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Port Jefferson Village

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On Friday, Dec. 3, village officials gathered at two lanterns on Main Street to remember Nan Guzzetta and Bradley Charles Collins.

Across the street from her home and costume shop, a lantern was named for Guzzetta who passed away earlier this year. 

Guzzetta was a well-known and beloved costumer who dressed local actors and was instrumental with her involvement in the Dickens Festival. 

“I will always look up at that porch and wave to Nan every time I pass that building,” said Mayor Margot Garant.

The group then headed outside the Chase Bank on Main Street to honor Collins, who also recently passed away. 

After the dedications, residents stopped into the Village Center for hot chocolate, cookies and ice skating. Santa also made an appearance on his sleigh for photos.

— All photos by Julianne Mosher

On Sunday, Nov. 28, the streets of Port Jefferson village were lined with families and friends waiting for Santa Claus to ride by on his horse and buggy. 

With special appearances from the Peanuts gang, elves and Dickens’ characters, people of all ages got to kick start the holiday season with a fun filled day.

— All photos by Julianne Mosher 

Rob Gitto. Photo by Julianne Mosher

With the revitalization of Upper Port along with the changes downtown, people are choosing to downsize in Port Jefferson or start up their lives in the new Port Jefferson apartments.

Rob Gitto, vice president of The Gitto Group, said that his sites — and other places developed by Tritec Real Estate (The Shipyard), Conifer Realty (Port Jefferson Crossing) and The Northwind Group (Overbay) — are here to help people.

“That’s one of the big things,” he said. “That we’re trying to keep people here instead of moving off of Long Island.”

The Gitto Group currently has three locations between Upper and Lower Port: The Hills at Port Jefferson, The Barnum House and the recent The Brookport.

In September, The Brookport officially opened at 52 Barnum Ave. — the former Cappy’s Carpets — featuring 44 apartments that were 100% leased. The building is mixed-use and will soon be home to Southdown Coffee on the lower level.  

“By having these walkable apartment complexes, we’re helping the stores and the restaurants by bringing more people into the village without a strain on the parking,” Gitto said. “To me, that seems like a win-win.”

Photo from The Gitto Group

He said he knows the concern about parking, but his buildings — and those of other developers — have created their own spaces on premise that don’t interfere with the traffic within the village. In fact, he said, he knows many of his tenants are taking advantage of all Port Jeff village has to offer. 

“I know that I have at least two tenants here that are taking tennis lessons at the country club,” he said. “They’ve already been here a couple months and are trying to become part of the community.”

Many of those tenants — across all three of his locations — either chose Port Jefferson to establish their roots or had a home in the area and decided to stay but downsize as empty nesters.

“I can’t tell you how many tenants we’ve had, especially in The Barnum House, that moved here with a significant other or met someone while they were here, got married and had a child or children,” he said. “As they got older, they grew out of the apartment, but they fell in love with the community and became part of the community, so they ended up buying a condo, a townhouse or a home here.”

Gitto said they are filling a need that was never met in the community — giving people the opportunity to start up or slow down. 

The Barnum House, which opened 20 years ago this year, still has tenants who moved in originally in August 2001. A mixed building, he said many are young working professionals but quite a few empty nesters as well. 

“You’re checking a lot of boxes,” he said. “It’s easy living.”

A benefit his older tenants mention often is that they don’t have to worry about upkeep — if an appliance breaks or there’s an issue, they don’t have to worry about fixing it. They don’t have to landscape outside, and they are creating a home base for snowbirds who split their time between here and the South.

The Hills at Port Jefferson, however, has some more turnover, Gitto said, due to the type of clientele the apartments attract. 

Located in Upper Port, the Hills was one of the first projects as part of Port Jefferson’s master plan. 

“I do see there being a nice community uptown,” he said. “That connection to Stony Brook University and the two hospitals right there, there’s no reason why that can’t be a secondary community.” 

And in that 74-unit building, Gitto said the majority of tenants are young, working professionals — many of whom work at Mather Hospital, Northwell Health, St. Charles Hospital and Stony Brook University — a 10-minute train ride from the LIRR station across the street to campus. 

That being said, Gitto noted that “a couple of units will turnover” because of the residency programs at these places. 

“I would say 80 to 85% of the people that live there are affiliated with Stony Brook,” he said. 

A fourth project with The Gitto Group is currently underway on the corner of Main Street and North Country Road, where the PJ Lobster House used to stand before relocating. Gitto said that building will be smaller — roughly 36 to 38 units — and planning should be finalized by March. 

Gitto mentioned that there is often concern or comment about the IDA benefits developers receive to build these properties but noted that neighbors need to look at it long term. 

“Although our property taxes might be lower to start out, eventually, when the IDA program is over, we’ll be paying a lot more than this property would have ever given in terms of taxes if it had remained a boatyard, or the carpet store that it was,” he said. “It’s important to people to look at the long term — this is really going to help the school districts to have these tax bases being thrown into the mix.”

While he can’t talk about the other developers’ properties, he said that the addition of families and people into the community isn’t causing a strain on the school district at all. 

“In the Hills uptown, in the 74 units, I believe we have one child who goes to Comsewogue,” he said. 


The Overbay apartment complex, which finally opened in September, had been in the process of being built shortly after The Northwind Group purchased the former Islander Boat Center building in 2013 for $1.8 million.

James Tsunis, managing member of Northwind, said that his family was “really excited” to bring a new complex to the village. 

Photo from The Northwind Group0

“The Northwind Group has been in the family business and we’ve lived in Port Jeff our whole life,” he said. “We were really happy to bring a boutique luxury apartment community here for Port Jefferson.”

Tsunis added that the complex also was planned to bring more positive traffic to the downtown retail shops and restaurants — especially since many struggled throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“It’s a win for the village in general,” he said. 

Located at 217 W. Broadway, the 54,000-square-foot “nautical style” apartment building consists of 52 rentals, with one-bedroom units ranging between $2,500 to $2,800 and two bedrooms starting at $3,500. 

Each apartment features walk-in closets, custom built-ins, zero-entry showers with rain heads, a fireplace and a flat-screen TV. Other amenities include an 800-square-foot common room and a fitness facility. 

The complex also contains an office area, concierge service and in-building parking with over 80 parking stalls for residents and their guests. 

Leasing, Tsunis said, opened up in fall of last year, and sold out almost immediately. 

“There was definitely a high demand for it,” he said. “We get calls about this every day and we have a long list of people waiting to get in here, which is good —it’s good for us and it’s also good for the village, because it means that people want to live here and that’s a very good sign.”

Jake Biro, Overbay’s property manager, said that like the other developments around the village, there is a good mix of different types of people living at Overbay.

“Honestly, it’s really diverse,” he said. “We have people all the way down to the undergrad at 19 or 20 years old to I think our oldest resident is about 94.”

Biro said the proximity to Stony Brook University and the hospitals helps.

“We get a lot of doctors and nurses,” he said. “But then we also have a bunch of empty nesters — people that are taking advantage of the real estate market and selling their houses right now, then renting for a year or two and reassessing.”

“Port Jefferson has been our home and we want our residents to call it their home,” Tsunis said. “We want to help them try to transition that process as hard as possible and as best as possible.”

Tritec and Conifer did not respond to requests for interviews by press time. 

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Photo by Julianne Mosher

When Port Jefferson Village trustee Kathianne Snaden heard that the Port Jefferson School District had to cancel its annual Halloween dance for the middle school, she knew she had to take action. 

Just two weeks before the festive holiday, the district chose to cancel the event due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Snaden, along with the Port Jefferson PTSA and the Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, decided within just a few days to hold the Halloween dance, which was also canceled last year because of the pandemic, at the Port Jefferson Village Center. 

“When the school says, ‘We can’t do it,’ I say, ‘How can we?’” Snaden said at the event, held on Friday, Oct. 29. “We came together and just made it happen.”

Inside the first level of the Village Center, nearly 150 students dressed as everything from a group of inflatable dinosaurs to the cast of “Winnie the Pooh.” Outside, where the ice skating rink is installed, a tent was set up for an indoor/outdoor experience. 

Candy was put out for students to snack on and a DJ played music for dancing. 

“We have these beautiful assets, like the Village Center, and they should be used for things like this,” Snaden said. “That’s why they were built, and this is perfect — the kids are having a blast.”

While the district had to cancel the dance, Snaden said they were instrumental in getting the word out.

“It was a great collaborative,” she added. “It was perfectly orchestrated and it worked out.”

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Photo by Julianne Mosher

Against a background of popular Halloween songs, students in Port Jefferson’s Edna Louise Spear Elementary School paraded around the outside of the school, with parents and grandparents, cameras in hand, on the sidelines. 

Dressed as princesses, robots, astronauts, dinosaurs and even Harry Potter, students cheerfully returned to being able to celebrate the traditional autumn event.

— All photos by Julianne Mosher 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

It was a day full of fall festivities on Saturday, Oct. 23 when the Village of Port Jefferson hosted its 2021 Harvest Fest that showcased tons of Halloween fun, while supporting local businesses.

From 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., the Port Jefferson Harbor Education & Arts Conservancy held a window painting contest to decorate the outside of the Village Center. Nearly two-dozen children grabbed their paint and brushes to show off their favorite Halloween-inspired art skills that included everything from steaming hot chocolate in a mug to ghosts, skeletons and a creepy toy doll.

While the kids got artistic, parents traveled throughout the village to taste and enjoy chowders from participating restaurants in a chowder crawl, along with seasonal beverage tastings from the Port Jeff Brewing Company, The Whiskey Barrel and Port Jeff Liquors.

Along with pumpkin carvings and trick-or-treat bagging, families were able to go on a secret scavenger hunt — which featured an appearance from the Pirates at Large.

The afternoon ended with a costumed dog parade along East Main Street, where furry friends dressed to the nines from rainbows to spooky spiders.

— All photos by Julianne Mosher

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Photo by Julianne Mosher

Royal spirit was in the air this past weekend when the 2021 homecoming festivities began.

Students, faculty, administrators, board of education members and community residents headed down to Main Street in Port Jefferson village to watch the student-run parade filled with festive floats.

Vehicles sporting floats from each grade level at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, Port Jefferson Middle School and even one from Edna Louise Spear Elementary School made their ways down the street as bystanders cheered the Royals on. 

Kicked off with an appearance from the Port Jefferson Fire Department, Royal cheerleaders marched along and football players roared as they got ready for their big homecoming game. The fun continued at a celebration in front of the high school with a recognition ceremony of senior football payers and cheerleaders before the afternoon game against Bayport-Blue Point.

— All photos by Julianne Mosher

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Photo by Julianne Mosher

After missing out in 2020, the Historical Society of Greater Port Jefferson was finally able to host their annual Outdoor Country Auction.

On Saturday, Oct. 16, dozens of interested buyers came together outside the Mather House Museum at 115 Prospect St. to bid on more than 200 unique items. 

Nick Acampora, president of the historical society, said that they were “so happy” to hold the event after COVID-19 canceled last year’s auction.

“We love doing the auction because it’s a part of the community,” he said. “It’s so important to us because it’s a great time for everyone, while providing the funds to keep the historical society going.”

Acampora said that everything from costumes to furniture was available for auction, many of the items being donated or sold on consignment. Some of them dated as far back as the 1800s, as well as coins from the Greek and Roman empires. 

While the final figures of money raised for the historical society wasn’t immediately available, Acampora said he thinks the organization did extremely well — but what was most important was bringing the community back for a fun-filled and interesting get-together. 

“It was wonderful to welcome everyone back,” he said. 

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Prohibition agents examine barrels of booze found on a rumrunner seized by a Coast Guard cutter. Photo from the Library of Congress

On Saturday afternoon, Aug. 22, 1931, William Fillbach was sitting in his car, which was parked on the ferry dock at Port Jefferson, waiting to serve a warrant on a man due there at 5:30 p.m.

An investigator for the Suffolk County District Attorney, Fillbach was turning the pages of a newspaper when he caught a glimpse of a boat being hauled out of the water and on to the ways of the Port Jefferson (aka Long Island) Shipyard at the foot of Main Street.

The rumrunner Artemis was hauled out of the water and on to the ways of the Port Jefferson Shipyard shown at the foot of the village’s Main Street. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

All Fillbach could read on the vessel were the letters “Art,” but they were enough for him to identify the boat as the notorious Artemis, a rumrunner that had disappeared following her heated battle with a Coast Guard cutter.

Fillbach climbed aboard the now high and dry craft, which had been moved into a shed, and carefully observed the scene. There was no contraband on the battered booze boat, but the bullet-riddled vessel was strewn with broken glass and three planks on her port side were smashed inward.

Fillbach learned that the crippled Artemis had been towed to Port Jefferson by the swordfisher Evangeline, but workers at the Port Jefferson Shipyard claimed not to know who owned the disabled craft, which bore no registration numbers, or who gave the orders to make her seaworthy.

Fearing that the mysterious smugglers might attempt to spirit the stranded Artemis out of Port Jefferson, Fillbach and five deputy sheriffs guarded the fugitive vessel until Sunday, Aug. 23, when a Coast Guard cutter took over the watch.

Just days before, on Thursday evening, Aug. 20, CG-808 was patrolling Long Island Sound, searching for suspected rumrunners. The cutter had sighted the 53-foot Artemis about two miles east of the Cornfield Point Lightship and commanded her to stop.

Although loaded down with illicit liquor, the speedy rumrunner answered by racing off into the darkness, propelled by her powerful Liberty aircraft engines that had been converted for marine use.

The Coasties gave chase and fired hundreds of shots at the fleeing craft, many hitting the mark. During the thick of the running battle, the agile Artemis suddenly turned about and rammed the 45-foot CG-808, forcing the severely damaged cutter to stop the pursuit and limp back to the Operating Base in New London, Connecticut.

Known as a ‘Six Bitter,’ a 75-foot Coast Guard patrol boat is docked at Port Jefferson’s Bayles Landing. During Prohibition, the government’s patrol boats waged a relentless war against rumrunners operating in local waters. Photo from the Michael F. Lee Collection

The rumrunners then landed on the beach three miles west of Orient Point, where two badly wounded men were taken off the speedboat and driven to Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport while the vessel’s prized cargo was quickly unloaded by swarms of willing local residents. 

Angered by the attack on CG-808, and miffed by the escape of the Artemis, Coast Guard officials brought in a private airplane and dispatched two patrol boats to locate the infamous rumrunner. Despite their best efforts, the Artemis was secreted away, stopping briefly in Mattituck Harbor for some patchwork before moving on to Port Jefferson for major repairs.

In the aftermath of the incident, the two crewmen who were aboard the Artemis and severely injured by gunfire from CG-808 were discharged from the hospital, both refusing to talk with the authorities.

The Artemis was seized by the United States Marshal, who claimed that her owners had an outstanding debt at the Gaffga Engine Works in Greenport. After the dispute was settled, the Artemis posted bond and quietly left Port Jefferson, much to the dismay of the Coast Guard.

Over the ensuing years, the Artemis changed hands and home ports several times, but never lost her reputation as a lawbreaker. In May 1935, the Coast Guard captured the Artemis off Chesapeake Bay and brought her to New York Harbor on suspicion of rumrunning, but without any evidence of illegality, the speedboat and her crew were released by the government.

Cases of Scotch Whisky fill the hold of a rumrunner captured by the Coast Guard. Photo from the Library of Congress

With the end of prohibition, the Artemis began a new, but less exciting career, running as a ferry between Bay Shore and Fire Island.

In Port Jefferson, however, the Artemis will always be remembered for bringing the rum war directly to the village.

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.     

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The steamship Nonowantuc, which ran from Bridgeport to Port Jefferson, 1884-1902, is shown underway in Port Jefferson harbor. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

On July 4, 1840, the diarist George T. Strong arrived in Port Jefferson for the holiday, not on a packet or other sailing ship, but on the Sun, the first in a succession of steamboats to make regular runs between New York City and the village.

In his account of the trip, Strong wrote that the Sun had left Manhattan at 8 a.m., stopped at Cow Harbor (Northport) and arrived in Drowned Meadow (Port Jefferson) at 2:30 p.m., all in all “a comfortable voyage.”

Excursion ticket for the steamer Favorite which sailed the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson route. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

The vessel had carried about 100 passengers who were entertained by a “cotillion band” that, according to Strong, had “squeaked, twanged, and tooted Hail Columbia.”

The Sun, which began serving Port Jefferson in spring 1840, was replaced during the ensuing years by a series of steamers including the Mt. Pleasant, Suffolk, Island Belle, Golden Gate and John Faron.

The steamships typically ran for three seasons but discontinued service during the winter months. Over time, Huntington and Stony Brook were added to the ports of call. Stages were made available in Port Jefferson to convey travelers to Old Mans (Mount Sinai), Miller Place and other locations. The Mt. Pleasant charged 50 cents for passage from New York City to Port Jefferson while the Suffolk priced tickets at 75 cents and the John Faron at $1.00. 

Long at the mercy of outsiders who had monopolized steam navigation on the sound, a group of prominent businessmen from Port Jefferson and the vicinity began talks in 1858 to incorporate the Long Island Steamboat Company as a way to exercise more local control over routes, schedules and fares.

Engraving of the steamship Ocean Wave from an 1860 stock certificate issued by the Long Island Steamboat Company. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

Led by investors Thomas Ritch, Reuben Wilson and Thomas Strong, the company purchased the sidewheeler Ocean Wave which started its trips between New York City and Port Jefferson in summer 1859.

In July 1860, the Ocean Wave struck a rock off Crane Neck, beached but safely landed her passengers. Although the steamer was repaired and returned to service the following month, low ridership led to the company’s bankruptcy and the sale of the Ocean Wave in a December 1861 auction.

Beginning with the Pioneer, a succession of steamboats followed the Ocean Wave. Often cited in the diary of Azariah H. Davis, the Sunbeam made the New York City run from 1867-1868 and the Mattano from 1868-1869, both sidewheelers stopping at Stony Brook. 

With the coming of the Long Island Rail Road to Port Jefferson in 1873, the public had a convenient means of traveling between the village and New York City other than on a steamboat. As business opportunities in one market came to an end, attention shifted to developing a steam ferry link between Port Jefferson and Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The June 1860 schedule for the sidewheeler Ocean Wave which ran from New York City to Port Jefferson with a stop at Stony Brook. Photo from the Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive

The steamer Brookhaven, known locally as the “Little Bedbug,” ran the Port Jefferson to Bridgeport route from 1872-1881 except for 1873-1874 when it was covered by the Spitfire. Besides carrying passengers, the steamships transported strawberries and other produce from then agricultural Long Island to industrial New England. 

Succeeding the Brookhaven, the 115-foot Favorite crossed the Sound from 1882-1883 and became well known for her special excursions to visit P.T. Barnum’s circus in Bridgeport and to see Jumbo the Elephant. 

The incorporation of the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company in 1883, followed by the beginning of ferry operations on the 120-foot steamer Nonowantuc in 1884, brought order, consistency and dependability to cross-Sound travel, a tradition of service which continues today. 

Kenneth Brady has served as the Port Jefferson Village Historian and president of the Port Jefferson Conservancy, as well as on the boards of the Suffolk County Historical Society, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and Port Jefferson Historical Society. He is a longtime resident of Port Jefferson.