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Port Jefferson

The gooey inside of the O-Mellow cookie. Photo by Julianne Mosher

This Port Jefferson Station mom has a secret that everyone is talking about: Secret Stuffed Cookies.

When the COVID-19 pandemic caused Ashley Winkler to halt working at her beauty salon, the mother of three decided to get creative. 

Ashley Winkler, founder of Secret Stuffed Cookies, holding her Rainbow OG cookie. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“I’m a baker,” she said. “So, I started doing it for my family. I stuffed a rainbow cookie into another cookie. Then we had some Girl Scout cookies, and I stuffed those in. I just had fun with it.”

That’s when Winkler posted her tasty creations to social media — and they blew up. Friends began asking her if they could order a dozen of her stuffed, hearty treats. 

“I was just doing it for fun,” she said. “I wasn’t trying to make money.”

Winkler said she felt guilty operating a cookie company out of her home when other local bakers were struggling to keep their doors open. She also wasn’t sure how long she’d be able to do it. 

Last March, she thought the pandemic might only last a month — but nearly a year later, her quarantine project has become a passion.

Originally her Secret Stuffed Cookies Instagram page was private, only accepting close friends and relatives for local cookie pickups.

“But then May came and people were getting stimulus checks … They started ordering two dozen cookies every week from me and referring my account to their friends,” she said. 

Back to work, and raising three little kids, Winkler wasn’t sure if she’d want to continue the baking. With a little help from her sister and a few neighbors, she decided to keep at it. 

By February of 2021, 11 months since her first cookie being made, she has nearly 4,000 followers and ships her baked goods nationwide.

Three days a week, she bakes a minimum of 300 cookies. She always has her “Rainbow OG,” a chocolate chip cookie stuffed with a homemade rainbow cookie, the “O-Mellow,” an Oreo marshmallow cookie and several others on the menu — but she’s always switching it up.

Compared to other stuffed cookie companies, Secret Stuffed has several options for people with a sweet tooth. 

“I don’t want to tell people what they have to get. I want people to choose what they want,” she said. “There’s a whole range, and they can choose how they want to pay and how many cookies they want to get.”

Secret Stuffed offers same-day pickup from her Port Jefferson Station home, next business day shipping and a pre-order option. She also recently set up a cookie subscription box, which features new types every month.

Baked fresh and packaged individually, Winkler said her cookies stay good for two weeks. They can be frozen or refrigerated to last up to a month. 

She also teamed up with local businesses to sell cookies in-person. Right now, customers can find her sweets in Town and Country Market in Miller Place, Joe’s Campus Heroes in Selden, and Rose and Boom Boutiques in St. James and Mount Sinai. 

To order and find out more information, visit @SecretStuffedCookies on Instagram and Facebook

Stock photo

School districts across Long Island have been offering free meals to children throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and the policy from the U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended the program to the end of the school year. 

Over the summer, at the height of the pandemic, the USDA allowed school districts to apply for free meals for all students. Usually, districts only provide free breakfasts and lunches to students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. 

But the coronavirus prompted the federal government to create child nutrition waivers based upon available funding at the time to end in June, then December and now throughout the 2020-21 school year. 

And it’s benefiting hundreds of students, local school representatives said. 

Mara Pugh, Elwood school district food services director, said when the pandemic started in March, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue gave schools the flexibility and waivers to be able to serve lunches to everyone in the community who were learning from home. 

“Back then, we had a grab and go for any family,” she said. “No matter what the financial eligibility was, they would get a free lunch.”

Before the pandemic, families who were struggling or below the middle-class line were able to enroll their children in the free or reduced-lunch programs. The pandemic, however, affected everyone, and some students who came from middle-income households were now struggling. 

When the waiver was passed again at the end of the 2020, Pugh said it was “a relief.”

“It definitely will help to ensure all the children in our district and community have access to the nutritious foods they need,” she said. 

Whether the student is remote learning or in-person, everyone is eligible if they so choose, no questions asked. 

“We have around 2,500 kids in our district,” she said, “And about 30% to 40% of them are taking advantage of it.”

Remote families are able to pick up their meals at the school, where the district packages meals for two or three days at a time, she said. 

“There’s no enrollment needed,” she added. “With these times, people who were well-off last year may not be well-off this year.”

In a release last year, USDA stated that the challenges facing the country called for an effective way to feed children. The waiver allowed changes, like serving meals in all areas at no cost, permitting meals to be served outside of the typically required group settings and mealtimes, waive meal pattern requirements and allow parents or guardians to pick up meals for their children. 

“As our nation recovers and reopens, we want to ensure that children continue to receive the nutritious breakfasts and lunches they count on during the school year wherever they are, and however they are learning,” Perdue said. “We are grateful for the heroic efforts by our school food service professionals who are consistently serving healthy meals to kids during these trying times, and we know they need maximum flexibility right now.”

Three Village school district also has taken advantage of the waiver. Jeffrey Carlson, deputy superintendent for business services, said that he thought it was “a great idea.”

“I’ve felt for a long time that school lunches should be free for all schools,” he said. “Either the district pays for it or the federal government pays.”

Carlson said the free lunches also have gotten better than when parents were in school. 

“It used to be a lot more obvious as to which kids were getting free lunch and then the stigma comes along with it,” he said. “So, if every kid just got lunch in school then we wouldn’t have to worry about that anymore.”

While there are still snacks and extras that must be bought à la carte, he said that daily participation in the program has increased. 

“I think it’ll go up even more after COVID,” he said. “People will be more comfortable with food being prepared for their children again.”

Beth Rella, assistant superintendent for business at Middle Country school district, said they are “thrilled” to be able to offer the program to all of their students — whether they attend in-person, virtual or hybrid classes. 

“Although we began the year starting a little lighter than typical, which was anticipated due to COVID, we have noticed an increase in the number of meals served daily as the school year has progressed,” she said. “We see more and more students enjoying tasty breakfasts and lunches each day. We hope that students, who may have not tried out the food services program previously, use this as an opportunity to taste the various menu items.”

Carlson said that when USDA extended the program, there wasn’t a big announcement about it. Rella added that her district has “utilized ConnectEd messages, board of education meetings, printed flyers, the website and have even encouraged faculty and staff to spread the word about the program.” 

Middle Country students even had the opportunity to design and compete in a “Free Meals for All” poster contest, where the winning poster was used as a promotional display. 

Smithtown school district publicized the program via email to parents. Superintendent Mark Secaur wrote back in September, “The USDA recently announced that all school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program could temporarily serve free lunch to all students until Dec. 31, 2020. We have now also received approval from NYSED to participate in the free lunch offering.”

Memos were sent out to residents within the Port Jefferson School District, too, and Deputy Superintendent Sean Leister said that while “around 10% or 15% of students are remote, this brings a level of normalcy to them.”

Leister added his district has also seen an increase in families participating. 

“There’s always a gap of people who don’t feel comfortable with signing up for the reduced lunch program,” he said. “But the federal government, state and Port Jefferson School District all realize that not having a meal is important to keeping students engaged and attentive — and no one will know they got it for free.”

Rella said Middle Country offers a week’s worth of frozen meals so students can continue to enjoy hot meals during their time off. 

“Having the USDA free meals for all program has not only allowed more students to participate in the program, it has helped to lessen the financial burden that was produced,” Rella said.

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Photo from Jeff Cobb

A longtime Port Jefferson Station resident, who loved and valued her community, is going to be missed.

Nancy J. Cobb was born in the Bronx to parents Joseph and Elsie Pandolfo. She then moved to Suffolk County, where for 55 years she lived in the same house in Port Jefferson Station, keeping busy with many different roles.

“She was very active in the local community,” said her son Jeff who now lives in Florida. “I have received tons of letters and cards since she passed — I knew that she impacted lives, but I didn’t understand how many people she touched.”

Cobb said his mother, who passed away at age 82 on Dec. 10, 2020, was “a bundle of energy.”

While he and his brother, Ken now of East Setauket, were growing up, he said that she decided to go back to school to become a teacher. 

Cobb started at Suffolk County Community College, while raising two sons, and then earned a teaching certificate and master’s degree at Stony Brook University.

“She’s definitely my hero,” he said. “She raised two young boys and had to figure out how to make a living. She established a career in the process, and wound up having a great life.”

Cobb took a job teaching both second and third grades at Clinton Avenue Elementary in the Comsewogue School District, and when school wasn’t in session, she’d host foreign exchange students in her home.

“She hosted young women from all over the world; Italy, Spain and Japan,” he said. “She maintained relationships with those girls up until the end. She was active in all their lives, and even went to visit them.”

He added that “they would call her their second mom.”

Cobb was also an avid member of the Christ Church Episcopal on Barnham Avenue, where she also taught Sunday school for many years.

On top of being an educator, Cobb loved playing tennis. For 30 years, she would play on the courts at the Port Jefferson Country Club.

She supported the local arts, often volunteering with Theatre Three and with the Comsewogue Library. She also was a member of the Port Jefferson Station Civic Association.

“She put a lot into those 82 years than most people do in half their lives,” her son said, adding that she loved to travel, she loved her house, her backyard and tending to her garden. “She had a tremendous number of friends.”

But there were five things she loved more than anything — her grandchildren; Alaina, Joseph, KJ, Kasey and Cody.

“She loved her family, she loved spending time with them and loved hearing about what they all do,” he said. “She was a lot of fun to be around. We always just had a lot of fun.”

Doug Jansson spent 63 days away from his family, battling and almost dying from COVID-19. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Doug Jansson finally got to spend Christmas with his family — nearly two months after the holiday.

Friends and family gathered outside St. Charles Hospital to cheer Doug on. Photo by Julianne Mosher

On Dec. 12,  the 42-year-old pastor was brought into Stony Brook University Hospital after he and the rest of his family contracted COVID-19 in late November. He was intubated in the Intensive Care Unit on Christmas Eve, and placed on life support where it was thought he wasn’t going to make it.

“I think I remember him being sick only a handful of times in the 20 years we’ve been married,” his wife, Kelly, said back in January. “When we got COVID, he was worried about me — nobody was worried about him getting hit this hard.”

But now, the lead pastor of Living World Church in Hauppauge is back home in Smithtown after 63 days.

On Feb. 12, the father of three was wheeled out of St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, where he was undergoing rehabilitation for nine days, since being discharged from Stony Brook on Feb. 3. Jansson said he was able to get up and walk out because of prayer. 

Early on in the pandemic, Jansson organized prayer parades with his church, often visiting local hospitals to support essential workers and victims of the virus. 

Doug embraces his family after two long months apart. Photo by Julianne Mosher

But then he became ill, himself. After being in the ICU for not even two days, he began complaining of severe pain. A CT scan revealed a pleural effusion (fluid in the chest), a secondary pneumonia, pleurisy and a small pneumothorax (air in the chest). His right lung collapsed.

That’s when his wife knew she had to share his story. Kelly logged into his Facebook account and began updating his friends, family and followers of his progress. Some days were better than others, but one thing she kept asking of everyone was to keep praying. 

Kelly said she began receiving messages from people all over the world, telling her they were keeping Doug in their thoughts and prayers. Now he’s finally home.

Doug embraced by his wife, Kelly, while hospital workers cheer on. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Feb. 12 was always a special day for the couple, Kelly said outside St. Charles Hospital the day of his release. Twenty-one years ago, on the same date, he proposed to her. 

And to celebrate his release, nearly 100 people gathered outside with balloons, signs and streamers to cheer the pastor on as he got in his car, ready to go home.  

“I’m thankful that we’re here and so grateful,” Doug said before he addressed the crowd outside. “I know that God has set it up to be just a miracle and something that we can’t express that we know we don’t deserve. But he’s giving, so we’re really thankful.”

When asked how this whole experience made him feel, his voice broke. 

“I would say two words keep coming to mind when people ask me that,” he said. “One is painful. It’s been very difficult, fighting through this and being away from my family. But the other word is, in a weird way beautiful, because I’ve gotten to see doctors and nurses and health care people in a different light and really get to know them.”

He said the essential workers have been there for him and his family. 

“I also feel like God’s put me through this to try to be there for them, to encourage him, pray for and bless them,” he added. “I know that, for whatever reason, this story has impacted people and, you know, that makes going through it worth it because I know people are being drawn to Jesus.”

The family pet, Chewy, was happy to see his dad again. Photo from Kelly Jansson

Nearly a week home, one of his first requests, he said, was to get a slice of pizza from Ciro’s in Smithtown. And on his way home, the pizzeria donated two large pies to the family to celebrate his homecoming. 

The family was finally able to celebrate Christmas, and their dog, Chewy, was so happy to see his dad again.

“He’s doing really well,” Kelly said on Feb. 15 in a phone interview. “He’s working so hard on getting stronger. There’s still a way to go, but we will help him get there.”

And Doug said his couldn’t have done it without the support from his family, church, faith and the prayers from strangers. 

“I am so grateful to God to be home with my family after all this time,” he said. “We are enjoying every second of it.”

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Middle Street was renamed Arden Place after the Ardencraig Inn, shown on the northeast corner of Port Jefferson’s Main Street and Arden Place. The Inn was destroyed in a March 2, 1920 fire. Photo by Robert S. Feather. Kenneth C. Brady Digital Archive.

By Kenneth Brady

Port Jefferson’s rich and varied history is reflected in the stories of many of the village’s street names. 

Alice Street — Winfield Darling (1877-1965) built summer bungalows on what is today Alice Street, named for his daughter Alice.

Arden Place  Middle Street was renamed Arden Place after the Ardencraig Inn, which once stood on the northeast corner of Main Street and Arden Place. The Inn was destroyed in a March 2, 1920 fire.

Barnum Avenue — The celebrated showman P.T. Barnum (1810-1891) purchased land in the “Brick Hill” section of Port Jefferson where he developed the acreage for housing. Today’s Barnum Avenue is the main thoroughfare in the subdivision.

Belle Terre Road — Port Jefferson’s current railroad station opened in July 1903. Belle Terre Road was a route between the new depot and Belle Terre, whose developers had donated the land on which the railroad station was constructed.

Hallett Avenue — Charles Hallett (1833-1894) was a prosperous businessman from Riverhead, and one of P.T. Barnum’s agents in developing the “Brick Hill” section of Port Jefferson. Today’s Hallett Avenue, formerly Summit Street, is one of the arteries in Barnum’s subdivision.

Hawkins Street — Originally Mittyville Street, Hawkins Street takes its name from Zachariah F. Hawkins. He was appointed Port Jefferson’s first postmaster when the village was called Drowned Meadow.

Hoyt Lane — Harry V. Hoyt (1879-1969) developed “Hoyt Heights” on the west side of Port Jefferson Harbor. Today’s Hoyt Lane is one of the roads in the subdivision.

Liberty Avenue — During World War I, some defense plant workers at Bayles Shipyard were housed along Cemetery Avenue. Saddled with negative connotations, Cemetery Avenue was changed in 1918 to an upbeat Liberty Avenue, a name which reflected the patriotic fervor of the times.

Linden Place — Shipbuilder C. Lloyd Bayles (1811-1903) planted linden trees behind his house on the south side of today’s Linden Place.

Mill Creek Road — A flour mill once stood on the south side of West Broadway beside the creek that empties into Port Jefferson Harbor. Signs along the Old Mill Creek Walkway highlight the history of the area.

Nadia Court — Countess Nadia de Navarro Farber (1916-2014), a former Bulgarian musical-comedy star, was the wife of Sid Farber (1913-1985), a builder of homes, shopping centers, offices and industrial parks.

Nicholas Street — Nicholas Shelow (1889-1941) was a Port Jefferson merchant who developed today’s Nicholas Street.

Oakes Street — Mary Eliza Oakes (1850-1934) married Charles P. Randall (1848-1932), a prominent Port Jefferson businessman. The couple’s home was located on the corner of Oakes Street and Randall Avenue, named after the bride and groom, respectively.

Perry Street — Marvin B. Perry (1919-2001) operated a plumbing supply store on Perry Street, formerly Chestnut Street.

Prospect Street — North Street was renamed Prospect Street because of the “fine prospective view” from William L. Hunt’s 20-acre property which ran between upper North and South streets. The Hunt homestead, later known as the Biddle Mansion, burned to the ground in August 1931.

Quintin Court — Active in community affairs, Quintin A. Lerch (1881-1963) served as Brookhaven Town’s Tax Receiver, president of the board of directors at Mather Memorial Hospital, vice president of the Bank of Northern Brookhaven and treasurer of the local Rotary Club.

Roessner Lane — George N. Roessner (1925-1981) was a beloved business teacher, guidance counselor, football coach, and club advisor at Port Jefferson’s Earl L. Vandermeulen High School.

Rosita Lane — Rosita Winston (1904-1979) was the wife of real estate mogul and philanthropist Norman K. Winston (1899-1977), who developed Port Jefferson’s Harbor Hills Country Club and Harbor Hills Estates.

Sheldrake Avenue — Sea captain Richard W. Sheldrake (1865-1945) once lived on the corner of today’s Sheldrake Avenue and Bayview Terrace.

Texaco Avenue — Texaco Oils formerly operated a gasoline storage facility along the Long Island Rail Road tracks on the west side of Bowers Avenue, today’s Texaco Avenue.

Thompson Street  — John Thompson was a blacksmith who was deeded land in Port Jefferson by Brookhaven Town. The property included today’s Thompson Street.

Thorne Lane — LIRR locomotive engineer George R. Thorne (1902-1997) and his family lived for years on today’s Thorne Lane, formerly Tuthill Avenue.

William Street — William Fordham (1826-1907) was a realtor who developed today’s William Street.

Wynn Lane — Albert L. Wynne (1856-1942) was a liveryman. His stables were located on what was once called Private Lane, today’s Wynn [sic] Lane.

Port Jefferson’s street names not only identify locations, but many serve as historical markers by providing a record of the village’s past.

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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By Bill Landon

The Lady Royals of Port Jefferson opened their 2021 season with their core starting lineup intact from last year’s Long Island Championship run with seniors Hailey Hearney, Brooke Zamek and Evelyn Walker — but that’s not the whole story. Returning sophomore Lola Idir, who was injured last year, made her presence known along with teammate Abigail Rolfe, a junior, to make short work of visiting Shelter Island sinking the Islanders 77-20 in League VIII action Feb. 9.

The Royals led by 25 points after 8 minutes, 34 points by the half as coaches Jesse Rosen and Keith Buehler spelled their starters and flushed their bench the rest of the way.

The Royals are back in action when they hit the road against Greenport/Southold Feb. 11 with a 6:15 p.m. start and again on Feb. 15 at Babylon for a non-league match up at 1:15 p.m. 

 

Port Jefferson’s East Beach after the sand dredging was completed this week. Photo by Gerard Romano

The decade-long, multimillion-dollar project to spruce up Mount Sinai Harbor and its jetties is finally looking more complete, as the dredging project was finalized this past week.

In November of last year, the Town of Brookhaven permitted Suffolk County to complete the dredging at a total cost of $2 million with close to 80,000 cubic yards of sand.

A shot from the dredging process last month. Photo by Gerard Romano

“This is just another project where the layers and layers and layers of government all the way up to the federal level worked together,” said Village of Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant. 

But the project is more than baskets of sand returning to the local shorelines. After many years of planning, both the east and west jetties in Mount Sinai Harbor were repaired in May 2020. For 10 years, both have been largely submerged at high tide, with water and sand leaking through breaks in the stones and settling into the mouth of the harbor. 

Garant added that after about 60 days, “basketfuls of sand” were brought back to Port Jefferson’s East Beach, which included sand from the postponed Stony Brook Harbor dredging project, to replenish the erosion caused throughout the years. 

“We’re just so thrilled to have our beach back,” she said. 

Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) said the completion of the project was a long time coming.

She said there were numerous issues with the jetties, the inlet and the harbor itself. 

“We rebuilt the fishing pier that has been subjected to numerous nor’easters, built two new jetties and a complete dredge of the beaches,” Bonner said. “I’m hopeful it lasts a long time.”

The same spot in 2018. Photo by Gerard Romano

In November, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers designated that most of the sand be primarily brought to the Port Jefferson side of the harbor. While Bonner admitted she hoped for an equitable split of sand, she’s happy that the goals of keeping recreational boaters and fishermen safe, while enhancing the North Shore’s water quality, have been achieved. 

“All levels of government have put a lot of money and resources into this project,” Bonner said. “It’s a win-win.”

It’s not completely done, though. Garant said the next phase is to repair the retaining wall going down the hill and revegetate the bluff. 

“It’s just an ongoing process of protecting our shoreline,” she said. 

On Monday, Feb. 1, the first snowstorm of the year hit Long Island, causing people to stay home and shovel nearly two-feet of snow.  We asked residents to share their snow day photos with us.

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The Village of Port Jefferson has issued a snow emergency notice in preparation for this week's storm. Photo from the Village

The Village of Port Jefferson has issued a snow emergency that will be in effect from midnight, Jan. 31 until 6 p.m. on Feb. 2.

Heavy snow is expected, accumulating between six to 16 inches, with winds gusting as high as 50 mph.

The village said that parking on Main Street, East Main Street and Arden Street with be prohibited, with violators being towed. They note to use the Gap parking lot.

Travel could be very difficult to impossible, with the hazardous conditions impacting morning and evening commutes. Gusty winds could potentially bring down tree branches.

The notice advises for people to charge all devices and stay home.

The Board of Trustees meeting has been adjourned and postponed until Feb. 15 at 3:30 p.m.

All Village buildings and offices will be closed. Staff will be working virtually. In the event of an emergency please call 911 first and the Village’s Code Bureau at 631-7740-0066 for assistance.

Theatre Three in Port Jefferson hasn’t been open since March, but news of a vaccine is keeping them hopeful and more relieved than before. Photo by Julianne Mosher

By Leah Chiappino 

Despite being among the first to shut down, and likely the last to open, local theaters have managed to sustain themselves throughout the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to community support.

Theatre Three, Port Jefferson

Theatre Three in Port Jefferson hasn’t been open since March, but news of a vaccine is keeping them hopeful and more relieved than before. Photo by Julianne Mosher

On March 15 last year, Theatre Three in Port Jefferson had to close production of its musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Hansel and Gretel” in the children’s theater.

At the time, the Port Jeff performing arts center was two weeks away from its touring season, a week away from technical rehearsals for the musical “Steel Magnolias,” and in the middle of the dramatic academy for winter/spring, all of which were shut down indefinitely, and have not yet reopened. 

Since its closing, the theater has taken in little revenue, yet still manages to give back to the community through their virtual Off-Stage/On-Line series, which features short plays submitted by playwrights, performed over Zoom and posted to the theater’s website and social media every Sunday night.

Submissions receive a $25 stipend, and actors donate their time performing. Theatre Three also launched the “StoryTime at the Playhouse” series, which streams performances for children live into classrooms, directed by the theater’s artistic director, Jeffrey Sanzel. 

Theatre Three also maintained its 35-year-old tradition of performing “A Christmas Carol” starring Sanzel as Scrooge, though this year it was filmed in advance and posted online.

The theater has relied on private grants, savings and donations, as well as a PPP loan, to remain afloat. 

Vivian Koutrakos, managing director, said that the fact the theater was having a strong year before the pandemic helped its financial situation. 

In celebrating its 50th anniversary, Theatre Three showcased productions such as “Jekyll and Hyde” and “Driving Miss Daisy,” both popular and lucrative shows.

In addition, they prepaid the royalties for upcoming shows such as “Grease” and because the building is not being used, other expenses have dropped.

“We’re not using our electric — we got that down to a really decent amount and we have a very small mortgage on the building,” Koutrakos said. “There’s not much else other than water and obviously, our insurances, but most of our insurances will come back to us because there is no workers’ comp. There is no liability. There’s nobody in the building, really. So, we’re OK.”  

Koutrakos added the community has been generous in donations. 

“We have an amazing executive board of directors,” she said. “They will never let this theater close, under any circumstance.”

The theater is waiting for the go-ahead from New York State so it can reopen. 

“I don’t know how much longer we would have lasted without a vaccine. It really is a beacon of light and hope,” Koutrakos said. “It’ll probably be almost a year-and-a-half [from being closed] once we open.’’ 

Upon reopening, the theater will honor previously held tickets, recast actors if they are available and plans to continue to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

John W. Engeman Theater, Northport 

File photo

According to one of the co-owners of the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, Richard Dolce, it is in a similar boat to Theatre Three.

On the day that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) issued an executive order mandating theater  shutdowns, the cast of their upcoming show, “Sister Act,” was set to arrive to rehearse.

The Engeman was able to benefit from a PPP loan in April and has relied on reserve funds, allowing it to keep its full-time staff of 16, who Dolce said are mainly answering customer calls and doing mechanical maintenance. 

The theater offers classes in professional theater, acting and musical theater. It resumed some individual lessons in person in the fall, but as COVID cases began to rise in the area, it has since shifted to a virtual format. 

Even with the virtual course offerings, Dolce said the theater is making “well under 10%” of its normal revenue. He added that while he did not think the theater can sustain its current operations without additional relief for “much longer,” he expects that it will qualify for funding from the Save Our Stages Act, a provision in the recent COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congress that provides $15 billion in funding for entertainment venues. 

“We’ve been talking to Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) and other representatives to get something done for the live independent venues and they were able to come through,” Dolce said. “Hopefully that will enable us to weather this for a little bit longer, because we were the first ones to close and we will be the last ones to open.”

While the governor’s office did not respond to email requests for comment, Cuomo indicated during his State of the State address Jan. 12 that “we cannot wait until summer to turn the lights back on the arts and provide a living wage for artists.” He also announced New York Arts Revival, a public-private partnership series of pop-up performances across the state, hosted at state parks, other state properties and “flexible venues,” set to begin Feb. 4.