood block tables branded with the Smoke Shack Blues logo bring a southern feel to the East Coast eatery.

Sauce selections in Smoke Shack Blues. Photo by Lauren Fetter
Sauce selections in Smoke Shack Blues. Photo by Lauren Fetter

Brisket. Ribs. Pulled pork. The restaurant’s traditional barbecue fare has customers flocking through its doors, reassuring Levine that that number will only increase over the next few months.

“We’re starting to see a lot of familiar faces, a lot of repeat customers,” Levine said. “At night during the week, that’s when we get the locals.”

In a community like Port Jefferson Village, it’s the locals that drive business year-round.

Amarilis Singh and her husband, Jiten, the owners of Local’s Cafe on East Main Street, opened their coffee shop in February to create a welcoming atmosphere for village residents and newcomers alike.

“We are locals and we love this town,” the wife said. “We wanted to have something that is from here, and at the same time it feels like you belong here.”

Despite their different backgrounds — Amarilis is from Puerto Rico and Jiten is from India — the couple’s love for coffee jump-started their business venture.

Using coffee beans from the Brooklyn location of Seattle-based Caffe Vita coffee company, the cafe serves specialty coffee drinks and small treats in a quaint shop on the street’s corner with East Broadway.

Customers quietly chat at wooden tables and chairs with steaming cups of coffee and hot chocolate in their hands. Fluorescent lights in the glass case next to the registers shine down on the dozens of macarons and miniature cupcakes made by local bakers sitting on the shelves.

All items on the menu are made in-house and made-to-order, with vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options available for no extra charge.

Though Amarilis Singh said she is looking forward to the summer season and the rush of customers, the fear of disappointing them remains in the back of her mind.

Cookies at Local's Cafe. Photo by Lauren Fetter
Cookies at Local’s Cafe. Photo by Lauren Fetter

“You want everybody to like your food, and you want everybody to have a good experience in your place,” Singh said. “You don’t want anybody to leave unhappy.”

Just a short walk from Local’s is Slurp Ramen. Located on Broadway, the Japanese restaurant focuses on serving “authentic Japanese ramen in a comfortable, friendly environment,” according to owner and village resident Francesca Nakagawa.

Opened in March, Nakagawa’s husband, Atsushi, who is originally from Osaka, Japan, previously worked in the kitchen at Toast Coffeehouse on East Main Street for three years before he and his wife decided to open their own restaurant.

The couple wanted to highlight and bring Japanese culture and cuisine to the village by hiring students from Japanese language classes at Suffolk County Community College and Stony Brook University to work there.

“Now it’s expanded out to kids who are really into Japan and like anime and manga, or who want to travel there,” Nakagawa said. “We have a great group of people who are excited about this restaurant.”

Workers welcome customers when they come through the doors of the ramen shop, eager to help first-timers walk through their menu of what Nakagawa calls Japanese comfort food and answer any questions.

Though the restaurant serves rice bowls filled with white rice, meat and sriracha, and salads topped with cold ramen noodles and mixed greens, the Slurp Classic, a ramen noodle bowl, is the most popular dish. Overflowing with bright green scallions, red ginger and different meats, the Classic is served in deep black bowls filled with steaming broth. Pair it with a honeydew cream soda imported from Japan, and a customer is ready to go.

“It’s so exciting to watch people try it and like it,” Nakagawa said. “We’re very excited for the summer.”

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The improved Port Jefferson Village website includes new features like paying parking tickets online. Image from village website

Port Jefferson Village is now accessible to residents and visitors in ways it never was before.

The village launched its upgraded website in June after countless hours of research, planning and development, and at this point the hard work seems to have paid off and then some.

“We just really wanted a much more vibrant [site], something that gives off the vibe of the village and we also felt that there was not a place where residents could get information that they really needed,” Mayor Margot Garant said in an interview last week.

A view of the website from a mobile device. Image from village website
A view of the website from a mobile device. Image from village website

Village officials interviewed half a dozen companies, Garant approximated, before settling on a collaboration between two that just happened to operate out of the same building on Main Street. The project cost the village about $40,000 all told, Garant said.

Kendra Beavis of Moka Graphics and Drew Linsalata of The Gotham Bus Company put their heads together to handle the data and design of the site. Garant said during the process she realized how much of an advantage it would be to have people who work right in the village working on a site that would serve as a gateway to Port Jefferson.

“We wanted a nice hometown look — they get us,” Garant said.

The new site has features tailored to residents. Information about recycling bins, leaf pickup, birth and death certificates, along with the ability to sign up for recreational events or pay for parking or even parking tickets were some of the highlights Garant mentioned which should serve to improve the residents overall web experience.

Though the list is much longer.

Garant said the village essentially crowdsourced ideas by asking various departments what they most frequently receive phone calls about on a daily basis. Now, most answers are a click away.

Another component had village employees like Jill Russell, who handles media relations for Port Jefferson, enthusiastic about the upgraded site’s features for visitors.

“I think one of the things that I really pushed with the site, the missing link was the visitors’ side,” Russell said in a phone interview Wednesday. Visitors can now get a feel for restaurants in the area, activities and other events before they even arrive in the village.

“I, for one, am very excited,” Russell said.

Garant and Russell both expressed excitement about another possibility that is still in the works for the site — information for prospective business owners about requirements and permits for opening a business, and eventually even listings of available spaces.

The site is not complete as more information and features are still being added.

Check out the new village website at portjeff.com on desktops or mobile devices.

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Village Center file photo by Heidi Sutton

Let there be light.

Representatives from Johnson Controls, an energy performance contracting company, presented a plan to the Port Jefferson Village board of trustees at a meeting Tuesday that would save the village about $1.6 million on energy costs and electrical supplies over 20 years.

The project would entail providing Village Hall and the Village Center with more than 500 LED lighting upgrades, LED lighting fixtures for the village’s more than 1,100 streetlights and 60 new tennis court lights.

“We really haven’t done a lot of upgrades to the existing lighting in forever,” Mayor Margot Garant said during the meeting Tuesday. She called the proposed project “a thing of beauty.”

Dan Haffel, Johnson Controls’ liaison to the village, estimated during the presentation that the project would pay for itself in about 11 years. Port Jefferson would pay the company $1.8 million out of their energy savings — “it’s completely self-funded; there’s no out-of-pocket exposure,” Haffel said — for the consulting and improvements over the life of a 15-year contract, with an interest rate somewhere in the 2 to 3 percent range.

The agreement would come with a guarantee from Johnson Controls.

“The project is guaranteed to pay for itself in 15 years — we’ll pay the village a shortfall if there is one,” Haffel said.

Rob Rolston, the lead project manager from Johnson Controls, said it would be ideal to complete the project before winter, given the complications cold weather and winter storms could present. That would require quick movement from the village.

But the company also put forth a more conservative potential timeline as part of their presentation. If the board approved the proposal in July, fixtures and lights could be ordered by August and construction could begin in September. The job could then be completed in May 2017.

Many of the upgraded lights in Village Hall and the Village Center would incorporate motion sensors as another means to save electricity. The streetlights come with a 10-year manufacturer warranty.

Johnson Controls is a nationwide Fortune 100 company that has been in the field of performance contracting for about 30 years. They have received awards for their environmental impact and energy efficiency from entities like Newsweek and utility PSEG Long Island.

Port Jefferson school district is working on a contract with Johnson Controls for a similar project, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business Sean Leister. He called the proposed upgrades, which still require school board-approval, a “win-win” for the district for the energy and cost savings it would present in a phone interview last week.

The village board has not yet set a date to vote on the proposal.

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James D. Schultz as Bill Reach in a scene from ‘Down the Road.’ Photo by David Morrissey Jr.

By Stacy Santini

One of the most daunting scenes in film is in the final minutes of 1974’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” when Leatherface is dancing his own murderous ballet wielding a chainsaw at sunset. It is a stunning visual into the disturbed psyche of a serial killer. There is no need to delve back into celluloid archives to experience this phenomenon once again, as Bluebox Theatre Company is brilliantly exploring this unsettling subject matter in its presentation of Lee Blessing’s “Down the Road,” at The Performing Arts Studio of New York in Port Jefferson Village.

Directed by Bluebox’s David Morrissey Jr., the play opens with an abrupt spasm disrupting the cozy darkness in this intimate blackbox theater; a large flat-screen TV center stage begins flashing familiar images. The audience is reminded of William and Kate’s royal wedding, the West Nile virus outbreak and other popular “newsworthy” stories.

In a short time the broadcasts turn extremely dark, focusing on people the public has come to know all too well: Ed Gein, John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy and Charles Manson. Interview after interview, clip after clip, Morrissey begins to open up our doors of perception and draw us into the minds of these haunted men, the actions that have made them media icons and their stories a sad reality.

“Down the Road” is a psychological drama about serial killer Bill Reach, who has murdered and raped 19 women. While Reach is incarcerated, a young married couple, Dan and Iris, both of whom are journalists, are contracted to write a book about Reach. Initially approached as a fact-compiling endeavor, the couple soon begin to unravel not only Reach’s subconscious but their relationship as well and at the same time explore demoralizing themes.

As their ambition bounces their physical bodies into a cheap motel room in this rather beige part of the world, the audience is first introduced to Iris and Dan. Played by Marquez Stewart and Bluebox mainstay Bryon Azoulay, their connection is palpable. Consumed by passion for one another discussing their dreamy expectations of starting a family, they seem like tender lambs unaware that they are being led to slaughter.

As the play progresses, their different styles of interviewing Reach are apparent as well as the way each character reacts to the intensity of their exchanges with him. Communicating their thoughts on their individual interviews with Reach into a recorder, their distractions also become evident and the toxicity of Reach’s aura slowly twists and torments not only their ability to proceed with the task at hand but their relationship as well.

It is undeniable that Stuart portrays Iris with all the confrontational, aggressive boldness that her role demands. She is terrific and perfectly balances her character’s vacillation between being drawn to Reach while at the same time being repulsed by him. When asked by Reach if she is afraid of him, she snidely responds, “Desperately,” without disrupting her dead on stare.

Azoulay’s Dan is much more accommodating and at times submissive to Reach. He begins his interactions with Reach obligingly as a great inquisitor, but his growing fear eventually arrests his questioning and manifests in a dichotomy between his desire to run and his addiction to Reach’s mania. His impassioned solo scripted moments invoke the same angst and confusion into the viewer that his character is experiencing.

James D. Schultz as Bill Reach — that should be the play’s tag line. Schultz, a solid acting member of the Theatre Three family for several years, is a prodigy. Watching Schultz sprint to the top of our local acting pyramid in such a short time has been not only a joy for his followers but an awe-inspiring accomplishment. Probably his most challenging role to date, he more than nails it — he surpasses it, so much so that audience members were shaking when his presence loomed on stage unlit, allowing the other actors to take the baton. It was horrifyingly beautiful. All were scared to death of the diabolical monster Schultz passively and slowly created.

Embarking on the stage, Schultz is handsome and inviting. With the exception of his handcuffs, his attire is mainstream — jeans, a button-down shirt and designer eyeglasses.

He looks so normal, so familiar; but then the exchanges begin between him, Dan and Iris, and we are perversely aware that there is nothing normal about Bill Reach or James Schultz for that matter.

A chronological questioning commences, and it is here we see the true talent of Schultz. Expectations of a rabid, crazed lunatic who takes life from people is anticipated, but this is not the case with most serial killers, and Schultz’s restraint in this regard is stupendous. With a blank stare, a severe sociopathic being comes alive as he describes his killings in a matter of fact tone. The audience is hearing it, but in the back of our minds we are not really believing it. Methodically, he unwinds the details of his carnage. He says things like, “It wasn’t murder, murderers have motives, I kill,” and “Don’t insult me, most people don’t torture what they hunt.”

As Schultz describes what it feels like to kill, the theater was eerily quiet, audience captivated and for a moment almost simulated a poetry reading. Eventually we see outbursts and violence from Reach that Schultz brings to a new level. He frightens the audience with a lingering energy and so much so that when his character is not the focal point, the audience is still very much aware that evil is in the room. Absolutely incredible and only the work of a true master.

David Morrissey Jr. governs this production with the intensity and passion of a veteran director. Part of the talented triad team that makes Bluebox Theatre Company tick, Morrissey creates synergy among his characters and movement on stage that will surprise you. Coached by his counterparts, Joe Rubino and Andrew Beck, this play secures their place among our local theaters and stages. Transmitting themes that might be difficult to digest such as how the media is responsible for making monsters like Reach into celebrities and identifying internal motives for these inexplicable acts of hatred and violence is no easy feat, but this small green production company succeeds on every level.

The Performing Arts Studio of New York is a special place and keeps the urban culture of the big city alive in a small town, but seating is limited. Walk fast, sprint, no run to see “Down the Road” as it won’t be here for long. For mature audience only.

The Performing Arts Studio of New York, 11 Traders Cove, Port Jefferson, will present “Down the Road” through Sept. 6. Tickets are $19 adults ($15 online), $13 students ($11 online). For more information, call 631-928-6529 or visit www.blueboxtheatrecompany.com.